• Anecdotes ain’t our thing. Stop asking.

    NOTE: This post is closed for comments. When I said I’m done, I meant it.

    There are time I absolutely love the blogosphere. Its ability to allow people with knowledge to respond quickly to what’s going on the world had changed my life. But there are times I hate it. This is one such time.

    Watching blogs respond, re-respond, re-re-respond, etc. to the many anecdotes about people shopping on the exchanges is maddening. It’s like blogs have succumbed to the worst aspects of the 24-hour-cable news cycle. There’s some need to leap on each anecdote, attack it, defend it, tear it apart, and then scream that it’s horrible everyone has moved on to the next one.

    To be honest, I simply don’t pay attention to the stories. It’s ridiculous that so many seem to be false, but I have no doubt that some of them are true. I completely accept the notion that some individuals will immediately fare worse under the ACA than they did before.

    What’s important to me is how we see the system work at a population level. That will require data, and none will be available for some time. When it is, you can be sure that I will respond. Until then, please stop asking! If you want to follow the trials and travails of potentially false and unrepresentative anecdotes, there are lots and lots of other blogs that will give you what you want.

    @aaronecarroll

    Share
    Comments closed
     
    • HERE’S A TRUE STORY SOMEONE I KNOW SWEARS HE ONCE HEARD ABOUT ANECDOTES:

      The greatest danger of the anecdote is that it serves bias confirmation too well. Anecdotes seem to support to one’s preferred opinions, whatever those opinions may be. (Anecdotes that counter one’s beliefs can readily be dismissed. out of hand.)

      Many of us remember the anecdote of the infamous “Welfare Cadillac.” Millions and millions and millions of welfare dollars have been withheld, supported by the bias-confirming power of that single tale.

      Regardless of whether any such Cadillacs actually were purchased by any actual welfare recipients, the anti-welfare side of the populous clings to this anecdote to this day.

      The tale informs the “logic” that supports anti-welfare positions to this day—even as this anecdotal “evidence” fuels wasteful reverberations of dollars and healthcare.
      ____________________

      When it comes to any question of shared, general welfare in America:

      The Left would rather one rich American collect one or two welfare-provided Cadillacs than have a million others—poor Americans—starve.

      The Right, on the other hand, would prefer that 47,000,000 hard-working Americans go without healthcare, rather than risk even one poor citizen getting away with free maternity care.
      ___________________

      My personal efforts (which I hope to be synergistic with the fact-based approach) aim at finding pithy messages to somehow overpower the disproportionate weight of the clever sound-bite, the ludicrous insult, and the outrageous anecdote on the counter-logical side.

      I generally seem to miss on the “concise” attribute of pith. But then I usually miss on the “clever” part, too.
      ____________________

      In the meantime, Americans finally have Obamacare:

      Priceless!

      Regards,
      (($; -)}
      Gozo!

    • Thank you, Aaron.

      Yesterday, I gave a talk about the ACA to a group of senior citizens. In response to a question, I cited some research data. The response of the gentleman who asked the question was, “I’m not talking about research and data. I’m talking about things people have told me.”

    • “I completely accept the notion that some individuals will immediately fare worse under the ACA than they did before.”

      If only Obama had said that instead of “no matter what”, we might have had an informed discussion of the consequences.

    • A related point I keep trying to make is that predictions about the average are not predictions about the individuals. The ACA may slow down health cost growth on average, but that doesn’t mean some families won’t see massive $5,000 premium hikes. Just like how men on average make more than women, but that doesn’t mean that any particular man makes more than any particular woman.

      Some people just aren’t good at understanding the error terms on these things.

    • I understand your position on anecdotes and generally concur. How do you work in the “canary in the coal mine” anecdotes that hold politicians accountable for health care failures? One U.S. example is the Walter Reed Army Medical Center neglect story in the Washington Post. Where I live under socialized medicine, medical stories make headline news and lead to political action – excessive parking charges at hospitals, overcrowding in a newly opened Emergency Department, rodent infestation in a nursing home, and a dementia patient murdered by his Alzheimers patient roommate in a government supervised residence are some of the most recent examples that come to mind.

      • THE ANECDOTE OF THE EGGS:

        Don Miller (November 7th, 2013 at 00:32) wrote, “…Where I live under socialized medicine, medical stories make headline news and lead to political action….”
        ____________________

        This bit of anecdotal “evidence” confirms my own bias toward one key benefit of government-run healthcare.

        Naturally, I affirm it.
        ____________________

        THE RIGHT: Here in the States, some of us live under an illusion of individual freedom, characterized thus:

        When individual businesses (e.g., insurance companies) do us bad, it infringes no personal liberties because we can freely go elsewhere. This side’s view of The Government, though, is as if it were some external force for waste and infringement, the evil, black-hole reaches of which we, the people, can scarcely escape.

        THE LEFT: The other side harbors an axiomatic faith that if we work together via the mechanism of our shared government, our individual experiences will “make headline news and lead to political action.” The Left views The Government’s existence more as a necessary evil, to be improved and endured, rather than as a malevolent and incompetent force to be feared.
        ____________________

        As we are currently in the anecdotal (well, the anti-anecdotal) mode, please indulge this quote from Mark Twain:

        The topic was investment risk and diversification. The cliche advice is, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

        Twain’s renowned rejoinder was, “Put all your eggs in one basket AND WATCH THAT BASKET!”*

        Mr. Miller’s anecdotal report argues a similar perspective.

        Regards,
        (($; -)}
        Gozo!
        __________
        *PUDD’NHEAD WILSON AND OTHER TALES

    • I am curious what “see the system work at a population level” will mean? I am also curious when the Affordable Care Act will transform itself from a primarily political achievement into a policy driven achievement. Until then I would be suspicious of any population level data coming from the http://www.healthcare.gov. On one hand I agree with you that a steady diet of anecdotal stories is hazardous to your mental health. On the other hand I found that when I tried to explain differences between anecdotal information and some “population level” data sets found on healthcare.gov and coming from HHS, I found serious problems in either the data or the application used to access that data. As long as http://www.healthcare.gov is a politics driven web site it would be wise to remember the old saying, caveat emptor!

      1. As an example the insurance finder on healthcare.gov is an example of a population level data application that is seriously misleading for some people. Was it intentional or another silly healthcare.gov mistake?
      2. For the last month the Kaiser subsidy estimator was incorrect for me. It looks like the source of their problem was bad data from healthcare.gov(GIGO).
      3. I am still trying to figure out the burst of reports in September 2013 that showed that the 2014 Ohio rates will show a reduction compared to 2013 when all of my simple price checks are showing a 100% increase in rates? Maybe it is a coincidence but something has got to give. It is way past time that policy statements should start matching up with price checks.

    • I agree if only rare problems are left after the end of Nov. I will call the exchange web page a reasonable success.

    • “What’s important to me is how we see the system work at a population level. That will require data, and none will be available for some time. When it is, you can be sure that I will respond. Until then, please stop asking! If you want to follow the trials and travails of potentially false and unrepresentative anecdotes, there are lots and lots of other blogs that will give you what you want.”

      Were the claims that in the aggregate, pre-ACA individual catastrophic coverage offered less robust protection against financial hardship than post-ACA individual plans offered through the exchange, commentary regarding concerns about premium increases, higher out of pocket expenses, limitations on provider networks, being of no concern to anyone other than “bros”, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc firmly grounded on objective population level data?