Dems want socialized medicine, regardless of cost

healthcare.govWith little fanfare, Vermont is preparing to become the first state to implement a single-payer, government-run health-care system. The Vermont plan, if implemented, would abolish private health insurance in the state and replace it with a taxpayer-funded system under which the state government directly pays doctors and hospitals.

Of course the state is having a bit of trouble figuring out how to pay for the program’s estimated $2 billion price tag, considering that the entire state government’s operating budget is currently just $2.7 billion. Currently under consideration is an increase in the state sales tax from 6.9% to 29%.

At the same time, opponents of ObamaCare have often suggested the massive health-care program is really a stalking horse for such a government-run system. ObamaCare’s fans have sometimes suggested the same. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that the health-care law is “as step in the right direction” toward abolishing private health insurance.

But a single-payer system — or at least government-run health care — may already be a reality in far more ways than most Americans realize.

Already the government directly pays for more than half of every dollar spent on health care in this country. This compares to just 13 cents directly paid by the individual purchasing or consuming the health care. (Virtually all of the remaining 37% is paid for through insurance, much of which is also subsidized, directly or indirectly, by the government).

In fact, consumers in many countries that we associate with “socialized medicine,” such as France, actually pay more out of pocket for their health care than do Americans.

Medicare is the single biggest government health care program. At a cost of $612 billion this year, the massive insurance program for seniors alone accounts for one-fifth of all US health care spending. Medicaid pays an additional 15%. Altogether, there are at least a dozen government programs to provide or pay for health care.

In 2012, nearly 41% of New Yorkers receive health care through one or another government program, Medicaid in particular. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 23% of New Yorkers are on Medicaid. By comparison, just 15% of Connecticut residents and 12% of New Jerseyans are on Medicaid.

Medicare is the second-largest health-care payer in New York, providing coverage for 12% of residents, slightly below the 14% in Connecticut and New Jersey.

But Medicare’s influence extends well beyond the number of enrollees. Because the program is the 800-pound gorilla in terms of paying for health care, it establishes the standards that private insurers use to set reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals. Thus, directly or indirectly, the government is already involved in setting health-care prices.

ObamaCare will further expand the governments reach into health care. Based on CMS figures, it is likely that 3 to 4 million people enrolled in Medicaid as a result of ObamaCare’s expansion of the program. (The administration has claimed more than 8 million Medicaid enrollees, but most are simply part of the normal churn within the Medicaid program, not new sign-ups.) This represents a 5.2% increase in the number of Americans on Medicaid. In New York, the percentage of people receiving health care through the program will shoot up to more than 28%.

The evidence suggests that at many those new Medicaid recipients previously had private insurance before, but either were dumped by their employers or chose to go on “free” insurance.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, long a supporter of Medicaid, has amply documented this “crowd-out effect,” concluding that in some cases, loss of private insurance could completely offset the increased gains from Medicaid expansion.

Similarly, a study by Jonathan Gruber of MIT, one of the architects of ObamaCare, and others found that for every 100 children who received coverage through Medicaid or SCHIP from 1996-2002, 60 lost private insurance. Given how far up the income scale ObamaCare expands Medicaid, such “crowd out” is liable to be even more common than before.

When not expanding the number of Americans receiving government health care through Medicaid, ObamaCare will be adding to those whose purchase of private insurance is subsidized by taxpayers. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and outside organizations such as the Kaiser Family Foundation, possibly as much as 83% of the 7.5 million Americans who signed up for insurance through exchanges received a subsidy to help pay for their insurance. That could amount to more than 6.2 million people.

Worse, since it’s possible that fewer than 2 million enrollees were previously uninsured, millions of Americans who were paying for their own insurance have now moved into a system where the government is paying most of the cost.

And it’s not as though those subsidies are going only to the poor, who otherwise could not afford insurance. Although more generous to those earning 250% of the poverty line ($58,875 for a family of four), some level of subsidy is available up to 400% of poverty ($94,200 for a family of four). In fact, taking into account various income disregards, some families with even higher incomes could receive a subsidy. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that as many as 700,000 people with incomes more than three times the poverty level will receive a subsidy next year.

Nor should we forget that government also sets the rules for private insurance, regulating premiums, and mandating coverage for various medical conditions and provider groups. At the same time, certificate-of-need laws let state governments control where and when hospitals can be built or what medical equipment they may purchase.

ObamaCare may indeed take us further down the road to a government-run health care system, but it’s a road already well-traveled.

Now we face the same question as Vermont: Can we afford it?

Originally published at: http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/dems-want-government-health-care-all-no-matter-cost

Losing the war on poverty

After trillions of spent dollars on our government’s supposed “War on Poverty”, what exactly does the United States have to show for it?  Millions still live in poverty (although the definition of “poverty” in the United States includes ownership of flat screen TVs, cable/satellite television service and high speed Internet) despite the enormous toll the war has had on the American people’s tax dollars.

Every year, the government spends more than a half-trillion dollars on programs designed to “end poverty”.  10s of trillions of dollars later, we find ourselves no better off than the year before.  Consider the following analysis by Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, who wrote recently:

In 2012, the federal government spent $668 billion to fund 126 separate anti-poverty programs. State and local governments kicked in another $284 billion, bringing total anti-poverty spending to nearly $1 trillion. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three.

Spending on the major anti-poverty programs increased in 2013, pushing the total even higher.

Over, the last 50 years, the government spent more than $16 trillion to fight poverty.

Yet today, 15 percent of Americans still live in poverty. That’s scarcely better than the 19 percent living in poverty at the time of Johnson’s speech. Nearly 22 percent of children live in poverty today. In 1964, it was 23 percent.

How could we have spent so much and achieved so little?

The answer lies in government involvement.  Propping people up with government anti-poverty programs succeeds at keeping people in poverty with a consistent and dependable monthly check.  Consider this: what how motivation would you have to find a job if your unemployment benefits do not run out until 2015?

“Fewer than three percent of full-time workers are poor, compared to nearly 25 percent for those without a job. Even an entry level, minimum-wage job can be the first step on the road out of poverty,” Tanner wrote.

Will our government ever learn?  Better yet – will the American people make them learn?

Dear voter: You are being scammed, conned and deceived

dyc-tax-protest-7_359154aIn a recent letter to the American people, the Libertarian Party wrote that the voting population in this country are being raked over the coals, drained of their hard-earned money and systematically dumbed down through big government political initiatives disguised as genuine assistance.

“By blending tax hikes with (alleged) government spending cuts, they try to convince you that they’re all part of one scary package. That both things are bad,” Libertarian Chair Geoffrey J. Neale wrote.  “To add injury to insult, their phony “fiscal cliff” doesn’t include a dime of actual government spending cuts. Just pretend reductions in future spending.”

Tax increases alone should raise awareness from the American people.  “On New Year’s Day, what did Big Government politicians actually vote for?  They voted to rip you off an average of $800 a year MORE — a 2 percent increase in your Social Security payroll tax. While they bragged that they were doing you a favor.  They raised a pile of other taxes as well, including taxes on estates, higher incomes, investment income, health care, and businesses.”

The letter cites new tax increases will amount to over $600 billion in new government revenue while doing little to curb spending and enact meaningful reform to account for our nation’s unemployment problem.

Read the entire letter: http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/fiscal-cliffhanger-a-study-in-government-fear-mongering.

Your kids are not entitled to my money, job or quality of life

Let’s be frank: your kids are not entitled to a good job.  They are not entitled to a college education, a big house, a steady income or a stress-free life.  They also are not entitled to my money (or anyone else’s) or supposedly “free” healthcare, a free lunch or free car.  Your kids are not entitled to anything.

Well, except to one thing: the opportunity to work hard, stay motivated and build themselves a quality of life that they can be proud of.  This means tearing their faces away from their cell phones, computers and video game consoles long enough for them to observe and embrace reality as we know it.  For good or for bad, this is the world that we live in, and the sooner our children come to grips with that, the sooner they will become productive members of society.

According to a continuous yearly survey among our nation’s young people, our kids feel more entitled, more superior, more “great” than ever.  Why?  Perhaps because social media outlets provide kids with an area in which to build themselves up into something they aren’t.  The number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers is worn like a badge of honor, and the term “follow” alone makes it appear as if people are worth following.  What a wonderful sense of greatness that must create for our nation’s youngsters.  Heck, adults too.  People want to follow me!

Or, maybe it is due to the dumbing down of our nation’s education curriculum or teaching directly to statewide standardized tests.  Are our kids really learning, or is our nation simply pushing our youngsters through the educational process as fast as it can?

Although test scores are below what they once were, students feel they are superior to their classmates of yesteryear in subjects like math and writing.  Why?  What makes our kids feel they are superior to anyone?  The answer is simple: our entitlement culture.  Give a trophy to a little league team that came in last place, and there’s no wonder our nation’s kids feel they can do no wrong.  Rewards come in all shapes and sizes, and very rarely do those who receive those rewards actually pay for them.

“Producers must outnumber consumers or societies collapse. Eventually, the money runs out.”

Worse, we have an elite political class that spends their entire career convincing our population that they are entitled to something.  Lost a job?  No, problem, you’re entitled to taxpayer money until you find another one.  Living in “poverty”?  No problem, the taxpayers are here to help you through monthly welfare checks.  Retired?  Again, no problem, taxpayers will fund your Social Security payments long after you’ve already exhausted your lifelong contributions.  No problem, the taxpayers are here.

The truth of the matter is our society cannot function unless it maintains a large population of productive contributors to the economy, those who build businesses and employ people, those who research new medications to cure our ails and those who plan, build and maintain our city infrastructures so when you flush your toilet at home, it’s no longer your “business”.  Producers must outnumber consumers or societies collapse.  Eventually, the money runs out.

As our government continues to ask our country’s entrepreneurs to shoulder the majority of the burden of funding these entitlements, the incentive to do business shrinks.  Business creates wealth, not government.  If Washington D.C. creates a culture where businesses no longer flourish in this country, wealth creation slows, companies stop hiring and – yes – government revenue sinks.  The effect is felt everywhere.  California, for example, is experiencing an exodus of the state’s more wealthy residents because of excessive taxation.  As a Wall Street Journal article so aptly put it, if you soak the rich, you lose the rich.  And who creates jobs in this country?

Parents need to teach their children that our society only works when people make it work.  Societies fail when too many people believe they are entitled to the fruits of someone else’s labor.  Ask virtually any 3rd grader what they want to be when they grow up, and I bet none of them say a “deadbeat”.

Unfortunately, that desire is learned.