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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Paul Krugman rips Fla Medicaid waiver



Even before Florida House leaders signalled they may kill efforts to expand Medicaid coverage in Florida, Liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman this week ripped Gov. Rick Scott's waiver allowing the state to privatize Medicaid management. The goal, he contends, is less about saving taxpayer money and more about "higher medical-industry profits."

From Krugman' column: ...Mr. Scott recently shocked Tea Party activists by announcing his support for the Medicaid expansion.

But his support came with a condition: he was willing to cover more of the uninsured only after receiving a waiver that would let him run Medicaid through private insurance companies. Now, why would he want to do that?

Don’t tell me about free markets. This is all about spending taxpayer money, and the question is whether that money should be spent directly to help people or run through a set of private middlemen.

And despite some feeble claims to the contrary, privatizing Medicaid will end up requiring more, not less, government spending, because there’s overwhelming evidence that Medicaid is much cheaper than private insurance. Partly this reflects lower administrative costs, because Medicaid neither advertises nor spends money trying to avoid covering people. But a lot of it reflects the government’s bargaining power, its ability to prevent price gouging by hospitals, drug companies and other parts of the medical-industrial complex.

For there is a lot of price-gouging in health care — a fact long known to health care economists but documented especially graphically in a recent article in Time magazine. As Steven Brill, the article’s author, points out, individuals seeking health care can face incredible costs, and even large private insurance companies have limited ability to control profiteering by providers. Medicare does much better, and although Mr. Brill doesn’t point this out, Medicaid — which has greater ability to say no — seems to do better still. ..

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 11:11am]


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