Discussing issues that The United States face both foreign and domestic. A Non-partisan viewpoint where we believe in right and wrong not right and left, hopefully forming a more UNITED States of America.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Healthcare Scandals: The problems are just the beginning

Healthcare is the "capstone" of President Obama's Administration, although the legacy of his policies will be history's to judge. Without some massive reforms, it may become a doomed legacy. The recent news of the VA scandal is a tragedy, but not surprising. The VA's healthcare system has always lagged behind the private healthcare market, and our veterans should be getting the best healthcare available because they risked their lives to defend this country. Veterans "with serious heart conditions, gangrene, and even brain tumors waited months for care at the Albuquerque VA hospital" (Siegel, 2014). This is unacceptable, yet its government run healthcare within the United States. 
While these issues are in the Department of Veterans Affairs, it does not mean the healthcare industry across this country is immune to the same problems.

Healthcare is an issue that is personal to me and I have taken an active role about it in the political sphere since the summer of 2007. In 1999, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and experienced first hand the benefits and the flaws of the U.S. healthcare system. While there are problems, if not for us having the best healthcare in the world, I probably wouldn't be here writing this article today.

Reforms must occur in the healthcare sector, however, the Affordable Care Act is taking the country mostly down the wrong path. The "mandate" that everyone must have insurance may actually create more uninsured than before once businesses (over 50 employees) must pay the fine as well. It is much cheaper for an individual or business to simply pay the "fine" instead of the much more costly option of making sure everyone has insurance under the new guidelines. Millions of people last year received cancelation notices which violated President Obama's "if you like your plan, you can keep it" promise.

Young people are also not signing up in the numbers needed to make the Affordable Care Act work. Earlier this year, Health and Human Services reported that just 24% of all the people who signed up on a Healthcare.gov exchange (note, this does not mean each one has a policy, they just registered for an account on the website) are in the 18-34 demographic when that number needs to be closer to 40% in order for rates not to rise (Marte, 2014). The cost of premiums has also skyrocketed for young adults across the entire nation (with the exception of four states) as shown in the chart below.Source: Heritage Foundation.
 If anything, it appears the ACA was written in a way to make it nearly impossible for the private health insurance companies to succeed, eventually forcing a single payer system. In fact, this week bureaucrats are starting to create a plan (under Sections 1341-1342 of the law) to bailout the insurance companies should they report a loss (Levey, 2014; NRO, 2014). This is "legal" as long as it's managed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. That is perhaps the scariest part of the Affordable Care Act. So much of it can literally be created "out of thin air" by executive orders or by orders via the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is why mandates and parts of law have been changing constantly. These actions also bypass the legislative branch.

Throwing more money at the problem is not going to fix it. Last month, Oregon decided to completely shutdown its state's exchange website after being granted over $300 million for a website that never allowed residents to sign up for coverage in one sitting. The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest funded agencies in our government and its costs have tripled since the year 2000. While two wars surely factor (and justify) and rise in the VA's budget, the Health and Human Services budget is now nearly doubled the budget of the Department of Defense (Edwards, 2014).

Virtually all CBO projections about the Affordable Care Act are coming up well short of the needed numbers in order for the law to have a chance of succeeding. The problems this legislation is creating is unfortunately just the beginning. Problems in the VA system have existed for a long time and our veterans are not getting the proper care they need. Unless there are massive changes or a repeal to the Affordable Care Act (with other options used such as opening up insurance options across state lines), the care our Veterans are receiving will be coming to a hospital or specialist near you and me. Hopefully we will not wish for the days and coverage that existed before the Affordable Care Act.   

Levey, Noam N. Critics Call Obama Funding Plan for Health Insurer Losses a 'Bailout'. 21 May 2014. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-insurance-bailout-20140521-story.html#page=1. 

Edwards, Chris. "Veterans Affairs in the Federal Budget." CATO Institute. 27 May 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. http://www.cato.org/blog/veterans-affairs-federal-budget. 

NRO. "Insurance-Company Bailouts." National Review Online. 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.nationalreview.com/article/368364/insurance-company-bailouts-editors.

Marte, Jonnelle. "Not Enough Young People Bought Obamacare." The Wall Street Journal. 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/not-enough-young-people-are-buying-obamacare-2014-01-14.

Siegel, Jacob. "Exclusive: VA Scandal Hits New Hospital." The Daily Beast. 18 May 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/18/exclusive-v-a-scandal-hits-new-hospital.html.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Vietnam: It's Time for the U.S. to Improve Relations

This month, tensions between Vietnam and China are rising due to a territorial dispute in the resource rich South China Sea. Recently, China placed an oil rig within 120 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam. To make matters worse, China rammed a Vietnamese vessel as it was patrolling near the newly placed rig and fired their water cannons at the vessel as well (see the video below). Protests have since sparked in cities across Vietnam over the incident. Over 15 foreign owned factories were sent ablaze in response to China's oil rig.

China and Vietnam are communist governments with both of their economies recently attempting to become more capitalistic. Yet, they are not allies. It is not always the case where communist governments are allied to each other. During the Cold War, Yugoslavia was not an ally of the Soviet of the Union.

For China, it unfortunately clear as to why it is picking on its weaker neighbor. With China's recent military buildup and expansion of their Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), they are now optimist about carrying a "big stick" and becoming the a regional superpower (and soon to be a world superpower) while attempting to gather resources within their realm. Other nations near the South China Sea such as the Philippines and Taiwan (along with Japan and South Korea further away) all have treaties with the United States with many regarding to defense of the nation's territory. Therefore, China can afford to become aggressive with Vietnam without any significant repercussions, and if it were to somehow go to the United Nation's Security Council, China could veto any action there.

It's been 39 years since the fall of Saigon and while the stigma remains for both countries over the Vietnam War, the United States and Vietnam can mutually benefit with an alliance. As the United States shifts focus toward Asia, Vietnam owns Cam Ranh Bay, a deep-water bay and perhaps the most strategically important port in Southeast Asia. The last major navy to use the port was Russia, which was over a decade ago. It's been nearly 20 years since the United States and Vietnam began normalizing relations since the war and then Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Vietnam in 2010 with Leon Panetta visiting Cam Ranh Bay in the summer of 2012.

Cam Ranh Bay is the optimal place for the United States to have military forces particularly the navy, in the hopes of containing China's aggressive expansion. While Vietnamese-U.S. relations have been slowly improving, it is time to speed up the process. Each country needs to realize they can help the other both economically and militarily. If Vietnam leased Cam Ranh Bay, both sides can finally move on from the Vietnam War and in return, the United States can protect Vietnamese sovereignty.