WaPo Health System Diagnosis Light on Facts
The Washington Post devotes a lot of space today—part of the front page, plus nearly one and a half additional pages—to explaining what experts think is wrong with the health-care system and what should be done about it. The effort is laudable, but the execution is deeply flawed.
Let’s leave aside the fact that the Ceci Connolly bylined article, Decision Makers Differ on How To Mend Broken Health System, entirely ignores conservative and libertarian analyses of the way Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax penalty on individually purchased insurance has distorted health care. (At least Connolly quotes one libertarian analyst.) Perhaps the relative powerlessness of conservatives in Washington and the lack of a unified Republican approach on health care justifies this inattention.
The bigger problem is that the Post reports facts that aren’t facts. In the third paragraph, we are told that “researchers have documented” that health-care costs “hinder the global competitiveness of U.S. companies.” This is presented as a matter of “consensus.” It isn’t. The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that the idea that health-care costs threaten American competitiveness is, in general, a myth.
Connolly goes on to claim, without citing a source, that paying for the uninsured costs “everyone else . . . an extra $1,000 in insurance premiums.” The CBO has suggested that this cost-shifting effect is actually very small.
Connolly also reports that “of 37 industrialized nations, the United States ranks 29th in infant mortality and among the world’s worst on measures such as obesity, heart disease and preventable deaths.” But many policy experts have pointed out that our higher rate is the result of many other factors, such as the heroic efforts our system devotes to saving prematurely born babies and our high proportion of low-birthweight babies.
The inside full page graphic, co-credited to Karen Yourish, notes that President Obama has proposed “cutting spending for Medicaid and Medicare by $309 billion over 10 years” and says “he would like to squeeze out $300 billion more in savings from the programs” (emphasis in print version of original). They then blandly report: “Estimated savings: $609 billion over 10 years.” Where’s journalistic skepticism when you need it?