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Tammy Baldwin on Universal Health Care

Tammy Baldwin speaking

It is clear that our country needs health care reform.  As insurance companies continue to absorb increased medical costs, insurance rates continue to climb several times higher than the rate of inflation.  And although our Congress is currently considering health care reform, our two-party system continues to show vast disparities in solving our fiscal mess. 

Contrary to liberal opinion, Republicans have offered effectual health care reform ideas.  Led by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, they want to equalize tax the benefit differential between employees and employers by providing refundable tax credits to working families; they want to eliminate roadblocks that hinder individuals from pursuing better and more affordable insurance coverage in other states; and they want to provide more flexibility to small businesses so employees have more purchasing power to meet their individual health care needs.

Examining the Public Option

Democrats have provided us the “public option.”  On July 18th, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin argued that President Obama's Public Option is what Americans have dreamed of for years, and that we should seize the moment if we wanted real health care reform.  However, I believe that the Public Option is one of the most destructive pieces of legislation ever proposed to Congress.  If passed, the Public Option will destroy the private health insurance sector, exacerbate the budget deficit by increasing health care costs, and paralyze the ingenuity that has advanced medical science in America for years.  Below, I will examine some of Baldwin's points and demonstrate what I feel are faulty assumptions.

In Baldwin’s article to the MJS, she made several statements that are worthy of consideration.  Her first statement is as follows:

“Some thought this day would never come – and many are doing all they can to assure that it never will.  But they are in the minority.” 

Baldwin’s statement is false.  According to Rasmussen, those who oppose government run health care are steady at 50%, while those who support it are in the minority at 35%.  And the longer this bill falters in Congress, the more the disapproval margins increase.

Baldwin’s second statement is as follows:

“This week, key committees in the house of Representatives, including one on which I sit, have produced a plan for health care reform that promises to lower costs, provide better care and keep our insurance industry competitive and fair for all consumers.”

Baldwin makes three propositions that are clearly false.  First, the bill sitting in the House may promise to lower costs, but the Congressional Budget Office has already estimated that it would increase health care costs one trillion dollars in just 10 years – a hike the CBO called “unsustainable.”  Furthermore, in 1967, Americans were promised that Medicare would cost only $12 billion by 1990.  However, it ended up costing American taxpayers over $110 billion by that year.  The same promise was made about Medicaid in 1987 when they predicted it would cost 100 million by 1992, but it exceeded that amount by $11 billion.  

 Second, it is doubtful that government run health care will provide better care.  Almost routinely, physicians turn away Medicare patients because the government pays below market costs.  Nationwide, only 40% of doctors and hospitals accept Medicaid patients because payments are too slow.  In a study in Anchorage, Alaska, 13 of 75 primary care doctors are willing to accept Medicare patients.  Perhaps my math is a little fuzzy, but only 17% of doctors are willing to treat Medicare patients.  Underpaying doctors isn’t the best way of procuring good results.

Third, the public option will not foster competition between the public and private sectors.  Congressman Paul Ryan made a compelling argument that the public option will have a shrinking effect on the private market until it slowly turns into a single payer system.  Here is how Paul Ryan puts it,

“Here is how it works: the federal government “option” would pay doctors and hospitals at below market prices in order to “control costs.” When the government short-changes doctors, the rest of us will be forced to make up the difference: those not on the government plan will have to pay more for the same care. If the government plan will only pay $60 to your doctor for a procedure that costs $100, then your doctor will be forced to charge you $140 for the same procedure to make up the difference. With costs continuing to mount, employers will increasingly find it more cost-effective to drop private coverage altogether and dump their employees into the government plan. In fact, one nonpartisan study by the Lewin Group has estimated that nearly 120 million Americans would lose their private health insurance under a public-plan-type scenario.“

Cost is the Number One Health Care Concern for Americans

 Baldwin accurately stated that affordable health care is the number one concern of Wisconsinites.  According to Rasmussen, 61% of voters nationwide believe that cost it the biggest problem with health care today, while only 21% believe it’s a lack of coverage.  This is a tremendously important point here.  People don’t think that universal health care is the answer, they think the answer is controlling the skyrocketing costs. 

There are effective ways of lowering health care costs in the country.  Paul Ryan's idea of refundable tax credits for working individuals and families will lower costs because it allows consumers to find a coverage plan that is uniquely crafted for them.  For instance, why should young men have to pay for a plan that covers mammograms? 

Also, there are other ideas such as Tort Reform.  Wealthy trial lawyers have paid off the Democrat party to resist Tort reform, which if overhauled, would dramatically reduce medical liability costs.  Obstetricians, neurosurgeons, and emergency physicians are most vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits.  For instance, it can cost an Ob-Gyn $209,000 a year to insure for the delivery of newborns.  And this doesn’t account for the costs of superfluous testing procedures so doctors can cover themselves in case something atypical happens under their care. 

Holding our Representatives Accountable for "Retarded" Behavior

News broke yesterday that the term “mentally retarded” was found on page 319 in a 1,000 page health care bill.  This indicates that none of our representatives bothered to read even one-third of the bill.   Do we need to pass legislation that makes it illegal to vote on a bill that wasn’t fully read?  Do we need to institute a comprehension-competency test on legislation before they are eligible to vote?  Suddenly, voting “present” doesn’t seem that bad, does it?

Certainly, as more time elapses more errors will be found in this health care bill.  Already, sites like Warning Signs have begun to publish the problems in the Public Option bill on a page by page basis.  A few examples should suffice: page 29 admits that health care will be rationed.  Page 59 states that the federal government will have access to all individual bank accounts for electronic transfers.  Page 95, the government will pay ACORN to recruit people for the government plan.  Page 149 states that any employer with a payroll larger than $400,000 must enroll their employees in a health care plan or pay a 8% tax on payroll.  Page 167 states that if you do not have "acceptable" health care, you will be penalized with an additional 2.5% tax on your income.  

And folks, this is just the first 200 pages of the bill.  The problems go on and on.  When this legislation starts to hit the fan, I hope that Tammy Baldwin will own up to it.  After all, Baldwin has publicly admitted to crafting this legislation so her constituents will know where to find her when they discover the true extent of its deficiency and noxiousness to the public well being.        

 

Comments (9)
  • David  - iwth respect

    With respect to your factual statement (uncommon among opponents):

    If a public (OPTION) as it is coined, can derail the current winners-losers, so deemed, competitive private health insurance system, what does that say about the private system? We are not talking about debunking doctors and hospitals; this is about two old behemoths, insurance companies and the Federal Government.

    If all these Americans (it is 50%+ now), who you say oppose health care reform, run to the public option when given a choice, no force, is this not saying that the private option is lousy, inferior, discriminating, INEFFECTIVE AT BEST?

    In any other industry, when all the customers run to another vendor, we in the capitalistic-side of our democracy, call that consumer choice, good business, or smart consumers. We state that the "loser" needs to get a better business model and make their product more affordable or COMPETITIVE.

    It is my opinion that whence a public OPTION is available, that consumers will LEAP from the giant (insurance companies) whose intent it is to squash them. This is because even among the larger percentage opposing American consumers, whose move will be required to RUIN the private sector, whence these see that they can get better care, which does not end with some job, will not go away when they get sick, and is cheaper, they will sprint away from the giant.

    Thanks again for your factual statement.


  • Jason Crye

    "If a public (OPTION) as it is coined, can derail the current winners-losers, so deemed, competitive private health insurance system, what does that say about the private system? We are not talking about debunking doctors and hospitals; this is about two old behemoths, insurance companies and the Federal Government."

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. The quote I issued by Paul Ryan should help explain why the federal government can out-compete the private insurance industry. In short, the government doesn't have to pay taxes, doesn't have to pay "at market" prices, and doesn't have to run lean in order to survive as a company.

    "If all these Americans (it is 50%+ now), who you say oppose health care reform, run to the public option when given a choice, no force, is this not saying that the private option is lousy, inferior, discriminating, INEFFECTIVE AT BEST?"

    Well, they wouldn't be leaving private insurance companies voluntarily, their employers would drop them because of rising health care costs, which in turn will drive up the price of insurance premiums. The costs will go up because the government doesn't play by free-market rules.

    Government does not pay medical facilities at market prices. They don't negotiate with providers, instead they dictate to providers how much they will receive. Private insurance companies cannot do this.

    As a result, medical facilities must recoup the costs by charging private insurance companies more for medical services. Insurance companies will pass along the facilities' overpriced medical services to their consumers. Employers will not continue to suck up the costs. Eventually, they will drop employees, who in turn will go to the public option because there is no option left. This is anything but a voluntary choice.


  • Evan Murdock  - To be fair...

    Baldwin's statement is supported by other polls:

    http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/090617_NBC-WSJ_poll_Full.pdf

    "In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance––extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?

    Extremely important 41
    Quite important 35
    Not that important 12
    Not at all important 8
    Not sure 4

    Seems pretty clear to me. Obviously, these things depend heavily on wording. But to say "Baldwin’s statement is false", is, well, false. The great bluster coming from those who vociferously oppose health care reform is clearly and demonstrably coming from a small minority; this is what Baldwin claims, and she is correct.

  • Jason Crye  - Your health care poll is outdated

    Evan,

    Tell me you didn't just site a poll taken in June when support for the public option was popular in contrast to a poll I referenced a week ago showing heavy opposition.

    My statement about Baldwin is NOT false, but is grounded in a recent and reliable poll.

  • Evan  - Tell me you don't believe...

    that the public opinion has swung from net +56 to net -15 in two months?

    Yes, public opinion has eroded, as people learn that their families will face death panels (false), that they'll lose their current insurance (false), that illegal aliens will be covered (false), that the elderly will be executed (false). The NBC poll shows an erosion from +2 to -5 between July and August; a net -7 swing. That's believable, given the outrageous 'debate' we've been having. -71? Not so much.

  • Jason Crye

    Evan,

    There are a number of things you said that are either not true, or not provable.

    First, many experts have already stated that the public option will erode the private industry on the basis of unfair competition. You can't have the umpire playing in the game. The government creates the "health care exchange" by which private companies must compete if they are to provide insurance to customers, and yet the government sets all of the parameters including some of which that deal a serious blow to their profit margins (pre-existing conditions). You cannot just dismiss these objects by a flip of the wrist.

    Second and admittedly, there is a provision in the bill that specifically prohibits undocumented aliens from participating in government coverage, but there are no components put into place to enforce it. Republicans have already tried to put provisions into place that would require some sort of verification process to filter out undocumented individuals, and democrats have voted it down party line. What good is a prohibition that has no teeth? So as for now, illegals would have access to the public option until proven otherwise.

    Finally, I don't know about these death panels because I haven't looked into them. But if rationing health care is a common element in government run health care, then one has to expect that the elderly would be most vulnerable. Feinstein wrote a pretty good piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning of how the public option would ration care.

  • Anonymous

    SUSA, August 19th, 2009:

    Question: In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance--extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?

    Extremely important....58%
    Quite important........19%
    Not that important..... 7%
    Not at all important...15%
    Not sure............... 1%

    http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=5ba17aa2-f1b9-4445-a6b8-62b9d1ba8693

  • Michael A. Shae

    You are correct to put "market prices" in quotes. Mr. Ryan does not understand the health care sector because he thinks the prices that doctors charge are based on free market forces. They are not. You should clarify one aspect of this debate. Because HR3200 is printed in the peculiar format of legislation, it does run a thousand pages. But it is not as long as a thousand page book. If printed like a normal book, it would run less than 500 pages. It actually has about the same number of words in it as "Black Hills," the best-selling novel by Nora Roberts. When everyone calls this a thousand page book, they are using a meaningless measure.

  • Jason Crye  - Clarify your position on market pricing

    Michael,

    You will have to clarify your position. From what I understand, the prices hospitals charge for health care services are based upon free market forces. When the government shortchanges the hospitals, the hospitals have one of two choices. They can either eat the costs, or pass along the costs to someone else. This is what Ryan is talking about.

    Furthermore, whether the bill is 500 or 1000 pages is not really relevant. Have you read parts of the bill? I have, and it's very difficult to understand. As I thumbed through some of the more controversial sections of the bill, I found that each of these sections often required the reading of 5 other sections in order to understand the first section. I felt like I was traveling through a maze.

    Let's just say there is a good reason why the bill has generated so much hostility in the past few weeks.

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Universal Health Care