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OpenMarket: Health Care

  • Does Austerity Really "Kill"?

    May 23, 2013 12:17 PM

    Does austerity kill? In a recent New York Times op-ed, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu claim that fiscal austerity leads to a worsening of health outcomes, using higher suicide and disease rates across Southern Europe as their case-in-point. But there are problems with this formulation.

    First, the authors make the mistake of linking fiscal austerity with less health spending.  Greece, Spain, and Italy chose to cut health spending even though there were better choices for cuts. And health spending didn't put them into deep debt to begin with. Borrowing at cheap interest rates and spending it on pet projects and political patronage -- which includes the welfare state, but not so much in health -- put them in deep debt. Estonia swiftly and severely began to reduce the size of government in 2009, but it increased health spending during that period and suffered no health declines.

  • Possible Unintended Consequences in New Obamacare Regulation

    May 22, 2013 12:55 PM

    The PCIP program gives health care providers an incentive to refuse treatment to people who desperately need it.

  • CEI Podcast For May 2, 2013: Small Business Owners Sue Over IRS Obamacare Power Grab

    May 2, 2013 3:13 PM

    Small business owners and individuals in six states, with help from CEI, are suing the IRS over what General Counsel Sam Kazman calls a flagrantly illegal expansion of the Affordable Care Act.

  • The Train Wreck That Is Obamacare

    April 18, 2013 3:57 PM

    At least one union that supported passage of Obamacare, is now calling for its repeal. As The Wall Street Journal notes, the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers has given up on salvaging the deeply-flawed health care law:

    Organized labor . . . recently has voiced concerns that the law could lead members to lose their existing health plans. . .“After the law was passed, I had great hope…that maybe the rough spots would be worked out and we’d have a great law,” said Kinsey Robinson, international president of the [roofer's] union, which represents 22,000 commercial and industrial roofers…Mr. Robinson says the union’s concerns about the law began to pile up in recent months after speaking with employers.

    The roofers’ union’s current insurance plan caps lifetime medical bill payouts at $2 million for active members and $50,000 for retirees. Next year, the plan has to remove those caps in order to comply with the health law. . . that will increase the cost of insuring members, Mr. Robinson said, and has prompted the union to weigh eliminating the retiree plan.

    Adding to those cost concerns is a new $63-per-enrollee fee on health plans that pays insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions next year. Looking ahead to 2018, when the law levies an excise tax on high-value insurance plans, Mr. Robinson predicts that at least some of the union’s plans will get hit by it… On Tuesday, the union called for a repeal of the health law or a complete reform of it.

  • Obamacare Strangles Job Creation, Stifles Medical Innovation

    April 10, 2013 3:09 PM

    Earlier, I wrote about the dismal March jobs report and how high unemployment has been masked by rising numbers of discouraged workers and people going onto Social Security Disability. I also noted Obamacare has wiped out some jobs and prevented the creation of others.

    Economists including Mark Zandi and economics writers such as James Pethokoukis recently cited Obamacare as the likely culprit behind those lousy jobs numbers. Zandi cited the way it affected the labor market and which sectors were most sluggish in hiring. Ed Morrissey discussed some alternative theories for why hiring was weak, and why he wasn't buying them, here.

  • 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.

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