The Atlantic's Philip Bump notes that Rand Paul got big laughs in a recent speech joking about the large number of diagnostic codes that will be used under Obamacare. It won't shock you to learn that there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for the new codes, but this is the right doing what it does best -- killing good ideas it doesn't like by making them seem ridiculous to the rubes -- and Senator Paul seems quite good at it:
At a Republican Party event in Iowa earlier this month, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky did a bit about the scale of Obamacare's diagnostic coding. It killed. The only problem was that Paul's critique of the new codes are a critique of codes that aren't new and aren't Obamacare. A lot of them aren't even American.It turns out that these all come from a set of codes used worldwide, and developed by the World Health Organization. The specific codes cited by Paul have all been in the International Classification of Diseases since the 1990s. And as Bump explains, the switchover to this expanded set of codes is the result of a law that precedes the Obama presidency by more than a decade: "The new, expanded code set [ICD-10] is the intended replacement for ICD-9, as mandated by 1996's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act."
Paul delivered the bit as a small part of a long speech, but -- given the solid punchlines -- the routine has at last been picked up by the conservative media. An article at Glenn Beck's The Blaze walks through the jokes....
I'm a physician, and when you come in to see me, I put down a little diagnostic code and there was 18,000 of these. But under Obamacare, they're going to keep you healthier, because now there's going to be 140,000 codes. Included among these codes will be 312 new codes for injuries from animals. 72 new codes for injuries just from birds. Nine new codes for injuries from the macaw. The macaw? I've asked physicians all over the country: Have you ever seen an injury from the macaw?
But conservatism thrives in America by making people ignorant. Obama will be blamed for this the same way he's blamed for the "Obamaphone" program for the poor (which in reality is the current version of a program started in the Reagan years).
By the way, please note that Rand Paul -- once a regular on Alex Jones's show -- passed up the opportunity to say that these codes are a UN plot. (The World Health Organization is, of course, part of the UN.) That suggests to me that Paul is professionalizing his act, and getting his talking points from the mainstream right-wing noise machine rather than the Jones fringe. I'd say that makes Paul more dangerous -- if he's breaking with the lunatics, he's going to be a serious candidate in 2016. And please note that he made this speech in, um, Iowa. So watch out for him.