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Health Care Economics

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If the economy were a person, here's how I'd describe his travails in recent years.

For far too long, he binged on junk food, with no regard for the impact of such dietary habits on his system. He gorged on sub-prime cuts of real estate and paid for it with cheap credit whose price failed to reflect the damage he was doing to his internal organs.

He visited his doctor, a guy named Greenspan who'd studied medicine with Ayn Rand herself, but the doctor just slapped him on the back and told him he must be fine because he wasn't sick... yet.

Then, on September 15, 2008, he collapsed. He was rushed into intensive care, where eventually, his case was taken over by the medical teams of Obama and Bernanke. Dr. Obama, a cardiologist, applied stimulus to get his heart beating again, while Dr. Bernanke used angioplasty to clear the junk out of his veins so the credit blood could start circulating again.

His recovery was slow -- he'd really messed up his insides. But he was getting better. Then, in the 2010 midterms, the hospital elected a new board that was strongly against such medical interventions as those benefiting our client. They yanked out the stimulus tubes and discharged him.

He was out of the woods, but he wasn't better. His blood is circulating, but not that smoothly, and his heart beat is still below normal. If you watch him even today you see the symptoms of his incomplete treatment: every time he starts to climb the stairs or break into a run, he has to pull himself back and rest for awhile.

The hospital board remains intractable -- if anything, they're busy convincing themselves that it's all the Drs fault, especially that Obama guy (who they claim got his M.D. in Kenya). Dr. Bernanke, who has an independent practice, still sneaks in to see the patient now and again, but there's only so much he can do. It's hard to get the blood circulating if the heart's still beating too slowly.

Eventually, he'll get better, but at this rate it's going to take years. We could reform the health care system, but to do that, we'll need to replace the hospital board.

This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.