US Health Care System Faces Expert Service Problem

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Possibly the "biggest flaw" with the health care system is thatpatients in most cases "aren't sophisticated enough to make anindependent judgment" about the medical services they require and thushave to rely on physicians, columnist David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times.According to Leonhardt, economists in some cases refer to such asituation, which also can occur in the field of auto repair, as an"expert service problem" because the "same expert who is diagnosing theflaw is the one who will be paid to fix it."

Leonhardt writesthat, "when a situation is too complex for an amateur to grasp -- andwhen it involves shades of gray -- you probably shouldn't expect to geta purely objective diagnosis from someone who has a financial incentiveto give you something." According to Leonhardt, the "expert serviceproblem is more serious in medicine than auto repair because mostpeople are less willing to question a doctor than an auto mechanic." Headds, "Any effort to reform American medicine has to grapple with theseconflicts of interest" (Leonhardt, New York Times, 11/7).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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