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Health-care handouts

Via Andrew Sullivan, Adam Ozimek is concerned by some of the giveaways in the health-care bill:

The problem with these handouts is that they are going to generate even less complaints than defense handouts do, because it’s a lot harder to get mad about $100 million for a health care facility than it is for a $100 million space laser or some failed helicopter project. I mean, who is going to complain about money going to medical treatment for workers exposed to asbestos in a vermiculite mine?

Similarly, can you picture anyone angrily declaring “the government is building another childrens’ hospital!? My god, this is what my tax dollars are going to? Curing diseases for children!?” And to a certain extent, there’s a good reason why few people would make that complaint; we obviously want to cure sick childrens’ diseases, and we want there to be enough health care facilities. But there is such a thing is too much of this stuff, and there is an unlimited supply of lobbying for it, which suggests to me that we will be getting quite a bit more than “enough” health care facilities in the future.

Has anyone coined the phrase health-care-industrial-complex yet?

"Medical-industrial complex" has been around at least since the 1970s, when Barbara Ehrenreich used it in the New York Review of Books. And it just keeps getting more relevant. As the country keeps getting bigger and richer, and the price tags of bills (particularly health-care bills) keep getting larger and larger, it's going to get even easier to tuck these sorts of goodies away. Children's hospitals aren't getting that much more expensive to build as time goes on, after all. That's part of the reason it would have been good to see Congress include a Federal Health Board that would take responsibility for some of these decisions. The Rockefeller-Lieberman-Whitehouse version of MedPAC would be a good start, too. Congress just isn't well suited to resisting these pressures.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 22, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

My 2nd favortie blogger with the most succinct analysis yet of the fight in the senate: "The war is long. When you've outlasted Strom Thurmond, Joe Lieberman is cake. " Ta-Nehisi Coates

Posted by: eglabe19 | December 22, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

May be my lack of sifting through the difficult language and procedures of Senate, but not clear whether 'Rockefeller-Lieberman-Whitehouse version of MedPAC amendment' passed or not. Tuesday, Senate passed something (you see, so hard to understand all what these guys do in that Chamber); did it include this amendment?

Ezra, any possibility that you would shed light on this one?

Posted by: umesh409 | December 22, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"it’s a lot harder to get mad about $100 million for a health care facility than it is for a $100 million space laser or some failed helicopter project."

This assertion is laughable. Whatever you may say about the cost-benefit analysis of this or that health care gadget, it never beats the sheer waste and uselessness of military spending and it is patently false to suggest that military waste is somehow vulnerable to public outcry. Where have these people been living the last 50 years or so? We live in a country that spends more on the military than the rest of the world combined and even the president of this country has a hard time convincing Congress that the sky isn't falling if a certain particularly useless weapons system doesn't get purchased. What country are these guys living in?

Posted by: carbonneutral | December 22, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Glenn Greenwald, on Democracy Now:

Well, the whole point of the public option originally was that if you’re going to mandate that people buy health insurance, then it is only a legitimate and moral thing to do if you actually provide them with a public-run program, so that the health insurance industry, which is notorious for gouging people and for engaging in all sorts of nefarious business practices, can’t use the mandate to essentially get 30 million new customers and then gouge them for profits while providing them with virtually no services.

And the argument of Howard Dean and others is that this bill actually does more harm than good. The argument is not, well, since it’s not pure enough ideologically or it’s not perfect, it should be defeated; the argument is that it actually does more harm than good, because it reinforces the monopoly status of the private healthcare industry and, at the same time, forces huge numbers of Americans, many of whom will not be able to afford it, to buy products that are inadequate and that they do not want. It perpetuates the very system that supposedly was the impetus in the first place for healthcare reform to pass.

Posted by: obrier2 | December 22, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

“That's part of the reason it would have been good to see Congress include a Federal Health Board that would take responsibility for some of these decisions. The Rockefeller-Lieberman-Whitehouse version of MedPAC would be a good start, too. Congress just isn't well suited to resisting these pressures.

So Congress isn’t good at resisting these pressures but the fine appointees at the Federal Health Review Board will be good at it?

Posted by: kingstu01 | December 22, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

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