Health care reform

Aug 052010

My comment on Katherine Hobson’s blog article at the WSJ titled, “Institute for Safe Medication Practices: Drug Shortages ‘Unprecedented’

Since the author had a chance to talk to this Michael Cohen, I wish she would have asked more questions about this “authority” that he thinks the FDA should have. Who would be compelled to do what? Who is supposed to be responsible to whom for a “plan?” After all, it’s not clear how a “plan” could help with any of the causes that the article lists. There are a whole lot of unanswered questions that need answers before we think about giving the FDA more power; otherwise it’s just another power grab.

May 182010


I think of President Obama every time I see this how-to guide for parents: “How to explain to your child that you’re going to sell him.”

According to the English-Russia web site where I first saw it, it’s one of a series of fake book covers designed to ward off kibbitzers. You put your real book inside it. People will leave you alone to read in peace.

Unfortunately, in the case of President Obama it’s no joke. Like when he put pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to agree to the euro bailout for Greece. I don’t know why he wanted to put his fingerprint on that act of selling people down the river, unless it was his way of writing the contents for the above book.

Here’s a good article explaining who he was helping and who is being sold to pay for it: Greek Myths and the Euro Tragedy by John H. Cochrane in the May 18 WSJ.

And here is one about the health care plan that he said would allow us to keep our existing health plans: No, You Can’t Keep Your Health Plan (by Scott Gottleib in the same issue of the WSJ). It’s like he was explaining to us, “Certainly you can keep walking. We’re going to break your kneecaps, but nobody’s going to stop you from trying.”

May 122010

There has been some controversy over the question of whether doctors should discuss the downside of the so-called health reform bill with their patients. The AMA says no; Dr. Hal Scherz says yes and complains that the AMA is trying to muzzle doctors. (WSJ column here.)

But for some reason Dr. Scherz didn’t use the term “holistic medicine” to describe what he’s doing. Here is one definition of the term:

Holistic medicine is a system of health care which fosters a cooperative relationship among all those involved, leading towards optimal attainment of the physical, mental emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health.

It emphasizes the need to look at the whole person, including analysis of physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spiritual and lifestyle values. It encompasses all stated modalities of diagnosis and treatment including drugs and surgery if no safe alternative exists. Holistic medicine focuses on education and responsibility for personal efforts to achieve balance and well being.

Sounds to me like that would include the political aspects of health care, too.

Apr 182010

President Obama says he will veto any financial reform bill that doesn’t bring the derivatives market under control. If he really meant that, he would have vetoed the recent health bill.

Derivatives are a problem in that they obscure what it is a purchaser owns. It’s hard to know how to value them, which makes it difficult for buyer, seller, and regulator. They create opportunities for market distortions.

The same is true of the health care bill. Supposedly there is some pie in the sky that’s going to repay the investment of higher taxes that we’ll be making. But it’s all so vague — it’s hard to connect value and payments in any accountable way. The health care plan should have been subject to the same scrutiny and controls (and perhaps prohibitions) that are needed in the securities market.

Apr 112010

Fred Barnes has written an aptly titled article for the April 5-12 issue of The Weekly Standard: “Economics for Dummies.” It’s about “Nancy Pelosi’s cockamamie ideas.” Nancy does have a lot of those, but the dummy in this case is Fred Barnes.

(BTW, this may be the first and last time I’m going to say anything about Nancy Pelosi that isn’t critical of her.)

The dummy part is where Barnes says this:

So far as I know, Pelosi is the first person in the universe to regard the lack of portability of health insurance as a deathblow to entrepreneurship. This idea is, to put it mildly, farfetched. Is there evidence that budding entrepreneurs have been deterred by the fear of losing health insurance for a spell? Don’t bet on it. Are future Michael Dells or Ted Turners or Pierre Omidyars suppressing their entrepreneurial juices because their doctor visits aren’t covered? Please.

Pelosi, as is the habit of Democrats, cited an uncheckable and probably imaginary case. “If they had a child with diabetes who was bipolar … they would be job-locked,” she insisted. Maybe so. But a job-locked entrepreneur? It’s surely overkill to revolutionize our entire health care system for the sake of that rare bird. Besides, there’s COBRA, the federal law that permits an employee who quits to stay insured for months.

Barnes is way out of touch. Pelosi is NOT the first person in the universe to regard the lack of portability of health insurance as a hindrance to entrepreneurship. (“Hindrance” is a fairer way of characterizing her words than “deathblow.”) I’m not the first, either. All Barnes would have to do is get out and talk to people who work for large organizations that provide health benefits. Talk to them about their plans and aspirations. He would find no end of people who stay where they are because of health insurance, instead of striking out for something new and different, sometimes to start their own business — just like Nancy Pelosi describes.

If there could be any saving grace to nationalized health insurance, it would be in making health insurance more portable. Unfortunately, all the negatives about the Democrats’ way of going about it are going to cancel out any vestige of the benefits of the portability that Pelosi talks about. But she is absolutely correct in linking “entrepreneurial power” with greater portability in health insurance. If Democrats had concentrated on that and had really meant it, they could have devised a national plan that would have harnessed the power of markets to give us portability and lower costs, too, instead of creating a bigger and more fearsome monster than the one we have now.

Well, Democrats aren’t going to do anything to harness the power of markets or anything that will give people more choices. Their game is power. They have a psychological and political need for dependency, which means they’re not really going to do anything to encourage entrepreneurship, any more than Stalin tried to encourage the kulaks. But we should give Nancy Pelosi credit for at least talking a better game than the Barnes-type Republicans.

Barnes asked, “Are future Michael Dells or Ted Turners or Pierre Omidyars suppressing their entrepreneurial juices because their doctor visits aren’t covered? Please.”

The answer is yes, some future entrepreneurs will suppress their entrepreneurial juices due to the fear of losing health insurance for a spell. Some people will not risk dropping their employer-paid insurance and then incurring family difficulties that will constitute pre-existing conditions if they try to get it back in a few years. And not all entrepreneurs are people with the resources of Michael Dell or Ted Turner, nor should they have to be. Nor should we think only of those high-profile people when we think of entrepreneurs. We should also think of Joe Plumber and other people who don’t travel in Barnes’ rarified atmosphere.

And what’s even more amazing (and stupid) is that Fred Barnes thinks the health care debate is about having doctor visits covered. If it was just a matter of doctor visits, health care would not be 17 percent of our economy and growing. It makes you wonder if Barnes was hiding under a rock the past few decades while these things have been discussed. I’ll put his remark in the same category as Hillary Clinton’s, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized business.”

Barnes refers to COBRA. But COBRA lasts only a relatively short time. We should expect entrepreneurs to be able to think a little further down the road than that. They have to be long-term planners who think ahead to more than the next paycheck, or they’re not going to be entrepreneurs. COBRA is one of those Democrat-devised things that was intended to keep people in dependence on the good graces of the government, as a way to avoid putting market forces to work to create truly affordable, portable, and accessible health care. It’s kind of strange for Barnes to be praising one of the Democrats’ Rube Goldberg devices in defense of another.

If the reason that Republicans pushed their better ideas only half-heartedly is because they were thinking like Fred Barnes, we can put a large share of the blame for the monstrosity that was just passed on Republicans. Such a head-in-the-sand attitude is going to drive people to desperate solutions — even solutions that will make matters worse. Which is what got enacted just last month.

Barnes is a dummy.

Apr 012010

Not so long ago a health care bill had to be cobbled together and rushed through Congress while it was still being put together, before people had a chance to digest what was really in it. Now President Obama is suddenly in less of a rush and urges patience. Too bad he didn’t lead by example when he had a chance.

From a USA Today article:

President Obama urged Americans to wait and see how well his new health care plan works, chiding “pundits” who talk about “another poll or headline that said, ‘nation still divided on health care reform.’ “

Mar 242010

Holman Jenkins explains how President Obama and Congress joined with the insurance industry to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

We’ll let Angela Braly, CEO of insurer WellPoint, take the story from here. She was recently hauled before Congress to justify her company’s proposed 39% rate hike in California. She explained the source was two-fold: rising medical costs and healthier customers dropping their coverage, forcing the sick to pick up the tab.

Now this sounds like two problems, but for WellPoint and other insurers it’s really only one problem. Once everyone is required by government mandate to buy insurance, the industry’s survival is no longer threatened: It can just pass its skyrocketing costs along to customers. Once customers can no longer refuse to buy the industry’s product, the problem of costs won’t be fixed, but it no longer is the insurance industry’s problem.

There, in that one sentence, we give you the failure of ObamaCare, the failure of the congressional health-care debate, the failure of health-care politics in this country


Under the law just signed, employers have even more incentive than they did yesterday to lavish excessive health insurance on their high-end employees. They have less incentive to cover low-end workers, or even hire them.

Mar 222010

Headline: House Passes Historic Health Bill

You’d think the Obama media would be a little more cautious about putting up headlines that label last night’s congressional action (whether you want to call it a vote or something else) as “historic.” Here are a couple of other actions I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past few days, which have also been deemed historic:

  • Reichstag passes the enabling bill, 23 March 1933
  • The First Roman Triumvirate was formed, 60BC (but kept secret, somewhat like the provisions of the health care bills)
Mar 032010

Holman Jenkins points out how President Obama and the Democrats are desperately avoiding the one reform that might actually do something to bring down health care costs and make health care insurance available to more people. They are rushing to enact the worst possible system before people get it into their heads to enact the reforms that would create the competition for health insurance companies that Democrats claim to want (but don’t really). Such reforms could have been part of a grand compromise, but Obama and the Democrats don’t want a health care system that the people would want:

Here, Mr. Obama squanders the opportunity his presidency represented. For it’s entirely possible to visualize incorporating this insight about the proper role of insurance with a system of guaranteed coverage and individual mandates à la ObamaCare, and indeed back when Mr. Obama was believed to be smart, we would have guessed this was the direction in which he would head.

But Mr. Jenkins is slightly off target. I don’t think it’s really the case that President Obama lacks intelligence. True, he’s acting rather unintelligent about this issue, but I think it’s just an act.

The problem is that Democrats feel threatened whenever people make their own choices. They are desperately afraid that people will find out that markets can accomplish most of our health care objectives, so do what they can to disable them or corrupt them to keep them from working.

They dislike choice, whether it’s a grandma who apprehends an armed rapist instead of letting the police handle it, or customers who want to buy fresh food from their Amish neighbors, or parents who want to choose the schools for their children. They especially dislike the idea of people making important health care choices. Those are especially dangerous decisions to allow people to make, because they are consequential decisions. (At one time I thought there was an exception to this rule. I thought they wanted people to have the right to choose when it came to abortion and drugs. But with the Sarah Palin candidacy we learned that their idea of abortion choice was limited to only one choice. I’m not sure about recreational drugs. Maybe that’s still an exception to the rule.)

If there are Ten Commandments of the left, here is Commandment #1 (with apologies to Martin Luther’s Small Catechism):

  • Thou shalt have no other gods before the Great God, the State.
  • What does this mean? We should fear, loathe, and distrust markets above all things.
Feb 272010

I posted the following in response to the Battle Creek Enquirer article, “Stations pull ad critical of Schauer.”

“It just goes to show powerful special interests will say and do anything to maintain the status quo that keeps them rich while Michigan families are struggling,” Andrew Piatt, campaign manager for Schauer for Congress, said in an e-mail Friday.

So the Independent Women’s Voice isn’t allowed to use its own money to distribute an inaccurate statement, but the Enquirer will circulate an irresponsibly inaccurate statement by Andrew Piatt free of charge, with no fact-checking. Interesting.