Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Hidden Cost of Health Care: Patient Time

Any student of Econ 101 knows that economists measure costs by opportunity costs, meaning everything that is given up to get something else. Time spent interacting with the medical system could be used for other activities, like work and leisure. Moreover, spending time getting medical care is not fun. This time should be counted as part of the cost of health care.

Using the
American Time Use Survey, I calculate that Americans age 15 and older collectively spent 847 million hours waiting for medical services to be provided in 2007. If we value all people’s time at the average hourly wage of production and nonsupervisory workers ($17.43 in 2007), Americans spent the equivalent of $240 billion on health care in 2007. Put another way, omitting patients’ time caused national health care expenditures to be undercounted by 11% in 2007.

Alan Krueger, Princeton economics professor, in The NY Times

11 Comments:

At 2/10/2009 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Access to government resources is a privilege not a right and comes with tough new conditions and responsibilities."

I hope someone remember this comment from Geithner during today's speech so that after the government nationalizes health care we can all be sure to ask what conditions and responsibilities the government will be imposing as a condition for us receiving health care.

 
At 2/10/2009 1:47 PM, Blogger Andy said...

This is very inaccurate. How many people would actually have rather spent that time working? I suspect few. Not to mention that many people are salaried and earn the same regardless of how many hours they work.

 
At 2/10/2009 4:21 PM, Blogger 1 said...

"This is very inaccurate"...

How do you know that andy?

"How many people would actually have rather spent that time working?"...

Versus waiting in a doctor's office?

I'd rather be working...

"Not to mention that many people are salaried and earn the same regardless of how many hours they work"...

Hmmm, this is an interesting assumption...

How many employers allow people time off from work (salaried or hourly) to go to the doctor's office if it isn't a workmen's comp claim?

I've yet to see one but that's just me...

 
At 2/10/2009 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to call my doctor and make a bogus appointment under another name ahead of my real appointment and then not show up for the bogus one

That way the doctor would be more or less on time when he got to me.

He was really upset when he finally caught me, but I told him my time was worth money, too.

 
At 2/10/2009 6:46 PM, Anonymous Dr. T said...

Some of my doctors and dentists consistently kept me waiting for more than 30 minutes (without the excuse of an emergency). I suggested, as a fellow professional, that they improve their scheduling process because patients value their time, too. None of them were receptive to my comments, so none of them kept my business.

For the value of time, my rule is that work time is valued at salary plus benefits and non-work time is one-fourth of work time. Thus, if my work time is $80 per hour, my leisure time value is $20 per hour.

 
At 2/10/2009 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does this compare to other socialized medical countries? Also is it possible to compare the amount of time it takes to get an appointment?

 
At 2/10/2009 9:08 PM, Blogger montestruc said...

Do not forget the time spent arguing with insurance firms, various accounting people for labs, and medical treatment, facilities and even pharmacies as to what the insurance company owes and what the patient owes.

 
At 2/11/2009 12:17 AM, Blogger QT said...

...or the time spent on blogs...

 
At 2/11/2009 2:59 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

here's a wsj article on waiting for medical services in Canada from the 2-9-10 WSJ. Not sure if you need a subscription.

From the article:

On the other side of the country in Alberta, Bill Murray waited in pain for more than a year to see a specialist for his arthritic hip. The specialist recommended a "Birmingham" hip resurfacing surgery (a state-of-the-art procedure that gives better results than basic hip replacement) as the best medical option. But government bureaucrats determined that Mr. Murray, who was 57, was "too old" to enjoy the benefits of this procedure and said no. In the end, he was also denied the opportunity to pay for the procedure himself in Alberta. He's heading to court claiming a violation of Charter rights as well.

How long will it be before Americans are told they are too old for some particluar treatment? Who gets to decide who's too old? Who gets to decide who decides?

Personally, I'm going to throw my hat into the ring to be appointed "medical services god." I'm announcing my candidacy here and now.

 
At 2/11/2009 3:02 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

Ooops.

The article I linked to above is from February 10, 2009 WSJ, not the February 9, 2010 paper.

 
At 2/12/2009 2:18 PM, Blogger Gary Baumgarten said...

National health care will be the topic of News Talk Online on Paltalk.com Monday February 16 at 5 PM New York time.

Please go to http://www.garybaumgarten.com and click on the Enter The Chatroom button to join in the conversation.

Thanks,

Gary

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home