Remember a few weeks ago when the Independent Record said that it would continue to print letters to the editor arguing scientific nonsense about global warming because, despite the facts, people still disagreed with the conclusion that human activity causes global warming? Today, they applied that standard of fact-free opinion pieces by letting Congressional candidate Matt Rosendale publish editorial nonsense about health care.
The big reveal of the piece is that Rosendale wants to cut Medicare benefits for elderly Montanans. He claims that “these programs (Medicare and Medicaid) will bankrupt our health care system, themselves and our country in that order if we do nothing.”
Actually, the worst thing we could do to Medicare would be to end the Affordable Care Act, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes:
The trustees’ finding that health reform has improved Medicare’s financial status is consistent with the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that health reform will reduce federal budget deficits — modesty in its first ten years, but substantially in the following decade. Medicare is a part of the federal budget.
He’s also wrong that Medicare is on the verge of bankruptcy, as the CBPP, Columbia Journalism Review, Fact Check.org, and just about everyone who isn’t on the Koch Brothers payroll know. Calling for “reform” of Medicare because of hyperbolic, untrue fears about the program’s bankruptcy will lead to risky privatization schemes, reduced benefits, and inferior care for America’s elderly.
Rosendale also asserts that (in his best Dr. Evil voice) 100 million Americans could lose their health care coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. Rosendale’s assertion is a GOP talking point totally disconnected from reality, as its definition of what it means to “lose coverage” simply means that your coverage changes in some way. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt explains:
“Under this definition, ” Levitt replied, “the idea of keeping your plan ceases to be meaningful.” He went on to say that “virtually every health plan changed in some way every year — tweaking benefits, cost-sharing, drug formularies, provider networks, etc.”
Next, Rosendale asserts that allowing insurers to sell across state lines will almost magically drive down costs. It won’t, and any savings generated will be because a few states will so dramatically lower the regulation of insurance plans sold there that consumers will end up with terrible plans, no legal recourse when they’re mistreated, and no more insurance for the uninsured.
And the CBO found that it would be even worse when they studied this proposal a few years ago:
The legislation “would reduce the price of individual health insurance coverage for people expected to have relatively low health care costs, while increasing the price of coverage for those expected to have relatively high health care costs,” CBO said. “Therefore, CBO expects that there would be an increase in the number of relatively healthy individuals, and a decrease in the number of individuals expected to have relatively high cost, who buy individual coverage.”
And it ignores a fundamental reason that insurance isn’t sold across state lines: each state gets to regulate the insurance sold there. Does Rosendale really want to take Montana’s ability to regulate its insurance away from the state? That doesn’t sound terribly conservative to me—and would deny Montana, a state with small population, any real say in insurance plans sold here.
Rosendale also ends with the tired Republican argument that tort reform will somehow solve the exploding cost of medical care in the United States. When he—and others—make that argument, they leave out that the reform they propose will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to sue doctors and hospitals who make mistakes in their coverage.
And it won’t make a difference. The last, best, most comprehensive study of the impact of tort reform said that malpractice and litigation amount to a “rounding error” in the total costs of medical care in the U.S.:
According to the actuarial consulting firm Towers Perrin, medical malpractice tort costs were $30.4 billion in 2007, the last year for which data are available. We have a more than a $2 trillion health care system. That puts litigation costs and malpractice insurance at 1 to 1.5 percent of total medical costs. That’s a rounding error. Liability isn’t even the tail on the cost dog. It’s the hair on the end of the tail.
Matt Rosendale doesn’t have any solutions for medical care in the United States. He’s offering nothing more than decade-old talking points whose policy implementation would do nothing to cut costs, decrease the quality of care available to Americans, and undermine the safety net that Medicare has provided elderly Americans for generations.