Tag: Obamacare

USA Today Abets ObamaCare Supporters’ Misinformation Campaign

An article in today’s The USA Today titled, “With Many Still in Dark, Groups Shed Light on Health Care Law,” aims to correct misinformation about ObamaCare.  Ironically, the article is itself a monument to misinformation.

It begins:

True or false: The new health care law will cut Medicare benefits for seniors. It will slash Medicare payments to doctors. It will ration health care.

In three polls conducted last month, large percentages of Americans answered “true” to each statement. All three are false.

In fact, two of the three statements are 100-percent true.

First, ObamaCare will cut payments to the private health insurance companies that provide coverage to the 20 percent of Medicare enrollees who participate in the Medicare Advantage program.  That will eliminate many types of coverage for seniors in Medicare Advantage.  That should be painfully obvious, but if you require confirmation, visit FactCheck.org.  ObamaCare will also ratchet down the price controls that Medicare uses to pay hospitals and many other health care providers.  It should likewise be obvious that that will reduce access to services that are ostensibly “guaranteed” to all enrollees.  But again, if you need confirmation, check in with Medicare’s chief actuary, who works for President Obama.  We can debate whether that’s good or bad.  What’s not up for debate: ObamaCare in fact “will cut Medicare benefits for seniors.”

Second, it is also true – ipso facto – that ObamaCare “will ration health care.”  To ration is to limit consumption.  When ObamaCare reduces coverage for Medicare Advantage enrollees and reduces access to care for all Medicare enrollees, it limits seniors’ consumption of medical care.  We can debate whether that’s good or bad.  What’s not up for debate: that is rationing.

Finally, yes, it is technically false that ObamaCare “will slash Medicare payments to doctors.”  But since current law will slash Medicare payments to doctors if Congress does nothing, and since an earlier version of ObamaCare would have eliminated those cuts, but ObamaCare’s architects dropped that provision so as to make ObamaCare appear deficit-neutral… well, perhaps the public can be forgiven if it confuses “eliminating a provision that would have prevented cuts in Medicare payments to doctors” with “slashing Medicare payments to doctors.”

USA Today continues:

The debunked idea raised by opponents during congressional debate that “death panels” could make end-of-life decisions is seen as real by nearly half of those surveyed.

I’ll rate this statement misinformed and misleading.

First, Sarah Palin’s claim about “death panels” was true at the moment she said it, even if she didn’t know why.

Second, by rationing Medicare enrollees’ access to medical services (see above), ObamaCare will effectively make end-of-life decisions for seniors.  According to Medicare’s chief actuary, ObamaCare could force one in six hospitals to stop accepting Medicare patients.  If ObamaCare results in there no longer being a hospital bed waiting for Grandma at the end of her life, that’s an end-of-life decision.  It wasn’t a personalized decision.  It’s not even necessarily the wrong decision.  But let’s drop this nonsense about ObamaCare not making end-of-life decisions for seniors.  And ObamaCare did create a panel that will make many of these implicit rationing decisions.  It’s called the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

But my guess is that people tell pollsters that ObamaCare will make end-of-life decisions because they understand the Golden Rule, and that he who pays the piper calls the tune.  So long as the government purchases medical care, it will be the government that decides who receives it and who doesn’t.  And ObamaCare gave government a lot more of the gold.

USA Today packed a lot of misinformation into this one sentence:

The National Council on Aging posed 12 questions about the law to 636 seniors and found that fewer than 17% of them knew half the answers.

Actually, it’s NCOA that doesn’t know the answers.  Here are a few of their poll’s true-false questions:

  • “The new law will result in future cuts to your basic Medicare benefits.” A plurality of seniors (42 percent) responded “true.”  And they’re right: as Medicare’s chief actuary has explained and as NCOA should know, ObamaCare will reduce access to care for Medicare enrollees.  That’s a benefit cut, unless you think “coverage without care” counts as a benefit.  Yet according to NCOA, the correct answer is “false.”  Just 22 percent of seniors agreed.
  • “Under the new health reform law, Medicare Advantage plans will cut benefits and increase premiums.” NCOA says the correct response is “don’t know,” and that’s the answer that 56 percent of seniors gave.  Perhaps seniors haven’t read the chief Medicare actuary’s report, which found that ObamaCare “will result in less generous benefits packages” in Medicare Advantage and “when the MA provisions will be fully phased in, enrollment in MA plans will be lower by about 50 percent.”  But NCOA should have read that report, and should therefore know that the correct answer is “true.”
  • “The new law is projected to increase the federal budget deficit over the next ten years and beyond.” Again, a plurality (49 percent) responded “true.”  Again, they’re right.  Yet NCOA thinks the correct response is “false.”  No doubt NCOA would point to the Congressional Budget Office projections that ObamaCare will reduce the deficit.  But those projections are valid only if  ObamaCare “remain[s] unchanged throughout the next two decades, which is often not the case for major legislation.” The CBO wrote this would particularly be a problem with ObamaCare, which “would maintain and put into effect a number of policies that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time.”  So one could reasonably interpret the CBO to have projected an increase, not a decrease in the deficit.  Alternatively, seniors could have been thinking about former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who projected in The New York Times that ObamaCare “would raise, not lower, federal deficits, by $562 billion.”  There are lots of reasons why “true” is in fact the correct answer.  (One of them is that NCOA used the passive construction “is projected.”)  Only 14 percent of seniors agreed with NCOA.
  • “As a result of the new law, the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund will be extended by about 9 years to 2026.” A majority of seniors responded “don’t know” (54 percent), while another 22 percent responded “false.”  Either answer is more correct than NCOA’s preferred answer (“true”).  There are no assets in the Medicare “trust fund.”  Thus there is no date by which those non-assets will be exhausted.  Indeed, the “trust fund” has absolutely no effect on Medicare’s solvency.  The very premise of this question is a fraud.  Someone needs to educate seniors about the Medicare trust fund, but NCOA is not the group to do it.
  • “The health care reform law will cut Medicare payments to doctors.” A plurality of seniors responded “true” (45 percent), while only 14 percent of seniors gave NCOA’s preferred response (“false”).  But again, perhaps seniors can be forgiven on this one (see above).

USA Today should have dug a little deeper.

More misinformation:

More than four in 10 people in the Kaiser poll wrongly believe the law included a government panel to make end-of-life decisions for Medicare patients.

Again, ObamaCare does include a panel that would implicit rationing decisions, including for Medicare patients at the end of life (see above).

More misinformation still:

As the Department of Health and Human Services issues the regulations needed to implement the law, it’s trying to get the facts out through its website, healthcare.gov. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is helping, most recently with a cable TV ad featuring Andy Griffith.

FactCheck.org found that Andy Griffith used “weasel words” to “mislead” seniors about ObamaCare.  How is USA Today not aware of that?

Kagan’s Confirmation Could Be High-Water Mark for Big Government

Elena Kagan’s confirmation represents a victory for big government and a view of the Constitution as a document whose meaning changes with the times.  Based on what we learned the last few months, it is clear that Kagan holds an expansive view of federal power – refusing to identify, for example, any specific actions Congress cannot take under the Commerce Clause.  She will rarely be a friend of liberty on the Court.

It is thus telling that Kagan received the fewest votes of any Democratic nominee to the Supreme Court in history, beating the record set only last year by Sonia Sotomayor.  Even several senators who had voted for Sotomayor voted against Kagan, including Democrat Ben Nelson – as did Scott Brown, the darling of these high-profile Senate votes.

It was Scott Brown’s election, after all, that signaled that last year’s elections in Virginia and New Jersey were no fluke, that whether people lived in a Red, Blue, or Purple state, they were tired of bailouts, “stimulus,” re-regulation, and, especially, the government takeover of one-sixth of our economy.  This anger has only grown since then, making itself felt most recently in Missouri voters’ overwhelming (71-29) rejection of the individual health insurance mandate.

“Where does the government get the constitutional authority to do this?” the cry goes up across the land.  Elena Kagan won’t give a satisfactory answer but the American people are right to continue asking.

A Rough Week for ObamaCare

Half way through the work week, and the White House has had an unusually difficult week concerning the progress of their signature piece of legislation.  Let’s recap:

On Monday, a federal judge cleared a lawsuit brought forth by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli regarding the Constitutionality of the recent health care legislation—specifically the individual mandate.  This case will almost certainly be decided by the Supreme Court, but this was an important first step in that process.

Later that day, reports came out that Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius had caught heat regarding misleading statements that claimed ObamaCare would simultaneously pay for the coverage of an additional 30 million Americans and extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.  The $575 billion that CMS claims the Medicare program will save as a result of the legislation can be used for one purpose or the other, but not both.

Yesterday, a Congressional Research Service Study announced that it is impossible to estimate the number of new agencies created as a result of ObamaCare.  Most estimates have the number at around 100, but CRS claims that the final tally is “unknowable” because of the uncertainty surrounding some of the language.

Meanwhile, throughout the course of the day yesterday, voters in Missouri were busy voting in favor of Proposition C, a law that would exempt the citizens of Missouri from the requirement to purchase health insurance, the centerpiece of ObamaCare.  The referendum passed by a 3-to-1 margin, but the breakdown of votes is even more telling.

Nearly 670,000 people voted in favor of the proposition, approximately 85,000 votes more than the number of Republican and third-party primary votes.  Even if the 40,000 or so voters who apparently cast a vote for Proposition C but not for a primary candidate all voted in favor of proposition, as well as every single Republican and third-party voter, that still leaves nearly 45,000 Democrats who must have also voted with their Republican constituents in upholding their right to obtain health insurance on a voluntary basis.

Keep in mind that these are not just ordinary, uninterested voters.  These are the base of the Democratic Party, the most politically active citizens, and yet somewhere between 12-25% of them decided to oppose the individual mandate, notably in a state that is often the bellwether of national election campaigns.

If things continue this way, repeal should be on its way by next week.

Obamacare Lawsuits Gain Steam

David Boaz already noted Missourians’ overwhelming rejection of the individual mandate yesterday.  That, combined with Monday’s decision in Virginia’s lawsuit – where the judge denied the government’s motion to dismiss, ruling that Virginia had standing to make its claims and that those claims had sufficient merit to proceed – should embolden Missouri’s Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.  Kinder, in his personal capacity and joined by several other individuals, filed an Obamacare lawsuit last month.

I mention the Kinder suit to remind everyone that there are more challenges out there than just Virginia’s and the Florida-led 20-state suit.  I have personal knowledge of groups and individuals who have sued in Michigan, Ohio, and D.C. – and there are plenty of others, I’m sure (for example, the Goldwater Institute will be filing in Arizona soon).  As Michael Cannon has noted, the D.C. suit, filed by our friends at the Pacific Legal Foundation, has as its plaintiff a 29-year-old artist and former National Guardsman who served two tours in Iraq.  PLF will host a liveblog to discuss their case starting at 3 p.m. today.  You can read the complaint here.

Finally, PLF principal attorney and Cato adjunct scholar Tim Sandefur has a nice refutation of the argument that “well, gee, George Washington required able-bodied men to buy muskets and prepare for militia service under the Militia Act of 1792.”  The upshot: sure, but 1) the Militia Act was passed under the Constitution’s militia clauses (not under the Commerce Clause, taxing power, or anything else being claimed as authority by Obamacare proponents); and 2) to say that the Constitution does not protect “a freedom from government-mandated purchases” is to read the Constitution backwards because the burden is on the government to prove that it has the constitutional authority to force people to do things they don’t want to do.

Repeal now.

Taking the Constitution Seriously

Today Politico Arena Asks:

Is Health Care Repeal Gaining Steam?

My Response:

It’s striking how POLITICO Arena contributors on the left like Professors Skocpol and Jost blithely dismiss the idea that the Constitution could actually limit what Congress may do in the area of “social welfare” – including such monstrosities as ObamaCare. It’s as if they had no conception, despite their years of schooling, of what the Constitution is all about. It’s not a document that authorizes the federal government to do whatever may be in “the public interest,” as conceived by those in power at any moment. It’s a carefully crafted plan for government that both grants and limits power, so that individuals may plan and live their own lives.

Judge Henry Hudson got it exactly right when he wrote: “While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate – and tax – a citizen’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce.” The left may ridicule the suits that have been brought against ObamaCare by more than 20 states and others, but in doing so they ridicule nothing less than the American heritage of limited constitutional government. If ObamaCare revives that heritage, it will all have been worth it.

Liberty Wins First Skirmish in the Obamacare Legal Battle

As Michael already noted, Judge Henry Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia denied the government’s motion to dismiss Virginia’s legal challenge to Obamacare.  Notably, Judge Hudson agreed with Cato senior fellow Randy Barnett (see here, here, and here) that the government’s assertion of Commerce Clause authority for the individual mandate is unprecedented:

The guiding precedent is informative, but inconclusive. Never before has the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause been extended this far. At this juncture, the court is not persuaded that the Secretary has demonstrated a failure to state a cause of action with respect to the Commerce Clause element.

And that goes for the government’s arguments generally:

While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate–and tax–a citizen’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals has squarely addressed this issue. No reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce. Give the presence of some authority arguably supporting the theory underlying each side’s position, this Court cannot conclude at this time stage that the Complaint fails to state a cause of action.

In other words, at this first, early stage of litigation, Virginia’s lawsuit survives and the government has a real fight on its hands.  Read the whole opinion here

Now, this ruling does not decide the merits of the case and is not binding on any other court in any of the other Obamacare lawsuits – on Friday, for instance, Florida is due to file its brief opposing the government’s motion to dismiss the 20-state suit – but it is a beachhead in the fight against big government.  Judge Hudson’s opinion should finally silence those who maintain that the legal challenges to Obamacare are frivolous political ploys or sour grapes. The constitutional defects in the healthcare “reform” are very real and quite serious. Never before has the government claimed the authority to force every man, woman, and child to buy a particular product - and indeed such authority does not exist (as Cato’s amicus brief argued).

I look forward to further favorable rulings as the various lawsuits progress.  For further commentary, see Ilya Somin, Josh Blackman, and Hans Bader.

Federal Judge Denies Obama Administration’s Motion to Dismiss Virginia’s ObamaCare Lawsuit

From The Los Angeles Times:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s health care reform law has cleared its first legal hurdle.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson on Monday denied the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli claims that Congress does not have the authority under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to require citizens to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation this year exempting state residents from the coverage mandate.

More than a dozen other state attorneys general have filed a separate lawsuit in Florida challenging the federal law, but Virginia’s lawsuit is the first to go before a judge.