Inter­est­ing edi­to­r­i­al and I absolute­ly don’t trust it.

Here’s why: Matthews’ arti­cle here reads like a cri­tique of Medicare’s effi­cien­cy and throws around a lot of num­bers that indi­cate that Medicare is far more effi­cient than pri­vate-sec­tor health care admin­is­tra­tion. This inclu­sion sug­gests two fac­tors that sup­port the author’s integri­ty if not his premise. First, includ­ing the num­bers and some dis­cus­sion about what they mean and how they were come by indi­cates that Matthews was actu­al­ly look­ing at facts and fig­ures rather than spew­ing opin­ion or, worse yet, pro­pogan­da designed to mis­lead. Sec­ond, he gar­ners the appear­ance of impar­tial­i­ty by includ­ing num­bers that did not sup­port his premise.

What is sus­pi­cious to me is that he does­n’t include any num­bers at all to sup­port his own premise. He wraps up his argu­ment in one para­graph by dis­miss­ing the rel­e­vance of the fig­ures because the aver­age age of Medicare recip­i­ents is so much high­er than that of pri­vate insur­ance recip­i­ents. His claim is that since the aver­age Medicare recip­i­ents’ ben­e­fits are high­er, that inef­fi­cien­cy must there­fore also be higher.

That claim seems sus­pect as well. I get that economies of scale favor few­er recip­i­ents with greater ben­e­fits, but by how much? If the aver­age annu­al pay­out to a Medicare recip­i­ent is 2.4 times greater than the pay­out to a pri­vate health­care recip­i­ent, does that trans­late to two to three times the over­head nec­es­sary that Matthews’ own num­bers indi­cate? And if that is true, why can’t he pro­vide some facts or fig­ures to back up his claim? Did he just run out of space at the end of the piece and edit out the parts that sup­port his thesis?

I came away from this arti­cle with a def­i­nite feel­ing that I’d been lied to. Here’s the thing that nags at me: when some­one goes to the trou­ble to lie to me, I assume that it’s because the truth does not sup­port their premise.

But here’s the oth­er thing that nags at me: if some­one would write an arti­cle like this that is so trans­par­ent­ly mis­lead­ing, is it because he expect­ed no one to pay enough atten­tion, or because he is pro-sin­gle pay­er and wants to under­mine the argu­ments of those who oppose sin­gle-pay­er health care by asso­ci­a­tion? If it’s the lat­ter, it’s a gut­sy pro­pogan­da move.

I sus­pect that it is the for­mer, so this one arti­cle has tipped this on-the-fence vot­er a bit more in favor of can­di­dates that sup­port a nation­al­ized health insur­ance system.

2 Replies to “Medicare/Efficiency?”

  1. I think you mis­un­der­stood
    I think you mis­un­der­stood what he was say­ing about the high­er pay­out for Medicare recip­i­ents. What he was say­ing was that, since it costs the same to process a $6600 claim as it does a $2700 claim, that the Medicare over­head rate appears less. If it costs $100 in over­head for each claim, the Medicare over­head is 100/6600 instead of 100/2700, there­fore mak­ing the Medicare rate look small­er than the oth­er, when both are actu­al­ly exact­ly the same. It think it might be infor­ma­tive to see the admin costs per claim. I saw some­where the admin costs per client, but that is skewed against Medicare the same way admin costs per dol­lars paid out is skewed against the pri­vate sec­tor. I am sure both num­bers will be used in the ensu­ing debate.

    He cer­tain­ly con­vinced me that the work­ing over­head costs are at least rough­ly com­pa­ra­ble, but as he point­ed out, that does not include the prof­its and com­mis­sions for the pri­vate sector.

    I also think he proved his point that Medicare over­head is far greater than Rep. Stark stat­ed. I don’t think Matthews “lied” any more than Stark did. So why not get on Stark’s case instead of Matthews’? I feel Matthews sim­ply brought a few more facts to the bat­tle­field. There is a lot more to the social­ized health debate than sim­ply admin costs. 

    I fail to see how Matthews lied. (The OED requires “a false state­ment with the intent to deceive.”) Which of his state­ments were lies? Where any of his facts fab­ri­cat­ed? My guess is that Rep. Stark was­n’t lying either, because, as a Con­gres­sion­al Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Chair­man of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Sub­com­mit­tee on Health, he prob­a­bly did­n’t know that the 2% was­n’t a true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Medicare’s over­head. But he should have known. If he knew and made that state­ment, then he WAS lying to us. As I said, due to his posi­tion of pow­er, he prob­a­bly just read the num­ber off some aide’s papers and prob­a­bly has no idea even what a per­cent is, so I main­tain that he prob­a­bly was­n’t lying..

    As for France, they have the high­est tax rates in the world as well as an addi­tion­al 17% Social Secu­ri­ty tax. France is not a good exam­ple for show­ing how effi­cient social­ized med­i­cine is. You have to pay out of pock­et on aver­age 30% for any med­ical expens­es. Most peo­ple in France buy pri­vate insur­ance to pro­tect them­selves from major costs. (Hip replace­ments at $80,000; you pay $24,000.) Their actu­al health care deliv­ery sys­tem is excel­lent, but not inex­pen­sive. Cuba is prob­a­bly a bet­ter exam­ple of an excel­lent social­ized med­ical sys­tem, but most peo­ple assign a stig­ma to the very name Cuba or can­not com­pre­hend how a dirt-poor nation like Cuba can deliv­er. Of course, most of the infra-struc­ture there was built with Russ­ian for­eign aid mon­ey dur­ing the Cold War.


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