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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

People who can't read shouldn't be allowed to do math, either.

by folkbum

Looks like I got some wingnut stupidity for my birthday this year! Two of the usual suspects--although there are probably more if I bothered to look--Owen Robinson and Fred Dooley are all a-flutter about John Edwards's health care plan. Here's Owen's version ('cause Fred's just a copycat):
Yikes! Edwards wants a plan to force people to see a doctor on his schedule. [. . .] So much for freedom. This is what I mean when I say that when the government controls your health care, they control everything about you.

But I also found this interesting…
Edwards said his plan would cost up to $120 billion a year,
Really? Healthy Wisconsin, the government-run health care program proposed by the Democrats, is projected to cost $15.2 billion per year.

Wisconsin’s population is about 5.5 million people. At $15.2 billion, Healthy Wisconsin comes out to $2763.64 per person.

The U.S. has a population of about 300 million people. At $120 billion, Edwards’ plan comes out to about $400 per person.
John Edwards proposed his health care plan (.pdf) in February, and Owen's just now getting around to whining about it. The thing that has him most upset--the required preventive care--has been in the news since at least June, according to the clippings on Edwards's website.

Here's Owen's problem: he hasn't freaking read John Edwards's plan. It's obvious, because if he had, he wouldn't have made the stupid mistakes he does. There are at least two: Well, the preventive care thing is not necessarily a mistake, but I think Owen's got it wrong. Edwards would provide incentives to get that care, and, long-run, that's exactly the kind of thing that will bring down health care costs. My employer, for example, has just started mandating some level of preventive care, and it's being hailed as a great innovation! The Edwards plan, as I read it, also does not provide for punishment for not receiving preventive care:
Health Care Markets will offer primary and preventive services at little or no cost. Incentives like lower premiums will reward individuals who schedule free physicals and enroll in healthy living programs. [. . .] Health Care Markets will encourage plans to monitor patients’ health to keep them out of the emergency room. For example, plans can pay for nutritional counseling for diabetic patients to help them make healthy choices and control their blood sugar levels.
It sounds to me, just like the newly-instituted innovative plan from my employer, that I won't get fired or arrested for not getting preventive care; rather, I just won't get the incentives. (And, you know, die sooner.)

Owen's second mistake is perhaps the most laughable. This is where Owen insists that the Edwards plan will provide health care to every man, woman, and child in the country for $400 a pop. This is the kind of mistake only someone who didn't bother to get his facts right would make. Here's Ezra Klein writing about the Edwards plan (back in, you know, February):
[The plan] puts the onus of the responsibility for funding health coverage on employers, a decision I don't quite understand. The employers can satisfy that responsibility by either providing comprehensive care, or helping employees purchase from a menu of insurance options provided by newly formed, state-run "Health Markets." [. . .]

Where the Edwards' plan takes a big step forward is in mandating, along with the private options, that HMs offer "at least one plan [that] would be a public program based upon Medicare." And the intent is explicit: "Health Markets will offer a choice between private insurers and a public insurance plan modeled after Medicare, but separate and apart from it. Families and individuals will choose the plan that works best for them. This American solution will reward the sector that offers the best care at the best price. Over time, the system may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan."

In other words, the public sector will finally be allowed to compete with the private sector, and consumers will be able to decide which style they prefer.
The easy answer is that the Edwards plan will not take tax money to pay for everyone in the country. It is universal only in the sense that it requires everyone to be covered, not that we all pay for it. This is fundamental, and easily gathered from even a superficial reading of the plan or even the most cursory googling.

From Fred, it wouldn't be surprising, but from Owen, I expect better.

(Aside: The comments sections at both of those posts linked above degenerated into "YOU'RE A SOCIALIST!" - "YOU'RE A HEARTLESS PIG!" flame wars, and no one really bothered to point out the fundamental error. However, one of the most ardent in there of the "YOU'RE A SOCIALIST!" camp is frequent commenter here Dan. One of Dan's favorite questions is, "why not let the government go into the free market by offering health insurance?" Here is one recent iteration, from the comments to Keith's cancer post. Given the way the Edwards plan explicitly calls for exactly that, you'd think Dan would love it. But it seems Dan didn't bother to read the plan, either. Sigh.)

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