Monday, May 23, 2005

Noted Healthcare Policy Expert...Robin Cook?

So Robin Cook, a novelist best known for medical thrillers in the beach-reading genre, wrote an op-ed in the Sunday NY Times on the implications of genetic testing. Coincidentally, his new book, a medical thriller about genetic testing, will be released soon.

And suddenly, non-healthcare people are asking me if I got a chance to read this "great" op-ed, and saying that it's the most persuasive argument they've heard in favor of universal health care. Others are quoting this piece and talking about the "inevitability" of universal health care. It's completely strange; "adverse selection is bad and universal pooling is the only way around it" is healthcare economics 101. Cook's piece displays no new insights and people in the field have written about the impact of genetic testing on the insurance industry a thousand times over the past 10 or 15 years.

Somehow, Robin Cook set out to promote his book but succeeded in making the pernicious effects of adverse selection obivious to the non-expert, and has even made universal healthcare more acceptable to the general public. Even more bizarrely, people seem to find it acceptable because he's argued that it's a solution to discrimination on the basis of genetic profiling--a problem that does not yet and may never exist!

So, universal healthcare to cure our current insurance crisis is bad. But to cure a problem that may or may not exist in 20 or 30 years? Good.

Next week, I'll be talking about how investing in electronic medical records will be especially useful during an alien invasion...

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