December 14, 2009

Medical Bankruptcies, Redux

An old post has suddenly received a lot of traffic, and anger.  So a clarification.

Here is the original post.

Here is my first comment by way of explanation.

How we argue for something matters, especially when finite resources are at stake.

1.  Using bad data, or data misapplied, to support a case weakens the case, especially to those most able to effect change.    I look up the study, I see it's more about disability insurance than healthcare coverage.  I think, "is this all the guy has?  He had to play a little game to make his case?"  If the Harvard guy can't come up with real consequences, it makes me think it's not a real problem.

2.  Didn't he just detect a problem (lack of disability insurance) that he has decided to ignore in favor of pushing his agenda?   If he was really interested in the truth, he would want to fix whatever the problem his data showed, in  this case, disability insurance.  By ignoring the facts of his study and using them to make a different case, it shows he is in support of an agenda-- an agenda which is not likely to fix his reported problem.

Which is fine, we all have agendas, and universal coverage is an admirable one; but it makes his opinion no more informed or useful than an NFL player's.  Neither can claim to have any superior insights; Himmelstein probably has superior insights about disability insurance, but he prefers to talk about a different issue.

3. What if the government gave out universal disability insurance?  Then these bankruptcies would fall dramatically.  Now, by his data, there's one less reason to have universal healthcare.

A salesman doesn't have infinite resources to convince his client to buy.  A military doesn't have unlimited resources to fight every battle in the world.  Lawyers do not have unlimited resources to defend a client, and these are all public goods in the same general range of importance as healthcare.  (NB: not all healthcare is life-saving.)

see also

50% of Americans receive food stamps