[May 31, 2008 @ 6:50 am] David Catron

The WSJ reports that the Garden State is becoming “a microcosm of the national debate on health care.”

Democrats in Trenton are rallying behind a plan to require that every uninsured individual in New Jersey purchase health insurance from a new state-administered program.


Jay Webber, a Republican Assemblyman in Trenton, will introduce legislation to let Garden State residents buy low-cost health insurance from any registered policy in any of the 50 states.

Thus the battle lines have been drawn between free market reformers and advocates of government-run health care:

The Webber proposal offers lower costs and more choices for consumers, while the Democratic plan mandates public coverage and no choice, while putting a new burden on taxpayers.

More choices and lower costs versus fewer choices and higher taxes. Can someone please explain to me how any sane voter could possibly prefer the latter?

[May 27, 2008 @ 11:10 pm] David Catron

A few days ago I wrote about the denial of state-of-the-art drugs to desperately ill British cancer patients.  Treatments widely used in Europe and the U.S. are being withheld from patients who badly need them.

This disgraceful policy was justified by the NHS on the grounds that there simply wasn’t enough money to pay for the expensive treatments. Well, according to the London Times, this was a lie:

Hospitals and NHS managers were pressured into spending hundreds of millions of pounds before the start of the financial year to “hide” a £1 billion surplus.

That’s right. The health care bureaucrats of Great Britain were sitting on a gigantic surplus while refusing to pay for much needed care. Needless to say, patient advocacy groups are not amused:

Patient representatives have criticised NHS managers for underspending while patients were still being denied vital treatments.

This is government-run health care—-cruel and dishonest.

[May 24, 2008 @ 12:41 pm] David Catron

Well, I guess it’s up to me to ask the uncouth yet obvious question: If U.S. health care is inferior to the systems of Canada and Europe, why wasn’t a rich and famous man like Senator Kennedy immediately sent to one of those places so that he could get the best care available?

Senator Kennedy was indeed transferred from Cape Cod Hospital, where he was initally admitted, and airlifted to … Massachusetts General Hospital. Why didn’t they take him to Europe, where the care is allegedly so much better? Perhaps the answer lies in this international comparison of cancer survival rates for males:

David Catron

This table is from The Telegraph, which reported the results of a study first published in The Lancet. Despite the mountains of BS piled up by single-payer advocates (including Kennedy himself), it clearly showed that the U.S. health care system outperforms the “superior” systems of Europe.

A couple of weeks ago, John McCain was lambasted for having the audacity to say that U.S. health care was still the best in the world. It would appear that the Kennedy family agrees.

[May 20, 2008 @ 10:14 pm] David Catron

Dick Armey has a good op-ed in the WSJ about the cowardice of congressional Republicans on health care reform. Here’s the money quote:

Rather than promoting the principles of consumer choice, individual responsibility and provider competition that would transform our broken health-care system, key Republicans are bowing to political pressure and signing on with the government-run health-care Democrats.

And, as has often been the case in the past, Senator Charles Grassley is “leading” the retreat:

Mr. Grassley’s approach to health-care policy often seems to follow Mrs. Clinton’s lead. Like the former first lady, the ranking Republican on the Senate committee with primary jurisdiction over health policy has endorsed a health-care plan with an individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

As I have pointed out before, mandates are not merely intrusive—-they don’t work:

This endorsement comes in spite of clear evidence that individual mandates, besides violating an individual’s right to choose, actually drive up health-care costs. In Massachusetts, which recently adopted a mandate of its own, skyrocketing cost overruns are currently projected at around $2 billion.

Sadly, Grassley is not the only Republican to endorse this profoundly bad idea:

Six other Republican senators – Mike Enzi (Wyoming), Bob Bennett (Utah), Judd Gregg (New Hampshire), Norm Coleman (Minnesota), Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) and Mike Crapo (Idaho) – have either introduced or co-sponsored bills that require mandates.

Ironically, this is not merely bad policy, it is a losing strategy. And it’s not like there isn’t a better alternative:

Both our families and the GOP can win by expanding Health Savings Accounts, by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, by doing away with tax policies that encourage third-party payment systems and by embracing health-care price disclosure.

However, pursuit of a strategy empasizing these policies requires testicular fortitude—-something sadly lacking among congressional Repubkicans these days.

[May 14, 2008 @ 10:24 pm] David Catron

Last week, I highlighted what has already become the standard meme for ”progressive” policy wonks who wish to bash John McCain’s proposal to decouple health insurance from employment. The basic talking point, as expressed by Jonathan Cohn, goes as follows:

Insurance companies generally won’t offer coverage directly to people with ‘pre-existing conditions,’ since they represent such bad financial risks.

The basic idea here is that the employment-based insurance system offers protections to higher risk patients that would evaporate in an individual insurance market. However, as is often the case, the actual evidence refutes the Lefty meme.

In reality, as Health Affairs points out, a free individual market would offer more protection for high-risk patients than does the employment-based system so beloved of our “progressive” friends. Here’s the money quote:

A young male high risk who initially had small-group coverage faces a 44 percent chance of becoming uninsured in the next period-a risk nearly twice as great as it would be if he initially had individual insurance.

So, once again, Cohn and his fellow travelers have it wrong. Why? Because their positions are based on ideology rather than objective data. That’s OK for the cocktail circuit or some nutroot convention, but it’s no way to make actual policy.

[May 11, 2008 @ 10:20 pm] David Catron

Last year, I wrote that price competition between Wal-Mart and its rivals was a boon for pharmacy customers. Well, according to MarketWatch, the free market continues to work its magic:

In another expansion of its prescription drug program that has helped to increase its pharmacy sales, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it’s adding a 90-day supply of its prescription drugs for $10, increasing additional medications for women, and unveiling $4 over-the-counter medicines.

Wal-Mart’s $4 generic prescription drug program has already saved its customers a ton of money:

It has saved it’s customers almost $1.2 billion during the entire program period as consumers saved on expenses such as co-pays, the company said. Wal-Mart said acceptance of its offerings comes from both the insured and uninsured.

That’s the beauty of the market. Businesses want new customers, and the way to get them is to offer lower prices than the competition is offering. So, Wal-Mart and Target battle it out and we pay less for our meds.

Contrary to the BS promulgated by government health care advocates, the market will work just as well for the rest of the system—-if only those boneheads in D.C. will get out of the way. 

[May 7, 2008 @ 7:23 pm] David Catron

In addition to the cardiac and I.C.U. patients that Canada must send south to get proper care, women with high-risk pregnancies and sick babies are also being sent to the U.S. The Globe & Mail reports the following:

More than 100 Canadian women with high-risk pregnancies have been sent to United States hospitals over the past year.

Why? Because the bureaucrats who run the Canadian system failed to allocate enough beds:

The problem is due to bed closings that took place almost a decade ago, the absence of a national birthing initiative and too few staff.

And even when there is a bed, there’s a shortage of neonatologists:

When extra NICU beds were added in Victoria, it took about a year before they were operational due to the difficulty in recruiting a neonatologist.

This story resonated with me because, as it happens,  my eldest daughter was a premie. She was a “thirty-week baby,” fifteen inches long and weighing in at a little less than three pounds.

And how did she fare in the evil “profit-driven” U.S. system? Well, there was a bed for her … about 100 yards away. And a neonatologist was on hand to manage her care from the moment she took her first breath.

What kind of moron would want to exchange a system like that for a pig’s breakfast like the Canadian system?

[May 6, 2008 @ 7:48 am] David Catron

The media have been reluctant to ask Barack Obama tough questions on health care, but his actual legislative record is a cautionary tale. He has consistently favored policies that contribute to health care inflation.

For example, his career as an Illinois state senator was marked by unwavering support for government mandates dictating the coverage health insurers must provide. The WSJ explains why this is bad:

A long list of studies show that mandates like the ones Mr. Obama has championed drive up the cost of insurance for the very people priced out of coverage.

And the cost increases caused by these mandates are significicant: 

A 2008 study by an insurance-industry supported research organization, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI), estimates that mandates increase the cost of basic health coverage by 20% to 50%, depending on the state.

So, what’s the alternative?

If insurers were allowed to offer “bare-bones” plans – which would be cheaper because they would cover just essential care – many consumers who are priced out of health insurance now would likely buy these plans instead of living without insurance.

But that’s not what Obama is offering the American people as a presidential candidate. According to his web site, he is for “guaranteed eligibility” and “comprehensive benefits.” In other words, more of the same.

“Guaranteed eligibility” and “comprehensive benefits” sound good to many voters, but government mandates providing such things will keep insurance prices high. Does that sound like”change” to you?

[May 1, 2008 @ 1:08 pm] David Catron

McCain’s health care plan is by no means perfect, but it is vastly superior to that of the probable Democrat presidential nominee. Here’s an excerpt from my American Spectator article comparing McCain’s health care reform agenda to Obama’s:

McCain would emphasize consumer choice, markets and tax reform, while eschewing government-run health care. As he put it on April 28, at the launch of his “Call to Action” tour, “I am convinced that the wrong way to go is to turn over your lives to the government and hope it will all be fine.” Obama, on the other hand, places considerable faith in the state, favoring the shopworn tools of big-government liberalism: central planning, oppressive bureaucracy, and the creation of new entitlement programs.

To read the rest of the article, go here.