Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More On Health Care

The quote of the day belongs to Holman Jenkins in today's WSJ.

It's no exaggeration to say the Senate health-care bill taking shape is the equivalent of climbing aboard a train about to plunge into a canyon and deciding what it really needs is a bomb on board. (The metaphorical train, of course, being our debt-ridden economy).

Current estimates for the ten year cost of the plan run between $800 billion to $1 trillion. And this is only the direct cost to the government. It doesn't include extra costs to the states (state funded Medicaid increases are a major part of the plan), businesses, insurance companies, doctors, hospitals and patients having to satisfy the new rules and mandates. But even that sum, exhorbitant as it is, is wildly optimistic.
Mona Charen points out the following.

In 1965, when Medicaid was enacted, the House Ways and Means Committee estimated that first year costs would amount to about $238 million. The actual price was $1 billion. The program now costs $251 billion annually and is climbing fast. The record is similar for Medicare. In 1965, Congress predicted that by 1990, Medicare would be costing $12 billion. The actual cost -- $90 billion.

History tells us the costs will start at the muti-trillion dollar level and they will increase sharply from there.

Ah, but President Obama reassures us by saying cost cutting measures will reduce the burden. For example as Charen explains,

Starting during the campaign, President Obama touted digital medical records to reduce errors, improve care, and cut costs. More than $19 billion of stimulus funds were earmarked for it.

But, she continues,

...when the Washington Post examined the matter, they discovered that digital records not only fail to produce the promised benefits, they actually reduce efficiency and cause errors. The digital systems currently available give physicians too much information. Pages upon pages of digital information document every conceivable ailment a patient might have. Doctors have difficulty wading through all of the unnecessary data to reach the critical information. One emergency room physician at a hospital that had adopted a digital system complained, "It's been a complete nightmare. I can't see my patients because I'm at a screen entering data . ... Physician productivity and satisfaction have fallen off a cliff." Some hospitals have adopted digital systems only to abandon them.

The Democrats have disseminated much misinformation in their push to socialize our health care system. Among the most blatant is the idea that opponents of Obamacare oppose health care reform. Even the left leaning Chicago Tribune editorializes that this is a lie. (As noted by Kathryn Jean Lopez on NRO).

Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate have spent the spring, summer and fall grappling with how to fix the health care system. They're still trying to craft a bill they can sell to Americans — or even explain in plain English.
And the Republicans? Well, as the minority party, they're mainly on the sidelines. They've become the party of "no," sniping at every Democratic health care reform idea without promoting any of their own. Right?
Not entirely.
Over the summer and fall, Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced six — yes, six — health care reform proposals. You didn't hear? Well, those plans didn't produce much of a ripple because Democrats dominate the Congress.
But now Republicans are weighing a shift in strategy. Instead of taking more potshots, some Republicans say their party should present a coherent alternative to whatever final Democratic plans emerge in the House and Senate. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee reportedly are drafting legislation the GOP could introduce when Democrats bring their proposals to the floor.

And finally, there's Ann Coulter explaining one important reason for the shortcomings in our health care system.

The reason you can't buy health insurance as easily and cheaply as you can buy car insurance -- or a million other products and services available on the free market -- is that during World War II, FDR imposed wage and price controls. Employers couldn't bid for employees with higher wages, so they bid for them by adding health insurance to the overall compensation package.
Although employees were paying for their own health insurance in lower wages and salaries, their health insurance premiums never passed through their bank accounts, so it seemed like employer-provided health insurance was free.
Employers were writing off their employee insurance plans as a business expense, but when the IRS caught on to what employers were doing, they tried to tax employer-provided health insurance as wages. But, by then, workers liked their "free" health insurance, voters rebelled, and the IRS backed down.
So now, employer-provided health insurance is subsidized not only by the employees themselves through lower wages and salaries, but also by all taxpayers who have to make up the difference for this massive tax deduction.

And she concludes with,

Almost everything wrong with our health care system comes from government interference with the free market. If the health care system is broken, then fix it. Don't try to invent a new one premised on all the bad ideas that are causing problems in the first place.

I'm flattered that Ann's been reading my blog.

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