Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Discussion of OCare with Neil Cavuto and Friends

For those who don't know him, Neil Cavuto is Fox Business. He's smart, fair, and reasonable; he lets his guests make their case, but he also doesn't let them throw around BS. On Saturday on Fox News he anchored a two-hour show about the health care bill: "The Final Diagnosis." Cavuto had people on the show who represent all sides of the health care issue. I took notes, and here are some highlights.

Cavuto is mostly low-key and very disarming with a deprecating sense of humor; he's also on the air six days a week, and my guess is he works 100 hours a week (and he also has MS, by the way): We’ve gone through this, we’re picking through the details like nobody’s business. We’re the business guys, we’re the nerds, we have no life. Flipping around the various networks here, you might think that this thing was the second coming. And it might very well be, there are some good features. What we wanted to do was to really see what’s in this, to get under the hood, so to speak, and understand what you can look forward to in some cases and what you will not look forward to.

One of the best interviews (IMO, naturally) was his interview with Mark Levin, a radio talk show host but also a constitutional lawyer and president of the Landmark Legal Foundation. He has been a consistent and outspoken critic of the Obama administration. He spoke about the thirteen states that are mounting a constitutional challenge against OCare. Cavuto could have done two hours with this guy alone.
Levin. The attorneys general are on the right path, some of them. And what we’re looking at is supporting their efforts.

Let me be very clear about what’s going on here. What they’re mandating for individuals is that the government is saying, “You are compelled to purchase a private health insurance contract from another entity." That has never occurred in American history. If this went through, that means there would be absolutely no limits on the federal government controlling your behavior. . . . They are compelling you to do something with your money which is not a tax. It is the most remarkable power grab in American history . . . but I have some good news for you. If your folks take another good look at the bill, at the guys at Big Government, if you look, there is this penalty. And it’s a huge penalty—2.5% of household income if you don’t purchase your own health insurance. Here’s what they did. They screwed up again. There’s no enforcement mechanism. As a matter of fact, what the bill says is that that penalty [quote] "is not subject to the enforcement provisions of Title F" of the internal revenue code. So the use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for the collection of taxes—and I’m quoting here, “does not apply to the collection of this penalty.” Noncompliance of the personal responsibility requirement to have healthcare coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay.

Cavuto. They do have the 16,000 new IRS agents they’re hiring. What are they going to be doing, twiddling their thumbs?

Levin. They’re gonna harass the hell out of us. And they can still harass the hell out of us. You’ve got 16,500 new IRS agents and not one trained doctor under this massive trillion dollar bill. And you’ve got, by the way—the folks in Medicare? Very soon: Medicare Advantage cuts, cuts to home health care begin, and . . . unbelievable! [Cavuto cut him off--out of time.]

Along similar lines, Cavuto interviewed the attorney general from Michigan, Mike Cox. who said he believes that OCare violates the Constitution. Paraphrasing what he said: You have to buy a product that we approve of, and if we don’t, we’ll fine you. This is unprecedented. President has said, “Bring it.” We accept that challenge. They’ve violated states’ sovereignty. Fifteen states are now suing the government to block the health care law. What are the rules of the game? We are a constitutional democracy. We’re afraid this is a slippery slope to more gov’t grabs.

A website describes Cox as "Republican attorney general and gubernatorial candidate," so it's little surprise that Michigan's Democrat governor, Jennifer Granholm has joined governors of three other states (Washington, Colorado, Pennsylvania) as of Friday in offering to help U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defend health care legislation against a lawsuit filed by a group of state attorneys general.

Cavuto interviewed California Attorney General Jerry Brown who is on the opposite side of the issue. Brown, a Democrat, is a former California governor and is running again for the top California spot. Brown was elected governor of California in 1974, succeeding Ronald Reagan. He's the son of Pat Brown, also a California governor. Not to disparage Brown, I remember that when he was governor in the 1970s, his nickname was Governor Moonbeam. Despite the nickname, Brown always struck me as a smart and serious politician--although his politics were probably somewhere to the left of Atilla the Hun. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Heh. He's worked for every Leftist cause in the book--name one, he's worked it, he was for it. According to Wikipedia, he has a black Labrador named Dharma. My black Lab is named Jack. Just sayin'. That's his then-love-interest Linda Ronstadt with him there a million years ago on the cover of Newsweek. Today he looks like he's the 1,000-year-old man. But it was an interesting interview.

Cavuto. You’re not one of those attorneys general who are suing. Why not.

Brown. When it comes to the law, it’s very clear to me that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution permits this kind of legislation. . . . I make the prediction that this is a slam-dunk case. The count will be 9-0. This is for Congress . . . anybody who doesn’t like this bill, you know who to elect or unelect. Asking the court to do the people’s business of the Congress is asking for an activism that is totally inconsistent with our jurisprudence.

Cavuto. Let me ask you about the companies that are coming out and saying that it’s going to cost them a bundle: AT&T, Deere, etc. What do you make of their beefs?

Brown. Number one, we have a couple of years before this goes into effect.

Cavuto. This exemption goes into effect next year.

Brown. Look. There’s not enough cost control. In America there’s no hospital stay that’s less than $3,000, and in Europe there’s no hospital stay that’s over $1,000. So we need to curb on the reimbursements that this health care bill is providing. [I thought he was against the bill? Moonbeam?] There’s plenty of modifications to be made. The present health care spending is out of control, it's unsustainable, so something has to be done. I think Obama took a good faith effort here. Are their problems, are their issues? You bet. I would hope that Republicans and Democrats would work together and craft whatever amendments are appropriate. We’ve got to think here as Americans first, Republicans and Democrats second.

Cavuto. But does it trouble you that all these problems are coming to light? I was here last week, and many of them, for example, had assumed that kids with prior medical conditions would be covered immediately. That was a key selling point, and it turns out that’s not the case. This is no longer going to be deficit neutral if you compensate and address all these issues. Some Republicans are saying, “This is a mess.”

Brown. This is quintessentially a political question. People are very divided. The Republicans, all the political memos that they pass around, are aimed at destroying the Obama presidency. It’s highly political. Is this the best bill? Obviously not. You can obviously make it better. I’d like to see the Republicans give some substantive alternatives [HAVE YOU NOT BEEN LISTENING FOR THE PAST YEAR?].

I can tell you, the poisonous partisanship is worse than anything I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve been around this political game a long time. It’s just too bad America’s facing a maximum financial challenge. Medical costs are bankrupting not only a lot of companies but a lot of states. We’re going to have to do a lot more than we’ve done. But throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not the way to go. We’ve got to pull together and start making some adjustments. But gee, it’s so partisan. It’s just not American, and it’s not sustainable. [Yes, Jerry, it's "so partisan," like your comment above about every Republican memo being sent around is aimed at destroying the Obama presidency.]

Cavuto. But to be fair, both sides are playing this game, right?

Brown. Yeah. There’s no Republican or Democratic solution to health care. You know, it’s not that easy. Drug companies—they’re charging more here. Hospitals are charging more, the equipment makers. It’s not easy any time you put a limit on it, people scream. As a matter of fact, if you want to criticize the medical bill, there aren’t enough controls or competitive pressures to hold costs down.

Cavuto. You’re running for governor again. Let me ask you this. Would you ask Barack Obama to campaign for you?

Brown. Well, uh, I tell you this, uh, I see campaigning as, uh as, as my responsibility. The voters are going to choose whether they like the person or not. . . . Look, I welcome anybody’s support who wants to come out here, uh, and certainly the President in California is very popular, has a very powerful support base. So yeah, I’d be, uh, proud of his, of his help. But I want to tell you, the people are going to choose the Republican or the Democrat, how they think that individual is going to do, not about some outside president or outside Republican leader who may come in, uh, to come in, uh, and stir the pot up. [That was the longest "No thanks" answer I've ever heard.]

Cavuto had another governor on the show, the Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who has recently said about the Obama administration, "Texas has yet to learn submission from opression."

Perry. It will cost the state of Texas somewhere between 20 and 25 billion dollars over the next 10 years. . . . This is nothing more than expanding socialism on American soil. It doesn’t fix health care. This bill doesn’t discuss tort reform. We’ve done that in Texas and seen health care costs and accessibility improve.

We’re going to do everything in our power to fight this federal excess and to find ways to protect our families, taxpayers, medical providers. This is a gross federal overreach. Our state’s lawsuit is a reasonable approach to protecting people from this. The other side of it is, you can bet there is a lot of activity in the state of Texas, targeting those individuals in congress who voted for this.

The real changes in America don’t come out of Washington D.C. I’d like to see for somebody to stand up and say, “Elect me and we will go to Washington and make Washington as inconsequential in your life as we can.” And I think there’s some traction in that. . . . Letting this one-size-fits-all expansion of socialism stand will not do.

Cavuto interviewed Robert J. Shapiro, former Clinton economic advisor. Cavuto introduced him as a "key architect" in making the this health care bill happen. He was also an economic advisor in the Clinton administration. He shouldn't be confused with other Robert Shapiro's of the same name. This guy must keep a very low profile, because I've never heard of him and I've at least heard of just about everyone.

Cavuto asked Shapiro why they were able to pass health care this time when it was unsuccessful in the Clinton administration.

Shapiro. We had more Democrats in Congress this time. Also, the problem has gotten worse, so there’s a greater sense of urgency. Companies will have to adjust to this. Yes, it is going to cost them. [Which translates into, It is going to cost the American people, big time.]

Cavuto. They will have to cut back on benefits, cut back on workers.

Shapiro. Or raise prices. [He should have said, if he was being honest, and raise prices.] The economy remains fragile. We’re being held up by the stimulus. This has been a unique and terrible crisis. Most of the provisions that really increase burdens in this bill don’t kick in until 2012 and later. What kicks in now is insurance reforms and increased taxes. Health care is the center of the deficit.

Cavuto. But is this worth all the effort?

Shapiro. We’ve taken early steps, but these are modest steps [emphasis mine]. You have to see this as a platform for further steps to bring down the rising health care costs. But we are moving Medicare from volume based reimbursement to value based reimbursement. Over time that could make a real difference. I think the prevention programs can save money over time. I think the insurance exchanges will certainly reduce the marketing costs for insurance companies. Small steps, modest steps. It's a bigger social achievement than economic achievement. It’s now up to Congress, both Republican and Democrat, to take a serious look at the real cost-cutting achievements that each has.

Cavuoto highlighted certain companies that have already said they will be big losers due to the new bill. Companies being hit with big losses just this year: John Deere, $150 million; Caterpiller, $100 million this quarter; AK Steel, $31 million, also this quarter.

Cavuto: By one account, the health care law could initially shave $14 billion from corporate profits.

Here's a video of Cavuto interviewing Donald Trump.

Just one of the companies that Shapiro says will have to "adjust" to OCare is a medical equipment company, Zoll Medico. Cavuto interviewed the company's CEO, Richard Packer, who said that the new tax on medical devices will be a “very significant” new tax. [Zoll Medical makes things like defibrilators for hospitals.]

Packer. For Zoll Medical, the tax due to the new health care law will be about 7.5 million; our profits last year were 9.5 million. This will have a big effect on Zoll. We’ve got to adjust our cost structure or pass it along. Companies can’t run at break even, so we will raise prices, cut back on research and development, and lay people off.  Zoll Medical is located in Massachusetts. Cox said that Scott Brown will be joining them for a meeting about OCare on Tuesday.

During the show, Cavuto kept cutting away to pictures from a Tea Party rally being held at Searchlight, Nevada, Harry Reid's home town.

Cavuto. There's a Tea Party rally today. People have started showing up at the rally five hours ahead of time. [He showed a photo of the gathering crowd, including an American flag—half mast and upside down. People were bundled up, it’s a sunny day, but obviously windy and cold.] Ten thousand people are expected at the rally today in a place where there are 500 registered voters in a town with a population of 1,000. People started rolling in with their RV’s two days ago. Sarah Palin is the keynote speaker. Actually, two Tea Party events are being held in Nevada today. From here the folks will caravan to Henderson, Nevada to kick off a second rally. Ann Coulter is going to be there. That in turn will kick off a 12-state event that will end in Washington, D.C., on tax day.

From a Fox News person at the event. The crowd is growing by the minute. A lot of folks in this country are very upset, unhappy with the passage of the health care bill. They feel like this is not a time to spend millions and millions of dollars for 30 million uninsured Americans. Folks are upset, it’s a grassroots campaign, they say they want an end to these higher taxes. It’s mostly Republicans here. A lot of people don’t argue whether all people should have access to health care, and they’re saying this isn’t Republican or Democrat, but that we should do what’s best for the country. Harry Reid is in the fight of his life just to remain a senator, trailing in the polls anywhere from 8 to 12 points.

Cavuto interviewed Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons (R). Governor, what is their biggest beef about health care?

Gibbons. Not only is it going to add to our Medicaid costs by increasing the number of individuals who qualify for free state-paid health care, which will run the state of Nevada about 613 million dollars—that’s an enormous taxpayer expense that will have to picked up by Nevadans who are now working. And we have the highest—second only to Michigan—unemployment rate in the nation. This bill is going to affect not just our doctors, not our health care industry; it’s going to affect every taxpayer in Nevada.

Cavuto. Do you worry that Republicans are just looking as the party of no, the party of hell no, as just as opposers, every step of the way?

Gibbons. No, I don’t. First of all, the Republicans have answers, they have proposals to reform health care. Tort reforms will bring down costs. If you want to put Americans into health care, to get them insurance, get them a job. That’s the number one thing that they should be working on in Washington—getting Americans back to work. That’s the best way to create a health care program for 30 more million Americans.

There was a lot more, but that's the gist of what Cavuto was doing today. He says he's going to stay on this, keep reporting what the other networks won't do.

P.S. Since the passage of OCare last week, the Obama lapdog media has been consistently reporting the demise of the Tea Party movement. Based on the crowd that showed up yesterday in Searchlight, Nevada, those reports may be just a bit premature. Just sayin'.

No comments: