We Need Journalists, but Not These Journalists: The Bartiromo-Medicare Edition

I’ll have more to say about the first part of the post header tomorrow (hopefully), but this exchange between Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner, a proponent of a Medicare-for-All public option, and CNBC reporter Maria Bartiromo is mind-boggling:

At one point, Bartiromo was critical of the government-managed health care system in the United Kingdom. “How do I know the quality [of health care in the United States] is not going to suffer” with a public option? she asked.
Rep. Weiner reminded her that there already is government-managed health care in the United States — namely, Medicare, the system created for Americans 65 years and older — and that patients with Medicare report very high satisfaction rates.
Bartiromo’s response to this argument was a true head-scratcher. In a mocking tone, she pressed the congressman: “How come you don’t use it [Medicare]? You don’t have it. How come you don’t have it?”

Ah ha! She got him!
Except Weiner is forty five years old, and thus does not qualify for Medicare. In fact, that’s what the Medicare-for-All argument is all about: a sixty-five year old who works can buy into the Medicare program as if it were a private health insurance program, so why can’t a forty five year old?
double-facepalm
I would like to think that before I were to lecture a U.S. congressman about Medicare that I would understand the basics of the program.
Seriously, while mocking fucking morons fills me with a certain wicked glee, this exchange is a prime example of how corporate media has failed by delivering crappy product. Anyone who took Bartiromo at face value would actually be more ignorant after having consumed CNBC’s product.
Over the long haul, providing your viewers with misinformation does not strike me as a particularly good business model. It also sucks regarding that “The commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty” thing.
This episode does, however, explain how CNBC completely missed the housing and banking crises….

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16 Responses to We Need Journalists, but Not These Journalists: The Bartiromo-Medicare Edition

  1. Over the long haul, providing your viewers with misinformation does not strike me as a particularly good business model.

    It’s an excellent business model for a propaganda outlet disseminating specific misinformation designed to further the goals of its corporate oligarch owners.

  2. NewEnglandBob says:

    Isn’t CNBC the place that spawned Lou Dobbs? Enough said.

  3. I came here to say what CPP has already said.
    Also, are you really shocked that a sponsor-shilling, wall st ass-kissing, network (that, as you pointed out, completely whiffed on the financial crisis of the century) that features turds like Jim Cramer and Larry Kudlow, and that features ‘journalists’ who go by monikers like ‘Money Honey’ totally dropped the ball on this issue also?
    I can only hope that Congressman Weiner’s response started with “Maria, you ignorant slut….”

  4. Aaron Golas says:

    If you love Medicare so much, why don’t you marry it? *nyeh* 😛

  5. Eric Lund says:

    I’m afraid that Dr. Katz has some bad news for Ms. Bartiromo.
    As CPP implies, you assume that CNBC is intended to be a money maker in its own right. It’s more of an investment on GE’s part.
    NEBob: Lou Dobbs is a CNN blowhard, but CNBC has its own blowhards. Alas, Jon Stewart’s thorough ridiculing of CNBC has not dissuaded them from this behavior.

  6. You said: “It’s an excellent business model for a propaganda”…
    I think that media (journalist) were, are, and always will be the part of propaganda … the Truth for them isn’t important.

  7. Mark P says:

    I hope you have a good supply of the double-facepalm images. With the current state of public discourse, you’re going to need a lot of them. Do you have any triple facepalms?

  8. JohnV says:

    Mark there’s a picture of worf facepalming, but I’m not nearly talented enough to work that into a triple facepalm.

  9. Patient says:

    Now that you have had a good laugh yucking up a simple mistake, you might want to address the REAL issue that Ms. Bartiromo was trying to get at (albeit rather clumsily) mainly the disparity between the health care plan developed by Congress for seniors, and for us citizens and the very different one available to our Representatives. If Medicare and the Public Option are so good, why is that not the model plan that should be used by all of our Federal Employees? Why do they get a different type of coverage? This is a very real question, and your snarky comments detract everyone from what she was really inferring by her question to Rep. Weiner.
    It seems that Democrats do not want a taste of their own medicine:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124786946165760369.html

  10. Troublesome Frog says:

    If Medicare and the Public Option are so good, why is that not the model plan that should be used by all of our Federal Employees?

    I don’t think that the argument is necessarily that those two plans are the best of the best. It’s just that they’re better than the, “You’ve been sick before. FOAD,” plan that a lot of people are currently enjoying.

  11. Kelly says:

    Patient,
    Federal employees and congresspersons are getting the same deal as everyone else. If your employer provides better insurance, you can stay with that insurance. No one would be *required* to take a public option. It would be there for those who don’t have employer provided insurance or whose employers provide crappy insurance.
    Why is there a continued confusion between options and requirements?

  12. Patient says:

    Frog, did you READ the article?
    Kelly,
    Because the “option” won’t be an “option” if a public plan is enacted. Down the road, the “public plan” will eventually become the place to dump everyone that an employer doesn’t want to cover, or that an insurance company cancels a policy on, or it may be the ONLY way a self employed person can get coverage because insurance companies will have NO incentive to sell coverage at a low cost as they will be competing with the government. YOU will lose the ability to EVER by a plan on your own—the only plan you will be able to get will be the public option–and it ain’t an OPTION when that happens.

  13. Troublesome Frog says:

    Frog, did you READ the article?

    It was not an “article.” It was an editorial. The editorial page is the WSJ’s way of balancing out their high quality reporting with bizarre trips into fantasy land.

    Because the “option” won’t be an “option” if a public plan is enacted.

    Let’s look at these things in pieces.

    Down the road, the “public plan” will eventually become the place to dump everyone that an employer doesn’t want to cover…

    And where do those people go now?

    …or that an insurance company cancels a policy on…

    Where do those people go now?

    …or it may be the ONLY way a self employed person can get coverage because insurance companies will have NO incentive to sell coverage at a low cost as they will be competing with the government.

    How, exactly, is the government going to out-compete them if they’re offering decent plans at an acceptable cost? The only way to do that would be to operate at a massive loss with taxpayer subsidies. I suppose that’s possible, but that’s not the plan that’s being offered.

    YOU will lose the ability to EVER by a plan on your own—the only plan you will be able to get will be the public option–and it ain’t an OPTION when that happens.

    I would like to see your step-by-step reasoning for the example of an employer who currently offers a health plan. Suddenly, a public option becomes available. That’s essentially just another player in the insurance market, yes? So how does that player affect the employer’s game plan. Show your work, please.

  14. Patient says:

    Let us begin, Troublesome frog–with the premise that I DON’T DO AD HOMINEM. The use of the word “article” is correct. Check here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_%28publishing%29
    So if you intend to respond to me again with more drivel like this in order to somehow distract yourself from the truths contained within my responses, then don’t expect further comment from me. I have other frogs to fry.
    Where do these people go now?
    They remain covered (for the time being) by their employer. That is because there is NO public option at the moment. People in the vast majority of plans covered through employers don’t lose coverage unless they lose their job.
    The game plan will change when there IS a public option, and that employer will look at the cost-benefit analysis of keeping someone on their health care plan vs. paying the fine that will be enacted as a penalty for not providing coverage for employees. The employer will decide that in many cases, it is better to pay the fine, and drop the employee from health coverage rather than keep paying increasing health care costs for certain employees or certain groups of employees. Businesses may decide that why should they provide health coverage at all, when people can get it on their own? They may opt for the fine as a business expense the way many businesses do now with all kinds of government regulations–it is a cost of doing business.
    More and more people will then be eliminated from workplace coverage, as businesses determine that it saves a great deal of money NOT to have to administrate a health care plan at all for their employees–they may even just give an employee extra money in a health savings account and then tell them that they should go buy the “option” plan.
    Right now, no employee could afford to do that–he needs to be in a group insurance plan to get a good deal, and there is no “public option plan” to buy. But with the advent of a “public option plan”, (that will most assuredly be LOW cost) this employee will be able to purchase health insurance WITHOUT having to go through his employer. Many workers might actually prefer this, too–which is another reason the public “option” won’t be an “option” for very long. The transition to a single payer system is not that far-fetched when one considers that people will do what is easiest and cheapest for them to do, both on the employer and the employee side as well.
    “How, exactly, is the government going to out-compete them if they’re offering decent plans at an acceptable cost? The only way to do that would be to operate at a massive loss with taxpayer subsidies”
    Well, that is one way. The government is exempt from having to turn a profit, and it also wastes BILLIONS of dollars a year by not tracking down fraud. Insurance companies have to make a profit, AND they have to pay investigators to save them money on fraud, and prosecute those people. The also do marketing and have to pay their employees much more than government employees. They have additional costs for lobbying, for regulations and the requirement that insurance companies must maintain a fund from which to draw claims, and must retain a certain amount of revenue within this fund. The government can out-compete any insurance company on overhead and operating costs as it is exempt from these requirements and other operational expenses.
    A basic lesson of economics: A market participant with a dominant position can influence prices in a way that a small, competitive player can’t. The government will function in this case as a monopsony (a buyer without competitors) and it can reduce the prices it pays well below the competitive level, and therefore price out competition.
    Once the government is virtually the only game in town, health care providers will have little choice but to take whatever payment the government offers. Society would end up with fewer doctors because they would be paid less. The reduced services would then need to be rationed. Innovation would be in jeopardy as well, as there would be little incentive to pour big money into smaller and smaller profits.
    The government is NOT just another player in the insurance market. It is the 800 lb gorilla that can set prices, make up its own rules about who to cover, when and how to cover them, AND force all the other players in the market to play by these same rules or go out of business. Many of these other players may choose the latter.

  15. Troublesome Frog says:

    Let us begin, Troublesome frog–with the premise that I DON’T DO AD HOMINEM.

    That’s very big of you. My basic point being that you’ve generously shared somebody else’s opinion with us, but not really added any actual information.
    Additionally, I’ll offer some advice: Any op-ed page that publishes a graph like the one contained here is a very bad place to learn economics. Very bad indeed.

    Where do these people go now?
    They remain covered (for the time being) by their employer.

    “These people” in the previous context was people who weren’t covered by their employer. Those are the people who benefit most from a public option. Right now, there’s a subset of them whose only option is to get a heaping bowl full of no insurance.

    The game plan will change when there IS a public option, and that employer will look at the cost-benefit analysis of keeping someone on their health care plan vs. paying the fine that will be enacted as a penalty for not providing coverage for employees. The employer will decide that in many cases, it is better to pay the fine…

    There is currently no fine for not offering health care. Employers still offer health care. Why? Because it’s part of employee compensation. The case you described seems to imply that employers are able to cut their employees’ compensation across the board on a whim. If they could, they would have done it already.
    Employees may *demand* less employer-sponsored health care, which would make the value of that form of compensation lower, but that’s a different story, and by most measure, it would be a good thing.

    Right now, no employee could afford to do that–he needs to be in a group insurance plan to get a good deal, and there is no “public option plan” to buy.

    Yes, and that’s the fundamental failing of our current system. You essentially described the creation of a system that’s preferable to being tied to your employer, having people flock to it by choice, and then having the employer get away from being an insurance provider. This does not sound like Armageddon to me.

    The government is exempt from having to turn a profit, and it also wastes BILLIONS of dollars a year by not tracking down fraud.

    That would fall under “taxpayer subsidy”.

    The also do marketing and have to pay their employees much more than government employees. They have additional costs for lobbying, for regulations and the requirement that insurance companies must maintain a fund from which to draw claims, and must retain a certain amount of revenue within this fund.

    And of course, these are fabulous uses of economic resources, not inefficiencies in the system, right?

    The government can out-compete any insurance company on overhead and operating costs as it is exempt from these requirements and other operational expenses.

    Tragedy! I weep!

    A basic lesson of economics: A market participant with a dominant position can influence prices in a way that a small, competitive player can’t. The government will function in this case as a monopsony (a buyer without competitors) and it can reduce the prices it pays well below the competitive level, and therefore price out competition.

    You got the definition of monopsony right, but you’re using it incorrectly. A monopsony uses its power to push down prices of its inputs, not its market prices relative to its competitors. For example, it would push down the market price for drugs. It would not necessarily lower premiums to price out its competition. And of course, that’s part of the point of this exercise. We need some sort of structure that will push back on the rising cost of health care goods and services.

    Once the government is virtually the only game in town, health care providers will have little choice but to take whatever payment the government offers. Society would end up with fewer doctors because they would be paid less.

    But how many fewer? What’s the elasticity of supply? How does one take into account the fact that doctors would also have their overhead lowered through a less complex billing process? Countries like Japan somehow manage to do do this without creating a world without doctors. I have no idea why we deal in vague, abstract predictions when this has been done *over and over* and produces cases for us to observe.

    The reduced services would then need to be rationed.

    Services are already limited and rationed. They’re just rationed based on how much money you make or whether you work for a large or small company.

    Innovation would be in jeopardy as well, as there would be little incentive to pour big money into smaller and smaller profits.

    The majority of advanced countries have some sort of government health care in their system. Their GDPs add up to more than ours. Somehow, their markets for health care manage to continue a healthy amount of innovation. We can’t be carrying *everybody* with our excess spending. So what’s going on?
    Of course, it’s an economic fact that equilibrium quantity will drop by some amount with a lower percent of our GDP spent on health care. That says nothing about how efficiently those dollars will be allocated or what the elasticity of supply of those goods is. People who panic about this government intervention seem to be inventing an out come that’s somehow worse than that from every other nation that has tried it.

  16. unutulmaz says:

    You said: “It’s an excellent business model for a propaganda”…
    I think that media (journalist) were, are, and always will be the part of propaganda … the Truth for them isn’t important.

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