At the National Medical Association's 2008 Mazique Symposium in Atlanta, I made a bet with Karen Davenport. Davenport is a lovely woman, the director of health policy at the Center for American Progress, a prominent member of the Church of Universal Coverage, and a really good sport.
I bet Davenport $20 that I could convince her that the following two claims are true:
We agreed on three rules. First, there would be no splitting the difference or agreeing to disagree -- I would either succeed or I would fail. Second, Davenport would be the ultimate arbiter of whether I succeeded or failed. Third, if I failed, Davenport would have to explain why she was not convinced.
After my presentation and a subsequent exchange (mostly about the second claim), Davenport was unconvinced and she took the $40. She made two arguments for why I failed:
- A crucial part of my argument -- the claim by Helen Levy and David Meltzer that there is "no evidence" that expanding health insurance is a cost-effective way of improving health -- is not necessarily true and is, in fact, controversial among health economists, and
- The lives that would be lost by adopting universal coverage (rather than a more cost-effective strategy for improving health), would be less than the lives lost during the time it would take to conduct experiments to determine which strategy is most cost-effective.
I should add that Davenport tried to give me back my $20 ante. Naturally, I refused to accept my $20 unless it was also accompanied by her $20.