Part 3—Fifteen years later, a parody: Our friends in China will soon begin their latest "year of the monkey."
According to various experts, it will start on February 19, soon after our Valentine's Day.
Here at this award-wining site, we've incomparably declared 2018 to be "the year of the species." If you want to follow us down this depressing but enlightening road, we'll suggest that you adopt two frameworks through which you view the world:
Year of the species: Two frameworks, lenses or paradigmsIf you adopt those lenses or frameworks, we think the world will make more sense. For starters, consider Tuesday's analysis piece in the New York Times.
1) Outside the realm of technology, you should assume that Home sapiens is unable to reason at all.
2) In part for that reason, you should assume that news coverage will tilt quite heavily toward the interests of powerful groups.
The piece appeared on January 2. In the news business, that's the first day of our year. January 1 doesn't count.
The piece attempts to explain a state of affairs we've been writing about since 2005. Essentially, it attempts, or perhaps it pretends, to explain these astonishing data:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015Skillfully, we've omitted Germany, which spent $5267 per person that year. According to basic OECD data, all the rest of these developed nations spent less than half as much as we did on health care, per person, that year.
United States: $9451
United Kingdom: $4003
South Korea: $2488
On their face, those are astonishing data. As compared to France, which has a highly-rated health care system, we spent an extra $5000 per person on health care that year!
Does that missing money matter? As economists occasionally try to point out, that's a huge amount of money which can't go into wage increases. Also this:
If you could wave a magic wand and make our per person cost equal that of France, our federal deficits would instantly disappear, along with our brain cell-destroying discussions of same.
On its face, that data set is astonishing. If our species was differently equipped, those data would generate a discussion built around an obvious question:
Where is all that money going? Why do we spend so much?
It's the world's most obvious question! But due to assumptions 1 and 2, this discussion doesn't exist within the major news orgs of our floundering species.
Those data are basically never produced. Those questions are never presented.
This brings us to the analysis piece from Tuesday morning's Times. In hard copy, the piece appeared on the first page of the Business section.
On line, the headline says this:
Why the U.S. Spends So Much More Than Other Nations on Health CareFinally! Finally, the New York Times was going to tackle that question!
In fact, we'd have to say that no such thing actually happened. Indeed, we'd say that Tuesday's piece almost had a comical feel.
Why the heck do we spend so much more than everyone else? The answer came right at the start of the piece. You can ingest it below, hard-copy headline included:
FRAKT AND CARROLL (1/2/18): Where U.S. Health Care Stands Out: PriceIn case you're wondering, yes. This pieces reports that we spend more on health care because we get charged more than everyone else!
The United States spends almost twice as much on health care, as a percentage of its economy, as other advanced industrialized countries—totaling $3.3 trillion, or 17.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2016.
But a few decades ago American health care spending was much closer to that of peer nations.
A large part of the answer can be found in the title of a 2003 paper in Health Affairs by the Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt: ''It's the prices, stupid.''
The study...found that people in the United States typically use about the same amount of health care as people in other wealthy countries do, but pay a lot more for it.
Prices are higher for health care here! The next paragraph makes this point even more clear:
FRAKT AND CARROLL (continuing directly): Ashish Jha, a physician with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, studies how health systems from various countries compare in terms of prices and health care use. ''What was true in 2003 remains so today,'' he said. ''The U.S. just isn't that different from other developed countries in how much health care we use. It is very different in how much we pay for it.''We receive the same amount of health care. But we get charged more for it!
Briefly, let's be fair. Frakt and Carroll are thoroughly competent health care specialists. Beyond that, their analysis does provide a starting point for those who may be puzzled by our astoundingly high rate of health care spending, or even unhappy about it.
Why do we spend twice as much as everyone else? Basically, Frakt and Carroll eliminate one possible answer:
It isn't because we receive more treatment. Oversimplifying a bit, it's because we get charged twice as much!
In fairness, that constitutes real information. That said, in a rational world, it would quickly lead to a second, blindingly obvious question:
Why do we get charged twice as much? Where's all that money going?
Why do we get charged twice as much? Frakt and Carroll make no real attempt to answer, or even to articulate, that obvious question.
If you're a lover of unintentional humor, you'll also note that their report starts with a study from 2003. As such, the New York Times is getting around to providing to this information fifteen years later—and it leaves us hanging as the cause of the high prices which drain the nation's pocketbooks.
The prices are too damn high, we're told. But we aren't encouraged to wonder why!
As such, an unfriendly person could describe this piece as something like a parody of an actual news report. Readers of the New York Times may get the impression that an analysis has been provided. If so, they're basically being misled.
In this "year of the species," we'll suggest that you view such journalism through the frameworks suggested above:
If Times subscribers were able to reason, would they tolerate work of this type? We'll suggest the answer is no. Meanwhile, regarding the dominance of powerful interests, consider the way Frakt and Carroll end their humorous piece.
Times readers, we kid you not:
FRAKT AND CARROLL: Higher prices aren't all bad for consumers. They probably lead to some increased innovation, which confers benefits to patients globally. Though it's reasonable to push back on high health care prices, there may be a limit to how far we should.You may want to push back against all that looting. But you shouldn't push back too hard!
Fifteen years later, the Times offers this. A more competent species would throw this shriveled fish back into the lake.
That's what a different species would do. According to various experts and scientists, our species is eager to flip ahead to piddlerich drivel like this, on page 1 of today's Thursday Styles.
Tomorrow: Breaking! Our question of the year!