Tag Archives: Health Care

Medical marijuana in Florida: confronting the scare tactics

           I am a Florida resident. There has recently been a successful effort to get a proposed state constitutional amendment, amendment 2 legalizing medical marijuana, on the ballot which will be voted on during the 2014 general election.  This has sparked significant controversy in the state as to what the precise results of this initiative will be and speculation as to what the ultimate intent of gaining passage of medical marijuana is.  I will make the effort to confront popular opposition and hyperbole in reference to this topic which I find to be largely scare tactics.

                Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and potential 2014 presidential candidate, stated earlier in the year that legalization of medical marijuana will hurt the state’s “family friendly” reputation.  This is an interesting observation that smacks of both ignorance of prescription drugs and detachment from medical conditions that can be helped with the use of this treatment.  First, perhaps Bush and others are unclear as to the wide array of opioids and other controlled substances which are readily available for medicinal use?  Maybe Mr. Bush and his contemporaries–which share his trepidation of medical use of a drug like marijuana–has not heard of morphine, oxycodone, methadone, codeine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, and Xanax; all drugs which can be safely stated as being much strong than marijuana.  I guess I have not heard of all the families boycotting Disney and Universal Studios when Orlando has a burgeoning drug problem with hydrocodone (a prescription drug) being one of the most popular illegal recreational choices.

                Speaking further on the attempt in Florida to “create a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire” Bush continued by stating that “allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all these efforts (Adams, Reuters, 2014).”  I suppose Jeb Bush has also not heard that there is no such thing as a marijuana shortage in the state.  In fact, our government, in all its wonderful glory cannot even keep drugs out of prisons; but, let us make certain that a cancer or epilepsy patient doesn’t get their hands on it…it will be the end for sure!!!

                A local state representative, Rep. Broxson, stated recently that legalization of medical marijuana is just the first step towards legalizing it recreationally; an assertion I have heard several times from state legislators.  Let us re-examine the list of controlled substances already listed above, which have all been legal (medicinally) for several years.  Then I would like someone to tell me which of those drugs (or their street alternatives, i.e. heroin) have been legalized because sick people are allowed to use them for medical reasons?  Hold on…you mean the answer is zero?  How can that be?  Medical use is clearly the gateway towards legalization…right??  Hmmm, perhaps not.

                Finally, Mr. Broxson thought it necessary to mention that we should not legalize such an option because it is against federal law.  We must keep in mind that Mr. Broxson fancies himself a constitutionalist, so my question is where in the US Constitution do the States give the federal government the power to regulate such things?  (Hint:  it doesn’t).  The states created the federal government with a certain amount of power that was limited, not the other way around.  I think it would be refreshing to hear people that claim to be students of the Constitution and champions of State’s rights not cowering to the claims to power lawlessly made by the federal government.  It is possible that if true defenders of the Constitution had been around 80 years ago, our political climate may be much more inclined towards actual justice and a moral (not to be confused with use of the law for legislating morality) use of the law than it is today.

                To deny people the use of a drug that can make a difference in a significant chronic or critical condition is unambiguously immoral; and borders on cruelty.  Those of us who claim to champion liberty and the American ideal should exercise caution in using the government as an implement of force for controlling behavior that might be contrary to our own beliefs and mores; particularly when that use of force can result in unnecessary harm to another individual.  Keep in mind that if we buy into the (anti)logic that keeping marijuana illegal for medical use because of the risk of people using it illegally for recreation is not appreciably different than the argument that guns should be illegal so criminals don’t hurt others.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: The great lie that birth control has become somehow illegal

        An interesting, although not surprising, situation has developed in the wake of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. whereas liberal-socialists have entered a new and even more irrational line of propaganda.  In short, the Supreme Court determined that closely held businesses cannot be forced to pay for coverage which includes post-fertilization birth control (e.g. the morning after pill) under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  Instead of engaging in any kind of honest assessment of the outcome of the case, the socialists have launched a campaign wrought with lies in an attempt to make the mindless populace believe women’s birth control has all the sudden become either illegal or under the direct control of employers.

          Many times the propaganda machine will only exaggerate reality (albeit in a fantastic way); however, they have reached a new low in creating a pseudo-reality which is not remotely representative of fact.  Somehow the idea that if someone else wishes to not pay for something, people have been “denied access” to it is one of the most absurd things I have ever heard.  That is what this is all about.  It is not whether an employer is controlling health decisions (as they are clearly not); it is whether people should be able to coerce others to pay for (or provide) items they wish to consume.  The only access to anything being denied is unfettered access to an employer’s bank account.  Let me attempt to make this as clear as possible:  “you do not have the right to other people’s stuff!”  This would be called theft and it is illegal for a good reason.  Political plunder is no less immoral than piracy, gang activity, or white collar crime.

          This brings to mind a passage written by Frederic Bastiat in The Law:

“…Unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions.  And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters.  The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose.  The law has been used to destroy its own objective:  It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights [life, liberty, and property] which its real purpose was to respect.  The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others.  It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder…The law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different causes:  stupid greed and false philanthropy.”

         Both of those reasons are at play here.  “Stupid greed” compels people to feel entitled to something which they have no rightful basis for coercing out of others; in this case some forms of post-conception birth control.  “False philanthropy” drives those who encourage this idiocy (politicians) and those who support such claims.

          Additionally, we seem to ignore the reality that pregnancy is not some sort of mystery.  While there seems to be little consensus on when, precisely, humans became specifically aware that sex was the cause of pregnancy, it does seem to be rather clear that humans have known for a very, very long time (like several thousand years at least).  Therefore, I would argue that since pregnancy is totally avoidable for anyone who cannot afford birth control (which also means they cannot afford children, by the way) then the argument that birth control must be supplied or people will get pregnant only is evidence that there are a significant amount of stupid people.  These people’s primary problem, particularly those who are adults, is not a lack of birth control; it is instead the inability to compare the costs of a condom to the cost of a child.  Of course, with the nanny state and its willingness to engage in theft from one citizen to buy votes…hmmm, I mean help others; I guess kids really can be profitable and perhaps they have done the math.

Why the government cannot fix healthcare.

     There is a significant obstacle facing government in any attempt at “fixing” the costs of medical care:  reality.  Yes, reality, that often loathed principle of life for which we cannot escape yet seem to try tirelessly to ignore.  Obamacare seeks to repair healthcare through government subsidy, an increase in the pool of insured (which may lower the cost of health insurance, but not the cost of medical care), and coercion of providers to lessen their own fees.  However, it apparently fundamentally ignores the two primary factors that actually dictate prices in a market.

        I am writing of supply and demand, which represents Adam Smith’s principle of the “invisible hand” that guides the market and allocates goods in a world of unlimited wants and limited resources; in other words, that is how scarcity is dealt with.  Rationing is an undeniable fact of life and is the basis for all prices.  Government’s attempt to control the health market without addressing scarcity of supply and an overabundance of demand is doomed to failure from the word go.  Additionally, transferring the costs of health care through subsidy does not make it any cheaper, it only transfers those costs from direct medical payments to increased tax liability or to increased deficit spending; and amounts to more of a Chris Angel illusion than a solution.

        What about the fines for those who do not purchase healthcare you might ask?  Well, to state it simply, they are largely irrelevant.  The most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections show that approximately six million people (and counting) will incur fines of approximately $1500 each (FYI:  that could be you), amounting to somewhere between $8 and $9 billion in revenues to the government.  There are two main problems with using the fines as a way to offset increasing prices.  First, government subsidies for insurance will undoubtedly exceed the fines.  Second, people who did not purchase insurance previously so they could save money will likely pay the fine as opposed to obtaining insurance (which would be significantly more expensive) and still will not pay their bills when they go to the hospital; thus maintaining the “free rider” status quo (in Pelosi parlance).

        Another important aspect to consider is that, as fines to employers are cheaper overall than actually carrying insurance, there is likely to be an increase in the number of uninsured, which previously were covered at work and thus more people receiving subsidies for insurance, or incurring fines for that matter (once again, this could be you).  This does not even factor in the likelihood that those employers who are on or near the threshold requiring them to provide insurance or pay the fine, which would result in a loss in income for the business owner (and thus a decrease in “revenues” to the federal government), will cut back employees (unemployment), trim some back to part-time (under-employment), or be hesitant of growing their business (an even more stagnant job market).

        All of these negatives…and pricing has not even been addressed.  Ironically, the only potential part of Obamacare that might affect pricing, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) (or, death panels in Palin parlance), is denied to be a rationing board.  If it is a rationing panel, we have a bureaucratically operated health lottery for old people (and, at some point, probably poor people through Medicaid); if it is not, the disparity between supply and demand will remain, or worsen, and costs will not change (downward anyway)…or will they?  It is actually irrelevant if Democrats are right and it is not a rationing panel; if it is a rationing panel prices will be curbed by decreased access (i.e.-less people getting care, which I thought they were trying to remedy…?).  However, pricing will be affected if they are absolutely correct and it is not a rationing panel, but a direct price controlling board:  overall costs will likely stay the same at best.  Now, if a price ceiling is imposed, that will restrict the number of providers wishing to enter the market (hospitals, doctors, nurses, etc.) and reduce the number of manufacturers wishing to develop and produce goods for health care (medical equipment, drugs, etc.).  We can remedy this, though, so all is not lost; let us reduce the obstacles to entry into those markets making it cheaper and easier to get “qualified” providers and manufacturers.  Do not begin rejoicing yet, that means the guy who was previously going to go into golf course management (with a 17 on his ACT) can now, for just a few dollars and years more, become a doctor.  Scared yet?  By this action we have reduced pricing by reducing quality (and probably increasing mortality) This must not be the case though as we have been assured quality will not suffer, so that must not be the plan either, right?

        There are three ways you can actually reduce the cost (and thus pricing) in healthcare:  1) increase supply through a reduction in obstacles to entry into the market (accomplished through reduced admission requirements into med school, increasing maximum entry quotas into med school, and establishing more med schools, etc. etc.); 2) we can reduce demand by letting more people die without care (Kevorkian care, anyone?  I do not think any of us like the sound of that…); 3) freeze the development of new technology in medical care (technology gets cheaper over time, particularly when you remove the need to mark-up to cover future research and development).  In fact, if we would have frozen medical technology one hundred years ago, costs would be next to nothing now; of course, bleeding would still be the primary cure for most ills.  On the “bright side” this would have maintained the “promised” costs of Social Security by freezing mortality for people to a point in which almost nobody would have lived long enough to collect it.

        Another fallacy proposed by both parties is that reducing fraud in Medicare will reduce the overall cost; however, this will only reduce the cost to government as pricing will have to increase to individuals to cover lost fraudulent revenues to providers.  This amounts to another cost sleight of hand, the alternate equivalent to that of subsidizing insurance.  Ultimately, if we are all dedicated to reducing the cost of healthcare, which would you choose?  Rationing does exist in the market, and that will not be eliminated through the government control of it unless quality or technology is influenced to address pricing.  Collectively, we must decide whether we will pay more for more — or wish to pay less for less; that is an undeniable fact of life in any market.  Whether you are a Republican or Democrat is irrelevant because neither is being honest about the problem because the voting public values fantasy over facts; ultimately, there is no solution that maintains technology and quality of service, increases access, and reduces costs.

        But, before we tinker with the most technologically advanced healthcare system in the world, perhaps we should try out these theories on the bubble gum market which will at least not result in the death of people so that politicians may try to “muddle through” to a solution which is patently unrealistic.  If the new “Obamagum” plan worked as they say Obamacare will, gum prices will go down (as will the overall cost of gum nationally), more people will be chewing gum, and there will be vastly better increases in gum technology.  If they are wrong, gum will not increase in quantity (relative to the increase in demand), variety of flavors and manufacturers will decrease, and the overall cost of gum and the gum market will increase.  Sounds like a safer experiment to me.  Please, let us refrain from killing people to just to prove that central planning and socialism still does not work!  Fair enough?