How Much is a Nobel Worth, Anyway?

Recent statistics indicating that all the spending the United States does on health care doesn’t have much effect on actual health has sparked a predictable response. Look at all the Nobel Prizes in medicine we win; look at the incredible life-saving advances America developed, from polio vaccine to MRI to heart bypass surgery.

New York Times business section columnist Tyler Cowen today cites all these reasons and others to suggest that we aren’t so bad at all, despite spending twice as much of GDP on health as the average of other healthier industrialized countries

Cowen makes the astounding argument that since the rest of the world benefits from American medical prowess – and entrepreneurship, of course – our average longevity is necessarily lower in comparison than might be expected. Read his loopy defense of the bloated, inefficient, outrageously expensive American health system and ask if the high cost of treating heart disease saves more lives than the low cost alternative of getting people to stop smoking and overeating.

And ask why our vaunted medical science spends mere pennies of every health research dollar on prevention and self-management of disease. If your answer is “profits,” go to the head of Professor Cowen’s economics class.

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