Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beating the numbers. Extreme case. In an article by Shannon Brownlee, with Ezekiel Emanuel, there is a really really blatant attempt to use the Rhetorical trick of multiplication to argue that two similar numbers are very different.

Update: The appalling arithmetic abuse is now an op-ed in the Washington Post.

The authors attempt to convince us that one number is much bigger than another by the simple expedient of saying that savings over 10 years are much larger than savings over one year. I wouldn't be surprised if an apples to apples comparison showed that the savings they deride as not "a lot" (just 124 billion per year on an optimistic estimate) are greater than the savings they describe as 1.4 trillion over ten years. They don't note how much of those savings are the derided reduction in private insurance administrative costs.

I excerpt

Myth 3

"3. We would save a lot if we could cut the administrative waste of private insurance.


Let's just say that we could wave a magic wand and cut private insurers' overhead by half, to what the Canadian government spends on administering its health-care system -- 15 percent. How much would we save? Not as much as you may think. Private insurers pay a little more than a third of what we spend on health care, which means that we'd cut a little more than 5 percent from our total budget, or about $124 billion. That's not peanuts, but it's not even enough to cover everybody who's currently uninsured.

now refuting myth 5.

Two: Even moderate reform of the delivery system would improve care and save money. The Lewin Group's analysis shows that a bill proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, calling for a more comprehensive overhaul of the health-care system than either McCain's plan or Obama's could actually insure everyone and save $1.4 trillion over 10 years. More reform is cheaper.

There is no comparison of savings by eliminating un-necessary treatements vs savings due to eliminating un-necessary insurance companies. Wyden would do both. They present no no evidence on the relative importance of the two sources of savings.

Also the approach of setting up straw men to knock down is irritating.

However, Wyden is wonderful and should always be praised, so I can link to his ad

all via Ezra Klein

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