WaPo Shocker: President Is Hiding Cost of Obamacare

What was a terrible week for Barack Obama likely worsened Sunday when the Washington Post editorial board accused the President of withholding from the public the true costs of the healthcare reform he so eagerly seeks.

Makes one wonder if the White House will view the Post's criticisms much as former President Lyndon Johnson did Walter Cronkite's 1968 declaration that the Vietnam War was a stalement.

With as much as Obama has on the line with this agenda item, these words from the Post have to hurt (h/t Jake Tapper):

PRESIDENT OBAMA sometimes presents health-care reform as a pain-free proposition, as simple as choosing the red pill over the blue -- one that's no more effective but costs twice as much...This all-gain-no-pain stance may be politically advisable; people are increasingly edgy about how reform will affect their own health care. A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that that the percentage of those who believe they will be worse off if reform passes (21 percent) has doubled since February.

But Mr. Obama's soothing bedside manner masks the reality that getting health costs under control will require making difficult choices about what procedures and medications to cover. It will require saying no, or having the patient pay more, at times when the extra expense is not justified by the marginal improvement in care. Mr. Obama is right that sticking with the status quo is a bad alternative, but he isn't leveling about the consequences of change.

Checking that link right now to make sure this really was a Washington Post editorial? I quite understand...but it gets better:

Take Mr. Obama's red pill-blue pill example. What if the pricey blue pill is actually better than the cheaper red one? What if it's better but just a little bit? What happens when a yellow pill comes along, costing twice as much as the blue? What happens if there's a new procedure that cures the ailment, but at an even bigger cost? [...]     

The fundamental driver of health-care inflation is technological innovation. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that new technology accounts for about half the increase in health-care costs over the past several decades.

This is, for the most part, a good thing. Adjusted for inflation, health-care spending per person is six times what it was 40 years ago. But no one today would settle for 1960s-style medicine. Treating patients with heart disease was inexpensive then, because there wasn't a great way to detect problems before a heart attack and not much to do afterward. Today, angiograms can diagnose blockages. Bypasses and angioplasty can fix them. Drugs such as beta blockers can prevent repeat heart attacks. So spending for coronary care has soared, along with survival rates. Some medical innovations can save money, but the general arc has been better treatment -- at higher costs.

Exactly, and this is what folks on the left and most of their media minions don't get.

Of course healthcare costs have dramatically increased in the last 40 years as have health insurance premiums. But what do you get for the extra expense now?

There's a reason why the fastest growing segment of our population is over the age of 80: medical advances are making us all live longer.

But that comes with a price, a cost most are willing to accept, for nothing is more valuable than health and well-being. The Post addressed this seemingly obvious concept:

As CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf testified in February, "Given the central role of medical technology in cost growth, reducing or slowing spending over the long term would probably require decreasing the pace of adopting new treatments and procedures or limiting the breadth of their application."

In other words, you can't always get what you want -- at least not if you want costs to be lower. This would require an enormous change from current practice, particularly in Medicare, which under existing rules covers all treatments with net medical benefits, regardless of cost. Private insurers, certainly, have much more leeway in making coverage determinations, but the backlash from the managed-care experience of the 1990s and pressure to follow Medicare policies restricts insurers' willingness to limit coverage.

The current system is untenable and getting worse, with employers dropping insurance and premiums rising for those who still have it. Reform is essential. But Mr. Obama does the public a disservice by acting as if it will not require anything from them in return.


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Noel Sheppard's picture