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Friday, February 23rd 2007

Shocking: Think Tank Findings Differ From Peer Reviewed Research

The McKinsey Global Institute published a study (registration required) last month looking at why the U.S. spends more than other countries on health care. I’ve contended, a reasonable contribution to such is this country’s poorer health. MGI doesn’t think this country is unhealthier than other OECD countries,

[T]he research shows that the U.S. population is not significantly sicker than the other countries studied.

It attributed just $5 billion of the U.S. “overspending” to poor health. Two criticisms: more comprehensive and reputable studies find otherwise & MGI has a giant blinking bias light on top of it.

Childhood Obesity Epidemic Makes No Contribution To Poor Health

Because of the fact that MGI is part of a HUGE private for-profit consulting group I think we can assume some BIAS in blaming the cost on over-reimbursed health care entities. Lets look at the track record & criticisms of McKinsey & Co. (the parent corporation of the think tank),

Misguided or unimaginative analysis, such as its alleged recommendation in 1983 to AT&T that cellular phones would be a niche market

Lack of originality in coming up with ideas; restating the obvious with business jargon

Groupthink, as its consultants strive under time pressure to converge on a unified set of findings and recommendations

Hubris or arrogance toward executives, in particular underestimating the difficulty of implementing recommendations

The consulting industry in general is open to HUGE criticisms, and as one of the largest fish in the pond McKinsey & Co. is prone to such – see The Witch Doctors or Dangerous Company.

The implication is any think tank tied to one of these firms is as about as competent as the firms themselves. Which…stated so bluntly sounds kind’ve ridiculous.

What I do think is fair however, is the conclusion that the think tank’s agenda is to promote findings that serve as evidence for the positions of big business (the consulting firms’ clients). Clearly the implication that we’re ‘over spending’ is important, since the commercial sector is one of the largest voices in the call for health care reform (they have the most to save since this country funds health care through employment).

Throwing into the mix questions of patient responsibility – such as attributing some of America’s massive healthcare spending to poor health caused by modifiable lifestyle choices – doesn’t make for a strong argument for further government health care subsidization and does nothing to lower employer health care costs in the short term.

The point is any think tank tied to one of these companies has less credibility and more bias potential than even a group like AEI. The MGI even shares the same website with their for-profit parent company…at least go out and get a .org domain or something.

Despite that, my strongest argument against the report’s finding of comparable health between America and other OECD countries, isn’t even criticism of the authoring body. It is peer reviewed studies with findings to the opposite.

Banks, et al:

Americans have twice the rate of diabetes than the English
Americans have nearly twice the rate of cancer than the English
Americans have a higher rate of hypertension than the English
Americans have a higher rate of heart disease than the English
Americans have a higher rate of lung disease than the English
Americans suffer more heart attacks than the English (per capita)
Americans suffer more strokes than the English (per capita)

The author’s conclusions,

Britain’s universal health care system shouldn’t get credit for better health, Marmot and Blendon agreed.

Both said it might explain better health for low-income citizens, but can’t account for better health of England’s more affluent residents.

Marmot cautioned against looking for explanations in the two countries’ health care systems.

“It’s not just how we treat people when they get ill, but why they get ill in the first place,” Marmot said.

In another news article Banks credits lifestyle factors especially in childhood.

The same year, a less comprehensive study of Canadians and Americans found Canadians were much healthier. And yet the U.S. isn’t significantly sicker than other countries? Look deeper MGI or just watch someone sit down to a chicken fried steak dinner.