Posted tagged ‘Social Security’

Health Care Reform Is Not About Health, Care, or Reform

August 22, 2009

lego_ambulanceI have come to the conclusion that health care reform is not about health, care, or reform. And this is why.

We already have a government run health care plan in this country – it is called Medicaid. If Medicaid doesn’t cover enough of the people who can’t afford private health insurance or those who can’t get private health insurance at any price, why aren’t we talking about Medicaid reform?

If the reason is because Medicaid is a broken system that is almost out of funds and is rife with fraud at all levels, then why should we believe that a new public health plan would fare any better?

Any real reform of the health care system in America would need to focus on four key issues:

  • Medicaid reform
    Fix what is broken and expand it to cover more of those who need it.
  • Tort reform
    I find the idea of health courts which would be similar to workers’ compensation courts very intriguing.
  • Tax reform
    Employers are allowed to deduct 100% of the health insurance premiums they pay for their employees. Individuals who purchase their own private health insurance should also be allowed to deduct 100% of their premiums on their income tax returns.
  • Regulation reform
    Allow insurance companies to do business across state lines. At the very least, allow them to offer high-deductible, HSA-qualifying plans nationwide.

By giving little, if any, attention to these key points, the federal government is telling us that health care reform is not really the purpose of the various bills currently floating around Congress. The true purpose is to increase tax revenues because government spending is at historic highs while income (in the form of tax revenues) is at historic lows.

This is why the plans, the House bill in particular, have far more sticks than carrots. Revenue will increase through several measures including:

  • New penalty taxes on individuals who do not have health insurance.
  • New penalty taxes on small businesses that do not offer health insurance to employees.
  • Implied increase in corporate taxes on insurance companies will benefit from the plan by picking up millions of new customers who don’t want to get stuck paying the above penalty taxes.
  • New income taxes on the wealthiest citizens.

Will all that money be spent on health care? Does the Social Security Trust Fund contain any actual money? No. Do seriously wounded veterans get their disabilty checks in a timely manner? No.

Again, why should we believe that an enormous new federal social program and its attendant bureaucracy function any better?

Don’t be fooled by all the rhetoric on either side of the ongoing, heated debate. It’s never been about anything but the money.

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Social Security crunch coming fast

August 18, 2009

From MSN Money (emphasis added):

house_ablaze

By Bill Fleckenstein

The debate over health care has captured everyone’s attention, but it appears the next big government program that needs to be addressed will be Social Security. That’s the focus of the July 30 article “The next great bailout: Social Security” by Allan Sloan, Fortune’s senior editor at large.

Those who’ve been paying attention have long known there is no money in the Social Security Trust Fund — it’s all been spent. Thus, former Vice President Al Gore’s famous assessment that Social Security receipts should be placed in a “lockbox” was actually correct.  

Given that so few people really understand the Ponzi nature of the current Social Security financing scheme — created in 1983 by a commission chaired by none other than the world’s greatest serial blower of bubbles, Alan Greenspan — I decided to reprise Sloan’s article. (The Social Security problem is especially important because it likely will put additional pressure on the dollar and on bonds, and exacerbate the funding crisis down the road.)

The story begins: “In Washington these days, the only topics of discussion seem to be how many trillions to throw at health care and the recession, and whom on Wall Street to pillory next. But watch out. Lurking just below the surface is a bailout candidate that may soon emerge like the great white shark in ‘Jaws‘: Social Security.

Perhaps as early as this year, Social Security, at $680 billion the nation’s biggest social program, will be transformed from an operation that’s helped finance the rest of the government for 25 years into a cash drain that will need money from the Treasury. In other words, a bailout.

Continue reading…

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare

August 12, 2009

I’ve been jotting down notes for a few days now of the ways I think health care reform could be done effectively as opposed to the half-baked horror currently circulating in Congress.

So I was quite pleased to find the following op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ. Not only is it almost everything I’ve been thinking, it is a case study in how these ideas are actually working in real life.

Your thoughts?

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare
Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.

By John Mackey

With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both, we are rapidly running out of other people’s money. These deficits are simply not sustainable. They are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation, or they will bankrupt us.

While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:

Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees’ Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.

Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan’s costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

• Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

• Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.

• Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.

• Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor’s visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

• Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

• Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Continue reading

Sadly, I don’t expect to see any of these excellent ideas implemented by the federal government and not just because of partisan politics either.

The unfinished plans in Congress now are heavy on sticks and light on carrots. Why? Because tax revenues have fallen off a cliff.

Ron Paul: Government and Fraud

December 23, 2008

Government and Fraud

Billions of dollars were recently lost in the collapse of Bernie Madoff’s self-described Ponzi scheme, in which too-good-to-be-true returns on investments were not really returns at all, but the funds of defrauded new investors.  The pyramid scheme collapsed dramatically when too many clients called in their accounts, and not enough new victims could be found to support these withdrawals.  Bernie Madoff was running a blatant fraud operation.  Fraud is already illegal, and he will be facing criminal consequences, which is as it should be, and should act as an appropriate deterrent to potential future criminals.  But it seems every time someone breaks the law, politicians and pundits decide we need more laws, even though lack of laws was not the problem. 

The government itself runs a fraud much bigger than Madoff’s.  Our Social Security system is the very definition of a Ponzi, or pyramid scheme.  If the government truly had an interest in protecting people’s savings, they would allow people to opt out of Social Security altogether.  We would cut wasteful spending, such as our overseas empire, to honor current obligations to seniors, and eventually phase the program out.  Instead, as with Enron and Sarbanes Oxley, I expect new, unrelated legislation to be proposed that further damages freedom in the name of protecting us, amidst loud proclamations that they have made the world safe.

Merely passing a law does not fix any problems, just as throwing paper at a recession does not stop it.  How can a government so complicit in mandatory public fraud effectively pre-empt private fraud?   I see no reason to believe that any new law, or regulatory agency will solve anything.  But I do see liberty slipping away every time Congress decides to “do something”.  We already have an oversight agency, the SEC, which did a poor job overseeing and preventing this, but does a great job hamstringing honest, productive businesses and driving them overseas. 

Total trust in government solutions only creates moral hazard, and amplifies risky behavior.  Trust in government got us here.  We trusted government to eliminate risk, but it just made risk more creative and dangerous.  We trusted the Federal Reserve, a supra-governmental cabal of private banks, to know better than the free market what interest rates should be, and how to stabilize the business cycle, but like a spinning top that loses its balance, it has instead spun the business cycle and the economy wildly out of control. 

No governmental activity can negate market forces or nullify the cardinal rule of caveat emptor.  Government can however, use our fears against us and promise unrealistic outcomes as a means to consolidate power and erode our liberties.  Liberty comes with risk.  This is a fact of life.  But life without liberty is not much of a life at all.

The only way the American people will get through these difficult times is through our own resilience and ingenuity.  At best, the government is irrelevant in finding prosperity again.  At worst, government can present a massive obstacle for the economy to overcome.   If we do not wise up and rein government back in to its Constitutional limitations, bloated government could be a cumbersome unnecessary weight the economy will continually have to support to stay afloat. 

Source: Representative Ron Paul, Texas Straight Talk

Ron Paul on Bloomberg on SEC Regulations 12/17/2008

December 18, 2008

Sack the SEC and End the FED!