[August 30, 2008 @ 7:15 am] David Catron

I think John McCain has hit the ball out of the park with his VP choice.

Among the many assets the Alaska governor brings to the Republican ticket is a bias in favor of free market health care reform. Here’s a quote that captures her general position:

I support flexibility in government regulations that allow competition in health care that is needed, and is proven to be good for the consumer, which will drive down health care costs and reduce the need for government subsidies. I also support patients in their rightful demands to have access to full medical billing information.

And she puts her money where her mouth is. Earlier this year she proposed legislation that puts the above into actual practice in Alaska:

Palin last week introduced the Alaska Health Care Transparency Act to provide consumers with factual information on quality, cost and similar matters … At the same time, Palin is proposing elimination of the Alaska’s Certificate of Need process, likely to be much more controversial in health care circles.

Regular HCBS readers (Hi, Mom!) will remember that eliminating the Certificate of Need process is part of the Catron cure for health care, so it goes without saying that Governor Palin is right on this issue.

With Governor Palin on the Republican ticket, we can be pretty sure of having a free market advocate in the White House, even if McCain succombs to his age or war injuries while in office.

[August 28, 2008 @ 11:52 am] David Catron

I’ve written before about Hillary’s penchant for prevarication. During her speech to the Democratic convention, Hillary told another of her trademark whoppers:

I will always remember the single mom who had adopted two kids with autism. She didn’t have any health insurance, and she discovered she had cancer. But she greeted me with her bald head painted with my name on it and asked me to fight for health care for her and her children.

James Taranto explains why one should doubt the veracity of this tale:

The trouble with this story is that cancer does not cause baldness. Cancer patients often lose their hair as a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Unless this woman had alopecia unrelated to her cancer or was just making a fashion statement, she had health care.

God, I’m going to miss that woman.

[August 27, 2008 @ 5:46 pm] David Catron

According to the Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans declined significantly in 2007. As David Hogberg reports in Investor’s Business Daily:

The number of uninsured fell to 45.7 million last year from 47 million in 2006, largely due to expanded government coverage. That’s 15.3% of the population, down from 15.8%.

But the advocates of government-run health care are determined to see bad news in the report. They claim that the remaining 45.7 million need a government program:

That’s proof, liberals say, of a health care crisis. There is a case for growth in the safety net,” said Kathleen Stoll, deputy executive director of Families USA.

The problem with this reasoning becomes obvious when one looks at the makeup of the uninsured population. The following chart provides an eye-opening breakdown:

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As the chart shows, nearly 10 million of the fabled uninsured are not actual Americans, and a large percentage make more than $50,000 a year. It’s not obvious that the voters want their taxes raised to cover such people.

But that’s exactly what advocates of government-run health care, including most of the people meeting in Denver this week, want to do. They believe universal coverage is a “moral imperative.”

And they ain’t talking about private coverage.

[August 26, 2008 @ 11:03 pm] David Catron

The other day I did a brief post about Michelle Obama and the contract that was awarded by her employer, the University of Chicago Medical Center, to one of her husband’s political cronies. I thought I was done with it, but the Blackwell deal gave off such a stench that I decided to do a longer piece. Here’s a taste:

The people who run the University of Chicago Medical Center may live to rue the day they hired Mrs. Obama. The Post story quotes a UCMC spokeswoman who says that the Senator’s wife “was not involved in the selection process,” and it may well be true that she didn’t put her hands on her hips, smite the floor with her expensive heel, and order cowering underlings to give the intranet project to her husband’s patron. Nonetheless, the Blackwell deal hardly passes the smell test, and CMS has a very sensitive nose.

Read the entire piece in the American Spectator.

[August 22, 2008 @ 8:06 am] David Catron

Masochist that I am, I’ve been perusing the Dems 2008 draft platform. It’s really astonishing that they could get so many bad ideas into a single document. The one that caught my eye this morning was the call for an “end to to insurance discrimination”:

Health insurance plans should accept all applicants and be prohibited from charging different prices based on pre-existing conditions.

By using the term “discrimination,” the platform committee has couched this provision in the vernacular of “social justice,” but they’re really just rebranding an old regulatory boondoggle known as “guaranteed issue.”

A number of states have already enacted guaranteed-issue laws, and the end result is always a dramatic increase in premiums for everyone. Plus, as Michael New of the Heritage Foundation points out:

Many insurers quit offering insurance in states with guaranteed-issue laws, and the lack of competition results in still-higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

Anyone think it’s a good idea to force the whole country to pay the huge insurance premiums now borne by the hapless residents of guaranteed-issue states like Massachusetts and New Jersey?

Well, a federal law ending “insurance discrimination” would produce that very result. 

[August 19, 2008 @ 10:00 pm] David Catron

By now, everyone who hasn’t been living on a desert island knows that traditional Medicare is headed for a fiscal meltdown. However, as I have pointed out before, there is a silver lining to the black cloud.

One segment of the Medicare program in which the market has been allowed to work, the prescription drug program, has been outperforming cost expectations since its inception. Grace-Marie Turner reports:

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that average beneficiary premiums for the standard Medicare drug benefit will increase by just $3 a month in 2009, to $28. That is 37% lower than the $44 a month that legislators estimated seniors would pay this year when the Medicare Modernization Act was enacted in 2003.

And Part-D is easier on the taxpayers than past projections suggested would be the case:

And the drug benefit, based upon consumer choice and competition, also is costing taxpayers less than expected: CMS says it will cost $46.4 billion in 2009 vs. $74 billion that had been estimated for this year.

And why is Part-D costing less than predicted while traditional Medicare is blowing the roof off of the most dire projections?

Competition works, even inside a public program, to give people more choices and keep costs down.


[August 15, 2008 @ 9:02 pm] David Catron

That’s the conclusion Steffie Woolhandler, Benjamin Day, and David Himmelstein have reached. Why? Because Romneycare expanded coverage to everyone while making no serious adjustments to the other dynamics that affect cost. The inevitable result was a fiscal runaway train:

In sum, neither government, nor employers, nor the uninsured themselves have pockets deep enough to sustain coverage expansion in the face of rising costs.

Being single-payer zealots (they are founding members of the advocacy group PNHP), Woolhandler,  Day, and Himmelstein offer a predictable solution—-a wholesale government takeover of the health care finance system:

We remain convinced that more radical reforms can simultaneously expand coverage and control costs. A shift from our complex and fragmented payment system to a simple single-payer approach could save about 14.3% of total health spending …

Anyone who deals with our proto-single-payer system, Medicare, knows that it is anything but “simple.” In fact, its rules are so Byzantine that they fill 120,000 largely undeciperable pages. 

Arnold Kling has a much more sensible idea. Try the Woolhandler single-payer approach in a few states while simultaneously trying the free market approach in other states.

I would like to see [single-payer] tried, but only in some states. I would like to see other states try radical health reform of the opposite kind, with health insurance deregulated and major rollbacks of licensing requirements. Then we’ll see which performs better over the long term.

My bet is that Kling’s model would beat the stuffings out of the Woolhandler model. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the “news” media and the “progressive” blogosphere continue to pretend Romneycare is a success. 

[August 12, 2008 @ 11:21 pm] David Catron

As I have said before, I believe the market provides the most efficient and humane mechanism for carrying out health care rationing. If you believe government bureaucracies can do a better job, I recommend this story in The Telegraph:

The NHS should not always attempt to save someone’s life if the cost is too much, the medical regulator has ruled.

Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Guidelines (NICE) has recommended that the NHS abandon the ”rule of rescue,” which requires clinicians to treat dying patients without regard to cost. Why?

When there are limited resources for healthcare, applying the ‘rule of rescue’ may mean that other people will not be able to have the care or treatment they need.  

In making this ruling, by the way, NICE ignored the advice of its own Citizen’s Council, which insisted that “a rule of rescue was an essential mark of a humane society.” The NICE bureaucrats were not impressed:

Nice defended its ruling last night saying that the Citizens Council provided useful input to its decisions but that the organisation’s role was to determine how best to allocate the health service’s limited resources.

Giving the government control over health care spending—-whether you call the system socialized medicine, single-payer, or universal health care—-is to give them control over your life.

Think this sort of thing could never happen here? Read this.

[August 5, 2008 @ 9:49 pm] David Catron

Obamacare, as I have pointed out here and here, is a perfect storm of bad ideas. It is, however, downright sensible compared to his plan to address high gasoline prices. Here’s Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:

Barack Obama proposes to deal with rising gasoline prices by giving a $1,000 “emergency rebate” to consumers – a rebate to be paid for by taxing the so-called “windfall profits” of oil producers.

If it isn’t obvious why this is an extraordinarily dumb idea, Boudreaux explains:

This plan – which increases the demand for gasoline and reduces its supply – makes as much sense as trying to put out a fire by dowsing it with jet fuel.

That Obama’s plan will result in higher gas prices may not matter, however, because his plan to impose health care mandates on businesses will eliminate many of the jobs to which people now drive their cars.

[August 1, 2008 @ 10:43 pm] David Catron

A while back, I asked this rhetorical question: Why wasn’t Edward Kennedy flown to Europe to have his cancer treated? The answer, of course, is that the much-maligned U.S. health care system is the best in the world.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the area of cancer treatment. John Goodman reports on another study published in Lancet Oncology showing that the U.S. has the best cancer survival rates:

A new study of cancer survival on five continents lays to rest the theory that Americans fare poorly compared to other developed countries … in almost every category Americans survive cancer at higher rates than patients in other developed countries.

Here’s a chart showing U.S. survival rates for breast and prostate cancer compared to the survival rates of four countries whose health care systems are often touted as superior to ours:

David Catron

Wait a minute. How can the U.S. have better survival rates than France? Wasn’t the French system rated the best on the planet by the World Health Organization?

And what the hell are Norway’s survival rates doing so far behind those of the United States? According to WHO, the Norwegian health care system is WAY better than ours.

Hmm. Anyone care to guess where rich Frogs and Norwegians go to get health care care when they are really sick?