Health Wonk Review #11

In the healthcare field, as well as for most interesting areas which merit investigation, economists and policy analysts are faced with tradeoffs.  Reducing the cost of healthcare often comes with a sacrifice in the quality or quantity of medical services provided; increasing the quality or quantity of medical services usually increases the price of healthcare. 

In this edition of the Health Wonk Review, our pundits look at both sides of the issue.


Consumer Driven Health Care (CDHC) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA) have been the the most recent policy initiative to hold down healthcare costs.  Dr. Hébert, a Louisiana blogger as well as a physician, believes that HSAs favor the wealthy, that they only help the young and the healthy, and that they will lead to worse health care.  In “HSA GumboMichael Cannon of the Liberty-at-Cato responds to the doctor’s criticisms of HSAs with some very salient points.  

How has CDHC worked in the ‘real-world?’  In “Adventures in (Consumer Driven) Health Care“, Henry Stern of Insure Blog draws on examples from Aetna and United Healthcare to show that CDHC is gaining popularity.  He even cites an eHealthInsurance report which claims that almost half the individuals who bought HDHP had been previously uninsured.

In “Speed Surgery“, Jason Shafrin (myself) at the Healthcare Economist tries to show why a UK initiative to give physicians incentives to complete surgical procedures faster may be a short-sighted policy.


One problem with healthcare analysis is measuring quality.  Did my health improve because of a high-quality operation at top-rate facility or was the improvement simply a result of a natural healing process?  In “Is rating the ‘best’ hospitals ‘good’?“, Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters ponders whether or not the recent release of a US News ranking of hospitals is a good thing.  Joe contends that while the rankings are a step in the right direction, they are significantly biased in favor of teaching hospitals and many “great” hospitals do not appear on the ranking. 

Increasing the importance of patient satisfaction is another way to improve the quality of medical services.  David Williams of the Health Business Blog contends that quality will truly improve once healthcare providers get serious about Customer Service.


Sometimes it is possible to increase quality and reduce cost.  In any industry, this phenomenon most often manifests itself in the form of technical progress.  In “Digital Health Coming to Grandma’s House“, Dale Hunscher of FutureHIT describes how in-home wellness monitoring systems could provide constant vigilance for the elderly as well as reduce care costs through fewer nurses visits and hospitalization.  The problem is that providers and payers face a Prisoner’s Dilemma regarding who will pony up the capital needed to implement this style of care.

Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) standardize medical record keeping in a given metropolitan area, leading to more accurate records and cheaper overhead costs.  In “RHIO business models“, Gary Mark Levin of Inland Empire RHIO News examines a report by the Healthcare IT Transition Group which presents some difficulties that a RHIO have in achieving financial self sufficiency.

Rita Schwab of the Medical Staff Service Professionals (MSSP) Nexus Blog offers simpler solution: Hire passionate healthcare professionals.  She also offers some ‘new rules’ management can use in order to improvement employee performance.


Dmitriy Kruglyak of The Medical Blog Network informs us of a great opportunity: The First-Ever Conference on Healthcare Blogging.  The conference is December 11th in Washington, D.C. and has a great list of speakers.


In ending, I would like to thank all of you for submitting interesting posts.  I would also like to thank Joe Paduda, Julie Ferguson, and Dmitriy Kruglak for their assistance while I have been the host. 


    Great job, Jason! I esp liked how you made it sort of a debate about health care costs and services.

    Thank you for hosting!

  2. Nice work Jason! I forgot to post this week (focused on other things outside of healthcare policy at the moment), but won’t forget for next time!

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