Thursday, September 24, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bunker Hill update

I talked to the park and rec dept. 10 minutes ago. The work on the course has started and the expected opening date is 2 weeks from today, on Oct. 2.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obama health reform team to drop public option

The team for health care reform appear to be ready to drop the public option because of the huge opposition to it.
Read story

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Press Largely Ignored Incendiary Rhetoric at Bush Protest News outlets that are focusing on the incendiary rhetoric of conservatives outside President

News outlets that are focusing on the incendiary rhetoric of conservatives outside President Obama's town hall meeting Tuesday ignored the incendiary rhetoric -- and even violence -- of liberals outside an appearance by former President George W. Bush in 2002.

When Bush visited Portland, Ore., for a fundraiser, protesters stalked his motorcade, assailed his limousine and stoned a car containing his advisers. Chanting "Bush is a terrorist!", the demonstrators bullied passers-by, including gay softball players and a wheelchair-bound grandfather with multiple sclerosis.

One protester even brandished a sign that seemed to advocate Bush's assassination. The man held a large photo of Bush that had been doctored to show a gun barrel pressed against his temple.

"BUSH: WANTED, DEAD OR ALIVE," read the placard, which had an X over the word "ALIVE."

Another poster showed Bush's face with the words: "F--- YOU, MOTHERF---ER!"

A third sign urged motorists to "HONK IF YOU HATE BUSH." A fourth declared: "CHRISTIAN FASCISM," with a swastika in place of the letter S in each word.

Although reporters from numerous national news organizations were traveling with Bush and witnessed the protest, none reported that protesters were shrieking at Republican donors epithets like "Slut!" "Whore!" and "Fascists!"

Frank Dulcich, president and CEO of Pacific Seafood Group, had a cup of liquid thrown into his face, and then was surrounded by a group of menacing protesters, including several who wore masks. Donald Tykeson, 75, who had multiple sclerosis and was confined to a wheelchair, was blocked by a thug who threatened him.

Protesters slashed the tires of several state patrol cruisers and leapt onto an occupied police car, slamming the hood and blocking the windshield with placards. A female police officer was knocked to the street by advancing protesters, badly injuring her wrist.

The angry protest grew so violent that the Secret Service was forced to take the highly unusual step of using a backup route for Bush's motorcade because the primary route had been compromised by protesters, one of whom pounded his fist on the president's moving limousine.

All the while, angry demonstrators brandished signs with incendiary rhetoric, such as "9/11 - YOU LET IT HAPPEN, SHRUB," and "BUSH: BASTARD CHILD OF THE SUPREME COURT." One sign read: "IMPEACH THE COURT-APPOINTED JUNTA AND THE FASCIST, EGOMANIACAL, BLOOD-SWILLING BEAST!"

Yet none of these signs were cited in the national media's coverage of the event. By contrast, the press focused extensively on over-the-top signs held by Obama critics at the president's town hall event held Tuesday in New Hampshire.

The lead story in Wednesday's Washington Post, for example, is headlined: "Obama Faces 'Scare Tactics' Head-On."

"As the president spoke, demonstrators outside held posters declaring him a socialist and dubbing him 'Obamahdinejad,' in reference to Iran's president," the Post reported. "People screamed into bullhorns to protest a bigger government role in health care. 'Nobama Deathcare!' one sign read. A young girl held up a sign that said: 'Obama Lies, Grandma Dies.' Images of a protester wearing what appeared to be a gun were shown on television."

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that a Democratic congressman discovered that "an opponent of health care reform hanged him in effigy" and was confronted by "200 angry conservatives." The article lamented "increasingly ugly scenes of partisan screaming matches, scuffles, threats and even arrests."

No such coverage was given to the Portland protest of Bush by The New York Times or the Washington Post, which witnessed the protest.

Palin got it right Democrats can take a lesson on cap-and-tax By Rep. Don Young | Sunday, August 9, 2009

On July 24, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and John Kerry of Massachusetts took to The Washington Post to attack former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's opposition to the Waxman-Markey cap-and-tax legislation and her overall energy philosophy.

Mrs. Palin correctly criticized the scheme presented in the legislation sponsored by Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. By only citing a report from the left-of-liberal Center for American Progress, Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Boxer naively underestimate the effects the legislation will have on the American economy. Other, more mainstream organizations, such as the Brookings Institution and the Black Chamber of Commerce, disagree.

Waxman-Markey artificially creates competition between cheap, abundant energy and unreliable, expensive renewable forms, compelling utilities to use heavily subsidized, politically correct "renewable energy" while thousands who work producing traditional energy lose their jobs.

All the while, American industry will flee to other countries where they can power their assembly lines with cheaper energy. Because nearly four decades of obscene subsidies for wind and solar power haven't worked, Waxman-Markey ups the ante and engages in societal re-engineering and fundamental restructuring of America's energy supply.

According to the Energy Information Administration, wind and solar receive 55 times more in subsidies than coal and 100 times more than oil and natural gas. Yet today, wind and solar barely make up 1.5 percent of America's electricity supply and 0.5 percent of the total U.S. energy supply, while 85 percent of the U.S. energy supply originates from fossil fuels. These figures make clear to what extent the Waxman-Markey bill must give a leg up to wind and solar to force their success. The simple fact is that these so-called industries would not survive without mandates and subsidies.

Mrs. Boxer and Mr. Kerry seem ignorant of the fact that wind and solar fail to power America's trucks, planes, trains and ships. In reality, wind and solar will not displace the energy necessary for moving people and products around the country.

Nevertheless, while mocking Mrs. Palin's good sense, they choose to advocate legislation and policies that will drive U.S. dependence on foreign oil through the roof. The senators seem oblivious to the fact that nearly one-fourth of every barrel of oil goes to producing the asphalt on which their electric cars drive, the lubricants that enable the blades on their windmills to spin and the plastics that are used in the medical supplies, fabrics and raw materials Americans cannot live without.

In 1995, Congress passed legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development. In fact, legislation to open ANWR has passed the House 10 times and the Senate once. Unfortunately, President Clinton vetoed that attempt, and today, Americans fail to enjoy the hundreds of millions of barrels a year that would be flowing had the bill become law.

Now, for the first time since 1982, we have the ability to develop our offshore resources. In 2008, President George W. Bush let the Executive Moratorium on Outer Continental Shelf Development expire, and Congress did not renew the legislative moratorium. However, the Obama administration and the radical environmentalists have other plans, and a de facto moratorium remains.

American energy marvels such as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) are the real drivers of the American economy. TAPS didn't require a government mandate; it required the federal government to get out of the way. This pipeline would never be built today. TAPS was successful only because of the oil embargo and, more significantly, because the legislation curtailed the ability of environmentalists to file lawsuits to block the project -- an effort in which, unfortunately, they have become well versed. This summer, as TAPS prepares to send its 16 billionth barrel to the consumer, I am reminded that Sarah Palin is correct and Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Boxer are again on the wrong side of energy issues.

Healthy markets succeed when the federal government steps back, not when it picks winners and losers. If history has demonstrated anything, it's that economies cannot be centrally planned by legislative bodies or bureaucrats -- even though some in the majority party seemingly disagree. The market, coupled with the ingenuity and enduring spirit of hardworking Americans, always wins.

Cheap energy means a strong economy. This is something we've learned firsthand in Alaska. In our villages, where gasoline or heating oil can top $7 a gallon, jobs are hard to come by.

The senators write that climate legislation will "ensure that the United States -- not China or India -- will be the leading economic power in this century." But the truth is, they already are.

The United States was the dynamic economic power in the 20th century without cap-and-trade. I know Mrs. Palin and I are both committed to ensuring that America's economic dominance continues into the 21st century rather than embarking blindly down the road to serfdom offered in Waxman-Markey and by the aforementioned senators from Massachusetts and California.

A Duke Professor Explains What the Health Care Bill Actually Says

"This bill is 1017 pages long. It is knee-deep in legalese and references to other federal regulations and laws. I have only touched pieces of the bill here. For instance, I have not considered the establishment of (1) 'Health Choices Commissioner' (Section 141); (2) a 'Health Insurance Exchange,' (Section 201), basically a government run insurance scheme to coordinate all insurance activity; (3) a Public Health Insurance Option (Section 221); and similar provisions. This is the evaluation of someone who is neither a physician nor a legal professional. I am citizen, concerned about this bill's effects on my freedom as an American. I would rather have used my time in other ways -- but this is too important to ignore. We may answer one question up front: How will the government ... pay for all this?

"Higher taxes, more borrowing, printing money, cutting payments, or rationing services -- there are no other options. We will all pay for this, enrolled in the government 'option' or not." So, when we talk about how we're going to pay for it, "How will the government ... pay for all this?" it's all of the following: "Higher taxes, more borrowing, printing money, cutting payments, or rationing services -- there are no other options" to pay for it. "We will all pay for this, enrolled in the government 'option' or not." The first question that he wanted to discover here is: "Will the plan ration medical care?" Then he cites the relevant passages from the bill and then evaluates the passages in real language, not the legalese that he found. This section, rationing medical care:

"1. This section amends the Social Security Act. 2. The government has the power to determine what constitutes an 'applicable [medical] condition.' 3. The government has the power to determine who is allowed readmission into a hospital. 4. This determination will be made by statistics: when enough people have been discharged for the same condition, an individual may be readmitted." In other words, there's nothing personal about this. That's why Obama's answer to the woman with the 100-year-old mother, "Are you gonna take into account the spunk and spirit, the will to live?" was, "I don't think we can do that." It's going to be statistic based. "5. This is government rationing, pure, simple, and straight up."

There is no other way to analyze this section of the bill. "6. There can be no judicial review of decisions made here. The Secretary is above the courts." All this language is in this piece. The language from the bill is from the piece. I'm not just going to read that to you. I'm reading his evaluation, stripping away the legalese, what it all means. "7. The plan also allows the government to prohibit hospitals from expanding without federal permission: page 317-318." The next question that the classics professor at Duke researched is: "Will the plan punish Americans who try to opt out?" and then he gives the relevant portions from the bill as it's written followed by his evaluation. Number one... Remember the question here is: "Will the plan punish Americans who try to opt out? ... 1. This section amends the Internal Revenue Code.
"2. Anyone caught without acceptable coverage and not in the government plan will pay a special tax." Now, this we know. We've seen this ourselves. "3. The IRS will be a major enforcement mechanism for the plan," as written in this bill. The IRS will be a major enforcer. The next section that he analyzed: "What constitutes 'acceptable' coverage?" Because, in the previous passage the bill said: "Anyone caught without acceptable coverage and not in the government plan will pay a special tax" So, what is "'acceptable' coverage"? Here are the relevant passages, sentences from the bill. "Evaluation of the passages. 1. The bill defines 'acceptable coverage' and leaves no room for choice in this regard. 2. By setting a minimum 70% actuarial value of benefits, the bill makes health plans in which individuals pay for routine services, but carry insurance only for catastrophic events, (such as Health Savings Accounts) illegal."

Let me read that again: "1. The bill defines 'acceptable coverage' and leaves no room for choice in this regard. 2. By setting a minimum 70% actuarial value of benefits, the bill makes health plans in which individuals pay for routine services" out of their own pockets, "but carry insurance only for catastrophic events ... illegal." That is one of the solutions to the problem we have now. Pay for what you want -- a standard checkup, a standard visit to the doctor -- and catastrophic insurance for when that could break your bank. Doing that will be illegal in the House bill. In other words, paying for your own routine day-to-day services but only having insurance for catastrophic events will be illegal. The next section that our classics professor, an average citizen, was curious about: ""Will the PLAN destroy private health insurance? Here is what it requires, for businesses with payrolls greater than $400,000 per year. (The bill uses 'contribution' to refer to mandatory payments to the government plan.)

"Pages 149-150, SEC. 313, EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS IN LIEU OF COVERAGE," and then the relevant passages from the bill. Here is the evaluation of those passages. Again, what we're talking about here is: "Will the PLAN destroy private health insurance?" "1. The bill does not prohibit a person from buying private insurance. 2. Small businesses -- with say 8-10 employees -- will either have to provide insurance to federal standards, or pay an 8% payroll tax. Business costs for health care are higher than this, especially considering administrative costs. Any competitive business that tries to stay with a private plan will face a payroll disadvantage against competitors who go with the government 'option.'" Now, let me explain this. Small businesses, say eight-to-ten employees, will either have to provide insurance up "to federal standards." If they don't, they will pay an additional 8% payroll tax.

"Business costs for health care are higher than [what will be charged], especially considering administrative costs. Any competitive business that tries to stay with a private plan will face a payroll disadvantage against competitors who go with the government 'option.'" If they go to the government option, they're fine. If you don't and you stay private, you're going to pay a penalty. The penalty will make it ridiculous and stupid business-wise to stay with your private plan. Therefore, you will -- your small business will -- be forced out of private insurance onto the government option. "3. The pressure for business owners to terminate the private plans will be enormous," the financial pressure, the business pressure. "4. With employers ending plans, millions of Americans will lose their private coverage, and fewer companies will offer it."

Now, none of this is anything new. Everybody showing up at these town halls knows this. This is nothing that has already been learned when discussing it. That's why when Obama is saying, "If you like your plan you can keep it, it's not true, because the meat and potatoes of the bill is going to make it impossible." If your private plan is from an employer, your employer is going to find it very difficult to hold onto private insurance and remain competitive with businesses that opt out and go in the government option. When Barney Frank or Obama himself says, "We can't do this immediately. It's going to take 10 to 15 years," this is what they're talking about: Eventually forcing small businesses and others out of private insurance because they won't be able to remain competitive with competitors who go the public option.
"5. The Commissioner (meaning, always, the bureaucrats) will determine whether a particular network of physicians, hospitals and insurance is acceptable" even if you do stay private. "6. With private insurance starved, many people enrolled in the government 'option' will have no place else to go" if they don't like it. So all this talk from Obama about adding to competition is the exact opposite, which is what everybody who's read this understands and which is why they know he's lying to them when he says, "If you like your plan you can keep it." Another way to look at that, "If you like your plan, you can keep it," is: What if everybody decided to do that, but he says the health care plan, the system we have now is unsustainable. It's horrible.

Yet if you like your plan you can keep it? How do those two go together? The next question that our classics professor at Duke wanted to figure out by reading the bill: "Does the plan TAX successful Americans more THAN OTHERS? Here is what the bill says, pages 197-198, SEC. 441. SURCHARGE ON HIGH INCOME INDIVIDUALS 'SEC. 59C. SURCHARGE ON HIGH INCOME INDIVIDUALS," and then it has the legalese. Here's the evaluation of what it says: "1. This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code. 2. Tax surcharges are levied on those with the highest incomes. 3. The plan manipulates the tax code to redistribute their wealth. 4. Successful business owners will bear the highest cost of this plan." Successful small business owners, will bear the highest cost of this plan.

"Does THE PLAN ALLOW THE GOVERNMENT TO set FEES FOR SERVICES? What it says, page 124, Sec. 223, PAYMENT RATES FOR ITEMS AND SERVICES," and then the legalese of the bill. The analysis or the evaluation: "1. The government's authority to set payments is basically unlimited. 2. The official" commissioner, bureaucrats "will decide what constitutes 'excessive,' 'deficient,' and 'efficient' payments and services. Will THE PLAN increase the power of government officials to SCRUTINIZE our private affairs? What it says, pages 195-196, SEC. 431. DISCLOSURES TO CARRY OUT HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE SUBSIDIES," then the legalese in the bill.

The evaluation: "1. This section amends the Internal Revenue Code 2. The bill opens up income tax return information to federal officials. 3. Any stated 'limits' to such information are circumvented by item (v), which allows federal officials to decide what information is needed. 4. Employers are required to report whatever information the government says it needs to enforce the plan," meaning your medical records, your employment records, how you're living your life, what kind of risk that's posing to the health care system. Next: "Does the plan automatically enroll Americans in the GOVERNMENT plan? What it says, page 102, Section 205, Outreach and enrollment of Exchange-eligible individuals and employers in Exchange-participating health benefits plan," then the legalese. Here's the evaluation: "1. Do nothing and you are in" the government plan. "2. Employers are responsible for automatically enrolling people who still work. Does THE PLAN exempt federal OFFICIALS from COURT REVIEW?

"What it says, page 124, Section 223, PAYMENT RATES FOR ITEMS AND SERVICES," then the legalese and the evaluation. "1. Sec. 1123 amends the Social Security Act, to allow the Secretary to identify areas of the country that underutilize the government's plan 'based on per capita spending.' 2. Parts of the plan are set above the review of the courts." So the question, "Does THE PLAN exempt federal officials from court review?" and parts of the plan do. This is Mr. Lewis again. His name is John David Lewis, professor of classics at Duke University. He's a common, average citizen. He's not a lawyer, not a doctor. What this goes to show is, just about anybody can figure out what's in this bill if they just take the time to read it. And a lot of people have, and the people showing up at these town hall meetings saying "no," already know what this bill says and the elements to it, or of it, that I just shared with you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hypocracy of liberals

“I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate, and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic and we should stand up and say, ‘We are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree – with any administration!’”

Do you know who uttered the above statement?

In thinking about it, perhaps it was a conservative who’s fed up with Barack Obama? Or, it simply had to be a conservative Senator who has had enough of Obama’s Chicago-style politics, right?

What if we told you the above quote was actually uttered by Hillary Clinton – in 2003?! This in fact is the case! She says it’s patriotic to exercise your freedom of speech and assembly.

…Now, fast-forward to August 10, 2009:

“Un-American”

That’s what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says of the demonstrators and protestors at health care town halls taking place across the country.

Who do you agree with?

That’s right – Hillary Clinton was correct when she stated we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration. That is why American Future Fund is encouraging our members to attend town halls across the country – and make your voice heard!

By clicking HERE, you can view a list of all town hall meetings for August - November.

Like Hillary Clinton says – you’re patriotic if you disagree with ANY administration. This includes Barack Obama’s.

Attend a town hall and make your voice heard!

CLICK HERE to find out when and where!

Sincerely,

Typical liberals do what I say not what I do

Article from Chuck Norris about intrusive govt. in the health care reform bill

Health care reforms are turning into health care revolts. Americans are turning up the heat on congressmen in town hall meetings across the U.S.

While watching these political hot August nights, I decided to research the reasons so many are opposed to Obamacare to separate the facts from the fantasy. What I discovered is that there are indeed dirty little secrets buried deep within the 1,000-plus page health care bill.


Dirty secret No. 1 in Obamacare is about the government's coming into homes and usurping parental rights over child care and development.

It's outlined in sections 440 and 1904 of the House bill (Page 838), under the heading "home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children." The programs (provided via grants to states) would educate parents on child behavior and parenting skills.

The bill says that the government agents, "well-trained and competent staff," would "provide parents with knowledge of age-appropriate child development in cognitive, language, social, emotional, and motor domains ... modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices," and "skills to interact with their child to enhance age-appropriate development."

Are you kidding me?! With whose parental principles and values? Their own? Certain experts'? From what field and theory of childhood development? As if there are one-size-fits-all parenting techniques! Do we really believe they would contextualize and personalize every form of parenting in their education, or would they merely universally indoctrinate with their own?

Are we to assume the state's mediators would understand every parent's social or religious core values on parenting? Or would they teach some secular-progressive and religiously neutered version of parental values and wisdom? And if they were to consult and coach those who expect babies, would they ever decide circumstances to be not beneficial for the children and encourage abortions?

One government rebuttal is that this program would be "voluntary." Is that right? Does that imply that this agency would just sit back passively until some parent needing parenting skills said, "I don't think I'll call my parents, priest or friends or read a plethora of books, but I'll go down to the local government offices"? To the contrary, the bill points to specific targeted groups and problems, on Page 840: The state "shall identify and prioritize serving communities that are in high need of such services, especially communities with a high proportion of low-income families."

Are we further to conclude by those words that low-income families know less about parenting? Are middle- and upper-class parents really better parents? Less neglectful of their children? Less needful of parental help and training? Is this "prioritized" training not a biased, discriminatory and even prejudicial stereotype and generalization that has no place in federal government, law or practice?
Bottom line: Is all this what you want or expect in a universal health care bill being rushed through Congress? Do you want government agents coming into your home and telling you how to parent your children? When did government health care turn into government child care?

Government needs less of a role in running our children's lives and more of a role in supporting parents' decisions for their children. Children belong to their parents, not the government. And the parents ought to have the right -- and government support -- to parent them without the fed's mandates, education or intervention in our homes.

Kids are very important to my wife, Gena, and me. That's why we've spent the past 17 years developing our nonprofit KICKSTART program in public schools in Texas. It builds up their self-esteem and teaches them respect and discipline. Of course, whether or not they participate in the program is their and their parents' choice.

How contrary is Obamacare's home intrusion and indoctrination family services, in which state agents prioritize houses to enter and enforce their universal values and principles upon the hearts and minds of families across America?

Government's real motives and rationale are quite simple, though rarely, if ever, stated. If one wants to control the future ebbs and flows of a country, one must have command over future generations. That is done by seizing parental and educational power, legislating preferred educational methods and materials, and limiting private educational options. It is so simple that any socialist can understand it. As Josef Stalin once stated, "Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed."

Before so-called universal health care turns into universal hell care, write or call your representative today and protest his voting Obamacare into law. Remind him that what is needed in Washington is a truly bipartisan group that is allowed an ample amount of time to work on a compromise health care law that wouldn't raise taxes (for anyone), regulate personal medical choices, ration health care or restrict American citizens.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Who is going to be the govt. God who decides who gets to live and who gets a pill?

World's oldest dog turns 26

In dog years the terrier-cross is 182, the equivalent of being born in 1827.

He lives in Louisiana in the United States of America.


"I never spoiled Max," said his owner Janelle Derouen.

"I've never fed him anything but Kiddles and Bits [brand of dog food] and a few treats like those beefy doggy bones.

"We don't give him any food from our table," added Janelle, 49, who lives with her husband Billy, also 49, in New Iberia.

Max, who is greying, has a veterinary birth certificate to prove his age and is awaiting official confirmation from Guinness World Records.

Janelle and Billy bought Max from a local sugar cane farmer in 1983.

"He was the only one in the litter that was brown and I liked the colour so I took him home," said Janelle.

Max has been visiting the same vet since birth at the Robichaux Veterinary Clinic in New Iberia. An 80s puppy Max's birth was formally logged in 1983.

Until recently it was believed that Chanel, a geriatric Daschund-cross from New York was the oldest dog alive but Chanel, who turned 21 in May, is a full five years junior to Max.

Chanel is riddled with health problems, struggling desperately to see, walk and hear.

But Max is still in fine health and only suffers from mild arthritis and some cataracts. His secret, says Janelle, is not worrying about anything at all.

"He's a very, very laid back dog," said Janelle.

"He likes to lie down, relax, nap, sleep a lot and keep life simple. He'll play with the kids for a bit but if they bother him too long he'll wander off.

"He doesn't have any fancy toys, just a bit of rope and a regular squeaky ball."

Janelle and Billy held a special birthday party for Max on Sunday.

"We spoiled him just a little bit that once," said Janelle.

Bachmann Seeks Transparency in Bailout Operations

As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, I recently had the opportunity to question Elizabeth Warren, the Chair of the panel that was charged with oversight of the $700-billion Wall Street bailout operations. I was then, and remain today, concerned that this panel is not operating with full transparency. It seems to me that a panel that was commissioned with giving taxpayers insight into how their money is being spent on the Wall Street bailout should itself be a model of openness.

Today, I followed up with my questioning with a letter to Ms. Warren. The text of my letter is below for your review:

Ms. Elizabeth Warren
Chair, Congressional Oversight Panel (COP)
732 North Capitol St., NW
Rooms C-320 and C-617
Washington, DC 20401

Dear Ms. Warren,

I was disappointed to hear that for a third time, the Congressional Oversight Panel (Panel) has rejected a motion by Congressman Jeb Hensarling to improve the Panel’s transparency and accountability measures.

As you know, this motion would have required that within 20 days of each Panel meeting, both an official transcript and minutes be made available to the public, including those conducted by telephone. The motion also included a confidentiality safeguard which stated that the Panel could refrain from making certain meetings public with a simple majority vote. In my view, this is more than reasonable and I urge the Panel to reconsider the motion.

The Panel’s main objective is to shed light on how the U.S. Treasury is spending the $700 billion of taxpayer money authorized under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). This is a serious responsibility. The public outrage against the TARP was, and still is, undeniable, and the taxpayers footing the bill for this program deserve to have access to all the oversight resources available. I’m very concerned about the signal the Panel has sent to the American people and Members of Congress by rejecting this transparency motion. In fact, I find it ironic that a panel created to provide oversight is rejecting oversight of its own operations. Your rejection of these very reasonable accountability measures seems contrary to your very mission.

Additionally, I’m concerned that the Panel’s oversight of the TARP is not sufficient. The Panel’s website clearly shows that it has only held on average one public hearing per month since December 2008. Until last Monday, the Panel had held no public hearings with the largest TARP recipients and has yet to question the largest financial institutions about their administration of TARP funds. And, only one hearing over the past 8 months included Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner – the main administrator of the TARP. How can the Panel achieve its oversight mission given this schedule?

There also seems to be a level of secrecy surrounding the basic functions of the Panel. As you made clear at the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on July 22, 2009, the Panel has no specified budget for its operations. And when I request two fundamental pieces of information, a public phone number and official transcripts of the Panel’s meetings, you responded with some confusion and stated, “We don't have official transcripts… We have typing that comes back from someone who listened to our tapes, who is not part of our panel, not part of this process, and no one has verified the accuracy of any part of it.” Your responses make a strong case that Congressman Hensarling’s transparency motion is critical to improving the Panel’s accountability.

For a Panel tasked with examining the transparency and effectiveness of the TARP, I am concerned that the Panel’s own operations are lacking in this very area. On behalf of the taxpayers that I represent, the Minnesotans who are footing the bill for the TARP, I would appreciate a written explanation as to why you voted against Congressman Hensarling’s motion for greater transparency. They deserve to know what is happening with their money.

I look forward to working together to strengthen the oversight of the TARP and ensure that the Panel’s activities are open and accessible to citizens across our nation. I appreciate your consideration of these concerns and look forward to hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Michele Bachmann
Member of Congress

What Does Health Care Reform Mean for the Most Vulnerable Amongst Us?

Michele Bachmann

When Congress returns to Washington from its district work period, the President’s health care reform proposal is expected to be at the very top of our agenda. Much of the discussion so far has been in sound bites and debate snippets and about numbers and sterile ideas. But, health care reform should be about people.

It’s important that we look deeper into statements of some of the Administration’s top advisors to get some insight into where the legislative proposals on the table may lead us. Betsy McCaughey, former Lieutenant Governor for New York and founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, recently shared some statements by two of President Obama’s top advisors in the New York Post that should give us pause about the very human consequences of health care reform.

I encourage you to read her column from July 24th (Deadly Doctors: O Advisors Want to Ration Care):

THE health bills coming out of Congress would put the decisions about your care in the hands of presidential appointees. They'd decide what plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have and what seniors get under Medicare.

Yet at least two of President Obama's top health advisers should never be trusted with that power.

Start with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He has already been appointed to two key positions: health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research.

Emanuel bluntly admits that the cuts will not be pain-free. "Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality are merely 'lipstick' cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change," he wrote last year (Health Affairs Feb. 27, 2008).

Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, "as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others" (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008).

Yes, that's what patients want their doctors to do. But Emanuel wants doctors to look beyond the needs of their patients and consider social justice, such as whether the money could be better spent on somebody else.

Many doctors are horrified by this notion; they'll tell you that a doctor's job is to achieve social justice one patient at a time.

Emanuel, however, believes that "communitarianism" should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

Translation: Don't give much care to a grandmother with Parkinson's or a child with cerebral palsy.

He explicitly defends discrimination against older patients: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years" (Lancet, Jan. 31).

The bills being rushed through Congress will be paid for largely by a $500 billion-plus cut in Medicare over 10 years. Knowing how unpopular the cuts will be, the president's budget director, Peter Orszag, urged Congress this week to delegate its own authority over Medicare to a new, presidentially-appointed bureaucracy that wouldn't be accountable to the public.

Since Medicare was founded in 1965, seniors' lives have been transformed by new medical treatments such as angioplasty, bypass surgery and hip and knee replacements. These innovations allow the elderly to lead active lives. But Emanuel criticizes Americans for being too "enamored with technology" and is determined to reduce access to it.

Dr. David Blumenthal, another key Obama adviser, agrees. He recommends slowing medical innovation to control health spending.

Blumenthal has long advocated government health-spending controls, though he concedes they're "associated with longer waits" and "reduced availability of new and expensive treatments and devices" (New England Journal of Medicine, March 8, 2001). But he calls it "debatable" whether the timely care Americans get is worth the cost. (Ask a cancer patient, and you'll get a different answer. Delay lowers your chances of survival.)

Obama appointed Blumenthal as national coordinator of health-information technology, a job that involves making sure doctors obey electronically delivered guidelines about what care the government deems appropriate and cost effective.

In the April 9 New England Journal of Medicine, Blumenthal predicted that many doctors would resist "embedded clinical decision support" -- a euphemism for computers telling doctors what to do.

Americans need to know what the president's health advisers have in mind for them. Emanuel sees even basic amenities as luxuries and says Americans expect too much: "Hospital rooms in the United States offer more privacy . . . physicians' offices are typically more conveniently located and have parking nearby and more attractive waiting rooms" (JAMA, June 18, 2008).

No one has leveled with the public about these dangerous views. Nor have most people heard about the arm-twisting, Chicago-style tactics being used to force support. In a Nov. 16, 2008, Health Care Watch column, Emanuel explained how business should be done: "Every favor to a constituency should be linked to support for the health-care reform agenda. If the automakers want a bailout, then they and their suppliers have to agree to support and lobby for the administration's health-reform effort."

Do we want a "reform" that empowers people like this to decide for us?

The Economic Impact of The Waxman-Markey Cap-and-Trade Bill on Western States

Testimony before
The House and Senate Western Caucus

July 30, 2009

My name is Ben Lieberman. I am the Senior Policy Analyst for Energy and Environment in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage Foundation.

I would like to thank the House and Senate Western Caucus for the privilege of participating in today's hearing. I'll be discussing the costs of the cap-and-trade approach to addressing global warming and The Heritage Foundation's economic analysis of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (Waxman-Markey). As you know, the House narrowly passed this bill, which is similar to, but has more stringent targets and timetables than, the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill that was rejected by the Senate last June.

It is clear that cap and trade is very expensive and amounts to nothing more than an energy tax in disguise. After all, when you sweep aside all the complexities of how cap and trade operates--and make no mistake, this is the most convoluted attempt at economic central planning this nation has ever attempted--the bottom line is that cap and trade works by raising the cost of energy high enough so that individuals and businesses are forced to used less of it. Inflicting economic pain is what this is all about. That is how the ever-tightening emissions targets will be met.

The only entities directly regulated by Waxman-Markey would be the electric utilities, oil refiners, natural gas producers, and some manufacturers that produce energy on site. So the good news for the rest of us--homeowners, car owners, small business owners, farmers and ranchers--is that we won't be directly regulated under this bill. The bad news is that nearly all the costs will get passed on to us anyway.

What are those costs? According to an analysis we conducted at The Heritage Foundation, an updated version of which will be out shortly, the higher energy costs kick in as soon as the bill's provisions take effect in 2012. For a household of four, energy costs go up $436 that year, and they eventually reach $1,241 in 2035 and average $829 annually over that span. Electricity costs go up 90 percent by 2035, gasoline by 58 percent, and natural gas by 55 percent by 2035. The cumulative higher energy costs for a family of four by then will be nearly $20,000.

But direct energy costs are only part of the consumer impact. Nearly everything goes up, since higher energy costs raise production costs. If you look at the total cost of Waxman-Markey, it works out to an average of $2,979 annually from 2012-2035 for a household of four. By 2035 alone, the total cost is over $4,600.

Beyond the cost impact on individuals and households, Waxman-Markey also affects employment, and especially employment in the manufacturing sector. We estimate job losses averaging 1,145,000 at any given time from 2012-2035. And note that those are net job losses, after the much-hyped green jobs are taken into account. Some of the lost jobs will be destroyed entirely, while others will be outsourced to nations like China and India that have repeatedly stated that they'll never hamper their own economic growth with energy-cost-boosting global-warming measures like Waxman-Markey.

Since farming is energy-intensive, that sector will be particularly hard-hit. Higher gasoline and diesel fuel costs, higher electricity costs, and higher natural gas-derived fertilizer costs all erode farm profits, which are expected to drop by 28 percent in 2012 and average 57 percent lower through 2035. As with American manufacturers, Waxman-Markey also puts American farmers at a global disadvantage, as other food exporting nations would have no comparable energy price-raising measures in place.

Overall, Waxman-Markey reduces gross domestic product by an average of $393 dollars annually between 2012 and 2035, and cumulatively by $9.4 trillion. In other words, the nation will be $9.4 trillion poorer with Waxman-Markey than without it.

It should also be noted that the costs are not distributed evenly. Low-income households spend a disproportionate share of their incomes on energy, and thus would be hit harder than average by Waxman-Markey. Of course, the bill has provisions to give back some revenues to low-income households, but it is likely that these rebates will amount only to some portion of each dollar that was taken away from them in the first place in the form of higher energy costs and higher costs for other goods and services. Waxman-Markey also disproportionately burdens those states, especially in the Midwest and South, that still have a substantial number of manufacturing jobs to lose, as well as those that rely more heavily than others on coal for electric generation. In addition, because the bill raises energy costs, it hurts rural America much more than urban America. Rural Americans, farmers and non-farmers, spend an average of 58 percent more on energy as a percentage of income than their urban counterparts, and those costs would go up.

The disproportionate burdens affect the West. Coal mining will be very hard-hit, so Montana and Wyoming and other coal-producing states will see this important sector of their economies shrink significantly. Western oil and natural gas producers will face higher costs as well. The promise of oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming will never be realized under Waxman-Markey. As I mentioned, agriculture is hard-hit, and that particularly includes things common in parts of the West that are not well positioned to partially defray their costs by availing themselves of offsets, like ranching on federal lands, fruits and vegetables, and potatoes. And of course the long distances rural Westerners have to drive in the course of each day means that gasoline and diesel price increases hurt them more than other Americans.

In conclusion, it is not surprising that support for Waxman-Markey is heaviest in those parts of the country, the urban centers in the West Coast and Northeast, that are least harmed by it. Even there, the economic damage would be bad enough, but the citizens in the rest of the country and their representatives, and especially those who represent the rural West, should really be asking many tough questions about the economic impact of cap and trade.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Health Reform and the Polls

By SCOTT RASMUSSEN

For all the back and forth about the “public option,” Congressional Budget Office estimates and proposed tax hikes, the fundamentals are really what make health-care reform a hard sell to American voters. As members of Congress head home for the August recess, they should take a close look at some poll numbers before they attempt to pass any new legislation.

The most important fundamental is that 68% of American voters have health-insurance coverage they rate good or excellent. That number comes from polling conducted this past weekend of 1,000 likely voters. Most of these voters approach the health-care reform debate fearing that they have more to lose than to gain.

Adding to President Barack Obama’s challenge as he sells health-care reform to the public is the fact that most voters are skeptical about the government’s ability to do anything well. While the president says his plan will reduce costs, 53% believe it will have the opposite effect.

There’s also the reality that 74% of voters rate the quality of care they now receive as good or excellent. And 50% fear that if Congress passes health-care reform, it will lead to a decline in the quality of that care.


Advocates of health-care reform on Capitol Hill are up against something bigger than voters’ reactions to a variety of specific proposals. Our polling in February found that by a 2-1 margin, voters believe that no matter how bad things are Congress can always make matters worse. That’s one reason 78% believe passage of the current congressional health-care proposals is likely to mean higher taxes for the middle class.

However, there are some numbers congressional Democrats can celebrate. Specifically, 63% of voters agreed with the president earlier this year when he said, “We must make it a priority to give every single American quality affordable health care.” Yet while they agree in theory, only 28% are currently willing to pay higher taxes to achieve that goal.

Another point in the reformers’ favor is that a significant number of the voters we polled in May had experienced financial hardship brought on by health issues. One in four Americans—26%—say that health-care costs have at some point caused them to miss credit-card, rent or mortgage payments. That figure includes 21% of those who have health insurance coverage.

Finally, voters strongly believe that medical care should be provided when needed, regardless of insurance coverage. In May, Rasmussen Reports found that just 31% of voters believe young and healthy adults who choose not to buy health insurance should be forced to do so. But a follow-up question asked: “What if those who chose not to buy health insurance end up needing emergency room care?” Only 16% said treatment should be denied; 74% said they should be treated even if they did not have insurance.

Taken together, the data shows that at this point voters are pretty evenly divided. Last week’s polling showed that 47% at least somewhat favored the plan while 49% are somewhat opposed.

Though voters are torn about reform, there is intensity among the opposition. Just 25% strongly favor the reform effort, while 41% are strongly opposed. And that gets back to the very first point: 68% currently have good or excellent coverage. It’s going to be hard to generate passionate support for change among this group of voters.

Those opposed to Mr. Obama’s reform appear to have momentum on their side. Polling last weekend showed that 48% of voters rate the U.S. health-care system as good or excellent. That’s up from 35% in May and up from 29% a year ago. Only 19% now rate the system as poor, down from 37% a year ago. It appears that the prospect of changing health care has made the existing system look better to a lot of people.

Beyond the intensity of the opposition and its momentum, there is also a huge partisan gap that puts congressional Democrats in a very difficult position. Currently, 76% of Democratic voters favor the health-care reform plan proposed by Mr. Obama and the congressional Democrats, and they are counting on their representatives to deliver.

But delivering for the Democratic base has the potential to hurt the party’s standing among independents. Among the unaffiliated, 35% are in favor of the Democrats’ health-care reform initiative, and 60% are opposed. Notably, just 16% of unaffiliated voters strongly favor the legislative effort; 47% strongly oppose it.

As the Democrats scramble to pass a health-care reform bill by the fall, they appear to have two choices. One is to stick with the broad outlines of the plan that has been laid out by various congressional committees. Those proposals would be well received within the party, but will cause some angst beyond it.

The other option would be to pass smaller scale reform and declare victory. That approach would probably be well received by voters in the middle, but create turmoil within the party.

In political terms, the most important reality will be how the reform affects the 68% who say they have good or excellent health-insurance coverage. If they end up having to change their coverage, pay significantly higher taxes, or encounter some other unpleasant reality, congressional Democrats will look back on this August as a time when they should have listened more closely to the folks back home.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pelosi Rallies for a Vote on Health Care this Week!

Please continue calling your Representative and Senators and tell them to oppose the Obama plan!
July 28, 2009

Don't be fooled by reports that the so-called "fiscally conservative" Blue Dog House Democrats have killed Obama's plan for a government takeover of the American health care system. Roll Call reported today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is more determined than ever to bring the House bill, H.R. 3200, to the floor for a vote by the end of this week. She is reportedly turning up the pressure on the House Energy & Commerce Committee as well as the Senate Finance Committee to reach a "deal" on the 1,000 page, $1 trillion-plus bill and to "pull the plug" on Sen. Max Baucus' (D-MT) bipartisan negotiations altogether and just jam it through for a vote.

As Democrats attempt to frame Republicans as the party of "No," congressional liberals have revealed their health care bill to be the nightmare that its critics have claimed all along. Over the past two weeks, Democrats have defeated and said "NO" to 31 common-sense Republican amendments to H.R. 3200, including:

* Preventing bureaucrats from making personal medical decisions for patients (offered by Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-GA).
* Requiring all Members of Congress to get their health insurance through the proposed government-run plan (offered by Rep. Dean Heller, R-NV).
* Protecting Americans from "hurry up and wait," the rationing mechanism when average waiting time for a medical treatment exceeds the average wait times in private plans (offered by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-TX).
* Preventing taxpayer-funded health benefits from going to illegal immigrants (offered by Rep. Dean Heller, R-NV).
* Specifying that Congress should read the health care bill before voting on it (offered by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-TX).
* Ensuring that workers who like their current health plan can keep it (offered by Rep. Judy Biggert, R-IL).
* Stopping seniors from being stripped of their health care choices, as the Democrat bill cuts the Medicare Advantage program (offered by Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-FL).
* Allowing states to opt out (offered by Rep. Tom Price, R-GA).
* Allowing Americans to continue to enroll in private individual market health plans (offered by Rep. Dave Reichert, R-WA).
* Waive the employer mandate if it will cause layoffs, worker salary cuts, or reductions in hiring (offered by Dave Reichert, R-WA).

A recent Rasmussen poll found that a majority of Americans oppose Obama's plan for government-run health care, an ever increasing trend as more details of the bill, and information about defeated amendments which most Americans would support, are disclosed.

Since our last action alert on this topic, many more dangerous provisions have surfaced in the text of H.R. 3200, particularly those that target senior citizens by cutting funding for Medicare and by mandating "end of life" counseling, which should be seen as the beginning of a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia. Even President Obama told the The New York Times in an interview about his health care plan: "The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here...There is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place." So-called "universal health care" depends on a rationing mechanism, and in the Democrats' bill, the rationing will begin with and directly affect the elderly.

H.R. 3200 also provides for the following seriously concerning items:

* Government real-time access to individual's finances and a national health care ID card (p.58).
* Government use of left-wing community groups, such as ACORN and AmeriCorps, to register individuals for the government health care plan (p. 95).
* No company or business can sue the federal government for price fixing, which means that there will be no judicial review against a government monopoly of the health care industry (p. 124).
* Any nonresident alien is exempt from the individual taxes, insurance purchasing mandates, and fines which are required of every legal, U.S. citizens (p. 170).
* Government will restrict the enrollment of special needs people (p. 354).
* Government mandates Advance Care Planning Consultation-that is, end-of-life counseling on "the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration" and other end of life treatments. (Section 1233).
* "Advance Care Planning Consultation" may include a government order for end of life plans (p. 429).
* Government Marriage & Family therapy sessions (p. 489).
* Government will design and implement the Home Visitation Program for families with young children and families expecting children, parenting counseling is included (p. 838-845).
* Government-established National Medical Device Registry (p. 1001).


Make no mistake, Obama's and congressional liberals' goal is to vote before the August Recess because they know that when their Democrat colleagues return to their states and districts to hold townhall meetings, they will not be able to avoid the outrage of opposition from their constituents!

Take Action!

It's now or never to turn up the heat on your representative and your two Senators to defeat this bill! The phone lines on Capitol Hill are nowhere near jammed, so we need you to keep up the pressure (remember, phone calls are best) and not allow Nancy Pelosi to bring this bill to a vote this week.

The August Recess is scheduled to begin at the end of Friday, July 31st, so there is no time to waste-start calling now! We cannot allow Pelosi, Obama, or their liberal allies in Congress to think that the opposition has cooled down!

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Here is a great reason why medical costs are so high.

If it's a medical emergency, Erie County 911 will respond, but there is one address many of its dispatchers know by heart.

They find Scott Graham usually waiting at that Buffalo address for his ambulance several times a week.

"Sometimes two times a day," Graham told 2 On Your Side. He suffers from Sickle Cell Anemia, a blood disorder. If left untreated, it can block blood flow to limbs and organs.

"It feels like somebody shooting me with battery acid, and I'm stepping on razor blades, and I'm having a heart attack at once," he said talking about the pain the disorder causes.

Graham doesn't have a job, insurance or car. So, when he feels bad, he doesn't call a cab. He calls 911 to have an ambulance drive him to the hospital.

A 2 On Your Side investigation found that from January 2006 to May of this year, Rural Metro Ambulance picked him up 603 times.

Medicaid picked up the tab for each ride, costing taxpayers at least $118,158.

Graham estimates he's requested even more rides. "I'd say about a thousand times."

Rural Metro and Erie County chose not to respond on camera about Graham's case. The county follows the same rules most emergency systems follow across the country. If you call, they must haul you to the hospital, no matter what your call is about.

Graham says he requests an ambulance because he can't see his doctor as much as he needs. He also says he gets help quicker by arriving in an ambulance rather than by cab.

2 On Your Side contacted Medicaid to have them look into the number of times Graham used an ambulance. Medicaid appeared more interested in how we got the information, rather than how much it cost taxpayers to pick him up.

Medicaid fraud and abuse costs $60 billion each year nationwide.

2 On Your Side contacted our lawmakers to discuss how to lower that number.

"As we look at health care reform," Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said, "we should also look at oversight and accountability for those programs to make sure that people aren't abusing the system."

Gillibrand says cracking down on abuse should be part of the major health care reform going through Congress to force more oversight.

Take Mr. Graham's case. His trips cost Medicaid $118,000, but the government reimbursements are low. In fact, most ambulance companies lose money, up to 30% or more, when they transport Medicaid patients, because the government simply does not pay the full cost. Therefore, Mr. Graham's actual cost to the ambulance company and to the health care system in general, is much more, as high as $360,000.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins, a Republican, says government is not the answer to limiting that type of alleged abuse and waste.

"Fundamentally, inherently I think the private sector is better able to do anything and everything compared to government," Collins said.

Instead, Collins said the solution is insurance that is private and not public.

"Would the type of reform that you're suggesting here be able to crack down more on this type of fraud?" asked 2 On Your Side's Michael Wooten.

"I'm actually talking about the basic design of the program in New York," Collins said. "where fraud is something we have to look at everyday. But the actual larger cost is the actual design of the program and the fact that we took the entire menu and said we'll provide it all."

Gillibrand disagrees.

"Bottom line then, expanded government-run health care can be efficient you believe?" 2 On Your Side's Michael Wooten asked Gillibrand. "Absolutely," she responded. "Talk to your mother. Talk to your father. Talk to someone who has Medicare. They're pretty happy."

Currently, New York has a dubious distinction of having the highest Medicaid costs in the entire country, about $2,300 per person. Collins said if we had a system similar the one in California, which does not provide as much care, we would save enough money to completely eliminate the county property tax.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

State Health Reform: The Significance of Utah Health Insurance Reforms

Here is an inovative interesting health reform system being implimented in Utah that works to help with the problems. This one is not set up to take control of every part of our lives like the federal programs.


by Edmund F. Haislmaier
WebMemo #2569
Utah is currently implementing consumer-centered health insurance reforms enacted in March of this year.[1] The reforms are designed to increase choice, portability, and availability of private health insurance coverage. They are the product of a continuing, multi-year health reform process in that state.

This first set of Utah health reforms includes three key elements:

Insurance market reforms to create a new "defined contribution" coverage option for businesses and their workers;
A board to design and manage a companion risk adjustment mechanism; and
A "virtual" health insurance exchange to coordinate the various administrative functions of a consumer-choice market.
Creating a "Defined Contribution" Option

The centerpiece of Utah's reforms is a new option for employment-based health insurance that will enable employers to offer health benefits to their workers on a "defined contribution" basis.

An employer electing this option will no longer need to manage a traditional "one-size-fits-all" group plan for its workers. Rather, each worker, during the annual open season, will be able to pick from a menu of health insurance plans, all of which will conform to federal standards (such as guaranteed issue to employees and limits on pre-existing condition exclusions) so as to qualify for favorable federal tax treatment as employer-sponsored health benefits.

Utah will make this defined contribution option available to small businesses (those with two to 50 employees) effective January 1, 2010. The legislation also specifies that starting in January of 2012, businesses of any size will be allowed to elect this option.

Employers will still have the option of offering health benefits on a traditional group policy basis--either purchased from a commercial insurer or self-insured by the employer. However, the new defined contribution option will be less costly and less burdensome for employers to offer, and will give workers more choice and control over their coverage.

Employers who elect the defined contribution option must agree to establish a qualified "cafeteria plan" or "health reimbursement arrangement" in accordance with federal tax law, allowing their workers to pay any employee share of the premiums on a pre-tax basis regardless of what the employer contributes or which plan the employee picks.

Starting with Risk Adjustment

A second important element of the reforms is the creation of a "Utah Defined Contribution Risk Adjuster" with a board consisting of representatives of health insurers and private employers as well as the state's insurance department, the public employee health plan, and the Governor's Office of Consumer Health Services.

This board was created to determine the insurance rating (pricing) rules for the defined contribution market and to design a mechanism for adjusting (or pooling) risk across all insurers in the market. The objective is to enable consumers to easily compare the benefits and prices for various competing plans on the "front end" while on the "back end" adjusting payments to insurers so that the costs of expensive cases is spread among all insurers and all plans have incentives to compete in offering the best value to both healthier and sicker enrollees.[2]

The board is now finalizing its initial design for both elements. In general, the agreed design will work as follows:

Plan offerings will be partially risk-adjusted through pricing based on family status and age. There will be four family status categories: single adult, one adult plus one child, couple with no children, and family--which could be either a single adult with more than one dependent or a couple with one or more dependents. Age rating will be in five-year bands for adults between 20 and 64, with insurers permitted to vary premiums by no more than 4 to 1 between the lowest and highest priced age bands. The age of the employee will determine the applicable age band.

Thus, by simply entering his or her age and choosing one of the four family status categories, an employee will be able to compare competing plan benefits and applicable premiums. There will be no geographic adjustment to premiums as regional differences in health care costs were determined to not be a significant factor in Utah.

A common underwriting questionnaire will be completed by all employees signing up for coverage as part of a participating employer group in order to construct an insurance profile for the group. This is the same process as is currently used in rating traditional group coverage, and Utah law allows insurers to vary premiums by up to +/- 30 percent on a group basis. Thus, when an employee logs on and enters his or her employer's ID number, the software will automatically adjust the entire schedule of age and family premiums for the competing plans to reflect the rating factor assigned to the worker's employer group.
After the employees all pick their coverage, the employer will transmit a monthly total amount for all of the chosen coverage. A portion of that total will be what the employer contributes directly to coverage--determined according to the rules established by each employer for its plan--with the balance coming from pre-tax payroll withholding by the employees. The system has been designed to also accept payments from other sources, such as government subsidies for lower-income individuals.
The amounts transmitted to the insurers will be adjusted further based on which individuals chose which plan. For example, if two individuals have the same employer, are the same age, elect the same coverage status, and choose the same plan, then both will pay the same premium. However, if one is diabetic and the other is not, the insurer will receive a somewhat larger payment for the diabetic employee. Where this will really help is if the two employees opt for different plans. In that case, the differences in the premiums they pay will only reflect the differences in the design of the competing benefit packages--not differences between the employees in health status. Yet the plan chosen by the diabetic will get a somewhat larger slice of the total paid collectively by the employer and all of its workers for coverage.
Finally, an end-of-year adjustment among all participating insurers will compensate for any insurer ending up with a share of high-costs enrollees or claims significantly greater than the normal variation. Those adjustments will be done by the participating insurers--who will debit and credit each other in accordance with the rules they collectively established through the board--and will have no effect on the premiums paid by either the enrollees or their employers.
Everyone involved recognizes that this initial risk adjustment design will likely need further refinement and revisions as the insurers gain experience from operating in the new consumer-choice market. For example, the board will likely need to eventually phase-out the employer-group rating factor. That way, when a worker changes jobs but keeps the same coverage, his or her premium will not increase or decrease simply because the new employer has a different group-rating factor than the old employer.

Health Insurance Exchange

The law also established the Office of Consumer Health Services (within the Governor's Office of Economic Development) and gave it the job of designing and administering an Internet-based health insurance "portal" to function as Utah's health insurance exchange.[3] Any insurer will be able to offer coverage through the exchange if it is licensed in Utah and the plan it offers meets state and federal standards.

The exchange will be an online administrative system for employers to offer the new defined contribution coverage option to their employees; for workers and insurance brokers to use in comparing and choosing coverage; for employers, insurers, individuals, and intermediaries such as banks to use to collect and transmit premium payments from multiple sources; and for the state government to use to administer any premium assistance payments for private coverage on behalf of low-income individuals.

Utah's particular innovation is that rather than creating a single entity to perform all of the different administrative functions, the state is using a contracting process to simply network the different pieces and vendors, both existing and new, into a "virtual" health insurance exchange.

Current plans are for the exchange to begin signing up employers who want to participate the week of August 17, with the rest of the system in place for employees to choose coverage during the first open season in November, and for the coverage to take effect January 1, 2010.

The legislation also contains a number of other provisions that augment the key reform elements, including:

Consumer transparency requirements for insurance agent compensation and insurance plan benefits and practices;
Authorization of new "mandate-lite" health insurance policies; and
Authorization of a new lower-cost "conversion" policy for individuals eligible under federal or state law to elect conversion coverage following employment termination.
Benefits of Utah's Approach

Utah is looking to derive a number of benefits from this insurance reform approach.

More Employers Offering Health Coverage. Nationally, only 43 percent of employers with 50 or fewer workers currently offer employer-sponsored health insurance, and Utah's rate (32 percent) is even lower.[4] A major reason is that traditional one-size-fits-all group coverage puts most of the risk on the employer. In essence, the decision by a small business to start offering health insurance to its employees is a decision to jump onto the health cost escalator. Before deciding to offer group coverage, the employer has to be confident that it can handle future cost increases and also be willing to endure the annual hassle of finding or negotiating coverage that 75-80 percent of its employees will take, and then dealing with their complaints.

Utah's "defined contribution" option will allow employers to offer their workers quality health benefits while avoiding most of the associated risks and hassles. Under a defined contribution arrangement each employee gets to decide which plan best suits his or her needs and situation. Furthermore, employees can reevaluate their decisions each year at open season. When faced with a premium increase for the plan he or she picked last year, it is the worker who will decide whether the benefits are worth the extra cost or if another plan offers a better cost-benefit proposition.

A new insurance option that takes most of the risk off of the employer, combined with shared administrative functions through an exchange that also relieves the employer of most of the hassle factor, could eventually result in almost every employer in the state offering at least that coverage option to its workers.

A New Risk Management Tool for Workers. While it is true that defined contribution shifts risk to the employee, it also gives the employee a new tool to manage that risk: annual choice of coverage from a menu of plans with different benefit designs and premiums offered by different insurers. From the employees' perspective, that is a far better option than the current situation in which their employer picks a plan that is probably not their first choice and, as the premiums go up year after year, shifts more of the cost onto them by requiring them to pay higher co-pays or larger shares of the premium.

Better Value. As seen from the experience of the Federal Employee's Health Benefit Program--the country's largest and longest operating defined contribution health insurance system--a consumer choice market puts simultaneous downward pressure on prices and upward pressure on benefits/quality, the only effective way to attain better value in a health system.[5]

Protecting and Assisting Consumers. Under Utah's defined contribution approach, all the insurance sold through the exchange will be state regulated and meet federal standards for employer-sponsored coverage. Participating employers and their workers can be certain that all the policies offered will be quality coverage from responsible insurers. In addition, insurance agents will be compensated not just for helping the employer offer coverage to its workers but also for helping the workers compare plans and select the ones that best meet their individual needs. Thus, employers can be confident that their workers will have access to licensed and trained professionals for help with picking their coverage.

Increased Portability. Over time, as more employers opt to offer health benefits on a defined contribution basis, more and more workers will be able to take their coverage with them from job to job.

Reducing the Number of Uninsured. Utah lawmakers view the creation of a defined contribution option for employer-based coverage as a first step in covering more of the uninsured. Making it both easier for employers to offer coverage and easier for workers to find and keep the coverage they prefer should result in fewer individuals experiencing gaps in coverage and thus being uninsured.

An Innovative Approach

Other states are pursuing their own variations of consumer-centered health reform. What Utah will soon offer is a working model of how states can design and implement a consumer-centered health insurance market that leverages existing resources with minimal regulation or disruption to existing arrangements.

Of particular interest to other states should be Utah's technological solutions for creating a "virtual" health insurance exchange and the lessons and insight that will come from its experience in designing a robust risk adjustment mechanism to support a consumer-choice market.

Utah's approach is, in effect, a marriage of advanced health care reform with advanced information technology.

Edmund F. Haislmaier is Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Health Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1]State of Utah, "H.B. 188 Health System Reform--Insurance Market," 2009 General Session, at http://le.utah.gov/~2009/bills/hbillenr/hb0188.pdf (July 29, 2009).

[2]For a further discussion of risk adjustment in health insurance, see Edmund, F. Haislmaier, "State Health Care Reform: A Brief Guide to Risk Adjustment in Consumer-Driven Health Insurance Markets," Heritage Foundation BackgrounderNo. 2166, August 1, 2008, at http://www.heritage.org
/Research/HealthCare/bg2166.cfm.

[3]Additional information can be found at the Utah Office of Consumer Health Services Website at http://goed.utah.gov/programs/consumer-health
-services/ (July 29, 2009).

[4]Kaiser Family Foundation, "Percent of Private Sector Establishments That Offer Health Insurance to Employees, by Firm Size, 2006," at http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=176&cat=3 (July 29, 2009).

[5]For a more detailed discussion of FEHBP's performance, see Walton Francis, "The FEHBP as a Model for Medicare Reform: Separating Fact from Fiction," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1674, August 7, 2003, at

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As Racists Go, We are Rank Amateurs

By C. Edmund Wright
Mr. President, history and reality teach us that as racists go, we are, frankly, rank amateurs. And I am sick and tired of Ivy League elites like you and Professor Gates pretending otherwise.


What? You think I'm crazy?


Look at it this way. If we were worth a damn as racist whites, would we fall all over ourselves everyday to voluntarily watch, cheer for, emulate, take advice from and enrich folks named Tiger and Oprah?


Those are, after all, the two people that white racist America has anointed as the top cultural icons in our society. Ever heard about "the Oprah effect" or the ad campaign "I am Tiger Woods?" Let me translate for you: white Americans absolutely love these two black folks above any other athlete, actor, singer or even American Idol contestant on the planet -- and big business in search of evil profits -- knows it.


And by love, I mean whitey will pay to go see, pay to watch, pay to read and pay to do pretty much anything these two non-white folks do, eat, watch, read or wear. To be blunt about it, this is a bigger white to black money transfer than any of your big government schemes. This is spreading the wealth around that the Joe the Plumbers of the world can love.


This is hope and change that we can believe in -- because it is real and does not require a doggone thing from you, Jeremiah Wright or the nutty Professor Gates. (By the way, I lump Wright and Gates together because much of Gate's African American studies is simply a secular version of Wright's "black separatism.")


To reiterate Mr. President - the white love of Tiger and Oprah indicates that as racists go, we are rank amateurs.


And for the record, this is not new. Sometime before your first memoir, back when black cultural icons needed two names, whites felt the same way and poured millions and millions of dollars into the hands of Michael Jordan and Bill Cosby. Ever hear of "I want to be like Mike?" It was an ad campaign aimed at white kids. You must have heard -- being the athletic politician from Chicago and all. Or were you still suffering in Hawaii at the time?


The point is, not only are we rank amateurs as racists now, we have been that way for a few decades. The Cosby's were welcomed into more white living rooms than Sidney Poitier ever dreamt. We even now have a black guy starring as the "Wild Wild West." And I think he's pretty good at it. That is progress, though you won't hear about it in Al Sharpton's fund raising letters.


Sure, there are racists among us. I say some are among your staff, those in the pulpit at Trinity United Church and the Harvard faculty for instance. That's not the point. As a nation, we are decidedly NOT racist when compared to other nations. And if you're talking about a nation, that's the sole intellectually honest measure.


Consider: Would a Kurd ever reach icon status in Saddam Hussein's Iraq? Has there ever been a Mayan who captured the hearts and minds of Mexico? Would Ukrainians ever buy millions of books simply because a Chechen said to do so?


Heck no -- and these are folks who look much more alike than black Americans and white Americans. We can't even tell these folks apart "without a program" so to speak. Note the term is "balkanization" and not "Americanization."


And speaking of folks who kind of look alike but cannot stand each other, have you noticed that even the "friends" of the Palestinians do not want them living anywhere near them? So-called "supporters" of the Palestinians want to live with them about as much as Fred Sanford wanted to live next to Julio the Puerto Rican -- for the same "there goes the neighborhood" reasoning.


Of course Sanford wasn't racist -- because blacks can't be.


Meanwhile, tribal wars still rage across Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, The Congo, Darfur and much of Africa where pre-teen boys are conscripted as soldiers and pre-teen girls are taken as their "child mothers." Tribal wars is just a nice way of saying race wars between races that look essentially the same.


Nothing like this has ever happened in our country and certainly is not happening today. Yet, Gates is all worried about racist cops and being burdened with being a "black man in America."


He should spend an afternoon as the white guy paired with Tiger, the Cablinasian-American.


The point is -- the United States -- all 57 of them -- have done more to correct our own racial wrongs than any nation in world history. We are way ahead of many nations much older than our little experiment in freedom and self-governance. Painful steps like the Civil War and the Republican led Civil Rights Act were forced corrections that simply moved the country more in line with our Constitutional principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."


And the result is a country where whites and blacks are free to choose their own heroes and heroines. It works. Currently the best way for a white author to sell books to a white audience is to get added to a black woman's book club.


And nothing government did -- nothing that Jeremiah Wright preached -- or Professor Gates taught -- is relevant here at all. Or if it is relevant, it is only so as a negative force.


These are whites and blacks pursuing their own life, liberty and happiness through mutual associations. And while I think the country is making a really good choice in Tiger and a bad one with Oprah, the fact is I celebrate the fact that this is freedom in action. Free enterprise. Free markets. Free association. Even a little evil profit motive thrown in.


So how can you and Mr. Gates and Pastor Wright be so wrong about our country?


How is it that you are so stunned by the reaction to your stupid cop comment?


Hmmm.


Perhaps in your Ivy League-Beltway- Media elite universe you are so surrounded by racists of all colors you are blind to the fact that the rest of us are working it out pretty well without your help. (Ok, we'll call them "race focused.")


After all, we know the Democratic Party was glad to finally have a "clean articulate black guy" like you on the ticket. We heard it from a brilliant government employee of some 40 years. I think he picked it up in that diner that had been closed for 29 years.


We've seen scared Republicans like Lindsay Graham pretend your Supreme Court Nominee -- that wise Latina woman -- is not "race-focused." We've seen erudite and enlightened luminaries like Colin Powell, Christopher Buckley and Peggy Noonan fall under your spell as well - preferring you to a white hick governor from Alaska.


Come to think of it, maybe there IS a racist America after all. I think it can be found among the media elites, the civil rights activists, the magnificent centrist pundits, Ivy League faculties, scared CEO's, liberals in congress and moderate Republicans in the areas of Washington and New York.


Allow me to apologize for our country.

The universal health care dogs that aren't barking

Thomas Lifson
Oddly enough, as the nation considers ObamaCare, the press is completely uninterested in the experience of Massachusetts and Hawaii, both of which have ambitious, and failed, experiments in trying to provide universal health care. Mitt Romney, the architect of the Bay State's health care plan, which is costing far more than expected, is largely absent from the airwaves, despite his legitimate claim to be an expert. The Boston Globe calls the plan a "failure" and notes "The state's plan flunks on all counts."


Spending for the Commonwealth Care subsidized program has doubled, from $630 million in 2007 to an estimated $1.3 billion for 2009, which is not sustainable.


As for Hawaii, the President's home state, Steve Gilbert of Sweetness & Light highlights the great hopes for Hawaii as a "model" (according to the New York Times) for the nation. He cites several articles over the years, which make illuminating background for considering ObamaCare. As usual, he highlights the relevant texts. View all of them here.


In Hawaii, as in Mass, once again, universal care has not been achieved, but costs have ballooned. Steve cites (and highlights) the following from the Honolulu Advertiser less than a month ago:


A law enacted in Hawai'i in 1974 that requires employers to provide health insurance for employees working at least 20 hours a week is being cited by researchers who are skeptical of similar mandates being suggested in the argument for universal health care.


The result of Hawai'i's Prepaid Health Care Act has been that businesses have relied more on employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week and thus aren't covered under the requirement, wrote San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank research adviser Rob Valletta and co-authors Tom Buchmueller and John DiNardo, both University of Michigan professors.


The results of the research into health insurance coverage in Hawai'i "imply that an employer mandate is not an effective means for achieving universal coverage," they wrote.


"Although overall insurance coverage rates are unusually high in Hawai'i, a substantial number of people remain uninsured, suggesting a need for alternative approaches if universal coverage is the ultimate goal," they said...


Isn't it time that everyone agrees that ill-considered plans turn out to be disasters when it comes to achieving universal health care? Federalism really is the laboratory of democracy, and the lab results are in. The president and his lapdog media need to be honest about what we have already learned.

10 Questions for Supporters of 'ObamaCare'

By Dennis Prager

1. President Barack Obama repeatedly tells us that one reason national health care is needed is that we can no longer afford to pay for Medicare and Medicaid. But if Medicare and Medicaid are fiscally insolvent and gradually bankrupting our society, why is a government takeover of medical care for the rest of society a good idea? What large-scale government program has not eventually spiraled out of control, let alone stayed within its projected budget? Why should anyone believe that nationalizing health care would create the first major government program to "pay for itself," let alone get smaller rather than larger over time? Why not simply see how the Democrats can reform Medicare and Medicaid before nationalizing much of the rest of health care?

2. President Obama reiterated this past week that "no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition." This is an oft-repeated goal of the president's and the Democrats' health care plan. But if any individual can buy health insurance at any time, why would anyone buy health insurance while healthy? Why would I not simply wait until I got sick or injured to buy the insurance? If auto insurance were purchasable once one got into an accident, why would anyone purchase auto insurance before an accident? Will the Democrats next demand that life insurance companies sell life insurance to the terminally ill? The whole point of insurance is that the healthy buy it and thereby provide the funds to pay for the sick. Demanding that insurance companies provide insurance to everyone at any time spells the end of the concept of insurance. And if the answer is that the government will now make it illegal not to buy insurance, how will that be enforced? How will the government check on 300 million people?

3. Why do supporters of nationalized medicine so often substitute the word "care" for the word "insurance?" it is patently untrue that millions of Americans do not receive health care. Millions of Americans do not have health insurance but virtually every American (and non-American on American soil) receives health care.

4. No one denies that in order to come close to staying within its budget health care will be rationed. But what is the moral justification of having the state decide what medical care to ration?

5. According to Dr. David Gratzer, health care specialist at the Manhattan Institute, "While 20 years ago pharmaceuticals were largely developed in Europe, European price controls made drug development an American enterprise. Fifteen of the 20 top-selling drugs worldwide this year were birthed in the United States." Given how many lives -- in America and throughout the world - American pharmaceutical companies save, and given how expensive it is to develop any new drug, will the price controls on drugs envisaged in the Democrats' bill improve or impair Americans' health?

6. Do you really believe that private insurance could survive a "public option"? Or is this really a cover for the ideal of single-payer medical care? How could a private insurance company survive a "public option" given that private companies have to show a profit and government agencies do not have to - and given that a private enterprise must raise its own money to be solvent and a government option has access to others'
money -- i.e., taxes?

7. Why will hospitals, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies do nearly as superb a job as they now do if their reimbursement from the government will be severely cut? Haven't the laws of human behavior and common sense been repealed here in arguing that while doctors, hospitals and drug companies will make significantly less money they will continue to provide the same level of uniquely excellent care?

8. Given how many needless procedures are ordered to avoid medical lawsuits and how much money doctors spend on medical malpractice insurance, shouldn't any meaningful "reform" of health care provide some remedy for frivolous malpractice lawsuits?

9. Given how weak the U.S. economy is, given how weak the U.S. dollar is, and given how much in debt the U.S. is in, why would anyone seek to have the U.S. spend another trillion dollars? Even if all the other questions here had legitimate answers, wouldn't the state of the U.S. economy alone argue against national health care at this time?

10. Contrary to the assertion of President Obama -- "we spend much more on health care than any other nation but aren't any healthier for it" -- we are healthier. We wait far less time for procedures and surgeries.

Our life expectancy with virtually any major disease is longer. And if you do not count deaths from violent crime and automobile accidents, we also have the longest life expectancy. Do you think a government takeover of American medicine will enable this medical excellence to continue?