Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why health care is so expensive

This excellent article from Sunday's NYT magazine shows how the profit motive can lead to medicalization of natural variation and overspending on "health care." It details Eli Lilly's succesful campaign to have its version of human growth hormone approved to treat "idopathic short stature" which is just a fancy way of saying shortness. The drug is expensive ($20K/year x 4-5 years) and minimally effective (final increased height in the range of 1-2 inches). And new research shows being short doesn't lead to any major psych issues.
You would think the clinical virtues of a $2 billion drug would be readily apparent, but just last month, an editorial in a medical journal acknowledged that "uncertainties" about the psychological benefits "may well dampen enthusiasm" among doctors for increasing use.
So while lots of people can't afford insurance, the health care system is paying $50-100K per inch to make kids taller. In a more rational system, where people actually cared about medical costs, either the drug would be a lot cheaper, or used a lot less.

I should note that growth hormone does have a legitimate role in patients with truly medical conditions resulting in short stature like actual deficiency of growth hormone.


At 12:38 AM, Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Healthcare sure can be expensive but it is also a great importance and can be a major aspect to the family.

At 3:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will give a few reasons why health care is so expensive.
States mandate that insurance companies include certain treatments in their plans, such as podiatry and accupuncture (in new york state) therefore an individual in new york cannot get an insurance policy without those treatments even though it would save him money. obviously some special interest group was behind that law and some politician was probably well paid off. other things the state does to raise cost for everyone is to force insurance companies to charge the same for people regardless of their health status. So an oldee must pay the same as an young person, the result is that the price goes up for everybody, also the insurance companies are forced to accept people that are sick already, and so having the responsibility to get insurance before one is sick will not allow one to get a better rate. A study was done to see what would happen so prices if people were allowed to choose their own coverage, a monthly premium that was 872 could be cut to 172 (see wall streat journal 07/05)


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