Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wisc. Rep Paul Ryan on Health Care – How Can Someone So Wrong Get All the Attention

For One Thing, Explaining Why He is Wrong is Called Media Bias by Conservatives

Well That Does Explain It


Health Care is going to be in the news for a while.  The Republican race for the Presidential nomination is old news, the Congress will likely keep the government running until November, Europe believes (wrongly) that Greece may be okay, and new health care info is being made available.

Before getting to the real and the serious stuff on health care, one needs to revisit Rep. Paul Ryan, (R, Wi) who for reasons totally lacking in substance and logic is regarded as a serious player in the health care debate.  Mr. Ryan, one may remember, authored a Republican plan to replace Medicare with subsidized private insurance, basically a plan to save Medicare by ending Medicare.

Jennifer Rubin, one of the (many) conservative columnists for the formerly moderate and balanced Washington Post has written about Mr. Ryan’s latest salvo in the health care debate. Here are just some examples of Mr. Ryan’s total lack of understanding of health care economics, and his misconceptions.

At its core, the health care problem is one of inflation, driven by the overutilization of services, dramatic underpayments, and massive inefficiency.

Okay, let’s see what he is saying.  One problem with health care is “overutilization” which must mean the answer is much less health care for everyone.   That should be real popular.  And inflation is caused by “dramatic underpayments” which is interesting since inflation is caused by too much money, not too little.  But then basic economics has never seemed to be Mr. Ryan’s strength.  As far as massive inefficiency, Mr. Ryan is correct, so he gets one out of three right.

Ms. Rubin goes on to say that “Ryan doesn’t demagogue”, and she follows with five paragraphs of Mr. Ryan demagoguery. For example Mr. Ryan says about health care reform by Mr. Obama,  

using only the blunt tools that his law gives to IPAB, would simply drive Medicare providers out of business, resulting in harsh disruptions and denied care for seniors.”

 which is about as perfect an example of demagoguery as one can find.

 But unlike most politicians, Mr. Ryan actually proposes a solution to the problem.

The three reforms I’ve just outlined – premium support for Medicare, block grants for Medicaid, and tax reform to correct the inefficient tax treatment of health insurance – must be present in our “replace” agenda.

Well premium support for Medicare rests on the assumption that private insurance will be highly efficient, a premise completely destroyed by a just released study by the Kaiser Foundation that private insurance has gone up by a staggering 9% in the past year.   Block grants for Medicaid will simply allow states to ration health care for very low income people even more than it is today (and Mr. Ryan is firmly against health care rationing) and correcting the inefficient tax treatment of health insurance may mean making health insurance provided by employers taxable income, which will raise taxes on tens of millions of working people.

Mr. Ryan has this to say about the politics of his position,

Fear and demagoguery are the last refuges of an intellectually bankrupt party

apparently not realizing that he is describing his own political party.  And Ms. Rubin urges the current Republican Presidential hopefuls to take up Mr. Ryan’s plans.  But those hopefuls are serious politicians, and they remember that several months ago in a special House election the Republican candidate who took up Mr. Ryan’s position was thoroughly trounced in a district that was strongly Republican.

In fact, Mr. Ryan’s plan is so politically toxic that not even Mitt Romney will pander to the base by supporting it.  That, as much as anything, tells the true status of what Mr. Ryan wants to do.

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