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April 30, 2008


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"Watch your diet, walk thirty or so minutes a day, and take a few other simple precautions, and you won't have to worry about these afflictions."

He doesn't list the other simple precautions, but I will: Pick your parents carefully so you don't have asthma. Don't have Type I diabetes. Don't get old.

See? Simple precautions.

I was waiting for the part where he proposes the demolition of all hospitals, which would end the high costs of hospitalization.And if people would be more courteous, they'd quit complaining about how bad they feel and - stoically - just die.

His free market healthcare plan should be ripped into extinction by our press. If we had a healthy one.>Sozialveträgliches Früh-Ableben (socially responsible early demise) is of course the first civic duty of responsible but not affluent citizens. As Plato put it: in an ideal state a citizen unable to work for more than three days should commit suicide to avoid becoming a burden on society. What was the term he proposed for that? Hm...oh yes...euthanasia!
I propose some die-ins at the Capitol to make that more popular.

Doesn't the US have a net negative savings rate with about 20 million people headed for negative equity in their homes? Under McCain's plan should you put money in your HSA or pay the mortgage on the house the bank owns?

Really? We don't need to worry about diabetes and heart disease at all so long as we eat right and exercise? Who knew?

I wouldn't have interpreted what he said that way, but I don't think I'd have said it like that. I think the basic message is: the incidence of Type II diabetes and heart disease are on the upswing, due to that we as a population are becoming increasingly overweight. Get out and walk around, and watch your diet.

Really, really obvious stuff. I'm sure people's doctors tell them this all the time, and that of course makes people change their behavior immediately.

Just kidding about that last. I'd tend to poke fun at any politician who thinks making commonsense suggestions to people is going to change their behavior in any significant way.

Politicians are probably the last persons one would take common sense advice from ;-)

Pie in the sky by and by. Pink ponies lifting into the Summer sunrise on golden wings.

The Senator’s incipient senility, vigorous as it may be (or as it may be painted to be) is inadequate to explain his ‘thinking’; after all the advisors feeding him this crap have no such excuse.

But he and his advisors and their true constituency (the wealthiest 5%) have their nanny-fortunes to keep the nanny-state threatening us all at bay.

Thank [the Reverend Haggee’s] Heaven.

And, assuredly, thank [the Reverend Haggee’s] Heaven that this famously ‘Christian Nation’
is not bound by its Gospel to bind up wounds, care for the fatherless and the widow, heal the sick, not to mention beating swords into ploughshares.

Who needs ploughshares, or widows and orphans?

Certainly not the 5% who draw their sustenance from the sword (and, well, widows and orphans).

Our Proud Nation.

Oh wait.

Their Proud Nation.

Immiseration for the rest of us.

{Runs screaming in circles until dropping in the dust, sobbing.)

"Politicians are probably the last persons one would take common sense advice from"

Agreed. At one time I thought to myself: it'd be nice to have some gauge of how much thought anyone at all has put into politician X's latest harebrained notion, just as some indication of whether it was ripe for my consideration. Because this business of sifting through the landfill of political speech for an occasional useful part is way too much work.

felix culpa:

Sometimes I wish I was you so people would think I wrote your commentary.

In fact, what sort of health insurance do you have? Maybe I should be you, pending the answer.

"(Runs screaming in circles until dropping in the dust, sobbing.)"

Part of McCain's plan and just what the doctor ordered. I bet you feel better now. You have the heart of a 30 year-old man, if the man hadn't been hit by a bus when he was 29.

Alright, everyone, get up and form a circle.

Undress right undress! Not you, Slart, for chrissakes! Put those little paper gowns on and feel the breeze of high deductibles zephyring up your whatevers.

Pause here and each of you pay me $1000. This you may do, Slart.

Each of you drink twenty 12-ounce glasses of water. Cross your legs. Look sharp.

Now, right face, so you're ready to run counterclockwise, as the crow flies. Keep those knees up. Say AHHHH and commence screaming. Now run in circles. That's it!

Hup! When I say "Hup!", you hup! (a free kidney stone passing to the person who can tell me what movie I'm quoting there. The horse's name was 'Whiskey')

Speaking of which, bring me a double, Nurse

I feel better, already.

Begone, heart disease, diabetes, and distemper.

Nurse Begonia, please come over here and sit in my lap and adjust my stethoscope. Not you, Slart.

Hey, who's that dropping in the dust and sobbing? There'll be none of that, and besides, mental breakdowns and their catharses are not covered, ya universal univerts!

Keep running. I'll be right back. I have a veterinary conference in Barbados and later I'm flying to Bangalore, India to have my cuffs shot.

I'm flying to Bangalore, India to have my cuffs shot.

The bullets are cheaper in China, but less reliable.

ZOMG - TEH EVIL FATZZZZ GONNA KILL YOU!!! If I hear one more politician trying to strike fear into the hearts of all Americans, I am quite literally going to barf. Cummon people as if our country doesnt have enough eating disorders! Obesity is rising but so are life expectancies.

Correlation does not equal causation and even the republicans cannot make it so.

I have often thought that there needs to be a way (like the tax credit McCain is suggesting) to create a robust individual market. The market is so full of restrictions and so costly that it is hardly an option. I'm not sure why a health insurance market can't be robust like the car insurance market. Right now, individuals have no control over the health insurance products because they are designed to entice groups and employers, not individuals. Health insurance that would entice individuals I imagine would look a lot more like a classic insurance that kicks in for a catastrophic amount. Right now, those with good health insurance (my federal govt plan) waste so many resources - people getting their toenails clipped by a podiatrist, people going to specialists for the mundane, dermatologist because of a skin tag. There is no disincentive to do that because it only costs $5. This kind of health insurance for all is not the answer.

There seems to be a weakness in the reasoning of the main article. There is a kind of negative version of "no free lunch" here. Whatever subsidies that the government gives to businesses to provide health care are ultimately transmitted to the employees. If the government removes those subsidies and instead diverts the same amount of money towards direct subsidies to the citizens, then the net government subsidy towards health care remains the same. There are only two differences:

1. The money that was previously going to a subset of Americans (employees and their families) now goes to all Americans, reducing the amount that previously went to the employees and their families.

2. Any magnification effect, positive or negative, is lost. Does a government subsidy of $1 lead to an increase in insurance to the employee of more than $1 (due to economies of scale) or less than $1 (due to employer inefficiencies)? Hard to say.

Next, I'd like to point out that, so long as we approach health care as a zero-sum game ("let's find a Paul to rob to pay for Peter's health care"), we all lose. The real task is to reduce the overall costs of health care, not shuffle the money around in creative ways. And one of the benefits of self-insurance plans is that they place more responsibility onto the individual. Let's face it, folks: the average American is a health disaster! He's overweight, doesn't exercise, eats lousy food -- he's just asking for high medical costs, and the costs he imposes are spread out over all others in employee health care programs. Anything we can do to make him aware that poor health habits cost him money will help everybody.

Jen: Actually, life expectancy is falling for some demographics, and is falling overall relative to many other countries. See here.

USA: Best health care in the world!

this is outrageous - i really hope the dem candidates hammer him again and again on this.

its what is being put into our food that is causing obesity

A factual comment.

To my knowledge, there are no subsidies to employers for providing health insurance. The subsidy is that paying an employees health insurance premium does not count as compensation to the employee, and so is untaxed; if you pay the employee more, and he buys his own insurance, the additional income IS taxed.

It would be possible, but difficult, to design a worse subsidy. It only helps the employed, whose insurers offer health insurance, and the benefits are higher as your tax bracket increases.

I see no problem in principle for health care plans with incentives towards healthier lifestyles (as opposed to punishments for "violators"). E.g. over here visiting the dentist at regular intervals will reduce your co-payment in case of a necessary treatment (and it's progressive with time). Some health insurance companies give other incentives, e.g. for giving up smoking for good (they check that you a) were indeed a smoker and b) do not relapse).


Corporations are only taxed on their profits, so the employee salary or the health plan would be the same to the employer. They are both business deductions.

Sam, the subsidy is not direct, but indirect. The government doesn't give more money to employers, it takes less from employees, which allows the employer to provide greater compensation to the employee. The net result is a transfer of wealth from the government to the employee.

Sen. McCain's proposal illustrates that, no matter how bad a system is, it can always be made worse.

Erasmussimo: Correct. The subsidy is to employees, not employers. (That was my point.)

"Correlation does not equal causation and even the republicans cannot make it so."

Clearly, Republicans are everywhere:

Among adults, clear evidence exists that surprisingly modest weight reductions can markedly reduce the development of type 2 diabetes, if not prevent it completely, in susceptible individuals, and that weight loss can reverse the type 2 diabetic state. The remarkable effect of weight loss through diet and increased activity has been demonstrated in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Diabetes Prevention Programme in the USA to benefit particularly the over-60s, in whom nearly three-quarters of new cases of diabetes were prevented.

Kind of like Elvis, but without the dance skills.

Seriously, don't tell me that this is the first you've heard of this, Jen.

That was pretty shrill... I hope you aren't getting yourself into the situation where you already know McCain is evil, therefore whatever he says must be wrong. Cause thats what it sounds like.

I applaud McCain's plan! I think it's a fantastic way to absolutely guarantee that Universal Healthcare is implemented under whatever Democrat wins the 2012 election.

"Cause thats what it sounds like."

Actually it sounds a lot more what it looks like, which is that Hilzoy listed a bunch of substantive policy objections, none of which you noted.

Instead, your comment is substance-free assertion; this is an unconvincing means of argument.

Jeremy: is there some part of what I said that you disagree with?

I was snarky because I think it's a dog of a proposal. If you think it's actually a good one, just let me know why.

I think noone here doubts that a healthier lifestyle will reduce the risk of certain illnesses (and weight reduction for the obese is clearly included). But to claim that the health plan of the Son of Cain will work as a real-life incentive towards that is doubtful to say the least (this does not mean that anyone here made that claim explicitly but some comments seem to me to have implied it in one way or other).
The ultimate health plan(to extremly exaggerate):
1) If you are too poor to see a doctor, you will likely put extra effort into not becoming ill => poverty is an incentive for health and shold therfore be encouraged
2) If you can't afford food, obesity will not be your main problem. Obesity is bad for your health => starvation is healthy and should be incentivized
3) Lack of excercise is not good for your health => reintroduce galley slavery for those that can't afford to visit a fitness studio daily under supervision of a medical professional
Unfortunately I have heard actual arguments from conservatives that the threat of starvation would be a great incentive for those lazy welfare recipients (often including the biblical "he who does not work, he should not eat either".
As I stated above: Yes to positive incentives for a healthier lifestyle. No to "punishments" for "violators".

Obesity is bad for your health => starvation is healthy and should be incentivized

Uh, no. Not in any system of logical consistency I'm aware of, anyway. Ditto for the rest of your plan. We may as well introduce point 4), which is that dead people incur no healthcare costs, so we might as well all die.

I agree that noone worth of being called human would actually propose that (I should have put the sarcasm tag on the whole thing) but unfortunately some do and others effectively do while not being that direct (and I am not talking about dystopical fiction where the theme is quite common*).
The 4) Kill the ill (or pressure them to commit suicide) was introduced in that form by Plato and comes up in almost any discussion on assisted suicide (i.e. as fears that there is a slippery slope from "help the terminably suffering" to "you should be ashamed of still being alive and burden the taxpayers/relatives/insurance comapnies/etc.").

*and not about the Nazis that actually tried to install such a system.

I might add: What people eat, if they have a real choice, is their problem. Government should be in the business of giving them that choice* and enough info (and maybe some positive incentives) to rationally make it. Not more, definitely not less.

*e.g. by taking care of food safety and preventing predatory practices of the Enron type (i.e. artificial scarcity in order to milk the victims)

When you know you've always been the voice of reason on a topic, it's hard to remember all the times you said stupid things. Particularly when you'd rather not.

My bet: confused, due to intellectual dishonesty.

Self-reflection isn't Presidential, anyhow. No time for that - we have realities to make. Or at least a media narrative to prop up - which is basically the same thing (if you ignore the hollow core).


I was referring to this:

"Really? We don't need to worry about diabetes and heart disease at all so long as we eat right and exercise? Who knew?"

Thats clearly not what the quote above it was saying. The quote above was saying all things that are true. We do need to have better chronic disease prevention, early intervention, new treatment models and public health infrastructure. You obviously know that McCain isnt saying we no longer would need to worry about diabetes and heart disease at all if these things were implemented, but what you did was invented a straw man to beat up on. I agree with the substance of your post in trashing McCain's proposal on its merits - its got a lot of obvious holes in it which you rightly call out, but that went over the line for me. Thats all.

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