May 28, 2009 8:43AM

Cohn vs. AFP

The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn accuses Americans for Prosperity (AFP) of “lies” for running an ad that claims “Washington wants to bring Canadian‐​style healthcare to the U.S.”

AFP’s ad is more defensible than Cohn’s criticisms of it.

Cohn elides the question of whether Shana Holmes (the woman featured in the ad) was almost killed by Canada’s Medicare system. For a supporter of single‐​payer like Cohn, that is tantamount to admitting that, yeah, socialized medicine sometimes kills people.

Cohn argues that the ad is unfair because Canada has many advantages over the U.S. health care sector. That may be true, but the ad doesn’t appear to defend American health care. It merely says, “government should never come in between your family and your doctor” and “Don’t give up your rights.” That’s not pro‐​American health care or anti‐​reform. It’s just anti‐ the type of reform that Cohn wants. And it points to one area where our semi‐​socialized U.S. health care sector appears to be superior to Canada’s: quicker access to intensive treatments. Sometimes, that saves lives. In fact, AFP could go farther and say that the United States has another edge over Canada, in that we develop nearly all of the best new medical technologies. In fact, our medical technologies save Canadian lives, but Canada’s health care system (and its supporters) steal the credit.

Yet “the real lie,” Cohn claims, is that the ad suggests that “Washington” wants to impose a Canadian‐​style system on the United States. Cohn calls that claim “demonstrably false.” But consider:

  • President Obama has said he would prefer single‐​payer and has hinted that he would like to make incremental changes in that direction.
  • Many people who support a new public plan (e.g., Paul Krugman) do so because they believe it will lead to single‐​payer.
  • Massachusetts, which has already implemented most of the reforms that Obama and congressional Democrats are considering, is now contemplating a large leap toward Canadian‐​style health care by imposing capitation on its entire health care sector.
  • Government rationing becomes increasingly likely as government revenues fail to keep pace with the cost of government’s health care promises. (See again, Massachusetts.)
  • The Left wants government to ration care. That’s the point of the comparative‐​effectiveness research funding. That draft House Appropriations Committee report committed a classic Washington gaffe when it said that certain treatments “would no longer be prescribed,” because it was admitting the truth.

Cohn is correct that no politician of influence is saying she wants to impose a Canadian‐​style system on the United States. But I prefer to pay attention to what they’re doing.

AFP: 1. Cohn: 0.