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It's Betsy McCaughey, the insurance industry's anti-universal heath care shill in the WSJ. Check her out in Wikipedia. She took the industry's lead in going after Clinton's universal health care and she's back at her old post for Obama's.

For the most part she makes what presents as factual conclusions without supporting facts or logic. The idea sees to be if you write it and it appears in the WSJ, it must be true. Her basic arguments are as follows.

She argues health care really hasn't increased that much recently. But if you add up her figures, they show at least a 30% increase in the last five years which is double COL for the same period. Naturally she omits the COL data since that would disprove her conclusion. She as fails to total her annual health care cost increases to show they are in excess of 30% over 5 years. This year health care costs are again projected to double the COL increases again.

She also maintains that health care costs haven’t really increased. It’s the percentage paid directly by patients that has increased. This of course is more nonsence. The degree to which health care costs are paid directly by patients or third parties, has no effect on the level of increase of health care costs. Another nonsensical claim she makes is that government data shows that food and energy have decreased in cost since 1960 so that when they are combined with healthcare costs they take up the same percentage of household income today as then. Comparing to a 49 year old benchmark to today leaves out intervening changes such as 15% of Americans are not spending on healthcare coverage because they don't have it. Not to mention the staggering recent increases in the cost of energy as anyone knows who has filled up their car’s gas tank lately.

She dismisses cost controls as producing medical scarcity without explanation why this must be so or even providing any proof that it is so. The truth is cost controls are applied in Europe not only without producing scarcity but with superior results to the US. She presents no evidence and no logic to support her plainly wrong conclusion that cost controls cause scarcity of medical treatment.

She claims the way to only way to cut back on Medicare spending is to reduce Medicare spending by shifting the payment burden onto the recipient. But this proposal relies on her fallacious conclusion that the reducing the cost of healthcare would do nothing but produce medical scarcity. So her “solution” would shift the burden of payment onto the elderly and disabled Medicare recipients living on fixed incomes at a time when heath care costs are rising at double the rate of the cost of living. Of course the elderly and disabled live on fixed incomes so what will they go without to pay for newly imposed Medicare burden as well as the rapidly increasing cost of health care? And she avoids the fact that 15% of Americans are without health care coverage with the number growing. In short her “solution” is to increase medical scarcity for the elderly and the increasing numbers of Americans without health care.

What about mainland Europe where costs are as low as half of what the US spends on healthcare? At the same time Europe is consistently rated as superior in its provision of healthcare to the US. She dismisses Europe concluding that “90% of the difference in per capita health spending between Europe and America is due to higher per capita incomes in the U.S. Americans spend more because they earn more, and they get more for it.” She provides no facts to support her claim that the US gets better health care than Europe except to report breast cancer survival is better in the US. This has been true but it is one of the very few areas where the us outperforms Europe. Her conclusion flies in the face of numerous studies such as the WHO’s concluding in outcomes Europe is superior.

What about her 90% claim? Again no supporting data. Presumably she is “reasoning” that countries with higher incomes pay more for health care. The US is ranked 7th in average income. But the higher ranking nations like Norway, Denmark and Ireland pay significantly less than the US. The US average income is 28% higher that Europe’s. That hardly accounts for differences as great as 100% higher healthcare costs.

The differences are the result of waste vs efficiencies. Drugs are much cheaper in Europe. One reason is that prescriptions are by the box. There’s no overhead of a highly educated and paid individual counting out pills all day long. The payment system is simple and straightforward. In France I pay the MD. He sticks my healthcard into a machine which transmits my payment (fixed by government) to the administration and within days I am reimbursed. The MD does not have to provide full time staff to deal with insurance companies. These are just a few of the efficiencies practiced in Europe. McCaughey’s dismissal of them is either ignorant or dishonest.

The same is true of her unsubstantiated claim that in European-like systems medical care is limited. If it’s limited why are its outcomes re life expectancy, infant mortality, etc. superior to the US? Fact is medical care is more accessible in Europe than the US. For example I take a medication that is monitored monthly. I go to the local lab in the AM for a blood test ($14) and the MD gets the results via the Internet by 5PM. If there’s a problem, he calls me at 6PM and adjusts the dosage. If I need an appointment with him, it takes 2 at most 3 days. If I’m really sick, it’s the same day.

The same modern treatments are available in Europe as in the US. McCaughey makes much of increases in costs for new treatments. It’s true in Europe too but they are more focused on efficiencies and prevention of duplicate equipment.

Fact is it is the US through HMO’s that second guess MDs and make decisions creating the medical scarcity McCaughey warns against.

McCaughy’s op ed is for the most part untrue. She is once again shilling for the HMOs and big pharma. Truth is immaterial to her. It’s somewhat difficult to respond because she just makes sweeping claims with little in the way of supporting facts or logic. Sorry if this post is too long. I meant to cut the grass instead of doing this but I got angry at her dishonesty.

Here’s a coupple of interesting sites on healthcare costs and outcomes.
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