The President’s silly health care announcement

The President spoke about health care in the cross-hall today, flanked by the heads of several major health lobbying groups (“trade associations,” in Washington vernacular):

  • hospitals — the American Hospital Association (“AHA”);
  • doctors — the American Medical Association (“AMA”);
  • insurance companies — America’s Health Insurance Plans (“A-Hip”);
  • the drug manufacturers — Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (“Pharma”);
  • the medical device manufacturers — Advanced Medical Technology Association (“AdvaMed”); and
  • health care worker unions — the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”).

The President announced,

[T]hese groups are coming together to make an unprecedented commitment. Over the next 10 years — from 2010 to 2019 — they are pledging to cut the rate of growth of national health care spending by 1.5 percentage points each year — an amount that’s equal to over $2 trillion.

This is one of the sillier White House announcements I have seen. Let me draw a sports parallel.

Imagine if the mayor of your nearest big city were to hold a press conference with the General Manager of the city’s Major League Baseball team. The Mayor announces that the GM, working with the coaches and players, has committed that he will work to develop plans for the team to hit the Mayor’s new goal of winning 40 more games this season than they otherwise would have won. Those plans will improve the team’s hitting, pitching, and fielding. The Mayor also announces that the manager’s plans, combined with the Mayor’s new policy initiative for better parking at the stadium, will make fans happier and help the team win more games.

Baseball fans would reply, “Great, I’m all for it.” They might then ask a few questions:

  • What do you mean the GM “will develop plans”? Doesn’t he have any specific plans yet? How will he improve hitting, pitching, and fielding?
  • How are we supposed to verify that the team won 40 more games than they otherwise would have, since we will never know how many games they would have won?
  • Other than picking the number 40, why is the Mayor involved in this press conference? What does the Mayor’s new parking initiative have to do with the coaching changes, and how will the new parking initiative help the team win more games?
  • If this is such a good idea, what has changed to make it happen now? Is the Mayor claiming that his persuasive powers alone are worth 40 more wins? Why didn’t the GM make these changes before?

The only substance to this announcement […]