Arguing Against the Facts.

Cross-posted from TAPPED.

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.

  • It’s gotten to the point where I can’t read her because of how much she makes my blood boil. It’s hard to figure out whether she’s disingenuous or really ignorant.

    A couple of months ago, in one of her dozens (hundreds?) of posts about her opposition to health care reform, she completely lowballed a figure on the cost of insurance for a single person on the individual market in NY state.

    An irate reader chimed in: “$250 a month? Really? Try $500.”

    McArdle: “$500? wow, it’s gone up that much in the four or five years since i’ve left New York? I didn’t know.”

    reader: “Which means you don’t understand why people feel it’s so urgent that we get a control on costs and why so many people are going bankrupt! It means you’re completely misunderstanding the entire debate!”

    • quadmoniker

      What annoys me most about that example, as well as many of the other kinds of arguments she makes, is that she could easily check. I think it goes to her having never done any reporting. I think bloggers who jump right in without any journalism experience don’t understand the kind of work you have to do before you can make assertions.

      If she wants to make arguments against health care, that’s one thing. No one’s saying universal health systems don’t trade some things for others (although most Americans support the gains from a universal system and theoretically support what they’d lose, which is not a whole lot.) But you can’t just make shit up.

      • I’ve got nothing to add but would like to echo what I said on Twitter earlier today: “The best part about reading Megan McArdle is that I know, by the end of the day, that someone will eventually lit a fire under her garbage.”

        Thanks for bringing some matches, Monica.

        • right. and her rebuttals to the rebuttals are always full of strawmen and diversions. she never addresses the substance of people’s critiques of her claims.

          I actively dislike this woman.

  • ed

    Not for nothing does the blog exist. Susan of Texas (Hunting of the Snark blog) also does excellent work breaking down Ms. McArdle’s nonsense. And plenty of others do too.

    I’ve often written that Megan McArdle gives pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-libertarian, self-absorbed dilettantes a bad name. Well, she does.

  • Jamey

    Excellent take-down of Megalon’s solipsism-as-prism. She again proves the maxim, “the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’.”