Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fact Checking the Fact Checkers

As long as we're all being distracted by the latest shiny thing (Trump's tax problems are no longer interesting, let's talk about Trump's op-ed, no, let's talk about Trump's rally during a hurricane (or the fact FoxNews no longer wants to carry them; low ratings, sad!), no, let's talk about how bullied Melanie Trump thinks she is**....), let's check the quality of "fact-checking" on Trump's USA Today op-ed.  One point, only, but it's worth it.

Here's what Politifact said about the cost of Medicare for All:

Trump: Medicare for All "would establish a government-run, single-payer health care system that eliminates all private and employer-based health care plans and would cost an astonishing $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years."

Trump is citing a study by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University of a health care plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The study predicted a $32.6 trillion rise in federal spending over a 10-year period ending in 2031. The same study also forecast, however, that total health care spending would fall by about $2 trillion.

What does that mean? Americans would in the aggregate pay a lot more to the government to fund their health care, but they’d also pay less overall than they’re paying now. How you’ll fare, experts say, depends on your individual situation. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis said some people will pay more while others would pay less.

Here's (in the order I found them), PBS NewsHour on the same point:

Trump put the cost of “Medicare for All” at $32.6 trillion over 10 years, calling it an “astonishing” figure. He actually underestimated the expected cost. He cited the added cost to the federal government of taking over private insurance, as estimated by Blahous. The total cost of the new system would be even higher.

And then NPR:

2. Cost of the plan: Trump claims that expanding the federal government's Medicare program would cost $32.6 trillion over a decade. But as Business Insider reports, that would actually be a discount compared with the nation's current health care bill.

Trump's figure was calculated by the libertarian Mercatus Center, but he fails to note that total health care spending under Medicare for All would be about $2 trillion less over the decade than currently projected. The federal government would pay more, but Americans on the whole would pay less.

Remember that the U.S. already spends far more per person on health care than does any other country. And when you count the tax break for employer-provided insurance, the federal government already pays about two-thirds of this bill. But because of the fragmented private insurance system, the government gets none of the efficiency or buying power that a single-payer system would provide.

Two reports that the cost of Sanders' proposal will actually lower health care spending, while increasing government spending to cover healthcare for all (and, as Barbrara Ehrenreich pointed out to the taxi driver, we can pay for it by taxing the rich).  The policy argument (should we spend public money this way?) is one issue; the costs another.  So what happened at PBS?  They ran out of hour in the NewsHour to cover this more thoroughly?  They ran out of space on their website to add another paragraph about the costs?  They ran out of journalists, so they had to rely on AP?

It pays to get your news from several sources, doesn't it?

By the way, interesting point of confusion here.  There is a cite in the original op-ed to the Mercatus Center study, which is why Politifact says "Trump is citing."  And yes, it really is Trump (or his staff) doing it:

Trump: "The Democrats' plan that would eviscerate Medicare."

Trump’s link goes to a New York Times article that says the opposite.

"Coverage for these people would become more generous because the Sanders bill would expand to cover dental, vision and hearing aids, which are not covered under current law," the article said. "The bill would also get rid of nearly all cost-sharing requirements in the program. Beneficiaries could go to the doctor or hospital without having to pay any money out of their pocket. The program would require co-payments for certain prescription drugs."

It's an under appreciated point in all the noise, but when you consider the man's staff can't even write an op-ed that doesn't contain contradictions.  I mean, I'd fail a research paper in Freshman English that cited a source so blatantly contrary to what was asserted in the paper.

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