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Warren Buffett: 'I would vote for the Senate bill.'

buffettinterview.JPGI've been getting some e-mail lately about Warren Buffett apparently attacking health-care reform. Turns out he didn't, but that Fox News is saying he did. The relevant quote comes from an interview Buffett gave to CNBC on Monday. "If it was a choice today between plan A, which is what we've got, or plan B, the Senate bill, I would vote for the Senate bill. But I would much rather see a plan C that really attacks costs."

So would I, and so would the Obama administration. No one is saying the Senate bill is perfect. But they're saying it's far preferable to the status quo. Fox News, meanwhile, is saying that Buffett said "he simply cannot go along with this particular health care bill." In fact, he said the exact opposite. I continue to be amazed that lying brazenly to your audience is such a good business strategy.

Photo credit: Seth Wenig/AP.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 2, 2010; 10:21 AM ET
 
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Comments

I don't encourage such stuff, I'm simply curious as a point of trivia: does something like this have legal recourse? In principle, could Buffett sue Fox to stop misquoting him and to provide on-air corrections equivalent to the uses of the misquotes? And by "in principle" I mean, would he have any chance of actually prevailing in court?

Posted by: JonathanTE | March 2, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I guess there is quite a bit of money to be made by telling people what they want to hear, regardless of its accuracy.

Posted by: jbossch | March 2, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Here's the link to cnbc's page to get past the rhetoric of yours and from the right.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/35643967


What does he say. We need to attack costs. Costs, costs, costs,

He seems to prefer starting over and lowering costs and THEN expanding coverage. Sounds like what some Republicans like Paul Ryan said.

If something costs $10 today but we can get the per unit cost down to $5 and we expand coverage at that lower cost unit then it works more efficently for all. If we expand it out at $10 there's no mechanism in place to reduce costs later other than rationing.


Posted by: visionbrkr | March 2, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you must be so proud to work for this institution:
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_03/022657.php

Posted by: AZProgressive | March 2, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Lying to your audience is good business policy if they are easily persuadable and gullible, and if the lies you're feeding them help to boost your corporate and political interests.

Posted by: JJenkins2 | March 2, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"IF IT WAS a choice today between plan A, which is what we've got, or plan B, the Senate bill, I would vote for the Senate bill."

I think you missed his dip into the subjunctive mood, Mr. Klein (perhaps because he didn't use the more grammatically correct "if it were"). Not everyone believes in this false dilemma. Your analysis is predicated on the assumption that it really is a choice between A or B, which Mr. Buffet did not indicate via the quote you have extracted.

On the other hand, Fox News is full of bloviating liars, and they only paid attention to his second clause on plan C. So, your general point is not impacted by this assumption.

Posted by: staticvars | March 2, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the conclusion, but would leave out the raher Clintonian qualifier "brazenly", leaving "I continue to be amazed that lying to your audience is such a good business strategy."

Internet statistics underscore the point. Technorati, for example, has received enough votes to rank truth-seeking publications, such as NewsBusters.org, above competitors, such as ThinkProgress, DailyDish, Yglesias, etc., having different values and business goals.

Posted by: rmgregory | March 2, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Politico is reporting Buffett's comments just as Foxnews did.

Posted by: lancediverson | March 2, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I am tired of being surprised at the, no longer even veiled propaganda that is spread by the Faux News Network. They don't even try anymore. The only thing I don't get is why their characters use the actors names. We went to the theater to see the legend of Ron Burgandy, not Will Farrell. If they just gave their characters catchy names like "Champ" or "Brick" they would have more than 100% of the market share!

Posted by: elijah24 | March 2, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Fox News and Politico making stuff up to support Republican memes?

I'm shocked! I'm shocked!

Even if you do want to emphasize the negative here, Buffett's comments could be taken as him wanting to see amendments that would add further cost control mechanisms. The assertion that he was asked about "starting over" and said that he would recommend doing so is just a flatout lie.

But Fox and Politico are partisan operations, so what can you expect?

Posted by: eleander | March 2, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

"He seems to prefer starting over and lowering costs and THEN expanding coverage."

No, that's not what he said. That's what you want him to say. There's an important difference here.

I would prefer single-payer to Plan B. That doesn't mean I actually advocate "starting over." In fact, if I were to try to implement single-payer, I would just add it as an amendment to the current bill.

I realize this is a futile request when it comes to Republicans: but goddamn, QUIT LYING!

Posted by: eleander | March 2, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Anyway, I think the fairest interpretation of this remarks, if you're looking for concrete advice is to do the following:

1) Pass the Senate bill
2) Work with Republicans to amend it and make it stronger.

This way you can work on a "Plan C" while ensuring that "doing nothing" is no longer on the table.

Of course, Republicans are opposed to step 1 since their actual goal is to do nothing.

Posted by: eleander | March 2, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"I continue to be amazed that lying brazenly to your audience is such a good business strategy."

I was similarly amazed by the recently polling that showed Fox to be the most trusted news source in America (even among a significant percentage of Democrats). But I think this reflects several things which explain why a misrepresentation of the facts can be good business policy.

One is the increasing polarization of the American public. There is an appetite for information that conforms to this polarization, and Fox feeds it.

Second, is the increasing trend towards reliance on news sources, both online and cable, that fit one's political perspective. And while the new Pew survey results show that people are increasingly relying on online news sources, it also shows most people have only a handful of sites they go to. That may mean that they aren't deeply fact-checking the sources, or comparing different reports of the same event to decide which is most accurate, because both of those things take time, which people don't seem to be investing in their news.

But yes, I share your amazement that a significant portion of the population doesn't demand more from news sources.

Posted by: reach4astar2 | March 2, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr: "If something costs $10 today but we can get the per unit cost down to $5 and we expand coverage at that lower cost unit then it works more efficently for all. If we expand it out at $10 there's no mechanism in place to reduce costs later other than rationing."

No, you can continue to look for ways to reduce costs, in either scenario.

In fact expanding coverage first is a good idea, so you can find out what the demand really is.

For one example of what can happen then, if the supply, in response to the demand, were to find returns to scale, that would solve some of the cost problem automatically.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"In fact, he said the exact opposite. I continue to be amazed that lying brazenly to your audience is such a good business strategy."

Ezra, I love ya, but come on, you work for the Washington Post. Lying to your audience on the Op-Ed page is basically your publications principal business strategy. Why, just now, I'm looking at an Orrin Hatch Op-Ed that's basically nothing but lies.

Although I guess it's possible it doesn't work as well for the Post as it does for Fox.

Posted by: BrienJackson | March 2, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

This is fascinating. I read the following from the actual CNBC transcripts and can easily see that you focusing on FOX NEWS and what the media is saying only clouds the real meaning of what Buffett is trying to say. I started reading you because progressive friends of mine told me you were a super articulate, logical and thoughtful spokesman for progressives. Based on posts like this, I am beginning to question their sanity.

QUICK: Then are you in favor of scrapping this and going back to start over?

BUFFETT: I would be--if I were President Obama, I would just show this chart of what's been happening and say this is the tapeworm that's eating at American competitiveness.

QUICK: Just focus on cost, or focus on cost while insuring more people? Those are two different problems.

BUFFETT: Well, yeah, universality, I--no, I believe in insuring more people. But I don't believe in insuring more people till you attack the cost aspect of this.

QUICK: When did you change your mind?

BUFFETT: No, if it was a choice today between plan A, which is what we've got, or plan B, what is in front of--the Senate bill, I would vote for the Senate bill. But I would much rather see a plan C that really attacks costs. And I think that's what the American public want to see. I mean, the American public is not behind this bill. And we need the American public behind the bill, because it's going to have to do some tough things. But in--if it doesn't bring down costs significantly--and you can say, well, you're bringing down costs by raising a tax over here or cutting--improving Medicare, but you can do those things anyway. That's got nothing to do with what's being proposed in the bill. So I--if the only choice I had in the world was the present system or the present bill, I would take the bill. But I think it'd be far better to say cost is it. We're going to go back and we're not going to come back to the American people until we have something that is going to take this 16 or fraction and it's going to bring it down somewhat toward what other countries are doing.

Posted by: amaranthpa | March 2, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

he also said there's a reason he's in P&C insurance and not managed care. Profits are low in managed care. I'm surprised you didn't mention that Ezra. Well, no I'm actually not.

If you were truly interested in getting to the truth (and not passing blame on an obviously partisan Fox news that I think everyone except maybe fasteddie understands) then you would have posted the link to the actual interview and not a liberal organization like media matters.

It seems like all you want to do is play the partisan politics frenzy. Either way it doesn't resolve the issue that Mr. Buffett speaks of that is of biggest concern to him, cost.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 2, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

As much as I want to pillory Fox, and I do think they're being misleading, they can get away with it here and most of the rest of the time because the original source (Buffett) isn't terribly clear. He said that if the choice was between the system we have or the Senate bill, he'd go for the Senate bill. He also said that if possible he'd prefer to start over with a new bi-partisan bill that focused on costs.

Republicans and Fox News, of course, are pushing the line that starting over is a viable option, so that's what they're taking him to say.

Most of the rest of us realize at this point, however, that starting over mean not finishing a bill before the election in November, which means it won't happen. It means working with the Republicans, who have decided (rightly, I think) that bipartisanship doesn't help them win elections, so they're not really interested in doing it. So a new bill won't happen. Then Buffett talks about the main problem being the incentives for the medical industry. I agree, but my understanding is that that's one of the toughest parts of reforming the healthcare industry and the reason it's not really in the bill in a major way is because it would have killed the bill to have doctors boycotting it. So a new bill focused on that wouldn't happen.

Finally, other than talking about wanting this "Plan C" to be bi-partisan and address costs, he doesn't really give much of an outline of what he'd like the bill to be. It's entirely possible that his new bill would be more liberal than what we've got, which means that it wouldn't pass. It's not like Democrats love this bill. Like the President said at Blair House, if they could write a ten page bill that addressed all the issues and made everyone happy then that's what they'd do. Unfortunately, these are complex problems and juggling all the various interests produced a huge bill.

Incidentally, I wonder whether Republicans (and Fox) touting this would agree with his positions on other healthcare systems. He lists all kinds of areas where our system is not as good as other systems. That sounds like "our system is not the best" to me. It also sounds to me like "Maybe we could take a few ideas from other countries that seem to be doing some of this stuff better than us" but that could be just me.

Posted by: MosBen | March 2, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Lee,

HA HA HA. Continue to look for ways to reduce costs when the industries (docs, pharma, insurers and hospitals) have just been handed 30 million customers on the government dime. If that's not the PERFECT time to get them to reduce costs then what is?

Once this reform is done the only thing that'll reduce costs is the future lowering of the US credit rating that will force government's hand to ration.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 2, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Nice Ezra....tell it that way....thats the ticket....whatever you do don't let your loyal readers catch wind of Buffet telling Obama that he should scrap the current bill and start over focusing primarily on cost control...if your readers learn that they will no longer be hypnotized!!!!!

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 2, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, while I think you're right that Buffett's primary concern is cost, I don't think that's the topic of this post. This post is primarily about how Ezra received a lot of email asking for a response Fox News' story about the Buffett interview. Ezra doesn't really engage Buffett's arguments directly, but that wasn't the point. The point is that Fox News is at best being deceptive and arguably outright lying.

Ezra's post could have been a little more informative about Buffett's statements and his responses and it could have provided a link to the original interview, but this is hardly a major sin.

For the reasons I discuss above, I don't think Buffett's statements are even particularly useful. He's a very rich man, but he's not an expert on healthcare reform and admits as much. He doesn't have a lot of specifics other than the fact, widely known already, that our current system is untenable, is a drag on our global competitiveness, is inferior in many ways to other systems in developed countries, and will bankrupt us if left unchecked. He doesn't really provide any concrete solutions, instead just basically saying, "This is a BIG problem!"

Posted by: MosBen | March 2, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Its all well and good for Buffett to say to concentrate on costs, but he is not an elected official.

When you look at the dishonest demagoguery the repiglicans have vomited out continuously on the relatively easier problem of covering the 45 million uninsured (only 30 million are predicted to get coverage this round), just imagine what it would be like if Obama tried to tackle the much more difficult and wide ranging cost problem in any systematic way (there are a few pilot projects in the bill). You already hear the repiglicans braying about the "500 billion in medicare cuts", which is actually cutting a subsidy to insurers that participate in medicare advantage and does not cut any basic medicare benefits.

With this kind of flat out lying (see Hatch, Orrin on reconciliation) by repiglicans it is clear that they are not interested in finding solutions, just obstructing and defeating Obama's policy initiatives.

Posted by: srw3 | March 2, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Fast Eddie, that's simply not what he says. You either need to read that interview, for which visionbrkr has provided a link, or you need to stop misrepresenting what Buffett said. He's not saying he loves the Senate bill, and he's not saying that it addresses his main concern (costs), but is absolutely not saying the current progress should be scrapped in favor of starting over.

What you have said is simply not the truth.

Posted by: MosBen | March 2, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

While I'm glad you're posting this, I do have to say I tweeted this to you yesterday!

Posted by: gocowboys | March 2, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I should ammend my last sentence:

What you have said is simply not *factual*.

Posted by: MosBen | March 2, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

so grateful for your fine character, hard work, humility and integrity.
with discipline and learning,
you have given yourself the knowledge
to know the truth,
and the courage to speak it
with dignity and honesty,
from the Light within you.


Posted by: jkaren | March 2, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

MosBen...Its pretty clear, isn't it:

QUICK: Then are you in favor of scrapping this and going back to start over?

BUFFETT: I would be.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 2, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Bigger Excerpt, lest I be accused of parsing....

~~~~~~~~~~~

BUFFETT:....Unfortunately, we came up with a bill that really doesn't attack the cost situation that much. And we have to have a fundamental change. We have to have something that will end the constant increase in medical costs as a percentage of GDP.

QUICK: Then are you in favor of scrapping this and going back to start over?

BUFFETT: I would be--if I were President Obama, I would just show this chart of what's been happening and say this is the tapeworm that's eating at American competitiveness. And I would say that one way or another, we're going to attack costs, costs, costs, just like they talk about jobs, jobs, jobs in the...(unintelligible). It's cost, cost, cost on this side. That's a tough job. I mean, we're spending maybe $2.3 trillion on health care in the United States, and every one of those dollars is going to somebody and they're going to yell if that dollar becomes 90 cents or 80 cents. So it take--but I would--I would try to get a unified effort, say this is a national emergency to do something about this. We need the Republicans, we need the Democrats. We're going to cut off all the kinds of things like the 800,000 special people in Florida or the Cornhusker kickback, as they called it, or the Louisiana Purchase, and we're going to--we're going to get rid of the nonsense. We're just going to focus on costs and we're not going to dream up 2,000 pages of other things. And I would say, as president, `I'm going to come back to you with something that's going to do something about this, because we have to do it.'

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 2, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Ezra...Which is closest to the truth...your tiny excerpt or Fox's Headline?

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 2, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Another thing that gets overlooked by critics of Obama's healthcare is, have economic experts considered the effect on the USA Economy of sucking billions of dollars disposable income from Americans who will suddenly be forced to buy the most expensive comprehensive insurance, made more expensive by new government regulations restricting how insurance companies conduct their business.

Such a mandate, and movement of dollars from disposable income into the government-mandated purchase of insurance would have dramatic recessionary effects if the economy were strong. In its current state, the movement might likely trigger calamity and crisis.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 2, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

MosBen,

Agreed but I'd like to see Ezra engage on cost because he's so keen on putting up the CBO scores that state this will save us $100+ billion in the first 10 years and $650 Billion in the second 10.

The difference to me is that Buffett is a seasoned and very smart executive. CBO is a body that simply relegates facts and makes assumptions that Buffett knows won't ever come to pass.


I disagree and think his statements are useful. He's a very smart man who knows about business even if its not knee deep in healthcare. He knows we need to reduce costs as its a drag on our entire economy and he truly feels that the current bill and its watering down does very little if anything on cost controls. He's not a politician and doesn't need to pander to insurers, doctors, pharma etc hence he can see the true picture.


Here's the key line from his interview.

"I believe in insuring more people but I don't believe in insuring more people UNTIL they attack the cost aspect of it." Typical businessman and good for him.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 2, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

The poor will not be helped for very long if the ultimate effect of this bill is to perpetually bankrupt the USA with mounting structural deficits.

This is not like funding the Iraq war---a price that slowly disappears from the ledger over time. This is a cost like a gas bill, that recurs from year to year, possibly increasing. Imagine having a gas bill that is bigger than your monthly paycheck....that is what this is like!

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 2, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr, tell it to Warren Buffet. He doesn't agree with you, either.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Fast Eddie, the Private Insurers Death Panel just called. Because of your pre-existing condition (I think they said "he always sounds like a Republican campaign hack, with selective use of facts, pseudo-economics, all the phony buzzwords, and too many exclamation points !!!!") -- they are canceling your coverage! (!!) They said they love ya, but it sounds like a mental illness, and their bottom line ALWAYS comes first. Good luck, baby!

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Fast Eddie, read the whole piece. He simply doesn't say what Fox says he says. What he does say is that all else being equal he'd prefer to start over with a bill that does more to control costs. He doesn't address whether that's a real option or what it would entail. He also does say that if it was the a choice between the Senate bill and the status quo, he'd vote for the Senate bill. Simply saying that he wants the bill scrapped is at best deceptive and at worst outright lying.

visionbrkr, I agree that Buffett is a seasoned executive and is probably a very intelligent man, but that doesn't mean he know a lot about healthcare reform. He even states as much in the interview. He mentions several times that he would get all these experts in a room, yes, including people from the private sector, and that they would craft a bill. He doesn't propose specific reforms on his own and he doesn't say how this utopian bill would get through Congress. The idea that the Senate bill is deeply flawed isn't new, or even controversial, but putting bills through Congress tends to make a mess of utopian ideals.

He's not useful because he doesn't provide us with any insight that we didn't have before. All he does provide is a pretty confusingly worded position which has let Republicans and Fox News run another round of anti-reform stories.

If everyone agreed that we need to massively reform our healthcare system to control costs and expand coverage and to get that into law, we'd be talking about Wyden-Bennett.

Posted by: MosBen | March 2, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Well we'd all prefer to control costs. But don't think it won't happen anyway. There isn't any choice.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I am always amazed at the capacity we have to lie.

As a former Republican, I long ago figured out that the GOP and its supporters did most of the lying in order to advance its agenda of greed and domination over minorities. And as the GOPs power grip loosens, they have resorted to even more desperate lies and fringe ideas in order to distinguish themselves from their opponents.

This is all why the tea baggers can't admit that Obama has not raised taxes, or why they claim Obama caused the recession, or why they can't admit Republican presidents created almost all of the debt, or why they chant "death panels" when in fact 10,000s of lives are lost every year under the current system, or why they think the racist Obama was born in Kenya.

These lunatics might actually might succeed in wresting control of America soon, and of course, after they bring its walls down, they will blame it on Obama and liberals.

I have news for the liars: It wasn't hispanics or gays or blacks or liberals who caused the recession and created all the debt and brought illegal aliens into the country as a source of cheap labor. It was rich white Republicans.

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 2, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but having read the transcript, it seems to me that Media Matters and Ezra are the ones who are lying. And should apologize. Whether you can interpret the important parts of the Buffet quote "I believe in insuring more people but I don't believe in insuring more people UNTIL they attack the cost aspect of it." "QUICK: Then are you in favor of scrapping this and going back to start over?
BUFFETT: I would be..." to take the edge off of them, it is simply wrong to leave them out. As both Ezra and Media Matters did.
A lot of this game depends on trust.

Posted by: MikeR4 | March 2, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Find the rich guy,profiting off the pain of americans who supports printing even more money.hmm However if this bill was to pass the libs would retire in great numbers as their plan to turn the majority of americans into slaves taken care of from cradle too grave,and the lack of tax money to embezzle and divert to special interest,and leave Obama holding the bag..

Posted by: jmounday | March 2, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Surely you didn't mean to say "lying brazenly." They call it "fair and balanced." Get it straight.

Posted by: trident420 | March 2, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

MikeR4, you're right that Buffett isn't giving a ringing endorsement of the Senate legislation, and Ezra could have been more clear in his post in explaining Buffett's position. On the other hand, Buffett talks a lot about a rosey process where experts go in a room and hash out a bill that controls costs and then possibly expands coverage once costs are under control, but he doesn't talk about how that bill gets passed, what would be in the bill, etc. He's laying out his ideal scenario where cooler heads prevail and the legislative process opens itself to good policy.

But Ezra is still right that he said that given the choice between the status quo and the Senate bill, he'd take the Senate bill. And since we've got an election coming up and it's unlikely that a "consensus" bill would actually gather real bipartisan support, it's almost impossible that his ideal scenario could happen.

So Ezra's right but does't give us all the information. Fox is distorting what he said.

Posted by: MosBen | March 2, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Okay...having read the whole thing now, not just the little quote that Mr. Klein misinterpreted, I think the Fox headline is more accurate than the Washington Post one.

Posted by: staticvars | March 2, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

MosBen, I can't tell clearly what Buffet would say. Maybe he'll show up tomorrow and let us know. But, in the meantime, calling that interpretation "lying brazenly" is a brazen lie. Or it's spin from someone who really cannot see anything but his own point of view.

Posted by: MikeR4 | March 2, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr, tell it to Warren Buffet. He doesn't agree with you, either.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

if you could read you'd see I DO agree with Buffett.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 2, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

QUICK: Then are you in favor of scrapping this and going back to start over?

BUFFETT: I would be.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 2, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

If everyone agreed that we need to massively reform our healthcare system to control costs------MosBen, I agree that we need to do that. I am less positive on the current bill, but otherwise I am in almost full agreement with what Warren Buffet says!

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 2, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr, does Buffett think private insurers are adding excess cost to the system?

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Fast Eddie, it's a two page interview, there's more to it than that exchange. And indeed the whole interview makes clear that "starting over" for Buffet is contingent on several things that simply don't exist.

MikeR4, here's what I take to be Buffett's order of preferred outcomes:

1) Eliminate the current bills and pass new legislation.

2) Pass the Senate Bill.

3) Do nothing.

#1 is contingent on the idea that a bill drafted by experts and which controlled costs could be passed into law in a bi-partisan manner. There's no evidence that this can happen. Indeed, all the available evidence poionts in the direction that if HCR doesn't pass by June at the latest that it won't pass during President Obama's first term.

Since #1 isn't likely, Buffett clearly prefers #2 to #3. Stopping HCR is not Buffett's goal.

Posted by: MosBen | March 2, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr, does Buffett think private insurers are adding excess cost to the system?

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse


don't take my word for it. take HIS.

BUFFETT: Oh, sure. And the truth is the--insurance is not the problem. The problem is incentives. And the problem is at the--is at--is at the care level.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 2, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, and he's right that the incentives are all messed up, but reforming those incentives is going to mean less money for doctors and hospitals. The reason this bill didn't include them is that it was deemed politically impossible. I'd love for a Buffett-themed bill that directly addresses that, but it's not going to happen with such a divided Senate, and it's certainly not happening any time soon.

Posted by: MosBen | March 2, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"I continue to be amazed that lying brazenly to your audience is such a good business strategy."

Not always. Fred Hiatt and the Gang lie effortlessly with every issue that hits the presses, and yet The Post is still going out of business.

:)

Posted by: antontuffnell | March 2, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr, yet you wrote above,

"Continue to look for ways to reduce costs when the industries (docs, pharma, insurers and hospitals) have just been handed 30 million customers on the government dime."

So let's see, now you say it's not REALLY the insurers, and pharma says it needs the money for drug R&D, and hospitals say they have worse profits than insurers, and doctors say they have high educational expenses and incomes delayed for a decade or more, -- so where are you (or Buffett) planning to cut? Where is your big plan, here? Cross-state purchasing and tort reform sure isn't gonna do it. Is that why he said he backs the Senate bill?

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Well, BenMos, I read the transcript again. And it just isn't true what you're saying. You are adding in a piece that Buffett didn't say and doesn't mean. He is pretty clear: Don't pass the current bill, rather, get everyone in a room and tell them to find a way to cut costs. _You_ are adding: And we know that can't happen, so he's in favor of just passing the bill. But he didn't say that, he doesn't accept that that can't happen.

And I agree with him. Your point of view is that Republicans will oppose anything. But propose a bill where cost-cutting is the focus instead of increasing entitlements, and you'll have Paul Ryan on your side, and Warren Buffett, and me. You could pass such a bill right now. Tell the Medicare people that we're sorry, but the whole country needs to fix this, and you'll have bipartisan support. Of course, you would probably lose some Democrats...

Posted by: MikeR4 | March 2, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Correction: MosBen. Just got mixed up.

Posted by: MikeR4 | March 2, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Lee,

I guess you've never heard of "incrementalism". This reform incrementally reduces costs when it expands coverage on a massive scale. That's my issue. And actually and technically it was Warren Buffett that said it wasn't the insurers but again I agree with him.

My big plan starts with pharma lowering the time until generics are available, includes ending waste fraud and abuse in Medicare, includes holding insurers accountable with and end to pre-ex a stronger mandate than the weak one in the bills as well as an employer mandate that requires employers to pay 70% of premium costs and ends in capitation payments for providers with subsidies. Add in forgiving doctors debts and strong cost containment like in the 90's and we're well on our way.

All in all a lot of what is in the Senate bill but much more to rein in costs now and in the long run.

So AGAIN I agree with Buffett. "A" (no reform) is the worst case. A slightly better case is "B" with the senate bill but the best case would be "C". The senate bill with the teeth to cut costs with NO SPECIAL INTERESTS perks.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 2, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

The best case is always a more perfect world. What we get instead are bloviators insisting that everything should stop until they get the dreamy plan they want. Such as, lock all the experts into a room until they come up with a plan, then have the Congress adopt it.

What neither you nor apparently Buffett has thought about is that rectifying the demand to include everybody under universal coverage is a big step toward understanding and rectifying the costs, because right now the people who pay, are paying too much, to cover the people who can't pay. Which is also the problem with Rep. Ryans' partial analysis of the situation: He only sees the connections he wants to see.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 2, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Whatever Warren Buffett meant, the truth is that Obamacare is a progressive (Marxist) SCAM that would destroy our health care, our economy, our freedoms and our country.

As per the 2007 book written by Robert Creamer, a CONVICTED FELON and Obama’s ACORN associate, the main objective of Obamacare is only to increase the power of "progressives" (Marxists) through the “democratization of wealth” (socialism/Marxim) as per the teachings of Saul Alinsky. Creamer wrote in his 2007 book:

* “We must create a national consensus that the health care system is in crisis.”
* “Our messaging program over the next two years should focus heavily on reducing the credibility of the health insurance industry....”
* “We need not agree in advance on the components of a plan, but we must foster a process that can ultimately yield consensus.”

As per those guidelines, Obama and his comrades planned to demonize the insurance industry and to agree to ANYTHING to get their scam approved. They don't care about the "components of the plan." All they want is CONTROL over our health care and our lives.

They want complete power as that of the Marxist thugs who are destroying Latin America. They plan to increase their power through the “democratization of wealth” (socialism/Marxism).
http://the-classic-liberal.com/progressive-agenda-for-structural-change-stand-up-straight/

Posted by: AntonioSosa | March 2, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

You are right, FastEddieO007, as it happens with all socialist/Marxist SCAMS, the poor will be the most affected by the Obamacare scam. Just look at Cuba. The wealthiest and the most informed managed to escape Cuba. It's the poor who have been left to suffer.

Using “help-the-poor” scams like the Obamacare, the Castro brothers transformed an imperfect but happy and prosperous island into a GULAG of abject misery, where the only hope for most is being able to escape.

They also infected their Marxist virus to other countries (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua...), causing tremendous suffering everywhere.

The Castro brothers have probably caused more suffering than Hitler, and now Obama and his comrades are working hard to spread their virus to the U.S.

Where will our children and grandchildren be able to find refuge if Obama succeeds in transforming the U.S. into another Cuba?

Posted by: AntonioSosa | March 2, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Lee,

you're right. You're MUCH smarter than Warren Buffett. How silly of me. Don't we know the costs? Aren't we beaten over the head with it every day???

Today the sky is grayish blue. Go ahead and argue with you. It seems all you want to do as opposed to actually fixing the problem.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I am a little confused: I guess the issue is what Fox Friends said about Buffett? But, in no way does Buffett endorse this plan. He wants (like most Americans) to start over:

KERNEN: But you're saying start over and do it on a bar--bipartisan basis is what you just said.

BUFFETT: I would--I would call in the smartest people in the health care field. I mean, you know, people like the fellow out of Kaiser Permanente or Mayos or this fellow the...

KERNEN: Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, Safeway...

BUFFETT: Or Gawande, the doctor--yeah, yeah. Cosgrove at...

KERNEN: Whole Foods.

BUFFETT: ...Cleveland Clinic and...

KERNEN: There's a bunch of smart--there's a bunch of people that have some great private market--or free market ideas. And to do it...

BUFFETT: I'd lock them--I'd lock them in a room, Joe, and I'd tell them, you know, come out when you figure out how--some way to get this going in the other direction toward 13 or 14 percent. And it can be done. It can be done.

Posted by: marteen | March 3, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr: "you're right. You're MUCH smarter than Warren Buffett. How silly of me. Don't we know the costs? Aren't we beaten over the head with it every day???"

Warren Buffett doesn't know everything, but apparently you do: If you can possibly fathom how all the legitimate demand will work out beforehand, and how monetizing the hidden demand would be responded to by new supply, then you wouldn't even NEED a market. We could have the Visionbrkr Socialist System.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 3, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Buffett was caught so short by the question that he didn't have the time to consider that experts HAVE been jawing about it for years, and that if he wanted to add more than his folksy two cents, he might have studied some of it, himself. So then he might have some credibility in selling a big pay cut to doctors and pharma, and in cashiering the evolutionary dead-end known as the health insurance companies. Or else, he would come to just about where Congress is now. But no, he's smarter than we are, at least according to you... You just put 'em all in a room... say in the Blair House... Because Congress will agree to it, like they did to the deficit commission... oh wait... uh... duh...

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 3, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Lee,

I'm in the business, REMEMBER? Demand really slowed down in Medicare, right? Sure Buffett doesn't know everything but I'll trust a man of his ilk who's built business after business and become one of the wealthiest men in America over some goofball posting on a WAPO website. Sorry but if that makes me crazy then get the white coats ready.

i'm sorry, how rude of me. What are your credentials exactly???

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Demand doesn't have to be reduced. It should be expanded to its real level.

Supply follows, and costs may be reduced through innovation and returns to scale.

Nobody knew beforehand what the demand would be for Medicare. Not you, not Buffett. So we shouldn't have done it? The spending has actually increased costs? No, it has probably reduced them. Who is the idiot?

You're in the business of mandating that everyone should pay money to private insurers.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 3, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I love it. Warren Buffett is wrong and Lee A Arnold is right!

OOPS. Look what MA did. They expanded coverage first and didn't really focus on costs and lookey-here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/16/health/policy/16mass.html

I especially like this line:

"Alan Sager, a professor of health policy at Boston University, has calculated that health spending per person in Massachusetts increased faster than the national average in seven of the last eight years. Furthermore, he said, the gap has grown exponentially, with Massachusetts now spending about a third more per person, up from 23 percent in 1980"


Maybe they didn't hear about Lee A Arnold's cost containment fairy.


And Medicare's costs have only decreased because of price controls. Once you expand coverage that's the only way you then force costs down. Good luck explaining that to doctors making what they do, especially specialists.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 3, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Tthat NYTimes article supports my point, not yours:

"Those who led the 2006 effort said it would not have been feasible to enact universal coverage if the legislation had required heavy cost controls. The very stakeholders who were coaxed into the tent — doctors, hospitals, insurers and consumer groups — would probably have been driven into opposition by efforts to reduce their revenues and constrain their medical practices, they said."

Exactly so.

And if you read a little further, you'll see that insurers are going to get their wings clipped, too.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 3, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr: "Good luck explaining that to doctors making what they do, especially specialists."

Yet you and Warren Buffett are going to lock-up a bunch of "experts" in a room until they come up with a plan to explain it to the doctors?

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 3, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Lee,


you see where you're mistaken is that you think I personally care if insurers "get their wings clipped". I don't. I'd be fine with requiring all insurers to be non-profits.

you make the political argument that they'll all stop this reform if they're not handed over the keys to the cookie jar but I'm not worried about politics. I'm worried about good policy. Reducing costs is good policy. I know that, Warren Buffett knows that. Somehow that escapes you.

Again, basically the only time after reform is done that you can reduce cost is by rationing on one basis or another.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 4, 2010 7:34 AM | Report abuse

That's the "supply is limited" fallacy.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 4, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Supply isn't limited. Money to pay for it is though

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 4, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Then you are already rationing. If, as you wrote, rationing is the only way to reduce cost after reform, then rationing is the only way now. Your "laws of economics" make no sense.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | March 4, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

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