Tea Party demands to eliminate the Medical Device Tax in the ACA are based on a lie

October 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

During the recent debt ceiling debacle in Congress, Tea Partyers were demanding that the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act be eliminated. This is yet another example of politicians trying to sell a bill of goods to the American people in the guise of shrinking government and lowering our debt. The truth is, in fact, quite the opposite.  The medical-device industry waged an intense lobbying campaign –– spending more than $50 million — even garnering the support of many Democrats who favored the law — arguing that the tax would stifle innovation and increase health care costs.

According to an investigative report by the New York Times, this argument is doubly disingenuous. Not only can the medical-device industry easily afford the tax without compromising innovation, but the industry’s enormous profits are a result of anticompetitive practices that themselves drive up medical-device costs unnecessarily. The tax is a distraction from reforms to the industry that are urgently needed to lower health care costs.

The medical-device industry faces virtually no price competition. Because of confidentiality agreements that manufacturers require hospitals to sign, the prices of the devices are cloaked in secrecy. This lack of transparency impedes hospitals from sharing price information and thus knowing whether they are getting a good deal.

Even worse, manufacturers often maintain personal relationships (sometimes involving financial payments like consulting fees) with physicians who choose the medical devices that their hospitals purchase, creating a conflict of interest. Physicians often don’t even know the costs of the devices, and individual physicians often choose devices on their own, which weakens a hospital’s ability to bargain for volume discounts.

Such anticompetitive practices obviously contribute to higher prices in general. For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that prices for cardiac implantable medical devices in the United States vary by several thousand dollars. And even the lowest-priced devices in the United States are expensive compared with those in other developed countries. According to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the United States spends about 50 percent more than expected on the top five medical devices, compared with Europe and Japan. McKinsey calculates that this amounts to $26 billion in excessive spending each year.Medicare, private health insurers and patients end up paying these inflated prices.

Excessive prices fuel enormous profits — profits that dwarf both the medical-device tax and the industry’s investments in research and development. Consider the device division of Johnson & Johnson, which in 2012 had an operating profit of $7.2 billion. By the company’s own estimate, the device tax would amount to at most $300 million, and its investment in research and development amounts to only $1.7 billion.

There are several ways policy makers could lower device costs. The first step would be to end the anticompetitive practices that prevent hospitals from getting the best deals. 

Currently, medical-device manufacturers allocate only a sliver of profits to research and development and often focus on “tweaks” to existing devices, without providing any evidence that they are of better quality. Competitive pressures from public and private payers would provide incentives for the industry to become more innovative, producing technologies that actually lowered costs and offered truly advanced breakthroughs.

Instead of using its clout to lobby against the device tax — which helped foment opposition to the Affordable Care Act — the medical-device industry needs to share the responsibility of lowering costs for patients, businesses and taxpayers.

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Sarah Palin: Why Is She Still Important?

February 11, 2010 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It seems that some politicians are given a free-pass when it comes to even the most basic knowledge. Take Sarah Palin. If you look at the list of statements that this woman has made over the last 3 years, it is mind boggling that anybody would ever want her as the leader of the free world. Let’s review her history here:

This is the same woman who told Charlie Gibson of ABC in a nationally televised interview that her foreign policy expertise included the fact that Russia could be seen from an island off the coast of Alaska. This, I might add, is an island that Palin had never once set foot upon. “You never know when ole Mr. Putin is gonna come flyin’ over here…”. Yep. She actually said that.

When asked which periodicals and publications she has been reading to keep up on national and world affairs, Palin told Katie Couric that she reads “them all”. Whenever Palin is baffled by a question she uses her standard “I like ’em all” answer, and that’s what she did. To this day, we still do not know what Palin reads to keep informed about national issues. Until four years ago, she never even had a passport and had never left the United States.

Sarah Palin has stated publicly that she does not accept the theory of evolution, not even understanding the meaning of the term “theory”, and that she believes in a literal translation of the Bible. This means Palin believes mankind walked alongside living dinosaurs and that the world is only 6,000 years old. Of course, when asked which book of the Bible she likes most, she would no doubt say, “I like ’em all.” Certainly, people are free to believe whatever they like, but Palin’s rejection of the scientific method hardly makes her the ideal leader of a nation of 300 million people which share a variety of beliefs.

When asked by Glenn Beck who her favorite Founding Father was, Palin stumbled with the question, then said– you guessed it– “I like ’em all.” When pressed by Beck, Palin said she liked George Washington the most, not knowing that Washington was a general and not one of the Founding Fathers. Furthermore, in her stone ignorance, she chose a man who actually favored a strong central government as well as the formation of a national bank. In other words, George Washington stood for everything that Palin says she is against. More recently, when asked what notable role Paul Revere played in the Revolution, she said he “warned the British” that they couldn’t just “come over here and take our guns…” by “ringing bells” and repeatedly firing his muzzle-loaded flint-lock rifle.

Probably one of Ms. Palin’s most hysterical misstatements occurred during the campaign when she referred to “the great country of Africa”. More recently, she didn’t seem to know why there was a North and South Korea. One has to wonder if she can’t figure out who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb.

During a Tea Party convention, Palin made several insulting remarks about President Obama, one of which accused him of being “a law professor lecturing the American people behind a lecturn using a teleprompter.” Of course, she failed to realize that she was doing precisely the same thing, only she was using the palm of her hand instead of a teleprompter.

What Palin is best known for is her bald-faced lie about “death panels” during and after the health care reform debate. Despite the fact that every fact checking organization had debunked that outrageous lie, Palin has stuck to her guns. Of course, she would never admit that private insurance companies already utilize de facto death panels by denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and canceling the policies of people who become ill.

Palin has referred to President Obama on numerous occasions as a socialist, but refuses to provide her definition of the term, no doubt because she doesn’t have it written on the palm of her hand. She doesn’t care that Obama hasn’t nationalized a single business, nor has he put any government employees into the boardrooms. Of course, Palin believes that Obama should have just let the auto companies fail, even though doing so would have caused hundreds of thousands of Americans to lose their jobs and essentially turned over that industry to foreign manufacturers. In recent weeks, we have learned of the remarkable rebound of the US auto industry and the fact that they have repaid most of the funds that the Obama administration LOANED to them. Not surprisingly, you won’t hear Sarah Palin talking about that.

In a closed meeting at the White House, Rahm Emanuel told a group of liberal activists that their idea to air attack ads targeting conservative Democrats who were against the health care reform bill was “f’ing retarded”. Palin, who has inserted her special needs child into the political arena before, demanded that Emanuel immediately resign. Then, when Rush Limbaugh said on national radio that all Democrats are retards, Palin went on FOX News and defended Limbaugh’s use of the word and his characterization of all Democrats. While his use of the term was insensitive and inappropriate, Emanuel said that an idea was “f’ing retarded”, while Limbaugh was using the term to describe a group of people he doesn’t like. But, according to Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh should get a pass. This could be a blatant case of hypocrisy, but it could also be that Palin is just too dim to understand the difference between what Emanuel and Limbaugh said.

Sarah Palin never speaks in specifics and is always on the attack, never offering a single constructive alternative. Why? Because she doesn’t know what the specifics are. It is far easier to make insinuations, and attack with empty-headed sarcasm than it is to develop your own well thought out ideas and articulate them in a comprehensible manner. We all get a good laugh about Sarah’s gaffes, but the time to stop laughing has come. This is a person who is building a political movement on the cult of her personality. She is a classic fascist masquerading as a populist who has managed to win the hearts and minds of far too many Americans. Even if she never ran for president, her influence on our political process and election outcomes could do great damage to the country.

Elia Kazan, the Academy Award-winning film director, said many years ago that the greatest danger to our democracy would be having person of no ability or intellect elected to high office based solely on their personal charm.

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Time to focus on the truth, not the liars.

August 18, 2009 at 9:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

This information has been derived from various websites, such as AARP.com, PoliticFact,com and FactCheck.org, in addition to the several public statements made by President Obama on the subject of health care reform. I’ve only relied on mass media information when it has cited specific sources, such as the recent study conducted at Emory University and various official statements by AARP.

Below are just a few of the most pervasive lies and fear tactics which have been spread by the insurance companies and various extremist groups:

1. Death Panels: This is so absurd, it barely warrants a response. The ‘end of life’ counseling item was added to the House bill by a Republican (Grassley) and it is something which has already existed in previous health care legislation. It simply means that meetings between a family and a doctor concerning important decisions, such as hospice care, would be covered. Section 1233 of the House bill would allow Medicare for the first time to cover patient-doctor consultations about end-of-life planning, including discussions about drawing up a living will or planning hospice treatment. Patients would, of course, seek out such advice on their own — they would not be required to. The provision would limit Medicare coverage to one consultation every five years. The only “death panels” we have now are the ones owned and operated by the private, for-profit insurance companies, which decide who will be covered and how much it will cost.

2. You don’t get eye care till you go blind: A curious claim by opponents of health care reform, since no proposal being considered mentions blindness, macular degeneration, or the word “sight”. Since the vast majority of people who suffer from macular degeneration are elderly white women, this claim has been an effective scare tactic and no doubt incited many seniors to scream at anybody who supported reform.

3. Socialized medicine: This is an oft-repeated yet totally unfounded claim, given that the government wouldn’t be taking over anything and that no plan currently being considered would put any doctors, nurses, technicians or therapists on the government payroll (not even the so-called “public option” does that). Genuine socialized medicine precludes any choices for the consumer, and that is obviously not the case with either of the reform bills being proposed. What we have right now is a form of corporate socialism (more accurately “corporate fascism”), where a handful of insurance company executives and non-physician actuaries make life-or-death decisions about who will be denied coverage and how high premiums will go. The only thing that the government would administer is the public option, which is only a small part of reform bills being proposed.

4. “I don’t want the government messin’ with my Medicare!” An amazing complaint, considering that Medicare is administered by the federal government, and that most seniors are extremely happy with their coverage. Medicare is in financial trouble, not because of government mismanagement, but because of sky-rocketing medical costs. Unless those costs are brought under control, Medicare will go into the red, taxes will go up and the deficit will continue to explode. It is important to note here that nearly 3/4’s of our annual deficit is driven by just three things: social security payments, military spending, and Medicare coverage. Given that fact, if you’re a genuine conservative, health care reform should be at the top of your “Things-to-Do” list. Under the House proposal, Medicare costs would be reduced, primarily by eliminating waste and fraud, and service to seniors would probably improve. Also, Medicare and Medicaid would be expanded, to accommodate the increasing numbers of seniors in the population. The Boomers.

5. Rationing of medical care for the elderly: There is no such provision in either of the bills currently being considered. In fact, Medicare would remain untouched. Of course, reducing health care costs across the board would ensure that Medicare avoids going into the red. This is yet another scare tactic employed by various anti-reform groups that has zero basis in fact. Americans will not face “rationing” in health care any more than they do now. While a public plan would not be able to cover all procedures, private insurance plans don’t either.

6. The public option will drive people away from private insurers. This is one of the more frequently repeated lies being spread around the internet. This scenario could only happen if private insurers refused to cut their operating costs, lower premiums, and become competitive– which is capitalism in action. Plenty of private companies compete with government-run entities. FedEx and UPS have done quite nicely despite the United States Postal Service. Also, there are many private universities that have flourished despite the less expensive and more ubiquitous state colleges and universities. In any case, the rates of pay to providers would be negotiated and not dictated by the public option. Given that, if private insurers still can’t compete with the public option, then they should probably close their doors anyway. The whole notion that a profit motive should dictate the quality of health care in the United States is immoral anyway. There are plenty of other industries where making a buck is perfectly acceptable. But we’re talking about people’s lives here and the fact that far too many hard-working Americans are going bankrupt every year because they can’t afford decent medical coverage or get coverage at any price because of a previous condition. The legislation in both the House and the Senate would actually prohibit many people with employer-based insurance from switching to the public option, even if they wanted to. The primary purpose of the public option is to provide coverage for people who would otherwise not be able to afford insurance. Period. People and blogs which state otherwise are simply using scare tactics. For every dollar spent on health care in the United States, 31¢ goes to administrative costs. And, of that 31¢, a significant portion is paid out in monumental bonuses to insurance company executives and media costs such as those that are being sustained by the massive disinformation campaign currently being waged by the insurance industry against reform. FACT: The CBO estimates the House bill would result in a net increase of 3 million Americans with employer-provided care.

7. I don’t want my tax dollars payin’ for any baby killin’! This is another hot button issue for conservatives and it was an obvious choice for those who wanted to derail any calm discussion of health care reform. Of course, there are no provisions in either of the bills being considered in Congress which call for or endorse federal funding of abortions-on-demand. This would be illegal anyway, because it is expressly forbidden by the Hyde Amendment, which limits federal funding for abortion care. Effective in 1977, this amendment, specifies what abortion services are covered under Medicaid. In September 1993, Congress rewrote the provision to include Medicaid funding for abortions in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, and the present version of the Hyde Amendment requires coverage of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. Again, this was a Republican sponsored amendment which passed during a Democratic administration. Again, opponents of health care reform have taken some of the wording in the current reform proposals out of context, ignoring the fact that this issue is already covered in previous health care legislation– just like the so-called “death panels” issue. Most important of all, NOBODY has ever said anything about trying to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which would require an act of Congress. The likelihood of that ever happening is about zero. The fact is that health care reform proposals have to be neutral on this issue or they would risk being thrown out by the Supreme Court.

8. “I’m not payin’ for no wetback free health care!” Both reform bills being considered make it quite clear that this will not happen. Repeating over and over and over again that illegal immigrants would get free medical care under those bills does not make it a fact. It’s not. The quickest way to derail any kind of genuine reform is to start stacking other controversial and highly complex issues on top of it. That is exactly what right-wing anti-Obama groups and the insurance companies are trying to do. The handling of illegal immigration is a totally separate issue that will probably take years to work out. Sticking it and other controversial problems onto the issue of health care reform is a less than subtle way of just saying you don’t want reform of any kind. The only way that an undocumented alien can get insurance coverage under President Obama’s plan IS TO PAY FOR IT! Many already do. Finally, the Welfare Act of 1996 is a federal law which strictly forbids any illegal immigrant from obtaining a federally subsidized benefit or service of any kind. Any health care reform bill would be required to conform to that law.

9. “President Obama is tryin’ to sneak the government into taking over our health care.” Obama has always been for single-payer health care, or a ‘Medicare for all’ system. He’s never been secretive about that. He has also made it quite clear that he knows that a sudden shift to such a system would be too disruptive, in addition to being politically unfeasible. What is interesting in this debate is that those who are attacking the single-payer system are actually attacking something that would benefit them. They’re against it because someone has told them that it’s “socialized medicine” and that the federal government is incompetent and evil. They blame the financial woes of Medicare and Medicaid on the government, ignoring the fact that sky-rocketing medical costs are the real culprit. Shockingly enough, they trust the insurance company executives who are driven by an out of control profit motive more than they would trust the government, which has myriad checks and balances in place. It is more than a little amazing that some people would condemn this president for putting the right of their fellow citizens to have affordable health care ahead of the profiteering and greed of the insurance industry. The notion that the federal government is eternally incompetent and insidiously evil goes back to the Civil War, when some states chose to secede from the Union rather than emancipate their slaves. What we’re seeing now is a new group of bellicose bigots who are willing to attack anything this black president tries to do, even if it would benefit them and their families in the end. By some unfathomable logic, these people are proud of the fact that THE UNITED STATES IS THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD WHICH DOES NOT OFFER ITS CITIZENS AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE.

There are so many liars out there who seem to be driven by something other than the facts about health care reform. Perhaps it’s anger that we have a black man sitting in the White House. As many commentators are saying now, this debate hasn’t been about health care reform for some time. It’s now about President Obama. That’s why we have people screaming in the faces of their elected representatives who are trying to dispel all the rumors and untruths.

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Michelle Malkin: A News Source for the Intellectually Impaired

August 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

If you’re looking for unbiased, thoroughly researched information on health care reform that doesn’t have an ideological agenda, you should know what Michelle Malkin’s blog page proudly states:

Comment moderation is turned on. If you support Barack Obama and intend to post comments supportive of him, your post will not be approved! There are probably hundreds of blogs and sites where you can play with the rest of the Obamabots. We don’t drink Kool-aid here.

In other words, Ms. Malkin will not tolerate opposing views, nor will she allow any scrutiny of her ideas. The only comments she permits are those that parrot back her twisted ideology. Have you ever seen Michelle Malkin actually listen to anybody? What kind of people actually believe that this person has any of the facts right? This is a person who has devoted her blog-life to providing whatever disinformation she can about anything that the current administration is trying to do. The lie du jour concerns health care reform. I’ve read through Ms. Malkin’s venomous blogs about so-called “Obamacare”, looking for any factual or objective remarks and can find none. The screamers at the Town Hall meetings are listening to the likes of Malkin and accepting their information without question. Why? One possible answer is that they share the same fundamental belief that a black man is incapable of leading this country. No amount of valid information will convince them that Barack Hussein Obama is anything but a racist, socialist, baby-killing, non-citizen thug who wants to take over their beloved country. This is why we’ve seen such extreme misbehavior at the town hall meetings.

Ms. Malkin refers to health care reform as a “massive entitlement program” that threatens the lives of unborn children and the elderly. She shovels out one half-truth after another, as well as outright lies about reform, saying that it will take $500 billion dollars out of Medicare, and deny essential care to the elderly. She has fed into the blatant lies about “death panels” and that the government would take over all health care under Obama’s plan. Of course, she throws the word “socialist” around as if she has any idea what it means, while ignoring the obvious fact that the government administers two very successful heath care entities already: the Veterans Administration and Medicare. Ms. Malkin has many seniors thinking that they will lose their Medicare coverage, with which they are very happy, and she has posted misleading articles about its financial condition. She implies that the system is on the verge of collapse and that costs will push seniors out of system, conveniently ignoring the fact that excessive health care costs across the board are the primary reason for Medicare’s problems. The entire purpose of health care reform is to lower those costs and bring more people into the system, which would widen the pool of premium payers. Also, Ms. Malkin ignores the fact that a “public option” would create, for the first time, real competition for insurance companies and an incentive to reduce costs. That is capitalism at work, not socialism.

Health care reform has to happen. Too many people can’t afford coverage and simply go bankrupt after paying for life-saving treatments. Many who have no health insurance use hospital emergency rooms as their primary health care provider, which has caused the closing of countless ERs and many hospitals. Ms. Malkin doesn’t mention who pays for all that, i.e. the tax payers. Millions of families lose everything and go bankrupt every year because they can’t afford coverage. Who pays for that? We do. Ms. Malkin also ignores the fact that health care costs are skyrocketing much faster than wages, which keeps pushing coverage beyond the reach of many families.

Ms. Malkin has posted articles which state that the current health care reform under consideration would mean government subsidized abortions. This, of course, conveniently ignores the existence of the Hyde Amendment, which forbids any such thing. But, knowing that abortion is a hot button issue for many people, Michelle Malkin milks it all she can and incites the kind of belligerent protests we’ve all seen at the town hall meetings. (By the way, Ms. Malkin refers to these people as “peaceful town hall protesters”, not realizing that the whole concept of a town hall meeting involves a civil exchange of information, which makes disruptive protests completely inappropriate and counterproductive). The primary objective of Michelle Malkin and other extremist bloggers is to enrich themselves while angering people who are too lazy or ignorant to get the facts on their own. Malkin makes it easy for them to confirm their own distorted and uninformed opinions. Then, these ideological puppets light their torches and head off to the town hall meetings, where they shout down other citizens who are there to learn all they can about the reforms being considered.

The fact is, doing nothing about health care costs will doom our economy. Small businesses will no longer be able to afford providing this all important benefit and fewer people will have any coverage. Medical costs will continue to spiral out of control and personal bankruptcies will increase exponentially as the population ages. Medicare will collapse and the United States will slide even further down the list of infant mortality and life expectancy statistics. Right now, this country ranks 37th in quality of health care. Slovenia has a better system than we do. Yet people who listen to Michelle Malkin are diametrically opposed to reform and say they “just want to be left alone”. These are misinformed, short-sighted tools of an insurance industry which made billions in profits last year and will make even larger profits this year. For-profit health care management has become as dangerous to our health and our economy as any terrorist organization or greedy Wall Street speculator.

The next time you visit Michelle Malkin’s blogs, look for any dissenting opinions which aren’t consistent with her right-wing, ultra conservative, 19th century agenda. You won’t find any. The greatest danger to our democracy is a misinformed, ignorant electorate. Michelle Malkin has made herself part of the problem, while offering no rational solutions. If you think Michelle Malkin speaks the truth, I suggest that you pay a visit to PolitiFact.com, a non-partisan, Pulitzer prize-winning group that is separating fact from fiction in this debate. Opponents of health care reform are the proud winners of several “Pants-On-Fire” awards, which means that they are lying through their teeth. Also, you can visit another site, FactCheck.org, to find out who is lying about what. Finally, the AARP site, which has resisted endorsing any specific reform plan, is an excellent source of unbiased information.

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