[October 30, 2007 @ 4:22 pm] David Catron

One of the supreme ironies of the current health care debate is that most of those who demand “universal health care” on moral grounds look to Hillary Clinton as their standard bearer. This video highlights yet another sordid chapter in her tawdry political tale.

Hillary’s supporters have tried to dismiss this because Peter Paul is of “imperfect honesty” himself. What they never explain is how an honest person could have such a well-documented 25-year history of shady dealings with people like Paul, Norman Hsu, and countless others like them.

For nearly three millennia, moral philosophers—not least among them Socrates and Kant—have told us that it is impossible for a personally corrupt individual to preside over an honorable polity. These were not stupid people.

Perhaps this is why the “health care industrial complex” so often lambasted by the advocates of “universal health care” is investing so much money in her campaign.

[October 27, 2007 @ 2:23 am] David Catron

A wide variety of excuses have been made for Hillary Clinton’s 1994 failure to close the deal on health care reform. Many commentators have, of course, blamed the “health care industrial complex,” and some have even blamed the public.

One insider, however, has located the problem much closer to home. Brad Delong, a UC Berkeley economist who worked on Clinton’s health care task force, delivered the following indictment a decade after it collapsed:

She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn’t smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly.

Well, you say, maybe she would have done better if she’d had good advice. Nope. According to Delong, she was impervious to the voice of reason:

When senior members of the economic team said that key senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have this-and-that objection, she told them they were disloyal.

When junior members of the economic team told her that the Congressional Budget Office would say such-and-such, she told them (wrongly) that her conversations with CBO head Robert Reischauer had already fixed that.

When long-time senior hill staffers told her that she was making a dreadful mistake by fighting with rather than reaching out to John Breaux and Jim Cooper, she told them that they did not understand the wave of popular political support the bill would generate.

In other words, Clinton was a classic know-it-all whose arrogance and high-handed behavior doomed the project. And Delong believes these personality traits have important implications for her presidential aspirations:

My two cents’ worth—and I think it is the two cents’ worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994—is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life.

Delong is no conservative. He’s a card-carrying liberal in good standing who has actually worked with the lady. His comments cannot be written off as the ravings of some knuckle-dragging wingnut.

Think about it.

[October 25, 2007 @ 2:41 pm] Stuart Browning

Brilliant commentary on the SCHIP scam.

[October 23, 2007 @ 8:05 pm] David Catron

Europeans often moralize about the American reluctance to join the “civilized world” by implementing “universal” health care. A typical example of this condescending attitude can be found in the comment stream of this post at OVER!MY!MED!BODY!, where a Danish student offers the following: 

Today there’s not a single country in Europe that doesn’t have publicly sponsored and regulated health care; in fact, of all the countries in the Western world, the USA is the only one without universal health care.

She also boasts about the low cost of Danish health care:

I’d have you know our ‘free’ health care system only costs 8% of anyone’s income. As a student that means I pay $65 a month for as much health care as I like, with no fuss and no paperwork.

There is, however, one issue that she neglects to mention: The United States subsidizes the health care systems of Denmark and all of the other EU countries that provide “free universal care.”

Because Denmark and the other EU members emulate Canada in allowing the U.S. to pick up the tab for their national defense, these nations are able to spend their own money on various social welfare programs.

Indeed, this is why most EU members can get away with having Lilliputian military establishments. It isn’t because they are more civilized, but because they freeload off the American tax payer.

So, rather than moralizing about how uncivilized we Americans are, perhaps those oh-so-superior Europeans should be thanking us.

[October 20, 2007 @ 10:21 pm] David Catron

Can anyone imagine an American with a burst appendix going through this kind of ordeal?

Thursday Oct. 11, 11 p.m. — Dany Bureau starts to feel pains in his stomach. He goes to sleep thinking he just has a stomach ache.

Friday Oct. 12, 3 p.m. –  Mr. Bureau and his mother go to the Wakefield hospital. A doctor determines that there is a problem with Mr. Bureau’s appendix. Calls are made to hospitals in Hull, Gatineau, Maniwaki, Buckingham and Ottawa to find a surgeon. A surgeon cannot be found.

8:25 p.m. — Robert Bureau, Dany’s father, receives a call informing him that a surgeon is available at the Montreal General Hospital.

8:30 p.m. — Mr. Bureau leaves his home in Aylmer for Montreal.

8:37 p.m. — The ambulance leaves Wakefield hospital with Mr. Bureau.

Saturday, Oct. 13, 12:15 a.m. — The ambulance with Dany Bureau arrives at the Montreal General Hospital after missing the Décarie exit and then mistakenly unloading him at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. The surgeon who had been awaiting Dany Bureau’s arrival has since become occupied with another trauma case.

9:50 p.m. — Dany Bureau is taken in for surgery

Sunday, Oct. 14, 12:10 a.m. — The surgeon who operated on Dany Bureau tells his father that his appendix had burst and that he had developed peritonitis. As a result, he is hospitalized for several days so his recovery can be monitored. 

I didn’t think so.

[October 18, 2007 @ 11:19 am] David Catron

The National Post reports that Canada’s vaunted single-payer health care system is producing longer wait times than ever before:

Canadians waited longer than they have in more a decade for non-emergency surgery this year, despite a multi-billion-dollar effort by governments to speed up medical care …

And just how bad is it?

The average wait between being referred to a specialist and receiving an elective operation was 18.3 weeks in 2006 … That is the longest delay recorded since the [Fraser] institute began studying the issue 17 years ago.

So, if throwing more money at the problem isn’t working, what will fix the problem?

As it has in previous years, the institute argued … that the way to solve the backlogs is to introduce competition between private and public providers of government-funded health care and allow a parallel private system.

Hmm … free market competition … what a concept!

[October 17, 2007 @ 2:49 pm] David Catron

Despite attempts by the establishment media to convince us that the public is solidly behind Congress in the SCHIP debate, a new Gallup poll shows this to be nonsense. USA Today puts it as follows: 

52% agree with Bush that most benefits should go to children in families earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level — about $41,000 for a family of four.  

The public is also concerned that SCHIP would “crowd out” private insurance: 

55% are very or somewhat concerned that the program would create an incentive for families to drop private insurance. 

And the same percentage agrees with Bush that SCHIP would be a step in the direction of government-run health care. 

Americans are also generally sympathetic to Bush’s concern about the program leading to socialized medicine. 

Meanwhile, a much smaller number support the bill created by Congress: 

Only 40% say benefits should go to such families earning up to $62,000, as the bill written by Democrats and some Republicans would allow. 

So, it would appear that two weeks of demagoguery and child abuse has accomplished nothing for the Democrats beyond making them seem even more dishonest than ever. 

[October 15, 2007 @ 7:11 am] David Catron

A consistent refrain sung by the socialized medicine crowd is that universal health coverage will generally improve the medical care received by the uninsured. Well, as usual, the facts do not support their claims. This 2006 study in the NEJM found no connection between coverage and quality of care:

We found that health insurance status was largely unrelated to the quality of care among those with at least minimal access to care.

And increased access is also irrelevant:

Although having insurance increases the ease of access to the health care system, it is not sufficient to ensure appropriate use of services or content of care.

Well, you say, that’s the U.S. What about “civilized” countries?

In the United Kingdom, with universal coverage, a study using our methods found that the overall proportion of recommended health care that was received was similar to what we have reported.

Once again, a favorite talking point of the socialized medicine crowd is shown to be nonsense. Not that the facts matter to these people. 

[October 11, 2007 @ 3:22 pm] David Catron

In response to this post, in which I mentioned how touchy “single-payer advocates are about the “S” word, I received a comment from C.M. Hughes reciting the de rigueur “progressive” talking point about socialized medicine:

The reason we don’t like equating single payer with a socialized system is because they AREN’T EQUAL! Socialized systems, like England’s, are ones in which the government owns everything … Single Payer systems, like the most succesful systems around the world, are like our Medicare and medicaid programs.

This shopworn trope ignores the real issue, of course. Regardless of what entity nominally employs the health care workers or owns the facilities, government-run health care is predicated on the notion that central bureaucratic control is somehow superior to the operation of the market.

Today’s news contains a fresh refutation of the claim that outcomes are materially different in these two types of government-run systems. In Canada’s vaunted single-payer system, expectant mothers are still finding it necessary to come to the U.S. for care: 

Sarah Plank, a spokeswoman for the British Columbia Ministry of Health, said a spike in high risk and premature births coupled with the lack of trained nurses prompted the surge in mothers heading across the border for better care.

And, in Great Britain’s system of socialized medicine, there is an identical shortage of adequate care:

Many neonatal units were forced to refuse new admissions for considerable periods of time … Mothers and babies may be forced to travel long distances in search of a unit with the appropriate facilities to care for them.

Hmm … These examples suggest to me that the difference between “single-payer” and “socialized” health care is mostly semantic. 

Maybe Hughes and the other the advocates of government-run health care could explain how an expectant mother with no bed in Canada is happier than an expectant mother with no bed England.

[October 9, 2007 @ 10:28 pm] David Catron

It appears that the advocates of SCHIP expansion did a poor job of choosing their poster family. The Frosts got a profile in the Baltimore Sun and one of their children, Graeme, was trundled up to Congress to pull on America’s heart strings. But it It turns out that these folks are not what most people would call “needy”:

  • Two of the Frost kids attend a $20K-per-year private school.

  • Mr. Frost runs a business out of a $160K building, which he owns.

  • The Frost’s own a 3,000 square-foot house, valued at $485K.

Keep in mind that the Democrats want to tax the working poor in order to provide such people with free government health care. How could President Bush NOT veto this travesty?

As disgraceful as this all is, it has produced some pretty decent satire. Here is a seriously funny take on the kind of family that will be covered under the new and improved SCHIP.

[October 8, 2007 @ 11:43 am] David Catron

Advocates of “single-payer” health care become very touchy when it is equated with socialized medicine. And this is understandable. They wish to depict government-run health care in a positive light, and socialized medicine has a well-deserved reputation for inefficiency and poor care.

But is there any real difference, in practice, between these two types of government-run systems? As it happens, both versions have been in the news recently, and the reports suggest that “single-payer” health care and socialized medicine produce equally dismal outcomes. 

Great Britain’s National Health Service is, of course, a socialized system. The Daily Mail reports on a new study confirming the NHS as an utterly abominable health care system:

The study found that the Health Service is still one of Europe’s worst healthcare providers, in the same league as countries such as Slovenia and Hungary which spend far less on health.

Why? Well, among other problems, the NHS produces abysmal cancer survival rates:

The study backs up a recent Italian report which placed Britain near the bottom of a European table for the chances of its patients still being alive five years after being diagnosed with cancer.

Meanwhile, in Australia’s “single-payer” health care system is also letting its patients down. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the following:

Thousands of X-rays and other medical scans are not being interpreted by radiologists in Sydney hospitals because of outdated technology and a national shortage of radiologists.

And this has dire implications for Australian patients:

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the backlog at some hospitals was putting patients in danger by delaying the diagnosis of potential conditions, including cancer. 

Outdated technology, physician shortages, patients at risk—this is government-run health care. And government-run health care, whatever you call it, always produces the same unacceptable results.

[October 6, 2007 @ 9:02 am] David Catron

The New York Times reluctantly reports that tort reform in Texas has produced precisely the results its advocates predicted:

Four years after Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors are responding as supporters predicted, arriving from all parts of the country to swell the ranks of specialists at Texas hospitals …

This does not mean, as many opponents of tort reform claim, that patients have no recourse in legitimate malpractice cases. Plaintiffs can recover economic losses of up to $1.6 million and non-economic losses of $250,000 from as many as three separate providers.   

If our masters in Washington would take a few minutes off from demagoguing SCHIP and pass serious malpractice reform on a national level, the distribution of medical providers would track patient demand rather than local legal climate, and the inflationary effects of defensive medicine would be significantly reduced.

[October 4, 2007 @ 10:19 pm] David Catron

House Democrats claim that their primary motivation in the SCHIP controversy is the health of “the kids.” If this were true, they would have allowed yesterday’s veto override vote to go forward and then sought some accommodation with the President.

Instead, they introduced a motion to postpone the vote so they could use the next two weeks to demagogue the issue. The Republicans got wind of this skulduggery early in the day and Rep. Roy Blunt issued a Whip LD Alert urging a NO vote on the Democrat motion: 

We expect the Democrats to offer and debate a Motion to Postpone the SCHIP Veto Override …  Although Democrats have not told us directly why they want to delay the Veto Override for two weeks, comments made in the press by their leaders suggest their purpose is purely political.

The Democrats claim they want to use the interval to “persuade” dissenting lawmakers to change their votes. They know, however, that they’ll never get the 15 votes they need. So, the only plausible explanation for the delay involves giving them time to manufacture an election year issue.

That is, of course, why they sent the bill to the President when he had already promised to veto it. The Democrats are more interested in political games than in producing a workable bill. Meanwhile, as Nancy Pelosi might put it, the kids are waiting.

[October 3, 2007 @ 3:44 pm] David Catron

President Bush delivered on his promise to veto the SCHIP bill sent to him by Congress. This, despite the sanctimonious hokum emanating from all manner of faux-progressive poseurs throughout the wackosphere, is good news.

As I have pointed out again and again, the SCHIP bill that Congress produced was among the most egregious frauds ever perpetrated on a patient electorate. Bush has done the country a favor by killing it.

[October 2, 2007 @ 11:17 pm] David Catron

We are told by advocates of a universal health insurance mandate that it would be analogous to various state laws requiring drivers to buy auto insurance. Fred Barnes explains why this is a false analogy:

[The auto insurance meme] collapses at the outset because it’s not a universal mandate. No one is forced to buy auto insurance. Only those who drive are required to. Many of them don’t bother or can’t afford insurance and drive anyway.

Barnes goes on to point out an important feature of the market for auto insurance:

Unlike health insurance, there’s a national market for auto insurance. You can buy a cheap policy from an out-of-state company. You can buy only liability and not collision. If you have a history of safe driving, you get a large discount.

So what?

This flexibility isn’t the case with health insurance. A healthy young man in Kentucky could pay $960 for a policy that would cost $5,880 in New Jersey. The Kentucky company couldn’t sell the cheaper policy in New Jersey.

In other words, the auto insurance analogy fails for two basic reasons: There is no universal auto insurance mandate, and the market for auto insurance is (mostly) free of the government-imposed distortions that encumber the health insurance market.

So, the advocates of government-run health care have produced yet another phony argument. Which, once again, begs this question: If their position has merit, why are they always compelled to support it with spurious logic?