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Cost-Benefit Questions of the Health Care Provisions of the 'Stimulus'

My friend and former Capitol Hill colleague Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute has a piece on NPR today that is well worth reading. Cannon offers a look at some of the health care spending allocated in the "stimulus" bill President Obama signed this week.

A few examples:
We desperately need research on the effectiveness of medical treatments, and the law includes $1 billion for that. Yet experience suggests the benefits of taxpayer-funded research may be zero. Historically, every time a federal agency produces research that questions the value of some medical treatment, health care providers convince Congress to shoot the messenger. ...

We also need better health information technology. For one thing, IT that keeps track of the images from your first MRI can avoid the expense of a second MRI. Yet the law's $33 billion for electronic medical records also fails the cost-benefit test. The CBO estimates it would be cheaper just to do the second MRI.

The law includes $115 billion in health insurance subsidies. ... Half the money will likely go to people who would have had health insurance anyway. ...

Other provisions make even make-work look good. The law will finance expanded COBRA benefits with a $65 billion hidden tax on other workers' health insurance premiums. That hidden tax will actually reduce wages and job creation.

Read the whole thing here.

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