Category Archives: Healthcare

How Obamacare Will Cost-Control

From Ezra Klein, remarking on the major cost-control move found at the end of Bush’s term:

People don’t bring this up very much, but one of the best ways to control costs in health care — or any private sector, really — is to have a huge recession.

High taxes, high government deficits, dollar devaluation, and a rapidly-changing regulatory and political landscape are all things that will wrest economic growth away from America.

So maybe Obama really will cost-control health care! We’ll all be too poor to buy any more of it.

The real right to health care

Democrats are addicted to saying that there is a right to health care, and subsequently hammering anyone who opposes their disastrous reform bill as opposing that right. The truth is, there is a right to health care, and it is consistently opposed by the left, not the right.

Put simply, each person has the right to seek the health care he deems appropriate for him and his family within the limits of his budget or insurance. A corollary to this is that each person has the right to seek the health insurance that he deems appropriate. This same right applies when buying TVs, cars, dinner, books, etc., and is fundamental to a free existence.

First, an example from Britain of a grievous violation of this right:

If health care is a fundamental right, equality under the law would seem to require that everyone have the same level of care, regardless of their resources. That principle was illustrated by the case of Debbie Hirst, a British woman with metastasized breast cancer who in 2007 was denied access to a commonly used drug on the grounds that it was too expensive.

When Hirst decided to raise money to pay for the drug on her own, she was told that doing so would make her ineligible for further treatment by the National Health Service. According to The New York Times, “Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.” The right to health care is so important, it seems, that it can nullify itself.

Mrs. Hirst was forced into a system where the right to seek appropriate care was appropriated by the government. When the National Health Service exercised a right that did not belong to it, Mrs. Hirst tried to use the resources available to her to reassert her right to seek health care. She was told if she were to do so, she would be forced out of the program that provides the only affordable health care for the lower and middle classes in the UK.

Take that example and apply it to the Reid bill. Centralized authority regulating what health insurance can and can’t cover, can and can’t cost, how much doctors will get paid by the public option… From Richard Epstein in the Wall Street Journal:

Normally, insurers have the power to underwrite—to choose their line of business, to select and to price risks, and to decline unattractive risks. Not under the Reid bill. In its frantic effort to expand coverage to the uninsured, the bill will create state health-care exchanges supported by generous federal subsidies to unspecified millions of needy and low-income individuals. Any health insurance carrier that steers clear of these exchanges cannot keep its customers. Any insurance carrier that enters Mr. Reid’s inferno will lose its financial shirt.

Here are some reasons why. Initially, all insurers have to take all comers and to renew all policies except for nonpayment of premiums. Insurers are not allowed to take into account differential risks based on pre-existing conditions. And the premium differentials based on such matters as age and tobacco use are smaller than the market spreads. If too many customers demand coverage from a given insurer to insure efficiently, it’s the government that will decide how many they have to keep and who they are.

Next, it’s the government that requires extensive coverage including “ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative [sic!] services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, pediatric services, including oral and vision care.” The price squeeze gets even tighter because in every required area of care a collection of government standards will help set the minimum level of required services.

Ostensibly, the Reid bill does not impose any direct price controls on what health insurers can charge for this veritable cornucopia of services. But the bill’s complex, cooperative federalism scheme authorizes state regulators, after recommendations from the federal government, to exclude insurers from the exchanges if their prices are too high, which would again be a competitive death knell. Exile from the exchange does not, however, restore traditional underwriting controls, as the Reid bill and other federal and state regulation continue to apply to these firms.

The bill is designed to turn the health industry from servants of payers (primarily employers, insurers, and the government) into a servants of Congress and the President.

We are headed towards a day where our fundamental right to seek health care is non-existent, replaced by a state of submission where our betters in Washington decide what health care we should get. Anyone who equates a right to health care with taxpayer subsidized health care is mounting an assault on the real right to health care. Call them out, prove them wrong, and shout them down.

UPDATE 12/23: Added the section from Richard Epstein.

Quote(s) Of The Day

Both relate to Ben Nelson being bought off to provide the Democrats’ 60th vote. Oh, and what a bribe it was!

First, David Kotok over at The Big Picture:

Senator Nelson of Nebraska sold his vote in return for special treatment for the Mutual of Omaha insurance company and for perpetual Medicaid funding for his state. He has just set a record for pork. I have not seen the present discounted value of an open-ended perpetual funding for Medicaid for all Nebraskans. Believe me, the other 49 states would like to have it. And if you are a taxpayer in the other 49 states you are going to pay for it.

Now if the good Senator had bargained the abortion issue out of his pure conviction, I would not have agreed with him but I would have respected him for having the courage and honesty to practice politics because of policy. He argued he was maintaining his position out of conviction for an ideal and a belief. But the reality is, he sold his 60th vote for money. He practiced political prostitution.

Infinite future full federal Medicaid funding for Nebraskans? Well, I’ll say one thing for Ben Nelson — he doesn’t come as cheap as Mary Landrieu.

Of course, Ezra Klein (or in this case @ezraklein) thinks this is just tit-for-tat:

Every Republican whining about the deals made to pass health-care reform should demand repeal of Medicare Part D immediately.

Okay. I’m in. Let’s repeal it immediately. Granted, I’m a libertarian, but I think I can speak for many Republicans who were pissed off that their party in Washington ever passed Medicare Part D.

Grassroots Republicans were upset that politicians were being bought off to pass Medicare Part D, a bill we didn’t want in the first place. Did it ever occur to Klein that perhaps we voted Republicans out of office because they were acting too much like Democrats? Grassroots Democrats, however, are pissed off that Ben Nelson was paid so dearly for a bill that didn’t go far enough. I don’t think any Democrat is upset at buying off Ben Nelson, but they’d probably have preferred that Reid at least got a public option or Medicare buy-in if they had to pay him off.

United Liberty Podcast

Many readers here are also familiar with the United Liberty blog, not least because our contributor Jason Pye is the editor-in-chief of that blog, and co-contributor Doug writes at both locations.

They (Jason and UL Assistant Editor Brett Bittner) recently honored me be asking that I join them as a guest on their podcast, which you can find here or on iTunes.

Topics ranged from the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke, to health care, to home weatherization (a topic where I nearly defect from doctrinaire libertarianism), immigration and Copenhagen. All in all, I had a lot of fun and hopefully some of you may enjoy the listen.

Earmark And Healthcare Wars: Ron Paul vs Jeff Flake

A recent article in the Washington Examiner by John Labeaume details the differing approaches to earmarks that two of most libertarian members of Congress have. This difference came out in a vote on an amendment that Flake wrote to H.R. 3791 which was the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009. The Flake amendment would ban earmarks as defined by Congressional rules. All in all, a modest amendment.

From the Examiner article:

Here’s a gross understatement: Friends of Freedom in the Halls of Congress are few and far between. Asked for a “Real Life” practicing politician that they can actually get behind, it’s not uncommon for libertarians of many stripes to limit their response to two: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Dr. Paul has been known to put his own sometimes idiosyncratic principle before practicality, leading his legions of fevered ‘money bombing’ fans along his particular path to ideological purity. His rabid opposition to barrier-busting trade agreements like NAFTA, quibbling with a new panel it might spawn, is a prime example. And this trait can pit his voting record against those of his erstwhile liberty-loving allies, and align himself with curious company.

……………………………

Last month, in an obscure House vote, this stubborn streak reared its head again. It’s a minor, but instructive instance, as Paul was one of only two “nay” votes on his side of the aisle against an amendment to HR 3791, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009, offered by his fellow Constitutional conservator, Flake.

The only Republican lined up with Paul – and against Flake – was that egregious earmarker, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the Ranking Member on Appropriations. Like his Showbiz namesake, the collegial Lewis’ look could pass for that of a 70’s “Nite Club” act and he certainly knows how to work a room, but he’s dead serious about defending Appropriators’ perks and the practice of earmarking.

Flake’s amendment was modest.

It merely seeks to ensure a competitive, need-based process for parceling out the firefighting grants authorized by the bill. The mechanism was aptly judicious: it enforces the bill’s ban on earmarking. If opened to earmarks, Flake fears that influential Members – like Lewis – could divert dollars to their districts, away from regions with less congressional clout, but in more dire need of an occasional emergency blaze dousing, admittedly not unlike the maverick Flake’s sometimes-parched Southwestern home base. Of course, and more significantly, once Members start horse trading in earmarks, the price tag tends to swell even beyond the bloated figure originally authorized.

Again, Paul stuck to his guns and stood by his controversial defense of earmarking, and let the red light glow next to his name on the big board above the Speaker’s Chair. His office told me, via an email statement, that Paul maintains that “that all spending should be earmarked as this provides the greatest transparency [and]…gives constituents an opportunity for input regarding how their tax dollars are spent.” The statement paid obligatory lip service to “drastically” reducing spending.

But this last line begs the question: what if that “input regarding how” just means “more,” and “for me”?

Before I go into the crux of the debate, my position on earmarking is this:

  • I don’t have a problem with earmarking in general because yes Congressmen should know the needs of their districts better than Federal bureaucrats.
  • However, earmarks lately have been a vehicle for corruption as Congresscritters reward supporters and campaign contributors with things that would be considered bribery under most circumstances (see John Murtha and the aforementioned Jerry Lewis, et al).
  • In addition, the earmarking process has been used as a way to short circuit the competitive bidding process and award contracts to politically connected companies.
  • Earmarks generally reward politically connected members of Congress and promote wasteful spending, however this is no different than other actions of Congress and the Federal government.
  • Therefore, I am a supporter of earmark reform, but I also realize that earmarks are only a portion of the overall problem with wasteful government spending and political corruption.

I believe that Jeff Flake is correct on this issue and I generally support his fight for earmark reform, Ron Paul’s opposition not withstanding. Earmark reform won’t eliminate wasteful spending and political corruption, but it will make a sizable reduction in both. It will also make it easier to defeat incumbent members of Congress as it will give incumbent members of Congress who bribe their constituents less ability to do so and therefore will increase turnover in Congress.

The Examiner article also attacked Ron Paul for not paying attention to the current healthcare fight:

With a scheme that threatens to regulate one-sixth of the U.S. economy wending its way through the legislative sausage-maker, Flake is focused. Glance at his home page; note the repeated references to health care from his multimedia page. Here’s a flurry of press releases issued in the heat of the House debate.

Meanwhile, Paul’s immediate obsession is trained on legalizing Liberty Dollars. Even though this health care overhaul threatens his livelihood – Dr. Paul is a physician by vocation, remember – from his homepage, you wouldn’t know that this issue looms over Washington one bit. Health care merits only a few addresses in Paul’s posted floor statements and press releases from the entire 111th Congress.

And though his official U.S. House site’s blog offers a few posts on this matter, his political arm, Campaign for Liberty, touts a recent interview with a right wing satellite shock jock, a self-styled “King Dude” whose trademark is liberal-lampooning novelty tunes. (Premium content, only for “King Dude” backstage pass holders, sorry.) During the interview, C4L’s homepage boasts, Dr. Paul discusses his pet “issues including Audit the Fed, Social Security, foreign policy, and nullification.” Number of mentions of healthcare? Zero. He didn’t even warble through a single “Death Panel” ditty.

………………………………………

Paul’s Campaign for Liberty sent out an action item, with orders to his loyal legions to contact Congress and demand a floor vote on his “Audit the Fed” bill, one that House leadership has no intention of unbottling.

As ‘Armageddon Day’ for health care regulation approaches, instead of taking up his scalpel to trim a behemoth, Dr. Paul is fiddling with the Fed.

Unfortunately for Labeaume, this is simply not true. Ron Paul has actually been focused, somewhat, on the healthcare debate. For example, the Campaign for Liberty, on its front page has a link to a project called Operation Health Freedom. Some of the proposed legislation in the project even made its wayhttp://www.thelibertypapers.org/wp-admin/post-new.php into the GOP’s alternative bill. Also, the Campaign for Liberty has been featuring articles almost daily on healthcare. Also if you look at Ron Paul’s House site as compared to Jeff Flake’s House site, you’ll see more writings about healthcare from Ron Paul and his office than from Jeff Flake and his office. I don’t begrudge Jeff Flake on the healthcare issue at all, but to say Ron Paul is disengaged from the healthcare fight is either the result of shoddy research at best or outright dishonesty at worst.

As for Ron Paul’s obsessions with the Federal Reserve, nullification, and foreign policy; that can be traced to Ron Paul’s political style more than anything. Paul is a populist oriented libertarian where as Jeff Flake is more a policy wonk libertarian. Flake’s big issues are earmark reform, immigration reform, and free trade which are more keeping of a former head of a think tank (which Flake was before his election to Congress). Paul’s issues are more geared toward a broad, populist appeal where as Flake’s issues are more appealing to political junkies and wonkish types.

As Nick Gillespie from Reason’s Hit and Run wrote:

To paraphrase Todd (“Godd”) Rundgren, sometimes I don’t know what to feel. Can’t we all just get along, and denounce the Fed and health care reform and earmarks and out-of-control spending? I’m sure we can.

Indeed.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Kevin Drum Advocates Free Market In Healthcare?

He’s referencing an Indian doctor who offers low-cost open-heart surgeries, looking to build a new facility in the Caymans to serve the American market (emphasis added):

A few notes: Shetty runs a for-profit business, not a charity. He makes money at these prices. And although a big part of his lower prices has to do with the generally low cost of living in India, his mass-production techniques have reduced prices more than 50% even compared to other Indian hospitals.

But although this may be cheap medicine, there’s nothing cheap about his results: outcomes at his hospitals are at least as good as they are at the best American clinics, and probably even better. It’s the kind of thing someone ought to be trying here. The whole story is worth a read.

Well, Kevin, if we had a true free market for healthcare in the US, someone could try it. But it apparently hasn’t happened. So I’d ask a few simple questions:

If the problem with our healthcare, as you define it, is the insurance industry, why do you think it hasn’t been tried yet (as a way for them to lower costs)? As an advocate for single-payer, do you think it any more likely to be tried once the government takes over?

And please, show your work.

The House values Control over Health Care

So it is done: 220-215. Two-hundred and twenty United States Representatives put their support behind 20 pounds and 2,000 pages of abusive legislation in the form of innumerable mandates enforced by 110 new government agencies.

One of those mandates, though, cuts so violently to the core of our freedoms that it cannot go unanswered: Buy insurance or face the wrath of the IRS. From Representative Dave Camp:

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

Imagine being faced with the loss of a job. That is a rough event for anyone to go through. Now, under the Pelosi/Obama plan, you have the following choice: Buy insurance you likely can’t afford with far less income coming in, pay 2.5% of the income you do have coming in to the government for *nothing*, or go to jail.

That choice has no place in a bill about reforming our broken health care system. That choice is about criminalizing people for not behaving as the self-styled ruling class wishes them to. When it comes to undocumented immigrants, Democrats love to say that “no one is illegal”. When it comes to economic diversity, they tell us that those who will not be controlled are illegal.

The media says this is a bill about health care. So do the Democrats. They lie. This is a bill about control. The bill’s proponents want to control you. Whether or not you actually get health care is irrelevant.

Update: Coyote Blog links to a WSJ article detailing some of the high (low?) points of the legislation. Here’s what you must do under the Pelosi/Obama plan:

• Sec. 202 (p. 91-92) of the bill requires you to enroll in a “qualified plan.” If you get your insurance at work, your employer will have a “grace period” to switch you to a “qualified plan,” meaning a plan designed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. If you buy your own insurance, there’s no grace period. You’ll have to enroll in a qualified plan as soon as any term in your contract changes, such as the co-pay, deductible or benefit.

• Sec. 224 (p. 118) provides that 18 months after the bill becomes law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will decide what a “qualified plan” covers and how much you’ll be legally required to pay for it. That’s like a banker telling you to sign the loan agreement now, then filling in the interest rate and repayment terms 18 months later.

On Nov. 2, the Congressional Budget Office estimated what the plans will likely cost. An individual earning $44,000 before taxes who purchases his own insurance will have to pay a $5,300 premium and an estimated $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, for a total of $7,300 a year, which is 17% of his pre-tax income. A family earning $102,100 a year before taxes will have to pay a $15,000 premium plus an estimated $5,300 out-of-pocket, for a $20,300 total, or 20% of its pre-tax income. Individuals and families earning less than these amounts will be eligible for subsidies paid directly to their insurer.

• Sec. 303 (pp. 167-168) makes it clear that, although the “qualified plan” is not yet designed, it will be of the “one size fits all” variety. The bill claims to offer choice—basic, enhanced and premium levels—but the benefits are the same. Only the co-pays and deductibles differ. You will have to enroll in the same plan, whether the government is paying for it or you and your employer are footing the bill.

• Sec. 59b (pp. 297-299) says that when you file your taxes, you must include proof that you are in a qualified plan. If not, you will be fined thousands of dollars. Illegal immigrants are exempt from this requirement.

• Sec. 412 (p. 272) says that employers must provide a “qualified plan” for their employees and pay 72.5% of the cost, and a smaller share of family coverage, or incur an 8% payroll tax. Small businesses, with payrolls from $500,000 to $750,000, are fined less.

Think that’s bad? Go read the rest of it.

Update: Here’s a link to the roll call vote so you can see if your Representative is one of the 220 who wants to control you.

ACTION ALERT: Put The Stake in Obamacare

Well the good news is that the Democrats are saying they don’t have the votes. Probably one of the reasons why they don’t have the votes is because people are finding all about what’s in HR 3962.

They’re objecting to:

  • Higher taxes on individuals and businesses which will drive up unemployment
  • Government dictating what’s in their healthcare plan
  • Government unconstitutionally requiring consumers purchase health insurance or face fines and/or jailtime
  • The creation of a government run healthcare plan which will eventually take over the entire healthcare system
  • The creation of over 110 new bureaucracies
  • The outlawing of any health insurance policy not purchased through the government’s new “exchange”
  • The new unfunded liabilities for state and local governments which will result in higher taxes on the local and state levels

So lets get out the sharpest stake we can find and drive it through the heart of the vampire known as Obamacare and kill it until 2011 at the earliest. Get on the phone and call your Congressman or e-mail them if you have not done so and tell them to vote NO on HR 3962. If you don’t know who your Congressman is, follow the link and type in your zip code.

Also, please call everyone you know, post on your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter pages; and post on your personal blogs, Live Journals, whatever and tell your friends and readers to also call their Congressmen and tell them vote NO on HR 3962. The Obama Administration and the Democratic House leadership will be calling your Congressman to vote for their government run health care scheme, will you call and tell your Congressman to stand for freedom?

The next 24 hours are critical in defeating government run health care and together we can and will defeat it.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Good News On Health Care Reform: They Don’t Have The Votes Yet

This is a good sign:

WASHINGTON – A House leader says Democrats haven’t yet lined up enough votes to pass their health care overhaul bill.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland says the vote that House Democrats had scheduled for Saturday could slip to Sunday or early next week.

Hoyer acknowledged to reporters Friday that Democratic leaders don’t yet have the 218 votes needed to pass President Barack Obama’s historic health overhaul initiative.

Let’s make sure they never get those votes.

Congressional House Call Day

Tomorrow on the Fifth of November, Americans for Prosperity will be coordinating with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann a Meetup at the United States Capital. The purpose of this meetup is to kill Obamacare.

This blog, along with many bloggers and activists were invited to a conference call tonight with Congresswoman Bachmann and Redstate.com’s Erick Erickson. The conference call was generally just a planning session that was not newsworthy in itself. However, in the conference call, activists from all over the country including Virginia and New Jersey in particular were reporting great success in arranging for buses for activists to head toward the capital to take part.

The purpose of this meetup is confront Congressmen, with video cameras preferably, and demand they take a stand opposing Obamacare. In addition to confronting Congressmen at the Capital, other activists will be going to district offices all over the country and making their opposition to Obamacare known.

Here’s the information for the event at the capital directly from AFP’s website:

WHAT: Health Care “House Call” on Capitol Hill
WHO: Americans concerned about our health care future
WHEN: Thursday, November 5, 2009 from 12:00-1:00pm
WHERE: West Front Steps of the U.S. Capitol (House Side)

Congresswoman Bachmann wanted us on the conference call to make sure to tell everyone to get there before noon.

In addition, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to increase security at the Capital to prevent the buses from parking close to the Capital.

If you want to demonstrate your opposition to Obamacare, AFP has made it easy to find your Congressman’s district office. Just follow the link.

Finally if nothing else, follow the link to find your Congressman and call their DC or even district office and tell to simply vote no to any government run health care.

Now is the time to remind our Congressman that we do not support the government take over of our health care. If we make our voices heard tomorrow and this week, we can kill Obamacare until 2011 at least.

Get on those phones or better yet, get to the Capital or your Congressman’s district office and make your voice heard.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Is the End of Government Reefer Madness Near?

Referring back to my post I wrote last week about the “perfect storm” the Obama Administration has created regarding medical marijuana, Colorado in many ways seems to be in the eye of this storm. It seems that more and more people are starting to understand the insanity of declaring war on a substance which has never resulted in an overdose of any kind (much less a deadly overdose). In yesterday’s election, voters in Breckenridge, CO passed a measure by 71% which decriminalizes marijuana in amounts of an ounce or less for individuals 21 and over.

The Denver Post is having guest columnists who are staunchly pro-legalization write persuasive and articulate articles which could be mistaken for something you might read here at The Liberty Papers. Here’s an excerpt from an article written by Robert Cory Jr.

Today, not much about Colorado’s economy moves. The state is broke and releases prisoners because it cannot afford to keep them. The governor slashes the higher education budget 40 percent. People lose jobs, homes and financial security. Our leaders face serious issues.

And what keeps some politicians up at night? That sneaking suspicion that some suffering cancer patient may gain limited pain relief through medical marijuana, coupled with that gnawing certainty that someone, somewhere, actually grew the plant for that patient.

But government cannot repeal the laws of supply and demand, and cannot extinguish the spark of freedom in peoples’ hearts. Now, the marijuana distribution chain becomes legal. Responsible entrepreneurs open shops to supply a skyrocketing demand for medicine. These small businesses serve needy patients. They pay taxes. They hire employees. They lease space. They advertise. And the drug war industrial complex can’t stand it.

The article only gets better from there. I find it very encouraging that Colorado’s newspaper of record would print this and that citizens are pushing back against big government, if only on this issue.

The Institute for Justice Challenges Unjust Law Banning Compensation for Bone Marrow

In January 2008 I wrote a post calling for the repeal of the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984. As I mentioned in the post, many thousands of lives are being sacrificed because of the moral hang-ups of certain individuals who think its icky to sell organs to people who need them. How dare they.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, bone marrow is included as part of the ban. The act of paying an individual for his or her bone marrow is a felony which is punishable for up to five years in prison for everyone involved in the illegal transaction.

The Institute for Justice has decided to challenge this most absurd provision of this absurd bill. Below is a video from the organization explaining their lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General’s Office:

For the sake of the Flynn family, here’s hoping that the Institute for Justice wins the day.

Hat Tip: The Agitator

Obama Creates Perfect Storm with Marijuana Policy Change

Last week’s announcement from the Obama Administration that the Justice Department would call off the dogs with regard to medical marijuana in states where legal has created a perfect storm regarding state and local regulations. Colorado Attorney General lamented that with this announcement, a “legal vacuum” has been created and was quoted in The New York Times: “The federal Department of Justice is saying it will only go after you if you’re in violation of state law,” Mr. Suthers said. “But in Colorado it’s not clear what state law is.”

Here’s a thought Mr. Suthers: rather than trying to interpret the law yourself, why not allow the state legislature and/or Colorado voters clarify the law. In the meantime, while the law in your opinion is vague, err on the side of freedom by no longer prosecuting medical marijuana users or dispensary operators.

Greeley (Colorado) City Council member Carrol Martin also expressed concerns with the Obama Administration’s change in federal policy: “The federal government says they’re not going to control it [medical marijuana], so the only other option we have is to control it ourselves” and “If we have no regulations at all, then we can’t control it, and our police officers have their hands tied.”

Councilman, I would argue that this is a very good thing. You are no longer responsible for enforcing federal laws but state and local laws regarding medical marijuana. Your police officers “have their hands tied”? I think it’s quite the opposite councilman. Your police department can now concentrate on violent crime rather than spend valuable resources on going after non-violent, medicinal, marijuana users and their suppliers. If anything, the Greeley police has their hands freed!

In a time when we have an administration which wants to control banking, housing, the auto industry, the healthcare industry, and everything in-between we have one instance of the same administration relinquishing control and giving it back to the states. This is the perfect opportunity for states to act as independent laboratories of government. Some will pass stricter controls on medical marijuana (or outright ban it) while others may go the other direction and outright decriminalize or leagalize marijuana altogether.

Kirk Johnson writing for The New York Times:

Some legal scholars said the federal government, by deciding not to enforce its own laws (possession and the sale of marijuana remain federal crimes), has introduced an unpredictable variable into the drug regulation system.

“The next step would be a particular state deciding to legalize marijuana entirely,” said Peter J. Cohen, a doctor and a lawyer who teaches public health law at Georgetown University. If federal prosecutors kept their distance even then, Dr. Cohen said, legalized marijuana would become a de facto reality.

Senator Morrisette in Oregon said he thought that exact situation — a state moving toward legalization, perhaps California — could play out much sooner now than might have been imagined even a few weeks ago. And the continuing recession would only help, he said, with advocates for legalization able to promise relief to an overburdened prison system and injection of tax revenues to the state budget.

This seems like a very reasonable step to take for California from a purely economic standpoint. As I reported in my post Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come, last year California spent almost $10 million on corrections, more than half of the U.S. prison population accounts for drug offenses, 75% of state drug offenders are non-violent offenders, and that nearly half of all drug arrests in the U.S. were for marijuana offenses.

By my math, that would mean that if California* released all non-violent marijuana users and stopped prosecuting new cases involving non-violent marijuana use, the state could cut its prison population by 19% and save California taxpayers about $2 million** per year just on corrections (to say nothing of other costs associated with policing marijuana use).

If California or any other state tried such a bold approach, the American public would most likely learn that legalization does not lead to the sort of mayhem drug warriors have warned us of over the decades***. We would most certainly not see the sort of mayhem that has occurred via the drug war.

Not only does this perfect storm which the Obama Administration created have possible implications for the War on (Some) Drugs, but the very concept of Federalism itself. What might state governments learn about self governing once they have been encouraged to do so? Might the states resist the next attempted power grab from Washington?

There are many exciting possibilities. Those of us who advocate for smaller government should make the most of this opportunity.

» Read more

Is An Individual Health Insurance Mandate Constitutional ?

Over at Findlaw, Cornell University Law Professor Michael Dorf criticizes the libertarian argument that a government requirement that every citizen purchase health insurance is unconstitutional:

A federal statute that was already in effect in 1994 provides that “all citizens shall have . . . an obligation to serve as jurors when summoned for that purpose.” To be sure, the mechanisms used to assemble a pool of prospective jurors enable some people to slip through the cracks, but then, that surely would also be true of the individual mandate to obtain health insurance. No law can be perfectly enforced. The important point here is that jury duty, like draft registration, serves as a precedent for the imposition by the federal government of an affirmative duty on citizens.

The difference, of course, between a jury duty mandate or the draft and a law requiring every citizen to purchase health insurance is that both of these obligations of citizens predate the drafting of the Constitution and therefore it’s simply illogical to say that they are barred by the Constitution today, or that the Framer’s contemplated that in allowing the state to compel people to serve on juries, the were opening the door to a whole host of mandates that, if enforced would make freedom a mockery.

Since there doesn’t seem to be much precedent in Federal law, though, Dorf quickly moves on to state law:

Consider that states may impose an affirmative obligation of vaccination on residents. Even in an era when the Supreme Court was otherwise vigorously enforcing libertarian constitutional principles, in 1905, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the Court rejected a constitutional challenge to mandatory vaccination.If the government interest in public health is sufficient to overcome libertarian objections to injections into the very bodies of citizens, then surely the public health interest–which is, at bottom, what is at stake in the health insurance reform bills–should suffice to require Americans to buy health insurance or else pay a tax.

Again, it’s clear that Dorf makes the mistake here of finding an exception and turning into a rule. The important thing to note about Jacobson is that it dealt with mandatory vaccination of children for smallpox which was, until defeated by aggressive vaccination, a highly contagious, virulent disease with a high rate of mortality. Which there is a long argument on both sides of the mandatory vaccination issue, the argument in favor is certainly stronger when it involves combating the spread of a disease that poses such a severe risk to public health when balanced against the individual liberty interest in not getting vaccinated. It’s by no means clear, for example, that the result would be the same if the disease in question were something far less threatening to public health, like the seasonal flu.

Unless Dorf can make the argument that lack of health insurance poses an imminent threat to public health on a par with a smallpox epidemic, the Jacobson precedent would seem inapplicable.

The question of the Constitutionality of a health insurance mandate was addressed in a Washington Post Op-Ed by lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey and their argument bears repeating:

The Constitution assigns only limited, enumerated powers to Congress and none, including the power to regulate interstate commerce or to impose taxes, would support a federal mandate requiring anyone who is otherwise without health insurance to buy it.

Although the Supreme Court has interpreted Congress’s commerce power expansively, this type of mandate would not pass muster even under the most aggressive commerce clause cases. In Wickard v. Filburn (1942), the court upheld a federal law regulating the national wheat markets. The law was drawn so broadly that wheat grown for consumption on individual farms also was regulated. Even though this rule reached purely local (rather than interstate) activity, the court reasoned that the consumption of homegrown wheat by individual farms would, in the aggregate, have a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, and so was within Congress’s reach.

The court reaffirmed this rationale in 2005 in Gonzales v. Raich, when it validated Congress’s authority to regulate the home cultivation of marijuana for personal use. In doing so, however, the justices emphasized that — as in the wheat case — “the activities regulated by the [Controlled Substances Act] are quintessentially economic.” That simply would not be true with regard to an individual health insurance mandate.

The otherwise uninsured would be required to buy coverage, not because they were even tangentially engaged in the “production, distribution or consumption of commodities,” but for no other reason than that people without health insurance exist. The federal government does not have the power to regulate Americans simply because they are there. Significantly, in two key cases, United States v. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (2000), the Supreme Court specifically rejected the proposition that the commerce clause allowed Congress to regulate noneconomic activities merely because, through a chain of causal effects, they might have an economic impact. These decisions reflect judicial recognition that the commerce clause is not infinitely elastic and that, by enumerating its powers, the framers denied Congress the type of general police power that is freely exercised by the states.

That’s the question that Dorf fails to answer — where in Article I Section 8 is Congress authorized to pass this mandate ?

The fact that he doesn’t address it suggests that there isn’t really an answer in the affirmative.

When the Government Controls Medical Care …

… patients are an expense or liability to be gotten rid of rather than a source of profit who must be served.

Much of the problems with government supplied health care can be traced to this truth concerning incentives.  A hospital is not paid more if they treat people well.  They don’t lose money if they do a poor job.  They face no liability; any judgment the government permits to be levied against them is made up by taxes looted from the productive classes.

And, the goal of a medical care provider is to please his pay-masters rather than the patients he treats; and all to frequently when the interests of patients and the government clash, the patients will lose out.

This phenomenon is quite evident in the sad case of British Corporal Matthew Millington of the Queen’s Royal Lancers who died at the age of 31 from lung cancer, after receiving – in a transplant – the cancerous lungs of a smoker who averaged 30 – 50 cigarettes a day.

Why would a hospital implant the lungs of a person who smokes so many cigarettes a day into a patient?  Was it the result of an inexperienced surgical team making a ghastly mistake?  No.  The surgery was performed by Papworth Hospital in England,  which is the main transplant hospital in the United Kingdom, whose spokesmen claim that in fact everything was done properly!

A spokeswoman for Papworth, the UK’s leading cardiothoracic hospital, said that it was not unusual to use smokers’ lungs, adding that all organs are “screened rigorously” before a transplant. “We have a strong record of high quality outcomes and this is an extremely rare case.”

In the past year there were 146 lung transplants in the UK, and 84 people died while waiting on the transplant list, she added. “If we had a policy saying we did not use the lungs of those who smoked, then the number of lung transplants would have been significantly lower.”

Let us ignore the fact that the supply of organs is kept low by the superstitiously premised laws outlawing people from selling their own organs. Let us pass over the laughably implausible claim that transplanting smokers’ lungs results in acceptably good outcomes.

Let us, instead, focus on the question of how the hospital handled the case of Corporal Millington of the Queen’s Lancers and compare it to how a hospital that saw him as a customer would have treated him.

Often the detractors of free markets accuse it of being a dehumanizing system of cut-throat competition.  What they do not realize is that when two people engage in trade, they are cooperating.  The competition is between actors striving to be the best cooperators with prospective trading partners.  In a free market, the providers of health care services would be competing to see which one of them could better care for a prospective customer.

Thus, in a free market, Corporal Millington would have contracted with the hospital that sought to cooperate with him most effectively.  He would have chosen a hospital that committed to satisfy his need for undiseased, functional lungs at an affordable price.   In a free market, the availability of disease-free lungs would have been much higher; people would be far more likely to sign up to supply  their organs for transplant if their heirs or estate would be paid a fair market price for them, and the hospital would not have to worry about waiting lists.

However, had the new lungs developed cancer (and let’s not forget occasionally non-smokers get lung-cancer too), the hospital would have had a strong incentive to make it right, either out of a sense of obligation or out of fear of retribution; In a free market, there are two incentives to keep unscrupulous people treating their customers well.  The first is, of course, the fear of lawsuits.  the second, though, is their greed for future profits and their fear of losing these future profits should they ever develop a bad reputation.  The latter can particularly devastating.  The McDonald-Douglas Aircraft Company, for example, was nearly driven into bankruptcy by the perception that the DC-10 was an unsafe aircraft.  To this day, the Massengill corporation has never returned to the drug-making business after the debacle of 1938.  The yellow press would love nothing better to go after a hospital for transplanting diseased organs into a patient; the readership and viewership of such pieces would bring in a tidy sum in advertising dollars.

Thus the hospital, if nothing else to avoid the collapse of their business after a widespread accusation of incompetence/malpractice, would face a huge opportunity cost if they forewent transplanting in a new, second set of lungs.

But, unfortunately for Corporal Millington, he wasn’t the customer of Papworth.  Rather, some officials of the NHS were. The desire of the actual customers (NHS) were to keep costs down by a) cutting corners on the type of lungs transplanted into patients, b) concerning themselves with patient outcomes in the aggregate, and reducing seemingly unnecessary, redundant duplication of services by centralizing transplants as much as possible.

Thus they faced no economic loss for allowing him to die of cancer.  There was no profit to saving him; in fact, saving him would have been an expense.  They didn’t have to cooperate with Corporal Millington and so they didn’t.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

An HSA Isn’t Insurance

My old representative when I lived in Georgia, Tom Price, has offered competing health care legislation to the Democrats’ bills. I’m not a health-care wonk, so I’m not going to get into the meat of his proposal, but apparently one of the key points is limiting the employer-provided health insurance tax deduction and extending a tax deduction to individuals purchasing insurance. While painful, the only way to fix health insurance in this country is to break the link between employment and insurance (and not substitute “Gov’t” for “Employer”, of course).

What I am writing about, instead, is criticism of his position on health care, as offered by Ezra Klein:

In the interview, Price explained that he couldn’t abide by an individual mandate because it meant Congress would define what constituted insurance, and that would harm awesome products of the market like Health Savings Accounts and catastrophic policies. Defining insurance, Price said, is not a good role for Congress.

This is a weird argument given that Rep. Price voted for the legislation that created and defined HSAs.

HSAs are accounts that Congress has blessed with a special exemption from taxation. That means they were created by an act of Congress (the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, to be precise), and they are defined in legislation written by Congress. You can see the regulations here. Price is really saying that Congress shouldn’t define insurance in a way that harms other things that Congress has defined as insurance. But that makes for a rather worse soundbite. The argument here, however, is not a philosophical question about the reach of Congress. It’s an argument about what the minimum level of health-care insurance should look like.

There’s a problem with this criticism. Health Savings Accounts are not intended to be insurance. Health insurance premiums are amounts you spend every month to guard against having to pay huge amounts of money that you don’t expect to pay. Health Savings Accounts are tax-free accounts where you save money that you DO expect to pay. And fundamentally, the link Ezra provide explains this in a FAQ:

A Health Savings Account is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care. HSAs enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis.

You must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) to be able to take advantage of HSAs. An HDHP generally costs less than what traditional health care coverage costs, so the money that you save on insurance can therefore be put into the Health Savings Account.

An HDHP is insurance. An HSA is a savings account. An HDHP is a true insurance product — risk-pooling amongst a large group of people with the expectation that only a portion of them will develop claims which require payment, and thus all pay only a small portion in premiums of what those claims might actually pay. An HSA is not an insurance product, it is simply a way to pay for day-to-day health care expenses tax-free. There is no risk-pooling, and there is no contract to cover any costs beyond what the individual has saved in his HSA.

Compare this situation to automobiles. In the auto world, there are two common types of insurance — actual collision/liability insurance, and warranties. Collision/liability insurance is similar to an HDHP, in that you are protecting yourself from the financial liability not only for your own vehicle, but for property damage and injury to yourself and others in excess of the cost of your vehicle. Warranties are similar to tradition American full-coverage health insurance, in that they are risk-pooled ways to ensure that mechanical defect of the car does not cost you, the owner, huge sums of money to fix. It is a true insurance product in that the cost of the warranty does not usually approach the full expected cost of a large repair (i.e. new engine, transmission, etc), and thus protects you from large expense. In many warranties, this also shields against cost of small repairs (failure of power window motor, radio malfunction, etc) which might not reach the sticker cost of the warranty, but are included in coverage to attract buyers.

Very few warranties, however, cover daily expenses. They don’t cover filling your car up with gas. They don’t cover oil changes. They don’t cover tires or other wear-and-tear items. They don’t cover getting the car detailed. They don’t cover smog inspection or registration fees. They don’t cover new stereo systems or body kits. This is where an HSA would fit into the mix. If Congress decided that automobiles were as important as health care, they could easily build a Car Savings Account plan that covers your expected car spending. It would give you as an owner a way to build a small tax-free account to cover planned automobile expenses, and likely include some things which might not be covered by traditional insurance (OTC medicines, LASIK, fertility treatments, etc). And if you had a Car Savings Account, people would probably look at you funny if you described it as insurance.

Price was fighting against an individual mandate not because Congress doesn’t know whether to call X or Y insurance, but because he realizes that the individual mandate will likely force people out of HDHP’s and into “qualified” insurance products, which will be host to a bunch of coverage requirements that an HDHP will not. For Ezra Klein, this is a feature, not a bug, because he wants to see individuals who are young and healthy and might choose the HDHP route forced into subsidizing care for everyone else by joining risk pools that will charge them a premium far in excess of their risk profile. Price understood that it’s not about Congress “defining” insurance. “Insurance” is a pretty well-known concept, which HDHPs fit and HSAs don’t. Price understands that a mandate, however, puts politicians in the position of what floor a plan must meet to be a qualified insurance plan, and that Congress will set that floor in such a way to effectively outlaw HDHPs and make HSAs pointless. He sees that a lot of individuals choose these types of plans, and he doesn’t want to take that choice away.

Klein’s last statement is correct: “It’s an argument about what the minimum level of health-care insurance should look like.” Tom Price wants you to have a choice to pick a low-premium, high-deductible plan that only covers you for catastrophic events, and gives you the ability to save and negotiate prices for day-to-day costs which you’ll pay out of pocket. Klein wants to take that choice away and force you into a much higher premium, full-service plan, which you’re unlikely to actually use. A Congressional mandate says that you MUST have care and that it MUST conform to what Congress defines as insurance — thus destroying some products (HDHPs) available in the market as insurance products today. Lack of a mandate ensures that the market provides insurance products that people want to buy, and the fact that Congress chose to also offer HSAs is a tax cut, not defining an insurance product.

Quote of the Day: Unlearned Lessons of Failed Experiments Edition

Peter Suderman writing for The Wall Street Journal has written an excellent article about the (apparent) unlearned lessons of government run healthcare. But unlike many others who use Canada and the UK as examples, Suderman insists that we only need to look at states like New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and Tennessee for their respective failed experiments with some of the very reforms being proposed by Obama and the Democrat controlled congress.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously envisioned the states serving as laboratories, trying “novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” And on health care, that’s just what they’ve done.

[…]

Despite these state-level failures, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing forward a slate of similar reforms. Unlike most high-school science fair participants, they seem unaware that the point of doing experiments is to identify what actually works. Instead, they’ve identified what doesn’t—and decided to do it again.

Of course if government did learn lessons of failed government policy…it wouldn’t be government.

Read the whole article to learn what future all Americans have in store should President Obama and the Democrats have their way.

Transparency No Longer* In Vogue in Democrat Controlled Congress

Gosh, it doesn’t seem like all that long ago the American public was promised hope, change, and a more open, transparent, ethical federal government if we only elected Obama the next President of the United States. Before that, in 2006 Pelosi and Co. made many of the same promises. Now the Democrats have the House, the Senate, and the White House. The “dark days” of the “most secretive administration in American history” (i.e. the Bush Administration) and the “culture of corruption” of the G.O.P. controlled congress are over…right?

As Congress lurches closer to a decision on an enormous overhaul of the American health care system, pressure is mounting on legislative leaders to make the final bill available online for citizens to read before a vote. […]

[…]

At town hall meetings across the country this past summer, the main topic was health care, but there was a strong undercurrent of anger over the way Congress rushed through passage of the stimulus, global warming and bank bailout bills without seeming to understand the consequences. The stimulus bill, for example, was 1,100 pages long and made available to Congress and the public just 13 hours before lawmakers voted on it. The bill has failed to provide the promised help to the job market, and there was outrage when it was discovered that the legislation included an amendment allowing American International Group, a bailout recipient, to give out millions in employee bonuses. […]

[…]

The [Sunlight Foundation] has begun an effort to get Congress to post bills online, for all to see, 72 hours before lawmakers vote on them.

“It would give the public a chance to really digest and understand what is in the bill,” Rosenberg said, “and communicate whether that is a good or a bad thing while there is still time to fix it.”

A similar effort is under way in Congress. Reps. Brian Baird, D-Wash., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., are circulating a petition among House lawmakers that would force a vote on the 72-hour rule.

Nearly every Republican has signed on, but the Democratic leadership is unwilling to cede control over when bills are brought to the floor for votes and are discouraging their rank and file from signing the petition. Senate Democrats voted down a similar measure last week for the health care bill.

Hope.

Change.

Transparency.

Damn…just…damn.

» Read more

Republican Senator Expresses Support For Mandatory Health Insurance

Former Republican Senator Bill Frist starts out the U.S. News And World Report article in which he comes out in support of a government requirement that each American have health insurance with what can only be described as a fair degree of irony:

I believe in limited government and individual responsibility, cherish the freedom to choose, and generally oppose individual mandates—except where markets fail, individuals suffer, and society pays a hefty price.

Or, to put it another way, I believe in individual government and individual responsibility, cherish the freedom to choose, and generally oppose individual mandates — except when I don’t.

While Frist spends much time in his article talking about the alleged benefits that an individual mandate would bring, he spends no time whatsoever addressing the fundamental issues that need to be talked about if we’re seriously going to pass what amounts to the Health Insurance Industry Subsidization Act of 2009.

First, there’s the issue of why a mandate is necessary. Frist does not address at all the “market failure” that he claims exists which would be remedied by forcing everyone to purchase health insurance. What he does do, though, is reveal what the individual mandate is really all about — forcing young, healthy people who otherwise might choose to forgo the several-hundred-dollars-a-month worth of premiums they’d have to pay:

When healthier people opt not to carry insurance, only those with poorer health, and thus higher costs, remain in. This leads insurance prices to spiral up. And it further impedes markets’ ability to mitigate risks and prevent personal economic catastrophe. The “free-riders” who do not purchase insurance and the “voluntarily uninsured” who depend on emergency room care paid by others would then pay their fair share for services received.

What Frist doesn’t address, of course, is the fact that an individual mandate is likely to create upward pressure on premiums for one very simple reason — once insurance companies know that you have to buy their product whether you want to or not, they have zero incentive to keep premiums down. That’s the reason why, for example, auto insurance rates (which in most states are mandatory if you want to own a car) are higher than most other forms of insurance that individuals typically purchase.

What the individual mandate really does is to force the young and healthy to subsidize the older and sicker. It’s worth noting that hat’s the same logic that Social Security and Medicare are built on, and they’re in the process of going into an demographically inevitable bankruptcy. One can foresee much the same thing happening under an individual-mandate health scenario.

First goes on to cite Massachusetts as an example of an individual mandate plan that “works,” but that isn’t necessarily true:

The Massachusetts experiment with the same scheme has left the state with the nation’s most expensive insurance, with program spending up 70 percent in just three years and with a third of the uninsured remaining so. The cheapest insurance we can find in Massachusetts for an average family of four is $906 per month. In Iowa, it’s $145. Different coverage, certainly, but at least in Iowa cheaper coverage choices exist.

That’s what could come to America if we adopt the individual mandate.

Frist also fails to address a more important issue — what right does the Federal Government have to force me or you to buy health insurance ? I don’t just mean to ask what Constitutional provision authorizes it, although that is certainly important, but also why should the government be allowed to do this at all, even if it technically had the power to do so ? As a Republican who claims to “believe in limited government and individual responsibility, cherish the freedom to choose, and generally oppose individual mandates,” that’s a question that should be relatively easy for Frist to answer.

His silence, and the silence of other Republicans, is deafening.

Updated to reflect my failure to note that Frist is in fact a former Republican Senator

HHS Blocks Misleading Insurance Company Propoganda! [It Just Happens To Be True]

The Department of Health and Human Services isn’t pleased. You see, Humana has sent out a mailer (PDF) claiming that under the proposed health care legislation, Medicare Advantage benefits might be cut. HHS thinks this might be misleading, partly because Max Baucus (D-MT) says it won’t cut benefits and because they suggest it can be confused with an official Medicare communication (from the AP, via EconLog):

“The health care reform bill we released … strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits,” said Baucus. “From lower prescription drug costs, to free preventive care, to better treatment for chronic conditions, seniors have so much to gain from health reform — and I’m not going to let insurance company profits stand in the way of improving Medicare for seniors.”

Humana has about 1.4 million Medicare Advantage enrollees, and the program accounts for about half the company’s revenue, Noland said.

The Humana mailer focused squarely on the Medicare Advantage program.

“While these programs need to be made more efficient, if the proposed funding cut levels become law, millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable,” it said.

In a warning letter to Humana, HHS said the government is concerned that the mailer “is misleading and confusing” partly because the company’s lobbying campaign could be mistaken for an official communication about Medicare benefits.

HHS ordered the company to immediately halt any such mailings, and remove any related materials from its Web site. In the letter, the government also said it may take other action against Humana.

A PDF of the mailer is linked above. It certainly seems to me to be a “call your congressman” message, not an official Medicare communication.

So that leaves point #2. It could be misleading, false advertising. After all, Max Baucus says that Medicare Advantage won’t be cut, and he’s one of the main guys writing the bill. And he’s a Congressman, surely he can be trusted!

Or… Maybe not. At least, the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t think so (via QandO):

The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.

The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years.

Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries.

Hmm. So Humana is under the gun for “misleading and confusing” communications.

But they’re just reporting the facts of what is going on in Congress! Oh, wait, I guess that’s pretty much misleading and confusing by definition…

1 3 4 5 6 7 12