Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Obamacare Hits More Companies

Joining John Deere, Caterpillar, Medtronic, Verizon, Massachusetts Medical Device Manufacturers and AT&T, are Prudential Financial and Sallie Mae.
"Insurer Prudential Financial Inc. said Monday that it will take a $100 million charge in the first quarter in relation to the recent health care overhaul legislation." [AP]

"Powerhouse student loan provider Sallie Mae says layoffs are imminent as a result of President Obama's new student loan overhaul. This legislation will force Sallie Mae to reduce our 8,600-person workforce by 2,500," Conwey Casillas, Vice President of Sallie Mae Public Affairs, said in a statement to Fox News.[...]

"The student loan provisions buried in the health care legislation intentionally eliminate valuable default prevention services and private sector jobs at a time when our country can least afford to lose them," Casillas told Fox News.

"We are profoundly disappointed that a reform plan that would have achieved more savings for students was ignored and now thousands of student loan experts will unnecessarily lose their jobs," Casillas said." [Fox]

USA Today: 2/3 Americans Oppose Obamacare

No matter how Democrats try to fool themselves (and us) that their Health Care Reform was for our own good and the people will learn to like it, reality keeps showing that they are absolutely wrong.
"Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government's role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats.

"Those surveyed are inclined to fear that the massive legislation will increase their costs and hurt the quality of health care their families receive, although they are more positive about its impact on the nation's health care system overall.[...]

"Obama's approval rating was 47%-50% — the first time his disapproval rating has hit 50%.

" A plurality predicts the law will improve health care coverage generally and the overall health of Americans. [...] Pluralities say it will make coverage and quality of care worse for them. By 50%-21%, they predict it will make their costs higher.[...]

"There was a strong reaction against the tactics Democratic leaders used to pass the bill. A 53% majority call Democratic methods "an abuse of power;" 40% say they are appropriate.

"And when asked about incidents of vandalism and threats that followed the bill's passage, Americans are more inclined to blame Democratic political tactics than critics' harsh rhetoric. Forty-nine percent say Democratic tactics are "a major reason" for the incidents, while 46% blame criticism by conservative commentators and 43% the criticism of Republican leaders."

(Source: USA Today)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Millions of Seniors to Lose Prescription Coverage Under Obamacare

AT&T recently joined the growing list of companies to announce that the new regulations imposed on them by the recently-passed health care reform mandate will force them to drop key benefits from their employee and retired employee health care coverage plans.
AT&T on Friday said it will record a $1 billion non-cash expense in the first quarter related to the newly passed health-care law, joining a growing list of large U.S. companies.

The AT&T /quotes/comstock/13*!t/quotes/nls/t (T 26.24, +0.09, +0.34%) write-down is the largest reported so far. Caterpillar /quotes/comstock/13*!cat/quotes/nls/cat (CAT 62.44, +0.30, +0.48%) this week recorded a $100 million charge in the first quarter and Deere & Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!de/quotes/nls/de (DE 60.56, +0.36, +0.60%) said it will report a one-time $150 million expense.

Among its many changes, the new health-care law eliminated a tax deduction that companies used to cut the cost of drug-benefit programs for retired workers. President Obama signed the massive health-care overhaul into law earlier this week in a big victory for ruling Democrats.

Yet companies that still offer retiree drug benefits, mostly older industrial concerns or those with unionized employees, say the end of the deduction could force them to alter their benefit plans. In other words, they might curtail or even cancel them.

"As a result of this legislation, including the additional tax burden, AT&T will be evaluating prospective changes to the active and retiree health care benefits offered by the company," AT&T said in a filing with the government on Friday.

[Market Watch]

Update: Democrat cronies Reps. Waxman and Stupak have called the CEOs of Caterpillar, Verizon and Deere in for questioning and to try to get them to recant their announcements of the reality of the situation caused by the passage of Obamacare.

More Washington thuggery? Our country is looking more and more like Atlas Shrugged every day Democrats are in power.

Another Update: Add Prudential Financial to the list as well, they are estimating an $100 million hit in their first quarter because of the Democrat Health Care Reform package.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Obamacare Forgets the Children

Obama promised that no American would be denied health care due to a pre-existing condition as soon as his health care reform bill was passed. Unfortunately, it looks like with all the hype someone forgot to actually write that into the bill. From AP:
Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.[...]

Full protection for children would not come until 2014, said Kate Cyrul, a spokeswoman for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, another panel that authored the legislation. That's the same year when insurance companies could no longer deny coverage to any person on account of health problems.

Obama's public statements have conveyed the impression that the new protections for kids were more sweeping and straightforward.

First Troubles with Obamacare: It's a massive Job Killer

It's only one day after President Obama signed his Health Care Reform bill into law and already the nation is suffering from it.

“Deere & Company, Iowa’s Largest Manufacturing Employer, Said In A Statement This Morning That The Recently-Passed Health Care Legislation Will Cost The Company $150 Million After Tax This Year. (Des Moines Register, 3/25/10)

“Even Before President Obama Signed The Bill On Tuesday, Caterpillar Said It Would Cost The Company At Least $100 Million More In The First Year Alone. Medical Device Maker Medtronic Warned That New Taxes On Its Products Could Force It To Lay Off A Thousand Workers. Now Verizon Joins The Roll Of Businesses Staring At Adverse Consequences.” (The Wall Street Journal, 3/25/10)
“A Dire Warning From Bay State Medical-Device Companies That A New Sales Tax In The Federal Health-Care Law Could Force Their Plants - And Thousands Of Jobs - Out Of The Country...”
“‘This Bill Is A Jobs Killer,’ Said Ernie Whiton, Chief Financial Officer Of Chelmsford’s Zoll Medical Corp., Which Employs About 650 People In Massachusetts. Many of those employees work in Zoll’s local manufacturing facility making heart defibrillators.”
“‘We Could Be Forced To (Move) Manufacturing Overseas If We Can’t Pass Along These Costs To Our Customers,’ Said Whiton.” (“Beware The ‘Jobs Killer’,” Boston Herald, 3/25/10).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Public Rejects Obamacare, House Passes Bill

If the public were to vote on whether to accept they Health Care Reform bill, they would soundly reject it by a 8 to 18% margin according to the latest polls. (For comparison, Obama won the presidency in 2008 by 7.2%.)

The House of Representatives just passed the bill 219-212.

Guess which vote counts?

Stupack "Defender of Life" Award Revoked

The Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund have announced that they are revoking its "Defender of Life" award to Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI), for reversing his decision on the health care bill after receiving a questionable promise by Obama that he will make sure abortion will not be funded by taxpayer money.

"We were planning to honor Congressman Stupak for his efforts to keep abortion-funding out of health care reform. We will no longer be doing so," Dannenfelser said. "Let me be clear: any representative, including Rep. Stupak, who votes for this health care bill can no longer call themselves 'pro-life.'"

Stupak, who led Democratic lawmakers opposed to the Senate bill, made an announcement of a deal Sunday afternoon, surrounded by a handful of Democratic lawmakers who had held out their "yes" votes in exchange for Obama's guarantee of no public funding for abortion.

The arrangement appeared to cement passage of the Health Care government takeover.

Healthcare Bill Bribes Read on Floor of House of Representatives

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) read off a list of bribes and kickbacks on that are still included in Obamacare on the House floor. Do the recipients of these bribes really think that they will go unnoticed by the American people?


Here is a partial list of the "special deals" included in the Health Care legislation currently being voted on in the House (c/o : American Daughter):
  1. The Louisiana Purchase: A state in which every single county qualifies as a disaster area will receive extra Medicaid funding. Louisiana is the only state that qualifies, courtesy of hurricane Katrina. This $300 million bribe purchased the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for the Senate version of the bill.
  2. Cornhusker Kickback: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) won a provision that the full amount of Nebraska’s increased Medicaid costs would be paid for by the federal government. Essentially, he felt that the other 49 states (yes, Barack, there are only 50 states) should pick up the tab for Nebraska. That certainly violates the intent of the “commerce clause.”
  3. Gator Aid, Florida Flim Flam, Sunshine State Sweepstakes (this one picked up three names): Medicare Advantage participants in five states would be exempted from the general Medicare cuts — Florida, New York, California, Oregon, New Jersey. The estimated cost of this plum is $7.5 billion according to the office of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Florida is the largest beneficiary, with the bulk of the affected senior population.
  4. Vermont Green: The Senate bill provides $600 million in extra Medicaid funds to Vermont, ensuring support from Independent Bernard Sanders (I-VT).
  5. Massachusetts Moolah: The Senate bill provides $500 million extra for Massachusetts Medicaid, a political move designed to put pressure on newly elected Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).
  6. The Dodd Deal: In oh-so-innocent and unspecific wording, the Senate bill allows $100 million for “debt service of, or direct construction of, a health care facility,” at a public university. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) bragged that he was securing the money for the University of Connecticut:

    “These provisions will bring millions of dollars to the state so that Connecticut’s residents can receive quality, affordable health care.”

  7. Montana Earmark: Max Baucus (D-MT) secured a provision that expands Medicare coverage for people who live “in or around the geographic area subject to an emergency declaration made as of June 17, 2009.” That’s just one place, which the New York Times identifies:

    The intended beneficiaries are identified in a cryptic, mysterious way: individuals exposed to environmental health hazards recognized as a public health emergency in a declaration issued by the federal government on June 17.

    And who might those individuals be? It turns out they are people exposed to asbestos from a vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont.

    For a decade, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, has been trying to get the government to help them. He is in a position to deliver now because he is chairman of the Finance Committee and a principal author of the health care bill.

  8. Bismarck Bank Job: This deal bought the vote of Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, the state’s only House Democrat. Legislation to restructure the student loan program was included in the health care bill. It cuts all the banks that have been making student loans out of the program, except for one bank in North Dakota!
This is not including the senators and representatives who are bing offered cushy appointments in exchange for their cooperation.

Paul Ryan's Medicare Solution

A video that shows us many things:
  1. Democrats are lying when they claim that Republicans haven't brought forth any solutions for the health care crisis.
  2. Democrats can't understand any of the Republican plans (probably because they don't understand economics and the health care system).
  3. Democrats are not at all worried about Medicare going bankrupt by 2019.
  4. Democrats certainly don't want to give all Americans the kind of health care they enjoy


Friday, March 19, 2010

Lies! The Bill Is NOT Deficit Neutral!

The CBO, when scoring the bill, must make certain assumptions. Because they are supposed to be politically neutral, these assumptions are limited to the words of the bill in front of them, even if its contents are false or delusional. Furthermore, the President and members of the Congress have misquoted the bill in hopes of proving financial viability. Here are some serious deficit issues with the the bill and it's reconciliation items, thankfully highlighted by heritage.org, which aren’t being broadcasted in the mainstream media:

  • They elimination of the “doc fix” (which motivates doctors to accept Medicare patients) of $371 billion is being counted as savings. Problem is, government healthcare is screwed without the doc fix so it’s going to be included in another separate bill i.e. it can’t be considered a savings because is going to be spent sooner or later.
  • Over half of the savings in the first 10 years is supposed to come from the CLASS Act where people pay for premiums up front for benefits received later. They’re counting the payments as savings but not subtracting the benefits paid out later.
  • The bill contains billions of cuts to Medicare. However, these cuts are widely unpopular, especially considered the upcoming baby-boomers, and in reality will probably not be totally implemented. Just like the doc fix elimination—it’s wishful thinking, at least under this administration.
  • In the first 10 years the bill includes years of revenue with only a few years of expenses to make the spending will look smaller. When the bill fully goes into effect, the spending is closer to 2.5 trillion, not the 1 trillion advertised by the White House.
  • The reconciliation package includes a tax on high cost premiums that would be implemented in 2018, which based on general inflation will end up taxing more and more of the middle class. Essentially, this puts the tax collection responsibility on a future President and Congress who may not be willing to risk doing this to the middle class.
  • The plan increases premium assistance subsidies paid to poor families, but indexes their value below the growth in the premiums so it looks less than it actually is after 2019. (FYI, this makes it more expensive for an employer to hire someone poor which will hurt lower class job opportunities. It also contains requirements that make it more expensive to higher more than 49 workers, which obviously creates disincentive not to expand and hire more people).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Big Lie of Health Care Reform

This article over on American Thinker is right on all accounts in its description of our current health care system, what is wrong with it, and how the Democrat-Obama-Pelosi-Reid "Reform" Plan will not only make it much much worse, but hand over one sixth of the economy to the control of the federal government:
One-Sixth of the US Economy is threatened with a takeover by the Federal Government on the erroneous rationale that "Tens of millions of people in the US are without health care insurance, and therefore are being denied access to adequate health care." Unjust! Unfair!

This is, of course, an absolute lie. And nor do some large number of people "die every day from lack of health insurance coverage." That too is a lie.

Access to the health care providers (professional services) and medicine (products) of the best health care system in the world is already universal and available to every US Citizen, legal resident, illegal alien, prisoner, detainee, or visitor - regardless of whether anyone is covered by any insurance policy or health plan. For heaven's sake, even the illegal aliens have figured out that anyone who walks into an Emergency Room is required by law (EMTALA) to be treated, regardless of the person's ability to pay.

The Big Lie: Without health care insurance, there is no access to health care.

Health care insurance coverage is but one method of paying for health care products and services. Doctors and hospitals are quite open to accepting cash, checks, or credit cards for their services rendered and have no problem with getting paid directly -- meaning they get their money right away, don't have to fill out and file mounds of bureaucratic paperwork with insurance companies, don't have to worry about what treatments are approved and reimbursable by the insurance companies, etc.

In fact, when health care is directly paid for by a patient, then issues like preexisting conditions, escalating premium rates, denied claims, dropped policies, and all of the regularly lamented shortcomings of the health insurance industry become moot. Case in point: elective surgery such as breast augmentation is a medical procedure that isn't covered by any health insurance, but somehow there doesn't seem to be any access issues to the procedure or lack of them occurring.

And yet most people are led to believe that they simply can't afford to pay for their own health services directly. That's why they purchase health insurance, or their employer purchases it for them as an employee benefit. Actually, this too is a great misunderstanding of the problems with respect to health insurance coverage, which are completely distinct issues from access to actual health care services.

Any form of insurance (Home, Car, Flood, Health Care, etc.) is nothing more than a financial instrument used to mitigate an unacceptable potential financial risk. Insurance wouldn't work unless more people are paying into a common pool than are taking money out of it. The whole idea of insurance coverage is to spread financial risk among many people so that any one member isn't hit with some catastrophic expense should a major need occur. But in many respects, most health insurance coverage has been expanded in scope to become some kind of "Health Services Subscription Club" that pays for many services that really don't represent unacceptable financial risks by themselves.

Indeed, overpaying beyond an individual's actual needs via insurance premiums is a viable means to avoid getting hit with major medical expenses. However, that's why they invented Catastrophic Insurance Policies -- i.e. those cheaper high-deductible plans that don't kick in until direct expenses go over a few thousand dollars.

Regardless, even without any kind of health insurance policy whatsoever or ObamaCare, if someone gets in a car wreck, the ambulance will still respond and take the injured to the Emergency Room, where they will be treated regardless of their ability to pay. It's already the law.

The whole ObamaCare health care reform debate isn't really about people who already have health insurance; rather, it's supposedly being crafted for the benefit of all those who are without coverage, who need it, but can't afford it. Nevertheless, if tomorrow the government bought health insurance policies for everyone who doesn't have one, that wouldn't make access to health care services any more available than they already are.

To the contrary, the law of supply and demand dictates that if 30 million or more new customers are added to a market place (the demand), and there is no proportional increase in the number of service providers (the supply), then prices will go up as service availability goes down -- which means the whole system gets worse for everyone -- not better.

The real issue is that there are those who wish to argue that, despite all the adverse (if not catastrophic) consequences of ObamaCare to the system, health care is a "basic human right" and therefore the basis for a massive new government entitlement program. But health care isn't an "inalienable right" -- it's a basic human necessity -- just like food, clothing and shelter. All of these basic human necessities are bought and sold every day in the free market in the context of the goods and services that they really are.

The simple reality is this: there are those in our society who can afford these necessities, and there are those in our society who can't. For those who can't afford the basic human necessity of proper health care -- just like food, clothing, and shelter -- that need becomes the basis of voluntary charity and aid.

Conversely, the government version of involuntary charity via taxation is called "Welfare." So whether it's private charity or a government welfare program that helps people buy something they otherwise couldn't afford but need, that's fine; just recognize that's the issue -- not an entitled right, not an access or availability problem, not a lack of insurance policies.

Now if making health care more affordable for everyone is really the goal, to thereby lower the threshold of who can readily pay for it directly and/or indirectly via an insurance policy, and thus reduce the necessity of charity and/or welfare for those who need assistance, then free market business forces, scientific and technological advances, along with increased competition -- not intrusive government forces -- are the answers.

Consider one mathematical fact: the purchase of 30 million new insurance policies that cost $5,000 each is only $150 billion, which is a fraction of the real price tag of ObamaCare.

One can therefore reasonably conclude that ObamaCare isn't really about making health care more available or affordable to those who need it and can't afford it. It isn't about lowering insurance costs or reducing the federal deficit -- what has been proposed achieves none of these objectives.

ObamaCare is simply a leviathan of a lie, whose only practical impact for generations to come will be increased welfare state dependency on government, greater government intrusion, and control over people's personal lives and privacy, reduced availability of health care providers as more of them are driven from their professions -- all of which translates to higher and higher costs, which only accelerates the country's financial death spiral.

But that's to be expected: most grandiose plans predicated on lies don't end well.

Robert Gelinas

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reconciliation of Healthcare Bill faces Massive Gridlock in Congress

If the House can pass the Senate version of Obamacare, and that is a big if, Republicans plan to bleed the reconciliation bills to death by using the “Byrd rule.” According to the “Byrd rule,” only budgetary items can be passed by the reconciliation process; not policy items. The Obamacare reconciliation bills will contain many items that relate to policy. Republicans will have those stripped out, one by one, and force the House to keep revolting on the changed bill.

From The Plum Line:
Senior Senate GOP leadership aides have settled on a new strategy that, they hope, will stall or kill the Dem health reform push: They are going to use the arcane “Byrd rule” to try to bleed the reconciliation fix to death and ensure that it never passes.

Senior GOP aides have been studying the rule book in recent days, and they think they have a game plan. Here’s how they hope it will work.

At risk of oversimplification, the Byrd rule is designed to ensure that reconciliation is used to only make budgetary fixes, not policy ones, to existing legislation. Presuming the House passes the Senate bill, the House will then pass a reconciliation fix to the bill, after which the Senate will then try to pass that fix, too.

At this point Senate GOPers will repeatedly invoke the Byrd rule to ask the parliamentarian to strip individual provisions (ones fixing this or that in the original bill) out of the fix, on the grounds that they are policy fixes. If individual provisions are stripped, it would change the Senate’s version of the overall fix.

That would force the House to vote on it again and again, stalling the process further.

“The bottom line is that it is incredibly difficult to craft a reconciliation bill on health care that isn’t subject to multiple Byrd rule violations,” says one senior Senate GOP aide, who was granted anonymity to preview their strategy. “House Dems are likely to be voting on a reconciliation bill multiple times.”

If 'Blue Dog' Democrats fall for their party leadership's snake oil, they are likely to be left hanging. Republicans may block the changes they are demanding and Obama, Reid and Pelosi really don't want to make the changes they want anyway.

[Hat Tip: Blue Grass Pundit]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Obama: 60 Votes to Pass Healthcare Needed

At least four times in the past few years, Obama has stressed that a 60% majority in the senate will be needed to pass any healthcare reform bill. This rule was originally created in the Senate to encourage bipartisanship and prevent any single party from forcing an unpopular agenda.


Unfortunately, with the unpopularity of his current bill, Obama is going back on his word and instructing Pelosi and Reed to ram the bill through in a rare procedure called reconciliation (aka, the "nuclear option") that is only supposed to be used for passing budgets.

Along with every single Republican, many Democrats in the senate are uncomfortable with this abuse of procedure. Senator Robert Byrd, a far-from-conservative Democrat who was involved in creating the reconciliation process in 1974 had this to say:
I oppose using the budget reconciliation process to pass the health care reform and climate change legislation. Such a proposal would violate the intent and spirit of the budget process, and do serious injury to the Constitutional role of the Senate.

As one of the authors of the reconciliation process, I can tell you that the ironclad parliamentary procedures it authorizes were never intended for this purpose. Reconciliation was intended to adjust revenue and spending levels in order to reduce deficits. It was not designed to cut taxes. It was not designed to create a new climate and energy regime, and certainly not to restructure the entire health care system.