It's About Jobs

The spike showing nearly 51 million were uninsured at some point last year is alarming but not surprising because it is another reflection of the recession and the nation’s persistently high unemployment rate.

The Census Bureau reported yesterday that 4 million more people were uninsured in 2009 than in 2008 when 47 million lacked coverage.

The biggest drop was in the number of Americans with employer-sponsored coverage, which dropped by 6.6 million last year, in a continuing trend. Also as part of a continuing trend, more people were added to public programs, especially Medicaid.

Because health insurance is so closely tied to employment in the U.S., when people lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance. It doesn’t need to be this way if people were to own and control their own health insurance, as we advocate, with fairer and more transparent, portable tax subsidies.

The latest unemployment figures show nearly 15 million people are currently unemployed, and millions more are unemployed but have given up looking for work.

From the beginning, voters said the real issue they wanted Washington to focus on was jobs. And that is true again here with this latest reading on the economy. More and more people are losing jobs, losing health insurance, losing their homes, and falling into poverty.

This is a huge economic issue, with the new uninsured rates as further evidence.

Nonetheless, the question journalists were asking yesterday is whether or not we need to accelerate health “reform” because of the rise in uninsured rates.

The answer is definitively No. We do need health reform, but ObamaCare is not it. We don’t need reform that:

 

  • Causes many employers to seriously consider dropping coverage for workers because they are frightened about the cost, complexity, and risks of ObamaCare.
  • Sends tens of millions more Americans into taxpayer-supported coverage, further swelling the already-alarming federal budget deficit.
  • Imposes expensive mandates on states to dramatically expand access to Medicaid, which is already choking their budgets even as it provides the worst health “insurance” coverage of any program in the country.
  • Takes $575 billion out of Medicare, not to improve the program but to create huge new underfunded entitlement programs.
  • Imposes $500 billion in new taxes on a struggling economy while sapping the resources for investment in new medical innovation.
  • Ties our health sector in regulatory knots as physicians, hospitals, businesses, individuals, researchers, states, and virtually everyone else try to sort through the impossible maze of regulation that is coming.

 

And we certainly don’t need this legislation that forces insurers to provide more and more expensive benefits, further driving up the cost of coverage and making it harder for businesses and individuals to afford coverage.

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“Thuggery.” And most of all, we don’t want politicians to be in charge of our health sector.

The latest example is the extraordinary comment by Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about health insurance rate increases that companies have announced for next year. “There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases,” she wrote in a letter to insurers.

Insurers have explained that rates are increasing next year, some into double-digits, because of rising medical costs and mandates by the new federal health law. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut said it expects the federal health law to increase rates by as much as 23 percent for just one provision — removing annual spending caps.

Sec. Sebelius threatened to keep insurers from participating in the new government-run health insurance exchanges if they don’t keep quiet.

Michael Barone called this “gangster government.” The Wall Street Journal says this is “a thuggish message even by her standards.” The Journal concludes that “The White House was always going to blame insurance companies for any cost increases, even when its own policies cause them.” Get used to it. This is only the beginning as health care decisions become more and more political.

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Tell it to the Judge: States continue to fight back. The case brought by 20 states and the National Federation of Independent Business had a preliminary hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson in Florida this week. And, like U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia, indicated that he believes there is a serious case that needs to be heard and is likely to deny the Obama administration’s request to throw the suit out.

There are serious issues that must be decided and it is right for these cases to proceed to trial. Experts tell me that they are likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2012-13 term.

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Harming seniors: Economists Robert Book of The Heritage Foundation and Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center have released an important new paper that shows how devastating the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program will be to seniors, especially those with low and modest incomes. The findings are startling:

 

  • Medicare beneficiaries who would have enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program under prior law will lose an average of $3,714 a year in health care services.
  • An estimated 7.4 million people — half of those enrolled in the popular private Medicare plans — will be forced out of their health plans and into the fee-for-service program.
  • Senior citizens and the disabled will have fewer and worse health care choices, reducing their access to quality health care.
  • And seniors will have more fragmented care at a higher cost to taxpayers, totally defying the goals of reform.

 

Seniors with modest incomes are harmed the most — those who don’t have supplementary retiree coverage and who don’t have the resources to purchase separate Medigap coverage. Is this really what we wanted from health reform?

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Galen event: We hosted another important briefing yesterday, entitled “Debt, Deficits, and the Health Care Law,” featuring former Virginia Gov. and Sen. George Allen, former CBO director Doug Holtz-Eakin, and 60 Plus chairman Jim Martin, who co-hosted the event with us. It was held at a huge retirement community in suburban Virginia. Here is a link to our page with handouts and the agenda.

Doug warned that the ballooning debt threatens our economy and our international security, problems which the health overhaul law significantly exacerbates. The threat is real and immediate.

And, back to the opening question, this week’s uninsured numbers do NOT indicate that we should accelerate implementation of ObamaCare but precisely the opposite. It should be repealed so we can implement the right kinds of health reform, as eloquently described by Gov. Allen as he outlined the policy steps to a brighter future with market-based, consumer-friendly solutions.

CLIP OF THE WEEK

Grace-Marie Turner on FOX Business

During this recent interview with Stuart Varney on FOX Business, Grace-Marie explains the provisions of the health law that could be repealed.
Watch now >>

 

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GALEN IN THE NEWS

ObamaCare Will Drive Entrepreneurs Crazy

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
Center of the American Experiment, 08/10

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, the unfortunate truth is that ObamaCare erects big roadblocks to their success, Turner writes in a symposium on How Can We Better Encourage and Reinforce the Most Entrepreneurial and Talented Among Us? Instead of encouraging entrepreneurship, the health overhaul law inflicts more paperwork, higher taxes, higher costs, and more mandates on small businesses that are the lifeblood of the American economy. Doing so threatens to curtail significantly the entrepreneurial drive, determination, and ingenuity that have propelled American leadership for decades. To get the engine of jobs creation going again in the small business community, it’s crucial that the next Congress get ObamaCare off the backs of entrepreneurs by repealing this law and starting over with a sensible, business-friendly plan.
Read More »

Implementing ObamaCare: A New Exercise in Old-Fashioned Central Planning

John S. Hoff, Galen Institute
The Heritage Foundation, 09/10/10

The health overhaul law constitutes the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, Hoff writes. ObamaCare is based on the premise that the federal government can — and must — control the details of health care financing and delivery across the country. In the hands of an Administration that is hostile to private insurance and believes in government control of private activity, the prospect is daunting. The Administration will create mountains of regulations that will govern these activities. The flexibility of providers and patients will be greatly reduced and creativity suppressed. Individual choice will be subordinated to decisions made by central authority. The regulations issued by the government will be grist for private litigation against providers and insurers. The health overhaul law sets in motion dynamics that will increase the cost of health care, reduce its flexibility, and ultimately prove anathema to the kind of health care that Americans want.

Read More »

 

HEALTH REFORM

ObamaCare’s Brave New World

Capitol Confidential
Breitbart, 09/13/10

With the FDA preparing to initiate cost-based rationing of late stage cancer drugs, The New York Times has decided to lay down a gauntlet to defend rationing of medical care, Capitol Confidential reports. With the public clearly rejecting ObamaCare and its rationing mechanisms, the Times laments that supporters of “reform” curtailed the ability of bureaucrats to limit new drugs based on cost factors. Or did they? With the FDA preparing to limit access of a critical late stage cancer drug for breast cancer patients as early as this week, observers note that quickly the FDA can become our health care system’s judge and executioner. Americans should never be denied treatment because a bureaucrat determines a treatment, procedure or drug is too expensive. But that is where we are heading. Can Americans, this November, take the country back from those who want government and not doctors to make these life or death decisions?
Read More »

Sebelius Has a List

The Wall Street Journal, 09/13/10

The White House was always going to blame insurance companies for any cost increases, even when its own policies cause them, The Wall Street Journal writes. Witness Kathleen Sebelius’s Thursday letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group. The HHS Secretary wrote that some insurers have been attributing part of their 2011 premium increases to ObamaCare and warned that “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.” She promised to keep a list of insurers “with a record of unjustified rate increases” and then to bar them from ObamaCare’s subsidized “exchanges” when they come on line in 2014. In other words, insurers must accept price controls now or face the retribution of a de facto ban on selling their products to consumers four years from now. This is an obvious attempt to shift political blame for rising insurance costs before the election. It’s also an early sign of life under ObamaCare, when all health care decisions are political and bureaucrats decide who can charge how much for a service or product.

Read More »

The Size of Government and the Choice This Fall

Arthur C. Brooks, American Enterprise Institute and Rep. Paul Ryan
The Wall Street Journal, 09/13/10

As we move into this election season, Americans are being asked to choose between candidates and political parties. But the true decision we will be making — now and in the years to come — is this: Do we still want our traditional American free enterprise system, or do we prefer a European-style democracy? This is a choice between free markets and managed capitalism; between limited government and an ever-expanding state; between rewarding entrepreneurs and equalizing economic rewards, write Brooks and Rep. Ryan. Finding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state. Most Americans believe in assisting those temporarily down on their luck and those who cannot help themselves, as well as a public-private system of pensions for a secure retirement. But a clear majority believes that income redistribution and government care should be the exception and not the rule.

Read More »

Health Reform Does Not Increase Confidence in Health Care System

Employee Benefit Research Institute, 09/15/10

EBRI’s 2010 Health Confidence Survey assesses the attitude of the American public regarding the health care system in the U.S. Key findings:

  • Dissatisfaction with the health care system remains widespread, with the majority rating the system as poor (27%) or fair (31%), but the majority of Americans (58%) are extremely or very satisfied with their own health plan.
  • Fifty-two percent of individuals with employment-based coverage reported that they were extremely or very confident that their (or their spouse’s) employer or union would continue to offer health insurance, down from 59% in 2009. This may be due to passage of the health overhaul law, the continuing weak economy, or both.
  • Most Americans don’t know when the health overhaul law takes full effect: 25% think it takes full effect before 2014, and 21% think it takes full effect in 2014. Eight percent think it takes full effect during 2015-2017, while only 1% reported 2018. Four in 10 Americans voluntarily reported that they did not know when the legislation takes full effect.
  • Among individuals who plan to vote in November, 71% report that health reform will affect how they vote.

Read More »

 

Physician, Humanize Thyself

Sally Satel, M.D., American Enterprise Institute
The Wall Street Journal, 09/17/10

White Coat Ceremonies for new medical students could help teach them compassion, Satel writes. During the ceremony, students are “cloaked” with their white coat before faculty members and family. This year, most of the 133 medical schools in the U.S. held white-coat rituals. The ceremonies are the centerpiece of a movement known as “humanism in medicine.” It gathered momentum in the early 1980s when cost-cutting efforts imposed by insurance companies began to infringe upon the doctor-patient encounter. Physicians bristled as they were told how long their patients could stay in a hospital and how often they could schedule outpatient visits. Proponents of humanism content that these changes in the medical culture have filtered down to students, distorting their outlook as they progress through school. It is not at all clear that deep empathy as an intuition can ever be inculcated; nonetheless, basic fluency in the human dimensions of patient care can and must be instilled throughout training.

Read More »

HEALTH CARE DELIVERY

Healthcare Unwired: New Business Models Delivering Care Anywhere

PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute, 09/10

The mobile health industry is brimming with new health applications, devices and services that are boosting individuals’ ability to connect better to their health, according to a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute. Forty percent of consumers surveyed said they would pay for remote monitoring devices and a monthly service fee to send data automatically to their doctors. Further, forty percent of physicians surveyed said they could eliminate 11% to 30% of office visits through the use of mobile health technologies like remote monitoring, email, or text messaging with patients. One-third of physicians surveyed said they make decisions based on incomplete information and believe the greatest benefit of mobile devices will be to help them make decisions faster as they access more accurate data in real-time.

Read More »

 

Events

Healthcare: A 6-month Checkup with Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
National Journal Event
Monday, September 20, 2010
8:00am – 10:00am
Washington, DC

Are We Counting What Counts?
National Journal Policy Summit
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
8:30am – 11:00am
Washington, DC

Developing the Drugs the Poorest Nations Need–Will Incentives Work?
American Enterprise Institute Event
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
9:30am – 11:00am
Washington, DC

New and Improved: Registries for Evaluating Patient Outcomes and HIT
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Live Webcast
Monday, September 27, 2010
8:00am – 9:30am Eastern

15th Annual Wall Street Comes to Washington Conference
Center for Studying Health System Change Event
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
9:00am – 12:00pm
Washington, DC

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 The spike showing that nearly 51 million people were uninsured at some point last year is alarming but not surprising; it is another reflection of the recession and the nation’s persistently high unemployment rate.

The Census Bureau reported Thursday that 4 million more people were uninsured in 2009 than in 2008, when 47 million lacked coverage. The biggest drop was in the number of Americans with employer-sponsored coverage, which fell by 6.6 million last year — part of a continuing trend. Also as part of a continuing trend, the number of people on taxpayer-supported health-care programs, especially Medicaid, increased.

Because health insurance is so closely tied to employment in the U.S., when people lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance. It doesn’t need to be this way: If people were to own and control their own health insurance with fairer, more transparent, portable tax subsidies, as we advocate, it wouldn’t be.

The latest unemployment figures show nearly 15 million people are currently unemployed, and millions more are unemployed but have given up looking for work.  This is the primary cause of rising uninsured rates. From the beginning, voters said the real issue they wanted Washington to focus on was jobs. More and more people are losing jobs, losing health insurance, losing their homes, and falling into poverty. This is a huge economic issue, and the new uninsured rates are further evidence of it.

Nonetheless, the question journalists are asking is whether we should accelerate health “reform” because of the rise in uninsured rates.

The answer is definitively, No. We do need health-care reform, but Obamacare is not it. We don’t need reform that:

· Causes millions of employers to seriously consider dropping coverage for workers because they are frightened about the cost, complexity, and risks of Obamacare.

· Sends tens of millions more Americans into taxpayer-supported coverage, further swelling the already-alarming federal budget deficit.

· Imposes expensive mandates on states to dramatically expand access to Medicaid, which is already choking their budgets even as it provides the worst health “insurance” coverage of any program in the country.

· Takes $575 billion out of Medicare, not to improve the program but to create huge new underfunded entitlement programs.

· Imposes $500 billion in new taxes on a struggling economy while sapping the resources for investment in new medical innovation.

· Ties our health sector in regulatory knots as physicians, hospitals, businesses, individuals, researchers, states, and virtually everyone else try to sort through the impossible maze of regulation that is coming.

And we certainly don’t need this new federal health-care law that forces insurers to provide more and more expensive benefits, further driving up the cost of coverage and making it harder for businesses and individuals to afford coverage.

We also don’t need politicians to use political tactics to keep people from knowing the facts about rising health-care costs.

The latest example is the extraordinary comment by Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about health-insurance rate increases that companies have announced for next year. “There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases,” she wrote in a letter to insurers.

Insurers have explained that rates are increasing next year, some into double-digits, because of rising medical costs and because of mandates by the new federal health law. Secretary Sebelius threatened to keep insurers from participating in the new government-run health-insurance exchanges if they don’t keep quiet.

Michael Barone called this “gangster government.” The Wall Street Journal says this is “a thuggish message even by her standards,” and concludes that “the White House was always going to blame insurance companies for any cost increases, even when its own policies cause them.”

Get used to it, now that health-care decisions are becoming more and more political. This is only the beginning.

Published on National Review Online: Critical Condition, September 17, 2010.

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