Archive for April, 2011

Medicare As We’ve Known It Isn’t an Option

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2011

Paul Ryan’s premium support plan is preferable to Obama’s rationing panel.

By Betsy McCaughey

The Democratic Party is urging Americans to choose Medicare as we’ve always known it rather than a new plan by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) that would enroll seniors in private health insurance beginning in 2022. This choice is a hoax: Medicare as we’ve always known it is already gone. It was eviscerated by President Obama’s health law. Yet if the president and the Democratic Party successfully bamboozle voters, they may win back independents and registered Democrats who voted for Republicans in 2010. The 2012 election could turn on this falsehood.

The truth is that the Obama health law reduces future funding for Medicare by $575 billion over the next 10 years and spends the money on other programs, including a vast expansion of Medicaid. In 2019, Medicare spending under the Obama health law is projected to be $14,731 per senior, instead of $16,162 if the law had not passed, according to Medicare actuaries (Health Affairs, October 2010).

Such cuts might be justifiable if the savings extended the financial life of Medicare. Mr. Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius frequently make that false claim. Indeed, even Medicare’s mailings to seniors repeat the claim that reducing spending on Medicare will make it more financially secure for future years.

The fact is that Mr. Obama’s law raids Medicare. Mr. Ryan’s plan, on the other hand, stops the Medicare heist and puts the funds “saved” in this decade toward health care for another generation of retirees.

Beginning in 2022, the Ryan plan offers each new Medicare enrollee a choice of private health plans and a premium paid to the plan they choose. The key is that the premium will be equivalent to what Medicare is projected to spend under the Obama health law: $15,000 a year on average, more for the oldest enrollees, less for the youngest, all inflation adjusted.

Still, critics are howling that seniors will suffer under Mr. Ryan’s plan. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report claims that the $15,000 premium will quickly become inadequate because the cost of private health plans will outpace Medicare costs.

The CBO conclusion, reverberating nationwide, is that this will force seniors to “bear a much larger share of their health costs,” and that it “would be particularly challenging for elderly people with less savings and lower income.”

The CBO authors admit their analysis is “stylized.” Deceptive is more like it.

After 2022, competing private plans are likely to control costs better than government-run Medicare, so the inflation-adjusted premium paid by government should be adequate. In the Medicare Part D drug benefit, competition between competing private drug plans has kept costs below what was predicted—nearly a first for a government program. A 2008 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research also demonstrated that regions with competing Medicare Advantage Plans have lower health-care costs because of the impact of competition.

The Ryan proposal also includes a $7,800 annual medical savings account to help low-income seniors with out-of-pocket costs. Amazingly, the CBO analysts exclude this $7,800 benefit from their calculations. Their warning about low-income seniors suffering is baseless.

So what can retiring Americans count on in 2022 and after? The Obama health law leaves that up to an unelected board of presidential appointees called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a cost-cutting panel.

The board is a radical departure from Medicare as we’ve known it. Congress cedes nearly all control of Medicare spending to the board on the rationale that budgeting decisions should be shielded from outraged seniors and political pressures. On April 13, the president reiterated that the board would decide what care is “unnecessary” for seniors. Even the CBO cautioned that as the nation’s debt crisis worsens, benefits will be put on the board’s chopping block.

Will Americans now in their 40s and 50s choose to put their health care in the hands of this cost-cutting board, or pick their own health plan when they retire? Whatever decision the nation makes should not turn on the false claim that President Obama has protected Medicare.

Ms. McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a former lieutenant governor of New York.


2011 Code of Congressional Conduct (51yr late)

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty, and in that cause I am doing the very best I can.

The Conscience of a Conservative,  Senator Barry Goldwater 1960


Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Piously posturing as the savior of Medicare, President Obama lashed out at the House Republicans for embracing the budget proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). But a comparison of the president’s own plans for Medicare with those in the Ryan budget shows that the Democratic cuts are far more immediate and drastic than anything in the GOP proposal.

While the Republican Medicare changes only take effect in 2021, Obama’s cuts will begin hurting seniors right away. The president’s healthcare legislation imposed a hard spending cap on Medicare 
– the first time it has ever had one — which he has just proposed lowering by another one-half of 1 percent of GDP (a further cut of about $70 billion a year).

Obama’s cuts, which will take effect immediately, are to be administered by his newly created Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) of 15 members appointed by the president. Its recommendations for cuts in Medicare services or for reductions in reimbursement will not be subject to congressional approval but will take effect by administrative fiat. Right now.

The IPAB will be, essentially, the rationing board that will decide who gets what care. Its decisions will be guided by a particularly vicious concept of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QUALYS). If you have enough QUALYS ahead of you, you’ll be approved for a hip replacement or a heart transplant. If not, you’re out of luck. Perforce, many of these cuts will fall on those at the end of their lives, reducing their options to accommodate Obama’s mandate to cut costs. If death comes sooner, well, that’s the price of aging in Obama’s America.

Ryan’s approach is totally different. First, he does nothing at all to cut benefits for those now on Medicare or for anyone who turns 65 before 2022 (leaving me in the clear!). Second, the Republicans would leave the elderly in charge of their own medical decisions by letting them spend their Medicare money as they wish. The subsidy they would receive for health insurance would permit them to buy plans tailored to their needs. Just as a myriad of insurance-company plans sprang up to fill the mandates of the new prescription drug benefit, there will likely be quite an array of choices for the elderly of 2021. Finally, the savings from Ryan’s plan will be plowed back into Medicare, prolonging its life, rather than being diverted, as Obama would do, into paying for a new entitlement for younger people.

But the most important difference is that Obama’s cuts are now and Ryan’s are not. Any budget projection is a guess. When the projection is made two to three years in advance, it is conjecture. Ten years away it becomes fantasy. Who can possibly tell how the American economy will be doing a decade hence? What revenues will it generate? And the only thing less certain than guessing about the economy is projecting healthcare costs.

Medicine is on the verge of a revolution akin to that which followed the creation of antibiotics. Genetic medicine and ultimately nanotechnology are about to change everything. No longer will we fight cancer by cutting or burning or poisoning diseased cells. Instead, we will use DNA and RNA to predict cancers and grow healthy cells. Who knows what the costs will be? Possibly, they could be lower than our current range of therapies.

And, between now and 2021, Congress will be able to change the Ryan plan as it chooses. But the early deaths triggered by the rationing decisions of Obama’s IPAB cannot be saved. Their decisions are, for the elderly of today, irreversible.

Democrats are drooling over the prospect of conducting the elections of 2012 over Medicare. They better watch their steps. The truth might come out!

Dick Morris 4-19-11

Wizard of OZ…. and other meanings

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Author Lyman Frank Baum wrote the original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The book, published in 1900, was whimsical. But among other things, it poked fun and caricatured the gold and silver debate in the U.S. in the 1890s. More broadly, Wizard was an allegory about life and political populism in the U.S. in the 1890s.

Author Baum had a keen eye for the gold-silver debate because he knew something about the subject. Baum was wealthy, and heir to serious family money that came from the 19th-century oil fields of Pennsylvania. So he took the idea of debased currency and ran with it.

Just look at just the title, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, where “Oz” stands for “ounces of gold or Oz.” I’ve heard that in the real story, the “Emerald City” of Oz was a city of gold. (It became emerald when MGM Studios made the famous Depression-era movie in 1939.) The yellow brick road was a metaphor for gold. Dorothy’s slippers were silver in the book, and changed to ruby in the movie.

Tin Woodman stood for the urban workers of America, who were left out in the cold and rain by the forces of banker capitalism.

Scarecrow stood for the farmers — and recall that he had no brain, because many East Coast snobs thought farmers were dumb hicks, ripe for the picking.

Cowardly Lion was a dead ringer for William Jennings Bryan, who made good speeches, but could not stand up to the entrenched big guys.

Wizard was all smoke and mirrors, reflecting the political classes as a bunch of charlatans who promised much and delivered little.

Hey, Wizard is a children’s story. It’s not a cookbook for what ails us today. If there are any real answers in the Wizard book, it’s along the lines that things aren’t what they may at first appear. And the common people — workers and farmers — are smarter and nobler than the elites think.

Claude Hopper 4-19-11

Currency Devaluation: lose 14% of your wealth overnight….

Friday, April 8th, 2011

It already happened – in the U.K. It was 1967, and the U.K. was facing the same pressures that the U.S. faces now. I’m sure if you asked the Brits at the time, if they could lose wealth like that – they wouldn’t have believed you either. It took a little over 20 years, but the British pound finally hit rock bottom.

No One Likes to Talk about Dying Empires

So the British government decided to “help” the locals by devaluing the British pound 14%. Overnight, the Brits lost 14% of their wealth, with no way to get it back.   That’s VERY similar to what the Fed is doing now for us – by keeping the dollar’s value depressed with 0% interest rates, and quantitative easing.   Of course the pound didn’t disappear when this empire crumbled. It’s still a valid currency today. But you can’t convince any central bankers to hold more than a very small percentage of their reserves in pounds. In fact, most hold more Japanese yen than British pounds! So it will be with the dollar.The dollar will still be a valid currency. But in 10 years, it’s very possible that central bankers will only keep a small reserve in dollars, much like they do with the pound.Why shouldn’t the dollar go the way of the pound? After all, the U.K. was making the same mistakes back then, as we are today.

  • Britain pursued a socialist agenda just like we have through Obama’s presidency.  Obamacare is pure Socialism.  Lenin said “Socialized Medicine is the Cornerstone of Socialism.”
  • The U.K. government took over companies during their decline from power. We’re doing the same thing with Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, General Motors, AIG, etc.
  • The U.K. took a “spread the wealth around” approach just like President Obama. The problem is when you take money from a company who knows how to handle it and give it to a spendthrift company, the money gets squandered away.

Sean Hyman