Why don’t advances in technology bring the same cost decreases (and quality increases) in health care as they do in other sectors of the economy? That was the central question this episode as EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed Dartmouth’s Jonathan Skinner. Is innovation in health care always worth it? And why do some seem to benefit disproportionately more than others?


1. I’ve long joked that my cats get better quality health care than I…And this is a theme Roberts and Skinner pick up this week. They suggest several reasons why we might feel this way…in the absence of “Medicare Part P.” What has actually happened to the real cost of caring for our pets? What are the challenges of measuring this change and what it might teach us about human health care? To what extent does competition among vets reduce the cost of pet health care by introducing innovation and other cost-saving measures? What about pet insurance? How does private pet insurance contribute to the quality and cost of animal care? 2. Roberts and Skinner also spend a good bit of time on opioids in this week’s conversation. Revisit this 2012 episode on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. How might the changes in SSDI eligibility have influenced the opioid issues Skinner is concerned about. How did Autor propose changing SSDI in this previous episode, and to what extent might this solve the opioid problems of today?

3. At the end of the episode, perhaps the biggest questions remaining for me are these. Is the digital health care revolution being oversold? Why aren’t we seeing the benefits promised by the digital age in the area of heath care? How much of health care requires personal contact? What are your thoughts?