Thursday, March 24, 2011

Yesterday's Two Radio Interviews Podcast

KQED, Northern California's largest NPR affiliate, has posted my interview with Michael Krasny on the one-year anniversary of Obamacare here.

KCRW, Southern California's largest NPR affiliate, has posted my interview with Warren Olney here.

With respect to Mr. Krasny, I was debating Herb Schultz, an Obamacare employee who runs the west coast for Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services.  Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News set up the discussion with a report on the state of Obamacare.  It went well.  Nevertheless, if I were to rewrite my participation, I'd change three statements:

  1. When challenged on my labelling the new law "Obamacare," I shrugged it off, saying that I did it because it pushes people's buttons.  I do not do it to push people's buttons, but to emphasize that President Obama owns it.  It was rammed and jammed through an unwilling Congress against bipartisan opposition and a very skeptical public.  This is very different to Social Security or Medicare and Medicaid, which were passed by overwhelming Congressional majorities and generally supportive public opinion.  Although no conservative or libertarian should cheer the state of these programs, we would not be justified in labelling them "FDR-Care" or "LBJ-Care."
  2. When Mr. Shultz asserted that the bill contained "bipartisan" elements, I jumped to agree with him because I always relish the opportunity to bring up HIPAA, the post-HillaryCare legislation signed by President Clinton in 1996 to nearly unanimous Congressional approval.  HIPAA has brought no benefits, but simply legitimized the political class's erroneous notion that the federal government should regulate private health insurance.  The point, of course, is that "bipartisan" health reform is not a legitimate goal.  The only legitimate goal is to give control of Americans' health dollars to the American people, not their employers, governments, or insurance companies.  Nevertheless, it would have been better to start my response by reminding the audience that the opposition to Obamacare was bipartisan, with 34 House Democrats voting against it.  Not a single Republican voted for Obamacare.
  3. I'm a fan of Ms. Carey's reporting, but she closed the segment by trafficking the myth that we need an "individual mandate" so that uninsured people do not crowd the emergency rooms for care for which they don't pay.  In fact, ER's are far more crowded with Medicaid and privately insured patients than uninsured patients, and the cost of uncompensated care for uninsured patients is trivial.  We've know this for years but the myth is intuitively and emotionally appealing so it sticks to the wallpaper.  It was recently debunked (yet again) by John Cogan of the Hoover Institute, and colleagues, writing in the Wall Street Journal (Cogan, Hubbard, & Kessler, "Obamacare and the truth about cost shifting, 3/11/11).
The interview with Mr. Olney in Los Angeles was a four-way tussle with the California Insurance Commissioner, an executive with Blue Shield of California, an executive with the Children's Defense Fund, and me - although the Insurance Commissioner and Blue Shield declined to engage each other, so the debate was just between the Children's Defense Fund and me.

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