Health

The market for health insurance is different from other markets. Government is heavily involved and would become more so under reform plans now being debated. Information often is shielded from participants, whose behavior can be far from transparent. Experts agree that health insurance markets need to be closely watched, as health care reform assumes a place on the national agenda after a new President and Congress are elected in November. Part 4 of our series on health care issues in the presidential election examines this complex market.

There's no doubt about it: Americans want choices. In education. In mail services. And in health care, too — even if the government is picking up the tab. In Part 2 of a series on health care reform and the election, experts at the W. P. Carey School and in the broader community discuss the issue of a single-payer health care system versus one that offers individuals the power to choose from a variety of insurers.

Last year, Dennis Quaid's anguished visage was splashed across the tabloids. Like many Hollywood stories, this one revolved around drugs. But it wasn't the usual A-list overdose or contraband possession. Instead, Quaid's newborn twins were mistakenly given two doses of Heparin rather than Hep-lock. The dosage was a thousand times stronger than it should have been, nearly killing the babies. For anyone who's ever had a doctor handwrite a prescription and marveled at its illegibility, the issues that Quaid faced and which Michael F. Furukawa, an assistant professor in the School of Health Management and Policy at the W. P. Carey School of Business, addresses seem self-evident. But the problem is not just a pharmacist dispensing an incorrect drug or a nurse administering too much of the right one. The health system abounds with medical mistakes. Some have minor effects; some are fatal. Together, they add up to a very real problem.

Forty-seven percent of registered voters say that health care is an extremely important consideration in their vote for president, according to a June CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Not surprisingly, then, both presidential candidates have outlined proposals to reform the nation's health care system. Central to each proposal is a plan to lower health care costs. In the first part of a series about health care issues and the election, experts say actually achieving lower health care costs (or even slower increases in costs) may be easier said than done.

Ask U.S. consumers about their satisfaction with the existing health care system, and up to 80 percent say major fixes or even a complete overhaul are overdue. But they may not understand the complexities of health care reform, says Marjorie Baldwin, economist and director of the School of Health Management and Policy at the W. P. Carey School of Business. Baldwin is one of a growing number of well-regarded economists who say there is a vast gap between public perception and reality when it comes to what's wrong with health care — and how to fix it.