Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shared some thoughts on health care reform from “an economist’s perspective” today. He was short on proposals, but did suggest that we concentrate our attention on improving the cost-effectiveness of our health care system:
Nobody likes the compromise reached by Senators to reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Industry thinks the revised plan goes too far, while consumer groups want more. For now, the compromise would allow the CPSC to operate without a quorum, inject needed cash into the Commission, and provide for several other nifty provisions.
The general theme of the book “Overtreated,” the New York Times’ pick for best economics book of the year, is that we can cut a significant percentage of our health care costs—”between one fifth and one third,” says the author—and not have any impact on our level of health. As a nation, we tend to err on the side of too much treatment, exposing ourselves to unnecessary risks and racking up fees on procedures we could do without. And since doctors depend on a piecemeal approach to earning income, while at the same time dealing with significant financial risks from malpractice suits, they tend to push for more treatment, not less (they need to earn a living while also protecting themselves from accusations of doing too little).
Bowing to pressure from Congress, the FDA has decided not to close more than half of its field labs. The ill-timed plan to consolidate seven of the agency’s thirteen labs in the name of efficiency and modernization was already under review by a Presidential panel, and had raised the ire of the powerful Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, John Dingell, who recently introduced legislation to block the reorganization.