Monday, July 13, 2009

The Health Care Fight is On!

President Obama’s government-run, abortion-promoting health care plan hasn’t gone away. Although there have been bigger headlines in the news this week, we cannot forget the ongoing fight in Congress against a proposed government health care scheme that would go against the consciences of hundreds of thousands of Americans by providing abortions with taxpayer money nationwide.

Reuters continued to report today that the bill has seen considerable resistance in the House from the “Blue Dog Democrats;” fiscally conservative Democrats who oppose the plan based on its impending negative impact for “hospitals, doctors, and patients.” We also cannot forget the fabulous 19 pro-life Democrats, including Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-3), who sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week refusing to support the proposed plan unless it explicitly excludes abortion.

While these developments are promising, now is not the time to slacken our efforts to defeat this bill. Back in 2008, in his speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, President Obama stated that in his mind "reproductive care is essential care, basic care, so it is at the center, the heart of the [health care] plan that I propose." When asked for clarification later, an Obama spokesman said that reproductive care included abortion. If this bill passes, Americans will be forced to pay for abortions nationwide for years to come! The damage to the pro-life cause will be nearly impossible to undo for years to come.

Don’t forget to tell your Representatives to ban the funding of abortion as they work through this bill. Abortion hurts American women and kills 1.3 million baby Americans in the womb each year. Tell Congress you don’t want tax dollars to pay for abortions!


Do we need state control of medical care?

Government-run health care cannot eliminate scarcity

The notion that the political classes “should never waste a good crisis” has extended not only to the de facto nationalization of domestic auto companies and the financial sector, but also to medical care. It is treated as inevitable that the government will demand to control all the money that comes into the medical sector, thus effectively nationalizing it.

President Barack Obama recently expressed faux surprise that anyone would oppose his latest proposal, a government-run insurance company that will offer coverage in competition with private insurers. The president’s surprise came in the form of asking why people would claim that government cannot operate efficiently, yet simultaneously run an insurance company that would be a lower-cost producer than private firms.

While seemingly clever, President Obama’s point is irrelevant. The question is not about the “efficiency” of insurance plans, but rather the simple fact that government schemes are responsible for driving up the cost of medical care to consumers. From the huge regulatory burdens (with accompanying paperwork) on medical people to the third-party payments, government actions on all fronts have turned medical care into something akin to a Rube Goldberg cartoon.

Talk to any doctor and he or she will tell you that they spend many hours per week doing paperwork, almost all of it required by government and insurers. The government paperwork is especially pernicious because errors or disagreements on billing – even innocent ones – can lead to criminal charges. The legal aspect of medical care has turned into a minefield for the providers, and that has to impact overall costs.

The main issue, however, is quite simple, yet also profound: Medical care is a scarce good and thus is subject to the laws of economics. All too often, we hear that medical care is not like other goods and services and is set apart from economic laws. All we can say in return is, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Application of economic theories does not discriminate between the kinds of goods and services rendered. If something is scarce, the same laws apply whether we speak of brain surgery or pork bellies. Such words are disconcerting to people who believe that medical care should be a right that should be provided to everyone regardless of one’s personal wealth. Unfortunately, all government interventions – all of them –carrying out this “rights” mandate only serve to make medical care less available (and less effective) for everyone.

Think of a simple supply-and-demand example. If anything increases the cost of providing something, the supply curve shifts to the left, making the good less available and higher-priced. There is no exception to that point for anything that is scarce.

So, let us think of the ways that government makes it more difficult to provide medical care. First, and most important, government sets huge barriers in the path of people seeking to engage in medical occupations, especially through licensing and strict regulations. In other words, government purposely limits the supply of medical providers to protect the incomes of doctors.

It is the equivalent of the government’s forcing all of us to purchase a BMW or Cadillac instead of letting us choose between a high-end and lower-end vehicle. If such restrictions existed in the auto industry, we would have demands for “cost containment” in autos.

Second, as previously noted, the legal side of medical care forces doctors and nurses to spend time doing paperwork rather than providing care. Furthermore, the constant threat of criminal and civil action forces medical care providers to play defense, which further limits the supply of their services.

Last, the third-party payment system that dominates medical care further separates the consumers from their choices. If we had the same system to pay for food and automobiles, we would have “cost crises” in those markets as well.

Most people cannot fathom decoupling government control and medical care, as though cost-raising controls actually improve medical service. Yet if we wish to have innovative and affordable medical care, that is precisely what must be done.


Democrats' Health Care "Reform": The Next Job Killer

There they go again. Democrats have controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress for less than six months, yet already their tax-and-spend ways are hurting America’s economy – and taking away jobs.

Their first act of business was to pass a so-called “stimulus” package they promised would save or create 3.5 million jobs and keep the national unemployment rate below eight percent.

Instead, last week the rate jumped to 9.5 percent, its highest level in more than 25 years.

Rather than reversing course, however, Democrat leaders continued down this perilous path by forcing through the House a climate change bill that would be properly described as a “cap-and-tax” scheme. Experts say its carbon-trading rules will kill millions of jobs in an economy that desperately needs them.

Of course, this wasn’t enough to convince Democrats of the error of their ways.

Next up is health care, which is in dire need of attention. But – perhaps unsurprisingly – the projected effects of Democratic proposals on business and jobs are dismal.

Take small business, for example. It’s often called the engine of the U.S. economy because it employs approximately one out of six Americans and provides $1.7 trillion in annual wages.

If we leave it to the Democrats, that engine will break down. A national mandate on small business to provide health care would eliminate 1.6 million jobs over a five-year period according to a study by the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation. Two out of three of those 1.6 million jobs lost in five years would be shed from small businesses.

Other studies have painted an even more troubling picture of the Democrats’ planned government takeover of our health care system. Based on a model developed by Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer, it is estimated that some 4.7 million jobs could be lost as a result of taxes on businesses that cannot afford to provide health insurance coverage.

Make no mistake: The Democrats’ proposal is a government-run health program and something that absorbs tax revenue rather than creates it, which will contribute to a prolonged recession.

The plan also will take away the health care plans millions of Americans already have. A June study by the independent Lewin Group found that 114 million Americans would be forced out of their current private health coverage under the House Democratic plan. So much for the President’s assurance that “if you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.”

Sponsors of the Democrat plan seem all too willing to ignore the fact that we can’t pay for the government-funded health care programs we already have. Consider Medicare: Its trustees recently reported that the Great Society program’s funds will be depleted by 2017. That’s two years earlier than the date they projected last year – largely because of the recession that Democrats seem to keep fueling.

Add to that dire prediction the new spending of their government-run health care plan – not to mention the equally troubled Medicaid and Social Security systems. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics to see that our children and grandchildren will be paying for these programs for the rest of their lives.

Republicans have serious reservations about the Democratic health plan. And we have developed solutions we believe can get the job done.

In fact, we think we can contribute to meaningful change of our health care system in this decade just as we spearheaded welfare reform in the 1990s and the tax code in the 1980s. Some of our Republican proposals to change health care in America include:

• Creating opportunities for small businesses to pool their resources to offer higher quality coverage.

• Providing tax credits to help small businesses cover the administrative costs of establishing and maintaining health coverage.

• Giving incentives to states to redesign insurance laws to make health care coverage more affordable to their residents.

• Cutting regulations so insurance companies can compete for your business, which allows you to shop around for the best coverage and price that fits your needs.

• Allowing tax deductions to offset the cost of purchasing individual insurance.

• Fixing medical liability rules that make trial lawyers rich at the expense of patients and doctors.

These are just some of the many ideas my fellow Republicans and I have proposed to improve health care in the United States. You can check out more at

If this recession is going to end, Democrats need to focus on creating jobs – not killing them. The American people deserve no less.


Canada's health care system has problems, say Canadians

The Health Council of Canada recently published a report in which they reiterated Canada’s universal, publicly funded health care system is widely viewed as an essential part of a social safety net and a reflection of Canadians’ core values. But they also found that the cost of the system is a constant concern, and many fear that public health care is unsustainable.

Negative discussion about health care in Canada tends to focus on a persistent set of problems: access, wait times, and shortages of health care providers. This has been the case in times of good economy and during economic crisis.

The 10th annual Health Care in Canada survey confirms that wait times and the shortage of doctors top the list pf concerns voiced by Canadians in 2008. Other issues of concern were timeliness and access to care and environmental health issues such as air and water pollution.

Although some Canadians say they have never waited for medical services, complaints about long waiting times have lead virtually every provincial government to publish data on wait times for specific procedures in their province.

In 2004 the federal government and all the provincial governments entered into a 10 year plan to achieve significant reductions in wait times for 5 priority areas:

Diagnostic imaging
Joint replacement
Sight restoration (cataract surgery)

By 2007, despite government promises and billions of dollars funneled into the Canadian health-care system, "the average patient waited more than 18 weeks between seeing their family doctor and receiving the surgery or treatment they required," said Nadeem Esmail, director of Health System Performance Studies at the independent Fraser Institute.

It is difficult to talk about waiting times across the board because of differences in provincial reporting. Waiting times did increase in 7 provinces: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

But 4 provinces, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island., showed marked decreases in waiting time. The differences between the provinces may to some extent account for the widely differing opinions expressed by Canadians about their health care system.

The shortage of doctors and other health care professionals is the second most problematic issue for Canadians. The lure of more lucrative salaries led to a "brain drain" of professionals to the United States in recent years. Although overall emigration has been relatively small, health care professionals constitute a significant proportion of the public sector workers who have chosen to leave Canada for employment in the United States.

Canadian nurses have expressed particular dissatisfactions with the health care system in recent years. They have consistently recommended increasing the number of nurses, improvements in education, and maximizing the scope of practice of nurses.


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