Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Medicare For All IS Financially Feasible - Contrary to the Neoliberal Pundits' Codswallop

The CNN star pundit Jake Tapper is normally a steady and sane voice amidst the current insanity and turmoil affecting the country thanks to Brand Trump.  But he stumbled badly recently in attempting to hold the claims of Sen. Bernie Sanders and  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez   to scrutiny, warning that the Democratic Socialist Duo  were "not entitled to their own facts" i.e. in respect of their claims concerning the cost efficiency of Medicare for All.  But could it be that Jake is the one being dishonest here, and those he seeks to castigate in his Neoliberal myopia are correct? 

The point to be made here is that it matters what source or sources one selects in challenging the claims of others.  Sometimes this is like shooting fish in a barrel because the source is a fraud through and through. Hence those citing it are also frauds or woefully ignorant of the contaminated,  fake nature of  what they're citing. A case in point is the Warren 'Whitewash' Commission's 'Warren Report' -  so replete with lies, omissions, outright fraudulent exhibits, etc. that anyone who cites it for support has already lost his or her case.  

The financial issues to do with Medicare for all are much less obvious because they depend not only on the integrity of sources but assumptions made, as well as financial projections.  I already posted (June 12, last year) on Bloomberg columnist Megan McCardle's financial objections as well as giving my responses to them. For example, in terms of her arguments for "asymmetric insurance" for a given risk pool managed by health insurance, I wrote:   

I argue, as does David Jessop, that this kind of economic concept has no place in health care delivery because people are not cars, homes, or fancy jewels. Look, if populations are continually growing that logically  means sick conditions and diseases must grow with them-  whether cancers, Alzheimer's, kidney disease or whatever. Even the healthiest person following a rigorous diet  can get cancer or be injured in an auto accident. Hence, the notion of "asymmetric insurance" for a risk pool managed by a health insurer is ludicrous. There can be no such thing because one will know from the get go that every manner of sickness and disability can only expand, especially for older age groups.

hat Jake Tapper pulled on his CNN segment was arguably a lot worse.  In the Tapper case, he honed in on Sen. Sanders' and Alexandra Ocasio- Cortez' claim that one study from the Mercatus Center (at George Mason University - a libertarian strong hold)  showed that a universal health care plan would actually save money over a ten year period. 

“Is that true?” Tapper asked incredulously. “Did a study funded by the Koch brothers indicate that Medicare for All would actually save the U.S. government trillions of dollars? No, it’s not true, at least not according to the author of the study.”

After carefully noting an Associated Press investigation that exposed the Koch brothers’ control over the hiring and firing of educators at George Mason University, Tapper then proceeded to quote at length from the Mercatus Center’s Charles Blahous, who refuted Sanders’ assertion that the proposed legislation would lower the projected cost of all health care expenditures by $2 trillion. From the segment:

It is likely that the actual cost of [Medicare for all] would be substantially greater than these estimates, which assume significant administrative and drug cost savings under the plan, and also assume that health care providers operating under [Medicare for all] will be reimbursed at rates more than 40 percent lower than those currently paid by private health insurance.

This is where it gets interesting because Blahous' contentions and arguments also appeared in the WSJ ('Even Doubling Taxes Wouldn't Pay For Medicare For All'. Aug, 2nd), wherein he claimed that over ten years the bill would rise to $32.6 TRILLION if the U.S. adopted Medicare for All. Which is pure poppycock, as well as myopic. As one medical specialist (John Perryman) wrote in a response letter to the WSJ (last Friday, the 17th):

"The U.S. pays more for health care, whether measured on a per capita basis or as a proportion of GDP than every other nation on Earth.   What Blahous fails to mention is that vast costs are already happening and our worsened by the structure of our health care system. Single payer is an economically viable alternative."

In effect, if you run the numbers for the money shelled out for private insurance by all Americans over the next ten years, including premium increases, drug increases, costs increasing due to inflation and others (co-pays, out of pocket outlays for high deductible plans), it easily surpasses $32.6 trillion and is probably closer to $40 trillion if ER visits by the uninsured are factored in - which costs have to be paid by taxpayers.

Blahous' wild claims  -  based in part on the false assumption of a 40 % cut to provider reimbursements-  were also trounced in a separate letter (same date, issue)  by a Univ. Of Michigan medical professor  who wrote:  "A 25 % federal VAT plus a 3 %  increase in the top federal tax rate (from 37 % to 30%) would be adequate to fund Medicare for All even under Mr. Blahous' assumptions."

Blahous and Tapper were also exposed as not completely truthful in a   pair of essays published in the journal Jacobin.   In effect, what the Mercatus study actually indicated is that Medicare provider rates would come in at 40 percent below private insurance rates. Not totally surprising given  Medicare provider reimbursements  are not affected to the 40 percent level - contrary to Blahous' blather, i.e. as exposed in the Jacobin essays . 

 As  Matt Bruenig writes: 

“This is because only 56 percent of Americans have private insurance.  So, while private insurance patients would see their payments reduced by 40 percent, Medicare patients would not see their payments reduced at all, and Medicaid and uninsured patients would actually see their payments increase.”

Tapper's obsession - typically Neoliberal  - is also on the savings for government ($2 trillion) but in fact that's irrelevant as it is the savings for We the people - as Sanders and Ocasio -Cortex had belabored.  Also not surprising is that Tapper echoes the Neoliberal position of The Washington Post which Bruenig points out has regurgitated the untruths in  a separate fact-check  of Ocasio -Cortex, as well as a video segment accompanying an editorial entitled  “The cosmically huge ‘if’ of Medicare for all."   Interestingly, the editors have appeared to have removed the video - maybe conscious of exposure of their Neoliberal lies, after the appearance of the Jacobin piece.

This led Bruenig to write:

"In some ways, the undead nature of this falsehood is a perfect microcosm of the problems our society faces in dealing with fake news.  Once a false report is out there, it is devilishly difficult to undo the damage it has caused because, even if it is corrected, few people ever recognize the correction and so many people wind up repeating the false report.

The takeaway here is that any claims you see or hear regarding how Medicare for All is "too costly" or "financially impractical" must be taken with a grain of salt.  Look especially at the sources cited and don't be fooled by any superficial institute's name cachet. 

Watch Jake Tapper’s CNN segment here.

Read Matt Bruenig’s articles here and here.

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