Archive for March 24th, 2011
One defendant billed $30,000 for a Caesarean birth, and another raised his fee for seeing a critically ill patient in a hospital to $9,000 in 2008 from $500 the year before, the insurer alleges in the suits. The Caesarean price was more than 10 times the in-network amount Aetna quotes on its website.
Aetna Inc. (AET) is suing six New Jersey doctors over medical bills it calls “unconscionable,” including $56,980 for a bedside consultation and $59,490 for an ultrasound that typically costs $74.
Hannallah billed Aetna $56,980 last July for a consultation with a patient who wasn’t critically ill, a hospital visit that typically takes 25 minutes, according to the suit.
In April 2010, Aetna said, Hannallah asked for $54,600 for a heart catheterization, up from $5,500 for the same procedure in 2007.
For an electrocardiogram, Aetna said it paid him $5,500 in 2010, up from $800 in 2008.
Doctors can bill at whatever they want. What’s unconscionable, outrageous and should be criminally illegal is failing to disclose these fees up front and charging on a differential basis predicated solely on how one pays.
This is classic anti-competitive behavior and in most industries is flatly unlawful.
If you want to know why we will not fix health care in this country, it’s right there in your face. Until this practice is outlawed and those who do it go to prison there will be no solution.
Ending this practice is one of the lynchpins of the reform proposal I put forward when health care was under debate, and this series of lawsuits shows why in big, bold letters.
Until the time comes that we ditch the medical monopolist cults and start jailing their practitioners I have a modest suggestion: If you cut a doctor’s lawn, charge him $50,000 – for the same job that’s $50 for the guy next door.
After all, if they can do it, why can’t you?
Most Americans believe that we still live in a capitalist system and that free markets primarily determine the growth and development of our economy. But is that really the case? No, sadly it is not. The truth is that the U.S. Federal Reserve does a tremendous amount of central economic planning. So what makes the central economic planning that the Federal Reserve does different from the central economic planning that communist China does? Yes, in China it is the government that does the central planning and in the United States it is a private central bank that does the central planning, but other than that are there any huge differences? And if our economy is centrally planned, then how can we continue to claim that we still have a free market capitalist system?
Certainly China goes into greater detail in their economic planning, but that does not mean that the economic planning that the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government do is not similar.
After all, free markets do not set interest rates in this country – the Federal Reserve does.
The Federal Reserve also determines what the money supply will be.
The Federal Reserve is the one that decides if inflation is too high or too low.
The Federal Reserve is the one that decides if unemployment is too high or too low.
In addition, the Federal Reserve has a tremendous amount of regulatory power over U.S. banks and the entire financial system. Most Americans simply do not realize how much power the Federal Reserve has over our banks. Just last year Federal Reserve officials walked into one bank in Oklahoma and demanded that they take down all the Bible verses and the Christmas buttons that the bank had been displaying.
Like the communist Chinese, the Federal Reserve is not elected and it is essentially accountable to nobody.
Like the communist Chinese, the Federal Reserve also picks winners and losers. You see, not all financial institutions are treated equally by the Fed. For example, some have access to the Fed’s discount window and others do not.
How is that fair?
Certainly the Federal Reserve does not do all of the central economic planning in this country. The U.S. government loves to get involved in economic planning as well. For example, the U.S. government has decided that there are certain types of light bulbs that we are allowed to buy and certain types of light bulbs that we are no longer going to be allowed to buy. It doesn’t matter that the new light bulbs are far more dangerous to children or that most of us would still like to have the choice to buy the old light bulbs.
But getting back to the Federal Reserve, how “democratic” or how “capitalist” is it to have 12 unelected people sitting around a table deciding the economic direction of this country?
The truth is that we live in a system that simply does not trust free markets and that believes that our economy needs to be “managed”.
I have to admit that my thinking on these issues was stimulated when I recently read an excellent article by Vitaliy Katsenelson in which he asked the following question….
It is a fundamental tenant of American capitalism that central planning of economies doesn’t work in the long term, whether in Soviet Union historically or in China today. But I often wonder: How is the Fed’s Board of Governors – the proverbial 12 guys in a room – any different than the 24 guys in a room who make up the Chinese politburo?
Is Katsenelson not right about this?
How in the world is the Fed’s Board of Governors all that much different from the Chinese Politburo?
In both cases, a group of unelected elitists makes the major economic decisions for all the rest of us.
That certainly does not sound like “capitalism” to me.
Would the free markets really produce worse results for our economy than the Federal Reserve does?
Would America ever have gone through the Great Depression if the Federal Reserve had not been created in 1913?
Would we have experienced the financial crash of 2008 if the policies of Greenspan and Bernanke had not created tremendous bubbles in the financial system?
Would the U.S. dollar have lost over 95 percent of its value since 1913 if the Federal Reserve was not around to constantly inflate our currency?
Would the U.S. government have the largest debt in the history of the world if we were not using the debt-based monetary system imposed upon us by the elite international bankers?
Now that the total debt of the U.S. government is $14,228,193,126,138.72, it is getting really hard to deny that the federal government is drowning in debt.
Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher unknowingly indicted the very system he serves when he recently made the following statement….
“If we continue down on the path on which the fiscal authorities put us, we will become insolvent, the question is when.”
If the Federal Reserve had never been created, and the U.S. government had been issuing debt-free currency all this time, it is entirely conceivable that we would have absolutely no federal government debt at this point.
But defenders of the Federal Reserve tell us that if not for the brilliant people over at the Fed, America would be an economic basket case by now.
In case anyone has not noticed, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a very long track record of incompetence. Nearly every major judgment that he has made since taking over that position has been wrong. If one of us could go down the street and appoint the manager of our local Dairy Queen as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, it is very doubtful that person could do a worse job than Bernanke has done.
Unfortunately, most Americans do not understand this. Most Americans are still convinced that “the greatest economy on earth” will just keep roaring along forever. Most Americans are spending and partying as if everything is going to be just fine.
Sadly, as Richard Daughty recently pointed out, most Americans will not wake up and realize just how bad our economic problems really are until it is too late….
In fact, to use an analogy, the economy is like a group of overpaid people, milking the government for every dollar and benefit they can get, on a chartered airplane that has been certified as “unsafe,” where one minute everybody is having fun, drunk as skunks, laughing and telling dirty jokes, and the next minute the plane is plunging out of the sky, out of fuel, one wing is in flames, the engines are dead, the entire electrical system is kaput, and, worst of all, the beverage cart is completely empty of cold beer and those little bottles of different kinds of tasty liquors. Uh-oh!
Most Americans have become so “dumbed down” that they still won’t even understand what is happening even after the economy has collapsed. Newsweek recently found that 63 percent of Americans do not know how many justices are on the Supreme Court and 29 percent of Americans cannot even name the current Vice-President.
America today is rapidly degenerating in many of the same ways that the Roman Empire once did. Tens of millions of Americans are lazy, slothful and absolutely addicted to entertainment. It is frightening to see just how many Americans did not show any empathy during the recent crisis in Japan or when we started launching missiles on Libya. The following mini-documentary that was recently posted on YouTube does a beautiful job of making this point….
So is there any hope for America?
Let us hope that people wake up, because there are going to be even more economic disasters coming our way. Right now a large percentage of the American people don’t even know enough to realize what the real problems are, much less what the solutions may be.
When most Americans talk about economics, they instantly start blaming “Obama” or “Bush” and a lot of them never even bring up the Federal Reserve.
But it is the Federal Reserve that has the most power over our economy.
If Americans want to blame someone in Washington D.C. for the economic mess that we are in, the number one culprit is the Federal Reserve.
Yes, Obama, Bush and virtually every member of Congress has played a role in our economic nightmare as well. But it is the Federal Reserve that is actually “managing” our economy.
We would have been much better off if we had allowed free markets to “manage” our economy all this time, but very few Americans actually seem to still believe in free markets anymore.
“If we continue down on the path on which the fiscal authorities put us, we will become insolvent, the question is when,” Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said in a question and answer session after delivering a speech at the University of Frankfurt. “The short-term negotiations are very important, I look at this as a tipping point.”
$100 billion in spending reductions from pre-planned increase levels when you’re spending $1,700 billion more than you are taking in via taxes is not “real action” and do nothing to take us away from that “tipping point.” It is in fact mashing the accelerator pedal despite seeing the granite wall in front of us.
The primary problem the Federal Government faces right now is that over the last three years their borrowing has become more than 10% of the economy. The “free stuff” mentality has become not just entrenched in our economic mindset it has become essential to keeping us from having to recognize an economic Depression that happened in 2008.
Worse, it’s still going on. Remember, economic Depression is a cumulative 10% decline in GDP according to those who practice economics. Well, how are we doing?
Blue line folks. More than 10% of GDP in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Cumulatively this is a roughly 37% GDP decrease that has been masked. The problem is that what we’re trying to mask is this:
Since the 1970s we’ve played this game – take more debt to mask the inability of GDP to fund its own expansion. The 1980 recession led to a monstrous burst in this behavior, encouraged and permitted by The Fed and Federal Government. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when it “worked” in the mid 1980s.
The problem is that this path didn’t really work. The 1990s saw even more of this lunacy, and of course we then mashed the pedal to the metal in the 2000s, reaching thirty percent of GDP being added in one single year after subtracting out nominal GDP growth in net debt additions.
This insanity went on for an entire decade without reprieve. All we’re doing now is trying to cover the inevitable hangover created by our debauchery through shifting that same behavior to the Federal Government. It won’t work because it mathematically can’t work – the government by definition can only be a part of the economy, not all of it. This is akin to a house cat attempting to eat a cheetah; this episode is not going to end as Fluffy intends.
The sad fact is that we have built into our economy an enormous amount of false demand. The output is real but the money to pay for it is not. Expansion of the balance sheet, whether it’s done by The Federal Reserve, The Federal Government or individual consumers, must be backed by expansion in actual output in excess of input costs. It wasn’t for 40 years and really wasn’t for the last 30 of them.
The 1930s were bad because during the 1920s we did the same thing. But this time we continued to distort the market not once but twice. When we got the official warning in 2000 in the form of the Nasdaq crash we could have chosen at that instant in time to take our medicine, accept a 10% contraction in GDP and then rebuild from there. The banksters could have been chided and left without the ability to perform more alchemy, with some of them going to prison for their ridiculously-overstated “projections” based on alleged facts they knew were false.
But we didn’t do any of that; instead, we took all the restrictions that were left on the financial sector and threw them in the dustbin, and having bailed out Continental Illinois’ bondholders when they blew up “investors” were led to believe (proved correct in 2008) that should they provide capital to a bank that used it poorly they would be protected from the possibility of loss. Corruption of the regulatory process left the banksters quite certain they’d not go to jail for claiming their assets were “protected” by devices like Credit Default Swaps even though they were well-aware that the people writing those swaps could not pay. This too was proved correct when AIG, among others, factually could not pay and instead of Goldman (and others) being left with the just and proper loss the government again bailed them out.
There are no serious legislators left in Washington DC. All this talk about “deficit reduction” is a scam and a fraud. The CBO itself believes that the Federal Government will double its net indebtedness by 2020. I will remind everyone that in 2000 the CBO projected that the federal government would have no debt whatsoever by 2010. They may be “independent” of either political party or any branch of government, but the CBO has a long and storied history of being far too optimistic in their projections of fiscal outcomes.
The big lie from Southerland and Miller on the 22nd was the premise that this tsunami of debt was going to be impossible to handle in 2040 or 2060, as they showed in their charts. The reason those two Representatives were lying through their teeth to their constituents in the room is that we will not make it to 2020 on the path we are on today, nor will we get there with these $100 billion ($60 billion ratably) ”reductions” after you hand out $400 billion in tax reductions for the same year. In fact, assuming the $60 billion does get passed somehow you’ve still increased the deficit by $340 billion. Republican claims of “cuts” in the deficit ARE BALD AND INTENTIONAL LIES.
It is for this reason that the claims that “nobody over 50 will have their benefits cut” is an outrageous fraud. The government will not be able to maintain this trajectory. The $100 billion in “cuts” are the starting point for negotiations and anyone who has ever negotiated anything knows that you never get everything you begin your negotiation with. If the Republicans demanded $500 billion each and every year from the previous years’ spending and accepted $400 billion, maintaining this on a forward basis for four or five years, the market might think the government is serious and accept their path.
But when you start by adding $400 billion to the deficit and then “take back” $100 billion of it? You’re a damned pair of liars and you know it.
There are no serious people in Congress dealing with this issue, and that’s the beginning and end of the discussion as it exists today. The Government will not get to 2020 before the budget overwhelms financing capacity. Attempting to “print” via The Fed out of this at a rate which will be three times or more what was done in QE2 will lead to $10/gallon gasoline within five years and more than a clean double in the price of food and other energy commodities, which in turn will cause literal impoverishment of 30% of our population, including Senior citizens.
The claim that somehow those over 50 will be “protected”, ladies and gentlemen, is a damned lie.
The facts are that the government will not manage to maintain its current trajectory for just nine more years, say much less thirty – which is what is being implied in that “nobody over 50″ claim. Federal “gimme” programs, that is, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment and Welfare consume all of Federal Tax revenues right here, right now, today.
These are facts, and it is time we accept and deal with them.
We can fix Social Security but Medicare and Medicaid cannot be fixed. Unemployment cannot be left alone. All three of those programs must be cut dramatically, and the entire rest of the Federal Budget must be reduced by roughly half.
I’m tired of the lies, frauds and scams, and virtually all of them come from Washington DC and the pestilence that infests it, refusing to tell the truth: There is no solution that can be found when you hand out over $400 billion in additional deficits for the next two years in December, then tell us that $100 billion in “cuts” are going in the correct direction.
You’re all a pack of damn liars and frauds – each and every one of you.