Tageconomics

Reading of the Week: Do Markets Work for (Mental) Health Services? The Arrow Paper

From the Editor

His New York Times obituary opens: “Kenneth J. Arrow, one of the most brilliant economic minds of the 20th century and, at 51, the youngest economist ever to win a Nobel, died on Tuesday at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 95.”

Kenneth J. Arrow

As a tribute to Kenneth Arrow, this week’s paper is his “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economic of Medical Care.”

This paper was published decades ago. Our selections try to be current. But we’ll make an exception for a good reason: Kenneth Arrow, one of the most significant economists of the 20th Century, died last week; his work on health care and economics remains deeply influential. Indeed, whether we are discussing the Choosing Wisely campaign or debating the expansion of public coverage under Obamacare, we are essentially weighing in on Arrow’s 1963 health economics paper – which makes this paper a natural choice for this week’s Reading.

Arrow didn’t mention mental health in his 1963 paper. But as we seek to better mental health services, his observations on the problems of health-care information are worth considering.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Cost and Mental Illness

From the Editor

When we think about mental illness, we often think about loss – loss of friendships, loss of opportunities, and, in some cases, loss of life.

From a societal perspective, mental illness is often accompanied by another loss: economic.

Here are two papers that consider the long economic shadow cast by mental illness.

In the first, the authors consider mental illness and high-use consumers of health care. Specifically, the paper asks a simple if important question: looking at people who heavily use the health-care system, what percentage have mental health and addiction problems? The second paper, which draws on US data, calculates the cost of treating mental health disorders compared to other disorders.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Economics and Mental Illness

For John Mooney, it was a career highlight. In March the Irish cricketer took a crucial catch that gave his team the victory in a World Cup match and eliminated the higher-ranked Zimbabwe. But afterwards the Zimbabwe Herald, a daily paper with links to Zanu-PF, the thuggish ruling party, claimed that Mr. Mooney had lied when he said that his foot had not been touching the boundary, meaning the catch should have been disallowed. The article cited previous interviews in which the sportsman had spoken frankly about his long battles with drink, depression and suicidal thoughts. Under pressure, it claimed, a “man of such a character” could not be trusted to have “the honesty, let alone the decency” to tell the truth.

John Mooney, cricketer, Ireland “player of the year” (2010), and a man with depression

So begins this week’s Reading.

The essay provides an excellent summary of the impact of mental health on our society and our economy. It also notes reasons for hope. Indeed, Mr. Mooney’s story is moving: after the Zimbabwe Herald attack, fearing that others may be reluctant to talk about their mental illness in light of his harassment, Mr. Mooney chose to publicly speak about his battle with depression. The article notes:

The reaction was heartening. Messages and thanks are still coming in.

This essay is readable and concise. “Out of the shadows: The stigma of mental illness is fading. But it will take time for sufferers to get the treatment they need” is a must read. Here’s the surprise: it was published in an economics magazine.

Welcome to 2015, where thoughtful analysis on mental health issues isn’t just for the psychiatry journals anymore. Continue reading