Saturday, April 30, 2011

Report: U.S. healthcare costs growing faster than elsewhere

Healthcare spending is rising more quickly in the United States than in many other industrialized countries, says a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, further widening an already substantial gap.
U.S. healthcare spending per person increased by 60 percent between 2000 and 2008, according to the analysis of OECD data, to a record $7,538 — almost double the OECD average. Six other countries had equal or higher average annual growth rates over that period, but the U.S. is still far ahead of other countries because of its higher starting point.
The trend holds true for healthcare spending as a share of the economy. Between 1980 and 2008, U.S. healthcare spending increased from 9 percent of GDP to 16 percent. The next largest spender as a share of the economy is France, at 11.2 percent. (Wow, France spends almost 1/3 less than us.)
Experts widely agree the United States isn't getting good value for its higher spending, as it lags behind many countries on key indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy.
"Faced with expanding public deficits, and growing health care costs, American policy makers may elect to examine the tools employed by other countries to rein in costs," the report suggests. "The growing difference between America's spending and other developed countries may encourage an examination of what people in the U.S. are getting for their healthcare dollar."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Conservatives Don't Like Obamacare's Medicaid Mandates

As I have discussed in other places, many states dislike Obamacare because of the increased spending it requires on states Medicaid program. Here are some concrete examples:

Florida - officials report that during the last decade, the "cost of Medicaid in Florida has grown to $21 billion from $9 billion," making up one-third "of the state budget." In an effort to cut Medicaid costs, Florida launched a pilot program five years ago, and began to transfer some patients to HMOs. Now, Florida lawmakers are "poised to scrap the traditional model in which the state pays doctors for each service they perform. Instead, almost all of Florida's Medicaid recipients would be funneled into state-authorized, for-profit HMOs or networks run by hospitals or doctors." In addition, these "networks would...manage the long-term care of the elderly, shifting them away from nursing homes and leading to an expansion of in-home care."

South Carolina -  officials report that "South Carolina's soaring Medicaid program spending is siphoning money away from other state priorities such as school buses and needs to be kept in check, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell (R) said Tuesday." His "remarks came as the Senate opened debate on a $5.8 billion spending plan that includes more than $1 billion in spending on caring for the state's elderly, disabled and poor."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Romney's New Op-Ed in NH Paper talks about the Economy

A new op-ed piece by Gov. Romney came out today in a NH paper. Romney argued that Obama hasn't done enough to control our national debt. Romney speaks about the economy with a command of the subject, and as one who truly understands it. It is a good piece, definately worth a read.

Haley Barbour Out

Haley Barbour has released a statement saying that he will not run for president next year.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Romney Shouldn't Run From Romneycare

A great blog post by a Kansas based newspaper says what I have been saying for a long time. Romney shouldn't run from Romneycare.

A Good Article in NY Times

I am not a huge Paul Krugman fan, but I really enjoyed this article. Here are some highlights:

A Medicare Advisory Board was set up in order to reduce costs and control the rate of growth in Medicare spending. Something I think both parties should be happy about. But Republicans aren't.

"The last time I looked, the Declaration of Independence didn't say we have the right to life, liberty, and the all-expense paid trip to happiness."

"Consumer-based medicine has been a bust everywhere it has been tried." The most recent example was Medicare Advantage which has been phased out due to it's rapidly rising costs. America has the most "consumer driven" healthcare market in the advanced world, yet it also has the highest costs but provides a quality of care no better than cheaper systems."

It is interesting to read the progressive talking points.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do Polls Matter?

At this stage, no. A recent poll (forgive the irony that I am using a poll to show that polls don't matter!) showed that 53% of Americans can't even name a single GOP presidential candidate. In other words, most Americans aren't even paying attention yet. As I have said before, the only polls that matter are the polls taken about two weeks before voting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

State Attorney Generals Speak Out In Defense of Obamacare

Currently, over 20 state attorney generals, all Republicans, are suing the federal government to overturn Obamacare. Now 10 state attorney generals , all Democrats, are writing a letter (in legal terms it's called an "amicus brief") to the Supreme Court defending Obamacare.

It is an interesting glimpse into the psyche of American legal scholars who presumably study the same constitution, yet they can come to very different conclusions. Justice Scalia once said that his rulings, and the rulings of the Supreme Court in general, are not made based on personal opinion, but rather on the constitutionality of the arguments. Scalia's argument is plausible when you consider the recent ruling by the Supreme Court to allow the Westboro Baptist Church to continue protesting at funerals.

However, one wonders how possible it is to separate personal opinion from Constitutional interpretation. With scholars lining up along partisan lines, it seems unlikely that the Justices of the Supreme Court will not rule mostly along partisan lines. I am not prognosticator, but I predict Obamacare being declared constitutional by a slim majority, with all the liberall justices voting in favor, and one or two centrist judges upholding the law as well.

Boston Globe Defends Romneycare on Conservative Grounds

Here's something you don't see everyday: The Boston Globe defending a law based on it's conservative credentials. Nevertheless, I am happy to see it. Those in MA realize that Romneycare is really not a liberal plan. In fact, as the Boston Globe article states, the MA lawmakers were planning a much more liberal approach to dealing with healthcare. The approach that Dems were planning in MA was:

"a payroll tax of 5 to 7 percent on businesses that did not offer health coverage. That idea, the subject of a planned ballot question, became the preferred approach of then-House speaker Sal DiMasi. Businesses worried, and with good reason, about the costs such a plan would impose."

That's right, an employer mandate that included a steep price tag for those who didn't provide coverage for their employees.

Massachusetts Sets Its Sights on Cost-Control

MA continues to innovate on the healthcare front. In a new move by MA lawmakers, the state is attempting to switch from a "fee-for-service" system to a "lump sum fee."

There has been a lot of talk about this type of fee program in helping reduce costs. Mitt Romney actually suggests it in his book as a possible way to reduce overall costs of healthcare.

I would like to see a state implement this program to see if it truly does have any cost reducing benefits. I suspect it will.

The goal of MA healthcare reform in 2006 was primarily to increase the coverage of health insurance to everyone in the state, not really to reduce overall costs. Cost reduction was supposed to be the next phase of Romneycare but that didn't happen due to a largely Democratic legislature with other goals. Perhaps now, MA will provide leadership to the country on cost-containment as well.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wisconsin's Bold Move

Wisconsin's Governor, Scott Walker, attracted nationwide attention when he stripped unions of their "right" to collectively bargain. Wisconsin garnered a disproportionate share of the media's attention on this issue despite the fact that Ohio and New Hampshire recently adopted similar measures.

Wisconsin's recent Supreme Court battle was thought to be a liberal victory resulting from the push by Scott Walker and the Republicans "unpopular" attempt to end collective bargaining. However, it turns out that the conservative judge won the re-election campaign, thus defusing much of the liberal argument that "the people of Wisconsin just don't like Scott Walker's policies." The people of Wisconsin once again spoke out and voted in favor of a conservative. The silent majority has spoken.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arizona to Allow Greater Health Insurance Options - From Out of State

Lawmakers in Arizona are currently moving a bill through congress that would allow AZ residents to purchase health insurance from insurance companies outside the state. This would be a HUGE step and a potential game-changer in the medical world.

Republicans have been pushing this idea for a long time but have been unable to make any progress on the issue. Even residents in MA, a very blue state, have expressed a desire to be able to purchase health insurance from out of state.

I am totally supportive of such a plan because it provides consumers with more options and more competition, which should drive down prices. Right now, it is actually legal in most states for an insurance company to have a monopoly on the state.

AZ is coming out with bold new initiatives about tough problems, and though I may not agree with all the policy decisions they make, I am glad that one state is willing to take major steps to try and solve difficult problems. There must be something good going on in AZ!

Update: Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday vetoed a proposal that would have allow health insurance companies licensed in other states to issue policies in Arizona, saying it could have put Arizonans at risk.

(If you ask me, I think the insurance lobby got to Gov. Brewer. Of course she tries to justify her veto with a bunch of legal technicalities, but that seems unlikely to me.)

Wyoming in 2010 became the first state with a cross-border health insurance law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New Group Founded to Defend Obamacare

Since Obamacare was signed, the Obama administration has stated that they would fund an organization which would serve to explain the new law to the public. The new advocacy group would use television, radio, newspaper and internet advertising to promote the positive aspects of Obamacare. Well, after many starts and stops, it looks like that organization has finally gotten off the ground.

The goal of this group is to help frame the debate about Obamacare during the 2012 election.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Romney Makes It Official!

Today, Romney formed a presidential exploratory committee today. Everything since his failed bid in 2008 has been a build up to the 2012 race. Romney is nothing if not persistent, and he is playing this race smartly to this point.

Romney said "It's time we put America back on a course of greatness."

Please visit, his new website for more information.

Paul Ryan's Healthcare Fix = A Political Non-starter

A good article on the Ryan healthcare overhaul discusses the risks inherent to politicians when any attempt to reform Medicare is mentioned.

"The non-partisan CBO states that those younger than 55 can expect to pay more than two-thirds of their own healthcare costs." That is a lot to swallow for those of us under 55.

I can't imagine those over 55 would be too happy about Ryan's plan as well since the argument for reducing the deficit was to "leave the country prosperous for our kids." What will our kids do if they are saddled with paying for their parents healthcare benefits through Medicare and then having to pay two-thirds of their own healthcare expenses when they are as old as their parents?

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Good Post By Our Friends at Evangelicals for Mitt

I enjoyed reading a recent post by our friends over at Evangelicals for Mitt. It's entitled "Healthcare Federalism."

Take a look. It is the kind of thing I have been promoting all along.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Paul Ryan's Plans on Medicare

The Good News:  At last, we finally have a concrete proposal on healthcare reform from the GOP. Criticism of Obamacare has often been hollow due to the GOP's lack of their own plan to promote. Also Rep. Ryan's plan hits at the heart of America's growing deficit problems by actually addressing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security reform. Moreover, Ryan's plan would substantially reduce American's national debt by getting the government less entangled in healthcare.

The Bad News: Ryan's plan has virtually no bipartisan appeal, which means that it is "dead on arrival" when formally introduced to congress. Furthermore, Ryan has played perfectly into the Democrats plan by promoting a plan that is too extreme for the general electorate. Yes, it does solve our budget crisis, but the plan is too easily criticized and maligned by the Dems for it to receive widespread support. Democrats are already calling the plan "the end of Medicare," "privatizing Medicare," "increasing healthcare expenses on the average Joe," "a plan where the elderly force the young to pay for their care when the young will have to pay for their own care," and "the repeal of patient protections provided by Obamacare." Also, there is a problem where the private insurance companies may not want or accept the elderly on their health insurance plans due to their much higher costs/risks.

Let's remember that Newt Gingrich virtually assured President Clinton a second term when Gingrich attempted to cut Medicare.

The Punchline: Romney would be wise to distance himself from Paul Ryan's plan. The plan will appeal to the Libertarian/Tea Party types, but will not be popular among the much larger general electorate.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Romney Strategy in 2012

An interesting article in The Huffington Post attempts to outline Romney's strategy to obtain the 2012 GOP nomination.

Romney's goal is to win New Hampshire and Nevada. Both states are good bets for Romney considering how they voted for him last time. Romney narrowly lost to McCain in NH, and then won Nevada. Then its on to Michigan and Florida. Another good bet considering 2008 when he won Michigan and narrowly lost to McCain in Florida that year. Iowa and South Carolina are not part of the plan. Romney will make a token effort in both states but not a major investment. Both Iowa and South Carolina are dominated by religious evangelicals who will much more like vote for another evangelical.

Also, an interesting change in the GOP process of winning delegates will likely help Romney. In the past, states used to have an "all-or-nothing" victory where the winner of the state got all of the state's delegates. Now, however, delegates will be awarded based on the percentage of the votes he gains in the states. This will help well-known and well-funded candidates like Romney tremendously.

So there you have it. A pretty good rundown of the 2012 Romney strategy. Sounds like a good bet to me.

States Continue the Process

As you may remember, a district judge in Florida, Judge Vinson, declared Obamacare unconstitutional. As a result of that ruling, many states, including Alaska, have decided not to continue implementing Obamacare.

However, Judge Vinson clarified in a later statement that all states should continue to follow the federal guidelines and implement Obamacare until the Supreme Court has ruled on the health law. A bit of welcome news for the Obama administration.

So until further notice, the law goes on.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Obama Will Be Tough to Beat - Job Growth Continues

The latest report on U.S. job growth shows that the jobless rate continues to decline, and at a very rapid rate.

U.S. unemployment is down to 8.8%, down a full percentage point from just four months ago. Most economists predict that the economy will continue to rebound throughout this year, making large gains by the end of the year.

While this is good news for the Obama administration, this is not good for the GOP who hopes to capitalize on voter discontent with the economy next year. The improving unemployment rate is another major difficulty for Romney to overcome if he is to be elected next year.