Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health-care reform: the biggest lie

For a long time now, any reasonable observer would have had to conclude that our bizarre health-care system demands fundamental reform to bring it into line with the humane norms that have long prevailed in the other advanced industrial democracies. All the same, as with many other people, my eyes glazed over as I sought to follow the details that began to unfold a year ago.

First, the president should have started with a real reform proposal, which would have to be a single-payer approach that would cover everyone resident in the United States. Then the burden of opprobrium would lie on those who were maneuvering to water down the proposal. Instead the Democratic leaders s t a r t e d o u t with a plan that was already watered down. Once this limping, wounded creature was released, it was only a matter of time before the jackals attacked, taking out further bites.

To my mind, however, the worst feature about the health-care proposal that is apparently about to pass is not the coddling of big pharma and the insurance agencies, and not the millions who are cruelly left out, but the way in which it is absurdly claimed that the proposal will save money over the next ten years.

This notion of saving money, endorsed by the president, is simply a huge lie.

In a piece in today's Week in Review (New York Times) Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office lays out the ugly details. We are told that although the bill will cost some $950 billion over the next decade it will save $138 billion. "In reality, if you strip out all the gimmicks and budgetary games and rework the calculus, a wholly different picture emerges: The health care legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits by $562 billion."

Holtz-Eakin goes on to explain how this legerdemain is produced. Some of the devices are almost incredibly transparent and phony, but just about everyone has been drinking the Kool-Aid. The article, entitled "The Real Arithmetic of Health Care Reform," gives the skinny. It is too horrible for me to repeat here; just read the article (

Btw, some may question Holtz-Eakin's credentials, as he was for a time an adviser to John McCain. My recommendation would be to avoid attempting to kill the messenger. Is the message correct? Yes, it is.



Blogger Burk said...

And the point is? "Let's keep screwing the poor, reserving insurance and health care for deserving people only, and wait another century to do something about it."

Looks to me like you have been peeking a bit to long into the sausage factory. This program will be improved over time, as its predecessors have been. And by the way, federalizing student loans is a great idea too.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Dyneslines said...

As I suggested at the outset of this posting, I have long favored fundamental change in health care so that is is universal. Unfortunately, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid gave away most of the store away before they even got started.

"Politics is the art of the possible." Fiddlesticks. Sometimes one has to insist, vehemently, on what is right--and that is not what Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have done.

I do not share BB's confidence that the matter can be done incrementally. The problem right now is that some people have good health care, and don't want to share the bounty with others. Just enlarging the pool of beneficiaries will not change this hideous dynamic of haves vs. have-nots.

As people find out what the costs will be, there will be even more of a tendency to defend ones own turf. Regrettably, old people (I am one) can't seem to develop as sense of civic responsibility. We vote regularly though.

In order to avoid financial ruin, taxes must be increased drastically--and not just for the rich but for the middle class as well. The scope of those taxes must include "Cadillac" medical plans.

At present, though, the illusion is being fostered that some can get more without those who are already getting a lot giving anything up. This illusion can be prolonged for some years until the dimensions of the disaster become glaringly evident. By then, though, it will be too late to help the uninsured.

It scarcely takes a rocket scientist to acknowledge that we are living in the autumn of the American Empire. As the years advance, most things will be getting worse, and some much worse.

2:56 PM  

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