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March 2, 1990


JAMA. 1990;263(9):1287-1294. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440090129045

CHAIRPERSON'S COLUMN  William A. McDade, AMA-MSS Chairperson, has invited Alan Hartford, an MD-PhD Candidate in Political Economy and Government, to write this month's column.Economics is intregral to medicine. Our country's resources are limited; a greater percentage of the gross national product devoted to medical care means less for other items—whether bombs, housing, food, or cigarettes. The problem of funding long-term care of the elderly, the need for more biomedical research, and the tragedy of 37 million people in the United States lacking health insurance demonstrate that our wants are greater than our health care resources. Arguments about how large the Medicare budget should be, or whether Oregon's Medicaid program should pay for liver transplants rather than for prenatal care, demonstrate that people's wants conflict. Limited resources, limitless wants, and conflicting goals are at the core of medical economics.The appropriate application of economic theory to medicine is not easy,