Monday, February 15, 2010

Australian conservative leader plans local management boards for public hospitals

This is basically a reversion to the old system -- a system that worked much better than the present constipated bureaucracy. Under the old system doctors and prominent members of the local community ran the hospitals -- with only a fraction of the bureaucracy that is sucking up the health dollars nowadays

LOCAL boards would run major public hospitals under Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's prescription to fix the nation's ailing health system. Mr Abbott yesterday foreshadowed a Northern Territory-style "emergency intervention" for public hospitals under the plan to install local management boards in Queensland and NSW within six months if the Coalition won the next election. The boards would be government-appointed, have control over hospital budgets and discretion to raise money from private patients.

The Rudd Government savaged the plan as "half-baked", while Queensland Health Minister Paul Lucas predicted a disaster.

Flanked by predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Abbott used the policy to attack Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for failing to meet his promise to improve or take over public hospitals. "All we've had from Kevin Rudd in two years is words ... and I'm telling Kevin Rudd that the only change that will really make a long-term difference is to empower local people ... by establishing local community boards," he said. Mr Abbott said the "systemic malaise" in NSW and Queensland public hospitals meant the Commonwealth should be prepared to intervene.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said Mr Abbott's ideas were not a comprehensive plan for change. "He was a quick fix, Band-Aid Minister and he wants to be a quick-fix, band-aid Prime Minister," she said. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the system needed "urgent surgery" and he made no apology for taking longer than promised to find a solution. Mr Lucas said local communities were not the right people to run hospitals. "Having a local hospital board is a recipe for ... debt being run up by people who do not have the expertise to runthem."


The Obamacare volcano

Americans must ensure it doesn't erupt again

Public support for Obamacare legislation is dismal. According to a Feb. 2 and 3 Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll, among 900 registered voters surveyed, just 23 percent want it enacted. Fully 70 percent disagree. Among them, 47 percent would start over, and 23 percent would do nothing.

Nonetheless, Obamacare is like a quietly rumbling volcano - dormant but not yet dead. President Obama and Washington Democrats oscillate between tears over their stalled pet project and cheers that "We're moving forward," as Mr. Obama recently chirped. The White House's Feb. 25 "bipartisan" health care summit is a sulfurous puff of smoke that should worry Obamacare opponents. Consequently, those who want to stop this ruinous measure should keep highlighting its shortcomings until this initiative is extinct.

Consider, then, that Obamacare flunks the first test of any potential federal law: It is not constitutional. Obamacare critics deem the individual mandate unconstitutional because Congress lacks the power to force Americans to buy anything, especially health insurance they wisely or foolishly may not want.

Congress' legitimate power to regulate interstate commerce has been stretched like saltwater taffy. "It is one thing, however, for Congress to regulate economic activity in which individuals choose to engage; it is another to require that individuals engage in such activity," observed Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican; former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell; and the American Civil Rights Union's Kenneth A. Klukowski in the Jan. 2 Wall Street Journal. "That is not a difference in degree, but instead a difference in kind."

Beyond this lies another problem. The individual mandate would be enforced by penalizing Americans $495 or 0.5 percent of adjusted gross income, whichever is higher, if they do not acquire health insurance by 2014. Two years later, that fine would rise to 2 percent of AGI, equal to $640 today. Anticipated fines total about $15 billion.

The IRS would collect these payments and require Americans to certify on their tax returns that they carry health coverage. This represents a "direct" tax on U.S. citizens, based solely on the status of living in America. This is not a tax on income. It is not an excise tax, either, because there is no tax on any transaction; if one refuses to purchase insurance, there is no transaction on which to slap an excise tax.

As Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, told his colleagues on the Senate floor: "Anything we have ever done, somebody actually had to have an action before we could tax or regulate it."

"Without precedent, Congress is attempting to punish the nonpurchase of a private product," says Robert Levy, senior fellow for constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, which he chairs. "That would be an intolerable affront to the Constitution and personal autonomy."

Nonetheless, the individual mandate's IRS enforcement scheme operates, in essence, as a tax. The hitch is that Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises." Section 9 adds, "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken."

A penalty collected via the IRS would be a direct tax on individuals, independent of anything reflected in the Census or tied to enumeration of citizens among the states. As such, the individual mandate's enforcement mechanism would fail constitutional scrutiny. And a mandate without enforcement is just a suggestion.

If Obamacare somehow re-erupts into active status, it likely would rely on this ultimately toothless individual suggestion, which many Americans gladly would ignore. Without Washington's capacity to pressure Americans into submission, the number of participants in Obamacare likely would fall well below projections, and this entire, glorious experiment would implode.

One of the most compelling arguments against Obamacare is that it is self-defeatingly unconstitutional. That is yet another reason why this menacing monster must be silenced.


Summit no time to back down

Last week, Washington, D.C. was shut down by two huge snow storms. These rivaled the snow job that President Obama put on in a White House news conference. He scheduled an ObamaCare summit for February 25th to supposedly reanimate his failed health care plan and to demand bipartisanship. The President now wants Republicans to work with him to pass ObamaCare, another stimulus bill and to approve his controversial nominees.

This is no time for conservatives to back down in the name of bipartisanship. “Bipartisanship,” after all, doesn’t mean surrendering to big government. This President is in denial, and he’s showing contempt toward the American people who have repeatedly rejected his big government ideas.

Liberals now need a gimmick to pass ObamaCare, because the usual approach has failed. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) campaigned on a promise to filibuster and defeat the President’s health care bill, and the people of liberal Massachusetts agreed. Now that the Democrats can’t overcome Republican threats to filibuster a final package of ObamaCare proposals, they have come up with a new plan to force the President’s plan through the House and Senate.

An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says liberals have crafted a way around the Senate’s filibuster rule, so they hope to get ObamaCare signed into law by Easter. First, the House would pass a reconciliation bill making changes to the Senate-passed bill. With a reconciliation bill, the filibuster rule in the Senate would be set aside, and liberal Democrats could ignore the concerns of moderate Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives call this the “Nuclear Option,” because Senate leaders would be bending the rules of the Senate to avoid any chance of a filibuster.

But a reconciliation bill can only be used to pass spending, revenue and tax bills. So after reconciliation, the House would have to pass the exact Senate-passed version of ObamaCare. This trick would force many liberals to vote for a bill they don’t think goes far enough. But the left understands that this may be its best chance to move America one step closer to a socialist, single-payer health care system

Conservatives should make sure we don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the name of “bipartisanship.” We must block the President’s flawed health care reform, his big spending approach to stimulus and his left-wing nominees. At some point, Barack Obama may actually listen to the American people. Until then, conservatives must keep working to defend the idea of a limited federal government.


No comments: