Monday, December 28, 2009

ObamaCare Blues

Nobody I know is in favor of the health care bill the Democrats are ramrodding through Congress. Maybe that is saying something about my circle of friends and acquaintances. Since my blog here at also cross-posts in Facebook, I'm hopeful some Facebook liberals or Democrats or anyone in favor of ObamaCare can help me out. I know quite a few people who are vehemently opposed because they believe ObamaCare will be more harmful to our economy than the bailouts and takeovers of the financial and automotive sectors. Common sense and basic economic principles lead me to the same conclusion.

I'm open to listening to someone, anyone, who can help me understand why ObamaCare is good. If you're in favor of ObamaCare, please tell me why! A friend of mine was engaged in a similar dialog. He too is unconvinced that ObamaCare is good. He explains why in this email to his sister. He gave me permission to share it here.

Dear Sis,

I suspect there are some facts you have not taken into consideration regarding ObamaCare. I downloaded the proposed law a while back and examined it carefully. Have you read it? Has your Congressman even read it?

We agree that ObamaCare does not help the rich, it just raises their taxes.

We agree that ObamaCare does not help the poor, they already get free health care (through Medicaid).

We agree that ObamaCare does not help most of the people in the middle, whose employers (or spouse's employers) already pay for health insurance.

The relatively small number (10%) of people in the middle whose employers cannot afford to pay for health insurance, and the people who are not employed, are the ones we disagree over.

First of all, we need to recognize that these people in the middle can buy health insurance TODAY if they want to. It's very expensive because health insurance is like that. In addition to paying all those expensive doctor and hospital bills and prescription drugs, the insurance companies also have to pay for their own administrators and the extra paperwork caused by government regulations and their CEO's expensive new car. The people on no insurance only pay for the doctors and the hospital and the pills. You could buy health insurance for you and your minor child TODAY, if you want to, but it would cost you more than you are paying out-of-pocket for doctor visits and medications. That's because the insurance companies must make a profit if they are going to stay in business. If they don't make any money, they just close their doors and you can't get their services at all.

ObamaCare does not help those people in the middle like you and me, who COULD buy health insurance TODAY, but don't want to pay as much as it would cost. All the new law does is force us to buy insurance that is too expensive today and still too expensive under ObamaCare, or else pay hundreds of dollars in new taxes, or else ObamaCare sends them to jail if they refuse. I read the proposed law, that's what it says. That part was in Obama's original plan.

Many of the people in the middle work at minimum-wage jobs where their employer cannot afford to pay for health care. ObamaCare also raises the taxes on those employers in an effort to force them to pay for health insurance, but the taxes, while burdensome, are less than the actual cost of health insurance, so many (perhaps most) of those companies will still not pay for health insurance. To the extent that they are small businesses operating on a shoestring they will not be able to stay in business, and all those people will be out of a job. At least then they can go on welfare and get free health care.

ObamaCare promises to make health insurance "affordable". That's a lie. They can't. They might subsidize the premiums for the poor people otherwise on Medicaid, but they already get their health care for free. People like you and me won't see any significant help. The premiums less the subsidies will still cost more than just paying the medical bills ourselves, the way we do TODAY.

One more thing: Taxes go up for everybody, because *somebody* has to pay for those subsidies. The poor people who pay no taxes today, some of them will still pay no taxes, but people like me (I paid no taxes last year) will pay up to $1000 in new taxes. The rich people who pay no taxes today, will still pay no taxes, for the same reasons. Their cronies in the White House will continue to look the other way and let them off the hook. It's called "Chicago politics" and Obama is in that game.

All the rest of the people with any livable income will pay increased taxes. I calculated what ObamaCare would do to me, if it were the law this year, and I would have to pay $800 more in taxes -- and my income is below Federal Poverty Level.

That's what I see in ObamaCare. That's why I don't like it.

Now, tell me how is it going to help anybody? I really want to know.

You could start by telling me how ObamaCare helps *ME*. Or yourself. Your minor son is already covered by the new Childrens Health Act passed last year under Bush. All ObamaCare does is penalize you for not paying for it.


Perplexed Brother

For a Cause or for Christ?

Over at Wineskins for Discipleship Heather Zempel raises and interesting question. She asks, "Why am I more cause focused than person focused?" In her case, being a Christian, this carries the Christian expectation that the person of focus should be Jesus. I agree. Jesus is the center of Christianity, but what does this look like practically?

I love passionate people like Heather who give their lives to a cause. In fact, I'm inspired by people who give their lives to all sorts of worthy causes whether it is caring for the poor, helping the homeless, ministering to those in prison, starting new churches, etc. I'm even inspired by people who merely offer a cup of cold water to a child (Matt 10:42). The Bible makes it clear that these sorts of causes are on mission and within the heart of Christ.

It is good to recalibrate the compass periodically and ensure the cause on which we're focused is a cause that Christ would approve, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with being cause focused. Heather arrives at her "for a cause or for Christ" dichotomy by starting with this premise:

"The disciples didn't lay their lives down for a cause but for a person."

Heather didn't share the full context of this Dave Buehring statement, and I'm hesitant to be too critical without proper context, but out of context and by itself this appears to me as a false statement. The cause of Christ is outlined in Matthew 28 and in other areas of the New Testament. The disciples were cause-driven men who turned the world upside down in spreading the Gospel. I believe Christians should passionately pursue the cause of Christ, and isn't that the Gospel? Perhaps the real question here is whether or not whatever cause we've given our lives to is furthering the Gospel?

I don't know what it means to lay down my life for a person unless that also means laying down my life for the causes that person cared about.

Your thoughts? Please comment.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Insurance is the Problem in Health Care

This essay was written by a friend of mine. I totally agree with his assessment. What do you think?

Health Insurance Is the Problem, Not the Solution

President Obama ran on a campaign (among other things) to solve the cost of health care crisis in this country. His proposed solution can only make matters worse, not better.

Two things drive up the cost of a product in a market economy: supply and demand.

Obama's proposal eliminates the market economy by eliminating all competition, then forcing everybody to pay for his "public option" instead. He doesn't say all this, because our President-trainee does not understand markets.

In a market economy both buyers and sellers are free to transact their business or not. People who decide that there is profit for a seller in the transaction can produce the product and sell it for what the buyer is willing to pay. If they decide there is no profit, the supply is diminished, driving up the price until there is sufficient profit to motivate producers to enter the market. If the price is too high, buyers stop buying and the reduced demand results in over-supply, which encourages producers to reduce their prices. The market stabilizes at a price that free buyers are willing to pay and free sellers are willing to produce it for. That is usually slightly higher than it costs to produce, the difference being the profit margin which motivates producers. If the profit margin is too high, other producers will enter the market at a lower profit margin and take their business away. The system works and it works well.

The problem with spiraling health care costs is that we do not have a truly free market, because the buyers are not the consumers. The buyers of health care are the insurance companies. They repackage their plans and sell the package to the companies and individuals who pay fixed premiums regardless of how much service they use, so that most of the actual health care costs are paid by the insurance companies, not the consumers. That makes health care "free" to the consumers. There is no limit to demand on free products, and demand drives the price up.

The way to manage the cost while restoring and maintaining a free market is to eliminate the insurance companies. You can't just outlaw them -- although Obama's plan effectively does that -- what you need to do is restore the freedom of choice to the consumers. Make it worth their while to consume fewer health care services. Allow them (not the insurance companies) to keep the money not spent on health care, and they will make informed and reasonably intelligent choices about when to spend it. Insurance is the problem, not the solution.

The people who will object to this idea are the people whose lifestyle choices lead to bad health and thus to higher medical needs: the smokers, the obese, the sexually promiscuous, the thrill-seekers and the clumsy. A very few are born with health problems we do not (yet) know how to prevent; they will be unhappy also. This is not all that different morally from the fact that some people are born into wealthy families and some people are born poor. It's the luck of the draw. Government efforts to equalize wealth only serve to reduce everybody to (equal) poverty, because it is the prospect of great wealth that drives people to do things that increase the wealth of the nation. The rising tide lifts all boats, but it raises the boats of the hard workers even more. That is what motivates them to work for it.

If everybody pays for their own health care, then the rich people will have better health care. They also eat better food and drive nicer cars and live in bigger houses. That is the nature of wealth, and it is not immoral. The prospect of great wealth motivates people to produce products that other people are willing to pay for, and they are willing to pay for these products because they make life more pleasant. Furthermore, the rich people spend more money on their nice products, which enables opportunistic people to increase their own wealth by producing the products these rich people are willing to buy. The result is that when people get rich in a market economy, everybody benefits. If they want to.

There are also poor people who cannot afford nice cars and big houses and fine food -- nor the best health care. Some of these people cannot afford food and housing at all. There are charities to provide minimal food and housing to people willing to meet their requirements. The people who are unwilling, go without. That too is the nature of a market economy, that you can choose to do without the things that hard work would pay for. Health care is no different, and there are (or can be) charities that provide it to indigents. Unless the government gets in the way.

Obama's proposed solution is opposed to free markets. He wants to cap the price people pay for health insurance without providing any incentive for them to limit their consumption of services. Demand therefore increases without any limit, but supply becomes limited by the reduced profit incentive. Doctors will drop out and go do other things that better reward their efforts. Insurance companies will discover that they cannot afford to stay in business at these reduced prices and higher costs, so they will drop out also. That leaves only the "public option" funded by taxes. Taxpayers will protest, so the government will limit supply by various means such as delay and outright refusal. The quality of health care will drastically go down -- as indeed it must in any system that attempts to equalize wealth by government intervention.

The rich will always be able to access quality health care -- on the black market if the government attempts to make it unlawful, but they can do that. The only difference is that large numbers of middle-class people who now pay high prices for their health care, they will not be able to get it at any price because of the reduced supply. Sure, they will have the government-mandated insurance, but (as reported in England, where this kind of program is already operational) the waiting period or the quota lotteries will make it inaccessible.

Do you want that kind of health care? I don't.

Tom Pittman
2009 December 9


Monday, December 07, 2009

Truth Decay

In two national surveys conducted by the Barna Research Group the following was found:

  • By a 3-to-1 margin (64% vs. 22%) adults said truth is always relative to the person and their situation.
  • 83% of teenagers said moral truth depends on the circumstances, and only 6% of said moral truth is absolute.
  • Just one out of ten of our country's born again teenagers believes in absolute moral truth - a statistic that is nearly identical to that of non-born again teens.
  • The alarmingly fast decline of moral foundations among our nations young people has culminated in a one-word worldview: 'whatever.' The result is a mentality that esteems pluralism, relativism, tolerance, and diversity without critical reflection of the implications of particular views and actions.
Very sad.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Flu Vaccine Exposed

When I went to India, I did a lot of research on vaccines, and decided to only take anti-malaria tablets and skip the suggested vaccines. One of the guys in my office that did go for the vaccines got an infection from the shot and got really sick and ended up not being able to go on the trip at all. It seemed to me that the chances of complications from the vaccine itself were at least as risky as what the vaccines were supposed to prevent on my Asia trip since I was going to be spending most of my time in Bangalore which is a modern city. I didn't get sick, so I guess my risk taking worked out. Here's a short video that summarizes the information on which I based my decision years ago to not get the annual flu shot, but don't confuse my view on flue vaccines and travel vaccines for me being an "anti-vaxxer." That is a totally different, albeit related, topic that is full of hype and hysteria.