• Meme-busting: Introduction

    It’s been a while since I’ve done a series here at TIE, and with the Presidential election gearing up, the time seemed appropriate.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is our collective ability to pretend that some questions cannot be answered. Someone states something, another person states the opposite, and we collectively shrug our shoulders and say that there’s no way to know the truth. In this way, memes are born.

    When I say “meme”, I mean some belief that a significant number of people hold to be true. With respect to health care, I’m specifically talking about stated “facts” about the health care system that continue to permeate our debate. The problem is that memes are taken to be true, even without evidence. Moreover, sometimes they continue to hold sway, even when evidence shows them to be false.

    This will not stand, especially here at TIE. And so, over the next few weeks, I will be posting the evidence that shows that many of these memes are false. Some of them will be familiar to long term readers, and to those of you I apologize for any repeats. I believe it is important, however, to collect these meme-busting posts together so that they can be referenced easily in the coming year. If just a small number of these false memes can be put to rest, I will consider this series a success.

    I would be thrilled to receive suggestions on memes to cover. Feel free to do so in the comments here, or find me on twitter at @aaronecarroll.

    It’s likely that, over the course of the series, other TIE bloggers will join in. I’ve spoken to Austin, and I know he’s already got some memes to bust.

    This post will also be updated to contain links to all subsequent meme-busting posts. If you link, bookmark it so to make finding all such posts easier.

    Meme-busting Links (all by Aaron Carroll unless otherwise indicated):

    1) Tort reform = cost control

    2) The fact that more people have some condition is why we spend so much on health care

    3) Selling insurance across state lines will lower costs

    4) Doctors are abandoning Canada in great numbers to work here

    5) Canadians regularly come to the US for care

    6) Hospitals shift costs, by Austin Frakt

    7) We have universal coverage because of emergency rooms by Aaron Carroll and Austin Frakt

    • I know you have talked before about the effects of shifting costs from the uninsured to the insured, especially in the context of “free” emergency care. Please bring that discussion into the conversation, since I think the magnitude is exaggerated by the left and right.

    • Since the previous poster brought up the dreaded “cost-shifting,” can you speak about cost-shifting with regards to Medicare and private insurance?

      Specifically, the meme that Medicare’s artificially low rates somehow induce the private sector to pay more than it otherwise would to physicians.

    • “unlock” the power of the marketplace by giving consumers “more skin in the game” and health care costs will drop while quality improves.

    • Oh, yes! Please tackle the illusion that more spending on primary care or preventive screening reduces total health care cost!!!

    • I would really like for you to address the assertion that “patients flock from Canada to the U.S.” to get our health care here. I know that’s baloney, but would like to have the facts/data to back it up!

    • I have lifelong friends who live in Canada. Mary, the wife, visited here last winter for ten days. We discussed health care a lot. She said that she and her husband love Canadian health care. They live in a small rural community. Their son, however, lives in a huge city and it isn’t always as easy to get in to see a doctor as it is where the parents live. Also, if Canadians live right near the U.S. border, another Canadian told me that the cities share resources. For example, if an MRI is needed by a Canadian, and the U.S. city nearby has an MRI machine, the Canadian can go there for the MRI and Canada will pay for it. I think Canada has a good health care system and the U.S. should go and do likewise.