Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dr. Obama Writes A Prescription

The President stretched forth his healer's hands, and has diagnosed America's health care system to be in desperate need of major surgery. He has temporarily written a prescription for a new wonder drug. It's a red pill, and it costs about a trillion dollars. But the good news is that everybody will get to take the pill, whether they want to or not.

Speaking before the American Medical Association on Monday, Mr. Obama turned a crowd that had previously been openly hostile to socialized medicine into a crowd of merely semi-hostile questioners. Introducing an amorphous speechified version of the Ted Kennedy plan to turn medical care over to the government, Mr. Obama danced and parried around the details of what a huge and expensive program this would be.

Despite the Congressional Budget Office estimate of the cost of the plan at $1 trillion dollars over ten years, the plan would still leave 36 million Americans uninsured. So it doesn't really solve the "crisis in health coverage" and what it does cover will cost an estimated $62,500 for each new person covered. The Financial Times reported that the CBO had played the role of "the skunk at the party" in 1993, when the administration grossly underplayed the cost of Hillarycare. Although the new CBO report doesn't smell quite so bad to the Obama administration, it didn't need another "trillion dollar program" being announced by supposedly friendly accountants.

Most of the criticism and questioning at the meeting related to the cost of the program and the fact that the plan claims that individuals can keep their private and employer plans. The problem with that second part is that is assumes something that is very unlikely. Private plans won't be able to compete with government giveaways or maintain their current level of medical choices and approved medications, while many employers, facing taxes on "excess benefits" and loss of tax deductions for certain coverage will simply opt out of employer provided health benefits. The moment millions of previously covered Americans cancel their private plans or cease to have plans through their employers, they all become "uninsureds" who will join the crowd getting their care from the government (or rather, from the taxpayers).

Although the plan presented by Obama and Kennedy appears to fill a major gap, in fact it leaves much of the gap unfilled and in addition will create another huge class of uninsured Americans who will have no choice but to join the government plan or go without insurance. Specifics on how the government bureaucrats will determine level of care and availablity of care were left to the imagination. Most doctors, indeed most Americans, recognize that there is a health care delivery problem of major proportions that needs to be solved, but most also realize that nationalized health care and its ugly stepsister "single payer" health care are cures that are worse than the disease.

In addition, the number of "uninsureds" includes those who are temporarily uninsured (largely because of the increase in unemployment), and all illegal immigrants. The number of genuine, legitimate, longterm "uninsureds" is far lower than the government wishes the American people to know about. That real number is what most doctors, laymen, and charities wish to see the government working on. Only liberal politicians want to see the exploitation of another "crisis" which grants government more power over people's lives. Most of the President's advisers are getting their concepts from the national health care systems in England, Canada and socialized Europe. None of them have apparently noticed the huge dissatisfaction with those systems among the "beneficiaries," nor that all of those systems are being carefully re-evaluated to provide for more and better private care.

So how did the MSM treat the reaction to Obama's AMA speech? More evenly than we've come to expect. The AP felt the necessity to gush before reporting the actual news: "For all the young President's popularity, the response he got Monday from doctors at an AMA meeting was a sign his road is only going to get rockier as he tries to sell his plan to overhaul the nation's health care system." CNN was consistent with its all-Obama all the time reporting: "The AMA was expected to be a tough crowd but they quickly melted. This is the beginning of an essential courtship for Obama, who desperately needs this group to pass his health care reform."

NBC's Nightly News was a little more realistic in saying "there were doctors at today's American Medical Association gathering who booed the President." ABC World News actually got to the heart of the matter by noting that doctors "fear that a not-for-profit public plan will drive private insurers out of business, swamping enrollments for the public plan and forcing the government to slash doctors' rates." CBS Evening News said that Obama "made his case for change in front of a tough audience" but was honest enough to add "and he found himself on the defensive."

Obama got a "standing ovation when he said he might be open to some kind of relief for doctors from malpractice lawsuits," said CBS. But Obama giveth, and Obama taketh away. "But he then got a smattering of boos when he says he still opposes caps on jury awards." AP surprisingly reported that "former Senator Tom Daschle says controlling the cost of malpractice insurance will have to be a part of the Obama administration's overhaul of the health care system."

Even Fox News was fairly generous in reporting that the President "could be winning some support by focusing on medical malpractice suits." Well, you can't lose kicking the lawyers. Yet AP, AFP, and McClatchy all quoted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as saying "Americans don't want a government-run system that puts bureaucrats between patients and doctors." But AP then backed down a bit as it found some Republican disingenuousness: "Republicans are honing an attack line against Obama in an attempt to play on Americans' fears of government overreach and economic uncertainties, suggesting he is nationalizing American industry and socializing medicine." Oh, those rotten Republicans. What's the big deal about government overreach and financial disaster when you can have a health care system as good as Cuba's?


packerfaninbhc said...

MSM hasn't finished pushing this crap down our throats, yet. Check this out, LawHawkSF. ABC TURNS PROGRAMMING OVER TO OBAMA; NEWS TO BE ANCHORED FROM INSIDE WHITE HOUSE at:
Could it be any more obvious that the so called "mainstream media" is anything but?

Mike Kriskey said...

"Republicans are...suggesting [Obama] is nationalizing American industry and socializing medicine."

How dare they?!

AndrewPrice said...

Nice article Lawhawk. Everytime either party acts on healthcare in DC, they make the situation worse. Obama seems intend on really messing up the system, but the Republican plans are no better -- they just want to add requirements to your insurance and then pumping in more government money.

I don't think Obama will get what he wants because of his stimulus bill. He has spent so much in his first budget that there's nothing left, as will become increasingly obvious as China stops buying our debt.

I was planning on discussing healthcare in the Republican series because there is a perfect solution to this whole thing. Maybe we need to step that up a bit?

Packerfan -- welcome! Even several liberals I know are shocked by ABC's decision.

StanH said...

It boggles the mind to think that any American can believe that the Government can handle Health Care. Free market solutions are the answer IMO. End federal and state mandates, malpractice reform, catastrophic insurance only, make health insurance tax deductible to the individual, real market competition. I could embellish on each suggestion if necessary, but I think you get the point. To those that believe that the government should take control, go to the Health Department for your health care for a while, or speak with a veteran about their care at the VA. This is nothing but Barry grabbing power, be afraid, be very afraid.

Writer X said...

"Fear-mongering" has become the word du jour that the President and others are using to describe anyone who disagrees with government healthcare. I wish that we'd see a whole lot more "fear-mongering" by the Republicans. They're still way too tame on this very important issue.

Khassie said...

As someone with several serious medical conditions that will last until I die, the idea of socialized medicine scares the crap out of me. Right now, through my husband's employer, I have very good medical coverage and can see whatever doctors I need to for my conditions and get the medications I need with minimal hassle. That's going to be a thing of the past thanks to Our Savior. Ugh.

Unknown said...

Packerfan: Great to see you here! I'm a Bears fan, but I see you forgave me anyway. You also must have read my mind. I tossed a coin when I wrote this article, and the "ABC Moves to the White Story" lost out to Socialized Medicine. But you couldn't be any more on point. Keep coming back.

Mike: I'm afraid they're willing to dare anything they think they can get away with. And so far, they've gotten away with far more than I would have believed just one short year ago.

Andrew: I hoped you were planning on something like that. Republicans have to address the issue, including what to do about getting catastrophic coverage for the unemployed and uninsured, but socialized medicine is not the way to do it. As we've discussed before, if all we do is say "no, no, no" to a real need, we'll still be in trouble. Getting illegal immigrants off the plans is a good start.

Unknown said...

StanH: You couldn't be more right. Government control of anything (except the military)is a bad idea generally. Government control of everything, including your personal and physical life, is a horrible idea. We need to stop this as soon as possible, or we may have to spend decades un-doing it, if it can be un-done at all.

WriterX: Isn't it odd how the Democrats condemn fear-mongering, then declare everything in America to be in crisis as an excuse to take over every facet of our lives? The only thing we have to fear--is just about everything the Obama administration does.

Khassie: The only solution for you is to become a high-level Democrat or a government employee. So far, they're the only ones who will be able to get doctors who actually went to a medical school you've heard of and to hospitals that aren't set up in tents in a K-Mart parking lot. Seriously, I think Andrew is right, and though the left will get some kind of illegal immigrant and chronically-unemployed plan, even his own Democrats are not prepared to go as far as what Kennedy and Obama are throwing at us.

BevfromNYC said...

Packerfan and Law: I am a Cowboys fan. I had to get that off my chest before I go on...

Until, there is tort reform, then there can be no real healthcare reform. And until doctors, and not lawyers and office/insurance company bureaucrats, are once again in charge of patient care, we will have a broken system. Insurance companies already use the Medicare cap to set doctors fees, so I don't know how more caps and regulations are going to help. We need to allow doctors to do what they are trained to do rather than hamstring them with frivolous lawsuits and the fear of the same.

We also might consider rethinking "insurance" in this country. There used to be a time when most people paid for yearly exams and minor issues out of pocket, but were covered for catastrophic illnesses and events. Now we are covered for our office "wellness" visits and minor issues, but there is a cap on catastrophic illnesses. To me it's like your home owners insurance covering light bulbs changes and paint jobs, but not the roof caving in or the house burning down.

Khassie said...

I found out today that I have to get some sort of thyroid nuclear scan and uptake, whatever the hell that is. There's only one facility near me that does nuclear testing and they had me call to make sure my insurance doesn't require pre-auth. They don't, thankfully. So I'll go in tomorrow to arrange for an appointment.

Just how likely do you think I'd be able to get that done with socialized medicine? Not very, I'm sure.

patti said...

when i hear barry selling his healthcare plan my mind goes to how much fun i have at the dmv or post office. or to how efficient they are. or even how happy the employees seem to be to see me. and now i'm gonna have a chance for government run healthcare as well. lucky me...

captcha: sting (indeed!)

Unknown said...

Bev: You nailed it. If I want to pay for private insurance that covers manicures, that's my choice. But when it comes to my taxes being used to pay for things that people should be expected to pay for out of their own pockets, I get mulish. Measured care and doctor fee caps eliminate anything faintly resembling competition. A year after Obamacare goes into effect, you can check your doctors' online reviews to find that they will mostly have the following review: "Hasn't been sued for malpractice in the last 90 days." "Dr. Quack received his medical certificate from the University of Tierra del Fuego night medical school in 1937."

Khassie: A few years back, I needed an aorto-bifemoral bypass. My regular doctor saw me on Wednesday, he sent me to the cardio-vascular surgeon on Friday, and I had the surgery on Monday morning. All I had to pay was the $500 co-pay, and my employer-provided medical insurance covered the rest. That was six years ago, and if I had government healthcare, I'd still be waiting for the surgery while sitting in a government-provided wheelchair, but only if I haven't died of a heart attack first.

Khassie said...

LH, its not just that you'd die waiting for an appointment, but also what you indicated about being treated by less than competent individuals. I had to have blood drawn at my doc's office who is treating my anemia. This same woman has drawn my blood for over 4 years and each time, she's had to stab me at least 3 times before she gets it into a vein. Today was no different, 2 in the left arm and 1 in the right. After Obama's health care revolution, I'm going to look like a pin cushion!

Unknown said...

Khassie: We have government-run healthcare here in San Francisco. But if you have the City coverage, you have to go to County General Hospital for treatment. The last time I went past it on my way to my real doctor, I noticed the coroner/morgue wing seemed to have gotten considerably larger. I wonder if there's a connection. I've heard that most of the deaths there occur from old age--the patients were young when they first got to the waiting room, but the doctors were busy watching Marcus Welby MD episodes, and the nurses were on strike.

Khassie said...

LH, that's funny but also sad that its probably pretty accurate. While the many maladies I have are chronic and lifelong, none are really going to kill me as long as I take care of them. Unfortunately, my life expectancy takes a nosedive with socialized medicine. They're going to have to embiggen every morgue/coroner's area very soon I'm afraid.

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