As Maine goes, so goes ObamaCare?

August 21, 2009

Along with Tennessee and Massachusetts, the state of Maine recently established its own state-paid health insurance system, called DirigoChoice. Its provisions are very similar to provisions in the various national health-care “reform” bills floating around the House and Senate, so Maine’s experience may well provide us with a glimpse of the future under ObamaCare.

And that glimpse should be all we need to just say no:

Here’s how the program was supposed to work. Two government programs would cover the uninsured. First the legislature greatly expanded MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program. Today Maine families with incomes of up to $44,000 a year are eligible; 22% of the population is now in Medicaid, roughly twice the national average.

Then the state created a “public option” known as DirigoChoice. (Dirigo is the state motto, meaning “I Lead.”) This plan would compete with private plans such as Blue Cross. To entice lower income Mainers to enroll, it offered taxpayer-subsidized premiums. The plan’s original funding source was $50 million of federal stimulus money the state got in 2003. Over time, the plan was to be “paid for by savings in the health-care system.” This is precisely the promise of ObamaCare. Maine saved by squeezing payments to hospitals and physicians.

The program flew off track fast. At its peak in 2006, only about 15,000 people had enrolled in the DirigoChoice program. That number has dropped to below 10,000, according to the state’s own reporting. About two-thirds of those who enrolled already had insurance, which they dropped in favor of the public option and its subsidies. Instead of 128,000 uninsured in the program today, the actual number is just 3,400. Despite the giant expansions in Maine’s Medicaid program and the new, subsidized public choice option, the number of uninsured in the state today is only slightly lower that in 2004 when the program began.

Why did this happen? Among the biggest reasons is a severe adverse selection problem: The sickest, most expensive patients crowded into DirigoChoice, unbalancing its insurance pool and raising costs. That made it unattractive for healthier and lower-risk enrollees. And as a result, few low-income Mainers have been able to afford the premiums, even at subsidized rates.

This problem was exacerbated because since the early 1990s Maine has required insurers to adhere to community rating and guaranteed issue, which requires that insurers cover anyone who applies, regardless of their health condition and at a uniform premium. These rules—which are in the Obama plan—have relentlessly driven up insurance costs in Maine, especially for healthy people.

Read the whole thing, and then call your congresscritter and tell him or her that doing nothing is better than making things worse.

(hat tip: Hot Air)


Addicted to the race card

August 21, 2009

Joker card

There’s an old saying that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” In other words, when he can’t have his way by means of persuasion, a politician desperate to win will appeal to loyalty to one’s country and make disagreement seem like betrayal or even treason, thus bullying opponents into submission.

In modern America, the equivalent for the Left has been to cry “racism” whenever someone disagrees with their policy objectives. Do you question the effectiveness of large government social programs? You must hate poor people, especially Blacks. Do you think the constitutional role of the judiciary is to interpret the law, not make policy? You must want to deny non-Whites their civil rights, you crypto-Klansman. Do you think the second amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms? Then you must be afraid of minorities, cracker.

Whatever else, it cannot be because you disagree honestly with the goals of our first African-American president – it’s just because he’s Black.

In an article for National Review, Jonah Goldberg (whose book, Liberal Fascism, is must-reading) looks at the irony in the willingness of President Obama and his supporters to play the race card and finds a stacked deck:

What if America transcended race, and Barack Obama wasn’t invited?

The question comes to mind as cries of racism grow ever louder among Obama’s supporters.
No one should be surprised. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, liberal Democrats have to accuse their opponents of racism. Indeed, somewhat to their credit, fighting racism — alas, even where it doesn’t exist — is one of the reasons they became liberal Democrats in the first place.

And that’s the great irony of the Obama presidency. It was Obama’s supporters who hinted, teased, promised, and prophesied that Obama would help America “transcend race.” But now, it is they who shrink from their own promised land.

After all, it was not Obama’s detractors who immediately fell into the comfortable groove of racial grievance and familiar “narratives” when Henry Louis Gates insisted that a police instructor in racial sensitivity had to be a racist. That was Obama and his choir of heralds.

From Day 1, Obama’s supporters have tirelessly cultivated the idea that anything inconvenient for the first black president just might be terribly, terribly racist.

Indeed, it can be argued that it is the conservative and libertarian opposition that’s “transcended race,” because they’re refusing to give deference to Obama on the basis of his ethnicity. Instead, they’re treating him just like any other president they might strongly oppose – with loud criticism and even mockery. Sure, there are almost certainly a few who dislike Obama because of his half-African ancestry, but the opposition attacks on him have been overwhelmingly for his far-Left domestic policies, weak foreign policy, amateurish political skills once in office, and a flip-flopping that borders on serial mendacity.

It’s the liberal Democrats and their allies in the broader Left who’ve been obsessed with race and unable to ascribe any honest motive to their opponents. And this addiction to playing the race card at the drop of a hat only hurts their program, because it galvanizes opponents who don’t like having their motives or intelligence insulted. And it shows the intellectual and political bankruptcy of their position that, even with overwhelming majorities in both chambers of Congress and control of the White House, they can’t convince a majority of Americans that their program is the right one.

So, it must be racism.

Oh, and Johnson’s observation about scoundrels and patriotism? They play that one, too.

FURTHER READING: Sister Toldjah has made almost a hobby out of tracking PBO’s use of the race card. And Bruce Bartlett has an excellent book that examines the dirty history of the Democratic Party and race: Wrong on Race.

UPDATE: It seems New York’s Governor Paterson can play the race card, too. (h/t JammieWearingFool) Also ST.