Friday, July 24, 2009

Rebuttal of Physicians for National Health Program Myths

(Click on this chart of "Obama Care" to see what a bureaucratic jungle the Democrats are planning. It will be more costly - naturally, it's a government program! - with the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the DMV.)

A friend and neighbor sent a "copy and paste" essay to our local weekly newspaper, The Independent Coast Observer (ICO). This week they published my rebuttal, which is not complete since, unlike the article I'm rebutting, I'm actually gathering facts and including links to their sources. The following is my rebuttal so far:

The ICO could have saved over 1,000 words by just printing this link instead of the Open Space “Facts about single-payer care” article which was provided word for word by the very biased Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). However, since the ICO promoted the PNHP position, fairness and balance would indicate allowing space to point out its egregious errors and omissions. Here are just a few:

Myth: 50 million Americans (16%) are uninsured. Truth: The Census Bureau (2005) reports the number is 47 million. Of the 47 million, approximately 10 million are illegal aliens. Even Michael Moore agrees that being “an American” matters to get health insurance. Discussing “Sicko” on ABC’s “Nightline” Moore said: “That’s the only preexisting condition that should exist. I am an American. That’s it.”

Another 17 million make more than $50,000 per year (well above the median household income of $46,326). Why are households with above the median income uninsured? Forty-five percent of the uninsured will only be that way for less than four months according to the Congressional Budget Office, and 60% say they are in excellent or very good health. (Link here)

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a liberal non-profit, puts the number of uninsured Americans who do not qualify for current government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 13.9 million and 8.2 million. That is a much smaller figure than the media report. Kaiser’s 8.2 million Americans (2.7%) chronically uninsured only includes those uninsured for two years or more.

Myth: Private insurance administrative costs are high, and most are unnecessary. Truth: Medicare’s administrative costs are much higher than private insurance, and include far more unnecessary expenditures. (Link here) In 2005, Medicare's administrative costs were $509 per primary beneficiary, compared to private-sector administrative costs of $453.

Medicare’s costs are higher even though what the public plan advocates claim as Medicare costs do not even include enormous Medicare expenses, the largest of which is Medicare fraud and waste. Researchers at Dartmouth estimate that waste (including fraud) consumes about one-third of Medicare's costs. That is, to deliver $100 of frugal care, Medicare spends $150, $50 of which is for unnecessary use.

Knowing Americans are weak in math, advocates of a public plan assert that Medicare has administrative costs of 3 percent (or 6 to 8 percent if support from other government agencies is included), compared to 14 to 22 percent for private employer-sponsored health insurance (depending on which study is cited), or even more for individually purchased insurance. Why the difference? It’s simple math. Medicare patients are older and consume more expensive medical services than the average private insurance policy holder. When you divide the Medicare administrative cost numerator by the very large total cost denominator, you get a smaller administrative cost percentage, even if total administrative costs were identical for Medicare and private insurance.

This is compounded by Medicare not being charged or allocated costs that private insurers bear, such as state “premium taxes” that average two percent, and depreciation, maintenance and repairs, and utilities costs for offices in public buildings.Excluded Medicare administrative costs (from the American Medical Association Proposal for Reform) (Link here):

• Tax collection to fund Medicare—this is analogous to premium collection by private insurers, but whereas premium collection expenses of private insurers are rightly counted as administrative costs, tax collection expenses incurred by employers and the Internal Revenue Service do not appear in the official Medicare or NHE accounting systems and are overlooked
• Medicare program marketing, outreach and education
• Medicare program customer service
• Medicare program auditing by the Office of the Inspector General (which is costly but does little to eliminate the enormity of Medicare fraud)
• Medicare program contract negotiations
• Building costs of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) dedicated to the Medicare program• Staff salaries for CMS personnel with Medicare program responsibilities
• Congressional resources expended each year on setting Medicare payment rates for services

Myth: Medical bills contribute to half of all personal bank­ruptcies. Truth: Mortgage and rent payments, automobile payments, insurance, unemployment, over-exuberant credit card use, etc., “contribute” as much or more to personal bankruptcies than medical bills. (Link here) When other researchers analyzed the Harvard study that concluded half of all personal bankruptcies were related to medical bills, they found that only 17 percent were, and concluded that “medical debt is like any other debt -- a cause but not the most important cause of bankruptcy.”
(Medical bills - and fraud, waste, and abuse - have already contributed totally to one significant bankruptcy: Medicare.)

Myth: We pay for national health insurance, but don't get it. Truth: Workers pay 2.9 percent of their earnings into Medicare, which is already bankrupt (technically, not until 2017 when its mythical trust fund runs dry, but Medicare is already paying out more than it is taking in, even though the first Baby Boomer doesn’t start Medicare until 2011). The Medicare rate will have to be raised to 13.4 percent just to maintain promised benefits. (Link here)

After adding on the inadequate12.4 percent for Social Security, workers will have to pay 25.8 percent of their pay (not tax deductible) before paying income, property, and sales taxes, plus exorbitant energy taxes to fund the futile battle against natural climate change.

Myth: Despite spending far less per capita for health care, Canadians are healthier and have better measures of access to health care than Americans. Truth: The 2002-03 Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health concluded, on average, health status in Canada and the U.S. is approximately equal. However, Canadians suffer long waits for many surgical procedures.

The Canadian Supreme Court struck down Quebec's law that prohibited private medical insurance, finding against having to wait a year for hip-replacement surgery. In finding for the plaintiffs, Canada's high court said, "The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public healthcare system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public healthcare...(and endure)… physical and psychological suffering that meets a threshold test of seriousness. Many patients on non-urgent waiting lists are in pain and cannot fully enjoy any real quality of life. The right to life and to personal inviolability is therefore affected by the waiting times." (Link here)

The rest of the PNHP article was similarly replete with misinformation which I will expose in even greater depth on my website (I'm working on it!)

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