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Union workers paid to stump for Coakley in Massachusetts – Video

I did spell Massachusetts correctly right? Lots of news today from the Martha Coakley versus Scott Brown special election for United States Senate. During the debate last night, some “supporters” of Coakley were paid $50 to stand outside in the cold in support of “their” candidate for Senate.

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Massachusetts Health Care … the nightmare to come. Update: Rationing

Update: Make sure you check the update below. Rationing!

The Baucus plan and the Waxman Murphy plan, both will tax you if you don’t have health insurance. But as we pointed out right here it’s so much more than that. You will be taxed even if you have coverage, IF, it’s not up to government standards. Remember, you read it here first?

Then of course, there was the obligatory Obama “it’s not a tax.”

Steve brought this to my attention very early in the morning (thanks Steve) and I read it on the show. From Friday night’s on-line edition of the Wall Street Journal. It’s the story of Wendy Williams and it is not pretty.

My husband retired from IBM about a decade ago, and as we aren’t old enough for Medicare we still buy our health insurance through the company. But IBM, with its typical courtesy, informed us recently that we will be fined by the state.

Why? Because Massachusetts requires every resident to have health insurance, and this year, without informing us directly, the state had changed the rules in a way that made our bare-bones policy no longer acceptable. Unless we ponied up for a pricier policy we neither need nor want—or enrolled in a government-sponsored insurance plan—we would have to pay $1,000 each year to the state.

My husband’s response was muted; I was shaking mad. We hadn’t imposed our health-care costs on anyone else, yet we were being fined (“taxed” was the word the letter used).

We’ve spent much of our lives putting away what money we could for retirement. We always intended to be self-sufficient. We’ve paid off the mortgage on our home, don’t carry credit-card debt, and have savings in case of an emergency. We also have a regular monthly income of about $3,000, which includes an IBM pension. My husband, 61, earns a little money on the side, sometimes working as an electronics consultant on renewable energy projects. I’m 58 and make some money writing science books. We are not wealthy, but we aren’t a risk of becoming a burden on society either. How did we become outlaws?

Make sure you read the whole thing here. It’s a tax, it will force you out of your current plan and into one of theirs, or as the Democrats remind us … into a “better” plan. Their plan.

Update: It’s a tax …. and there will be rationing. (From Sister Toldjah via H/T – Instapundit via Ed Morrissey). My goodness … health care in the Commonwealth is coming unglued. I bet you folks in the Bay State sure are glad you have universally distructive insurance … hmmmmmm? How’s it looking now? Hmmmmmm? It’s ok … Connecticut’s just a few miles away, for now.

The state’s ambitious plan to shake up how providers are paid could have a hidden price for patients: Controlling Massachusetts’ soaring medical costs, many health care leaders believe, may require residents to give up their nearly unlimited freedom to go to any hospital and specialist they want.

Efforts to keep patients in a defined provider network, or direct them to lower-cost hospitals could be unpopular, especially in a state where more than 40 percent of hospital care is provided in expensive academic medical centers and where many insurance policies allow patients access to large numbers of providers.

and then there is this:

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, staff writer Dr. Robert Steinbrook said the state commission failed to address the choice issue head-on. Global payments would save money only if networks “limited the volume of services, and denied certain requests from patients and providers,’’ among other measures, he wrote. “Since patient choice is such a sensitive issue, the commission waffled.’’

But Sarah Iselin, head of the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy and cochair of the payment commission, said the panel understood the importance of addressing the effect of its recommendations on patient choice, but “felt these issues could be figured out’’ later by a board that would be created to oversee the transition to a new payment system.

You know .. later. After it’s law, later. Once we have you, later. Get it? Just pass the bill damn-it.

Mass health care has been well documented on this blog … here and here. Costs are soaring (up 42%), and it’s all happened since the Bay State decided to introduce universal mandatory health care or else. Well the citizens bought into it because their premiums were soaring. They bought into access to everything for all. They believed the politicians and now the politicians are surprised they’re what, using it?

So now you Bay Staters, your premiums are soaring … and your access will be limited. Perfect, don’t you think?

Visual Version of Health Care

I think it is difficult for some to visualize what would happen if Obama Care, or Universal Health Care or what ever it is that you choose to call it gets passed by the Senate and the House.

But on the cover of Healthcare Ledger could be the best visual aide in
understanding what  universal health care could be like for us common folk.

Health Ledger

The definition of health care insanity (see MA, ME, TN, HI)

Someone, far smarter than I, once defined insanity as repeating the same behavior over and over again, and expecting a different result.  Were that same person looking at the current proposals for health care reform, I suppose that person would conclude that both Congress and the President are insane.

All of the health care proposals floating around Washington are simply carbon copies of health care policies established elsewhere.  Given that, one would think that Congress would have learned by now (perhaps on one of their many “fact finding” trips at taxpayer expense) that none of those policies, not a one, has ever lived up to the grandiose promises.  In fact, they have failed miserably.

We all have heard of the horror stories of rationed care and backbreaking taxes in the United Kingdom, or the endless waits for specialists and surgery in Canada that have driven many Canadians across the border to receive health care in the United States.

But, Congress doesn’t even have to look beyond our borders to see what will happen.  Obamacare exists in Hawaii, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Maine, and it hasn’t worked in any state.  Incredibly, however, Congress has chosen not only to overlook what has happened in those states, but also to draft legislation that is virtually identical to those failed models.

In Massachusetts, the overall cost of health care has risen 42% since the program started in 2006, and it now “boasts” the highest insurance premiums in the nation.  Premiums there have risen 7.4% in 2007, 8 -12% in 2008, and are expected to rise 9% in 2009, compared with the national average of 6.1%, 4.7% and 6.4% respectively.  It is thus little wonder that there are still 200,000 uninsureds in the state…Massachusetts has made health insurance unaffordable.

The same tragedy has also played out in Maine.  It has seen a 74% increase in insurance premiums in 5 years, and today, the number of uninsureds in Maine is only slightly lower than it was when the program started.  At the same time Maine spent over $2 million to accomplish this feat.

Now that I think about it, the above definition of insanity seems accurate.  Why would anyone in their right mind suggest a program that the overwhelming weight of the evidence graphically demonstrates doesn’t drive down the cost of health care, doesn’t reduce the cost of insurance, and doesn’t materially affect the number of uninsureds, while at the same time spending $1 trillion to do so?

I’m beginning to wonder whether anyone “inside the Beltway” is capable of rational thought.

Massachusetts health care experiment not working out

I’ve recently written about how the states – per the Constitution – can be great incubators of ideas. Instead of implementing programs like universal health care at the federal level where it could never be reversed, states can try stuff and other states can measure results. So, how is Massachusetts doing with its health care experiment?

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Massachusetts sues – claims feds overstepping reach into state issues

Massachusetts’ attorney general has sued the federal government claiming the Defense of Marriage Act is an overreaching and discriminatory law. In other words, marriage is a state issue, not federal, and non-traditional couples are being discriminated against. Why the complaint? They are not getting any cash from the feds.

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Free cars for welfare recipients – now with AAA!

The Commonwealth of  Massachusetts has a program providing automobiles to welfare recipients – including taxpayer funded insurance, auto repairs and a AAA membership – as an incentive to get them to go to work and stay off welfare.

Granted, these are not new cars, but the program costs the commonwealth more than $400,000 per year since Massachusetts covers insurance, registration, taxes, repairs and the AAA membership.

About 20 percent of the program participants end up back on welfare and keep the car. Massachusetts penalizes them by making them cover their own insurance and repairs, but they keep the car.

No word on the AAA membership, which is paid a year in advance.

Here’s part of the story from the Boston Herald.

The program, which started in 2006, distributes cars donated by non-profit charities such as Good News Garage, a Lutheran charity, which also does the repair work on the car and bills the state.

Kehoe defended the program, saying the state breaks even by cutting welfare payments to the family – about $6,000 a year.

“If you look at the overall picture, this helps make sure people aren’t staying on cash assistance. It’s a relatively short payment for a long-term benefit,” Kehoe said.

But Kehoe admitted about 20 percent of those who received a car ended up back on welfare, and while they lose the insurance and other benefits, they don’t have to return the car. …

Applicants for cars must have a job or prove they could get one if they had the car in order to qualify. Once they have the wheels, they must send DTA their pay stubs to prove they are employed.

To get the cars, they must be unable to reach work by public transportation and have a clean driving record. The program is only available to families on welfare with children.

So these people could go to work if they really wanted to, but the commonwealth needs to nudge them a little and provide them with a free car to get them to go to work?

I’m all for helping people in need, but where does this stop? This culture is driving citizens to depend on the government for everything – and that seems to be the goal of many.

Are you in favor of “quality” health care?

It seems the more we learn about Universal Health Care, the less there is to like.  Two physicians  who are on the staff of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and on the faculty of Harvard Medical School have written an article that provides a glimpse of what health care will be like should Congress get its way.

The program that the Obama administration wishes to mandate, now, for Medicare, but which would, no doubt, become part of our Universal Health Care proposal is called “quality metrics/pay-for-performance”.  Translation… health care providers are rewarded for meeting “quality” metrics.

As is the “road to hell”, this plan was originally “paved with good intentions”.  The theory was, if certain procedures and treatments were standardized, patient safety could be enhanced.  The standards became known a “quality metrics”.  Initial successes in things like stringent rules for hand washing, for example, greatly reduced patient infections.  But, as with any government success, things soon spiraled out of control.  The quality metrics quickly became mandates for doctors under a “pay for performance” program.

Massachusetts has implemented the program as part of it’s mandatory health care system.   Clinical guidelines for treatment have been turned into iron-clad rules.  Your treatment has been taken out of your doctor’s hands and turned over to “experts”, who don’t know you, have never examined you, and, who may, or may not be physicians.

In Massachusetts, there are not only carrots but also sticks; physicians who fail to comply with quality guidelines from certain state-based insurers are publicly discredited and their patients required to pay up to three times as much out of pocket to see them.

And, it gets worse than that.

A colleague who works in an ICU in a medical center in our state told us how his care of the critically ill is closely monitored. If his patients have blood sugars that rise above the metric, he must attend what he calls “re-education sessions” where he is pointedly lectured on the need to adhere to the rule.

There are two obvious problems with this inflexible approach to medical treatment. First, it assumes that all patients are “created equal”, and, the second problem comes when the “quality” guidelines are just plain wrong.  As this article points out, wrong guidelines can be deadly.

But this coercive approach was turned on its head last month when the New England Journal of Medicine published a randomized study, by the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Clinical Trials Group and the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group, of more than 6,000 critically ill patients in the ICU. Half of the patients received insulin to tightly maintain their sugar in the normal range [per the guidelines], and the other half were on a more flexible protocol, allowing higher sugar levels. More patients died in the tightly regulated group than those cared for with the flexible protocol.

Yet another study of the stringent guidelines for treatment of ambulatory diabetics was discontinued 17 months earlier than intended because so many people in the “tightly regulated” study group died.

And, were that not enough, other research is showing that some patients are being denied treatment for fear that a bad outcome would hurt the health care provider’s rating.

…research by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital published last month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology indicates that report cards may be pushing Massachusetts cardiologists to deny lifesaving procedures on very sick heart patients out of fear of receiving a low grade if the outcome is poor.

So, if anyone asks you how you could possibly be opposed to Universal Health Care, you’ll be prepared to answer.  Aside from what will eventually become a massive tax increase to support the program, you can explain that “cost effective” treatment, is actually rationing, and “quality metrics” treatment provides anything but quality.

The “de ja vu” Health Care Plan

Any debate about universal health care invariably turns to a discussion of medical care in Great Britain or Canada – overburdening taxes, long waits for testing, and even longer waits for treatment. In an attempt to contain costs, health care is essentially rationed. Think that can’t happen here? Well, think again.  It’s already happening. Read more

Free products and services equal unlimited demand

I’ve been meaning to write a post concerning “free” goods and services. What happens when the government – or any other group – comes in and offers something for a very low cost or free?

I’ve found three events that will show us what happens when you offer stuff for free or at super-low cost, well below the actual market value.

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