[ An extended update to Health care: Bipartisanship in itself is not a goal (period) ]
Health care for a country as large as ours is going to cost a lot of money — no matter who’s paying the bills. Right now, the burden rests almost entirely on individuals to either pay
extortion high insurance premiums & all the deductibles and copays required to actually benefit from those payments. But, many of us are hoping that with true government reform, those payments could be restructured in such a way that everyone in the country gains access to health care . . . and none of us go broke getting it.
Ezra’s hair is on fire but, why can’t he point out that we’ll pay much more than these estimates in ten years without reform?
Health reform is, I think it fair to say, in danger right now. The news out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee was bad. The Congressional Budget Office had scored a partial bill and the result was a total fiasco. But the news out of the Finance Committee is much, much worse.
Put simply, the Finance Committee wanted its bill to cost $1 trillion over 10 years. The CBO returned an early estimate to the panel on Tuesday night: $1.6 trillion over 10 years. The specifics of the estimate have not been made public. But the final number changed everything. Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee, pushed markup back behind the July 4th recess. He has promised to get the bill below $1 trillion over 10 years.
That’s very dangerous.
“Very dangerous” — to say the least.
Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler has been attacking the cost issue with some interesting points.
The irony here should be obvious. We’re already spending twice as much as countries which already have universal coverage—and PW is willing to pay more to get what they already have! The oddness of this framework would occur to almost anyone in a different context. To wit:
You buy a car for $40,000. Your neighbor buys a car for half that amount—and his car is better! Someone then says your car can be almost as good as his—if you spend six thousand more.
Almost anyone would see the oddness of that situation. And yet, that’s the situation which obtains with our health care system. But so what! PW is eager to spend that six grand. In all likelihood, he doesn’t know the fact GB included—the fact that we’re already spending twice as much as the countries which have what we want.
Why doesn’t PW know that fact? Because of today’s New York Times! In the Times, Pear writes a perfectly accurate report about possible costs—but he doesn’t mention the remarkable fact which lies at the heart of our odd situation. Other countries already have what we seek—and they spend half as much as we do! You can read Pear’s report without learning that fact. In Pear’s report, we contemplate spending a trillion more—and still falling short of our goal.
We thought of poor Zeno as we read that report—Zeno, who proved, with his famous paradoxes, that you can never quite cross a room. You can get halfway, then halfway again—but you’ll never quite get all the way. New books still attempt to explain the way in which Zeno’s logic breaks down (click here). But don’t worry! If anyone ever figures that out, it won’t appear in the Times.
For the most part, American citizens didn’t chuckle when they read Pear’s report today. For decades, the basic frameworks of this debate have largely been kept from their view. How often do you read the fact which appeared in that letter from GB? As they perused Pear’s report today, how many Times readers thought to themselves: But we already spend twice as much!
Your current car cost 40 grand. But in France, they have better cars—for 20. For sixty years, your big news orgs haven’t told you that fact. We can’t tell you why that censorship exists. But we do emit low chuckles every time we encounter it.
For extra credit: First question: Have you ever seen a news report in the Times or the Post explaining why we spend twice as much as nations which have full coverage?
Second question: Could Zeno cross the room in that 40 grand car? As we all know: Yes, he could. Could he cross it better for 20?
Final question: What if he put an extra trillion into the car which cost 20 grand? How fast could he cross the room then? Within our thoroughly broken discussion, inquiring minds don’t want to know.
Why does the United States spend so much more for health care? Over the years, we think we’ve seen varying explanations, in the random tidbits of attention the question occasions. At one time, it seems that we would typically hear about the remarkable costs of paperwork, due to the blizzard of varying insurance forms created by our non-system system. In recent months, we seem to be hearing more about doctors performing unnecessary procedures. (As in one of these letters in last Wednesday’s New York Times.)
But we’ll ask you again: Have you ever seen a serious attempt in our major newspapers to tease out the answer to that question? A series of front-page reports in the Times, exploring various possible factors? Most issues are poorly discussed in the press, but we can’t think of another issue where the overall discussion has been so comically awful. Where the Big Major Basic Facts are so ruthlessly hidden. Where it’s so normal to see Major Pols spreading so much blatant disinformation—without little attempt by big news orgs to correct or challenge their statements. (We think of Rudy Giuliani, spewing spin in 2007 during the GOP primaries.)
Result? The debate now unfolding! Using those 2003 figures, we spend $5700 per person—while Finland spends only $2100. But in our current debate, we’re trying to figure how much more we’ll have to spend to get what Finland has!
Follow the link for some thrilling tables and talk about “rationing.” More on THAT later.