The beat goes on: David Leonhardt, the Times economics blogger and tax supporter, had this exchange regarding the Senate's health excise tax on NPR's "Marketplace " program:
Leonhardt: (It's) a tax on the costliest health-insurance plan. It's an idea health economists really like.
Host: These are the Cadillac plans, right?
Leonhardt: Yeah, these are the so-called Cadillac plans. And these are plans that tend to have very low co-payments, and as a result people often get a lot of care that it seems doesn't actually improve health.
What's wrong here? First, Leonhardt says that this is "an idea health economists really like," despite the objections of the nation's leading health economist, Uwe Reinhardt (who called an underlying assumption behind the plan "nonsense .") Reinhardt's objections were echoed in a press conference yesterday by Robert Reich, and by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute.
He could say that it's an idea some economists like. That would be accurate. It would not, however, have the same impact on NPR's listeners.
"These are plans that tend to have very low co-payments," Leonhardt added. That comment ignores contradictory findings published in the prestigious journal Health Affairs (and summarized here ), which showed that benefit features like co-payments had very little effect on whether a plan would be hit by the tax.
"(A)s a result," Leonhardt goes on, "people often get a lot of care that it seems doesn't actually improve health." That last remark is based on research that has been severly questioned by other health economists (a topic I've discussed elsewhere.)
Some ideas refuse to die, even when confronted with the facts.