Ricochet friend Jim Pinkerton has been saying for years, especially on his excellent (though slightly wonky) blog Serious Medicine Strategy, that we need to be thinking a lot bigger about health care than we are.
Right now, the sad, small-timers in the Obama administration are concentrating on allocating -- read: rationing -- resources.
Pinkerton has been arguing that we need to be focusing on curing diseases, not treating them. And he's apparently convinced Michele Bachmann, the hugely misunderestimated congresswoman and potential presidential candidate. From the Daily Caller:
There are essentially three ways to lower the cost of health care — two of which get all the attention. The first option, supported by many liberals, is bureaucratic rationing of care. The second option, supported by many conservatives, involves cuts in overall spending, plus the use of market forces, to control costs. The first two options are perpetually in conflict, and so far, at least, the two options seem to be fighting to a stalemate. But there is a third option for conservatives, which builds on the free-market/limited government model — and which offers the hope for a political breakthrough.
And that third option — currently being championed by Rep. Michele Bachmann — is to actually cure diseases.
Bachmann’s argument, which she first sounded on “Fox News Sunday” on May 1, is that [Paul] Ryan-type fiscal rigor needs to be linked to pro-medical science vigor. As she told Fox’s Chris Wallace, “We should focus on…cures — cures for things like Alzheimer’s, cures for things like diabetes. It’s very expensive to just cover the care for sickness. I’d prefer to see money that we have at the federal level go for cures.”
It is an interesting, albeit seemingly obvious, point — a cure is cheaper than care. But actually, it’s not so obvious. The idea of curing diseases as a health care strategy — as opposed to financing the care for those diseases — seems to have faded from the political discourse in recent years. Whether it’s Ryancare or Obamacare, both parties have chosen to focus on the mechanisms of health care finance, as opposed to health itself. The immediate question comes back: Are cures even possible?
And Bachmann has an answer to that, too, pointing back to past successes for a can-do America; as she told Wallace: “Probably one of the best examples is polio. If you look in the 1950s, polio was a huge issue. And government was forecasting at that point that we might be looking at $100 billion in costs. Today, polio costs us really virtually nothing. Why? A private charity, March of Dimes, put money in to finding a cure. We all have the little vaccines that Jonas Salk came up with. Thank God. I would like to see that with Alzheimer’s and diabetes and others.”
I love it when a conservative politician speaks eloquently and passionately and especially optimistically about health care. We shouldn't fall into the Obama Gloom trap. We're Americans. We solve problems. There's nothing intrinsic about health care to suggest that it's any different from any other technical or industrial problem. I like the way Bachmann is reframing the debate, and I hope she does more of it.