Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Wigderson kills people and laughs about it


Our friend Mike Mathias leaps to the defense of the under-medicated Chris Liebenthal.  Well, Mike doesn’t exactly “leap.”  More like hops.  But anyway, he comes to the defense of Liebenthal, and he even brings charts proving that I am a heartless bastard and that insurance companies eat babies for breakfast.

However, as the chart above demonstrates, this isn’t even a remotely controversial notion.

About 150,000 people die each year because they lack health insurance. And Ezra Klein, who made this point in December, notes that while opponents and proponents of health care reform focus on the financial costs, there isn’t all that much discussion of the human costs.

Wow. 150,000 people each year. But I’ve seen that number before. It turns out 150,000 people die each year from global warming. When they’re not dying from the heat, they’re dying from the cold. Thanks Friends of the Earth. I’ll remember to get an extra blanket. Oh yeah, and lay off the pretzels.

150,000 is a pretty popular number. Some say 150,000 people die everyday of something. In Turkey and Vietnam, 150,000 people each year get cancer. I wonder if their health insurance is any good.

But let’s look at these numbers. I’ll even post the chart that proves opponents of the President’s plan for health care reform are bloody-thirsty vampires that laugh at the corpses.

chart of death

chart of death

Now, looking at the chart thingy, it looks like the worst year for people dying from a lack of insurance was the most recent on the chart, and that’s only 22,000 people. Still a lot of people. Just not the 150,000. So I’m not quite as blood-thirsty as my reputation would lead you to believe.

Missing from the chart is the number of people President Obama would kill with his health plan. I’m not talking about the “death panels” or even the number of abortions. I’m talking about how many Obama kills by leaving them uninsured in his health plan. After all, everyone knows that his plan does not provide universal coverage, either. I bet he laughs when they die, too. Heartless bastard.

But can we even trust the 22,000 number? Unfortunately, no. Michael Cannon over at the Cato Institute points out that nobody is really sure how the lack of insurance impacts mortality rates:

Indeed, health insurance does have a connection to mortality. But I’m pretty sure Klein doesn’t know what it is, mostly because people with more expertise and fewer axes to grind don’t know what it is.

For example, a careful study by health economists Amy Finkelstein and Robin McKnight found that in its first 10 years, Medicare had no discernible impact on elderly mortality rates. The authors hypothesize that prior to Medicare, seniors who lacked coverage largely got the care that they needed either by paying out of pocket or relying on public or private charity. Whether Medicare had any impact on elderly mortality after its first 10 years remains an open question.

Or consider a study by Richard Kronick, a professor of family and preventive medicine at U.C.-San Diego and a former health policy adviser to the Clinton administration. Kronick performed the largest-ever study on the health effects of being uninsured and concludes that the IOM estimate “is almost certainly incorrect.” Kronick concludes that “the best available evidence” suggests “there would not be much change in the number of deaths in the United States as a result of universal coverage.”

How can that be, when Ezra Klein finds his own argument so “intuitive“? Kronick admits “it is not clear” why the data produce such a counterintuitive result, but posits that existing channels “may provide ‘good enough’ access to care for the uninsured to keep their mortality rate similar to that of the insured.”

Economists Helen Levy of the University of Michigan and David Meltzer of the University of Chicago surveyed the entire economics literature on the connection between health insurance and health. They conclude, “The central question of how health insurance affects health, for whom it matters, and how much, remains largely unanswered at the level of detail needed to inform policy decisions.”

That sucks. According to at least one study, I might not have any blood stains on my keyboard at all. But I’m sure the good news will cheer Liebenthal and Mathias right up, and we don’t have to waste a trillion dollars.

Good thing Massachusetts elected Scott Brown to the Senate before this country made a terrible mistake.

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