Thursday, January 13, 2005

Hyman's Healthcare Humbug

Mark Hyman often covers his misstatements by saying that he’s only a “commentator” offering opinion. But one of Hyman’s favorite tactics is to build up the ethos of his comments by citing impressive sounding institutes and foundations that appear to offer objective findings that coincide with Hyman’s statements. A case in point is Hyman's invocation of the impressive sounding Institute for Policy Innovation. This august group suggests that we could reduce health costs by having consumers pay for their own insurance (funded through tax breaks) instead of offering it though employers.

That sounded to us like a pretty shaky idea—basically, it would reward people for not spending money on health care and leave out the working poor, who don’t pay federal income tax. Indeed, some small versions of this approach have been tried via personal healthcare savings accounts. The findings show that such plans rely on large deductibles (between $2000 and $10,000 for a family), a drop in spending for preventive care (the most cost efficient way of spending healthcare money), and appeals mainly to the young, healthy, and wealthy, while diminishing resources for those who most need healthcare.

But certainly we must be mistaken, given that the Institute for Policy Innovation is arguing for an every-man-for-himself approach to healthcare spending. Hyman wouldn’t invoke such a group unless they were a source of fair and well-researched information on the issue, right?

Well, actually no. As you can read in the following item from Disinfopedia, the IPI is the brainchild of hyper-conservative congressmember Dick Armey. Non partisan in name only, the IPI is funded by far right money (including funds coming from the Scaife family, Enron, and Exxon). They also have a nasty history of conducting quid pro quo research, such as taking money from companies that manufacture cigarettes while being party to a report that pooh-poohed the dangers of second-hand smoke. They also took money from Microsoft while crafting a report that was critical of open-source software (a major thorn in Bill Gates’s side).

You’d think Hyman might be chagrined by using such a transparently partisan and self-interested organization to make an argument against healthcare. But let’s remind ourselves that for far right conservatives like Hyman, the whole idea that Americans should pool their resources to take care of each other (in the context of employer-provided insurance plans, and certainly for any possible single-payer plan) is anathema. Conservative political dogma says that anything that helps businesses is good, and anything that creates a sense of shared responsibility (and therefore, in their view, a lack of individual initiative) is evil. An every-man-for-himself approach to healthcare fits both of these points of far right theology. The fact that the report he uses to make his point is bogus doesn’t bother Hyman because he’s not actually concerned about the practical issues of how to reduce healthcare costs. He, like most conservatives, is only concerned about reducing his own healthcare costs (regardless of the effects on his fellow Americans) by any means necessary.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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