Paul Krugman has been tough on Barack Obama at times, but he’s behind him on health care. Today he mocks the media for focusing on everything but the actual policy issues.
The talking heads on cable TV panned President Obama’s Wednesday press conference. You see, he didn’t offer a lot of folksy anecdotes.
Shame on them. The health care system is in crisis. The fate of America’s middle class hangs in the balance. And there on our TVs was a president with an impressive command of the issues, who truly understands the stakes.
Mr. Obama was especially good when he talked about controlling medical costs. And there’s a crucial lesson there — namely, that when it comes to reforming health care, compassion and cost-effectiveness go hand in hand.
Of course, the policy issues are too boring for our brain-dead media when compared to all the drama surrounding the process.
Krugman also focused on one of the most important policy developments over the past several days.
I don’t know how many people understand the significance of Mr. Obama’s proposal to give MedPAC, the expert advisory board to Medicare, real power. But it’s a major step toward reducing the useless spending — the proliferation of procedures with no medical benefits — that bloats American health care costs.
And both the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats have also been emphasizing the importance of “comparative effectiveness research” — seeing which medical procedures actually work.
So the Obama administration’s commitment to health care for all goes along with an unprecedented willingness to get serious about spending health care dollars wisely. And that’s part of a broader pattern.
Many health care experts believe that one main reason we spend far more on health than any other advanced nation, without better health outcomes, is the fee-for-service system in which hospitals and doctors are paid for procedures, not results. As the president said Wednesday, this creates an incentive for health providers to do more tests, more operations, and so on, whether or not these procedures actually help patients.
MedPAC was originally created by Republicans to look for ways to cut costs in Medicare and Medicaid, so you would think they would be openly in favor of this development of giving this panel real power, but most Republicans are too busy trying to kill the reform effort.