Consumer Power Report #233
I’ve been re-reading George Orwell’s 1984, for the first time since I was a teenager. A lot of the ideas in it are familiar – “Big Brother is watching!” Doublethink; Newspeak; Thought Police; rewriting history; permanent war; and absolute control over the behavior, attitudes, and even emotions of the Outer Party members.
These ideas have become so embedded in our culture that they are almost cliches now, even while they are still useful in describing the horrors of a totalitarian state. But there are some other insights in the book that escaped me when I was a kid, and are particularly germane today.
One was in the forbidden book by the arch-enemy of the State, Emmanuel Goldstein, that Winston Smith reads just before his arrest. Goldstein writes of how the new regime came to power – “The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians. As compared with their opposite numbers in past ages, they were less avaricious, less tempted by luxury, hungrier for pure power, and, above all, more conscious of what they were doing and more intent on crushing opposition.”
But the other big insight is that “the Proles” (proletariat), which made up 85 percent of the population, were largely left alone. The State did not bother trying to control their behavior because they didn’t matter very much. The Thought Police would crush any attempt by them to organize, but what they did in their personal lives was of no concern to Big Brother.
In these days of mandatory health insurance, bans on smoking, and transfats, and salt, increasing efforts to control “population health” and to ration medical care, the United States in 2010 is rapidly becoming less free than Oceania in Orwell’s 1984.
-- Greg Scandlen
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Ruling Elite Versus Us
- Setbacks for Obamacare
- So What DO the People Want?
RULING ELITE VERSUS US
This disconnect between the ruling elite described above and us “proles” is becoming more evident in a number of surveys. Scott Rasmussen writes, “Recent polling has shown huge gaps between the Political Class and Mainstream Americans on issues ranging from immigration to health care to the virtues of free markets.”
On health care, Rasmussen finds that, while 70 percent of “mainstream voters” believe the new law is bad for the country, 80 percent of the “political class” thinks it is good. Rasmussen explains, “The Political Class Index is based on three questions. All three clearly address populist tendencies and perspectives, all three have strong public support, and, for all three questions, the populist perspective is shared by a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and those not affiliated with either of the major parties.” The three questions are:
– Generally speaking, when it comes to important national issues, whose judgment do you trust more: the American people or America’s political leaders?
– Some people believe that the federal government has become a special-interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Has the federal government become a special-interest group?
– Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors?
On other issues, Rasmussen finds that “67% of Political Class voters believe the United States is generally heading in the right direction” while 84 percent of the mainstream think it is on the wrong track. On immigration, 66 percent of mainstream voters want the states to enforce immigration law, but 81 percent of the political class think it should be done by the federal government.
Now, Rasmussen is often dismissed by the political elite, not for being wrong, but for revealing trends they do not wish to acknowledge. But in this case, Rasmussen’s observations are supported by a survey sponsored by the ultimate Ruling Class publication, Politico.
Politico writes, “In their opinions on policy and politicians ranging from President Barack Obama to Sarah Palin, elites in Washington have a strikingly divergent outlook from the rest of the nation, according to a new POLITICO poll.”
Politico defines the “Washington elite” very differently than Rasmussen. It says, “To qualify as a Washington elite for the poll, respondents must live within the D.C. metro area, earn more than $75,000 per year, have at least a college degree and be involved in the political process or work on key political issues or policy decisions.”
So, while Rasmussen defines it based on attitude, Politico defines it on demographics. But both find a chasm between what most of America (the “proles”) think and what the ruling class (the “inner party”) thinks. The differences in what is seen as important are stark in the Politico poll:
Social Security – elite, 41 percent; America, 65 percent
Immigration – elite, 36 percent; America, 53 percent
Family Values – elite, 23 percent; America, 62 percent
Taxes – elite, 37 percent; America, 53 percent
Politico adds, “Sixty-eight percent of Washington elites said the anti-tax tea party movement is a ‘fad’ and that it will ‘go away soon.’ Only 26 percent of the rest of the country agreed.”
It is not surprising, then, that Congress has dropped to the lowest level ever in confidence among the American people, according to Gallup. At 11 percent confidence, Congress has the lowest approval of any national institution, as of July 8-11, 2010. It has dropped by six percentage points from a year ago. The only institution that dropped more in the past year was “the presidency,” which went from 51 percent approval to 36 percent in one year. The military also dropped by 6 percent but remains as the most-respected institution at 76 percent confidence. Rounding out the top five institutions are Small Business (66 percent), The Police (59 percent), The Church (48 percent), and The Medical System (40 percent).
SETBACKS FOR OBAMACARE
In spite of some wishful thinking by the Elite, health care has proven to be losing in popularity, according to CBS News. It is not as bad as it was in March when 53 percent disapproved of Obamacare and only 32 percent approved, but the Elite thought it had turned a corner in May when approval rose to 43 percent and disapproval sank to 47 percent. But in July approval dropped again to 36 percent and disapproval rose again to 49 percent. These numbers are from a survey of all adults.
SOURCE: CBS News
Small wonder, then, that when actual voters finally had a chance to voice their opinion on Obamacare in Missouri, the new law was resoundingly rejected, with more than 70 percent of voters voting in favor of a proposition that would prohibit the government from requiring residents to buy coverage or penalizing them if they don’t. Supporters of the measure were surprised by the margin, according to press reports. Defenders of Obamacare took comfort in the possibility of prevailing in court and once again over-riding the wishes of the people.
But if the ruling in Virginia is any indication, the prospects in federal court may not be too bright, either. Reuters reported the judge’s ruling that the suit may go forward said, “The congressional enactment under review – the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision – literally forges new ground and extends (the U.S. Constitution’s) Commerce Clause powers beyond its current high watermark.” Obviously this case will end up in the Supreme Court and it is doubtful that this Court is in any mood to expand the powers of Congress “beyond the current high watermark.”
SO WHAT DO THE PEOPLE WANT?
The evidence is showing people want to be in control of their own destinies. In health care, that means in control of their own money to buy the services they value. That means consumer- directed health care. The evidence is unmistakable.
Weston (Connecticut) Schools Save Money – Kimberly Donnelly writes, “Thanks to a larger than expected number of employees opting for a health savings account (HSA) insurance plan, the Weston school district is predicting a gross savings of more than $640,000 by the end of 2010-11, and possibly more than $1.3 million over the next two years.”
SOURCE: Acorn Online
Utah State Employees Save Money – Brad Drew writes in the Deseret News, “This year, employees of the state of Utah will be able to join millions of Americans making the switch to a consumer-driven, market-oriented plan by signing up for a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account (HDHP/HSA). For the last couple of years, the Public Employee Health Plan administrators have worked with experts in HDHP/HSA plans to come up with an offering that is both fiscally sound and still highly attractive to state employees. The plan this year meets both of those goals. In fact, the plan is not only better than previous HDHP/HSA offerings from PEHP, it’s also better in many ways than PEHP’s more traditional insurance offerings. For starters, a state employee will pay $685 out of pocket per year in premiums for the traditional family plan.”
SOURCE: Deseret News
Michigan School Employees Save Money -- The Mackinac Center reports, “The (Adrian) Daily Telegram reports that custodians and maintenance workers in the Adrian school district are switching to a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account. The Blissfield, Madison, and Onsted districts already provide these types of plans to some employees, as does Northwest Community Schools near Jackson. This is good news for the district and for the 15 employees covered by the new plan: Each employee will save more than $1,100 per year and the district will save about $17,500 annually. Additionally, since the premiums for these high-deductible, consumer-drive plans increase at a much slower rate than conventional coverage, these savings will likely increase over time.”
SOURCE: Mackinac Center
Ball State University (Indiana) Switches to CD Health – Joy Leiker writes in the Star Press, “Sachtleben said Ball State adjusted its policies to be consumer-driven, and as part of that, encouraged employees to enroll in health savings accounts. For the new insurance year that started July 1, the number of BSU employees who signed up for those accounts jumped from 93 to 347. Additionally, many others switched to a high-deductible wellness policy. Combined, more than half of Ball State employees now utilize one of those two plans.”
SOURCE: The Star Press
High Deductible Health Plans Result in Reduced Utilization -- Avery Johnson and others write in The Wall Street Journal, “More Americans also are buying high-deductible health plans that force them to bear more of the upfront costs for health services. Some 18 million Americans bought high-deductible plans this year, compared with 13 million last year, according to Paul Mango, a director at consulting firm McKinsey & Co. At the beginning of the year, Dan and Natalie Johnson, of Gig Harbor, Wash., used the website eHealthInsurance.com to buy a new plan with a high deductible, now set at $5,500 for their family. Their previous coverage had no deductible. Now, the couple says they are thinking twice before scheduling doctor visits. Recently, when their 16-year-old daughter’s allergy prescription ran out, Ms. Johnson called the allergist’s office to ask for a renewal, without coming in for an appointment, as she would have done under their previous insurance.”
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal
Consumers Reject Bureaucratic “Evidence-Based Medicine” – Sheri Porter writes in AAFP News, “A study in the July issue of Health Affairs indicates that many consumers may be skeptical about the benefits of health care that uses an evidence-based approach – which is the approach that forms part of the basis of recent efforts to reform the U.S. health care system overall.”
SOURCE: AAFP News
Obamacare Results in Surge in CD Health Enrollment -- Steve Davis writes in Health Plan Week, “Several provisions included in the health reform law (e.g., removal of lifetime benefit caps, coverage of dependent children to age 26 and first-dollar preventive coverage) will lead to higher premiums, health plans say. And industry observers tell HPW that those inevitable rate hikes – combined with a still-struggling economy – are pushing more employers to consider lower-cost account-based health plans for the upcoming fall open-enrollment period. But, they warn, some provisions of the reform law will make health accounts more complex.”
SOURCE: Health Plan Week
EBRI – I’m running out of time and space, but next time we will take a close look at EBRI’s latest Issue Brief on consumer-driven health. For now, let’s just say they continue to rely a lot on the tired old “studies” from 2004 to support the idea that consumer-driven health is aimed at the “healthy and wealthy” (sigh!) But if you would like to access it now, go to –
SOURCE: EBRI Web Site