Piping a Different Tune

This journal continues its tradition of publishing hostile reviews about Harvard University professor Regina Herzlinger’s books with the one by Alan Maynard (Nov/Dec 07). After introducing her book, Who Killed Health Care: America’s $2 Trillion Medical Problem—and the Consumer-Driven Cure, by gratuitously attempting to stir controversy with another Harvard academic, he goes on to ignore the central argument of Herzlinger’s book, misrepresent her views on important issues (such as pay-for-performance), and conclude with a backhanded slap at the morality of Americans even as he misrepresents—or simply completely misunderstands—American public opinion.
A review of all of the problems with Maynard’s s review would require more ink than the original, so I will confine my comments to clarifying what Herzlinger actually advocates. As in all other areas of society, she sees progress coming from the bottom up, not the top down, with empowered consumers and entrepreneurial providers creating profitable arrangements, structures, and institutions that will improve quality and convenience while decreasing actual prices and costs. (Costs are larger than just the dollar price, as any person who has waited for, or simply been denied, care because of budget constraints in socialized medical systems knows.)

Progress has been slower than Herzlinger originally expected when she wrote Market-Driven Health Care in 1997, largely because of the efforts of established interests, both those that profit from delivering the status quo (such as hospitals that go to the government to block competition) and academics and policy mavens who earn their keep by providing justification for centralized systems. This book, like her others, makes bold claims, moves swiftly, and offers solutions to reform U.S. health care.

Although I do not support individual mandates, the book and author deserved better treatment. Such treatment could have started by assigning the review to someone who understands U.S. health care, not just the European view of it.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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