Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Does health care do anything?

Ultimately people aren't buying a doctor's time (or a drug), they are trying to buy good health (a point due to Michael Grossman). Health care is one of many inputs into good health, see also nutrition, lifestyle, access to clean drinking water...This means that you can't look at health care outcomes solely as a function of the health care system, you also have to factor in the broader environment and lifestyle (Victor Fuchs).

Only after maybe 1910 (Victor Fuchs quoting someone else) did a visit to a doctor have a greater than 50 percent chance of helping you (with the rest of the visits perhaps actually harming you, such was the state of medical knowledge). To go along with that, the dramatic increase in life expectancy at the turn of the century was as much do to with increased income and clean drinking water, as to what we think of as the "health care system." I've been meaning to read Death and the City: Chicago's Mortality Transition, 1850-1925 which seems to address these questions in interesting ways.


Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Great article on wether health care is doing anything for us. Very informative on health insurance.

6:11 PM  

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