Healthcare Weirdness

Ezra Klein says he’s “baffled” by Michael Kinsley’s column on healthcare reform in the Post today.  He’s being way too kind.  I read it last night and Kinsley’s column isn’t even coherent.

Do we need a root-and-branch reform of healthcare in America?  “The answer is probably yes,” Kinsley affirms.  But then, without warning, he pulls a high-speed U-turn out of his hip pocket and declares that we shouldn’t bother right now regardless.  Why?  Because healthcare reform gets its urgency “merely from [its] association with truly urgent measures like the stimulus package.” Because it will cost $100 billion per year or so and it really ought to be free.  Because it will be politically difficult.

Huh?  Healthcare reform was viewed as urgent long before the banking crisis.  Its cost is no surprise at all.  And everyone knew it would be politically difficult from the get go.  None of this is news and none of it makes any sense.

And what makes even less sense is the “low hanging fruit” that Kinsley suggests we implement in place of broad change: malpractice reform, electronic recordkeeping, and comparative effectiveness research.  That’s not low hanging fruit.  It’s low hanging gnats.  They’re all good ideas, but they’d have only a tiny impact on costs and essentially no impact at all on broadening coverage.  It’s like telling GM to spend more time designing prettier hubcaps.  Very strange.

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