Today in Liberty: Out-of-pocket costs could double under Obamacare, VA scandal exposes dangers of single-payer

“Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.” — President Herbert Hoover

— There shall be higher out-of-pocket costs: The pharmaceutical lobby is warning that Americans who’ve purchased health plans on the Obamacare exchanges could face big cost increases next year. ”The report for [PhRMA] was conducted by actuarial firm Milliman, which found that people on the Silver Plan, the most popular Obamacare plan, would likely pay 130 percent more for out-of-pocket prescription drugs compared to people on similar employer-sponsored plans,” The Hill notes. The study didn’t account for subsidies, which could help qualifying Americans lower their costs. That being said, John Castellani, CEO of PhRMA, gives us this gem of a quote: “Americans participating in the Exchanges were promised coverage comparable to employer plans and yet the reality is that many new plans are failing to provide an appropriate level of access to quality, affordable health care.” Thanks, Obamacare!

— Who watches the watchdogs?: It’s difficult to keep checks on the federal bureaucracy when it’s not working. “The executive branch’s internal oversight system is broken and Congress needs to fix it as soon as possible, several ethics experts say,” the Washington Examiner reports. “Attorneys who specialize in government ethics say the case of the Department of Homeland Security’s former acting inspector general, Charles Edwards, shows the government’s own watchdogs are too influenced by political considerations.” This is pretty important because executive-level inspectors general, whom we know as “watchdogs,” are supposed to investigate corruption, ethical problems, and waste.

— Obama likely to get his way on executive power: It looks like U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson will back President Barack Obama’s claim of executive privilege over Fast and Furious documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “At a hearing, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson cautioned that she has not decided how she will rule in the case,” the Associated Press notes. “But she said she regards the executive privilege claim as qualified. That view could result in some Justice Department records that House Republicans want remaining confidential, while others might be subject to public disclosure.” Attorney General Eric Holder refused to turn over the documents to the committee, pushing the House, in June 2012, to hold him in contempt of Congress. Oh, and by the way, Jackson was appointed to the federal bench in 2011 by President Obama.

— Georgia Senate race heats up in the home stretch: The Republican primary is on Tuesday and three candidates have emerged as likely runoff contenders — former Secretary of State Karen Handel, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), and businessman David Perdue. “The final weeks of the primary have narrowed the race to three top contenders, polls show. But there are no neat dividing lines,” Politico notes of the race. “With the support of Sarah Palin and conservative pundit Erick Erickson, Handel is making an aggressive play for the tea party wing — though grass-roots activists here are split and big-spending conservative outside groups like the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund have sat out the primary. Kingston boasts the backing of Sean Hannity, while Perdue touts his support from Georgia native Herman Cain.” Politico plays it up as a “revived” Republican “civil war,” but that’s a stretch. When the phrase “Republican civil war” is used, it’s usually the Tea Party against the GOP establishment. That’s just not what has gone on in Georgia in this race. In the interest of disclosure, this author, who lives in Georgia, voted for Karen Handel — the electable fiscal conservative in the race.

— Pence proposes Medicaid expansion: Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) may have just added his name to the list of unacceptable potential GOP presidential candidates. “Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, whose rising national profile is feeding 2016 presidential buzz, has become the latest Republican governor to embrace a core component of Obamacare — with a conservative twist,” Politico explains. “Pence outlined a blueprint Thursday for a version of expansion that includes a laundry list of conservative-friendly reforms adopted in other red states. Among them: placing enrollees in private insurance instead of traditional Medicaid, requiring some enrollees to pay modest premiums, conditioning enrollment for some on paying into a health savings account, encouraging unemployed or underemployed beneficiaries to pursue work opportunities and attempting to limit overuse of the emergency room.” Indiana still has to receive a waiver from the Obama administration to move forward with Medicaid expansion. The plans may be conservative-minded in nature, but many Republican presidential primary voters aren’t going to smile on the fact that Pence expanded Medicaid through Obamacare.

— Federal judge upholds onerous DC gun laws: The District of Columbia can still place significant hoops for residents to jump through if they want to exercise their Second Amendment rights. “A federal judge on Thursday ruled that a D.C. law requiring guns to be registered, mandating safety training and limiting the number of pistol purchases per month do not violate Second Amendment protections of the right to bear arms,” Washington Times reports. “U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg dismissed with prejudice a sweeping challenge to the District’s handgun laws brought by a group of plaintiffs led by Dick Anthony Heller in a ruling that opens with a recounting of some of the city’s most notorious recent shootings.” In his opinion, Boasberg noted that the District of Columbia was once the “murder capital” of the United States, focusing mostly on the murder rate in the 1990s, a point at which guns were completely banned in the District. The gun ban was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2008.

— Coalition seeks corrections and clarifications to USA FREEDOM Act: Though they are pleased that there is progress in Congress to end the NSA’s bulk data collection, a coalition of organizations is urging leaders make “several technical corrections and clarifications” to the USA FREEDOM Act to ensure that the ”language is not misinterpreted and its stated goal of ending bulk collection is met.” There are five recommendations, which can be found in a letter addressed to congressional leaders. Organizations that signed the letter include the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, FreedomWorks, Generation Opportunity, R Street Institute, and Reddit.

— VA scandal and healthcare rationing: Elizabeth Price Foley makes the case that the deaths of 40 veterans who were waiting for healthcare from Phoenix VA hospital is just an example of the rationing of healthcare that goes on in single-payer systems. “When individuals receive care through the VA, it becomes the only payer and hence, the only decision-maker. The VA decides who gets care, when, and how much. Moreover, as the single payer, the VA bears the risk of loss: If tax dollars aren’t enough to pay for the care demanded, there’s only one result — rationing of care,” Price Foley explains at The Daily Caller. “Reining in rationing — particularly the more nefarious, covert kind — isn’t possible in a single-payer system. If the monolithic single payer is inefficient or poorly managed — as is generally problem with government, not just the VA — it will face severe pressure to ration, and keep such rationing quiet, to save face. There won’t be any public debates about whether this procedure or that procedure should be covered. Those debates are too politically charged. So in this country, government-run, single-payer systems will ineluctably lead to secretive, under-the-table rationing by unelected, politically unaccountable bureaucrats more interested in saving their own hides than in patient care.”

— Americans aren’t too fond of congressional leaders: Each of the four main congressional leaders has approval ratings of over 40 percent, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has the lowest net-favorability rating, according to the latest Gallup survey. Interestingly, 32 percent of Americans have never heard of or have no opinion of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who is 2014’s version of Nancy Pelosi.

Other items we’re reading this morning:

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