The Washington Post and Bloomberg News are sponsoring an economics-focused debate among the 2012 Republican presidential candidates tonight at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. In preparation for that debate, the news organizations produced three videos that examine some of the most common sound bites used during previous debates — and what’s factually wrong with them. The videos cover three distinct areas. Click here to view.
Category: Health Care
Research conducted by two professors of public health at Columbia University clearly illustrates what should be obvious about the disproportionately large percentage of the U.S. economy — 16 percent — that goes to health care: We spend more in the United States for doctors’ services because U.S. doctors charge higher prices than doctors in other countries. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch explores the issue in this editorial.
Many medical advances have saved lives and eased suffering for millions of people. Screening tests like mammograms can lead to early treatment of breast cancer, especially for women with hereditary risk or a strong family history of the disease. For cancer patients who report back pain, MRIs can prove invaluable for spotting tumors that have metastasized to the bones, allowing doctors to intervene before it’s too late.
The years between 1980 and 2004 saw a 50 percent decline in the death rate from coronary heart disease thanks to better treatments and drugs that reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. At least 7,300 lives are saved every year thanks to colonoscopies.
But as Sharon Begley reports in Newsweek, new research shows how some common tests and procedures aren’t just expensive, but can do more harm than good. And you will probably be surprised to learn what some of them are. Click here for the story.
Here’s a snapshot of the health care industry’s convoluted pricing apparatus, where prices get set according to who’s paying: insurers, the government, the patients or a combination. Medical care occupies an economic netherworld where customers can’t walk in off the street and see a price list — rather, scores of conflicting prices for the same treatment emerge in private negotiations between insurance companies and health providers.
The Missouri House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety heard testimony Monday on a measure that would make it illegal to practice medicine while intoxicated.
You mean it’s legal now?
The Associated Press reports the bill would make it a misdemeanor to perform surgery or a medical procedure while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The charge would be a felony if a patient were injured or killed. Supporters say the law could save patients from serious injuries or death at the hands of drug-addicted doctors.
Let’s hope the state or federal government didn’t bankroll an expensive study to reach that conclusion.
St. Louis attorney Paul Passanante said the law might deter physicians from performing improper surgeries or writing illegal prescriptions to support their habits. The Missouri State Medical Association opposes the measure, arguing lawmakers should instead make it easier for the state to confiscate a doctor’s license.
Maybe the next step is to install breathalyzers in operating rooms.
Wonder why health care costs are so high? Perhaps the millions being paid in bonuses and retirement packages to Blue Cross Blue Shield CEOs, in honorariums to board members, and for charter flights and Caribbean junkets could be among the reasons why premiums are rising at a double-digit clip.
With a Democrat incumbent in the White House, the only speculation for the 2012 race centers on Republican presidential hopefuls. Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe analyzes the prospects of the might-be candidates, putting them in three categories: Believable, conceivable, and unachievable. Conservative columnist George Will offers his take take on Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and the spotlight-chasing candidates of 2012. Dan Balz of the Washington Post offers insight on whether Gingrich has what it takes to make a run.
About three-quarters of voters like President Obama personally, but a small majority don’t like his policies, according to this Quinnipiac University poll.
PolitiFact, a project of the St. Petersburg Times that digs for the truth in American politics, took at look at a statement made by Rep. Eric Canton that the Affordable Care Act is a “job killer.” Cantor, obviously, isn’t the only Republican lawmaker who has made this claim.
Republicans point to a study that claims that the health care law will result in 1.6 million lost jobs. That number comes from a study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The problem with this study, PoltiFact points out, is that it isn’t based on the law that passed. It was published on Jan. 26, 2009, before a finalized House or Senate bill had even been proposed. There may be some problems with the legislation, but suggesting it will kill jobs isn’t the issue it is being made out to be, according to PolitiFact, which concluded:
Republicans have used the “job-killing” claim hundreds of times — so often that they used the phrase in the name of the bill. It implies that job losses will be one of the most significant effects of the law. But they have flimsy evidence to back it up.
The phrase suggests a massive decline in employment, but the data doesn’t support that. The Republican evidence is extrapolated from a report that was talking about a reduction in the labor supply rather than the loss of jobs, or based on measures that weren’t included in the final health care law. We rate the statement False.
Republicans spent most of 2010 campaigning on the promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act signed into law last year. The “repeal” part could come as early today with what is viewed as a largely symbolic vote in the GOP-controlled House. No one expects any potential overhaul to advance beyond the House without a plan to replace it, and so far Republicans have offered few specifics on that part of their campaign pledge.
Polls find the public divided over the law and whether it should be repealed. A recent Associated Press-GfK survey found a 43 percent plurality wants the law changed so that it does more to re-engineer the health care system. About one in four said it should be repealed completely. Fewer than one in five in the AP poll said the law should be left as it is and 10 percent want to change it to do less. So the common theme underneath the rhetoric seems to be to keep the good parts and replace the bad ones — if Democrats and Republicans can agree to do that.
But here are a couple of things we do know right now, and which Republican legislators, in particular, we should be paying close attention to. Popular opposition to reform seems to be weakening, insurers are backing away from their opposition, and the healthcare industry itself, right now, is one of the major sources of job growth in the U.S. economy, 10 months after the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land. The longer such trends continue, the harder it will be for Republicans to sustain their campaign to throttle reform.
Freshman Rep, Bobby Schilling, R-17, favors portions of the Affordable Care Act, such as allowing adult children to remain on their parents’ health care plan until age 26 and the provision making it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing condition. That falls in line with a growing number of Americans who agree with those provisions, along with the mandate for insurance companies to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of premiums on medical services, rather than on administrative costs. There are a lot of provisions for businesses that most people think should be retooled or eliminated entirely.
Much of what Republicans do will be symbolic, given that Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. But the quick action will allow Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the incoming speaker, and House Republicans to follow through on campaign pledges and to try to establish their party as a bulwark against what they see as an out-of-control government.
After all, the proposal to cut legislators’ budgets by 5 percent will make only a tiny dent in the federal budget, the vote to repeal the health care reform law is widely expected to be dead on arrival when it makes it to the Senate, and detractors dismiss the planned reading of the Constitution on the House floor as a publicity stunt.
But according to incoming Republican House freshmen and the small-government adherents who fueled their rise to power, these first steps that the new Congress plans on taking have real and potentially far-reaching implications.
Those who had hoped to see a glimpse of the much-advertised Republican plan to revive the economy and put Americans back to work will have to wait at least until party leaders finish their Beltway insider ritual of self-glorification. Then, they may find time for governing.
John Boehner takes the Speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi today, and the transfer represents much more than a change in partisan control. It marks perhaps the sharpest ideological shift in the House in 80 years, and it could set the stage for a meaningful two-year debate over the role of government and the real sources of economic prosperity.
We say “could” because much depends on which Republican Party chooses to show up. Will it be the incumbent-protection and business interest-group machine that prevailed under the final years of Tom DeLay? Or will it remember that the real sources of it power and legitimacy are the tea party activists and independents who voted for Republicans in November? So far the signs suggest the latter, but the forces of Beltway inertia are formidable and will weigh on the drive to change the politics of K Street perks and payoffs.
The phrase “government takeover of health care” has been the biggest political punchline of 2010. It was the brainchild of consultant Frank Luntz, who urged Republican leaders to use it to attack President Barack Obama’s plan to overhaul the country’s health insurance system, and it stuck.
PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ independent fact-checking website that serves as a watchdog for what politicians of all stripes say and do, has chosen “government takeover of health care” as the 2010 Lie of the Year. While not debating the merits of the legislation, the authors say the phrase was uttered so often that it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections.