Yesterday, two friends with finely-tuned BS detectors e-mailed me the link to Jacob Hacker’s recent paean to government-run health care. I’m glad they did, for if ever an article needed debunking this is it. I realized that when I saw that Hacker begins the piece with a red herring:

‘Socialized medicine’ is the bogeyman that just won’t die … The epithet has been hurled at every national health plan since the New Deal … Republicans from President Bush on down have invoked the specter of socialism …

Yawn … Needless to say, none of this BS addresses the serious arguments that have been made against government-run health care. When Hacker finally gets to the substance of the debate, he deploys the usual tired canards. He even drags out the hoary “just look at Medicare” meme:

To see the advantages of public insurance, just look at the program that once prompted the fiercest charges of socialized medicine, Medicare. Since the introduction of cost controls in the 1980s, Medicare’s expenditures have grown at a substantially slower rate than spending on private insurance …

Evidently, Hacker hasn’t heard that Medicare is going broke. Just this week, the Medicare trustees called (yet again) for serious reforms that will prevent a fiscal train wreck. Having thus demonstrated his ignorance about Medicare, Hacker then proves he knows nothing about health care inflation:

Medical inflation in most of the industrialized world has slowed dramatically, as the health policy specialist Chapin White has shown. But without such coordinated restraint, U.S. spending on health care has continued to rise rapidly.

Sorry, dude, wrong again. As Michael Tanner demonstrates in a recent analysis (to which I link in this post), rampant health care inflation is a global phenomenon. Hacker also demonstrates that he hasn’t done his homework on the history of health care in the United States:

Back in the 1940s and ’50s, corporate America promoted private benefits as an alternative to government insurance on the grounds that they offered better value … Corporate America, too, seems more ambivalent than ever about the Faustian bargain it made to kill national health insurance in the 1940s.

As anyone who has bothered to do the reading knows, corporate America got involved in health care when the government froze wages while making insurance premiums tax free. In other words, the government that Hacker so admires created the mother of all perverse incentives.

These items represent but a taste of the dishonesty and ignorance that pervade Hacker’s op-ed. Nonethless, the usual suspects have quoted this drivel as if it were a serious contribution to the debate. By doing so, they demonstrate that they are so steeped in their ideology that they are incapable of critical thinking.

Comments 1

  1. Marc Brown wrote:

    ‘As anyone who has bothered to do the reading knows, corporate America got involved in health care when the government froze wages while making insurance premiums tax free.’

    Now now – don’t try and rewrite history. As you well know, the insurance industry was among those opposing a national insurance system before world war 2 but was unwilling to step in. Hence the incentives.

    ‘As Michael Tanner demonstrates in a recent analysis (to which I link in this post), rampant health care inflation is a global phenomenon. ‘

    US healthcare inflation has been running at twice the rate of western Europe, and in any case soem countries such as the UK have been deliberately increasing spend. A question for you – to what do you attribute higher costs of US hospital care? It seems that it is basically higher charges – nothing else.

    ‘ABSTRACT: U.S. citizens spent $5,267 per capita for health care in 2002—53 percent
    more than any other country. Two possible reasons for the differential are supply constraints
    that create waiting lists in other countries and the level of malpractice litigation and
    defensive medicine in the United States. Services that typically have queues in other countries
    account for only 3 percent of U.S. health spending. The cost of defending U.S. malpractice
    claims is estimated at $6.5 billion in 2001, only 0.46 percent of total health spending.
    The two most important reasons for higher U.S. spending appear to be higher incomes and
    higher medical care prices.’

    Health Spending In The United
    States And The Rest Of The
    Industrialized World

    Examining the impact of waiting lists and litigation reveals no significant effects on the U.S. health spending differential.
    by Gerard F. Anderson, Peter S. Hussey, Bianca K. Frogner, and Hugh R. Waters

    Posted 28 Mar 2008 at 10:20 am

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