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Krugman’s body count

Posted By Russ Roberts On October 15, 2012 @ 6:12 pm In Health | Comments Disabled

In this article [1], Paul Krugman argues that the absence of health insurance can kill you:

So there’s no real question that lack of insurance is responsible for thousands, and probably tens of thousands, of excess deaths of Americans each year.

Love that “probably.” It’s a nice rhetorical flourish.

My favorite part of the article is this:

And surely the fact that the United States is the only major advanced nation without some form of universal health care is at least part of the reason life expectancy is much lower in America than in Canada or Western Europe.

Sure. That’s the only important difference between the US and Canada and Western Europe. It’s always fantastic that one variable can explain such a complex phenomenon. More here [2], if you’re interested. Noting that correlation is not causation is a hallmark of the economic way of thinking. Krugman prefers not to notice.

Similarly, another thing economists like to point out is that when you subsidize something, it tends to drive up the price. Krugman’s fails to mention the impact on prices of the massive subsidies the government gives to health care. Those higher prices are part of the reason that being uninsured is so unpleasant. If we left health care alone, health care would be much cheaper and being uninsured would be much less unpleasant.

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[1] this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/opinion/krugman-death-by-ideology.html

[2] here: http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/does-the-us-lead-in-life-expectancy-223/

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