22 Oct 2009

Don’t Tell Matt Yglesias, But I Don’t Understand the Pending Health Care Legislation

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Matt Yglesias is astounded at the ignorance of Mary Landrieu, Democratic senator from Louisiana, because she said, “I’m not for a government-run, national, taxpayer-subsidized plan, and never will be.” Yglesias sets her straight:

The larger issue here, I think, is that unlike these programs the “public option” wouldn’t be a taxpayer-subsidized program. It would be a government-run health insurance plan that people could buy.

Interestingly, my colleague Zaid Jilani observed the other day that Landrieu has been attributing the popularity of the program to the fact that people like the idea of “free health care”…

When I first read these remarks, I thought Landrieu was saying that the public was misunderstanding the proposal. She thought people thought the public option meant bigger subsidies for them and didn’t understand what the proposal really is. Now that I’ve read her latest remarks, however, I think maybe she doesn’t understand what’s being proposed and thinks that liberals are proposing to create an additional spending commitment. In reality, adding a public option would make the Finance bill cheaper and not involve any additional taxpayer subsidies.

OK don’t tell MY (yes his initials are almost as unfortunate as mine: BM), but I don’t think I understand the legislation then either. (This is not surprising, inasmuch as an illustrious blogger recently told me I don’t know how to read.)

I realize the government lies all the time, that proponents of legislation make all kinds of wishful assumptions, etc. etc. Let’s put all those things aside. Are you telling me that official “progressive” proposal is that the government is going to offer a health insurance plan with no use of taxpayer funds whatsoever? Surely Yglesias must be misunderstanding, right?

If that is the claim, then why all the politics and debate? There’s nothing to stop Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi from incorporating a business, taking in premium payments, and paying claims when people file them, according to the contractual specifications.

Seriously, what the heck is going on here? I want to know: (a) Does Yglesias really think a bunch of DC politicians can run a business more profitably than people in the private sector, if they can’t draw on tax dollars, and (b) Is that what the official claim is, that half the blogosphere is supporting?

I’m hoping I’m misunderstanding, and Yglesias is saying something like, “With all of the savings that reform will generate, even the injection of tax dollars into the public option will still yield a deficit-neutral outcome.” If he’s just saying that, OK, I think he’s naive and wrong, but I get how he could be thinking that. Yet his critique of Landrieu, at face value, suggests the bolder claim, that the “public option” really won’t rely on taxpayer dollars at all.

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