Charles Lane is right: federal judge Marcia Morales Howard should lift the 33‐year old court order that prevents scrutiny of how health care providers bill Medicare.
Providers claim they have a right to privacy when it comes to how they spend your money and mine. That’s about as absurd as asking for privacy in front of 20 million viewers at the Golden Globes.
I launched the Anti‐Universal Coverage Club on the Cato@Liberty blog in 2007. The Club is “a list of scholars and citizens who reject the idea that government should ensure that all individuals have health insurance.”
Well, that list just got longer. A whole lot longer. I’ll let the folks at Gallup take it from here:
In U.S., Majority Now Against Gov’t Healthcare Guarantee
For the first time in Gallup trends since 2000, a majority of Americans say it is not the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage. Prior to 2009, a majority always felt the government should ensure healthcare coverage for all, though Americans’ views have become more divided in recent years…
The shift away from the view that the government should ensure healthcare coverage for all began shortly after President Barack Obama’s election and has continued the past several years during the discussions and ultimate passage of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010.
The split is 54 – 44 percent, well outside the poll’s margin of error. Below the jump are the results in chart form:
Now all we need is for 54 percent of the public to “like” the Anti‐Universal Coverage Club’s Facebook page.
ObamaCare is far from settled law. Here’s an excerpt from Butler’s blog post for the Journal of the American Medical Association:
President Obama’s narrow victory has left proponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) breathing a collective sigh of relief, believing that the legislation is safe. It’s true, of course, that the election’s outcome has ended the prospect of a new administration using Republican majorities in both chambers and the budget reconciliation process to force outright repeal. But the reality of the economic and political situation means the core elements of the ACA remain very much in play.
The primary reasons for this are the continuing problems with the federal budget deficit and the national debt and the worrying long‐term weakness of the economy. Add to that the increasing skepticism that the ACA’s blunt tools will slow costs.
Let’s remember that the most important provisions of the ACA, such as penalties for Americans lacking insurance and firms not offering it, the expansion of Medicaid, and the heavily subsidized exchange‐based coverage, do not go into effect until 2014. Meanwhile, new taxes on self‐employment and limits on flexible spending accounts are scheduled to go into effect next year, just as Congress will be trying to boost employment growth. Additionally, lawmakers will be desperately searching for ways to delay or cut spending to deal with the deficit. That adds up to 2013 being a year for buyer’s remorse in Congress and around the country.
That’s the (fair) title of this blog post over at National Journal’s Influence Alley:
The federal government needs more money. That’s one thing both parties can agree on, Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday. The rub, of course, is how to get it.
Reps. Peter Roskam, R‑Ill., and Allyson Schwartz, D‑Pa. said at a National Journal panel on Tuesday morning that there’s no question that more revenue is needed. Democrats say they can raise the money by letting upper‐income tax cuts expire, while Republicans say economic growth alone will help raise the cash.
“We need more revenue,” said Roskam, the House GOP’s chief deputy whip. “If you can get the money to satisfy obligations, that’s an area of common ground.”
Let’s hear it for duopoly, eh, comrades? Without it, we might suffer political parties that question whether those government “obligations” are wise, or necessary, or constitutional; or that point out governments don’t have needs, people do; or that reject the premise that politics is an exercise in deciding who needs what; or that argue for eliminating entire spheres of government activity. Can you tell I’ve just watched a presidential debate?
Jonathan Adler at National Review Online:
During oral arguments in the Supreme Court challenge to the individual mandate, NFIB v. Sebelius, the plaintiff’s lawyer Paul Clement warned the justices not to make the same mistake they made in the 1970s with Buckley v. Valeo. In Buckley, the Court upheld portions of the post‐Watergate campaign‐finance reforms while invalidating others. The result was a muddled statute that Congress and the courts would repeatedly revisit for years to come. Repeating this approach with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Clement cautioned, could produce similar undesirable results. It’s too soon to know how quickly Congress will revisit the PPACA, but Clement’s warning already seems to be coming true in the courts…
More than three months after the Court’s decision, over three dozen legal challenges to the PPACA or its implementation are pending in federal courts, and more are sure to come.
At a Cato briefing on Capitol Hill this Wednesday, Adler and I will be speaking about one of those cases.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has been campaigning so enthusiastically for President Obama that she — whoops! — broke a federal law that restricts political activities by executive‐branch officials. Federal employees are usually fired for such transgressions, but no one expects that to happen to Sebelius. Heck, she got right back in the saddle.
Every cabinet official (probably) wants to see the president reelected, and no president relishes dismissing a cabinet official. But in this case, there’s an additional incentive for Sebelius to campaign for her boss and for Obama not to fire her.
ObamaCare creates a new Independent Payment Advisory Board that — “fact checkers” notwithstanding — is actually a super‐legislature with the power to ration care to everyone, increase taxes, impose conditions on federal grants to states, and wield other legislative powers. According to legend, IPAB will consist of 15 unelected “experts” who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Yeah, good one.
In fact, if the president makes no appointments, or the Senate rejects the president’s appointees, then all of IPAB’s considerable powers fall to one person: the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The HHS secretary would effectively become an economic dictator, with more power over the health care sector than any chamber of Congress.
If Obama wins in November, he would have zero incentive to appoint any IPAB members. The confirmation hearings would be a bloodbath, not unlike Don Berwick’s confirmation battle multiplied by 15. Sebelius, on the other hand, would not need to be re‐confirmed. She could assume all of IPAB’s powers without the Senate examining her fitness to wield those powers. If Obama fired her, or the voters fire Obama, then the next HHS secretary would have to secure Senate confirmation. Again, bloodbath. That makes Kathleen Sebelius the only person in the universe who could assume those powers without that scrutiny.
No wonder she’s campaigning so hard. No wonder Obama won’t fire her.
I blogged previously about Mitt Romney’s claim that ObamaCare creates “an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have.” President Obama conceded the point when he responded that the Independent Payment Advisory Board “basically identifies best practices and says, let’s use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do.” The president admitted the whole point of IPAB is to let a bunch of experts decide what practices are “best,” and to stop paying for what isn’t.
I am not aware of a single fact‐checker who has grasped that basic point. Not PolitiFact, not the Associated Press, not FactCheck.org, not The Washington Post’s Fact‐Checker, not this Washington Post health reporter. The Los Angeles Times called Romney’s claim “erroneous” and writes:
This is a myth advanced repeatedly by critics of the Affordable Care Act and debunked consistently by independent fact-checkers…the panel is explicitly prohibited from cutting benefits for people on Medicare. And there is no provision in the law that empowers the advisory board to make any decisions about what treatments doctors may provide for their patients.
The media “fact check” business is incredibly tiresome given how pedantic and downright inaccurate it is, but I wanted to weigh in on this one before it hardens. The LA Times somehow thinks that the ACA (aka Obamacare) will have no effect on determining what care patients can get, and consequently dings Romney for saying it will. There isn’t a single honest health economist out there who agrees with the LA Times on this one.
Bhattacharya explains that IPAB will be able to influence care by cutting payments to providers. But that’s not the half of it. IPAB has the power to do exactly what the fact‐checkers think it can’t: deny specific treatments to Medicare enrollees. It can even raise taxes and do other things the fact‐checkers think it cannot.
I explain why the fact‐checkers are wrong at this Cato Institute policy forum at noon on Thursday (October 11). Join us. Pre‐register now at that link.