Friday, August 14, 2009

Boogeyman, Wild Misrepresentations, and Blatant Falsehoods

David Axelrod, the Senior White House Advisor, recently sent out an email meant to calm public outrage and 'dispel myths' about health care reform. In it he quoted President Obama at a recent town hall meeting saying, “Where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed.”

Here is my disagreement with the President and his staff and the whole Democratic Party. I object to the President and Legislators enslaving an entire industry, stripping Americans of their rights and livelihood, and putting them at the mercy of the government for survival. This may sound like one of the President's 'wild misrepresentations,' but it is a very real claim and the essence of the legislation that the President is promoting. For evidence I quote Mr. Axelrod's email (material also available here) under the heading "8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage".

1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

After years of immersion in liberal philosophy, the above proposals may sound like a good thing. Discrimination for pre-existing conditions may be considered unjust. Incomplete coverage due to chronic illness because of lifetime caps may seem unfair. But let's use regular language to explain what the government is trying to do to the insurance industry. Uncle Sam is telling the men and women who make a living by selling insurance policies the following:

You must sell policies to everyone for the same price, no matter how much money you know you will lose in the process (points 1 and 5). You must bear the full burden of their care to extent that the Legislature deems necessary, irregardless of how much it will cost you (points 2 and 3). No matter how much money you lose on the customer, even if it sends your company to bankruptcy and your family to bread lines, you may not decline them coverage (points 4, 6, and 8). Despite the fact your customers are paying much less for their polices than the actual cost of the medical care, you may not increase their out-of-pocket expenses (point 2). Oh, and you've got to cover their adult children too (point 7).

This is slavery. Slavery is what the legislature is proposing for the insurance industry. Imagine such rules being implemented in any other industry. Imagine, for example, if you had the job of mowing lawns and these regulations were established in the lawn mowing industry: Imagine that you were told that you must mow everyone's lawn for the same price, regardless of how many hours it takes to mow or how big the lawn is. Imagine being told you have to accept every customer that came your way for that price, even if you knew you would lose money on the contract. Imagine being told that you had to mow your customers lawn as often as they wanted without charging them any extra. Imagine being told that not only did these customers had lifetime contracts with you, but so did their children. From here it's easy to imagine quitting the business or shooting yourself in the head.

Americans are intelligent enough to realize that the insurance industry cannot continue to exist under the proposed policies. If a company is not allowed to compensate for increased costs by raising prices, what will happen to it? It will cease to exist. Instead of coverage for all, there will be coverage for none. But of course, that may be the true purpose of the legislation- setting our path for true socialization of the entire health care industry.

President Obama and the opponents of freedom in the Legislature figure that Americans won't stir against such abject tyranny because they are picking on a despised industry. President Obama points out that the insurance industry profits have been 'too high.' Apparently he believes it is the job of the government to make sure we don't make too much money. We all have had beefs with insurance companies, so he and our representatives figure we won't mind if the government takes over their jobs. Here they are wrong.

Health insurance providers have been collectively written off as an evil industry in an effort to dehumanize them. We don't think of the reform bill affecting fellow Americans, but that it will punish a greedy profit-seeking industry. But that industry is privately owned and provides employment for over 400,000 Americans who count on those profits to feed their families. They are no different than Americans in any other industry, all of which are profit-seeking. Why should we expect or allow them to roll over and become a national sacrifice?

We will not allow their sacrifice because we know that freedoms taken away from one group of Americans means a loss of freedom for all Americans. If we begin to sacrifice the unalienable rights of some for our comforts and commodities, then our rights will never be safe again. Once we find ourselves outside of the majority interest, we too will find our rights forfeited for the 'good of society.' And so we will fiercely and passionately fight, since our own God-given liberties are at stake, for the rights of the men and women of the insurance industry. We see all too clearly that if they go down, we may find ourselves next on the chopping block of socialism.

Rusty Scalpel

This blog can be submitted for White House correction at


Jeff and Lori said...


I've enjoyed perusing the articles you've posted and find very little to disagree with. Your views are reasonable, logical, and ring true.

The more I learn about the health care reform as envisioned by President Obama and Congress, the more I fail to see how it can possibly be sustainable. And yet, I feel the same way about health care as it currently stands.

From reading your posts, this is what I understand of how you feel health care should IDEALLY be (Please correct anything that I've misunderstood):

Health care, while important, is a good or commodity, not a right. Therefore it should be allowed to function under the principles of the free market. Without government influence, it will regulate itself to increase in both quality and accessibility. As in the example of apples, as the price of health care increases, more medical professionals will be attracted to the profession, driving the supply up and ultimately lowering the cost of healthcare due to the abundance of medical personnel and facilities offering services.

This makes sense, but I have a hard time seeing how this would ever happen in our current situation, with price controls like medicare and medicaid in place. So, in your perfect world, these would be eliminated. Instead we would, say, keep the money we had been taxed to support government run programs, perhaps place it in a health care savings account, and use that to offset the costs of our healthcare needs.

So far, so good. But the healthcare system as it is set up now doesn't lend itself to a free market model. When I went to have a baby, the hospital didn't advertise "Epidurals, just $600, and anesthesia personnel available 24/7!" with the hospital across town saying "We'll give you an epidural for $350, and we'll throw in your episiotomy for free!" Most medical costs are very hidden. As the patient, all you know is the ultimate bill you pay after insurance. The "competition" isn't consumer driven. Instead prices are inflated by hospitals and medical providers to get as much money as possible from insurance companies that WILL pay in order to cover their losses from uncompensated care. Its a self destructive cycle that appears to have no end without LARGE health care reform. But even if that reform is to eliminate government programs, will that solve the problem? When people can't afford apples, they might buy oranges & save their money for when they REALLY need that apple. But when people can't afford health care, what do they do? What is your suggestion for those who are uninsured if health care were a free market? Because when people REALLY need healthcare, we give it to them regardless of their ability to pay, and that's expensive too.

Rusty Scalpel said...

I appreciate your comment and feel that you have represented my views accurately. I would love to see market-driven health care. I would also like to see a decrease in enrollment in both Mediare and Medicaid, although I do not think this is necessary for the market revolution.

I also agree with your synopsis of how health insurance hampers consumerism in health care. Patients with health insurance are much less cost-conscious than they are in other aspects of their lives. Meanwhile, health care providers attempt to maximize reimbursement from insurance companies and the government. In such a situation, it is difficult to see how health care prices are going to come down.

This is part of why I am such a fan of fee-for-service medical care. I am a strong advocate patients paying for services with cash and keeping a catastophic insurance plan, just in case. When patients directly pay for their procedures they are more likely to get low rates. In addition, providers are compelled to compete for prices.

For example, in a former residence of ours, a member of my family needed an expensive surgery that would not be covered by insurance. We called our local hospital to get a quote for the surgery. It some work to get a quote, but we were able to get one.

We then proceeded to call other hospitals and surgical centers in nearby towns, where we were able to find a center that would perform the procedure at less than a third than the quoted price of our local hospital. That's consumerism at work! But it get's better. We called back our local hospital with the other quotes and told them that we would like to do the surgery locally, but might be compelled by prices to go elsewhere. Our hospital countered by cutting their original quote by 40%- a savings of several thousands of dollars.

So consumerism can take place in our current health care system, especially for patients who will offer cash upfront- it's just not streamlined for it. If I were to ask for any health care reform from Congress, I would ask for law requiring clinics and hospitals to publicly post their prices. I think this would go a long way toward regulating the market- not with cumbersome legalitites, but with old-fashioned consumerism.

As for myself, I plan to open a fee-for-service practice. By accepting only payment from the customer (not accepting insurance), I can cut a sizable percentage of the costs from my clinic. I can avoid the headaches and extra staff needed for insurance billing and pass on the savings to my patients. They save money and my life is a whole lot easier.