Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Newt Gingrich's To Save America 7: Welfare Reform, Health Care

I have two items for my write-up today on Newt Gingrich's To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine.

1.  I actually liked Newt's discussion about welfare reform.  Newt refers to a proposal by Peter Ferrara, who was in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Ronald Reagan.

The proposal goes like this: Block grants would still be provided to the states, and states would guarantee a day's work assignment (paying the minimum wage) to everyone who reports to their local welfare office before 9:00 a.m.  According to Newt, "The welfare office would provide free daycare for participants' small children", and the children would "receive medical care and treatment when necessary" (page 190).  Moreover, those working a certain number of hours would receive a Medicaid voucher for private health insurance as well as housing assistance so they could purchase a home.  They would also receive the earned-income tax credit.  Newt also affirms that the disabled would be trained for some line of work.

This proposal contains elements that conservatives have mocked.  Newt himself has expressed disapproval of the earned-income tax credit, and (even in To Save America) he appears to be critical of giving tax "cuts" to people who do not pay taxes.  Conservatives, such as Connie Marshner, have been critical of guaranteed employment or a guaranteed national income.  (I base this on things Marshner says in William Martin's With God on Our Side.)

What I like about this proposal is that it would give welfare recipients work experience and job skills rather than setting welfare against work.  Moreover, the provision of day care and medical care for children is also important.  I think of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, in which a lady was working long-hours in a welfare-to-work program, leaving her children unattended, with the result that one child shot another child.  Free day care, hopefully, would prevent that kind of problem.

There are questions and concerns that I have about the proposal, though.  First of all, suppose there is a long line at the welfare office before 9:00 a.m. to get work?  Would this proposal be able to meet the needs of every one who wants a day's work, or would it leave out a lot of people?  Second, will there be enough companies that would want for extra bodies to come in to work for them?  Hopefully, enough companies would sign up for something like this.  I'm also a little leery about pushing the poor into private health insurance, for I tend to distrust private health insurance companies.

But I agree with the spirit of the proposal----to provide the poor with work.  At the same time, I'd be open to having some of the poor work in New Deal-like programs, refurbishing the countryside, for example.  That, in my opinion, is better than President Obama's stimulus program (if I understand it correctly), which gives money to big companies which do not necessarily hire the unemployed.

2.  Newt made a couple of statements about health care that stood out to me.

a.  On page 207, Newt states:

"...special-needs plans in Medicare Advantage actively compete to enroll and cover the sickest Medicare beneficiaries and stay in business by meeting their needs.  This is the alternative to forcing insurers to take high-cost patients for cut-rate premiums, which guarantees those patients will be unwanted and ultimately untreated."

I cannot evaluate this statement on account of my limited knowledge, but I have questions.  First of all, while Obamacare may require insurance companies to accept people with pre-existing conditions, is there anything that would prevent those companies from being stingy when it comes to paying for the care of those with the pre-existing conditions?  Second, would the free market take care of the sickest?  I can see the point that the sickest are potential consumers and so some health insurance companies would want to take advantage of that.  But the companies would probably have to charge high premiums because the sickest cost more to treat.  And, because the companies would probably want to make a profit, there's the possibility that they'd be stingy in terms of paying for treatment.

b.  On page 208, Newt notes (with disapproval): "The self-employed, small businesses, and certain organizations are legally prohibited from banding together to purchase health insurance."

If this is true, then it is an example of big government standing in the way of health care reform.  I do not know the rationale behind this legal prohibition, but I think that people should be able to band together to purchase health insurance.  The reason is that it's cheaper for groups (such as companies) to purchase health insurance than it is for individuals to do so. 

When George W. Bush was running for re-election in 2004, he said that allowing small businesses to band together to buy health insurance was a good idea (and see this article about George H.W. Bush's support for this idea).  But, as far as I know, he did not make that into policy.  Whether he even fought to do so, I don't know.  If only there were politicians who would work hard to make it policy.

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