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Friday, February 26, 2010

What's wrong with these pictures?


The Obama administration claims that news of health insurers raising premiums somehow validates its own plan to expand government's role and spending in health care—a plan that congressional budget analysts testify will raise premiums (See Washington Post, "HHS secretary decries higher rates for health insurance"). A more cost-effective solution would increase competition among health insurers, breaking up state-bound monopolies and allowing patients to choose competitive plans nationwide.
President Obama asserts that "the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough."  Yet according to national polling, his plan to rescind the only federal regulation protecting the conscience rights of healthcare professionals threatens to force 95 percent of faith-based physicians out of medicine. The resulting crisis of  healthcare access and cost would penalize the poor and patients in medically underserved areas.
Invoking bipartisanship and transparency, Mr. Obama held a televised healthcare summit with Republicans while his aides and allies secretly crafted a legislative scheme to bypass the GOP altogether.
If the administration can't figure out what's wrong with these pictures, voters will provide some more clues in November.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Planned Parenthood again caught on video shielding statutory rape suspect

A tenth Planned Parenthood clinic has been captured on video tape covering up an alleged case of statutory rape.
In the video released today by Live Action Films, an undercover student poses as a 13-year-old who explains to the Planned Parenthood counselor that her 31-year-old boyfriend got her pregnant and told her to "fix it." Despite state statutory rape laws mandating the reporting of such instances (Wisconsin Statute 48.02, 48.98), the counselor instead guides the girl to get the abortion without revealing the alleged rape or rapist.
The video documents that the Planned Parenthood clinic would have kept the rape and abortion secret from a 13-year-old's parents, law enforcement authorities and anyone else who might have helped the girl or prevented the rapist from repeating his crimes.
Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar conglomerate that profits handsomely from administering contraceptives and performing 305,000 abortions a year.  According to recent federally required tax forms, its CEO makes $384,000,  and the organization rakes in nearly $350 million a year in our tax dollars.
Live Action's president, twenty-one-year-old UCLA student Lila Rose, says her organization's videos reveal a common trend of unethical counseling practices and disregard for the law at Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S.
"In case after case, Planned Parenthood exempts itself from its legal and professional obligations. At a time when the Obama administration, through its new health care plan, is offering potentially billions of dollars to the abortion industry, state and federal lawmakers need to take notice of Planned Parenthood's lawlessness and make certain they receive no more taxpayer subsidies."
Rep. Mike Pence, in a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, July 22, 2009, proposed just that. Read his speech here.
Outraged?
Tell your Senators and Representative to keep your tax dollars out of the hands of Planned Parenthood. Remind them also that abortion is not health care and that you respectfully urge them to vote against any healthcare overhaul legislation that does not include the Stupak amendment, which clearly bans federal funding of abortion.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quick skinny on Prez proposal: ideology, intrusion and inflation

This morning President Obama unveiled his health overhaul proposal, which looks a heck of a lot like the Senate-passed bill--only more expensive and Government-intrusive, if that's imaginable.
You can read the White House spin summary here. Here are some initial news reports:
  • FOX News: "Language on abortion funding restrictions remain part of the bill, but more stringent language that passed the House on the urging of Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak did not make the cut."
  • Washington Post: "But the decision is not likely to sit well with Republicans, who have concluded that most Americans do not want radical changes to their health care. Instead, the GOP has been pushing a series of modest changes they say could bring down costs and improve coverage, including tort reform and new freedoms for insurance companies to sell their policies across state lines. Obama's health plan does not include those Republican proposals..."
  • National Journal:  "The president's proposal would add about $75 billion to the cost of the Senate-passed bill, say White House officials..."
  • National Review: "To fund these increases, the bill increases the Medicare payroll tax, applies it to unearned income such as capital gains, and expands cuts to Medicare Advantage."
  • Politico: "Pfeiffer said the White House has not determined whether to move ahead with health care reform through reconciliation, which would allow the Senate to pass a bill with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote threshold."
  • Town Hall: "Overall proposal is a net tax hike of $629 billion over 10 years."
  • Salon: "The legislation would create a Health Insurance Rate Authority,  which would oversee rate hikes by insurers. There's not much detail yet about how this would work, but it appears that the idea is to give the Health and Human Services secretary authority to block any particularly large increases in premiums."
So the President offers yet more of the same old rejected ideology, intrusion and inflation, and with a new anti-free market power grab thrown in. With polls and elections all pointing to trashing the radical overhaul approach, it remains unclear what part of "No" the White House can't understand from the American people.

Partisan shibboleth thwarts healthcare reform

Steven Pearlstein highlights the real problem when he simultaneously lambastes President Obama for lacking leadership on healthcare reform and the American public, who he says "want everyone to have access to affordable health insurance, but they're wary of expanding the role of government" (see "It's past time for President Obama to show some leadership," Washington Post, Wednesday).
President Obama and his Congress have failed to win a consensus on health care precisely because they adhere to the partisan shibboleth that expanding health coverage requires expanding the federal government.
Only now that voters have handed the pro tempore ruling elite the precursor to a pink slip is the President deigning to listen to alternatives involving less federal intrusion in healthcare decision making.
At his Feb. 25 healthcare summit with minority party leaders, Mr. Obama will hear longstanding alternative ideas to cut costs without expanding government, such as increasing competition by allowing consumers to buy health insurance across state lines. He will hear how to cut the cost of defensive medicine and soaring malpractice premiums, by stemming the tide of runaway malpractice lawsuits that is driving some of our best doctors out of medicine.
Other alternative ideas including incentivizing healthier lifestyles with lower premiums and increasing health insurance access for the uninsured and self-insured with tax-breaks similar to those included with employer-provided insurance.
True political leadership requires working with friend and foe alike to identify common goals, understand and address each other's objections and create win-win solutions. If the President exchanges the radical ideology of the pending healthcare overhaul legislation for more focused, common-sense, patient-centered reforms, everyone wins.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hmmm...maybe teens abstaining from sex really does prevent pregnancy

Two contrasting Washington Post news articles within a week of each other offer an object lesson on federal sex education policy.
Interpreting a report of rising teen pregnancy, "Critics argued that the disturbing new data were just the latest in a long series of indications that the focus on abstinence programs was a dismal failure" ("Rise in teenage pregnancy rate spurs new debate on arresting it"). Sympathetic to such assertions, President Obama had defunded abstinence programs in his budget proposal.
Then suddenly, an irreproachable new study rocked the world of abstinence critics. Not only did abstinence education achieve impressive results; it also outperformed the competing approaches favored in federal funding—condom training and "comprehensive sex ed" ("Abstinence-only programs might work, study says," February 2, 2010; A01).
Ideologically and financially motivated groups had attempted to blame abstinence programs for teen pregnancies without any evidence whatsoever of a causal link. By contrast, scientists with no ideological axe to grind and no profit to make reported the objective results of a randomized controlled trial.
President Obama promised to "restore science to its rightful place." Now that science contradicts his own position, will he still fulfill that promise?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Electronic medical records - blessing or bane?

How secure will your medical privacy remain as the healthcare industry shifts to electronic medical records?
Proponents argue that electronic medical records will save healthcare costs and reduce medical errors; many in Government agree.
However, according to reports of a November 2009 study in the American Journal of Medicine, claims of efficiencies from computerizing hospital system records "rest on scant data."
Doubts about privacy also persist.
According to a reputable poll, many Americans think electronic records will be about as secure as political secrets in Washington, DC. The pollsters report:
There are also significant concerns about the privacy of online health records. Roughly six in ten Americans (59 percent) lack confidence that EMR systems would be able to protect the confidentiality of patients’ records.

And an even larger percentage (76 percent) say they think it is at least somewhat likely that “an unauthorized person” would get access to their records if they were placed online.

Given the documented concern among the public about the privacy of electronic medical records, it's hard to believe that General Electric would air this commercial to promote their electronic record keeping system.

The commercial features a nervous patient in his boxers on an exam table, asking a doctor about a health question. Suddenly, to the obvious dismay of the patient, a whole room full of the patient's previous doctors appears.
One by one, the physicians, medical records in hand, stand to talk about the patient's medical history, with one doctor even noting how she had chastised the patient to quit smoking. Busted.
Armed with this information, the examining doctor appears triumphant. The poor patient meekly asks if he might have his pants back.

Mired in healthcare muck, the President suddenly pleads for help

Following are excerpts of my Op-Ed published today in The Church Report:
Mr. Obama used the Super Bowl pregame show to tell CBS News that finally--after a year of failing to jam his partisan healthcare plan down the throats of Congress and the American public—he's ready "to look at the Republican ideas that are out there."
Not that GOP plans have been hidden from sight, like the White House healthcare negotiations have been. Mr. Obama could have simply whipped out his Blackberry, Googled "Republican health care plan" and surfed through 17 million links.
"And I want to be very specific," Mr. Obama earnestly continues in the CBS interview, apparently on the verge of revealing the cryptic healthcare conundrums that have stymied him and his staff up until now.
"How do you guys want to lower costs?"
Oh.
That might have been a good question for the President and his party to start with a year ago, before crafting a radical and now-rejected plan to have their government take over our health care.  READ full Op-Ed

Pearl Harbor healthcare attack and sleeping giants

Following is my commentary published Feb. 14, 2010 in The Washington Examiner:
Mark Tapscott's editorial reveals on the political radar screen a "Pearl Harbor" healthcare overhaul strategy ("Pelosi aide says Democratic congressional leaders have settled on legislative 'trick' to pass Obamacare," Wednesday). President Obama convenes healthcare peace talks with Republicans while Congressional Democrats deploy the "reconciliation" maneuver to neutralize GOP opposition, pass the radical Senate bill and sink any hopes of bipartisan reform. The last-ditch sneak attack comes after conventional bribes and kickbacks have failed: closed-door deals with Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, campaign-funding union bosses, the marginalized American Medical Association, and holdout Senators Mary "Louisiana Purchase" Landrieu and Nebraska's Ben "Cornhusker Kickback" Nelson. Polls and elections clearly show that the American people want Congress to rein in its radical reinvention of healthcare and focus on jobs. Whether or not their sneak attack succeeds, the President and his party will rue their subterfuge in November. They have wakened a sleeping giant.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Abstinence: Time to "restore science to its rightful place"

For years anti-abstinence lobbyists have been touting suspect studies to promote the notion that abstinence education is wholly ineffective. Lobbyists for "comprehensive sex education" actually convinced President Obama and many Members of Congress that federal funds instead should be devoted exclusively to their condoms-and-contraceptives programs.
Now that research favoring abstinence education has undeniably reached critical mass (see USA Today, "U.S. study: Program aided teen abstinence"), what have we learned from the misplaced animus toward effective abstinence education?
While science itself remains objective, individual scientists can be biased. The eagerness of researchers to prove their own ideologically driven assumptions or to secure grant funding too often seeps into study designs and results reporting. When the subject of research challenges the status quo consensus of researchers and policy advocates, as has been the case with abstinence programs, objective analysis is especially hard to come by.
President Obama promised in his Inaugural Address to "restore science to its rightful place."  He would do well to remember the limitations as well as the promise of science.
As Zogby polling revealed, when parents learn what abstinence education vs. comprehensive sex education actually teaches, their support for abstinence programs reaches 60%, while support for "comprehensive sex" programs drops to 30%."
Politicians and pundits take note: When it comes to sex education, Mom and Dad really do know best.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Healthcare reform: Personal responsibility or Welfare State?

Today two commendable articles touch on the topic of personal responsibility, which has profound implications for healthcare reform:
The Element of Seduction, a blog entry by T. M. Moore, and "GOP Rep. Paul Ryan tackles Obama's path to deficit disaster," a Washington Post Op-Ed by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson.
Moore writes, "Are Americans being seduced by government to acquiesce in the increasing centralization of power? Roger Kimball fears it may be so. Writing in The New Criterion (January 2010) he insists, following Hayek, that government's tendency to usurp responsibility from citizens becomes a form of seduction, enticing Americans to prefer an existence of being provided for over taking responsibility for their lives.
This shift of responsibility from individuals, families, churches, and communities to federal bureaucrats takes place slowly. Government is sapping the will of the electorate, who are simply unwilling to resist or decline whatever perk Washington waves before them. When government offers to pick up the tab and collect the revenues from someone other than us, we seem all too happy to let things happen.
Gerson contrasts the economic philosophy of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.; photo at left) with that of President Obama and his party:
"For decades, culminating in the Obama health reform proposal, Democrats have attempted to build a political constituency for the welfare state by expanding its provisions to larger and larger portions of the middle class.
"Ryan proposes a federal system that focuses on helping the poor, while encouraging the middle class to take more personal responsibility in a dynamic economy. It is the appeal of security vs. the appeal of independence and enterprise."
Most Americans want our government to help the poor. Lately, though, it seems that Washington politicians are borrowing our money and our children's money just to help themselves get reelected. They are doing so by expanding government-funded entitlements well beyond the poor and needy to the middle class, because the middle class largely determines who gets elected.
Besides borrowing, these politicians would attempt to put the burden of healthcare costs on businesses including insurance companies, as if a strong free market economy could ever be obtained through government mandates, unjust penalties and hyper-regulation. The current healthcare bills would also mandate that the young and healthy pay premiums that cover the costs of the old and sick.
These politicians would do well to remember that Americans favor compassion—not communism. The failure of communism has shown that Government is actually a lousy distributor of wealth, and that the best form of collectivism emanates from the character of the citizens, not the coercion of the government.
As T.M. Moore concludes, "Before the element of seduction turns us all into rats at the federal Skinner bar, we need something to renew and fortify the character of the American electorate. And this is not a job for political parties. The renewal of character must come from the churches and, ultimately, from the Lord."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Obama speech fact check: Not exactly...

Fact check: In his State of the Union address, did President Obama accurately boast, "My administration has a civil rights division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination."
Not exactly.
The Obama administration is selectively prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.
Three federal laws forbid discrimination against healthcare professionals who decline to participate in life-ending procedures such as abortion. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation designates the HHS Office of Civil Rights to receive and process discrimination complaints.
President Obama has announced his intention to get rid of the conscience-protecting regulation, and his staff at HHS already have enforced a de-facto rescission. The HHS Office of Civil Rights web site for discrimination reporting  invites individuals to report every type of discrimination with one exception--conscience discrimination. The administration clearly has no intention of actively prosecuting civil rights violations regarding conscience.
Polling shows  that without conscience rights protections, 95 percent of faith-based physicians will be compelled to stop practicing medicine, creating a crisis of healthcare access.
Before the President can boast accurately of prosecuting discrimination, his administration must stop discriminating in the civil rights laws they choose to enforce.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guttmacher Institute - a research wolf in sheep's clothing

Why would the Guttmacher Institute incredibly blame abstinence education programs for a rise in teen pregnancies and abortions?  (See USA Today, "Teen pregnancies, abortions rise").
Ideology and money.
While the Guttmacher Institute casts itself as an objective research agency, it is an abortion advocacy group that lobbies lawmakers  and serves as the statistical propaganda arm of Planned Parenthood, whose president launched the Institute in 1968 . Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar conglomerate that profits handsomely from administering contraceptives and performing 305,000 abortions a year.  Its CEO makes $384,000,  and the organization rakes in nearly $350 million a year in our tax dollars.
With that much money at stake, Planned Parenthood and their allies are lobbying for a monopoly on tax-funded sex education, with President Obama as an ally.  Congress must not yield to that temptation. Abstinence education offers teens a self-respecting, empowering message that engages their minds to protect not only their bodies, but their hearts as well.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sex ed: Science finally catches up to Mom and Dad

The Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org) has just issued a news release regarding a landmark published study on abstinence education:
Christian Medical Association on landmark abstinence study: "Mom and Dad really do know best"
Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association, today released this statement regarding a landmark study on abstinence education released Monday and published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine:
"Science has finally caught up with logic and what parents have known for centuries, by empirically demonstrating that equipping teens to abstain from sexual activity is an effective way to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."
The National Abstinence Education Association has noted, "A survey from Zogby International showing that when parents become aware of what abstinence education vs. comprehensive sex education actually teaches, support for abstinence programs jumps from 40% to 60%, while support for comprehensive programs drops from 50% to 30%. And 59% of parents said more funding should go to abstinence education; 22% said more should go to comprehensive sex education."
Dr. Stevens added, "It is notable that John B. Jemmott III, the University of Pennsylvania professor who led the federally funded study, candidly admitted, 'I think we've written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence.'"
Dr. Stevens explained, "What we should learn from this experience is that while science itself is objective, scientists themselves can be biased and can mislead the public and policy makers.
Dr. Stevens added, "Many groups and individuals up until yesterday had relentlessly railed against abstinence programs as totally ineffective, even counterproductive. They had used their own studies to convince many legislators, including President Obama, to eliminate federal funding for abstinence programs altogether, in the process depriving teens and their parents from a potent resource that can mean a lifesaving difference.
"It turns out that when it comes to educating their children on matters of sex, Mom and Dad really do know best."

Virginia abortion activists attack pregnancy centers with unconstitutional bill

Imagine that a sporting goods store owner who profits from sales of inhumane bear traps convinces the state legislature to pass a law forcing all anti-bear trap sporting goods stores to post a condemnatory legal notice on their entry doors.
The legal notice informs all potential customers that the store does not sell bear traps, that it is therefore not a "real" sporting goods store, and that it is not a reliable source for sporting information. The new law enables the bear trap seller to establish a virtual monopoly on all sporting goods sales.
Abortion industry lobbyists had in mind a similar scenario when they recently introduced a bill (HB 452 ) that sought to give Planned Parenthood and other abortionists a virtual monopoly on pregnant patients seeking help. The bill required pro-life pregnancy centers to prominently display a notice stating "that the facility is not a health care facility, that it does not perform or refer women for abortions, that it does not provide or refer women for contraception, and that the facility is not required to maintain medical confidentiality or medical records...."
The bill disregarded the reality that qualified medical doctors supervise ultrasound services at pregnancy centers, that performing abortions is hardly the gold standard for defining a health care facility, and that all pro-life pregnancy centers offer strictly confidential counseling regardless of legal requirements.
The bill also opened the door to withering attacks on its constitutionality by attorneys such as Denise Burke of Americans United for Life (AUL). Ms. Burke testified in both Virginia House and Senate that the vaguely worded bill violated constitutional due process by making pregnancy centers unconstitutionally vulnerable to capricious enforcement and unpredictable penalties.
Thankfully, a coalition of AUL, the Family Foundation, Care Net, and Heartbeat International managed to blunt the attack with sound reasoning and evidence, and bill was recently withdrawn.
Pregnancy centers can prepare for the inevitable future attacks by (a) forming ad hoc state coalitions to engage with legislators and (b) banding together with national pregnancy center associations such as CareNet and Heartbeat International. These organizations help maintain professional standards, track political developments and provide ongoing education to members.