Arguing Against the Facts.

Megan McArdle has been questioning the benefits of health insurance and has been attacked for some pretty lazy reasoning. The basis of her argument is that one study showed there wasn't a big difference in mortality when 64-year-olds go on Medicare -- and that somehow shows having health insurance doesn't provide much benefit. Now, after Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum went in, her argument seems to be that her life wouldn't be that much worse without health insurance because she's rich and connected.

I have immense resources at my disposal, most of them non-monetary. There are many ways in which I would like to even out those differences, but privilege cannot be transferred into someone else's checking account.

What McArdle misses is what so many of her critics spend time pointing out -- that for various reasons health care is needlessly expensive because we don't have a sane insurance system, that people with preventable problems end up with catastrophic illnesses because they delay care, and that universal health care can have better outcomes at lower costs. Also, we don't have to trust what economists say, because we can see how it works in other countries.

Jesse Taylor excoriates her for the biggest problem with her post, which I would argue is the biggest problem with all of her work: You can't take your own personal experience as evidence that refutes all other proof. Sure, it's a classic writer's trick to use personal examples to illustrate a larger point, but the point has to be valid. That McArdle is sure she'd be able to get catastrophic coverage on the individual market and will always have a comfortable middle-class life (and a marriage) that enables her to pay for out-of-pocket care is nice, but it does nothing to prove we'd all be better off without a national health-care system. McArdle doesn't seem to care, though, since nearly everything she writes is anti-fact. Which really forces the question of why anyone, including myself, spends so much time reading and arguing with her.

-- Monica Potts

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