Your Health Care System on the Government Needle

Tough luck, Sven, your superior technology is no match for Congress.

From the power-corrupts-and-absolute-power-corrupts-absolutely department in today’s Wall Street Journal: An extraneous and last-minute provision inserted in the New Year’s Day fiscal-cliff legislation sharply cut Medicare payments for Elekta AB, a Swedish maker of radiation tools used to battle brain tumors.

Turns out that Elekta competitor Varian Medical Systems, of Palo Alto, Calif., had persuaded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to insert the provision. Varian has a long-standing relationship with Reid. He had secured federal funding for the company to work with the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies at the University of Las Vegas on technologies that could x-ray cargo shipments.

The legislation overturned the determination of federal administrators, based on the performance characteristics of the Elekta and Varian technologies, regarding appropriate reimbursement rates for each. As the federal government extends its regulatory choke hold on the American health care system, we can expect to see a lot more special dealing like this. Thus, America continues its inexorable march from an innovation-based health care system to a rent-seeking health care system.


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22 responses to “Your Health Care System on the Government Needle

  1. Gosh, President Obama – thanks for your “big government is good” philosophy. It’s great to see a trained medical professional and Renaissance Man like Harry Reid make specific medical equipment decisions. In addition, I recently read of the great economic times being experienced in your home state of Illinois. S&P rates the debt in Illinois as A-, six steps below AAA. It is now in the worst financial situation of all American states. All of us outside of Illinois certainly hope (and expect) you’ll bring those same fabulous results to the rest of the country.

  2. re: ” As the federal government extends its regulatory choke hold on the American health care system, we can expect to see a lot more special dealing like this. Thus, America continues its inexorable march from an innovation-based health care system to a rent-seeking health care ”

    make no mistake, this is disgusting behavior on the part of a legislator.

    But to make this about govt and health care is downright laughable.

    this kind of thing has been going on for a long, long time whether the subject is crop subsidies, ethanol or Blackwater contractors for the State Dept.

    this is the thing that gets me about the opponents of [ name your favorite opposition] , in this case, ObamaCare or Medicare… the odious backroom behavior of a player …of course… coverts into the argument that “we told you so” that govt health care is a failure.

    jeesus H KEEEEEERIIIIISSSStttttt Bacon!!!!!!!

    how about some horror stories about some defense contractors that “prove” beyond a shadow of a doubt that govt controlled “Defense” is an abject failure?

  3. Everybody knows that defense spending is extraordinarily inefficient — the more Congress has tried to control it, the worse it gets.

    Despite the edifying example of the Pentagon but ever confident of their genius, big-government activists in Congress are extending government control over other sectors of the economy., including health care.

    Meanwhile, there’s a big difference between defense and health care. Only government can provide national defense. That’s not something the private sector can do. But government does not have to control health care.

  4. Here, you wanna write about govt failures? How about the fact that NOW, some houses in the re-drawn FEMA flood-map areas of NJ and NY will cost 31,000 a year to insure.

    OUTRAGE! Something as bad as this JUST HAS TO BE the fault of govt!

    why I bet someone paid Obama huge bribe to get FEMA to re-draw those flood maps and stick it to those poor homeowners.

    What did Obama know and when did he know it and where is the smoking-gun memo he sent to FEMA to re-draw those flood maps?

    the more we hear from the right-wing-echo-chamber these days, the more we know that there is a huge, global-scale conspiracy of govt to screw everyone who walks on two feet… where is my gun?

    • Larry, you’re foaming at the mouth. Did I mention Obama in my post? No, I mentioned Harry Reid. As for federally subsidized health insurance, the example you cite is exactly the kind of gamesmanship you see when rational actors exploit government subsidies. … We’ll see more and more of that kind of gamesmanship in the health care sector, too.

  5. re: foaming and Obama and Harry Reid

    Reid and Polosi both are favorite surrogate targets of the right these days.

    Attacking Reid for govt health care is a good example.

    Jim may not even realize he is doing this but this is the narrative that comes from the right wing echo chamber these days.

    Neither Obama nor Reid created Medicare but Medicare Part D WAS created by the GOP and Bush.


    Now how many times have we heard Cantor and Boehmer and George Bush castigated for supporting Govt Health Care?

    re: no choice on Defense?

    really? you mean the fact that we DOUBLED Defense spending under the GOP and now our expenditures for National Defense (of which DOD is but one compoment) basically equal our total revenues.

    All of that ” we can’t help it” govt occurred under Bush and the GOP.

    yet.. what do we hear ? govt Health Care.

    when is the last time you heard people complain about the “govt health care” that the VA delivers or govt-run TRICARE that pays for military dependents?

    All I expect is a relatively level playing field when we talk about what the govt is spending money on and the truth is it’s a LOT MORE than JUST Medicare and other sound-bite entitlements.

  6. More inconvenient facts for LarryG, who is determined to re-cast every debate into a partisan fracas with good guys (the Dems) and bad guys (the GOP). Life is so much more complicated.

    Hear this from Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece’s leftist Syriza coalition. In remarking upon Greece’s No. 14 ranking in World Health Organization health rankings and low health expenditures, he had this to say:

    “Why in a public hospital, in order to have an operation, do [patients] have to slip [doctors] an envlope with a certain amount of money? Because the state gives low wages to doctors, thinking it’s completely natural for them to add to their salary.”

    Question for LarryG: Do you think WHO counts under-the-table payments when calculating how much each country spends on health care costs?

    Do you think that there may be other methodological issues in comparing costs and patient outcomes between countries?

    We have a lot of problems in the U.S. health care system, for sure. But making simple-minded comparisons with other countries is not very helpful in teasing out what they are.

    • re: Greece. yet more right wing blather….

      how about talking about Singapore – which has Universal Health care and pays about a 1/3 of what we pay?

      we don’t want simple-minded comparisons at all – but we also don’t want cherry-picked examples like Greece which has far more problems than govt health care.

      If the US was in the MIDDLE of health care costs then we could have a lively discussion about why but when the US is DEAD LAST on health care of all the industrialized countries and AT THE SAME TIME we have people asserting that government-sponsored UHC is a failure – we simply don’t have any reasonable perspective – just a far right gloom and doom recrimination narrative.

      Pick Singapore and tell me it’s a failure of govt health care. Show me how they’ve messed up and are on the verge of going broke because of govt-sponsored Universal Health Care.

      If you cannot do this – then think about what you are really saying.

      Cherry-picking false examples is simply not a real examination.

  7. Medicare needs to be reformed. Obama has nothing to do with this particular travesty, except that he, like 90% of Congress, hasn’t got the political guts to say to seniors that there have to be restrictions on what medical services they can receive. The implication of this article is that Medicare should put NO restrictions on services – that any sort of restriction is government overreach. Sorry but when you have a national healthcare program that everyone wants and depends on, it can’t operate without restrictions on what services can be provided and how much will be paid for services.

    The only way they’re going to reform Medicare is to jump over the cliff together, holding hands, like Butch and Sundance (and perhaps like the Gang of 8?)

    • I totally agree with Richard about Medicare B,C and D. I point out that “D” was done by the GOP and that “C” was done under Clinton with approval of BOTH the Dem and the GOP.

      And between C and D, Medicare subsidies have DOUBLED.

      C is by far the most damaging because what “C” does is have the govt subsidize “GAP” coverage which effectively does away with the 20% co-pay in original Medicare.

      But also explain to me how the GOP – with their virulent attitude about govt-subsidized health care – did indeed pass Part D?

      You do not have to kill Medicare to save it any more than the all the other industrialized countries have to kill Universal Health Care to save it.

      All you need to do with Medicare is hike the premiums to be more or less in line with the overall cost. In other words, charge Seniors about 300-400 a month for Medicare – and that will pretty much eliminate the subsidy.

      no cliff needs to be jumped over.

      When people can have 100K in retirement income before they have to pay more than $100 a month for Medicare, you know we’re selling it way too cheap.

  8. The federal government needs to be reformed. While I have many criticisms of Virginia’s state government – there is one absolute pearl in Virginia: single purpose legislation. A single bill in Virginia may not contain proposed legislation for multiple purposes. In the case of Harry “the crook” Reid and the fiscal cliff legislation – he would have been prevented from inserting that last minute provision favoring his buddies. Instead, he would have had to put forth independent proposed legislation to help his crony capitalist friends.

    In his inaugural address Obama paid great homage to the benefits of an expanded government. However, he did not put forth any ideas for the reform of that expanded government. For example, single purpose legislation at the federal level.

    If Obama wants the American people to endorse his vision of a greatly expanded role for government then he needs to also propose rules which force the government to be honest, transparent and accountable. Otherwise, maneuvers like the one perpetrated by Harry “the Crook” Reid will continue to occur and continue to erode the American public’s already low opinion of the federal government.

    • I do not defend Reid but I point out that this kind of thing has been going on for quite some time with both parties bellying up to the trough.

      Anyone who believes that Reid had no predecessors , Dem and GOP, is living in LA LA Land.

      Remember back to those days of yesterday when one Tom DeLay busted the chops of any GOP who opposed new entitlements like Medicare Part D.

      so I accept the Reid denunciation with the proviso that we’ve seen this and worse in the Bush years.

      I also do not believe that Obama has a vision for expanded govt. I think he advocated healthcare, reining in Wall Street to keep it from destroying the economy AGAIN, and the stimulus.

      He is the lowest spending POTUS since Eisenhower…. honest injun.

      Truth is – that Congress has to agree to pass spending and regulations no matter what the POTUS wants.

      and Congress can REPEAL regulations also. Remember the Glass–Steagall Act?

      The POTUS cannot pass regulations nor spend money without both houses of Congress approving it.

    • Typical liberal tripe.

      First of all, you are quoting spending growth, not spending.

      Second, since you can’t seem to understand macroeconomics, let me provide a microeconomic corollary.

      In 2009, my wife and I took a large chunk of our life savings and bought a retirement home for cash. If you viewed our spending in 2007, 2008 and 2009 you would have seen a major spike in 2009 because that’s the year we bought our retirement house. Needless to say, our spending in 2010, 2011 and 2012 fell dramatically. Otherwise, we would have effectively been buying another retirement house each and every year and that would be pretty insane.

      The US government agreed to a huge bank bailout supposedly required to stave off a recession. Spending spiked. Now, what should have happened in the years after that bail out? Spending should have declined (i.e. demonstrated negative growth). Otherwise, it would have been like having a bailout every year. But spending didn’t fall under Obama, it grew. Obama has made the bailout an annual event. And somehow you think that’s a good thing.

      If you want to quit fooling around with BS percentage spending growth statistics, look at the national debt. Obama raised the national debt in his first four years in office by more than Bush raised the debt in eight years in office. Even Obama’s absurdly optimistic projections show the national debt rising to $20T by the time he finishes his second term. In other words, Obama will leave office with a national debt twice as big as it was when he entered office. This will happen despite massive tax increases and (presumably) his ending two wars.

      • I’m quoting WHO has INCREASED spending. Correct.

        Obama has not raise the debt one penny – because Obama does not have the power to do that – ONLY CONGRESS DOES.

        And if you want to know WHO voted to CONTINUE the INCREASE spending established under Bush, you only need to look here:

        Now you may notice the title of the CR (continuing resolution):

        “Making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2013, and for other purposes”

        Then you might notice the vote tally for the GOP – the very same folks who have spent 4 years saying we have a “spending problem”:

        REPUBLICAN 165 AYE 70NAY

        and to be entirely fair:
        DEMOCRATIC 164 AYE 21NAY

        Now I will tell you the honest truth which you likely already know.

        these are the folks who voted to continue the Deficit Spending established by the GOP under Bush.

        the debt has indeed piled up under Obama but he did not spend a penny that Congress did not approve.

        nothing “liberal” about this – it’s just the plain truth.

  9. @Richard, re: “Obama and politcos don’t have the guts to tell seniors”.

    right… when you have the folks who are opposed to the concept of Medicare all together telling everyone who will listen that Obama has set up DEATH PANELS!

    How can we make any progress at all in reforming Medicare when the enemies of Medicare shout “death panels” every time some tries to have the “guts” to do something?

    What can you say about people who simultaneously want to kill Medicare and shout “death panels”?

    it’s pretty clear they are not interested in reform.

  10. One of the most troubling aspects of Harry Reid’s conduct is that he did it so shamelessly and without apparent practical consequence to him, despite our modern world of instant news. At least old time corruption was done behind closed doors. Now the Harry’s of our world just walk off carrying the stolen goods in plain view, on their way to the next trick.

  11. re: shameless conduct – tell me the GOP doesn’t do this…. also….

    I’m not excusing Reid by any means but if you can go back and find a GOP congressional leader that did not do exactly the same thing, please do so.

    The GOP has spent 4 years being total butts, total hypocrites… on the deficit and debt.

    They voted for increased spending 4 years ago and never rolled it back, just spent 4 years talking about a spending problem and Obama’s debt.

    the truth from none other than CATO:

    Obama deserve blame for his share but not on this.

    this is all Congress who have never voted to roll back the deficit spending they voted in favor of under Bush.

  12. “Obama deserve blame for his share but not on this.”.

    Go back and listen to Obama’s latest inaugural address. It is composed of the lyrics to a love song for big government.

    Obama believes that an expanded federal government with more taken in taxes and having more regulatory power is good.

    However, you have crooks like Harry Reid using that power to steal.

    How can you support Obama’s vision of big government without demanding a corollary vision of honest government?

  13. Oh Dear, LarryG – Negative growth in the fourth quarter? One more negative quarter and Obama and Biden become double dips, officially.

    Let me guess – Bush’s fault?

  14. re: what Obama “believes” which is nothing short of blather .. more arguments against the man rather than real numbers.

    the truth is that Obama has NOT added to the structural deficit that is driving the 16T+ debt. He DID add the stimulus but I ask folks what else did he add – and when I do ask, what I get is what Obama “believes” as if someone really knows in their heart of hearts anything more their own beliefs about what he believes.

    re: Obama’s vision of big govt. Tell me specifically what his vision of big govt is that is different from prior POTUS “vision” of big govt?

    Today, people like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan could not even get through the GOP primaries.

    re: the economy shrinking.

    It’s going to take a while to dig us out of this pit that existed when Obama took office. It cannot be fixed easily nor overnight.

    the real question is, if you believe he should have done differently, what he should have done – instead?

    As I said… even George Bush – both of them would have trouble satisfying the right wing neanderthals these days.

    Colin Powell, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels as well as half a dozen other moderate GOP have zero chance of becoming POTUS from the GOP side.

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