Yesterday’s blog post by John Goodman and Thomas Saving of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) is the latest in an avalanche of unfounded assertions and distortions that have characterized the writings from this center for many years. The Dallas-based NCPA, established in 1983, describes itself as a “nonpartisan public policy research organization, with the goal to develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector” (its website). This latest post puts forward, without context and with cherry-picked references, carefully selected statements that might seem to some to support their case—that deregulated markets will solve all of our health care problems. It would take a very long paper, or a number of papers, to respond to the many unfounded claims in their latest post.

Here are just three of their unfounded claims, together with references from the health policy literature and recent publications that rebut their assertions:

• Re the alleged advantages of privatized Medicare, see my 2006 book (Geyman, JP. Shredding the Social Contract: The Privatization of Medicare. Monroe, ME. Common Courage Press, 2006), my extensive article in The International Journal of Health Services (Geyman, JP. Privatization of Medicare: Toward dis-entitlement and betrayal of a social contract. Intl J Health Services 34 (4): 573-94, 2004), a 2009 report by the Committee on Energy and Commerce (Committee on Energy and Commerce. New report highlights Medicare Advantage insurers’ higher administrative spending. Washington, D.C., December 9, 2009), a 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal on retrenchment of private Medicare plans (Johnson, A. Private Medicare plans are retrenching. Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2010: B1), and a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine describing the failures of regulated competition among private insurance companies in the Netherlands and calling into question managed competition as a model for private Medicare plans in the this country. (Okma, KGH, Marmor, TR, Oberlander, J. Managed competition for Medicare? Sobering lessons from the Netherlands. N Engl J Med, June 15, 2011)

• Re the alleged advantages of private health insurance over single-payer national health insurance, see my 2008 book on the private health insurance industry (Geyman, JP. Do Not Resuscitate: Why the Health Insurance Industry is Dying, and How We Must Replace It. Monroe, ME. Common Courage Press, 2008), my extensive article in The International Journal of Health Services (Geyman, JP. Myths and memes about single-payer health insurance in the United States: A rebuttal to conservative claims. Intl J Health Services 35 (1): 63-90, 2005), and a 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service, The Market Structure of the Health Insurance Industry (Austin, DA, Hungerford, TL. The Market Structure of the Health Insurance Industry. Washington, D.C, Congressional Research Service, November 17, 2009).

• Re the claimed efficiencies of competition in health care, see a multi-year study by the Community Tracking Study showing the failures of markets to be more efficient or to enhance the quality of health care (Nichols, LM et al. Are market forces strong enough to deliver efficient health care systems? Confidence is waning. Health Affairs (Millwood) 23 (2): 8-21, 2004) and a recent article by Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington, D.C-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (Weisbrot, M. Problems of U.S health care are rooted in the private sector, despite right-wing claims. McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, July 20, 2011).

Health policy is too important to leave to the biased, well-funded propaganda
machine of these “research” organizations that keep promulgating policies that have long since been discredited, either by their failing track record or legitimate research studies.

John P. Geyman, M.D.
Professor emeritus of Family Medicine, University of Washington