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March 23, 2010

Mark Levin, Megan McArdle Agree: Hold Them To Their Claims

Levin wants his $2500 cut in premiums per year, as promised dozens of times by Obama. And he wants the $940 billion price tag held to the penny.

That medley of Obama's dozens of promises to cut premiums by $2500 per year is going to appear in a lot of ads.

Megan McArdle also asks for "accountability for the bill," and wants to keep a close eye on which of the many promises made by HCR's proponents actually come to pass, and which do not. Her prediction? None of them will, except for a few in a trivial manner.

Now -- huddle up near your fainting-couch, because this is going to shock you -- those who sold ObamaCare with these promises are now objecting to calling them promises at all, and object to McArdle's push to keep score.

McArdle likes the mortality rate and average lifespan predictions especially, since they are such well-known numbers. It is easily determined if the liberals' claims lies are true. And it's precisely because this is such an easy determination to make that Ezra Klein and fellow travelers object to using their own claims as benchmarks.

ObamaCare Evangelist Ezra Klein, who draws a paycheck from the Washington Post despite the fact his true employer is clearly the progressive caucus of the Democratic Party, is the first to squeal that his claims that ObamaCare would reduce mortality has been taken out of context, or something, and by "taken out of context," he seems to mean merely "noticed by someone else."

Apropos of my earlier post, Ezra Klein writes to complain that I have erroneously grouped him in with Nick Kristof. I should be clear that Kristof's estimates on their own suggest that the death rate should drop by 20% or so over the next ten years; Ezra's estimates are just gravy.

But this triggered a back and forth about what it means to claim that "hundreds of thousands" of people will be saved by this bill, and similar. A lot of my correspondents on the left seem to think that I am trying to set up some sort of a gotcha--to make this into a "contest". Or that making predictions is just "sour grapes".

That seems like a more apt description of people who just induced us to pass a bill that will ultimately cost more than $200 billion a year--the fifth or sixth largest line item in the US budget. During that debate I heard a lot about the 20-45,000 people who were dying from lack of insurance every year. I heard about how US mortality indicators lagged behind the rest of the developed world. I heard about infant mortality. I heard, over and over again, about medical bankruptcies, and how medical bills were bankrupting America. I heard about the CBO score that said this bill would be deficit neutral. Let me know if I've missed anything, but it seems to me that mortality, financial protection, and deficit-improvement were the three major planks upon which this bill was sold. They are certainly the bulk of the anecdotes that fill heart-rending articles and presidential speeches.

Forgive me, but to my admittedly naive ears, this sounds like what you are saying is that you think that if we cover the uninsured, we will have lower mortality rates, fewer medical bankruptcies, and a lower deficit.

However "imperfect" this bill is, you got what you wanted: virtually all the uninsured are covered, and those who aren't covered probably aren't particularly unhealthy. So now you should be willing to state that all the marvelous things you claimed would come to pass, will actually come to pass. Over a reasonable time frame.


[The American voters] were regaled with eye-popping statistics on deaths from lack of health insurance--I certainly was, by many of the very same commenters who are now suddenly wary of prediction making. If you quoted those statistics, you were committing to a pretty strong position on the benefits of this bill. By my count, since we're now supposed to be covering at least 2/3 of those who are currently uninsured, and the remainder are often immigrants who trend younger than the general population, you believe that we should see a reduction of at least 15,000 deaths a year. You might argue me down to 12,000, but you couldn't get me as low as ten. That is what is implied by citing a figure of 20,000 deaths a year.

If you quoted Himmelstein et al's 45,000, obviously you should be expecting deaths to fall by at least 25,000 a year, very conservatively. If we don't see such improvements, then those studies were wrong. And if you won't commit to saying that you expect such a sizable reduction in our mortality rate, then you were wrong to cite them.


If you don't think that any of the effects of this bill will be large enough to measure and hopefully, large enough to justify the price tag of this bill, then I have to ask two questions:

1) Why the hell are we spending $200 billion a year, plus the mandated spending by individuals and employers on premiums, plus the new money the states will have to spend on Medicaid?

2) Why on earth did you bring up all these apparently irrelevant statistics?

The only thing faster than Ezra Klein moving towards a television camera is Ezra Klein moving away from predictions and promises he made previously to those television cameras.

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posted by Ace at 06:11 PM

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