Thinking About Health... An EconTalk Playlist

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
Becky Liddicoat Yamarik on Pal... Vernon Smith on Adam Smith and...

We hope your thinking about the economics of the end of life were challenged in this week's episode with palliative care physician Becky Liddicoat Yamarik.

We've taking a slightly different direction in this Extra...We're pleased to introduce our first EconTalk Playlist, along with some prompts for thinking about the economics of health and health care. If the Yamarik episode intrigued you, too, we hope you'll enjoy visiting (or revisiting!) these past health-related episodes.

We hope you enjoy it, and as always, we love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments, or start your own conversations offline.


Too much choice?

In economics, we consistently emphasize the value of individual choice. But according to Becy Liddicoat Yamarik, sometimes choice can be problematic. Indeed she wonders whether her own specialty- palliative care- is really necessary. Is the complexity of end-of-life care today simply too great?

Is American health care really that bad?

A lot of breath is spent identifying the flaws in the American health care system. Yet 2012 guest Scott Atlas argues that relative to other countries, America's system is top-notch. How does health and health care compare across countries? And what measures are best used to make such comparisons? (And coming soon to EconTalk--Emily Oster talking about infant mortality rates in the US relative to the rest of the world).

Making health care decisions

Is there something about the human brain that prevents us from thinking rationally about health care, as Robin Hanson suggests in this 2007 episode? Think about some of the patient stories Yamarik relates. To what extent can Hanson's argument explain the behavior of any of these patients and/or their families?

Costs and consequences

Do programs like Medicaid have the (unintended?) consequence of reducing individual's stress regarding their health and health care, as the Oregon Medicaid study seemed to suggest? What are the effects of the Medicare and Medicaid on the sorts of end-of-life issues Yamarik faces each day?

See this EconTalk episode with Arnold Kling for a discussion of specialization in hospitals. Do you think the amount of specialization is a natural result or is it driven by policy decisions coming from government? Here is John Cochrane's vision for how health care might work if government played a smaller role.

The emergence of palliative care

Why do we face seemingly more end-of-life issues today? In this 2008 episode with Steven Lipstein, he suggests that as a result of cost-sharing, people defer health care expenditures, later suffering hospitalizations and/or complications that may have been avoidable. To what extent is this a convincing explanation?

Why does palliative care so often "infantilize" patients, as D.G. Myers suggests? How can palliative care be improved?

Comments and Sharing

CATEGORIES: Extras (194) , Health (63)

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COMMENTS (4 to date)
David Kendall writes:

The conversation with Becy Liddicoat Yamarik was fascinating. In a society like ours with advancing medical technology that is able to keep the human body "alive" when it may actually be souless, the questions addressed by Russ and Dr. Yamarik will become evermore important with each future year.

The percentage of total health care spending that is spent in the public's name, by third parties, for health care administered in the final month of life is astronomical and growing. I don't have the number at my finger tips, but I'm confident it is large.

I believe it was Plato's Socrates who said to learn to philosophize is to learn how to die. Perhaps the answer to what Russ noted are inherently hard problems is more philosophy and less health care paid for by third parties.

William Pocklington writes:

Please continue to invite guests on topics related to health and health insurance benefits. Perhaps Dr. Gruber would like an opportunity to restore his reputation.

In dealing with employers and their health benefit enrollees, I know first hand that few of us spend enough time, effort or attention in understanding our health and where the money comes from to make us better.

It seems that even Dr. Gruber has lost the forest for the trees when he suggests that states which have not expanded Medicaid are turning down FREE money. Really? Free Money? Perhaps the governors and legislatures of these states remember where the 'free money' originates.

If Dr. Gruber needs a reminder that there is no free lunch, it stands to reason that healthcare consumers do too.

AC writes:

I like the playlist idea, I hope there is a site redesign in the works. There is so much great content but it's not easy to find even with the different browsing categories.

[Please email us with your specific design suggestions so that we may discuss incorporating them in the site in the future. You can reach us at or --Econlib Ed.]

Taylor writes:

How could you leave out Cochrane's episode on health care?

[The url, since you left it out, is: Thanks for the reminder! With over 400 episodes for us to sort through, we are certainly likely to miss listing a few related episodes. We are grateful for our commenters' tips and memories, when our own memories may lapse. Thanks!--Econlib Ed.]

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