Thursday, August 12, 2010

Casserly: Prescott a microcosm of health care's future

I've been watching the recently-recurring column of JJ Casserly for a little while to get a bead on where this " longtime newsman and author" is coming from. From traces left on the Net, he ghostwrote an autobiography of Barry Goldwater in the '80s, apparently worked for the Republic for a while, and claims to have covered the Vatican "for years."

JJ's pieces have been more or less innocuous till now, but today he steps over the line into right-wing scare propaganda with this piece on Medicare.

JJ parrots Republican talking points designed to frighten you about health-care reform. The "no one has read it" canard is a quick tipoff for anyone paying attention to the slant here.

He leads off with "the Obama administration will cut present Medicare payments by $529 billion." This is a lie. JJ knows that when he writes "Medicare payments," most readers will think it means "payments to doctors for my care." The $529 billion figure (in reality, about $500 billion) is a ten-year goal for cost savings in Medicare by reducing fraud, abuse and inefficiencies within this gargantuan program. $200 billion of that will come relatively quickly with elimination of Medicare Advantage, a Bush-era program designed to line the already fat pockets of the HMOs we all hate. The legislation specifically forbids reduction of benefits to achieve that goal.

"Health experts say it will be impossible to get the massive enterprise up and running within a year or two," says Casserly -- yup, and that's why most of its benefits don't begin before 2014. I expect he's quoting experts who are in favor of the new system, even advising the administration. But he's flipped the implication to support his thesis. This makes it a lie.

JJ quotes Barnett saying, "What the feds will do is create greater rationing of dollars, cutting their payments to doctors and hospitals. That will ration care," indicating that he does not know what's in the legislation in terms of legal language or intent. What's true is that the system -- not yet operating, remember -- requires that Medicare maintain benefit levels. Notice also that he doesn't touch on the influence of varying state laws and policies on how to distribute Medicare funds. We're seeing lots of problems now because state legislators are raiding the cookie jar, and unraveling that will be a broader challenge than implementing the Affordable Care Act.

Probably the most egregious violation of journalistic ethics comes with this: "Barnett is concerned about the latitude that the Department of Health and Human Services will have in interpreting the new law. Bureaucrats will have absolute power in many health decisions. Just how fair and balanced they may be is open to question." This and a later graf evoke the "death panels" lie, and its the big lie. In point of simple fact, the system will allow no legal interference or influence by the bureaucracy on doctor-patient decisions. That's a problem created by HMOs, and an important part of what the new law is designed to fix.

JJ even tosses the phony illegal-immigration bomb. I'm sorely disappointed that the Courier has brought on yet another regular columnist who has so little respect for his readers that he'll lie and cheat to convince readers to vote his way. Shame on him, and shame on the editors.


dovh49 said...

We all like to believe what we like to believe it seems.

Cato Institute (by Michael F. Cannon) just put out a blog post that confirms some of the accusations made by JJ. So he might be wrong on some but he is probably correct on the others.

Steven Ayres said...

Sorry, you're mistaking Cato for a news organization or academic referee. Cato is and always has been a right-wing propaganda generator, and not even a high-class one.

dovh49 said...

Fascinating, when I post a Cato link on a conservative blog they say Cato is a know left wing organization. They must be doing their job if neither liberals nor conservatives will listen to them.

Steven Ayres said...

Cato was set up specifically to promote the corporatist agenda (note: not necessarily the Republican agenda). You can do the homework yourself. Look at the Wikipedia entry for it. Look at its mission statement. Then google Charlie Koch and look for the many political pies he's got his fingers in. You'll even find him single-handedly sponsoring right-wing initiatives right here in Arizona.

In your writings here previously you've told and shown me that you're a beginner at this stuff. One of the leading beginner's mistakes is to conclude that everyone who doesn't think like you is trying to sell you a sack of shit. Corollaries are that everyone who doesn't think like you is bought into a sack of shit, and that everyone who apparently thinks like you is being fair about it. I urge you to resist this egocentric pitfall. Sometimes your first conclusion is just wrong.

There are plenty of reasons to oppose health-care reform or prefer approaching it a different way. What's muddying this issue (and most political issues these days) so badly is the unprecedented freedom large monied interests (like Koch) feel about lying to you, even about easily checked facts, to protect their narrow interests. Lazy media people pick these lies up and repeat them as reasonable opinions, as JJ is doing in this article.

When people are unclear about the benefits of a given complex change, like you are here, they easily become willing sponges for cheap and easy untruths to support their gut feelings, bypassing the critical thinking and homework necessary to properly evaluate the positions they take.

I've been doing this since the mid-'70s, d. I'm nobody's fool and nobody's shill. You can trust that or not, it's no skin off my ass.

Brer Citizen said...

The actual bill is available for the public online, can't remember the URL at the moment, but it wasn't too hard to find with a search engine. It was a long and boring read but I personally believe in never forming an opinion based on what I've been told by third parties, especially if the information and/or discretionary material are readily obtained. Knowledge is the only true power there is, everything else follows.

dovh49 said...

Yes, I can read it. But who has the time to read all the laws that are passed (isn't it 2,000 pages or so), I'm not trained in law either, I'm an engineer? For that matter, who has the time to read all the proposed laws? Is this not one reason for having a representative government? From here on out I will only argue the principles of the matter since the details truly don't matter as much. When I get some time I will comment on this from a principled perspective. I'm understanding the principles better than the minutia of actual law better anyways.