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How is Obamacare like a 2×4?

February 13, 2014 Leave a comment

I haven’t been posting lately, primarily because I’ve had to focus on supporting my family. With two kids in college, it has taken all my efforts.  Given the state of politics, I’ve had to resist posting on my Centrist beliefs.

However, recent events have changed that, because the politics have become very personal, as you’ll see below.

A retired gentleman I know was raving how wonderful Obamacare was. When I disagreed, he responded with a certain amount of condescension in his voice saying I “just simply didn’t understand.”

Well, here is what I do understand:

Number 1: The President made healthcare reform his signature legislation. It was his holy grail. He repeatedly said “If you like your insurance coverage, you can keep it.” If he mistakenly said it once or twice, you could give him a pass and say he misspoke. However, he repeated this sentiment repeatedly in speech after speech. That makes him a liar. The only other explanation is that he and his team are so incompetent, they had no idea what they were doing. I let you choose.

Number 2: Like many Americans who thought their insurance was quite good, I received the policy cancellation notice. Apparently, my post-menopausal wife needs birth control. So Mr. President, you better get a fire extinguisher fast. Your pants are igniting.

Number 3: My wife who works for a small medical practice will be losing her job. The Affordable Care Act is not small practice friendly. There are fines and fees for not complying with Obamacare. This has led to the development of Medical-mafia groups who are trying to put the squeeze on the small providers, sort of like a protection racket. Obamacare is deadly to small practices.

Number 4: Of all the people who are Pro-Obamacare, almost none of them are actually affected by the law. President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and other members of government have their separate government insurance, and thus aren’t subject to it. Rich liberals (and conservatives) are immune to it because either they maintain high quality insurance already, or pay fee for services. Retirees are already on Medicare, so they also are unaffected. Yes, there are the poor who benefit, but they already have Medicaid. That leaves the working middle class who have been driven closer to the poverty line.

So the next time someone tells me I “just don’t understand Obamacare,” I’m going shove a 2×4 up their ass, and tell them “they just don’t understand lumber.”

Categories: Healthcare

Healthcare.gov Debacle: What Have We Learned?

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Sorry, I’ve been away. It took the debacle of the healthcare.gov website to bring back to my keyboard. Let’s see, what did we start with?

  • Two major political parties whose highest priority is destroying one another
  • A President who wanted to “go big” to create a “Legacy”
  • A myriad of special interest groups who gain advantage in shifting the escalating costs to one another

Okay, what did we get?

  • A government-run healthcare insurance “exchange” site that doesn’t function very well. (This is causing the healthy, but impatient, people, who they need to sign up, to just walk away.)
  • A government-run healthcare insurance “exchange” site that is a hacker’s wet dream. (With all the hacking going on in the world, an insecure government website is the last thing we need.)

Already, I’m hearing of many people tell me that their insurance rates are going up. Many people are losing their insurance because it is not “up to government standards.” What happened to the President’s promise to allow people to “keep their insurance, if they like it?”

The Government can be very effective at times, but it is never efficient. With the infinite purse of deficit spending, it has never had the motivation or practice at being efficient. Even the computer code at healthcare.gov is wasteful.

Please don’t think I’m letting the Republicans off the hook. They claimed they were blocked out when the Affordable Care Act was designed. And, that it true. However, with the dogged determination of the Republican’s to destroy the Democrats, why would Obama, Pelosi and Reid let them in the door? How can cooperation occur in this environment?

To be sure, there are some good ideas in Obamacare. Those ideas should have been put forth as individual bills. They would have been smaller and easier to get through Congress. But a series of smaller bills doesn’t give a President a “Legacy.” It just is more efficient, more less dramatic, (What ever happened to “No Drama” Obama?)

To look at the bigger picture, let’s take a step back.

The election of Barack Obama was a reaction to the extremism and hubris of the Bush-era Republicans. (Remember, the Republican claim of a “permanent majority?” Oops.)

In turn, the super-charging of the Tea Party was a reaction to Obama’s massive stimulus package, which was a prime example of über-pork. (Remember what I said about government being effective but not efficient.)

This is an overly dramatic and nonproductive cycle. Why put forth legislation that you know the other side will undo once they have the chance?

What have we reaped from all this?

  • A Government Shut-Down
  • Nearly defaulting on our behemoth National Debt
  • A government website that is a disaster, and insecure

What has the Government done about all this? What they always do: blame each other, fix nothing, and kick the can down the road again.

The two-party system is failing us. I hate to repeat myself, but why are we reelecting these people?

Time for a Centrist Third Party.

Manipulation, Arm-Twisting, & Bribery (Our Government at Work)

March 21, 2010 1 comment

This healthcare bill is bad legislation. Why? The quality of any bill is inversely proportional to the number of arms that have to be twisted. And we’ve seen some spectacular arm-twisting bribery, (Cornhusker Kickback, Louisiana Purchase, et al). Add to that, the parliamentary manipulation being used by Nancy Pelosi. Would such a good bill require all this? Of course not.

Nancy Pelosi promised the most ethical Congress ever. Does this manipulation put her in a gray area? (Charcoal gray at least.) What is most offensive is that the Democrats are saying this bill will reduce the deficit. This will only happen if Congress actually keeps the promised cuts that are only supposed to take effect years from now. These cuts can be reversed quite easily, and probably will be by a future Congress. Once again our government puts off the hard stuff to the next generation.

Government programs only expand; they almost never contract. Congress and the bureaucrats have no incentive to reduce costs or be more efficient. They are not allowed incentive bonuses. The only way for a bureaucrat to financially benefit or advance is to expand their responsibilities or increase their empire. The era of Big Government is building its strongest fortification yet.

Designed to Fail (For a Reason)

This bill will increase taxes on insurance companies, and prevent them from denying coverage for preexisting conditions (the latter of which I approve). How many insurance companies will be forced into bankruptcy because of this? Could this is a part of a larger plan to destroy the insurance industry, making a public option more viable? Don’t get me wrong; I have no love for the insurance industry. But that’s a far cry from wanting it destroyed.

If one looks at the massive fraud involved in Medicare, imagine how much more that would increase with a public option. Any counter-measure would require many more workers to ferret out the explosive fraud. Either way, it’s an huge increase in governmental expenditures. And many see the public option as merely stepping stone to universal healthcare. Don’t believe me? Watch the Barney Frank video clip below.

Republicans Not Without Blame

In case anyone was thinking I was a shill for the conservatives, think again. The Republicans led us here. They ignored the issue of making healthcare more efficient. In fact, President Bush added to the problem by expanding Medicare. Elsewhere, the Republicans took a hands-off approach to business which led to a whole host of problems. All this could have been avoided, but the Republicans sat on their free-market hands, believing their right-wing extremism was a virtue, and the left-wing extremism was the only enemy.

Now, they’re reduced to whining about parliamentary procedure.

Categories: Healthcare

The Great Math Allergy

November 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Auto sales analysts at Edmunds.com recently released the revelation that the Cash for Clunkers program, which offered consumers $4,500 for trading in less fuel-efficient vehicles for new more fuel-efficient vehicles, actually cost the government $24,000 per stimulated transaction.

A total of $3 billion was allotted for those rebates. Of the 690,000 new vehicles were sold under the Cash for Clunkers program last summer, only 125,000 of those were vehicles that would not have been sold anyway. Thus, $24,000 is the real cost per stimulated transaction, not $4,500.

Our government spent $3 billion to stimulate $562,500,000 in new economic activity. That’s less than 19 cents on the dollar. These are same people who want to reduce the cost of healthcare? If Cash for Clunkers is an example how the Federal Government manage programs, a public healthcare option will be very inefficient and destructive to our national economy and health.

Are Congress and the President really that bad with math? Or, are they simply allergic to it because it gets in the way special interest driven agendas? One only needs to look at the exploding multi-trillion dollar National Debt to get how allergic our politicians are to mathematical realities.

What can we expect when the decisions are being made by the senators and congressional representatives whose campaigns are financed by the pharmaceutical industry, Trial Lawyers Association, insurance industry, labor unions, and Wall Street? This legalized bribery is the underlying problem.

While some members of both parties have spoken up against fiscal irresponsibility, they are quickly shouted down by their own party’s power structures. As institutions, both the Republican and Democratic parties have failed us with dysfunctional fiscal methodologies which may become be our national downfall.

As citizens, we must loudly demand that our government represent us, not simply moneyed special interest groups. We must demand an end to campaign donations by special interest PACs. Unfortunately, the only people likely to support such a country-saving move are independents and centrists.

Healthcare Costs Beyond Reckoning

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

According to a Thomson Reuters report just released, the U.S. health care system wastes between $505 billion and $850 billion every year, according to a report from Robert Kelley, vice president of health care analytics at Thomson Reuters.

Specific findings include the overuse of antibiotics and lab tests to protect against malpractice exposure, which makes up 37 percent of healthcare waste or $200 to $300 billion a year. Yet, the Democrats refuse to consider caps on malpractice awards. Why is that the one solution that is considered off the table? As a note, the overuse of antibiotics also fosters the creation antibiotic-resistant bugs, thus raising our healthcare costs even further.

In addition, insurance fraud makes up 22 percent of healthcare waste, or up to $200 billion a year in fraudulent Medicare claims, kickbacks for referrals for unnecessary services and other scams. On 60 Minutes this past Sunday night, there was a report on how Medicare fraud detection has been underfunded. They showed examples of empty storefronts listed as active pharmacies receiving Medicare payments for prescriptions.

These and other items create an estimated $700 billion in waste annually. “That’s one-third of the nation’s health care bill,” said Robert Kelley. Honestly, how much more fraud will there be if the U.S. Government manages all healthcare, not just Medicare? A public option will only exacerbate this sorry situation.

With the healthcare costs and our National Debt shooting out of sight like a rocket, we need to bring our politicians back to Earth. Our major political parties, bought and paid for by moneyed special interests, have failed this country. It is time for REAL reform, not just reform slogans.

Categories: Healthcare

Show Horses, Work Horses & Trojan Horses

August 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Unfortunately, the healthcare debate has degenerated into accusations of “death panels” and comparisons to Hitler. (Rarely does any good come from comparisons to Hitler.) All this distracts from rational dialog. However, many don’t want rational dialog; they want distractions from the issues. There is a need for reform, but it should be reform that insures more people, without adding to the exploding National Debt. (That requires work not speeches.) Perhaps there are smaller but more potent actions that can be taken.

Portability
The economy has moved from a paradigm of steady decades-long employment to one of increased job changing and use of contingent workers. If done right, insurance portability is important idea that could benefit employees, employers and insurance companies,. I never understood why COBRA was limited to 18 months. Why couldn’t COBRA or some other program allow for carrying insurance from one employer to another, or to no employer at all for the self-employed or contingent worker?

Incentivizing Good Health Behaviors
Preventing disease is more economically efficient than treatment. It is a basic truth of health insurance that the healthy pay for the sick. We do this willingly because we never know when we might move from one category to the other. Some young people play the odds. I did this myself. Between the ages of 21 and 28, I went without health insurance, because like most people that age, I felt immortal. However, many of the bad health habits are formed in this time period, although they rarely manifest themselves until later. What if the government incentivized younger people to buy health insurance? Insurance companies love insuring young healthy people. It’s a bet they generally win. This would put more money in the insurance pool, lowering costs for everyone. It is also an opportunity to train people to take better care of themselves, including incentives for losing weight, improving diet, and quitting smoking.

Efficient Medical Record Systems
Much of the time, effort and money in healthcare go into the management of records, prescriptions, and billing. Efficiency standards are set in other areas, why not healthcare? President Obama has correctly targeted this as an area to be improved.

Malpractice Insurance Reform
If the government really wanted to reduce costs, they’d put caps on malpractice awards. This would not prevent people from suing their doctors, just limit the gigantic sizes of the awards. Malpractice insurance is a cost that does nothing to improve healthcare, reduce costs, or extend coverage. But President Obama has sworn to not cap awards. Why? Trial lawyers are big Democratic campaign contributors.

The Public Option
Some words and concepts can be very misleading. In the current healthcare debate, there is discussion of a “public option”. The word “option” implies something completely voluntary. It is, just as the Trojans voluntarily brought the wooden horse inside their gates.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted on the need for a public option, but said “it would be just like private insurance”. If that is so, what is the point? The point is to lure the nation away from private insurance, as a way to move to a single-payer plan.
Many will swear that is not the intention. However, Representative Barney Frank has explicitly said that “public option is a way to move to a single payer system”. [Video clip below] If a public option is offered, it will no doubt be structured to be more attractive than private insurance. Thus, the public option is a Trojan horse, to achieve a single payer system similar to Canada. (The only Canadians who really like the system are the ones who aren’t sick.)

Rumors of “death panels” aside, the U.S. Government has never run anything efficiently. There is no incentive for them to do so. It would be better to carefully create regulation that would harness the power of industry work horses, where efficiency is incentivized. This would still allow our show-horse politicians to claim they’ve done something significant without creating the chaos and pain that a public option or single-payer system would bring.

Beware of Greeks (and politicians) bearing gifts.

Barney Frank Video Clip

Categories: Healthcare

The Doublespeak of Healthcare Legislation

July 26, 2009 1 comment

The healthcare insurance bill is being rushed irrationally, except for political reasons. So what else is new? It is yet another bill that few legislators have been able to read. However, that hasn’t prevented the airwaves from being filled with doublespeak. I watched Nancy Pelosi interviewed on CNN this Sunday morning. She defends the House bill saying it will create savings, despite what the Congressional Budget Office says to the contrary. However, later in the interview she said the bill is also a form of stimulus. Which is it? Savings or stimulus? This is classic doublespeak, but rarely has the contradiction been so apparent in a single interview.

Pelosi also insisted on the need for a public option “that would be just like private insurance”. Then why do we need a public option, if it would be just like private insurance? Does she mean with thousands of insurance companies, there isn’t enough competition?

Let’s compare this to the auto industry bailout. Unlike GM and Chrysler, Ford did not take any federal bailout money, an action for which it should be applauded. Considering the economy, Ford is doing OK. People like Ford cars and are buying them. However, Ford is having difficulty with competing on auto financing because the government is backing the loans for the other two car companies. So Ford, a company that acted responsibly and did not take money from the public, is being punished. How can they compete with an entity that can mint its own money?

So, how do you think private health insurance companies will do when they have to compete against a government-backed insurance entity?

Let’s be clear, there is a great need for improvement. Factors contributing to healthcare costs include:

  • An aging population, requiring increasing amount of health services
  • An increased standard of care, utilizing more expensive technologies
  • A population which engages in poor health behaviors (obesity, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and preventative check-ups)
  • Inefficient medical record management
  • Skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums
  • Serving an illegal immigrant population without financial compensation
  • Increased use of contingent workers by businesses to avoid providing health insurance

This bill has nothing to do with improving healthcare, as it addresses very few of the issues above. And despite the doublespeak rhetoric, it has little to do with lowering costs. If they really wanted to reduce costs, they’d put caps on malpractice awards. Malpractice insurance is a cost that does nothing to improve healthcare, reduce costs, or extend coverage. But President Obama has promised to not cap awards. Why? Trial lawyers are big Democratic campaign contributors.

The only constant in Washington is hypocrisy.

Categories: Healthcare