Saturday, May 30, 2015

Obamacare Schadenfreude Pizza

Five years in, pizza chains find ObamaCare menu mandate still half-baked
Five years ago, we discovered one of those hidden items in ObamaCare that Nancy Pelosi promised we’d only see after the bill got passed — and she was correct. The bill included a federal mandate for restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on menu items, even though research since passage of ObamaCare suggest that calorie counts on menus don’t change consumer behavior at all. It does change the overhead for restaurants and their ability to expand and change their menu offerings, and nowhere is that problem greater than in the pizza industry. Dylan Scott reports for National Journal that the largest chains have finally begun to work on Congress to get rid of the mandate, or at least provide an exception for a sector where almost every purchase is a custom order:
This is Big Pizza’s beef: People order pizza by phone or online. (Liddle pressed this reporter on how he procures his pies. Usually through a mobile app, for the record.) The industry estimates that only 10 percent—and Liddle said it could be even as low as 2 percent—of their customers are actually going to see the calorie information that they put up in stores. Because of that, they didn’t initially expect the FDA to mandate calorie counts on pizza places’ physical menus. But that’s what the final regulation requires.
“Very few people walk into a pizzeria, look up on a menu board and say, ‘Hmm, what will I have?'” Liddle said in an interview. “We don’t want to not do labeling. We do it already. We don’t want to get out of it. We want to do it. We want to do it in a way that makes sense for our consumers, that they can understand, and we want to do it in a way that won’t burden our small-business franchisees.”
Under the FDA rule, Liddle said, the small-business owner of a Domino’s franchise is going to have to spend a couple thousand dollars posting the information and it might not even help those select few customers, anyway. Domino’s has 34 million different pizza combinations; Liddle believes Pizza Hut has tens of millions more. The industry therefore argues that nobody is going to get anything out of the huge calorie ranges that its members are going to have to post on the menus at their stores to cover all the possibilities and comply with the rules.
So the American Pizza Community thinks it has a solution. It supports a bill introduced last month by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 Republican in the House, and Democractic Rep. Loretta Sanchez that would revise the ACA’s menu rules. Restaurants where a majority of orders are made off-premises (read: pizza places) could post their calorie information online to comply with the law. That way, the industry argues, customers could get the information where they’re ordering. Domino’s put out a video last week of customers complaining about the regulations to try to build some momentum for the legislation.
That’s a start, but it’s long overdue. Smaller chains have made these appeals for years, far longer than the two years Scott cites with Domino’s. Like most kinds of regulatory burdens, this mandate provides a much larger burden for smaller chains, and so gives the larger chains a competitive advantage. Only in the last couple of years have the biggest chains realized that the burden was so extensive that it outweighs the competitive advantages they get, and now they want Congress to act on the issue.
One problem with food labeling is that the information is already out there; the internet is littered with sites that can give you estimates of the calories in a dish as well as a mandated calorie count. And the (relatively few) people interested in such counts probably already have the information in hand. Forcing companies to make and post long lists of shifting calorie counts is a waste of everybody's time and money.

EHRs: Aother Obamacare failure
Another provision of Obamacare is proving to be utter nonsense, beyond the Democrat’s lies about keeping your doctor and your health plan if you like them. This shouldn’t be all that surprising, given that the entire 1,200+ page law was rushed into law without any serious thought as to its consequences. Charles Krauthammer on “Why Doctors Quit“:
I hear this everywhere. Virtually every doctor and doctors’ group I speak to cites the same litany, with particular bitterness about the EHR mandate. As another classmate wrote, “The introduction of the electronic medical record into our office has created so much more need for documentation that I can only see about three-quarters of the patients I could before, and has prompted me to seriously consider leaving for the first time.”
You may have zero sympathy for doctors, but think about the extraordinary loss to society — and maybe to you, one day — of driving away 40 years of irreplaceable clinical experience.
And for what? The newly elected Barack Obama told the nation in 2009 that “it just won’t save billions of dollars” — $77 billion a year, promised the administration — “and thousands of jobs, it will save lives.” He then threw a cool $27 billion at going paperless by 2015.
It’s 2015 and what have we achieved? The $27 billion is gone, of course. The $77 billion in savings became a joke. Indeed, reported the Health and Human Services inspector general in 2014, “EHR technology can make it easier to commit fraud,” as in Medicare fraud, the copy-and-paste function allowing the instant filling of vast data fields, facilitating billing inflation. . .
Over the past several years, we have seen the rush to electronically record and track health care records consume more and more  time and money in health care. Like many good ideas, it can be (and probably has) been instituted before it was really ready, and then government mandates have made it more rigid and bureaucratic than was necessary.

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