Is Buying Healthcare For Individuals Necessarily A Bad Investment?

DrRich | April 25th, 2011 - 7:12 am

Podcast:

In response to DrRich’s recent post on good debt vs. bad debt, Liz writes:

Is the survival of the individual, after consuming healthcare, necessarily neutral to our national economic health? On the one hand, if an individual is saved from death by consuming healthcare and goes on to be very productive in life, then that healthcare would have been a good investment. On the other hand, if someone else is saved by doctors, only to go on to require more and more medical care without contributing anything to the collective, then the individual’s survival has a negative impact on the nation’s economic health. . . . Some people will argue that keeping people healthy is a good investment for our country.

This comment was triggered by DrRich’s premise (modeled after Alexander Hamilton) that for the federal government to acquire certain kinds of debt – say, borrowing money to build a new hydroelectric plant that will supply electricity to a large region of the country and thus enable sustained economic expansion – is truly a positive investment for future generations, and is thus justifiable; while aquiring certain other kinds of debt – for instance, purchasing goods or services for individuals, which the individuals then consume in the normal course of their lives – leaves nothing for future generations aside from the accumulated debt, and thus is fundamentally unjustifiable.

Liz rightly points out that not all the debt we accumulate to pay for Americans’ healthcare is of the latter variety. It is certainly true, for instance, that going into federal debt to purchase a liver transplant for Steve Jobs would end up being a positive investment over time. There are certainly many people less notorious than Mr. Jobs – possibly millions – who might also fit into this “good investment” category.

So, Liz’ comment implies, it may be that increasing the federal debt to buy healthcare for Americans – at least some Americans if not all* – actually constitutes a good investment, and therefore good debt.

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* Progressives, despite their protestations to the contrary, have actually given a lot of thought to which individuals should receive priority for healthcare services once they have the single-payer (centrally controlled) system they have long desired. They have occasionally, in unguarded moments, opined publicly on which sorts of Americans should receive expensive healthcare services and which should not. Their proposed rationing methodology indeed shunts healthcare services to those individuals who are judged to be “productive” by the Central Authority.  In their 100-year history Progressives have never been slow to pass harsh judgment on the worthiness of various groups or individuals, and there is no sign that they will behave any differently going forward. (DrRich, even if he were not an old fart, fears he would not wind up in the Central Authority’s “good” list.)
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There are certainly examples of Americans happily agreeing to pay collectively for services consumed by individuals, because doing so is a good investment for the future. Chief among these is public education. Unarguably, an educated public is critical to continued economic growth and development, so (leaving aside for now the actual effectiveness of public education) paying collectively to educate all American children unquestionably benefits all current and future Americans.

Some would even argue – and DrRich would agree – that maintaining a certain level of health among the population is just as important to continued economic growth as is public education, and so paying collectively to achieve such a thing is equally a good investment. This is why DrRich fully supports many collective efforts to assure public health, such as assuring clean water, keeping air pollution to a minimum, and maintaining a healthy and safe food supply.

But DrRich’s thinking on the matter is even more radical than that. DrRich believes that it is indeed reasonable, and likely a good investment for the future, to use collective funds to pay for some of the healthcare consumed by individual Americans.  If Americans know that, no matter what their socioeconomic status, they are unlikely to become financially ruined because of some expensive medical catastrophe, they will be more willing to take the risks one traditionally takes (under a vibrant capitalist system) to grow one’s own wealth – and the overall economy.

So, to some extent, DrRich believes that collective spending on the healthcare of individual Americans can indeed be an investment for the future, just as President Obama says.

But the key phrase here is “to some extent.”  That is, we cannot furnish every bit of desirable healthcare for every individual, because that way lies ruin. We must set limits. DrRich has a simple rule for determining when our collective spending on healthcare is “too much.”  Our collective spending on healthcare is too much when the level of debt we’re accumulating to pay for healthcare is sufficient to threaten the economic destruction of our society. Triggering societal collapse, DrRich thinks, completely negates any “investment value” we might obtain by purchasing healthcare for individuals.

The healthcare system we have today, and the one we will have under Obamacare (at least, the kind of Obamacare that Progressives will admit to at this point), exceed even this very modest definition of “too much.”

DrRich has proposed a structure for an American healthcare system that would offer healthcare to each individual, without accumulating an unsustainable debt, and he has described it in detail in his book. Simply put, it is a 3-tiered system. In Tier 1, individuals would pay for (say) the first $3000 per year of their own healthcare expenses. Tier 1 spending would be funded from a tax-deductible, self-funded, self-owned Health Savings Account. Individuals below a certain income level would have their HSA funded by the government. Tier 2 would be a government-funded universal basic health plan, under which most additional healthcare expenses would be covered.  However, in the interest of keeping federal debt to a manageable level, Tier 2 would function under an open, completely transparent system of rationing. While most things would be paid for, some would not. The rationing system would allow the government to control how much it spends on healthcare each year, thus avoiding the crushing debt burden we are accumulating today. Tier 3 would be an optional, self-funded health insurance product that would cover extraordinary expenses that exceed the $3000 per-year individual limit, and are not covered under the Tier 2 rationing plan. Tier 3 would return the health insurance industry to the business of selling an actual insurance product (that is, a product that prevents individuals from financial ruin due to relatively unlikely future events), instead of whatever it is they’re selling today.*

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* Thus, DrRich’s plan would give the insurance industry what it desperately needs – a new business model – without having to sell out to the Central Authority and survive under the diminished status of public utility.
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Conservatives hate DrRich’s system because it includes a universal health plan. Progressives hate DrRich’s system because it does not offer enough centralized control, and indeed encourages (even demands) that individuals take chief responsibility for their own healthcare. So DrRich does not reiterate his plan for healthcare reform because he thinks it is even remotely possible that such a thing will ever be adopted, but simply to illustrate that it is indeed possible, with just a little effort, to imagine a healthcare system that actually meets the goals that Progressives and conservatives will admit to in public – and that honors the worthiness and the potential of each individual.

Is Federal Debt Necessarily Bad?

DrRich | April 18th, 2011 - 10:52 am

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The last two weeks have made clear that the debate over our national debt will play a major role in the next election cycle.

On one side, many Republicans, lead by Representative Ryan, insist that the rate of growth of our national debt – especially the massive projected growth of Medicare and Medicaid – promises to destroy our society within a generation or two; and that the only way to avert that catastrophe is to make substantial structural changes to our entitlement programs. The subtext of their message is: Federal debt is bad, and debt of this magnitude will be fatal.

On the other side, most Democrats, led by President Obama, stress that our entitlement programs are promises that simply can’t be changed in any substantial way, insist that such entitlements are “investments in our future,” and suggest that whatever shortfalls our current system might encounter can be remedied by taxing millionaires and billionaires. The subtext of their message is: Federal debt can be a force for good, and in this case will trigger a much-needed redistribution of wealth (which is a primary goal of Progressives).

The debate over the national debt is as old as the Republic. In the original version of this debate, the part of the modern Republicans (i.e., debt is bad) was played by Jefferson, and the part of modern Democrats (i.e., debt is an investment in the future) by Hamilton.

In the early 1790s, unsupportable debt obligations, accumulated during the Revolutionary War and held by the various states and by private individuals, had entirely frozen up the credit markets, and precluded the brand new United States from having a functioning economy. Hamilton’s idea was for the federal government to buy up all these private and state obligations, and then issue federal bonds to raise enough capital to pay off the debt and to provide stuff, like a United States Navy, that would encourage investment and economic growth. (That Jefferson so viscerally disagreed with this approach, believing that all Americans should grow their own food and make their own clothes, etc., and that a national financial system was not only unnecessary but dangerous, was one of the chief factors that led to the two-party system in the U.S.)

Hamilton ended up doing a deal with Jefferson, and got his way (agreeing to move the nation’s capital southward, where the feds would find it more difficult to undermine some of the south’s more peculiar institutions).  And as a result of Hamilton’s massive and unprecedented bailout of the various states and private investors*, the United States of America became not only one united country, but a stable and growing concern. Indeed, it is arguably by this action that Hamilton definitively earned his place as one of our most important Founding Fathers.

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*Many of the “private investors” who needed to be bailed out turned out to be prominent political figures and supporters of Hamilton, whose names we’ve all heard and revered, and whose shady deals had helped to produce the fiscal crisis in the first place. So there are indeed many parallels to our current situation.
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Clearly, not all national debt is bad. Sometimes, just as President Obama insists, acquiring debt can be an investment in the future.

In fact, Hamilton’s great insight was that national debt can be the engine of economic growth. When the government borrows money to build out the national infrastructure, to provide easier access to markets, to provide easier transportation of goods, to provide easier access to energy, and to provide a stronger military to guarantee that its investments are safe, the government is doing what businesses do when they want to grow. It is borrowing money today that will generate economic growth, and that will, in turn, repay that borrowed money with interest. That’s good debt.

When Hamilton bailed out the various states and the private investors, he was essentially buying up war debt. He was taking upon the federal government the responsibility for paying for the war that had created the United States in the first place. In economic terms the Revolutionary War was like the high-risk start-up that exhausts its funding in creating its product. While the product of their effort (i.e. independence) was intrinsically very valuable, the various states had bankrupted themselves in achieving it. And because the states were bankrupt, commerce was paralyzed, and the new country was about to break up into warring factions. Hamilton saw that by creating a central entity to buy up the debt, and to raise capital against the country’s new independence, he could realize the intrinsic value of the new nation. Hamilton’s debt, because it was truly a catalyst to pent-up economic potential, was good debt. It truly was an investment in the nation’s future, one that paid off for future generations of Americans beyond even his wildest dreams.

On the other hand, when we accumulate national debt not to catalyze a growing economy, but instead to buy consumable products for individuals that the individuals “ought” to be buying for themselves (because they are consuming the products themselves), that’s just debt. It’s like credit card debt – it’s debt that is not paying for itself by stimulating new economic growth for the borrower, but instead it’s debt that will just have to be paid off sooner or later, and that in the meantime requires large payments in the form of interest. Such debt is not an investment in the borrower’s future; it’s not creating future growth that pays for itself. Instead, this kind of debt often compounds until it collapses of its own weight. That’s bad debt.

That’s the kind of debt, for instance, that was created by the mortgage crisis. The federal government has now gone into great hock buying up mortgages taken out by its individual citizens. It is taking steps to help those individuals stay in the houses they cannot afford, and to protect the institutions that made those bad loans. It is not taking active steps to stop the issuing of the sub-prime mortgages that created the crisis in the first place. One of the chief reasons we hear for freeing up the credit markets is so that more sub-prime mortgages can be issued. The notion that all Americans should have access to reasonable shelter is a compelling one. But that’s different from a policy that allows individual Americans to choose their own shelter, from a vast array of choices, and then send the taxpayer the bill.

While going into national debt bailing out the sub-prime mortgages is bad debt, it is nothing compared to our going into national debt buying healthcare for individuals. Our accumulating healthcare debt is really bad debt. According to the GAO, we’re already committed to accumulating $25 trillion to $55 trillion in healthcare debt over the next several decades. Furthermore, when a person “consumes” healthcare, it is well and truly consumed. There’s nothing left (except, for the individual, some chance of prolonged life or less suffering, which is good for the individual but neutral to our national economic health). At least when the government buys up mortgage debt it owns actual real estate, which has some intrinsic worth. Not so when buying up healthcare debt.

So going into massive debt paying for Medicare and Medicaid is not the same as the debt Hamilton took on in the 1790s. We’re merely accumulating debt, and not stimulating future growth. In fact, our irresponsible accumulation of bad debt is stifling economic growth.

So President Obama is correct to the extent that, sometimes, taking on a certain amount of the right kind of debt (the kind that stimulates real economic growth) can be an investment in the future.

But the Republicans are correct that the debt we’re taking on to pay for Medicare and Medicaid is not that kind of “investment,” but is a fiscal black hole – as we will all find out if we don’t get this debate right.

On Killing The Elderly

DrRich | April 11th, 2011 - 10:09 am

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For some time now, numerous loved ones and dear friends have been advising and occasionally urging DrRich that, perhaps, it has become a bit inappropriate, and even unseemly, for him to continue in his longtime position as President and sole member of Future Old Farts of America (FOFA). For a not unsubstantial interval DrRich ignored this advice, feigning incipient deafness. But finally, after some focused study of that which these days returns his gaze in the mirror, and reluctantly concluding that maybe his loved ones have a point (and not wishing to seem Cranky), DrRich has reluctantly decided to resign from (and therefore disband) FOFA.

DrRich is pleased to announce that he has accepted a new position as President and sole member of Glorious Old Farts of America (GOFA).

And it is in this new capacity that DrRich has become alarmed at some of the dire warnings now being sounded by respected leaders of the Democratic Party, to the effect that the Republicans’ proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2012, released last week by Congressman Paul Ryan (who serves, DrRich believes, as Deputy Whippersnapper of the House Republican caucus), proves that Republicans are trying to kill old people.

Article 3, Subsection 4(D) of the GOFA charter clearly states: “All things being equal, we would prefer that Old Farts not be killed.”

Therefore, as President of GOFA, DrRich feels obligated to make some sort of public response to the Ryan budget, and to our ever-vigilant Democrat friends’ assertion that it is aimed at producing lethal harm to old people. DrRich’s important position in GOFA, of course, means that his opinion on this matter ought to carry serious weight in any high level discussions about this proposed budget.

By carefully studying the thoughtful commentary being offered by GOFA’s Democrat friends, DrRich has ascertained that Ryan’s proposed budget apparently will kill old people by “ending Medicare as we know it.”  DrRich does not find this a compelling argument, since Medicare as we know it is already being ended, by Obamacare, which is now the law of the land. Strangely, Democrat leaders are not claiming that Obamacare also kills old people.

So, as is all too often the case, the logic being offered up for public consumption by our political leaders does not hold up to simple analysis, which places DrRich into the position of having himself to provide the logical analysis of the question at hand.

DrRich, to be clear, frames that question thusly: Which plan for Medicare most threatens to kill old people? And he finds abroad in the land three distinct plans for Medicare: Medicare “as we know it,” Medicare under Obamacare, and Medicare under the Ryan budget. Let us analyze dispassionately how each proposes to kill the elderly.

Medicare As We Know It. Medicare as it is being operated today is generally popular with GOFA’s constituency, and most old people would like to continue things just as they are. And if you are one of those elderly Americans who is above, say, 75 years of age, chances are you would do just fine under Medicare as we know it. That is, odds are that you would live out your allotted years, and finally die from your heart disease or cancer only after enjoying every modern contrivance our healthcare system has devised.

However, if you are substantially younger than that, there is a real chance that your demise will be related to more systematic causes. This is because Medicare, if it were to continue just as it is today, would drive the U.S. into insolvency within a couple of decades, leading to cultural collapse, societal upheaval, &c. Our modern healthcare system (any modern healthcare system), being totally dependent upon a robust, complex, reasonably stable and technologically advanced society, would cease to exist. All of today’s life-prolonging therapies would either become very scarce, or would disappear altogether. And unless there arises out of the ashes a new culture which is centered upon ancestor worship, odds are that what little healthcare is available would not be disproportionally offered to the very old.

As DrRich sees it, continuing Medicare as we know it would ultimately result in most of our elderly dying much earlier than they do today.

Medicare Under Obamacare. Obamacare promises to prevent a Medicare-induced societal collapse by centralizing virtually all healthcare decisions, thus controlling expenditures. Government-appointed “experts” will decide which medical services ought to be offered to which patients, and will publish those decisions as “guidelines” (a euphemism for “directives”), which will be followed to the letter by doctors who wish to continue their careers and stay out of jail.

DrRich has argued herein that such a system will do great harm to many individuals in all age groups, and will effectively end the Great American Experiment. (Unlike some, DrRich would consider this latter result to be a bad thing.) But our question at the moment is more focused: Will old people be killed disproportionally under Obamacare?

DrRich thinks the answer is yes. First, “guidelines” have the most merit when they are applied to patients whose only (or main) disease is the one to which the guideline applies. For patients with multiple serious ailments, or who are beginning to suffer from various motor and sensory disabilities related to aging, the response to (or ability to follow) standardized treatment directives may be far less than supposed. The reduced ability of doctors to tailor therapy to individual needs (without incurring the undifferentiated wrath of the Central Authority) may thus prove particularly harmful to the elderly.

Second, our leadership class has already anticipated that merely centralizing all healthcare decisions will be insufficient to avert a fiscal disaster, and that more stringent controls will have to be employed. While they do not like to discuss such contingencies publicly, when they do, they make it clear that the elderly will have a reduced priority for healthcare services. That is, there will be age-based rationing.

Third, it is plain that Obamacare will attempt to make it illegal for elderly Americans (or any Americans) to go outside the system to purchase their own healthcare. Old farts will get what the Central Authority says they will get, and nothing more.

DrRich believes Obamacare would end up being pretty tough on the elderly, and that many old people will die earlier than they would die today.

Medicare Under The Ryan Plan. The Ryan plan offers to allow anyone who is 55 or older to remain on Medicare as we know it today. For those currently younger than 55, when they reach the age of Medicare they will be given a suite of health insurance plans to choose from, and will be given a certain amount of money by the government to use to support their premiums. This system is quite similar to that currently offered to many federal employees.

The amount of premium support will be based on the wealth of the individual. The poor and the sick, Ryan insists, will get full premium support, and indeed will end up with “better” health insurance than they would get today under Medicare. Wealthier individuals will have to pay a much higher proportion of their own insurance premiums.

The Ryan plan in its current form is little more than an outline, and DrRich would need to see details before feeling warm and fuzzy about it. But fundamentally it takes medical decisions away from a Central Authority and places those decisions back into the hands of patients. Further, it not only allows but insists that people (who can afford it) spend at least some of their own money on their own healthcare. Also, patients under the Ryan plan will be legally permitted – even encouraged – to purchase any additional healthcare they want, any time they choose. This plan restores individual autonomy (and its twin, individual responsibility) to American healthcare.

Undoubtedly, the insurance companies under the Ryan plan would be no less evil than they are today, and would do harm to patients every chance they get. But (as DrRich has amply demonstrated) so will the Feds, and it is far easier and far less dangerous for doctors and patients to fight insurance companies than the Central Authority.*

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*DrRich hastens to remind his readers that health insurance companies will want no part of a plan such as Ryan’s. Ryan’s plan would require these companies to continue operating under their current, broken business model. After fighting so hard for Obamacare (which converts insurance companies essentially to public utilities), the insurance industry will not give up its victory without a fight – especially if doctors keep insisting on publishing articles showing that old farts can do just fine after receiving intensive medical care. DrRich thinks the health insurance industry will watch the progress of the Republicans’ budget proposal carefully, and if they perceive it has any chance of success, will do whatever they need to do to stifle it.
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Would elderly people die earlier under the Ryan plan? Those who are deemed wealthy enough to contribute to their own health insurance premiums, and who as a result choose to become under-insured, may certainly die earlier. DrRich supposes this is what the Democrats mean by “killing old people,” since he can find no other rationale to support such a statement.

The Bottom Line. Ultimately, the worst thing that could happen to us old farts would be for the current Medicare system to continue as it is, without any meaningful fiscal reforms. The two other plans for Medicare both promise to control government expenditures on healthcare, and thus promise to avoid the societal collapse (and mass elderly casualties) that likely would be produced by doing nothing.

Obamacare accomplishes this by placing healthcare decisions into the hands of government-chosen “experts” who will determine the management of individuals from a great distance, and by giving the elderly a lower priority in unavoidable rationing schemes.

In contrast, the Ryan plan proposes to avert catastrophe by placing elderly individuals in the position of having to choose (and in many cases partially pay for) their own health insurance product, and then live with those choices.

Speaking on behalf of the entire GOFA organization, DrRich would rather his fellow old farts die as a result of their own personal choices in a plan like Ryan’s, than die as the first victims of the societal upheaval, or through the tyranny, promised by the other two options.

DrRich trusts that his position as President of such an august organization will render his opinion in this matter dispositive.

“Entitlements” Can No Longer Be Rejected

DrRich | April 4th, 2011 - 10:35 am

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As difficult as it may be for most of his readers to believe, not everyone appreciates the erudite writings or well-reasoned analyses habitually offered up herein by DrRich. And despite the fact that DrRich takes great pains to express himself cordially even when addressing particularly contentious issues, and that he assiduously avoids personal attacks on his opponents, and indeed usually attributes lofty motives to them (focusing instead on their counterproductive methods or naive premises), it is not at all rare for DrRich to be the recipient of some rather negative, even personally hostile, communications.

And of all the topics likely to engender such negative feedback, none gets a more vociferous response than this: DrRich’s contention that among the many mandatory features that will necessarily comprise any Progressive healthcare system, the most obligatory, compulsory, requisite and non-negotiable of all will be the imperative to forbid individuals from having any meaningful control over their own healthcare destiny.

There are two basic reasons individual autonomy in healthcare must be stifled.

First, in order to achieve the most efficient and most effective outcomes within a Progressive healthcare system, all healthcare decisions will have to be made by a Central Authority, wielding its concentrated organizational and scientific expertise to maximize the public good.  Allowing these carefully calibrated decisions to be modulated by imperfect individuals (i.e., by non-experts) will fatally undermine the entire effort.

Second, and far more importantly, when one has at last devised a centrally-controlled, “universal” healthcare system (again, for the purpose of maximizing the public good), then allowing individuals to spend some of their own money on healthcare services that have not been officially sanctioned for them by the Central Authority will wreck the very legitimacy of that system. That is, to permit such individual prerogatives is tantamount to admitting that, perhaps, the Central Authority is actually NOT providing all useful healthcare services to all people (when, by definition, it is). Allowing individuals to purchase “extra” healthcare is a signal to the unwashed masses that there is “extra” healthcare to be had, and that the Central Authority may be holding out on them.

To say it another way, an essential feature of any Progressive healthcare system will be to carefully manage the expectations of the subject citizenry. To have certain subjects running around purchasing extra healthcare will fatally damage those managed expectations, and thus will fatally damage the Progressive healthcare system itself. Hence, it is imperative that individuals be constrained.

This fact has caused DrRich to say, many times, that the real battle over our new healthcare system will be the battle over whether Americans will be permitted to spend their own money on their own healthcare. Left-leaning readers take great umbrage at such a thought, since it is tantamount to accusing them of working toward a great tyranny. Most left-leaning Americans are still Americans, and therefore despise tyranny, and it is perfectly understandable that they would be angered at such an accusation. This is why, DrRich thinks, most left-leaning Americans will themselves be horrified when they at last glimpse where a Progressive healthcare system is inevitably taking us. Unfortunately, DrRich fears, such a realization on the part of well-meaning, left-leaning Americans will come too late to do us any good.

DrRich has attempted to document the efforts of Progressives to limit individual healthcare prerogatives, and while he himself finds the evidence compelling that they are deadly serious about doing so, he apparently has not made the case to the full satisfaction of many of his readers. So let him offer up the latest, particularly compelling, piece of evidence.

Last week, Washington DC District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that elderly Americans do not have the right to drop out of Medicare and purchase their own health insurance, unless they also forgo all Social Security payments, and repay the government any Social Security payments they have already received.

The notion that Americans MUST accept Medicare, of course, dates back to the Clinton administration, which in 1993 promulgated a rule in its Program Operations Manual System (POMS) to that effect. (DrRich has described how the Clinton healthcare reform plan intended to aggressively restrict individual prerogatives, and despite the failure of Hillarycare the Clinton administration still took several steps to do so.)  The lawsuit in question was filed by three elderly Americans (one of whom is Dick Armey), who wish to drop out of Medicare in favor of self-purchased health insurance, without having to sacrifice (and repay) their Social Security benefits.

Interestingly, Judge Collyer in 2009 denied a motion by the Obama administration to dismiss the suit, noting that “neither the statute nor the regulation specifies that Plaintiffs must withdraw from Social Security and repay retirement benefits in order to withdraw from Medicare.” Her preliminary ruling thereby confirmed the plaintiffs’ main contention.  So most observers assumed that the judge’s final ruling would also be in favor of the plaintiffs.

It was not. In her final ruling last week, Judge Collyer found a new interpretation of the Medicare statute itself that upholds the POMS rule. The Medicare statute, she now argues, specifies that people who are entitled to Social Security are automatically “entitled” to Medicare, and therefore if one elects to receive the Social Security payments one is owed, one must also accept Medicare. She flatly rejects the notion that when Congress says “entitled” it is implying anything optional, as in, “You can have it if you want it.” When you’re dealing with Medicare, she says, “‘entitled’ does not actually mean ‘capable of being rejected.’” When Congress says “entitled” Congress means you must have it – that it’s mandatory. Judge Collyer ends by sympathizing with the plaintiffs (or laughing at them – DrRich cannot tell for sure): “Plaintiffs are trapped in a government program intended for their benefit.”

The apparent change in Judge Collyer’s reading of the Medicare statute between 2009 and 2011 is disturbing. What made her originally read the plain language of the Medicare statute just like any literate American would, but then two years later read it as if she had to twist it into a presupposed “right” answer? We will never know, of course, but the turnabout seems troubling to DrRich.

It is instructive that the Obama administration would go to such lengths to prevent old farts from dropping out of Medicare. Medicare is not only in the red, but is a great fiscal threat to our national well-being. One would think they’d welcome the idea that some of our elderly might want to pay for their own health insurance, and save Medicare a lot of money. Instead, they fought it tooth and nail, even though the fight reduced them to absurdity. The Obama administration’s chief argument against the lawsuit was that the plaintiffs were lucky to receive such a boon as Medicare, and therefore suffered “no injury” by having to accept it, and so had no standing before the court. The judge herself ridicules the argument of the Obama administration: “The Secretary extolls the benefits of Medicare and suggests that Plaintiffs would agree they are not truly injured if they were to learn more about Medicare…The parties use a lot of ink disputing whether Plaintiffs’ desire to avoid Medicare is sensible.”

So as it now stands, seniors (unless they are rich enough to walk away from Social Security altogether) must accept Medicare. Admittedly, for most elderly Americans this is not a big deal – of course they’re going to accept Medicare. But, as DrRich has pointed out, current law already makes it nearly impossible for patients on Medicare to self-pay for denied medical services. Once you are on Medicare, you will get the medical services the Central Authority approves for you – and nothing more. In the not-too-distant future, this restriction is likely to become much more apparent to Medicare recipients. When and if the day comes when we would like to buy ourselves some medical care which the Central Authority would rather we did not have, we old farts will find that we are “entitled” neither to pay for our own healthcare, nor to drop out of the government program that so restricts us.

And at the risk of angering his readers yet again, DrRich asserts that we are one giant step closer to the day when it will become illegal for all Americans to spend their own money on their own healthcare.

Starting Pitcher

DrRich | April 1st, 2011 - 12:54 pm

DrRich is gratified that Jason, The Healthcare Economist, has seen fit to hand him the ball on opening day.  In this week’s Health Wonk Review, the Covert Rationing Blog was named starting pitcher in the opening day line-up.   DrRich is further gratified that Jason’s team is in the National League, so that DrRich will get his swipes.

It’s a bit nippy out there, but DrRich is ready.  (April, apparently, is now the month that comes in like a lion.  As usual, Global Warming works in mysterious ways.)