Huge Financial Losses in Romneycare portend even Greater Losses for Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 11th, 2014

Week in Review

Mitt Romney is a Republican.  He was governor of the predominantly Democrat state of Massachusetts.  The first to implement universal health care.  Something the Democrats kept saying during the Obamacare debates.  And since.  Calling the universal health care system in Massachusetts Romneycare.  In fact they said that Obamacare was nothing more than Romneycare writ large.  Basically Romneycare at the national level.  And that the Democrat Obamacare will be as successful as the Republican Romneycare.  Well, it turns out Romneycare isn’t that good after all (see Report finds billions wasted on health care by Liz Kowalczyk posted 1/9/2014 on The Boston Globe).

It’s no surprise that money is routinely wasted on unneeded medical care, but for the first time, officials have estimated just how many health care dollars may be squandered in Massachusetts. It could be as much as $27 billion a year…

One large chunk of that went toward readmitting hospital patients who could have stayed home if their discharge planning had been better, such as having proper instructions for taking medication…

It also blamed emergency room visits that could have been prevented with better primary care and treatment for hospital-acquired infections. Other factors included inappropriate imaging tests for low back pain, and unnecessarily inducing labor early in women, which can increase health problems for infants…

In its report, the group pointed out that per-person spending on health care in Massachusetts is the highest in the nation and grew far faster than the national average until 2009. After that, increases in both national and state spending slowed…

The commission also analyzed high-cost patients, providing the first statewide attempt at “hot-spotting’’ — the identification of chronically ill patients who repeatedly visit emergency rooms and are often hospitalized…

It found that 5 percent of patients accounted for nearly half of all medical spending among those covered by Medicare and commercial insurance.

Because of the inefficiencies of universal health care Massachusetts may waste up to $27 billion a year.  That’s about $4,063 per person in Massachusetts they throw away each year.

Massachusetts had a 2012 population of 6,646,144.  The 2012 U.S. population was 313,914,040.  The U.S. population is about 47.2 times (313,914,040/6,646,144) the population of Massachusetts.  If Obamacare is truly Romneycare writ large then we can forecast the Obamacare losses at $1.3 trillion ($27 billion X 47.2) EACH year.  Which is greater than the original cost projection over 10 years.

Romneycare is a financial disaster.  And Obamacare will be an even greater financial disaster.  Which may add a trillion dollars to the deficit each year.  Which will push the United States to a Greece-style bankruptcy.  Only worse.  Making Obamacare the program that bankrupts the United States.

President Obama wanted to change the United States.  And he will.  Into a bankrupt third-world banana republic.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Obama Prolongs the Recession with High Food and Gas Prices and anti-Business Policies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 27th, 2011

Consumer Spending and Wages are Flat thanks to Inflation

Consumer spending at last shows some growth.  No, wait a minute.  It’s not growth.  It’s only inflation (see April consumer spending shows weak gain by the Associated Press posted 5/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Consumer spending rose 0.4 percent, reflecting a surge in the category that covers food and gasoline, areas which showed big price gains last month, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Excluding price changes, spending rose a much smaller 0.1 percent.

Incomes rose 0.4 percent but after-tax incomes adjusted for inflation were flat for a second straight month.

Analysts are worried that weak income growth and big gains in gasoline and food prices are leaving consumers with little left to spend on other products. That could dampen economic growth. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

Increased consumer spending is a good thing.  But not when consumers are only paying more for the same stuff.  That’s not new economic activity.  That’s just inflation making life more expensive.  Food and gasoline are the main culprits.  And it’s gasoline that plays a large role in making food more expensive.  Because gasoline is used everywhere in bringing food to our grocery stores.

Worse, Americans are paying more.  But not earning more.  Which leaves less disposable income to stimulate the economy. In other words, the U.S. is still in recession.  And won’t be coming out of it anytime soon.

Still no Recovery in the Housing Market

So we’re still mired in recession.  Of course that means houses should still be cheap.  With low interest rates.  Put the two together and someone should be buying houses at least (see Pending Home Sales Plunge, Reaching Seven-Month Low by Reuters posted 5/27/2011 on CNBC).

Pending sales of existing U.S. homes dropped far more than expected in April to touch a seven-month low, a trade group said on Friday, dealing a blow to hopes of a recovery in the housing market.

Damn.  Housing sales had been the backbone of the U.S. economy.  Because furnishing a house drives so much consumer spending.  The more people that bought houses the better.  So that was U.S. policy.  Putting people into houses.  Which led to the subprime mortgage market.  A housing bubble.  The subprime mortgage crisis.   And a glut of foreclosed homes on the market driving housing prices down further.

It’s a buyer’s market now.  Because so few are buying.  So the economy is not going to get any assistance from the housing market any time soon.

Universal Health Care Ruins Massachusetts First, then the United States

So things are bad.  But can they get any worse?  Are there any new big regulatory compliance or taxes in the pipeline?  Anything that could snuff out even the most anemic of economic recoveries?  As it turns out, yes (see Health Insurance Premiums Continue to Rise Under RomneyCare by Peter Suderman posted 5/27/2011 on reason).

Not only are Masachusetts’ health insurance premiums higher than elsewhere in the U.S. on average, they’ve grown at a faster rate since the adoption of RomneyCare, according to a report released yesterday by the state government. The report, which was published by the state’s Division of Health Care Finance & Policy, notes that for the last two years, private group insurance premiums rose by between five and 10 percent per year despite the fact that the regional consumer price index, which measures inflation on common goods and services, rose by just two percent..

The Obama administration has explicitly stated on numerous occasions that RomneyCare was the model for the federal overhaul. Given the Bay State’s spiraling costs, it seems more and more likely that, thanks to ObamaCare, we can all expect higher health insurance premiums in our future.

So Obamacare is Romneycare at the national level.  So the American people can expect spiraling health care costs and insurance premiums.  That can’t be good for the economy.

Obamacare hasn’t really kicked in yet.  Most of the activity has been by companies seeking waivers to be excluded from the requirements of Obamacare as it places too great a cost burden on their small businesses.  But these are only one-year waivers.  So small business costs will be going up eventually.  When they do in fact comply with Obamacare.  And that will be a great disincentive to hire new employees.  Being that small business is the biggest generator of jobs, Obamacare will further stretch out this recession.  Or make it an even more severe recession.

The Obama Administration would like Gas at $8/Gallon

If only we could get a break on gasoline prices.  That is such a large part of consumer prices that if they went down the economy might tick up.  So the government should focus all of its powers on lowering gas prices (see Obama’s Bad Policy, Harmful Regulations Add to Gas Prices by Darrell Issa posted 5/27/2011 on USNEWS).

From the campaign trail, then Senator Obama spoke of increased electricity prices as a means for advancing his agenda, noting that costs would “necessarily skyrocket.” Energy Secretary Stephen Chu was equally blunt. “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe [currently $8 a gallon],” Mr. Chu announced. Last year, President Obama declared that America must be the nation that leads the “clean energy economy.”

So the plan was to make gasoline prices high all along.  To make gasoline so expensive that the more expensive green energy became cost competitive.  To encourage the American people to choose it.  And by ‘encourage’ I mean force.  Talk about devious. 

Even as compliance costs for traditional and affordable sources of energy rise, the administration’s willingness to promulgate even tighter regulatory controls and raise taxes on oil and gas producers rolls along. In his fiscal year 2012 budget, President Obama requested more than $60 billion in direct tax and fee increases on American energy production over the next 10 years.

Tighter regulatory controls and higher taxes won’t help the economy.  Especially when those controls and taxes are on the one thing that drives most prices.  Gasoline.  It’s almost as if the Obama administration is trying to prolong the greatest recession since the Great Depression.

The Government’s Help is killing Small Business

So how about the man in the street.  Or, rather, a man on an airplane.  Stephen Carter, Yale law professor, sat next to a small business owner on a recent flight.  An actual person.  Not the abstract business people who are trying to cheat the government out of their taxes or take grandma’s medications away.  A flesh and blood real person.  They had an interesting conversation.  About small business.  The greatest generator of American jobs.  And he asked this business owner why he was prolonging the recession by not hiring new employees (see Carter: Economic Stagnation Explained, at 30,000 Feet by Stephen L. Carter posted 5/26/2011 on Bloomberg).

“Because I don’t know how much it will cost,” he explains. “How can I hire new workers today, when I don’t know how much they will cost me tomorrow?”

He’s referring not to wages, but to regulation: He has no way of telling what new rules will go into effect when. His business, although it covers several states, operates on low margins. He can’t afford to take the chance of losing what little profit there is to the next round of regulatory changes. And so he’s hiring nobody until he has some certainty about cost.

One thing business people don’t like is uncertainty.  Because when they screw up they can’t just raise taxes or print money.  They have to deal with real the consequences of bad decisions.  So they are very careful about making costly decisions.  Like hiring people.

“I don’t understand why Washington does this to us,” he resumes. By “us,” he means people who run businesses of less- than-Fortune-500 size. He tells me that it doesn’t much matter which party is in office. Every change of power means a whole new set of rules to which he and those like him must respond. ‘‘I don’t understand,” he continues, “why Washington won’t just get out of our way and let us hire.”

Republican.  Democrat.  It doesn’t matter.  Every time there is a change there are new rules to follow.  And more of that thing they so hate.  Uncertainty.

“I think about retirement a lot,” he says. “But I can’t.” I wait to hear about how much he loves the business he founded, or about his responsibilities to his employees, or perhaps to the town, somewhere in the Dakotas, where his factory is located. Instead, he tells me that it’s impossible to make a sensible decision about winding down his firm when he doesn’t even know from one year to the next what the capital gains rate is going to be.

So it’s just not the Wall Street robber barons affected by the capital gains tax.  The greatest employer, small business, is affected, too.  He is just one of many.  Unable to make decisions like when he can retire.  Does he have enough money to retire?  And pay his capital gains tax?  If not it could be a problem.  Because you just can’t un-retire when you sell or close down a small business if you calculated wrong.  Instead, you’ll be an old guy trying to find a job.

I ask him what, precisely, he thinks is the proper role of government as it relates to business.

“Invisible,” he says. “I know there are things the government has to do. But they need to find a way to do them without people like me having to bump into a new regulation every time we turn a corner.” He reflects for a moment, then finds the analogy he seeks. “Government should act like my assistant, not my boss.”

An assistant doesn’t tell the boss how to run his business.  Because an assistant doesn’t know how to run his boss’ business.  Government bureaucrats aren’t even as knowledgeable as the assistant.  The assistant at least has a job in a business.  Few in Washington have ever run a business.  Let alone had a real job.  Yet here they are constantly trying to tell others how to run their businesses.

On the way to my connection, I ponder. As an academic with an interest in policy, I tend to see businesses as abstractions, fitting into a theory or a data set. Most policy makers do the same. We rarely encounter the simple human face of the less- than-giant businesses we constantly extol. And when they refuse to hire, we would often rather go on television and call them greedy than sit and talk to them about their challenges.

Recessions have complex causes, but, as the man on the aisle reminded me, we do nothing to make things better when the companies on which we rely see Washington as adversary rather than partner.

The best thing Washington can do to help small business?  Stop helping. 

In the Recession Business?

From small business regulation to inflation to the high cost of health care to the high cost of gasoline it would appear that the current administration is actually in the recession business.  Or utterly incompetent.  One almost has to lean towards incompetence.  Because there is an election in 2012.  And making the worst recession since the Great Depression more like the Great Depression can’t possibly help at the polls.  Even if you have compromising photographs of the Republican candidate having a good time with someone that is not his or her spouse.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LESSONS LEARNED #67: “Free health care is very expensive.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2011

Romneycare

In 2007 Romneycare took effect in Massachusetts.  A precursor to Obamacare.  Though not by design.  The new health care requirement included an individual mandate.  You either bought health insurance or they penalized you.  Ditto for employers.  They either provided health care or they penalized them.  It included subsidies to help the less wealthy pay for their mandated insurance.  And added a new and powerful health care regulatory board.  Finally, an example of what compassionate Big Government could do.  And how successful has Massachusetts been in providing free/affordable health care to everyone?  Well, as of 2011, not a single state has followed their example.

It has failed to provide universal coverage.  It has failed to control health care costs.  It has cost more in taxes than originally projected.  Health care has become more bureaucratic.  There is less choice.  Medical bankruptcies went up.  And there’s talk about implementing price controls.  And, of course, rationing.  Everything the critics warned about in a universal health care program.  And everything the proponents poo pooed.  Because those things only happen when everyone else tries universal health care.  But everyone else isn’t them.  They know how to do it right.  And their plan will not only not have those problems.  It will provide universal, quality health care at affordable prices while reining in health care costs without new and higher taxation.  Of course they were wrong.  And the critics were right.

Sound familiar?  The proponents of Obamacare have said the same thing.  In fact, Obamacare is pretty much Romneycare at the national level.  Interestingly, Mitt Romney, the architect of Romneycare, opposes Obamacare.  As a Republican candidate for the 2012 election, he promised to repeal Obamacare.  Probably because if they do at the national level what he did at the state level it would ruin the U.S. economy.  Because nothing went as planned in Massachusetts.  So there is no reason to believe that Obamacare will not be the train wreck Romneycare was.  Even if the ‘right’ people finally take a crack at it.

Medicare

In the U.S., federal tax revenue (i.e., federal income taxes) averaged about 18% of GDP between 1970 and 2010.  So if the government’s budget was balanced, federal spending would also equal 18% of GDP.  When it’s not balanced and they spend more than this 18% of GDP it results in deficits.  Which the government has to finance either by raising taxes, borrowing money or printing money.

In 1970, Medicare outlays were about 0.7% of GDP.  By 1980, that number increased to 1.2% (a 71.4% increase over the decade).  By 1990, it increased to 1.9% (a 58.3% increase over the decade).  By 2000, it increased to 2.2% (an increase of 15.8% over the decade).  Or a total increase of 214% in only 30 years of the program.  And that’s the good news.  The projections are far worse.  By 2020, it will be 3.6% of GDP (a 414.3% increase from 1970).  By 2030, it will be 4.9% of GDP (a 600% increase from 1970).  By 2050, it will be 6.7% of GDP (an 857.1% increase from 1970).  By 2075, it will be 9.6% of GDP (a 1,271.4% increase from 1970).  At which time it will consume more than half of all tax receipts.  And equal the size of the 2010 federal deficit.  And this is for Medicare alone.  It doesn’t include Social Security.  Defense.  Or interest on the debt.

These numbers are huge.  Growing.  And out of control.  It’s the biggest piece of all entitlement spending.    And it’s the biggest single item of the federal budget.  It is without a doubt some of the worse number crunching the federal government ever did.  Not only did actual costs exceed their estimates, they were three times higher in only 30 years.  One thing is clear.  The federal government doesn’t know the first thing about running a health care system.  And yet here they are.  With Obamacare.  Which will be a lot like Medicare.  Only bigger.  Because Obamacare won’t just be for the seniors.  It’ll be for everyone.

Cubacare

To borrow a medical term, Medicare is circling the drain.  It won’t be around for the kids of today.  Unless they enjoy paying a flat tax of 100% of their earnings to continue to fund it and the rest of government.  Of course, that won’t leave anything for food, utilities, rent or the other necessities of life.  In other words, they will work.  But they won’t get paid.  Reduced to involuntary servitude.  Life will be pretty bleak.  But there will be health care for everyone.  But not in the utopian way the government planners are promising.  It will be more like in Cuba.  Where it’s illegal to criticize the government.  So most don’t.  And they abort babies when it looks like they may not live through infancy.  Thus giving them a low infant mortality rate.  A sign of a first class health care system.  But the hospitals are dirty.  And filled with out of date equipment.  Much of which doesn’t work.  And there is a wholesale lack of medicine.  Because they are just too impoverished to buy any.

We have to fix Medicare.  If we want to keep having Medicare.  It can’t stay as it is.  It’s just too costly.  As all universal/free health care tends to be.  And a declining birthrate compounds the problem.  Baby boomers are retiring.  And making the system top-heavy.  The consumers of health care are growing faster than the payers of health care.  What’s worse is that it borrows from one generation to pay for another.  As they tax the young more for today’s retirees the young will have less to save for their own retirement.  So not only will they not have Medicare when they retire, they will have saved less than today’s retirees.  Making their retirement truly a bleak and impoverished picture.  How bleak?  Cuba bleak.

And continually raising taxes isn’t the answer.  Because there’s a limit to how high you can raise taxes.  Massachusetts has apparently reached that limit.  For they are now considering price controls and rationing.  Which will make things worse.  Not better.  The UK and Canada are in earlier stages of price controls and rationing.  Cuba is in a much later stage.  And you can see the progression of quality.  Of these four countries, which would you choose for your health care needs?  Most probably would choose the United States.  Many, though, no doubt, would choose Canada or the UK.  But one thing for sure.  No one would choose Cuba over the other three.  Sadly, based on the numbers, that’s where Medicare is heading.  Of course, it probably won’t ever be like Cuba.  For it probably will cease to exist long before it gets that bad.

Costs will Continue to Rise

If we learn anything in life it needs to be these two things.  Nothing is free.  And government is horrible at running things.  Providing quality yet affordable health care to everyone are two conflicting goals.  You can provide high quality health care.  But not to everyone.  And you can provide health care to everyone.  But it can’t be high quality.  Universal health care, because of its cost, has to make limited resources cover more people.  That is to say, they will have to ration resources. 

When the government is picking up the tab for health care, there will be no more private rooms in hospitals.  Or semiprivate.  There will be crowded wards.  So doctors and nurses can carry higher patient loads.  To keep costs down.  And to allow fewer resources cover more people.  They will ration high-cost treatments.  Not everyone will get dialysis.  Or chemotherapy.  There will be fewer machines.  And less medicine.  Because of costs.  Only the few meeting the government’s criteria will get these treatments.  Or those with pull.

Even then the costs will continue to rise.  And the more the government takes over, the more health care costs will be transferred to the taxpayers.  Who will pay ever higher taxes.  And get ever less in return.  But they will have universal health care.  It will just be horrible.  As their lives will grow to be.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,