Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lying, ignorant blowhard of the week award

Who else but ABC's resident reality-challenged conservative idiot John Stossel? Here he is on yet one more subject about which he knows less than nothing, health care economics. Stossel has already been caught dead to rights committing journalistic fraud -- lying to his public, claiming he'd had organic produce tested for pesticides, when he, well, to be precise, had done no such thing. He should have been fired and forever barred from the profession, but no, ABC continues to give him a prominent platform to spout his torrent of lies and illogic. If you've been reading, you don't need me to deconstruct this, but here goes anyway.


Suppose you had grocery insurance. With your employer paying 80 percent of the bill, you would fill the cart with lobster and filet mignon. Everything would cost more because supermarkets would stop running sales. Why should they, when their customers barely care about the price? Suppose everyone had transportation insurance. The roads would be crowded with Mercedes. Why buy a Chevy if your employer pays?

C'mon John, do you think we're all as stupid as your fans? Health care is nothing like groceries. I'm not going to go out and get a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft or a bowel resection just because my insurance pays 80% of the cost -- I'm going to get those operations because I have heart disease, or cancer. And I'm not going to decide on my own that I need them -- my doctor is going to tell me.


People have gotten so used to having "other" people pay for most of our health care that we routinely ask for insurance with low or no deductibles. This is another bad idea. Suppose car insurance worked that way. Every time you got a little dent or the paint faded, or every time you buy gas or change the oil, you'd fill out endless forms and wait for reimbursement from your insurance company. Gas prices would quickly rise because service stations would know that you no longer care about the price. You'd become more wasteful: jackrabbit starts, speeding, wasting gas. Who cares? You are only paying 20 percent or less of the bill.

Utter nonsense. When I get health care, I don't have to fill out any forms, or wait for reimbursement: my provider bills the insurance company. And what makes you think that I could do a better job of driving a bargain than my insurance company can? My insurance company has 1 million times the buying power I do, and employs professionals who negotiate with providers. In fact, doctors and hospitals charge much more to individual buyers than they do to insurers.

When asked about "consumer directed plans," "nearly eight in 10 Americans think that allowing people to shop around for their own medical care would be an effective way to control costs."

Yeah, and they don't believe in evolution either. We don't decide what's true by taking a poll.

This is not to say that we don't need insurance. We need it to protect us against financial catastrophes that could result from a stroke or heart attack. That's why health savings accounts, which cover smaller out-of-pocket health expenditures, are paired with high-deductible catastrophic insurance. That's a good thing. But today's demand from people that insurance cover everything from pets to dental work puts us on a slide toward bankruptcy.

I don't know where he gets tbe bit about pets from, but it's precisely those smaller out-of-pocket expenditures that you don't want to force people to make -- those are the preventive services like screenings and early intervention that save big bucks later on, that people forego when they have to pay for them. They're a very small part of overall spending, that saves money in the long run.

In other terrifying news from the poll: "Three-quarters like the idea of expanding Medicare, the government program that covers retirees." Great, let's bankrupt America even faster! Medicare already has an unfunded liability of $32.1 trillion — that's how much more money the politicians have promised versus the amount the Treasury has to pay for it. The Medicare Trust Funds report says expenditures "are expected to increase & at a faster pace than either workers' earnings or the economy overall."

True! The cost of Medicare is rising. So we have two choices: let Grandma die, or set up a universal insurance program that can actually gain control over costs. This is a little bit of a complicated story, which Stossel is too dumb to understand, but I've discussed it here at length. In a nutshell, the taxpayers who pay for Medicare would spend less for their own health care under a single payer system, making it easier to take care of Grandma as well.

As P.J. O'Rourke says, "Think medical care is expensive now? Watch how expensive it gets once it's free."

Oh, that's convincing -- your "expert" is a racist comedian. And of course this is a ludicrous self-contradiction - health care can't be both expensive and free at the same time. The payer will still be paying for it -- and controlling costs in a way that individual consumers cannot do.

When third parties pay, regardless of whether it's government or private insurance, people find it easier and more tempting to cheat. No one spends other people's money as carefully as he spends his own. But "profiteering?" What the heck does that mean? Every company wants to make as much profit as it can. If an insurance company makes "excess" profit, other insurance companies will rush to compete in those areas; therefore prices will fall quickly.

Well, that must already be happening then. So insurance is the best way to contain costs after all. You're contradicting yourself John, but we're supposed to be too dumb to notice. Actually, if we had non--profit insurance, then it would cost even less, wouldn't it?

And frankly, I want drug companies to make lots of money. The more they make, the more they invest in drug development that may someday cure my disease or ease my pain.

If you had even a passing acquaintance with the subjects you yell and scream about, you would know that drug companies spend most of their R&D budget on "me too" drugs and minor modifications of existing formulations so they can hold onto marketing exclusivity. A lot of the studies they finance are rigged, and when the studies make their drugs look bad, they keep them a secret. Then they plow even bigger bucks into advertising and marketing in order to get us to take the ineffective, unsafe drugs they have bribed or bamboozled the FDA into approving. A single payer system could stop doctors from prescribing inappropriate medications.

Finally, the worst news on the poll is that "56 percent support a shift to universal coverage." Universal coverage sounds so nice — no worries, no paperwork. Mommy and Daddy, usually in the form of government as single payer and manager, just take care of everything. Universal coverage in Canada and Europe is popular because no one has to worry about paying directly or filling out forms. But like all well-intended schemes of collectivists, it is becoming a cold, bureaucratized machine that does not serve people well.

Just because you say it doesn't make it true. Actually, it's a good bet that if you say it, it's false. Various studies -- such as the one I discuss here, and this one, show that people in those commie pinko countries with universal health care get better service and better quality care than we do. Stossel tells stories about English people pulling their own teeth because they can't stand the wait, which as far as I know he just made up, but the fact is, most Americans don't have dental insurance at all, so they just have to wait forever.

I doubt that ABC employes this clown because he attracts viewers. They just pay him to bamboozle and defraud the public on behalf of their wealthy owners and executives, who don't want to pay taxes and don't care what happens to you or your grandmother. Stossel is a very unfunny joke.

And oh yeah: If having universal health care will automatically make the price go up, how come the countries that have it spend half as much on health care as we do, while managing to cover everybody, give them better service (the actual, you know, fact, is that people in Europe and Canada have shorter waits to see a doctor than we do), and end up living longer and being healthier? But that's the great thing about being a conservative these days -- you can spew fact-free, irrational, self-contradictory horseshit, and be given a prominent platform and a multiple six figure salary. You are completely unaccountable, you don't even, apparently, have an editor. It's a good life.

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