Archive for September, 2009

MESSAGE TO THE PRESIDENT: Can You Hear Us Now?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

 By Elois Zeanah

 President Obama continues to blitz the airwaves.  My message is not breaking through,  the President of the United States complains. 

 Mr. President, the problem is not that we aren’t hearing you; it’s that you’re not hearing us!  Let’s see if we can clear communications over this land-line.

 When asked about why your message is not resonating, you say:  The opposition has made a decision.  They are just not going to support anything, for political reasons.

 Mr. President, concern that you’re wrecking health care for 97% of Americans to subsidize insurance for 3%  more Americans is not political.  Pardon me, but it’s irrational!   The realization that you over-exaggerate the number of “uninsured Americans” makes us cynical.  Our concern that your “reform” is a calculation to grab more power and more of our money to spread around is not political.  How many times have Republicans, Independents and Democrats explained that we ran your numbers?  They don’t add up.   In case our message did not get through, here’s a rundown of your numbers:

#1 UNMET PROMISE:  PROPOSED BILLS DO NOT COVER EVERYONE

 The 47 million “uninsured Americans” is a fabrication.  The number is closer to 10-16 million.  A close analysis of the same Census Bureau data you used reveals:

  • Millions of citizens covered by Medicaid and S-CHIP were undercounted.
  • Millions who have access to Medicaid and S-CHIP but choose not to take it until they are sick were counted as “uninsured”. 
  • Millions who earn $70,000 and over and can afford insurance were included as “uninsured”.
  • Millions of illegal aliens were counted as “uninsured Americans”.

 The real number of “uninsured Americans” is about 3% of the total population.  Opposition is not political!  Your proposal seems reckless.  Further, analyses show that despite spending over a trillion dollars in start-up costs, the House and Senate bills would still leave about 16 million Americans uninsured.  So promise number one that everyone will be covered is not met.  

 Do I hear static, sir?

#2 UNMET PROMISE:  PROPOSED BILLS DO NOT LOWER COSTS

 Then there’s that troublesome little issue of affordability.  Your premise that you must overhaul the health care system to curb unsustainable costs so that everyone can afford insurance seems to have fizzled. 

 Mr. President, concern that your own Congressional Budget Office says your plan will not lower insurance costs and the assessment by the non-partisan Heritage Foundation that private coverage for the typical American could go up as much as $460 per year due to new price controls set in the legislation – well, somehow our confidence crumbles.  This is not political.  It’s grave concern that Americans will pay more for less, have less choice and less competition, and be burdened by more onerous taxes and deeper deficits.

 #3 UNMET PROMISE:  AMERICANS CAN’T KEEP INSURANCE

 And all that talk about how you will make sure that every American who likes their insurance and doctors can keep them?  Well, Mr. President, that isn’t true either, is it now?  The non-partisan Lewin Group reports that almost 50% of private insurance holders will lose their coverage and be shifted to the public plan.  That’s just to start.  How many more of us will fall like dominoes behind those?

 And, oh, Mr. President, there’s that thorny issue about Americans being able to choose a plan like Congress.  Remember what you said at a town hall meeting on August 11th?  You stated, “That’s what the health exchange is all about, is that you – just like a member of Congress – can go and choose the plan that’s right for you.” 

 That warms our heart.  But when I checked, your plan for typical Americans is nothing like the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program that only you, Members of Congress and federal employees get.   Mr. President, surely you wouldn’t mislead us.  Did you know that the FEHBP system has no government-run public option competing with private plans

 Is that stuttering or static on your end, Mr. President?

#4 UNMET PROMISE:  WE CAN’T TRUST GOVERNMENT MORE

 Mr. President, Americans want true health care reform.  We have a problem.  Americans pay 18% GNP for health care while most other advanced countries pay 10% and have a longer life expectancy.  Yet medical costs in the U.S. continue to rise rapidly.  Something must be done.  But before we give up the best health care system in the world, we have a few questions:

 Why should we trust a president and bureaucrats, who have never had to meet a payroll, more than we trust free market enterprise?

 Why should we trust a president and bureaucrats to takeover the health care system when fraud in government health care programs runs 15% and fraud in the private sector is 1%? 

 Why should Americans trust a president and bureaucrats to keep the private sector honest when government will not hold itself accountable?  For example:

  • Social Security is a great program, but Congress couldn’t keep its hands off our trust fund.  Congress has stolen over $11 trillion from our Social Security trust fund and now seniors are scared about its future. 
  • Medicare is another program that works well, but once again Congress couldn’t keep its hands off our money and Medicare now has $38 trillion in unfunded liabilities.  
     
  • Government has been unable to stop the estimated $224 billion in fraud every year in Medicare and Medicaid.  Criminals live high-faluting lifestyles while seniors worry that Medicare may go bankrupt. 

 Mr. President, if you’re sincere about cleaning up the fraud mess, why are you waiting?

 There are so many other examples of how the President and Congress have been unwilling to use current laws on the books and their oversight authority to rein in abuses in government and in the private sector.  Instead, government declares emergencies and uses our tax dollars for bailouts for private industries that use the same accounting gimmickry that government uses.  This does not breed trust.

 Bottom line, Mr. President, why should Americans trust you and unaccountable bureaucrats with one-sixth of our economy when you haven’t proven that you are trustworthy? 

 I’m listening for your answer, Mr. President.  What’s that?  How this line been disconnected?

IF OBAMA ONLY MEANT WHAT HE SAID: Words Don’t Match Works in Health Care Reform

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

By Elois Zeanah

It’s par for candidates to use personal campaign funds to pay consultants to conjure visual images to persuade voters.  It’s unprecedented, though, for a presidential candidate, once elected, to use tax dollars to appoint a “behavioral science czar” to do the same thing to manipulate the masses.   Does Obama feel the mojo of his “cultist personality” and his “oratory prowess” is no longer sufficient to sell his health care reform message?  I’m offended that the leader of our nation uses our taxes to probe how we think and how to persuade us through mental telegraphing to follow him when he’s wrong.  The problem is not the message or how well he reads a teleprompter.  The problem is a matter of truth and trust.  His words don’t match his works.

Obama stated:  “This is not just about the 47 million Americans who don’t have any health insurance at all.  Reform is about…the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.”

The oratory touches me.  I’m persuaded.  But then why not fix the problems behind the skyrocketing costs of these two government-run health programs – instead of expanding and making them more expensive and increasing not reducing deficits?  (Independent consultants and the General Accounting Office, the Congressional watchdog, detail how his proposals will grow government, raise taxes, restrict American liberties, and overwhelm federal and state budgets, deficits and debt.) 

Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Consume Over $100 Billion Yearly

If the real reasons for health care reform are to reduce costs and make insurance affordable, shouldn’t government fix failures and cut costs before beating up on doctors, hospitals and insurance companies and demanding that they cut costs so government can have more to spend?  The truth is:  Fraud consumes 15% to 18% of total costs in government health care programs and only 1% in private health insurance programs.  Is there a disconnect here between our President’s words and works?

Obama Proposes to Expand Medicare and Medicaid

Obama cites Medicare as an example of how his health care plan will control costs. Undoubtedly the President is aware that Medicare and Medicaid pay only part of the bill to hospitals and doctors, creating a “hidden tax” for the rest of us.  Right now the average American worker pays $1800 more for health care per family because Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover costs of treatment.  I haven’t heard this addressed.  Expanding Medicare and Medicaid will only exacerbate the problems.  Surely our President knows that Medicare does not control costs, does not manage fraud, and does not balance its budget.  Medicare has a $38 trillion in unfunded liabilities!  How would expanding these two government-run programs reduce costs and make insurance affordable? 

Obama’s Conversion to Fix Health Care System is New

And what’s behind Obama’s sudden concern about the urgency to fix the health care system when he repeatedly fought past proposals to do so as a Senator?  This makes me suspicious about a possible hidden agenda.  Is health care reform really about coverage for “uninsured Americans”; or is the agenda about expanding government, seizing more of our liberties, making more of us dependent on government, and putting more control of our private lives in the hands of big government?  Sorry, but I have to ask:  Is the President trying to control our mind and our money?

A DUELING DUO: Obama as Senator Versus Obama as President

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

By Elois Zeanah

The President has been trying hard to convince the American public that passing his health care reform is urgent because doing nothing will sink our economy farther. It’s an emergency!  (Just as passing TARP was an emergency, as was the Stimulus Bill, as was bailing out Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac, and banks, and GM.  As is passing the Cap-and-Trade energy tax!  Everything that Obama wants, he must have now!) 

Yet sitting as a U.S. Senator, health care reform was not so important.  Senator Barack Obama helped other Democrats defeat meaningful proposals to reform health care that would have gone far to solve pressing problems that now only government, he says, can fix through a government takeover and $2 trillion.  For example:

  • Tax Reform to Give Individuals and Families the Same Tax Benefits as Employers

One reason for rising insurance rates, the tax “exclusion” law is caused by government.   Current tax laws prohibit employees or individuals as a whole to receive tax benefits when they purchase health insurance.  Only employers are eligible for this tax write-off. This tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance is a huge, but hidden, tax subsidy of over $246 billion every year.[1] 

 To level the playing field and allow Americans who do not get insurance through their employers to deduct their health care costs, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered Resolution 70 on March 13, 2008 to fix this unfair tax “exclusion”.  Senator Obama voted against this Resolution, which failed by a vote of 45-51.

  • Government Regulations Prohibit Cross-State Competition Among Insurance Carries

Another reason for rising insurance rates is that patients cannot shop across state lines.  We can go across state lines to buy cheaper booze and to get better retail bargains, and we can shop on the Internet to compare prices to get the best deal; but the government will not let insurance companies compete across state lines.  This lack of competition hurts consumers. 

To get rid of this government restraint to competition and to allow patients to shop for the best insurance product, Senator DeMint (R-SC) introduced H.R. 976 on August 2, 2007.  Senator Obama helped defeat this health care reform, which failed by a vote of 37-62.

  • Obama Consistently Opposed Health Care Reforms as a Senator

Obama voted “NO” on many other health care reforms:[2]

  • “NO”  on allowing Americans to use their own Health Savings Accounts (HAS) to purchase health insurance (H.R. 2 offered by Sen. Ensign, R-NV) on January 25, 2007, which failed by a vote of 47-48.
  • “NO” on minimizing the erosion of health coverage (Senate Amendment 2537 to Senate Amendment 2530 to H.R. 976 introduced by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ) on August 2,2007, which failed by a vote of 37-62. 
  • “NO” to expand health care access and reduce costs through the creation of small business health plans and through modernization of the health insurance marketplace on May 11, 2006, which failed by a vote of 55-32.
  • “NO” to save taxpayer money by requiring individuals who are eligible for both SCHIP and employer-sponsored coverage to use the latter first (Senate Amendment 2596 to Senate Amendment 2530 to H.R. 976 offered by Senator Vitter, R-LA) on August 2, 2007,  which failed by a vote of 35-64.
  • “NO” on requiring illegal immigrants seeking “Z Visas” to maintain a minimum level of health coverage to save taxpayers and hospitals money in uncompensated costs (Senate 1348 introduced by Senator DeMint, R-SC) on June 6, 2007 which failed by a vote of 43-55.

Despite these “NO” votes for needed health care reform over years, the President now blames Republican opponents of his pan.  He states:

 Republicans are “content to perpetuate the status quo, [and] are, in fact, fighting reform on behalf of powerful special interests.” 

Sorry, Mr. President, but such blatant hypocrisy doesn’t help the mojo and your behavioral scientist’s mind-control manipulation.  Nor do your proposals to reform health care that expand government and deficits but don’t solve root problems.  In fact your “emergency” proposals are bad medicine for our ailing economy. 


[1] Joint Committee on Taxation, “Tax Expenditures for Health Care,” July 30, 2008. 

[2] http://demint.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Jim’sJournal.Detail&Blog_ID=9e16166

EXPANDING HEALTH CARE ENTITLEMENTS IS BAD MEDICINE AND WILL WORSEN HEALTH CARE: Could it Crash the Private Sector?

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

By Elois Zeanah

Independent analysts and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the watchdog of Congress, have for years repeatedly warned that federal and state budgets will collide with taxpayers’ ability to pay the rapidly rising costs of health care entitlement programs.  Yet not only did Obama vote against reform bills as a Senator, his unsustainable proposals as President accelerate the pace toward collision. 

 The notion by Obama that he can expand Medicare and Medicaid and give all Americans affordable health care is quickly dispelled by highly respected GAO analysts.  Obama’s plan to broaden the pool of these two programs will not alleviate but aggravate the current fiscal crisis.

 THE FISCAL NIGHTMARE

“The official projections for current entitlements show that the American people will be confronted with a series of unpleasant options: savage benefit cuts, massive tax increases, or a combination of both.  Heritage Foundation analysts, among many others, have amply documented the long-term economic catastrophe that lies ahead without comprehensive entitlement reform.[1]

GAO:   76% of every $1 will go to Health Care and Debt Interest

GAO has candidly told Congress:

  • “Just ten years from now in this simulation that is based on historical trends and recent policy preferences, 76 percent of every dollar of federal revenue will be spent on retirees and their health are providers, health care providers for the poor, and our bond holders.  This leaves little room for other priorities, such as national defense and investment in infrastructure and alternative energy sources, and threatens the government’s fiscal ability to respond to emergencies, both natural and manmade.”[2]
  • “The GAO estimates that it would take a 39 percent increase in revenue, or a 37 percent decrease in non-interest spending, to close the federal fiscal gap.”[3]
  • “Further, the GAO points directly to health care spending as the major cause of the fiscal gap: “Rapidly rising health care costs are not simply a federal budget problem; they are our nation’s number-one long-term fiscal challenge.[4]

President Obama uses these dire warnings to make his case to Americans.  Yet, interestingly, his plan does exactly the opposite of what economic experts tell us reform must do:  Cut health care entitlement expenses!  Obama ignores these warnings and instead of cutting Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP, Obama expands these three health care programs in the name of reform and magnifies problems as a consequence.  His proposals will not only lead to more expensive programs and greater deficits but higher taxes at both the federal and state levels.

Government Health Care Costs Will Force States to Raise Taxes

  • GAO’s warnings include that “Health care costs, principally Medicaid costs,[5] even at current levels will force states to raise revenue or reduce spending by 7.6 percent every year in order to close the fiscal gap faced by state and local governments.”
  • “It is ironic that just as Senator Baucus and others propose to add millions of additional beneficiaries to the fiscally troubled Medicaid program, Congress is on the threshold of passing a temporary increase in the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), the federal Medicaid match, in order to provide urgent economic relief to states.”[6]

WILL OBAMA CAUSE PRIVATE HEALTH CARE TO CRASH TO GET CONTROL OF HEALTH CARE?

“Adding more people to Medicaid when states cannot even afford their current programs makes no sense – unless the real object is to crash the program in order to force the states to support a single-payer system, under which the federal government would take over the entire health care system.  Congress’s own analysts have demonstrated that the current path for Medicare and Medicaid is unsustainable.”[7]

  • “The Obama and Baucus proposals…directly undermine the historic accomplishments of the 1990s welfare reform, which was designed to get Americans off of dependence on government programs.  Indeed, expanding the private health insurance pool and spreading risk over a larger population would help to stabilize health insurance premiums and slow the growth in health care costs.”[8]
  • “The President and Senator Baucus would also undertake a major expansion of existing government health care programs and entitlements, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).”
  • “Medicaid is already unsustainable for states and is already threatening state budgets”
  • “Expanding Medicaid discriminates against low-income families and provides limited access to health care.”

“EXPANDING MEDICARE AND MEDICAID AND INCURRING NEW LIABILITIES IS, TO PUT IT MILDLY, UNWISE

“Congress, in launching a recent series of massive bailouts, an unprecedented splurge in federal spending, has just created a record deficit of $1.6 trillion.  At the same time, Congress has avoided the tough but vital decision about how to pay for the massive entitlement obligations that have already been incurred in Medicare and Social Security, let alone how to finance new ones.

  • Medicare’s unfunded liabilities stand at $38 trillion currently.  “Medicaid’s long-term unfunded liability will be even greater than Medicare’s because Medicaid is funded entirely through general funds on a pay-as-you-go basis, with no trust funds or dedicated payroll tax available for its use.
  • “Given the unsustainable cost of the current programs and the utter failure of Congress to address these issues, it is hard to imagine how Congress would plan to finance additional entitlement costs.  The current approach on Capitol Hill is to avoid such accountability.”[9]

 


[1][1][1] Ibid.  (See Heritage entitlement spending charts, “Entitlement Spending Will More than Double by 2050,” “Entitlements Alone Will Eclipse Historical Tax Levels by 2052,” and “Mandatory Spending Consumes Growing Share of Total Spending,” at http://www.heritage org.  See also: U.S. Government Accountability Office, “The Nation’s Long-Term Fiscal Outlook: September 2008 Update, GAO-09-94R, at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0994r.pdf (Feb. 6, 2009), and “State and Local Fiscal Challenges: Rising Health Care Costs Drive Long-Term and Immediate Pressures, GAO-09-21-OT, Nov. 19, 2008, at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0921t.pdf (Feb. 9, 2008)

[2] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “The Nation’s Long-Term Fiscal Outlook: September 2008 Update, p. 2.

[3] Ibid., p. 10

[4] Ibid., p. 8

[5] Ibid., p. 5

[6] The Heritage Foundation: “Note to Congress: Expanding Health Care Entitlements is Bad Policy,”, by Dennis G. Smith, Feb. 12, 2009

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Heritage Foundation: “Note to Congress: Expanding Health Care Entitlements is Bad Policy,” by Dennis G. Smith, Fe. 12, 2009

[9] The Heritage Foundation, “Note to Congress: Expanding Health Care Entitlements is Bad Policy,” by Dennis G. Smith, February 12, 2009

OBAMA’S CALL TO MINISTERS: Are Ministers Answering the Call from the President OR from God?

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

By Elois Zeanah

Since President Obama’s conference call to faith-based groups in mid-August 2009 to urge their support for government-controlled health care, I’ve heard ministers speak about our “responsibility” to make health care insurance a “right”.   

Health Care For Children 

One minister centered his comments on children who are uninsured.  He stated (incorrectly) that too many children in America go “unprotected” when the Bible tells us to take care of them.  Apparently, he is unaware that every child from a poor family has access to Medicaid and S-CHIP, and every person, adult or child, is treated at a hospital even when they cannot pay. 

Health Care For Illegal Immigrants 

Another minister opined that we should look at the health care issue biblically.  She used the parable of the Good Samaritan to make the case that illegal immigrants should be included in the health care plan and should receive tax-subsidized or free health care.  “What does it mean for us today to love our sick or uninsured neighbor as ourselves?” she asked.  

 I would ask in return if Jesus was referring to individuals as neighbors or to governments?  I can’t see how that parable can be interpreted that people should look to the government to take care of their needs and their neighbors’.  I would also ask if Christians have a biblical duty to obey laws and expect others to do the same?  Didn’t Jesus charge citizens to Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”?   While most people are aware that it is unlawful to enter the United States without permission, most people are unaware of another law that prohibits anyone from aiding and abeting illegal immigrants.  Christians should obey laws.
 

Do Christians Have a Moral Obligation to Push for Comprehensive Health Care For All? 

One minister pointed Christians to Old and New Testament scriptures where God and Jesus are continually referred to as “healers”.  Citing Isaiah 57:18:  “I have seen their ways, but I will heal them,” and Luke 14:4:  “So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away”, the minister asked:  “Can we Christians do any less?”   1 John 3:17 tells us:  ‘How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?’  From this perspective, do people of faith not have a moral responsibility to encourage our elected officials to pass comprehensive health care?”  The minister obviously feels Christians are obligated to support proposed comprehensive health care, and to answer the President’s call. 

Guilt Trip as Bully Club

Just as President Obama reached out to persuade faith leaders to use their influence to get their “flock” to back his health care proposal, politicians too often apply the guilt trip like a tourniquet to any issue that doesn’t have public support to persuade Americans to do something they don’t believe is right. I believe Christians have a moral obligation to follow their conscience and to fight injustices in our culture, which spring eternally from our government. 

Ministers, if they are going to preach on health care reform, should study what’s in the health care reform bill, who it will hurt as well as help, and what impacts (intended as well as unintended) will be on various groups, including the poor, as well as what freedoms and liberties granted by our Constitution will be sacrificed to serve a political agenda.  Only then can faith leaders know if they are being shepherds or sheep, and whether they’re following man or God.