June 23, 2011

An Insight Into ObamaCare®

Peter Orszag, of "bend the cost curve" fame, has now been demoted from US Medical Czar Plenipotentiary to "Bloomberg Columnist." For this, Lord, may we be truly thankful...

But he's worried, he is. You see, Americans are living longer than ever, and there are many important innovations in health technology and knowledge. He documents several of them in "How My Wi-Fi Scale Adds to America's Class Divide." Oh, the bright kids in the front see where this is going...

But it's worrisome, too, because the same technological change that allows any of us to walk around with all this personal data at a glance may wind up exacerbating the growing gap in life expectancy between people with high levels of income and education and those without.

If I may translate (I took a semester of Orszaggian in college): "exacerbating the growing gap in life expectancy" means that some people will live longer. O cruel world! Why, if we grow life expectancy to 150 years, that will exacerbate the longevity differential between those who die young.

And it is grossly unfair, because the people living longer are wealthy! They can afford a Wi-Fi Scale! Correct me if I am wrong, but causality might be what economists call "bassackwards" here. Professor Reynolds has suggested that Obama Administration members (Orszag, check) confuse the markers of middle class with the habits and skills that produce it. Give them a house, and they will have the same advantages that a person who works hard, saves and protects his credit rating has -- see, they both have a house! (To be fair, Reynolds directs this more at the ruling class, but I think it works.)

What about those damned, lucky rich people who are going to outlive their disadvantaged counterparts?

The leading explanations for this involve health behavior -- including diet, exercise and smoking. For example, men 50 and older without a high-school education are more than twice as likely to smoke as those with a college degree. Exercise behavior also varies substantially. Among 45- to 54-year-olds in one study, only 16 percent of those without a high-school degree exercised vigorously at least once a week, whereas 56 percent of college graduates did.

If the new personalized health technologies wind up being used disproportionately by people with more education and income, driving that group toward even better health, they will probably cause the gap in life expectancy to widen still further.

So, Pete, buddy. A guy could read that and see that guys who exercise, eat well and don't smoke are healthier and live longer. Might they also be more likely to buy a Wi-Fi scale and a medical ID bracelet?

Might -- and I know I am way out on a limb here -- might those serious. forward looking individuals be more likely to complete their education and be successful in careers?

I don't know about your senior year in high school, Mr. O, but mine did not have the magic health class that told me how to care for myself. You got much further in college than I did; maybe it was a 400 level course, or postgrad. But I have this sneaking suspicion that you describe a behavior and not a class.

Hat-tip: Prof Mankiw

UPDATE: I fixed the spelling of Orszag (was Orzag, mea culpa). Someday, I will tell you all the story of the Knoxville Law Professor I have proofreading for me. It's a good one...

Rant Posted by John Kranz at June 23, 2011 1:51 PM
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