An easy-to-correct error

AN EASY-TO-CORRECT ERROR…. In a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, Martin Feldstein argued, “Obama has said that he would favor a British-style ‘single payer’ system in which the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are salaried but that he recognizes that such a shift would be too disruptive to the health-care industry.”

That is plainly false. As Jon Chait explained yesterday:

Obama has never said that he favors a British-style health care system. Britain does not have a single-payer system. It has a socialized system, where the government directly employs all health care providers. Indeed, if you follow the link in Feldstein’s own column, it says, “A single-payer system would eliminate private insurance companies and put a Medicare-like system into place where the government pays all health-care bills with tax dollars.” Does Medicare own hospitals and pay doctors government salaries? No. Professor Feldstein, please stop writing about topics you know nothing about.

I naively expected the Post to run a correction. It was a mistake for the paper to publish the bogus claim in the first place, but it’s an error that’s easy enough to correct. Especially in the middle of a heated debate over health care policy, it only makes sense that D.C.’s newspaper would want readers to know that Feldstein’s claim is demonstrably untrue.

After all, as Paul Krugman explained, “Single-payer, as anyone who has paid the least bit of attention to the health care debate knows, means a system like Medicare, in which the government pays the bills. It absolutely does not mean a British-style system — and Obama definitely didn’t advocate anything of the sort…. [I]f I misstated the facts like this in the Times, I’d be required to publish a correction.”

As of this afternoon, there’s been no correction or clarification.

It was a glaring and obvious falsehood based on Feldstein’s incorrect definition of the phrase ‘single-payer.’ The kind of thing that is so obviously false, it shouldn’t have taken the Post more than 30 seconds to write up a correction once the mistake was pointed out…. But the Washington Post has not yet run a correction, online or in print…. Correcting this obvious falsehood as soon as possible is the only responsible thing to do.

This seems to have come up quite a bit lately, most notably with a couple of George Will columns on environmental policy. It’s unclear why factual errors keep appearing in WaPo opinion pieces, what kind of fact-checking process they’re subjected to, and why the paper seems so reluctant to set the record straight.