David Brooks socks docs: In this morning’s New York Times, David Brooks voices approval of the Romney/Ryan Medicare plan.
The Romney/Ryan Medicare plan is one of the many proposals which have played almost no role in the press coverage of this campaign. Basically, we don’t really have press coverage of White House campaigns any more.
We have columns about dogs and reports about polls. After that, our journalists pray for gaffes.
That said, Kevin Drum bats Brooks’ presentation aside in this instant post. His headline is this: “The Conspiracy of Silence About Mitt Romney's Medicare Plan.”
Truth to tell, you could pretty much write that headline about every proposal, policy area or substantive topic in this election. When it comes to the press corps’ role in this campaign, your headline would likely be right.
(Within recent memory, this isn’t the way our White House campaigns have been covered.)
For ourselves, we don’t understand the Medicare proposal well enough to evaluate what Drum says. We’ll assume that Drum is right. For ourselves, we were struck by a paragraph Brooks casually tosses aside.
This strikes us as a remarkable portrait. Brooks doesn’t bat an eye:
BROOKS (10/9/12): The history of Medicare is strewed with efforts to control costs by controlling prices. The results are terrible. Providers just increase the number of services, redefine the classification of services or find other ways to get their money back. A study by the Congressional Budget Office found that, between 1997 and 2005, Medicare payments for individual treatments fell by 5 percent, but the total spent on these services skyrocketed by 35 percent. Doctors made up in volume what they lost in reimbursement levels.Forget about the best way to control future Medicare costs. Just think about the practices Brooks describes in that passage.
Basically, isn’t Brooks describing a scam? In the picture he paints, “providers” know how much money they want to obtain. In order to obtain that amount of money, they find ways to provide a series of “services,” apparently whether the services in question are needed or not.
This country spends two to three times as much, per person, on health care as other developed countries. We assume that Brooks is describing the process by which “providers” bring that massive amount of spending into the world.
As he performs this service, Brooks doesn’t bat an eye. “Nothing to look at,” he seems to say. He doesn’t show the slightest sign of thinking he’s limning a scam.
We don’t mean this as a criticism of Brooks. He is arguing a different point—poorly, if Drum is right. But massive amounts of over-spending virtually define American health care.
Doesn’t that passage define a scam—a scam which creates this level of looting? If Gordon Gekko were a provider, wouldn't he provide his health care services in precisely this way?