Medicare’s Overhead

Rep Pete Stark chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s health panel is once again on the warpath The California Democrat delivered his latest zinger last week, saying he wouldn’t negotiate with insurance companies on a health-care overhaul. “I think their intention is to see the Democrats fail, regardless of what it does for health care in this country,” Rep. Stark told reporters. He went on to say that  Medicare has lower overhead than the private insurers . Stark is a true believer and like all true believers he admits no possibility of error and is recklessly intolerant of contrary views.

Stark’s attitude towards health care reform reminds me of Richard Feynman’s quip about the universe:  “The universe is not only stranger than you think; it’s stranger than you can imagine.” If we can get just one issue straight we might have a chance of getting on the right path. Medicare says that their overhead costs are 2 – 5%. When they say this they are being disingenuous. Their overhead is low because they don’t count all of it. It’s like congress spending money and then putting the costs off the books. If Medicare were a private insurance company Patrick Fitzgerald would be taping their staff meetings.

Medicare imposes an almost infinite number of unfunded mandates, rules, and regulations on medical providers. These mandates consume vast swatches of time and impose huge costs. Costs which of course are passed on to patients and taxpayers, but which Medicare doesn’t count. Talk to your doctor and ask him about Medicare’s regulatory regime. Be prepared for a lot of frustration. Why do some doctors favor a government run single payer health care system? There are a number of reasons, but likely most prominent among them is that most of these doctors don’t spend a lot of time taking care of patients.

The total cost of all this federal regulation is not known by anyone, but my guess is were it counted by Medicare as part of its overhead, which it really is, that it would put Medicare equal to or ahead of the insurance companies. Anyone who thinks that Stark and Medicare have the answer of our problems with health care should deeply contemplate Feynman’s quip. Medical care is almost as strange as the universe. Is Pete Stark the guy who’s figured it out? The government can do a lot of things, but it can never save money.

Finally, a majority of Americans are satisfied with their health care coverage. Will this still be true after Rep Stark has his way. I think we’re about to find out.

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23 Responses to Medicare’s Overhead

  1. Polls are only as good as the questions asked, and from a brief look at Rasmussen and the political commentary on the same site, it appears to have a rightward bias… Tony Blankley, for example.

    The Huntington Post had a different view from an acknowledged left funded source, “In asking its question SurveyUSA used the same exact words that NBC/Wall Street Journal had used when conducting its June 2009 survey. That one that found 76 percent approval for the public option: “In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance–extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?”” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/20/new-poll-77-percent-suppo_n_264375.html

    Doctors for America is an acknowledged Obama support group, numbering more than 14,000. The comments of these doctors are interesting and opposed to yours. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/20/new-poll-77-percent-suppo_n_264375.html

    The president, as an executive, doesn’t write a health plan. He just says what he wants, what he will or wont sign. He’s made it pretty clear to those who listened to his Wednesday speech.

    You are an intelligent, informed physician, and engaging in a discussion with you has helped me to clarify my own views. Thank you for your responsiveness. I wonder if the ASN has ever taken a poll amongst its members, or the NKF. In any case, it has been a pleasure. Thank you for your many contributions to our field.

  2. Thanks to NPR and the New England Journal of Medicine, there is a latest word.

    “September 14, 2009
    Among all the players in the health care debate, doctors may be the least understood about where they stand on some of the key issues around changing the health care system. Now, a new survey finds some surprising results: A large majority of doctors say there should be a public option.

    When polled, “nearly three-quarters of physicians supported some form of a public option, either alone or in combination with private insurance options,” says Dr. Salomeh Keyhani. She and Dr. Alex Federman, both internists and researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, conducted a random survey, by mail and by phone, of 2,130 doctors. They surveyed them from June right up to early September.

    Most doctors — 63 percent — say they favor giving patients a choice that would include both public and private insurance. That’s the position of President Obama and of many congressional Democrats. In addition, another 10 percent of doctors say they favor a public option only; they’d like to see a single-payer health care system. Together, the two groups add up to 73 percent.

    When the American public is polled, anywhere from 50 to 70 percent favor a public option. So that means that when compared to their patients, doctors are bigger supporters of a public option.” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112839232

    • The latest Rassmussen poll finds that Support for the President’s health care proposal has been increasing daily over the past week. However, today’s tracking results show support falling for the first time since the speech. Forty-five percent (45%) now favor passage of the Congressional health care reform plan, a figure that’s up just a single point since the speech. Fifty-two percent (52%) are now opposed. Those figures include 23% who Strongly Favor the plan and 41% who are Strongly Opposed. .

      The poll you cite from NPR and NEJM says When the American public is polled, anywhere from 50 to 70 percent favor a public option. Rassmussen’s polls have consistently been the most accurate. At the very least somebody’s wrong.

      Other than the NPR article and its epigones I have not been able to find the NEJM online publication of the poll. When I do I’ll comment on it. But note that only 10% of physicians want a single payer system which totally supports what I have said all along. Doctors do not want a single payer system. The doctors seem to believe that a public plan can peacefully coexist with private insurance. A naive view that’s likely to get them what they don’t want. I’ll expand on this issue later. The public plan is the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent.

  3. […] according to this source, Medicare’s claim that their overhead costs are only 2%-5% is clearly disingenuous since they […]

  4. […] sense. Here is another article again that you will attack the messenger instead of the message Medicare’s Overhead Medicine and Opera The problem you have and continue to have is there is no evidence that the Federal govt. can do […]

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