## Robert Waldmann Makes a Catch on Health Care Financing...

Robert writes:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: Jonathan Cohn puts a baseball on a tee and Jonathan Cohn hits it out of the park

The treatment Mike [Kinsley] received is called Deep Brain Stimulation, or DBS for short. [snip] It is also very costly. Medtronic, a company that makes the electrodes, says the whole procedure costs between $50,000 and$60,000. And, because the treatment's main effect is to suppress and delay the onset of symptoms, rather than cure the disease, Mike started wondering whether a system of universal health insurance would pay for it--and, if so, in which cases....

[snip]

And that prompted another thought--not from Mike but from me. All of this was assuming DBS even existed. The United States is famously the world leader in medical innovation--in part, it would seem, because we spend like a drunken sailor when it comes to medical care...

it would seem that Cohn is setting up a straw man (the kind who mixes metaphors with baseballs on tees). So it is. DBS was discovered in the French public sector in the University of Grenoble. More generally, while the US is the leader in medical innovation, this is largely due to the huge immense gigantic public sector effort called the NIH.

I made the same point at Brad's blog 2 years ago (and I didn't set up the straw man myself) http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2005/10/delong_smackdow.html.

update: Not only is Brad DeLong a hero of intellectual honesty for his "DeLong Smackdown Watch" posts, but this post http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2007/11/flu-shots.html is awesome. Brad scores a goal for universal health care (with an assist from Alex Tabbarok).

People who have the flu spread the virus so getting a flu shot not only reduces the probability that I will get the flu it reduces the probability that you will get the flu. In the language of economics the flu shot creates an external benefit, a benefit to other people not captured by the person who paid the costs of getting the shot.

The person ... said that she was on Medi-Cal and didn't have to pay the $25 for the [flu] shot--and didn't have the money to pay the$25 in any case. But the Sutter Visiting Nurse Association apparently does not take Medi-Cal.... Note that people covered by Medi-Cal are NOT counted as among the 47 million uninsured.