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Archive for Friday, July 24, 2009

Health plan all promises and politics

July 24, 2009

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— What happened to Obamacare? Rhetoric met reality. As both candidate and president, the master rhetorician could conjure a world in which he bestows upon you health care nirvana: more coverage, less cost.

But you can’t fake it in legislation. Once you commit your fantasies to words and numbers, the Congressional Budget Office comes along and declares that the emperor has no clothes.

President Obama premised the need for reform on the claim that medical costs are destroying the economy. True. But now we learn — surprise! — that universal coverage increases costs. The congressional Democrats’ health care plans, says the CBO, increase costs in the range of $1 trillion plus.

In response, the president retreated to a demand that any bill he sign be revenue neutral. But that’s classic misdirection: If the fierce urgency of health care reform is to radically reduce costs that are producing budget-destroying deficits, revenue neutrality (by definition) leaves us on precisely the same path to insolvency that Obama himself declares unsustainable.

The Democratic proposals are worse still. Because they do increase costs, revenue neutrality means countervailing tax increases. It’s not just that it is crazily anti-stimulatory to saddle a deeply depressed economy with an income tax surcharge that falls squarely on small business and the investor class. It’s that health care reform ends up diverting for its own purposes a source of revenue that might otherwise be used to close the yawning structural budget deficit that is such a threat to the economy and to the dollar.

These blindingly obvious contradictions are why the Democratic health plans are collapsing under their own weight — at the hands of Democrats. It’s Max Baucus, Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who called Obama unhelpful for ruling out taxing employer-provided health insurance as a way to pay for expanded coverage. It’s the Blue Dog Democrats in the House who wince at skyrocketing health-reform costs just weeks after having swallowed hemlock for Obama on a ruinous cap-and-trade carbon tax.

The president is therefore understandably eager to make this a contest between progressive Democrats and reactionary Republicans. He seized on Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s comment that stopping Obama on health care would break his presidency to protest, with perfect disingenuousness, that “this isn’t about me. This isn’t about politics.”

It’s all about him. Health care is his signature reform. And he knows that if he produces nothing, he forfeits the mystique that both propelled him to the presidency and has sustained him through a difficult first six months. Which is why Obama’s red lines are constantly shifting. Universal coverage? Maybe not. No middle-class tax hit? Well, perhaps, but only if they don’t “primarily” bear the burden. Because it’s about him, Obama is quite prepared to sign anything as long as it is titled “health care reform.”

This is not about politics? Then why is it, to take but the most egregious example, that in this grand health care debate we hear not a word about one of the worst sources of waste in American medicine: the insane cost and arbitrary rewards of our malpractice system?

When a neurosurgeon pays $200,000 a year for malpractice insurance before he even turns on the light in his office or hires his first nurse, who do you think pays? Patients, in higher doctor fees to cover the insurance.

And with jackpot justice that awards one claimant zillions while others get nothing — and one-third of everything goes to the lawyers — where do you think that money comes from? The insurance companies, who then pass it on to you in higher premiums.

But the greatest waste is the hidden cost of defensive medicine: tests and procedures that doctors order for no good reason other than to protect themselves from lawsuits. Every doctor knows, as I did when I practiced years ago, how much unnecessary medical cost is incurred with an eye not on medicine but on the law.

Tort reform would yield tens of billions in savings. Yet you cannot find it in the Democratic bills. And Obama breathed not a word about it in the full hour of his health care news conference. Why? No mystery. The Democrats are parasitically dependent on huge donations from trial lawyers.

Didn’t Obama promise a new politics that puts people over special interests? Sure. And now he promises expanded, portable, secure, higher-quality medical care — at lower cost! The only thing he hasn’t promised is to extirpate evil from the human heart. That legislation will be introduced next week.

Comments

cato_the_elder 5 years, 5 months ago

It may not be all about Obama. It may very well be all about Rahm Emanuel. There is more and more insider talk in Washington today speculating that Obama, as egotistical as he is, is merely a well-spoken puppet dancing on strings controlled by Rahm Emanuel and his close group of Democrat insiders who live on power and power alone, and got Obama elected for that purpose.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care plus end deductibles and co-payments = more expendable cash for ourselves and/or our families. Now we’re talking dollars and sense. http://www.healthcare-now.org/campaigns/win-win/

However the foxes in the chicken coop (health insurance industry and the special interest politicians aka shareholders) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/12/AR2009061204075.html are fighting hard to keep this off the floor.

Interesting sites for info:

Senate Report Finds Insurers Wrongfully Charged Consumers Billions http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/24/AR2009062401636.html

Paying More Getting Less http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2008/0508harrison.html

Here are 10 great reasons to support HR 676, the U.S. National Health Insurance Act: http://guaranteedhealthcare4all.org/sites/default/files/10-Reasons.pdf

HR 676 can save $350,000,000 http://www.healthcare-now.org/campaigns/win-win/

Jack Lohman, a lifelong Republican and co-founder of Business Owners for Single Payer, "For the same 16 percent of GDP that we are spending on health care in the U.S., we could provide first-class health care to 100 percent of the people." And a single-payer system would "get health care off the backs of corporations so they can be more competitive with products made overseas." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-van-gelder/what-americans-want-natio_b_110830.html

5 common fears about health reform http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/august-2009/viewpoint/5-common-fears-about-health-reform/reform-5-common-fears.htm

Leading Cause Of Bankruptcy Read more: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/bankruptcy_study.html#ixzz0IQKZLHHh&C

Centerville 5 years, 5 months ago

How any self-respecting "Question Authority" type would fall for this mess is beyond me. Are you so compromised that you would obediently show up for your mandatory 'counseling' about making the end-of-your-life as cheap as possible?

gr 5 years, 5 months ago

"HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care "

I love it!

Sorry, but you don't get care because:

You are too old.

That is not necessary.

You are too sick and goin' to die anyway.

You caused your condition so we aren't payin'.

If we paid for everything (anything), where'd we make our profit.

It's a matter of national security we don't pay for your care.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

"This is not about politics? Then why is it, to take but the most egregious example, that in this grand health care debate we hear not a word about one of the worst sources of waste in American medicine: the insane cost and arbitrary rewards of our malpractice system?"

This tells you all you need to know about how serious Krauthammer is in fixing the healthcare system. The high price of malpractice insurance owes more to the use of premiums as investment capital (by firms like AIG) for things like sub-prime derivatives than payouts for malpractice suits, which only account to 2% or less of total medical expenditures.

Sure, the Democrats are making a mess of healthcare reform, but that's primarily because "healthcare" industry special interests have bribed them (along with Republicans) into putting the protection of their profits above any meaningful reforms.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 5 months ago

Barry wants to give everybody free candy and unicorns & the mean old Democrats in Congress won't let him!

Music_Girl 5 years, 5 months ago

Snap, maybe the Democrats don't wanna pay the dentists when we all get cavities from the free candy Barry is trying to give us! Selfish jerks...

Flap Doodle 5 years, 5 months ago

Darn those Democrats. Darn them to the pits of heck!

Flap Doodle 5 years, 5 months ago

What does Peggy Noonan think? "I think the plan is being slowed and may well be stopped not by ideology, or even by philosophy in a strict sense, but by simple American common sense. I suspect voters, the past few weeks, have been giving themselves an internal Q-and-A that goes something like this: Will whatever health care bill is produced by Congress increase the deficit? “Of course.” Will it mean tax increases? “Of course.” Will it mean new fees of fines? “Probably.” Can I afford it right now? “No, I’m already getting clobbered.” Will it make the marketplace freer and better? “Probably not.” Is our health care system in crisis? “Yeah, it has been for years.” Is it the most pressing crisis right now? “No, the economy is.” Will a health-care bill improve the economy? “I doubt it.”" http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203517304574306533556532364.html

Carol Bowen 5 years, 5 months ago

"Sorry, but you don't get care because: You are too old. That is not necessary. You are too sick and goin' to die anyway. You caused your condition so we aren't payin'. If we paid for everything (anything), where'd we make our profit. It's a matter of national security we don't pay for your care."

gr: It looks like you're you talkin' about the current health care system.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 5 months ago

Insurance premiums took another big increase this month. I'm watching my premiums being used for advertising, paperwork, politicking, and profits. Those are not bad words for a business, but should healthcare be subject to business objectives? I'm wondering if having fedgov offer health insurance wouldn't be more cost effective ... even if it is cumbersome.

notajayhawk 5 years, 5 months ago

hear_me (Anonymous) says…

"but should healthcare be subject to business objectives?"

Healthcare? Maybe.

Health insurance? Um - yes.

Orwell 5 years, 5 months ago

Nothing on Earth is less reliable than "insider talk in Washington." It's entirely driven by the egos of the "insiders."

Blog entries

Obamacare = Bad HMO by reasonmclucus 5 years, 5 months ago

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