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Who is the New York Times 'strafing'?

The New York Times ran a front-page story today arguing that the Dartmouth Atlas project -- which is the ongoing research project associated with the finding that we pay a lot of money for health care that doesn't do us any good -- is methodologically unsound. In response, the Dartmouth Atlas folks shot back with a blistering critique (pdf) identifying five factual errors in the article and a few more points of conceptual confusion.

People can read the two sides for themselves and see which they find convincing. For the record, I think we spent a ton of money on wasteful care, as the Atlas folks say, but I think it's going to be very, very hard to change that. What I did want to do is take issue with the way some outlets are reporting this spat.

Politico, for instance, headlined their morning health-care e-mail "NYT STRAFES W.H. HEALTH CARE DATA," and said the Times piece is "sure to provide fresh ammo to critics of the health care law." For the record, the Dartmouth Atlas findings have very little to do with what's actually in the health-care law. The Congressional Budget Office never bought the argument that more research and more electronic records (both of which were funded in the stimulus) would lead to less wasteful care and thus much bigger savings. This annoyed the White House, which was very taken with this data, but there was nothing they could do about it. The bill thus had to use old-fashioned tax increases and spending reductions to get the CBO's seal of approval.

So if the Dartmouth guys are totally wrong, that's a bummer in that it means there's less low-hanging fruit to pick, but it won't change the numbers on the bill. The Times might be strafing the Dartmouth Atlas guys, and they might be strafing the rhetoric of politicians who want to believe we can balance the books by getting rid of things no one needs in the first place, but they're not saying much about the health-care bill.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 3, 2010; 1:29 PM ET
Categories:  Health Economics , Health Reform  
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Comments

Considering the medical industrial complex's pushing of high-carb diets, antipsychotics for any mood dysfunction whatsoever, and surgury just when they need a new beemer, i can imagine this is true, and also not money that will EVER be cut. People trust MDs.

Posted by: yoyoy | June 3, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

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