"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Friday, September 11, 2009

Obama's Health Care Address to Congress Part 1: Lies

Obama rolled out the big guns to save the flailing health care reforms. Piling on the trappings of office and expecting Washington decorum to buoy his unpopular health care reforms, Obama strode out chin high to address the Joint Sessions of Congress. While many in the media buzzed with anticipation at this chance to revel in Obama's oratory skills-- and indeed their tween-like superlatives have been giddily shouted with a Miley-Cyrus-fan-like devotion-- the actual content of Obama's speech (transcript here) was thin on fact, thick on unrealistic promises, alarmist, intentionally distorted and ultimately disturbing.

After amazingly hailing the stimulus bill a success (the unemployment rate topped at 9.7%-- thus far-- higher than White House projections if the stimulus was not passed and far in excess of the promised 8% should the stimulus bill be passed), Obama then disingeniously paints the health care issue as though it were a single puzzle, a Gordian Knot, that no one has ever solved. And now, like Alexander the Great, he steps up to cleave these health problems in two and forever fix our health care issues.

His words: "I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. (Applause.) It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session. (Applause.)

"Our collective failure to meet this challenge -- year after year, decade after decade -- has led us to the breaking point [emphasis mine]."

Notice the way in which he talks about historic health care reform. "This cause..." "This challenge..." And my personal favorite "Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform..." It's as if health care has been a single issue for the past century, as though the health care issues that Theodore Roosevelt faced in 1901 were, ridiculously, the same as today. "[Y]ear after year, decade after decade--" of collective failure "-- has led us to the breaking point."

While painting a picture of historic urgency, Obama has reduced a century of health care issues into being a single problem, a singular challenge that has never been resolved. It has been a "collective failure."

Well that is nonsense, of course. As common sense will tell you, great strides have been made across the board in health care over the last century. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, fiber optic cameras and other diagnostic techniques and devices have made the dreaded phrase "exploratory surgery" an almost foreign term. The average life expectancy of Americans has steadily increased in the last century (white male in 1901: 48.23 and in 2004 75.7), the survival rates for cancer patients has steadily increased, the death rate and instances of cardiovascular disease has steadily decreased. Dreaded diseases such as polio, typhoid fever, small pox, typhus, and numerous other killers have been brought to heel.

The likelihood of becoming sick or dying from tainted food (a dire problem before and during the 19th and early 20th Centuries) has likewise vastly decreased. As Ronald Bailey points out, "In 1900, six years before Upton Sinclair wrote his great muckraking book, The Jungle, about the filthy conditions in the meatpacking industry, the death rate from gastritis, duodentitis, enteritis, and colitis was 142.7 people per 100,000. It is likely that most people experienced bouts of intestinal distress several times a year. Today, accepting CDC calculations of 5000 deaths per year implies a hundred-fold reduction, to just 1.4 deaths per 100,000 people."

A "collective failure" indeed... The reforms that Theodore Roosevelt called for "nearly a century" ago have nothing to do with the health care debate of today. The many issues Roosevelt was concerned with have been largely solved for all Americans. To draw a direct historical line from HR3200 to Theodore Roosevelt is manipulative, disingenuous, and foolish.

Obama illustrates the need for reform and the evils of private health insurers with this tale of woe. "One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it."

That indeed does sound horrible. Unfortunately for Obama, it isn't true.

From Sweetness and Light (h/t Pundit & Pundette): "This is the sad story of Mr. Otto Raddatz, a case that Mr. Obama has cited several times before, including in his August 16th editorial in the New York Times.

"For the record, however, the case is not exactly the way Mr. Obama has characterized it, at least according to the sworn testimony of Mr. Raddatz’s sister.

"From Ms. Raddatz’s opening statement, from pages 58-59 of the transcript (a pdf file) of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation Committee hearings on 'The Termination Of Individual Health Policies By Insurance Companies,' Tuesday, June 16, 2009:

"'Otto began more chemotherapy for purposes of preparing him for a stem cell transplant. In the midst of his chemo treatments, Otto received a phone call and letter from Fortis Insurance Company stating his insurance was canceled. It was rescinded all the way back to the effective date of August 7, 2004.'

"'This meant none of his cancer treatments would be covered. Most importantly, he would not be able to receive the stem cell transplant need [sic] to save his life. My brother only had a very small window of time in which to have the stem cell transplant. He needed to be scheduled within the next 3 to 4 weeks.'

"'My brother was told he was canceled during what they called a "routine review" during which they claimed to discover a "material failure to disclose". Apparently in 2000 his doctor had done a CT scan which showed an aneurysm and gall stones. My brother was never told of either one of these conditions nor was he ever treated for them and he never reported any symptoms for them either.'

"'After months of preparation, the stem cell transplant could not be scheduled. My brother’s hope for being a cancer survivor were dashed. His prognosis was only a matter of months without the procedure.'

"Mr. Radditz was faced with having to pay for the stem cell transplant himself in order to save his life.

"However, Mr. Raddatz’s lawyer sister contacted the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. They investigated and found that the doctor who did the CT scans could not remember whether he had ever told Mr. Raddatz about his findings.

"Consequently, the insurance company overturned their original decision to rescind her brother’s coverage, and he was reinstated in the words of his sister, "without [any] lapse."

Again, from Ms. Raddatz’s sworn testimony:

"'After two appeals by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Fortis Insurance Company finally overturned their original decision to rescind my brother’s coverage and he was reinstated without lapse. This is after weeks of constant phone calls between myself and the Attorney General’s Office and we were literally scrambling hour by hour to get this accomplished so that my brother wouldn’t lose his 3- to 4-week window of opportunity that he had prepared for and lose his opportunity to have the procedure.'

"In other words, Mr. Raddatz’s did receive the stem cell transplant without delay.

"Indeed, Ms. Raddatz does not seem to claim anywhere in her testimony that the insurance company’s actions shortened her brother’s life. (Though she does accuse them of having been cruel and unethical.)"

Later Ms. Radditz says "He did indeed receive the stem cell transplant. It was extremely successful. It extended his life approximately 3-1/2 years. He did pass away January 6, 2009, and he was about to have a second stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, due to certain situations, his donor became ill at the last minute and so he did pass away on January 6. But again, it extended his life nearly 3-1/2 years and at his age, each day meant everything to him…"

This is a sad event, needlessly stressful for those involved, and an example of an unsympathetic bureaucracy's bungling. But the event is not how Obama described it. Obama lied. While Mr. Raddatz did pass away --3 1/2 years after the incident-- his treatment was not delayed and he did not die because of his insurer's actions. To state otherwise, as Obama did, is a deliberate misrepresentation (not a distortion nor oversimplification, but a lie) to fit Obama's narrative.

As Sweetness and Light notes "Meanwhile, in this very same speech Mr. Obama accused others of misrepresenting the facts."

Notable from Mr. Raddatz's story is:

1) The fact that Mr. Raddatz had an outside legal force to appeal to (the Attorney General's Office) which HR3200 severely limits

2) That current health proposals create dozens more governmental bureaucracies to administer health benefits (are government bureaucracies known to be more responsive and humane?)

Obama goes on to denounce any opposition as some of the worst Washington has to offer. "During that time, we've seen Washington at its best and at its worst."

[...]

"But what we've also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have towards their own government. Instead of honest debate, we've seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned."

Blaming opposition to these reforms merely on partisanship is a bit of a laugh. The fact is the Democrats control both the House and Senate, and the Republicans couldn't stop these proposals if they were completely united. It is dissension in the ranks of the Democrats that holds back the bill. A fair amount of this dissension is caused at the grassroots level by angry local town halls, unfavorable polls, and the widespread American disbelief that federal bureaucracies can administer health care with such efficiency that we save money. It is the belief that American citizens do not want this sort of government health care that holds back Democrat politicians from voting along party lines.

Obama once again reiterates that bureaucrats will not be involved with important decisions about your health. "And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need."

This is simply untrue. As I have posted before, HR3200 sets up a Health Benefits Advisory Committee (HBAC). The HBAC would be stacked with presidential appointments. And what is the function of the HBAC? According to the language of the bill itself (pg. 32) "The Health Benefits Advisory Committee shall recommend to the Secretary of Health and Human Services [...] benefit standards [...], and periodic updates to such standards." In other words, they will determine what is covered and not covered by a government approved health plan. Okay, granted they will "recommend" benefit standards to the Secretary of Health and Human Service, but what are the odds that Kathleen Sebelius won't take a recommendation from a board made up almost exclusively of Obama appointees? The "care that you need" is determined by them-- not by you and not by your doctor.

The Senate HELP Committee bill has a similar provision, the establishment of the Medical Advisory Council (MAC). MAC would essentially perform the same function as the HR 3200's HBAC, namely determine benefit standards.

Once again, can we not see the unavoidable lobbying for diseases to be covered? Health benefits will become political currency, various groups with some vested interest will be lobbying the HBAC, or MAC, or whatever alphabet soup council the plan will come up with for coverage and money. In other words, not only will bureaucrats be in the way of you and the care you need, but so will lobbyists, the media (depending on what disease they wish to illuminate), and special interest groups. This has happened in Britain under the yoke of its NHS and National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the following article, merely one of many, illustrates.

Britain's National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)-- great acronym, huh?-- decided to not offer some drugs to NHS kidney cancer patients. "It concluded that the drugs - bevacizumab, sorafenib, sunitinib and temsirolimus - did not offer value for money [bang for the buck in American bailout jargon]." This prompted some of the "UK's top cancer consultants to warn that NHS drug 'rationing' is forcing patients to remortgage their homes to pay for treatment."

NICE's response? "Andrew Dillon, the NICE chief executive, and Sir Michael Rawlins, NICE's chairman, told the Sunday Times the NHS did not have unlimited funds to provide all available treatments.

"'There is a finite pot of money for the NHS, which is determined annually by parliament,' they said."'If one group of patients is provided with cost-ineffective care, other groups - lacking powerful lobbyists - will be denied cost-effective care for miserable conditions like schizophrenia, Crohn's disease or cystic fibrosis.'"
Health care is degraded into a matter of lobbying the government for funds. This is what the Left and Obama want for America?

NICE also has banned life prolonging cancer drugs due to cost. "Thousands of patients with terminal cancer were dealt a blow last night after a decision was made to deny them life prolonging drugs."The Government's rationing body said two drugs for advanced breast cancer and a rare form of stomach cancer were too expensive for the NHS [National Health Services]."

The number of lies, distortions and half-truths that Obama has packed into this speech is really quite amazing. My posting hasn't even covered half of them. But perhaps some of these fallacies come from the most essential lie that he has told: namely that there is "a plan." The only "plan" that has been voted on in Congress is HR 3200, a badly written 1018 page monstrosity, which doesn't even come close to fulfilling any of Obama's stated requirements-- and will incur massive deficits in the process of failing. As far as I know, the copious number of Senate bills (at least four) are still in committee.

So while Obama can promise all of us lower rates, higher quality of care, universal coverage, and that it will all be paid for by trimming away waste and taxing the wealthy, he has no way to show how this will be accomplished. THERE IS NO PLAN like the one he's described. There's nothing even close.

This speech seems more like an exercise in political philosophy than a serious proposal; a rebuttal to middle-right concerns that is founded more in wishes and unrealistic expectations of government efficiency than nuts-and-bolts reality. He appears to be like a poli-sci professor assigning an essay topic-- not a president with a real and horrifically important proposal.

More coming in Part 2: Demanding Conformity for "Social Justice"

1 comment:

  1. An amazing post! Thanks!

    "There is no plan like the one he's described."

    Right you are. And there never will be.

    My thoughts as I heard this speech:

    This speech covered the Democrat list of health reform topics most complained about by citizens at Town Hall meetings. After coaching by some experienced Democrats with elections to lose, Obama's team of writers developed a checklist of denials of those complaints into a speech.

    This speech shows no attempt to disguise lies as truth; I suspect that no thought whatever was given to whether the speech reflected fact or fantasy. The main message that Obama and his team of speechwriters managed to convey to me is that they have absolutely no respect for most Americans; they think we are cattle.

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