Thursday, December 10, 2009

Incoherence Abounds

The latest “public option” proposal now has two parts; opening Medicare to those 55 and older, and a national “exchange” of insurance plans offered by private companies but overseen in some manner by the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management.

As to the Medicare part I have a slight reservation. I’m not sure they are going to be able to price it fairly, since present eligibility is based on having paid Medicare tax for 45 years, so how do they calculate the cost needed to buy in? I assume all of that can be worked out, so overall I suspect the idea has merit.

The “national exchange” strikes me as quite a bit more problematic. For one thing it seems like a pretty huge government bureaucracy, OPM or not. Another drawback is that currently the regulation of all forms of insurance is a matter reserved to the states, and this plan tramples all over that. I haven’t heard anyone mention that little issue, but it seems like a problem to me.

To Ed Shultz, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, not to mention the Daily Kos guy, this plan is a rank abandonment of principle, and it has them screaming for Congress to be eviscerated. Their problem is that they are far more interested in trashing the insurance companies than they are in actually reforming anything. Unless it bloodies the insurance companies they want nothing to do with it, and this plan abandons the attack on their favorite target.

Which is one reason I think it might be the best option offered yet.

Ezra Klein was on Olbermann’s show last night, introduced by Olbermann as having great insight into matters of insurance reform and accompanied by the usual fawning that Keith always does over Countdown guests, and then was ignored when he said of insurance companies,

“…they’re about the 85th most evil industry, their profit is about 3%, so if you remove all of their profit you haven’t done much about cost.”

That went over Keith's head like a hot air balloon over Albuquerque.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey then provided Olbermann with a lengthy diatribe about needing a “public option to prevent insurance rates from soaring into the sky,” a colorful, if somewhat inapt metaphor. She even provided the statement that the Congressional plan included some non-profits and still went up 8% this year, which would actually seem to refute the efficacy of the public option. She nonetheless steamed bravely ahead, albeit in a somewhat halting manner after that, seemingly distracted by the contrary effect of her own words on her argument. Olbermann was undeterred, thanking her effusively after her diatribe sort of trickled to a stop.

Instead of, "You silly ass, you shot down my argument!" Olbermann went on to more important things; like Chinese tv animations on the Tiger Woods saga. "Cartoons, we have cartoons."

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