Free Markets, Free People
I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time, but events overcame the ability to do so until now (Okay, I forgot about it).
What you’ll see with this particular provision is just stupid law. Granted, the entire law in which this provision is found is, in my opinion, stupid, but this takes the cake. But it also appears to be a politically motivated provision designed to make Health Savings Accounts (HSA) unattractive. I can’t see any other reason for it. George Scoville has written extensively on it. Here’s what he’s found:
Starting Jan. 1, 2011, you will no longer be able to use your Health Savings Account (HSA) to pay for over the counter (OTC) medications at a pharmacy, supermarket or other retail store without a prescription.
Examples of OTC items that will require a prescription for HSA debit card purchases as of Jan. 1, 2011:
- Acid controllers
- Acne medicine
- Aids for indigestion
- Allergy and sinus medicine
- Anti-diarrhea medicine
- Baby rash ointment
- Cold and flu medicine
- Eye drops
- Feminine anti-fungal or anti-itch products
- Hemorrhoid treatment
- Laxatives or stool softeners
- Lice treatments
- Motion sickness medicines
- Nasal sprays or drops
- Ointments for cuts, burns or rashes
- Pain relievers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- Sleep aids
- Stomach remedies
Yes, that’s right, suddenly many things that Americans buy without thinking twice about are made prescription items if you want to use your HSA to pay for them. And those would all be legitimate items for purchase with an HSA account. So ObamaCare introduces a hassle factor. What a great way to get people to drop their HSA for something easier and more hassle free – like mandated insurance, no?
But as usual, the law of unintended consequences drops by to say “hello” (the hassle factor is intended, this, probably not although you’d be hard pressed to figure out why they didn’t think of it):
Doctors at East Louisville Pediatrics PSC in Kentucky say they’re writing as many as 50 prescriptions a day for drugs such as Bayer AG’s aspirin and Pfizer Inc.’s Advil that don’t need a physician’s nod to be purchased off pharmacy shelves.
The trend, triggered by the 2010 health-care law, affects more than 20 million Americans with flexible spending or health savings accounts that let them use pretax dollars for medical needs. A U.S. rule that took effect Jan. 1 taxes purchases of over-the-counter drugs except for insulin unless the patient has a prescription, generating $5 billion through 2019, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
Doctors, pharmacists, insurers and drug companies say while it may generate money to help expand coverage for the uninsured, the measure is driving up medical costs and creating unnecessary work. They want it repealed, expecting demand to surge at year’s end, when people have to use up balances in the accounts.
“It’s a complete waste of time,” said Conrad Flick, one of five physicians at Family Medical Associates of Raleigh in North Carolina, in a telephone interview. In many cases, he said, he’ll talk with patients by phone to determine why they want the drug before he feels comfortable writing the prescription. “So I’m spending an extra half-hour or hour of my day doing things that I don’t get paid for,” he said.
Administrative costs from the new provision are growing, said Diane Myers, administrator for the East Louisville practice that has eight doctors and two nurse practitioners who write prescriptions. “I bet we’re spending a minimum of 10 hours a week on these things,”she said.
10 hours a week that could be spent doing important things or, in this case, having a life. 10 hours a week lost writing prescriptions for aspirin, for heaven sake.
This is an “improvement”? This saves money? This is a provision that helps bend the cost curve down?
In an alternate universe maybe.
Your government at work.
Today’s economic statistical releases..well, "release", actually…is the Housing Market Index, which fell one point to 14. It’s been stuck around this level since the Home Buyer Tax Credit expired last June. Even the decline in mortgage rates over the last year hasn’t helped at all. This is also an index where the break-even point is 50, i.e, anything above that is an expansion, while below it is contraction. So, 14 is…bad.
Of course, part of the problem is that, not matter how low mortgage rates are, that doesn’t really help if the bank is demanding to see $200k in cash as security before they give you a $200k loan. Being unable to get a loan, unless you’re so credit-worthy that you don’t need a loan kind of defeats the purpose of mortgage lending. Foreclosures are still high, so banks are still scared to loan money.
Welcome to the world of bad debt overhang.
Note to progressives: Taxing The Rich™ won’t solve this problem. In case you were wondering.
Steve Chapman, a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, has penned an article which can only be described as a nice way to say to Obama, “hey, do us a favor and let someone else take the reins before you totally screw up Democrats chances of ever getting the White House for decades”.
But there is good news for the president. I checked the Constitution, and he is under no compulsion to run for re-election. He can scrap the campaign, bag the fundraising calls and never watch another Republican debate as long as he’s willing to vacate the premises by Jan. 20, 2013.
What is remarkable about this is it is finally being said out loud, and not just whispered in conversations among Democrats. It is starting to emerge as a mainstream idea, Chapman among the first to put it in writing. Obama has become a political liability and most of the rational on the left realize that. All the hype has deflated and all the glitter fallen off. This, it is increasingly apparent, is a failed presidency.
Oh, certainly, the economic circumstances haven’t helped, but neither has the Obama administration. In misstep after misstep they’ve compounded the problem. And, of course, as I’ve been saying for quite some time, Obama’s real problem this election cycle isn’t that he doesn’t have a record to examine. Instead his problem is he does have a record, for the first time, to examine, and it is not a good one.
So Chapman, like the chief of staff who tries to convince his incompetent boss its time to step down, comes up with a list of excuses with a positive spin that make it sound like a good idea:
It’s not as though there is much enticement to stick around. Presidents who win re-election have generally found, wrote John Fortier and Norman Ornstein in their 2007 book, "Second-Term Blues," that "their second terms did not measure up to their first."
Presidential encores are generally a bog of frustration, exhaustion and embarrassment.
They are famous for lowest moments rather than finest hours. Richard Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace, Reagan had the Iran-Contra scandal, and Bill Clinton made the unfortunate acquaintance of Monica Lewinsky.
Administration officials get weary after four years and leave in droves. The junior varsity has to be put into service. New ideas are hard to come by.
And besides – Hillary is ready:
Besides avoiding this indignity, Obama might do his party a big favor. In hard times, voters have a powerful urge to punish incumbents. He could slake this thirst by stepping aside and taking the blame. Then someone less reviled could replace him at the top of the ticket.
The ideal candidate would be a figure of stature and ability who can’t be blamed for the economy. That person should not be a member of Congress, since it has an even lower approval rating than the president’s.
It would also help to be conspicuously associated with prosperity. Given Obama’s reputation for being too quick to compromise, a reputation for toughness would be an asset.
As it happens, there is someone at hand who fits this description: Hillary Clinton. Her husband presided over a boom, she’s been busy deposing dictators instead of destroying jobs, and she’s never been accused of being a pushover.
That’s all true to a point, unless the current foreign policy, like everything else this administration, collapses in the interim. And it is fraying around the edges fairly badly. Arab spring has turned the clock in the Middle East back 40 years, Turkey, a NATO member is rattling its saber at Israel and there seems to be a very good chance that it may go the Islamist extremist route as well.
However, again, this is one of those read between the lines columns that tries, in a nice way, to say “you’re a loser, step aside”. It broadly hints that Obama just isn’t up to the job. It makes the point that there are a growing number on the left who feel that keeping the White House is much more important than who it is actually occupying the Oval Office. Chapman is saying “take one for the team, please” or it is becoming increasingly clear that the team may lose.
I wonder if Obama will actually listen?