Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lies, damn lies, and un-lies

I'm sure I don't have to draw readers' attention to the preposterous selection by the self-styled "fact checking" organization Politifact of the "Lie of the Year." This was the claim by many Democrats that Republicans voted to end Medicare, specifically when the House voted to endorse Paul Ryan's long-term fiscal austerity plan. As many a blogger has pointedout, this is not a lie, therefore it cannot be the Lie of the Year. And it wasn't even Democrats who first said it, it was Naftali Bendavid in, of all places, the Wall Street Journal.

PolitFact is defending itself, seeming almost proud to have provoked such a firestorm among liberal bloggers and analysts. They claim that conservatives get all their info from Fox News, while liberals get all their info from Rachel Maddow, so of course we're unable to see that our treasured memes are actually lies.

Well now. Rachel Maddow is highly opinionated, but unlike Fox News, she has respect for actual true facts. That aside, I don't get my information about health policy from Rachel Maddow or anyplace else on TV. I get it from scholarly journals because, unlike the clowns at PolitiFact, I happen to be a genuine, bona fide expert on the subject. I even have a fancy degree in it and everything and I am a professor at one of those pointy headed elitist fancy pants east coast universities.

So here's the genuine information, unfiltered by Rachel Maddow. Medicare is a government sponsored health care plan which covers everybody in the U.S. over 65, and some other folks as well. It's essentially a single payer plan -- Medicare pays for health care services, giving everyone who is eligible a bundle of guaranteed benefits with very low, subsidized premiums and copayments. (People who can't even afford those get extra help from Medicaid.) (Now, you can choose to have Medicare use the funds otherwise allocated to you to buy private insurance. It's called Medicare Advantage. But it turns out to be no advantage at all, because it actually costs the government more.)

That's Medicare. That's what the word means.

The Republicans would instead give you a voucher that you could use to buy private health insurance, but it would not be enough money for most elders to actually afford the same level of benefits they get from Medicare. And it would just get worse and worse over time. And it would be much less cost effective because those private insurance companies would spend a big chunk of the money on marketing, profits, executive salaries, and trying to find ways to stop older and sicker people from doing business with them. (There are plenty of sleazy ways to do that, even if it's supposedly illegal.)

That's not Medicare. It's something else.

There are many other implications of this difference that I won't go into here, mostly having to do with all the ways that Medicare could be even better and would be if the insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital industries didn't own Congress.

The people who run PolitiFact don't understand all that because they are not experts. They have been bamboozled in the name of "balance." They are useless.

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