Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Being an Informed Consumer

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Yesterday, Michelle Chafee wrote this article posted on LinkedIn. In the article, she called for three specific changes in the health care marketplace:

  1. Increased transparency of health licensing boards;
  2. Increased oversight on disciplinary decisions;
  3. Better educated and engaged health care consumers.

Points 1 and 2 don’t mean very much without point 3. Ms. Chafee writes:

Like it or not, if you want the best care, you are going to have to educate yourself and take some initiative in managing your health.  The medical system is complex and getting more complicated with the huge increase in patients seeking care.  Anyone who still holds firm to the belief that they can blindly put their faith in the system and expect their family doctor to manage all the details of their care is bound to be disappointed.  …  You are going to have to put in the time and energy to research what information is currently available when choosing a physician, educate yourself on your individual health issues and make the necessary preventative changes to improve your health and well being.

The obvious question is: how does this actually work? If I am going to put the time and energy into being an informed consumer, what other activities am I taking the time and energy away from?

One of the great delusions of economics is “perfect information.” With perfect information, markets always clear, decision makers are always rational and life is great. However, information is itself a good and has value. It has costs to produce. It can’t possibly be free.

We are talking about health care — the providers went to medical school to become subject matter experts. The consumer cannot abdicate completely to the providers; Our Bodies, Ourselves was written in the first place as a rebellion against having the providers make all the decisions. At the same time, it would be a full-time job for the consumer to become as informed as the providers.

There is no satisfactory answer to this problem, and there are going to be many twists and turns in the story before we find a satisfactory ending.


Written by srojak

January 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm

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