Drops in the Bucket: How Far Along Are We Really Toward Reducing Healthcare Spending?

This is a guest post by Jeff Mosenkis, a freelance producer with Freakonomics Radio who holds a Ph.D. in psychology and comparative human development.

Ezekiel Emanuel has a series of columns in the New York Times exploring healthcare costs that's worth examining. Emanuel is an oncologist and prolific bioethicist. He has an M.D. and a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Harvard, where he also taught. He advised the White House on healthcare, and was recently named chair of the bioethics department at Penn. And yes, he's the older brother of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel (fictionalized by Jeremy Piven on Entourage).

Two weeks ago, Emanuel pointed out that even though the U.S. outspends every other country on healthcare ($2.6 trillion a year; the equivalent of France’s entire GDP), we’re nowhere near the healthiest country. This week, he debunks ideas from the Left and Right about how to fix soaring costs.

Here's Why Health Care Costs Are Outpacing Health Care Efficacy

A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests a sensible, non-ideological take on why health care costs rise faster than their efficacy. This echoes a recurring theme here, that it's often the cheap and simple solutions that work the best.

Sometimes the Cardio Ward Is Best

A new study out of England finds that, for heart-failure patients, being admitted to the general ward instead of the cardiology ward can mean death: "Half the patients were admitted to cardiology wards. Compared with those managed on general wards, they tended to be younger and were more likely to be men. Those admitted to general medical wards were twice as likely to die as those admitted to cardiology wards, even after taking account of other risk factors."

When Technology Isn't the Answer

Technology is supposed to improve outcomes and efficiency especially when it comes to "health-information technology" (HIT). But it's not always that simple.

Economists on Health Care

The latest issue of The Economists' Voice is a special issue on health care reform. David Cutler explains the economics of health reform, while Mark Duggan and Robert Kocher weigh in on health-insurance exchanges.

Stumbling Toward a Market for Health Care in the U.K.

Many economists view the health-care bill passed in the U.S. earlier this year as falling somewhere between "a complete waste of time" and "actually making the situation worse." Will the Conservative Party do better with health-care reform in the U.K.?

The Upside of Profanity

A new study from the psychiatry department in New York's Bellevue Hospital examines the use of offensive language by medical staff, patients, and families.

If You Think You've Got Health-Care Problems …

A new study analyzed the effects of buying four basic prescription drugs in "low- and middle-income countries," and the results aren't pretty.

Reducing Hospital Bouncebacks

Zachary Meisel and Jesse Pines examine the issue of hospital "bouncebacks" -- patients who return to the hospital shortly after discharge: "[B]ouncebacks are massively expensive-a recent study of Medicare patients found that one in five admissions results in a bounceback within 30 days of discharge, costing the federal government an estimated $17.4 billion per year."

The End-of-Life War

Has modern medicine failed people at the end of their lives?