Health Care Solutions

“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”

Robert Heinlein

Solutions time again.

I’ve done a bit of blogging on the subject of US Health Care problems recently, and I could go on. One of the CATO daily podcasts last week (State Health Insurance Mandates Raise Prices) highlighted problems with health care created by government intervention in insurance markets. Just another in a long list of government interferences in the marketplace that negatively impact the system; which they then tell you they can fix by interfering in the system to a greater extent. Another podcast, McCain and Obama on Health Care, points out that at least the discussion on health care will be about the right subject, cost, if the presidential race is between McCain and Obama.

Hillary’s insistence on 100% insurance coverage is the wrong answer to an unasked question. Forcing people who don’t want insurance to pay for it is not a solution that any self respecting American should embrace. Massachusetts went that way already, and it is failing. Do we want to copy that failed practice at the federal level? Americans want to not have to worry about being bankrupted by an unexpected long term illness. That’s a cost issue, plan and simple

There have been solutions that I’ve found compelling in the past. One of them, from Downsize DC, I’ve blogged on before. (Editor’s note; that article was a cut and paste job which contained a single intro sentence that I wrote. I’ll let Downsize DC speak for themselves now)

Here’s another solution:

Congressman Ron Paul has introduced a bill that would solve these problems, immediately. His “Comprehensive Health Care Reform Act” (H.R. 3343) would . . .

  • Give you a 100% refund from your taxes of every dollar you spend on medical care, including insurance premiums.
  • Make it easier for your employer to deposit the money it now gives to the health insurance companies into a Health Saving Account that would belong to you
  • This money would come to you tax free — you could use it to fund your health care and your insurance premiums
  • This means your health insurance would belong to you, not your employer
    You would have the money to pay small medical expenses with your Health Savings Account, which would allow you to reduce your insurance premiums by buying a Major Medical Plan, instead of a Cadillac Plan
  • You would also earn interest on the money in your Health Savings Account, tax free — you would get this interest instead of the insurance companies getting it (collecting interest on premiums is how the insurance companies make their money — these profits could be yours instead)
  • Plus, you would become your doctor’s customer, instead of the government or your insurance company being your doctor’s customer
  • This would place the consumer in charge, creating competition that would lower prices and improve quality

Of course, neither the insurance companies nor the health care lobbyists want these changes, so you will have to fight for them.

DownsizeDC – Ron Paul’s health care bill

It’s ludicrous to think that the people who brought you 53.3 trillion dollars in unfunded Medicare and Social security debt can fix the health care problem by getting more involved in health care (especially when they are responsible for funding nearly half of our current health care expenditures) the most logical solution is to give the individual back the control of his health care, and let self-interest drive down the costs.


Editor’s note, 2019. What this period in my life reveals is the hazard of limiting your information intake to things that you agree with. Not getting news from people you disagree with is a recipe for disaster. The mistake embedded in all these libertarian/free market approaches to healthcare is that they couch it all in terms of insurance. Insurance is not the vehicle that should be affording access to public health needs. Those should be mandated and funded directly. If you want to pay for more than that for your own comfort, knock yourself out.

Ron Paul on the Economy, CATO on the Gold Standard, DownsizeDC on both

I stumbled across this teaser on digg the other day:

The full interview | digg story

CATO ran a related subject on the daily podcast recently, titled Is the Gold Standard Still the Gold Standard among Monetary Systems? Personally, I don’t even know how you would justify a different standard. All the counter arguments have now been discredited.

…and the dollar continues to fall, while gold and silver continue to rise.


Downsize DC has been agitating for HR 2756, “Honest Money Act” for quite some time now.

However, they have finally added HR 4683, the “Free Competition in Currency Act” to a new action item entitled End the Inflation Tax.

…it should come as no surprise that the greatest boom and bust in American history happened immediately following the Fed’s birth in 1913. Fed inflation put the inflationary “roar” in the “Roaring Twenties” followed by the biggest bust ever, the Great Depression.

All past inflations, booms, and busts were created through essentially the same process, including the recent stock market and housing bubbles. The Fed is simply the government’s latest-and-greatest tool for legalized counterfeiting.

How You Can End This Con-game

Imagine what would happen if FRNs had to compete with gold, a form of money that can’t be significantly inflated or deflated because of its scarcity and durability…

  • People would begin to have gold accounts that they would use to buy and sell. The ownership of the gold would be transferred back and forth using checks, debit cards, paper certificates (currency), and a few coins, just like with FRNs.
  • When you went shopping you would start to see two prices, one in FRNs and one in a certain weight of gold.
  • If the Fed inflated the number of FRNs you would see the FRN prices rise while the gold price would stay roughly the same.
  • You would begin to prefer to pay the gold price, so you would want to be paid in gold too.
  • How could the Fed stop the flight to gold? Only one way. Stop inflating the number of FRNs.

Congressman Paul has hit upon the easiest way to end inflation, and the booms and busts that follow in its wake. Simply repeal the legal tender monopoly enjoyed by FRNs, and the coinage monopoly held by the United States government. Allow monetary competition. Not only would this help to end inflation and recessions, it would also limit the ability of politicians to hide the true cost of government through the inflation tax. But that’s not all . . .

Forcing FRNs to compete with gold would also confer one other benefit. Over time the prices you pay will tend to fall as increases in economic efficiency (for example, technological improvements) lower the cost of production and increase the supply of goods and services. A stable money supply tends to become more valuable over time, unlike an inflationary currency that constantly loses value.

read more | digg story

Both of these pieces of legislation would be a benefit to those of us seeking shelter from the continuing weakening of the dollar; which is probably why neither of them will see the light of day. Still, nothing happens without effort.

The text of Ron Paul’s introduction of the Free Competition in Currency Act can be found here.

Discover Your Inner Economist & Mind of the Market

A couple of CATO events that struck a cord with me lately.

Tyler Cowen discussed his new Book Discover your Inner Economist in a recent CATO event. I haven’t read the book, but I found the event discussion quite engaging. The objections that I’ve had to beancounters for all of my life were touched on numerous times. They miss the portions of human interaction that can’t be quantified with numbers in a ledger, and consequently make wrong decisions when it comes to directing business expenses.

He’s in a CATO weekly video here discussing incentives within a family setting:


read more | digg story

Then there’s Micheal Shermer’s CATO event where he is discussing his new book The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics. I didn’t find his presentation as compelling, but he presented several observations that I found thought provoking.

[My major beef with Shermer is a common problem that I’ve observed over time. He mistakenly uses the word ‘Altruism’ when he means ‘charity’ (“reciprocal altruism” should be “reciprocal charity”; as in a transaction where there is no profit outside the charitable benefit. Altruism is not charity]

Here’s the CATO video With Shermer:

read more | digg story

They’re both on CATO daily podcasts as well.

This discussion is related to the discussion of health care and private markets, believe it or not. The average American is letting his desire for security override his common sense on this (and other) issues. Just figured I’d point out some resources for those who can’t wrap their heads around the idea of free markets.

The Health care Problem

Health care. Again.

I got slapped so hard by people who just love the idea of Single Payer Health care systems (and I don’t care what the Wiki article says on the subject. Tax funded health care is socialized medicine. Calling it anything else is attempting to sugarcoat the pill) when I sent out my Sicko comments the other day, I decided to do a little digging and see if I could find some hard evidence on the subject. Luckily I didn’t have to look too far.

CATO just happened to sponsor Health Care University 2007 about a month ago. If you listen to the podcasts, you might be shocked to learn a few things. Arnold Kling visits his article Government and Health Care: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and discusses what does and doesn’t work in currently instituted government programs.

Suppose that instead of looking at health care policy as a means to push an ideology or score political points, we examine it from a pragmatic American vantage point. What works? What does not work? What backfires? Those are the good, the bad, and the ugly, respectively. The table below summarizes our experience in terms of three goals of health care policy: improving access to care; improving the quality of care; and lowering the cost of our health care system.

Government and Health Care: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

A CATO scholar that thinks government can contribute positively to the health care problem? Shocking! But oddly, making very good arguments.

Michael D. Tanner
talks about what doesn’t work in the health care systems around the world. Things like innovation that isn’t available anywhere else but here. That there aren’t any single payer systems that work;

When you look at single payer systems, you can divide them into two categories, those that work, and those that are actually single payer systems.

In Canada, 800,000 people are on the waiting list for treatment. In the UK today, 40% of all cancer patients never get to see an oncologist (because they die before seeing them) (The UK NHS Wiki article shows the same heavy handed bias as the other article I linked to above. I’m thinking theres a gov’t employee who is paid specifically to insure that the wiki article on NHS stays pro-NHS. If everything is so good, why are there so many articles on NHS problems on the web?) in terms of survival rates, the US ranks number one in cancer survival, the UK ranks 16th.

The government health care systems that equate to the quality of the U.S. health care systems, like in France, feature co-payment plans with co-pays as high as 40%. This is not a single payer system. In fact, it’s not much different from the system we find ourselves in here in the U.S.

The problems with the U.S. system are problems that have been beaten to death already, as far as discussion goes. Mandates don’t work (Massachusetts is a stellar example of this) percentages of uninsured motorists exceed the percentages of those people who have no health insurance, in areas where automobile insurance is mandated.

Employer provided health insurance doesn’t work. It has given rise to the problems we currently have.

Just paying for the insurance has the same problems as employer provided insurance. Those who use the service do not have to pay the costs of the service. (and will be indistinguishable from any other gov’t welfare system; e.g. demand will far exceed supply, costs will spiral, and rationing will once again be necessary) This is also not a solution.

So, what is the solution? Well, Health Care University 2007 didn’t offer one (at least in the podcasts) but I would think that for the U.S., the solution is obvious. Get the government out of health care as much as possible. At least provide tax incentives for individuals to purchase their own health care, with plenty of choices; in other words, not just incentives for health insurance, but incentives for health savings accounts. (HSA’s are extremely unpopular with insurance companies, and insurance companies are active lobbyists. Consequently, you won’t hear about them during the evening news soundbites) Remove regulations that strangle the insurance industry. If you want more, visit CATO’s voluminous Research Areas on the subject.

As someone who pays for his (and most of his families) health care costs out of pocket, I have to say that it isn’t the day to day costs that are a problem; it isn’t even the “what if you child breaks a bone?” type accidents that are a problem.

No, the problem arises when you have a chronic ailment that requires costly procedures, and most of the time these types of ailments will get your insurance (under the current system) canceled. Of what use were those $300 a month family health care coverage payments worth then?

HSA, HSA, HSA. I don’t think I can repeat that enough. Let me save that money myself, and after a few years, I won’t even need insurance coverage other than catastrophic care (which I dare you to find these days. Seriously, have you seen one?) so why would I need government assistance at all?


Editor’s note, 2019. Health Savings Accounts were a chimera.

Critics contend that low-income people, who are more likely to be uninsured, do not earn enough to benefit from the tax breaks offered by health savings accounts. These tax breaks are too modest, when compared to the actual cost of insurance, to persuade significant numbers to buy this coverage.

Wikipedia

The writing on the wall is and will always be that the cost of healthcare is more than anyone not in the 1% can afford. That is, if you live long enough to get cancer or a chronic illness. Someone has to pay for the professionals to research and create cures for the health ills of every human being, and the healthy simply don’t care about the cost of maintaining their health until they become ill. Then they go bankrupt trying to repair something that would have been more cheaply fixed had they not ignorantly broken it.

…things like, sleeping only four hours a night because insomnia keeps you awake for most of the night anyway, so why bother going to bed unless you are so tired that you almost doze off while chewing your dinner? Had I thought to look into sleep deprivation or sleep problems sooner, I might have worked a lot later in life. Believing I didn’t need a doctor to tell me what my problems were was my fool for a patient moment without having to go through all those years of residency and schooling.

To use the phrase socialized medicine is to repeat oneself needlessly. All medicine contains costs borne by the public at large. All of it. It is a classic case of an economic externality, which is why businesses toss the cost of healthcare around like a hot potato. No one wants to foot the bill, therefore everyone must be forced to foot the bill. How that cost is paid equitably, while providing access to limited facilities equitably? That is the really hard and important question. One that I am finally fully cognizant of lacking the knowledge and expertise to solve. It’s about fucking time, if I do say so myself.

How about NO income tax?

So, I’m catching up on the podcasts, walking the dogs, and I spend an hour listening to CATO pundits and others go on about The Simplified Tax: A Bold Plan to End the AMT and Overhaul the Income Tax and I’m thinking to myself the whole time “How about NO income tax?”

We funded all the necessary functions of goverment for 150 years without one, why do we need on now? Beyond that even; what business is it, of anybodies, how much you make? Your employer needs to know so he can cut the checks, and you need to know so that you know how much you have to spend, save, invest, etc.

They tell you, in most corporations “don’t discuss wages with other employees, it’s a sensitive subject” but if I can’t talk about it with Bob over a beer, why would I want to discuss it with the tax man? Let alone be compelled to avow to it in writing on penalty of additional taxes being levied?

No thanks on that one. I think I’m pleading the fifth the next time the subject comes up.

The income tax needs to end (as well as 90% if the other taxes currently in existence) and not be replaced with anything. If they need additional funds to run the government, they can just sell more lottery tickets.

What to do When Pulled Over

That’s the question that’s answered in the CATO Daily Podcast episode Free Riding featuring Timothy Lynch.

If you just want the information (especially since he’s not offering legal advice) it’s probably simpler to just go to this link to the ACLU and get their wallet card that covers the basics; such as:

IF YOU’RE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR


1. Upon request, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. In certain cases, your car can be searched without a warrant as long as the police have probable cause. To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a sob story involving someone consenting to a search when they just knew their vehicle was clean. The answer should always be “I’m sorry, but I do not consent to a search”.

If you want to go beyond “police encounters 101” then you might want to check out the video at Flex Your Rights called Busted. I haven’t seen it myself, but the blurb on the website sounds interesting.

HillaryCare II: Just as bad as HillaryCare I

While I consider Hillary’s Connect America plan more sinister than HillaryCare II, the prospect of the federal gov’t taking over healthcare isn’t any less of a threat. Take this as an example:

The centerpiece of HillaryCare II is an individual mandate, which is a fancy way of saying she would force everyone to purchase health insurance or face penalties. But where the government mandates that you buy insurance, the government defines what “insurance” is. That means the government will be designing your health coverage, with the help of legions of special interests with more political influence than you have.

CATO – HillaryCare II: Just as bad as HillaryCare I

I’m on record as being glad I’m not personally paying for full coverage health insurance; further, I think anyone who willing shells out between three and six hundred dollars a month just on the off chance that someone in the family will get sick, probably needs to see a shrink. On their own money, if necessary.

Consequently, the prospect of Hillary having agents of government show up on my doorstep in order to force me to pay for her version of what she defines as insurance doesn’t inspire me to do more than contemplate taking up life as a hermit. (the wife won’t go for the cave dwelling, though)

Even worse, there isn’t a candidate with a proposal on the table that I actually would consider a positive move, other than Ron Paul.

No, the health care crisis has been a crisis for so long that free market solutions are starting to spring up. (as was noted elsewhere)

Thanks to the horrors of dealing with insurance companies, many doctors are establishing cash-only practices with lower prices, and they are advertising these prices to attract customers!

Still other companies are being created to provide a wide range of basic medical services at lower pre-published prices with shorter waiting times. They are doing this inside shopping malls!

DownsizeDC – Rob your insurance company

All that needs to occur now is for the Federal government to wash their hands of the entire healthcare problem (including regulating the insurance industry, and giving tax credits to employers only) and the rest will work itself out.


Editor’s note, 2019. I love the fact that this is almost completely cribbed from other sources, including the title. I might have deleted this from the Blogspot archive, the second article I’ve found missing today. I hate it when I just do what other people tell me to do, like spreading the word as directed by Perry Willis in the DownsizeDC article most of this comes from. Restored from the wayback machine.

The Best Laid Plans: Transportation

Another CATO daily podcast episode featuring Randal O’Toole; I think I may have to buy his book. Sort of a follow-up to Zoning’s Best Laid Plans this one discusses the shell game of mass transit vs highway funding. Very informative.

The Best Laid Plans: Transportation

There’s also Debunking Portland: The City That Doesn’t Work for those Austinites curious to know what your city planning department wants to subject you to.

Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. –George Santayana

This struck me as an appropriate quote to answer the inevitable questions of “why” one would go back in time and tarnish the good name of FDR by equating him with Hitler and Mussolini (and to some extent, Stalin) I have long thought that Roosevelt’s reign as president was anything but good; and it would be hard to paint many of his actions with a more dingy color than the facts already contain.

However, there are socialist instructors in our gov’t run schools to this day, and they insist on placing FDR on a pedestal and crediting him with ending the Great Depression and saving the world from fascism; when nothing could really be further from the truth.

Here’s a snippet from the review of the book Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933 – 1939, by Wolfgang Schivelbusch over at CATO’s website:

FDR himself praised the Prussian-German model: “They passed beyond the liberty of the individual to do as he pleased with his own property and found it necessary to check this liberty for the benefit of the freedom of the whole people


read more | digg story

The Great Depression only got to be the great depression through gov’t intervention in the markets, both before and after the stock market collapse in 1929; and it would be hard to say that FDR saved us from fascism when he was so enamored of it. Fascism exists to this day in the US because of this man; and it continues to persist because people refuse to learn from history, to their own detriment.