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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Ryan on Medicare: More Mind Reading at the NYT

Ryan on Medicare: More Mind Reading at the NYT

Friday, 12 October 2012 04:41

Is everyone in the news business a frustrated mind reader? Given their often demonstrated tendency to tell us what politicians think, we might believe this to be the case.

The NYT was doing some mind reading in its coverage of the vice presidential debate when it told readers:

"Mr. Ryan believes competition will drive down the cost of health care, keeping the voucher’s value up to date."

("Up to date" in this context means large enough to cover the cost of a Medicare equivalent policy.) Of course the NYT gives no explanation of how it knows what Ryan "believes" about the effectiveness of competition in keeping costs down. The very next sentence in the article reports the assessment of the Congressional Budget Office:

"The Congressional Budget Office projected that over time, the value of the voucher would erode, shifting the extra costs to seniors."

So does Ryan have access to information that the Congressional Budget Office does not have? Does he have a different way to interpret the data? After all, we have more than a half century of experience with the private insurance market, including experiments with including private insurers in Medicare. This experience has shown that private insurers raise, not lower, costs.

In the absence of any evidence otherwise, we might reasonably conclude that Representative Ryan wants to cut the cost of Medicare in order to maintain lower tax rates. We might also conclude that Ryan wants to give money to insurers who would profit enormously from the voucher system that he has proposed. The insurance industry is a major contributor to the Republican party.

It would of course be irresponsible for the NYT to report as a fact that Ryan is pushing his voucher plan as a way to redistribute tax dollars to the insurance industry. It is similarly irresponsible to report as a fact that he believes that his voucher plan will reduce costs.

Comments (3)Add Comment
Ryan's Belief for More Choice at Any Cost: Freedom is not Free
written by Last Mover, October 12, 2012 6:48
"Mr. Ryan believes competition will drive down the cost of health care, keeping the voucher’s value up to date."

Given massive failure in private markets that prevents competition from reducing the cost of health on the insurance and provider side, the NYT could have said with as much credibility that Ryan believes competition will drive down the cost of sidewalks:

By creating vouchers, walkers would have choices to walk on different sidewalks provided by the private sector that run parallel to original sidewalks.

Never mind that the total cost of all sidewalks would explode upwards. The point is to have more choices at any cost.

Freedom is not free and for Randian extremists like Ryan, it's so free it's not even available for many and results instead in a death panel effect of no choice at all.
written by sherparick, October 12, 2012 11:37
I believe I have heard Mr. Ryan and Governor Romney make this assertion about competition driving down costs of healthcare. So it is not really mind reading for the reporter to repeat a matter on which Mr. Ryan has made a public confession of faith. It is another question that this assertion, like an assertion by Mr. Ryan that ghosts actually exist, is actually true. In both cases, the "hand" and the "ghost" the magical power is invisible.

I note also that Mr. Brooks constantly makes this assertion despite the libraries of contrary data. But such a policy would shred the New Deal/Great Society social insurance programs, guarantee huge new revenues to insusrance companies, increase the pay of insurance companies CEOs, and give the Master of the Universe more money to play with and channel into their own bank accounts. In other words all the people who invite Mr. Brooks over for cocktails and who pay him to give speeches at $75,000 a pop, all expenses paid at places like Aspen and Davos.

Mr. Brooks is all upset with Mr. Biden trying to trigger a generational war. That is funny since Mr. Ryan is teh one who came up with the age 55 cut off for all the goodies.
Competition can reduce costs, but doctors and their allies don't want competition
written by Rachel, October 13, 2012 9:29

The U.S. lets the price of a medical education go up (partly through subsidies), while keeping the supply of doctors down. HMOs and hospitals try to save money by importing medical graduates, and now about 30% of young doctors are imported. But the net result is still a short supply of overpriced doctors.

We should train more. Unfortunately, Uwe Reinhardt tells us that Parkinson's Law dominates policy. That's the Law that claims, in effect, that doctors will exploit us if they have any spare time. So we restrict the doctor supply to prevent this, at the same time gratifying the desire of many less-than-compassionate people in power, that doctors stay quite rich.

In an information age, however, there are many ways we could ensure a quality health product, whether through consumer advocates or overseas travel, or online resources or specialty clinics. We need to look into these, and we need to take steps to increase the doctor-supply, instead of just funneling money towards doctors and hospitals, while keeping the less wealthy and the elderly underserved and mistreated.

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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.