Sunday, February 28, 2010

What happens if the health care system is NOT overhauled?

The current American health care system simply is not sustainable. It is set for collapse in the near future unless is it overhauled.

Reed Abelson of the New York Times goes over what every health care expert already knows will happen if the current Democratic effort to overhaul system fails:
The unrelenting rise in medical costs is likely to wreak havoc within the system and beyond it, and pretty much everyone will be affected, directly or indirectly.

“People think if we do nothing, we will have what we have now,” said Karen Davis, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care research group in New York. “In fact, what we will have is a substantial deterioration in what we have.”

Nearly every mainstream analysis calls for medical costs to continue to climb over the next decade, outpacing the growth in the overall economy and certainly increasing faster than the average paycheck. Those higher costs will translate into higher premiums, which will mean fewer individuals and businesses will be able to afford insurance coverage. More of everyone’s dollar will go to health care, and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid will struggle to find the money to operate.
Here is Steven Benen's take on the current status of health care reform in Congress:
If reform comes up short, costs will soar, budgets will be pushed towards bankruptcy, the ranks of the uninsured will grow, those lacking coverage will die, premiums will get even more unaffordable, and our economic growth and workers' wages will be stunted.

This isn't some wild-eyed speculation; this is simply a reality that no serious person contests.

When I read pieces like this, I sometimes just shake my head at public opposition to reform. We know the system is broken; we know we pay too much and get too little. We know the Republican attacks against reform proposals are wrong. Given the mess we're in, the demand for comprehensive reform should be overwhelming.

And yet, the resistance to sound ideas is fairly intense.
The Senate has already passed health care reform with a 60 vote majority. It only remains for the House to pass the Senate bill and for President Obama to sign it.

No, the Senate bill will not solve all the problems of the deteriorating health care financing system, but it is a solid start at doing that. It puts a framework into place. What remains is for Nancy Pelosi to round up 217 votes to pass the Senate bill in the House and the deed is done.

If it is delayed it will still have to be done, but it will cost a lot more and be an inferior system to the one the Senate bill envisions. The message we should be sending Congress is clear.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Health care summit has clear outcome

Yesterday's health care summit laid out the basic philosophical difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Steve Benen has written his conclusions this morning, and I agree.

The Republicans do not recognize any major problems in the American health care system, and even if they did they do not believe that government could fix them. The top priority of the Republican Party is that it not regulate business or anyone and that taxes be kept very low. Every government action has to meet those two criteria before anything else. Government action is generally wrong and should not occur.

The Democrats believe that America has a broadly dysfunctional health care system that leaves out too many people and that offers suboptimal outcomes for many others. Too many Americans get sicker than they should and many die unnecessarily. In addition the system itself costs too much and the cost is increasing too rapidly. Looking at other wealthy industrial nations around the world these are problems which can be controlled, but it requires government action.

Yesterday' health care summit laid out those two positions along with the proposals the Democrats have developed over the recent year. The Democrats then asked the Republicans to join them in developing an appropriate set of activities to deal with America's health care problems. The Republicans replied "Not just no but Hell no!" and demanded that the Democrats abandon the effort to fix the system.

Since the Democrats are the majority party, they are now left to pass health care reform on their own. They have to. They were elected on the promise that they would.

That's where we are this morning, the day after the health care summit. The next step has to be for the Democrats to by-pass the filibuster in the Senate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Anthem should be thanked for making the case for universal health care coverage

Why did Anthem (California Blue Cross/Blue shield) raise rates up to 39% on 80,000 individual policies in California?

They call it a recessionary death spiral. As more people become unemployed and lose income, the healthy people often drop individual health insurance and gamble on not becoming ill. That leaves only the unhealthy high-cost individuals left in the insurance pool the plan covers, so the costs increase rapidly.

Without healthy people in the plan to cover the increase costs, more will make the same decision to drop out or will be forced out by the increased cost of the plan itself. But it will also increase the costs to health care providers as they treat uninsured patients, and that will jack up costs to the employer group plans. The providers will raise prices on all medical services so that the payments made by those who still have insurance will also cover the bad debts that result from treating those without insurance.

Result? All health care costs rise (faster than inflation) and all health insurance costs rise. But the healthy uninsured and the very wealthy who don't need insurance to pay their medical bills win economically. The various levels of government will end up paying even more of the health care costs in America than they presently do.

The only long-term solution for this is to provide universal coverage to all Americans. With such very large insurance pools the costs of health coverage become much more predictable. It is, among other things, a major cost control measure on heath care expenses.

That's what both the Senate and the House health care reform bills provides. What do the Republicans offer? Continue the current failed system with tax cuts for the wealthy.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Republicans have panicked over Democratic control of Congress and the White House

The Republican party has stepped away from civility and tradition in Congress and gone to the extreme. They are the minority party now and they are doing whatever it takes to regain control of the federal government. Because of this they are subverting the traditional rules and civility of Congress and desperately trying to stop the Democrats from doing what they were elected to do. You have to wonder why they have become so obviously desperate. First, look at how they have been acting in Congress. No minority party has acted this desperate since the Southern States before teh Civil War felt their "peculiar institution" (slavery) was under direct attack. First look at what are some examples of Republican desperation, then look at why might they feel so desperate.

Jonathon Cohn at The New Republic points out the extreme and unusual ways the Republicans have been working to stop the majority party from doing what it was elected to do. There has been a history in Congress that certain rules were used sparingly and only in rare circumstances. No more.
  1. The Senate minority always could filibuster every vote and kill anything that did not have a supermajority. But before now this has never been done. Now the Republicans are setting records for the number of filibusters they conduct.
  2. The Senate hold has always been a tool that the minority party could use to shut down the process of the Senate, but it was used only in rare cases when a Senator had a really important issue he or she wanted the Senate to attend to. Never before has a Senator used a blanket hold on all appointments to demand $billions in ransom be given to his state as Sen. Richard Shelby is now doing.
  3. It has always been possible for Senators and Representatives to pass a bill through both bodies, then take it into conference add completely new provisions to the bill in conference. This was frequently done when the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate under the Bush regime.
These are not politics as usual. These are the actions of a political party that feels under pressure, afraid and powerless. Because they feel powerless they are willing to reach out at use any tool they can find, and because of their fear and lack of trust they feel justified in using those tools even when they are being applied in an extreme way.

So what indications are there that the Republicans feel attacked and afraid? Marcos Moulitsas commissioned a Daily Kos/Research 2000 Poll to answer some of those questions. It was conducted January 20, 2011, so it provides the latest information. The results are illuminating.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Mises libertarian economics doesn't work.

There is a good reason why modern economists don't believe in the Austrian school of economics. It can't be verified by data. Here is a brief description.

Here is the Krugman article. The key quote:
Recessions are not necessary consequences of booms. They can and should be fought, not with austerity but with liberality—with policies that encourage people to spend more, not less. Nor is this merely an academic argument: The hangover theory can do real harm. Liquidationist views played an important role in the spread of the Great Depression—with Austrian theorists such as Friedrich von Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter strenuously arguing, in the very depths of that depression, against any attempt to restore "sham" prosperity by expanding credit and the money supply. And these same views are doing their bit to inhibit recovery in the world's depressed economies at this very moment.
Go read the detailed explanation. Pay special attention to the problem of why the Austrian School cannot explain unemployment and also to what the solution to the Depression has to be (hint: It's government spending, stupid!)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

It's nice to have a competent President who tells the Repubs they are liars - to their faces!

Jon Stewart gets this one very well. Well, so does Barack Obama. He had something to do with the success of the moment also.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c

Q & O
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

FOX, in the meantime, fails as both a news organization and as a right-wing propaganda outlet. They knew it and abandoned the field to competent news organizations. Wouldn't want to contaminate the minds of their audience with facts - or with the additional fact that Barack Obama can do something that Bush never could. Deal with questions successfully while speaking competent English.