Punish 85% to Help 15%

Cross-posted from State House Call.

By John LaPlante

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) rips into the House Democrats’ plans for health reform, saying they punish the 85% of people who have insurance in the name of helping the 15% who don’t.

You can dispute his statistics, but his general point is valid.

Hands Off My Dollar Meal

Cross-posted from State House Call.

By John LaPlante

Two researchers, one at the University of Chicago and the other at the Centers for Disease Control, have cranked out the numbers and have concluded that Americans are getting fatter because … fast food workers don’t make enough money. According to David O. Meltzer and Zhuo Chen, “Real minimum wage decreases can explain 10% of the change in BMI since 1970.

Paul Kersey, who works for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, knows a few things about weight gains and losses, having recently shed some 30 pounds. Kersey thinks that the implication of Meltzer and Chen’s paper–raise the minimum wage–is wrong: “if there’s a public health problem that can be addressed with the sort of top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that is typical for government, obesity is not it.” For one thing, healthy food as well as transfat-laden food will go up in price.

First, Enrich the Lawyers

Cross-posted from State House Call.

By John LaPlante

Is there tort reform in the PelosiCare bill? Ha!

Says “The Moderate Voice,” “Not only will there be no meaningful tort reform, but the bill will provide economic incentives to make sure that no states attempt it.”

It’s possible to overstate the benefits of tort reform. But the fact that the bill creates incentives to avoid it shows that it’s not about good policy, but power politics.

Are Tenth-Amendment Politicians Hypocrites?

Cross-posted from State House Call.

By John LaPlante

We’ve noted many times in this space the trend of legislators across the country calling for state constitutional amendments to preserve choice in health care.

Kansas is the latest state in which legislators for such an amendment, as I mentioned yesterday. Today, the state’s largest newspaper, the Wichita Eagle, publishes an article on the declaration by Rep. Peggy Mast, R- Emporia, that she and other legislators will file legislation next session to advance the Health Care Freedom Amendment.

Among the legislators speaking out in favor of the idea is Rep. Brenda Landwher R-Wichita), who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee.

The article includes a few people dismissing the idea, of course. A representative of the state chapter of AARP says that health care is “too important to become a turf war between the state and the federal government.”

A few Democrats, meanwhile, sought to accuse the amendment’s sponsors, all Republicans to this point, of hypocrisy: “‘State Democrats fired back that lawmakers are themselves covered by government-paid insurance. Party executive director Kenny Johnston called the proposition “a stunningly eager act of partisanship and hypocrisy.” He also called it “the Freedom from Health Care Amendment.”

Sure. Let’s review what such an amendment would actually say. Here’s the nut of the proposal (PDF) that will be on the Arizona ballot will say at the next general election (the Kansas language will probably resemble the Arizona language):

Section 2.

a. To preserve the freedom of Arizonans to provide for their health care:

1. A law or rule shall not compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system.

2. A person or employer may pay directly for lawful health care services and shall not be required to pay penalties fines for paying directly for lawful health care services. A health care provider may accept direct payment for lawful health services and shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for accepting direct payment from a person or employer for lawful health care services.

b. subject to reasonable and necessary rules that do not substantially limit a person’s options, the purchase or sale of health insurance in private health care systems shall not be prohibited by law or rule.

The hypocrisy charge is simply baffling, as the language does nothing to deny any person who has private health insurance the right to keep it. It also does nothing to deny the right of a person qualified to receive public benefits from doing so.

Public Option, Public Dissatisfaction

Cross-posted from State House Call.

By John LaPlante

If you don’t already subscribe to “Healthy Competition,” an e-mail letter from the Cato Institute, you should. (You can do so at the institute’s health care portal.)

Here’s an excerpt from the most recent letter:

Cato senior fellow Michael Tanner takes a look at the poll numbers for a new government-run insurance plan in Townhall. Essentially, while Americans sort of like the so-called “public option” when the question is phrased the right way, they’ve made it clear that they would hate the actual results. “We would effectively be on the road to a single-payer health care system, with the government in complete control of one-sixth of the U.S. health care system and some of the most important, personal, and private decisions in our lives. Down that road lie massive new taxes, huge budget deficits, and ultimately government rationing of care. That is not what the American people are telling pollsters they support.”

In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tanner argues that in spite of President Obama’s rhetoric, the legislation before Congress will indeed cut Medicare, not simply root out waste, fraud and abuse. Both Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare will feel the pinch. Even if a health care bill doesn’t pass, however, Medicare cuts are inevitable. The programs unfunded liabilities are just too great. “The fact is, no matter what they say, Democrats are going to cut Medicare and so are Republicans,” Tanner writes. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a politician, from either party, with the courage to tell us the truth?”

Private-sector Socialism

Cross-posted from State House Call.

By John Goodman

Here we are at the eleventh hour, about to enact Obama/Baucus/Kennedy/Waxman Care and no one other than the insurance industry executives seems to be aware of how genuinely foolish this reform is likely to be.

At the top of my list of foolish things is the idea that no one should ever have to pay the real cost of his own health insurance. The most popular alternative is having everyone pay the same premium although, as previously reported at this site, community-rated premiums are not even good for sick people.

We do not as a rule find this attitude in the market for other important goods. For example, most of us think people should pay the market price for the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the house they live in. We also don’t seem to have a problem with people paying market prices for life insurance or disability insurance.

So what’s so different about health care? There is always the possibility that someone cannot afford to pay an actuarially fair premium. But there are also people who cannot afford to pay for food, clothing and shelter. We solve these problems through public and private programs to help people out. No one is seriously proposing to socialize the food, clothing and housing industries. And if people can’t afford — or otherwise neglect — to buy life or disability insurance, we have programs to deal with the sympathetic cases there as well.

Continued here.

Loosen up Insurance Market, Pawlenty Says

Cross-posted from State House Call.

By David Strom

The idea of allowing consumers to purchase health insurance across State lines got a boost on Tuesday.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty unveiled a legislative initiative to allow just that, setting off what is sure to be a lively debate in both the Minnesota Legislature and on Capitol Hill.

Pawlenty’s proposal would allow Minnesota consumers to expand their health insurance options beyond those currently available in Minnesota. Currently just three insurers cover 80% of Minnesotans in the private health insurance market. And due to Minnesota law all insurers must be nonprofit companies subject to strict State regulation.

In keeping with Minnesota’s tradition of strong consumer protection Pawlenty is not proposing to fully open the health insurance marketplace to all comers. Instead the proposal places strict limits on what policies will be offered in the state. Provisions of the plan include:

• the state insurance regulator where the company is based must be accredited by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners;

• the insurance company must have a certificate of authority in Minnesota;

• the insurance regulator in the state where the company is based must review and approve policy forms;

• the insurance company must agree to abide by Minnesota’s claims practices and other consumer protection laws; and

• the insurance company would be subject to Minnesota fees and taxes.

Further restricting the pool of available insurers, Pawlenty is proposing that only policies approved in the 20 States deemed most effective at regulating insurance will be eligible for sale in Minnesota. Precisely how that determination will be made is not clear at this time.

Unsurprisingly, Minnesota’s Democrats wasted no time taking aim at the proposal. A statement from Brian Melendez, Chair of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (Minnesota’s Democrats) took direct aim at Pawlenty:

“The governor’s efforts to protect HMOs and maintain the status quo on health care are neither new nor innovative, and would not work for the people of Minnesota. Gov. Pawlenty’s more-of-the-same attitude has become his trademark, and today’s rehash of previously failed health-care initiatives shows no leadership, no courage, and no foresight — three qualities that are sorely lacking in this governorship. Sometimes you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

I’m not exactly sure how proposing something never tried in Minnesota is “maintain[ing] the status quo,” but then again it’s been years since I thought like a liberal.