Friday, October 24, 2008

A Home Run for Health Care?

Under the oddest byline ever, an unlikely trio tells New York Times OpEd readers today how to fix American health care--by applying the expertise of baseball's number crunchers to medical treatment.

A skeptical reader starts with a bit of resistance based on the track record of the authors: Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A's, who finished third out of four teams in their division this year; Newt Gingrich, author of "Contract With America," the failure of which led to an exit from Congress in disgrace; and John Kerry, who couldn't counter the swiftboating that resulted in George W. Bush's reelection in 2004.

How these losers got together, the OpEd editors explaineth not, but the essence of their argument is that computer analysis of treatment will revolutionize the American health care system, which now "behaves like a hidebound, tradition-based ball club that chases after aging sluggers and plays by the old rules: we pay too much and get too little in return.

"To deliver better health care, we should learn from the successful teams that have adopted baseball’s new evidence-based methods. The best way to start improving quality and lowering costs is to study the stats."

Nobody would begrudge more information in any field, including medical treatment, but we may be forgiven for skepticism about the formulations of Gingrich and Beane, two self-promoting reformers without results, and for wondering how staid old John Kerry fell in with this crew.

Meanwhile, health insurers have done enough damage in hampering doctors from using their best judgment and experience by nagging them with cost-benefit analysis, where outcomes are more serious than winning or losing ball games.

1 comment:

Mike said...

This is so simple it's painful to have to repeat it: The U.S. won't have "fixed" its health-care system until all U.S. citizens have access. Period.

Any "plan" that pays scant attention to the question of access is worthless.

I am *so* glad to live in a country with universal health care, which is true of every Western industrialized country except the U.S.

And, BTW, we get results from our "socialist" health-care system. Like, for example, a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S.'s, and slightly higher life expectancy. Clearly, it's working.

People in the U.S. must discard the libertarian and free-market ideas that have been holding them back from implementing a health-care system that has decency and compassion as valued principles. Canadians heard the same arguments against public universal health care more than 40 years ago, and have long since moved past them. The U.S. is lagging way, way behind the rest of Western civilization in this area of public policy.