Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Health Care Costs Rear Their Ugly Head Again In MA

The June 28, 2010 Boston Globe reports that "Health care cost is back on table".

Now that the Massachusetts state government has imposed "universal care" on state residents, another round of wrangling has erupted over whether the government should or should not set a certain level of price controls for health insurance:
Health insurance costs are almost guaranteed to be in the news for some time. Three other insurers have also challenged the state's rejection of their proposed premium increases. Also, the Legislature may enact a law designed to curb rising health costs for small businesses and others before the legislative session ends next month.

The Senate last month passed a bill that would require wealthier hospitals to pay $100 million into a fund to provide premium relief for smaller businesses, which would be permitted to join cooperatives to buy insurance at a lower cost.

Another version, pending in the House, is based on a measure filed by Patrick in February. It would tie state approval of insurer rates and their contracts with hospitals and doctors to the Consumer Price Index for medical services.

On Thursday, a three-member panel of lawyers in the state Division of Insurance found that the rate increases sought by Harvard Pilgrim in April, averaging roughly 8 to 12 percent, were reasonable based on what the state's second-largest insurer pays hospitals and physicians. The decision overruled the administrative decision of the state insurance division, which rejected the premium increases for policies of small businesses and individual customers.
According to the article, this argument could affect the closely-watched Massachusetts governor's race.

And as similar ObamaCare legislation kicks into the rest of the US, we can expect similar arguments over costs, access, and government price controls to erupt nationwide.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quick Links: Averages, Medical Homes, Michael Graham

Stella Zawistowski discusses the coming cookie-cutter medical paradigm, "Medicine By Averages".

In the June 25, 2010 Investor's Business Daily, David Hogberg debunks some of the hype about the proposed new "medical homes".

Jared Rhoads of the Lucidicus Project has some great Tweets on Michael Graham's new book, No Angry Mob. Some of Rhoads' gems include:
* Obama sees the independent American character as a problem to be solved. (p54)

* Obama's view of health reform dissenters: "You're either with the plan, or in the Klan" (p63)

* At least a mugger doesn't waste your time arguing he's doing the right thing. (p71)

* It's hard to socialize medicine when responsible citizens keep insisting they want to buy their own insurance. (p72)

* The left wants people to "get over their sense of individual responsibility." (p77)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bogus New "Rights"

The June 23, 2010 Investor's Business Daily comments on the new patient "bill of rights" released by the White House and they conclude that it will merely make our current problems worse.

Of course, these aren't new "rights" but merely declarations of entitlements -- which will have to be paid for by taxpayers. And to guarantee these alleged "rights", the government will have to exert greater control over prices and services.

As the article notes:
They just won't let insurers raise their rates without government permission. Speaking ominously, Obama told the industry Tuesday "we'll be watching closely" and indicated the government would not tolerate "unjustified rate increases."

An army of bureaucrats is toiling presently to determine what constitutes a premium increase that is "unreasonable" and runs afoul of the law. No one else's input or opinion matters but theirs.

Anyone who thinks that limitless benefit payments plus caps on premiums equal a market with a shrinking number of private insurance providers is right.

Following closely behind that thought is the realization that the Democrats' health care overhaul really is a means to take medicine out of the private sector and put it in the hands of government.
The only way we can defeat this is to stand firm on the concept that "health care is not a right".

When this idea gains traction in the popular culture, then we will be on the way to genuine health care reforms. And until it gains traction, we'll merely be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Quick Links: Smoking, Salaries, Berwick

Stella Zawistowski explains the real problem with public-housing smoking bans.

Doctors make far less money than most people think.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe explains why the ideas of Dr. Donald Berwick (Obama's nominee to head Medicare) are "dangerous to our health".

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TOS Article: Protect Yourself Against ObamaCare

The Summer 2010 issue of The Objective Standard includes my latest health care article, "How to Protect Yourself Against ObamaCare".

The website includes the introduction to the article, as follows:
On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (known colloquially as "ObamaCare"), declaring that the law would enshrine "the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care."

But, for reasons I have elaborated in previous articles in TOS, far from establishing security regarding Americans' health care, this new law will make quality health care harder to come by and more expensive for everyone. Unfortunately, until our politicians rediscover the principle of individual rights, choose to uphold it, and reverse this monstrosity of a law, we Americans are stuck with it and will have to cope the best we can.

So, what can you do in this new era of "change" to preserve your access to quality health care?

Although it is impossible to avoid the harmful effects of ObamaCare entirely, if you plan wisely and act accordingly you can minimize its effects on you and maximize your chances of receiving quality health care in the future.

Toward that end, I offer the following four strategies, two of which pertain directly to your personal arrangements for health care, and two of which pertain to intellectual and political activism...
Subscribers have access to the full content. If you're not a subscriber, you can purchase a PDF for $4.95.

But if you want to read more of their excellent comment, I highly recommend subscribing! There are numerous new subscription options, including online only, print, audio, ebook (PDF, ePub and online), etc., to suit any budget and taste.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ralston: Feds' Boot On Your Doctor's Neck

The June 17, 2010 Orange County Register has published another OpEd by Richard Ralston, "Feds' Boot On Your Doctor's Neck".

With respect to the recent Idaho case, Ralston notes:
In the Orwellian world of the Justice Department, if physicians decide on a price, they are engaged in a criminal conspiracy, and if the government forces a price on everyone, that is a "market price." When the clear meaning of words is replaced with government fiat in this way, all limits on arbitrary government power and its use of force are destroyed.

...What President Obama calls health care "reform" will, over the next few years, make it quite clear who will decide which medicine or surgical treatments you need. It will not be your physician.

As the government becomes the exclusive authority over the cost of health care, it will inevitably become the exclusive authority over the treatments permitted in health care.
There's much more, and I highly recommend reading the full text.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Schwartz: Jail Time for No Insurance?

The June 18, 2010 Denver Daily News has just published Brian Schwartz's latest OpEd, "Jail time for not having (legal) health insurance?"

It's based on his recent blog post.

As Schwartz notes, if you don't spend your money the way the government wants you to, they could fine you and possibly put you in jail for willful noncompliance.

This is completely antithetical to the basic principles of freedom and individual rights that this country was founded on.

Quick Links: CO, Goodman, Rove

The CO ballot initiative to challenge ObamaCare has cleared a major hurdle.

John Goodman notes, "It's Official: 51% Won't Be Able to Stay in Their Employer Health Plan".

In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove observes "The Bad News About ObamaCare Keeps Piling Up".

(I think Rove may be too generous to ObamaCare supporters in describing the collapse of private health insurance as an "unintended consequence". For many ObamaCare supporters, that was probably the desired consequence on the way to a single-payer system.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More FDA Paternalism

The FDA wants to make it harder for you to find out what's in your own DNA.

As one industry spokesman said, it's "appallingly paternalistic".

If a patient wants to know medically relevant information about his or her own body, and is willing to foot the bill, why should the government interfere?

(Via @zooko.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Five Lessons From Massachusetts

The June 15, 2010 CNN website features the following story from Fortune editor Shawn Tully, "Five Painful Health Care Lessons From Massachusetts".

The lessons are:
1: The Massachusetts plan does not control costs.
2: Community rating, guaranteed issue and mandated benefits swell costs.
3: Huge subsidies for low-to-medium earners could prove extremely expensive.
4: The exchanges reward people for working less and earning less.
5: The generous plans and added mandates give employers an incentive to drop health insurance.
(Read the full text of "Five Painful Health Care Lessons From Massachusetts".)

These are all illustrations of the broader principle: When government interferes in the free market, prices rise, quality goes down, and honest people suffer.

Do we really want this for the rest of America?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ObamaCare's True Face

The June 14, 2010 New York Post features an OpEd by Scott Gottleib, "You're Losing Your Plan". As Gottleib notes, ObamaCare's true face is emerging. And it's all about government control over your insurance and your life.

Here's an excerpt:
Late last week saw the first leaks of the administration's draft regulations for implementing the ObamaCare law -- and everything is playing out just as the critics warned.

The 3,000-odd pages of legislation left most of the really important (and controversial) policy decisions to the regulations that government agencies were told to issue once the bill passed. Now that those regs are starting to take shape, it's clear that the Obama team is using its new power to exert tight control over the payment and delivery of all formerly "private" health insurance.

...Ultimately, these rules force consumers to buy one of just four health policies -- which vary mostly only by trading off higher co-payments for lower premiums, while offering essentially the same actual benefits. In arguing for passage of the law, ObamaCare's defenders claimed the rules were aimed at health plans sold in the "exchanges." Oops: Now Sebelius is applying them to employer plans. Eventually, this would force all but the very wealthiest Americans into a single government-designed insurance scheme.
(Read the full text of "You're Losing Your Plan". Link via @TOSJournal.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vecchio Slideshow on ObamaCare

Dr. Jill Vecchio is the head of the Colorado chapter of Docs 4 Patient Care, and she's put together a nice slideshow on ObamaCare and what it means for doctors and patients.

Click on the image below to watch it:

You can sign up for the D4PC e-mail list here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quick Links: Catron, McQuain, Zemack

David Catron explains why you won't be able to keep your health plan under ObamaCare.

Bruce McQuain explains why government health care's inevitable fate is either bankruptcy or denial of care.

Mike Zemack describes "The Coming Collision Between the Doctors and the State".

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hsieh PJM OpEd: "Free Speech: Use It or Lose It"

PajamasMedia has just published my latest OpEd, "Free Speech: Use It or Lose It".

My theme is that Americans need to be aware of some dangerous new threats to our freedom of speech, and we must fight back based on a proper intellectual defense of free speech.

Here is the introduction:
"We're from the government and we'll have to revoke your blogging license if you keep spreading too much 'misinformation.'"

A few years ago, such a warning would have seemed far-fetched. But recent developments threaten to turn this from bad science fiction into grim reality. If bloggers and independent journalists wish to avoid this nightmare, we must speak out now to defend freedom of speech -- and we must defend it for the right reasons...
(Read the full text of "Free Speech: Use It or Lose It".)

Bloggers and independent journalists in particular need to be aware of this issue. During the peak of the ObamaCare debate, it was only through the blogosphere that I was able to keep up with a fully representative set of viewpoints and arguments.

If I had to rely only on the New York Times (publishing all the news they consider "fit to print"), I wouldn't have learned about the projected cost overruns that they are only now reporting or the praise for ObamaCare as a means of redistributing wealth until after the bill had passed.

Update: Thank you, Instapundit!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

McArdle: No Refills

Megan McArdle discusses some of the factors hindering new drug development in her latest article in The Atlantic, "No Refills".

But although she (appropriately) places some of the blame on the government, she also place blame on the drug companies. However, some of the economic concerns of the drug companies are indirectly attributable to downstream effects of other government regulations!

For more details, see "How the FDA Violates Rights and Hinders Health" by Stella Daily in the Fall 2008 issue of The Objective Standard.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Canadian Future

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann tell us what we can expect in, "A Health Care Horror Story From Canada".

Here's an excerpt:
With the full implementation of Obamacare and its likely cuts in physician reimbursement, more and more doctors will choose to opt out of Medicare and charge their patients for their care. The elderly who need specialized care will have no choice but to take out insurance, not to fill gaps in Medicare coverage, but to overlay the system with private coverage so they can get the care Medicare now provides to all seniors. If you want to see a family doctor, it will be rough unless you are paying for the care privately. And to see a specialist, at the low reimbursement rates afforded by the program in the future, will be well nigh impossible.

Medical care for the elderly will become like public housing or public education in the inner city. Those who can afford to go elsewhere will. Those who can’t will be left to fend for themselves in overcrowded public facilities that will be, at least, free.

And then, as in Canada, liberal critics will rail, not against the system that dried up the resources in the first place or against the socialist rules that drove doctors out of medicine, but against the private clinics for resources from the public sector.

By plunging our excellent medical care system into this new world of regulation, fee cuts, and care rationing, the U.S. is going down the disastrous road Canada has taken.
(Read the full text of "A Health Care Horror Story From Canada".)

We can't say we weren't warned...

Monday, June 7, 2010

PJTV: Watkins and Ramirez on ObamaCare

The June 5, 2010 edition of PajamasTV's "Front Page" features Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights and Michael Ramirez of Investor's Business Daily discussing the latest problems with ObamaCare.

Click on the image below to watch, "Freedom and ObamaCare: Incompatible":

Brook and Ramirez

(Via Dr. Evan Madianos.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Four Physicians Discuss Medical Regulations

In the latest segment of PajamasTV's "Medically Incorrect", four practicing physicians discuss how government regulations interfere with their ability to practice according to their best judgment for their patients' best interests.

Click on the image below to watch "Corporate Medicine v. ObamaCare: Which One Is the Tougher Pill to Swallow?"

Medically Incorrect

The doctors discuss problems with mandatory practice standards, electronic medical records, and "one-size-fits-all" treatment algorithms.

The full video lasts 10 minutes.

(Via Ed Cline.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

AFCM: What Health Care Reform Could Be and Ought to Be

Americans for Free Choice in Medicine has now posted video of its May 10, 2010 symposium, "Redeeming Reform: What Health Care Reform Could Be and Ought to Be".

The speakers for their joint briefing include:

Part 1
Richard E. Ralston, Executive Director
Americans for Free Choice in Medicine

"The Constitutional Context for Health Care Reform"
Robert McNamara, Staff Attorney
Institute for Justice

"Federalism and Health Reform: Unhealthy States"
John R. Graham, Director, Health Care Studies
Pacific Research Institute

"A New Congress Will Have Opportunity to Reform, Not Deform, the Malfunctioning U.S. Health Care System"
Sue Blevins, M.P.H., M.S., Founder and President
Institute for Health Freedom
Part 2
"Morality — Not Costs — As the Proper Basis for Health Care Reform"
John David Lewis, Ph.D.
Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program, Duke University

Question Period
Part 3
"Loss of Freedom and Privacy in the Age of Corporate-State Medicine
Michael Ostrolenk, M.A., MFT, Public Policy Counsel
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

"Selfishness at the Microscope: Your Diagnosis or Your Life"
Mark Hurt, M.D., Director
Americans for Free Choice in Medicine

"Better Access to Promising Developmental Drugs and Vaccines"
Frank Burroughs, President and Founder
Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs
Part 4
"You Are Not Your Neighbor's Health Care Provider"
Yaron Brook, Ph.D., President
Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

Question Period
Click here to watch their talks.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Justice Dept Imposes Price Controls on Doctors

The May 31, 2010 Christian Science Monitor has published an editorial by S.M. Oliva on the federal government's latest intrusion into American medical practice -- namely price controls on physicians in Idaho.

Here's an excerpt from "Justice Department Declares War on Doctors":
Today the Antitrust Division, joined by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, forced a a group of Boise orthopedists to accept price controls for worker's compensation and HMO contracts as part of a settlement accusing the doctors of "price fixing".

...[T]he Justice Department has unambiguously stated that refusal to accept government price controls is a form of illegal "price fixing."

The FTC has hinted at this when it said physicians must accept Medicare-based reimbursement schedules from insurance companies. But the DOJ has gone the final step and said, "Government prices are market prices," in the form of the Idaho Industrial Commission's fee schedule. The IIC administers the state’s worker compensation system and is composed of three commissioners appointed by the governor. This isn't a quasi-private or semi-private entity. It's a purely government operation.
(Read the full text of "Justice Department Declares War on Doctors".)

The DOJ's declaration that "government prices are market prices" is positively Orwellian.

When the government sets prices and refuses to allow competition, there is no market -- merely a fiat economy. (The current system of medical licensure which artificially limits supply of physicians is another violation of free market principles.)

As in any other sector of the economy, such price controls will merely lead to shortages, which in turn will result in rationing. The Idaho case is another warning to Americans.

(Via @AriArmstrong.)

Hsieh PJM Oped: Beware Dr. Galbraith's Snake Oil

The May 31, 2010 PajamasMedia has just published my latest OpEd, "Beware Dr. Galbraith's Snake Oil".

My theme is that even in the face of the Greek situation, some economists continue to argue that deficits don't matter. Here is the introduction:
As the Greek welfare state collapses, citizens there have been rioting over cutbacks in social spending necessitated by mounting government debt. The rioters apparently fail to recognize that whenever a government routinely promises to spend more money than it has, then eventually it will be unable to fulfill those promises. Many Americans worry that we will soon be facing similar troubles at either the state (e.g., California) or national levels.

Yet some renowned economists, such as Professor James Galbraith of the University of Texas, are trying to convince us that the U.S. government should ignore our massive federal budget deficit and instead spend even more. Galbraith argues that calls for fiscal responsibility are "misguided" and that greater deficit spending will create greater prosperity.

Galbraith's proposals are dangerous because they are based on the notion that you can get something for nothing. Unless we want to see a Greek-style collapse here in America, we must reject those ideas as economic "snake oil" and instead demand an end to our government’s fiscally irresponsible deficit spending.

James Galbraith is no street corner crank. Instead, he has a BA from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Yale, both in economics. He is a professor of economics at the University of Texas, Austin, and son of famous Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Because of his impressive academic and intellectual pedigree, many Washington politicians and pundits take his ideas seriously. Hence, so must we...
(Read the full text of "Beware Dr. Galbraith's Snake Oil".)

As always, please feel free to leave supportive comments, blog about it, e-mail to friends, promote via Twitter/Facebook, etc.!