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Reformers' Claims Just Don't Add Up

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, July 17, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Health Reform: Many extravagant claims have been made on behalf of the various health care "reforms" now emerging from Congress and the White House. But on closer inspection, virtually all prove to be false.



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IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure



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Yet even as many Americans start to have second thoughts about our government's possible takeover of the health care system, Congress is rushing to make it happen.

On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill that would radically change our current system and expand coverage for the uninsured. The action came a day after the head of the Congressional Budget Office said none of the plans under review would slow health care spending. None of them.

Still, lawmakers and the White House press on, relying on GOP weakness in the House and a new veto-proof majority in the Senate. They're also relying on a lack of awareness that claims made on behalf of national health care may be mostly false. Among them:

• America has a health care crisis.

No, we don't. Forty-seven million people lack insurance. Of the remaining 85% of the population, or 258 million people, polls show high satisfaction with the current coverage. Indeed, a 2006 poll by ABC News, the Kaiser Family Foundation and USA Today found 89% of Americans were happy with their own health care.

As for the estimated 47 million not covered by health insurance, 20 million can afford to buy it, according to a study by former CBO Director June O'Neill. Most of the other 27 million are single and under 35, with as many as a third illegal aliens.

When it's all whittled down, as few as 12 million are unable to buy insurance — less than 4% of a population of 305 million. For this we need to nationalize 17% of our nation's $14 trillion economy and change the current care that 89% like?

• Health care reform will save money.

Few of the plans now coming out of Congress will save anything, says the CBO's current chief, Douglas Elmendorf. In fact, he says, they'll lead to substantially higher costs in the future — costs that will be "unsustainable."

As it is, estimates for reforming health care range from $1 trillion to $3.6 trillion. Much will be spent on subsidies to make a so-called public option more attractive to consumers than private plans.

To pay for it, the president has suggested about $600 billion in new taxes, meaning that $500 billion to $2.1 trillion in new health care spending over the next decade will be unfunded. This could push up the nation's already soaring deficit, expected to reach $10 trillion through 2019 without health care reform. Massive new tax hikes will probably be needed to close the gap.

• Only the rich will pay for reform.

The 5.4% surtax on millionaires the president is pushing gets all the attention, but everyone down to $280,000 in income will pay more. Doesn't that still leave out the middle class and poor? Sorry. Workers who decline to take part will pay a tax of up to 2% of earnings. And small-businesses must pony up 8% of their payrolls.

The poor and middle class must pay in other ways, without knowing it. The biggest hit will be on small businesses, which, due to new payroll taxes, will be less likely to hire workers. Today's 9.5% jobless rate may become a permanent feature of our economy — just as it is in Europe, where nationalized health care is common.

• Government-run health care produces better results.

The biggest potential lie of all. America has the best health care in the world, and most Americans know it. Yet we hear that many "go without care" while in nationalized systems it is "guaranteed."

U.S. life expectancy in 2006 was 78.1 years, ranking behind 30 other countries. So if our health care is so good, why don't we live as long as everyone else?

Three reasons. One, our homicide rate is two to three times higher than other countries. Two, because we drive so much, we have a higher fatality rate on our roads — 14.24 fatalities per 100,000 people vs. 6.19 in Germany, 7.4 in France and 9.25 in Canada. Three, Americans eat far more than those in other nations, contributing to higher levels of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

These are diseases of wealth, not the fault of the health care system. A study by Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa found that if you subtract our higher death rates from accidents and homicide, Americans actually live longer than people in other countries.

In countries with nationalized care, medical outcomes are often catastrophically worse. Take breast cancer. According to the Heritage Foundation, breast cancer mortality in Germany is 52% higher than in the U.S.; the U.K.'s rate is 88% higher. For prostate cancer, mortality is 604% higher in the U.K. and 457% higher in Norway. Colorectal cancer? Forty percent higher in the U.K.

But what about the health care paradise to our north? Americans have almost uniformly better outcomes and lower mortality rates than Canada, where breast cancer mortality is 9% higher, prostate cancer 184% higher and colon cancer 10% higher.

Then there are the waiting lists. With a population just under that of California, 830,000 Canadians are waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment. In England, the list is 1.8 million deep.

Universal health care, wrote Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute in her excellent book, "Top Ten Myths Of American Health Care," will inevitably result in "higher taxes, forced premium payments, one-size-fits-all policies, long waiting lists, rationed care and limited access to cutting-edge medicine."

Before you sign up, you might want to check with people in countries that have the kind of system the White House and Congress have in mind. Recent polls show that more than 70% of Germans, Australians, Britons, Canadians and New Zealanders think their systems need "complete rebuilding" or "fundamental change."

• The poor lack care.

Many may lack insurance, but that doesn't mean they lack care. The law says anyone who walks into a hospital emergency room must be treated. America has 37 million people in poverty, but Medicaid covers 55 million — at a cost of $350 billion a year.

Moreover, as many as 11 million of the uninsured qualify for programs for the indigent, including Medicaid and SCHIP. But for some reason, they don't sign up. Are they likely to sign up for the "public option" when it's made available?

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I've read something scarier than this. Has anybody read this?

Why Rahm Emanuel Demands a House Vote on Health Care Before Recess
He wants a vote before the details get out, and because he knows that Democrat members are going to catch hell from informed constituents over the summer.

» Betsy McCaughey on Rahm Emanuel's Brother, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel: Deadly Doctors
"Rahm Emanuel's brother is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. He is going to be a central figure in Obamacare should it become law, and he has written essentially that it is a waste of money to invest health care in the elderly. This is not America. This is Soylent Green. It's Logan's Run." -Rush


DEADLY DOCTORS
By BETSY MCCAUGHEY -- NY Post
July 24, 2009 --
THE health bills coming out of Congress would put the de cisions about your care in the hands of presidential appointees. They'd decide what plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have and what seniors get under Medicare.
Yet at least two of President Obama's top health advisers should never be trusted with that power.
Start with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He has already been appointed to two key positions: health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research.
Emanuel bluntly admits that the cuts will not be pain-free. "Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality are merely 'lipstick' cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change," he wrote last year (Health Affairs Feb. 27, 2008).
Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, "as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others" (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008).
Yes, that's what patients want their doctors to do. But Emanuel wants doctors to look beyond the needs of their patients and consider social justice, such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else.
Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's job is to achieve social justice one patient at a time.
Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).
Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.
He explicitly defends discrimination against older patients: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years" (Lancet, Jan. 31).
The bills being rushed through Congress will be paid for largely by a $500 billion-plus cut in Medicare over 10 years. Knowing how unpopular the cuts will be, the president's budget director, Peter Orszag, urged Congress this week to delegate its own authority over Medicare to a new, presidentially-appointed bureaucracy that wouldn't be accountable to the public.
Since Medicare was founded in 1965, seniors' lives have been transformed by new medical treatments such as angioplasty, bypass surgery and hip and knee replacements. These innovations allow the elderly to lead active lives. But Emanuel criticizes Americans for being too "enamored with technology" and is determined to reduce access to it.
Dr. David Blumenthal, another key Obama adviser, agrees. He recommends slowing medical innovation to control health spending.
Blumenthal has long advocated government health-spending controls, though he concedes they're "associated with longer waits" and "reduced availability of new and expensive treatments and devices" (New England Journal of Medicine, March 8, 2001). But he calls it "debatable" whether the timely care Americans get is worth the cost. (Ask a cancer patient, and you'll get a different answer. Delay lowers your chances of survival.)
Obama appointed Blumenthal as national coordinator of health-information technology, a job that involves making sure doctors obey electronically deivered guidelines about what care the government deems appropriate and cost effective.
In the April 9 New England Journal of Medicine, Blumenthal predicted that many doctors would resist "embedded clinical decision support" -- a euphemism for computers telling doctors what to do.
Americans need to know what the president's health advisers have in mind for them. Emanuel sees even basic amenities as luxuries and says Americans expect too much: "Hospital rooms in the United States offer more privacy . . . physicians' offices are typically more conveniently located and have parking nearby and more attractive waiting rooms" (JAMA, June 18, 2008).
No one has leveled with the public about these dangerous views. Nor have most people heard about the arm-twisting, Chicago-style tactics being used to force support. In a Nov. 16, 2008, Health Care Watch column, Emanuel explained how business should be done: "Every favor to a constituency should be linked to support for the health-care reform agenda. If the automakers want a bailout, then they and their suppliers have to agree to support and lobby for the administration's health-reform effort."
Do we want a "reform" that empowers people like this to decide for us?

Betsy McCaughey is founder of the Committee to Reduce Infec tion Deaths and a former New York lieutenant governor.

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