Friday, August 28, 2009

Howard Dean: "No Tort Reform Because Congress Fears Trial Lawyers"

( - Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a medical doctor who served as governor of Vermont, said at a town hall meeting on Tuesday night that Democrats in Congress did not include tort reform in the health care bill because they were fearful of “taking on” the trial lawyers.

“This is the answer from a doctor and a politician,” said Dean. “Here is why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right? And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth. Now, that’s the truth.” LINK

As Ed Morrissey posted here, congress’s refusal to include tort reform in the legislative process makes the Democrats craven and rather callous in their efforts to bring down health care cost.

And, as Morrissey
wrote here, malpractice actions account for around 10% of ALL medical cost. But Ed also concedes that the “chances of any serious tort reform by a "congress full of lawyers" is not likely.”

President Obama has claimed that this nation can no longer afford the cost of healthcare and serious reform is needed. Dean says the writers of the bill chose not to take on the trial lawyers because it would create too many "enemies" at a time when "everybody else they were taking on" is more than enough. One has to wonder who Dean thinks "everybody else" is. With Obama already reaching agreements, (and support), with the giants in the pharmaceutical companies, and the health insurance industry--who have already spent 35 million in lobbying congress to defeat the public option, who are these mysterious enemies that Dean claims congress is taking on? But let's take a moment to look a little further into these "agreements" that are supposed to bring down health care cost.

The Great Pharmaceutical Company Pledge:

Obama said that drug companies have pledged to spend $80 billion over the next decade to help reduce the cost of drugs for seniors and help pay for a portion of Obama's health care legislation.

"This is a significant breakthrough on the road to health care reform, one that will make a difference in the lives of many older Americans," Obama said in the White House's Diplomatic Room.

He was joined by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee who struck the deal with the White House; Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Barry Rand, head of the senior citizens' advocacy group AARP. Notably absent was a representative from the pharmaceutical association.

"It was always designed to be an AARP event," said Ken Johnson, spokesman for the association. "We don't think we should have been invited to it." LINK

In 2007, U.S pharmaceutical companies took in $315 billion in revenues while making the claim the high prices of drugs were necessary for the industry to maintain its research and development. But, and independent report shows pharmaceutical companies actually spend more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they do on research and development. Should the “pledge” to Obama and the apparent “agreement” with the AARP go under the marketing portion of the drug company’s budget? Further questions have arisen over AARP’s involvement in the development of the healthcare plan. A recent post in Politico show’s the AARP in a struggle with the drug companies and their control over exclusive rights to sell biologics. A Senate committee is, (so far), planning to leave in this provision of the bill:

"At issue is the creation of a federal approval process for generic biologics, drugs such as insulin that are proteins made by living organisms. Name-brand drug makers want exclusive rights to sell biologics for 12 to 14 years before a similar generic version can be marketed. AARP is pushing for a shorter window.

"We believe strongly, along with many other consumer, business, labor, insurance, [pharmacy benefit managers], and provider groups, that a double digit exclusivity period is simply too long and therefore not acceptable. We would be explicitly negative if this is the bill the Committee reports out," Super wrote." LINK

Explicitly negative? If the AARP and Obama’s Democrats are concerned about bringing down health care cost, why not remove all exclusive rights? This “tangled web” continues here with this assertion from a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist:

"A senior pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, who opposes the AARP-sought changes, said the e-mail illustrates that the seniors' organization, which offers insurance products and could stand to gain from cheaper drug prices, puts its business interests before its public policy concerns.

"The worst kept secret in health care circles is that AARP is more about its insurance wing than it is about seniors. If this isn't the smoking gun, I'm not sure what is," the lobbyist said. "I can't believe that AARP would threaten the Senate with pulling its support for health reform for their insurance wing. They say they have a firewall. Some firewall, huh?" LINK

Which brings us full circle to the insurance industry. The LA Times reports that the health insurance industry has already spent valuable time and money while successfully entrenching legislation into Obama’s (strike) Kennedy’s bill:

"Reporting from Washington - Lashed by liberals and threatened with more government regulation, the insurance industry nevertheless rallied its lobbying and grass-roots resources so successfully in the early stages of the healthcare overhaul deliberations that it is poised to reap a financial windfall.

The half-dozen leading overhaul proposals circulating in Congress would require all citizens to have health insurance, which would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers -- many of whom would get government subsidies to help pay the companies' premiums....

..... The bills vary in the degree to which they would empower government to be a competitor and a regulator of private insurance. But analysts said that based on the way things stand now, insurers would come out ahead.

"The insurers are going to do quite well," said Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. "They are going to have this very stable pool, they're going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage and . . . they will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide -- plus their administrative costs." LINK

Does anyone care to guess who pays for these “full cost” of benefits? Perhaps the better question is how the President and the Democrats, (in their quest to have the government enter the health care industry), plan to bring down cost? Why not just ask a lobbyist? They seem to have everything figured out. And maybe this was what Dean meant when he said he didn’t think it was a good idea to take on “everybody else”. With the AARP, the insurance industry, and the pharmaceutical companies, and the full weight of their lobbyist entrenched; why not let the lawyers and tort reform into the fray? Or perhaps they’ve already paid their penance long before everybody else.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Krauthammer v. Palin---The "Death Panel" Debate

Charles Krauthammer wrote a column over at Town Hall. It begins with:

“Let's see if we can have a reasoned discussion about end-of-life counseling.

We might start by asking Sarah Palin to leave the room. I've got nothing against her. She's a remarkable political talent. But there are no "death panels" in the Democratic health care bills, and to say that there are is to debase the debate.”

In response, East of Eden* wrote:

Dear Mr. Krauthammer:

If one thinks that a "death panel" is always and only a handful of implacable bureaucrats -- be they doctors, scientists, ethicists or some other suitably selected expert -- functioning like a parole board or the rank and tenure committee at a university, then, of course, you will not find "death panels." Whether by incompetence or morally culpable indifference, those charged with designing "Obamacare," have conjured far more insidious death panels.

Consider but one part of 1233:


(A) IN GENERAL- For purposes of reporting data on quality measures for covered professional services furnished during 2011 and any subsequent year, to the extent that measures are available, the Secretary shall include quality measures on end of life care and advanced care planning that have been adopted or endorsed by a consensus-based organization, if appropriate. Such measures shall measure both the creation of and adherence to orders for life-sustaining treatment.

And now consider Pres. Obama's well-known remarks to Mr. Leonhardt of the NY Times:

"Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that’s part of what I suspect you’ll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now." LINK

Now, there is clearly much that is objectionable about Pres. Obama's comments. But the point is: Of course some supplicant will not be hauled before some tribunal. Rather the "death panel" will be further removed, more amorphous, hence more noxious yet no less real. No, the death panel will be that task force, or panel of experts, or "consensus-based organization," or "independent group that can give you guidance." And they will appropriate physicians as the mechanism of implementation, under the guise of incentives, but it will really be the coercive bureaucracy that routinely judges whether physicians meet the standards of care determined by our "consensus-based organization."

Or consider the "independent group that can give you guidance" now being used by the Veteran's Administration to counsel those facing difficult choices, in the grimly ironically titled "Your Life, Your Choices":

"Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

"Your Life, Your Choices" presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political "push poll." For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living." (from Jim Towey, "The Death Book for Veterans," WSJ, Aug 18, 2009)

Because he calls it a "death book", should we ask Mr. Towey to leave the room, too, as you have asked Ms. Palin to leave the room?

Our juries comprise 12 or perhaps a couple dozen citizens. But as you well know, some 500 hundred Athenians sat on Socrates' jury. Juries can be quite large or small. And "death panels" may be found behind an inconspicuous door, where sits a small handful of "health care jurists," waiting to give some anxious and fearful family our current President's idea of guidance.

Or death panels, Mr. Krauthammer, may be dozens or even scores of Dr. Robert Pearlmans, distributed throughout the country, perusing the health care data summaries prepared by technocratic lackeys, so that the Pearlmans may then anonymously conjure the protocols that will "guide" but "not be determinative of" some "incentivized" doctor as he or she "counsels"...who? those from the Greatest Generation? the Baby Boomers that promise to swell the ranks of Medicare recipients? my mother? you?...counseling that "You've had a good life; perhaps now is a good time to think about other options."

Our bureaucracy doubtless will not put a name plate on the door that says "Death Panel." But death panels there may be, nonetheless.

I do not know whether Sarah Palin is the only person in the room who saw through the ominous jigsaw that is HR 3200. But she is the one who named it. And while you have my sincerest respect, asking her to leave is simply ingracious..........END.

In this case, I'm inclined to agree with E of E, that while the term "death panel" may be considered extreme or even extraneous, I would submit that the intentional dialogue, (currently written in this healthcare bill), is indeed fraught with government intervention into our still private health care choices. Whether this remains the case, is, (hopefully), still up for debate.

* (note: "East of Eden" is a longtime friend who provides me with some reasonable insights from time to time, and prefers to remain anonymous)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Will Barack Obama Listen to His Financial Mentor?

Warren Buffet wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times warning us about soaring debts and deficits. But as recent as July 9th of this year, Buffet also called for a second stimulus. It doesn't take a financial genius to figure out these are conflicting assessments. But first let's look at Buffet's current warning in what he titles "The Greenback Effect". While Buffet applauds the efforts of George Bush, Obama, and the federal reserve in the "crisis" last fall, he warns that the levels of borrowing could crush this fragile economy if there is not fiscal reconciliation:

"The United States economy is now out of the emergency room and appears to be on a slow path to recovery. But enormous dosages of monetary medicine continue to be administered and, before long, we will need to deal with their side effects. For now, most of those effects are invisible and could indeed remain latent for a long time. Still, their threat may be as ominous as that posed by the financial crisis itself.

To understand this threat, we need to look at where we stand historically. If we leave aside the war-impacted years of 1942 to 1946, the largest annual deficit the United States has incurred since 1920 was 6 percent of gross domestic product. This fiscal year, though, the deficit will rise to about 13 percent of G.D.P., more than twice the non-wartime record. In dollars, that equates to a staggering $1.8 trillion. Fiscally, we are in uncharted territory.

Because of this gigantic deficit, our country’s “net debt” (that is, the amount held publicly) is mushrooming. During this fiscal year, it will increase more than one percentage point per month, climbing to about 56 percent of G.D.P. from 41 percent." (emphasis mine) LINK

While Buffet explains there are three ways to finance this enormous debt, he conveniently leaves out the one that could bring about fiscal responsibility:

"An increase in federal debt can be financed in three ways: borrowing from foreigners, borrowing from our own citizens or, through a roundabout process, printing money."

How about STOP SPENDING Mr. Buffet? Is this little fact not considered in your quest for financial stability? Could there possibly be ulterior motives? As much disdain I have for the folks at the Huffington Post, I can't help referring to this commenter:

"Warren Buffet frets about surreal deficits and how they might affect the economy. He heaps praise on both the Bush and Obama Administrations, and of course the Federal Reserve, for saving the world, but now saved, it's back to the business of growing his already obscene fortune, while perversely lecturing the country about living within its means.

Most of Mr. Buffet's core holdings (Wells Fargo, GE, American Express) were slated for destruction but for the "heroics" of trillions in bailouts/backstops. Just lucky, I guess. Nuthin' to do with a destroyed budget. Sure." link

Of course, the idiot that wrote about Buffet's op-ed in Huffpo titles his post, "Why Warren Buffet Must Support Taxes on the Super-Rich", complete with the ad hominem "pay their fair share" argument. (I've tried not to use the word "idiot" when describing the rhetorical regurgitation's of our lost liberal friends, but in this case, the man is simply AN IDIOT.)

Returning to "Buffets Baffoonery", after Warren proceeds to explain the remedies that suits his "priorities", the political ramifications enter the conversation:

"Even with these heroic assumptions, the Treasury will be obliged to find another $900billion to finance the remainder of the $1.8 trillion of debt it is issuing. Washington’s printing presses will need to work overtime. Slowing them down will require extraordinary political will. With government expenditures now running 185 percent of receipts, truly major changes in both taxes and outlays will be required. A revived economy can’t come close to bridging that sort of gap. Legislators will correctly perceive that either raising taxes or cutting expenditures will threaten their re-election. To avoid this fate, they can opt for high rates of inflation, which never require a recorded vote and cannot be attributed to a specific action that any elected official takes. In fact, John Maynard Keynes long ago laid out a road map for political survival amid an economic disaster of just this sort: “By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.... The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

Have you got this straight folks? Mr. Buffet is completely ignoring Obama and the Democrats spending spree, and advocating the process of inflation to provide cover for his political cronies. What's another few more dollars at the pump, or for that matter, insurance premiums can use a little boost, can't they? Oh wait, if Obama and the liberal socialist have their way, wouldn't this become more government debt?

From a Chicago Tribune article:

"Barack is here to increase the abundance, but to spread it around a little more so that it is inclusive prosperity," Buffett said.
Obama responded with plenty of praise and some humility. "Not only am I a less successful investor, but my jokes aren't as funny," Obama said, later calling Buffett "an example of what's best in this country."
Obama said he gets plenty of advice on the campaign trail, but "Warren Buffett is one of those people that I listen to." LINK

I would submit that the JOKE is being played on the American public by Buffet, Obama, and a Democrat Party that are laughing all the way to their government subsidized banks----and few of us are joining in the laughter. Perhaps if they spend some quality time in the unemployment lines, (or in jail where they belong), they can work on polishing Obama's jokes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fairness Doctrine Raises Its Ugly Head Under New FCC “Diversity Czar”

posted at 1:48 pm on August 13, 2009 by Rovin

What’s a poor liberal progressive to do when the radio airwaves are dominated by conservative talk and they can’t seem to “get a word in”? Why not diversify it? After Dan Rather got hammered recently for suggesting the news media needs a public handout, now on the horizon is an FCC Diversity Czar calling for private broadcasting companies to fund public broadcasting companies their total operating cost. Matt Cover at CNSNEWS.COM files this report:

( - Mark Lloyd, newly appointed Chief Diversity Officer of the Federal Communications Commission, has called for making private broadcasting companies pay licensing fees equal to their total operating costs to allow public broadcasting outlets to spend the same on their operations as the private companies do. LINK

Lloyd not only wants the money to come from private companies, he is planning on regulating the content:

“Local public broadcasters and regional and national communications operations should be required to encourage and broadcast diverse views and programs,” wrote Lloyd. “These programs should include coverage of all local, state and federal government meetings, as well as daily news and public issues programming. (see link above for complete story)

Pravda anyone?

Lloyd wrote a book back in 2006 that must have caught someone in the Obama administration’s eye titled Prologue to a Farce: Communications and Democracy in America, published by the University of Illinois Press. Matt Cover explains that “Lloyd wrote Prologue to a Farce while a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress. In that capacity, he co-authored the 2007 report The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio”

The report argued that large corporate broadcasting networks had driven liberals off the radio, and that diversity of ownership would increase diversity of broadcasting voices

Did you catch that? These unfortunate liberals have been “driven” off the radio. Why wait for the liberals to produce a fairness doctrine when you’ve got a Diversity Czar under the White House’s thumb?

Cross-posted at Hot Air--The Green Room

Monday, August 03, 2009

Michelle Malkin on The View

The crew at the view, especially Joy and Whoopi are just speechless.........