Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: October 26, 2009

FOX v. White House: And The Results Are In

Or at least the results since the Obama White House made FOX News the focus of its attempt at dictating which organizations should or shouldn’t be taken as serious “news” organizations:

But the White House’s stance also gave extra lift to the network at a time when it is on track to record its best ratings year ever. This year, Fox News has averaged nearly 1.2 million viewers across all its programming, a 16% increase over the same period last year, according to Nielsen. In the two weeks since aides to President Obama took after the coverage, the audience has been 8% larger than the previous two weeks.

If anything, the Obama administration has succeeded in reinforcing Fox News’ identity as a thorn in the side of the establishment — a role the network loves to play.

What news organization wouldn’t love to play that role? Er, the NYT, LAT, WaPo, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN?

Maybe this is a little lesson for them as well.

~McQ

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Deconstructing Health Care “Waste” Numbers

We found out recently that the government perpetrated myth that the health insurance industry were a bunch of “robber barons” was a load. So how about this point that it likes to push about “waste” in our health care system?

Well Reuters obligingly publishes an article today entitled, “Healthcare system wastes up to $800 billion a year.”

The estimate is actually 505 to 800 billion but why not go with the higher number when your “perspective” is to support government reform. Anyway:

The U.S. healthcare system is just as wasteful as President Barack Obama says it is, and proposed reforms could be paid for by fixing some of the most obvious inefficiencies, preventing mistakes and fighting fraud, according to a Thomson Reuters report released on Monday.

The U.S. healthcare system wastes between $505 billion and $850 billion every year, the report from Robert Kelley, vice president of healthcare analytics at Thomson Reuters, found.

“America’s healthcare system is indeed hemorrhaging billions of dollars, and the opportunities to slow the fiscal bleeding are substantial,” the report reads.

“The bad news is that an estimated $700 billion is wasted annually. That’s one-third of the nation’s healthcare bill,” Kelley said in a statement.

So now we have 3 numbers to go with telling anyone with an ounce of sense that they’re really not sure how much waste there is. But for the sake of argument, let’s stick with the 800 billion. Obviously they intend too because this is the sop they’re going to throw out there and claim it will “pay” for their “reform”.

The list is rather interesting. For instance:

* Fraud makes up 22 percent of healthcare waste, or up to $200 billion a year in fraudulent Medicare claims, kickbacks for referrals for unnecessary services and other scams.

200 billion or 25% (not 22%) of the waste comes from the portion of the medical system the government already runs. The same system which now saddles us with 52 trillion dollars worth unfunded future obligations.  To this point, the government has demonstrated absolutely no ability to curb such fraud or waste. In fact, it has never shown any interest or desire in tackling the problem.  Why should we believe they’re serious about it now?

* Unnecessary care such as the overuse of antibiotics and lab tests to protect against malpractice exposure makes up 37 percent of healthcare waste or $200 to $300 billion a year.

37.5% of additional “waste” comes from doctors protecting themselves from malpractice law suits. Yet there is nothing addressing tort reform in these bills. How, then, does what the administration and Congress are offering address this problem? It doesn’t. It would be a fairly easy fix – but they’re ignoring it.  It’s called special interest politics.

That means, to this point, 500 billion of the 800 billion dollars in “waste” are either unaddressed (tort reform) or have never been successfully addressed (Medicare).

* Administrative inefficiency and redundant paperwork account for 18 percent of healthcare waste.

Ever talk to a doctor about the administrative hoops one has to go through to get Medicare to pay for service. Certainly private insurance can be a hassle as well, but there are few if any doctors who won’t treat patients with private insurance while there are a whole host (and growing) who won’t treat Medicare patients. Or said more succinctly – it’s mostly a government paperwork problem.

* Preventable conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes cost $30 billion to $50 billion a year.

And that may or may not be helped by more preventive medicine – there are very mixed reviews on how cost effective it really is. However, even if it did a 100% better job than is now being done (which is extremely unlikely), a) it won’t cost less and b) it still remains up to those needing such treatment to seek it out. Regardless, at most it is 6% of this 800 billion in “waste”.

In summary, the government is responsible for 25 – 40% (add in about 15% of that admin number).  Malpractice avoidance – something they could fix or at least lower with tort reform – accounts for 37.5% of the total.  Preventable conditions may or may not constitute the final 6% described here. That leaves 14% or in undocumented waste, probably broken down in numerous smaller categories that are going unaddressed.

What this all means is government could clean up its own mess and cut waste to 600 billion, pass tort reform and cut it to 300 billion, make Medicare easier for doctors to administer and cut it to about 150 billion.

Instead we’re stuck with an attempt at a complete overhaul with the government trying to sell us on the idea that the problem is with the private sector and giving government more power over health care is the cure.

The cognitive dissonance is so loud you have to wear earplugs.

~McQ

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Will 2010 Be A Bad Foreign Policy Year For Obama?

I can’t help but think James Carafano is on to something in his comparison with Obama’s rather naive foreign policy with another naive foreign policy –  that of Jimmy Carter. Why does Carafano feel that 2010 may be Obama’s 1978?

Because America’s enemies had taken measure of the man during his first, change-filled year in office. They saw weaknesses they could exploit. In the second year, they made their move.

Carter was a big “soft power” advocate, and believed diplomacy was the be-all and end-all of foreign policy. He was of the opinion the US could essentially negotiate anything. He also felt that the US was too arrogant and needed to humble itself before the world. While those who shared his views welcomed these changes, those who opposed us saw them precisely as Carafano describes it – weakness – and ruthlessly exploited that weakness. His 2nd year in office was a series of foreign policy disasters.

Sadly, warning signs that others will use the administration’s “soft power uber alles” strategy to undermine U.S. interests are already cropping up.

» The Russians are demanding more and more at the strategic-arms negotiating table, while giving their U.S. counterparts less and less.

» Iran and North Korea are running out the clock, sending diplomats into the umpteenth round of talks while their scientists toil feverishly advancing their nuclear and missile programs.

» In Latin America, socialist dictators continue to outmaneuver the White House.

Meanwhile, new al Qaeda-related or -inspired plots appear to be popping up every day. Three in the United States were thwarted last month. A Boston-based plot was thwarted just last week. Turkey uncovered another network the week before that. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is on the march.

And the year is not over yet.

The point about al Qaeda sponsored plots uncovered in the US recently are interesting and have had me wondering since first reading about them why AQ has suddenly decided that now is the right time to again attack the US. Is it a coincidence that they seem to become more emboldened with the change in leadership in the US? No, I don’t think so. I think the fact that three real plots to attack us coincide with a real belief that the US is in a weaker position now than it was last year. I’m coming to believe that al Qaeda’s plans reflect the belief of the world at large that the US is a nation with weaker leadership less likely to strike back if attacked.

Now, that may end up being completely wrong, but in terms of deterrence it appears that the perception of strength and a willingness to go after our enemies should they attack us seems to be waning. And that’s dangerous for all of us.

It’s one thing to modify a foreign policy approach with the addition of more soft power. There’s nothing wrong with soft power per se. But it’s application a) takes a long time to bear fruit and b) as proven by Carter, its application alone or in lieu of the use of hard power when necessary is seen as a sign of weakness, not strength.  What Carter never learned about international politics is it is better to be respected than liked.

International politics is a world of anarchy. And while countries attempt to lay out and abide by rules they all supposedly agree on, in the end they almost always act in their own best interest and blow off the agreements if necessary. For those who line up against us, their best interests are served by a weak US. It allows them to act as they wish, with minimal penalty, to achieve their desired goals. The litany of foreign policy failures under Carter underscore that reality.  They tested the perception of weakness found in the Carter foreign policy and upon realizing its reality, exploited it. What Carafano is attempting to point out is the Obama administration is presently building the same sort of perception of the US that did Carter.

Given that, it certainly not at all a stretch to expect the same sort of attempted exploitation of the US by its enemies that occurred under the Carter administration. Keep an eye on developments in 2010. They may very well bear out Carafano’s thesis.

~McQ

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