Figuring out the costs

One of the most popular topics of conversation these days among Americans trying hard to understand the debate over healthcare is the issue of whether higher cost bring better care. A number of articles have discussed the Dartmouth studies on regional differences in the cost of healthcare to patients covered by Medicare. Today’s N.Y. Times provides an overview of those studies by one of the researchers involved. Although there are some questions raised by critics, such as questions about whether people in some parts of the country are just sicker than others, the evidence seems overwhelming that much of the difference comes from the attitudes and practices of the doctors and hospitals involved. Let’s hope the educators developing curriculum for medical schools are taking a serious look at the results of these studies and designing courses that train doctors to consider the implications of their decisions on the nation’s healthcare. Our hopes for true and lasting reform in healthcare depend as much on our young doctors as on lawmaker’s decisions. And while we’re at it, let’s reconsider covering more of the costs of medical education so young doctors don’t face the burden of overwhelming debt that conflicts with their desire to give service where it is needed most.

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