Economist and N.Y. Times columnist Paul Krugman provided a tribute to the late Uwe Reinhardt. Although I won’t get into any of Krugman’s comments of Reinhardt as a person, I did find Krugman’s comments about his perception of the field of health economics interesting. For instance:
In case you don’t know this, health economics is a hugely important subject that even now doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. We talk endlessly about globalization and all that, yet America spends more on health than it does on imports – and spends it much worse: our health care system is hugely dysfunctional.
Krugman notes that simple solutions that often work in other markets may not work so well when applied to health economics.
…you need to know that health care is no country for simplistic men. There may be areas of economics where repeating easy slogans gets you somewhere; health economics, for a variety of reasons, isn’t one of those areas. The facts about health care tend to be complex, and they’re also stubbornly inconsistent with rigid ideologies of any kind.
As any reader of my blog knows, there are a lot of vested interests in health care, and reforming health care is not so simple. Krugman writes:
You might think that everyone would be eager to get health care facts right; that is, you might think that if you’ve been living in a cave for, I don’t know, the past 35 years or so. The reality is that policy debates over health care are, if anything, even uglier than average for U.S. economic debate, which is really saying something; the reason, I think, is because the facts – the kind of facts Uwe dedicated his working life to discovering – are so inconsistent with many forms of political orthodoxy.
Finding solutions to our countries health care problems is complex. Despite this complexity, I believe that rigorous health economics can help us find fact-based solutions to these problems.