Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Obama Doesn’t Get It Yet

Last week, President Obama gave a major speech on economics at Georgetown University. He discussed five “pillars” on which our recovered economy should be built, one of which included reducing the cost of health care.

The strategies he mentioned for achieving cost reduction were investments in prevention and information technology.

Unfortunately, both of those will increase the cost of health care, not reduce it.

As this blog has pointed out before, prevention improves life by allowing people to live longer and be more active. But living longer exposes them to the chronic diseases associated with aging, such as arthritis and diabetes. The great bulk of the cost of health care arises out of the treatment of chronic diseases. Thus, investing in prevention, if successful, will increase cost in two ways: first, by the cost of the investment and second by the need to treat the increase in chronic disease that would result from the longer lives that result from prevention.

When information technology is applied to existing practices, the usual result is to add the cost of the technology to the ongoing costs being incurred. That is pretty much what has happened in health care up to now. Information technology will be instrumental in reducing the cost of health care when it is used to support new and less costly ways of providing care that would not be possible without it. But that is not what President Obama called for.

I voted for President Obama and think that he is doing a good job, generally speaking.

But when it comes to doing something about the cost of health care, he doesn’t get it yet.

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