Last November, I wrote an op-ed for the New York Post. It's no longer online, but here's the gist of it:
For decades, New York officials distressed with the cost of its Medicaid program have compared it to California's, which serves more people for less money. A more instructive lesson can be drawn by comparing the performances of their baseball teams.
As each usually does, the Oakland Athletics and the Yankees once again won their division titles this year. But it cost the Yankees three times as much in payroll. How does Oakland do it? In "Moneyball, the Art of Winning an Unfair Game," Michael Lewis credits General Manager Billy Beane - who hires statisticians who examine reams of baseball data to figure out what really wins.
New York needs a Billy Beane for its Medicaid program, someone who treasures the data and builds a team around it. Never mind the Medicaid differences between New York and California, the differences within New York are even greater - and we can do something about them.
The second baseball lesson is this: At the end of the ball game, we know who won and who lost. Not so in Medicaid, which measures hits but not runs. We know if the patient went to the hospital, but not if she got better.
In baseball, geeks and science are replacing tobacco-chewing coaches and common wisdom. With Gov. Pataki playing General Manager like Billy Beane, we can do the same with Medicaid. Let's redefine what a Medicaid "win" really is, and use the data to figure out how to do it. Then let's train new coaches and players so that a decade from now we can watch some real major league Medicaid.
For you baseball geeks (and I know you're out there) and others of you who would like to speculate on what we could be doing with Medicaid data, take a look at Sabernomics, Economic Thinking about Baseball. All we need is to be able to access Medicaid data like we do baseball data.