Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back to Elementary School -- For All of Us

Do you remember being in your elementary school years? "Susie, if you can't bring enough candy for everyone, please don't bring the candy at all." Do you remember saying to your mom or dad, "How come so-and-so gets that if I didn't get it? That's not FAIR!!!" How we feel about what's going on in health care and our government right now might just depend on what you were told in elementary school at that critical moment. Did someone say, "Life's not fair -- buck up and take it?" Or did they say, "Ohhhh... did so-and-so get some? We'll have to get you some, too... So-and-so, give some of that to your brother!"

The House and the Senate are "working hard" to make sure our health care system gets some reform. The Senate is generally in favor of paying for legislation through a "Cadillac" tax -- where people with really good health insurance have to pay, not only their insurance company, but also the government for the privilege of having it. The supporters of this tax are saying that it's a necessary tax for "tamping down medical spending." I was reading this article and trying to figure out how taxing the wealthy on top of having them already pay for their own health insurance was going to reduce medical spending...

The tax, a provision of the bill to be voted on Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee, is one of the few remaining proposals under consideration by Congress that budget experts say could lead directly to a reduction in health care spending over the long term, by prompting employers and employees to buy cheaper insurance.*

What?!? Let me make sure I get this straight... our illustrious government is wanting to make sure that people don't buy the really good insurance programs? They want people to buy the cheaper programs which won't offer as much coverage in order to reduce how much gets spent in our country on health care? Somebody out there, please explain to me where this insanity is coming from!! It gets better --

Under the Finance Committee bill, the tax would be imposed beginning in 2013 on employer-sponsored health plans with total premiums exceeding $8,000 for individuals and $21,000 for families, regardless of whether the coverage was paid for by the employer, the individual or both. The tax would be paid by insurers, who would be expected to pass along the cost to customers... Supporters say... employers would bargain-hunt or take other steps to avoid the tax, putting pressure on insurers to offer cheaper coverage and slowing the rise in medical costs for everyone.*

Such stupidity running things right now... What about all the garbage being spewed about the poor underinsured folks - just one medical bill away from bankruptcy? These buffoons in charge cannot believe that it's possible for them to impose a tax, intentionally leading employers to choose cheaper coverage, and have that be the solution to poor insurance coverage!

Max Baucus loves the idea of this tax, and:

Mr. Obama embraced it in his speech to Congress on Sept. 9. "This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money," the president said then. "This modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long run."*

I do not believe that the president is that stupid. And it angers me that he thinks we are. One does not have to be a professor of economics to know that when the government charges a fee for something, it does not make things cheaper -- unless the product is changed for the worse.

Don't worry, though. Nancy Pelosi is not in favor of this tax because it would affect too many union members (and isn't that just a little bit funny?). Her idea? She wants to tax insurers' "windfall profits" as a supplement to the House's main money grab, which would be "an income tax surcharge on the nation's highest earners." You know, you can only bleed the rich for so long... and then they're not rich anymore. The idea that there's a certain class of people who have an endless supply of money with which to care for the entire country is ludicrous.

I find it interesting, though, that the Democrats' plan for lowering spending on health care is to make sure that people with really good insurance don't keep it. If they think that charging a government "fee" for great health insurance will lead insurance companies to lower the cost for everyone else, they're smokin' something.

*Article quoted - New York Times, "Congress Is Split on Effort to Tax Costly Health Plans" Published Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 and written by David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What A Joke

Are you freakin' kidding me? No, apparently you're not. Obama really has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. NOT that the Nobel has any real significance anymore, but still. At least up until now people had to do something that the committee deemed worth the effort (even if it was something as stupid as making a movie spreading disinformation about global warming).

Obama's accomplishment? His very existence -- I kid you not.

The Norwegian committee said, "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

They might better have awarded him the prize based on his pectorals. After all, the news has written about them as well. And really, considering the picture posted on the White House website titled "hero_weeklyaddress_9-26-09.jpg," I hardly think the man needed another ego boost:

What a joke.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We ALL Need Health Coverage - To Control the Nausea

That's it. It's official. We're being governed by a bunch of nimrods and morons. It's a sad state of affairs, but there it is.

See, the Democrats are taking up health care legislation on the floor of the Senate and the House - but they're not quite ready because they haven't been able to bring together their "competing priorities." What would those priorities be?? "Affordable prices for insurance policies" and "comprehensive health benefits." I guess the wicked way of it is that you still can't get something for nothing, no matter how long you debate the issue.

Their legislation, no matter which version you're looking at, is going to require insurance companies to "provide coverage more generous than many policies sold in the individual market today." The kicker is that you can't require something like this and then say "and make it cheap!" So the government is going to be saddling itself with a hefty bill to provide insurance coverage for TONS of people.

Here's a way to make the cost of health coverage skyrocket. You ready? First, you insist that insurers have to accept anybody who applies. Then, you tell them they have to provide a specific level of coverage -- you've got to cover everything, basically. What's going to happen? Hmmm... let me think, let me think... I know the answer! Price increases, right? Yet this is what they're putting forward as legislation (and I'm still scouring my copy of the Constitution to find the federal government's role here, but that 10th amendment keeps getting in my way).

The Senate Finance Committee is working on a bill in which "there would be four levels of benefits - bronze, silver, gold and platinum - and all insurers would be required to offer, at a minimum, coverage in the silver and gold categories." I'm scratching my head here, wondering why there would be a bronze category if it's not allowed... but maybe I'm just too dense to understand politics very well.

They say the problem is that even those people who are "being responsible" and purchasing health insurance for themselves and/or their families aren't doing it right. They have purchased insurance, but it's not good enough insurance. According to the NYT, "there are about 17 million people who buy insurance on their own." And even they're not doing it right. I guess it's true - we really do need the government to step in and fix things for these poor stupid people.

Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming is having some trouble with the concept, though. He says, "We are about to tell the nation, every person in the nation, what the minimum insurance is that they can have. And then we will institute a penalty if they don't buy the minimum insurance we say they ought to have. If they want less, we say no."

But the Democrats (and Olympia Snowe, who should be a Democrat) have a concern about people who might be stupid enough to purchase insurance in the bronze category if it's allowed. Snowe says if you choose a plan that requires you to pay a larger percentage of your medical expenses, "you could be consumed by cost sharing unless you were very healthy." Oy - which is why the very healthy choose to purchase this type of insurance.

Trying to bring about a utopia in which everyone is cared for is unreasonable and unsustainable (to use a favorite word of the left). In order to ensure that the very sick can obtain wonderful coverage for all their woes and ills, the government is going to require healthy citizens to purchase plans they don't need. They try to disguise their plans as a way to protect us from our own decisions, but... their meddling is only going to cause more problems. And once those problems come to fruition they will simply claim that it's a free-market issue and they need more regulation.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Closing Gitmo

One of President Obama's big promises was that he was going to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But, as has been the case with many things, this is not as easy as he thought it would be. 117 Saudis and 197 Afghans have been released from the prison, but the big question has been "What to do with those Yemenis?"

It appears that the government in Yemen isn't too great at its job as 23 terrorism suspects "escaped" in 2006, which "shook confidence in Yemen's counterterrorism capabilities." I'll bet... So our government doesn't want to send the Yemenis back to Yemen. We sure don't want them living here, and Europe isn't exactly salivating to take any of them, either. Well, I take that back. I think the president of France said they would take ONE as a gesture of goodwill many moons ago.

Our government's solution to this Yemeni problem has thus far been to try and get the Saudis to take them into their "rehabilitation program." Saudi officials aren't too interested in taking them because they're worried about more negative publicity to their program (like last February when almost a dozen of their "graduates" turned up on a list of most-wanted terrorists). Apparently they only have faith that their program will work if the people enrolled are not already terrorists, but one has to wonder what they're rehabilitating if that's the case.

The New York Times highlighted these issues and others when writing about the case of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed (also known as Internee Security No. 692 - probably because it was easier to say). He finally left Gitmo last week after being a resident there for seven years. A federal judge ruled that holding him had never been justified and ordered the government to release him back in May.

You wonder what took them so long to follow the judge's orders, right? I mean, these are the people, after all, who were so vocal about how wrong it was that Gitmo was even in existence! Perhaps it was because they couldn't get over the detainee's name? Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed IS quite a mouthful, I'll grant you that. But no - this was not the issue. The Obama administration was worried because "Even if Mr. Ahmed was not dangerous in 2002, Guantanamo itself might have radicalized him, exposing him to militants and embittering him against the United States." (This is code for: if this comes back to bite us in the a**, it's Bush's fault.) Supposedly, if they returned him to his home country of Yemen, he would run the risk of falling into the hands of Al Qaeda there.

See, Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed was simply attending a university in Pakistan, innocently studying religion and science while living in a guesthouse that was being used by terrorist operatives. (It's interesting to note that the NYT was capable of putting "religion and science" together as long as the guy was studying Islam.) Four of his fellow prisoners reported having seen him fighting or undergoing training in Afghanistan, but these accounts were found to be flawed by the judge and thrown out. Our government had a theory on terrorist activists and their patterns... their theory is called a "mosaic theory" in which "the pattern of indications of terrorist ties added up to a strong case." Basically, this is saying that if someone consistently hangs out with terrorists, funds their activities, fights with them, and lives with them, they just might be a terrorist.

**Of course, after this last presidential election, we all know this theory to be completely false because a man can hang out with radicals, train ACORN workers, hire communists, and have as mentors the likes of Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and various other communist thinkers -- but this does not make him a radical or mean that he has any ties to ACORN whatsoever.**

So Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed has been sent back to Yemen. He was greeted by his family at the capital and all appears to be... well, what it is. One down, 97 to go. Yes, 97 more Yemenis to put somewhere... somehow.

So now the American government is considering cooperating with the Yemeni government to build a rehabilitation program in Yemen much like the Saudis have. Christopher Boucek is cited in the NYT column as an "expert," and is quoted as saying, "It won't be quick and it will cost some money, but I think it may be the best choice among a bunch of not very good alternatives."

Christopher Boucek is an "expert" on Yemen because that is his job at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I am not altogether unimpressed with his writings and his conclusions, but I must admit I fail to see how his studying and coming to said conclusions will actually help in achieving "International Peace."

What I find fascinating is the fact that the NYT has found this gentleman now -- when Obama is in office -- to explain why it's so difficult to close Gitmo. Because when Bush was in office he kept Gitmo open because he was just a heartless bastard who enjoyed torturing people.