"My colleagues, this is our opportunity to make history," implored Chairman Max Baucus as the Senate Finance Committee last week opened consideration of his bill. Politicians, in their most self-important moments, see themselves as instruments of national destiny. They yearn to be remembered as the architects and agents of great social and economic transformations. They want to be at the signing ceremony; they want a pen.
In his opening remarks Mr. Baucus goes on the make statements that are shaky or refutable at best, or down right "misleading" (one mayn't point out a politician lied any more) such as,
One study "found that every year in America, lack of health coverage leads to 45,000 deaths," he told the committee. "No one should die because they cannot afford health care. This bill would fix that."
But its not as if this all weren't refutable. But Baucus' claims aren't just shaky. Just having health insurance can't automatically improve anyone's health. Just as often more medical care doesn't help either. Many people just don't go to the doctor when they should much less follow medical directions (take your medicine, change your lifestyle). Many people don't sign up for the insurance that they're eligible for in the first place. A recent Urban Institute study estimates that more than 10.9 million people who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP in 2007 didn't enroll at all.
The 45,000 figure cited by Baucus is itself an unreliable statistical construct built on many assumptions. It's based on a study of 9,004 people aged 17 to 64 who were examined between 1988 and 1994. By 2000, 351 had died; of these, 60 were uninsured. The crude death rates among the insured (3 percent of whom died) and uninsured (3.3 percent) were within the statistical margin of error. After adjustments for age, income and other factors, the authors concluded that being uninsured raises the risk of death by 40 percent. They then extrapolated this to the entire population by two techniques, one producing an estimate of 35,327 premature deaths and another of 44,789.
Glenn Reynolds, the inestimable, instupundit comments that,
Yeah, my prediction is that if it passes it’ll be like the Iraq war — in five or ten years most of the people who voted for it will be pretending otherwise. Hell, they’ll probably find a way to blame Bush . . . .
Unfortunately, I suspect he's spot on...just as Mr. Samuelson is. There isn't any over-riding problem with the health care insurance industry that demands immediate seizure RIGHT NOW. I strongly suspect that Mr. Obama, et al, are only trying to be put into the history books as The One who changed America's path. I can only hope that Mr. Obama will fail in this, and the rest of his agenda.