Why Conservatives should support Government Healthcare

by Roland Lindsey

David Frum posted an excellent post on the Bush Economic Legacy over at NewMajority.com.  I hope that the Republican leadership reads it.

When you look at the traditional levers of tax policy, interest and inflation rates, there is just not much room to make things any easier on business to create jobs and raise income levels, let alone pay for health care. There are many things we can do to encourage business and wage growth, however. Like fix this odious, job-killing system we have in America called Health Care.

Reforming health insurance alone will not solve the problem of cost. Even if all insurers became non-profits but otherwise performed at the same rate, it would only reduce the cost of health care by 1% of the $2.4 trillion it costs us now.  Want to see the data?  Check an NPR analysis of the data here.  From the article:

To negate this notion, AHIP features a dollar bill with one tiny slice out of it (shown below) on their Web site, illustrating that their members only make 1 cent of every dollar spent on health care.

That may be the case, says Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt, but “whether it’s fair or not depends on what it is you want to describe,” he says.

“All that statement says is, if you eliminated all our [insurance company] profits, national health spending in America would be 1 percent lower. It has meaning only in that context,” Reinhardt says.

Tort reform is not going to bring our costs significantly down. How do I know this? Look at the size of the medical malpractice insurance industry. Not only is the medical malpractice insurance industry doing very well from a profitability point of view, the cost of medical malpractice is at a 30 year low. In fact, in 2008, the total cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums was $10.7 billion. That is less than one half of one percent of the $2.4 trillion we spend on health care. Total payouts from malpractice insurance in 2008? $4.7 billion.  There is a study here on tort reform by the CBO from 2004.  They did not believe then that it would affect the economics of health care.  There is another study undertaken by Americans for Insurance Reform.  Same deal, it’s just not a significant factor, and honestly should just be taken off of Republican talking points.

Come on, Republicans. We can do much better than this. And the independents, those people who really decide elections… They know whether or not they did better in the last decade or if they did worse. They don’t care what Glenn Beck says, and they don’t care what Keith Olbermann says. They care about their own situation and their own prosperity. And while Republicans do not solve problems for them, they will vote Democrat. It’s the simple truth.

We hear the comparisons to Canada and the UK and Switzerland, and we laugh it off because we say, “Well sure, they may control costs better than we do, but I’d hate to get sick over there!” And then we lay out a lot of reasons why our system is better.

Except the costs of our system are crushing individuals, business, and our economy. And we Republicans are blind to the reality that our “solutions” to the problem are tiny drops in an enormous bucket. Would you prefer the economic growth of the ’80s or the ’90s to the economic growth of the ’00s? We all would agree that would be preferable. Would you be willing to go back to an ’80s standard of Health Care to achieve that?

If the only substantive choice to contain health care costs is to move over to a Single Payer system like Canada (costs 10.6% of GDP), or a Nationalized system like the UK (costs 7.5% of GDP), then we must support the substantive choice. We can cry about losing our liberty and freedom all we want, but do not forget that economic freedom equals real freedom. That personal liberty is not possible without economic liberty. And the trajectory we are on is one that leads to economic slavery.

If I have to choose between continuing economic disaster in this country while the Republicans remain in permanent minority status and waiting 3 months for a doctor visit, I’ll take the waiting list.

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Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The American Free Market Healthcare System Is Socialist

by Luna Flesher

Opponents of healthcare reform fear socialism.  And rightly so.  They list a host of problems that other socialist systems have seen.  While some examples are unrealistically exaggerated, their underlying point is well-taken.  Socialism, no matter how well intended, suffers from a number of unintended consequences.

The intention of collectivism is to provide equality, but the frequent result is that everyone is equally deprived.  No one is allowed to have more than anyone else.  Motivations become skewed, producers produce less, consumers consume more. Bureaucracy increases with the intent to stop fraud and abuse, which leads to increased inefficiency.  The least common denominator is prized because it is something everyone can agree on.

The Soviet Union is one of the best examples of this cycle, when it inevitably collapsed under its own weight.

A hat tip to my socialist friends out there. Yes, I know the USSR didn’t practice “true” socialism. But I still make my claim — any collectivist system of more than 100 people will generally suffer from similar symptoms.  When properly balanced, those issues can be stabilized and mitigated somewhat, but they are real problems that need to be recognized for what they are.

Socialized medicine is criticized for the following reasons:

  • Overall costs are rapidly driven up by lack of market forces.
  • Providers, manufactures, and other achievers are not compensated enough.
  • Choice becomes limited.
  • Care is rationed.
  • There are long waits for care.
  • There is a high level of bureaucracy leading to inefficiency, frustration, and corruption.

Most socialist healthcare systems in the world today show at least some of these problems, to one degree or another.

Previously, I posted about how our healthcare system is in crisis.  Our free market system is supposed to be immune to these problems.  Yet I’m noticing a strange correlation.  We are already experiencing all of the issues listed above.  How can this be?

Correlation is not causation, but I had already reached this conclusion a number of years ago for different reasons.  I briefly made this claim elsewhere in this blog, when I argued for government intervention, but did not have room to make my case.

My conclusion?  Health insurance is socialist.
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Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 11:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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Health Care in America – Choice?

by Roland Lindsey

“Choice” is a word we hear from talking heads and politicians nearly every time they talk about Health care in America.  President Obama recently declared on talk radio, “Choice, competition, reducing cost, those are the things I want to see accomplished in this health care bill.”  Nancy Pelosi said, “I agree with the president when he said a public option was the best way to keep the insurance companies honest, that it would be the best way to increase competition so that we can lower costs, improve quality of care, retain choice and expand coverage.”

On the other side of the debate, the Republicans have opposed Democrat plans for health care reform, often claiming it would take choice away from the American people.  Representative Paul Ryan claimed the federal bureaucracy would replace “choice and competition.”  Representative Bob Latta claimed “I believe people should have the choice to keep their own insurance, or Health Savings Accounts, if they are satisfied with their coverage and not be subjected to government intrusion into their personal choices.”

Republicans have introduced a plan called “The Patient’s Choice Act of 2009” that would create state insurance exchanges.  The purpose of these exchanges is to make it easy to compare and select plans.  Apparently they have never heard of http://www.ehealthinsurance.com.  The plan would also… give people money to buy health insurance.  And if you are uninsurable through these plans?  They will do what Washington State did and create a “high risk” pool that would be more expensive, but would still provide coverage.

So much concern over preserving “choice” or granting more “choice.”  After consulting my own experience, I pause to wonder, “Why do you keep saying that word?  I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Like 56.5% of Americans, I have always received health insurance as part of my total compensation from my employer.  Odds are good that you receive your insurance this way, so I ask you:  When was the last time you made a choice in your health insurance?
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Published in: on August 21, 2009 at 8:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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Right On: Anti-Racism on CNN

by John Lindsey

Tim Wise, an anti-racist writer and speaker, was recently on CNN to comment on the racial subtext present in much of the opposition to Obama and his domestic agenda (we also covered this in “American Idiot: Obama, Socialism, and the Soft-Pedaling of Racism“):

Unsurprisingly, he received some less-than-friendly feedback which he recounts on his blog (the first one is downright cordial compared to others mentioned):

‘How dare you say this is about racism!’

And a pleasant Monday to you too sunshine, I thought, as I stared at my computer screen this morning, reading over the first e-mail of the day.

It was from someone who had apparently seen my presentation on CNN last night, in which I explained why racism is indeed a driving force behind the outpouring of anger we’ve been seeing…”
Read the rest in “Racism, Right-Wing Rage and the Politics of White Nostalgia

While you’re there, check out his other two excellent articles on the subject:

Hopefully, Tim will get more opportunities to speak in the mainstream media; it’s past time we had  articulate anti-racists on the news. I’ve seen him in action many times over the years, and he’d tear the average race-baiting talking head to shreds.

Health Care Debate: Krugman lluminates – Obama, Not So Much

by John Lindsey

health_care_0724Paul Krugman has an interesting piece bringing health care systems around the world into better perspective vis-a-vis US health care. The bills in congress are basically taking us in the Swiss direction; which isn’t the best, but would be significantly better and less expensive than ours.

Better, of course, unless the public option gets cut out of the final bill; rendering the whole thing a wasted effort or worse. No cost control means no reform.

Asked about a column by long-time Democratic strategist Paul Begala, urging progressives not to shy away from tackling health care in a more incremental approach, [Howard] Dean shot back: “The public option is incrementalism…. But there is no incrementalism without the public option.” He explained: “If you don’t have a public option this bill is not even incremental, in terms of adequate health care reform… Paul is not entirely wrong. It is just that the last shred of reform is the public option.”

Obama, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be able to keep his story straight.

Anyway, Krugman:

So where does Obamacare fit into all this? Basically, it’s a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.

If we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route. True “socialized medicine” would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system. That’s why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.

Our Healthcare System In Crisis: The Evidence

by Luna Flesher

It’s become clear to me based on the feedback from my previous posts on healthcare that many people in America don’t realize there are any problems with our existing system.

There is plenty of information available about these problems.  I always like to steer people towards personal research, but these links should get you started:

Plus:

And I’m not even talking about universal coverage to pay for those who can’t afford it.  I don’t have to even go there.  Because like it or not, we already pay for the poor’s healthcare through:

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Published in: on August 15, 2009 at 4:52 am  Comments (7)  
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American Idiot: Obama, Socialism, and the Soft-Pedaling of Racism

by John Lindsey

Bill Maher thinks we’re stupid. He’s almost certainly wrong. That being said, if he is claiming that too many Americans don’t know their asses from their elbows when it comes to knowledge about the rest of the world, their fellow citizens, or even their own government, well, that’s hard to deny.

Obama = SocialistTake the “Obama’s a socialist” claim popular with – well,  just about anyone on the far right – but most recently with the anti-health reform protesters. Now, the anger of these people is apparent, but the very act of calling the corporate-friendly Obama a socialist (apart from making actual socialists laugh) is to publicly declare that you wouldn’t know socialism if Karl Marx personally beat you over the head with it.

This is ignorance; but it is misguided (if not also ignorant) if we respond to these people as if what they’re saying has anything to do with whether or not Obama is a socialist. It doesn’t. If their anger is genuine but their accusations aren’t, it’s logical to suspect that the anger is probably coming from somewhere else.

Granted, Obama’s not the first politician to be called a socialist; nor is the use of class warfare by politicians and monied power a new tactic. Throughout our history, it’s been a highly successful method to persuade otherwise rational people to become hostile toward their own economic interests and their natural allies.

For example, many protesters of health care reform are older (and incidentally, predominantly white). Of this group, aprotest0709 substantial portion are on Medicare – a socialized, single-payer insurance system. Indeed, many of these folks would be destitute without it, which was the purpose of the institution in the first place. Why, then, would they protest a premium-driven public option? After all, they already enjoy a much better system for free. Oh, right – because it’s “socialism”. Or a “government takeover of health care.” Or – probably more accurately – because it’s “Obamacare”.

“Obamacare”, in the minds of many of these protesters, holds a stigma; because Obama himself has been (to them) successfully stigmatized. The demonization of Obama began during election season, and while vilifying political opponents is not new, the manner in which it has been applied to Obama is unique, for obvious reasons.

Whereas Democratic presidents are often portrayed as far-left advocates of causes and institutions that have become associated with people of color (e.g., welfare, Affirmative Action, discrimination in housing, and so on), Obama has been portrayed not just as a champion, but as a direct infiltration of these causes (it should be noted that forms of welfare not currently associated with people of color have no such stigma: unemployment insurance, Medicare, Social Security, etc.)

Hence:

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The government is not trying to kill Grandma

by Roland Lindsey

Excellent interview here.

The media has gone crazy with this idea that the government wants to euthanize old and handicapped people, and that these things are in legislation before the Congress.  Yesterday, I posted quotes from Rush Limbaugh repeating the same lies.

Today, I saw an interview with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) about the issue.  From the article:

How did this become a question of euthanasia?

I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.

Read the whole interview and stop listening to the misleading liars who are telling you anything different.

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm  Comments (4)  
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Rush Limbaugh is lying to you

by Roland Lindsey

I started listening to Rush Limbaugh in the summer of 1992.  I was a 20 year-old conservative, and I found him witty, entertaining, and logical.  At the time, he was working hard on his program to defeat the election of Bill Clinton.  I even subscribed to the American Spectator, which was heavily advertised on his show.  Later, the former editor-in-chief of AS would talk about all the things they made up about the Clintons in their magazine, but at the time it seemed like Gen X had a Watergate to experience.  The problem existed:  It wasn’t true.

Rush has turned up the volume over the years, but I’ve always tuned back into his show.  I did take a hiatus during the whole Michael J. Fox debacle.  I remember driving in my car to downtown Seattle, and listening to Rush’s non-apology for his harsh criticism the day before.  When Rush offers a non-apology, it means he expands on the original statement or comment, and finds ways to make it even more offensive.

At some point, listening to him make fun of Michael J. Fox made me sick to my stomach, and I said out loud, “Screw you, Rush.”  I turned him off, and didn’t listen again for a year.

I tuned into Limbaugh this morning on the way to work.  I was shocked to hear deliberate lies coming out of the radio, and not only that, he accused the Obama Administration of lying about the same thing.  It sickened me.  I realized that those who go to Rush for their single source of news and commentary are being led to believe deliberate falsehoods.  And when Rush is dead wrong about these things, you never hear a correction or retraction.  It doesn’t matter to him, so it doesn’t matter to his listeners.  Here’s some of what I heard this morning.

“This is about Obama saying there is no euthanasia in his plan. What people have said is there is, there’s end of life counselling. Mandatory end of life counselling in the House healthcare bill.”  – Rush Limbaugh, 8/10/2009

This is patently false. There is no mandatory counseling of any sort in the House bill. I’ve read the section. Luna has read the section. Limbaugh is making this up.  There is a section on page 425 that allows a Medicare subscriber the option to have a counselor come to visit them and help them create a living will, if they want it.  This is a benefit, not “mandatory end of life counseling.”

“Obama’s even saying there’s no euthanasia in the plan and there’s no cutbacks in Medicare. What plan, Mr. President? You haven’t presented a plan. How can you tell us what is or isn’t in the plan when you don’t have one? All we’ve got to go on is the house plan and it’s all there. This is mind-boggling stuff. They deny what’s there. They deny what’s in it.” – Rush Limbaugh, 8/10/2009

Euthanasia is not in the House bill. You can read it.  Luna has, and you can read her detailed thoughts in her excellent piece here. But Limbaugh continually says it and then claims Obama is lying about it. Americans aren’t stupid. They simply trust someone who will lie to them.

What is Limbaugh’s motivation here?  As Limbaugh said back in 1992, “Follow the money.”  He doesn’t get any money from Health Care lobbies.  But he does get money from making incendiary and untrue statements.  It makes more people tune into him, which turns into advertising revenue.  There have been many things he’s said that are completely untrue.  He said that Obama didn’t have a birth certificate.  National Review flawlessly debunked that here.  He has called the House bill “Government-run Health Care”, “Socialist Health Care”, and other things when it is really nothing of the sort.  He has claimed that the good idea to put together a health database comparing treatments and outcomes is actually going to be used to ration care.

He claims any number of things as fact, when in fact, they are nothing of the sort.  And those who use him as their single source of information are led to protest against their own interests, and vote against their own interests.

Thomas Jefferson said:  “Knowledge is like a candle. When you light your candle from mine, my light is not diminished. It is enhanced and a larger room is enlightened as a consequence.”  A proper quotation updated to Rush Limbaugh’s practice in 2009 is “Misinformation is like a candle.  When you light your candle from mine, my light is not diminished.  It is enhanced and a larger room is misinformed as a consequence.”

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Health Reform Bill Reading Project: Part 1, The Meta-Summary

by Luna Flesher

I have just finished reading the House version of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Bill of 2009.

I will give a detailed account in this multiple parts.  This post will be the overall summary.  See Part 2 for detailed dissection so you can judge for yourself.

Here are my qualifications, or lack there of:  I am simply an American who does not want to be screwed over by the health care industry or the government.  My political alignment is “pragmatic libertarian”.   I am generally skeptical.  I am intelligent, but I am not a lawyer.  I have zero law training nor any training in the medical or health fields.  In fact, I generally hate the topics of law and health because they bore me.  I only chose this task because 1) I was challenged to it, 2) I happened to have time this weekend, and 3) lots of people are claiming to be experts, but few actually seem to be reading the damn thing.

This is probably the last time in a very long time I will attempt something like this.

The AAHCA was 1018 pages long, approximately 200,000 words.  I did not log my hours, but I’m guessing it took me about 6 hours total, spread out over 3 days.  I spent 2 hours writing this summary blog post, and expect to spend at least another 2 hours compiling my notes for the detailed posts.

I am not a speed reader.  My intent was to find the truth of what the bill actually does, so my decisions were in good faith, i.e. if I felt I understood a section, I skimmed over details that were repetitive, reinforcing what I understood, or making minor modifications to existing laws.  There were vast pages of “hereby changing the semicolon to a period in title IV of USC blah blah”.  There were vast pages of tweaks to Medicaid.  These I read enough to make sure there was no overt funny business, but I did not spend many brain cells trying to comprehend these sections.

When I did hit a section which seemed important (of which there were many) I slowed down until I reached comprehension.  At times I did additional internet research to make sure I understood what it meant.  In my followup “detail” posts, I will make a note of anything I felt I didn’t fully understand.

There were complications on my understanding of sections which amended existing laws.  Since I have no understanding of those laws, and did not want to increase my reading time by ten to go read those laws, I made some assumptions.  Overall, I didn’t get the sense that there was any trickery going on.  The intent of the law seemed clear and in good faith, so my assumption is those amendments were in that same letter and spirit.

The intent of the law seems to be to improve quality care for everyone, lower or control costs in the industry, to help those who have no coverage to get covered, and to regulate against abuses that are currently going on in the health industry.

I did not see any attempt to replace the insurance or health care industries with government health care.  I did not see any overt violations of individual rights other than the usual: increases in certain taxes and increases in bureaucratic mass.  No death panels, no government takeovers of health care, no limits in doctor choice, no letting grandma die.

So let’s get started.

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Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 10:25 pm  Comments (5)  
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On Tyranny and Health Care: A Libertarian’s Plea for Government Interference

by Luna Flesher

If liberty is one of my chief values, and tyranny is its opposite, then tyranny is my adversary.

By liberty, I mean individual freedom from oppression by another; the ability to move about, act as I choose, and reap the consequences.  In order to fairly protect liberty, freedom must be limited when it begins to infringe on the freedom of others.  I was raised with the phrase, “Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

To be clear, I do not mean freedom from want.  Being handed unearned resources may increase choice, but this is not the kind of freedom a government can easily grant without violating the rights of someone else.  Nor do I mean the freedom to escape rightful consequences, both positive and negative.  You may act on your rights, but it is not freedom if you unfairly avoid what’s coming to you.  That usually indicates someone else’s rights are being violated, someone else is being cheated.

Tyranny, the antithesis of liberty, can come from any source.  Most libertarians and conservatives are rightfully wary of the tyranny of government.  Typically only a government has police power, military might, power of imprisonment, and the backing of society.

However, tyranny can come from many other sources — any individual or organization who wishes to impinge upon your rights.  They do this through the use or threat of physical force, breaking of contracts, and gaining consent through misinformation.  They avoid the negative consequences of harmful actions, reaping only rewards through unfair advantage, force, and fraud.

Besides governments, large-scale tyranny can come from corporations, outside governments, unions, organized religion, organized crime, academia, political groups, etc.

On a smaller social level, it can come from independent criminals, bullies, abusive families, cults, small businesses, private security organizations, friends and associates, or random people on the street.

We spend so much time thinking of government as the bad guy.  However we forget that its most legitimate purpose is to protect individual liberties from other powers that would exert force or fraud.  That’s why we have allowed the government military and police power in the first place.

We need to look around and ask what other large-scale tyrannies exist in America today.  A good measuring stick to judge this by is, “Does it initiate force or fraud?”  Since it is the topic du jour, let’s look at the health care industry.  Here are three ways it has initiated both.

1. When you or your employer pays for health insurance, you have a contract with the insurance provider to cover certain costs if you become sick.  Your contract is too probably long to read, too confusing for you to understand, and full of loopholes.  This is a form of fraud or uninformed consent.

Even if your contact in fact covers your expensive illness, as soon as you are diagnosed the insurer is likely to drop your coverage.  You will be stuck with prohibitive bills and likely bankruptcy.

You may think this is a rare occurrence, but it is not.  The leading cause of bankruptcy is due to medical bills of people who were already covered by health insurance.

If it happens even once, it is the government’s job to protect all individuals from fraud.

2. Various factors have driven up costs so that access to health care is barred to anyone except those with insurance or those who are very rich.  It is no longer possible for a middle class person to save a percentage of their income and pay directly for health services.

Insurance has created a non-level playing field.  It is a form of privatized socialism.  Doctor’s charges go up to subsidize insurance discounts.  Hospital bills are increased to cover those without health insurance who show up on the hospital steps.

The least advantaged are the employed middle class without employer-provided insurance, small business owners, and the temporarily unemployed.  The system basically forces you to choose between being insured or not having any health care.  The latter choice leads to bodily harm or even death.

If you decide to buy insurance on your own, the costs are prohibitive.  And if you have a “pre-existing condition” like a past treatment for a yeast infection or acne, you will be denied insurance.

It boils down to this:  If you choose to run your own business or freelance, or if you choose a small employer which does not provide health care, or if you are involuntarily laid off, you risk bodily harm.  Contrary to popular belief, “hard work” is not a factor for successful health in this system.

3. In most states, employees cannot choose their insurance provider.  They cannot choose their coverage.  In this sense, they are forced into a contract made between their employer and insurance company.  This limits consumer choice when it comes to doctors, level of care, customer service, price, level of bureaucracy, and reputation.  If my insurance drops my doctor from the network, I must find a new doctor.  If my insurance company raises rates or lowers coverage, I can’t walk away.  I’m trapped.

Conclusion

There are numerous valid sources that show how insurance companies extort, defraud, cheat, and oppress.  The evidence is overwhelming.  There are examples of corruption at every level of the health care industry.  The industry as a whole is the very socialist dictatorship we so fear.

The government seems to be the only entity powerful enough to reinstate the balance and protect the people.  This is the proper role of government.  Health care reform should be embraced by everyone who cares about individual liberty.

This is one time when it is proper to plea for government interference.

Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm  Comments (11)  
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