Last month, I attended the Aspen Ideas Festival at the Aspen Institute (@aspenideas) in Colorado for its first-ever Spolight: Health session. This was a three-day event, that brought together leaders in health care for discussion-based seminars and interviews. Additionally, 100 scholars were invited. As a member of this group of younger professionals and students, my only responsibility was to listen and learn. Naturally, I found this next to impossible, and I was able to ask questions of several experts who know a thing or two about American health care. As usual, I did a fair amount of live-tweeting from this event. I also added to my Twitter feed a handful of accounts that have very little overlap with my normal list and the world of #FOAMed and medical education. These accounts highlight some individuals and organizations that are focused on big-picture health care topics. Follow them if you’re interested in health care policy or want to start keeping up. Alternatively, you can simply conduct a search for the topic(s) you are interested in. Try searching #ACA or #Medicare for articles about the Affordable Care Act. One of the pros (and cons) of Twitter’s search function is that it tends to curate its searches of high-volume hashtags. This feature is particularly appreciated when searching for gems among the legions of tweets with popular hashtags such as #ACA or #Medicare. On the other hand, the main con with curation is that you can’t always find a tweet that you once saw. Sometimes you have to dig to find a particular tweet. Another con is that you can’t cross search tweets (say, by searching for #ACA and #Obamacare).
In the spirit of Aspen, I’d like to start by sharing three thought-provoking tweets that appeared in my feed.
1 The first is from Atul Grover, MD, PhD (@AtulGroverMD), chief public policy officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges. At the festival, Dr. Grover tweeted a question for Princeton economist and health care expert Uwe E. Reinhardt: “How much should you ask taxpayers to pay to save a year of life for someone they don’t know? #AspenIdeas.” It’s a simple question that nobody seems to want to answer despite the fact that how much taxpayers are already spending to save one life has recently been estimated. Summarizing recent data, Forbes.com health blogger Michael Cannon reports that the rollout of RomneyCare in Massachusetts had a number needed to treat of 830 to save one life; that is, 830 people had to enroll in a new insurance plan to save the life of one person age 20–64. Using an average premium of $5,000 per person, Cannon estimates that Massachusetts taxpayers paid around $4 million per life saved. The question Dr. Grover asked Mr. Reinhardt was, therefore, startlingly basic: can we save lives for less, and can we afford to save them for so much more?