Tag Archives: Health Care reform

Health Care Costs Without The Parachute

We are going to do a real brain teaser so sharpen your imagination and thoughts.  The country has endured endless debate and ultimately a mind-blowingly large health care overhaul.  You will recall that one of the major arguments of the proponents of the health care bill passed last spring was that it was a deficit fighter.  That health care change with government takeover of virtually the entire sector was essential to bring down costs.  It was argued that only government could do this.   It was offered as a way to reduce the deficit, the total US debt and “bend the cost curve” down in the out years.  You heard those arguments if you were awake during ’08 and into ’09.  The cost savings was a central mantra of the pitch for that massive 2700 page bill that Pelosi promised we would like once it was passed and we got to see what was really in it.

Of course this summer several major companies reported the increases to their costs for the Bill.  You will remember the WH yelled back saying they were just playing politics with the issue and trying to embarrass the President.  Then quietly the WH backed off because it became evident that those companies were merely doing what was required by law and if they hadn’t they would have been in trouble with the SEC for not making a disclosure of material information regarding their financial condition.  Recently, several insurance companies have submitted applications for increases in rates.  They are now having to cover more circumstances and take greater risks than before so, surprise, surprise, it will cost more for those risks.  The Secretary of Health and Human Resources has already lashed out at these companies too, accusing them of unjustified rate increases.  I don’t know how much each company is seeking but it goes without saying that there will be an increase; they can’t cover additional risks without all of their insureds having to pay more to cover that or they go broke which probably wouldn’t do anyone any good.

How about a radical idea for a change. Neither liberal or conservative.  Imagine for a moment a world with no health insurance, none, zip, nada.  None for individuals, union members, retirees, government employees.  No, really think about it and what would happen as a consequence.

First, there would still be a demand for medical services.  People would need care.  Those doctors and hospitals and specialty clinics would need to pay their bills and feed their families.  The competition for patients would be fierce and proactive.   The costs would drop, dramatically.   Each health care provider would be very interested in market share and volume.  Those MRI’s that used to cost $2000.00 would suddenly  be going for $750.00.   Those $800.00 a night hospital rooms would be $200.00 a night.  Doctors and nurses would make less but it probably wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic.  But the surgeon who used to charge $15,000.00 for a pacemaker would now be doing it for $5000.00.   The drugs and all other medical devices would likewise drop tremendously in price, they would have to because the patients couldn’t afford them anymore at the higher costs.  It doesn’t do a health care provider any good if it has the best product on the market but no one can afford to pay for it.  The price would adjust to the level the market (patients) could afford.

The savings would be in the billions.  Don’t forget too that there would be enormous savings in the health insurance premiums we all have been paying and those paid by our employers.  That would also be in the billions every year, year in and year out.

Now the patients, us.  First, the overwhelming majority of us do pay health insurance premiums each year and so do most of our employers.  Let’s be arbitrary but within reason to assume a family of 4 would have been expending $10,000.00 per year for insurance.  Now they have that money in their own pocket to spend as they think fit for their health needs.  They will be good consumers and shoppers.  It is their money they are spending and they will use it much more wisely than any government program.  That facts are that many of them won’t have to spend that much in any given year and would be thousands of dollars ahead each year.  Those routine visits for the kids and regular flu treatments and arthritis, etc. don’t and wouldn’t cost that much for a visit.  You can bet your bottom dollar for sure that they would all ask questions  everytime the doctor ordered and MRI or Catscan.  They would want to know why and what it cost and if there was another way to find a diagnosis without it.  Or here is an idea, maybe just wait and see what happens.  The old Hippocratic doctrine of first do no harm.  There are millions of people like me who hasn’t cost his health insurance company but maybe a couple of thousand dollars over the last 40 years.  I am healthy and work at it.

For those really necessary and expensive treatments like heart transplants or cancer treatments we would pay those out over time.  The cost for them would drop because of the competition but when they were still too high the banks and other lenders would step in and make loans to be repaid over time.  The health care providers would likely jump into that lending market themselves.  Remember, everyone would be saving money each year equal to the old premium they had been paying.  Over the course of years that would a very tidy sum indeed and could cover even expensive procedures if utilized for its purpose.

Yes, there would be the need for charity.  There would still be those who are down on their luck, suffer a permanent disability or whatever circumstance prevents them from having the ability to pay.  Almost every community in America already has a charity hospital and it is paid for with local taxes.  In our community it is hundreds of millions per year and there are private charities available.  There is lots of money already spent on those in need almost everywhere.  Those taxes are already baked into the cake as it were.   We haven’t covered all the issues that would arise but the basic idea of dramatically lower cost is sound.  That most people most of the time would save thousands per year from medical premiums to cover current medical needs is obvious and so is the fact that most, most years would have thousands of dollars left over to add to next year’s savings.  You think about it.  Do we really need government intervention?  Do we really need medical insurance?   The market is efficient if left to operate.  Not only is it efficient, it is fair as opposed to government picking the winners and losers based on status or political influence.

Edison, Bell and Morse all were prolific innovators.  They advanced our industrial development in an astonishing manner.  What is of current value to remember is that they did all that without any government grants or loans.  Today, the government has its hand in everything from clean energy to stem cell research believing that only it can provide the direction for the future.  Thank God it wasn’t around when those guys were at their peak.  They would have spent all their time doing grant applications rather than inventing things that changed our nation and the world.    www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Boomers And Health Care Reform Costs

Those unintended consequences of all major Federal social legislation will always emerge from the woodwork.  The recent health care reform is no different.  Regrettably those unforeseen consequences always cost more money, never less money.  If someone has an example where it cost less I am all ears.  Inform me.  There will be many that will arise from the health care that will carry an enormous financial burden.  It is hard to say what all of them will be but there is one that is there already that will add billions and billions to the costs for the health care and the health insurance companies and the government obligations undertaken with the new bill.  Just like with Fannie and Freddie the government has given an implicit guarantee of the costs even if not directly.  As insurance companies fold the company will take them over or bail them out to keep the program in place rather than letting it fail.  It is a program “too big to fail”.  Consider the consequences for the elderly and those Boomers quickly reaching the age to go on Medicare.

By now you are familiar with the mandate provisions of the health reform act.  If you don’t have health insurance you are subject to a fine of $695 or 2.5% of your income whichever is greater.    For now we will assume that provision passes Constitutional muster which it should not under the Tenth Amendment, the commerce clause and the Fifth Amendment.  There has already been substantial discussion that  the young and healthy will opt to pay the penalty rather than the cost of insurance which is indeed a very good assumption because it will be cheaper.   Soon the act will eliminate all pre-conditions for acceptance by the insurance companies.  The young will simply wait until they get sick or have an accident and then make a quick call and sign up for coverage.  After their treatment they will drop the coverage again and go back to paying only the penalty.   This behavior will have a very negative effect on the revenues and profits of the insurance carriers.  If it depletes the revenues so badly they no longer can make a profit then what is the point of being in the insurance business?   They will bow out and in walks Government, Inc.  
The young doing this by themselves might not be enough to bring down the insurance companies but they are small fry compared to what will be happening with the elderly and the Boomers.

At age 65 you sign up for Medicare.  You are dumb not to because they have taken your money for years for the program and you are “entitled” to it.  As I have said before I would be happy not to be involved with Medicare at all if the government would simply give me back my money at only 2% interest for the 40 plus years I have been paying into the damn thing and I will take care of my own health insurance needs.   When you sign up they also will automatically take the premiums out of your Social Security check.  You have no choice in the matter it is automatic.   The result is that all these old folks have medical insurance and are not subject to the penalty of the new act.  They are not required to do anything else.  The overwhelming majority of these people also have a supplemental policy to cover those expenses not covered under Medicare.  That market is huge, very huge.   In case you haven’t noticed the elderly have many more medical problems than the young and their medical expenses are astronomical compared to the 30-somethings.   We are expensive to maintain in the health system.  The most expensive demographic group by far.

When the program is fully implemented in a couple of years you will see millions of the elderly do just what I am going to be doing.  They will immediately drop their supplemental coverage.  They will have their Medicare and suffer no penalty.  When me or the little lady gets sick and needs one of those $50,000.00 pacemaker surgeries, we will immediately call the insurance company and sign up on the way to the hospital.  We’ll pay about 2 or 3 months of premiums.  When the surgery is complete we will drop the coverage again.  We pay a few hundred dollars in premiums and get that expensive surgery with the Medicare and the supplemental policy.  Even when they cut back on the Medicare benefits we’ll have the coverage under the supplemental policy.  It should come as no surprise that not just a few but millions of people will be doing this.  Of course will all the Boomers coming along the numbers will be staggering.  The insurance companies won’t be able to sustain those losses for long.  The losses will be big.  The insurance companies will stop offering supplemental coverage.  Then who will take up that slack?   Good ole Government, Inc. again.   I mean what politician is going to allow old grandma to expire for lack of a pacemaker?   If you doubt what I have posited I suggest you check out the bill and use your own common sense about the way human nature works.  Who is going to pay for years maybe for supplemental coverage when they are guaranteed to get it on the way to the hospital or after the doctor has given the bad diagnosis.   I don’t know how this issue will be handled but it won’t be pretty and it sure won’t be cheap.  Someone should get the CBO to score that one.  To think it won’t happen is delusional.  I for one will cancel my supplemental the month after I am guaranteed coverage regardless of whether or not I am in the hospital; they have to take me.  Like to see the business plan that projects profits on that kind of model.

It should give everyone pause to realize that in the last couple of weeks that the credit worthiness of the US has plummeted so low that some large corporations are paying less interest for their borrowed funds than the US.  The two-year US treasury bill now pays more interest than Abbot Labs, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson and Johnson and a few others.  Think about that one for a while.  The implications are not good.   http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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2 Cents Worth On Politics, Economy And Life

Ok, I understand a lot you might not think these wanderings of a wandering mind are worth even that price.  But even in today’s economy you can afford the 2 cents and we’ll kick in a 1 cent rebate if you fill out the application form and mail it in within 2 days. 

I tried to read the Reconciliation bill yesterday on health care.  The problem is that to truly understand it you have to also have at your side the Internal Revenue Code, the Social Security Act, the Senate Bill that was passed, the Medicare statute and the Medicaid bill at a minimum.  Almost every paragraph makes a reference to another piece of legislation and amends it and without that other statute before you it is hard to translate the reconciliation bill.  Reading a Chinese instruction manual to assemble a child’s toy would be easier.

The reconciliation bill does provide that employers with less than 30 employees are exempt.  Why is anyone exempt if it is such a great idea?  What employer that it is right on the brink of that number at say 29 or 30 would want to add any extra employess and subject his company to the burdens of the new taxes and mandates?  He won’t and there goes job growth.

When you think you have it rough take a moment and find an old salt who was in the US Navy at the end of WWII and was on one of the many ships that brought our POWs home after their release from the Japs.  They were skeletons and were given ice cream, mashed potatoes and every luxury item the Navy could provide so they would gain a few pounds before getting home.  They all did.  It took several weeks to make the trip.  Sailors are notorious complainers but none complained then about the favored treatment of those POWs.

Is anyone going to ask the question publicly about putting the debts of Fannie, Freddie, AIG and GM and Chrysler on the books of the US as a debt?  They aren’t there now but we all know too darn well that they are obligations of taxpayers and the shortfalls will have to be paid with tax dollars.  Why doesn’t that debt show up on the balance sheet?  I bet you can figure that one out.

It took only about 5 years to build Hoover Dam.  One wonders how long it would take to build the same project today.  It would take longer than that to obtain the permits from government and Lord only knows how long the litigation would last.  Then the actual construction with union delays and work rules would drag forever.  Could we build such a dam today? 

Everyone should spend at least a few days during their lifetime working on a farm or ranch.  I mean really working not some dude ranch deal.  Dig some post holes with a hand-held digger and string the wire or help birth a calf by pulling its hooves out of the mother to help her.  Walk beside the tractor with a flat bed trailer attached to it and pick up and stack the bales of hay in the field for a few hours.  Those bales are heavy.  You think of hay as being light and fluffy but when it is still green and wet in the field it weighs a ton–especially that 300th one you pick up in one day.

Plumb bobs and levels have been around for centuries. But I am always amazed at how those guys got every so even and true when they build St. Paul’s or Winchester cathedrals.  Those pieces of twine to mark and keep all the work straight were very precise as you can tell from the finished product. If I had been in charge I am afraid they would be more like the leaning tower of Piza.

Would anything be scarier than trying to land a jet on an aircraft carrier with a runway that is only a few hundred feet long?  I guess trying it at night might the ultimate challenge of nerves.

Under the latest iteration of the mortgage bailout for individual homeowners that Government, Inc. has on the table you can actually get paid to abandon your house.  When first announced in late ’08 or early ’09 it caused an outrage because it punished the prudent and rewarded the spendthrift.  Now they will pay $1000.00 each to the mortgage holder and the loan servicer and get this, they will pay $1500.00 to the homeowner as “relocation” assistance for going along with a shortsell when the value is less than the mortgage.  So, if you were going to dump the property anyway and take a walk now you get to do it with 1500 bucks in your pocket.  Is this a great country or what?

The latest version of health care does have the individual mandate to buy health insurance.   You must do it or be fined or taxed whichever you want to call it.  In addition to other Constitutional issues that can and will be raised one wonders if the Fifth Amendment argument will be made by some to oppose it.  It reads in part “,nor be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”   The 16th amendment allows the Feds to tax income, not a status (insured or uninsured) but they aren’t taxing income.  Your money is “property” being taken for a public purpose, to with: a national health insurance program.  Where is the due process to take your money when you are being taxed on a status?  Merely passing a law doesn’t make it due process.  The takings clause also doesn’t allow your money to be taken since it is not income they are taxing.  Those legal beagles need to get to work. It will make an interesting case.

And goodnight Mrs. Calabash wherever you are.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Mental Cobwebs On Health Care

Many of us watched with interest or amusement, take your choice, the so-called summit on health care issues this week.  The comments from all sides did provoke thoughts about the process of changing our laws and the substance of any change.  One could make a pretty good argument that there is really on one issue and that is costs.  You can talk about health care insurance reform all you want but that is the tail on the dog.  It is disingenuous for some to argue about the “obscene” profits of the insurance companies.  One lady talked about how they made over 12 billion dollars in profits last year as though that was a terrible thing to occur.  Would she prefer that they all lose business. 

Health insurance is not any different than all other businesses.  They can only exist or better stated thrive if they provide a good or service that the consuming public needs or wants.  If you started a buggy whip business today with the latest state of the art facilities and machine tools and the highest quality leather it is still likely your business venture would fail because the market doesn’t support any demand for that product.  One hundred years ago virtually no one had health insurance and yet people still went to the doctors and we had hospitals.  Then the companies thought about providing insurance to cover those medical expenses and an industry was born.  Does 12 billion these days really strike you as a particularly huge sum of money?  Just think of the hundreds of billions thrown out the door in Washington every month and the trillions in budget items.  Frankly, I sure want my health insurance company to make a profit.  If they go broke then want good will my policy do me in a time of need?  Goldman Sachs probably paid out more than that in bonuses last year.  Don’t even get started on the billions we wasted on Government Motors or Chrysler for what? 

The premiums charged by the insurance companies and the claims they pay are directly related to the cost YOU incur for your medical treatment.  If the cost of your care was less your premium would be less.  Because of the recent cutbacks in Medicare expenditures my Supplemental policy premium actually went down a little this year from last year.  If and MRI costs $200.00 rather than $1000.00 then that w0uld be reflected in the price you pay for your insurance.  Of course there are lots of folks involved in that chain of events that leads to your MRI and its costs.  There is the manufacturer and all its employees who certainly want the highest wage they can get and the company needs to make a profit to continue with R & D to develop even more wonders to diagnose and treat us.  Then there is the hospital and all its employees who constantly complain that they aren’t paid enough.  The technician who administers the exam sure wants to be paid big time.   Then there are the nurses and doctors who actually deliver the services and evaluation that helps us get better, if that is our fate.   If everything in that whole process were a bit cheaper here and there then your premium would also be cheaper. 

There really aren’t any villains in our health care system.  Each person or company merely wants to make a profit or good salary and there is nothing inherently wrong or evil about those desires.   We do know some things that work to reduce costs.  Improved efficiency is one for sure.   There are plenty of experts around now who offer ideas to dramatically improve our medical delivery efficiency without the need for legislation or an agency or bureaucracy and definitely without new taxes.  We also know from any logical and objective reading of history that competition will lower costs.   There are many ways to enhance competition such as the States entering compacts to allow more companies to do business in their State and granting their citizens the right to buy health insurance from many companies.  Again that requires no dramatic legislative move or additional costs. 

Most importantly we can devise medical accounts for individuals to use for the insurance and even their co-pay or insurance premiums.  Make each of us a real consumer and look for the best bargain and prices.  Give the people an economic incentive to shop and save and they will.  That won’t cost more money either.  Yes, it would reshuffle money in the tax code perhaps but it should be a net wash if designed carefully and modified after a few years experience.  Here the parts are greater than the sum of the parts.  Don’t bunch us all into one great unit controlled from Washington but let us be separate and do our own thing.  The parts will collectively and ultimately make better decisions than the grand pooh bah in Washington.  

The real dispute in the current debate remains one of power.  Some believe that Washington  can and will do the right thing and be more efficient than the market or individuals.  They are true believers that Nanny knows best for y0u.  I suppose some of sincere in that belief.  But sincerity for one is fine unless their sincerity becomes a mandate for me.   Let them do their thing and let me have the freedom to make my own choices and bear the consequences of those choices.  No scarier words exist than “trust me”.  Those folks who want to trust Government, Inc. with their health care worry me because what they are really saying is that you and me should trust them to make the right and most efficacious decisions for us.  I don’t trust them.  Not with my life or my money.

“Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men”.  Proverbs.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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2 Cents Worth for December ’09

Still scattershooting with these ideas and opinions that are worth at least the advertised price.

With the price we just paid to Nebraska for Nelson’s vote on the Health Care bill we should own the State.  I mean it will add up to billions of dollars over time.   How much can all the assets in Nebraska be worth?  At least that would be an honest trade.

Very interesting that the new guy in the White House came home from the Copenhagen climate summit to about 20 inches of snow on the ground and the largest snow storm in a century.  No telling how much snow they would have gotten without the global warming effect.  Maybe they should be grateful on the East Coast that we are warming up or they would have been buried in the white stuff.  Of course it might make a great sanctuary for that handful of polar bears left.

The Woods family might have the wrong member on the professional golf tour.  Elin clearly has a great hip and shoulder turn with her swing with the three iron.  She got great power out of her swing.  Its not easy to break those new shatterproof windshilds.   She could knock the ball a mile I bet.

Strange economic times we live in.  The dollar has zoomed up against the Euro in the last week or so, but at the same time the interest rate for the 10 year treasury note has zoomed also to 3.75%.   The dollar is strong (compared to what?) and weak compared to things they people can use or develop like carbon energy or gold.  

These green folks can’t seem to all get the memo at the same time and on the same subject.  Feinstein is pushing to close off huge swaths of desert land to any development.  The very same area that renewable energy gurus had been pushing to build giant solar farms.  Hmm, they hate dirty nasty carbon energy and love those open spaces but watch the fit they throw if the heated jacuzzi goes cold. 

It will sure be interesting the first time they arrest a very healthy twenty-five year old who didn’t have health insurance and didn’t pay the fine on his income tax return.  He might say it was just an honest mistake and appeal the ruling all the way up the food chain at the IRS to the Secretary of the Treasury–our very own Tim Geithner.  Let’s see now, he owed how much again in unpaid back taxes when he was confirmed as Secretary?   You know how all the U. S. Attorneys love those photo ops when the make a big arrest and start a prosecution.  You think they will leak the arrest of the health insurance tax cheat to the press so they can witness that pick up?  Will they have the FBI barge in with full body armor and automatic weapons the way they do for those really dangerous felons like Allen Stanford.  They do love to pretend they are arresting John Dillinger every time. 

How did those old seaman ever survive those trips in the North Atlantic or around the Horn when it was so cold all the time and they could never dry out anything?  They sure didn’t have GoreTex in those days and there was no electric heating on board.  They wore wool and linen and leather.  Then climbing up into the masts to set the sails must have been so brutal.  We get all bent out of shape if the weather makes us cold for 10 minutes and we wrap up in those insulated jackets.   The fires were few because of the danger and often they had no coal anyway for the small stoves they were permitted.  But they did get their daily allowance of grog which by the way was a diluted drink of rum and water.

Early prediction that Pelosi will not be the next Speaker of the House.  The Dems will retain control but the loses will be enough to shake their confidence and much of the blame for the losses will be attributed to her.  She is less popular than Bush Two was at the end.  The Dems will want a new “face” out in front of the cameras.   The jockeying for position will start by next Memorial Day.

We are such a hodge podge in the US.  In the earliest days of settlement you will recall that it was the Dutch in addition to the English that were settling our east coast along with the Spanish in Florida.  Shortly after the settlement in New York by the Dutch there was another settlement in modern day Wilminton.  The expedition was lead by a man named Minuit who was of French extraction but grew up in Germany and then immigrated to Holland where he was employed by the Dutch West Indies Company.  He was an official for a few years in New York for the company.  Then he left under a bit of a cloud.  The King of Sweden also wanted in on the action in the new world and organized an expedition to carve out an enclave for Sweden on our east coast and Minuit was the leader.  They landed and built and fort and trading p0st on the Deleware river at our Wilminton.  To this day it is still called Swede’s Landing.

http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Forget for the moment the merits economically or socially of the current proposals for the health care reform bill(s) wending its way through Congress, lets talk only about the administration of the new program and the agencies created by the proposed bill.  It is not for nothing that the Washington executive branch and administrative departments have been referred to often as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.  Whenever there is any criticism of federal or government employees I notice how the Chris Mathews types also start talking about policemen and firemen and teachers and how valuable they are to our society and that we sure wouldn’t call them lazy or inefficient bureaucrats.  Wow, such a revelation.  Nope the criticism of the typical government employee has much more to do with the Post Office, the IRS, FDA, USDA, the Depts. of Commerce, Interior, Education, Labor, Social Security, Fannie, Freddie, and all those other countless agencies, boards, commissions, Congressional staffs that are the creatures of Congressional programs.  It literally would take more than these article to simply list all of them.  Think of that a moment, merely to list them.

I do hope you have noticed that the current plan is for the IRS to administer the new health care program.  It boggles the mind to think how many new employees will be added to the Federal payroll for that service.  The IRS can’t even keep up with its mail and documents that you send them.  If you have ever had any dealings with them at all you are aware of this.  They ask for something, you send it and then they ask you two months later for the same thing.  They are so incompetent that they won’t even accept responsibility for the advice given to you by their own employees.  Did you know that?  Really, if you have a question about your tax situation and go directly to the IRS for help filing out your return and follow the advice given to you by one of their agents and you get audited a year later regarding the same question the IRS is not bound by the advice given you.  They can and will take a contrary view.  If they don’t have enough confidence in their people to stick by their recommendation then why should we have any confidence in them?

If you get frustrated now trying to navigate you way through a phone menu when you “call” the IRS then just wait until you have to make a call to them regarding a medical procedure you want and are having to get their clearance so it will be paid for under your new Federally mandated health insurance policy.  How long will it take to talk to a live human being?  When you get them they no doubt will ask for more paperwork that you have already furnished and will tell you to go to the local IRS-Health  Care office to see a case officer.  Notice how they always come up with those titles rather than simply calling them what they are which would be clerks.   “Press One for English, Press Two for Portuguese, Three for Spanish…and Interpreter will be provided.”   I wonder what they are going to interpret, languages or the Health Care bill. 

This is the same outfit that can’t get the swine flu vaccine delivered on time and now they will be in charge of your emergency appendectomy.  One wonders how the phone menu works for those emergencies.   In future you will have to work things out with your insurance carrier, your doctor and the hospital and then Government, Inc.  The same folks who brought you the Katrina rescue efforts will be in charge of this program.  The people who thought it was a great idea to try KSM in Manhattan will be coming up will all the new medically approved procedures and deciding which ones to eliminate.  I already find it very frustrating trying to read and understand my health policy as it is with my private carrier.  Do you think the process will be more explicit and easier to comprehend when the language of every policy is drafted by our new Health Commissioner?  It will be a one size fits all program.  From looking at the news at night when I see any kind of street scene I do notice that we Americans sure do come in a variety of sizes.  It is going to be like the Army, everyone wears size ten shoes, if not,  then you can wait until the size 9’s arrive and good luck with that. 

A Federal bureaucrat has never met a form he didn’t love and one that he couldn’t figure out how to add a few more lines to “for clarity”.  I challenge you to order a Medicare brochure that allegedly explains how it works when you are ready to sign up and your options.  It is more like trying to read Shakespeare in ancient Greek.  The guys who manage the TARP slush fund (that is what it will be if Government, Inc. gets its way) will be running your local hospital.   The men who dreamed up the PIPP program will be managing the hundreds of billions of dollars annually that will flow through the Federal coffers.  Those folks who turn a blind eye to the fraudulent accounting for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be handling all the nation’s health expenses and expenditures. 

Maybe they will operate it like we are doing with GM.  Since we own it and are propping it up for the unions and their votes and even paying with tax credits for people to buy their cars, maybe we can steal a page from that playbook.  Who knows, maybe someday soon they will pay you to get sick with a tax credit so long as you  will use their program; of course, that assumes they believe you really should have a job and some income.  It would be so much easier on them if we all would just cooperate and work where we are told for what they believe is “reasonable compensation”  and hand it all over to them.  They will spend it wisely no doubt for our benefit.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

Today health care, tomorrow the entire economy.

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Health Care Reform and the Constitution

It is amazing to hear so many politicians making proposals in both the House and the Senate regarding health care reform without even a passing nod to the Constitutional authority of Congress to enact such legislation.  I know the idea of Federalism and the Constitution must seem quaint and old fashioned to many of them when they are doing the “right” thing and being modern and progressive (liberal) with the ambitious plans proffered.   I suppose they feel that you can’t a little thing like the law stand in the way of an expansion of government power and taking care of the little people.

We do the dangerous act of looking at the Constitution.  I would like someone to point to the section of the Constitution that grants Congress the power to regulate any kind of insurance.  If you are referring to the “general welfare” phrase of section 8, Article One I would postulate that that is the refuge of all who have no arugment.  The Federalist papers make it clear that such words to not empower the Congress to pass anything it wants.  There are enumerated powers and powers left to the States.  Many areas of law have been left to the States under the Constitution.  Real estate law is controlled by the States.  There is no federal law regarding real estate.  The various States have different appproaches to mortgages and deed of trust for example.  Marriage and family law has been left to the States.  The requirement for marriage and divorce have been different in the States from our inception.  Likewise all insurance law has been governed by State law.  Your home insurance, car insurance, umbrella liability policy and the like are all creatures of and regulated by your home  State.   These are only some of the more common examples of areas left exclusively to State law. 

Those matters are left to State law because of the 9th and 10th amendments.   Please read your copy of the Constitution.  If you don’t have one shame on you.  You can get one easily enough.  The Tenth Amendment in particular makes it plain that any powers not specifically granted to the Congress are reserved to the States.  Those specific powers are set out in Article One.  The States have controlled the insurance industry from our inception as a nation.  Now Congress is proposing to completely ignore the Tenth Amendment and write Federal law that will supercede State laws and regulations.  The States have always had the right to enter into compacts with each other.  They could do that now if they wish to regarding health insurance.  The proposals on tap will establish a national system of health insurance and importantly health insurance contract law.    Your health insurance policy in Vermont does not affect interstate commerce in the slightest anymore than the health treatment you seek to obtain.  The interstate commerce clause should not be held to  include health insurance or health reform.  The Supreme Court a couple of years ago finally pushed back on the ever expanding interstate commerce clause as a justification for any law passed.   They did that in the case involving the guns on school yards.  A legitimate concern but one left to the wisdom of each State.  My having a hand gun on a school yard could not concievably affect interstate commerce but  Congress said it did–if you push a ridiculous argument too far its inanity becomes apparent even to the intellectually challenged.

Next we come to the real puzzeler about the mandate that everyone must buy health insurance on pain of penalty by taxation and criminal proceedings.  You may recall that was one of the matters that people revolted against with Hillary-Care 15 years ago.  They criminal provisions in that one also.  Here they will be requiring you to buy insurance whether you want it or not.  The penalty the guy in the White House refuses to acknowledge is a tax will be paid through the IRS and failure to pay will be enforced with fines up to $25,000.00 and prison up to one year.  That is a tax and it is a crime if you don’t adhere to Government, Inc.’s mandate.   First, where in the Constitution does Congress get the authority to require that you buy ANY product or service?  I am waiting for an answer to that one.   Will Congress also have the power to require that you make all future loans for a house through Fannie or Freddie so their financial positions will be shored up?  Will Congress require you hire a CPA to prepare your tax return?  How about buying a car.  Can Congress mandate that we buy GMs or if not then how about a demand that all auto financing goes through GMAC  since the government owns that now after its arbitrary takeover last spring.   Just imagine Congress thinks it has the power to require you to buy something, it doesn’t matter what the product or service is.  Really think about that.  It would be the greatest usurpation of power by any Congress since our founding and will open the floodgates to rule of the mob rather than a rule of law.

There are other Constitutional challenges that can be made and I sure hope will be made to the health care reform.  If most of us really want it, it can happen through the States and with respect for our Federal system of government.  Whatever we do should be done according to law.   Our Federal system is flexible and the States know the needs of their people.  They can form any compact they want to improve our health care system and health insurance delivery.  Let’s not become some third world entity that rules by dictat, decree and fiat from the elites in ivory towers.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

“There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.”  Bertrand Russel

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2 Cents Worth–Politics, Health Care, Stuff

Ole Blackie Sherrod and I will stick our noses out there and see if they get sliced off with opinions and thoughts on about everything that is or was a headline.

I have heard various numbers from the current administration about how they will fund a portion of the health care reform by eliminating waste, abuse and fraud in the Medicare system.  The number has really bounced around a lot over the last half year from 300 billion all the way up to 500 billion.  I am sure you are like me and wonder why they don’t identify specifically for us exactly what programs, policies or practices will be changed to produced these savings.   They obviously had to make some kind of list identifying these items that are wasteful or abusive and then they attached a number to each item to come up with the total.   If they want real credibility and transparency why don’t they give those details to us.  Let the public evaluate the likelihood of success with those cuts and see where they are.  Secondly, why in heaven’s name don’t they immediately implement those costs savings now.  It would not require any new legislation to elminate those wasted monies.  That is executive order stuff and could have been done months ago.  Like the folks from Missouri–show me.

I never see any kids playing out in those unexpected thunderstorms during the hot summer months.  When I was a kid we would go sometimes for weeks without any rain. It was hot, really hot all the time.  Then a storm would come along and all us kids would go outside to play in the rain.  My mom always let us do that.  We would take doodle bugs or other tiny varmints and put them on leaves we used as boats and float them down the street gutters.  That cool rain was always so refreshing after the heat of summer.  Maybe they still do that but I never see it anymore.   Of course we played more outside generally than the kids do today.  The games we had inside the house sure weren’t electronic, they were board games or ping pong or a bongo board to ride.  (That was a board with a notch down the middle of it that fit into a notch on a round block of wood.  Then you would try to balance on it with both feet on either end.   Great coordination exercise.)

Who is making up the plans for our reaction when the Israelis attack Iran and attempt to take out their nuclear weapon capability?   I sure hope we have some really smart folks working on that one in the State Dept. and at the Pentagon.   Whatever our contingency plan is, I think there is a very high chance that we will have to implement it.  Watching Iran build its nukes and listening to their words and those of the Israelis it is like watching a wreck about to happen in slow motion.

It is never a good idea to anger your creditor.  We just did by raising those tariffs on the Chinese.  I have no love or sympathy with the Chinese at all.  But they do own over a trillion dollars of our debt right now and have already made noises about the weakness of the dollar and our debt and deficits being too high for their comfort.  I know they need us because we are their largest customer but we sure are picking a bad time and strategy to deal with them.  It is all for home town politics to appease the major unions and to bolster their support for health care.  I question the wisdom and timing of that strategy.  There are better ways to deal with them.

The Norsemen are often forgotten when it comes to our historical culture but they did leave us lots of influences that live on today.  Every Thursday is a remembrance of Thor and even the navigation and ship and aircraft term starboard comes from the Norse.  They always built those long ships and put the rudder on the right side of the ship.  It was the steer board side.  That became our starboard.

How long will it be before we are required to use either credit cards or debit cards for all transaction?  Surely you have noticed that more and more of the large corporations are no longer paying with a paycheck but making direct deposits into employees’ checking accounts or crediting a debit card they had issued to the employee.  Government, Inc. will love that because then it can track everything you do with your money and collect even more taxes.  Someday you will recieve emails from the IRS challenging expenditures and questioning your income reported as not matching your reported income on a W-2 or 1099.  Bureaucrats and big business will love a cashless society.  I sure hope that day doesn’t come anytime soon.  For one thing I want my privacy, for a second thing, I want my privacy.

If you doubt that stupidity abounds in Washington then merely reflect on that fact we are still promoting ethanol, which is less efficient, cost more and can ruin engines.  At the same time we are ignoring our natural gas abundance which is much cleaner that gas, and is a domestic product which would really help our balance of trade and the technology to convert vehicles to its use is off the shelf.  Politics can make for some really dumb decisions.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Left Lies About Health Care

The air is thick these days with cross currents of accusations that one side or the other is telling lies about the pending HR 3200 health care reform bill.  Again you are all urged to read at least some portion of it for yourself.  You can google it.   The phrase “death panels” is tossed about by both sides.  Frankly, I think it is a fair paraphase and debating point for those who oppose the health bill.  When you read it the intent of the section is quiet clear.  You don’t need to be an Oxford don to discern that the message is to encourage people to forgo treatment and accept death.   That is the whole point.  It darn sure isn’t there to promote attempts to be really aggressive in prolonging your life.  Those sessions and the message they send were important enough to the drafters of the bill that they put it in there.  They could have assumed that most doctors, patients and their families would discuss those issues when they all felt the time was right.  The bill prods them to discuss impending death.  So it is a bit dramatic but a fair analogy.  They sure aren’t “life panels”.  The left starting using the argument that some where between 50% and 62% of all bankruptcies are caused by medical costs.  I have heard and seen numbers between those two bandied about and one just last night by an MSNBC commentator.

Over the years I have learned that there is so much to learn.  The amount of information and knowledge that I have not attained is stunning.  That is one of my biggest regrets with aging, I will not be able to learn all that I would have wanted.  There is lots about a lot that I don’t know.  But there are a few things that I do know about in great detail.   The first time I heard such a number my ears pricked up because I immediately realized how absurd that figure was.   I have been doing bankruptcy work for over 40 years.  I specialize in Chapter 11 and workouts.  I and my partner were active in helping draft and discuss the creation of the Bankruptcy Code during the ’70’s.  He even went to testify on several occasions.  My name was on the first check to found the American Bankrutpcy Institute which these days is constantly being quoted by AP and others regarding bankruptcy matters.  I have handled hundreds if not a few thousand bankruptcy matters during my career.   

First, I would  like to know how they gathered this alleged information that medical costs were the cause of individual bankruptcies.  The data gathering I submit was skewed and the seeker found just what they were looking for in the first place.  When a bankruptcy is filed the debtor has to file lots of paper work.  They must list their assets, liabilities and a great deal of other information.  They have to disclose their bank accounts, payments made in the last year, trusts in their name, and special payments they made.  They are very detailed.  But they do NOT ask  why they filed bankruptcy.  A creditor at the first meeting can ask the question but that is only asked in business cases normally, not individual cases.  Secondly it is not asked in personal cases because it doesn’t matter anymore.  They are were they are.   The debtor must list in detail their creditors by name, address, amount owed and what for and if they challenge the debt among other things.  If all they did was track schedules filed in bankruptcy cases to see if there were any debt listed to a doctor or hospital then that would  not be an  accurate reflection of  the cause of bankruptcy.  That would be merely one debt among others. 

If the data was gathered by making some kind of survey in writing or by phone then the data would be even more misleading.  People lie about money, duh.  People rarely like to own up to their own mistakes especially when they don’t have to and there is another convenient excuse.  I bet you have noticed this human characteristic yourself.  If a debtor filed for bankruptcy and  owed anything to a doctor or hospital I can well imagine that they would say that was why I had to file.  He will conveniently omit the fact that he gambled away and lost $17,000.0o the prior year in Vegas.  He will not blame an extravagant life style for his financial demise.  That fancy flat screen TV and gear that cost $4000.00 and all those nice expensive trips he took with his girlfriend or wife will not be mentioned as the cause of his bankruptcy.   The fact he charged it all on his credit card and was living well beyond his means will not be singled out as the reason he filed.  I handled hundreds of straight Ch. 7 bankruptcies over the years.  In only a handful of cases was outstanding medical bills due the cause of a bankruptcy.  The fact is almost anywhere across the country those debts will not put people into bankrupty unless they have a really bad lawyer.  Doctors and hosptitals don’t file suit for those debts even if they are due.  That is a fact.  Check your local abstract of judgment records.   Even if you owe money to a hospital and get sick again, they will still treat you when you show up.  It would be a rare case where someone filed bankruptcy due to medical bills. 

So often we have to accept some contention without serious challenge because we don’t really know enough about the subject to rebut or challenge it.  I know something about this.  That is a complete fabrication and I would be glad to be proved wrong if someone can do it.  Lord only knows what think tank they used to come up with those numbers.  I guarantee you they did not get that % from a bankruptcy practioner with experience.  It would be very rare for me to advise in good faith that someone take bankruptcy because of medical debts alone.  There w0uld need to be other reasons.

Our dollar and T bills are holding up better than I expected in the markets.  Unfortunately though it is like being the tallest midget in the room.  It is only because of the weakness of our economic competitors that they remain relatively strong.  As new taxes, regulations, and inflation take their toll those numbers will change.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Health Care Reform and Shakespeare

The Bible and Shakespeare are the best reference tools for any debater or proponet or opponent of any cause.  The Bard had something to say that fits almost every occasion and circumstance.  As the nation debates the health care package propounded in HR 3200 we might wish to take heed to his words and their portent.

You have read or heard by now that the administration is now taking a new tack in trying to sell its health care takeover by Government, Inc.  They are pushing now the moral and religious imperative as they see it that requires all good Christians to support health care because that is the Christian or moral thing to do.  I for one don’t like to preached too by anyone except from the pulpit and even then I think I am repsonsible for my own theology.  It is too easy to have it spoon fed by others.  The priesthood of the believer is my doctrine.  It is my job, not someone else’s, to determine as best I can God’s revealed will.  The Bard had a warning about those who invoke the divine for political purposes–  “The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose”.  I don’t know if the new guy in the White House is the devil but his preaching doesn’t jibe with my beliefs.  Charity I support, social engineering and wealth redistribution with a bayonet at my back I do not support.

Naturally, it pulls at the heart strings to hear of those in need due to health problems.  It should.  But those emotions don’t justify a greater evil by surrenduring our freedoms in exchange for alleged help from the government.  That false appeal belies the true agenda which is another huge expansion of government into every aspect of our lives from cradle to grave.  “O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath”.

As soon as the Town Hall meetings started there was a great hue and cry from the Dems that evil mongers and organized “special interests” were behind all the protest.  They expressed great suspicion at the legitimacy and genuiness of the people expressing their opposition.  You are aware as much as me of the vilification of those people; the suspicions the Dems tried to plant in the minds of everyone.  Well, the Bard would remind that–“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind”.

The proponents are asking us to trust them and believe that their incredibly complex proposal with its arcane provisions is a great improvement over our current health system.  All acknowledge that the current system sure could use an upgrade.  But the proposals go well beyond fixing the known problems and allow the government to dictate the terms of all decisions down the road.  Even though we have current problems you should remember “Tis better to bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of”.    I would caution us all to heed that advice and fix the known ills rather than open the floodgates to government regulation.

Please read the Bill.  I am working my way through it still.  Don’t take my word for a thing.  I trust the people more than the Dems.  See if you can understand it.  The parts you do should cause you great concern if you don’t want bureaucrats running a very important part of your life.   That Commissioner that is set up will have powers to literally write your insurance policy, collect “data” on your, your doctor, your hospital and whatever else he thinks he needs.  Read it.  What if he decides he needs your financial data so he can better adjust the premium rates?  Be informed.  As the Bard said, “There is no darkness but ignorance”.

I know you remember well the very protest in the streets and in committee rooms, halls of Congress and anywhere there were TV cameras by the Left to protest all measure of things.  They have opposed wars, social policy, envoirnmental issues and voting and tax matters with great vigor and very loud voices.   They did so with the intent always to drown out any debate and intimidate and stop any opposition to their views.  These protests at these town hall meetings have been tame, very tame by comparison to any protests lead by Greenpeace, the Black Panthers, ACORN and a whole hosts of leftists.  They are so mad to see the Silent Majority finally rise up and raise their voices in protests.  It rankles them clearly, their ripostes have been shrill and vitriolic. They never objected to even more disturbing violence by their own kind.  Well, all I have to reply to them is the words of the Bard–“The wheel is come full circle”.  So they better get used to it.  The rise of the average Joe, as in Plumber, as only started.

I do trust the people, their common sense and inherent sense of decency. We flounder on occasion but I have great faith in our nation.  We are the children and grand children of the Greatest Generation and I believe we will not abandon or tarnish that legacy. On that note I would quote the Bard once again,

“The golden age is before us, not behind us”.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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