Tag Archives: health care reform

Health Care Reform Poll – It’s Your Turn


We spent the last 14 months hearing from the politicians about health care reform… now it’s your turn. Tell us what you think in our very un-scientific poll:

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Episode 73 – Lucy Pulls the Football from Charlie Brown: The Last Minute Health Care Negotiations


Health care reform is in its final tumultuous hours, and financial reform is just beginning. Jeff and Glenn clear through the rhetoric and provide useful information on how to consider these hugely important issues. What is the CBO? Why is its “scoring” of the health care bill so important, and what does it mean from both a political and policy perspective? What is the process health care reform will take going through the House? How will a reconciliation bill be handled? As financial reform takes off, what is the single biggest idea that needs to be addressed for it to be successful (hint: it has to do with restoring a little known law called Glass-Steagall).

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The Health Care Issue Nobody’s Talking About


I mentioned on our last show that the hyperbole surrounding the budget doesn’t correlate to the real issue in the budget that nobody is talking about: the single biggest driver in the budget that effects our debt, deficit and ability to meet the promise of the social programs I want to see funded are cost-laden entitlement programs: medicare, medicaid and social security. With an aging population and skyrocketing costs, we will never get our budget under control until we do the politically unpopular thing of tackling entitlements.

In that vein, we will never cure the problems that most of us face in health care until we have real, comprehensive health care reform. But the real purpose of this post is to say that we can’t have real health care reform until we listen to the advice offered by William J. Baumol, the most important person in health care you never heard about. Supportive of health care reform and Progressive ideas like the Public Option, he nonetheless warns us all that the underlying sickness in the health care system is out of control costs. And  there really isn’t a cure.

As described in his 1966 book on the economics of the performing arts, the cost of labor continues to rise because its an industry that doesn’t benefit from increased efficiencies. For example, you still need the same number of people to play a Mozart string quartet today that you did a hundred years ago, or in baseball,  you still need 9 players on the field — efficiencies like new bats, new balls, bigger gloves, haven’t changed the cost of labor (that’s one reason why we pay baseball players so much).

While productivity can be increased due to technologies in some other areas, like the auto industry, labor costs in health care continue to rise, and demand never lets up — in fact it increases. So when politicians argue that we can bring costs down through increased efficiencies, new technologies, electronic billing, using nurses more than doctors for primary care, etc., — the bottom line is that we still need the same number of people (if not more) when we are sick. It’s great politics to talk about getting health care costs under control, but it’s enormously complicated policy.

If we do nothing, as Republicans would have it, costs will indeed continue to skyrocket, not just because labor costs will rise with inflation, but also because the insurance companies they defend want to increase their profits. But if we are realistic about how costs will grow and why, then maybe we can slow the growth…by incorporating ideas like the public option, ending anti-trust provisions for insurance companies…or getting rid of insurance companies by introducing a single payer system.

— Jeff Kimball

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Episode 62 – Ending the Health Insurance Monopoly


In what might be the most lively and engaging episode of PoliTalk, Jeff and Glenn debate the merits of a tax on generous so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans. Glenn takes on the insurance companies in explaining why their anti-trust exemption needs to be removed, and Jeff argues for the merits of the health care legislation in Congress, but against health care “reform.”  Always entertaining and informative, it’s PoliTalk, your weekly political podcast.

From all of us here at PoliTalk, we wish you a very happy holiday season. PoliTalk will return with new episodes in January of 2010.

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Why Real Health Insurance Reform Will Not Happen…


According to White House Advisor, David Axelrod, the Health Care bill that is about to pass the Senate will be a major win for the American people. He said yesterday on Meet the Press:

It’s going to help people who don’t have insurance, including small businesses who can’t afford it or people who don’t get it through their employer, get it at a cost they can afford.  It’s going to extend the life of Medicare and give seniors some, some more support in terms of prescription drugs and better care…

The market sees this as a big win for the health insurance industry. This means that investors see this as a big win for more profits at the insurance companies.

Health Insurance Companies Stock Performance Over the Last 12 Months

While aspects of the bill sound good, like removing the pre-existing condition barrier and insuring the un-insured etc., all we are doing is the traditional Washington DC shuffle game. We shuffle money from taxpayers to the government, who pays insurance companies. Then we also shuffle money directly from health care consumers to pay health insurance companies. The result is a huge windfall for insurance companies.

What I believe the challenge with the state of the health care in the USA is the lack of a consistency between states. Allow me to provide a brief history lesson.

In 1944, United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Association, 322 U.S. 533 was a Supreme Court case that held that the Sherman Act, the federal antitrust statute, applied to insurance companies.

Following this decision in 1945 The McCarran–Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1011-1015 was made a law which:

  • exempts health insurance companies from the federal anti-trust legislation
  • allowed the states to regulate health insurance

Now the interesting thing about this is that Health Insurance companies as a result of this law are not subject to anti-trust regulations that companies like Microsoft and even Proctor & Gamble have to abide by. Yet, on the other hand, because of State by State regulation, they are not able to easily enter a state market and provide competition or even common plans among all 50 states. This adds unnecessary bureaucracy and cost while limiting competition in states which would drive premiums and costs down. We need one central (Federal) regulating body to set minimum standards for insurance plans and be the watchdog for protecting the public. This will allow all health insurance companies to compete in every state and reduce the health insurance oligopolies that exist in many states today.

It is time for Congress and the President to repeal the McCarran–Ferguson Act and let market forces help drive down cost and premiums for all of us. Instead, with the Senate bill we are about to hand them 30 million more subscribers, with no real incentive to drive down costs or premiums.

– Glenn

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Episode 55 – Politics of Afghanistan, Health Care Reform and Las Vegas Room Rates


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Following up on last week’s in-depth discussion of Afghanistan, the PoliTalk boys turn their sights back home to talk about the political implications of what’s happening over there. They wonder what our end game is, and how various options will play politically back home. Moving to discuss the politics of another hot button issue, they explain how room rates at Las Vegas hotels are tied to the fate of health care reform.  They also explain why they are on a crusade to counter the hate-filled sensational bombastic rhetoric found on most political talk shows, and encourage their listeners to invest in and help re-brand the nature of political discourse. Always entertaining and informative, it’s PoliTalk, your weekly political podcast.

Join us in Boston on November 10, 2009! Register now, visit http://nationaldebateseries.com

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Don’t Forget the Deficit…


I am a progressive. I want a leaner, more efficient, more effective progressive government. My liberal tendencies don’t preclude me from being a traditional Yankee — and fiscally conservative at that, despite the “progressive” label and popular beliefs. As we have discussed on our show, I’m also a huge proponent of health care reform. But the thing I fear the most right now is that our deficit is growing out of control and nobody is really focusing on it. Sure, there’s talk about it, but there isn’t action yet in the form of legislation. The best article I’ve read on this? From the Brookings Institution. Yeah, that’s right, the so-called liberal Brookings Institution. Here it is, and kudos to them. Everyone should read this article, which is why I’m posting it on the site. — Jeff