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Center for Policy Research

Policy Brief

Are the Benefits of Medicine Worth What We Pay for It?

David M. Cutler

C.P.R. Policy Brief No. 27

March 2004


Is medical care worth it? Conventional wisdom says no, but the author's answer is emphatically yes. The benefits that we have received from medical advance are enormously greater than the costs. The author suggests that public policy far outweighs the importance of cost containment relative to coverage expansion; we could in fact spend more and get a lot more for our health care dollars.

In what follows, the author talks about the costs and benefits of medical advance, focusing on two areas where he has done the most work: improvements in cardiovascular disease care and care for low birth weight infants. In each case, he presents evidence that the benefits justify the costs, and discusses what that implies for public policy.

The author notes at the outside that he shall be summarizing a large volume of research that he and others have done. He has compiled my views into a book, YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE (2004, Oxford University Press), that the interested reader should consult.

Sponsored by the The Herbert Lourie Memorial Lecture series, which is jointly sponsored by Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Central New York Community Foundation, Inc., and is administered by the Center for Policy Research and The Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion.

The Center for Policy Research Policy Brief series is a collection of essays on current public policy issues in aging; urban and regional studies; education finance and accountability; public finance; social welfare, poverty, and income security; and related research done by or on behalf of the Center for Policy Research at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

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