Sunday, March 19, 2017

March, 2017, Part 1, The Unfolding Disaster That is Obama Care: A Small Step In The Right Direction

Every month for years now we have had to discuss how bad Obama Care is turning out to be under the continuing theme, “the unfolding disaster that is Obama Care.” This month is no different. As the legislation continues to march through America, driving up health care and health insurance prices as it serves as dead weight on economic growth, it cements its rightful place as the worst piece of legislation Washington has ever produced.

It never had a chance to be successful since it really never addressed the underlying root causes of our ever increasing health costs in the country:
  • Americans eat too much of the wrong kind of food, resulting in obscenely high obesity rates for the country.
  • Our food chain is infested with overdoses of high fructose corn syrup, salt, and other unhealthy additives.
  • Americans smoke too much.
  • Americans do not exercise enough.
  • The country is in serious need of health care tort reform.
  • Barriers to insurance company competition across state lines need to come down.
  • Obama Care never “followed the money”to find out who is actually profiting from the ever escalating healthcare costs in this country and how to get those factors under control.
  • Obama Care never got the immense amount of fraud and abuse in current government healthcare programs, Medicare and Medicaid, under control in order to save money to efficiently fund other government health care initiatives.
  • Obama Care never put serious research money towards curing the major diseases that drive high healthcare costs such as high frequency cancers and dementia type diseases.
You cannot resolve any problem unless you understand and address the underlying root causes. No difference here: Obama Care legislation never addressed these listed root causes and thus, has no chance of ever being successful.

But it is not just missing the root causes of our healthcare costs that makes Obama Care so horrible. It resulted in millions of Americans losing access to their favored doctors, hospitals, and insurance policies. It has caused insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays to escalate substantially. It will likely add trillions of dollars to the national debt. It has exposed millions of Americans to higher than necessary identity theft chances. It has created government bureaucracies that are wastefully spending taxpayer wealth and being exploited by criminal elements. It has stifled economic growth and job creation.

These are just a sample of the types of idiocy that we have been reviewing for the past several years in this blog relative to Obama Care., To read those past posts, just enter the phrase, “the unfolding disaster,” in the search box above.

Today and this week, I am not yet going to get into whether the proposed Republican replacement legislation for ObamaCare is a worthy effort, I am still trying to understand its tenets and potential ramifications. My early view is that it also stinks (but probably does not stink as much as Obama Care) but I am keeping an open mind about it as my research proceeds.

But today let's focus only an alternative to the the alternative. Senator Rand Paul has come up with a piece of legislation that would replace Obama Care and which is a mere four pages long. Recall that Obama Care was a monstrosity piece of legislation that was something like 2,000 pages long. I am assuming that the Republican proposed replacement will also be quite long.

And anything that long like Obama Care is likely to be unwieldy, inefficient, filled with loopholes and trap doors, and eventually, useless. I like to stick to the old saying: “Keep things simple. Few moves can accomplish a lot.” It is better to do a few things well than to fail at many things.

Keep in mind that two of the greatest pieces of legislation ever passed by Washington were the Civil Rights Act, which was less than two pages long, and the Voting Rights Act that was less than three dozen pages long.

Which brings us to a fascinating proposal from Rand Paul who has put together a replacement piece of legislation for Obama Care which is four pages long. Count them, four pages long. Keep in mind that Senator Paul is a real doctor so he has some insights to the problem of healthcare that few others in Washington probably have. Robert Zerfing, writing for the CSC Medical Group on March 9, 2017, provides some background on Paul’s approach:
  • The purpose of Paul’s approach is to expand lower cost, higher quality healthcare for more Americans regardless of their medical history.
  • His philosophy on the proposed legislation is as follows: “Getting government out of the American people’s way and putting them back in charge of their own health care decisions will deliver a strong, efficient system that doesn’t force them to empty out their pockets to cover their medical bills. There is no excuse for waiting to craft an alternative until after we repeal Obamacare, and the Obamacare Replacement Act [his proposed legislation] charts a new path forward that will insure the most people possible at the lowest price.”
  • His proposal has four simple tenets: 1.) Choose inexpensive insurance free of government dictates; 2.) Save unlimited amounts in a health savings account (HSA) and have wider options for using those funds; 3.) Buy insurance across state lines; and 4.) Join together in voluntary associations to gain the leverage of being part of a large insurance pool.
According to Mr. Zerfing’s article, the following goes into a little more detail on how the above tenets would play out in real life:

-Legalizes Inexpensive Insurance Plans:
  • Ensures that Americans can purchase the health insurance coverage that best fits their needs as opposed to the idiocy of Obama Care which forced Americans to purchase insurance coverage for things that did not apply to their lives or needs.
  • Eliminates Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement, along with other restrictive coverage and plan requirements, to once again make low-cost insurance options available to American consumers.
-Protects Individuals with Pre-Existing Conditions:
  • Provides a two-year open-enrollment period under which individuals with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
  • Restores HIPAA pre-existing conditions protections. Prior to Obamacare, HIPAA guaranteed that those in the group market could obtain continuous health coverage regardless of preexisting conditions.
-Helps More People Save To Buy Health Insurance and Cover Medical Costs:
  • Authorizes a tax credit (up to $5,000 per taxpayer) for individuals and families that contribute to HSAs.
  • Removes the annual cap on HSAs so individuals can make unlimited contributions.
  • Allows HSA funds to be used to purchase insurance, cover premiums, and more easily afford a broader range of health-related expenses, including prescription and OTC drugs, dietary supplements, nutrition and physical exercise expenses, and direct primary care, among others. 
-Guarantees Fair Tax Treatment of Health Insurance:
  • Equalizes the tax treatment of the purchase of health insurance for individuals and employers by allowing individuals to deduct the cost of their health insurance from their income and payroll taxes.
  • Frees more Americans to purchase and maintain insurance apart from their work status.
  • Does not interfere with employer-provided coverage for Americans who prefer those plans.
-Helps Individuals Join Together to Purchase Insurance:
  • Expands Association Health Plans (AHPs) to allow small business owners and individuals to band together across state lines through their membership in a trade or professional association to purchase health coverage for their families and employees at a lower cost.
  • Also allows individuals to pool together through any organization to purchase insurance.
  • Widens access to the group market and spreads out the risk, enhancing the ability of individuals and small businesses to decrease costs, increase administrative efficiencies, and further protect those with pre-existing conditions.
-Allows the Purchase of Insurance Across State Lines:
  • Creates an interstate market that allows insurers who are licensed to sell policies in one state to offer them to residents of any other state.
- Increases State Medicaid Flexibility:
  • Enables states to fully exercise current flexibilities afforded to them through Medicaid waivers for creating innovative state plan designs.
-Empowers Physicians:
  • Allows non-economically aligned physicians to negotiate for higher quality health care for their patients.
  • Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow a physician a tax deduction equal to the amount such physician would otherwise charge for charity medical care or uncompensated care due to bad debt, limited to 10% of a physician’s gross income for the taxable year.
The aspects of Paul’s legislation highlighted in red shows where his plan aligns with our root cause list of problems listed above. As you can see, his proposal comes much closer than Obama Care when it comes to addressing root causes of our high health care costs in this country. While it does not address a number of important root causes, e.g. tort reform, smoking cessation, food chain poisoning, Alzheimer’s research, it does address many others including nutrition, exercise, crossing state lines, etc., making it a much better start at wiping out root causes. 

And it is simple to understand and implement, being only four pages long, all of which can be read at the following link:

All right, that will get it done for the first update to this month’s ongoing review of the “unfolding disaster that is Obama Care." A small, but hopeful step in the right direction of fixing what Obama has certainly broken.

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