Economics

Basic Facts: Bill Kristol vs. Jon Chait and Ezra Klein

Bill Kristol has been taking grief from Post blogger Ezra Klein and now TNR’s Jon Chait. Kristol recently claimed Medicare doesn’t control costs well; Klein said Kristol was “misinformed,” citing a study by Jacob Hacker, and Chait echoed Klein’s brief. Here’s Chait:

It’s very frustrating to debate public policy with people who are unaware of the basic facts. The problem seems to be especially acute on healthcare, an issue conservatives have just never paid much attention to.

But now Conn Carroll alerts me that there might be a lot of holes in those “basic facts” relied upon by Klein and Chait:

Clemente and Hacker count all of Medicare’s enrollees but only some of their healthcare costs–the costs paid by the Medicare program. Because Medicare’s share of the total costs has fallen significantly, Medicare appears to control costs better than private insurance does when in fact the opposite is true.

For an increasing percentage of Medicare beneficiaries, someone other than Medicare is paying more of those costs. When the full cost of healthcare for Medicare beneficiaries is considered, private health plans are clearly doing a better job of controlling spending growth.

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