Monday, May 17, 2010

Introducing New Blog Feature: Health Tank

A compilation of the most promising healthcare policy ideas.

Health Tank, a new feature at The Apothecary, strives to be a comprehensive repository of the best ideas in health-care reform. It starts from the premise that the Hippocratic ideal of medicine—caring for the sick without regard to self-interest—requires us, paradoxically, to understand how self-interest dominates our health care system.

Patients seek the best care they can get their insurers to pay for, regardless of how much it may cost the overall system. Doctors seek the best care for their patients, so long as they can get reimbursed and not sued. Hospitals seek to treat the critically ill, but make more money when their beds are full of sick people. Insurers, by contrast, seek to keep everyone healthy, because they then receive more in premiums than they pay in medical expenses. Governments seek to spend the wealth of future generations, who don’t vote, upon the present generations, who do.

Self-interest cannot be outlawed; it is a ubiquitous fact of life. But history shows us that the self-love inherent in free markets can be harnessed for the public good. Applying that wisdom, Health Tank seeks to improve the quality and affordability of medical care by aligning the incentives of patients, doctors, hospitals, insurers, manufacturers, and the government.

No small task, I know. But we have to start somewhere.

There are four major problems with our health care system: (1) that the cost of health care is increasingly unaffordable for families and businesses; (2) that our nation cannot pay for all of the promises we have made to provide for the health care of the elderly (Medicare) and the poor (Medicaid and S-CHIP); (3) that structural inefficiencies hamper health care innovation and lead to unnecessary medical errors; (4) that we lack the facilities and the medical professionals to care for every American in need.

The problem of the uninsured, a major focus of the progressive political agenda, is actually a derivative of these four core issues; the reason why some needy families lack health insurance is because it is too expensive, and because other elements of the system conspire to prevent them from being able to access health care at times when they need it.

To access Health Tank, follow this link or the one on the top of the left column of this page. There, you will encounter some of the most interesting approaches to these problems, culled from public policy institutes, industry analysts, academics, politicians, and even a stray blogger or two. I hope to continuously improve the depth and quality of this compilation, so check back in from time to time.

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