Thursday, June 10, 2010

Time For A Change

I have been writing this blog since October of 2006. In that time, I have had some readers come and go. I have also had a core group of readers that have stayed with me. I have always dreamed of taking this blog off of Blogger and moving it to it's own website. That dream has now come true. I am moving Political Friends to Political Friends Blog. The new url is simply . In about a week, I will install code to automatically redirect anyone from this site to the new website. You may also see a few changes to the new blog over the coming week as I get feedback on it and as readers comment.

Take a minute and stop by the new blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Friday, June 04, 2010

My Interview with Gerry Purcell (Part IV)

In this segment, I wanted to explore two issues I found about Mr. Purcell that caused me some concern. Mr. Purcell has campaigned on lowering health and auto insurance costs for Georgians. I get a little nervous when conservatives start promising to lower insurance costs. Also, Mr. Purcell has campaigned on making Europe pay "their fair share" in research and development costs on new drugs. Again, whenever a politician wants someone else to pay "their fair share" I start to worry. I would soon find some very interesting answer.

I asked Mr. Purcell, specifically, how he would lower insurance costs for Georgians. He has campaigned very heavy on this issue, and it's one of the first things you notice if you go to his Facebook page. I thought his answer was very interesting. Discussing health care, Mr. Purcell pointed out that while we are fighting to repeal Obamacare, we should simultaneously look for ways to improve health care. He called this method "Fight and Fix". Gerry Purcell is a proponent of allowing insurance companies the ability to sell across interstate borders. However, he believes the insurance commissioner should have the right to audit any company selling insurance in their state, even if that company is located out of state. "We set up a compact of four or five southern states, we tell the Federal government to stay out of it, we got it," he stated. He pointed out that we currently do this with long term care and other types of insurance. He also pointed out that Alabama, one of our neighbors, has cheaper insurance. Why? They have lower taxes on health care, and fewer mandates. Mr. Purcell gave an example of a tax in Georgia that drives up our health care costs. It's the health care tax, it runs 4.75%, and 99% of Georgians don't know it's there. Mr. Purcell stated that if he is elected, he will work to have all embedded taxes clearly shown to the consumer.

Another way to lower our insurance costs would be to allow businesses and smaller groups to pool together. Mr. Purcell pointed out that, "if you're a small business with 25 employees and you compare your rates to a business with 2500 employees you start out with a 20% punishment. You could be the healthiest group of 25 people in America; your rates are still going to be 20% higher right off the bat than the 2500 group." Gerry Purcell also told me that more transparency might help drive costs down. Most people have no idea what a doctor's or hospital visit really costs. Health savings accounts are great way for people to save for their insurance costs, and for them to see exactly what a doctor's visit costs.

In researching Gerry Purcell, I discovered that he has called for, when speaking of healthcare research and development, a "… bold trade policy to address the inequities, especially with the European Commission, Canada, and other nations who can afford to pay their fair share of research and development costs."

I asked him how would this work and how could he possibly force foreign governments to pay their fair share? Mr. Purcell quickly admitted that he couldn't do it by himself, that to fix this really required Congressional action. However, he pointed out something I had never considered: Insurance Commissioners actually have an interesting amount of power on a national level. He pointed out that Insurance Commissioners are considered experts in their field, and that many legislators really don't understand insurance. As such, an insurance commissioner can have a real impact on a national insurance discussion.

He then pointed out that over the last year there has been a lot of misinformation in the healthcare debate. One of the error's is when people compare healthcare costs in Europe to those in the United States. One of the reasons this is an apples vs. oranges comparison is that the U.S. heavily subsidizes Europe's health care. Mr. Purcell went on:

"I will give you an example: the last eight or nine blockbuster drugs came out of the United States and so the problem is that we pay. We use about 35% of the world's pharmaceuticals, which is high, but we pay for 60% plus of them. There are 29 industrial nations in the world, and it's time they pay their fair share. It's time that the President of the United States looks at Europe and says, "We're not subsidizing your healthcare costs anymore."

But what would this look like? How would we enforce such a thing? While it wouldn't be easy, or painless, we could do it very effectively with the correct trade policies. Mr. Purcell argues that we need to talk to our trade partners and explain it's time for a fair and free trade agreement. We won't continue to pay for their healthcare anymore.

In the next installment, I ask Mr. Purcell to look into the future and predict the challenges that our next Insurance Commissioner might face.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Road to Greece?

We are almost at the point where the rubber meets the road. One of the rules of life that everyone should memorize is: Actions have Consequences. President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Reid pushed and fought and arm twisted to pass Obamacare. As our economy has continued to suffer, and as jobs have disappeared, the Democrats in Washington have continued to spend money as if the Washington Monument was loaded with cash.

Whether you agree with these policies or not, the policies of the Democrat controlled congress has come with a price tag. The Tea Parties have argued that President Obama and Congress are taxing our children and our grandchildren. We have word now that the reality may be worse: our children and grandchildren may not have the jobs to get taxed. Dick Morris writing yesterday says:

Meanwhile, the nation watches nervously as the same policies Obama has brought to our nation are failing badly and publicly in Europe. When Moody’s announces that it is considering downgrading bonds issued by the government of the United States of America, we find ourselves, suddenly, in deep trouble. We have had deficits before. But never have they so freaked investors that a ratings agency considered lowering its opinion of our solvency. Not since Alexander Hamilton assumed the states’ Revolutionary War debt has America’s willingness and ability to meet its financial obligations been as seriously questioned.

And the truth begins to dawn on all of us: Obama has no more idea how to work his way out of the economic mess into which his policies have plunged us than he does about how to clean up the oil spill that is destroying our southern coastline.

If our bonds are being downgraded, then we can see the road to Greece from here. A combination of lowered credit, mounting debt in the form of Social Security and Medicare, with a good, strong helping of national health care puts us on a path towards Greece. As we rush to implement national health care, Canada is looking for a way out of it. Canada has discovered what the Tea Parties have said for months now: Free health care is very expensive. We have two choices. We can continue down this road. We may even have some good times, but at some point, we will have to pay the bill for this. When that happens, we will be in the same place Greece is today.

Or we can get off this road. We can realize that a national health care system will cost money. We can stop trying to cut our own throats and start using all the energy at our fingertips: oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal. You name it, we use it. At some point we have to make a decision: Will we continue to be the world's Superpower, or will we follow Greece?