Porter tackled Medicare, where a battle royal will soon be fought over how much to privatize a government system of social insurance. He presented some well-known evidence that debunks some of the supposed virtues of private insurance arrangements. One study, he wrote, showed that HMOs did not save Medicare money as their advocates had promised. Indeed Henry Aaron, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, told CJR that “private plans cost more than traditional Medicare does,” even if you ignore the excess payments they’ve been getting, and that are now prohibited under Obamacare.

Still, more private plans may show up anyway, reinforcing Porter’s key point. UnitedHealthcare is offering what Politico called a “tantalizing proposal for policymakers.” The giant carrier wants to move more seniors in Medicare into managed care to save what the company estimates is a $202 billion savings for the government over 10 years. Seniors, of course, will spend some of that money on United’s products.

Porter’s column hasn’t set well with pro-market advocates. Rush Limbaugh called it assault on the profit sector in healthcare.

So the entire backbone/foundation of capitalism is under assault yet again, and I’m convinced people that read The New York Times are the equivalent of low-information voters. All they know is what’s in the Times.

Limbaugh is right about one thing. Porter’s column ought to spark a wider discusion about what kind of healthcare we want, how much we want to spend, and for whose benefit. That could quickly jazz up the stale entitlements debate.

Related stories:

A Laurel to NPR, for giving hospitals a disaster exam

CJR’s Assignment Desk, Part 1

Medicare and the $500 billion bogeyman

 

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.