Part 3—Nothing should change, they are told: Let's imagine a situation which could never exist.
Briefly, imagine this:
On average, Americans are paying $30,000 for mid-sized four-door sedans. Through BREAKING NEWS on some "cable news" channel, we learn that consumers elsewhere in the developed world are paying $10,000 to $14,000 for the very same set of cars!
The channel reports that the over-payments in this country have been caused by a previously undisclosed set of surcharges. The looted money has been doled out to a range of high-income elites.
You're right! That situation could never occur. No "cable news" channel would blow the whistle on a scam like that! Dearest darlings, use your heads! It simply isn't done!
It's also true that this situation could never develop to begin with. Word would spread that U.S. consumers were getting screwed compared, let's say, to their neighbors in Canada. People would hear about his scam and they'd be plenty mad.
The situation we've imagined could pretty much never exist. That said, a similar situation seems to obtain in the realm of health care.
To all intents and purposes, American citizens are never told about the size of this massive scam. The size of the scam is captured in the following data—in this remarkable data set, which is constantly disappeared by our "mainstream press:"
Our most persistently disappeared data:Performing as real journalists would, we've omitted Germany, the only large developed nation which spent even half as much, per person, as we did Over Here. For fuller data, click here.
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
United Kingdom: $4003
South Korea: $2488
The Germans spent $5267 per person that year. We're including little Finland for the obvious reason:
Over the past fifteen years, we've been told to emulate the miraculous Finns—but only when doing so serves the interests, and supports the policy outlooks, of major U.S. elites.
We aren't encouraged to notice the fact that the Finns spent 42% as much as we did on health care in 2015. In fact, very few Americans have ever been exposed to that or to any similar fact. Within the mainstream American press, it simply isn't done!
This situation isn't a perfect match for our imagined situation involving those overpriced cars. These data show total spending on health care, not the price which is being paid for some specific product.
Still, the effect is largely the same. For unknown reasons, Americans spend massively more for health care than anyone else on the face of the earth. And uh-oh! As we noted on Tuesday, this overspending explains two major public policy problems which we pretend to discuss:
That massive overspending on health care explains why it has been so hard to achieve universal health coverage in this country. It also explains our annual federal deficits, which we've pretended to discuss for the past forty years.
As far as we know, Americans don't pay more than twice as much for the typical four-door sedan. We do spend more than twice as much as everyone else for a year of health care!
You'd almost think that American journalists would want to examine that startling fact. But if you thought that, you would of course be completely and majorly wrong.
We Americans spend more than twice as much as everyone else for health care! The data which illustrate this fact have been posted above—but those utterly remarkable data never appear in the mainstream press.
By apparent force of law, these utterly remarkable data are constantly disappeared.
All our journalistic elites know that these data mustn't be proffered. For a prime illustration of this practice, you should review the discussion which transpired last Thursday night on the Charlie Rose show.
Right there on PBS!
Rose spoke with Ezra Klein and Peter Orszag, two people who actually know what they're talking about. Within the first ninety seconds of the discussion, Klein had said that no one else does health coverage as poorly as we do.
"You could almost not do it worse than we do it," Klein cold-bloodedly said. He proceeded to say, as others have done, that France most likely does it best. (For links to the tape, see below.)
Klein said nobody does it worse—and he proceeded from there! After Klein announced that we're the worst, he and Orszag quickly agreed on the reason for our inflated health care spending:
Unlike the governments of all other developed nations, our government doesn't establish fixed prices for medical procedures and products. That's why we're the worst in the world, or so Klein and Orszag both said.
Already, just ninety seconds in, this was a very unusual discussion. We don't think we've ever seen a high-profile discussion in which the cause of our inflated medical spending was pinpointed in such a definitive way.
Were Orszag and Klein actually right in their shared assessment? We aren't even judging that! We're saying that, within the realm of the upper-end press, discussions of this type are rarely allowed to exist.
At any rate, we'd been told that we are the worst, and that France is the best. We'd also been told that we spend too much because our government has failed to perform a function which all others perform.
The discussion seemed to be cooking with gas. Then the collapse occurred.
Instantly, Orszag made the statement shown below. It followed directly on the material we quoted in yesterday's report.
Ezra is right, the gentleman said. Also, we can assume that nothing will ever be done!
KLEIN (6/25/17): The thing that every one of these countries has in common, every single one, is that in one way or another, in one way or another, they set prices centrally. Every single country that is a developed democracy—just a developed country, except for the United States, the—Say what? Just like that, we were told that we can "take for granted" that our government isn't going to do what everyone else has done. According to Orszag, we can take that for granted "because we have a different history and what have you."
ROSE: They set prices on—
KLEIN: The government says, "Here is how much, here is how much an MRI is going to cost. Here is how much a Xanax is going to cost." No matter how they do it—and that is the key thing that makes all of them cheaper. And when it's cheaper, then you have a lot more room how you design insurance.
ORSZAG: First of all, Ezra is absolutely right. The reason that U.S. health care costs more than other countries, it's not, as is often repeated, that we do more here. It's that what we do, the prices are much higher.
And so, if we take for granted that we're not going to intervene directly in some big way just to set the prices because we have a different history and what have you, there is still so much we can do to try to get more efficiency out of health care that we're not doing.
Just like that, Orszag announced this decree. Through the rest of the nine-minute discussion, his assumption was never challenged, examined, critiqued, perused, poked at or discussed.
As if that decree wasn't striking enough, the discussion moved downhill from there. Before they were done, Klein and Orszag had agreed that every other developed nation is "free-riding" (translation: "freeloading") off the medical innovation we pay for through our over-spending.
Consumers in every other nation are "free-riding" off our inflated spending! But so what? The pair were in agreement again—this massive American over-spending is the way things should be done!
The fellows agreed that nothing (much) will change; they even seemed to agree that nothing (much) should change. And do we have to tell you this:
No one made the slightest attempt to define the size of our overspending! No one posted, described or mentioned the remarkable data we've posted above. As if by rule of Hard Pundit Law, those data were disappeared.
Tomorrow, we'll run you through the steps we've just outlined. We'll see Rose's PBS viewers told that nothing major is going to change, even that nothing major should change. We'll also see them kept from knowing the size of this ludicrous problem.
By the time this discussion was done, our youthful analysts were moaning and tearing their hair. This was upper-end discourse at its worst. Skillfully, Charlie enabled.
The data we've shown you were of course disappeared last Thursday night. Even worse: at one point, Klein cited a familiar statistic—a statistic which massively seems to understate the size of our overspending.
Orszag kept saying how "optimistic" he is about the attempt to control health care spending. But wouldn't you know it? He never told those PBS viewers how massive the problem is.
By law, "news consumers" can't be told about the size of the looting which assails us in the realm of health care. Last Thursday night, three major insiders adhered to this well-known law.
Tomorrow: Seduced, misled, abandoned, left clueless
Tale of the tape: To watch the videotape of this discussion, you can just click here.
The full segment ran 21 minutes. The discussion of our health care spending starts at the 12-minute mark.