The N&O has unabashedly supported the push for “Obamacare” – or whatever name you want to put on the recently approved bill that further politicizes our health insurance and medical care industries.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, they pen this recent commentary celebrating the bill’s passage. The article makes many bold assertions that are highly questionable (to say the least) and others that crack under the most minimal of scrutiny, but each beg some serious questions. Some examples:
It has been 16 months since debate began in earnest on changing America’s health care system to reach more people, to protect those who are ill and need insurance, to hold down upwardly spiraling costs of drugs and coverage, and to control the long-term expense in Medicare and Medicaid programs on which so many Americans depend.
Exactly how will this bill “hold down upwardly spiraling costs of drugs and coverage”? Simply put, the cost to produce a good or service is the value of the resources utilized to create it (leaving opportunity costs aside). This includes labor, research & development, equipment, etc. Just how will these resources become less expensive under the recently approved reform bill? The only way the government can make these items less expensive is to cap the prices paid for them. This implies wage controls for those in the drug, medical care and insurance industries; along with price controls for other physical resources such as lab equipment, medical supplies, etc. Does the N&O think price and wage controls for these inputs will somehow suspend economic law and defy history by not resulting in a reduction of the supply of such inputs? Ask anyone who sat in gas lines in the 1970’s about the effect of price caps.
Furthermore, how will this bill “control the long-term expense in Medicare and Medicaid programs”? With the flood of baby boomers entering these already-broke entitlement programs, the only way to control the expense is to limit either the number of medical services and procedures covered, reduce the reimbursement rate for such services or change the system to exclude portions of the currently-eligible population from coverage in those programs. Is the N&O saying any of those options is something that should be celebrated? Medicare reimbursement rates are already so low that even Obama’s beloved Mayo Clinic has decided to stop accepting Medicare patients.
To be fair, by controlling “expenses” the N&O may also be referring to raising revenue to cover expenses – which would mean significant hikes on payroll and other taxes. Such tax hikes would mean higher unemployment, and more people thrust into overcrowded, bankrupt government insurance programs. Is that a change “for the better”?
Later in the article, the N&O asserts:
And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has forecast that the reform would mean a reduction in federal deficits, modest at first, then larger. In other words, this reform measure passes the test of cost control.
Here, the N&O is conflating “cost control” with budgetary impact. The only way the reform is scored as deficit reducing is because it relies partially on hefty taxes and fees to offset the increasing costs. As to the CBO report, their numbers are pure fantasy anyway. The N&O still puts blind faith in government estimates of entitlement programs, in spite of their abysmal track record in predicting such costs.
Perhaps the biggest whopper of the story comes next:
That is what congressional Republicans, who have remained stubbornly devoted to their faithful supporters in the for-profit segments of the health care industry, have wanted Americans to believe.
But overall life expectancy is not above that of other industrialized nations where government either plays a role in running the health care system or in fact controls it. In those countries, access to high-quality, affordable health care is a given, viewed as a right