Monday, August 17, 2009

5 Point Health Care Reform Plan


I'm not in favor of government-run healthcare, let me make that clear. America unequivocally has the best care in the world because of innovation born in the private healthcare industry. If we MUST make reforms to appease the political elite and their constituency, here is a plan that would address most of the pressing issues and fairly give everyone a stake in their own healthcare and the systems that provide it. This plan isn't perfect but as Voltaire suggested, "don't let perfect become the enemy of the good."

1. Ensure the viability of the private insurance industry
The worst thing that could happen would be for the existing private insurance industry to wither away. That would ensure a government monopoly and that, as evidenced by history, is not a good thing. This is probably the most contentious issue dividing health care reform advocates and opposition. To bridge this divide, create a set of rules that would explicitly protect the private insurance industry from unfair competition from the government option.

• Prohibit the government from enacting any new taxes on private healthcare plans, their recipients or the groups (employers) who provide them. The goal would be to ensure that the system is not set-up for the purpose of eventual government takeover.

• Give private citizens full tax deductability for individual health care plans and savings accounts.

• Allow inter-state purchase of health insurance. Why in the world is this not allowed? Simple: it is designed to INCREASE insurance costs to help create the "crisis" which, naturally, can only be solved by government. Here's how: the smaller the insurance pool, the generally higher the rates for members of that group.

• Require any new rules or laws to have equal economic impact on the private insurance industry as they would the government run versions. This would reduce the appeal for the government to rewrite the rules to benefit their system at the expense of the private industry.

2. GovCare
Combine Medicare (seniors) and Medicaid (poor) with this new healthcare program (Gapcare?) and call it all GovCare. Streamline the bureacracy and administration of these programs for starters. This should be able to save billions annually.

• Gapcare would cover anyone who meats basic means testing (above Medcaid) and would require them to pay a portion of their monthly premium, perhaps 10-50%. Premium should be fairly low since the government has promised its ability to lower rates by having such a large pool of 30-50 million Americans. Yet a premium must be collected in order for these people to have "skin in the game".

• The rest of the funding for the Gapcare should not come from the general revenue fund nor borrowing. It should come from a combination of savings acheived by putting all the federal healthcare programs under the GovCare roof. It should also come from taxing the foods directly related to a good deal of the nation's health problems. Add a few cents for every high-fructose or liquor beverage along with a few cents for every packaged or prepared food item that derives XX% of its calories from fat or sugar. I'm generally not in favor of any new tax but if you must pay for GovCare, I'd rather it be funded by some of the consumption responsible for our generally lousy state of health. Road work is largely funded by the people who use the roads (fuel taxes and surcharges), why not health care?

• Make all government healthcare options, just that... options. This means allowing seniors to opt-out of the Medicare and allows young adults to go without coverage if they so desire. Just because some politicians deem healthcare a "right" does not mean individuals must be compelled by force of law to accept.

3. Require responsibility
I'm not sure how (legally) this could be legislated but employer-provided health insurance plans should require recipients to pay half of the monthly premium. By creating a larger financial stake in their own health care costs, people are likely to live more healthy (filling another goal of reform) and reduce their individual "health care footprint" on society. It also reduces the cost to many large employers (that currently pay 100%) who may improve the level of plan their group participates in or extend benefits to more employees. This rule would extend to all union and civil service employee insurance programs, regardless of collective bargaining agreements.

4. Let the FDA draw a line in the sand on drugs
One of the big reasons America spends so much of its GDP (about 16%) on health care is that we are taking too many drugs (the legal ones ;) We have truly become a medicated society. Over the last two decades, there has been an explosion of drugs that appeal to the "sniffly nose" crowd. Let the FDA create two drug designations on all new and existing drugs: Life Quality (LQ) and Life Necessity (LN). These would be legitimate medical determinations, not political ones. No insurance program would be permitted to pay for LQ drugs -- not even GovCare. If you want to pay out of pocket for them, fine. The reality is, the drug companies will probably spend less money on R&D for LQ drugs and put more time and effort into real medical breakthroughs.

While they're at it, the FDA should also limit direct-consumer advertising. This might sounds blasphemous coming from someone in the media industry ;) Drug companies currently spend about 30% of their annual revenues on marketing and advertising. This is largely responsible for the huge rise in the use of LQ drugs. The government already regulates advertising for cigarettes and alcohol so this one is no stretch. Limit drug companies to a 10% cap on advertising : revenue.

5. Tort Reform
There simply cannot be health care reform without tort reform. If the democrats are sincere about seeing a better system, they must drop their opposition to this. This is a huge contributing factor in escalating health care costs -- the enormous cost of liability insurance to health care professionals. The culprit is the high costs of litigation and compensation payouts for medical tort claims. There is no debate over the cost impact this has on the system. Most tort claims are paid from the pockets of insurance, and because the public pays into insurance, the public is footing the bill for these claims. There should be caps on punitive damages and non-economic awards. While the Democrats have been quick to vilify the insurance and drug companies, they have been breathtakingly silent on this aspect of cost control. Isn't it time to put the health of the country first, President Obama?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Taxation and tyranny

Why do Leftist TV pundits and liberal "thinkers" consider tax cuts an "income boost" to those who receive them. This is offensive. To speak about tax cuts in terms of how much they "cost" is intellectually dishonest. This is a common tactic of the Left. The government is not GIVING anything to me, in the case of a tax cut, that I haven't already EARNED.

And that's the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives. As a conservative I unabashedly declare that I want to keep more of my own money, more of my own labor. Meanwhile liberals will NEVER say they intend to take more of your money. That is of course, if you're "rich". We're not talking about the ultra wealthy here. They mean (in the last election) $125,000 per year or in other elections, less. I have news for you, $125K is not rich. Especially if you happen to live in a larger city. Especially if you have $75,000 - $100,000 in school loans to pay off because you decided to serve society as a medical professional.

Look, I have no problem paying taxes -- particularly state and local ones. Those are close to home and provide services I can benefit from directly or indirectly. But paying 1/3 of my income to the federal government while others pay nothing... that is obscene. And if a state wants to have high taxes to pay for health care or any plethora of social services, I can choose to move to a state that doesn't. THAT, was the vision and purpose of our federal system of government. A system we enjoy no more.

I have come to the conclusion that liberals really don't believe in the American Dream -- well as long as it is limited to a modest house, two cars and a load of credit card debt. They really DON"T want you to be more successful than others. I don't understand how any logical human being can look at their history of tax and spend policies and conclude otherwise. Instead, they lie, year after year, election after election, about their intentions. "We want to help you" they cry. And because they seized control of our education system decades ago, too many people believe in their false promises and don't see their intentions for what they are: to control your every need. For them, that is the root of their political power. For the rest of us, it is the foundation of a tyranny yet to come but well on its way.

The second pillar of Marx's transition to communism... A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On capitalism and freedom

Over on Facebook today, I got into a brief debate about the merits of capitalism. Fitting too, as the topic du jour (Healthcare) is at its core, a tug-of-war between the "have's" and the "have not's." What bothers me most is the false belief that capitalism is a zero sum game -- that for some to win, others must lose. This is theoretically and in reality, a false proposition. It assumes that resources are finite, which they are not.

Consider real estate. As Mark Twain once said, "Buy real estate, they're not making it any more." Well, we have found ways to make more of it -- lots more. Just ask the Japanese or any city dweller. It's called going vertical. Or how about the finite nature of energy? We will likely eventually replace fossil fuels with something else before long. France for instance, now powers about 85% of its electrical grid with nuclear energy.

In terms of capitalism, it's primary fuel is currency. Every nation on earth creates more and more of it every year through debt and inflation. So currency supply is NOT finite. Therefore one man's gain is not necessarily another man's loss. This is not to say that there aren't economic winner's and losers in society, only that capitalism itself is not the deciding factor on who wins or loses.

What anti-capitalist thinkers are really decrying is the fact that there are such large disparities between the have's and have not's. This cannot be denied but they falsely seek to indict the capitalist system as the culprit. The truth is that to a large extent these disparities are the simple result of the natural order. Some people are taller than others, some smarter, some stronger and some faster. These inequalities cannot be diminished through any man-made, social construct. Of course the Marxists among us believe the inequalities of outcome forged by these disparities can and should be diminished through communism. The only thing that ends up being diminished however is the human spirit and the standard of life for everyone.

Man was not born to be slaves to a social construct. That is the beauty and truth that underlies our political system which cherishes freedom and promotes capitalism. Redistribution of wealth (one of the prerequisites of nationalized healthcare) is a fundamental paradox to the American way of life. It is only now, that we stand at the precipice of financial ruin caused by redistribution policies that people are now standing up en masse to say, "enough is enough".

Is this greed or simply self-preservation? Can you really blame those who have labored so hard to build their own economic freedom, only to see more and more relinquished year after year, object? Make no mistake, the political class who seeks to take from one man's labor and give it to another is not doing it out of some sense of higher purpose. They do it for the sake of political power. For class warfare is one of the oldest political manifestos in history. Today, the Democrats are strumming this fiddle with great intensity. "From each according to his ability and to each according to his means," said Marx. And now, we have elected a leader in Barack Obama and a Congress led by Nancy Pelosi who embrace this philosophy for their own higher purpose: political power. This, above all else, is the greatest threat to our national security.

What will save us is the "Patriot class". You are seeing them now, finally, stand up in Town Halls and protests all across this land. They are powered by the sense of longing for a nation which truly governs with the consent of the people, not the coercion of the people. They are driven by the economic virtue of, "to each from his labors." These values we hold more dearly than any other people on earth. This is not a romanticism with our past but merely the acknowledgment of the values which have allowed our nation to prosper above all others. Americans who do not believe in these basic truths do not stand with us, they stand against us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What it means to be an American

I've been interested in politics for about 15 years. I studied it in college, graduating with a Political Science degree. I have been fortunate to see its inner workings up close as campaign coordinator for a U.S. Senate candidate who came a hair away from winning. I have run a large student political organizations. I've run for State Senate myself, as a candidate. Gladly, I did not win ;) I have seen and heard a lot over the years and have always been an avid consumer of news, politics and sociology.

Yet, before today I have not felt compelled to write about my thoughts and observations outside of a few facebook notes and provoking status updates ;) So, why today? It's a slow work day. Kidding.

I have a deep respect and appreciation for what the United State of America has achieved as a people. We have done more to progress human rights, living standards and embrace the spirit of individual freedom than any other nation in the history of Earth. Yes, our history is also reflective of the frailties of human imperfection. But this is a great nation, built on timeless principles which are now being torn apart from within. Our greatest challenge today comes not from enemy armies. It comes from our inability to look at ourselves in the mirror and answer this one basic question...

What does it mean to be an American?

It likely means many different things to many different people. Yet, I suspect most of our elected leaders would have a difficult time clearly and succinctly answering this fundamental question.

For me the answer lies within the question itself... "to be". It means being able "to be" whatever one wishes, within the limits of one's given abilities. Being an American means enjoying a system of government that allows us "to be". And this bring me right back to why I have decided to begin blogging.

Like millions of Americans, thousands of which you're seeing at Town Halls across the country, I have decided to wake up and say "No". No more government intrusion, no more government programs to "take care of me". No more being told by government officials "what's good for me". And no more redistribution of my hard-earned wealth.

The winds of dissent are howling in America. Finally. It's these winds at my back that have encouraged me to once again get involved, engage others and at least try to make a difference. Because what's at stake is more than a Health Care bill, it's more than government deficits, more than mere politics. It's our very way of life that is at stake. It's me and millions of others telling the government, which is presumably under our authority, that enough is enough. Turn the ship around. Go back. Not many would disagree that our current course as a nation is untenable -- financially, socially and spiritually (in a secular sense).

That's why I have titled this blog, "Spirit of '76". In my own small way I hope to promote the spirit of those people over 200 years ago who did the unthinkable. The impossible. They formed a new social contract that for the first time, put the ideal of individual liberty above all others.

It is this America that I'm fighting and now, writing for.