A Jumble of Health Care Related Points


By Joe Campbell
August 6th, 2009

I’ve been collecting a number of interesting points regarding health care that I haven’t yet found a way to incorporate into a post. So to stop lugging this paper around, here’s a jumble of different facts, arguments, and stories:

Robert Borsage explains one argument for “going all in” on health care reform. He explains that bringing everyone into the health insurance system would remove the hidden tax the uninsured levy on the rest of society:

This removes the hidden charge – estimated at $1,100 per person – we each pay for the 47 million who aren’t insured and are forced to use the emergency room as their doctor, often putting off treatment that results in higher costs when the untreated illness becomes critical.

The Boston Globe points out that the Romney-backed health reform there is actually working, despite headlines that seem to suggest the contrary:

In the myth that these critics have manufactured, this state’s plan is bleeding taxpayers dry, creating nothing less than a medical Big Dig.

The facts – according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation – are quite different. Its report this spring put the cost to the state taxpayer at about $88 million a year, less than four-tenths of 1 percent of the state budget of $27 billion. Yes, the state recently had to cut benefits for legal immigrants, and safety-net hospital Boston Medical Center has sued for higher state aid. But that is because the recession has cut state revenues, not because universal healthcare is a boondoggle. The main reason costs to the state have been well within expectations? More than half of all the previously uninsured got coverage by buying into their employers’ plans, not by opting for one of the state-subsidized plans.

Ezra Klein follows up to say that the Massachusetts plan “has come in at about the cost predicted” and – in the most important point for him: “Doing coverage actually pushed Massachusetts to begin addressing cost.”

Greg Mankiw questions the need for a public option in an interesting post.

Several progressives have pointed out the irony of seniors angrily telling Congressmen to “keep the government’s hands off of their Medicare.” Harold Pollack in taking on the euthanasia scare tactics of the right muses:

The irony of yammering to seniors about the evils of government-financed care is always notable, as is the selfish appeal. In 1965, liberals enacted Medicare, perhaps the most radical social engineering project in American history.

Paul Waldman in The American Prospect makes a similar point:

Forty-four years after its passage, the success of Medicare — just to review, a big-government program that has provided health care to tens of millions of seniors who would not have otherwise had it, does so more efficiently than private insurance, has seen costs grow at a slower rate than private insurance, and is smashingly popular with its recipients — has not seemed to fundamentally alter the public’s receptiveness to anti-government arguments. Ditto for Social Security. Ditto for the Veterans Administration, which is the only truly socialized health-care system in America, and one that is considered by many health-care experts to provide the best health care in the country.

Ezra Klein points out that our media-political system does not respond in the same way to all types of grassroots pressure – and that the right is benefiting from this now. He explains how single-payer advocates are organized, loud, and present (and have been present) at these town hall meetings and other health care events for years. Yet no one seems cowed by them – and they get virtually no media coverage. On the other hand, complain about socialism and you’re the story of the day… Klein reflects:

[It's] worth keeping in mind as people begin to focus on the anti-health-care tea parties. The political system does not have some sort of consistent reaction to grassroots pressure. Rather, it picks and chooses when it wants to listen to the views of the very, very non-representative groups of people who sit through at town halls and panel discussions

Paul Krugman details a story with a similar message:

I was tentatively scheduled to be on a broadcast dealing with — well, I won’t embarrass them. But first they had to find someone to take the opposite view. And it turned out that they couldn’t — which led to canceling the whole segment.

In a way this goes beyond my original point, which was the unwillingness of the news media to referee a controversy by actually reporting the facts. Now it seems that a fact isn’t worth reporting unless someone is prepared to deny it.

And finally, I’ve already linked to this post by Ezra Klein maybe two or three times, but I haven’t cited this passage yet which almost but didn’t quite fit into my the Health Insurance Exchange is like ebay post:

The Health Insurance Exchange, combines the benefits of choice that are theoretically available on the individual market with the bargaining power and scale that’s generally accessible only in large employers (and the exchange will, in theory, have more bargaining power than even the largest employers, as it will have a much larger base of customers). You also have a space to test out innovative ideas that might make the market better, like Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-W.Va.) insurance rating agency, or the public insurance option. You can standardize billing and payment methods and force the adoption of electronic medical records.

[Image by romanlily licensed under Creative Commons.]

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One Response to “A Jumble of Health Care Related Points”

  1. Fergal Says:

    I agree with the point you made. I wonder how things would be going now if this action had taken a different turn? I’d be interested in what you think.

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