Sunday, December 27, 2009

Spending on NHS bureaucracy up 50 per cent

Spending on NHS bureaucracy has risen by 50 per cent in just four years, according to "heartbreaking" government figures. The increases include a 43 per cent rise in the costs of managers, while spending on clerical staff rose by 78 per cent at Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), which decide how NHS funds should be used. Meanwhile, their expenditure on management consultants and temporary staff more than doubled. Patients' groups accused the Government of wasting "ludicrous and heartbreaking" sums expanding an army of administrators while starving the frontline of resources.

In 2006, ministers promised to cut NHS administration costs by halving the total number of PCTs - the organisations which decide which treatments and medications are funded - from 303 to 150. In fact, Department of Health figures show that in the four years ending last year, the total amount spent on administration went from £1.43 billion to £2.14 billion - a rise of 49.5 per cent. The statistics, which cover the period from 2004 to 2008, show that the total spent on managers went from £566 million to £808 million, a rise of 43 per cent. Spending on other administrative staff increased by 78 per cent, from £606 million to £1.07 billion.

As the total number of organisations shrunk, the new larger bodies spent more hiring temporary staff and consultants, according to an analysis of the DoH figures by the Conservatives. In total, PCT spending on outside agencies rose from £53 million to £139 million - an increase of 162 per cent.

Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said too often the millions spent on NHS bureaucracy did little to help patients, while the systems they set up left too many worse off. "These sorts of sums are ludicrous - and especially so given the heartbreaking stories we hear all too often about patients who have been denied their most basic needs," Mrs Murphy said. "This Labour Government has said an awful lot about putting the patient at the centre of services, but what we find is that the current system puts more and more layers between the patient and their doctor and nurse, and leaves vulnerable people fighting against a system of targets."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, accused Labour of "pouring" huge amounts of taxpayers' money into the NHS while failing to ensure value for money. Highlighting figures published earlier this year, showing that the number of NHS managers is increasing at three times the rate of nurses, Mr Lansley said: "This Government has created a bloated NHS bureaucracy which is overloaded with Government targets. I am determined that under a Conservative government all of this would change."

In October, the Conservatives promised to cut total spending on administration by PCTs, strategic health authorities and dozens of NHS quangos by one third, from £4.5 billion to £3 billion, within four years.

Earlier this month, Labour said it would cut NHS "management costs" - a more narrow category than administration - by 30 per cent. A spokesman for the Department of Health said significant investment in the NHS had brought the shortest waiting times for patients since records began, but that it was for local organisations to decide how money was spent. He added: “To drive services forward, the NHS needs strong management - but efficiency is crucial, so we have set a clear goal of reducing management costs in strategic health authorities and PCTs by 30 per cent over the next 4 years.”

The Sunday Telegraph's campaign, Heal our Hospitals, has received 5,200 signatures backing its calls for a review of hospital targets to make sure they work to improve quality of care. The campaign has uncovered major pay rises for NHS chief executives who presided over hospitals exposed as having some of the worst death rates in Britain.


What Obamacare and the NHS Have in Common

As US legislators continue to advance the largest expansion of government control over health care in the US, many Americans may need some comic relief. Although such massive consolidation of federal control over health care is by no means a laughing matter, the following 2-minute clip from a popular BBC Documentary Series “Yes, Minister” illustrates the ridiculousness of the efforts.

This not an entirely trivial story contrived for political satire; in fact, even early this year, the 2009 opening to an NHS hospital was canceled until “early 2010” for among other items not being able to “[control] the heat of the floor in some parts of the hospital.” In 2008, a survey by the (British) Health Care Commission found that roughly 11 million hospital meals were simply wasted. Moreover, the Taxpayers’ Alliance in England, find that “misguided directive[s]” lead to a “total waste of NHS resources”, and most importantly, divert global health care resources “at a time when people are struggling to get life-saving operations and medication”.

While the US healthcare system is not (yet) the socialized health care system of the British NHS, Obamacare does continue a massive transfer of regulatory power in the health care and health insurance markets to the federal government. In the attempt to bring more equity into the US health care system by granting the federal government even greater power, even an advanced socialized health care system faces great concerns of inequality. This is highlighted best by Steve Webb, MP and Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, stating of the NHS that “health inequalities still run deeply through our society. People still face an unfair postcode lottery in accessing health services across the country, which bears little relation to need. Health needs around the country would be best met by democratic community bodies giving local people a direct say in the services they need.”

This underscores the gravity of the current health reform debate in the US where the federal government has progressively consolidated regulatory and financing power in health care for the last 30 years. Rather than moving more towards a decentralized system that many in Britain now want (and polls have shown US voters want) US legislators want to centralize more of the power in Washington.


10 Really Nasty Surprises For The American People In The Health Care Reform Bill

Most Americans who support the health care reform bills currently being rammed through Congress believe that this process will result in Americans receiving universal health care that is cheaper, more efficient and that gives all of us more choices. But that is not the case at all. Rather, Americans will soon have much fewer health choices which are much less efficient and for which they will end up paying much more for. In fact, there are a ton of really nasty surprises for the American people in the health care reform bill. The following are 10 of the nastiest of the surprises....

#1) All Americans will be forced to buy health insurance. If you don't like the new system, that is too bad for you. If you don't pay up, you will be heavily fined and you could ultimately end up in prison. There will simply be no escape from participating in this health care system until you die.

#2) Americans will have basically two places from which to get health coverage - either their workplaces or from "insurance exchanges" set up by the government. If you are not employed, you will have one choice.

#3) Americans will have much fewer health plan choices under the new system. The new "insurance exchanges" that the government is setting up will offer four health plan templates that have been mandated by the government. Each plan will contain health benefits that have been specifically dictated by government agencies. You will be forced to pay for the benefits contained in these plans whether you need them or not. So if you will never need substance abuse treatment or prescription drug coverage that is too bad - you will be forced to pay for them.

#4) Americans will be eligible for a federal subsidy to help them buy health insurance, but only if they earn less than 400 percent of the poverty level ($88,200 for a family of four). However, an individual will only be eligible for a subsidy if their employer does not offer health coverage and if that individual purchases a "government-approved" plan from a "government-approved" insurance exchange.

#5) The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a family insurance plan for a typical family of four will cost approximately $15,000 per year when the health care bill comes into full effect in 2016. How do you think most American families will react to that?

#6) The Congressional Budget Office also says that the coverage provisions in the Senate bill will cost the U.S. government $200 billion annually by 2019 and that these costs will grow by 8 percent per year. Considering the fact that the U.S. government is already drowning in red ink, where in the world will all of that money come from?

#7) American workers will be hit with nasty new taxes under the new system, including a .9 percent Medicare payroll tax increase that the Senate bill would implement.

#8) There is also a 40 percent tax on "Cadillac" health plans in the Senate version of the bill. That tax is not indexed to inflation, which means that eventually every health plan will be subject to the tax.

#9) Even if your current health plan is "grandfathered" in, your current health insurance company will be required to meet new federal mandates that will dramatically increase the cost for any health plan it offers you right now. Guess who the health insurance companies will pass those costs on to?

#10) Senator Harry Reid has inserted some really wicked provisions in the Senate version of the health care bill that will make it virtually impossible to repeal the Obamacare bill once it is adopted. So the reality is that once it is voted in, the American people will be stuck with it forever.


2009’s Present Under the Tree - Death

By Dick McDonald

It is almost incomprehensible that the Congress of the United States has just passed bills in both houses that will annually cut $500,000,000,000 (one-half a Trillion dollars) from the cost to extend the lives (longevity) of America’s senior citizens. The Republicans stood firm in their opposition to these bills but the Democrats claimed that their majorities were created by the public’s mandate in November 2008 to “change” health care to include the small minority of the uninsured.

The Democrats took a financial crisis – a deep recession – as an opportunity they couldn’t pass up to grow their political power and increase the size of government at the expense of the free market and the private sector. The medical profession had expanded the life span of the Average America from 62 to over 80 in just 75 short years. The eventual cuts the Democrats have proposed will stop that progress and the life span of the average American will start dropping.

All this is being done to seniors because keeping seniors alive has become too costly. In order for Democrats to pay for the enormous takeover of 1/6th of the private sector economy they have to cut expenses. They decided seniors in the last years of life were their best bet to finance their plan of “social justice” for a small number of Americans now relying on free emergency care to save their life.

Democrats reasoned why not kill seniors when they become too costly – they are living too long now anyway. They said let’s expand health care to the point where we Democrats can dictate who and when old people are deemed worthy of life saving procedures - in that way, we can ration and withhold expensive procedures from those who don’t have long to live thus financing our enormous medical bureaucracy.

It is true that half of the cost of Medicare is spent in the last years of life. That became a reality when Americans adopted Medicare. The cost of surgeries, medicines and hospitalization that have increased longevity have been costly. Under new healthcare these costs will be trimmed and earlier deaths assured.

This change to politician-controlled healthcare is just another dagger in the heart of the liberty and freedom of choice that built the greatest economy the world and the best medical care on the planet. From now on Americans will have to ask their government for permission to live. What a sad state of affairs. Our Founders must be turning over in their graves.

This is what a society gets when they stop making money, increasing overall wealth using the principles and freedom under capitalism and start concentrating on redistributing the wealth using the principles of socialism and collectivism. Under socialism wealth is consumed and eventually disappears. Under capitalism wealth is created and freedom and liberty deliver prosperity.

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Nanny State Gone Wild: Defining Dependency Up

by Michelle Malkin

The greatest gifts you can give your children can't be boxed and bowed. Consider the timeless gift of self-sufficiency -- a stubborn thirst to leave the nest, make it on your own and live as a free-willed adult. It's a concept that Big Nanny Democrats are sabotaging at every legislative turn.

Several times during the sneaky debate on the government health care takeover bill this past Sunday, Democrats hailed a provision requiring insurance plans that cover dependents to provide benefits to children up to age 26. Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Tom Harkin both specifically championed the unfunded mandate in their floor statements.

This manifestation of the Nanny State is especially galling given the massive levels of generational theft the Democratic majority has presided over this past year. If they truly cared about the physical and financial well-being of young Americans, they'd stop piling on expensive regulations that simply put affordable health insurance out of their reach.

I propose a new symbol for the Democrats. Out: donkey. In: a giant adult pacifier.

I can tell you what most fiscally responsible parents are thinking when they hear the feds "taking care" of everyone else's adult "children" by confiscating their tax dollars and forcing private companies to comply: You've got to be kidding me. Yes, Virginia, there are still some of us left who believe our children shouldn't depend on a government-manufactured umbilical cord as they approach their third decade on earth.

Nonetheless, there are now an estimated 20 states that have already passed legislation requiring insurers to cover adult children. The slacker mandates cover "kids" ranging in age from 24 to 31. And it's these government health care mandates that are driving up the cost of insurance.

Health policy researcher Nathan Benefield of the Commonwealth Foundation reported that in New Jersey, Nanny State peddlers claimed the adult kiddie protection law would help 100,000 uninsured young adults. "Yet in two years, only 6 percent of that estimate has been realized. The primary reason -- health insurance is still too expensive."

Wisconsin has experienced similar results. "Whenever you insure somebody whom you didn't insure before there's some additional risk," insurance expert James Mueller told the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal. Mueller points to the premium increases that have followed coverage mandates on employer-sponsored plans. "The problem with all these good ideas is there's funding necessary," Mueller said. In Wisconsin, not only are adult children covered, but also the children of those "children" if they live in single-parent homes.

As he rammed through this mandate and the mountain of other government regulations buried in Demcare, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised on Sunday: "We are reshaping the nation. That's what we want to do."

Indeed, this defining dependency up phenomenon is part of the larger push for single-payer-by-proxy. The other universal health care Trojan horse signed into law this year -- the expansion of SCHIP (the State Children's Health Insurance Program) -- welcomed more non-"children" into the government insurance fold.

Both political parties have advocated federal waivers to use SCHIP funds for adults, including parents of Medicaid/SCHIP children, caretaker relatives, legal guardians and childless adults. According to the General Accounting Office, SCHIP-funded expenditures on adults nationwide "totaled about $674 million in 2006." J.P. Wieske of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance notes that the bennies provide an incentive for parents to drop their private coverage in order to take advantage of free or discounted health insurance for their children. "It has become a program for the middle class at the expense of the poor."

This is the engine that will power the Demcare architects' most naked, radical ambitions: "Health care as an inalienable right," as Sen. Harkin put it. How? By breeding a massive permanent culture of dependency and bottomless debt in the name of the "children" from birth through quarter-life -- and beyond.


A nasty Christmas Present

Scrooge came early on Christmas Eve this year -- and he looks strangely like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Instead of "bah humbug," he delivered the U.S. Senate's version of "health care reform" -- the most expensive legislation ever passed by the Congress of the United States and the greatest expansion of government power in our nation's history. Now that's some Christmas present -- and a different way of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

If the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate succeed in cobbling together a final bill after the new year begins, every American taxpayer will take a hit in the pocketbook, and every Tiny Tim in the next generation can look forward to government-rationed medical care. According to those who purport to speak for him, President Barack Obama is celebrating this "historic event," and they aren't talking about the Nativity two millenniums ago.

For reasons apparently obscure to Obama and Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, most Americans don't seem to be as pleased at their Christmas gift as those who gave it. Perhaps that's because "We the People" see the Senate's $848 billion stocking stuffer has a price tag that would choke a reindeer.

Actually, that's just the down payment. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the first decade of the Senate's bill would cost $2.5 trillion. Even the Magi couldn't imagine a gift this precious.

Those who voted for "Change!" last year may find that's all they have left in their pockets. Administration actuaries estimate that both the House and Senate bills would accelerate growing costs for medical care. The CBO calculates that annual health care premiums for middle-income Americans would go up by $300 for individuals and more than $2,000 for families. And just in case you didn't notice, not getting health insurance is no longer an option. Higher costs may not have been on your Christmas list, but the O-Team in Washington wants you to have them anyway.

Overwhelmingly, Americans have been telling pollsters for more than a year that what they really wanted this Christmas (and the rest of the year, as well) were "jobs" and "job security." Apparently, the elves at the White House and on Capitol Hill weren't listening. Instead, they want to give us a $400 billion tax increase, new mandates on employers and higher fees for prescription drugs and medical devices. None of this would stimulate private-sector job growth.

But not to worry. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"; there may be new jobs -- at the Office of Personnel Management. In the Senate version of this Christmas Carol, up to 10 million Americans would lose their employer-sponsored health coverage. The individual health insurance plans for millions more would be nonexistent soon. To "ensure these Americans will never be denied coverage," OPM would set up a whole new bureaucracy to administer a government-run "insurance exchange." Though OPM is the federal agency responsible for granting security clearances -- and hopeless backlogs are commonplace -- we should be encouraged that it would do better at "managing" our health insurance. Take an aspirin, and call OPM in the morning.

The O-Team is confident that shortly after we ring in the new year, the House and Senate health care bills will be melded into one giant gift that keeps on giving -- to the federal government. There are some "fine points" to work out, such as how many of our tax dollars can really be spent on abortions and how deep the cuts in Medicare coverage for seniors will be and how much more "the wealthiest Americans" will pay. But those are just "minor details" that we are assured can be "worked out in the spirit of the season." We all should remember that "it's the thought that counts."

According to Reid, the "hard work" is done. The "exhausted" members of Congress are now home on "winter recess." Mr. Obama and his family are on their "Hawaiian holiday." Notably, the word "Christmas" is rarely, if ever, used in our government.

But that proscription isn't as pervasive as some would like. Though the majority of our elected officials call their health care bills a "gift" -- yet dare not speak the word "Christmas" -- there are others who know the true spirit of this holiday. Right now, more than 250,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines are deployed far from home -- a good number in harm's way. Those who wear our nation's uniform and their loved ones embody what giving, self-sacrifice and Christmas are really all about.


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