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Posts tagged “health care

Let the “Silly Season” begin

Once every two years, Labor Day signals the opening of the “Silly Season.” What is this “Silly Season” you ask?

In a nutshell, the “Silly Season” is when the general populace joins political junkies in paying attention to the politicians running for office in November. And the politicians, on cue, begin campaigning in earnest. But what it makes the season silly is the way the politicians act. Suddenly, Democrats begin espousing conservative ideals. Ordinarily, they’re joined by Republicans discovering their love of liberal programs.

But this year promise to be sillier than most. With an unsettled economy, unemployment rising and public dissatisfaction in both political parties rising to all-time highs, Democrats are in serious trouble heading into the

campaign season. Many Congressional seats once considered safe for the Donkey Party are now in play; seats once considered as being in-play or toss-up’s are now leaning Republican. As reported in yesterday’s New York Times, the DNC is cutting loose many candidates, hoping to minimize losses in the November mid-terms.

In short, what many Democrats are discovering is that the positions they’ve spent the past four years carving out are not exactly what the country wanted. The reason they won most of their seats – including the Presidency – was national dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. The initiatives the current administration have pushed through have proven even more unpopular than the ones proposed by GWB. How bad is it? 56% of Americans want the abomination that passed as health care reform repealed. Republicans now lead Democrats in all ten of the major issues polls.

Not surprisingly, in light of these developments many Democrats are running as far from their own party as possible. It’s amazing how many Democrats are now against the very health care package they passed earlier this year. (Remember when Nancy Pelosi declared that once we knew what was in the bill, we would love it? Oops.) Even President Obama is finding his conservative voice, as reports suggest he will ask Congress to pass “targeted” tax breaks on Wednesday. To add to the sense of desperation from the Democrats, many are hoping to cast their opponents as extremists who would destroy the fabric of American life.

Of course, Republicans are tempted to equally join in the insanity, but so far have held the line on leaning left. They fully understand that the nation has peeked behind the Progressive curtain and been repulsed by the view. This is turning into one of the strangest elections ever seen, where the minority party is the one fending off negative attacks. Normally the reverse is true, but Republicans don’t need to go on the attack in this cycle. The news, even left-leaning organizations like MSNBC and the NY Times, can’t help but report the dismal employment numbers. So Republicans are remaining more or less silent, except to point out that the news hasn’t been good since the Obama administration took over. That’s attack ad enough. Besides, the left is self-immolating itself well enough that the Republicans don’t need to join in.

So kick back and enjoy the Road to November. It promises to be a fun – if bumpy – ride.

Missouri Showed Us

Just a quick follow-up to this post from the other day: Missouri voters have, by about a 75% plurality, approved Proposition C. I offer my sincere thanks to the voters of Missouri for demonstrating that American values still beat strong in the breast of this Nation.

This marks the first time that the general public has, by the electoral process, rejected the federal mandate to purchase health insurance. Although I doubt anything will be done about before the legal challenges have been resolved by the Supreme Court, I sincerely hope the Obama administration will reconsider and revoke that onerous provision of their health care reform effort. The public has spoken and soundly repudiated the idea that the government can require private citizens to purchase a product offered by a private company. It’s time the President and Congress listened to their employers.

Show Us, Missouri

Tomorrow is primary day in Missouri. Though I live in New Jersey, there is one item on the statewide ballot there that has captured my attention. If you live in Missouri, I certainly hope you’ve studied Proposition C and plan to vote for it. Missourians, this is your opportunity to show the rest of the nation that government intrusion on the personal liberties of Americans will not be tolerated.

For the uninitiated: Proposition C is a ballot measure that would, by statute, exempt all Missourians from the oppressive federal mandate to purchase heath insurance or face stiff penalties. By its passage, Missouri would send a message to the folks in Washington that Americans do not want the government subverting personal liberty in order to cover for a mess the federal government created. Although other states have enacted similar measures, those have been passed by legislative action – not by direct vote. With this ballot initiative, the good people of Missouri have the chance to show that it isn’t only legislators who are opposed to the “progressive” ideal that the Nanny State knows what is best for you and your family. It is ordinary Americans who are opposed to an usurpation of the long-established tradition that “those rights not especially enumerated in the Constitution are considered as belonging to a free people…The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.” James Madison wrote that phrase in the Federalist Papers, and he meant it to illustrate to a skeptical populace that the federal government would not and could not take away a fundamental freedom simply because it had not been mentioned in the Constitution.

Certainly, decisions about which types of products to purchase are a fundamental right. Should the federal government assume he power to direct the citizenry to purchase a particular product (in this case, medical insurance) then our nation has ceded the a fundamental right. More, the nation will have undermined the very Constitution and  the principle on which the nation was founded. If you do not have a fundamental right to decide when, whether and how to purchase any product, then are you truly free to pursue life liberty and happiness?

The Obama administration realizes the fallacy of their central argument during the run-up to passage of Health Care Reform; that essentially, the Commerce Clause grants this power to the federal government. This is why, in their preparations for the defense of the indefensible in court, they have resorted to declaring the mandate is essentially a tax – a power that is reserved by the Constitution for the Congress. If that is the case, then this is the largest tax hike in history and also paves the way for a federal take-over of the entire health care industry. In short, the Obama administration is trying to lay the groundwork that by declaring medical insurance is a de facto tax, then those who provide that product are, in essence, appendages to the federal government. To anyone who has any concern about personal freedom, this is an affront to the very ideals of national identity.

Already, the “progressive” forces are hard at work to discredit Proposition C’s passage. They are making numerous and rather spurious claims that its passage are only due to an intemperate electorate that will be heavily Republican on primary day. They are claiming that it will not hold any import, since a state law cannot supersede a federal mandate (this, by the way is currently winding its way through the court system and is certain to end in a decision by the Supreme Court).

What “progressives” are afraid of is a state law, passed not by legislative fiat but by popular vote, that directly tells an over-reaching federal government it has overstepped its bounds. The reason is, as always, the ideal of progressive theology is that individuals are not intelligent enough to make sound decisions and only an apparatchik of federal authority should have such authority. It was this very notion, in the past called “monarchism,” that both angered and frightened those that created our nation from the dust of their boots. It is the same principle applied by socialists and communists in defining the role government.

So Missouri: pass Propostition C. Do it in overwhelming numbers. And show the rest of us that our nation still exists for the purpose of guaranteeing the ideals of liberty and freedom.

You can read the full Proposition here.

HCR: Winners and Losers

As with all battles, the recent fight over Health Care Reform left us with winners and losers. But due to the sheer size, scope and complexity of this legislation, deciphering who won and lost isn’t easy. Certainly, those of us who feel that government is too large, consumes too much of GDP and has overreached the boundaries established by the Constitution feel he nation lost. Despite that, some groups will undoubtedly see a financial and/or services benefit from these new laws. Others in our society have just been given a swift kick in the nether regions. I’ll attempt to break this down as simply as I can. But, this is nearly 4800 pages of legislation – even I can get something wrong here.

The Winners:

Uninsured folks (well, some of them, anyway): The legislation promises to extend health insurance to 32 million Americans who currently go without. Some will receive direct government subsidies to help aid in purchasing, others will be enrolled by their employers (see more on this below) and the rest will be shoved into Medicaid (more on this, too).

Medicare Part D recipients: You now have an additional $250 in prescription coverage.

Drug Manufacturers: They get an increase in patent protection, from 7 to 12 years. That basically freezes out competition from generics, which gives the manufacturer more time to recoup their investment in R&D. Also, with so many more people enrolled in health plans and no change to the fee-for-service payment model, expect doctors to write more prescriptions than ever.

Try as I might, I can’t find anyone else who actually benefits from this…

The Losers

Small Business: Businesses with more than 50 employees will receive a tax credit to help enroll their employees in a health plan. The exact amount of the credit is ambiguous, but it could be as much as 50% of the per-employee cost of the plan. Sounds great, but if you don’t currently offer insurance to your employees and fall in the 50-200 employee range, you’ve just incurred a new expense.  And don’t think of enrolling your employees in any government sponsored plans: there are BIG penalties for even trying.

Medium Business: If you have 200 employees or more, congratulations! You’ve just been promoted to being a “Big Business” and as such, you are now required to offer insurance to all of your employees. But you don’t get the tax credit  – you just have to enroll them or pay ginormous penalties for failing to do so.

Insurance Providers: This may sound counter-intuitive, but insurance companies stand to lose in this deal. After all, they’re getting 30+ million new enrollees, most of whom (conceivably) are hale and hearty. But “insurance” will become a misnomer; these companies have now become de facto 3rd party payers. The policies they underwrite will no longer be able to exclude people with pre-existing medical conditions, nor will they be able to cap total per-patient expenditures. Ordinarily, a company would respond to these realities by raising premiums – but with the creation of a federal oversight board, insurers will face limits on how much those premiums can be raised. If insurers were operating on normal profit margins, most could probably withstand these non-competitive pressures. But most are working with razor thin margins already; this legislation could easily see a consolidation of the industry into 3 or 4 companies that have enough reserves to withstand he initial losses.

Persons with pre-existing conditions: You’ll need to wait four years before being assured you can receive medical insurance. Until then, you can still be frozen out. Worse yet, you may be forced into Medicaid – which would mean lower quality care than you may be receiving already.

The uninsured: This may seem like a misprint; after all, how can the same group both win and lose? It’s not so difficult. If you’ve chosen not to have health insurance due to cost or just because you don’t see the necessity. you are now royally screwed. Either buy it, or pay a penalty – of up to 2.5% of your gross income. Of course, you may just decide to say to hell with it and pay the penalty – if you make, say, $50,000 per year, the penalty amounts to $1250. Good luck finding coverage for less than that.

The Insured: If you’re part of the 90% or so of the nation that currently has health insurance, get ready to pay more and receive less. As mentioned, insurers will certainly need to raise premiums and co-payments to stay in business. At the same time, the number of medical providers isn’t dramatically increasing. If you thought long waits at the doctor’s office were the norm before, well…imagine even more patients cramming into the waiting room. Even emergency rooms can expect to feel the pinch: in Massachusetts, which unveiled it’s own version of insurance-for-all last year, emergency room visits have actually gone up, not down.

States: Ever wonder why the “Cornhusker Kickback” was demanded by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb)? It’s because of the increased number of people that are going to wind up on Medicaid, which is the medical insurance program paid for by the states. Yes, the federal government throws some money into the pot, but not nearly enough to cover the people already on Medicaid. Take a state with a relatively dense population, high medical costs and high unemployment, and this becomes a recipe for disaster (can anyone say “CALIFORNIA?”). Watch your state capitals closely – most states are going to need to raise taxes or create new revenue streams just to cover the costs.

Doctors & Hospitals: If you  were a doctor or hospital, you might think this was a great thing – until you read the fine print. Yes, you’ll get more patients who can pay, but what are they paying? Undoubtedly, one of the key items not spelled out but certain to happen will be reduced payments for services. Why? Medicaid, Medicare and private insurers will need to pay less per procedure in order to  stay solvent. The pot of money they have isn’t really getting bigger, but the amount they’ll need to pay out will be. Unless somebody has changed the laws of mathematics, that necessitates a reduction in per-service fees rendered. So, doctors will work harder and get less money. Also, without any effort at tort reform, malpractice liability insurance premiums are likely to increase. Talk about getting squeezed by both ends – no wonder medical school enrollments are down, for the first time in several generations.

The Upper Class: First of all, congratulations! Your rolls have now been swelled to include families making more than $88,000/year. I suppose in some parts of the country, that’s considered wealthy. But in most of our urban centers, $88k doesn’t get you much. Regardless, that is now magic threshold at which government assistance for medical coverage ends. Additionally, you now get hit with an additional .9% increase in Medicare taxes and a 3.8% tax on investments. (And yes, that includes Roth IRA’s).

Banks: What on earth do banks have to do with health care? I answered that, as well as why they now stand lose billions, in a previous post.

One final thought: there is another group that stands to gain from this legislation: trial lawyers. Considering the number of challenges being filed (as of noon today, there have already been 13), there are going to be more than a few making some big $$$.

Still 50-50

At latest count, there are 209 nay votes and 208 yeas on the Health Care Reform bill. Which means there are 14 members who haven’t committed yet.

We are less than 72 hours from the vote (unless Ms. Pelosi needs more time to dream up a new scheme). As I understand it, the phone lines have been jammed and we’ve crashed the House switchboard a few times. GOOD JOB!

However, the battle is not yet won. If you love freedom, despise tyranny and want the government out of your personal decisions, then now is the time to act. Call, write and email every representative and make certain they know how you feel.