Jed Lewison at Daily Kos TV:
“I’m telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house. I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.”
Lowden could very plausibly be representing Nevada in the US Senate a year from now, so it’s worth noting how terrible this would be. Checkups for chickens might work if we were all farmers, but what’s a blogger supposed to do? Maybe I could offer the guy free publicity with a few posts touting his services. A Web designer could build a website for the doctor. But what does the designer do if he needs to see the doctor again? Or what if the doctor needs to run a test that costs money, do you mail a chicken to the lab? It’s frightening that anyone this ignorant of how a modern economy works could be anywhere near political power.
Jonathan Chait at The New Republic:
Look, there are all kinds of personal services one can perform and be well-compensated. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but we’re talking about Nevada. Seriously, Yglesias, do I have to think of everything around here?
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
Perhaps inevitably, as you can see in the picture at the left, a progressive group has now created a special ChickenCare dance remix of senate candidate Sue Lowden’s proposal to bring down health care costs by adopting a barter economy in medical care.
A bit more seriously though, this does put the Nevada senate race into a certain clarifying perspective. The Health Care Reform bill wasn’t Harry Reid’s bill — ideas and strategy from lots of people went into it. And many people had endless criticisms of how he managed the process over the course of 2009 and 2010. At the end of the day, though, it passed. The Senate is where it happened. And Reid was central to the entire thing. That is an historic accomplishment. If his career in politics ends in January, his place in history will be secure.
So on the one side you have Harry Reid, a key architect of comprehensive Health Care Reform, the product of decades of activism, in all its messiness and policy complexity.
And on the other you have Sue Lowden, who thinks bartering livestock and other commodities for health care services from doctors is a way to rein in spiraling health care costs. (If you think that’s an exaggeration, take a minute and watch this video.) There’s no end of comedic possibilities thinking through the logistical and logical difficulties of managing co-pays and long-term care and drug costs in chickens and other barter payment. But step back and give it a serious look and … well, this is this woman’s take on confronting medical inflation. It’s funny and also sad. But as a contrast it’s stark and painful.
I don’t get all the fuss over this, especially as she’s talking about how people paid for things, including medical care, once upon a time. Bartering has a long history and tradition in America and it’s great for tax purposes, too! I honestly don’t see the big deal.
Katherine Hobson at Wall Street Journal:
It’s not for us to endorse this notion, never mind calculate how much poultry would have to change hands to make a dent in health-care costs. But we do feel obligated to point out that bartering for medical services does actually go on. No less an authority than the American Medical Association’s own newspaper, American Medical News, wrote about it just last year, calling it a “creative way to collect from patients during difficult economic times.”
Kaiser Health News also tipped a hat to bartering last year, reporting that “health care is surpassing auto repair and advertising as the service in most demand, say people who run local barter exchanges.” One doctor in Vermont “swapped Viagra samples for maple syrup.”
Even Lowden’s reference to livestock may not be so far off the mark. As American Medical News reported, an office manager for an orthopedics practice in Wisconsin said one doc bartered surgery for “a full cow’s worth of beef.”
All joking aside, there’s a reason we no longer have a barter economy. It’s tremendously inefficient. Transactions require a “mutual coincidence of wants,” meaning I have to have something you actually want to have in exchange for my heart surgery. Many goods are highly indivisible – can’t trade half a live chicken – making precise pricing difficult.
The DSCC’s new Chickens for Checkups Web site — a name that first appeared below on this blog — will allow people to send Lowden a “personalized message asking for her help in finding a doctor for their 19th century illness,” DSCC spox Deirdre Murphy says. It will include a menu of stuff you can choose to barter for treatment.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Murphy says. “Sue Lowden is completely out of touch with reality if she thinks trading chickens for checkups is smart health care reform.”
There’s little downside in putting up a quick and dirty Website on this kind of stuff, since it doesn’t cost much of anything. Dems want to turn Lowden’s chicken chatter into a symbol of GOP unwillingness to embrace real solutions to people’s problems. There’s a lot of whacky stuff out there, so it’s never easy to predict what can break though into the national conversation, but Dems are hoping this one has viral potential and even a shot at getting cable coverage.
UPDATE: Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo
UPDATE #2: Martin Griffith at Associated Press