Capital Ideas Blog

Want 1950s prices for health care? There's just one catch, says Greg Mankiw

By Emily Lambert
February 25, 2013

From: Blog


Let’s say you could get health care for the prices charged in 1950. The catch: you could only get that if you also got 1950s-style health care. So do you want that deal?

That’s what Greg Mankiw, Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard, asked on Feb. 22 in New York at the US Monetary Policy Forum, sponsored by Booth’s Initiative on Global Markets. The morning session at the forum, which drew 130 invited guests, outlined the potential crises facing US monetary policymakers.

Mankiw’s lunchtime address was billed as “The Fiscal Challenge Ahead,” and he took the opportunity to directly address rising health care spending, a large part of the country’s unsustainable spending path. It’s a topic he had tackled before in a 2009 New York Times op-ed. When technology advances, costs naturally rise, he said. And as few would reject recent technological advances, someone will have to pay for them, and not all people can afford to.

That means there will likely be some inequity in the distribution of the care, or in the distribution of the payment, or both. One thing that could counteract that is to reject technological advances. But is anyone out there prepared to say yes to 1950s health care?

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