Friday, July 31, 2009

ObamaCare Will Rid Us of Useless Eaters

Some old Nazi propaganda above. A quick translation: "60,000 Reichsmarks is what this born-disabled man costs the peoples' community during his lifetime. People's comrades, this is your money. Read "New People", the monthly magazine of the race-politics bureau of the National Socialist German Workers' Party"

The defeat of Nazi Germany was a big setback for the progressive cause, but under Chairman Zero, it's making up ground fast. A key player in his bid to seize control of the healthcare industry is Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of top teleprompter programmer Rahm "Dead Fish" Emanuel. Ezekiel
wants doctors to look beyond the needs of their patients and consider social justice, such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else.

Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's job is to achieve social justice one patient at a time.

Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens … An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.

Here's how Ezekiel defends denying healthcare to the elderly:
Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years (Lancet, Jan. 31).
You had your chance to be young. Now you're done paying taxes so die already.

Welcome to Logan's Run.


What Obama Doesn't Know Can Hurt the Rest of Us

President Obama admits he doesn't know about major parts of the House health care bill, but he's promoting the measure anyway. He's violated a cardinal rule of salesmanship: Know your product. Nobody should buy from a salesman willing to make false claims.

When asked in his blogger phone conference about Section 102 and its destruction of private health coverage, Obama replied, "You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you're talking about." Anyone who even skims the 1,018-page bill finds this part immediately; it's right at the start, actually beginning with Section 101, and it would impose restrictions on private health insurance. (The entire bill is available online at

The ability of private carriers to make a profit is curtailed. One provision empowers a presidential appointee to dictate how much profit or administrative costs will be permitted.

Obama's approach is stealthier than President Clinton's 1993 proposal for a total health care makeover. Realizing that whoever controls the payment system can call the shots, Obama has chosen the takeover route. Supplant private insurance with a government-run program and government now has control. Takeovers are the vogue, in health care as in banking, mortgages and auto-making.

So let's look at the consequences, and then the details.

Polling shows 77 percent of Americans are satisfied with their existing coverage. Too bad for them: 88 million Americans would be forced out of their current private health plans, with 83-million of them pushed into a government-run plan. That means almost half of everyone with private coverage today would lose it very soon. (The numbers come from a Lewin Group report, commissioned by The Heritage Foundation.) Remaining private plans would then wither and be supplanted more gradually.

President Obama simply doesn't like private enterprise. He told NBC News' Nancy Snyderman last week, "A whole lot of people are having bad experiences because they know that recommendations are coming from people who have a profit motive."

So he's backing a bill that would drive private health plans into government-sponsored oblivion by destroying their ability to succeed.

How? By outlawing the methods used by private insurance to control costs and hold down the premiums you pay:

Section 101 outlaws new health benefits plans that don't meet the new federal requirements.

Section 102 requires existing employer group plans to meet the new requirements within five years.

Section 111 requires insurers to accept anyone regardless of previous health, without limits or conditions. Presumably, you could enroll after arriving at the hospital and still be covered for whatever problem sent you there.

Section 113 requires charging the same premium to everyone, varying only by age and geography. No discounts for non-smokers, non-drinkers, fitness buffs, healthy eaters or anything else. It also limits higher premiums based on age, thereby increasing the premiums charged to younger people.

Section 114 outlaws any limits on coverage of mental health and substance abuse.

Section 115 shifts authority over networks of health care providers, moving them from state regulation to federal control.

Section 116 is the real kicker. If insurers are able to turn a profit despite the federal restrictions and public plan competition, they must give back much of that profit to their customers, as dictated by a new federal bureaucrat. This so-called "medical loss ratio" gives power to a presidential appointee, the new Health Choices Commissioner, to dictate the permitted level of administrative costs and profits.

Even without these provisions, the bill gives an automatic advantage to the new public health plan. The public plan uses price controls, requiring doctors and hospitals to accept Medicare-designated payment amounts. Typically, these are significantly lower than private plan payments, often paying less than the cost of providing the care. (This is why so many doctors today refuse Medicare patients.)

Private plans lack this power, so doctors, hospitals and clinics will offset their public plan losses by shifting the costs onto the bills of their other patients -- making private plans even costlier. The Lewin study estimates this cost-shifting will add an extra $460 per person per year to the cost of private insurance. That worsens the automatic disadvantage they have of competing against a taxpayer-subsidized government plan.

Trying to rush this 1,018-page bill through Congress before the public disenchantment grows worse is like a midnight burglar trying to grab all the goods before the homeowners wake up. When the president doesn't know what's in a bill, that's a sign everybody else should start finding out. Ignorance may be bliss for some, but not for the rest of us.


Does Obama believe what Obama is saying?

Listening to President Obama explain "his" health care plan, I can't help but wonder if he actually believes his own words. Maybe it's been so long since the adoring press corps has held him accountable for his innumerable exaggerations, omissions and misstatements that he believes he can create a new reality simply by speaking it into existence. However, for anyone who's been paying attention, the President's recent health care pep rally disguised as a press conference was littered with statements that just don't square with reality:

- Obama: "So let me be clear: if we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control the deficit." Here, the President comes so close to the truth as to stare into its eyes before veering away like an over-correcting teenage driver on a country road. Medicare and Medicaid, the government's previous forays into health care, are devouring the budget and exploding deficits. Controlling the costs of those programs should be the target, but few in Congress have demonstrated the courage to do so. Instead, Obama's prescription is to fix these fiscal disasters by expanding government's authority over what's left of the voluntary private health care market. That's like your doctor wanting to break your right arm to be sure he sets your broken left arm correctly.

- Obama: "I have also pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our deficit over the next decade - and I mean it." Reminds me of the famous "read my lips" pledge by the first President Bush. We all know how well that worked out. Congress has consistently under-estimated the costs of government health care programs. Medicare cost $3 billion when first implemented in 1966. At that time, costs for 1990 were estimated at $12 billion (allowing for inflation), but actual costs in 1990 were $107 billion - or 791% greater. When the Congressional Budget Office pegs the cost of ObamaCare at an opening bid of $1 trillion (others estimate as much as $4 trillion), that should scare the pants off anybody who cares about how deeply in debt we bury our children and grandchildren.

- Obama: "In addition to making sure that this plan doesn't add to the deficit in the short-term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs in the long run." CBO economists recently told a Senate committee that the current legislation, which the President admits he "isn't familiar with," would actually make matters worse by "significantly expand(ing) federal responsibility for health care costs." Over the long run federal spending would keep rising at an "unsustainable pace."

- Obama: "It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you're happy with it." What's the point of this huge expansion of the federal health care bureaucracy if not to put government - instead of silly, selfish citizens - in charge? If the President really believes what he says, then the prescription is simple: repeal federal laws governing private health care. That's the surest way to "keep government out of health care decisions." That, however, would undermine the nanny-statists inherent desire to regulate and tax everything that might adversely affect your health. And then why would you need government? Instead, Obama and the Democrats demand that you purchase insurance, micro-manage the coverage you must buy, empower the IRS to penalize you should you refuse, and establish a government commission to decide which treatments your doctor can provide for you.

All this from the President who says, "When you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: They're not telling the truth." Whatever you say, Pinnochio


Health care: We don't need the Lexus

by Jeff Jacoby

IMAGINE THE SORT OF CAR you'd drive if government regulations made it illegal to sell any automobile that didn't feature 380-horsepower direct-injection V6 engines, computer-controlled electric power steering, eight-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel-drive, automatic climate control (including humidity and smog sensors), "smart key" technology, touchscreen navigation, backup cameras, LED headlights, acoustic glass, surround-sound stereo, and leather seat stitching.

If those were the minimum requirements every car had to meet before it could be offered for sale, would you commute to and from work every day in a Lexus LS 460 or some other luxury vehicle? Well, you might, if the steep price wasn't an obstacle. But it's more likely you wouldn't be driving at all. If the government barred you from buying anything but a high-end car, you might have no choice but to rely on the bus or subway, or to find a job closer to home.

Make the Lexus mandatory, and fewer people would drive

Lawmakers can decree that every car on the road be a Lexus or its equivalent, but they can't make driving more luxurious for all. They can only make it more expensive -- and for many drivers, unaffordable. And what is true of transportation is true of everything else: Raise the number of amenities that a product or service must include, and more consumers will be unable to pay for that product or service.

That is why one of the simplest strategies for making health insurance more affordable is to reduce the minimum number of benefits that insurers are required to cover.

In every state in the union, legislators and regulators drive up the cost of health care by making insurance policies more comprehensive. Rather than allow the free market to determine which medical services health plans will cover, states force consumers to pay for an array of covered benefits they may not need nor want. For example, 45 states require insurance policies to include treatment for alcoholism and 34 mandate coverage of drug abuse treatment. By law, contraceptives are covered in 31 states, as are hairpieces in 10 states, and in vitro fertilization in 13 states. It is not unusual for consumers who want health insurance to be forced to buy coverage for services they may consider highly dubious, such as acupuncture (benefits are mandatory in 11 states), chiropractic (46 states), osteopathy (22 states), and naturopathy (4 states).

Forty years ago, there were only a handful of benefits that health policies were required by law to cover. Today, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance identifies an astonishing 1,961 mandated benefits and providers. While any one mandate may not add appreciably to the price of an insurance policy, in the aggregate their cost is huge. The Cato Institute, citing the Congressional Budget Office, estimates that state regulations increase the cost of health insurance by 15 percent. And since "each percentage-point rise in health insurance costs increases the number of uninsured by 300,000 people," as scholars John Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, and Daniel Kessler point out, it is clear that the proliferation of insurance mandates is one reason why millions of Americans are uninsured.

Yet instead of pruning back this thicket of compulsory benefits, lawmakers are busily planting even more of them.

As Kay Lazar reported in the Boston Globe on Monday, Massachusetts legislators have filed more than 70 bills this year to increase the array of services the state's health insurers are required to cover. Among the benefits the pending bills would mandate are hearing aids for children, cleft palate surgery, treatment of infantile cataracts, 48-hour hospital stays following a mastectomy, smoking cessation products, "asthma education," vitamin supplements for mitochondrial disease, post-partum depression screening -- and the list goes on and on.

As it is, health insurance in Massachusetts -- which already mandates coverage for more than 40 itemized benefits, providers, and patient populations -- is among the nation's most expensive. The last thing the Bay State (or any state) needs is for government to be driving the cost of medical coverage higher still. It should be left to the market, not to lawmakers and lobbyists, to decide which medical services should be included in a basic-vanilla insurance policy. When lawmakers yield to special-interest pleas that this or that benefit be made compulsory, the results are less choice, higher premiums, and more individuals priced out of the market.

The key to health care reform is lively competition, not the dead hand of government compulsion. Legislators, take note: Enacting new mandates won't make medical insurance more affordable. Repealing old ones just might.


ObamaCare: It’s not about money

People have always quarreled about money, and sometimes these conflicts conceal a deep animosity.

President Obama has made Health Care Reform a priority for his first year in office. His website promises that his program will "Reduce costs, guarantee choice, including a public option, and ensure quality care for all." The big claim is that the President's Health Care Reform will be a vast improvement compared to the present system.

Supporters of the President's initiative point out that health care spending is enormous, that the price of health insurance for businesses and individuals is increasing and becoming unaffordable, and that the consequences of failing to bring down costs is dire. They argue that only the government can make things right.

But critics of the President's plan are warning that it will bring about both lower quality health care and will have a more expensive price tag. Free market advocates point out that government health care programs - such as Medicare - not only do not save money but also have ballooning costs that exceed their original forecasts.

It does not help the case for the Obama plan that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the proposed program will increase health care spending in the United States - exactly the opposite of what its supporters claim it is intended to do.

Of course, ObamaCare enthusiasts say that the Congressional Budget Office is mistaken, and even if spending goes up for a few years, costs will be reduced in the long run under wise government guidance.

So we have two factions slugging it out. The Obama team, representing the statist approach, insists that its plan will economically make the nation healthier. Free market advocates, the principled opposition to increased government intrusion, are convinced that Obama's Health Care Reform will be extravagant and ineffective.

You might imagine that the way to resolve the conflict between the partisans is to find a fair way to forecast what health care spending would be with and without ObamaCare. But that would miss the point, because the dispute is not really about cost: it is about who will control health care. Statists yearn for a system where the government is in charge, while free marketers want individuals to make their own decisions. Both sides are focusing on health care spending because they know that cost is always important, and saying you are thrifty while your opponent is wasteful makes for a good talking point. But in their attempt to be persuasive the antagonists are deliberately sidestepping the core issue.

Consider the typical attitude of the ObamaCare advocate: he believes that people often make foolish choices and health care is an area where they need to be 'nudged' to make wise decisions. Of course, the assistance should come from experts who are empowered by the government to 'assure the right choice is made.' He understands that when the government becomes the major player in health care it has the power to control costs - by rationing services, if necessary. And rationing does not bother him because he feels that a lot of health care expenditures are currently wasted and there is a need for a more sensible way--other than the unbridled choices of individuals--to decide who gets treated and how.

If the ObamaCare enthusiast believed that total spending on health care would go down if the government refrained from fiddling he would not be impressed. A health care system that is allowed to go its own way, that relies on markets, that is not centrally planned is odious to him. It is worthwhile to spend more money on health care if the result is a system managed by progressives who are looking out for 'the interests of society as a whole.'

And what is in the mind of the free marketer? He knows that each person owns his life and has a natural right to manage it for himself. He understands that the proper role of government is to protect natural rights - not to direct the lives of individuals. He appreciates that people have the capacity to make intelligent choices, and that when some people act imprudently, it is not a justification for a government takeover. He knows that when government extricates itself from meddling in the health care system the result will be more innovation, better services, and less expensive costs. But it is the importance of freedom, not saving money, that is the essential reason to proscribe government interference.

If the free marketer believed that additional government intervention in health care would result in reduced spending he would not be impressed. A health care system---and a human life---that is managed by a central authority is unacceptable. It is worthwhile to spend more money on health care if the result is a citizenry that is self-reliant and not subjugated to the will of the government.

People have always quarreled about money, but the ObamaCare debate is about much more.


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