15 Nov 2013

Yglesias: Health Insurance Doesn’t Have Anything to Do With People Living or Dying

Health Legislation 18 Comments

I have been trying to find out how Matt Yglesias dealt with his hilarious and confident predictions about the rollout of ObamaCare, such as this one from May 24, 2013:

You heard it here first from me in April, but I want to reiterate that over the next 18 months you’re going to read a lot of stories about problems with Affordable Care Act implementations. Many of those stories are going to be accurate. But fundamentally Affordable Care Act implementation is going to work out great, and people are going to love it.

The latest evidence comes to us today from California, America’s largest state and one of the states that’s tried the hardest to actually implement Obamacare. As Sarah Kliff explains, their exchanges are getting set up, and it looks like premiums for “silver” and “bronze” plans are both going to be lower than was previously expected. Far from a “train wreck,” in other words, the biggest single set of clients for the program is getting something like a nice, smooth high-speed train ride.

I haven’t found Yglesias addressing these statements (seriously, I want to see what he said–I am no stranger to making a bad prediction), but I did come across this from today (November 15):

Since the comparison is in the air, it’s worth noting the big difference between Hurricane Katrina and the botched Obamacare rollout. So here it is: 1,833 people died during Hurricane Katrina.

Obviously, George W. Bush and his administration are not responsible for all of those deaths. A storm’s a storm. But let’s be very generous to Bush and say that the underlying bad fundamentals are responsible for 95 percent of the damage and the bungled response gets just 5 percent of the blame. That’s 91 dead people. How many people have died using HealthCare.gov? I’m pretty sure it’s fewer than one. In fact, despite all the problems over 160,000 people have already gotten Medicaid.

None of which is to minimize the extent of the failure here. The administration and the Democratic Party writ large had very high aspirations for the Affordable Care Act…If they can’t make the basic infrastructure work, none of that will happen and it’ll be a huge failing. But even in the worst case, they’re not going to get anyone killed. That’s a big difference.

Uno momento, por favor. Is Yglesias saying that whether “health care reform” is successful or–dare I use the phrase?–a train wreck, it will have zero impact on American mortality?

I recall people making grandiose claims about how many people would die if “we” didn’t “reform” health care delivery in this country. So is Yglesias saying that they were a bunch of liars? Or is it heads Obama wins, tails Boehner loses?

18 Responses to “Yglesias: Health Insurance Doesn’t Have Anything to Do With People Living or Dying”

  1. Mogden says:

    Obamacare will significantly reduce the incentive for medical innovation. It will likely lead to hundreds of millions of lost life-years. It is a far bigger catastrophe than Katrina, but it is of the unseen variety, not the seen.

  2. GabbyD says:

    isnt that the point of the criticism of the comparison? that the reform would improve mortality, while the katrina example actually killed people?

  3. Tony N says:

    Even this dude’s metaphors are drenched with progressive thought porn.

    “Far from a “train wreck,” in other words, the biggest single set of clients for the program is getting something like a nice, smooth high-speed train ride …

    ….on an Obama-built hover train that runs on solar and kitten farts, and that is operated by Obama himself, and takes me and my buddy Ezra Klein to a private Arcade Fire concert in Stuttgart where we’ll have farm-to-table soy steaks and a totes awesome, sustainable-practices micro brew made from reclaimed Koi piss. #wewillrockyouifthatisokwithyouanddoesnthurtyourfeelings

  4. Ken B says:

    CUE Valueprax and Bala telling us you cannot observe those counterfactual deaths, so Obama is on solid ground. Errrrr, ummm, well, …..

    • valueprax says:

      Wait, why is this something I’d say now?

      You’re so bloody brilliant you know me better than I know myself. So please do share more about me and how my mind works so I can understand me.

    • Major_Freedom says:








      It’s hilarious that even when Ken B tries to use Austrian concepts against their proponents, to try and show them up, he shows he doesn’t even understand the concepts.

      1. Counter-factuals not able to be observed does not mean we cannot say anything with regards to what actually occurs and is observed.

      2. Counter-factuals not being observed is not sufficient for claiming that what is observed is on “solid ground.”

      But let us not be accurate in our jabs. It’s better when they just sound funnier…

    • Bala says:

      You are truly hilarious when you keep going at it. This one….. It’s brilliant!!!


    • Bala says:

      Let me try this one more time…..

      Ken B,

      Austrians make propositions of the form

      Phenomenon X would be different in manner A with the implementation of policy P than it would be in the counter-factual world where policy P is not implemented.

      So when you make empirical observations about Phenomenon X now and after the implementation of policy P, you DO NOT have any information necessary to refute the proposition of the form above. So, the empirical method is incapable of demonstrating the truth or falsehood of propositions of the kind given above.

      I really wonder why this is sooooooo difficult to wrap your head around. Could your scientism be the problem?

    • Bala says:

      Even more hilarious is the point that what an Austrian would question is the logic based on which the claim that a certain number of people would die if healthcare reform were not implemented. Since the proposition says would die, it is an inference whose correctness can be assessed by studying the premises on which it was based and the train of reasoning that led to it. Frankly, this is one more failure of your persistent efforts to square a circle.

    • Tel says:

      …you cannot observe those counterfactual deaths…

      The change in the number of deaths is what is difficult to observe, not the actual deaths. Everyone dies eventually, so you can measure what they die from, and how long they lived but you won’t find a death certificate saying, “Died of insurance failure, otherwise good for another 9.3 years”.

      • Bala says:

        Be careful how you word it when you are dealing with Ken B. It is the change in the number of deaths between the counter-factual world and the real world. If you mention change loosely, he will revert with a comparison of data on deaths before reform and deaths after reform and claim to have refuted your critique of the argument or the reform.

      • Ken B says:

        Like the way the Hiroshima death toll keeps mounting. I saw a woman counted as a bomb death when she died 3 or 4 years ago. But within a set time frame, say one year since reform was to save X lives each year, the counterfactual deaths cannot be observed.

        • Tel says:

          Fair point, there are cases where you don’t really know what killed the person because many factors may be involved.

  5. Cody S says:

    Consider how very right Matt is, though.

    Hint: TARP, QE1, QE2, QEI…


    Second Hint: Non-falsifiable.

  6. Tel says:

    But fundamentally Affordable Care Act implementation is going to work out great, and people are going to love it.

    Matt Yglesias should print that on a T-Shirt and wear it on public transport all over the place.

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