Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘health care reform’

Republican leaders continue to embarrass themselves on healthcare reform

Posted by sanityinjection on July 14, 2017

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has just released the latest version of a Republican healthcare bill to replace Obamacare. And almost immediately, the bill is in danger of failing a procedural vote just to allow it to be debated. And so, like the sand in the hourglass, these are the days of the Republican-controlled Congress, marked chiefly by a complete inability to accomplish anything of importance. But the paralysis on healthcare is especially embarrassing because this is the issue on which so many Republican legislators ran. Remember the refrain: “Repeal and replace!” It seems like forever ago now.

The danger is very real that voters will punish a do-nothing Congress in the next election. Republican voters who believed the promises will be especially ticked off. So knowing this, why can’t the GOP caucus get its act together?

The problem, as usual, is that leadership is over-complicating the bills. In order to try to please and gain the support of all three wings of the party – liberal, centrist, and conservative – they keep adding things to the legislation to win over these groups. Of course, since those factions have very different goals, each thing leadership adds ends up losing more votes on one side than it gains on the other.

What McConnell and his team should do now is abort this latest bill and start fresh by remembering *why* Republicans were opposed to Obamacare in the first place. It wasn’t because they were against expanding access to health insurance for the poor. For most, it wasn’t even because they opposed spending more federal money on healthcare. No, think back and recall that there was one single provision of Obamacare that Republicans across the spectrum were dead-set against. That was the individual mandate, which forces Americans to purchase health insurance and fines us if we don’t.

The individual mandate is prima facie unconstitutional (I don’t care what the Supreme Court said.) It is difficult to imagine a similar federal law requiring Americans to purchase any other good or service. It’s also thinly disguised socialism, as the purpose of the mandate is to force wealthier and healthier people to pay into the insurance system to subsidize the premiums of poorer and sicker people.

The essence of effective legislating is not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. Or to put it another way,  a small victory is always better than a large failure. The only way I can see for Republicans to salvage something out of the healthcare mess is to simply pass a stripped-down bill that only does one thing: repeal the individual mandate. GOP legislators would then be forced to either support the bill or be caught nakedly going back on their campaign promises without any extra language they can point to to justify their opposition. It should be able to get enough Republican votes to pass both the House and Senate.

Of course, the Democrats will scream that repealing the individual mandate will “kill children” because of the socialist funding system mentioned above. This polemic, however, can be easily undercut by establishing a private, non-profit charitable fund to help pay for health insurance for those who cannot afford it but are ineligible for Medicaid. Contributions to the fund, however, will be a matter of public record. Then it will be up to the Democrats to get all their rich Hollywood celebrity friends, and George Soros, to put *their* money, instead of our money, where their mouths are. Heck, if they want to, they can buy multiple health insurance policies for themselves to put more money into the system. But once again, there will be no political place to hide on either side of the aisle.

I’m not under any illusion that anything as sensible as what I’ve just outlined is going to happen. Over-complicating things is what keeps Washington going, it’s what pays the salaries of all the bureaucrats and lobbyists. It’s an excellent example of why bigger government invariably becomes worse government.

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Posted in Domestic News, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Health care reform punishes handicapped, tanning, personal responsibility

Posted by sanityinjection on March 22, 2010

Like most pieces of major legislation, the health care reform bill is long and complicated. In their attempts to fund a dramatic expansion of health insurance coverage and costs, Democrats pulled out all the stops and reached for every possible revenue source short of across-the-board tax increases.

Some of the revenue provisions in the bill may surprise you. According to Bloomberg, the reform bill imposes some bizarre punishments. For starters, the bill places a $2500 cap on pre-tax contributions to health care flexible spending accounts or FSAs. In other words, don’t be too responsible in trying to set aside funds for your own health care needs when you should be burdening the insurance system with those costs like a good socialist.

Here’s another: If you visit a tanning salon under the New Obama Order, you’ll pay a 10% excise tax on top of the price. Presumably this is justified by findings that tanning beds increase the risks of cancer, thereby burdening the health care system unnecessarily. But I think it would be hard to prove that the impact is so great as to justify such a tax.

Perhaps most incomprehensively, if you purchase a medical assistive device such as a wheelchair, you’ll be slapped with a new 2.9% excise tax. That may not be enough to bankrupt anybody, but what pray tell is the rationale for soaking disabled people? What crime against the Welfare State have they committed? It’s not as if they can simply choose to forego their wheelchairs rather than pay the excise tax.

Maybe the Democrats counted on a belief that tanning salon patrons, disabled people and responsible working stiffs don’t vote in great numbers. Let’s hope that, in the words of President Ronald Reagan, “They counted wrong.”

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Health reform a Pyrrhic victory for Democrats?

Posted by sanityinjection on March 22, 2010

Tunku Varadarajan has got it mostly right over at The Daily Beast. As House Democrats celebrate their victory in passing health care reform, they have handed Republicans a very powerful weapon for this fall’s midterm elections. The GOP is now advocating a repeal of the new law, which would require veto-proof Republican majorities in both the House and Senate – probably impossible, but it makes a great pitch to fundraise and campaign on. Polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans oppose this legislation, and worse – they know that their legislators know that and voted for it anyway. Although I would not go so far as to say as Varadarajan does that Obama’s re-election in 2012 is at stake (there’s a lot of terrain to cover between now and then), the 2010 election prospects for Democrats were grim to begin with and are only getting uglier in the wake of yesterday’s vote. 

Particularly vulnerable are the 8-10 conservative, anti-abortion Democrats who, led by Rep. Bart Stupak, eventually voted Yes after holding out for the meaningless sop of an executive order from the President promising that the government would not start funding abortions. These Democrats have managed to alienate both liberal and conservative voters, and if the GOP picks up their seats they are likely to stay Republican for the foreseeable future.

Democrats could be facing a situation in which they have purchased health care reform at the cost of giving up their control of Congress and their ability (as well as the President’s ability) to pursue other liberal goals such as climate change legislation.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Michael Gerson: Obama missed the mark

Posted by sanityinjection on March 10, 2010

The WashPost’s Michael Gerson, in a thoughtful and insightful piece, argues that President Obama’s strategic miscalculations on the public’s appetite for health care reform have painted him into a corner where he can only win a Pyrrhic victory:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/03/10/obama_is_choosing_liberal_divisiveness.html

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Matt Welch: Obama is a liar

Posted by sanityinjection on March 10, 2010

Matt Welch, the editor of libertarian magazine Reason, has a scathing piece up in which he details how President Obama has systematically broken his promises and repeatedly lied to the American people in his attempts to get health care reform passed.

Of course Welch, although non-partisan, loathes the idea of a government expansion tied to health care, so you might expect him to be unhappy with the President. But Welch touches on behaviors that transcend any one issue and speak to a larger model of public governance that is troubling. His criticisms are harsh, but they are also accurate.

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Pelosi-to’s Way

Posted by sanityinjection on March 9, 2010

Folks, you just can’t make this stuff up. The following comes from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s own website. These are excerpts from a speech she delivered to a convention of local officials. I won’t go through all the blather (you can read the whole thing here) but I just want to focus on the part about health care reform. After reading this, tell me if you think Nancy Pelosi’s  concept of open, participatory democracy is the same as the rest of us:

“You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other….But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” (emphasis mine)

Come again? That’s right, she just said we have to wait until it’s been rammed through Congress before we are even allowed to know what is in the bill! Maybe if we’re good we’ll even get a crust of hard bread for supper too! Do you think any of the legislators voting on it will be allowed to know what’s in it?

She goes on to say:

“Health insurance reform is about jobs.  This legislation alone will create 4 million jobs, about 400,000 jobs very soon.”

So bear with me here. First we all thought health care reform was supposed to be about reducing health care costs. Then they told us no, it’s about expanding coverage to all Americans. Then they told us it was about reducing the deficit (!). Now apparently, it’s really been about jobs the whole time? (At least for the relatives and cronies of lawmakers who will get high paying jobs in the new federal agencies created to over see this monstrosity.)Do you get the feeling she just makes these numbers up as she goes along? Well you should, because 4 million jobs means one out of every 54 adult Americans will have a new job in health care reform! (If you’re an out of work bricklayer or factory worker and wonder how you’re going to get a job in health care, I can’t help you.)

I fully appreciate that in most public speeches, especially by legislators, there is a certain amount of inherent BS. But honestly, this is off the scale. What’s really upsetting is that Pelosi actually expects people to swallow this nonsense – that she can throw numbers like 4 million jobs around off the top of her head and know that nobody in the mainstream media will even challenge it.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

This is what bipartisanship looks like

Posted by sanityinjection on March 4, 2010

In the latest advance for doublespeak, Democrats in Washington are busy trying to redefine “bipartisanship”. Apparently now the Democrats’ health care bill is “bipartisan” even if no Republicans vote for it. The President has helped out by cosmetically grafting token acknowledgement of a few GOP suggestions onto the existing bill (how do you have a “pilot program” of malpractice reform??)

Ironically, at the very same moment, the very same Congress is engaging in *real* bipartisan efforts on a different issue – climate change. A truly bipartisan group comprised of Senators Kerry (D), Lieberman (I), and Graham (R) are trying to forge a compromise that will get Republicans on board with a climate bill. Unlike on health care, they’re doing it by actually responding to GOP concerns.

The compromise proposal eliminates the idea of “cap-and-trade” which has drawn so much Republican opposition. It proposes to apply separate emissions restrictions on an industry by industry basis, rather than forcing all sectors to meet the same targets. The bill would also include new initiatives for nuclear power and offshore oil drilling., items that Republicans generally support.

And the approach is working, at least initially, with Republicans and conservative Democrats indiciating a willingness to seriously consider a revised bill along these lines.

Let me be clear, I am not advocating for such a bill. I am simply pointing out that contrary to popular belief, bipartisan negotiations are not some ancient lost art that has vanished from Washington. So when Democrats are running around saying it’s impossible to create a bipartisan health care bill, or worse yet, playing fast and loose with the very definition of the word, it’s *not* because they have no choice. It’s because they have been intent on ramming their own priorities down America’s throat from day one and have never had any intention of compromising. They are engaged in a giant charade designed to fool the American people.

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Common sense on health insurance reform

Posted by sanityinjection on February 25, 2010

As with many issues, most of what you read about health insurance reform is long on scoring political points and short on telling the truth about why our current system is really broken. I invite you to check out Clifford Asness’ comments over at Bloomberg. Because Mr. Asness is not a politican, he is free to tell the truth about touchy subjects such as the tax deduction for health insurance and the isse of pre-exisitng conditions.

Asness’ proposals may or may not be the right solutions to health care, but he zeroes in on the issues that today’s “bipartisan health care summit” should be talking about – that is, if it were a serious effort at compromise rather than a pointless Potemkin show for the media.

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Debating the health insurance “individual mandate”

Posted by sanityinjection on February 11, 2010

One of the features that is likely to be included in any federal health care reform bill is the “individual mandate” – a legal requirement that every citizen must purchase health insurance or be subject to fines and penalties. This provision is generally seen as an essential part of any plan that expands health insurance coverage to just about everybody as the President and his allies want to do. It is necessary because you need to have the healthiest people – who might otherwise choose to gamble on not buying insurance – participating in the system in order to help pay for the cost of care for those who are sick and need expensive treatments.

A good example of this is the so-called “Massachusetts model” enacted by that state under its former Governor Mitt Romney. In Massachusetts, you are required to provide proof of your health insurance (sent to you by your insurance company) when you fill out your state income taxes. If you cannot do so, you are penalized.

Let us not beat around the bush: If you are forced to pay for something you don’t think you need, in order to subsidize it for somebody else – that is socialism. The individual mandate is the closest thing to the old left-wing goal of “socialized medicine” short of an actual government insurance program or “public option”.

A number of states such as Virginia are taking action to try to pre-empt a federal mandate by passing legislation banning it in their state. While it’s legally questionable whether such laws would actually be valid against a federal law, it is interesting to note that support for the idea is coming from both Republicans and Democrats.

Imagine for a moment you are Bill Gates. Why do you need health insurance? You can afford the cost of even the most expensive health care procedures. You have no incentive to pay monthly premiums against the chance of getting sick or injured. Under an individual mandate, you would be forced to buy health insurance not for your own good, but as a required contribution to the cost of everybody else’s insurance. Unfortunately for everybody else though, Bill Gates’ insurance isn’t necessarily any more expensive than ours, so he is not paying into the system any more than you or I do.

I believe that individual health insurance mandates are wrong in principle. If you have to be compelled to do something that’s supposed to be good for you, maybe it isn’t so good for you. If health care costs were more reasonable, there would not be such pressure to socialize them. Once again, we see that reducing the cost of health care is the most important reform, and that successfully doing so would reduce the need for other reforms. Any reform that achieves some other goal such as expanding coverage but fails to impact the actual cost of health care is essentially doomed to fail.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Televised bipartisan health care meeting a good step

Posted by sanityinjection on February 8, 2010

As much as I have criticized President Obama and his Administration in this space, I have tried hard to give them credit when they do something right. The White House plans to hold a televised discussion on health care reform with Congressional leaders from both parties. This is a step toward fulfilling President Obama’s previous promises that health care legislation would be discussed publicly and crafted in a bipartisan fashion.

Of course, make no mistake about it, the Administration is only doing this because its hand has been forced – by disagreements within the Democratic caucus and by the loss of a Senate supermajority with Senator Brown’s election. Until recently, the Administration was only too happy to ignore its promises and try to ram through a partisan bill. Now that they can’t, it’s a new ball game, and Democrats are rightly worried that voters will punish them if they fail to keep their promises. As the saying goes, better late than never.

It’s possible that nothing may come of this conference. President Obama remains resistant to starting over from scratch on health care, and it seems unlikely that Republican opposition can be mollified by adding a couple of their ideas to a bill that they detest. Still, an open and inclusive process is an improvement in itself. Most of the biggest legislative achievements over the past hundred years or so came about with bipartisan support. Working with members of both parties tends to exclude extremist ideas and focus on those that can attract more broad support.  It also creates a give and take process – you get one of your ideas in the bill, we get one of ours. This can be time consuming, but as we have seen, one party rule is not necessarily fast or efficient either.

It’s a sad comment on the state of affairs in Washington when the occasion of Democrats and Republicans – and the Administration – actually talking to each other seems like progress. But progress it is, and let’s hope to see more of it.

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