You say pot-a-to, I say pot-ah-to

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating over and over.  Matt Ygleasias:

Like suppose scientists did come up with a pill that grants you good health up to the year 100, at which point you quickly and painlessly drop dead. I’d take a pill like that. and I bet most everyone would join me. The short-term result would be . . . catastrophic economic collapse as the bulk of the health care sector is rendered obsolete.

Which in turn is a reminder that while it’s easy to talk about “controlling health care costs” in practice these “costs” are also known as “income” for a lot of people. The Internet has allowed for a revolution in reducing newspaper article distribution costs, also known as the collapse of the bulk of the American newspaper industry. Anything that works in a really radical way to make health care cheaper would create serious problems for lots of people and lots of firms and thus prompt fierce resistance.

We (by which we mean I) always talk about the fact that health care costs are too high, and that we need to get them under control. But it’s worth remembering that all that health care spending doesn’t go into a vacuum; it’s going into people’s pockets, and then back into the economy. Even the “waste”. Even the “fraud”.

Yes, we need to bring those numbers down, or at least slow their growth. But that spending is how many, many people make their living. They are going to fight it. I’m not talking about big businesses only. Doctors, nurses, hospital employees, insurance agents, insurance employees, and more. They all depend on that money.

Don’t underestimate the effect on the economy as well. As those people earn less, they will spend less, and all the various industries that depend on that money will suffer, too. It will hurt.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it. I think we’re wasting a lot of money, and that money could be better spent. It reminds us, though, that cost containment will be hard, and will likely go slowly. It may have to.

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