"Truthiness" and the Republican Presidential Debate

Today's Managing Health Care Costs Indicator is


The Kaiser Family Foundation  has done us the favor of extracting the health questions from last night’s Republican presidential debate.

My take on the ‘truthiness’ of selected answers:

The Congressional Budget Office has said that Obamacare will kill 800,000 jobs.  -  Michele Bachman

The CBO estimated that the Affordable Care Act would slightly lower the overall cost of health care premiums for large employers, which could create new jobs.   It will be hard to create net new jobs in health care and lower health care costs.  Politifact  calls this “barely true” because the CBO noted that ½% of the workforce that works for health insurance only might choose not to work.

Obamacare….  took away $500 billion, a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare  - Michele Bachman
The Affordable Care Act cut future growth of Medicare by $500 billion over 10 years.  There is no way to cure the deficit without cutting Medicare’s future growth.  It’s not nearly the cut in future Medicare costs envisioned by the Paul Ryan budget plan.  It’s also not taking money from Medicare beneficiaries, but lowering future rate increases for providers.
We didn't raise taxes in Massachusetts. – Mitt Romney

We were lucky in Massachusetts to have over half a billion dollars in federal Medicaid waivers to help support health care reform.  We also did use additonal money from general tax revenue. There was no tax increase simply because the economy was in good shape and we had dollars available in the then-current tax base.
When you get into a mandate, it ultimately ends up with unconstitutional powers. –Newt Gingrich
The courts will ultimately decide.   The individual mandate was initially championed by conservatives.  It’s hard to avoid adverse selection and make insurance inexpensive for all without some penalty for not having insurance.  John McDonough has an excellent commentary reviewing this history.

If you're an average couple and you paid your entire amount into -- into Medicare, you would have put $140,000 into it. And in your lifetime, you will take out more than three times that much.  –Ron Paul

This is true.  Medicare is a good bargain because it costs less than commercial insurance, and a better bargain still for beneficiaries because there is a considerable subsidy.  Medicare is not fully funded by taxes directed to Medicare only.  Paul goes on to say that Medicare is “insolvent.”  It’s not really – it just will require decreasing costs or increasing tax subsidies.
We have to have more competition in medicine.  – Ron Paul
Michael Porter and others argue that we don’t need more competition – we need different competition.  We need competition among providers for meaningful bundles of services, rather than competition among health plans that don’t have enough impact on actual care delivery.
Why can't we opt out of the whole system and take care of ourselves?  - Ron Paul
Works when you’re healthy, can be deadly if you’re sick unless you have huge personal wealth!

My own plan… will feature performance pay rather than just volume pay to hospitals and clinics and providers.  –Tim Pawlenty  

Many agree that fee for service payment is a major problem leading to considerable provider-driven overutilization. This is a good idea, and I’ll await his plan eagerly.

[I] would allow… private contracting so those people who want to voluntarily could contract with their doctor or their hospital in addition to Medicare, and it would be outside the current system and it would relieve the pricing pressure on the current system.  –Newt Gingrich
Individuals contracting with their physician or hospital would have little leverage to lower prices, and the administrative costs of such a system would be hard to imagine.
 We think you can save $70 billion to $120 billion in Medicare and Medicaid annually by not paying crooks... –Newt Gingrich
Many suspect that fraud and abuse could be as much as 10% of medical costs.  Medicare and Medicaid together cost almost $900 billion, so this is possible.  However, it’s not as easy as it looks, and many who oppose regulation have a difficult time accepting the type of oversight that could be required.

I wholeheartedly support…a program that is identical to what seniors already have. It’s called Medicare Part D….[and it] is 41 percent under budget because seniors are involved in controlling costs – Rick Santorum
The Ryan Plan, which Santorum supports, is very different than Medicare Part D.  The Ryan plan would cap government expenditure, whereas Part D allows government costs to rise with medical inflation rate.  Medicare Part D is under budget not because of competition or seniors with “skin  in the game,” but because of generic drugs and much lower senior enrollment than projected.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board [is going to] ration care from top to bottom –Rick Santorum
There is a good thought article yesterday from the Concord Coalition , a center-right anti-deficit group, about why the IPAB is a critical part of health care reform.   We need to make tough decisions, and this approach is much like the way we deal with potential military base closings.