Cowen follows up and explains why the number matters:

Overall I'd like to see more numbers in the health care debate.  If the Obama plan spends $90 billion extra a year on coverage and saves/extends 10,000 lives a year (a plausible estimate, in my view), that is $9 million a life, a rather underwhelming rate of return.  That's a very gross comparison because life extension is not the only benefit and the $90 billion is not the only cost.  Still, as a starting point for analysis I don't think it makes the plan look better.  Keep also in mind that many of the newly covered people are bumping others back into the queue, since the overall supply of medical care isn't going up and may even be declining.

If you did a simple cost-benefit comparison, the Obama plan vs. a simple extension of Medicaid, more R&D through the NIH, and some targeted public health expenditures, I believe the latter would win hands down.  And the latter seems more politically feasible too.

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