Here’s an example. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria penned a column for the Washington Post on Sunday that declared that “government is the only thing that can fix health care.”
When he makes his case, he relies not on analysis, but on anecdotal evidence. People tell him stuff. That’s fine; he’s a journalist, not a scientist, and that’s what journalists do — they get people to talk to them.
But the health care debate is so important it can’t rely on what some guy tells us. We need better evidence — and real analysis.
That’s true. But it’s not helpful, beyond being a clear statement of the obvious.
What would be more helpful in the debate is to gauge whether “most Americans” have a point — what will the cost be of insuring another 20 to 30 million people?
“Smoking rates are higher in France than in the United States, so the French population has higher rates of lung disease,” he wrote. “Yet the French system is able to treat the disease far more effectively than happens in the United States, with levels of severity and fatality three times lower than those in this country. And yet France spends eight times less on treatments per person than the U.S. system.”
The point is that without a citation, we can’t know that we’re not comparing apples to oranges. That’s not just lazy reporting, it’s sloppy argumentation.
That’s right, a pharmaceutical industry insider. It’s certainly fine to add Vasella’s voice to the discussion. But his role — and his interests — should be clearly laid out. His company stands to make billions in the health care debate. Currently it is using the courts to prevent the British health services from switching to low-cost generic drugs. It recently won a half-billion dollar contract from the U.S. federal government to build a production facility for flu vaccines. It’s one of the government’s top contractors.
So Vasella is not an objective, disinterested party. Zakaria fails to mention this, but rests his case on Vasella’s contention that the government must act because “health care is very complex.”
Zakaria himself wrote, “Economists have often written about “the asymmetry of information” — areas where consumers are not expert enough to be able to determine what product is best. Evidence increasingly shows that this is true of health.”
That’s true, but Zakaria isn’t helping matters by failing to help educate consumers.