Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Are fallacies about health reform becoming accepted wisdom? Former New York Times editor Bill Keller says he fears so

"A number of fallacies seem to be congealing into accepted wisdom" about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, former New York Times editor Bill Keller writes for the paper. The myths, he says, are that (1) the law is killing jobs, (2) it's a federal takeover of the health system, (3) the free market would be better, (4) states can fix the problems with health insurance, and (5) the law is a political loser. Here's a capsule of Keller's counterpoints:

(1) Jobs: While some workers "no longer so dependent on employers for their health-care safety net may choose to retire earlier or work part-time," Keller writes, their jobs will be open for others, and he cites's latest debunking of the job-killer claim.

(2) Takeover: "The main thing the law does is deliver 30 million new customers to the private insurance industry," Keller writes, with emphasis. "Insurance will be governed by new regulations, and supported by new subsidies . . . but the share of health-care spending that comes from the federal government is expected to rise only modestly."

(3) Marketplace: "To the extent there is a profound difference of principle anywhere in this debate, it lies here," Keller writes. He says giving people tax credits to buy their own insurance and care could reduce wasteful spending, but quotes Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund: Ten percent of the population accounts for 60 percent of the health outlays. They are the very sick, and they are not really in a position to make cost-conscious choices.”

(4) States: "Some states are too poor to adopt worthwhile reforms. Some are intransigent, or held captive by lobbies," Keller writes, noting that the law "underwrites pilot programs to reduce costs, and gives states freedom — some would argue too much freedom — in designing insurance-buying exchanges."

(5) Politics: Because most of the law won't take effect until 2014, "so there are not yet testimonials from enthusiastic, family-next-door beneficiaries. This helps explain why the bill has not won more popular affection. It also explains why the Republicans are so desperate to kill it now, before Americans feel the abundant rewards," Keller writes, calling on Democrats to "mount a full-throated defense." (Read more)

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