Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Triple Check that Scorecard: Lessons from the Links for Health Care Reform?

These days, insurers are widely depicted as the villains in health reform, a group that takes advantage of enrollees in ways both known and secret.

But the pharma industry has buffed up its image, coming in as a generous player and offering $80 billion over 10 years toward making reform work. That figure will require great sacrifice and is a number we can count on, pharma assures us.

Now comes a lesson from the links that gives us pause.

As we learn today from NPR's Marketplace, Behavioral economist Dan Ariely recently surveyed 17,000 golfers from a number of industries. He asked them to report how often they cheat at golf. He also asked them to rank how honest their industry is compared to others.

His premise is that golf can offer insights into business world attitudes. Like many business fields, golf has "lots and lots of rules," and players have some individual latitude to decide which rules to bend and which corners to cut.

Turns out "that people in the pharmaceutical industry cheated a lot, but they also said their industry is the most honest there is," he reports.

[A transcript and podcast of the Marketplace segment are available here.]

And "the most honest quite surprisingly were people from the insurance industry," he said. When host Kai Ryssdal seemed startled, Ariely added: "Could you believe it? Yeah, they cheated…it turns out they thought they were not particularly honest as an industry, but in our sample, they cheated the least."

Another finding: individuals in law enforcement, education, government, sales, marketing and advertising all cheated at about average rates. But the first three groups think they're among the most honest, while folks in the sales, marketing and advertising "think they come from industries that are much less honest."

People also felt better about cheating earlier in the game, and in writing down wrong numbers on their scores than in adding them up incorrectly once written.

It remains to be seen, of course, how many mulligans we'll be taking on health reform.

- Denise Peterson

image from flickr user chispita_666 used under a creative commons license

1 comment:

Jeremy G said...

Honest industry = honest self-reporting of golf cheating = high cheating recorded in survey (Pharma)


Dishonest industry = under-reporting of golf cheating = low cheating recorded in survey (Insurance)

Consistent with more honest reporting of others' behaviour (industry question) than own behaviour (golf question).