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OpenMarket: Health Care

  • Obamacare Harms Colleges And Their Employees

    March 20, 2013 7:00 AM

    The University of Virginia is expecting a roughly $7-million bill for Obamacare's new employer penalties, said Susan Carkeek, the University's vice president and chief human resources officer. "We're expecting fairly significant cost implications from the Affordable Care Act that pass on new penalties and charges, fees to employers -- probably in the order of $7 million a year," she explained in an interview.

    Community colleges across the country are slashing employee hours to avoid costly Obamacare mandates. For example,"Pennsylvania’s Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) is slashing the hours of 400 adjunct instructors, support staff, and part-time instructors to dodge paying for Obamacare." Youngstown State University is also "trimming staff hours to avoid Obamacare’s fiscal burden."  Other universities are also cutting employee hours, which is "a double whammy" for instructors, who are "facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said an adjunct biology professor.

  • Lobbying Can Be A Great Investment

    March 15, 2013 10:31 AM

    Not only did health insurers convince the government to require everyone in the country to buy their products, now their premiums will go up sharply, too.

  • Washington Examiner: "Congress: Obamacare To Boost Premiums To $7,186 -- A Year"

    March 8, 2013 7:30 AM

    Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports on  massive premium increases due to Obamacare:

    Health insurance companies, facing new and costly rules and regulations jammed into Obamacare, will boost the premiums on younger Americans as high as 189 percent as they try to recover the new costs imposed by Washington, according to a joint House-Senate report. Families could see premiums rise to $7,186.

    In an exhaustive review of 30 studies on the impact of Obamacare, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committees concluded that younger individuals who now pay a premium of $648 a year will be paying $1,872, a 189 percent jump, once the health reform law fully takes effect.

  • Obamacare: More Cost, Less Coverage

    February 7, 2013 2:12 PM

    Seven million fewer people than predicted will have health care coverage a decade after Obamacare’s passage, admits the Congressional Budget Office. One reason "is that millions of Americans are expected to lose their employer-based coverage, a point" The Wall Street Journal emphasizes in this story.

    The CBO has long said it expects the new federal health law will prompt some companies to drop millions of employees from health plans because workers have new options to buy insurance on their own. In August, CBO put the number at 4 million over 10 years. Now it’s 7 million.

    Another factor is "rapidly increasing health insurance premiums" because of Obamacare. "As Politico reported, some populations could see premiums triple." For example, the "federal health care law could nearly triple premiums for some young and healthy men, according to a forthcoming survey of insurers that singles out a group that might become a major public opinion battleground in the Obamacare wars. The survey . . . found that if the law’s insurance rules were in force, the premium for a relatively bare-bones policy for a 27-year-old male nonsmoker on the individual market would be nearly 190 percent higher."

  • Economic Freedom Declines Again; Government Control Is Bad For Your Health

    January 24, 2013 2:56 PM

    Economic freedom has declined under the Obama administration, and America's rank has repeatedly fallen on the Index of Economic Freedom and other rankings issued by think-tanks and research foundations. (The Heritage Foundation just released the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom.) In their Economic Freedom of the World rankings, Canada's Fraser Institute and the U.S.-based Cato Institute note that "The United States, long considered the standard bearer for economic freedom among large industrial nations, has experienced a substantial decline in economic freedom during the past decade. From 1980 to 2000, the United States was generally rated the third freest economy in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong and Singapore." But by 2010, America had fallen to 19th place, and its economic climate continues to deteriorate.

    Shrinking economic freedom is bad for your health. Formerly communist countries like Russia (which still has a heavily state-dominated economy) tend to have shorter life expectancies than more pro-free-market countries, even when those countries have fewer natural resources to pay for health care. The average man in Russia lives around 60 years (59.2 years, according to the 2009 World Almanac), compared to over 70 years in Turkey and Thailand, even though Russia is richer due to factors like oil and mineral wealth (its per capita income was nearly twice as high as Thailand). Thai and Turkish life expectancy was also higher than in other formerly communist countries like Romania and Bulgaria, which had incomes similar to Turkey and higher than Thailand.

    These disparities exist even among countries with very similar cultures, as is shown by the recent history of two neighboring countries, capitalist Colombia and socialist Venezuela. In 1999, just before Marxist Hugo Chavez took power in Venezuela, life expectancy was 3 years longer in Venezuela than in Colombia. But after 13 years of socialist rule, life expectancy in Venezuela is now a year shorter than in Colombia. (These figures are from the World Almanacs for 1999 and 2013.) Improvements in life expectancy have stalled in Socialist Venezuela even though Venezuela, unlike Colombia, has vast oil wealth, and has benefited from rapidly-rising oil prices during Chavez's rule, enabling Venezuela to dramatically increase government health care spending. Under the Chavez regime, Venezuela's capital, Caracas, has become one of the world's most violent cities.

  • Obamacare Increases Unnecessary Medical Tests, Wastes Doctors' Time, Drives Up Billings And Costs

    January 22, 2013 4:34 PM

    President Obama claimed Obamacare would cut healthcare costs, but it actually increased them in many ways, some of which are chronicled here. Here are yet more Obamacare fees and cost increases. Another example is given by Mickey Kaus, a staunch supporter of universal health care (he once thanked Obama and Nancy Pelosi for passage of Obamacare), who points out that Obamacare's $19 billion in taxpayer subsidies for electronic recordkeeping appear to have backfired and increased healthcare costs. It subsidized hasty, premature installment of electronic recordkeeping systems that waste physicians' time (reducing interaction with patients), and result in the performance of more, rather than fewer unnecessary tests and medical procedures, as well as increased billings for trivial activities.

    As one of Kaus's readers put it,

    My wife is a staff physician [at] a major East Coast hospital.

    Her employer was one of the first to sign up for federal money to implement a system which hospital management freely acknowledges is “terrible” but there was so much money on offer that they couldn’t say no.

    Probably the biggest problem with electronic records is simply that it requires the physician to input all notes and orders, rather than dictate them.

    As a result, as my bride puts it, “they’ve taken the highest-paid person in the department and turned him/her into a data entry clerk”.

    On average, she and her colleagues spend more time per patient wading through drop-down menus, clicking boxes and filling in required but utterly irrelevant information than they do at the bedside, actually treating the patient.

    In short, it’s her experience that they see fewer patients per shift than they did previously, and spend less time with each one, now that they are required to sit down at a computer after seeing each patient and jumping through hoops to place orders instead of, as previously, simply telling the nurse what is needed and then moving on to the next patient.

  • Obamacare Imposes New Fees, Cost Increases On The Public

    January 14, 2013 5:49 PM

    Obamacare was sold to the public based on the fallacy that it would cut healthcare costs, but each month brings additional evidence that it will drive up healthcare costs instead. The New York Times reported last week that "health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers. Particularly vulnerable to the high rates are small businesses and people who do not have employer-provided insurance and must buy it on their own. In California, Aetna is proposing rate increases of as much as 22 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 26 percent and Blue Shield of California 20 percent for some of those policy holders." Earlier, Obamacare resulted in hikes of 41-47 percent in health insurance premiums for some policyholders in Connecticut. The Times notes that in "other states, like Florida and Ohio, insurers have been able to raise rates by at least 20 percent for some policy holders."

    Writing in the The Wall Street Journal today, Merrill Matthews and Mark Litow say that some premiums in individual markets may double due to Obamacare. One reason is that the "Congressional Democrats who crafted the legislation ignored virtually every actuarial principle governing rational insurance pricing."  "Although President Obama repeatedly claimed that health insurance premiums for a family would be $2,500 lower by the end of his first term, they are actually about $3,000 higher -- a spread of about $5,500 per family."

    Most Americans will feel the brunt of a $63 per head fee imposed by the Obama administration, for which they will receive nothing in return. As the Associated Press notes, "Your medical plan is facing an unexpected expense, so you probably are, too. It's a new, $63-per-head fee to cushion the cost of covering people with pre-existing conditions under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. The charge, buried in a recent regulation, works out to tens of millions of dollars for the largest companies, employers say. Most of that is likely to be passed on to workers. Employee benefits lawyer Chantel Sheaks calls it a 'sleeper issue' with significant financial consequences, particularly for large employers. 'Especially at a time when we are facing economic uncertainty, (companies will) be hit with a multi-million dollar assessment without getting anything back for it,' said Sheaks, a principal at Buck Consultants, a Xerox subsidiary. Based on figures provided in the regulation, employer and individual health plans covering an estimated 190 million Americans could owe the per-person fee. The Obama administration says it is a temporary assessment levied for three years starting in 2014, designed to raise $25 billion."

  • Appeals Court Overturns Dismissal Of Challenge To Obamacare Contraception Mandate By Religious Colleges

    December 19, 2012 4:28 PM

    According to law professor Jonathan Adler, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit effectively overturned a district court’s dismissal of a challenge to the so-called “contraception mandate,” a regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services that employer-provided health care plans include coverage for all FDA-approved forms of contraception without cost-sharing.

    Various religious employers have objected to this requirement citing the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause and, more persuasively, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The district court had dismissed the case because the Obama administration claimed it would change the mandate for religious schools and hospitals before it took effect, making the lawsuit unripe. As Adler notes, the appeals court turned that self-serving administration claim into a binding commitment:

    "In its brief order, the D.C. Circuit explained that the district court was wrong to dismiss the suit against the mandate for lack of standing as 'the colleges clearly had standing when these suits were filed.'  The ripeness question 'is more difficult,' the court explained, because HHS has promised to address religious employers’ claims in a new rulemaking. Taking HHS at its word, the D.C. Circuit concluded the lawsuits should be held in abeyance, pending further action by HHS.

    At oral argument, the government . . . represented to the court that it would never enforce [the contraceptive mandate] in its current form against the appellants or those similarly situated as regards contraceptive services. . . There will, the government said, be a different rule for entities like the appellants, . .  and we take that as a binding commitment. The government further represented that it would publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the new rule in the first quarter of 2013 and would issue a new Final Rule before August 2013.

    We take the government at its word and will hold it to it. . .

    As a consequence of this ruling HHS will have little choice but to issue a rule relieving many religious employers of the obligation to provide coverage for contraception. The interesting question will be how this is to be accomplished under existing statutory authority. Moreover, the Administration’s proposed fix — allowing religious employers to exclude contraception coverage but requiring insurers to provide separate contraception coverage to employees at no charge — would do nothing to alleviate the burden on those religious employers that self-insure (which many do because, among other reasons, it provides a way to escape state-level contraception mandates).

  • PolitiFact Is The Liar Of The Year

    December 14, 2012 10:31 AM

    PolitiFact falsely depicted Michael Cannon, the director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, as suggesting that state law overrides federal law, erroneously attributing to him a radical claim that he never made (that states can forbid the federal government from setting up health insurance exchanges). Cannon merely observed that state law in 14 states forbids "state employees" to set up Obamacare health insurance exchanges, and he never said that federal employees could not set them up. (Under the Supreme Court's Printz decision, the federal government cannot conscript state officials to administer even perfectly constitutional federal laws.)

    After falsely putting words into Cannon's mouth, PolitiFact then rated the claim he never made "false," and prominently attributed it to him. PolitiFact cheerfully ignored the fact that it had wrongly maligned Cannon, a legally knowledgeable expert on health care regulation, even after its error was brought to its attention by Jonathan Adler, a leading law professor at Case Western Reserve University.

    PolitiFact has also made repeated false claims about the Supreme Court's Ledbetter decision that echoed false Democratic talking points against the Supreme Court in the campaign. PolitiFact resisted fixing its erroneous claims even after lawyers and law professors repeatedly pointed out and documented the falseness of its claims, people such as Professor Adler, and a former Justice Department lawyer at the Heritage Foundation.

    After dragging its heels, PolitiFact finally corrected some of its false claims after criticism of its falsehoods spread beyond legal circles to the general public, drawing scrutiny from people like Megan McArdle of Newsweek/Daily Beast. (Their criticism of PolitiFact for making obvious factual errors put its (undeserved) credibility at risk if it failed to belatedly correct the most blatant of the errors they cited.)

  • More Lawsuits Against Doctors, Hospitals Due To Senate Amendment 3215 To NDAA

    December 4, 2012 12:26 PM

    Earlier, I wrote about a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, which would dramatically increase lawsuits against schools and colleges by allowing them to be sued for "disparate impact" and for punitive damages under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. But I forgot to mention another area where the amendment, SA 3215, would have a huge impact: doctors and hospitals, which also are commonly subject to liability under Title VI.

    The disparate-impact/punitive damages provision buried in the amendment several Senate Democrats want to add to the Defense Authorization bill (Amendment #3215) also would harm doctors, hospitals and other healthcare businesses by making it easier to sue them for failing to provide bilingual translators free of charge to patients. (Doctors or hospitals who lose Title VI lawsuits also can be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees, under the so-called Christiansburg Garment rule.)


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