Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bureaucat vs bureaucrat

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, which has been loosely described as a government body or agency, made now-infamous recommendations about mammograms, that have set my neighborhood all atwitter. "Obamacare looms over us already" is the general theme that outraged Americans of every (red) stripe is expressing.

Well, what a triumph this episode truly is for those of us supporting universal healthcare, snatching it from the voracious jaws of the insurance industry. Let's compare nonsensical statements of the recent past, competing for stupidest expression of outrage in 2009. We've all heard "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!" by the senior teabagging set (no snickering, please). How about laments about government bureaucrats controlling our healthcare coverage choices? That has to be about as dumb.

You got insurance? PB does too. You ever have to argue with your insurer about coverage? Yep, been there myself. But PB knows that government-based universal coverage comes with something no private plan has - 535 ombudsmen, eager to be outraged on your behalf. A task force makes a scientific recommendation about mammography that no one likes? It gets shot down faster than a hydrogen trial balloon at Lakehurst NJ. The American Cancer Society changes its position within five days, and legislators fall over themselves racing to microphones to express their indignation. Clarifications are issues, task force members go on NPR to re-explain what they REALLY meant, and patients remain fully covered.

What if a private insurer had examined its own actuarial data, came to the same conclusion about mammograms starting at 50 years old, and simply imposed that on their customers? What group would race out to condemn them, and force a reversal in policy? With universal government coverage, the time from unpopular coverage change recommendations to reversal would be measured in nanoseconds, as 535 congresspersons jam government printers with legislation to force HHS or whomever to pay for all the prostate exams, mammograms, chiropathy, and Native American Medicine Wheel interpretation they can consume.