Michael Bloomberg: Against Obamacare Before He Was For It

Last week, old footage emerged of former New York City mayor, and current Democratic presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg talking about health care rationing. In his comments from 2011, he advocated denying costly care to older patients:

If you’re bleeding, they’ll stop the bleeding—if you need an X-ray, you’re going to have to wait. That’s just…All of these costs keep going up, nobody wants to pay any more money, and at the rate we’re going, health care is going to bankrupt us….You know, if you show up with prostate cancer, you’re 95 years old, we should say, ‘Go and enjoy. Have a nice life. Live a long life. There’s no cure, and we can’t do anything.’ If you’re a young person, we should do something about it.

Perhaps more important is why Bloomberg made those particular comments. At the time, in February 2011, he was paying condolences to a Jewish family that had lost a loved one. One of the deceased man’s family noted that the man “was in the emergency room for 73 hours before he died and…that overcrowding in emergency rooms in New York had become out of control.”

This entire episode undermines the message of Bloomberg’s current ad blitz claiming that as mayor, he expanded access to health care in New York City. Plus, what did the mayor say about ER overcrowding back in 2011? “It’s going to get worse with the health care bill [i.e., Obamacare].” He also predicted that hospitals would close as a result.

Obamacare a ‘Disgrace’

During last week’s Democrat primary debate in Las Vegas, former Vice President Joe Biden brought up some of Bloomberg’s other comments about Obamacare. Biden correctly noted that Bloomberg had called Obamacare a “disgrace.” In a June 2010 speech at Dartmouth University just after the law’s enactment, Bloomberg said “We passed a health care bill that does absolutely nothing to fix the big health care problems in this country. It is just a disgrace.”

Reporters in the past several days have highlighted some of Bloomberg’s prior comments about the law:

  • In his Dartmouth speech, Bloomberg also pointed out that Democrats “say they’ve insured or provided coverage for another 45 million people…except there’s no more doctors for 45 million people.”
  • In a 2011 radio appearance, Bloomberg said that Obamacare “did not solve the basic problems, two basic problems with health care, which…got lost in all of the negotiations as every special interest in Congress got a piece or lost a piece or negotiated about a piece.”
  • In a December 2009 appearance on “Meet the Press,” Bloomberg criticized Democrats for not reading or understanding the legislation: “I have asked congressperson after congressperson, not one can explain to me what’s in the bill, even in the House version, certainly not in the other version. And so for them to vote on a bill that they don’t understand whatsoever, really, you’ve got to question the kind of government we have.”

It’s notable that Biden didn’t mention Bloomberg’s last quote—about members of Congress not reading or understanding the legislation—in Wednesday’s debate. Of course, that might have something to do with Biden’s own recent admission that “no one did understand Obamacare”—presumably including himself, at the time the vice president of the United States.

Changing His Tune

Now that Bloomberg is running for the Democratic nomination, he’s come around to supporting Obamacare. When asked about his prior comments, a Bloomberg campaign spokesman told CNN Obamacare’s only flaw lay in the fact that it didn’t go far enough. As a result, Bloomberg’s health plan proposes more government spending, funded by higher taxes, and—in a first—price controls on the entire health-care sector, including what you can and cannot pay your doctors.

On the merits of his policy platform, I’ll give the last word to Bloomberg himself, in his June 2010 speech at Dartmouth University. While Bloomberg said President Obama started out with good intentions, he said Congress “didn’t pay attention to any of those big problems and just created another program that’s going to cost a lot of money.”

It’s an apt description of Bloomberg’s own health care plan—to say nothing of his competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.

Morning Bell: Even Unions Are Turning on Obamacare

It’s not every day that union bosses sound like conservative policy experts. But the beginning of the Obamacare letter from the heads of three major unions—the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE-HERE—to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is eerily similar to our experts’ writings.

The unions, of course, were heavy supporters of Obamacare, but even they can’t deny its effects now.

“When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act, you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them,” they wrote. “Sadly, that promise is under threat.”

It gets worse:

The unintended consequences of the ACA are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios: First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.

We couldn’t agree more. In fact, not only did Heritage experts predict these outcomes, but the non-partisan Medicare actuary also concluded the law would raise health costs by hundreds of billions of dollars. The Congressional Budget Office noted that Obamacare’s employer mandate “will probably cause some employers to respond by hiring fewer low-wage workers.”

Naturally, it’s on the question of solutions that we diverge from the unions.

The union leaders’ “solution” to these problems involves yet more government spending. They want to make union-run health plans eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies—subsidies that were supposed to go to people with no health coverage. In other words, increase taxpayer spending even more because of the consequences of bigger government.

If ever there were an argument to defund Obamacare in its entirety—to do away with both the spending and the costly regulations—it’s this one. The union letter accuses Obamacare of “shattering” hard-earned benefits and destroying the foundation of the middle class. In short, “We have a problem.”

The many ways liberal leaders keep marching forward, insisting nothing’s wrong, are becoming laughable. Appearing on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that “Obamacare has been wonderful for America.” And despite the Obama Administration’s multiple implementation failures, the Health and Human Services Department just released a video yesterday proclaiming that Obamacare is “on schedule.”

Even the law’s strongest supporters aren’t buying it any more.

This post was originally published at The Daily Signal.

Howard Dean’s Dirty Little Secret on Medicaid

Appearing on Meet the Press yesterday, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was asked about the possibility that, given the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare last Thursday, states could choose to opt out of the law’s new Medicaid expansion.  He gave an interesting response: “I think this stuff about not accepting Medicaid and not accepting Exchanges is crazy.”

Which is ironic, because a May 1998 front-page article from the Rutland Herald profiled how Judith Steinberg, a physician based in Shelburne, had written to her patients that she was no longer accepting individuals insured by the state’s largest Medicaid managed care organization:

Dr. Judith Steinberg told her patients in a letter that Community Health Plan/Kaiser Permanente has cut payments to her practice while raising rates to its insured.  The decision by Steinberg’s group means several hundred patients in CHP’s commercial and its “Access Plus” Medicaid plan will be obliged to either switch doctors or switch insurers.  The practice is the only CHP primary care provider in Shelburne….CHP serves about 30,000 of the 51,000 Medicaid clients who are in HMOs in Vermont.

Why is all of this relevant?  Because Dr. Judith Steinberg just so happens to be Howard Dean’s wife.

Put it another way: Howard Dean’s wife dropped out of that state’s largest Medicaid plan – while Dean was governor – due to low reimbursement rates and onerous bureaucratic regulations the Governor himself imposed.  So if Dean wants to go and publicly argue that “not accepting Medicaid…is crazy” – either for individual physicians, or for states looking to avoid Obamacare’s new unfunded mandates – he might want to chat with Mrs. Dean first.

Key Democrat Calls for Slowing Down Obamacare’s Regulatory Train Wreck

On Meet the Press yesterday, former Democrat Congressman Harold Ford Jr. called for a moratorium on new regulations – including new regulations under Obamacare.  The full transcript can be found here.

At a time when unemployment remains near record high levels, and tens of millions of Americans are out of work, the Administration has already released more than 9,000 pages of Obamacare-related regulations, notices, and other mandates in the Federal Register – with many thousands of pages still being developed.  All these mandates will raise premiums for individuals and families, increase costs for businesses, and ultimately impede job creation.  Both Rep. Ford, and CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, indicated that pending health care regulations are creating uncertainty among businesses that is harming the economy.  Why can’t President Obama see that himself, and call off the harmful Obamacare regulations before the economy incurs any more damage…?

Then vs. Now: Health Care Law’s Popularity

THEN:  “I predict…by November those who voted for health care will find it an asset, those who voted against it will find it a liability.”

— Sen. Chuck Schumer, Meet the Press, March 28, 2010

NOW:  “We knew going in that health care was going to be big….I do believe we got in the place that we’re in [i.e., the minority] because of health care reform.”

— Rep. Jim Clyburn, Morning Joe, November 8, 2010

NOW:  A plurality of voters support repealing all (24%) or some (25%) of the health care law, compared to smaller numbers who believe the law should remain in place (19%) or be expanded (21%).  Record low numbers of Americans believe the law will benefit them personally (only 25%) or the country as a whole (38%).

— Kaiser Family Foundation monthly tracking poll, November 2010

Democrats Propose Changing the Rules Mid-Stream — Again

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Health “Czar” Nancy-Ann DeParle claimed that the Senate had already passed its health bill by a “supermajority,” and “we’re not talking about changing any rules here.”  But it’s worth noting that the ONLY way the Senate ever passed legislation with 60 votes in the first place is because Democrats in Massachusetts changed their rules for the sole purpose of allowing an unelected senator to cast the deciding 60th vote.  As one observer noted, the Legislature’s action was “all about health care,” and the White House weighed in personally with the Governor to jam the process through.  Here’s what some of President Obama’s fellow Democrats said back in September about the Administration-led initiative to change the rules of the process:

Senator Brian A. Joyce, a Milton Democrat wrote 2004 legislation for special Senate elections:  “It’s wrong to change the rules depending on who’s in power…We shouldn’t change the rules by which we govern our democracy depending upon who the governor is.’’

Senator Steven A. Tolman, a Brighton Democrat:  “This is politics, right? Sure it’s politics.’’

Representative Cory Atkins, a Concord Democrat:  “Some people say this is political…Of course it is political.”

A “political” move to “change the rules depending on who’s in power?”  Sounds a lot like downgrading a 60-vote majority down to a 51-vote reconciliation bill – making this the second time the Democrat majority would attempt to change political rules in order to jam through a government takeover of health care…

Weekly Newsletter: April 20, 2009

Administration Reiterates Support for Government Rationing to Reduce Health Costs

Yesterday, National Economic Council Director Larry Summers appeared on Meet the Press, where he offered his comments on the Administration’s health reform proposals.  Asked how the Administration intended to pay for the $1.5 trillion cost of its proposed new government-run health plan, Summers responded that “cost-effectiveness research [and] doing a better job on reimbursements” would achieve savings—“we could take as much as $700 billion a year out of our health care system.”

Some Members may be concerned that these comments, coupled with President Obama’s stated desire to create a government-run health plan that would cause as many as 120 million Americans to lose their current health coverage, would result in explicit rationing of care by government bureaucrats in order to pay for the costs of the Administration’s universal coverage scheme.  Some Members may also question how many jobs will be lost as a result of this arbitrary reduction of up to $700 billion in health care expenditures.

A previously prepared Policy Brief on the potential for health care rationing as a result of proposals in the Obama budget can be found here.

If It Walks Like a Duck…

During Congress’ two-week Easter recess, Administration officials and others have been talking about a government-run health plan, and how a so-called “public option” could be structured in such a manner as to address Member concerns on the issue.  On Wednesday, the head of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, claimed that a government-run plan need not look like Medicare, and that, “when you start talking to [Members of Congress] about what [a government-run plan] might look like, you realize that you’re talking about two different things.”

However, many Members may remain concerned that the very nature of a government-run health plan means that it will end up eliminating private health coverage.  Congressional Budget Office Director Elmendorf recently testified that it would be “extremely difficult” to have a government-run plan compete “on a level playing field” with private coverage—and Democrats’ own actions prove that point.  For instance, some Members may note that the same Obama Administration that proposed a “level playing field” between a government-run health plan and private coverage want to eliminate the private market for student lending, forcing all students to use the government-run plan for college loans.  Some Members may therefore be concerned that Democrats would purposefully use a government-run health plan, no matter its structure, in order to eradicate private health coverage—just as they are currently attempting to do with the student loan marketplace.

A Policy Brief outlining potential concerns with a government-run health plan can be found here.

A Victory for Honest Budgeting

Just before the Easter recess, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a letter with significant implications for the upcoming health reform debate.  In a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Spratt, CBO defended its estimates for current law spending under Medicare—including the impact of a 21% cut in physician reimbursement levels scheduled to occur in January under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) mechanism.  CBO Director Elmendorf noted it is unclear whether reductions in physician payment levels would, for instance, cause hospital spending to rise—a scenario which would likely reduce the estimated $285 billion cost of repealing the SGR.

Some Members may be heartened by this assessment, and what it portends for its analysis of health reform proposals.  Democrats have already admitted the implications of the CBO scoring model on the Congressional debate, with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus going so far as to claim that the success or failure of health reform legislation hinges on the actions of CBO Director Elmendorf.  Yet despite Chairman Baucus’ public comments—and a letter from Chairman Spratt designed to create “phantom” budgetary savings unsupported by evidence—CBO has thus far indicated that it will not be moved by Democrat political pressure.  In a world of record budget deficits and seemingly unrestrained spending, some Members may find CBO’s impartial, evidence-based philosophy to budgetary score-keeping to date a refreshing approach.

Article of Note: A Democrat Leader Cautions His Party

Last Monday, a voice from the 1993-94 health reform debate re-surfaced to offer President Obama and Congressional Democrats advice on over-reaching in their efforts this time round.  Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO), in an interview with the New York Times, warned his fellow Democrats to spend more time focusing on reducing health costs and less time on creating a government-run health insurance plan for all Americans.  Gephardt—who unsuccessfully attempted to cobble together a health reform bill that could pass the House in the summer of 1994—said that universal coverage “needs to be dealt with.  But the way to get to it is to show that we can deal with some of these problems [i.e. skyrocketing health costs] first.”

Some Members may agree with former Leader Gephardt’s assessment, and believe that slowing the growth of health costs while placing our existing entitlement programs on a stable long-term footing should take precedence over creating a new government-run health plan.  Medicare currently faces unfunded obligations of $36 trillion, and its Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is scheduled to be exhausted as soon as 2016.  However, Democrats have put forth no comprehensive plan to solve Medicare’s shortfalls, and President Obama proposed to use Medicare savings in order to create a “reserve fund” financing new entitlements—taking money from a program for seniors to expand health coverage for the young.  Some Members may believe that spending as much as $1.5 trillion on a new government-run health plan is precisely the wrong way to control costs, and that expanding competition—not government—represents a better approach to health reform.

Read the article here.