Why health care is good for you

Here are the bald asseverations I made to Bryan Caplan yesterday, over Bolivian food:

1. Health care is very, very good for you.  Here is one good summary of the earlier blogosphere debate.

2. Don’t be fooled by studies that say the opposite.

3. At most those studies show that health care is not good for you at some additional margin.  Make sure you get to that margin.

4. It is true that many regressions show a zero positive effect for health care once you introduce a variable for income.  This mainly shows that income is a better proxy for real health care than many of our highly imperfect measures for health care.

5. Almost every family in my Mexican village has lost a kid or two before the kid reaches age five.  Few of these deaths would have occurred if a) a doctor rather than a shaman were around, b) they had a ready antidote for scorpion bites, c) they knew to take the right pills for diarrhea and fever and to stay hydrated.  These variables will be more closely correlated with measured income than with whatever screwy figure the Mexican government provides for expenditures on medical care.  Health care still matters, even though it won’t show up as significant in the regression.

6. The above example can be generalized to wealthier countries.  Might education be the best proxy of all for the consumption of real health care?  Yes stupid doctors can kill you but a smart patient will not do better staying at home.

7. It is obvious that health care leads to greater longevity, and this is the greatest good of all.  Just ask yourself, how much money would you have to receive to give up health care for the rest of your life?  For me no sum of money would suffice.

8. Yes the famous Rand Corporation study showed that more doctor visits don’t help people.  I can buy that, but advances in medical science still bring huge pay-offs.

Caveats: These are lunchtime comments, I am not accountable for them in the same way as if I posted them on my blog.  And I am still too afraid to go see the doctor and get a check-up.


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