Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Pair of Mysteries: Data and Laws Edition

First, the Mystery of the Missing Context: The Blogger Known as McQ takes Ezra Klein to task for missing some obvious problems with this chart:

[Chart courtesy RWN]

McQ notes, correctly, that the graph's missing some key information, including the definition of "doctor's visit" (i.e. diagnostic, treatment, routine, etc), the fact that it says nothing about the quality of the care, and that it fails to point out that a primary reason that the Medicare visit costs so much less is because that agency shifts its costs to the private sector.

But wait, there's more!

While I absolutely agree with McQ's analysis, I don't think he takes it quite far enough. For one thing, the Medicare price point in the chart is what it is because Medicare decides how much it's going to pay.

A bigger issue regarding how much the "USA fee range" (i.e. non-Medicare charges) is that, for the most part, this number is invisioble to the consumer. That is, 85% (or more) have insurance, the majority of which requires only a nominal co-pay for the typical office visit. When one is responsible for only a small portion of the bill, one is less concerned with the actual cost. It's this disconnect which helps drive the cost of the care; as the unofficial InsureBlog motto goes, "health care costs drive health insurance costs."

[Hat Tip: McQ at RWN]

Which brings us to:

The Mystery of the Missing Bill: While we find it replete with new and unnecessary bureaucracies, tax increases and health care rationing, we must at least credit Speaker Pelosi with actually having a bill to discuss (if not debate).

Which is more than we can say for Sen Reid:

"…there is no bill to release publicly — it does not exist."

Well, glad we cleared that up! Turns out, the much-discussed Baucus Bill is not, in fact, a done deal, nor (apparently) is it the de facto reform effort turned out by the Upper House. That's because, so far, there is no such bill available, it hasn't been reduced to writing. So all this talk about a vote "any day now" is just that, talk. There's nothing to vote on, much less to examine. Such is what passes for legislative action in today's Senate.

"Shut up," they explained.

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