Marcus Welby Was Greedy, Too
By Arnold Kling
From my letter to the editor at the Washington Post:
In 1960, 50 percent of personal health-care spending was paid for by patients out of pocket. Today, that figure is about 10 percent. We will never again see a patient-centered system as long as someone else is paying the bills.
I was responding to an op-ed by someone claiming that the reason that today’s doctors are more beholden to insurance companies is because the doctors are greedier. Before they would print the letter, the Post called me and asked for sources for my figures. I had forgotten where I had seen the 50 percent figure. The more recent 10 percent figure comes from the Cato book Healthy Competition, by Michael Cannon and Michael Tanner.
Fortunately, I was able to Google my way to this book, which has it. It also points out that for the narrower category of physicians’ services, out-of-pocket payments accounted for 62 percent of spending in 1960. It seems almost almost foreign to be paying that much of your own medical bills. Kind of like listening to music by playing 45’s.
Anyway, I give the Post credit for fact-checking a one-paragraph letter to the editor. The New York Times doesn’t even bother to fact-check its regular columnists.