Transparency Is Always A Good Idea

Yesterday The Epoch Times reported that Judge Carl Nichols with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Trump administration can compel hospitals and insurers to publish negotiated costs for health care services that are normally kept secret from patients. This is wonderful news for patients in hospitals although I suspect that the medical community is not happy with the decision.

The article reports:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) introduced a rule in November 2019 that defined “standard charges,” laid out the publication requirements for hospitals and insurers, and the department’s enforcement plans.

At the time, hospital and insurer organizations and advocacy groups objected to the agency’s proposals, disputing that the Trump administration has the authority to require the disclosures, which they believe are trade secrets. The hospitals also disputed that the policy would benefit consumers and lead to lower costs, countering that compliance would instead be too burdensome and “get in the way” of providing services for patients.

The finalization of the rule, which goes into effect January 2021, prompted the American Hospital Association (AHA) to sue, arguing that the White House didn’t have the authority to make the directive, had violated the First Amendment in its creation, and had acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner.

The article concludes:

Trump’s executive order on improving transparency on health care prices and quality required the HHS secretary to propose a regulation to publicly post standard charge information “in an easy-to-understand, consumer-friendly, and machine-readable format using consensus-based data standards that will meaningfully inform patients’ decision making and allow patients to compare prices across hospitals.”

It also requires hospitals to regularly update the posted information.

David Mitchell, the founder of advocacy group Patients For Affordable Drugs, said in a statement to The Epoch Times in response to the ruling that he thinks “we have to get rid of our system in which prices are secret and hidden from those who must pay them.”

This is good news for the people who pay for hospital care.

The Impact Of President Trump’s Judicial Appointments

Yesterday The Daily Caller reported that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the Trump administration can continue stripping federal funding from clinics that offer abortions. Note that he did not shut down the clinics–he just said that they would not receive federal funding. That ruling is an example of the impact President Trump’s judicial appointments have had on the Ninth Circuit.

Yesterday Fox News reported:

President Trump has reshaped the “notoriously liberal” U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, according to Carrie Severino, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network’s chief counsel and policy director, who noted it was often referred to as the “Ninth Circus.”

The former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made the comments Monday on “Fox & Friends” in response to a Los Angeles Times article titled “Trump has flipped the 9th Circuit — and some new judges are causing a ‘shock wave.’”

The article said that when President Trump talks about his accomplishments in office, “he frequently mentions his aggressive makeover of a key sector of the federal judiciary — the circuit courts of appeal, where he has appointed 51 judges to lifetime jobs in three years.”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which encompasses California, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, Guam, Oregon and Washington, was a liberal bastion that has been aggressively reshaped into a more moderate court by the Trump administration.

The Daily Caller notes:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) followed the decision in June by alerting clinics that it would enforce the administration’s ban. Planned Parenthood withdrew from the Title X federal family planning program, thereby forgoing about $60 million a year, in August 2019 rather than comply with this decision.

The Daily Caller article includes a screenshot of a comment by Leana Wen, M.D., a former president of Planned Parenthood. She comments that she will continue to fight so that millions of women across the country can receive care. Note the vocabulary used here–abortion is being framed as care. In a stretch of logic I suppose you could consider abortion care for the mother, but it is definitely not care for the baby. By controlling the vocabulary, Dr. Wen seeks to control the argument. The government should not be funding clinics that lead women to abortions–they should be funding clinics that lead women to prenatal care and support for their pregnancy.

Dismantling ObamaCare One Rule At A Time

One of the mixed blessings about the way ObamaCare was passed was the fact that it was an unread law passed strictly along party lines (Democratic Party) and then filled in by Executive Order and orders from the Health and Human Services Department. Many of the mandates and other parts of ObamaCare were not written into the law, but came later. One of the advantages of that fact is that what was put in place by Executive Order can be taken away by Executive Order. Since the Republicans in Congress have broken their promise to the voters to repeal ObamaCare, President Trump is taking it apart piece by piece.

Today Red State posted an article showing the latest piece to go. The article included the following tweet by the President:

The article explains:

President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order later this week that would allow people to pool together and purchase group insurance plans, according to The New York Times.

Association health plans allow groups such as community organizations, churches or professional associations to purchase health plans together. Many insurance companies oppose this kind of pooled purchase, as they argue the plans take healthy patients out of the individual markets.

The executive order is the first step in President Trump’s plan to issue another directive that would allow people to purchase insurance across state lines, though it is still unclear if he has the authority to do so.

“I am considering an executive order on associations, and that will take care of a tremendous number of people with regard to health care,” President Trump said late September, according to The New York Times. “I’ll probably be signing a very major executive order where people can go out, cross state lines, do lots of things, and buy their own health care…It’s going to cover a lot of territory and a lot of people — millions of people.”

Letting the free market reign in health insurance is a giant step back to sanity. Health insurance companies are in business to make a profit, which they are entitled to, and they use actuary tables to calculate those projected profits. If you bring back competition, they will have to compete with each other in the area of pricing, and all Americans will benefit. This is a big step toward making health insurance affordable for everyone. The less the government is involved in health insurance and healthcare, the better it is for all of us.

Remember what Milton Friedman said:

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.

Let’s get the government out of health insurance.

One Example Of Why ObamaCare Needs To Be Repealed Immediately

The following excerpts are part of a Department of Health and Human Services Report from the Office of the Inspector General. The report states, “Colorado Did Not Correctly Expend Establishment Grant Funds For Establishing A Health Insurance Marketplace.” The report can be found on the Internet here.

The mission of the Office of Inspector General (OIG), as mandated by Public Law 95-452, as amended, is to protect the integrity of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs, as well as the health and welfare of beneficiaries served by those programs. This statutory mission is carried out through a nationwide network of audits, investigations, and inspections conducted by the following operating components:

Office of Audit Services

Office of Evaluation and Inspections

Office of Investigations

Office of Counsel to the Inspector General

The report explains why the agency did the review–the review was part of a series of reviews of establishment grants for State marketplaces across the Nation. You can read the details if you choose, but the details are not what is important here–what is important is that the Federal and State governments never work as well as the free market.

This is the list of what the review found:

1. The Colorado marketplace did not expend $9,678,635 of Federal establishment grant funds in accordance with Federal requirements. Specifically, the Colorado marketplace:did not adequately document $4,398,333 in costs that it charged to the establishment grants;

2. charged the establishment grants $4,504,799 for unallowable hardware and software operational support and maintenance contract costs whose periods of benefit occurred after December 31, 2014;

3. improperly transferred costs totaling $312,449 from one establishment grant to another without demonstrating that these cost transfers were performed to correct bookkeeping or clerical errors;

4. did not efficiently and effectively administer establishment grant funds totaling $463,054 consisting of improperly awarded executive and employee bonuses, overpayments to subgrantees, unallowable promotional giveaway items, excessive and unreasonable tips, vendor rebates that were received but not credited to the establishment grants, and unallowable social activities;

5. drew down establishment grant funds that it did not immediately use;

6. entered into contracts with consultants and other contractors that did not conform to Federal and State requirements and the Colorado marketplace’s own policies on contract administration, including approval procedures and required contract information; and

7. engaged in a number of procedures and practices that, contrary to Federal requirements and cost principles and, in some cases, to the Colorado marketplace’s own  policies, (1) required the use of personal credit cards to purchase equipment, supplies, and services for the marketplace, (2) permitted self-approval of purchases on behalf of the previous executive staff, (3) permitted incomplete and inadequate disclosure of possible conflicts of interest, (4) did not properly document inventory of equipment, and (5) allowed the use of establishment grant funds to purchase equipment for a previous Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who kept it for personal use when the CEO left the organization.

These findings were caused by a lack of adequate stewardship of Federal funds. Specifically, the Colorado marketplace had not developed, finalized, and implemented policies and procedures to ensure that it expended and accounted for establishment grant funds in accordance with Federal, State, and Colorado marketplace requirements.

This is a chart showing the bonuses given:

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posted an article about this report today.

The article concludes:

Later in the report, the IG explains that this was spent on a holiday party, with “cake, punch, holiday cards, and decorations.” Why the Colorado exchange felt it necessary to charge the federal government for those expenses will be one of the more interesting explanations we’ll hear … if we ever do hear it. At any rate, such expenses are explicitly prohibited from federal grants, as the IG points out in the report.

The whole report is damning for the arrogance of the bureaucracy when it came to spending federal grant money, especially on a flop like ObamaCare. One has to wonder just how many other states have used their federal grant money in such a cavalier manner, and for little purpose in the end.

It might be a good idea to note at this time what the planned future of ObamaCare actually was. Had Hillary Clinton been elected as President, the Democrats in Congress would have acknowledged that ObamaCare had failed and suggested a single-payer (read that ‘government run’) healthcare program similar to what Canada and the U.K. have to replace ObamaCare. When Donald Trump was elected, things got complicated for the Democrats. As I write this, they are fighting to preserve ObamaCare long enough so that it can fail and be replaced by single-payer healthcare. Hopefully the Republicans will not let that happen and will repeal ObamaCare quickly.

Let’s get the government out of healthcare.