This doesn’t help

A few people sent me links to an AP story fact checking Nancy-Ann DeParle’s blog about the report from last week on the PPACA.  So I went straight to the source and read the post.  Here’s the questionable bit:

Today’s report by the Office of the Actuary confirms a central point of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama:  The Act will make health care more affordable for Americans. In fact, the Actuary’s report indicates that total health care spending per insured American will be more than $1000 lower thanks to the provisions of the new law than it would have been if Congress and the President had not acted.

What is “spending per insured American”?  I’ve seen spending per capita.  I’ve seen spending as a percentage of GDP.  But when I google “spending per insured American”, there are an amazingly small number of hits.

I get why Director DeParle might want to use this new statistic.  You see, total spending is going up. That means total spending per capita is going up, too.  So the only way to make it look like costs are coming down is to increase the number of people you’re dividing costs by.  You can do that by making the denominator the number of insured.

Think about it – costs are going up, but if we spread those over the 32 million newly insured, it looks like spending is coming down.  “Spending per insured American” that is.

This is only important because someone made Americans think that the bill was somehow going to save money.  Uh, no.  It might reduce the deficit, but I don’t know anyone serious who thought it was going to result in our spending less money.

I saw the report last week, and noted that while PPACA might cost us money, it seemed like a decent bargain to get 32 million more people insured.  I think there are better ways to do it, more cost-effective ways, but it was actually better than I expected.  There were legitimate, and intellectually consistent, ways to acknowledge the findings of the report and defend them.

You don’t need to invent new statistics.  That makes it look like you’re hiding something.  It weakens your position.  And it makes what could have been good news into a bad story

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