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From the Forbes’s article which attempts to persuade us that Obamacare really is chock full of puppy dogs and sunshine just as Obama promised:
Failure on the part of insurers to meet this requirement will result in the insurers having to send their customers a rebate check representing the amount in which they underspend on actual medical care.
That sounds all well and good until you stop and think about it. Who decides what constitutes “underspending”? Ultimately, under Obamacare, prices will be driven up through inflation as outrageous hospital bills are presented as evidence along with insurance companies’s counter-proposals that they are “underspending”.
A concrete example of this would be my recent experience my fourth child’s birth.
By the fourth child you pretty much know what’s going on and, barring any complications, things generally tend to go like clockwork. Well thankfully that’s pretty much what happened in our case. Biologically the birth was seamless, labor for about 2 hours, 3 pushes, and we welcome our son into the world.
So what could I possibly say about an uninteresting birth to show how Obamacare is such a terrible idea?
Enter the nurses.
When we arrived at the hospital we were taken to the prep room where my wife was to change into a hospital gown, get checked, and wait for the room to be prepared for us. It took my wife about 5 minutes to get prepared and it was apparently somewhat of a slow day so rooms were available and already prepped. But it still took us about 30 minutes to get into one. Why? Apparently there are new regulations which call for the nurses to play 20 questions with the mother-to-be before she can be admitted into a room. This process took so long that the mid-wife, who is not considered a medical professional by the way, decided to cut in and actually check how far along my wife was. I’m glad she did, too, because my wife was basically ready to deliver right then.
We were quickly whisked into a delivery room where the nurse playing 20 questions was joined by a team of nurses whose primary focus was to give my wife an IV because she had tested positive for strep and according to their regulations the mother needed to have at least two doses of an antibiotic before giving birth, a process which they expected to take about 20 minutes. Keep in mind at this point my wife was completely ready, biologically, to give birth.
This IV was so important to the hospital staff that they called in at least 4 different nurses to try and find a vein. After the fourth my wife finally told them she couldn’t hold back anymore and would push whether they liked it or not. I passed the last nurse who had tried to give my wife the IV in the hall later and overheard her complaining to the head nurse about how she didn’t want to get written up because procedures hadn’t been followed to the letter. So all the nurses run out into the hall way to discuss the situation and how to reconcile what is happening in the delivery room to their procedures, leaving us alone with only the midwife in the room.
And that’s how we welcomed my 3rd son into the world. With the medical professionals debating their procedures in the hallway while the non-medical professionals, unencumbered by a sense of obligation to follow procedure or the threat of the loss of our jobs if we failed to follow that procedure, got the job done.
The following morning my wife was cleared to leave by her doctor about 12 hours after giving birth but the nurses wouldn’t let her go until she had been there a minimum of 24 hours because, once again, procedure had to be followed.
Two weeks later we received the bills from the hospital. All told the hospital is charging about $14,000 for about 12 hours worth of work and since its itemized we get to see that my wife was given an $11 aspirin (single pill) and my son was given a $6 passifier (we bought a two-pack of the same passifier from a store for less than $4). Thankfully we won’t have to pay the full $14,000+ bill. My employer has graciously provided me with an insurance plan I had no say in and that plan is supposed to help deflate the bill somewhat. By how much we don’t know yet, hopefully it won’t be more than what we budgeted.
And that brings be back to why the bomb the Forbes article tries to tell us is actually a good thing is not, in fact, a good thing.
You see, the insurance company is rightly going to counter the hospital’s outrageous bill with a statement of how much they think it should be and they will base their percentage of coverage on that. Under Obamacare it seems the insurance company will simply be forced to pay whatever magic numbers the bean counters at the hospital dream up. In other words, we will be moving from a badly damaged pseudo-market system to a completely centrally controlled one where the prices charged have absolutely no relation to the real world at all. The hospital can charge thousands of dollars for an aspirin and under Obamacare insurance companies will be forced to pay every cent either then or later after the customer has been stuck with the bill. Either way the result is the same, the cost of medical care will skyrocket because of their government-granted monopoly.
Of course that’s not the only change that will take place. The other part of Obamacare is, as the Forbes article rightly notes, the destruction of any “for-profit” insurance company. Meaning the only insurers who will be able to survive such lunacy are insurance companies that don’t have to operate according to the virtuous system of profit and loss. It is, as was noted before Obamacare passed, the perfect scenario for sneaking in through the backdoor a universal healthcare system.
Now you might be thinking at this point that free healthcare for everyone sounds like a great idea. But there are two catches to that notion.
One is the simple fact that nothing is free. Defenders of other socialized healthcare systems like to point to how their cost of medical care is cheaper than ours. But if the cost of medical care is fixed by the state then such a claim makes no sense since it cannot be objectively compared to anything else. Remember that $11 aspirin? We only know that such a price is outrageous because we have a much more free market outside the hospital which currently charges as little as .0001 cents per pill.1 If the prices were fixed, as they were during World War II for many goods, we simply have no way to know whether we are being over or under charged.2
The other is that the further you remove the good or service provider from the person paying for the good or service, the less of an incentive the provider has for making sure what they are providing is worthwhile to the consumer. The insistence of the nurses to follow procedure rather than attend to the actual medical need highlights this point.
As I said in a discussion on this topic on Facebook:
It would help to drive costs down if I were the one paying for my care, even if I leveraged an insurance company who is my client and not my employers’, and if I were the one who got to determine my care, instead of merely accepting whatever the doctors and nurses dictated to me.
The answer to our healthcare problem is not more intervention. Its freedom.
That’s not a really surprising statement. What separates us, however, is whether we think a perfect world is attainable given the current state of affairs and whether we think it is possible to bring about a perfect world.
How we answer these crucial questions is what defines our political outlook.
Big government advocates, for instance, think a perfect world is obtainable through the right policies. In the past these policies were based purely on theory (a la Karl Marx) but in more recent times these policies are being based on statistical averages. Modern proponents of big government are fond of making the case based on scientific research and strong appeals to game theory as a solution to the tragedy of the commons. In short, a perfect world is possible if we limit the non-optimal decisions of others.
This view sells. Its a sound theory. It is possible to bring about the most optimal set of circumstances through the application of something like the Nash equilibrium. However it fails to account for one crucial fact. The fact that complete and flawless knowledge of all the relevant facts is required in order to make the calculations accurate. Big government proponents either fail to factor in the uniqueness of individuals or else they boldly assert that individuals are obligated to conform to the community’s desires. The recipe for a perfect plan calls for perfection.
This inconvenient truth is where big government advocates often find their lofty ideals being dashed on the shores of reality.
There are no individual humans or group of humans who have acquired the omniscience required in order to concoct such a perfect plan in order to bring about a perfect world.
And its this reality that leads people to advocate for a realistic system designed not to bring about a perfect world, but a just one.
Small government supporters rightly recognize the problem inherent in designing a perfect society. So rather than try they prefer to uphold the individuals right to chart their own course through the ocean of life. Small government advocates believe in the principle that more people come up with better solutions to problems than a small group of people do. Small government supporters also believe that it is wrong for others to try and force their view of what constitutes a perfect world on others.
After listening to John D Caputo’s interview by Luke Mulenhauser on commonsenseatheism.com (mp3) I decided to get John’s book, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, and see what sort of case he could build for postmodern Christianity that would compel emergent pastors like Brian McLaren to endorse it.
I first encountered JackCaputo’s writings in the introduction to God, the gift, and Postmodernism, which he edited with Michael Scanlon (Indiana University Press, 1999). Since I’m not a professional philosopher, a number of the book’s chapters (sur)passed the reading comprehension capacities of my bald layman’s head, but not the introduction. There Caputo and Scanlon spoke in down-to-earth terms of our need to become “enlightened about the Enlightenment” (meaning, for my fellow less-philosophical laypeople, the eighteenth-century movement that eventually reduced reality to phenomena that could be measured and dissected by “objective” human reason).
-Brain McLaren, pg 9
McLaren goes on to provide a very brief outline of the book which I find rather helpful,
First you’ll notice that Jack flies you into a “zone of intertextuality,” meaning that he is going to suspend you between several texts, notably Sheldon’s In His Steps (the unlikely inspiration of the WWJD craze), the writings of Jacques Derrida, and the New Testament. This may strike you as an unlikely combination, but it will make perfect sense by the time you’re halfway to the last page.
John does rely heavily on Sheldon’s book to, ironically, provide some structure for his book which deals mostly with deconstructionalism. In fact, if you haven’t read Sheldon’s book you might find it worthwhile to put John’s book down and read Sheldon’s work before returning.
John’s book can be broadly divided into two sections. The first being a crash course in deconstructionalism. And the second being what John sees as the practical implications of deconstructionalism when applied to Christianity.
In the first section John does an excellent job providing the reader a cogent and easily digestible overview of what deconstructionalism is. John uses many analogies and weaves in quotes from the founders of deconstructionalsim (Jaques Derrida, Martain Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, etc.) in seamlessly. It is evident here that John is a skilled teacher who is able to convey an otherwise complex topic.
In this section John makes the claim that certain concepts like love, justice, and “the kingdom of God” are not deconstructible. John never explains exactly why or how he comes to this conclusion, but based on his aversion to objective truth I suppose even expecting a well-reasoned argument is asking too much.
John also makes the claim that since the church is not the same as the Kingdom of God (again, the reader is apparently asked to take this assertion on blind faith alone), the church is the first and foremost thing that is ripe for deconstruction.
By way of example John uses several stories from the New Testament where Jesus apparently turned the tables and did the unexpected. John subsumes these as evidence that Jesus would always do the unexpected in the name of “love” (which, defined existentially, appears to be merely a subjective concept).
From here John launches into the second major section of his book which deals with the practical implications of what he just described.
In the second section we are given, without much analysis (which, given John’s adherence to continental philosophy is not very surprising), a steady stream of assertions that Jesus would be a full-blown liberal supporting all the fashionable liberal causes of our day from gay marriage to abortion on demand. John does balk a bit at the concept of abortion but ultimately comes down on the side of the woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her body, which is consistent with John’s deconstructionalism which makes objective judgement not only impossible but wholly undesirable.
In the end, I can see why emergent pastors like Brian McLaren would find John’s work appealing. Deconstructionalism allows the reader to place any meaning they want onto a text and thus co-opt for whatever means they desire. It also makes judgement verboten which means they are absolved from the responsibility of ever taking a real stand on anything. Further, it provides a handy platform for them to support all the fashionable causes without fear of being challenged since any and all challenges to their assertions would, themselves, be deconstructed and rendered harmless.
I highly recommend John’s book for anyone who is looking to understand the emergent church movement. John provides well articulated and frank answers to anyone who wants to understand the thought-process of the postmodern Christian/church.
Even though his work is quite old, older than Caputo’s, an excellent rebuttal to this book would be Francis Schaeffer’s lecture Modern Man & Epistemology.
Liberals are fond of using publicly funded roads as an example of why socialism is necessary. Well Bruce Benson gives us a history and economics lesson on why there is no reason to think that the private sector can’t provide a suitable road system.
[HT Wintry Knight]
My friend Wintry Knight recently turned me on to an excellent American economist, statistician, and a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Milton Friedman.
Here is a short clip of Milton answering a rather pointed question regarding our responsibility to the poor wherein Milton explodes the myth that Capitalism and the free markets are somehow against helping the poor. Milton also points out in this short clip how most poverty and disparity in America can be directly traced to socialistic programs.
Here’s another video where Milton explodes the myth that Capitalism is inherently immoral or utilitarian by placing “the bottom line” above the value of a human life.
And finally, here is a video where Milton explodes the myth of that capitalism and slavery (or class oppression) are necessarily related. Milton also discusses how slavery is ultimately antithetical to capitalism as it ends up costing more and discouraging increased production or innovation.