10.26.2009

Dancing Nancy

I'm going back and forth between the muck and the transcendent, and I'm proud of myself for it.

Today Nancy Pelosi referred to the Public Option as the "Competitive Option." After I got over gagging at the sheer condescension implicit in that gesture, I immediately became re-frustrated by what I have to believe is a sweeping illiteracy when it comes to understanding the most basic principles of economics. Not even economics really, but "math."

The fact is, if the government creates a Public healthcare plan, it is playing by entirely different rules than the corporations it will pretend to compete with. A little like if I showed up on a playground with a bunch of 4th graders and said I'd like to "compete" with them in basketball -- I could, obviously, act like a stupid sucker and only barely defeat them... or act like a stupid sucker and only barely lose to them. Or, I could completely crush them.

See, when taxpayers are the source of revenue, there is effectively nothing preventing a program from being a monument of efficiency -- nothing except cost to taxpayers, that is. I wish Pelosi or Obama would field this question from a reporter or at a town-hall meeting (that is, if reporters weren't airhead-suck-ups and town-hall meetings weren't pre-screened):
Precisely how much better (or worse... though, it'd be hard to imagine you creating a worse "option"--what would be the point?) than currently existing "options" will the government option be? Leaving aside for a moment the cost to taxpayers, how much awesomer will this plan be? It will cover everyone? Never deny anyone coverage for any treatment? Or will it cover "almost-everyone" and cover "reasonable treatments?" Or will it be the same as existing plans, but "non-profit." In that case, can you crunch some numbers for us and show us how that'll work, exactly?

3 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Today I was talking to my mother about this option, and put it this way: You can't "kinda" free the slaves. You either do it, and commit to it, or you don't. Same thing with socialized healthcare. You either do it, or you don't. And you probably shouldn't, as we seem to be leaning, half-ass it.

As far as the economics of paying for healthcare--here's where I see the problem lying. But probably not for the same reasons as you identify. Healthcare in America costs more than any place else in the planet precisely because we incorporate the costs for research and development into treatment. Most of us know that it doesn't cost 10,000 dollars to run an MRI machine, or 5000$ to make a single dosage of my daughter's cancer medication. But are system is designed to charge us for the next MRI and medication. Most of us haven't cared, because our insurance companies do most of the paying--so, in essence, this R&D cost isn't very real to us. It will be very real to us once the government starts taxing us to pay the bill. So, of course, those costs have to be located elsewhere. Which is particularly problematic given that one of our topic economic arenas right now is medical R&D.

Gretchen Pratt said...

I agree with all of that except the part about "kinda freeing the slaves." That's what America did in the 1860s, ey?

But no really: you're right: ultimately we're faced with either ineffective reform or admitting that the only solution is "price controls." Giving everyone coverage on the gov't's dime will only exacerbate the problem, which stems from the fact that there's an intermediary buffer between consumers and the price-setters. If I was a drug company and the government started covering costs, I can't tell you how fast and guilt-free I'd jack my prices up, unless... price controls.

I'll let you do your own research on the history of price controls, because my research would undoubtedly seem way biased, because the stuff I'm familiar with in history and theory suggests that price-controls lead to distributive disaster every time.

Casey said...

How come you never talk to me like that, Gretchen?