Saturday, September 12, 2009

Health Care Hyperbole

This article in Slate (hat tip to Mr. Peevie) has more than just a super catchy title.

It starts with an eye-raising quote from Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): "Nothing makes me more angry than the suggestion that America does not already have the finest health care in the world." Really, Senator McConnell? Nothing makes you more angry? Not pedophilia? Not war crimes? Not the completely unmerited cancellation of Firefly?

When the first word out of your mouth is extreme hyperbole, it makes the rest of your sentence even more suspect. What independent source agrees with you that American has "the finest health care in the world"?

Certainly not the World Health Organization (WHO), which in its 2000 World Health Report ranked the U.S. 37th, far below France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Japan; just below Costa Rica; and just above Slovenia and Cuba. (You can find the full text of the report here.)

Also, the Commonwealth Fund reported that without reform, insurance premium increases will price middle-income families out of insurance altogether.

The question, as Charlie Rose put it, is "whether or not there needs to be a public option; whether there needs to be government-run insurance as one of the options to get more people insured."

The answer that President Obama gave was that "there is a range of options that will be available; private insurers will participate." You will be able to compare the plans, and "as one option among multiple options should be a public option where we set up an insurer that isn't profit-driven, that can keep administrative costs low, and that can serve as competition to the private insurers."

On the one hand, people fear the public option plan because they anticipate rationed care and too much government intervention and bureaucracy. On the other hand, the private insurers are predicting that they will lose customers who will willingly choose the public option over their existing private plan because it will be less expensive.

How can both of these complaints be true?

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