Health Policy

Health Policy

Choice, Equality and Cost

David Reisman

This lucid and comprehensive book explores the ways in which the State, the market and the citizen can collaborate to satisfy people’s health care needs. It argues that health care is not a commodity like any other. It asks if its unique properties mean that there is a role for social regulation and political management. Apples and oranges can be left to the buyers and the sellers. Health care may require an input from the consensus, the experts, the insurers, the politicians and the bureaucrats as well. David Reisman makes a fresh contribution to the debate. He argues that the three policy issues that are of primary importance are choice, equality and cost.

Chapter 4: Inputs and outcomes

David Reisman

Subjects: politics and public policy, public administration and management, social policy and sociology, health policy and economics


A cow eating grass in a meadow is not the same as a nourishing beefsteak that drives away the flu. A doctor watching television in a bar is not the same as a robed crusader who whips out a tumour. The doctor, like the cow, is an input. The flu, like the tumour, is an outcome. The input is the means. The output is the end. They are not the same. Eggs are not omelettes and wards are not cures. Still, however, there is a human propensity to treat the parts as valued contributors to the well-being of the whole. Health care leads the field in eagerness and optimism. In few other areas of social life is there a greater willingness to take spend as a proxy for success. It may be wishful thinking to assume that more means more but it is nonetheless a near-universal heuristic. Most people treat the sirloins and the surgeons as a sacred cow. Most people oppose cuts in care because economies at the margin will infect our fellow citizens with sneezes and coughs. The link, however ill-specified, has the force of a shared conviction. It is a non-rational representation that must be treated with respect. This chapter is concerned with the principal inputs which are commonly believed to make us well. They are discussed in five sections: ‘Medical care’, ‘Care beyond medicine’, ‘Jurisprudence and legislation’, ‘Prosperity and progress’ and ‘Increments and totals’.

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