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Center for Policy Research


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

David M. Cutler

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 his views into a book, Your Money or Your Life (2004, Oxford University Press), that the interested reader should consult.

This report is sponsered by The Herbert Lourie Memorial Lecture series, which is jointly sponsored by the 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 and Population Health.

The Center for Policy Research at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University supports policy-relevant research and disseminates knowledge that enables leaders to make informed policy decisions and provide effective solutions to critical challenges in our local region, state, country and across the world.

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