NY Times: Shannon Brownlee's 'Overtreated' Is Economics Book of 2007

December 19, 2007 |

On the front of the New York Times business section today, economics columnist David Leonhardt names Bernard Schwartz Senior Fellow Shannon Brownlee’s book “Overtreated” as the best economics book of the year. Below is an excerpt from the article:

"...I’m going with Ms. Brownlee’s book [economics book of the year] because it’s the best description I have yet read of a huge economic problem that we know how to solve -- but is so often misunderstood.

As you’ve doubtless heard, this country spends far more money per person on medical care than other countries and still seems to get worse results. We devote 16 percent of our gross domestic product to health care, while Canada and France, where people live longer, spend about 10 percent.

Some of this difference is unavoidable. The United States does more than its share of medical research and bears much of those costs. It also has a diverse, economically unequal population, which, in turn, leads to a diverse and complicated set of health problems.

But health care spending simply can’t continue to rise at its current pace. If it did, it would “eventually overwhelm both the federal budget and workers’ paychecks,” as Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, told me. “Slowing such growth is the single most important step we can take to assure our fiscal future and lift a growing burden on workers.”

Fortunately -- if that’s the right word -- there is an obvious candidate for cost-cutting: all that care that brings no health benefit. It’s not hard to find examples. Scientific studies have shown that many treatments, including spinal fusion, routine episiotomies and neonatal intensive care, are overdone. These procedures often help specific subsets of patients. But for a lot of people, and “Overtreated” is full of stories, the treatments are a modern-day version of bloodletting." ...

For the complete article, please follow this link.

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