What do you do when you find a program that actually works, that is, saves the government money and improves health outcomes? If you’re the people who run Medicare, the socialized health insurance program for the elderly, you kill it. Or, at least, that’s what the Medicare bureaucracy is about to do with one such program. In one of his best posts ever, Ezra Klein lays out the details.

Two things caught my attention. Actually, the first one, on incentives, is what caught my student’s attention.

First, the incentives:

If you go into the hospital for heart surgery and you end up getting a central-line infection, you’d hope that the hospital would be penalized for it. The opposite, in fact, is true. According to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surgical complications increase the margin the hospital makes on the patient by 330 percent for the privately insured and 190 percent for Medicare patients.

Second, the public choice:

To Health Quality Partners and its defenders, Medicare’s decision is ludicrous. “We’re spending tens of billions of dollars now on Medicare innovation where Medicare already discovered something amazing and now they’re forgetting what they discovered?” Brenner says. “It’s an amazing government moment.”

It’s not that amazing.

HT to John C. Goodman