This week I asked four proponents of Obamacare to spend some time on air with me. Transcripts of these interviews with The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn, Brookings' economist Dr. Henry Aaron, Princeton economist Dr. Uwe Reinhardt and MIT economist Dr. John Gruber are all available here .
While I appreciate very much the willingness of Obamacare enthusiasts to come on air with an outspoken opponent of this radical and very risky scheme, I found the exchanges very frustrating, and many in my audience --especially practicing physicians-- found them outrageous. The problem is that each guest left many in the audience with the impression of not being forthcoming about the profound nature of the changes being proposed. I was sympathetic to the difficulty they found themselves in given the complexity of the legislation, but listeners sensed that these experts knew exactly the problems with the bill but simply were not in a hurry to level with them. My interview with Dr. Gruber, for example, took a long time to get around to the obvious point that Obamacare does nothing about the deep cuts scheduled for doctor reimbursement rates in 2010, cuts that everyone admits must be canceled, but which have been left uncorrected by Obamacare because their necessary correction would destroy the illusion of the bill's budget neutrality.
Similar verbal gymnastics occurred whenever the deep cuts in Medicare Advantage were discussed --the guests dismissed the idea that the inevitable benefit cuts were serious or would lessen the quality of life of the covered population-- or the impact of Obamacare's taxes on private insurance, or the risk the bill poses to the incentives for doctors to become doctors and practice the long hours they are presently used to practicing. A bill should not be that difficult to discuss, the impacts that hard to define or the cost impacts subject to such a wide array of estimates. As you read through the transcripts, take note of how often direct questions are met with convoluted answers or non-responsive asides, and sometimes with talking points.