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Ghost in the Attack Machine


It’s almost full-on election season so I’m getting email from the Republican National Committee suggesting that there are problems with both the Sen. Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama plans for health reform. Funny that – given my politics – but it gets better.

The RNC thoughtfully sent along a copy of a Wall Street Journal op-ed featuring an appearance by that blast from the health reform past, Betsy McCaughey who these days hangs her hat at the ultra-right wing Hudson Institute. In the 1990′s she was a brief star of the new right after writing, in early 1994, a magazine article in the then-quasi-liberal magazine The New Republic. Called No Exit, it contained a damning account of the Clinton Health Plan and got a fair amount of attention at the time. No Exit was a fair load of old tosh (you really keen health policy archaeologists can unearth the Clinton White House’s full rebuttal to see what I mean). The article’s impact on the demise of the Clinton health plan, which was already in substantial trouble by the time it came out, was in fact greatly overstated, not in the least by McCaughey herself.

Nonetheles, she somewhat improbably rode that wave to the New York Lieutenant Governor’s office under George Pataki, and to marriage to a multi-millionaire. Her relationship with Pataki, the millionaire and, some say, reality all fell apart in quick sequence. But now that health care politics are back so is she.

So what does she say in her new attack piece?

Well more of the same that’s been emanating from similar quarters, and has been smeared all over the WSJ op-ed pages for years. For example here’s McCaughey on:

The growing number of uninsured? The fault of those damn illegal immigrants! McCaughey seems to think there are reams of cancer patients swimming across the Rio Grande, even if a peer reviewed article in Health Affairs this very week shows that the increase in uninsurance has little to do with immigration and much to do with the decrease in insurance provided by employers.

Uninsured children? The fault of their parents who are too dumb, stupid or poor to sign them up for the wealth of public programs just desperate to enroll them. Not mentioned? Several states dis-enrolled “eligible” children from their programs in the last recession. And isn’t it funny that every other country seems to have much cleverer parents when it comes to ensuring their children have health coverage?

Mandates for universal coverage as Clinton’s current plan would impose? An unfair tax on cheap young people who are forced to transfer wealth to rich old people.

Health information technology – a part of Obama’s proposed plan? A pox on the super-efficient medical delivery system.

Regulation of the “politically unpopular” insurance industry? A sure path to collectivist Bolshevism!

In the bizzarro world of Betsy McCaughey and the far right, there are no problems with the American health care system and if there are, that’s entirely because of the system’s socialized nature. And they’ll insist that their version of reform is all about bringing market forces to health care. But that’s just not true.

There’s a basic mathematical concept at work here that just seems to escape these people. Care of a few people costs a lot of money. Somehow we have to figure out how to cross-subsidize the expensive care of those who are ill.

But logic and mathematics aren’t part of McCaughey’s argument. This type of attack is really about is stopping any real health care reform. Why? There are plenty of players in the current health care system who make a very nice living today and do not want to change that. They include insurers, pharmaceutical and device companies, most hospitals, many doctors and virtually anyone involved in the current system. The long-term logical outcome of the reform in the Clinton and Obama plans reduces the over-use of devices, drugs, procedures, and services that’s rampant in the current system. The plans also halt the games insurers play to boost profits.

So when you see these attack pieces – and you’re going to see a lot more – remember what this is about. It’s about maintaing the the appalling status quo in American health care today. And Betsy is no doubt ready for the next round.

Share  Posted by Matt Holt at 1:17 AM | Permalink

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