Aug
02
2009

WaPo on Healthcare: 'Correct. But. . . Not Helpful'

Presenting yet another example of corporate media failure to grasp the concept of "Adjusted for Inflation," Kevin Drum (MotherJones.com, 7/26/09) has written up a Washington Post piece in which "David Brown says that as treatment for heart attacks has gotten better, it's also gotten more expensive":

"Over the same period, the charges for treating a heart attack marched steadily upward, from about $5,700 in 1977 to $54,400 in 2007 (without adjusting for inflation)."

I continue not to understand why anyone would write this. Why not this instead?

"Over the same period, adjusted for inflation, the charges for treating a heart attack marched steadily upward, from about $20,000 in 1977 to $54,400 in 2007."

Technically, Brown's wording is correct. But it's not helpful, since most people don't have even a vague notion of how much cumulative inflation there's been since 1977. The revised wording, however, is helpful: It gives people a correct impression of how much more we spend treating heart attacks these days. Namely, two to three times as much as 30 years ago.

And Drum maintains "this wasn't just a slip of the keyboard. Brown and his editor obviously made a deliberate decision to use nominal figures even though this doesn't give the average reader a very good idea of how much costs have actually risen."