Friday, January 8, 2010

Quick DemCare Update

There's not a whole lot to report on the DemCare front because the buy-offs negotiations are going on in secret, and no one knows that they involve except for Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. In fact, they're so secret that even Democrats are getting huffy about it:

Yep, that's a Democrat who is quite plainly saying that his own leadership is holding out on both the American people and their own members. If only we could count on guys like this to actually stand up to their leadership when the time came for an actual vote.

Nevertheless, we push forward. There are a couple of DemCare details worth mentioning here.

Barack Obama has now endorsed the Senate plan of raising taxes on the 'Cadillac' health care plans of union members. The thing I don't understand is how Obama can throw every single one of his political allies under the bus whenever he feels like it, and they still bow down to him. Doesn't say much for their intelligence, if you ask me. Anyway, there are supposedly a whole bunch of Dems who will fight the Cadillac plan tax, but I don't buy it - it just means more buy-offs that you and I will be forced to pay for are on the way. Yay.

Another dirty secret follows the age-old first rule of politics: follow the money. If you see some doc groups suddenly endorsing DemCare now, take a look at how their own bottom line would be affected by it, courtesy of the AMA's special sweetheart deal:

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Dahl, a Maryland doctor and a former assistant chief at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, posits in a letter to the editor:

[While] Democrats are touting the AMA’s endorsement, little has been reported in the media that a large portion of the AMA’s income (the exact amount will not be released by the AMA) stems from the exclusive rights to the medical billing codes that doctors are required to use when they submit bills to insurance plans.

These are essentially the same as a bar code, and are used for nearly every medical procedure, from appendectomies to heart transplants. This arrangement results from a once-secret deal established in the 1980s whereby the AMA maintains and updates the codes at no cost to the government, but generates millions each year selling the code books and software licenses to doctors and insurers. This enabled the government to streamline billing procedures for its insurance programs by setting a single code as the standard.

Pointing to a growing number of state medical societies that have come out against Obamacare, Dahl continues: “The AMA touts its proof of supporting doctors in that it is working to abolish the 21% Medicare payment cut to physicians scheduled for the coming year. However, we all know this would never take place, as millions would be dropped from the Medicare rolls. This is the reason only 17% to 19% of physicians belong to the AMA, and this number is dropping.”

In addition to the AMA’s ties with the government, a small group of influential hospitals appear to have received a little-known provision in House and Senate legislation that would allow them to gain millions in Medicare funding. The Washington Post reports that language in both bills “would reward hospitals in their Medicare spending, a dramatic change in the formula for parceling out the public dollars, which can account for as much as half of a hospital’s budget.”

“That could prove to be a windfall for some hospitals but a significant loss of funding for others, mostly those in big cities and the South,” the article says.

Yep, this is what happens when you have secret 'negotiations' and thousands of pages in a bill that no one knows about.

It looks like one of the ways DemCare is going to be paid for will be on the backs of states:

Momentarily putting aside the question of whether expanding the nation’s worst program counts as reform, expanding Medicaid poses yet problems, using Medicaid to cover the uninsured is appealing to federal lawmakers because they can share the burden of paying for it with the states. Most state officials, unlike Congress, actually have to balance a budget.

In their budgets for 2010, states made across the board spending cuts. 30 states made cuts to their K-12 education budgets, 30 states cut higher education, and 28 states even made cuts to Medicaid. And yet Congress expects these same states to increase spending on Medicaid by adding more people to the program.

Adding to these dim prospects is the fact that states have become more and more dependent on federal funding to meet their budgets. Federal funding for the states has increased 21.2 percent, mostly due to the stimulus bill. When these funds expire, which they will, it will be up to the states to either make further cuts to state programs or somehow come up with the funds themselves.

The states are currently facing a fiscal crisis. Adding to their financial obligations will only result in more drastic cuts to other state programs.
So, even if the federal government somehow manages to not raise taxes to pay for DemCare (which they won't), don't forget that your state government will be forced to raise taxes in their place. Does it really matter who is gouging you? Whether fed or state, it's still more taxation that takes money out of your pocket.

And that's what really infuriates people who know what they're actually doing. Brian Lamb sums it up in one very short, tidy sentence:
“If we pay for something and it’s the public’s business, we ought to be able to see how it’s done. It's just that simple.”
Too bad the Democrats have decided they're above that sort of thing.

There's my two cents.

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