Student Loan Debt is Rising while Household Incomes are Falling

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

Universities are doing well.  They rarely suffer during a recession.  Because one thing government does during a recession is encourage people to go back to college.  And get a new education.  So there is always money flowing into our houses of higher education.  But the people getting these degrees aren’t making out as well (see Number of U.S. households with student debt surges by Tiffany Hsu posted 9/28/2012 on the Los Angeles Times).

The share of American households with student debt has more than doubled in the last two decades, soaring to a record 19% in 2010 from 9% in 1989, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data…

In addition, overall household incomes continue their decade-long slide, according to the government. The median annual income slipped 1.5% last year to $50,054 compared with 2010. That’s 8.1% below the income level in 2007 and 8.9% less than the median in 1999.

More people are going to college.  Yet household incomes fell this last decade.  What can we conclude about this?  A couple of things.  A college education is not a guarantee to higher wages.  For it matters what that degree is in.  A degree in math or science will probably get you a high paying job.  A degree in philosophy or women’s studies is not likely to get you a high paying job.  If it can get you a job at all.  So a lot of universities are encouraging kids to go into debt to get a degree that will bring money into the university.  But it will probably not get them a job.

Another thing to take away from this is that even college students apparently want to earn a lot of money.  Despite the fact they typically vote for Democrats.  Who attack those who earn a lot of money.  So these newly degreed kids should not be surprised that their costly degrees are not bringing them higher earnings.  Because their political party makes it difficult for businesses to do well so they can hire new employees.  And provide high earnings and generous benefits.  Because high taxes and costly regulatory policies increases the cost of business.  Reducing what businesses can spend on employees.

If newly degreed kids out of college want high paying jobs (and want to more easily repay their student loans) they would be better off voting Republican.  Something to think about with the 2012 elections around the corner.  And kids going to college should consider getting a degree that has market value.  Even if these degrees are harder than degrees in philosophy or women’s studies.

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France is Raising Taxes on Wealthy Individuals and Businesses to Stimulate Economic Activity

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

When a store wants to increase sales what do they do?  Raise prices?  Or lower prices?  Well, based on those sales papers, one has to say they lower prices to increase sales.  Because if someone stops buying from a store raising prices just isn’t going to bring them back to that store.  For how many people ever say they would shop more at a store if only they would raise their prices?  Zero people.  For no one ever shops where their money will buy less.

The higher the price of something the less we buy.  Something few people will dispute.  Unless, of course, it’s rich people investing in job-creating businesses.  As government people believe that rich investors will spend more money the less they can make from their investments.  Especially in France (see Hollande opts to punish French rich with €20bn of new taxes by John Lichfield posted 9/29/2012 on The Independent).

France’s Socialist government insisted yesterday that it could solve the conundrum of simultaneous deficit-cutting and growth which has eluded every other European country from Greece to Britain.

As new clouds gathered over the eurozone, President François Hollande pushed ahead with the country’s toughest budget for three decades, taking €20bn (£16bn) of new taxes from big businesses and the wealthy but imposing relatively moderate €10bn cuts on state spending.

With growth stagnant and unemployment rising sharply, the success or failure of the 2013 budget could decide whether Europe’s second-largest economy becomes part of solution to the eurozone crisis or a new, and devastating, part of the problem.

If we can learn anything from history it’s this.  Tax cuts stimulate economic activity.  Tax hikes don’t.  So growth will remain stagnant in France.  And unemployment will rise even further.  Especially when they will tax very successful business people at 75% on earnings and eliminate business tax breaks.

Among other things, the budget introduces Mr Hollande’s “temporary” 75 per cent tax on personal earnings over €1m and abolishes the tax breaks on large firms introduced by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, spoke of a “fighting budget” which would help to get France “back on track” after 38 years of successive state deficits. He insisted the target of 0.8 per cent growth next year was realistic and would be achieved.

But opposition politicians said the budget had been “muddled together”, and was more concerned with preserving Mr Hollande’s campaign promises than addressing France’s – and Europe’s – deepening economic crisis. They pointed out that, while almost all European countries were cutting back spending, the French budget for 2013 preserved the 56 per cent of GDP spent by the state and marginally increased the number of state employees, by 6,000…

Critics complained, however, that the budget did nothing to tackle the erosion of France’s international competitiveness, which has been blamed for large-scale redundancies in the car industry and other sectors. The cost of employing a worker in France has increase by 28 per cent in the past decade, compared with an 8 per cent increase in Germany.

A growth rate of 0.8%?  They’ll be able to achieve what many call a recessionary level of growth?  Not much of a goal.  No wonder France has one of the most uncompetitive workforces.  That massive welfare state costs money.  And there’s only one way to get the money to pay for that massive welfare state.  Taxes.  Even if a government runs a deficit they finance with borrowing.  Because they have to pay the interest on that debt with taxes.

Everything comes back to jobs.  The more jobs there are the more tax revenue the government can collect.  But to create more jobs businesses have to grow larger.  But when governments tax businesses (and business investors) so excessively there is little incentive to grow these businesses larger.  So France’s actions are not likely to have any of the intended results.  In fact they will probably only make a bad situation worse.  And may make them part of the problem in the Eurozone crisis.

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Price of Beef and Dairy Goods rise as Midwest Drought leaves less Corn for Food and Ethanol

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The Midwest drought has reduced corn yields.  Greatly raising the price of corn.  Good for famers who have corn to sell.  But not so good for people who buy that corn.  From those who make ethanol.  To those who feed livestock with it.  And the drought also reduced the amount of food available to export to impoverished, hungry nations.  As well as raising food prices in U.S. grocery stores.  From beef to eggs to milk to cheese.  It has hit dairy farms in California especially hard (see Calif dairies going broke due to feed, milk prices by GOSIA WOZNIACKA, Associated Press, posted 9/29/2012 on Yahoo! News).

Across California, the nation’s largest dairy state, dozens of dairy operators large and small have filed for bankruptcy in recent months and many teeter on the edge of insolvency. Others have sold their herds or sent them to slaughter and given up on the business.

Experts say California dairymen face a double whammy: exorbitant feed costs and lower milk prices. The Midwest drought has led to corn and soybean costs increasing by more than 50 percent this summer, stressing dairymen from Wisconsin and Minnesota to Missouri. But in California, milk prices have also lagged behind those in the rest of the nation, exacerbating the crisis.

Not helping those “exorbitant feed costs” is the ethanol mandate that requires us to burn some of this reduced food crop in our cars as fuel.  Which the government has refused to waive.  Despite fervent requests from those who have to cull their herds because they can’t afford to feed them.  But environmentalism wins out over people.  And cows.  More people go hungry because of the cost of food.  And dairy farmers send their cows to slaughter because they can’t afford to feed them.

Save the planet.  Kill the people.  And cows.  Especially when you have to please your environmentalist base when going into the 2012 elections.

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Automakers can’t sell All-Electric Cars and Hybrids because Car Buyers don’t Want Them

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

The American car buyer has looked at all-electric and hybrid cars.  And after about two years of looking at them they are telling us what they think about them.  They don’t like them.  They don’t want to buy them.  And the automakers are starting to get the message (see Buyers, automakers raise doubts about electric cars by Chris Woodyard posted 9/28/2012 on USA Today).

Having largely exhausted a pool of electric-car devotees as buyers, automakers are facing headwinds in trying to make plug-in cars a mass-market product.

Nissan joined General Motors last week in offering deeper lease discounts on its premier electric car. The latest deal on the all-electric Leaf brings the lease payment closer to the level of a comparable non-electric car, not counting the gas savings, an analysis for USA TODAY by Edmunds.com finds…

Yet, some automakers are stepping back when it comes to battery-only electrics:

Toyota, for instance, announced this week that it will bring as few as 100 of its electric version of the Scion iQ to the U.S., not the thousands expected earlier. Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada warned that current all-electric cars just don’t meet the range requirements of most drivers.

The electric car is perfect for someone who doesn’t drive anywhere.  Where the range of the all-electric car isn’t an issue.  If you have a short commute to work or all your needs are satisfied within a 10 minute drive from your house than the all-electric car is for you.  Well, that.  Or walking.  But if you have a 30 minute drive home from work in a winter blizzard you’re going to want a gasoline engine under the hood.  To keep you warm.  To keep your windows defrosted and ice free.  To keep your headlights shining bright.  And best of all, to get you home so you don’t have to walk home through that blizzard.

EV start-ups aren’t having any easier time. Tesla warned in a filing this week that production of its new $57,000-and-up all-electric Model S sedan has fallen far behind schedule.

The higher price also has put off buyers, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently issued a report concluding that the government’s up-to-$7,500 tax subsidy for buying an electric car will cost taxpayers $7.5 billion over seven years but does not make up for the extra cost of the cars. It found that electric cars average $16,000 to $19,000 more than a comparable gas-engine or hybrid vehicles.

But cheap leases, along with the savings on fuel costs, have closed that gap some, at least for the Volt and Leaf.

GM has sold 13,497 Volts in the first eight months of this year, according to Autodata, more than three times as many as in the same period last year. The total has been helped by the fact that on the $39,995 Volt, Chevy is offering a $299 monthly lease after a $1,529 down payment.

The Edmunds.com analysis finds that before adding in fuel savings, this amounts to 34 cents a mile for the life of the lease, compared with 22 cents a mile for a comparable, non-electric Chevrolet Cruze, which has a sticker price of less than half a Volt’s.

This is the big problem with all-electric and hybrid cars.  They cost too much.  And people only buy them because the government slaps fat subsidies of taxpayer money on them.  Or by the sales of gasoline-powered cars.  For when they sell a car below cost they have to recover that cost elsewhere.  And the only place they can is in the price of the cars people want and are buying.  Those cars with a gasoline engine under the hood.

So if you want one of these electric cars you have to make big sacrifices in your life.  From not driving anyplace more than a 10 minute trip from your home.  To not buying other things because you’re paying so much more for a car than you have to.

It is clear that the all-electric and hybrid cars are just not viable business models now.  That could change.  But for now any more taxpayer money invested in electric and hybrid cars is money wasted.  Because car buyers simply don’t want to buy them.  Now all we need is for our government to learn what our automakers have learned.

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The NHS is gearing up to make the NHS more like the American Health Care System prior to Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 30th, 2012

Week in Review

Big change is coming to the NHS.  Their great centralized National Health Service is about to become decentralized.  In an effort to cut out of control costs.  And improve the quality of care (see NHS ‘could get worse from 2013’ by Branwen Jeffreys and Nick Triggle posted 9/27/2012 on BBC News Health).

The health service is currently busy getting ready for the government’s reforms to go live in April…

Under the reforms, GP-led bodies, called clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), will take charge of much of the NHS budget, replacing primary care trusts (PCTs) which will be scrapped…

The NHS is at the start of a savings drive – it has been told to save £20bn by 2015 through becoming more productive.

Britain’s aging population has increased the demands on the NHS.  The number of patients are rising as retirees leave the workforce and suffer the ailments of age.  While the number of new workers entering the workforce to replace them is falling.  As is the tax revenue from those working.  Hence the savings drive.  Because of that aging population.  And the reforms are a decentralization of the NHS.  Putting local doctors in charge of treatment decisions for their patients.  And in charge of the money.  Taking health care back a little to how it used to be.  When a person’s family doctor was in charge of their treatment.  Not a distant bureaucrat.  Like it currently is in the U.S. prior to the full implementation of Obamacare.  But soon will be no more.  Something for the Americans to look forward to once they fully implement Obamacare.  Perhaps sooner than the British.  As the Americans are jumping into a national health care system with all the problems the British now have.

Meanwhile, a BBC survey of 1,005 people suggested 60% believed services would have to be cut…

Some 61% agreed that they expected the NHS would have to stop providing some treatments and services in the future due to rising costs and increasing demands.

Nearly three-quarters also said they did not trust the government with the health service…

“The end of the public sector pay freeze next April may add to financial pressure and increase the strain on services.

“The difficulty will be finding ways to absorb these costs without compromising the quality of care for patients.”

But health minister Lord Howe maintained the NHS was “on track” to achieve its savings target…

Waiting times have been kept low, infections have been reduced, there are more doctors, more diagnostic tests and more planned operations,” he added.

This is, of course, what that aging population will do to a national health care system.  As more patients enter the health service than the population grows to pay for it (with an expanding tax base) you get longer wait times, more infections, fewer doctors relative to patients, fewer diagnostic tests and fewer planned operations.  Which forces the health service to find ways to make their limited resources cover more of that expanding patient base.  And key to their reforms is making health care more efficient.  By putting the people closest to their patients in charge of their patients’ treatments.  So they can get more from their NHS funds.

The U.S. has the same problem Britain has.  An aging population.  And yet the U.S. and Britain are moving in two different directions with their health care systems.  Who is right?  The one making changes based on the accepted reality of the impact of an aging population?  Britain.  Or the one making changes based on their confidence that they can do national health care better than everyone who has ever tried?  The U.S.  Despite that aging population.

Britain is moving in the right direction.  Because they have no choice but to move in that direction.  Whereas the U.S. has a choice.  Because their health care has been in the private sector up until Obamacare.  In fact that has worked so well that the British are moving in that direction.  Which makes us scratch our heads at those moving away from it.  Are they so full of themselves, are they suffering from such delusions of grandeur, that they think they can do the same thing (national health care) and expect to get different results?  Albert Einstein had a word for thinking like that.  Insanity.

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The High Cost of National Health Care is causing the NHS to Close Hospitals in Wales

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Proponents of Obamacare want a full-blown national health care system like the British NHS.  Because that’s the only way to guarantee quality health care for all Americans.  And not just those who can afford it.  The problem with the American system, they say, is the pursuit of profits.  Making money on people’s ill health.  Which is just wrong.  And immoral.  Only when they remove the profit incentive can the American health care system approach the British model.  And become a health care utopia.  Where they provide everything for everyone.  And no one ever has to worry about their health care needs (see South Wales hospital shake-up plans defended posted 9/27/2012 on BBC News Wales).

Health bosses have defended proposals to concentrate some specialist hospital services in south Wales in four or five locations.

The Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have expressed concerns that the plans could see key local health services downgraded or closed…

The current shape of NHS in south Wales is based on a model of district general hospitals developed in the 1960s.

But the health boards say that is unsuited to deal with modern pressures on the health service.

Centralising some services, such as high-level care for children and newborn babies, in fewer large hospitals would allow patients to get access to the best care around the clock, they said.

Unless, apparently, you live in south Wales.  Where that ‘everything for everyone’ turns out to be really, really expensive.  And the only way they can afford to pay for that is by making people travel further for their health care needs.  As they ration services to fewer larger hospitals.  That turns health care into an economies of scale, assembly line-like production model.  To maximize the health care services a shrinking number of doctors can provide.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said it was essential patients had safe, sustainable services as close to home as possible – and the status quo was not an option.

But the Conservatives said the plans would lead to the downgrading of hospitals, and blamed the Welsh government for failing to recruit enough doctors.

Andrew RT Davies, Tory leader in the assembly, told BBC Wales: “[The current system] is unsustainable because they are unable to find the clinicians to fill the rotas.

“It is my contention this is happening because the health service in Wales has been starved of cash, and the Welsh government, and Carwyn Jones as particular as first minister, has failed to fill the medical rosters by supporting the health boards in recruiting doctors into Wales.”

Starved for cash?  Has failed to fill the medical rosters?  Failed to recruit doctors to Wales?  Doesn’t sound much like a health care utopia to me.   Apparently that national health care system simply can’t afford to provide everything for everyone.  At least without making them travel awhile for their health care needs.

This is the future of Obamacare.  When you start providing everything for everyone costs rise.  And when costs rise you don’t have many options.  You can cut pay and benefits of your health care providers.  A major cost of any health care system.  But if you don’t pay doctors well it won’t encourage people to become doctors.  And let’s face it, it isn’t easy to be a doctor.  That’s why we pay doctors a lot.  To encourage them to do these hard jobs that so few of us are willing to do.

So you can only cut pay and benefits so far.  In fact the best you’ll probably be able to do is to decrease further pay increases.  So that leaves the only other alternative.  Rationing.  Closing hospitals and making people travel further for their health care needs.  Which the NHS is doing in Wales.  And Obamacare will be doing everywhere in the U.S.  Because costs are costs. Whatever the NHS goes through any other national health care system will go through.  So if they ration services Obamacare will ration services.

And, of course, Obamacare will raise taxes.  For awhile.  Until they can raise taxes no more.  Like the British can no longer do.  So the NHS is closing hospitals.  Like Obamacare will eventually do in the United States.  As Obamacare turns to the last cost saving measure.  Rationing.  Which will include those death panels.

Some health care utopia, huh?

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The NHS does not provide Long-Term Elderly Care just as Obamacare will not provide Long-Term Elderly Care

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 29th, 2012

Week in Review

The Liberal Democrats in Britain don’t care much for the elderly.  For they are just too costly.  And there are other social programs that are competing for these valuable but limited government funds.  Which can be put to far better use buying votes (see Reforming elderly care is not the biggest priority, says Danny Alexander by Rowena Mason posted 9/25/2012 on The Telegraph).

Reforming elderly care is not the biggest priority and just one of many problems on the “long term horizon”, Danny Alexander, a Treasury minister, has said.

The Liberal Democrat denied reports that the Treasury is “blocking” elderly care reforms but fuelled fears it is being kicked into the long grass.

Mr Alexander said the Coalition will “take forward the Dilnot plans” for an individual cap on costs to stop so many elderly people having to sell their homes to pay for care.

This no doubt comes as a shock to most Americans.  Who thought the National Health Service (NHS) provided all British health care needs.   All the way right up to the grave.  But even in the utopian world of national health care the NHS cannot afford long-term elderly care.  Just as Obamacare will not be able to afford long-term elderly care.  Which the Americans will have to provide for themselves just as the British must provide for themselves.

Not only will Obamacare not provide long-term elderly care it will be rationing out health care to the elderly.  Where some callous bureaucrat will say that someone’s loved one will not qualify for anything other than a pill to manage his or her pain.  The so-called death panels included in Obamacare.  Though not called death panels.  But for all intents and purposes are death panels.  As some callous government bureaucrat will have the power of life or death over you.

However, he stressed there are “lots of other social care pressures” and competing priorities, including the needs of vulnerable people with low incomes.

In other words, British death panels.  That will choose when and where they will spend limited government funds.  And when it comes down to a dying old person versus a younger worker who, if he or she survives, will pay more income taxes, guess who they will spend those limited funds on?

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury was speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, where delegates are pushing for more wealth taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance.

Mr Alexander said the taxman could raise huge amounts of money by making Britons with offshore accounts “play by the rules”. Recovering cash due from accounts in Lichtenstein alone could raise up to £3 billion, Mr Alexander said.

He also said the Liberal Democrats would like higher taxes on the rich to pay for tax cuts for the poor.

Classic class warfare.  Cut down on tax avoidance so more people can avoid paying taxes at the lower end.  Tax the few so the many don’t have to pay taxes.  And, of course, the many will vote for those who further raise the taxes on the few.  Or put in another way, buying votes.

Of course, this doesn’t help the elderly with their long-term care.  But it will provide more benefits for the masses that will vote for Liberal Democrats.  Just as a good policy of class warfare should do.  Buy votes as efficiently as possible.  For there is only so much money available to buy votes with.  Especially when health care consumes so much of these precious, limited, government funds.

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One Former Australian Bank Official accuses the Elderly of using $100 Notes in Massive Welfare Fraud

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 29th, 2012

Week in Review

What’s the biggest problem of a welfare state?  Fraud.  Which large piles of money always seems to attract.  As well as changing personal behavior.  Some are even saying it’s turning the elderly into the greatest fraudsters in all of Australia (see Pensioners fume at welfare fraud claims by Henrietta Cook posted 9/25/2012 on The Sydney Morning Herald).

Former senior Reserve Bank official Peter Mair said elderly Australians were committing welfare fraud on a massive scale and are behind the extraordinarily high number of $100 notes in circulation…

Yesterday, BusinessDay revealed there are now 10 $100 notes in circulation for each Australian, far more than the more commonly seen $20 notes…

In a letter to the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, dated July 4, Mr Mair laid the blame squarely on elderly people wanting to get the pension and hiding their income in cash to ensure they qualified for the means-tested benefit.

If you have too much income or too much money in the bank you could have too much wealth to qualify for a means-tested pension.  So the former senior Reserve Bank official is suggesting that people close to retirement are withdrawing their money from the bank to draw down their bank accounts to more easily qualify for those means-tested pensions.  And those $100 bills make it easy to hide piles of cash in a pensioner’s house.  Perhaps needing only one well hid suitcase full of $100 bills to hold all of those bank withdrawals.  At least, that is what the former senior Reserve Bank official is suggesting.

Finance Minister Penny Wong has warned elderly pensioners to properly declare their incomes. Senator Wong said today she had “not been looking looking under pensioners’ beds lately”.

“But I would say we have a system of means testing for access to the pension and people are required to declare their assets and their income in order to access them,” she told reporters in Canberra…

Mr Mair said that in 1996 when the green plastic $100 note replaced the grey paper note, the Martin Place headquarters of the Reserve received regular visits from retirees wanting to withdraw large quantities of the new notes. He said the commercial banks had sent them to the Reserve because they did not have enough $100 notes on hand.

Mr Mair said the return for an Australian close to getting the pension who held $10,000 in cash, rather than declaring it, was “enormous”.

“If putting it under the bed or in a cupboard means you qualify for the pensioner card, you get discounted council rates, discounted car registration, discounted phone rental – in percentage terms the return is enormous,” he said.

So there is a clear advantage to hiding your wealth.  Which the high denomination bills allow one to do.  So the obvious solution to this alleged welfare fraud would be to eliminate those high denomination bills.

His letter to the governor proposes phasing out the $100 and $50 denominations.

“Cards and the internet have delivered a body blow to high-denomination bank notes. They are redundant,” he said. “There is no longer any point in issuing them except to facilitate tax dodging. The authorities would announce that from, say, June 2015 every $100 and $50 note could be redeemed but no new notes would be issued. After June 2017 every note could only be redeemed at an annual discount of 10 per cent. It would mean that, after two years, each $100 note could only be redeemed for $80, and so on.”

Or perhaps they could lower tax rates.  If they are using these $100 bills for tax evasion perhaps taxes are just too high.  Apparently there is an underground cash economy solely to evade or mitigate taxes like the GST and the carbon tax.  It would appear they could come out further ahead if they just cut taxes instead of having all of these taxes (and tax enforcement) for a welfare state that people may be gaming.  It would be so much cheaper for people to pay their own way and not provide for everyone else (as well as the environment) through these excessive taxes that people aggressively try to evade.

The events happening in Australia provide an answer to the commonly asked question.  Are we taxed too much?  A question the Australians are clearly answering in the affirmative.  As most people feel who have a GST as well as a carbon tax.

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Thieves are Stealing Medical Equipment and Personal Information from the NHS

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Thomas Jefferson did not like having money and government get too close.  Because history is strewn with examples of corruption whenever money and government come together.  From padding the federal payroll to spending money to buying votes to outright graft.  Which is why Thomas Jefferson would have opposed Obamacare.  For he would have thought it was not the federal government’s business to provide health care.  And he definitely would not have wanted the federal government spending that kind of tax money.

We spend a lot on health care.  About $2.6 trillion today.  And another bad thing about spending that kind of money?  Government bureaucrats just aren’t that good at it.  So you know Obamacare won’t be as good as the health care provided by the private sector.  Just look at what’s happening in the UK to see the future of Obamacare when the government takes responsibility for $2.6 trillion in health care spending (see The great hospital robbery: Defibrillators, baby heart monitors, even beds – thieves are walking out of NHS wards with vital equipment by John Naish posted 9/24/2012 on Mail Online).

The great hospital robbery: Defibrillators, baby heart monitors, even beds – thieves are walking out of NHS wards with vital equipment…

Experts suggest they are spiriting it abroad, to Eastern Europe or even as far afield as Iraq and Afghanistan.

And, shockingly, NHS staff are sometimes involved, acting as an ‘inside man’.

But if such thefts are not scandalous enough in themselves, NHS chiefs appear to be so blasé about the losses they don’t even have a national picture of how much equipment is being stolen, let alone a comprehensive anti-theft strategy…

To make matters worse, NHS trusts can’t claim for the stolen property, says Sarah Bailey of the Association of British Insurers.

‘The NHS does not tend to take out commercial insurance policies. Instead, it “self-insures”, which means it absorbs the cost of its losses, rather than taking out policies that could be expensive.’

As she points out: ‘Ultimately, it could be the taxpayer who funds those losses.’

Of course government bureaucrats aren’t going to get excited about theft.  Why should they care?  It’s not their money.  And it’s not their job.  Besides the losses won’t come out of anyone’s pay.  They’ll just pass the losses on to the taxpayers.  Something they can’t do in the private sector.  Which is why they take loss prevention a bit more seriously in the private sector.  Because there is accountability in the private sector.  And profits.  So they put people in places to minimize anything that will reduce those profits.  Like theft.  Something the NHS appears to be not overly concerned about.  Pity.  For they are stealing more than just medical equipment.

Laptops used by hospital staff are the most frequent target of hospital thieves, which could mean millions of people’s personal details and medical records have fallen into the hands of criminals.

In June last year, for example, NHS North Central London admitted that an apparently unencrypted laptop, containing details of more than eight million patients, was one of 20 machines reported stolen from a storeroom.

When computer thefts result in the loss of sensitive information on patients, this has to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the independent public authority set up to uphold information rights.

Figures from the ICO show that the NHS is the top sector for such losses, with significantly more incidents than the whole of the private sector put together…

And this is the future under Obamacare.  Greater inefficiencies because of theft.  And greater theft of personal information.  Which there will be a lot of available to steal as Obamacare digitizes all our medical records.  So as we move to national health care it will cost more and we will get less.  As they spend a lot of our tax dollars to replace stolen equipment thanks to the lackadaisical attitude of the government bureaucrats in charge of Obamacare.  While we spend more to replace what others steal from us thanks to their lackadaisical attitude about securing our personal information.

Sure, some say Obamacare will do better than the NHS.  But to them I say the NHS probably does national health care better than most.  And after doing it since 1948 they’ll be able to do it better than the Americans will be able to do it just starting out.  Only it will be a lot harder than it was in 1948.  Thanks to an aging population raising the cost of health care.  And the sophistication of the bad guys in stealing from the system.  No.  Obamacare will be a far cry from the NHS.  So as bad as anything is in the NHS just remember that Obamacare will probably never be that good.

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Computerized Medical Records open the Door to Fraud and Give Glimpse of Health Care under Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 29th, 2012

Week in Review

One of the ways to improve efficiency and cut costs in health care is to digitize medical records.  President Obama and the Democrats kept talking about that as they pushed Obamacare through a Democrat-controlled House and Senate.  This simple fact was going to fix so much that was wrong with health care in the U.S.  Putting all our personal information online is just common sense.  Because it makes it so much easier for health care providers to look up our personal information no matter where they are.  And as it turns out, it makes it easier for others to pull up that personal information (see Feds warn hospitals over Medicare fraud by Associated Press posted 9/24/2012 on CBS NEWS).

Computerized medical records were supposed to cut costs. Now the Obama administration is warning hospitals that might be tempted to use the technology for gaming the system.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder issued the warning Monday in a letter to hospital trade associations, following media reports of alleged irregularities.

The letter said there were indications that some providers were using computerized records technology to possibly obtain payments to which they were not entitled. It raised the threat of prosecution.

Among the practices under scrutiny is what’s called “upcoding” — or raising the severity of a patient’s condition to get more money.

The U.S. spends about $770 billion annually on Medicare based on a recent CBO projection.  Imagine the fraud in the system when the government takes over all $2.6 trillion of health care spending.  If the spending increases by 238% one can assume the fraud will increase by 238%.  Fraud made easier by the digitizing of our health care system.  Unless, of course, the U.S. will have the best cyber security in place like they do for Medicare.

Hospitals say part of the problem is that Medicare has lagged in updating billing guidelines for emergency room and clinic visits.

Getting the billing guidelines in place is probably the easier part of a computerized billing system.  Probably a lot easier than securing that system from cyber attacks.  So it doesn’t give one a strong sense of confidence that our personal information will be safe online.  Especially when the government goes from processing $770 billion annually to processing $2.6 trillion annually.

Obamacare may make it easier for doctors to access all our personal information.  But it will also make it easier for everyone else to access our personal information.  Including those we don’t want seeing our personal information.  Those who want our social security number.  Address.  Phone numbers.  Addresses and phone numbers of our family members.  As well as our personal medical history.  All of which will be one click away for those who would really like to have it.  Makes you yearn for the old days.  When only your family doctor had that information.  On a paper file.  In his or her file cabinet.  Safe and secure.  Even if it was not the most efficient system in the world it was one you didn’t have to worry about.

Sadly, those days are long gone.  For Obamacare will put your health care experience on the public stage.  Where little will be secure from prying and persistent eyes.  Where the same people will be responsible for your personal information that can’t stop Medicare fraud.

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