Thursday, February 25, 2010

Breast cancer victims face NHS ageism, campaigners claim

Age discrimination is rife in the care of breast cancer patients, campaigners claimed yesterday. Older women with the disease are up to 40 times less likely to be given surgery on the NHS than younger patients, research shows. They are also less likely to be diagnosed or receive standard treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The findings on surgery applies to women over the age of 80. When they do get surgery, it is 'significantly' less likely to be breast-conserving, with more women losing their entire breast during the operation. In addition, those over 70 are not routinely invited to breast screening, which can lead to an earlier diagnosis.

Daphne Cook was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 74, but her consultant said she did not need radiotherapy as being older might make it difficult for her to get to the hospital. Mrs Cook, now 87, a grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of six, eventually got the treatment after her daughter, a health worker, questioned the decision. 'I didn't understand the importance of radiotherapy treatment and I certainly wouldn't have pushed for it,' Mrs Cook said. She has since enjoyed more than ten years of good health.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which carried out the research, said: 'Ten years ago women like Daphne were not being given a full range of treatment options and our research has found this is still the case today, despite many advances in breast cancer treatment. 'With nearly 12,000 women dying of breast cancer each year it is scandalous that all women are not receiving equal access to the treatments they need.'

The charity is calling for the Government to implement laws against ageism in the Health Service. Last year a survey of doctors caring for older patients found that almost half believed the NHS is 'institutionally ageist'.

The risk of breast cancer increases with age and a third of cases occur in women aged 70 and over. Nearly 46,000 were diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and experts predict this will rise to 57,000 a year by 2024 - an increase of 20 per cent.


"New-and-Improved ObamaCare!"

Yesterday, Barack Obama unveiled his latest, "new-and-improved" version of ObamaCare. Sadly for the American people, it's more of the same. According to the New York Times, the Obama proposal "sticks largely to the version passed by the Senate in December." This is therefore the same proposal that 58 percent of voters overwhelmingly oppose, as reported by Rasmussen Reports. A full 61 percent want Congress to simply start over.

As well they should. As Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson commented yesterday, "This is pretty much the same government-run health care proposal that the American people have already rejected." Indeed.

According to the Times, the White House claims the plan will cost some $950 billion atop the already swelling entitlement burden that cost $1.441 trillion in 2010 alone. It also proposes extending taxpayer-subsidized coverage to some 31 million Americans.

Unfortunately, the proposal was so vague, the Congressional Budget Office cannot even grade it properly. Writes CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf: “preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions.”

Rest assured, if this latest abomination is anything like the Senate version, as is reported, the true cost will be more like $2.5 trillion over ten years once fully implemented, as Senate Republicans have claimed of the bill they opposed in the Senate.

And, lest anyone doubt the veracity of that figure, such as Senator Al Franken or Talking Points Memo, just check with the Congressional Budget Office, as reported by the Weekly Standard in December: “The Democrats are irresponsibly and disingenuously claiming that the bill would cost $871 billion over 10 years. But that's not what the CBO says. Rather, the CBO says that $871 billion would be the costs from 2010 to 2019 for expansions in insurance coverage alone. But less than 2 percent of those ‘10-year costs’ would kick in before the fifth year of that span. In its real first 10 years (2014 to 2023), the CBO says that the bill would cost $1.8 trillion -- for insurance coverage expansions alone. Other parts of the bill would cost approximately $700 billion more, bringing the bill's full 10-year tab to approximately $2.5 trillion -- according to the CBO.”

Even Senator Max Baucus admitted that the bill would cost $2.5 trillion when he said, “health care reform, whether you use a ten-year number or when you start in 2010 or start in 2014, wherever you start at, so it is still either $1 trillion or it's $2.5 Trillion, depending on where you start…”

Although the White House in one breath claims the bill will be “deficit-neutral,” it is forced to admit that it will indeed be funded by taxpayers: “Millions of families will receive hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits to help them pay for insurance in the new exchanges… The Act also provides financial assistance to reduce out-of-pocket costs for moderate and low-income eligible Americans.” Those are direct subsidies for health benefits; to call them tax credits is like calling Medicare or welfare a tax credit.

Obama’s claim to deficit-neutrality depends on the critical $483 billion in ten-year cuts to Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid. But, a $210 billion “doc-fix” bill — kept apart from ObamaCare — that passed the House in November restores a good portion of those cuts, as reported by FOX News.

This is where the rationing comes in. As the government’s unfunded health care liabilities become increasingly unsustainable over the next several years, the growing costs of providing health benefits for everyone will assuredly eat into the benefits of providing coverage to seniors and the poor.

The greater the insurance pool, the more costly the “doc-fixes” and other subsidies will be in the future, and the less benefits there will be to go around.

This is therefore a bill that will ultimately ration care away from seniors, lower the quality of medical treatment, increase premiums, drive the American people off of their private health options and onto government-run ObamaCare, and bankrupt the Treasury with unsustainable costs. And one that Congressional Democrats intend to pass by simply eliminating the filibuster and weakening the nation’s two-party system, as ALG News has previously reported.

If one needed any more proof of the phoniness of this White House, look no further than February 25th’s health care summit, where Obama hopes to create a theater of bipartisanship, all the while hocking the same old, wretched Congressional bill that barely survived the town halls.

Of course, it’s a theater of the absurd. And the meeting is a stage for Obama to pretend that it is not. The bill is to be rammed through regardless of the summit; with or without Republican support. This “new-and-improved” proposal, its much ballyhooed summit, and the pretense of honest, faithful negotiations have more in common with a reprehensible, Orwellian, Third World banana republic than a fully mature citizen republic. This is not change, it is a fraud.


ObamaCare at Ramming Speed

The White House shows it has no interest in compromise

A mere three days before President Obama's supposedly bipartisan health-care summit, the White House yesterday released a new blueprint that Democrats say they will ram through Congress with or without Republican support. So after election defeats in Virginia, New Jersey and even Massachusetts, and amid overwhelming public opposition, Democrats have decided to give the voters what they don't want anyway.

Ah, the glory of "progressive" governance and democratic consent.

"The President's Proposal," as the 11-page White House document is headlined, is in one sense a notable achievement: It manages to take the worst of both the House and Senate bills and combine them into something more destructive. It includes more taxes, more subsidies and even less cost control than the Senate bill. And it purports to fix the special-interest favors in the Senate bill not by eliminating them—but by expanding them to everyone.

The bill's one new inspiration is a powerful federal board that would regulate premiums in the individual insurance market. In all 50 states, insurers are already required to justify premium increases to insurance commissioners, who generally have the power to give a regulatory go-ahead, or not. But their primary concern is actuarial soundness and capital standards, making sure that companies have enough cash to pay claims.

The White House wants to create another layer of review that will be able to reject any rate increase that is "unreasonable or unjustified." Any insurer deemed guilty of such an infraction by this new bureaucracy "must lower premiums, provide rebates, or take other actions to make premiums affordable." In other words, de facto price controls.

Insurance premiums are rising too fast; therefore, premium increases should be illegal. Q.E.D. The result of this rate-setting board will be less competition in the individual market, as insurers flee expensive states or regions, or even a cascade of bankruptcies if premiums are frozen and the cost of the care they are expected to cover continues to rise. For all the Dickensian outrage about profiteering by WellPoint and other companies, insurance is a low-margin business even for health care, and at least 85 cents of the average premium dollar, usually more, is devoted to actual health services.

Price controls are always the first resort of national health care—i.e., Medicare's administered prices for doctors and hospitals. This new White House gambit is merely a preview of ObamaCare's inevitable planned medical economy, which will reduce choice and quality.

The coercive flavor that animates this exercise is best captured in the section that purports to accept the Senate's "grandfather clause" allowing people who like their current health plan to keep it. Except that "The President's Proposal adds certain consumer protections to these 'grandfathered' plans. Within months of legislation being enacted, it requires plans . . . prohibits . . . mandates . . . requires . . . the President's Proposal adds new protections that prohibit . . . ban . . . and prohibit . . . The President's Proposal requires . . ." After all of these dictates, no "grandfathered" plan will exist.

Meanwhile, the new White House plan further vitiates the remnants of cost-control that remained in the House and Senate bills. Now the highly vaunted excise tax on high-cost insurance plans won't kick in until 2018, whereas it would have started in 2013 in the Senate bill, and this tax will only apply to coverage that costs more than $27,500.

Very few plans ever reach that threshold, and sure enough, this is the same $60 billion deal the White House cut in December with union leaders who have negotiated very costly benefits. Now it is extended to all to avoid the taint of political favoritism.

While the White House claims to eliminate the "Cornhusker Kickback," the Medicaid bribe that bought Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson's vote, political appearances are deceiving. As with the union payoff, what the White House really does is broaden the same to all states, with all new Medicaid spending through 2017 and 90% after 2020 transferred to the federal balance sheet. Governors will love this ruse, but national taxpayers will pay more.

And more again, because the White House has adopted the House's firehose insurance subsidies. People earning up to 400% of the poverty line—or about $96,000 for a family of four in 2016—will qualify for government help, and, naturally, this new entitlement is designed to expand over time.

The Administration also claims to have discarded the House's 5.4-percentage-point surtax on joint-filers earning more than $1 million a year, but it sneaks it back in by expanding the Senate's expansion of the 2.9% Medicare payroll tax to joint income above $250,000. The White House would now apply that tax for the first time to income from "interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents," details to come.

The larger political message of this new proposal is that Mr. Obama and Democrats have no intention of compromising on an incremental reform, or of listening to Republican, or any other, ideas on health care. They want what they want, and they're going to play by Chicago Rules and try to dragoon it into law on a narrow partisan vote via Congressional rules that have never been used for such a major change in national policy. If you want to know why Democratic Washington is "ungovernable," this is it.


A man with a plan

Obama seems to surmise that the American people have forgotten that he already had a plan and that it looked almost exactly like his "new" one

In his speech to a joint-session of Congress on September 9, President Obama introduced what he called "my plan" for "health care reform." The next day, the Washington Post noted that "the president for the first time Wednesday embraced a set of ideas as 'my plan.'" About the same time, Obama authored a health-care piece in which he referred to "my plan" eight separate times (nine, if you include a set-aside quote).

Now, fast-forward about six months, to just three days before the made-for-TV "health summit," and, lo and behold, the president released -- as if for the first time -- a health-care plan. Is he kidding?

Sadly, he's not. Instead, the president seems to surmise that the American people have forgotten that he already had a plan and that it looked almost exactly like...well, this one. The colossal increases in federal spending remain (last projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to total $2.5 trillion in the bill's real first decade). The cuts to Medicare Advantage (MA) remain (last projected by the CBO to tally $21,000 per MA beneficiary in the bill's real first decade). And most of the political cronyism apparently remains -- like the "Gator Aid" deal, which would exempt seniors in South Florida from those MA cuts. Also back for an encore are the tax increases that would funnel (at last count) $1.0 trillion (in the bill's real first dozen years) from American taxpayers, through the federal government, to private insurers -- alongside the mandate that Americans buy insurers' product.

To be fair, there are a couple of new wrinkles. In exchange for these generous perks, insurers would have to go through another level of review before implementing any price-increases they might have planned. State insurance regulators, such as the ones in California (hardly a conservative, free-market bastion) who didn't object to Anthem's rate increases, would now be subject to overrule by the federal government. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the department that (according to the Washington Post and 60 Minutes) already manages to lose $60 billion a year in taxpayer money to Medicare fraud -- compared to $8 billion in combined annual profits for America's ten largest private insurers -- would come to the rescue. The costs to insurers from this extra bureaucratic hurdle would, of course, be passed on in higher premiums (and would probably even be factored into the rate-increase requests) -- except for when HHS refuses a rate-increase request, in which case the insurers would simply do what the government does when it wants to cut health costs: ration care.

Another new wrinkle would be to increase Medicare taxes. For the first time ever, a Medicare tax would be levied on the income of certain people (those folks who annoy Obama by making over $200,000) from investments, dividends, annuities, rentals, and royalties -- which the President lumps together and calls "unearned income." But this tax-revenue would not be used to pay for Medicare, which desperately needs to be put on more solid financial footing. Instead, this new Medicare tax would pay for -- you guessed it: the president's plan, which would cut Medicare.

When the president first mentioned what he called "my plan" for "health care reform," it was in the wake of the August voter uprisings. He spoke of it in the context of his broader message to Congress, which was that there was no need to let a little thing like voter dissatisfaction get in the way of a perfectly good plan. This week's nearly identical plan comes in the wake of Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts. So disconnected from political currents does the President seem, one wonders whether this same plan (with a new wrinkle or two) will also be re-released -- and presented as brand-new -- in the wake of the November elections.


ALG Defends Newfoundland Premier Williams’ Right to “Best Possible Health Care”

Calls on Congress to Protect American Patients from “Government Takeover of the Nation’s Health System”

Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today defended Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams’ decision earlier this month to receive heart surgery in America rather than in Canada, saying “Canada’s socialized, government-run system is of such low quality not even the Premier of one of Canada’s provinces wants to risk his own health there.” Williams yesterday said that “I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics,” describing the decision as “my heart, my choice and my health.”

Wilson said the episode was proof that “America’s system has generated a quality of medical treatment that is unparalleled in the entire world.” “Now, Barack Obama wants us to suffer the same type of low-quality care Premier Danny Williams was able to avoid by coming to the U.S.,” Wilson added, renewing his call for members of Congress to reject the Administration’s latest proposal.

“Premier Williams has a right to the best quality of health care in the world, and so do the American people, who are being force-fed a government-run system that will ration care, reduce quality, and increase costs,” Wilson said.

Yesterday, Wilson condemned Obama’s proposal as “more of the same: a government takeover of the nation’s entire health system,” calling it a “mishmash” of the House and Senate versions “with the same $2.5 trillion price tag.” “This is pretty much the same government-run health care proposal that the American people have already rejected. It’s just like the House and Senate versions that have already passed that will cost some $2.5 trillion over ten years once fully implemented,” Wilson said.

As reported by the New York Times, the Obama proposal “sticks largely to the version passed by the Senate in December.” According to Rasmussen Reports, 61 percent of voters say they want Congress to start over on any health care legislation. 58 percent oppose the bill in its current form, which only 39 percent support.


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