On the one hand, I don’t know that anybody quibbles about Lori Sturdevant being a bought-and-paid-for (figuratively) tool of the left – someone who is the mirror opposite of the “extremist” conservatives she clutches her pearls and complains about during the course of every single legislative session. She’s pretty well thrown in with the radical dogmatic left; there’s really no need to argue about it.
Except that she’s still employed by the Strib; there, she writes as a “general” columnist, which might tell the uninformed reader that she’s actually passing on unvarnished, “objective” information, rather than shilling for the DFL. Sturdevant is no more detached or “objective” in covering politics than David Brauer or Brian Lambert.
But how would the casual Strib reader know this?
Simple; most of them don’t. Which is just fine by whomever is paying the bills.
Oh, yeah –Sturdevant favors single-payer healthcare, as she makes perfectly clear in her weekend mash note to Roseville senator John Marty, who I’d say has served as a sort of dimestore Paul Wellstone, except that the left and Sturdevant would likely think of that as a compliment.
The possibility that Americans would join hands and buy health care all together has found no traction in Washington.
[Aside: Notice with Sturdevant how “bipartisanship” is always something warm and fuzzy like “joining hands” when it’s a DFL initiative like socialized medicine, but some sort of climate of mean hatred when it’s something like tax cuts?]
But at the DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature, the idea has been quietly marching through committees, three in the Senate, one in the House.
If something is “quietly marching” – just like Martin Luther King! – then it must be a great idea, right?
Well, no – the DFL, which never met a spending program that didn’t make a tingle run up its leg, has a supermajority in the Senate and an almost-veto-proof margin in the House.
The Minnesota Health Plan is propelled in the Senate by former and current DFL gubernatorial candidate John Marty, a seven-term legislator from Roseville. Marty recognizes that with GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty in office, a single-payer health plan has no chance to become law this year.
But health care politics will change rapidly in the next few years as the status quo becomes increasingly untenable, the senator predicted.
The whammy here is that the system by definition can only get less tenable – because it is perfectly tenable today. Sturdevant, being a bobble-headed repeater of DFL talking points, likely doesn’t know it, but John Marty does, and is lying; 92% of Minnesotans have insurance already, of one kind or another. And insurance in Minnesota, regulations aside, is fairly affordable compared to states like New York or New Jersey. And of the 8% who don’t have insurance, the vast majority either don’t want it, which should be their right, or are part of a relatively tiny minority who actually can’t get any insurance.
His plan will gain adherents because it would cure more of what ails the costly health care system. It would insure everyone, cover all medical needs, provide the purchasing clout needed to reform the way medicine is practiced, and thereby drive down premium costs.
If I can perform no other service in this debate, I want to make sure you, gentle reader, who is likely to go to a healthcare protest,can read behind the code words Sturdevant just used.
- “Insure everyone” – even if you don’t want it, orif you like the plan you have now just fine! Even if you move here strictly for the free health care (with no intention of paying anything meaningful into the system).
- “cover all medical needs” – they do mean all medical needs; viagra for 68-year-old real estate agents; chemical dependency treatment; sex change operations; since John Marty and the extreme left wing of the DFL is involved, abortions will be part of the package at some point or another.
- “provide the purchasing clout needed to reform the way medicine is practiced” – which is a nice, benign way of saying “provide a monopoly that can dictate prices to doctors”. Who, inevitably, leave the business. Which, inevitably, constricts the supply of care. Which either means the state raises what they pay, or start rationing the care that is available. Which is precisely what has happened in every single state, county or nation that has ever socialized healthcare.
- “drive down premium costs” – in the same way that union healthcare plans “drive down co-pays” – by passing the costs on to other people. And when it’s government involved, you know where the buck stops starts, right?
Marty pegs the savings in total state health care spending, public and private combined at 20 to 25 percent.
Provided the conditions of the “pegging” stay static – which never, ever happens.
That claim faces a mountain of skepticism, even from his fellow DFLers, because he is talking about “government-run health care.” But his notion isn’t to put the Legislature in charge. It’s to create a quasi-governmental agency with a board selected by nonpartisan county commissioners, empowered to contract with local and regional providers of health care services and manage their care.
Sturdevant, knowing she can’t dazzle you with brilliance, is baffling the gentle reader with – well, Sturdevant.Again with the code words:
- “Quasi-governmental agency” – Being “quasi-governmental” is like being “quasi-pregnant”.
- “nonpartisan county commissioners” – Please. County commissioners are as non-partisan as, well, Lori Sturdevant.
- “Empowered to contract with providers and manage their care” – A phrase that is so carefully crafted as to be almost dazzling in its misleading brilliance. But if this board is “empowered” to compete against private health insurance companies, they do it with government subsidies, which drive down the apparent cost (because everyone’s premiums appear cheaper if someone else is paying for them!) and increase at least the initial fund of money available. Which puts the private companies at a disadvantage and eventually drives them from the market. Which leaves the “quasi”-public plan as the main player in the market. Which, as more people flock to use the artificially-low-priced services, costs the taxpayers more. Which means the board will “negotiate” lower prices with providers. Which means providers leave the business (as they have in Canada, Sweden, the UK, France and every other place where socialized healthcare has been attempted). Which means that either the wait for services grows longer (as they have in Canada, Sweden, the UK, France…), or the “board” gives in and pays out higher prices, but then either has to make up the difference by charging higher premiums (which nobody can afford by themselves because, remember, you’re paying for Honest Eddie’s little blue pills and Dave’s sex change as well as little Raymond’s appendectomy), or raising taxes – which won’t solve the problem right away anyway, since replaceing doctors and nurses takes years, and doesn’t work if you’ve made medicine a wretched government job anyway.
That should sound familiar to the 13 rural (and Republican-dominated) counties of PrimeWest Health, a county-based health care purchasing system for low-income people that’s been turning in impressive cost savings in recent years.
But if it sounds familiar, it’s just the voices in the listener’s head, because there is virtually no similarity.
While PrimeWest Health may well run into exactly the same pathologies that we noted above, and for exactly the same reasons – like the Massachusetts health system did – it is at least something that makes more sense than Marty and Sturdevant’s fantasy; it attempts to solve the real problem (uninsured low-income people) rather than the imagined one (insuring everyone for everything).
That, indeed, has been the greatest danger of the healthcare debate lately; aided and abetted by people like Al Franken in last week’s rally, and Lori Sturdevant in the media, the left-voting crowd in Minnesota is chanting less “public option now!” and more “it’s just like free enterprise!”, without knowing just how wrong they are.