William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The Democrat Health Care Power Grab

Is there anybody out there—non-elected politician, that is—who is actually for this?

If so, can I ask what are you for? His Lordship Reid has not released the text of the bill except to a select few, so how can anybody else actually be for this secret legislation? Reid is saying, “Trust me. This is good. Vote for it—or suffer the loss of your committee chairmanship.”

The secret bill could say anything, and, given our experience with Congress, it is rational to believe that it is stuffed to the brim with greasy pig fat.

Can anybody out there convince me I’m wrong about that point?

We’re about to allow our Congress to secure a power grab which they believe will swing the country in the favor of Democrats in the long run. After all, who wants to vote for somebody who is not promising them Free Health Care? (Me, for one.)

Actually, however, they are going to hand over control of a significant percentage of our economy to a faceless, unaccountable, one-size-under-penalty-of-law-fits-all bureaucracy. Naturally, the Democrats feel that they will be able to direct this bureaucracy in ways most favorable to themselves.

But as they piece together this monstrosity, building the legislation out of used parts cadged from other failed bills, they should recall the lesson that Dr. Frankenstein learned the hard way. Once created, these things take on a life of their own.

And—to extend the horror analogy—they gobble up all resources in their path.

More to come…

25 Comments

  1. I’m voting for the next candidate who promises every current [and former, by then] member of congress who voted for this bill will be automatically placed into the coverage pool of this monstrosity and prohibited by law from acquiring or using any other health care coverage from or by other means. Under penalty of a slow death. And then promptly terminate the program.

  2. The democrat strategy is to make more and more people dependant on the federal government for more and more things (a paraphrase of George Will). Once created, the democrat theory goes, the entitlement class will be unlikely to vote their entitlements away, hence will vote democrat.

    Can anybody point to an experiment in socialism that works. Just one. No? Just curious.

    The democrat strategy has been, in some ways, wildly successfull. To whit: pass legislation that interferes with the free market – Fanny, Freddie, Community Reinvestment – and when the government mandated bubble collapses, blame greedy capitalist; assume control of banks, insuranace companies, auto manufacturers (to save jobs, of course); insist on broader regulations… One step closer to central planning; just wait ’till they get control of energy.

    One hopes that they go too far and alienate enough voters to turn the pendulum. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

    ps. I thought you were a global warming hack. Now healthcare? Risky.

  3. I quite agree. I’ve argued for awhile that Congressional enrollment should be part of this bill.Not surprisingly, this didn’t happen. So I support 49erDweet’s idea. Of course, this won’t happen, either.

  4. Looks like my latest post went to the ether. Did I offend? Certainly didn’t mean to.

    As always. Love the site. Keep up the good work!

  5. Mostly unrelated, but there’s a funny quote in that link to Pajamas Media:

    “The reality is that hardball Democratic Party practices do not seem to connect with Democratic Party ideals. Their idea of governing is to cut deals behind closed doors, to anoint winners and pummel losers. Has anyone told them it is the most corrosive and cynical way to govern in a democracy?”

    This is fun. You can put in any party name and you get the modern system of government!

    “The reality is that hardball _________ Party practices do not seem to connect with _______ Party ideals. Their idea of governing is to cut deals behind closed doors, to anoint winners and pummel losers. Has anyone told them it is the most corrosive and cynical way to govern in a democracy?”

    I love politics. The more things don’t change, the more they stay the same.

  6. The Dems, as usual, are leaving a huge hole for the R’s to drive their campaign trucks through. Since the R’s have failed to take advantage of that in past elections the Dems have obviously decided to make the hole even bigger. I think they’re taunting the Rs.

    Assuming the presence of decent candidates (not Dems like McCain) there’s going to be a very different make-up of Congress in a year.

  7. Greg,

    I think a lot depends on whether or not the economy picks up– or, more importantly, whether or not per capita incomes start picking up. Voters are remarkably quick to forget a lot of things, including higher taxes, as long as they take home more on payday.

    Bush and the Republicans in the Naughties capitalized on this quite well. Hell, I’d go so far as to say that that’s what kept the Dems in Congress for 40 some odd years after WW II. When all boats float, votes go to the party.

    Just look at Japan: the LDP got a 40+ year ride despite egregiously bad policies in some instances simply because they gamed districts with pork. Hell, pork is what makes our system go ’round. It’s all about who can spend the most on his district.

    Personally, I find a lot of the rhetoric out of people on the interwebs about the evil overlord Obama quite funny, because it sounds to me like the same crap the frothy campus liberals were saying about Bush. I realize I’m a bit young to be jaded, but c’mon… it’s all the same crap, year after year. The only difference seems to be the letter next to the name, and token differences on stupid “divisive” issues.

    Washington is all pork and log-rolling. All the way down the river of stupid rhetoric and wannabe demagoguery.

  8. Finally…

    Matt,

    These sort of “secret” deliberations are not really that unusual– this is, for better or for worse, how the process works. In fact, that’s implicitly implied by Brownback in that article:

    “I haven’t seen anything like this on a bill of this magnitude.”

    Well, how many bills of this magnitude have been put forth under his tenure? I’d say none. This is a huge, massive, gigantic bill. Most senators haven’t seen a bill of this magnitude in their careers. The real question is whether or not what’s going on is within the rules. That answer is yes.

    Not to say that I like the product, either. But nothing going on is necessarily unethical if you believe in the “rules”– it’s just politicking.

    Oh, and a great quote from CNN about getting Nelson on board:

    “A key hurdle was cleared Saturday when the last Democratic holdout, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, agreed to support the bill in return for compromise language on federal funding for abortion and more money for his state. It was the latest in a series of deals with Senate Democrats to hold together caucus support for the bill.”

    Ah, American politics at its best (worst?).

  9. Briggs

    December 20, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    kdk33,

    I have no idea why, but your first comment was moved to the spam box. You don’t even have any links. WordPress and Akismet just upgraded, so they may have introduced a new bug or two.

    So to answer…Let’s say a numbers hack.

    Ari,

    Quite right about any party. Any party that seeks to self-perpetuate itself above the welfare—and freedom—of the people they supposedly represent is what I hate. Of course, I’m not overly fond of yet another massive increase in the central control of our lives. Run, naturally, by knowledgeable who only care about us.

    You’re also right about the “secret” bill not being unusual. This is why I asked what non-politician could be for it. All experience points to the thing being a mess, and a mechanism to remove yet more freedom—at least that is a safe guess—but there’s hardly any direct indication of what specific programs there will be. So I ask, who could be for that, unless this person enjoyed the idea of more government control.

    Which I grant more than a few do.

  10. Kdk33,

    An industry that was succesfully socialized — firemen come to mind… roads… I am sure there are some others.

    Briggs,

    Who is for this legislation — Journalists. Partiuclarly freelance journalists. The individual insurance market stinks. People who would buy this coverage seem to be the least screwed by what has been proposed.

    There are definatly some odd things about the way the current system works — None of wich will be addressed in the current bill running through congress. My doctor charges me $120 for the appointment. I pay $25, the insurance company pays $40, the doctor writes of the remaining $55. Each insurer pays a different rate, and the un-insured (If they pay their bills) pay the highest fees.

  11. No one can possibly know what lurks in 2000 plus pages of legalese. The lawyers for special interest groups will be pouring over this legislation for decades. We can look forward to periodic revelations of new benefits for some, and costs for the 60% of so of us who still pay income taxes.

    I am for a constitutional amendment that limits all bills to 30,000 words (about 100 pages) or less. That’s about 4 times as long as the Constitution.

  12. Who is for it is any easy question. Why they’re for it is the conundrum.

    Who is for it?

    Most anybody who clicks on the HuffPo or the DailyKos every day.
    Most members of the AFL/CIO and the UAW.
    Illegal aliens.
    Nearly all African Americans.
    Most college professors.
    Almost all members of the media.
    Almost all Hollywood actors, actresses, directors and producers.

    Now of all the afformentioned groups, the only one that has, in my mind, and enlightened self-interest in the bill is illegal aliens. Everybody else is just following politicians they trust, even against their own self-interest.

  13. Matt,

    Pick your poison, I say. Under the current system, we’re beholden to a bunch of corporate bureaucrats who are probably equally idiotic to anything the government could dream up. To me, and I’m just skeptical of those with any authority over me, they’re all the same.

    And sure you can technically “choose” your health insurance… but good luck depending on your job and state.

    Mike B,

    I disagree. I think Doug hits a good point by mentioning freelancers. Lots of freelancers and contractors dislike the status quo. I was out of work for a while and stuck with COBRA. It stunk. I’m currently blessed with great insurance, but my company pays out the nose for it.

    Not that I think this bill is peachy keen wonderful, but I think that some people have a legitimate interest in moving away from the status quo. Now the question, to be a bit silly and economics-y about it, is where the Pareto optimum is. I have no clue.

    Robert,

    Good luck with that. You’ll never take pork out of the hands of the House, and that’s what that would accomplish.

  14. Briggs

    December 21, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Ari,

    Don’t forget that the left refuses to allow the option of buying insurance out of state. If more freedom were allowed in the current (and doomed) programs, then we might not have built up enough dissatisfaction to impose the new health tax (via mandating everybody pays for “insurance”).

    It will, however, be fascinating to see how the trial lawyers fit into the new scheme. The health industry is currently a perennial cash crop for them. Will they still be able to sue as vigorously in the new socialist program? My guess is: yes. Since the government will, in effect, be paying doctors, and lawyers will be suing doctors, the new health tax will be a new way to enbiggen lawyer’s wallets.

  15. 49erDweet

    House Resolution 615 – would call on House members who vote for Government Health Care to choose that option for themselves and their family.. Proposed by Congressman John Fleming. (Last I checked it had no Democrats supporting it)

  16. @doug M

    “An industry that was succesfully socialized — firemen come to mind… roads… I am sure there are some others.”

    Actually, I said an experiment in socialism – but close enough.

    Roads and armies are my examples of necessary government evils. I’ll accept firemen (and policmen too). But aren’t these the exceptions that prove the rule. Certain government functions are socialized because there just isn’t any other way.

    Teachers (k-12, not university) make a more interesting example – largely socialized, but is it absolutely necessary and does it seem to be working.

    I guess I should have said “name the socialist country we’d like to emulate” or something like that. Socialism has been tried, and is being tried, and it ain’t working. Otherwise they wouldn’t be asking for handouts, er climate reparations.

    People are dying – literally dying – to get into the evil capitalist pig-sty known as America. So we emulate their homeland?

    But, you got me on the firemen.

  17. kdk33,

    I am surprised to see you consider k-12 public education to be an example of a socialized industry that works? I thought most people felt that public education was failing pretty badly.

    K-12 public education is a good example of how a “public option” works. There is nothing optional about paying for it. Everyone is force to pay. Your option is, having paid, you can use the service or not. According to the Council for American Private Education (http://www.capenet.org/facts.html), 10% of American students choose to effectively pay double, and go to a private school, rather than use the free “public option.”

    In my opinion, almost all parents would choose to send their kids to private school if they could get their money back from their local public school.

  18. @Robert Emmons

    What I said was: “Teachers (k-12, not university) make a more interesting example – largely socialized, but is it absolutely necessary and does it seem to be working.” I should have used a ‘?’.

    I think your answer is spot on! 🙂

  19. Ari –

    I was a free-lancer for 6 years, and the last thing I ever would have wanted was mandated coverage. I think you’ll find that free-lancers are in general infused with a very healthy mix of political views, and I’d be quite surprised if a large majority of free-lancers/self-employed favored this monstrosity.

    I was mainly trying to highlight large or influential groups that heavily favored the mandate.

    I don’t think the self-employed qualify on any of those counts.

  20. More on firemen — there was a time in this country when many cities had competing private fire companies. The onwer / insurer of the property would pay the first fire company on the scene. The system has some bizzare incentives. For example, if two fire companies arrived on the scene, they would often fight over who arrived 1st.

    On health insurance — for my 2 cents, I don’t have any idea why ones employer should be expected to provide health coverage unless the job has health hazards. Futermore, I don’t want coverage for routine care. Insurance should be for low probability, high impact risks. I don’t think my opinions on the subject carry much weight in D.C.

  21. I don’t understand the origin of the employer-centric system – let’s move the tax incentive off of the employer and on to the employee.

    I’ve heard the argument that only employers have pools big enough to negotiate good rates. But, shift the tax incentive, and won’t the market adjust to allow individuals to pool together – the plumber/engineer/teacher/welder/whatever allied insurance group? Doesn’t AARP already do this? Insurance companies will want to stay in business and will adjust their practices to suite the new tax incentives, IMHO.

  22. The employer based system began as a result of wage and price controls during WWII. With a shortage of labor (soldiers were off fighting) and an artifical cap on wages, companies offered other forms of compensation to attract employees. One of these incentives was health insurance. It stuck.

    Why should it be more expensive to insure a person as an individual than as a member of a group? The math doesn’t hold up. Yet, millions of people accept it as truth.

  23. Why should it be more expensive to insure a person as an individual than as a member of a group?

    Adverse selection. People will try to obtain (or not obtain) individual health coverage based on their perceived health; very few people would forgo employment simply because they believed themselves to be in good health, or pursue employment that they otherwise would not have taken up simply because they believe their health to be poor. Equally, employers usually do not make hiring / firing decisions based on health. This makes an employee pool lower cost in absolute terms, and much less variable (and hence easier to underwrite) than a collection of self-selecting risks.

  24. The employer-centric system certainly makes it more convenient for the self-percieved-as-healthy to get insurance, so marginally more get insurance than if they had to shop around and remember to pay their own premiums (IMO).

    On the other hand, none of my employers has ever made me buy insurance – they just make the offer.

    If the tax incentive were shifted, I think the market would create mechanisms for individuals to effectively pool their risks. Insurance companies want to stay in business after all.

    Directionally, I think you have a point; I would quibble with the italicized much.

    I think there is a second argument that some free market type reforms would increase competition and lower costs enough to offset the convenience factor.

    But I don’t have any data.

    Makes for interesting conversation though.

  25. On the other hand, none of my employers has ever made me buy insurance – they just make the offer
    That’s interesting. I’m writing from Canada, so legal requirements are naturally different – and there is no choice in (basic) health insurance. I have implemented employee benefit plans that include ‘health’ insurance components, though – ‘extended health’ that pays for some uncovered services, upgrades to private rooms, and out of country cover, as well as dental plans. In all cases underwriters have told us that they require coverage to be mandatory for all employees in order to reduce (and they hope, eliminate) adverse selection – it is particularly a problem in dental plans, where people have a good idea of their dental health and their intention with regard to elective treatments. That goes back almost two decades, though, and since then there has been an increasing move for employers to offer a smorgasbord of insurance plans, with employees picking the coverages they want up to a defined cost level. I suspect in these situations the underwriters know that there will be some adverse selection (the guy whose kids have just started needing braces will sign up for orthodontic cover) and price it into the cost.

    If the tax incentive were shifted, I think the market would create mechanisms for individuals to effectively pool their risks
    Yes – after all, it seems to work for property and casualty insurance, although I don’t know if the impact of selection bias is the same.

    …there is a second argument that some free market type reforms would increase competition and lower costs enough to offset the convenience factor.
    Yes, there is that.

    Cheers,

    Dean

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