Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Peter Orzag & Health Care Power Grab

White House OMB director Peter Orszag spoke to the Economic Club of Washington last Thursday. The video is yet to be posted on their website, but an attendee noted several of Orszag's statements. Robert Wenzel of Economic Policy Journal wrote:

During the Q & A, Orszag volunteered that right now, given the margin of error, the deficit projections five years out could be off by up to $2 trillion. Remember, he is talking about the official White House budget, one that is generally viewed as over optimistic anyway.

The whopper, though came when he discussed Obamacare and how he expected it to provide a surplus to the budget. He stated that the key was to replace paying for quantity with paying for quality. He then stated that he had no idea how to price quality but that the Obamacare legislation provided for much flexibility and that they were "going to throw stuff against the wall, and see what sticks."
At an older talk at with Mark McClennan, Senator Max Baucus and Robert Rubin, Orszag noted the need for health care to move away from double blind clinical studies to modeling, like econometrics. Such modeling brought abysmal quality to financial products. Quants can do for health care, what they did for finance. Badly distort the system, near to collapse.

A recent FT interview with Peter revealed the wisdom of delayed health reform implementation. Orszag stated the political economy of delayed implementation, bringing to mind the parable of the boiled frog. The story suggests if the pot warms slowly, the frog won't jump out.

Orszag went on to discuss the Medicare Payment Commission, claiming it could “turn out to be as consequential for health policy as the Federal Reserve is for monetary policy.” Will it be as secretive? Will it lie to the American public about its under the table activities on gold?

HuffPo noted Peter's worrisome power grab inside the White House bureaucracy. The Blues look much like the Reds. Both deliver bad management. Profound knowledge is needed, yet so little of it exists in American leadership. Orszag speaks of variation, yet knows not what it means. Clueless leaders can make things worse, much worse.

Update: Video of Orszag's talk is now on the ECW website.