Oblivious

OBLIVIOUS…. CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo routinely appears on MSNBC, sharing reflexively conservative, poorly-thought-out arguments. For all the talk about MSNBC leaning to the left, Bartiromo’s tedious Republican partisanship is frustratingly common.

But yesterday, Bartiromo was in rare form. Arguing with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) about a possible public option in the health care reform package, Bartiromo suggested the quality of American care will suffer if consumers are given a choice between competing public and private plans. Weiner reminded the conservative media personality, “40% of all tax dollars go through a public plan. Ask your parent or grandparent, ask your neighbor whether they’re satisfied with Medicare. Now, there’s a funding problem, but the quality of care is terrific. You get complete choice and go anywhere you want.”

Apparently unprepared for this common-sense argument, Bartiromo responded, “How come you don’t use it? You don’t have it. How come you don’t have it?” Weiner, who is 44, explained that he’s not eligible. If he were 65, Weiner said, “I would love it.”

To which Bartiromo, unable to think of anything substantive, replied, “Yeah, come on.”

Weiner added, “Medicare for someone age 45? I would take it in a heartbeat.”

I’ve tried to count of all the ways in which Bartiromo’s remarks were foolish, and it’s quite a list. She thinks a public option would undermine quality care, but she doesn’t know why. She thinks Medicare somehow offers sub-standard care, but she doesn’t know why. She thinks 44 year olds who like Medicare should sign up for it, unaware of eligibility restrictions. She thinks Weiner should choose to opt into Medicare, while simultaneously arguing argument against giving American consumers the choice of a public option.

A lot of Americans are confused about health care policy. That the public is relying on media coverage from the likes of Bartiromo is part of the reason.

That said, I’m very much inclined to support the underlying assumptions of Bartiromo’s argument. Perhaps policymakers should simply make Medicare available as an option to anyone who wants to be part of it. We can call it the Bartiromo Plan.