Sanity Injection

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

Posts Tagged ‘health care’

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.

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

Another bad idea: Tax junk food and soda

Posted by sanityinjection on July 28, 2009

“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street, / If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat, / If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet. ” – George Harrison, “Taxman”, The Beatles’  Revolver, 1966

“I’d like to teach the world to sing / In perfect harmony

I’d like to buy the world a Coke / But the tax is too high for me.”

-adapted from “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, from the Coca-Cola “Hilltop” TV ad, 1971

In the context of the current debate over health care and how to pay for it, something sneaky is going on. First, a number of media outlets reported that obesity-related conditions account for a significant percentage of health care expenditures, with figures such as $147 billion and 9% of overall health spending thrown about. Then today, two major media outlets – CBS News and the LA Times – both “coincidentally” published blog entries on paying for health care by taxing items that cause obesity – sugary sodas and fattening foods, respectively. If you think it’s a coincidence that this drum is only being beaten after the attempt to soak the rich to pay for ObamaCare backfired, think again. The focus is now being turned from one group it’s OK to hate – the rich – to the only other one – the fat. (Disclosure: Sanity Injection is personally about 17 pounds overweight.)

To be sure, the media isn’t the prime mover behind this conspiracy, just a happy helper. The “data” is coming from think tanks and government agencies that are part of the ObamaCare advocacy team. The logic works like this: Evil junk food makes people fat, and fat people cost everybody money. So we should tax junk food, which will raise money to pay for fat people’s health care while also encouraging people to eat healthier and thus lose weight.

Anybody see a flaw here? How about this: Fat people aren’t fat just because they eat sugary or fatty foods. They’re fat because of their overall lifestyle, which includes diet and (lack of) exercise. Some have other medical conditions that contribute to obesity. So let’s say the tax works and everybody stops eating  junk food. No major revenue stream is generated, but fat people are still fat and we still have to pay for them. Alternatively, the tax doesn’t work and people still eat unhealthy foods, so a bunch of money is raised. How much do you want to bet that money gets raided by the government to pay for other things besides health care? Meanwhile the fat people have less of their income they can save to help pay for their own care.

Those are economic arguments, but how about the philosophical arguments? Is everyone who drinks a Coke contributing to obesity? Arguably not, if you’re eating healthy and getting exercise. Yet you’ll still have to pay the punitive tax. More fundamentally, what right does the government have to tax you in order to get you to live your life the way *they* want you to? If we believe that the obese should bear the responsbility for their extra health care expenses, then charge them higher premiums, or offer them lesser coverage due to their pre-existing condition. That’s the free market solution. Instead, the Democrats’ health care bill would force insurers to not only cover pre-existing conditions but at the same premium paid by healthy people!  And so the serpent of Leftism continues to gnaw on its own tail, planning an economy that is in inherent contradiction with itself and telling us all that it will work.

If this all sounds familiar, it should: we’ve been through the same nonsense with cigarette taxes. In fact, you could replace the words “fat people” and “obesity” with “smokers” and “smoking” above without any further alterations necessary. The result is a regressive tax that hits the poor hardest – precisely what the Left always says they don’t want.

Frankly, I am sick and tired of the search for scapegoats to blame America’s health care problems on and punish them with targeted taxes. With apologies to Martin Niemoller:

When they came for the smokers, I did not speak out, because I was not a smoker.

When they came for the rich, I did not speak out, because I was not rich.

When they came for the fatties, I did not speak out, because I was not a fatty.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak for me.”

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

It’s the *cost* of health care, not the extent of coverage

Posted by sanityinjection on September 15, 2008

Tubby sends along this Newsweek column by Robert Samuelson arguing that the priority in American health care should not be mandating universal coverage for all Americans, but rather reducing the cost of health care so that coverage is affordable for all Americans:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/157573

Samuelson points out that health insurance is a matter of the healthy subsidizing the sick and that there is a lot of inefficiency in the system that inflates costs for working people, while the poorest are covered by Medicaid. What he doesn’t mention is that tort reform legislation that limits punitive damages in malpractice suits would also have a big impact in bringing costs down.

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