Monday, March 15, 2010

Why the Health Bill Makes No Sense

So it's come down to this -- desperate Democratic leaders strong-arming members on the worst bill ever before they go home to explain to constituents why they decided to commit political suicide. We've said just about all we've had to say on this issue -- actually dating back to 1993-94, when we wrote nearly 100 editorials in opposition to HillaryCare. Since January of last year, we've weighed in 150 more times against the latest version of socialized medicine. But to review, here are just 15 reasons why a government takeover of the finest medical system in the world makes no sense at all:

1. The people don't want it! This, we would think, should have some bearing on decision-making. Yet the Democrats forge ahead without consent of the governed. In the latest Rasmussen poll, 53% opposed the Democrats' reform while 42% were in favor. More than four in 10 "strongly" opposed; just two in 10 "strongly" favored. This jibes with other surveys, including our own IBD/TIPP Poll, taken since last year.

2. Doctors don't want it! A survey we took last summer of 1,376 practicing physicians found that 45% would consider leaving their practices or taking early retirements if the Democrats' reform became law. In December, the results were validated by a Medicus poll in which 25% of doctors said they'd retire early if a public option is implemented and another 21% would stop practicing even though they were far from their retirement years. Even if the bill doesn't have a "public option," nearly 30% said they'd quit the profession under the plans being considered.

3. Half the Congress doesn't want it! Not a single Republican backed the health care bill that cleared the Senate on Christmas Eve 60-39. House passage was by a slim 220 to 215, and the lone Republican "aye" has since switched to "no." Columnist Michael Barone says other changes would put the House vote today at 216-215 in favor, and he has doubts Democrats can even muster 216.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her job of securing yes votes even more difficult last week when she told a meeting of county officials that "we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it." Members of Congress aren't waiting: They've already exempted themselves from whatever they inflict on us.

4. People are happy with the health care they've got! Polls show that 84% of Americans have health insurance and that few are displeased with what they've got. Last month, the St. Petersburg Times looked at eight polls and reported that satisfaction rates averaged 87%.

5. It doesn't even cover the people they set out to cover! Supporters of government-run health care say there are as many as 47 million Americans — 9 million to 10 million of them illegal aliens — without medical insurance. The Democrats' plans, however, will put only 31 million of the uninsured under coverage.

6. Costs will go up, not down! Democrats say their plans will cost less than $1 trillion over the first decade. But analyst Michael Cannon at the Cato Institute puts the cost at $2.5 trillion over the first 10 years. Even if we go with the government's lower estimates, the cost is already on the rise. A new estimate by the Congressional Budget Office puts the cost of the Senate bill at $875 billion over 10 years, $4 billion more than its original projection. Imagine how fast costs would soar if one of the bills became public policy.

7. Real cost controls are nowhere to be found! The Democrats are offering no meaningful tort reform that will help push down the high malpractice insurance premiums that are a burden to doctors and their patients. Nor are they considering any other cost-saving provisions, such as allowing the sale of individual health plans across state lines or easing health insurance mandates.

8. Insurance premiums will rise, not fall! One goal of nationalizing health care is to lower costs, to bend the spending curve downward. Yet, as Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin acknowledged Wednesday, that won't be the case.

"Anyone who would stand before you and say, 'Well, if you pass health care reform, next year's health care premiums are going down,' I don't think is telling the truth," he said from the Senate floor. "I think it is likely they would go up."

An analysis completed by the CBO at the request of Sen. Evan Bayh confirms Durbin's suspicions. Insurance coverage in the individual market will "be about 10% to 13% higher in 2016 than the average premium for nongroup coverage in that same year under current law," it concluded.

9. Medicare is already bankrupting us! The Medicare trust fund, which has unfunded obligations of $37.8 trillion, will be insolvent in 2017. How can lawmakers justify another entitlement that will cost trillions when they can't pay for existing liabilities?

10. There aren't enough doctors now! Last month, 26% of physicians responding to a Web poll on, which calls itself "the largest online physician community," said they had been forced to close, or were considering closing, their solo practices. Providing coverage for an additional 31 million Americans when the number of doctors is shrinking won't improve our health care.

11. The doctor-patient relationship will be wrecked! The latest IBD/TIPP Poll, taken just last week, found that Americans, by a wide 48%-26% margin, believe the doctor-patient relationship will decline if the Democrats' plan is passed.

12. Medical care will also deteriorate! IBD/TIPP has also found that 51% of Americans believe care would get worse under government control. Only 10.5% said they felt it would improve. In our doctor poll, 72% disagreed with administration claims that the government could cover 47 million more people with better-quality care at lower cost.

13. Rationing of care is inevitable! Health care is not an unlimited resource and must be rationed, either by the individual, providers or government. In Britain and Canada, where the government does the rationing, medical treatment waiting lists are sometimes deadly and quite often excessively long.

For instance, late cancer diagnoses in an overcrowded public health care system cause up to 10,000 needless deaths a year in Britain. The reasons cited for the late diagnoses include doctor delay, delay in primary care, system delay and delay in secondary care.

14. Private health insurers will be destroyed! Added mandates and price controls will force many insurers to simply get out of the health plan business because it will no longer be profitable.

15. It's probably unconstitutional! One way to help bring down the number of uninsured is to demand that those without coverage buy health plans. But the government has never passed a law requiring Americans to buy any good or service. Constitutional scholars say any such mandate would likely draw a legal challenge.


Top Democrat Implies Obama Not ‘Telling the Truth’ about Health Care Premiums

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Wednesday contradicted President Barack Obama on whether the health care reform bill will lead to a decrease in health care premiums. Durbin claimed that rates would go up, while the president said the rates would go down. “Anyone who would stand before you and say well, if you pass health care reform, next year's health care premiums are going down, I don't think is telling the truth. I think it is likely they would go up, but what we are trying to do is slow the rate of increase,” Durbin said, speaking on the Senate floor.

Compare Durbin’s remarks to what President Barack Obama said during a speech at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa., on Monday: “Our cost-cutting measures mirror most of the proposals in the current Senate bill, which reduces most people’s premiums and brings down our deficit by up to $1 trillion over the next decade because we’re spending our health care dollars more wisely,” the president said. “Those aren’t my numbers. Those aren’t my numbers --they are the savings determined by the Congressional Budget Office, which is the nonpartisan, independent referee of Congress for what things cost,” Obama added.

But as reported, the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the final Senate health care bill indicates that it would impose a mandatory $15,000 annual fee on middle-class families that earn greater than 400 percent annually of the federal poverty level. That means $88,200 for a family of four.

Among the five basic facts that the CBO analysis cites about the bill is that “Your family insurance plan – if your employer drops your coverage and you are forced to buy it on your own – will cost about $15,000 per year when the legislation is in full force in 2016.”


Dems seek agreement, quick vote on health care

Under White House pressure to act swiftly, House and Senate Democratic leaders reached for agreement Friday on President Barack Obama's health care bill, sweetened suddenly by fresh billions for student aid and a sense that breakthroughs are at hand. "It won't be long," before lawmakers vote, predicted Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She said neither liberals' disappointment over the lack of a government health care option nor a traditional mistrust of the Senate would prevent passage in the House.

At the White House, officials worked to maximize Obama's influence over lawmakers who control the fate of legislation that has spawned a yearlong struggle. They announced he would make a campaign-style appearance in Ohio next week to pitch his health care proposals, as well as delay his departure for an Asian trip later in the month.

With Democrats deciding to incorporate changes in student aid into the bill, Republicans suddenly had a new reason to oppose legislation they have long sought to scuttle. "Well of course it's a very bad idea," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "We now have the government running banks, insurance companies, car companies, and they do want to take over the student loan business." He said it was symptomatic of Democrats' determination to have the government expand its tentacles into absolutely everything."

At its core, the health care bill is designed to provide health care to tens of millions who lack it and ban insurance companies from denying medical coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. Obama also wants the measure to begin to slow the rate of growth in medical costs nationwide. Most people would have to get insurance by law, and families earning up to $88,000 would receive subsidies.

Whatever the outcome, there was no doubt the issue would reverberate into this fall's elections, with control of Congress at stake. The health care bill appeared on the cusp of passage in early January, but was derailed when Senate Republicans won a Senate seat in Massachusetts, and with it, the strength needed to sustain a filibuster and block a final vote.

In the weeks since, the White House and Democrats have embarked on a two-part rescue strategy. It calls for the House to pass legislation that cleared the Senate in December, despite numerous objections, and for both houses to follow immediately with a second bill that makes changes to the first. The second, fix-it bill would be drafted under rules that strip Senate Republicans of the ability to require Democrats produce a 60-vote majority.

Obama outlined numerous requested changes several weeks ago, many of them designed to satisfy the concerns of House Democrats. They would increase subsidies for lower income families who cannot afford insurance; give additional money to states that provide higher-than-average benefits under Medicaid, and gradually close a coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug program used by millions of seniors.

Congressional officials said all three issued would be addressed in the fix-it bill, although other administration requests remained in doubt. The president wants creation of a commission with authority to force savings in Medicare and Medicaid, for example, and is seeking the deletion of items sought by individual senators. Those were among the issues still in dispute after days of secretive talks involving the White House and House and Senate leaders.

The decision to add far-reaching student aid changes to the bill had its roots in obscure parliamentary rules governing the Senate's debate of the legislation. But House Democrats and the White House quickly seized on it as a way to advance a top administration priority that lacks the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate otherwise. The measure would require the government to originate student loans, closing out a role for banks and other private lenders who charge a fee. Obama proposed taking the savings and plowing it into higher Pell Grants that go to needy college students. Officials said that under current estimates, the change would free as much as $66 billion over a decade, although Pelosi indicated she wanted it spread beyond Pell Grants to other education programs.

At a news conference, the speaker confessed to being disappointed that the legislation would not include a government-run health care option, but said other parts of the legislation would hold insurance companies accountable. The tussle over a public option roiled Democrats for months, but has subsided in recent weeks. "We've crossed that bridge," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. "Those people who were saying 'public option' are muted right now. That's done. It's not going to happen. They've hit the mute button."

At a closed-door meeting of the rank-and-file, House Democratic leaders sought to allay concerns that Senate Democrats might simply refuse to pass the fix-it bill after the House swallows the measure it doesn't like. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said party leaders told the House caucus they have "a firm commitment" from the Senate to do its part.


Dereliction of Duty

How many flavors of crazy is it for President Obama and Democrat leaders to continue the forced march toward a vote on a health care bill despised by the majority of Americans? The New York Times lays out what's happening: "Leaving a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus, lawmakers said they had received few details about what would be in the [health care] legislation, on which they may be asked to vote in the next week or two".

Got that? This is legislation that would remake fully 1/6 of the US economy, and the House members who are being pushed to vote on it aren't even sure about what's in its final version. How, under any circumstances, can voting in favor of this -- given the rush, the uncertainty about the bill's contents, not to mention its effects (and including the widespread, fierce opposition to it) -- be anything other than a dereliction of duty?

Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen warn that passing the legislation will be a political disaster for the Democrats. Frankly, the point is so obvious that it's frightening that it needs to be made.

But the bigger problem now, for Democrats, is that their interests and President Obama's diverge. Many Blue Dogs can save themselves (and their party) if they take a principled stand against ObamaCare. But the President needs this victory -- in a sense, just to stay in the game. Without it, he's revealed as politically impotent. With it, he can at least comfort himself with his "historic" expansion of the welfare state.

Overall, though, the President's in trouble either way this goes. Even if he wins, he's paid a heavy price. First, he's lost the trust of the American people by his willingness to say anythign to get the bill passed; second, he's shown himself willing to ignore the expressed wishes of those he governs; and third, he's revealed himself as arrogant enough to believe that opponents are too stupid to understand what's in the bill -- but once ObamaCare is foisted upon them by the "platonic guardians" in The White House and on Capitol Hill, the ignorant rubes will love it.

A President can come back from political defeat. Recovering after losing the trust of the people is much more difficult.


Health-Care Hell

by Jonah Goldberg

The time for talk is over. So proclaimed the most talkative president in modern memory. I can't remember when Barack Obama said that. Maybe it was during the first "final showdown" on health care. Or maybe it was the third. The fifth? It's so hard to tell when pretty much every week since the dawn of the Mesozoic Era, Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid has proclaimed that it is now Go Time for health-care reform. So you'll forgive me if I'm somewhat skeptical about the possibility that the health-care reform debate is about to come to an end.

The president recently said, "Everything there is to say about health care has been said, and just about everybody has said it." But wait. If everything, pro and con, has been said about the subject, by everybody, that means someone isn't telling the truth, right? I mean, if you've said X and not-X, that means you've probably said something that isn't true.

That, at least, is the impression I got this week listening to Obama make his closing arguments for health care at rallies in Pennsylvania and Missouri. It's telling that the president -- long in favor of a single-payer system -- is selling his health-care plan on the grounds that it will increase "choice" and "competition," reduce "government control" and "give you, the American people, more control over your own health insurance."

You know your sales pitch for a government takeover of health care hasn't worked when you have to crib rhetoric from free-market Republicans. And that's after you've already tried to pin your plan's unpopularity on the ignorance of the American people.

Obama's talking points track reality about as well as the screenplay for "Avatar." Indeed, the same week he was hawking competition, choice and less government, Obama backed a new Health Insurance Rate Authority that would do even more to cement big health insurance companies into their new role as government-run utilities.

This latest gambit is of a piece with the White House's demonization of the health-insurance industry. I have no love for that industry myself, but let's get some perspective. As of August, the health-insurance industry ranked 86th in terms of profit margins -- behind anemic industries such as book publishing (38th) specialty eateries (71st) and home furnishing stores (84th), according to data compiled by Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute.

Insurance companies account for less than 5 percent of American health-care spending -- less than hospitals (31 percent), doctors (21 percent) and medicine (10 percent). But because health-insurance companies are unpopular, Democrats are beating up on them, even though if Democrats are serious about containing costs, the cuts will have to come from those other slices of the pie.

But enough with the substance. The health-care debate ceased being about substance a long, long time ago. Fair or not, the Democrats' plan is unpopular, period. There is simply nothing Obama can say that will change that fact before Democrats vote for it. That hasn't stopped him from talking out of every side of his mouth. But outside the Obama bunker, no serious pollster, pundit or pol in Washington disputes this basic point: Obama cannot take the stink off this thing.

And that's why the Democrats are contorting themselves like a yoga swami in a hatbox trying to figure out how to pass it. (Note: If it were simply popular among Democrats, it would have passed months ago.) The latest idea involves the "Slaughter Solution" -- named after House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter -- which would allow the House to fix-and-pass the Senate version of the bill without ever voting on the senate version, or something like that.

But here's the thing: There is no "over" to this debate. Obama, Pelosi & Co. have demonstrated time and again that no deadline is final if it means losing. Meanwhile, if ObamaCare passes, Republicans will run on a promise to repeal it, and that means we'll be debating health-care reform at least through 2010. Then, depending on how the election goes, the repeal debate will become part of the legislative process. That will in all likelihood carry the debate into the 2012 presidential election. In other words, there will be time for talk as far as the eye can see.

Now, part of me thinks this is too cruel a future to contemplate. I can't remember whether it was pederasts or mattress-tag removers, but I'm pretty sure someone in Dante's Inferno is condemned to spend eternity listening to a C-SPAN panel on community rating, preexisting conditions and rate pools. But it's a better prospect than losing. That's one point that has bipartisan support.


Baby twins put in NHS hospitals 50 miles apart

Because of very limited facilities for premature births

The parents of two-month-old twins have criticised the NHS for placing their poorly daughters in separate hospitals, 50 miles apart. Stephanie Dawson, 25, and her partner Martin Collins, 38, have to take a 121-mile trip to visit Ruby and Krystal Dawson-Collins, which they said leaves them with just 10 minutes with each daughter.

The twins were born at just 26 weeks in Maidstone Hospital, Kent, weighing 1lb 9oz and 2lb 4oz respectively. They were suffering from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, where one twin gets more blood in the womb than the other. Following their birth by Caesarean section on January 18 they were transferred to a specialist neonatal unit at St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey. After a few days Krystal was deemed well enough to be transferred to Pembury Hospital in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and split up from her sister.

Her parents, who do not have a car, said they were struggling to visit each baby while still caring for their two other children Mitchel, 10, and Kym. They said that even with the help of friends and family the distance means they can only see their frail daughters twice a week as they cannot leave their Maidstone home until they have collected Mitchel from school. Mr Collins said: "We only get about 10 minutes with each of them, a quick update and a stroke of their heads, before we have to get going.

"It is so awkward getting up through Pembury then into Surrey. "I would have thought it was better for them to be together and it would be easier for us if they were in one place, even if that was in Surrey. "It's like no one realises we are miles away and don't have a car. It is a real struggle, but for the sake of our family, we cannot lose it."

A spokesman for the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said the girls needed very specialist care only provided in a handful of hospitals in the South East. He said: "We recognise this is a tough time for Stephanie and Martin and are helping them in any way we can."

Dr Paul Crawshaw, clinical director for paediatrics at the Ashford and St Peter's NHS Trust, Surrey, said the separation was a short-term situation. He said: "We always regret the separation of twins and are well aware of the difficulties it is causing the family. "We hope to get them reunited in the very near future."


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