Archive for September, 2009
Health Care News
Health care lobbying groups are spending roughly $1 million daily on television ads to impact the health care debate, according to Congressional Quarterly.
Television ad spending reached $110 million on Sunday and has been averaging $1.1 million each day, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. The CQ article notes about $47 million has been spent for TV ads favoring a health care overhaul and $32 million have gone for ads opposing the effort. The rest has been spent for ads that talk generally about health care. Big spenders include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AARP.
Health Care News
The Los Angeles Times reports over the weekend that a network of “technically illegal” private clinics and surgical centers have started up in British Columbia and similar ones are appearing in Quebec. Canada, which has a universal, government-run health insurance system, will decide in the courts next month if these private health care systems should be sanctioned.
The centers are hoping to capitalize on patients who might otherwise go to the U.S. for faster medical services. A typical Canadian seeking surgical or other therapeutic treatment had to wait 17.3 weeks on average in 2008, according to the Fraser Institute.
“More than 70 private health providers in British Columbia now schedule simple surgeries and tests such as MRIs with waits as short as a week or two, compared with the months it takes for a public surgical suite to become available for nonessential operations,” the article said.
Obamacare: Day Three of Senate Finance Committee Hearings
On Thursday, September 24th, the Senate Finance Committee continued to vote on amendments to the “Chairman’s Mark” of the America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009. As the committee continues to consider more than 500 amendments, it is becoming clear that Senators are directly undercutting the high profile promises that President Obama made to the American people in his widely broadcasted address to Congress on September 9, 2009. Consider several health policy decisions made by members of the Senate Finance Committee:
Cutting Medicare Advantage (Crapo-Kyl-Roberts Amendment D1)
The White House and Congressional leaders routinely insist that they are not going to cut Medicare benefits, only unnecessary spending or spending properly considered to be waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare program. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) proposed an amendment to change the Chairman’s mark and remove provisions in Title III, Subtitle D which would result in cuts to Medical Advantage, a program which allows Medicare users to obtain coverage through private insurers. Cuts in payments to Medicare Advantage plans would result in decreased choice and competition for seniors. This amendment failed on a procedural vote (9-9). (more…)
Tags: Barack Obama, Baucus bill, big government, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, Medicare trigger, middle class, obama deficit, Obama Health, Obama Health Care Plan, Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus’ (D-MT) health care reform proposal includes a number of reforms to reduce Medicare outlays. Medicare, as is now well established, is unsustainable in its current form. Projections of promised benefits far outstrip projections of program receipts, leaving the nation with an unfunded obligation of tens of trillions of dollars. While some of the specific Medicare reforms may be ill-advised, the willingness of the Chairman to propose such changes at this time is encouraging for the future of Medicare.
The Ensign Amendment. Sen. Ensign (R-NV) succeeded in adding a very important amendment to the Baucus proposal during the Finance Committee’s deliberations. The Ensign amendment stated simply that Medicare savings must be used to reduce Medicare’s unfunded obligation. Inclusion of this amendment is an important step toward making Medicare a sustainable, viable program for future generations of seniors. (more…)
Proponents of the health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress claim that the cost of insuring the uninsured will be paid for by taxes on the rich, and by employers, who will be required to shoulder “responsibility” for their employee’s health insurance. The reality is that these provisions will act as an extremely regressive tax on the working poor, substantially reducing their take-home pay and in some cases eliminating their jobs altogether.
All the House and Senate drafts of health care reform include so-called “employer mandates” or “pay or play” provisions. The details vary somewhat, but all require employers to either “play” by providing health insurance for their employees or pay part of the premium or “pay” a special tax for not providing insurance, even if the employee declines it.
The New York Times released a new poll today finding that 55% of Americans believe President Obama has not clearly explained his plans for changing the health care system and 59% said they thought the health care changes under consideration in Congress were confusing. In a follow-up interview, Paul Corkery, a Democrat from Somerset, N.J, said: “The Obama administration seems to have a plan, but I’m not understanding the exact details.” Corkery shouldn’t feel that bad. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the independent nonpartisan agency responsible for reviewing legislative initiatives with budgetary implications, has no idea what is in the legislation either. During yesterday’s Senate Finance Committee mark-up, the CBO realized only after the vote, that they had made a $600 million mistake in scoring an amendment by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
The issues that the CBO does not have enough information to analyze are not minor either. In letters released on September 22nd, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf told Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) respectively that his agency simply had not been provided with sufficient legislative language and time to analyze whether insurance premiums would go up under Obamacare or how many unauthorized billions of dollars in health benefits illegal immigrants would receive. (more…)
New data out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that some 44.9 million Americans of all ages were uninsured in the quarter of January through March. Roughly 63.5 percent of unemployed adults aged 18 to 64 and 21.5 percent of employed adults in the same age group had been uninsured at some point in the past year. The new report highlights a trend in Census data that private coverage is declining while coverage in public health programs is on the rise.
The numbers also underscore what Stuart Butler has called a “catastrophe of small-business health care coverage in America.” Since the majority of Americans get their health coverage through their workplace, increasing costs have pressured more companies to reduce or drop benefits, with most small businesses opting to not cover employees because of the skyrocketing costs. The result — as shown in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s recently released annual survey on employer-sponsored benefits — is a relentless drop in small business coverage. Moreover, employer-sponsored health insurance rose to an average annual rate of $13,375 for family coverage this year. (more…)
Health Care News
“When I use a word,” says Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” “it means just what I choose it to mean.”
Members of Congress have this down to a fine art. Take the health care legislation recently introduced by Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and Finance Committee chairman. Some say the senator made a bold decision in not including a government-run public option in his proposal. Indeed, he seemed to be responding to the many people who see the public option as politically divisive and merely a Trojan horse for a single-payer health system.
But instead of embracing a “public option,” he included a “co-op” as a way of ensuring that Americans would have a familiar and effective alternative choice to traditional health insurance. (more…)
Health Care News
The Hill reports today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has agreed to a 72-hour waiting period between posting a health care bill online and a final vote on the bill, conceding to Republican demands for three-day period to read a final bill.
House GOP members had introduced a petition requiring the wait time for lawmakers to read all bills, which some centrist Democrats had signed, the Hill reports. The article quotes a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) who doubted the promise. “House Democrats actually voted to post the trillion-dollar ‘simulus’ bill online for 48 hours before a vote and then broke that promise, so this should be taken with a large grain of salt,” said Michael Steel.
The Senate Finance Committee, which is in the midst of marking up Sen. Max Baucus’ “Chairman’s Mark” of his health care bill, defeated a similar amendment yesterday.
To ensure that the Senate would actually know what they were voting on, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) offered an amendment that would have required that actual legislative text, as well as a final Congressional Budget Office estimate of the cost of the bill, be posted for 72 hours on the Senate Finance Committee Web site for public review before the Senate Finance Committee could vote on its final passage.
The Bunning amendment was defeated on a largely party-line vote, with all Senate Democrats – except Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) – voting against it.
Health Care News
At What Cost To Freedom?
Obama’s individual mandate is a bad idea
In his address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he and his allies know how to spend your health-care money better than you do. It’s a matter, you see, of “shared responsibility”: You share your dollars with the feds, and the feds are responsible for making your decisions. In the health-care bill currently before the House (H.R. 3200), there is even a “Health Choices Commissioner,” to be appointed by the president, who will rigorously define your choices.
On “shared responsibility,” the president brooks no dissent. “Unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek — especially requiring insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions — just can’t be achieved,” he said. “That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance.” This requirement is known as the “individual mandate.”
The president’s proposal is historic — though not in a good way. Never before has Congress forced Americans to buy a private good or service. In fact, for those with a traditional understanding of the Constitution as a charter of liberty (as opposed to the “living” version), the list of Congress’s powers in Article I, Section 8, grants it no authority to require any such thing.
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