Monday, August 03, 2009

Metastatic growth: An Australian Health Dept hires another $1.5m worth of bureaucrats

They ALREADY have 3 "administrative" employees for each medical worker. Bureaucracy grows like a cancer. Under Obamacare, Americans can look forward to 3 out of 4 of their health dollars going into the pockets of clerks, not doctors, nurses and technicians. It's already happening in Australia so don't say you weren't warned

QUEENSLAND Health has created a whole new level of senior bureaucracy which will cost the state's taxpayers more than $1.5 million a year. The department is looking for nine new directors to head "people and culture" units. The newly created roles will take the place of the previous directors of human resources - with those staff absorbed into other positions within the already bureaucrat-heavy department.

Sources told The Sunday Mail that the new directors were "very senior" and would be paid between $130,000 and $160,000 a year, with extra benefits such as a vehicle, mobile phone and superannuation. "These are new positions, not upgrades of existing positions," a department insider said. "All the HR directors that were in place before are still there. "In fact, these HR directors were in place prior to district amalgamations in 2008, when districts were reduced to 'streamline' services. "It appears the amalgamation did not reduce nor streamline these numbers and now there are going to be nine more in a new layer. "More galling is the fact that these positions were created by corporate head office. The districts didn't ask for them. "For staff working in the real world, this new layer of bureaucracy is insulting and embarrassing at a time of fiscal constraint in our departments."

Job advertisements placed last week said Queensland Health was seeking nine "outstanding executives" to "drive the strategies in relation to people and culture that will best position the organisation to meet the challenges ... resulting from both an ageing and ever increasing population". Applicants had until August 3 to apply for the roles in Brisbane, Cairns, Rockhampton, Mackay, Darling Downs, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.

Queensland Health director-general Michael Reid claimed they were not "additional" roles - but then acknowledged they were newly created. He said the $1.5 million annual salaries would not add to the department budget. Mr Reid said: "These district office positions will be funded by re-directing funds that were previously allocated to positions in corporate office. "Queensland Health is engaged in significant organisational change, following the revised reporting and accountability arrangements implemented in late 2008. "This process has included the establishment of the health service districts with their chief executives - a process that is now being supported by the creation of nine district executive directors for people and culture. "The role of these officers is to ensure public health services are efficient and focus at all times on the safety and care of patients at a district level."

The Sunday Mail revealed last month that the re-merger of the Transport and Main Roads departments had almost doubled the number of directors in the HR area from five to eight. The three extra directors were expected to add more than $500,000 to the budget each year.


And THIS is the sort of thing all those administrators achieve. See below:

QUEENSLAND Health has been accused of taking head lice more seriously than swine flu and risking the lives of pregnant teachers, school staff and students. Guidelines insist that teachers send a note home with every student advising their parents if a child has head lice - but under the swine flu "protect" phase, schools are no longer required to report cases of the virus.

Last week three pregnant teachers fled an Ipswich primary school after learning three students had contracted the H1N1 virus. Union leaders said the women had to take sick leave or use part of their holidays while they waited until it was safe to return. A worker at the school said other staff were only told of the virus after rumours had spread. She said the pregnant teachers were told to keep working until they developed flu-like symptoms - but all went on leave to protect their unborn children.

"They make teachers send nit notes home but they don't have to tell anyone about swine flu," she said. "If the Education Department do not care about their own staff and the unborn child, then why should they care about the children of parents. "It's like they put their head in the sand and say well, if you don't say anything then swine flu is not present." The staffer said some parents were upset because some had children with special needs who are in the high-risk category.

A study found pregnant women were four times more likely to be admitted to hospital after catching the virus. In the US, two teachers, plus a pregnant woman, have died of the flu.

The Queensland Teachers' Union has demanded to meet health and education bosses. QTU vice president Julia Brown said the union was urging EQ to move pregnant teachers out of harm's way. "We've had a lot of pregnant teachers ringing in very concerned," Ms Brown said. "Moving to 'protect' means that it is not out in the open for our members. That's a worry. "We are urging them to reconsider their policy. You have to think of the unborn child."

Education Queensland and Queensland Health have denied putting anyone at risk. A pandemic vaccine may be ready in September/October and pregnant women will be one of the first groups of people to receive it.


The Pelosi Jobs Tax

Workers will pay for the new health-care payroll levy

Even many Democrats are revolting against Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 5.4% income surtax to finance ObamaCare, but another tax in her House bill isn’t getting enough attention. To wit, the up to 10-percentage point payroll tax increase on workers and businesses that don’t provide health insurance. This should put to rest the illusion that no one making less than $250,000 in income will pay higher taxes.

To understand why, consider how the Pelosi jobs tax works. Under the House bill, firms with employee payroll of above $250,000 without a company health plan would pay a tax starting at 2% of wages per employee. That rate would quickly rise to 8% on firms with total payroll of $400,000 or more. A tax credit would help very small businesses adjust to the new costs, but even a firm with a handful of workers is likely to be subject to this payroll levy. As we went to press, Blue Dogs were taking credit for pushing those payroll amounts up to $500,000 and $750,000, but those are still small employers.

So who bears the burden of this tax? The economic research is close to unanimous that a payroll tax is a tax on labor and is thus shouldered mostly if not entirely by workers. Employers merely collect the tax and then pass along its costs in lower wages or benefits. This is the view of the Democratic-controlled Congressional Budget Office, which advised on July 13: “If employers who did not offer health insurance were required to pay a fee, employee’s wages and other forms of compensation would generally decline by the amount of that fee from what they otherwise would have been.”

To put this in actual dollars, a worker earning, say, $70,000 a year could lose some $5,600 in take home pay to cover the costs of ObamaCare. And, by the way, this is in addition to the 2.5% tax that the individual worker would have to pay on gross income, if he doesn’t buy the high-priced health insurance that the government will mandate. In sum, that’s a near 10-percentage point tax on wages and salaries on top of the 15% that already hits workers to finance Medicare and Social Security.

Even Democrats are aware that his tax would come out of the wallets of the very workers they pretend to be helping, so they inserted a provision on page 147 of the bill prohibiting firms from cutting salaries to pay the tax. Thus they figure they can decree that wages cannot fall even as costs rise. Of course, all this means is that businesses would lay off some workers, or hire fewer new ones, or pay lower starting salaries or other benefits to the workers they do hire.

Cornell economists Richard Burkhauser and Kosali Simon predicted in a 2007 National Bureau of Economic Research study that a payroll tax increase of about this magnitude plus the recent minimum wage increase will translate into hundreds of thousands of lost jobs for those with low wages. Pay or play schemes, says Mr. Burkauser, “wind up hurting the very low-wage workers they are supposed to help.” The CBO agrees, arguing that play or pay policies “could reduce the hiring of low-wage workers, whose wages could not fall by the full cost of health insurance or a substantial play-or-pay fee if they were close to the minimum wage.”

To make matters worse, many workers and firms would have to pay the Pelosi tax even if the employer already provides health insurance. That’s because the House bill requires firms to pay at least 72.5% of health-insurance premiums for individual workers and 65% for families in order to avoid the tax. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in 2008 found that about three in five small businesses fail to meet the Pelosi test and will have to pay the tax. In these instances, the businesses will have every incentive simply to drop their coverage.

A new study by Sageworks, Inc., a financial consulting firm, runs the numbers on the income statements of actual companies. It looks at three types of firms with at least $5 million in sales: a retailer, a construction company and a small manufacturer. The companies each have total payroll of between $750,000 and $1 million a year. Assuming the firms absorb the cost of the payroll tax, their net profits fall by one-third on average. That is on top of the 45% income tax and surtax that many small business owners would pay as part of the House tax scheme, so the total reduction in some small business profits would climb to nearly 80%. These lower after-tax profits would mean fewer jobs.

To put it another way, the workers who will gain health insurance from ObamaCare will pay the steepest price for it in either a shrinking pay check, or no job at all.


Obama’s Great Health Scare

The president resorts to the politics of fear


On the campaign trail last year, Barack Obama promised to end the “politics of fear and cynicism.” Yet he is now trying to sell his health-care proposals on fear. At his news conference last week, he said “Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage, or lose their job. . . . If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction.”

A Fox News Poll from last week shows that 84% of Americans who have health insurance are happy with their coverage. And because 91% of all Americans have insurance, that means that 76% of all Americans will be concerned about anything that threatens their current coverage. By a 2-1 margin, according to the Fox Poll, Americans want coverage from a private provider rather than the government.

Facing numbers like these, Mr. Obama is dropping his high-minded rhetoric and instead trying to scare voters. During last week’s news conference, for example, he said that doctors routinely perform unnecessary tonsillectomies on children simply to fatten their wallets. All that was missing was the suggestion that the operations were conducted without anesthesia.

This is not a healthy way to wage a policy debate. It also risks making the president look desperate at a time when his proposals are looking increasingly too expensive for Americans to accept.

Last weekend, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) demolished Mr. Obama’s claims that his plan cuts the growth of future health spending and won’t add to the deficit. Responding to a White House proposal to create an independent panel to recommend Medicare cuts, the CBO said on Saturday that “The probability is high that no savings would be realized” in the next decade, while entitlement spending would rise $1.042 trillion. The CBO did say there might be $2 billion in savings in the second decade of the program—a pittance.

White House Budget Director Peter Orszag shot back at the CBO with a blog posting on the White House’s Web site arguing, “the point of the proposal . . . was never to generate savings over the next decade.” Really? The White House rolled out the proposal hoping to give cover to Blue Dog Democrats in Congress barking about the cost of overhauling health care.

The House version of ObamaCare adds to the deficit even though the new taxes to pay for part of it begin two years before the program itself kicks in. That head start puts ObamaCare in the black through 2013. But net new spending after that overwhelms future revenue to add to the deficit each year.

Keith Hennessey, who was a National Economic Council director for George W. Bush, estimates the annual deficits in Mr. Obama’s plan will grow to $64 billion a year by 2019. And this assumes that Mr. Obama gets all the tax increases and Medicare cuts he wants.

On Sunday, the CBO released another torpedo at the burning hull of USS ObamaCare. Responding to an inquiry by Rep. David Camp (R., Mich.) about whether the House bill would run a deficit in its second decade, the CBO reported it would “probably generate substantial increases in federal budget deficits during the decade beyond the current 10-year budget window.” The CBO does not believe that Mr. Obama’s proposal “bends” health-care spending down, as the president has repeatedly claimed it would. The CBO says it escalates above today’s rate.

By 2029, Mr. Hennessey estimates that new taxes will bring in $143 billion a year, while net new health spending will have increased by $348 billion a year.

Damaging reports from the CBO had earlier provoked some Chicago-style intimidation, with the president summoning CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf to the Oval Office. It’s safe to assume that they didn’t talk about the Chicago White Sox. Imagine if Mr. Bush had done that after the CBO released numbers that undercut the centerpiece of his domestic agenda. “White House thuggery” and “intimidation” would have been the theme of nearly every editorial writer in the country.

Team Obama’s pressure, however, might have caused the CBO to release its latest missives on a weekend, when fewer people are paying attention to the news.

Mr. Obama’s problem is that nine out of 10 Americans would likely get worse health care if ObamaCare goes through. Of those who do not have insurance—and who therefore might be better off—approximately one-fifth are illegal aliens, nearly three-fifths make $50,000 or more a year and can afford insurance, and just under a third are probably eligible for Medicaid or other government programs already.

For the slice of the uninsured that is left—perhaps about 2% of all American citizens—Team Obama would dismantle the world’s greatest health-care system. That’s a losing proposition, which is why Mr. Obama is increasingly resorting to fear and misleading claims. It’s all the candidate of hope has left.


Fannie Med

The bipartisan Senate negotiators are leaning toward proposing a health-care Fannie Mae

T he details of the Senate Finance Committee’s hush-hush health talks aren’t fully known, but leaks suggest that one all-but-certain highlight will be new federally created health “cooperatives” to compete against private insurers. The onus is on Republican negotiators Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi to explain why this isn’t merely the House “public option” in a better suit.

North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad floated the co-op concept last month, to attract Republicans who oppose President Obama’s state-run plan. According to Mr. Conrad, these nonprofits—modeled on local electricity or rural farm co-ops—fulfill the liberal goal of competing against private insurers, yet avoid “government control,” since they will be member-owned. Presto, a Beltway splitting of the political baby.

And in theory, health-care co-ops needn’t be destructive. Blue Cross and Blue Shield began as nonprofit health insurers, and some state Blues still are. Organizations like the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound are consumer-owned and compete with private plans.

But the Senate is talking about government-sponsored co-ops, and that means multiple devils are in the details. Mr. Conrad confirmed this week that the current plan is to have the feds provide $6 billion in start-up cash, then appoint an “interim” national board to set policies for a network of state or regional co-ops. Mr. Conrad said this new network could attract 12 million people, making it the third-largest health insurer in the country.

Here’s where the trouble starts. At least with the public option, Washington acknowledges that taxpayers are subsidizing public plans. With co-ops, the government role is more subtle, if nearly as corrosive. Start with Mr. Conrad’s $6 billion in “seed money,” which is more than the total annual revenue of all but 20 of the nation’s private plans. This would provide a lower cost of capital than private firms and an implicit claim on any other money the co-ops need. The feds may also exempt co-ops from the taxes that private insurers pay, which average about 1.2% of premiums. This would let co-ops offer lower prices and poach customers with government-subsidized premiums.

The Senators may also exempt co-ops from the state mandates that now drive up the cost of private policies. We’ve long wanted the feds to let individuals or groups (such as the National Federation of Independent Business) form risk pools and buy insurance across state lines free of these costly requirements. But liberals have killed attempts at such Association Health Plans, which suggests their goal in exempting these “government-sponsored health enterprises” from state mandates is merely to give them another pricing edge.

Mr. Conrad suggests the federal board overseeing this network would be temporary, meaning at some point government appointees would be replaced by elected private directors. Mr. Grassley is said to be resisting federal control, but even if he succeeds for now, neither he nor Mr. Conrad can bind a future Congress. When was the last time government supervision became less onerous over time, especially in health care?

All of which makes these co-ops sound a lot like a health-care Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which Congress created because there was supposedly no secondary mortgage market. The duo proceeded to use their government subsidy to dominate the market and drive out private competitors.

And all of this is before Congressional liberals get their hands on these co-ops. “We’re going to have some type of public option, call it ‘co-op,’ call it what you want,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said earlier this month. New York’s Chuck Schumer wants $10 billion to seed a single, nationwide co-op that will be governed by a federal board and have the authority to impose price controls. At the very least, liberals will demand to load up co-ops with the minimum-coverage mandates they’ve already included in the House and rival Senate legislation—from maternity care to government-funded abortion.

Messrs. Grassley and Enzi and Maine’s Olympia Snowe are under great pressure to agree to a deal, as Democrats grow more desperate to get political cover for reform that is sinking fast in the polls. The co-op idea might have begun as a benign proposal, but it is likely to become a mini-me public option. Senate Republicans can best serve the cause of bipartisan reform and fiscal sanity by opposing any form of new government health care, and urging Mr. Baucus to turn to the Plan B of helping the uninsured with tax credits.


Robbing the elderly

The latest figures from James Carville's Democracy Corps polling firm cannot be good news for Barack Obama and his head-strong, headlong push for government-run socialized medicine: A full 54 percent of senior citizens oppose the scheme. And 40 percent oppose it "strongly."

Perhaps they have figured out what Obama is covering up and the mainstream media is refusing to reveal: "Obamacare" is the ultimate redistribution program. Only in this case, it's far worse than the mere "redistribution of wealth," candidate Obama proposed in his campaign.

With "Obamacare," the president proposes "redistributing the health" – from the old who have worked hard all of their lives to provide for their "Golden Years" to the younger members of the welfare culture who have come to believe that everything they receive from the hand of government is an "entitlement," and that universal health care should now be loaded onto the Gravy Train.

In short, the Obama government-run "health care" plan is actually a not-so-veiled attempt to take from those who have worked hard and – once again – give to those who have hardly worked.

Need proof? Asked where he would get the funds to provide free universal health care coverage for all 43 million uninsured Americans – including the full 40 percent of whom simply did not bother to work last year -- he boasted that he would cut Medicare and Medicaid by more than $500 billion, completely gutting those long-established programs…


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