I was thinking this week about a conversation from a book. It is a book you have almost certainly read, and a scene you may recognize. The protagonist is being tortured by government officials, who promise they will stop if only he will say that two plus two equals five. He realizes, in that moment, that “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.”
I have written and spoken repeatedly regarding President Barack Obama’s health care law not as an instrument of reform, but an instrument of authority. It is a law designed to take authority from the people, the providers, the insurers, and the states and vest it centrally in Washington, DC in those houses of ill-repute – by which I mean the cubicle farms of bureaucracy, of course.
While there are many good people within those halls, there are also others who are not so good. Bent only on expanding their own authority and budget, maximizing the scope of their offices, these bureaucrats seek power for power’s sake. The president and his allies have strengthened these people enormously through their vague mishmash of a law.
Now, however, these bureaucrats– particularly their current leader, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – face a major problem. The storyline that is taking shape is obvious to us all: Companies that are currently in the insurance business, such as Principal Financial, are doing the math and discovering it no longer makes sense for them to be in this game – even as other companies do the math and find it makes so much more sense to shift retirees and current employees off our books and onto the taxpayer dole.
This would not be a major problem, of course, except that the whole of the Reid-Pelosi-Sebelius-Obama solution to health care reform was based on the idea that two plus two equals five – that believing it hard enough and shaming people into agreeing will make it so.
Yet this is not the way policy works. It is not the way the real world works. So this week Sebelius announced, in the aftermath of awful news stories about 3M and McDonald’s, that she would grant a waiver to 30 different companies to avoid compliance with the new law. With the wave of a hand, the P.R. problem vanishes – at least, for the moment.
Such banana republic-style antics may seem a blunt admission of the truth. But this is the only option they have. Short of the sort of activity that broke Winston Smith, the bureaucratic true believers in Washington are stuck with the hard truth – that two plus two equals four, and we still live in a nation free enough for people to say it out loud.
– Benjamin Domenech
IN THIS ISSUE:
Heartland Institute health policy expert Avik Roy writes: “Renaissance popes added to their wealth and power by granting indulgences–commutation of punishment for already-forgiven sins–to those who gave money to the Catholic church. Papal abuse of this process led directly to the Protestant Reformation. We have no popes in America, but we have something even better: the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. The Pope may be closer to God, but Sebelius is in charge of an annual budget approximating one trillion dollars. And now, thanks to Obamacare, Sebelius has gained the power to grant indulgences. It is one of the most under-reported aspects of the new health law: the degree to which it aggregates tremendous power in the hands of the HHS Secretary. The McDonald’s brouhaha is case in point.” To be in charge of one trillion dollars, in Washington terms, is to be as a god.
SOURCE: The Apothecary
A new report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service finds astounding proof of the total administrative failure of the administration in implementing Obamacare. According to the report, HHS has missed one-third of the deadlines contained within the legislation for the first six months under Obama’s new health care regime.
Additionally, there were four deadlines where CRS could not reach a conclusion based on its research – meaning even more could have been missed.
SOURCE: The Heartland Institute
An update concerning the legal cases: “This week or next, a federal judge in Pensacola, Fla., is expected to issue a preliminary ruling on perhaps the most prominent lawsuit. Brought by the governors or attorneys general of 20 states, the lawsuit seeks to have the act declared unconstitutional.”
SOURCE: USA Today
While it doesn’t carry a great deal of weight beyond the world of public relations, Missouri has spawned imitators throughout the country: “Following the lead of the successful Missouri initiative, which passed with 71 percent of the vote, Arizonans, Coloradans and Oklahomans will decide this fall whether to approve proposed constitutional amendments that would allow them to opt out of key provisions of President Obama’s signature national health care law. The three initiatives prohibit the government from forcing individuals to buy health care insurance – a ‘mandate’ that critics say violates the U.S. Constitution – and would allow patients and employers to pay providers directly without penalty.”
SOURCE: Washington Times
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced legislation targeted at the massive fraud problems in Medicare and Medicaid: “According to Coburn, the current bureaucratic system at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services lacks the secure data-sharing capability to prevent the rising level of fraud. Considering that President Obama’s health care law is slated to spend $2.6 trillion in additional taxpayer dollars over the coming decade, Coburn believes waste and fraud will only increase in the absence of increased information sharing and enforcement. … Coburn’s legislation includes several key anti-fraud proposals, which he maintains can make a significant difference in preventing fraud before it happens. It increases requirements for Medicare Administrative Contractors, calls for a pilot program using universal product numbers on Medicare claim forms, bolsters penalties for illegally distributing beneficiary identification, and prevents providers convicted of fraud from discharging their debts by going into bankruptcy.”
SOURCE: The Heartland Institute
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, the AP’s best reporter in my humble opinion, writes about these terrible statistics: “A report released Thursday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that enrollment in the safety-net medical insurance program jumped to more than 48 million – a record 15.7 percent share of the U.S. population. With the economy barely improving, states are forecasting a 6 percent increase in the rolls next year, meaning another strain on their cash-depleted budgets. The Medicaid numbers are the latest piece to emerge in a grim statistical picture of the recession’s toll. The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s last year, according to a recent Census report. Nearly 12 million households received food stamps, a record.” If you think state budgets are strained now, wait until millions more join the program.
SOURCE: Associated Press