Dr. Vilchis’s Botched Diagnosis

For another facile defense of Obamacare in the Land of Enchantment, check out “Potential Impact of Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on New Mexico.”

The paper is authored by Hugo Vilchis, an M.D. “with more than 30 years of experience in population health, 20 of them in international health.” He’s currently the executive director of the Burrell Institute for Health Policy & Research, a “division” of the Southwest Foundation for Osteopathic Education & Research. (The Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine is located at New Mexico State University, but does not appear to receive taxpayers subsidies — at least, not yet.)

Vilchis, who believes that repeal “would have far-reaching and negative consequences for every facet of life in New Mexico,” hopes that readers find his paper “useful and accurate,” and welcomes “any comments and feedback.”

Okay. Here goes.

“Potential Impact of Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on New Mexico” suffers from the usual fallacies and oversights embraced by supporters of Obamacare. These are the most maddening:

* The “coverage” fetish. Vilchis gushes that Obamacare “has expanded health-care coverage to more than 20 million people.” But “coverage” is a tricky thing. What’s the quality of coverage? How much does it cost? Who’s paying for the coverage? Does more coverage actually lead to better health outcomes? Would a more market-oriented approach boost the affordability and quality of coverage? These questions are rarely asked by left-wing defenders of massive government intervention in healthcare. To them, more coverage is better, no matter what the unintended — and often, quite unpleasant — consequences.

* Rosy speculation about the future, little attention paid to failures of the past. Vilchis claims that U.S. healthcare spending “from 2014 to 2019 is expected to be $2.6 trillion less than projected in 2010.” But given that the optimistic prognostications of Obamacare enthusiasts have been consistently off, there’s no reason to count on the estimate’s accuracy. And remember Barack Obama’s promise to “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year”? It’s AWOL in “Potential Impact of Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on New Mexico.” (To his credit, Vilchis admits that “premium growth has slowed substantially but continues to grow.”)

* Reliance on “research” by fellow travelers. The Center for American Progress, the Economic Policy Institute, the “Brookings Institute,” the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — Vilchis draws from an awfully narrow band of analysts. Perhaps worst of all, he approvingly cites the Congressional Budget Office, claiming that if the American Health Care Act were enacted, “by 2026, a total of 52 million Americans would be uninsured, 24 million more than if the current law were left unchanged.” But the CBO’s scoring is marred by flawed assumptions and problematic methodology, as Citizens Against Government Waste, the Galen Institute, and many others have noted.

* Ignoring an obvious conflict of interest. The Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine benefits from Obamacare’s “increased federal support for the National Health Service Corps, which provides loan forgiveness to health professional students in return for their agreement to practice in underserved areas.” Yet nowhere in “Potential Impact of Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on New Mexico” is this glaring bias disclosed.

Dr. Vilchis’s “primary research interests” are waterborne diseases, bioterrorism, emergency preparedness, and environmental health. The physician should stick with what he knows, and leave policy research to those who have a fuller understanding of the regulation/taxation/subsidization of healthcare.