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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Is NPR Unable to Get Access to Data on Health Care Costs?

Is NPR Unable to Get Access to Data on Health Care Costs?

Sunday, 01 May 2011 16:58

It seems that NPR is unable to get access to data from the OECD or even the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. If it were, it would not have so badly misinformed listeners about Medicare costs yesterday.

NPR told listeners that Medicare's costs are unsustainable and that the reason is that patients do not see the cost of their treatment. Actually, private sector health care costs have risen as rapidly on an age-adjusted basis as Medicare. Furthermore, health care costs in the United States average more than twice as much per person as costs in countries like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands where patients see a much smaller share of their costs than they do under the Medicare system. If the United States paid the same amount per person for health care as these or any other wealthy country it would be looking at huge budget surpluses in the long-term, not deficits. 

The article also mentioned Representative Ryan's plan without pointing out that the Congressional Budget Office's projections show that it would hugely raise the cost of providing care to retirees. The CBO projections imply that the Ryan plan, which was passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives last month, would raise the cost of buying Medicare equivalent insurance policies by $34 trillion over Medicare's 75-year planning period. This is almost 7 times the size of the projected Social Security shortfall.

In this context it is probably worth mentioning that the Republicans in Congress have targeted NPR for budget cuts.

Comments (7)Add Comment
written by denim, May 01, 2011 6:15
"NPR told listeners that Medicare's costs are unsustainable and that the reason is that patients do not see the cost of their treatment."

NPR obviously has no one on staff that is also on Medicare. I personally receive a statement from Medicare detailing the healthcare claim cost and it also details how much of it that Medicare paid to them and how much is left over for me to pay. Anyone on Medicare knows this. It helps prevent fraud among other helpful purposes. website for info http://www.cms.gov/
"Skin in the game"
written by JTM, May 01, 2011 6:44
I have seen info (on Incidental Economist, I think) showing that we in the U.S. pay a lot more out of pocket for medicare care than other comparable countries. And about average even as a proportion of medical expenditures overall (which are much higher than elsewhere -- as you keep pointing out and maybe sooner or later that will get through the media embargo on common sense in this area).

But that pretty well puts the lie to the meme that NPR was miming, i.e., that we overspend because we don't have personal funds ("skin in the game") at stake.
written by JTM, May 01, 2011 6:47
Correction: "medical care" not "medicare care". Not sure how the out-of-pocket works out for Medicare as such.
Patients Can See Any Cost They Like in the Information Age
written by izzatzo, May 01, 2011 7:35
NPR told listeners that Medicare's costs are unsustainable and that the reason is that patients do not see the cost of their treatment.

This is not true. For example Stephen Colbert submitted a video copy of his colonoscopy exam to a Congressional hearing on health care costs that showed a fully itemized minute by minute and polyp by polyp record of unit costs right on the screen.

Ron Paul has used this as an example of how patients as consumers can use vouchers to make choices among the wide variety of preventive care available to avoid the catastrophic main drivers of health care cost.

No sh*t.
Let the Repubs wack NPR
written by NewsFromAnnArbor, May 01, 2011 8:28
Given this type of coverage, it would be just peachy keen if the Repubs put National Propaganda Radio out of our collective misery. Go ahead, make my day, Repubs! I haven't given anything to NPR in years.
written by vorpal, May 01, 2011 9:40
I regularly get disgusted with NPR news in less than 60 seconds. Can't listen to it.
Medicare is far more efficient
written by FoonTheElder, May 02, 2011 2:15
Medicare is far more efficient than the rest of private health care. Turn it over to the insurance companies and they will need to charge $20,000+ a year per senior. After all, the elderly will always be the most expensive to cover.

Most health insurance companies, with any sense, probably don't even want most of the elderly as their customers, unless they can pick and choose. It is the age group that is most likely to lose money for them.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.