"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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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Health Care "Reform" in the Midst of Epic Fall

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece (h/t Jill at Pundit & Pundette) regarding the health care price control bill being currently debated.

From the op-ed:

"When President Obama signed his health-care reform last month, he declared it will 'lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government.' So why, barely a month later, are Democrats scrambling to pass a new bill that would impose price controls on insurance?

"In now-they-tell-us hearings on Tuesday, the Senate health committee debated a bill that would give states the power to reject premium increases that state regulators determine are 'unreasonable.' The White House proposed this just before the final Obama- Care scramble, but it couldn't be included because it violated the procedural rules that Democrats abused to pass the bill.

"Some 27 states currently have some form of rate review in the individual and small-business markets, but they generally don't leverage it in a political way because insolvent insurers are expensive for states and bankruptcies limit consumer choices. One exception is Massachusetts: Governor Deval Patrick is now using this regulatory power to create de facto price controls and assail the state's insurers as cover for the explosive costs resulting from the ObamaCare prototype the Bay State passed in 2006.

"National Democrats now want the power to do the same across the country, because they know how unrealistic their cost-control claims really are. Democrats are petrified they'll get the blame they deserve when insurance costs inevitably spike. So the purpose of this latest Senate bill is to have a pre-emptive political response on hand.

"ObamaCare includes several new cost-driving mandates that take effect immediately, including expanding family coverage for children as old as 26 and banning consumer co-payments for preventive care. Democrats are bragging about these 'benefits,' but they aren't free and their cost will be built into premiums. And those are merely teasers for the many Washington-created dysfunctions that will soon distort insurance markets.

"In Massachusetts, Mr. Patrick says his price-control sally will be followed by reviewing what doctors and hospitals charge—or in other words for price controls on the medical services that make up most health spending. ObamaCare will gradually move in the same direction."

Price control for medical services? Hmm. This isn't the preventative care fantasy savings that Obama was touting earlier this year. But it get better.

From the same op-ed:

"The official who will preside over this fiscal trainwreck is Donald Berwick, the Harvard professor and chief of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement who the White House has nominated to run Medicare. Dr. Berwick explained in an interview last year that the British National Health Service has 'developed very good and very disciplined, scientifically grounded, policy-connected models for the evaluation of medical treatments from which we ought to learn.' He added that 'The decision is not whether or not we will ration care—the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly.'

"In fact, the real choice with medical care, as with any good or service, is between rationing via politics and bureaucratic lines or via a competitive market and prices. As Democrats are showing by trying to pass a new insurance bill, they want all U.S. health care to function like price-controlled Medicare. Dr. Berwick's job as the country's largest purchaser of health care will be to find ways to offset the higher insurance and medical costs that ObamaCare's subsidies and mandates will cause, which will inevitably mean political rationing of care."

The good Dr. Berwick seems a little blind to the massive problems Britain's NHS now faces. I've written about the horror show that Britain's NHS has caused in previous posts (found here and here). Their sterling performance at rationing-- er... regulating Britain's health system has included the government's refusal to cover life-saving and prolonging drugs to kidney cancer patients due to cost, the infamous "hospital of death," allowing a man to go blind in one eye until they would cover his disease ("the local Primary Care Trust has told him it will only considering funding in his case once he has gone blind in one eye and developed wet AMD in the other"), the refusal to pay for painkilling injections forcing people "to live in agony," the banning of life prolonging drugs for breast cancder due to cost, and the NHS counseling women to abort their Down's Syndrome babies because they would be a burden on the system ("death panels" anyone?). No, that last one was not made up.

From Britain's The Independent newspaper:

"Yesterday the BBC News website ran a selection of comments on this issue by members of the public. One in particular, by Heather of Livingston, Scotland, is worth reproducing in full here: 'I was told that my daughter had Down's when I was about 12 weeks pregnant and every doctor, gynaecologist I saw tried to convince me a termination was the best option. I was still offered this at 26 weeks! One reason given to me by a cold-hearted consultant was that "these babies put a strain on the NHS". My daughter was stillborn and when pregnant again, I refused all tests apart from a scan. It's not society who are looking for the "perfect baby", it's the medical profession.'"

Lots to admire there, Dr. Berwick... If only we could have this quality of care in the U.S.

But that doesn't stop Dr. Berwick from waxing poetic about Britain's NHS. No sir. Robert M. Goldberg has an interesting piece at American Spectator (h/t Pat at And So it Goes in Shreveport) in which he writes:

"Berwick not only has a role model picked out for a role that sounds a lot like what he would be doing at CMS, he has a soulmate: For the past 15 years he has consulted for -- or, in his words, been 'starry-eyed' over -- Britain's National Health Service. In 2008, at a 60th anniversary celebration of the creation NHS, he told a UK crowd, 'I am romantic about the NHS; I love it. All I need to do to rediscover the romance is to look at health care in my own country.'

"Berwick complained the American health system runs in the 'darkness of private enterprise,' unlike Britain's 'politically accountable system.' The NHS is 'universal, accessible, excellent, and free at the point of care -- a health system that is, at its core, like the world we wish we had: generous, hopeful, confident, joyous, and just'; America's health system is 'toxic,' 'fragmented,' because of its dependence on consumer choice. He told his UK audience: 'I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do.'"

Sounds like a real winner there, huh?

I love that last line. It's up to "leaders" to administer our health care... because they know what's best for us.

Of course what can we all expect from an administration who employs Robert Reich as an economic adviser? As I have posted earlier (back in October), Robert Reich made this wonder comment at UC Berkley: "We're going to have to, if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive...so we're going to let you die [emphasis mine]."

Cute, right? And no, these comments were not taken out of context.

Here's the unedited text of the speech from which that snippet was taken:

"I'll actually give you a speech made up entirely, almost on the spur of the moment, of what a candidate for president would say if that candidate did not care about becoming president. In other words, this is what the truth is and a candidate will never say, but what a candidate should say if we were in the kind of democracy where citizens were honored in terms of their practice of citizenship and they were educated in terms of what the issues were and they could separate myth from reality in terms of what candidates would tell them:

"'Thank you so much for coming this afternoon. I'm so glad to see you and I would like to be president. Let me tell you a few things on health care. Look, we have the only health care system in the world that is designed to avoid sick people. And that's true and what I'm going to do is that I am going try to reorganize it to be more amenable to treating sick people but that means you, particularly you young people, particularly you young healthy people...you're going to have to pay more.'

"Thank you. And by the way, we're going to have to, if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive...so we're going to let you die.'

"Also I'm going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid---we already have a lot of bargaining leverage---to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. What that means, less innovation and that means less new products and less new drugs on the market which means you are probably not going to live much longer than your parents. Thank you.'"

Reich has run about, tripped over his tongue and said by way of explanation that this was a mock exercise about what "truths" political candidates can't say. Reich's own words: "The whole point of the mock exercise was to show that presidential candidates can't state what everyone knows to be the truth because they'll be taken apart by the Right or the Left."

Apparently Reich takes for granted that it is a "truth" that the government will reduce your lifespan, reduce innovation in the medical field, and let the elderly suffer and die for the sake of government budgeting.

So as Berwick romances and professes his "love" for the NHS, and as Reich declares that America will be forced to cut back on medical innovation to the point of reducing lifespans and let the elderly suffer and die, Americans are getting the first real look at the ObamaCare and their administrators (i.e. "leaders" in Berwick's terminology)-- and they're not liking what they see.

UPDATE: And here's something else coming to light-- "A damning health care report generated by actuaries at the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department was given to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the health care vote. She hid the report from the public until a month after democrats rammed their nationalized health care bill through Congress."

Read more about it here.

Hope and Change!


  1. According to the market-research group Datamonitor, medical inflation is the reason for yearly increases of 8% in health insurance premiums. The steady progress in the development of new drugs, therapies and equipment used to diagnose medical conditions and the resulting costs are an obvious reason for this. This is understandable and everyone wants the latest in diagnostics and treatments. Equipment becomes obsolete with time and invariably the very words newer and improved mean a rise in cost.

  2. Hmm. I'm not so sure about the comment from "Tony" there. The link in his comment goes to a UK private insurer's page and his comment doesn't really say much of anything beyond what you get in cheap daily horoscopes-- it's not big, but not little and everyone want to be happy...

    But I'm tired of pulling comment weeds so I'm letting it stay up even though it's pretty obviously an advertisement. At least it's not Asian porn...

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. No more links to Asian porn! Be gone with your comments containing these links! I COMMAND IT!

    Seriously though, this is just creepy. It's like 50% of my posts get these now...

  5. I get the crazy porn links, too, Yukio. Well, I think they're porn links, I just delete them. Ditto the random vagueness. Some people need to get a life.

    As to your post, isn't it amazing that even with people clearly stating that there will be (can only be) rationing and people in DC making health care decisions for us (based on our age, health, contributions to society, income, and race), there are still those die-hard ostriches who mock Sarah Palin's death panel and rationing comments?