February 5, 2009 4:37PM

Does Karen Davenport Owe Me $40?

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:

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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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

So I ask you, dear readers, to put on your thinking caps, watch the first 15 minutes of the following video, and tell me: were my arguments logically flawed, or does Karen Davenport owe me $40?

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.