Category Archives: Health care

Inspector General evaluates Obamacare website

The HHS Inspector General has released an evaluation of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, shedding light on the performance of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services has released a report titled HealthCare.gov: Case Study of CMS Management of the Federal Marketplace. An excerpt from the executive summary holds the main points:

What We Found

The development of HealthCare.gov faced a high risk of failure, given the technical complexity required, the fixed deadline, and a high degree of uncertainty about mission, scope, and funding. Still, we found that HHS and CMS made many missteps throughout development and implementation that led to the poor launch. Most critical was the absence of clear leadership, which caused delays in decisionmaking, lack of clarity in project tasks, and the inability of CMS to recognize the magnitude of problems as the project deteriorated. Additional HHS and CMS missteps included devoting too much time to developing policy, which left too little time for developing the website; making poor technical decisions; and failing to properly manage its key website development contract. CMS’s organizational structure and culture also hampered progress, including poor coordination between policy and technical work, resistance to communicating and heeding warnings of “bad news,” and reluctance to alter plans in the face of problems. CMS continued on a failing path to developing HealthCare.gov despite signs of trouble, making rushed corrections shortly before the launch that proved insufficient. These structural, cultural, and tactical deficiencies were particularly problematic for HealthCare.gov given the significant challenges of implementing a new program involving multiple stakeholders and a large technology build.

The problems are not solved. Challenges remain, the report says, including “contract oversight, the accuracy of payments and eligibility determinations, and information security controls.”

Who is responsible for the debacle? In a hearing before Congress, HHS Secretary and former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius said “hold me accountable.” View a video clip below, or click here to view at C-SPAN.

Medicaid found to increase, not decrease, emergency room usage

This is an astonishing finding, and contrary to what the conventional wisdom has told us about health care.

For years, it has been the number one talking point of Obamacare supporters. People who are uninsured end up getting costly care from hospitals’ emergency rooms. “Those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it — about $1,000 per year that pays for [the uninsureds’] emergency room and charitable care,” said President Obama in 2009. Obamacare, the President told us, would solve that problem by covering the uninsured, thereby driving premiums down. A new study, published in the journal Science, definitively reaches the opposite conclusion. In Oregon, people who gained coverage through Medicaid used the emergency room 40 percent more than those who were uninsured.

Continue reading at New Oregon Data: Expanding Medicaid Increases Usage Of Emergency Rooms, Undermining Central Rationale For Obamacare

Study: Kansas premiums to spike following Obamacare rollout

From Kansas Watchdog.

Study: Kansas premiums to spike following Obamacare rollout

By 

ON THE RISE: A new report from the Heritage Foundation says Obamacare premiums are significantly higher in Kansas compared to average rates before the rollout of the new health care law.

By Travis Perry, Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE — Good news: Kansas landed in the top 10 in a recent study conducted by the conservative Heritage Foundation! Bad news: It’s for massive insurance premium hikes because ofObamacare.

Kinda puts a damper on things, huh?

As I said, before dashing your optimism with harsh reality, Kansas is among the top 10 states to possibly see the largest premium increases following the rollout of the federal health care exchange, according to a recent report from Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis. In a nutshell, the report states Obamacare health premiums available to Kansans will be higher than existing policies.

According to the Heritage report, the average premium for a 27-year-old Sunflower State resident will rise from $87.40 to $200.14, a massive 129 percent bump. This gives Kansas the unfortunate privilege of boasting the sixth-highest increase for young people nationwide.

The news gets slightly better for other groups, but not by much. Average premiums for a 50-year-old adult could increase from $198 to $341.08 (72.3 percent increase), while a family of four may see an increase from $553.92 to $676.05 (22 percent increase).

“Many families and individuals will face this reality as they apply for coverage, and the implications of experiencing sticker shock are important to consider if enough people choose not to sign up for coverage for various reasons,” policy analyst Drew Gonshorowski wrote in the Oct. 16 report.

The massive increase in premiums for young people should be especially concerning, as they’re the one group Obamacare can’t afford to do without. The successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act depends heavily on the young and healthy signing up to help pay for the elderly and infirm.

It’s important to note the Heritage study compares premium prices straight-up, not including government subsidies designed to decrease the cost to low-income individuals and families.

“This analysis represents the change in unsubsidized rate levels,” Gonshorowski wrote. “The purpose of this research is to provide further details on the changing premium levels across the country.”

Source Report: How Will You Fare in the Obamacare Exchanges?

Contact Travis Perry at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at@muckraker62.

ObamaCare chart updated

obamacare-chart

Republicans of the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress have released an update of a chart to help us navigate ObamaCare. (Click on it for a larger version.) From the July 2010 press release accompanying the original chart: “Four months after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously declared ‘We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it,’ a congressional panel has released the first chart illustrating the 2,801 page health care law President Obama signed into law in March. Developed by the Joint Economic Committee minority, led by U.S Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the detailed organization chart displays a bewildering array of new government agencies, regulations and mandates.”

Read all about it at Health Care Chart — Updated Chart Shows Obamacare’s Bewildering Complexity.

ObamaCare employer mandate delayed, start of train wreck?

aspirin-bottleScheduled to take effect on January 1, the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) has been delayed for one year.

Curiously, this announcement was made on an obscure Treasury Department blog, along with articles titled “Meeting, and Exceeding, Our Small Business Procurement Goals in FY 2012” and “In Case You Missed It: Top Executives Say U.S. Is #1 for Foreign Direct Investment.”

The employer mandate requires those who employ more than 50 full time-equivalent employees to provide insurance or pay a penalty. Cato Institute’s Michael D. Tanner notes the general problem, and a specific problem based on the decision to delay the employer mandate:

In postponing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate until after the 2014 mid-term elections, the Obama administration has tacitly admitted what critics of the law have long contended: that Obamacare is unworkable and would be a significant burden for American business and the economy at large. Stay tuned for further dominoes falling.

Actually, the Administration’s decision to postpone the employer mandate may make a bad situation worse. Because the individual mandate remains in place, workers may now face a situation where they must purchase their own insurance or pay a penalty because their employers don’t provide coverage. In effect, the administration’s decision shifts the cost from employers to workers. This hardly seems fair, and may force the administration to rethink the individual mandate as well. (And So the Obamacare Train Wreck Begins … )

Will the implementation of other parts of ObamaCare be delayed? I think it seems likely. But: Section 1513 AVC states, regarding the employer mandate: “The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.” So does the administration have the legal authority to make changes like this?

uninsured-estimates-2013-05

Also: For all the wrenching debate and changes, there will still be many uninsured people. Here’s a chart based on the Congressional Budget Office May 2013 estimate of the effects of the Affordable Care Act on health insurance coverage.

This is just the start of discovery of pathologies built into ObamaCare. Here’s Avik Roy explaining an incentive contained within the employer mandate:

The strong penalty vs. the weak penalty

The employer mandate actually consists of two different penalties, based on two different categories of employer behavior. These originate from Section 4980H of the Affordable Care Act. Subsection (a) requires steep penalties for employers who offer no coverage at all. Subection (b) requires modest penalties for employers who offer “minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan.” This difference — between the strong penalty in 4980H(a) and the weak penalty in 4980H(b) — is crucial to understanding how things will play out in the future.

Under the strong penalty, in which an employer “fails to offer to its full-time employees…the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage,” and “at least one full-time employee” enrolls in an exchange, the employer has to pay a fine of $2,000 times the total number of full-time-equivalent employees at the firm, minus 30. (The employer mandate only applies to firms with 50 or more full-time-equivalent workers.) So if you employ 50 workers, that’s a fine of 20 * $2,000 = $40,000. And the fine isn’t tax-deductible, adding to the pain.

Under the weak penalty, in which an employer does offer “the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage,” but that coverage doesn’t meet Obamacare’s requirements for affordability or actuarial value, and at least one worker enrolls on an exchange instead, the fine is $3,000 times the number of workers who enroll on the exchanges. So, if you employ 50 workers, and three of them get coverage on the exchange instead, the fine is a much lower 3 * $3,000, or $9,000. (Technically, in subsection (b), employers pay the lesser of the weak penalty or the strong penalty, but this in most cases should be the weak penalty.)

So: Employers avoid the strong penalty and gain eligibility for the weak penalty by offering “minimum essential coverage.”

Roy goes on to explain that “minimum essential coverage” means coverage my any insurance plan that can legally be sod in a state, including plans that provide limited coverage or services. Roy writes that companies may offer these bare-bones plans to their employees and escape the penalties.

This behavior, which federal officials have confirmed is allowed, evidently wasn’t considered by officials, writes Roy: “Nonetheless, Obamacare’s designers expressed surprise that employers would do such a thing. ‘Our expectation was that employers would offer high quality insurance,’ said Robert Kocher, a former Obama health care adviser. It wouldn’t be the first time that the law’s authors didn’t recognize how economic incentives actually work.”

Economic incentives are what makes the world work. They’re based on human behavior, and that isn’t easily changed, even to suit Barack Obama’s desires.

The future of Obamacare, now he tells us

This is a sad commentary on the state of politics and governance in the U.S., from the Boston Globe:

Unencumbered by the political pressures of a reelection campaign, Baucus is in a position to call out both the failure of federal officials to prepare for implementing Obamacare as well as the unintended consequences of its complex regulations.

A short while ago, before U.S. Senator Max Baucus announced his retirement, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita noticed the incongruity of Baucus complaining about a law he passed, tweeting the following:

Following are excerpts from a letter Pompeo sent to Baucus, followed by the entire letter.

My shock wasn’t because I disagreed: You’re right to say this legislation has led to great uncertainty for hard-working Americans, small business owners, and families. No, I was shocked because you wrote this bill. I was saddened because your acknowledgment of the harm caused by PPACA has come so late.

No one in the country bears more responsibility for the complexity of this law than you. When your supermajority couldn’t pass the bill using normal procedures, you and your Senate colleagues rammed through the final legislation by using parliamentary gimmickry. Then, in the House, Speaker Pelosi cheerfully urged members to pass the legislation “in order to find out what’s in it.” This was not good policy-making, and now we’re seeing the consequences.

Secretary Sebelius’s implementation of the law is certainly flawed, but the policy process produced a law that could not possibly be implemented successfully. As legislators, it is our responsibility to write bills that clearly explain our meaning and have achievable goals. By your own admission, this law is a disaster.

You drafted it, you twisted arms to get it passed, and, until now, you have lauded it as a model for all the world. Your attempts to pass the buck to President Obama’s team will not work, nor will they absolve you of responsibility for the harm that you have brought via this law.

[gview file=”http://pompeo.house.gov/uploadedfiles/130418_-_letter_-_pompeo_to_baucus_on_obamacare.pdf”]

ObamaCare explained: What could go wrong?

An Illinois State Senate candidate who happens to be a physician diagnoses and explains the problems with the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. Here’s a transcription of what Barbara Bellar said:

Let me get this straight: We’re going to be gifted with a healthcare plan we are forced to purchase,
and fined if we don’t,
which purportedly covers at least 10 million more people,
without adding a single new doctor,
but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents,
written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it,
passed by a congress that didn’t read it but exempted themselves from it,
and signed by a president who smokes,
with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes,
for which we will be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect,
by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare,
all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese,
and financed by a country that’s broke.

So, what the blank could possibly go wrong?

Rationing of health care, now and on the horizon

A Wall Street Journal article explains that — contrary to the promises of President Barack Obama and supporters of his health care plan — rationing of health care is happening and will become more pervasive.

Citing the story of Avastin (see below), the authors write “The Avastin story is emblematic of the government’s broader agenda to ration care based on cost and politics. Once ObamaCare comes into full force, such rationing will be pervasive. When the government sees insufficient benefit, all but the wealthiest and most politically connected will have to go without.”

The article explains the doctrine of “comparative effectiveness,” used in England to ration health care, and how the 2009 stimulus bill allocated $1.1 billion to study this.

Additionally, end-of-life counseling has been revived through regulation, not legislation. This, the authors write, “might coax the elderly away from life-sustaining but expensive treatments.”

Where I might disagree with the authors is in this passage:

There’s an enormous difference between government-imposed rationing and treatment decisions in the private sector. When insurance companies deny coverage — for example, on grounds that treatment is “experimental” or not “medically necessary” — they do so based on contract language agreed to in advance by subscribers. If you don’t like what a particular insurer offers, you’re free to shop around.

The idea that people can shop around for health insurance is not a reality for most people. For those who receive insurance from their employers, they get what the boss offers, maybe with a few choices. Contrast this with the lightly-regulated automobile insurance market, where policies are available with many options, and insurance companies actively compete for customers. Those on Medicare get what the government provides, although many seniors shop around for a supplemental policy that meets their needs.

If the health insurance market were less regulated, particularly eliminating the perverse practice of insurance being tied to employment, a market would likely develop where customers would be able to shop for or specify policies that meet their needs. If someone wanted a policy that would pay for experimental, cutting-edge treatments, they could pay an additional amount for such a policy. I have no idea how much extra this option would cost, but I imagine we would be surprised at how little it would be.

Or, if someone has signed an advance directive indicating that they do not want extraordinary and expensive care at the end of their life, shouldn’t they be allowed to buy policies that specify this as part of the contract between the insurance company and the insured? That could save a lot of money.

The rationing of health care has implications for economic development in Wichita. The State of Kansas and Wichita are making a large investment in Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research. This center seeks to make advancements in medical devices, including artificial hips and knees. These types of operations, however, are the type of medical care that we can easily foresee will be restricted as the federal government seeks to control spending on health care.

‘Death Panels’ Come Back to Life

The FDA’s restrictions on the drug Avastin are the beginning of a long slide toward health-care rationing.

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Elizabeth Price Foley

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration banned doctors from prescribing Avastin, a potent but costly drug, to patients with advanced-stage breast cancer. According to the FDA, the drug doesn’t offer “a sufficient benefit in slowing disease progression to outweigh the significant risk to patients.” Yet in some clinical trials Avastin has halted the spread of patients’ cancer for months, providing respite to women and their families wracked by physical and psychological pain.

Ponder the FDA’s justification—there wasn’t “sufficient” benefit in relation to Avastin’s risks. Sufficient according to whom? For your wife, mother or daughter with terminal breast cancer, how much is an additional month of good-quality life worth? And what costs should be weighed? Like all drugs, Avastin has side effects including bleeding and high blood pressure. But isn’t the real cost to these women a swifter, less dignified death? The FDA made a crude cost calculation; as everyone in Washington knows, it wouldn’t have banned Avastin if the drug cost only $1,000 a year, instead of $90,000.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal or at Rivkin’s site.

Obama health care rejected in Missouri election

What are we to think when President Obama’s signature legislative achievement is highly unpopular with Americans?

Scott Rasmussen has written: “One of the more amazing aspects of the health-care debate is how steady public opinion has remained. Despite repeated and intense sales efforts by the president and his allies in Congress, most Americans consistently oppose the plan that has become the centerpiece of this legislative season.”

Now we have election results that show that Americans — Missourians, anyway — don’t like what they see in the Obama health care plan. The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto reports on the Missouri election.

Mo. to O.: ‘No’

They said voters would learn to stop worrying and love ObamaCare. They were wrong.
By James Taranto

They told us that Americans would learn to stop worrying and love ObamaCare. To judge by yesterday’s election in Missouri, they were wrong.

Official election returns show that citizens of the Show Me State voted overwhelmingly–71% to 29% in favor of Proposition C, a ballot measure described in a pre-election report from Time magazine:

The specific issue boils down to this: Can the government require that citizens buy health insurance? Mandatory insurance is a key element of the health care reforms passed by congressional Democrats and signed by Obama this year. Adding healthy people to the insurance pool spreads the cost of policies for people with health problems. Missouri’s referendum rejects that mandate by asking voters whether state laws should be amended to forbid penalties for failing to have health insurance.

Time describes the vote as “largely symbolic.” Other states have already passed such opt-out laws via legislative action rather than voter initiative, and the real test will come in the courts. But symbolism matters. If the constitutional question is a difficult one, it’s possible that judges will resolve it on the side of public opinion. And of course the public’s reaction to ObamaCare is likely to influence the politicians who have control over its implementation and possible repeal.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal

Dr. Milton Wolf at AFP Kansas summit

At the Kansas Defending the American Dream Summit 2010, produced by Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, Dr. Milton Wolf addressed the crowd on health care issues. Wolf is a physician and second cousin to President Barack Obama.

“Three months ago I had never been to a political rally,” he told the audience. He started a website — The Wolf Files — and became involved.

He told the audience of some of the personal attacks he’s received.

“Freedom isn’t free, and liberty cannot be a spectator sport.” The government takeover of health care is really a cover for an assault on our freedom, he told the audience. Deep in the thousands of pages of the bill is health care rationing, which its supporters claim is not the purpose of the bill.

Wolf said that by coming between citizens and their doctors, there is no other part of life that regulators can’t touch.

Donald Berwick, the head of Medicare, says that there will be rationing. He compliments the British health care system, but doesn’t talk about the results. Wolf said that the results for cancer survivability in Great Britain are much worse than in the United States.

He said that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius received a report from her own agency that said health costs will rise after government reform, but that she withheld release of the report until after Congress voted.

There are free market solutions for health care. First, get the government out of the patient exam room. Government should not be regulating who get mammograms.

Second, make health care insurance companies answerable to consumers, not their employers. Where free markets are allowed to work in medicine, such as laser eye surgery, the costs have come down tremendously.

Third, eliminate junk lawsuits. From $100 billion to $200 billion is spent each year on defensive medicine, he said. He mentioned a novel concept: health care dollars get spent on health care, not lawyers.

Bigger danger of healthcare bill: the arrogance of Congress

By Eric O’Keefe.

We may never fully know the damage that will be done by the massive health care bill Congress passed on Sunday, but one thing is certain: It will lead to lower-quality care at higher costs.

Dozens of new health boards will come on line in the next few years, as bureaucrats gradually take control of our health care system. Who knows how many bright college students will decide to avoid medical careers because they don’t want to follow orders from these bureaucrats?

As alarming as some of the bill’s provisions are, what’s more dangerous is the arrogance this Congress demonstrated.

The House of Representatives used to represent; now it rules.

This health care reform was widely debated for a year, and it became less popular by the month. A weekend poll by Rasmussen Reports showed the depth of that unpopularity, with only 26 percent strongly supporting the reform and 45 percent strongly opposing it.

How can elected representatives defy the considered will of the people?

Because defiance becomes an easy habit when you know that there is almost no chance you will lose your next election. The loss of accountability enables public servants to indulge their own lust for power. As Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

If we do not address the problem of a permanent class of rulers in Congress, we will watch Congress bankrupt the country and destroy the republic.

Most members of the House represent specially drawn districts where one party dominates. As a result, these members face no primary election challengers and only nominal competition in the general election.

Congressional entrenchment is not a product of popularity; Congress has routinely been unpopular the past 30 years. A February survey by Rasmussen Reports showed approval of Congress at a historic low, with only 10 percent rating their performance as good or excellent. Rasmussen also found 63 percent favor replacing the entire Congress.

Unfortunately, that will not happen. Even during this year’s extreme political turmoil, you can be confident that over 80 percent of House incumbents will win yet again in November. In most modern US elections, more than 95 percent of House incumbents are reelected.

The reason is a century of entrenchment by incumbents looking out for themselves. They have large staffs and budgets to run a permanent campaign; they have pork and patronage to distribute at taxpayer expense; and they enacted campaign restrictions to hobble challengers.

With mostly one-party districts, incumbents own their seats unless they face serious primary challenges. But party organizations controlled by incumbents work to discourage primary challenges, regardless of the performance of the incumbent. In fact, only eight incumbents have lost their primary races in the past three elections combined – that’s a renomination rate of over 99 percent.

To regain congressional accountability, we must work outside the political parties to set the standard of acceptable behavior, and to enforce it in primary elections.

In 2006 and 2008, Democrats won the close House races and took control of Congress because voters were tired of big-spending Republicans. In 2010 voters will defeat Democrats in close elections, and the House is likely to return to Republican control. But what will those Republicans do? Should we trust them to behave this time?

I would say no. Congress will not behave on its own because the political parties now exist to serve the politicians, not the taxpayers.

That’s why the development of the tea party movement has been so forceful and swift. Tea party leaders stepped up because both parties had failed us. Yet they understand that you don’t solve the problem of two unaccountable parties by creating a third. What we really need is a way to hold politicians of any party accountable, and that begins with independent organizations demanding accountability, and backing primary challengers to representatives of both political parties who fail to live up to their job title: Representative.

In 2010, tossing out some big-spending Democrats may be all that voters can accomplish. But if we don’t solve the bigger problem of creating the organizations to systematically hold politicians accountable, we will only get another round of broken promises on the road to ruin. The fate of the republic depends on building an independent system to hold Congress accountable to the taxpayers.

Eric O’Keefe is chairman of Sam Adams Alliance, a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on communicating free-market principles.

After U.S. health care reform, where will Canadians go?

Now that the Democrats’ health care reform package has passed Congress and is sure to be signed into law, wealthy Canadians will need to start looking for somewhere else to travel for surgery.

Earlier this year Danny Williams, the premier of the Canadian province of Newfoundland traveled to Miami for heart valve surgery. As Sally C. Pipes explains in a San Francisco Chronicle article: “With his trip, Williams joined a long list of Canadians who have decided that they prefer American medicine to their own country’s government-run health system when their lives are on the line.”

In an interview defending his decision, Williams said “This is my heart. It’s my health and it’s my choice.” Williams, a millionaire, has the resources to make a choice that most Canadians don’t have.

Pipes writes that 40,000 Canadians travel to the United States each year for medical reasons. But as big-government health care reform starts to drag down American health care to that of the level of Canada, we can expect to see that number decline.

Medical tourism is a benefit to Wichita’s economy. Galichia Heart Hospital in Wichita offers a wide variety of surgical procedures — not just heart surgery — to people willing to travel to Wichita. The hospital has a website — Galichia Medical Tourism — complete with prices for some procedures. A promotional video on the site specifically mentions categories of surgery that Canadians are finding difficult to obtain in their own country.

Will Galichia be able to maintain this business after the full effect of Obama-style health care reform is realized? Will we have a health care system that Canadians will want to use? It will take some time to know the answer.

Health care about to get worse

A good summary of the problems with American health care, and of what the future holds is from Competitive Enterprise Institute‘s Gregory Conko. In his piece Health Care Crisis About to Get a Whole Lot Worse he writes:

Most of the problems in America’s health care system — high and rising prices, lack of consistent and reliable access for millions, rampant cost shifting, and an inability to distinguish between effective and ineffective services or between high and low quality, to name just a few — stem not from some supposed market failure, but primarily from existing government interventions in the market for health care and health insurance.

One of the government interventions that leads to market dysfunction is the reliance on employers to provide health insurance for so many Americans. This happened because of government policy, not by accident. As a result, workers have little choice in their coverage, and some feel tied to their present jobs just for the insurance.

Americans — some anyway — complain that health insurers will collect premiums for years, and then not pay when the covered become sick. There’s also not a vigorous market for health insurance for individuals, partly because the employer market swamps out efforts to sell to individuals or families.

Contrast this situation with the market for automobile insurance. This is a product that is regulated, to be sure, but much more lightly than health insurance. It’s something that no employers purchase for their workers and their private cars. Instead, drivers have to seek out and purchase their own policies.

And what is the result? There’s a thriving and competitive market for auto insurance. The pitchmen for two large companies — the quirky lizard and the exuberant Flo — are well known to television viewers. Auto insurance companies innovate to see who can produce products that meet the needs of consumers.

Do auto insurance companies fail to pay claims, as it is alleged health insurance companies do? If an auto insurance company developed a reputation for not paying, customers would quickly and easily leave that company for others. That is a credible threat, as there is a competitive market for auto insurance. Those who feel they have been wronged by a health insurance company often have no alternative to turn to — there is no credible threat of taking one’s business to another company.

One of the things that President Obama’s health care reform is designed to do is to create a marketplace for health insurance. But we don’t need more government regulation to accomplish that. Such government-sponsored effort is likely to fail. Less government intervention and less regulation, like in the market for auto insurance, would produce a result better for consumers.

To some, Democrats not bold enough, despite Massachusetts results

A coalition of liberal political action groups has released a poll that contradicts the conventional wisdom stemming from Tuesday’s election.

The poll, conducted after Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the United States Senate election in Massachusetts, was sponsored by Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and MoveOn.org.

According to a communique from Democracy for America, Democrats in Washington should “Be bold, fight for more change — not less, and pass healthcare with a public option.”

The message speaks of “Stay-at-Home Voters and Obama-Voting Independents” as a new set of swing voters. These voters, DFA claims, were responsible for Brown’s victory.

The poll results, delivered under the sub-heading “Even Scott Brown voters want the public option, want Democrats to be bolder” is interpreted by Charles Chamberlain, political director of Democracy for America this way: “In an election between Scott Brown and the public option, the public option would have won.”

Further, according to DFA, “Both sets of swing voters don’t think the current Senate bill goes far enough and over 80% of them want a public option. … If a public option was in the Senate bill then these swing voters would have delivered victory to the Democrats.”

Wall Street Journal on government health care

The Wall Street Journal has compiled its editorials and op-eds into a collection titled The WSJ Guide to ObamaCare. It’s an invaluable collection of reporting and analysis.

For example: The German model, promoted by American liberals as a model to follow? “Alas, the German system is starting to come apart at the financial seams.” (The Stressed German Model: It took the Germans 125 years to figure out that their health-care system doesn’t work)

On learning from the states: “Like participants in a national science fair, state governments have tested variants on most of the major components of the health-care reform plans currently being considered in Congress. The results have been dramatically increased premiums in the individual market, spiraling public health-care costs, and reduced access to care. In other words: The reforms have failed.” (The Lesson of State Health-Care Reforms)

On the purported right to health care: “The question of health care is not one of rights but of how best in practice to organize it. America is certainly not a perfect model in this regard. But neither is Britain, where a universal right to health care has been recognized longest in the Western world. Not coincidentally, the U.K. is by far the most unpleasant country in which to be ill in the Western world. Even Greeks living in Britain return home for medical treatment if they are physically able to do so.” (Is There a ‘Right’ to Health Care? In Britain, its recognition has led to substandard care.)

On Obama’s tall tales: “To highlight abusive practices, Mr. Obama referred to an Illinois man who ‘lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about.’ The president continued: ‘They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it.’ Although the president has used this example previously, his conclusion is contradicted by the transcript of a June 16 hearing on industry practices before the Subcommittee of Oversight and Investigation of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.” (Fact-Checking the President on Health Insurance: His tales of abuse don’t stand scrutiny.)

Failure of one program doesn’t justify forming another

The blogger at the KRA got it just right in the post Liberal-socialists ignore government failure in insuring children.

It seems that at a recent rally in Johnson County, a sign said there were 58,000 uninsured children in Kansas.

The blogger points out “But doesn’t the state of Kansas already have a program in place that is supposed to insure children when their family can’t afford to do so? Of course, it’s called Kansas Healthwave!”

At the national level a similar problem exists: people are eligible for government programs, but they don’t sign up. As I wrote in Uninsured count needs explanation:

There’s also the issue that many people are eligible for some sort of government assistance with health insurance, but they don’t take advantage of it. Yet, these people are counted as uninsured. As explained in The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen’s Guide by Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute: “As many as 14 million of the 45.7 million uninsured — poor and low-income Americans — are fully eligible for generous government assistance programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP. The problem is, they’re just not enrolling in these programs.”

In Winfield, citizens don’t agree with their opinion leaders

On Wednesday the Winfield Daily Courier printed an editorial titled ‘Tea party’ bunch is going to extreme.

While criticizing a move made by some Kansas legislators, it uses loaded language like “in full Glenn Beck mode,” “they look silly,” “appealing to prejudice rather than reason,” and “should just laugh at the ‘tea party’ jesters.”

The anonymous author of this piece — probably Dave Seaton, identified in the newspaper’s website as “responsible for the Courier’s editorial content” — seems to be more than a bit out of touch with readers, at least those who have left comments to the editorial.

One comment writer left this: “Kansas is among the states that want it the least. The vote in the last Presidential election showed that a majority didn’t want it or it’s author! We didn’t believe the author’s ‘Kansas Values’ ad then and certainly don’t now!”

Another wrote: “You seem very quick to decry the ‘tea party’ people and Glenn Beck as the demon. You’ve yet to enumerate any inaccuracy held and posed by them, though. … Could that be because you’ve openly embraced and adopted the Saul D. Alinsky tactic of smear and defame those you cannot overcome with clear logic and fact?”

One, identifying himself as the Ayn Rand character John Galt, wrote: “Someone at the Winfield People’s Courier both needs a little fresh air, and reminds me why I generally have done well to avoid the bien pensant opinion of most printed newspapers these days.”

(bien-pensant: right-minded, one who holds orthodox views. I had to look that up.)

It seems like many people in Winfield don’t care for the editorial stance of their newspaper. I understand why.

Physician to speak on health care reform in Wichita

Please note: Effective October 2, 2009, the location of Wichita Pachyderm Club meetings has changed. The new location is the Wichita Petroleum Club.

This Friday (October 9, 2009) the Wichita Pachyderm Club at the Petroleum Club of Wichita presents Dr. George Watson, D.O. The topic will be “We Need Change in Health Care, and the Correct Diagnosis!”

Dr. Watson operates a patient direct practice, meaning he accepts no government or insurance company payments. He serves his patients 100% and they pay him directly. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. On August 27 this group filed a free speech violations case in the health care battle against the White House.

Lunch is $10.00 and is a buffet lunch. The meeting starts at noon.

The Wichita Petroleum Club is on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions). Park in the garage just across Broadway and use the sky walk to enter the Bank of America building. Bring your parking garage ticket to be stamped and your parking fee will be $1.00. There is usually some metered street parking nearby.