Health Care

WPC's Center for Health Care develops patient-centered solutions to reduce costs and improve the availability and quality of health care for businesses and individuals, providing the only detailed, independent critique of health care issues available in the Northwest.

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Congress' Health-Care Reform is a Trojan Horse

July 23, 2009 in Blog

Trojan HorseGovernor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana had an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal on July 22nd about the manner in which health care refo

Canada Waits for Health Care

July 23, 2009 in Blog

As part of the on going health care debate in this country, we are seeing more testimonials in letters-to-the-editor and blog posts about the lack of waiting lists for health care in Canada. People are describing timely consultations with primary care givers and prompt treatments from specialists. What is the reality?

A recently published chart  from the Frazier Institute shows "clinically reasonable" and "actual" median waits for various specialties in Canada for 2008. The median clinically reasonable for all specialties is 6.0 weeks with the actual median being 17.3 weeks - almost three times the reasonable. From a low wait for heart surgery of 7.3 weeks compared to a reasonable of 5.0 weeks, the high waits are in multiple areas of specialty care - 5.6 weeks vs actual of 16.1 weeks for gynecologic care; 5.8 weeks vs an actual of 31.7 weeks for neurosurgery; and 11.0 weeks vs an actual of 36.7 weeks for orthopedic treatment. Even internal medicine which is one of the primary care specialties has actual waits of 12.5 weeks vs a reasonable wait of 3.3 weeks.

So although a minority of Canadians find prompt and timely care, the majority are faced with long and what would be considered unacceptable waits in this country. Access to a waiting list is not the same as access to health care.

Where is the Patient in Health Care Reform?

July 22, 2009 in Blog

During mark up of the House health care reform bill last Friday, a patient-oriented amendment was soundly rejected:

    “(k) Construction - Nothing in this section shall be construed to allow any
federal employee or political appointee to dictate how a medical provider
practices medicine.”   

By rejecting this amendment it is now clear that the unstated intent of the bill is to have government bureaucrats dictate what doctors can or can't do for their patients. This places patients at the mercy of unknow and unseen officials,rather than allowing their own physicians to help them make their health care decisions.

Regardless of what proponents say, pending legislation is unquestionably a government attempt to take over our health care system.

The President's "Public Option" and Small Businesses

July 17, 2009 in Publications

This op-ed was published in the Puget Sound Business Journal on July 17th, 2009.

Obama uses free-market language to promote socialized health care

July 16, 2009 in Blog

In pushing yesterday for the sweeping health care plan working its way through Congress, President Obama argued for a government option, saying it “would make health care more affordable by increasing competition, providing more choices and keeping insurance companies honest.”  He sounds like Adam Smith making the well-proven case for freedom in the marketplace – market competition drives down prices and improves quality and choice for consumers. 

No, the President hasn’t suddenly experienced libertarian enlightenment.  The competition he has in mind is the federal government competing against its own citizens.

Government works well when it sets rules that apply equally to all companies, protect consumer rights and provide for public safety.  When government itself enters a market though, in this case as an insurance company, government officials end their role as impartial referees and become market players, with one important difference.  The “competition” President Obama envisions is a national insurance company that can print its own money.

The point is well illustrated by Germany, which allows citizens to buy private insurance or pick a subsidized public option.  Guess what?  Eighty-five percent of Germans take the public option.  Having eliminated most private choices, program managers began rationing care.  According to today’s Seattle Times, “[Germany] tries to control costs by limiting what’s available.”  The practice is standard in socialized systems.  Laboring under intense budget pressures, government managers seek to control costs by limiting people’s access to medical treatments.

If the President wants us to gain from real competition, he should let Americans buy health insurance in any state, just like auto insurance.  Making private insurance companies compete for our business in a national market, not starting a federal super-insurer, is the best way to get health care spending under control.

Democrats’ Proposed Health Plan Leaves 17 Million Uninsured

July 15, 2009 in Blog

The new health care reform plan unveiled today by Democrats in Congress is not universal care.  The Democrat-proposed plan provides for 17 million people to go without health care coverage.  The plan carries other risks, such as:

  • It raises taxes during a recession.  Higher taxes, even on the so-called rich, means there would be less money available for investment and job creation, delaying the recovery and increasing hardship for people who are out of work.  Business owners would slow or stop hiring, as they wait to see what their new payroll tax will be, and whether they will be forced to pay the proposed 8% “pay-or-pay” penalty each year.
  • The government option would crowd out private coverage.  Many workers would be forced onto the government plan against their will, as employers drop their current coverage in an effort to shift health costs to taxpayers.  Yet the President’s family and those of Members of Congress would not be forced onto the government option plan; as dependents of federal employees they would continue to receive first-class coverage.
  • Eight million people with Health Savings Accounts (100,000 in Washington) might lose their coverage if it doesn’t meet the federal definition of mandated insurance.  Innovative patient-centered medical practices in Washington, such as Dr. Erika Bliss’ Qliance clinic in Seattle, would be forced to close.

Here's a good illustration of how the proposed health care plan would work was released by the Joint Economic Committee.


The House Health Care Bill - The Whole Enchilada

July 15, 2009 in Blog

The three committees controlling health care legislation in the US House released their health reform bill yesterday with the usual fanfare. Basically every bad proposal kicking around Washington, D.C., is included in the 1018 page document. Debate on the House floor is scheduled to begin next week.

The lead-off provision is a government "option", ala Medicare,  to compete with private health insurance. Never mind that Medicare started as a "competitive government option" in 1965, ran insurance for seniors out of business by 1970, and currently has a $67 trillion dollar unfunded liability. 

The House leadership then stuffed an insurance  "connector" into the bill to dictate the kinds of benefits people can select and how much they must pay for them. Massachusetts has had a connector plan in place for the past three years. The state is now running almost a $1 billion deficit for its health care spending. It didn't work for Massachusetts, but then a state, unlike the federal government, can' t print money or run deficits for very long.

A lot can be placed in 1018 pages, but other significant provisions include an individual mandate so everyone in the country must buy health insurance or pay a fine, an employer mandate that requires them to purchase insurance for their employees or pay an 8% payroll tax, a class warfare tax on the rich, and a schedule for decreasing provider reimbursement on Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The overall cost is estimated to be $1.5 trillion over the next ten years. Of course, Medicare was 300% over budget by 1990. So much for confidence in the bureaucratic budget process.

Health Care Reform is Losing Steam

July 14, 2009 in Blog

A new Rasmussen national telephone survey just released shows the country is shifting to opposition of the Administration and Congressional health care reform plans. Those opposed or somewhat opposed now total 49% with 46% in favor or somewhat in favor of the proposed health care reforms currently under debate in Washington, D.C.

Two weeks ago, Rasmussen polling revealed 50% in favor and 46% opposed. This is almost a 10% shift toward opposition.

As more Americans understand the magnitude and the expense of the proposed reforms, the negative impact of government controlled health care is starting to take hold. A prolonged debate gives more people the opportunity to see these reform plans for what they really are - an attempt to move our entire health care delivery system into the control of government bureaucrats.  

"Best Practices"

July 7, 2009 in Blog

Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School have pointed out the disparity in health care spending and outcomes for Medicare patients throughout the country. (here) Although there are many variables that account for these differences, the health care reformers in Washington, D.C. are now using them as an argument for legislating "best practices".

The bottom line on the concept of "best practice" is a government bureaucratic committee deciding what kind of health care and how much health care each patient can receive. Since, in the current government reform plans, the government would be paying for health care,then it seems only correct that the bureaucracy should be able to dictate who gets what and how much.

There are a number of other euphemistic names, "comparative effectiveness research" and "evidence based medicine" for example, but they all boil down to faceless bureaucrats - not doctors - telling us what treatments and medicines we can receive. It is a short leap to then ration health care in the interest of what the government believes is cost effective.

England has had this type of program (The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) in place for several years. It has led to delays in treatment, denial of treatments, and has served as a gatekeeper mechanism to ration new therapeutics. 

The solution to treatment and cost disparities in this country is to give the patient, as a consumer, more control over his own health care dollars. Allowing the patient, not the employer or government, to control his own health care funding would provide the incentive for the patient to work with his providers and determine the most cost effective treatment courses. Likewise, providers wouldn't be locked into cook-book medicine that may not be in patients' best interests. 

2009 Health Care Conference

July 6, 2009 in Publications

Washington Policy Center hosted its 7th annual health care conference on June 3rd in SeaTac with a crowd of over 300 people. The event provided a thorough discussion with various perspectives represented on every panel. The conference opened with a panel discussion about the 2009 legislative session and then explored health care solutions more thoroughly with speakers from the health care industry. The panel before lunch discussed current facts about the uninsured, as well as updates on successful current heath care policies.