Huckabee Pulls a Palin

Thursday morning, Mike Huckabee criticized Democrats for using Ted Kennedy’s memory to promote health care reform:

“Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death had barely hit the news before we started hearing calls that Congress must hurry and pass the health care reform bill and do it in his memory,” said Huckabee. “That not only defies good taste, it defies logic. We certainly can and should respect his years of advocacy and work for the things that he truly believed in. But there is no good reason to rush through a giant unread bill that would transform American health care and impact every citizen.”

Huckabee didn’t have any qualms about using Kennedy’s name to spread misinformation:

The 2008 Republican presidential candidate suggested during his radio show, “The Huckabee Report,” on Thursday that, under President Obama’s health care plan, Kennedy would have been told to “go home to take pain pills and die” during his last year of life.

“[I]t was President Obama himself who suggested that seniors who don’t have as long to live might want to consider just taking a pain pill instead of getting an expensive operation to cure them,” said Huckabee. “Yet when Sen. Kennedy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at 77, did he give up on life and go home to take pain pills and die? Of course not. He freely did what most of us would do. He choose an expensive operation and painful follow up treatments. He saw his work as vitally important and so he fought for every minute he could stay on this earth doing it. He would be a very fortunate man if his heroic last few months were what future generations remember him most for.”

Of course this is totally untrue. The proposed legislation prohibits discrimination based upon age and Kennedy would receive the same care regardless of his age.

George Stephanopoulos considered the political aspects of this:

One thing’s for sure: by joining the debate in this time in this way, Huckabee is showing how determined he is not to be outmaneuvered by Sarah Palin in the early 2012 bidding for the GOP’s conservative base.

In other words, to appeal to the conservative base it is necessary to invent false claims as ridiculous as those being spread by Sarah Palin.

Villians and Rationing in Health Care

With the insurance companies coming under a considerable amount of criticism, The New York Times looks at insurance company executives. A project manager for Humana says, “I’m certainly not villainous or immoral in any way.”

Maybe, or maybe not. The real issue here isn’t the individuals involved but what the insurance companies have turned into. As business executives their goal becomes to maximize profits for their company, and in the case of health insurance this has serious deleterious effects. The ways insurance companies maximize profits were discussed in many previous posts, such as here and here. The more services they can deny, the greater their profits.

A comment from another executive at Humana touches on this:

“I believe we’re getting the pushback because we are standing up for what we believe in,” said Cheryl Tidwell, 45, Humana’s director of commercial sales training. “We believe there’s a better way to control costs by controlling utilization and getting people involved in their health care.”

“Controlling utilization.” If the government was doing this, conservatives would scream about rationing. Controlling utilization to reduce payment for unnecessary services makes sense. The problem is that the insurance companies have financial incentives to find deny services whether they are needed or not. They increase their profits even more if they can find ways to drop people who develop expensive medical problems.

This strategy is effective. It the early 1990’s, 95 cents of  every dollar received in premiums went to paying claims. Now that figure is down to just over 80 cents. Whether the insurance executives who came up with these ways to increase their profits are villains or brilliant businessmen is not the issue. What is important is changing the policies which lead to denial of coverage to increase insurance company profits.

Ted Kennedy on Separation of Church and State at Liberty University

There are many news stories lately on the life of Ted Kennedy. One of the more unusual events occurred in 1983.  Kennedy received a membership card from the Moral Majority and an invitation to join the organization as part of a mass mailing. Kennedy declined the membership but did offer to speak at Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University) and Jerry Falwell did accept this offer.  Kennedy spoke on separation of church and state. Above is a clip from his speech. The full transcript is here (leaving off the introductory remarks which do appear at in the above clip).