New England Journal

My best effort to cut through the Romney-Ryan doublespeak on Medicare and explain what they really want.

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Please don’t tell potential Romney vice-presidential pick Rep. Paul Ryan, R.-Wisc, because it will only upset him. But the New England Journal of Medicine says that the federal government continues to do a better job than the private sector at controlling medical inflation, even as increases in health spending have slowed overall, thanks in part to the lousy economy and in part to factors that the experts still don’t really understand.

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Please don't tell potential Romney vice-presidential pick Rep. Paul Ryan, R.-Wisc, because it will only upset him. But the New England Journal of Medicine says that the federal government continues to do a better job than the private sector at controlling medical inflation, even as increases in health spending have slowed overall, thanks in part to the lousy economy and in part to factors that the experts still don't really understand.

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I went on a bit of a rant yesterday wondering why, even in ostensibly enlightened circles, it’s only respectable talk about banning assault weapons after a tragedy like Aurora, not, you know, all guns. It turns out that a friend of TNR made the same point on The Washington Post op-ed page about five years earlier—and he made it far better than I did. An excerpt: Guns are good because they provide the ultimate self-defense? While I’m sure some people believe that having a gun at their bedside will make them safer, they are wrong.

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Over the last two decades, the health care sector has been a remarkable engine of job growth in the United States. Even as the economy plods along, health care has been responsible for adding an average of 22,500 jobs per month in 2011 through July. Health care jobs now represent about 11 percent of American employment, as compared to 8 percent in 2001.

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For years, about 150 Americans acquired leprosy annually, but doctors had no idea where about one-third of the cases came from. (Two-thirds were acquired overseas.) In a bizarre twist (bizarre, at least, for those of us who do not follow current events in leprosy), today in the New England Journal of Medicine American and Swiss researchers concluded that these leprosy cases, most occurring in Texas and Louisiana, were transferred from wild armadillos. (Researchers say mere contact with an armadillo is unlikely to transfer the disease.

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This week's On the Media laments the low quality of press coverage in health care reform. It's certainly easy to find examples of shoddy journalism and public ignorance to bolster this charge.

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Republicans argue that using the reconciliation process to pass health care reform, or some portion thereof, would be a perversion of the legislative process. Henry Aaron, the highly respected economist at Brookings, begs to differ. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, he explains: The idea of using reconciliation has raised concern among some supporters of health care reform. They fear that reform opponents would consider the use of reconciliation high-handed.

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Marcy Wheeler, who has written a lot of smart things about health care at her blog Emptywheel, has a series of new posts today about the work of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. If you read my blog, you're certainly familiar with Gruber, as both a frequent source of analysis and occasional outside contributor of items. Wheeler's posts today raise questions about both some of Gruber's arguments and Gruber's intellectual independence. First I'll address the arguments--or one of them, anyway.

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Jacob S. Hacker is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University. An expert on the politics of U.S. health and social policy, he is author, coauthor, or editor of numerous books and articles, both scholarly and popular, including The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream and Health At Risk: America’s Ailing Health System and How to Heal It. "Godfather of the public option...endorsed the Medicare buy-in compromise." That was the crucial opening line of a blog post Wednesday.

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