Friday, March 28, 2008

Right to Life, HealthCare, and Happiness

Next fall, we're all going to be making a decision on who we think should be running the country. Should it be the Republicans? Should it be the Democrats? Should it be Ralph Nader? (I can't even write that without a little snicker). No matter what, when I go to the poll I will be voting against somebody. This I already know because I don't like anybody who is running. And, as always, I will be voting for the person I think will do the least amount of damage to the country I love. A sad state of affairs, but there it is. 

I must say, I think I'm grateful to the "liberals" for eschewing that particular name for themselves in favor of "progressives." It never ceases to amaze me how somebody can be called "liberal" when they're so against liberty. At least now that they're called "progressive" it's accurate... they're progressing - towards a goal I dislike, but they're progressing anyway.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton is running on a platform of "centrism" -- or so she says. Of course, there's nothing centrist about her health care proposals... Hillary might as well change the preamble to read, "that among these are life, health care, and the pursuit of happiness," because when she's finished there will be very little "liberty" left.

Hillary wants to limit what Americans pay for health insurance to no more than 10 percent of their income. If you're currently paying 20% of your income on health insurance, then this might sound very good to you. But - there's a catch. Those people who currently self insure? Those folks who are now free to do as they please, go to the doctor, pay the bill and move on without paying 10% of their income to a business they despise? Yeah, those people will be REQUIRED to pay no more than 10% of their income to that business. 

Hillary also said that she prefers to set the cost limit at a single level for all Americans rather than varying it by income. I hear this and it sounds like code for a large number of Americans being insured by the government rather than by the private industry. But it gets better... because by the time Hillary is finished, the private insurance industry will be so heavily regulated that it might as well be government run. 

Take, for instance, the statement that it "might be appropriate" to require insurers to spend a heavy proportion of every premium dollar on health care as opposed to overhead and profit. Again, sounds nice... in a way. Insurance companies are supposed to be covering people - that's the whole point, right? Well... no. Not really. Insurance companies are COMPANIES. They are there to make a profit. That's actually the point. They need to try to produce a product that will sell to the public, but their bottom line is to make a profit. It's a business, for crying out loud. If you require that insurance companies spend 85 cents for every dollar received in premiums on pay-outs, what will happen to the premiums? Well, you'd think they might need to increase... insurance companies do have a good bit of overhead, you know. But WAIT! Hillary will CAP premiums... and regulate companies... and make life generally miserable for any private insurance company. Why would they choose to stay in business under conditions such as these?

As for raising the money needed to cover the cost of Universal Health Care, Hillary said, "I'm a big believer in raising tobacco taxes. You know, when we were working on the Children's Health Insurance Program, that's the funding stream that the Congress came up with, which was bipartisan, which worked out very well. At some point, there's going to be diminishing returns. But, sure, why not? I don't have any objection to that."

I have to say, I loathe smoking. I used to be a smoker, and for some reason I can't stand to be around the stuff now. There is virtually nothing about it that appeals to me. Smoking is dreadfully unhealthy and leads to illnesses. Taxing smoking makes sense in that it will discourage the practice, leading to fewer people smoking, hopefully fewer health problems, and less irritation for me. That said, it's important to keep in mind that the majority of smokers are lower in income and cannot afford the tax, but will continue to buy the cigarettes anyway (just as they do lottery tickets). If they're continuing to smoke at a higher cost, and something else gives (perhaps the healthier foods?) it can lead to MORE health problems. And then there's the issue where you've convinced so many people smoking isn't worth it that most tobacco companies are out of business and the tax is gone... and then the government has to come up with a new cash cow. 

Hillary Clinton is under the (I believe) mistaken impression that government intervention in health care will reduce costs and improve quality. This idea is so laughable to me that I cannot even begin to go there. Where has she been living for the past fifty years??? Has she not been in Congress for some of those years, watching the overspending?? What can she possibly be thinking in making such a stupid statement?

Hillary's plan to cover all uninsured people would, supposedly, maintain the private insurance system and mandate coverage for all legal residents. What a hoot. The only people who escape the clutches of Hillary Clinton are those people here illegally. Of course, government insurance very similar to Medicare would be available to all consumers. Whoopee.

And now get this: "Refundable tax credits would help make the newly mandatory policies affordable for low and middle income workers. Small businesses would receive tax credits to encourage them to offer insurance to employees. Large companies would either have to offer health benefits or pay into a pool that would finance subsidized coverage." It sounds to me like even in the planning it's turning into a bureaucratic nightmare. 

Now see if this makes sense: "Mrs. Clinton has pegged the cost of her plan at $110 billion. About half would come from savings generated by improvements in prevention, chronic disease management and electronic record keeping. The remainder would be produced by rolling back President Bush's income tax cuts on people earning more than $250,000 a year." What?!? If the cost of the plan is $110 billion, how can you pay for half of that with "savings generated by improvements in prevention?" If you save, it doesn't cost as much! This makes no sense to me. Can anybody explain it? And I happen to know a few people in that $250,000 a year income bracket who would be none to pleased about their "tax cuts" going away. They're already paying far, far, far too much in taxes!

Mr. Obama, who also is for universal health coverage, believes that the uninsured would be insured if it were more affordable. I can attest to this fact for myself. Being uninsured, I would certainly take some insurance on if it wouldn't break me to do so. But I don't consider 10% of my annual income "affordable" for health coverage. Hillary calls Obama's argument "just specious." Plausible, but wrong. She calls people like me "free riders," young and healthy workers who can afford coverage but choose to spend on other priorities. Well, I can attest to the truth to that as well. Were I to choose to make health insurance a priority, I could afford to purchase it. I simply don't see the sense in spending hundreds of dollars a month for nothing. See, for me to get a health insurance policy for my family would cost me $400 per month. And what would that cover? Nothing. We would have a yearly deductible of $10,000. So I would be unhappily handing over $4800 per year for the pleasure of filling out paperwork and paying all my own medical bills anyway. I don't consider myself a "free rider" as I PAY ALL MY BILLS.

Because of people like me, Hillary Clinton wants to make insurance "affordable" by her standards -- and then require me to get into the system. She calls this a "mandate." How would she enforce it? Not sure yet... but she says garnishing wages is an option. Another is having people monitored by government agencies and automatically enrolled if they don't choose to do so on their own. HUH?? Really? She also said that at some point "it might be necessary to impose penalties to encourage compliance." Nice.

Now get this: "Mrs. Clinton said reducing the cost of health care would be crucial to the next president's ability to keep Medicare solvent. The program's trustees projected this week that the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would be exhausted in 2019." So let me get this straight. The government has had an insurance plan called Medicare. Medicare is going to be bankrupt in 2019. So... the solution to this is to hand more insurance responsibility to the government?? Does this make sense to anybody?? 

In case you haven't guessed by now, I think I'll be voting against Hillary Clinton. I don't like McCain, but I'll vote for him. It's kind of like getting older... in many ways it's not much fun. But it's certainly better than the alternative.

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