Green Room

Ted Kennedy and the Government Bendover of Healthcare

posted at 1:27 am on June 1, 2009 by

Sen. Ted Kennedy may unveil his healthcare takeover bill as early as today:

The plan in the summary document, provided by two Democrats who do not work for Kennedy, closely resembles extensive changes enacted in the senator’s home state three years ago.

In many respects it adopts the most liberal approaches to health reform being discussed in Washington. Kennedy, for example, embraces a proposal to create a government-sponsored insurance program to compete directly with existing private insurance plans, according to one senior adviser who was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The Massachussetts version of healthcare reform has been an abject failure, as judged by everyone from Reason to the Boston Globe. That would explain the New York Times report that a split had developed between Kennedy and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Finance Committee, who is preparing his own bill. Baucus and Kennedy later issued a joint statement Saturday, saying they intend to cooperate so their committees pass similar bills. Kennedy’s bill serves the function of making whatever bill Baucus produces — which will likely be similar to Kennedy’s — seem more moderate by comparison.

Ultimately, as the Washington Post notes, the Democrats’ proposed government takeover of healthcare is being sold as cost-containment, but the Democrats’ proposals will run into the same basic problems as always:

Two cost-saving measures hold the most promise. First, what’s known as comparative effectiveness research, which tracks what works and what doesn’t, would also require outside boards directing doctors and hospitals about what procedures they could and couldn’t use. Policymakers have tended to dance around the second part of the equation. Second, eliminating the tax break for employer-provided health care could generate a good deal of savings and help bring down health-care inflation. But, again, there’s a political challenge; President Obama would have to admit that Sen. John McCain, his GOP opponent in the presidential campaign, was right on this idea.

Here is the bottom line: Most health-care inflation is the result of new technologies. Bending the curve enough to help balance the budget means walking away from some of the new technologies and devices that people want when they are sick. It also means improving consumer cost-consciousness through insurance reform and higher deductibles and co-payments. For most of us, that means paying more, not less. Even then, it is unlikely to be enough to get costs under control.

Asking Americans to pay more for less healthcare is a loser, and the Congressional Budget Office continues to be a thorn in the side of Congressional Democrats trying to pay for their program with faerie dust. As for comparative effectiveness research, Americans will get to hear about how it is already killing cancer patients in Britain. They will also hear about how it would tend to require real colonoscopies instead of virtual ones. Some politican or talk show host will figure out there’s a useful metaphor in that example.

Recently in the Green Room:

Blowback

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

A few notes:

1. The op-ed in the Boston Globe you linked to is by a Doctor who didn’t like the Massachusetts reform because it was still TOO privatized. She was calling for:

Coverage should be: universal, not tied to a job, affordable for individuals and families, affordable for society, and it should provide access to high-quality care for everyone.

There is, though, one US model of healthcare that meets the Institute of Medicine criteria: Medicare. Insuring everyone over 65, Medicare achieves universal coverage and access to care, is not tied to a job, and is affordable for individuals and the country. Medicare simplifies the administration of healthcare dollars, thereby saving money. We need to improve Medicare, and expand this program to include everyone.

A bill before Congress, the United States National Health Insurance Act, would provide more comprehensive coverage for all. The bill includes doctor, hospital, long-term, mental health, dental, and vision care, prescription drugs, and medical supplies, with no premiums, copayments, or deductibles.

Never mind that Medicare is about to go bankrupt and asking consumers to pay zero at point of service would lead to a surge in demand that would make costs to the government explode, until cost-saving measures like the one’s mentioned later in Karl’s post from the Washington Post article come into play.

2. The Massachusetts plan had a couple good ideas like the Connector (which helps level the playing field in regards to tax deductibility whether or not you get insurance from your employer), but the problem remains that Massachusetts still has far too many mandates. You simply cannot keep asking insurers to cover more and more procedures and expect that prices will not rise.

3. In the WaPo article, I can not let them get away with misrepresenting McCain’s campaign health care proposal. He did not propose eliminating the tax deductibility for health insurance provided by employers; he proposed replacing it with a more generous $5000 refundable tax credit! There’s huge distinction. Coupled with McCain’s proposal to allow people to purchase insurance across state lines, low income folks could have purchased basic insurance from a low-cost state at basically zero cost to them. This would have been as close to universal coverage that you could come without an individual mandate. Of course, McCain did a horrible job selling his plan.

I’m also confused why the WaPo thinks that eliminating the tax deductibility would help cut costs, unless they are talking about the government’s costs and consider a tax deduction a “cost”. For all individuals who have health insurance through their employer, it would raise their costs.

4. Also in the WaPo article, they are right on about new technologies being expensive and the need to raise consumer cost-consciousness with higher co-pays and deductibles. My suggestion for copays is to make them percentage-based. For instance, if a doctor’s visit was an average of $100, instead of having a $20 copay, have a 20% copay. That way, the patient has the incentive to find the cheaper doctor who only charges $75 for a visit (assuming the patient was satisfied with quality) and saves $5 (20% of $75 is $15 instead of $20). At the same time, if you want to mandate something, why not mandate that doctor office’s must be able to provide an on-the-spot quote for any procedure, so that patients have the ability to shop for the best price?

For more ideas on health care, see my latest post on the topic.

willamettevalley on June 1, 2009 at 3:41 AM

the dr. geo. tiller murder is huge distraction. so kennedy can sneak in his plan.

kelley in virginia on June 1, 2009 at 7:19 AM

We have another round of Tea Parties coming up on July 4th. Well … we are supposed to but I have to confess that I’m worried they may not be successful in spite of everyone having the day off that day.

Anyway – my point is – opposition to this plan needs to be included in the Tea Party mantras.

And I’m sorry folks – but it’s time for angry people in the streets. Not just Nugent on stage playing the National Anthem through with his PRS. We’re gonna have to be angry this time – or we will own this healthcare system … lock, stock, and barrel.

HondaV65 on June 1, 2009 at 11:51 AM

By the time this government is finished hosing us, we’ll be lucky to have $10 to spend on food each month.

Is anyone else getting more depressed each day, by all this crap being thrown at us?

capejasmine on June 1, 2009 at 12:03 PM

If Ted Kennedy had received the level of health care that he wants to force on other Americans he would be dead by now.

MB4 on June 1, 2009 at 12:16 PM

Doesn’t matter who pays the bills, if it isn’t the patient then we will never get control of health care costs.

I spent last Sunday in the ER with severe stomach pain. The MD in charge ordered a gallbladder ultrasound which was negative, then an EKG, then insisted on a CT scan, which I knew was unnecessary and would not find anything, and I was right. Eight hours in an expensive ER room and three expensive tests. Most likely I just had a severe instance of acid reflux, but they didn’t even do an endoscopy which is cheap compared to the other three tests they did. I also think I have developed lactose intolerance, but they didn’t test for that either. And I don’t pay a dime for any of it because my insurance company approved my ER visit in advance and pays 100%.

This sort of thing needs to stop. Even people in emergency care can often make sound judgments about tests if they are presented with alternatives and costs.

People with any kind of insurance, but especially employer-paid insurance or Medicaid, feel like their health care is “free” because they never have to write a check to anyone or worry about paying or tests or treatments after the fact. This is why I liked McCain’s idea of eliminating the tax deduction for employer-provided insurance. Workers need to understand at least the true cost of their insurance, if not the actual health care services they receive. If we don’t put the patient in charge, we will, inevitably end up with bureaucrats in charge of deciding what services we can get.

rockmom on June 1, 2009 at 12:23 PM

By the time this government is finished hosing us, we’ll be lucky to have $10 to spend on food each month.
Is anyone else getting more depressed each day, by all this crap being thrown at us?
capejasmine on June 1, 2009 at 12:03 PM

In a Word: Yes.

I’ve stopped asking if things can get any worse, because the Statist Demoncraps and Looter in Chief fauxbomo shimmy shamma bow mowm can always figure out another way of screwing the taxpayers.

Fake8 on June 1, 2009 at 12:30 PM

rockmom on June 1, 2009 at 12:23 PM

I don’t mean to sound snide but if you had an idea of what was wrong, why did you wait to go to the ER? Why not make a regular doctor appointment to discuss your thoughts before the problem was out of hand?

txag92 on June 1, 2009 at 12:49 PM

The MD in charge ordered a gallbladder ultrasound which was negative, then an EKG, then insisted on a CT scan, which I knew was unnecessary and would not find anything, and I was right. Eight hours in an expensive ER room and three expensive tests. Most likely I just had a severe instance of acid reflux, but they didn’t even do an endoscopy which is cheap compared to the other three tests they did.

rockmom on June 1, 2009 at 12:23 PM

I believe that is the standard protocol, particularly for something like severe stomach pain, that ER’s use as being in an ER implies that there may be an immediate life threatening condition. Therefor they go down a list of rule-outs from the most serious (and probably the most expensive) to the least serious. A regular appointment doctor, figuring that it was not an emergency, would likely have gone in the reverse order, that is checked the least expensive first.

MB4 on June 1, 2009 at 1:14 PM

And I’m sorry folks – but it’s time for angry people in the streets. Not just Nugent on stage playing the National Anthem through with his PRS.

HondaV65 on June 1, 2009 at 11:51 AM

Let’s see how many people here know what a PRS is.

At any rate, I am one of the angry people who attended the last tea party, and I will attend one on July 4.

UltimateBob on June 1, 2009 at 1:17 PM