Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Healthcare Boondoggle

Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care; and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so. -- Adam Smith

The Healthcare Boondoggle

A Government that controls health care also decides who lives and who dies by outlawing choice and implementing rationing.  Who wants an overpaid government bureaucrat sitting in front of a computer endowed with autocratic power to make life and death healthcare decisions for you and your family?
Health care is a primary concern of Americans.   Indeed, the issue has become a real hot potato with the  passage of Obamacare, which is nothing more than socialized medicine and a backdoor single payer system at an exorbitant cost that will end in severe rationing. 
The roots of our healthcare nightmare lie in our refusal to implement much needed tort reform (the trial lawyer lobby) and allowing the states to bypass the commerce clause in the Constitution by mandating coverage and mountains of expensive and frequently unnecessary tests that comprise “defensive medicine”.   America spends more on health care than any nation on earth and by a wide margin, and it’s about to get a whole lot more expensive.  Yet, our longevity rates are not commensurate with our healthcare expenditures.   Besides government mandates that drive up healthcare costs and the insatiable trial lawyer lobby, Americans themselves are a huge part of the problem because Americans have more lifestyle diseases than any nation on earth.  Furthermore, Americans do not want to be responsible for their health and demand that somebody else pay for their disastrous lifestyle choices.   Therefore, there is no amount of healthcare intervention that can save folks from themselves or extend their longevity.  Longevity is far more related to lifestyle choices that are by far the most significant factor in living a long life. 
Americans are living longer than ever, but not as long as people in 41 other countries.
For decades, the United States has been slipping in international rankings of life expectancy, as other countries improve health care, nutrition and lifestyles.
Countries that surpass the U.S. include Japan and most of Europe, as well as Jordan, Guam and the Cayman Islands.
“Something’s wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Andorra, a tiny country in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, had the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, according to the Census Bureau. It was followed by Japan, Maucau, San Marino and Singapore.
…“it’s not as simple as saying we don’t have national health insurance,” said Sam Harper, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal. “It’s not that easy.”
Among the other factors:
·          Adults in the United States have one of the highest obesity rates in the world. Nearly a third of       U.S. adults 20 years and older are obese, while about two-thirds are overweight, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
·         “The U.S. has the resources that allow people to get fat and lazy,” said Paul Terry, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta. “We have the luxury of choosing a bad lifestyle as opposed to having one imposed on us by hard times.”
The U.S. healthcare system itself promotes irresponsible personal life style choices by promoting the concept that healthcare should be free and therefore, citizens are entitled to abuse their bodies and expect others to pay for their lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and a myriad of other problems directly attributable to lifestyle choices. 
Even more alarming is that America’s kids are quickly adopting eating habits that will guarantee very expensive lifetime health problems.  More disturbing, immigrant kids are exploding into American styled porkers. tracks tons of data on immigrants and reports: 
Moving to the Land of Milk and Cookies: Obesity among the Children of Immigrants
Many immigrants hope for better lives for themselves and their children. Yet adapting to life in the United States can be risky even among the most economically successful immigrants. Poor nutrition, low levels of physical activity and obesity have reached alarming levels in the United States.

Past studies on obesity among immigrants have focused almost exclusively on adults and adolescents. Much less work has examined young children, and the studies on children have used small, locally drawn samples.

In a new study funded by the Foundation for Child Development, we used a large, nationally representative sample to document the prevalence and patterns of obesity among young children of immigrants.
Many experts blame the US food environment for the growing child obesity epidemic…... In the past 25 years in the United States, the prevalence of obese children quadrupled, increasing from roughly 4 to 16 percent.
The most recent estimates suggest that 36.2 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds are either overweight or obese, and 18.8 percent are obese.

The disturbing increase in obesity has led to its classification as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century…
Beyond its impact on physical health, obesity is related to difficulties in social adjustment, poor mental health, and lower academic achievement. Thus, obesity has wide-ranging implications for children's quality of life and productivity as adults.
Kids are eating high calorie, low nutrition diets that primarily consist of simple carbohydrates, sugar, corn syrup, fats and sodium.  Much of what kids eat in the schools is taxpayer funded garbage.  Even more horrifying is that Migration Information reported that schools actually sell advertising to junk food purveyors by signing “"pouring rights" contracts that permit snack and soft drink companies to advertise to children on school vending machines, scoreboards, book covers, t-shirts, and news programs shown on televisions in the classroom.”
Only in America do we kill our kids for profit and do it with our tax dollars!!  Since most schools in America are nothing more than bureaucratic horrors that spend 50% or less of the “education” budget on classroom instruction, the education mafia loves the power to award contracts to the vendors of “poison” because profit and power trump moral imperatives.  In the end, it’s always about money.  Gone are the days when a mom sent their kid off to school with an apple, a peanut butter sandwich and if the kid got thirsty, he drank from the school water fountain. 
One cannot ignore the cost of avoidable lifestyle diseases which is huge and growing.  The New York Post reported that obesity related spending has doubled in a decade and has reached $147 billion a year and that obesity spending now accounts for 9.1% of all healthcare spending. ( 
A group called reported in June 2009 that “"Today, we spend nearly $800 billion on health problems that are directly linked to lifestyle and poor health habits each year-about one third of our total health care spending…”” and that article was quoting a congress critter. Source:
So how can America rationally and intelligently address our healthcare problems when we are a nation of morons?  There is only one way:  cut off subsidizing the lifestyles that feed the diseases that drive up healthcare costs.  Folks will get the message, adjust their lifestyles and become healthier if they want to live.  What America desperately needs is the “Tough Love” option and certainly not the Public Option or the Private Option that is loaded with so many draconian mandates that make health insurance unaffordable.    Once healthcare becomes a personal responsibility of every American instead of the subsidized lifestyle nightmare that it is, the American healthcare system will be able to spend healthcare resources on curing real diseases that kill folks through no fault of their own.  Meanwhile, America remains the laughing stock of the world for spending the biggest percentage of our GDP on healthcare than any nation on earth and the only thing we have to show for it is a nation of fat people with chronic obesity and lifestyle related diseases.
If a doctor in America told a patient that they were sick because they were fat or they smoked or they drink too much or they ate bad food, the doctor would, in all probability, have his medical license suspended, be hauled before a tribunal for committing a crime against humanity, be sued for a gazillion bucks for telling a bitter truth that offends someone’s self esteem, be forced into bankruptcy and/or be prosecuted for violating somebody’s Civil Rights. 
Now that we’ve highlighted the problems with our healthcare system, we need to focus on how to fix it. 
The only way to get Americans to accept responsibility for their health is through free market reforms.  Moreover, Americans must learn to view health insurance in the context of its original intent of covering major and catastrophic medical issues.   The notion that every test, doctor visit or prescription drug must be 100% “free” or covered is insane.  It just doesn’t work.  Humans do not automatically behave responsibly and they must indeed have strong incentives that will financially reward them for sane behavior.
There are major problems with Obamacare, starting with the fact that it’s a trial lawyer’s dream that accomplishes nothing in the area of much needed tort reform.  The Democrats have always been far more lavishly funded than Republicans by the trial lawyer lobby. 
 Various interventions at the state and federal level have only made the health situation worse and more expensive.  Fixing healthcare is a simple but painful process that will in the long run produce healthier citizens and much lower healthcare costs.  It’s only painful because Americans are spoiled and they don’t want to pay for anything – after all Abbey Hoffman says “America is the land of the free, free means you don’t have to pay”. 
According to the testimony of David Gratzer, M.D., Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health:
Consider: a non-employer-based family policy for four in Kansas City, Mo., costs about $170 per month while similar coverage in Boston tops more than $750 a month.
Why the price difference? Many states dictate the type of services and providers. New York, for instance, requires that the services of a podiatrist be covered. It’s a commonly quoted statistic that the average person walks about 150,000 miles in a lifetime. Let’s hope the majority of this journey is on healthy, bunion-free feet. But should every insurance policy in the Empire State really be required to include podiatric services? Acupuncturists are mandated in 11 states, massage therapists in 4, osteopaths in 24, and chiropractors in 47, driving up the price of even the most basic insurance plans.  
The federal McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 empowers states to regulate “the business of insurance.” Nothing prevents Congress, however, from allowing interstate sales. The foundation of such a bill would be the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Individuals would then be able to shop around and find a low-cost policy - an affirmation of free-market principles since interstate restrictions now leave many Americans at the mercy of a small number of local health insurance carriers.
Healthcare costs are a noose around the necks of businesses because it’s morphed into a mouse built to government specifications – an elephant.  For a while, the practice of giving heath care benefits to employees was appealing because the cost was low and employers deducted the cost as part of their labor expense but the system soon mushroomed into an out of control albatross, largely because of state mandates.
 The impact of state mandates is crippling.   Take Texas.  Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured in America – at a whopping 24-27% of the population depending on whose study you read.   As the second most populous state with over 23 million folks, that’s over 6 million uninsured folks.   So why does Texas lead the nation in having the most uninsured? 
The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) reported in April 2008 that “With 55 mandated benefits, Texas is one of the five most heavily regulated health insurance markets in the country.”   TPPF really drives home the point with:
Presently, a 25-year-old male in Texas would pay $248.79 for a health insurance plan that he could get in Alabama for only $77.65 a month.  Perhaps these price differences are responsible for the stark contrasts in the uninsured rates in these states. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Survey, in 2006, 23.9 percent of Texans were uninsured compared with only 13.5 percent in Alabama. Not coincidentally Alabama only imposes 19 mandates compared to Texas’ 55…
So now that we know why Texas has such high health insurance costs and so many uninsured, why doesn’t the state of Texas fix it?  It’s a valid question.  Congress isn’t the only body of legislators owned by lobbyists.  Health insurers in Texas fill campaign coffers of state legislators to get those lucrative mandates.  It’s that simple.  The Texas Legislature refuses to fix the problem because it’s corrupt to the core.  But having personally been involved with the Texas Legislature on Transportation issues, this is no shock. 
How does our dysfunctional health care system affect the middle class wage earner?
Take-home pay would be rising even faster if the cost of health benefit plans hadn't climbed by 65% since 2000. Health insurance now costs the average employer $2 an hour per employee--money that could otherwise be paid in wages.
The healthcare system is a nightmare because it’s a lose-lose for employers and employees.  It doesn’t serve the best interest of any of the parties involved.  Imagine a consumer driven healthcare system without mandates, employees assuming responsibility for their health and more competitive businesses that can grow and hire more folks.  Precisely because the American healthcare system is a hazard to economic activity and business growth, it also functions as a core contributor to the outsourcing and offshoring of our jobs.
The nation went nuts when Nancy Pelosi called the health insurance companies “villains”.  She was absolutely right but for the wrong reasons because Pelosi blamed the insurance companies for nuking the public option which is nothing more than a backdoor single payer national healthcare system run the by government – you know, the same government that runs the Post Office, SS, Medicaid, Medicare, Amtrak, energy, the banks and buys toilet seats at a thousand bucks a pop when it’s not renewing visas for the dead 911 terrorists or mailing stimulus checks to folks whose addresses are state and federal prisons . 
The primary reason why the insurance companies are “villains” is because they like having the absolute power to drive up healthcare costs by bribing state legislatures to pass mountains of mandates.  The big fight over healthcare is nothing more than a Congressional power play that attempts to transfer the power to be bribed from state legislatures, who held hold that power before the passage of Obamacare, to Congress.   If mandates are left to the federal government, the healthcare situation will be even worse because at least now we do have some states who don’t legislate draconian mandates.   What we need are ZERO mandates and consumer choice but they won’t work effectively without tort reform.
Besides driving up the cost of medical insurance, our healthcare nightmare has profound financial and social impacts.  Medical expenses are the primary cause of bankruptcies. reported:
the results of a study to be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine show that "medical problems contributed to nearly two-thirds (62.1 percent) of all bankruptcies in 2007." More strikingly -- "between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6 percent."
So long as greedy politicians lust for campaign dollars from health insurers and so long as politicians can be bought, nothing can ever be resolved.  By making private insurance unaffordable, healthcare costs are dramatically driven up, ordinary middle class families cannot afford health insurance and Americans are driven into bankruptcy.
One of the worst nightmares for an employee losing a job is the loss of health insurance.  Therefore, health insurance must become portable.  If an employee loses a job, he should be allowed to keep the health care policy at the same rate.  Folks don’t lose their auto insurance when they lose their job but they lose their health insurance.    Auto insurance should be the model for healthcare reform.  In the auto insurance world, high risk drivers who crash a car a week are put into insurance pools to spread the risk among insurers. 
Medicare and Medicaid fraud are huge numbers simply because the government encourages fraud and rarely prosecutes the crime.   If anything, the government is fully committed to making the world safe for fraud.  The crimes are not limited to individuals and indeed span pharmaceutical companies and other business interests.   Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) and a physician himself, tracks a lot of government waste and fraud.  On Medicaid/Medicare alone, Sen. Coburn reports:

Medicaid/Medicare Fraud--$53 billion in 2007 alone?
New York had an estimated 42% fraud rate in 2005:
Drug firm fraud may cost Medicaid untold billions
$27.3 million ($15.1 million federal share) in Medicaid overpayments for services claimed to have been provided after beneficiaries' deaths:
Medicaid drivers take D.C. for ride; no background checks on companies that got $22.3 million in 2005:
Medicare fraud costs billions of dollars each year, CMS officials testify
Rolls Royce and $689 air mattress purchased with Medicare money
CMS makes $50 million mistake:
The wildest imaginations couldn’t dream this stuff up for a comic book, sitcom or horror movie.   Yet, this is how our government operates because government is nothing more than a fraud factory.  Anything the government runs is an open invitation to commit crime and get away with it.  In 7/09 USA Today reported that Medicaid prescription drug fraud totaled $65 million from 2006-07 and involved Medicaid funded drug abuse for all kinds of folks, including dead folks. 
There is far less fraud and waste in the private sector.  However, when the public sector becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of the private sector, the worst type of fraud and waste only escalates because at this point, wholesale theft and robbery become legalized. 
Aside from promoting the opportunity for even greater levels of fraud and waste, Obamacare is itself criminally insane because of 2 big reasons.  Congress exempts its elitist selves from the same healthcare schemes they are attempting to force upon 300 million folks.   Why should the American people have a healthcare system forced upon them that Congress rejects for itself?  
Any health insurance reforms should benefit both businesses and consumers without strangling business, taxpayers and consumers.

Fixing healthcare starts with personal responsibility and dispelling the myth that healthcare is 'free' or should be free.  Nothing is free and it's a whole lot more expensive and ineffective when run by the government. 

If the American people decide turn their lives, liberty and health over to government, they are effectively consenting to being put into the great vat of the collective wherein the value of their life is purely utilitarian, arbitrary, subject to bureaucratic whim and on target with the totalitarian master plan that perceives the human hoards as nothing more than a herd of cattle to be managed.    If we consent to such a horror, we forsake the essence of our humanity. 

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