I just say that because that's what we say in the south when we don't want to come right out and say "David Brooks is dumber than a box of hammers"...
In his op/ed piece in today's New York Times, David Brooks, bless his heart, is trying to explain why Paul Ryan really does have the best plan for fixing Medicare.
Mr. Brooks posits that there are two ways to fix Medicare: either a market-based approach or a political approach. As we know, the Ryan plan is a a market-based approach, which Mr. Brooks says is better because no one outside the employ of the White House thinks a political approach can work. While I think we can all agree his first assumption there is not exactly true, there were myriad other things about this article that really annoyed me, aside from the usual Republican "the free market can fix anything!" canard.
Mr. Brooks says that the roughly $234,000 gap between what seniors have paid into the system and what they use in Medicare benefits should weigh on the conscience of every American over 55. Why?? They are using the system the way they are supposed to, exactly as they were promised. Why should they feel guilty for expecting that the system into which they have paid their entire working lives would be there for them when they hit retirement age? That is how the system was designed, and how it was presented to them and all the rest of us. The people who should feel guilty are the politicians, present and past, who have managed to screw things up so badly and continue to not fix this massive problem.
Mr. Brooks advocates that we should give recipients a choice among insurance options. Mr. Brooks, I am a single mother to two kids, working a 40+ hour work week, and also trying to, you know, live my life. I can barely stand to choose a satellite TV carrier, what with the different options within each carrier and between carriers, none of which, of course, are actually comparing apples to apples. The thought of having to wade through a multitude of health insurance options to try and figure out what will adequately protect my family and what I can afford makes me want to weep. I’ve read that the switch from company-provided pensions to 401Ks has been one of the biggest drains on personal wealth for normal (non-rich) people because most of us do not have the time or know-how to properly or effectively manage our retirement accounts. I can only imagine the same outcome if everyone has to try and decide which health care option is right for them. I think about my 70-year-old father tying to decide which Medicare policy to buy with his voucher and it would be laughable if it weren't so damn pathetic.
Mr. Brooks also cites a RAND Corporation study that says when people have a high-deductible insurance and thus the “incentive” to monitor costs, they spend about 14% less. Is that voluntary, Mr. Brooks? Do they spend less because they’re so jazzed about having an “incentive” to monitor costs, or do they spend less because they have to make the choice between going to the doctor or paying their rent and buying food? When I carry a high-deductible auto insurance policy and something minor happens to my car, as long as it will drive, I won’t bother to get it fixed. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t afford it. We are the richest nation on the Earth. We should not have people walking around with medical issues that are easily controlled but that they aren’t “fixing” because, due to their high-deductible policy, they can’t afford it.
Mr. Brooks asks, "Would a market-based approach reduce costs? There are some reasons to think so." There are also some reasons to think Iraq actually did have weapons of mass destruction and that the BLS is cooking the books. But none of those reasons are particularly reasonable, and a single study he references that said if the Ryan-Wyden plan had been in place between 2006-2009, costs might have come down by 9% isn't really enough reason for me to bet the farm that the free market insurance companies are suddenly going to find it in their hearts to reduce anything unless it somehow increased their profit margin.
David Brooks is right about one thing – the status quo is cataclysmic. The status quo of our health care system by and large being about profit-making is a cataclysmically bad system. But Mr. Brooks’ ideas are no better. Something as vital to the well being of every person in this country and the health of the country itself CANNOT be based on profit.
11:13 AM PT: Woohoo! First rec list!! Thanks, y'all!!