Healthcare

Harry Reid: ObamaCare a step toward single-payer [UPDATED with video]

During a recent appearance on a Nevada-based public television program, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that ObamaCare is a step down the path to a single-payer healthcare system for the United States:

Reid said he thinks the country has to “work our way past” insurance-based health care during a Friday night appearance on Vegas PBS’ program “Nevada Week in Review.”

“What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever,” Reid said.

When then asked by panelist Steve Sebelius whether he meant ultimately the country would have to have a health care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”
[…]
“We had a real good run at the public option … don’t think we didn’t have a tremendous number of people who wanted a single-payer system,” Reid said on the PBS program, recalling how then-Sen. Joe Lieberman’s opposition to the idea of a public option made them abandon the notion and start from scratch.

Eventually, Reid decided the public option was unworkable.

This isn’t really surprising. The idea that ObamaCare is a step down the path to a single-payer system is one that has been promulgated by both Democrats and Republicans alike.

Veterans Affairs Backlog May Foreshadow Obamacare Provision

Veterans Affairs

It would appear the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ answer to the backlog of VA disability claims is to burden high-performing offices with some of those unanswered claims to help offset the build up.

While the effort to do something — anything — should be applauded, this kind of shuffling off of responsibility to high performing offices like the one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota seems almost like a punishment for efficiency. And, while some legislators have been vocal about the travesty of delaying disability payments to those who defend us abroad, President Obama — if his recent speeches to service men and women are any indication — is more interested in getting buy-in from our military for his policy positions, rather than focusing on what needs to be done to spur the provision of their benefits.

Speaking to servicemen and women and veterans this past week, most recently at Camp Pendleton, the President spent most of his time trying to convince them that a failure to reverse sequester cuts was detrimental to veterans and the actively enlisted, and that this was the fault of Congress and, most especially, House Speaker John Boehner.

Meanwhile, those who have a vested interest in some of the fixes to address the disability claim backlog are asking some rather interesting questions:

Rand Paul Reintroduces the Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has a simple idea to fix Medicare, and it involves offering all seniors the best health care system in America while saving taxpayer’s money.

According to Sen. Paul, his Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act would have Members of Congress and seniors sharing the same health plan, which would save $1 trillion over the first 10 years, amounting to a major cut of Medicare’s $43 trillion unfunded liability.

The bill, Sen. Paul says, “fixes the Medicare system, and gives seniors access to the best health care plans enjoyed currently by Members of Congress and does so without breaking the bank.”

Seniors would have access to a marketplace of various insurance plans that cannot deny coverage to anyone for any reason. While the government still pitches in with about three-quarters of the total costs, the open market makes it fairly less complicated for the senior to find a more inexpensive option, since companies will have to compete to meet the needs of growing numbers of customers. The Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act assures that there’s a gradual raise in the Medicare retirement age, which would go from 65 to 70 over a generation, leading to a major cut in overall costs.

Sen. Paul is confident that with his plan, the Medicare system will get the reform needed to become a more sustainable program without having to cut benefits or force a government rationing. Every citizen would be eligible to enjoy the same plan members of Congress enjoy without bankrupting the country since the new plan would be less expensive than the current Medicare system, which is now run by government bureaucrats.

Arizona Governor Signs ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion

Jan Brewer

On Monday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the state’s budget opting in to the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion program.  It was the capstone of a long, hard fought battle by Gov. Brewer to impose the expansion on the state of Arizona and its startled citizenry.

How did we come to the point where a Republican governor in a conservative state would stake her political career on choosing to implement ObamaCare’s massive expansion of the welfare state?

ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion is Optional

PPACA Section 2001 expanded Medicaid up to 133% of the federal poverty line.  It also provided federal funding for the increase as follows:

(A) 100 percent for calendar quarters in 2014, 2015, and 2016;
(B) 95 percent for calendar quarters in 2017;
(C) 94 percent for calendar quarters in 2018;
(D) 93 percent for calendar quarters in 2019; and
(E) 90 percent for calendar quarters in 2020 and each year thereafter.

Then came the Supreme Court’s ruling on the individual mandate in NFIB v. Sebelius.  Chief Justice Roberts inexplicably upheld the mandate as a tax, a holding that will forever define his legacy as having abandoned originalism.  But there was one minor victory for the states:

Congressional Staff to Feel ObamaCare Pain in 2014

Chuck Grassley

If you can’t beat them, force them to join their own thing.

That may as well have been Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) motto in 2009 when he introduced an amendment to PPACA to force members of Congress and their staff onto the ObamaCare exchanges.  In the private sector, this practice of dropping large employee groups or terminating employer-sponsored group health plans is referred to as “dumping” employees onto the ObamaCare exchange.  Congress and its staff will certainly feel dumped on come January 1, 2014, when they’re left to fend for themselves in the world of government-driven healthcare.

What is the FEHBP?

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) is the group health plan for federal government employees.  It’s the largest employer-sponsored plan in the country, covering 8 million enrollees.  That’s roughly the size of the entire population of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

Why Members of Congress and Staff Lose FEHBP Coverage as of January 1, 2014

PPACA Section 1312 explicitly requires that they go to the ObamaCare exchange:

Chatting with Igor Birman

Igor Birman

“I think the impressionable libertarian kids are going to save our nation.” — Igor Birman

Late last year, I ran across video of Igor Birman, who immigrated to the United States with his family as the Soviet Union was collapsing, warning against a more centralized government healthcare system. Birman, who now serves as Chief of Staff to Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), was explaining that the Soviet system relied on rationing of healthcare, which would be the end result of ObamaCare.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with Birman to discuss his story, the transformation of the United States into a police state, ObamaCare, the budget, and other destructive economic policies that are being pushed by the White House.

When asked about the recent filibuster in the Senate, Birman applauded Sen. Rand Paul and noted that it was refreshing to hear a politician be so passionate. He also compared the policies implemented as part of the “war on terror”  to life in the Soviet Union, where the government frequently searched homes of ordinary citizens without cause, which he called a “fact of life,” noting that “you just accepted it as much as you did the cold weather and the long lines for the basic staples of food and water.”

Birman experienced this first-hand. “A week before we left for the United States, we went to say goodbye to my uncle in St. Petersburg and when we came back, we found our apartment just absolutely ravaged,” recalled Birman. “The authorities must have been looking for whatever lame excuse they could find to either delay or disrupt our departure.”

Know Your Consumer-Driven Health Care: HRA

This is the second of three posts on the primary consumer-driven health care arrangements under the current Internal Revenue Code.

The first post on consumer-driven health care discussed the health FSA, a useful but ultimately flawed vehicle hampered primarily by the use-it-or-lose it rule and ObamaCare limits.  This post discusses the HRA, a more dynamic arrangement that can be used in many creative and powerful ways - pending a number of ObamaCare changes that will dramatically limit the HRA’s versatility.

As stated in the first post, the ideal consumer-driven health care vehicle should strive to achieve three main objectives:

  1. Provide incentive for the individual to spend less on health expenses;
  2. Maximize the individual’s flexibility in contributions and ownership of all assets contributed; and
  3. Limit the individual’s financial exposure by including an out-of-pocket maximum

What is an HRA?

A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is a creature of Sections 105 and 106 of the Internal Revenue Code.  It’s an entirely employer funded account used to pay for health care expenses on a tax-free basis.  Employers can structure HRAs to offer many benefits, including:

  • Direct reimbursement for medical expenses as the primary form of health coverage;
  • A way to pay for deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses from major medical coverage;
  • As an account to pay for the premiums for major medical coverage; or
  • Any combination of those purposes

This versatility, as well as a few other key advantages over the health FSA, have made the HRA a commonly used employer-sponsored plan since 2002 when IRS guidance first blessed the HRA concept.

The Good

Know Your Consumer-Driven Health Care: Health FSA

This is the first of three posts on the primary consumer-driven health care arrangements under the current Internal Revenue Code.

What is Consumer-Driven Health Care?

As with almost all political issues today, there are two factions in the health plan industry constantly in conflict over the best structure for covering the cost of health expenses.  On one side is the defined benefit-type philosophy.  Under this traditional approach, an individual or combination of employer/employee pays a relatively high premium to receive coverage for most health expenses that the participant might incur during the plan or policy year.  This style of coverage typically comes with negligible or non-existent cost-sharing requirements for the participant to access services (e.g., copays for doctor visits, coinsurance, deductibles).

Consumer-driven health care, on the other hand, generally attempts to reduce the cost of health coverage by empowering individuals to control their health expenses.  Under this defined contribution-type approach, an individual or employer/employee combination contributes to an account or arrangement that can be used to cover health expenses.  The individual therefore has an incentive to limit health expenses that does not exist under traditional health coverage.

In my opinion, the ideal consumer-driven health care vehicle should strive to achieve three main objectives:

Romney’s Praise of Israeli Healthcare Shows GOP Blind Spot

Earlier this week, Mitt Romney visited Israel, and in a speech praised the Israeli healthcare system for keeping down costs. This sounds like an utterly uncontroversial statement (Republican politician praising Israel), until one realizes that Israel has a single-payer, universal health care system.

OH BOY.

Yet, oddly, there was very little mention of this in conservative spots. I checked The Weekly Standard, Hot Air, the Washington Times, even The Blaze, but none of them talked about Romney’s statement. Not even Fox News seemed to have an article about it. Instead, places like the Boston Globe, the Washington Post (in particular, Ezra Klein), Matt Yglesias at Slate, and Steven L. Taylor at Outside the Beltway were the ones who seemed to actually notice what Romney said.

Response to White House Response to Health Care Decision

Yesterday, the White House responded via blog post to the court decision to allow the health care lawsuit continue forward. The White House’s Stephanie Cutter, who wrote the post, is either an idiot or a comedian. I’m not sure which. She apparently doesn’t even pretend to understand what the hell is going on in regard to the health care law, and doesn’t seem to understand much else.

Here’s some highlights.

Since the enactment of health reform legislation in March, several state Attorneys General have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Having failed in the legislative arena, opponents of reform are now turning to the courts in an attempt to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of government. This is nothing new. We saw this with the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act – constitutional challenges were brought to all three of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all of those challenges failed. So too will the challenge to health reform.

Yes, because two of those three trample on the rights of Americans in a very clear manner. The third, the Civil Rights Act, only partially hit the rights of the people and then only arguably did it hit anyone’s rights. The fact that the courts ruled in favor of the government in those days doesn’t make it a fact that they’ll do the same this time.


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.