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Posted by: Michael Mandel on June 08
Arnold Kling has a series of well-reasoned pieces on health care spending here. In the latest one, he discusses the fiscal dangers of what he calls “activist medicine,” which he defines in this way:
Activist medicine means undertaking procedures that have a low probability of affecting the final outcome.
This definition disturbs me somehow. Three problems in my mind. First, there’s usually going to be a lot of uncertainty about the estimate of the probability. There may be a low estimate, but with wide confidence bands.
Second, the history of technological change suggests that sometimes only experience and a lot of fiddling and experimentation can convert a weak innovation into a strong one. Labelling a medical innovation as “activist medicine” prematurely could be the kiss of death.
Third, there’s a lot of things that people could do for their health which have a high probability of affecting final outcomes, which they don’t do. I’m not sure what to make of that, but I think it’s important.
Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.