Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Big Medicare Lie

David Brooks of the NY Times seems to be on every news show and his favorite lie to repeat lately is that the average senior citizen gets 450,000 in medical care and pays in only 150,000. His conclusion is that grandma putting 300,000 in debt on the backs of her grandchildren. Nobody ever challenges this ridiculous assertion as news pundits mostly weren't hard science majors so talking points with numbers in them overwhelm them. Besides this is an official rightwing talking point and those are never challenged unless Donald Trump starts surging in the polls by using them, and then they are debunked by every moderator upfront (much to the dismay of unprepared rightwingers who have been making a living from using them).

The fact is that Medicare is solvent for at least another decade thanks to the very modest reforms in Obamacare. You can debate that point but it's irrelevant. Medicare is self funding from the payroll tax and as long as you don't let the Republicans punch holes in it and allow their corporate cronies steal from it, Medicare will work just fine.

Take "fee for service", as many as 2/3 of expensive, painful and life threatening medical procedures are unnecessary. This has been traditionally blamed on the Doctor's fear of malpractice lawsuits (you know, the evil trial lawyers) but in states like Texas that have capped the value of a human life at $250,000 there has been no reduction of services. In fact in some large corporate medical practices the number of expensive, painful, life threatening and totally unnecessary procedures have mushroomed. No fear of lawsuits doesn't seem to keep costs down (well, duh).

You could simply pay Doctors a salary and not allow them to own diagnostic labs or expensive and very profitable equipment as a "for profit" sideline. You could reward Doctors who produce a higher rate of favorable outcomes with handsome bonuses (the right likes that idea for teachers). But, but, but that would be socialist medicine and we're capitalists (especially the rich).

But where do the rich go for their "best in the world healthcare". They go to places like the Mayo Clinic where they operate on this "socialist" model of healthcare. Say what you want about the rich but they aren't stupid, they want favorable outcomes and not to have 2/3 of the procedures done to them be of the expensive, painful, life threatening and totally unnecessary variety. The rich do however think the expensive, painful, etc model of healthcare is just fine for you or better yet you can go without healthcare entirely. David Brooks makes his living seeing to it.

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