Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jim Prevor

Flotsam and Jetsam

Among the dopier things written about the health-care debate is this rant accusing the Senate Republicans of wimping out on health care. Other than running a filibuster during a snow storm. . . oh wait, they did that . . .  trying to filibuster a defense bill  . . . oh wait, they did that . . . and making every conceivable argument before voting unanimously to oppose the bill, it is hard to imagine what 40 senators could have done differently. But maybe it’s a fund-raising gambit or something.

Turns out that the savvy Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got something for easing up on the final vote schedule: “One, come early January, they’ll be able to get a vote on giving TARP money back to the Treasury. Two, they’ll be able to get a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions. Both of these votes will come before the president’s State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile Jane Hamsher does something useful: goes on Fox (where the viewers are) to call for the defeat of ObamaCare.

Jim Prevor finds restaurant regulations buried in the health-care bill: “When did we have the national debate that disclosures with our tuna-salad sandwiches from the supermarket deli are urgently required? When did we discuss that diverting resources to pastrami-on-pumpernickel is prudent — and if the health-care bill deals with such minutiae, what else is hidden in its pages? And how could any ‘leader’ worthy of the name risk voting for it before we know what is even in the bill?”

Good thing we don’t have a problem with hiring and economic growth: “Companies are alarmed at potentially costly provisions in the Senate health-care bill, many of which they hope will be scrapped during a final round of negotiations early next year.” Oh, wait, that’s right: “Across the spectrum, businesses worry that a series of new taxes and fees to pay for expanding health-care coverage will push up premiums, particularly for smaller employers.”

In the Brave New World of terrorist criminal law, Major Nadal Hasan’s lawyer crabs that his client can’t speak from his jail cell to outsiders unless an interpreter is present to hear what he is saying. Well, “isn’t Mr. Hasan, like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?”

I think this will be in a campaign ad or two: “News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced yesterday that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican. At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health-care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors . . . bad for our patients, and . . . bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’ Other than that, how do you like the bill?”

Turns out that Congress stiffed the Obami on funds to convert Thomson Correctional Center into the new, domestic Guantanamo. “The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.” Now they need to cut off funds for KSM’s trial.

Among the dopier things written about the health-care debate is this rant accusing the Senate Republicans of wimping out on health care. Other than running a filibuster during a snow storm. . . oh wait, they did that . . .  trying to filibuster a defense bill  . . . oh wait, they did that . . . and making every conceivable argument before voting unanimously to oppose the bill, it is hard to imagine what 40 senators could have done differently. But maybe it’s a fund-raising gambit or something.

Turns out that the savvy Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got something for easing up on the final vote schedule: “One, come early January, they’ll be able to get a vote on giving TARP money back to the Treasury. Two, they’ll be able to get a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions. Both of these votes will come before the president’s State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile Jane Hamsher does something useful: goes on Fox (where the viewers are) to call for the defeat of ObamaCare.

Jim Prevor finds restaurant regulations buried in the health-care bill: “When did we have the national debate that disclosures with our tuna-salad sandwiches from the supermarket deli are urgently required? When did we discuss that diverting resources to pastrami-on-pumpernickel is prudent — and if the health-care bill deals with such minutiae, what else is hidden in its pages? And how could any ‘leader’ worthy of the name risk voting for it before we know what is even in the bill?”

Good thing we don’t have a problem with hiring and economic growth: “Companies are alarmed at potentially costly provisions in the Senate health-care bill, many of which they hope will be scrapped during a final round of negotiations early next year.” Oh, wait, that’s right: “Across the spectrum, businesses worry that a series of new taxes and fees to pay for expanding health-care coverage will push up premiums, particularly for smaller employers.”

In the Brave New World of terrorist criminal law, Major Nadal Hasan’s lawyer crabs that his client can’t speak from his jail cell to outsiders unless an interpreter is present to hear what he is saying. Well, “isn’t Mr. Hasan, like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?”

I think this will be in a campaign ad or two: “News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced yesterday that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican. At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health-care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors . . . bad for our patients, and . . . bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’ Other than that, how do you like the bill?”

Turns out that Congress stiffed the Obami on funds to convert Thomson Correctional Center into the new, domestic Guantanamo. “The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.” Now they need to cut off funds for KSM’s trial.

Read Less

Why the Universal Health-Care Insurance Fetish?

Republicans have been tossing out alternatives to government-centric ObamaCare for some time. They have suggested, among other ideas, that we change the tax treatment of individually purchased insurance plans, reform the tort system, and allow interstate insurance sales. But now Jim Prevor raises an interesting and compelling question: if people want to go without insurance and instead self-insure, why is it the government’s job to stop them? Or put differently:

The fact that the national debate has focused on insurance for health care–as opposed to the accessibility of care–is a byproduct of the particular worldview that all “basic needs” should be provided by communal institutions, preferably the government but, alternatively, highly regulated companies that do the government’s bidding.

Prevor suggests that we “give families money or vouchers that they could use to buy health insurance or any other thing they deemed helpful to their family’s future” and urges lawmakers to work on the supply side of care, not insurance, by among other things “wreak[ing] havoc on the American Medical Association’s efforts to restrain the supply of doctors.” Along the lines of Prevor’s argument, one of the more successful ventures in the Bush administration was emphasis on community health centers that expand care for needy Americans, quite apart from the insurance part of the equation. And expansion of medical accounts, which allows individuals to either buy insurance or pay for medical cost directly, would, following Prevor’s argument, maintain personal responsibility, individual choice, and make health-care purchases more accessible by allowing individuals to use pre-tax dollars to pay for their own care.

But what of the “cost shifting” problem caused by uninsured people? Well, now that the Democrats propose to dump millions of people into Medicare, which doesn’t fully compensate doctors and hospitals, it appears as though that argument is going by the wayside. Furthermore, as Mike Tanner of CATO has explained, cost shifting in the current system has been exaggerated and may account for a small portion of health-care costs. He notes that “it is a manageable problem. According to Jack Hadley and John Holahan of the left-leaning Urban Institute, uncompensated care for the uninsured amounts to less than 3% of total healthcare spending — a real cost, no doubt, but hardly a crisis.”

Tanner has also addressed the implied assumption of health-care reformers that universal health-care insurance will improve the nation’s collective health. He says that “in reviewing all the academic literature on the subject, Helen Levy of the University of Michigan’s Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured, and David Meltzer of the University of Chicago, were unable to establish a ‘causal relationship’ between health insurance and better health. Believe it or not, there is ‘no evidence,’ Levy and Meltzer wrote, that expanding insurance coverage is a cost-effective way to promote health.” A New England Journal of Medicine article in 2006 likewise found that “health insurance status was largely unrelated to the quality of care.” It seems as though even if we force people to self-insure, they may not wind up much healthier.

In sum, Prevor raises a key point: the fixation on universal health-care insurance has distorted the health-care debate. It might, as he suggests, be a good time to take a step back and see whether the quest for universal insurance is really where we should be focusing our attention. Maybe it is time, as he puts it, to remember that “the moral imperative is not making everyone buy insurance. The moral imperative is freedom.”

Republicans have been tossing out alternatives to government-centric ObamaCare for some time. They have suggested, among other ideas, that we change the tax treatment of individually purchased insurance plans, reform the tort system, and allow interstate insurance sales. But now Jim Prevor raises an interesting and compelling question: if people want to go without insurance and instead self-insure, why is it the government’s job to stop them? Or put differently:

The fact that the national debate has focused on insurance for health care–as opposed to the accessibility of care–is a byproduct of the particular worldview that all “basic needs” should be provided by communal institutions, preferably the government but, alternatively, highly regulated companies that do the government’s bidding.

Prevor suggests that we “give families money or vouchers that they could use to buy health insurance or any other thing they deemed helpful to their family’s future” and urges lawmakers to work on the supply side of care, not insurance, by among other things “wreak[ing] havoc on the American Medical Association’s efforts to restrain the supply of doctors.” Along the lines of Prevor’s argument, one of the more successful ventures in the Bush administration was emphasis on community health centers that expand care for needy Americans, quite apart from the insurance part of the equation. And expansion of medical accounts, which allows individuals to either buy insurance or pay for medical cost directly, would, following Prevor’s argument, maintain personal responsibility, individual choice, and make health-care purchases more accessible by allowing individuals to use pre-tax dollars to pay for their own care.

But what of the “cost shifting” problem caused by uninsured people? Well, now that the Democrats propose to dump millions of people into Medicare, which doesn’t fully compensate doctors and hospitals, it appears as though that argument is going by the wayside. Furthermore, as Mike Tanner of CATO has explained, cost shifting in the current system has been exaggerated and may account for a small portion of health-care costs. He notes that “it is a manageable problem. According to Jack Hadley and John Holahan of the left-leaning Urban Institute, uncompensated care for the uninsured amounts to less than 3% of total healthcare spending — a real cost, no doubt, but hardly a crisis.”

Tanner has also addressed the implied assumption of health-care reformers that universal health-care insurance will improve the nation’s collective health. He says that “in reviewing all the academic literature on the subject, Helen Levy of the University of Michigan’s Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured, and David Meltzer of the University of Chicago, were unable to establish a ‘causal relationship’ between health insurance and better health. Believe it or not, there is ‘no evidence,’ Levy and Meltzer wrote, that expanding insurance coverage is a cost-effective way to promote health.” A New England Journal of Medicine article in 2006 likewise found that “health insurance status was largely unrelated to the quality of care.” It seems as though even if we force people to self-insure, they may not wind up much healthier.

In sum, Prevor raises a key point: the fixation on universal health-care insurance has distorted the health-care debate. It might, as he suggests, be a good time to take a step back and see whether the quest for universal insurance is really where we should be focusing our attention. Maybe it is time, as he puts it, to remember that “the moral imperative is not making everyone buy insurance. The moral imperative is freedom.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.