Saturday, September 19, 2009

'Disgusting' British hospital food gets a serve on 'bingo' blog

A British hospital patient was so disgusted with the quality of his food that he took photos of the meals, posted them on the internet and asked people to guess what was dished up. His followers failed to identify correctly half of the 35 meals he posted on the Hospital Food Bingo game that he has featured on his blog.

The patient provided a daily review of the dishes, along with the photos taken on his mobile phone, and described one attempt at macaroni and cheese as something that "could have been used as wallpaper paste".

"You could have slapped a splattering of the stuff on to a pair of white overalls, stuck them on the underside of a plane and then zipped a man into them before taking off for a spin and a couple of loop-the-loops," he wrote.

The patient, who has only identified himself as Traction Man, has been in hospital since February suffering from a rare bone infection.


Joe Wilson was right

Let's count the lies, in just the few words Obama spoke prior to the interrupt:

"There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally."

Yes, there are plenty who claim that. Let's pick a few key words from these three sentences.

1. "Reform." Oops! Lie! (Or rather, terminological inexactitude.) True, in a literal sense any change to anything is a "reform", because it necessarily re-forms it; if you break somebody's nose, you are re-forming him, giving him a different shape. But in most contexts including this one of health care, the word carries the connotation of improvement, not just of re-shaping; and that's where the mendacity makes it entrance. Over a century ago, government prohibited the practice of medicine by any without a license it approved, so limiting competition and causing costs to rise ever since. Again and again government has intervened in the industry, to mandate this and prohibit that, each such intervention boosting the price spiral every time; as I wrote here recently, the very notion of making health care appear cheaper than it is causes demand, and therefore total cost, to rise. So government participation has been an unrelieved disaster, and Obama is proposing more of it; therefore, without a shadow of doubt, his proposals or any variant on them are the very opposite of "reform" and he was lying absolutely, and Joe Wilson was right.

2. "Insure." No, it's not; that's another lie. An insurance contract is about a slight risk of large loss, with a low premium paid each by many so as to prevent any one party being wiped out; and it's a contract, a voluntary and rational way to spread that risk. It became popular among ship owners a few hundred years ago; to lose a ship at sea would be a disaster that might affect any of them--but most probably, it would not. Lloyd's coffee house in London gave birth to the solution. Discussions in today's coffee houses are less creative. Today's health "insurance" charges often impossibly heavy premiums, and pays for risks which are usually minor and very likely to occur; it has turned the concept of insurance exactly upside down. Everyone needs to visit the doctor's office from time to time; all that insurers do is to pay the charge and charge a profit.

How did that madness begin? It did so in the mid-20th Century, when government taxed wages so heavily that employers competed for workers by offering non-taxable benefits instead of cash, including free or subsidized health care. Among other ill effects, that single decision brought about the demise of the then-prosperous US automobile industry half a century later. One of the others is that the coverage is often not portable; if you want to change jobs, you may lose health benefits. There are people today who take a job solely or primarily because it provides them, since individual policies are now prohibitively expensive, when they'd really much rather be home minding the children or building a home-based business. To the extent that that deprives young children of parental care and leaves them to the mercy of the government's youth indoctrination system, the distortion goes on and on.

3. "Illegal" immigrants. The idea that a human being is somehow culpable if he chooses to offer his labor at Point B on the surface of the planet instead of Point A (where he might happen to have been born) is repugnant to the whole idea of self-owning, free human beings. How can such a thing possibly be "illegal"? Yet it often is, so I suppose I must reluctantly concede that here, technically, the President was not actually lying--though he would have been lying if (as he often does) he described this country as a "free" one, while prohibiting such mobility of labor. Yes, government has erected a legal barrier to such movement, and the Constitution allowed it, so don't just blame the modern border Nazis; the concept was in at the birth of this State and the outrage is that it (or the Constitution) should ever be confused with liberty.

Notice, immigrants lacking certain government paperwork are doing no harm; their "illegal" status is a victimless crime, every bit as much as selling pot or sexual favors. They are not forcing anyone to employ them against their will, and if nobody chooses to hire them, they will migrate elsewhere. They are, however - as Anthony Gregory recently pointed out in another forum--being forced to pay for benefits they may not receive, and are therefore subsidizing us, contrary to the fiction that anyone here might be subsidizing them. That such harmless people should be branded as criminals is a lie, even though it's not a lie that they are, in fact, so branded.

4. "Not Apply". President Obama said his health-care changes would not bring benefit to these contributors to the wellbeing of this society, as if that were something to be said in their favor, and of course Joe Wilson agrees with that. For the reasons just stated, I do not. But Obama was lying again, because while some benefits may be denied to them, it's impossible to deny them even the benefits being delivered already by the government-controlled health care industry. If an "illegal" five-year-old breaks an arm and reaches the emergency room, she will have it set regardless of her parent's government paperwork, and very likely without charge. Just recently I had occasion to visit an ER, and saw a notice on the wall to the effect that all there present had a "right" to treatment regardless of our ability to pay. That's another lie, of course, government cannot confer any such "right"--but it can and does force other people to pay for it anyway, in part by denying operating licenses to hospitals that do not treat the penniless. In practice, since they mostly obtain Social Security numbers, driver licenses and government paperwork other than a valid visa, there is no way to stop such immigrants finding free treatment, and the more government manages the operation, the more it will designate such treatment as a "right" and so the less it will be able to charge for it in practice. He knew all that, and so he was lying; Joe Wilson knew it too, and so was correct to call him a liar.

So there we have it: truth-telling in Congress is hazardous to one's reputation, making a terrible system even worse is an improvement, massive theft is redesignated "insurance", offering one's labor for sale is a criminal act, with-holding medical care from the needy is recommended by our nation's President, but when he promises to do so he is lying, and the guy who names the lie must be a racist. Alice , welcome to the wonderland that government built.


Max Baucus's errors and lies

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT), lays out his lies case for his version of health care “reform”.

The beauty of the recent turn of events/tone in the health care debate is that the public is now actually listening to the content of the Democrats’ statements, including those of Dear Leader, rather than just the mellifluous sound of his voice. So when Max Baucus now starts with the same drivel, it’s actually hard to respond with anything but a chuckle. I’m going to go through Baucus’s tragi-comic opinion in some detail for purposes of showing just how much BS can be in one article by one senator.

Baucus says “At the current rate of growth, health-care spending will double in less than 10 years taking $1 out of every $5 we spend.” What he doesn’t tell you is that 47% of health care spending is already done by the government. What he also doesn’t tell you is that by underpaying medical providers for government-paid health care, it forces up the cost for everyone else as doctors and others must raise prices outside of Medicare/Medicaid to stay in business. So just why should we support a plan that would obviously make the problem worse rather than better? As Robert Woodson said at the Steamboat Institute conference last month, “If you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep on getting what you got.”

Baucus says “And every day another 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance.” And IBD editorial about health care “reform” misinformation answers Baucus’s claim well:
A little math shows this is just a scare statistic. Multiply it out, and it comes to 5.1 million people losing coverage in a year. Sound scary? Consider that, according to the census, 46.3 million Americans don’t currently have insurance — 600,000 more than last year. That means that, along with 14,000 Americans losing their coverage each day, another 12,400 Americans are signing up for it — even in the middle of a brutal recession.

Baucus says “The reality is that our plan controls spending without adding to the federal deficit, expands coverage, protects consumers from unfair insurance industry practices, and puts choice back into the hands of consumers and businesses.” OK, that’s laugh-out-loud funny. He goes on to explain each one, so let’s tackle his lies claims:

Baucus says “For starters, our plan pays for every cent of new spending without using additional tax dollars. Our plan would lower costs and would not add to the federal deficit. In fact, it would begin reducing the federal deficit within 10 years by containing costs through industry reforms. These reforms would focus on preventing diseases before they become costly to treat and paying health-care providers for the quality of care they deliver not the number of tests they order.”

However, the AP, hardly a bastion of conservatism, says Baucus’s bill “would cost $856 billion over 10 years” and that “(t)he plan would be paid for with $507 billion in cuts to government health programs and $349 billion in new taxes and fees, including a tax on high-end insurance plans and fees on insurance companies and medical device manufacturers.” Maybe what Baucus meant is that he doesn’t plan to raise income taxes to cover the cost of his “reform”…but even that would be a lie because nobody really believes that the savings Obama and Baucus claim are available will actually be found. The public believes Baucus is lying as well, with a Gallup survey just this week saying that 60% believe the Democrats’ “reform” plans can’t be accomplished without tax hikes or hurting the quality of care.

As for reducing the deficit within 10 years, while we haven’t seen the CBO’s scoring of the Baucus bill yet, I’d bet money it won’t validate that claim. The scoring of the House’s health care “reform” bill, HR3200, which has been publicized as showing the measure increasing our deficit by a cumulative $239 billion over 10 years massively understates the fiscal impact of the bill. This is because the first few years of the bill might lower the deficit through huge tax increases without actually increasing spending on health care whereas after the 4th year of the plan, the deficit explodes, increasing every year, to an estimated $65 billion in the 10th year alone. In other words, the plan is designed to make the deficit increase look modest for the 10-year scoring period. But in fact, the next 10 years would likely cost closer to $1 trillion if the CBO scored that far into the future. And does anybody believe that the true deficit from government-run medicine won’t be even higher than the CBO scoring, given the lessons of history?

As far as saving money through preventative medicine, that is simply a myth. This letter from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says “Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall.” (I am not saying that preventative medicine is a bad idea, just that it is not a cost-saving strategy.)

Baucus says “Our plan would give businesses the freedom to offer any policy they choose, so long as it meets a basic quality standard.” In other words, “our plan would limit the freedo of businesses to offer any policy they choose.” Can you imagine the effect of a national “basic quality standard” given the effect of mandates in many states on the price of health insurance in those states? For example, NFIB studies the effect of mandates in New York State and concluded that:
Health insurance benefits mandated by the Legislature cost small businesses annually more than $1,000 per employee. Individual policyholders currently pay $445 and family policyholders pay $1,066 extra every year just to cover state mandates. These policies affect the ability of our small businesses to provide health insurance to their employees and their families, and place the future of employment-based health insurance at risk.

Studies show that for every 1 percent hike in premium, up to 30,000 people are priced out of insurance. Currently, more than 30 different benefits are mandated in New York, and every year dozens more are proposed and legislation is passed without any objective study to determine their true cost. The resulting higher premiums are making the cost of health insurance simply unaffordable for too many.

Given the coziness between big business and government (and don’t be fooled that business only likes Republicans), odds are that the ability of the federal government to decide on a “basic” standard will be extremely costly to the wallets and the freedom of Americans.

Baucus says “Our plan would promote healthy competition and put real choices back in the hands of consumers.” If the Democrats really believed in competition in health care, they would not have fought against the competitive aspects of the Medicare “Part D” prescription drug benefit which is the primary reason that plan has not been costing the government as much as originally forecast. And more importantly, they would support allowing interstate purchase of health insurance – the single most important reform needed to increase competition and choice and bring down cost.

Baucus says “Our plan would take the guess work out of buying insurance so consumers could make informed decisions about the insurance policies they buy. Through state-based “insurance exchanges,” individuals and small businesses could shop for plans offered within their zip codes and determine their eligibility for tax credits to buy insurance.” But anyone with an internet connection can already just search for “Colorado health insurance” or “Ohio health insurance”, for example, and find multiple web sites which access multiple insurance companies and allow consumers to compare policies and prices. The “insurance exchange” is simply the federal government’s way to get its nose under the tent as a first step toward Democrats’ goal of “single payer” health care. There is no part of an “insurance exchange” that can’t be done cheaper and better by the private sector…and probably no part of an insurance exchange that isn’t already being done by the private sector.

Baucus says “Our plan would force insurance companies to compete on price and quality, and it would stop them from selecting out the healthiest among us and hiding benefit limitations that only become apparent when a person gets sick.” But all that needs to happen to force competition is to allow competition. You don’t have to force GM to compete with Ford. You don’t have to force Compaq to compete with Dell. They compete because they can and because they must. The only reason we don’t have enough of that dynamic within the health insurance industry is because government regulations prevent it!

As for “selecting out the healthiest among us”, there is something to that. For people who are basically healthy with just an occasional minor issue, allowing interstate purchase of health insurance will take care of them because of the tremendous competition it will create. For those with serious pre-existing conditions, who says that it’s just or sensible to allow them to buy insurance at the same price the rest of the population pays? Do we or should we let people buy car insurance right after an accident so that the insurance has to cover the repairs? Remember, insurance is basically “mutual insurance” or shared risk over a pool of participants. Allowing someone with a pre-existing condition to simply jump into the pool at no increased cost for his condition is nothing more than a penalty on the rest of the pool. This is particularly true for a pre-existing condition which was acquired during a time when a person was uninsured.

We certainly do need to find some solution for people with congenital or chronic conditions who are being denied coverage. But in a sense that shouldn’t even be called “insurance” which by its nature is intended to help cover the costs of unexpected events or illnesses. Maybe there is even a role for government here, though my libertarian tendencies of course lead me to be skeptial. In any case, the number of people we’re talking about is far lower than what one should think necessary to even discuss a government takeover of our health care system. And that is what Baucus’s bill presages, no matter how much he denies it.

Baucus says “Our plan would not restrict, in any way, the treatments patients receive. Nor would it inhibit the free-market innovations that have contributed to the exceptional medical advances Americans have benefited from in the last century.” Hang on a second…I have to stop laughing before I type any more… In the stimulus bill, a new bureaucracy has already been created which is the first step down the certain road to health care rationing. Obama’s chief health care advisor, Ezekiel Emanuel (brother to chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel) has publicly called for restricting care to the elderly in the interest of “sustainable medicine”. (It should also be noted that Dr. Emanuel has said that “Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality of care are merely ‘lipstick’ cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change.” Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional nut…)

And how can Baucus say that his bill would not inhibit medical advances given the massive tax he plans to impose on medical device makers? What type of policy could conceivably inhibit innovation more than that? Among the many lies and contradictions in Baucus’s op-ed, this is one of the most important even if one of the least widely known, particularly if you’re concerned with whether American health care actually helps people live longer or better lives. The trade association of medical device companies has released an aggressive statement against the proposal with the title “Innovation Tax Will Stifle Medical Progress.” In a sense, the medical innovation tax is a remarkably boneheaded idea, but it also shows a lot about Democrats, namely about their stupidity and their fascist economic tendencies – by which I mean their desire to force nominally private companies to behave in the service of their government. They already came to a “deal” with drug companies – which leading Democrats almost instantly said wasn’t worth the paper it was unwritten on. Now they’re going to try to force the medical device companies to cave in and do something, though exactly what remains unclear. This medical device tax is nothing short of shameful…and I hope that even most Democrats see it that way. I believe that there will be enough pushback from Democratic senators that Baucus will be forced to pull this provision…which will be yet another crack in his dam of health care reform lies.

Baucus says “Our plan would not put government between patients and doctors, and it wouldn’t force anyone to change his or her coverage. If you like the care you have today, you can keep it.” I’ve already dealt with the first statement: A bureaucracy has already been created which does exactly what Baucus says he won’t do. Furthermore, both England and Canada ration care, which is precisely putting government between patients and doctors. And what choice do they have? After all, when you subsidize something, you get more users of it. In order not to bankrupt the country when they make medical care “free” or even “cheap”, they will have to come between patients and doctors. And to the extent that Baucus’s bill is like HR3200 (or gets modified toward HR3200 in conference), the idea that you can keep your coverage is basically a lie. In the House bill, you can keep your coverage only until anything about it changes; then you have to switch to a government-approved plan.

Finally, Baucus says “The time has come for action. And we will act. In the next several weeks, the Senate Finance Committee will do its part to control costs, protect consumers from unfair insurance industry practices, and put America back on a path toward fiscal sustainability.” The first thing that needs to be emphasized regarding “time for action” is that those of us who oppose Obamacare (or Baucuscare) are not supporting the status quo. We agree that something needs to be done. But that something needs to be policy changes that encourage competition and remove the dead hand of government, whereas the government’s plans do just the opposite regardless of their rhetoric.

There is NO Democrat bill that will control costs or put America back on a path toward fiscal sustainability. None. And as for “unfair insurance industry practices”, that’s not going to sell well with the public either. Yes, we know the insurance companies do some things we don’t like. But we also know that the vast majority of Americans are happy with their health care and even their insurance. And we know that, with Medicare as an object lesson, there is no reason to think that government will do anything but get in the way, raise costs, discourage doctors from working (as this IBD editorial and survey describe), and generally destroy the world’s best, if still quite imperfect, health care system.

As I said at the beginning of this rather long note, the public is now listening with a skeptical ear to the words of the Democratic leadership. There are a lot of reasons to believe they’re lying and few reasons to believe that they’re truthful…and fewer reasons to believe they understand the industry they’re trying to “reform”.

What we’ll really need to see is whether the Democrats’ health care bill will cover the plastic surgery necessary to remove all their extra nose tissue following the daily barrage of lies and misinformation they’re dumping on the American people.


Congress Veers Left on Health Care

The Baucus bill has been rejected by Democrats too

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus unveiled his long-awaited health-care compromise this week to the sound of one hand clapping. You wouldn't know it from the White House, which soothingly spun the Baucus bill as a breakthrough on the forced march to reform. We were told it was a good thing that the only person in Washington who liked Max Baucus's bill was . . . Max Baucus. That everybody was unhappy meant we were getting somewhere. What matters is that the Senate now has a "common sense" product to serve as a "building block" for bipartisan legislation. Uh-huh.

Mr. Obama has the same problem he's had since the start, only magnified. That would be the left wing of his party, which is about to rip up the Baucus bill, making an ugly product grotesque. He also has the same Republican Party, only now it's so alienated as to uniformly oppose the effort. And he has the same crowd of vulnerable Senate and House Democrats who continue to pay as much attention to the dismal polls as they do to their president. Nothing new to see here, folks. Move along.

Mr. Baucus took until mid-September to release his bill because he spent months coaxing Republicans. This wasn't done out of kindness, but political necessity. The other congressional bills were so extreme as to cause a Democratic revolt. If Mr. Baucus could get buy-ins from Sens. Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe, he would give nervous Democrats cover.

Instead, our bipartisan White House grew weary of the bipartisan process and pressured Mr. Baucus to produce. He jettisoned his colleagues and pushed out a product that Messrs. Grassley and Enzi promptly condemned. The White House did such a good job of suggesting that Ms. Snowe was its GOP patsy—a Republican who'd vote for a ham sandwich, if only they asked—that even the miffed Maine senator has stepped back.

The result is two-fold. With no, or little, GOP support, the only way Mr. Baucus can pry his bill out of committee is to allow the left to have its way. The White House knows this, which is why the president—despite seizing on the Baucus legislation in his speech last week—is already abandoning the finance chief and his bill to the tender mercies of West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller and New York's Chuck Schumer. The White House wants a bill, any bill, and this bloc now holds all the votes in committee. Pity Mr. Baucus, who just got used.

All the more so, given that the finance chief liberal-ed up his bill—with new subsidies, new taxes, new regulation—specifically to make nice to his committee's left. Rockefeller and Co. have condemned the $775 billion legislation as too skimpy and not tough enough. By the time they are done amending, the bill will be flirting with a $1 trillion price tag, contain a raft of new taxes, and a string of new regulations. Mr. Rockefeller may be savvy enough to hold back on adding a public option, but the bill that emerges will be as liberal as he dares.

Daring is the word, as the other result of ditching the GOP is that the Blue Dogs and swing-state senators are on their own. The Baucus bill will come out looking more like the other toxic Democratic products than not, and it will now, finally, contain the unpleasant details for public review. The political risks are immense.

Does Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, up for re-election next year, with an upside-down approval rating, vote to proceed with a trillion in spending on the back of a $9 trillion deficit over the next decade? Does Florida's Bill Nelson vote to stick it to his state's Medicare Advantage participants? Does Colorado's Michael Bennet vote for billions in new health-care user taxes, or penalties on the uninsured? This is where the health-care rubber meets the road, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has but a few feet of pavement. With Ted Kennedy's seat unfilled, and Robert Byrd an uncertain presence, 60 cloture votes are not guaranteed.

What has changed is Mr. Obama's determination to push a bill through, regardless of what his party, or the public, thinks. The White House will make the case to waverers that the political fallout of a health-care failure will be worse than backlash that comes with voting for a bill. Maybe. Behind that is the further threat that Dems will go this alone, via 50-vote reconciliation, if necessary.

They'd like to avoid it, as reconciliation will be messy, uncertain and carry political fallout. Yet if the Baucus bill has done anything, it has brought the White House further down this road. The president may yet regret he didn't hit the restart button.


Fables for Adults

by Thomas Sowell

Many years ago, as a small child, I was told one of those old-fashioned fables for children. It was about a dog with a bone in his mouth, who was walking on a log across a stream.

The dog looked down into the water and saw his reflection. He thought it was another dog with a bone in his mouth-- and it seemed to him that the other dog's bone was bigger than his. He decided that he was going to take the other dog's bone away and opened his mouth to attack. The result was that his own bone fell into the water and was lost.

At the time, I didn't like that story and wished they hadn't told it to me. But the passing years and decades have made me realize how important that story was, because it was not really about dogs but about people.

Today we are living in a time when the President of the United States is telling us that he is going to help us take that other dog's bone away-- and the end result is likely to be very much like what it was in that children's fable.

Whether we are supposed to take that bone away from the doctors, the hospitals, the pharmaceutical companies or the insurance companies, the net result is likely to be the same-- most of us will end up with worse medical care than we have available today. We will have opened our mouth and dropped a very big bone into the water.

While I was told a story in my childhood to help me understand something about the real world, today adults are being told things to reduce them to childish thinking. The most childish of all the things being said in the august setting of a joint session of Congress last week was that millions of people can be added to the government's health insurance plan without increasing the federal deficit at all. If the President of the United States could do that, it is hard to imagine what he would do as an encore. Walking on water would be an anticlimax.

What is equally childish is the notion that the great majority of Americans who have medical insurance, and who say they are satisfied with it, should be panicked and stampeded into supporting vast increases in the arbitrary power of Washington bureaucrats to take medical decisions out of the hands of their doctors-- all ostensibly because a minority of Americans do not have medical insurance.

There was a time, within living memory, when most Americans did not have health insurance-- and it was not the end of the world, as so many in politics and the media seem to be depicting it today. As someone who lived through that era, and who spent decades without medical insurance, I find it hard to be panicked and stampeded into bigger and worse problems because some people do not have medical insurance, including many who could afford it if they chose to.

What did we do, back during the years when most Americans had no medical insurance? I did what most people did. I depended on a "single payer"-- myself. When I didn't have the money, I paid off my medical bills in installments. The birth of my first child was not covered by medical insurance. I paid off the bill, month by month, until the time finally came when I could tell my wife that the baby was now ours, free and clear.

In a country where everything imaginable is bought and paid for on credit, why is it suddenly a national crisis if some people cannot pay cash up front for medical treatment?

That is not the best way to do things for all people and all medical treatments, which is why most Americans today choose to have medical insurance. But millions of other people choose not to-- often young and healthy people, sometimes deadbeats who use emergency rooms and don't pay at all.

Is this ideal? No. But if every deviation from the ideal is a reason to be panicked and stampeded into putting dangerous arbitrary powers into the hands of government, then go directly to totalitarianism, do not pass "Go", do not collect $200. And go ahead and drop your bone in the water, in hopes that you can get somebody else's bigger bone.


Public Option Is Not The Worst Aspect Of ObamaCare

Much of the hullabaloo over President Obama’s health care speech to Congress last week focused on his endorsement of a “public option” — that is, a government-run, not merely government regulated health insurance plan for the non-elderly middle class. Throughout the August congressional recess, it appeared as though the White House was ready to abandon the public option, since that was a major source of contention among congressional Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, and a sizeable portion of the American public. In his speech, Obama paradoxically came out firmly in support of a public option, while acknowledging that his support was not so firm that he wouldn’t be willing to bargain the public option away.

Still, the public option is not the worst aspect of the various Democratic health reform proposals, the mandatory purchase requirement is. Under each of the three bills moving through Congress, every person living in the United States would be required by law to have insurance. And, if your employer doesn’t provide you with it, you’ve got to buy it yourself or pay a fairly stiff monetary penalty. What’s more, each of the proposals would eliminate some of the options that are available now — particularly the low-cost insurance plans that cover only catastrophic health events and have substantial cost-sharing features. And, depending on which bill would eventually be enacted into law, Congress, state insurance commissioners, and/or a federal Health Choices Commissioner would be empowered to determine whether any given plan even “qualifies” as health insurance. The end result will be higher, not lower costs, for almost every person living in the country.

President Obama knows this, of course. During the presidential campaign, he roundly criticized Hillary Clinton for proposing essentially the same thing. As today’s Wall Street Journal points out:
“The political irony here is rich. If liberal health-care reform is going to make people better off, why does it require “a very harsh, stiff penalty” to make everyone buy it? That’s what Senator Obama called it in his Presidential campaign when he opposed the individual mandate supported by Hillary Clinton. He correctly argued then that many people were uninsured not because they didn’t want coverage but because it was too expensive. The nearby mailer to Ohio primary voters gives the flavor of Mr. Obama’s attacks.

And the Baucus-Obama plan will only make insurance even more expensive. Employers will be required to offer “qualified coverage” to their workers (or pay another “free rider” penalty) and workers will be required to accept it, paying for it in lower wages. The vast majority of households already confront the same tradeoff today, except Congress will now declare that there’s only one right answer.”


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