Monday, September 21, 2009

Senior British politician chooses private hospital rather than the NHS

NICK CLEGG, the Liberal Democrat leader, last night admitted he had paid for private healthcare partly because of his frustration at NHS waiting times.

Clegg, who said he had occasionally “coughed up” so one of his sons could see medical specialists quickly, becomes the first political leader to break the Westminster taboo about going private. “I understand the sensitivity but I feel fervently that I am a dad before I am a politician,” said the Lib Dem leader in an interview with The Sunday Times.

Clegg’s admission contrasts with the position of Gordon Brown, who has always used the NHS for his two sons, one of whom has cystic fibrosis. Similarly, David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has praised the way the NHS treated his disabled son Ivan, who died earlier this year. However, other members of the Tory front bench have refused to say whether they pay for medical insurance.

Clegg, 42, who is married to a high-flying Spanish lawyer and has three young sons, said his family did not have private health cover. But he added: “If you ask, has there been an occasion where we have paid for a consultation, then the answer is yes.” Asked why he had opted out of the NHS, he said: “Because we were very keen to see a particular consultant for a particular problem very quickly.” He refused to elaborate on the details of the medical problems concerned. “As far as my children’s health or education is concerned, I am simply not going to hold them hostage to make political points,” he said.

Speaking on the eve of the Lib Dem annual conference in Bournemouth, he claimed both Labour and the Conservatives were ducking serious discussion on the future of healthcare. “Why on earth is the NHS as centralised as it is? Why is there layer upon layer of centralised bureaucracy?” he said. He asserted that while the NHS had areas of excellence, there were also serious failings. “Mental health, for example, is a Cinderella service,” he said.


Health reformers targeting 'enemies'

Protest events tightly scripted. Civility not envisaged

The plan for a series of grass-roots demonstrations Tuesday to promote President Obama's health care agenda calls for tightly scripted events and an "escalation" of efforts against "enemies" of reform. Organizers insist there is no comparison to rowdy summer town hall meetings and recent "tea party" protests that have challenged White House policies.

But Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which is backed by a coalition of labor unions and liberal groups including ACORN and, organized the protests to target insurance companies and drafted the plan, which describes the demonstrations as part of its "insurance enemies project."

The document, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, details specific talking points, tactics, props and strategies to stage the protests. It lists goals that include action that "mobilizes our base by animating existing anger about private insurers."

The HCAN field plan dictates that each protest will include a minimum of 30 participants, target only health care insurers CIGNA, WellPoint and United Health Care and showcase what it calls "victims," or people who have either lost insurance, can't afford it or were denied coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions. "We built a campaign to win health care reform and that is exactly what we are working on," said HCAN national spokeswoman Jacki Schechner, who authenticated the documents. But she asserted: "There is nothing top-down about this."

The field plan says the protests should attract media coverage that "creates villains or enemies that serve as a contrast with our side; validates the need for affordability and the public health insurance option; [and] forces the other side to respond."

David Palombi, senior vice president of corporate communications for WellPoint, said the "enemies project" is counterproductive to the debate and will do nothing to expand access, reduce costs or improve the quality of health care in the United States. "It is extraordinarily disappointing that it comes at a time when [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] and others are calling for a civil discussion." Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, became emotional at a news conference Thursday when she expressed fear that the harsh rhetoric of the debate would lead to violence.

More here

Values voters poke fun at health reform

2,000 gather for D.C. summit

Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, once considered a moderate by some social conservatives, was the headliner at the Values Voters Summit in Washington on Friday evening, quoting from the Bible and bringing the nearly 2,000 social and religious conservatives to their feet. "We need to be sure we are a force for wise values, not just wisecracks," Mr. Pawlenty told the activists from 49 states. "We need to humbly ask God to bless the United States," said the two-term governor, who had announced more than three months ago he would not seek a third term. He has been traveling the country looking very much like a potential presidential nomination seeker.

Poking fun at President Obama's health care plan, Tony Perkins opened the summit Friday morning by quipping that he fears the plan will produce a system with the empathy of the Internal Revenue Service and the efficiency of the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Mr. Perkins, Family Research Council president, got the expected laughter and applause from the nearly 2,000 religious and social activists gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel for a good but godly time.

Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, took the podium to toss out a few one-liners before settling down to criticize his own party for what he thinks are its unprincipled excesses of the past. "On Election Day last year, only 22 percent of Americans described themselves as liberal, but our nation went forward to elect the most liberal one-party government in American history," he said. "So, what happened? Well, some blame the war in Iraq. Some blame Republican scandals. Well, I think the real scandal in Washington, D.C., was runaway federal spending under Republican control."

The religious-social right has never been about fire and brimstone but about moral behavior by government and citizens. Legalized abortion and same-sex marriages rank at the top of the movement's must-stop agenda.

The next speaker was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who proceeded to rock the house with humor. Dismissing the health care "reform" approach of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congress, Mr. Huckabee compared the "real" health problem to "an NFL game on Sunday [with] 22 people down on the field desperately in need of rest and 70,000 in the stands desperately in need of exercise." "There is America's health care problem right there," he said.

Mr. Huckabee, who ran second to Arizona Sen. John McCain in the Republican presidential nomination contest last year, has been an increasingly important figure in the religious-social right movement that bemoans what former Education Secretary William J. Bennett has called the "coarsening of American culture." Now a Fox News talk-show host, Mr. Huckabee let fly with such zingers aimed at Mr. Obama as "The audacity of hope has become the audacity of hypocrisy," and America is being trivialized and demeaned into "land czars, clunker cars and Hollywood stars."

Mr. Huckabee, who complained about the unequal footing financially between him and opponent Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential nomination contest, took a swipe at the former Massachusetts governor who enacted statewide health care reform before leaving office. "A couple of states have already tried government-run medicine: Tennessee and Massachusetts. Both plans went bankrupt," Mr. Huckabee said. "The only thing inexpensive is $50 for an abortion in Massachusetts. No thanks."

As for Mr. Obama's claim that his health care reform will not increase the federal debt or deficit because it will offset new costs by "squeezing $500 billion out of the Medicare program. If he can do it now, why hasn't he already done it?"


More Cowbell

We wrote about the original "more cowbell" here. Lately, the phrase has come to denote the Obama administration's efforts to promote the Democrats' health care plan (whatever it is). Personal appeals by the President are the "cowbell." Today Michelle Obama got into the act, proclaiming that the current health care system "crushes women":
First lady Michelle Obama sought support for the administration's health-care plans from family advocacy groups and health-care professionals, saying the treatment of women under the current system is "unacceptable." ...

Michelle Obama said women are being "crushed by the current structure of our health care" because they often are responsible for taking care of family illnesses, arranging checkups and monitoring follow-up care.

"Women are the ones to do it," she said to an audience of 140 people, including representatives from groups such as the Women's Chamber of Commerce and the National Council of Negro Women. "Mothers are the ones that do it. And many women find themselves doing the same thing for their spouses."

I really don't understand this. Under Obamacare, will someone other than mothers (or fathers) arrange checkups for their kids? Take care of family illnesses? Make sure the kids are taking their medicine and get follow-up care if they need it? Is there really anything like this in any of the Democrats' proposals? If mothers (and fathers) don't arrange their kids' checkups, who will? Someone else's mother or father, apparently. No doubt they'll care more and do a better job.

The Obama administration seems to be bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "nanny state."

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Separating 'He Lied' From The 'Elides'

You lie? No. Barack Obama doesn't lie. He's too subtle for that. He . . . well, you judge.

Herewith three examples within a single speech — the now-famous Obama-Wilson "you lie" address to Congress on health care — of Obama's relationship with truth:

1. "I will not sign (a plan)," he solemnly pledged, "if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future. Period."

Wonderful. The president seems serious, veto-ready, determined to hold the line. Until, notes Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, you get to Obama's very next sentence: "And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize."

This apparent strengthening of the pledge brilliantly and deceptively undermines it. What Obama suggests is that his plan will require mandatory spending cuts if the current rosy projections prove false. But there's absolutely nothing automatic about such cuts. Every Congress is sovereign.

Nothing enacted today will force a future Congress or a future president to make any cuts in any spending, mandatory or not.

Just look at the supposedly automatic Medicare cuts contained in the Sustainable Growth Rate formula enacted to constrain out-of-control Medicare spending. Every year since 2003, Congress has waived the cuts.

Mankiw puts the Obama bait-and-switch in plain language. "Translation: I promise to fix the problem. And if I do not fix the problem now, I will fix it later, or some future president will, after I am long gone. I promise he will. Absolutely, positively, I am committed to that future president fixing the problem. You can count on it. Would I lie to you?"

2. And then there's the famous contretemps about health insurance for illegal immigrants. Obama said they would not be insured. Well, all four committee-passed bills in Congress allow illegal immigrants to take part in the proposed Health Insurance Exchange.

But more importantly, the problem is that laws are not self-enforcing. If they were, we'd have no illegal immigrants because, as I understand it, it's illegal to enter the United States illegally. We have laws against burglary, too. But we also provide for cops and jails on the assumption that most burglars don't voluntarily turn themselves in.

When Republicans proposed requiring proof of citizenship, the Democrats twice voted that down in committee. Indeed, after Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" shout-out, the Senate Finance Committee revisited the language of its bill to prevent illegal immigrants from getting any federal benefits. Why would the Finance Committee fix a nonexistent problem?

3. Obama said he would largely solve the insoluble cost problem of ObamaCare by eliminating "hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud" from Medicare.

That's not a lie. That's not even deception. That's just an insult to our intelligence. Waste, fraud and abuse — Meg Greenfield once called this phrase "the dread big three" — as the all-purpose piggy bank for budget savings has been a joke since Jimmy Carter first used it in 1977.

Moreover, if half a trillion is waiting to be squeezed painlessly out of Medicare, why wait for health care reform? If, as Obama repeatedly insists, Medicare overspending is breaking the budget, why hasn't he gotten started on the painless billions in "waste and fraud" savings?

Obama doesn't lie. He merely elides, gliding from one dubious assertion to another. This has been the story throughout his whole health care crusade. Its original premise was that our current financial crisis was rooted in neglect of three things — energy, education and health care.

That transparent attempt to exploit Emanuel's Law — a crisis is a terrible thing to waste — failed for health care because no one is stupid enough to believe that the 2008 financial collapse was caused by a lack of universal health care.

So on to the next gambit: selling health care reform as a cure for the deficit. When that was exploded by the Congressional Budget Office's demonstration of staggering ObamaCare deficits, Obama tried a new tack: selling his plan as revenue-neutral insurance reform — until the revenue neutrality is exposed as phony future cuts and chimerical waste and fraud.

Obama doesn't lie. He implies, he misdirects, he misleads — so fluidly and incessantly that he risks transmuting eloquence into mere slickness.

Slickness wasn't fatal to "Slick Willie" Clinton because he possessed a winning, near irresistible charm. Obama's persona is more cool, distant, imperial.

The charming scoundrel can get away with endless deception; the righteous redeemer cannot.


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