Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stuff To Read on Halloween

I write about the Zombie Trends For Women here.

An odd serendipity made me read a sad post about the troubles of the progressive movement* and a post about the Tea Party on the same day.  Try it out, reading those one after the other while keeping mind that these are the two acceptable limits in American political thought.  Nothing  left of the progressives officially exists, for example.

Here's the odd part.  Either I am Halloween-hallucinating or most of the comments at the Ian Welsh post can no longer be read.  Or there's something wrong with my computer.

Whatever it is, I remember distinctly reading opinions there (or elsewhere?)  that progressive blogs were once extremely popular and achieved important things, but that nobody reads blogs anymore, what with the Twitter etc..  In any case I commented about that at another blog, so it's unlikely I made it completely up.

The point I wanted to make in that context is that anyone who thinks blogs can change the American politics in a few years is in for a biiiig disappointment.  Writing blogs is like carrying water in a sieve to the ocean of public opinion.  If you are really fast and really clever you have some influence.  But most people never read blogs in the past or today.

To finish, have a look at this spookily funny Fox News video:

I lovelovelove the number of silly assertions it contains:

1.  Stossel argues that women should pay more for health insurance than men because women, on average, use more care**.  It's true that the average use rates are greater for women than for men. But the reason for that is not hypochondria.  The difference has several reasons***, but by far the most important has to do with reproduction.

The current system assigns all the care having to do with pregnancies and childbirths to women's accounts, even though humans still don't manage parthenogenesis.  Put more plainly, the costs of pregnancy and childbirth are not because of women's hypochondria and they are not caused by her alone.  Likewise, we have no male contraceptive pill, which means that the contraception often used by heterosexual couples together necessitates medical visits not by the man but by the woman if she's on the pill.

2.  Men and women who are past childbirth are told by Stossel that they should be angry about having to "subsidize" women (and men) in fertile age categories.  This is hilarious, because the subsidies inside the system flow into the reverse direction.  Older people use more health care than younger people.

3.  Stossel doesn't seem to understand what current insurance does when he complains about the "subsidies" of other people in one's insurance policy.  It already lumps together all sorts of different health care expenditures, which means that right now someone's Viagra consumption is "subsidized".  If insurance contained no such "subsidies" it wouldn't exist.  It's true that insurers prefer to divide the population they insure into groups of similar risk levels, but if we do this with all health care consumption (and match the risks precisely for each) we end up with no insurance at all.   To take a simple example from car insurance, Stossel's assertion is like saying that your insurance premia should not be used to pay for your neighbor's stolen car if you were luckier and kept yours and if both of you are customers of the same company.

4.  Stossel recommends more and more competition, instead of the ACA.  The idea that competition in health care is great is a very tricky one.  Lots of research suggests that there's very little price competition, without government incentives for it.  Whether quality competition is feasible depends on the particular product we are looking at.  It might work for some routine purchases of the well-care type, such as eye glasses and simple dental visits.  But in many cases consumers cannot judge health care quality well enough to become prudent shoppers (and in other cases consumers are too ill to do that).

*For a different angle to the brogressive movement, check out what Scott Lemieux writes.
**This argument also reopens the door the idea that individuals with pre-existing conditions should pay more than those without them.  The same logic applies.
***Some of them hard to quantify.  For instance, many observers believe that men, on average, don't see their health care providers as often as they should.  On the other hand, the way the medical profession defines recommended visit rates and what should be checked may itself be affected by various non-medical considerations such as women's apparent greater medical "compliance."