Archive for March, 2010

Boeing plans $150M charge from health care reform

March 31, 2010

(AP) – The corporate tax bill for the health care overhaul rose some more on Wednesday, with Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin announcing a combined $246 million in charges because they’re losing a deduction for some prescription drug expenses for retirees.

So far at least 14 companies have disclosed some $1.8 billion in charges prompted by the health care overhaul, including $1 billion from AT&T.

Boeing on Wednesday announced a charge of $150 million. Lockheed Martin said it would take a $96 million charge.

Other announcements on Wednesday included a $41 million non-cash charge announced by diversified manufacturer Ingersoll-Rand PLC, and $10 million charge for aerospace supplier Goodrich Corp.

Boeing and the other companies currently receive a government subsidy to keep prescription drug benefits for retirees. So far, they’ve been able to deduct all of their expenses, even though the government was paying some of the bill. That ends in 2013 under the new health care overhaul. Lockheed Martin said that the future deduction showed up as an asset, so losing it shows up as a charge.

Companies are announcing the charges now because accounting rules say they have to book them during the period a new law is enacted. In addition to the accounting charges, the companies will face a higher tax bill starting in 2013 if they keep paying for prescription drugs for retirees.

“It does represent a future cost, and it needs to be accounted for today because the law has changed today,” said David Green, the National Life Sciences Tax sector Leader at Deloitte Tax LLP.

He said the size of the charge each company reports depends in part on how many retirees get the prescription drug benefit and how generous the benefit is.

Chicago-based Boeing said the charge will hurt earnings by 20 cents per share in the first quarter of 2010.

In January, Boeing predicted 2010 profit of $3.70 to $4 per share on revenue of $64 billion to $66 billion. It said it will now review that guidance and update it when it releases first-quarter results in late April.

Lockheed Martin said its charge is equal to 25 cents per share.

Boeing shares fell 92 cents to close at $72.61. Goodrich shares dropped $1.02 to close at $70.52. Ingersoll-Rand shares fell a penny to close at $34.87, and Lockheed Martin shares fell 87 cents to close at $83.22.

In Open Letter to Sean Penn, Maria Conchita Sets Record Straight on Hugo Chavez

March 30, 2010

Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn is being taken to task by actress and Grammy-nominated singer Maria Conchita Alonso for his strident support of Hugo Chavez, the socialist president of Venezuela — where Conchita was raised.

In an open letter to Sean Penn inNewsBusters.Org, the conservative Conchita, 52, said Chavez, as an individual, controls all branches of government in defiance of Venezuela’s constitution, and that the government controls 92 percent of the country’s media communications.

Penn made headlines after saying, in an HBO interview with Bill Maher that aired March 8, that journalists who refer to Chavez as a dictator should be jailed.

Over the past few years, Conchita has spoken out about her dislike of Chavez, airing her views on Fox News shows such as “The O’Reilly Factor” and Sean Hannity’s “Hannity’s America.”

In her open letter to Penn, Conchita suggests that Penn was erroneous in claiming that elections in Venezuela have been fair and open.

“You said that all Chavez-winning elections in Venezuela were ‘transparent,'” she wrote. “Then WHY didn’t the government allow a manual recount of the votes and computer information when doubt set in? After all, how do you explain how these votes that were strongly favoring the opposition mysteriously reflected the opposite results the morning after, thus permitting Chavez to continue on?”

Maria Conchita, who also has worked as an actress in movies such as “The Running Man” and “Predator 2,” was born and Cuba, but moved to Venezuela at age 5.

“Being born in Cuba, a country where freedom of speech is non-existent, it’s startling to observe how Venezuela, where I was happily raised, is fast becoming Cuba’s mirror image: Dismantling of fundamental democratic rights deserved by its people and citizens of the world,” she wrote.

Conchita’s first breakthrough hit was the song “Love Maniac” in 1979, when she performed under the name A’mbar.

Fidel Castro applauds US Health-care reform bill

March 27, 2010

HAVANA (AP) — It perhaps was not the endorsement President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress were looking for.

Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Thursday declared passage of American health care reform “a miracle” and a major victory for Obama’s presidency, but couldn’t help chide the United States for taking so long to enact what communist Cuba achieved decades ago.

“We consider health reform to have been an important battle and a success of his (Obama’s) government,” Castro wrote in an essay published in state media, adding that it would strengthen the president’s hand against lobbyists and “mercenaries.”

But the Cuban leader also used the lengthy piece to criticize the American president for his lack of leadership on climate change and immigration reform, and for his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, among many other things.

And he said it was remarkable that the most powerful country on earth took more than two centuries from its founding to approve something as basic as health benefits for all.

“It is really incredible that 234 years after the Declaration of Independence … the government of that country has approved medical attention for the majority of its citizens, something that Cuba was able to do half a century ago,” Castro wrote.

The longtime Cuban leader — who ceded power to his brother Raul in 2008 — has continued to pronounce his thoughts on world issues though frequent essays, titled “Reflections,” which are published in state newspapers.

Cuba provides free health care and education to all its citizens, and heavily subsidizes food, housing, utilities and transportation, policies that have earned it global praise. The government has warned that some of those benefits are no longer sustainable given Cuba’s ever-struggling economy, though it has so far not made major changes.

In recent speeches, Raul Castro has singled out medicine as an area where the government needs to be spending less, but he has not elaborated.

While Fidel Castro was initially positive about Obama, his essays have become increasingly hostile in recent months as relations between Cuba and the United States have soured. Washington has been increasingly alarmed by Cuba’s treatment of political dissidents — one of whom died in February after a long hunger strike.

Cuba was irate over the island’s inclusion earlier this year on a list of countries Washington considers to be state sponsors of terrorism. Tensions have also risen following the arrest in December of a U.S. government contractor that Havana accuses of spying.

In Thursday’s essay, Castro called Obama a “fanatic believer in capitalist imperialism” but also praised him as “unquestionably intelligent.”

“I hope that the stupid things he sometimes says about Cuba don’t cloud over that intelligence,” he said.

AT&T plans $1billion write-down tied to health law

March 27, 2010

AT&T plans $1 billion write-down tied to health law

Telecom giant joins Caterpillar and Deere in outlining expense

By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — AT&T on Friday said it will record a $1 billion non-cash expense in the first quarter related to the newly passed health-care law, joining a growing list of large U.S. companies.

The AT&T (T 26.30, +0.06, +0.23%) write-down is the largest reported so far. Caterpillar(CAT 62.44, +0.30, +0.48%) this week recorded a $100 million charge in the first quarter and Deere & Co. (DE 60.54, -0.03, -0.04%) said it will report a one-time $150 million expense. See previous story on industries that say warn health reform will cost them.

Among its many changes, the new health-care law eliminated a tax deduction that companies used to cut the cost of drug-benefit programs for retired workers. President Obama signed the massive health-care overhaul into law earlier this week in a big victory for ruling Democrats.

The health reform bill eliminated a subsidy for companies that operated as a double deduction. Companies such as John Deere and Caterpillar will face new costs up to $150 million, Ellen Schultz reports.

Yet companies that still offer retiree drug benefits, mostly older industrial concerns or those with unionized employees, say the end of the deduction could force them to alter their benefit plans. In other words, they might curtail or even cancel them.

“As a result of this legislation, including the additional tax burden, AT&T will be evaluating prospective changes to the active and retiree health care benefits offered by the company,” AT&T said in a filing with the government on Friday.

An AT&T spokesman declined to comment further on the filing.

Earlier this week, Verizon Communications (VZ 30.39, +0.02, +0.07%) sent a letter to employees suggesting that changes to their health-care plans could be afoot. AT&T and Verizon are the two largest phone companies in the U.S. and include a substantial number of unionized workers.

Several million retirees are estimated to receive drug benefits from a few thousand companies. If those retirees were shifted to the federal Medicare program, the government would to pick up the expense. Whether savings from elimination of the subsidy would offset those higher Medicare costs is unclear.

Under the old law, companies received a federal subsidy worth up $1,330 per retiree if they provided former workers with drug-care benefits. At the same time, however, companies could deduct the value of the subsidy from their taxable income. See blog on whether the new health care law already is hurting business

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Thursday said the government merely eliminated a tax loophole that effectively allowed a company to benefit twice from one law.

The AT&T announcement is sure to cause a ripple in Washington. Republicans have already assailed the administration for what they say are excessive costs saddled on business by the health-care law. The issue is sure to be part of their campaign against Democrats in the fall elections.

Democrats say the health-care law will become more popular over time and they point out that it also includes substantial new subsidies for business.

“There’s $10 billion in health-care reform for support for businesses with early retirees,” Gibbs said.

Jeffry Bartash is a reporter for MarketWatch in Washington.

Health-care overhaul to hit Deere, Caterpillar with Charges

March 27, 2010

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co. will see costs increase this year when a government subsidy for retiree drug benefits loses its tax-exempt status under the new health-care law.

On Thursday, Deere (DE 60.54, -0.03, -0.04%) said taxing the subsidy meant to help lower costs for companies that offer retiree drug coverage will result in a one-time charge of $150 million. Earlier, Caterpillar (CAT 62.44, +0.30, +0.48%) said the same tax will raise its costs by $100 million.

“Although this tax increase does not take effect until 2011, Caterpillar is required to recognize the full accounting impact in its financial statements in the period in which the Act is signed,” Caterpillar reported in a government filing.

President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on Tuesday. A Senate reconciliation bill meant to tweak some parts of the new law is currently in the House for a final vote. Read more about the Senate health-care bill.

The change in how businesses account for the subsidy closed a loophole created in the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit that allowed two tax write offs, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. The loss of the deduction will be partially offset by $10 billion in support for businesses with early retirees.

John C. Lechleiter, chief executive of Eli Lilly & Co., discusses health-care reform efforts in the U.S. and Germany.

Industrial companies with employer-based retiree benefits are likely to post similar cost increases, including aerospace giant Boeing Co.(BA 72.53, -0.06, -0.08%), insurer MetLife Inc. (MET 42.39, +0.13, +0.31%) and truck-maker Navistar International Corp.(NAV 43.72, -0.08, -0.18%).

“Deere and Caterpillar are bellwether companies and it’s hard to believe that they are unique,” said Longbow Research analyst Eli Lustgarten. “We expect that most companies will have to adjust to the new regulations.”

In the case of Deere, the higher costs represent nearly 12% of its projected fiscal 2010 profit of $1.3 billion.

It’s a big charge, and though additional cost increases are likely to follow, none are expected to be as large, according to Longbow’s Lustgarten.

Deere, along with other companies contacted for this story, said it was still evaluating the impact of the new law, and speculation on additional cost increases or savings at this time would be premature.

“It’s hard to understand what we will, and will not see because the health care law doesn’t end the subject, but really just begins it,” said Lustgarten. “It lays out a framework, but the details are still shaking out.”

Long term, costs will be materially higher for the industry, he added.

Investors were unconcerned about the new tax provisions and focused instead on evidence the economy was improving. Shares of Deere and Caterpillar were each up 1% in afternoon trading.

Earlier, the U.S. said weekly unemployment-benefit claims at its lowest point since July.Read more about jobless claims.

In a December letter to Congress, Caterpillar, Deere and eight other U.S. companies including Boeing and MetLife wrote that making the drug subsidy taxable could result in companies reducing coverage and more retirees shifting to Medicare Part D, a federal program that subsidized the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries.

According to an industry report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, each retiree who loses employer-based drug coverage and gains it through Medicare Part D will increase government cost by $544.

“If more companies than predicted by the Government Accountability Office shift away from coverage, then the provision could result in a net loss rather than the predicted slight revenue gain,” the companies wrote.

Christopher Hinton is a reporter for MarketWatch based in New York.

CRB Plantea consulta de Ciudadanía sí o no

March 26, 2010
Por Yanira Hernández Cabiya / el nuevo dia

El ex gobernador Carlos Romero Barceló planteó hoy que Puerto Rico debe cambiar su estrategia para conseguir la estadidad y en lugar de un plebiscito estadidad sí o no, cuestionar ciudadanía sí o no.

Durante la continuación de las audiencias públicas del Senado entorno al proyecto que viabilizaría un plebiscito sobre estatus, Romero Barceló afirmó además que Estados Unidos no necesita una votación local para convertir a Puerto Rico en un estado de esa nación.

¿Entonces, porque no lo han hecho?, cuestionó el senador novoprogresista Carmelo Ríos, presidente de la Comisión.

Romero Barceló argumentó, que aunque una votación mayoritaria no es necesaria, políticamente es importante y es por esa razón que Estados Unidos no ha actuado.

El también ex Comisionado Residente, sostuvo que si Puerto Rico tuviera un voto mayoritario a favor de la estadidad, “la vamos a lograr”.

A preguntas del senador popular Alejandro García Padilla, Romero Barceló afirmó que el Estado Libre Asociado (ELA) estuvo legitimado cuando recibieron el voto mayoritario de los votantes.

“Pero ya no tienen el respaldo. Ha perdido esa mayoría”, sostuvo Romero Barceló al destacar que la legitimación que se obtuvo en un momento se hizo bajo engaño.

Acorralan a Somoza

March 26, 2010

Por Carmen Arroyo Colón
El Vocero  Jueves 25 de Marzo de 2010

Guillermo Somoza/EL VOCERO-Archivo

Guillermo Somoza/EL VOCERO-Archivo

El nombramiento del designado secretario de Justicia, Guillermo Somoza, está sujeto a la acción que tome contra los miembros de la Junta de Directores de la Asociación de Compañías de Seguros de Salud (ACODESE) que entre el 2005 y el 2007 acordaron pagar $50 mil al entonces senador Jorge de Castro Font.

El presidente del Senado, Thomas Rivera Schatz, advirtió ayer a Somoza que tiene que investigar estos pagos que describió como “soborno”. Los pagos fueron detallados el miércoles en el Tribunal de San Juan por la ex vicepresidenta de ACODESE Betsy Barbosa, en medio del caso que se sigue contra el ex legislador por corrupción. “Si no actúa, hay que buscar a alguien que tenga el compromiso, la voluntad y la libertad de acusar a quien sea, como sea y donde sea”, dijo Rivera Schatz en una conferencia de prensa ayer.

Tras la advertencia del Presidente del Senado, Somoza envió un comunicado de prensa en el que indica que desde el 19 de enero la División de Integridad Pública investiga a la Junta de Directores de ACODESE.

Agregó que la pesquisa está activa y que se culminará en poco tiempo. “El pueblo y el Senado de Puerto Rico pueden estar en la completa seguridad de que la investigación antes aludida es una de alta prioridad para este Secretario y que cuando la misma culmine, nada ni nadie hará temblar mi pulso a la hora de ordenar el procesamiento criminal contra cualquier persona, o entidad pública o privada”, dijo Somoza.

Barbosa declaró que el ex senador le solicitó dinero para pagar sus deudas, entre éstas, gastos de campaña del grupo de senadores denominados los ‘Auténticos’. Indicó que los pagos que realizó contaban con el aval de la Junta de Directores de ACODESE.

Agregó que está recopilando información sobre el particular y que si Somoza no toma acción, el Senado iniciará una investigación de la que él se encargará personalmente. Sobre la legislación que se aprobó para beneficiar a las aseguradoras de salud, indicó que se analizarán las medidas para determinar si será necesario derogar leyes o enmendarlas.

Pero, dijo que aguardará un tiempo antes de iniciar su investigación porque “quizás haya otro referido más de algún ex legislador”.

“Nosotros queremos saber si hay alguien que está protegiendo a los presidentes de las compañías aseguradoras. Si hay alguien arrastrando los pies en las investigaciones para proteger a ciertos funcionarios”, insistió Rivera Schatz, quien cuestionó a lo largo de la rueda de prensa el porqué Justicia no ha investigado a los presidentes de las aseguradoras MCS y Triple-S.

“Aquí no puede pasar lo que pasó con el pasado Secretario de Justicia, que no quería enviar a los asesores de Fortaleza al FEI”, agregó.

Informe de condohoteles irá a Justicia

Por otro lado, el Presidente senatorial dijo que referirá a Justicia el informe sobre el proyecto de los condohoteles que copó titulares porque fue firmado por el gobernador Luis Fortuño sin las enmiendas aprobadas por la Legislatura.

Ya la Cámara de Representantes aprobó el proyecto con las enmiendas, pero el Senado no lo ha hecho. Rivera Schatz indicó que la investigación senatorial sobre lo ocurrido con este proyecto se atrasó porque varias personas a entrevistarse no estuvieron disponibles “de momento” y que la medida está en proceso de aprobación.

Según el trámite legislativo el “error” con la medida ocurrió en la Comisión de Turismo del Senado que preside Evelyn Vázquez.

Aprobará reforma legislativa

De otra parte, el Presidente senatorial dijo que en ese cuerpo legislativo se aprobará la propuesta de reforma legislativa del gobernador Luis Fortuño. En respuesta a críticas de alcaldes, Rivera Schatz dijo que quizás debería aprobarse una reforma municipal para que los ejecutivos municipales no puedan aumentarse el sueldo, ni usar contratistas para hacer obras en su casa.

Rivera Schatz condiciona…..

March 25, 2010

El presidente del Senado, Thomas Rivera Schatz, condicionó hoy la confirmación del designado secretario de Justicia, Guillermo Somoza Colombani, con que procese criminalmente a los miembros de la Junta de Directores de la Asociación de Compañías de Seguros de Salud (Acodese).

“Si no actúa, el Secretario de Justicia tendrá problemas en el Senado de Puerto Rico”, afrimó Rivera Schatz.

Sus expresiones surgen luego de que ayer la ex directora ejecutiva de Acodese Betsy Barbosa aceptara que el grupo acordó durante una reunión entregar dinero al convicto ex senador Jorge de Castro Font. En total, le dieron $50 mil.

En sus reclamos a Justicia, Rivera Schatz también dijo que quiere saber quién supuestamente está amapuchando un caso contra Acodese o las aseguradoras que esta organización representaba.

De hecho, advirtió a otros funcionarios de esta administración “que no vayan a cometer errores”, ya que si el Departamento de Justicia no actúa él se encargará personalmente de investigar a los involucrados.

Asimismo, Rivera Schatz dio a entender que podrían ocurrir referidos de otros ex legisladores al Fiscal Especial Independiente.

Aceptó, a preguntas de El Nuevo Día,que pudiera tratarse del ex presidente del Senado Kenneth McClintock. “Eso es lo que ha trascendido públicamente”, dijo.

Acodese niega haber violado la ley

Pese a la existencia de una declaración jurada de Barbosa, de que le dieron un soborno de $50,000 al convicto De Castro Font, la organización negó haber incurrido en violaciones de ley y alegó que han “contribuido al bienestar del pueblo”.

La declaraciones se dieron en un escueto comunicado de prensa que emitió Acodese en la tarde de hoy y el cual está firmado por el presidente de la Junta de Directores, Héctor Mújica.

El escrito se limita a señalar que “ante toda la discusión pública relacionada con el caso contra el ex senador Jorge De Castro Font, Acodese niega haber incurrido en violación de ley alguna”.

Se añadió que “durante sus 35 años de existencia, Acodese siempre ha actuado conforme la ley, y sus miembros han contribuido al bienestar del pueblo de Puerto Rico y de sus asegurados”.

Específicamente, la mujer admitió que Acodese le dio $50,000 al ex senador a cambio de acceso a los procedimientos legislativos.

Gobierno Fortalecerá programa de Salud

March 22, 2010

Por Inter News service

EL VOCERO/ArchivoEL VOCERO/Archivo

El gobernador Luis Fortuño adelantó que el gobierno puertorriqueño hará su parte respecto a la Reforma de Salud, sin embargo reiteró que por la relación territorial de Puerto Rico con Estados Unidos, la Isla no recibirá trato igual con los estados.

San Juan- El gobernador Luis Fortuño se mostró complacido con la aprobación el domingo en la Cámara de Representantes de Estados Unidos de la Reforma de Salud federal, con la que ahora deberá concurrir el Senado antes de pasar a la firma del presidente Barack Obama.

Fortuño aseguró que los planes de demandar al gobierno federal si Puerto Rico no era incluido en la medida, quedaron atrás.

“La aprobación ofrece un aumento dramático en fondos para los residentes de los territorios y provee mayor flexibilidad en el uso de los recursos de ‘Medicaid’ por los gobernadores de territorios porque estamos por debajo de la asignación de los estados”, explicó Fortuño.

Mientras, comentó que aunque la Reforma de Salud federal no entra en función hasta 2011 “en Puerto Rico se verá la acción estatal y en 2014 empezará el intercambio de seguros”.

Sin embargo, “tenemos una plataforma aquí antes que eso para que la clase media pueda acceder a los servicios de salud y, si califican para ‘Medicaid’, reintegrar al plan de salud” del Gobierno.

“No hemos hecho lo suficiente por décadas en la prevención de enfermedades crónicas. Tenemos una incidencia altísima de diabetes y enfermedades cardiovasculares y sería costo eficiente enfatizar en la prevención”, señaló el mandatario.

Añadió que buscarán fortalecer el programa de salud que el Gobierno provee a los de menores recursos económicos y facilitar el compromiso con la clase media “que no califica para ese tipo de programa pero liberaremos recursos estatales para crear una plataforma para proveer los mecanismos para acceder servicios de salud de calidad a precios más razonables”.

El mandatario reiteró que por la relación territorial de Puerto Rico con Estados Unidos, la Isla no recibirá trato igual con los estados.

Fortuño destacó que, aunque es republicano, favoreció la reforma de salubridad de Obama por el beneficio que representa para el País, “y cada legislador en el Congreso vota según lo que entienda es o no un beneficio para el estado que representa”.

Sus expresiones se dieron en el inicio de la campaña “Hagamos a Puerto Rico verde”, en la que se repartieron 2.000 bombillas fluorescentes para reducir el consumo de energía, y 2.000 árboles para su siembra.

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Eight Ways Obamacare Grows the Goverment

March 22, 2010

Eight Ways Obamacare Grows the Government
It isn’t a complete government takeover. But it’s close.

Democrats are in their final sprint to pass the president’s health-reform plan, and allies such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman are rehashing every argument to promote the effort. In a recent column, Krugman attacks the “myth” that the bill is a “government takeover.” That line — meant to suggest that opponents are fear-mongering about a proposal that simply seeks to temper the influence of insurance companies and give more control to Americans — is much used by the White House as well.

Is Krugman right? Well, consider the recent comments of Andrew Hyman of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Hyman served in the Clinton administration, and the foundation supports the bill. He told theFiscal Times that “the reform legislation will affect every facet of our health system. It will address how people get coverage, how health care is delivered, and how health care is paid for.”
He’s right: The bill does change every facet of American health care. And every significant change in the massive bill will expand government, without exception.

How? Let’s count the ways.

One, Obamacare creates a new, government-run assisted-care insurance program to compete with existing private plans. CLASS Act, as it’s called, is essentially a new entitlement, and its proponents promise it won’t cost the Treasury a penny. That’s what Washington used to say about Social Security. The CBO, incidentally, predicts CLASS Act will increase the deficit within two decades.

Two, Obamacare creates a Medicare panel to cut payments for ineffective procedures and prescriptions. The panel will override the wishes of patients and physicians, just as it has in countries where it’s already been tried, such as Britain. The British government, by the way, is presently reviewing the mandate of its deeply unpopular committee.

Three, Obamacare expands Medicaid eligibility by as much as one-third, increasing taxpayer liability for entitlements at the exact moment Washington needs to contain entitlements. It’s like deciding to build a swimming pool and gazebo when your house already has a double mortgage and a cracked foundation.

Four, Obamacare gives the federal government the power to specify what every insurance plan must cover, and doesn’t touch the hundreds of state-level benefit mandates that are already in place. And, by the way, it’s a power that Washington will immediately use — both the House and Senate bills contain new mandates.

Five, Obamacare creates dozens of new offices, bureaucracies, committees, programs, and authorities — more than 110 in the Senate bill — to implement the law and develop new regulations, including the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Six, Obamacare forces states to set up health-insurance exchanges to foster competition. Massachusetts has already tried this, with no reduction in premiums.
Seven, Obamacare substitutes more government for patient choice by gutting Medicare Advantage (an option through which seniors can receive their Medicare benefits in the form of private insurance plans) to pay for new entitlements and new services. Let’s be clear: Medicare Advantage is hardly perfect, and Medicare itself is in need of a rethink, but the responsible step would be to seek reforms in order to reduce the deficit, not to shift the money to create and expand other entitlements.

Eight, with so many subsidies and program expansions, Obamacare will push the government’s share of national health spending well past the 50 percent level forever. Let’s put that in perspective: In socialized health-care systems such as Canada’s — private insurance is still banned in much of that country — government accounts for about 70 percent of total health-care spending.

For the record, the reach and cost of the federal government aren’t the only things that are expanding under Obamacare. So is K Street. Imagine what life will be like in the coming years as lobbyists seek to sway the decisions of the health-benefits super-committee – which is charged with determining the services covered by your insurance — or the Medicare panel, which is authorized to “guide” physicians’ treatment decisions.

So, let’s give Paul Krugman the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Obamacare isn’t a complete government takeover of health care. But it’s close.

— David Gratzer, a physician, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is the author of Why Obama’s Government Takeover of Health Care Will Be a Disaster (Encounter Books, 2009).