ObamaCare

Democrats To Try To Win Health Care Debate By Exploiting A Dead Guy

Welcome to America, where political battles are won by waving the bloody shirt:

Democrats are hoping that the memory of Sen. Ted Kennedy will revive the Democratic Party’s flagging push for health care reform.

“You’ve heard of ‘win one for the Gipper’? There is going to be an atmosphere of ‘win one for Teddy,’” Ralph G. Neas, the CEO of the liberal National Coalition on Health Care, told ABC News.

Democrats are hoping that Kennedy’s influence in death may be even stronger than it was when he was alive as they push for President Obama’s top domestic priority. Democratic officials hope that invoking Kennedy’s passion for the issue will counter slippage in support for heatlh care reform.

“Ted Kennedy’s dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement.

Pelosi’s sentiment was echoed by former vice president Al Gore who served with Kennedy in the Senate.

“Ted would want nothing more than for his colleagues to continue his life’s work and to make real his dream of quality health care for all Americans,” said Gore.

To infuse Kennedy into the health-care debate, Democrats are planning to affix the former senator’s name to the health-care legislation that emerges from Congress.

The idea of naming the legislation for Kennedy has been quietly circulating for months but was given a new push today by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the only person who served with Kennedy for all his 47 years in the Senate.

A True American

I watched the health care forum hosted by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and was inspired to transcribe the comments of one of his constituents:

I have three brief points I would like to make.

Number one: I am concerned about a once free people, a once brave people. Never trade freedom for security or you will lose both. Representative Kind, I heard you say that in these debates we should respect one another. With that advice in mind, I would like you tell Nancy Pelosi that we are not un-American. I would like you to tell Harry Reid that we are not hate-mongers. I would like you to tell your fellow Senators and Congressmen that we are not a mob, we are not Nazis, we are not the Ku-Klux-Klan, and we have nothing in common with the likes of Timothy McVeigh. We are Americans simply exercising our Constitutional rights.

Also, please tell your community-organizing President to get used to an organized community.

And finally, point number three, I’m going to quote a very wise man, one C.S. Lewis:

Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better under robber barons than under omnipotent, moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty will sometimes sleep. His cupidity may at some point be satiated. But those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

-Jerry Brogden, Colfax, WI

Well said, Jerry. It is not un-American to stand up for what you believe in without having to be connected to criminals. Free speech is a wonderful thing no matter your opinion.

The Truth About Those Infant Mortality Rates

I’ve seen many advocates of government-run health care cite the fact that American infant mortality rates are lower higher than they are in other parts of the world where the health care system is under complete, or effectively complete, state control. To them, it seems, this correlation is itself a sufficient argument in favor of more state control of health care, and against the free market (keeping in mind, of course, that we don’t have anything resembling a free market in health care in this country).

As Steve Chapman points out in a column in today’s Chicago Tribune, it’s not quite that simple:

No one denies the problem. Our infant mortality rate is double that of Japan or Sweden. But we live different lives, on average, than people in those places. We suffer more obesity (about 10 times as much as the Japanese), and we have more births to teenagers (seven times more than the Swedes). Nearly 40 percent of American babies are born to unwed mothers.

Factors like these are linked to low birth weight in babies, which is a dangerous thing. In a 2007 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists June O’Neill and Dave O’Neill noted that “a multitude of behaviors unrelated to the health-care system such as substance abuse, smoking and obesity” are connected “to the low birth weight and pre-term births that underlie the infant death syndrome.”

Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, also attributes the gap largely to conduct. Comparing white Americans to Norwegians in his 1995 book, “The Tyranny of Numbers,” Eberstadt concluded that “white America’s higher rates of infant mortality are explained not by poverty (as conventionally construed) or by medical care but rather by the habits, actions and indeed lifestyles of a critical portion of its parents.” Whites are not unique in those types of behavior.

African-American babies are far more likely to die than white ones, which is often taken as evidence that poverty and lack of health insurance are to blame. That’s entirely plausible until you notice another racial/ethnic gap: Hispanics of Mexican or Central or South American ancestry not only do consistently better than blacks on infant mortality, they do better than whites. Social disadvantage doesn’t explain very much.

Nor does access to prenatal care, as the health-care critique implies. It used to be assumed that if you assured that pregnant low-income women could see a physician, their infants would do much better. Not necessarily.

When New York expanded access to prenatal care under Medicaid, the effort reduced the rate of low birth weight infants by just 1 percent. In Tennessee, after a similar effort, researchers found “no concomitant improvements in use of early prenatal care, birth weight or neonatal mortality.”

So why does our infant mortality rate exceed that of, say, Canada, where health care is free at the point of service?

One reason is that we have a lot more tiny newborns. But underweight babies don’t fare worse here than in Canada — quite the contrary.

The National Bureau of Economic Research paper points out that among the smallest infants, survival rates are better on this side of the border. What that suggests is that if we lived under the Canadian health-care system, we would not have a lower rate of infant mortality. We would have a higher one.

A lot of things could be done to keep babies from dying in this country. But the health-care “reform” being pushed in Washington is not one of them.

The paper that Chapman references can be found here.

Does Congress Have The Power To Force Individuals To Obtain Health Insurance?

In a Washington Post op-ed piece today, lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey point out the serious Constitutional objections to one of the central provisions of ObamaCare; the individual mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance:

In short, no. The Constitution assigns only limited, enumerated powers to Congress and none, including the power to regulate interstate commerce or to impose taxes, would support a federal mandate requiring anyone who is otherwise without health insurance to buy it.

Although the Supreme Court has interpreted Congress’s commerce power expansively, this type of mandate would not pass muster even under the most aggressive commerce clause cases. In Wickard v. Filburn (1942), the court upheld a federal law regulating the national wheat markets. The law was drawn so broadly that wheat grown for consumption on individual farms also was regulated. Even though this rule reached purely local (rather than interstate) activity, the court reasoned that the consumption of homegrown wheat by individual farms would, in the aggregate, have a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, and so was within Congress’s reach.

The court reaffirmed this rationale in 2005 in Gonzales v. Raich, when it validated Congress’s authority to regulate the home cultivation of marijuana for personal use. In doing so, however, the justices emphasized that — as in the wheat case — “the activities regulated by the [Controlled Substances Act] are quintessentially economic.” That simply would not be true with regard to an individual health insurance mandate.

The otherwise uninsured would be required to buy coverage, not because they were even tangentially engaged in the “production, distribution or consumption of commodities,” but for no other reason than that people without health insurance exist. The federal government does not have the power to regulate Americans simply because they are there. Significantly, in two key cases, United States v. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (2000), the Supreme Court specifically rejected the proposition that the commerce clause allowed Congress to regulate noneconomic activities merely because, through a chain of causal effects, they might have an economic impact. These decisions reflect judicial recognition that the commerce clause is not infinitely elastic and that, by enumerating its powers, the framers denied Congress the type of general police power that is freely exercised by the states.

Nor could the individual mandate be justified under Congress’s tax and spending power:

Congress cannot use its power to tax solely as a means of controlling conduct that it could not otherwise reach through the commerce clause or any other constitutional provision. In the 1922 case Bailey v. Drexel Furniture, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress could not impose a “tax” to penalize conduct (the utilization of child labor) it could not also regulate under the commerce clause. Although the court’s interpretation of the commerce power’s breadth has changed since that time, it has not repudiated the fundamental principle that Congress cannot use a tax to regulate conduct that is otherwise indisputably beyond its regulatory power.

Want ObamaCare ? Well, you’ll have to amend the Constitution first.

PJTV visits Canada

One of the guys from PJTV paid a visit to our neighbor to the north to get a first hand account of Canadian health care:

Senate Negotiators Working On Scaled-Back Health Care Reform Package

It’s looking like we could see a House-Senate showdown over health care reform when Congress returns to work:

Senate health-care negotiators agreed late Thursday to ignore the increasingly strident rhetoric from Republican and Democratic leaders and to keep working toward a bill that can win broad support from the rank-and-file in both parties, according to sources familiar with the talks.

In a conference call, the three Democratic and three Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee agreed to redouble their efforts to craft a less costly alternative to the trillion-dollar initiatives so far put forward in Congress. They discussed the possibility of also reining in the scope of their package, the sources said.

The senators rejected the idea of imposing a deadline on their negotiations, and they agreed to talk again Sept. 4 — four days before lawmakers are scheduled to return to Washington from their August break. The consensus, one participant said, was “to take your time to get it right.”

In a written statement released after the approximately 90-minute teleconference, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the finance panel, said the group had “a productive conversation” and that they “remain committed to continuing our path toward a bipartisan health-care reform bill.”

“Our discussion included an increased emphasis on affordability and reducing costs, and our efforts moving forward will reflect that focus,” he said.

Before leaving for the month-long recess, Baucus had pegged the cost of the negotiators’ ideas at less than $900 billion over the next decade. Thursday’s discussions focused on driving that cost lower, the sources said.

With the House Democrats saying that they can’t possibly pass a health care reform package that doesn’t include a “public option,” we’ve got the perfect set-up for House-Senate gridlock.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Oregon Death Panel

You never want the feeling of a bureaucrat telling you suicide is cheaper than the drugs needed to save your life:

Rationing is inevitable with ObamaCare (it already occurs under Medicare), though it is NOT actually in the bill (sorry, Sarah Palin). Will there be death panels? Who knows. But bureaucrats will look for ways to cut costs and stories like this will become all too familiar. H/T: Club for Growth

Fact Check: You may lose your health coverage

You know that often repeated claim from the Obama Administration that you won’t lose your health insurance if ObamaCare is passed. As you’ve probably already guessed, it’s not necessarily true:

“There’s been a lot of misinformation,” Obama said, complaining about people who are “bearing false witness.”

He said the first thing he wanted to correct was the idea that the proposed overhaul would force some people into different health care plans. “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” he said, repeating one of his stock lines.

That’s not true, however, according to FactCheck.org, an independent truth squad run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

“He can’t make that promise to everyone,” concluded FactCheck’s analysis, one of several that point out that the Democrats’ health care plan could lead to employers switching plans, and thus forcing their employees into different plans and perhaps to different doctors.

“Under the House bill,” FactCheck said, “some employers might have to modify plans after a five-year grace period if they don’t meet minimum benefits standards.

“Furthermore, some firms are likely to buy different coverage for their workers than they have now, or simply drop coverage and pay a penalty instead, leaving workers to buy their own private coverage or go on a new federal insurance plan.”

You can read the FactCheck.org article here.

Democrats Considering Two-Bill Strategy For Health Care Reform

After yesterday’s report that Democrats were considering a “go it alone” strategy on health care, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that they are considering dividing the reform package up into two or more bills:

The White House and Senate Democratic leaders, seeing little chance of bipartisan support for their health-care overhaul, are considering a strategy shift that would break the legislation into two parts and pass the most expensive provisions solely with Democratic votes.

The idea is the latest effort by Democrats to escape the morass caused by delays in Congress, as well as voter discontent crystallized in angry town-hall meetings. Polls suggest the overhaul plans are losing public support, giving Republicans less incentive to go along.

Democrats hope a split-the-bill plan would speed up a vote and help President Barack Obama meet his goal of getting a final measure by year’s end.

The main reason they’re considering this appears to be the idea that they can get some parts of the package passed more easily if they aren’t part of a larger bill:

Most legislation in the Senate requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but certain budget-related measures can pass with 51 votes through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation.

In recent days, Democratic leaders have concluded they can pack more of their health overhaul plans under this procedure, congressional aides said. They might even be able to include a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers, a key demand of the party’s liberal wing, but that remains uncertain.

Other parts of the Democratic plan would be put to a separate vote in the Senate, including most of the insurance regulations that have been central to Mr. Obama’s health-care message.

That bill would likely set new rules for insurers, such as requiring they accept anyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. This portion of the health-care overhaul has already drawn some Republican support and wouldn’t involve new spending, leading Democratic leaders to believe they could clear the 60-vote hurdle.

Ezra Klein, who has been skeptical of the whole idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform in the past, doesn’t think the strategy has much merit:

This strategy has always puzzled me a bit. Reconciliation is the most controversial move you can make in health-care reform, as it cuts the minority’s power entirely. If you go that route for most of the bill, it seems unlikely that a couple of Republicans will lend you their votes to finish the job. But if they would, or if you can get 60 Democrats to hold strong and break the filibuster, then why couldn’t you get that in the first place, bypassing reconciliation altogether? To put it simply, if you have the votes for this strategy, you don’t need to pursue it, and if you don’t have the votes for it, then you’re stuck anyway.

James Joyner, meanwhile, points out the contradictory nature of the plan:

If the Democrats have the votes to pass the more controversial parts of the bill on their own, why would they take the heat for doing it and then give the Republicans a free pass by allowing them to vote for a pain-free bipartisan bill?

Part of it, I think lies in the fact that there’s really no guarantee that reconciliation will work at all:

The problem with breaking the rules — or, more to the point, using them in unintended ways — is that anyone can do it. Remember when minority Democrats were threatening to “shut down the Senate” when Bill Frist eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominees? It wasn’t an idle threat. They could well have shut down the Senate. Nearly all Senate business requires unanimous consent to proceed. Republicans are no less aware of this fact than Democrats were. If Democrats try to invoke reconciliation and then override the parliamentarian and rewrite the Senate rulebook on the fly, the GOP will quickly and easily close down the chamber.

At that point, you’re in a standoff: The government shuts down. Everyone takes to the airwaves. And you wait to see which party breaks — or gets broken by public anger — first. In essence, you’re exactly where you would’ve been if you had just broken out the cots and decided to fight out an endless filibuster, but you face the added impediment that the media is kicking the hell out of you for cheating, and Republicans can argue — accurately — that you just attempted a thuggish takeover of the Senate.

As a general rule, if there were a foolproof way around the 60-vote threshold, the senators of one party or the other would have thought of it, and at least a couple of radicals would have loudly advocated for it

More likely then not then, as Marc Ambinder notes, the threat of reconciliation, whether for the bill as a whole or some portion of it as the Journal describes, is just that, a threat made in the hope that the other side will back down from any threat of a filibuster. In the end, the costs that the Democrats would incur in trying to ram any kind of major change to the health care system via reconciliation would be far greater than the benefits, which is why I doubt they’ll actually do it.

Blue Dog: Not enough votes for “public option”

Yesterday, Democrats decided to press foward on ObamaCare without GOP, killing any hope of a “bi-partisan” bill. Of course, the problem hasn’t been Republicans, and that has been reiterated by Rep. Jim Cooper, a Blue Dog Democrat from Tennessee:

Democrats will not be able to “go it alone” on healthcare legislation and force through a bill with a public option on a party-lines vote, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) said Wednesday.

“It’s numerically not possible,” Cooper, a centrist Blue Dog Democrat who has long focused on healthcare issues, said in an interview on MSNBC. “We don’t have enough votes.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Democratic leaders in Congress, along with the White House, had less faith in continuing to work with Republicans to craft a bipartisan health bill containing a public (or “government-run”) option.

Cooper said that just as a matter of procedure, there is no way that Democrats would be able to accomplish such a thing.

“It’s really not an ideological question; it’s a question of how you pass a bill,” he explained. “We don’t have 60 Democratic votes in the Senate.”

The problem for Democrats isn’t just with Blue Dogs, which “conservative” and moderate Democrats. Liberals are refusing to vote for a bill without a “public option.”

 


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