Friday, December 27, 2013

The Obamacare Sign-Up Scam -

Even if there are no data transmission bugs, however, an enrollment still isn’t complete until the first month’s premium has been paid. This is not a minor concern. As Jon Kingsdale, who ran the Massachusetts health exchange and served as a consultant on Obamacare, wrote in The Washington Post last month, the most difficult administrative task for the Bay State’s exchange was tracking and collecting premiums. Under Obamacare, Kingsdale wrote, “premium billing and tracking will be even tougher” than it was in Massachusetts—in part because enrollees will in many cases only be paying part of the bill. The federal government will be paying the rest to insurers through the law’s subsidy system. But guess what? The part of the exchange system that is supposed to pay subsidies to insurers hasn’t been built yet. (The administration is instead relying on a workaround in which insurers estimate the payments they are owed.)
Nor are people who have signed up rushing to send in payments, according to early reports. Insurance industry consultants told ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein this week that so far, health plans have only collected payments from five to 15 percent of enrollees. That figure will surely rise as the deadlines (which vary between states) for payment approach. But in combination with Kingsdale’s warnings about the headaches associated with bill collection, it suggests that enrollment is likely to be hampered by lack of payment.
So here’s where we’re at: 364,682 people had signed up for private plans by November 30, which is about 842,000 short of the administration’s end-of-November projection. Information about tens of thousands of those 364,682 sign-ups has either been transmitted inaccurately or not at all to insurers. And so far only a small fraction of the sign-ups which have been correctly transferred to insurers have actually completed the process and paid. (The administration also says that another 803,077 people have enrolled in Medicaid.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Editorial: Rising incomes matter more than disparity | percent, income, obama - Opinion - The Orange County Register

If President Obama is to be believed – and few conditional clauses give us more pause – the greatest economic challenge facing the nation is income inequality. He referred to it this month as "the defining challenge of our time," the sort of superlative that always makes us suspect that a politician is up to something.
In this case, the strategy seems to be attempting to distract the nation from two undeniable realities that have much more plausible claims as "defining challenges": an economy that has been lethargic for half a decade and a health care overhaul that may yet go down as the single-most conspicuous failure of big government in American history.
Political calculations aside, we'll take Mr. Obama at his word that he genuinely believes income inequality is a serious problem. Here's our question, asked in earnest: Why?
Mr. Obama errs when he emphasizes economic inequality because he socializes the analysis. Consider this hypothetical example: Two individuals, one of whom makes $40,000 a year and one of whom makes $1 million. If both were to realize a 50 percent increase in income, the former would make $60,000 a year, while the latter would make $1.5 million. The inequality between the two has grown, but both are better off.
This hypothetical underscores the key point: Individual wealth is a meaningful metric; wealth disparity is not.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Economic Reality and the Minimum Wage | RealClearPolitics

But supporters of a higher minimum wage would have us believe that low-wage workers are magically exempt from these phenomena. They claim companies will employ just as many employees at $10.10 an hour as they do at $7.25.
But they must doubt their own case. Otherwise, they would propose an even higher amount, confident it will be irrelevant to hiring decisions. If a minimum wage of $20 or $30 an hour would cause layoffs, though, why wouldn't $10.10? At what point on the wage scale does the law of supply and demand take effect?
Even liberal hero Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics and columnist for The New York Times, has grudgingly acknowledged this reality. In his 1998 textbook, he wrote that "the centrist view is probably that minimum wages 'do,' in fact, reduce employment, but that the effects are small."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Inequality for Dummies -

A widely praised 2012 book, "Why Nations Fail," argues that historically when the ruling elites have pulled up the ladder and kept newcomers from getting a foothold, their economies have suffocated and died. "The most pernicious fact of inequality is when it translates into political inequality," said Daron Acemoglu, a co-author of the book and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist. "That means our democracy ceases to function because some people have so much money they command greater power." The rich spend heavily on lobbyists and campaign donations to secure tax breaks and tariff advantages and bailouts that perpetuate their status. Not only does a dynamic economy stagnate, but the left-out citizenry becomes disillusioned and cynical. Sound familiar?

He's making a good case for limited government, from which the wealthy may not purchase influence.

What Do You Need from Your Religion?

"We're Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television," he explained. "You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off."
The odd thing is that many who have condemned Robertson would share his take on loving each other, and they'd cite it as a reason for condemning personal hostility based on someone's sexual preference. Thus did Wilson Cruz, a spokesman for the gay rights group GLAAD, declare that "Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe."
Yet when even the pope wonders aloud as to whether it's appropriate for him to judge, you begin to see the difficulty of deciding what "true Christians" ought to believe. This raises the question of whether the religiously based principles are merely cultural artifacts that we bend to our own immediate purposes.
The answer lies in embracing a humility about how imperfectly human beings understand the divine, which is quite different from rejecting God or faith. This humility defines the chasm between a living religious tradition and a dead traditionalism. We need to admit how tempted we are to deify whatever commitments we have at a given moment. And those of us who are Christian need to acknowledge that over the history of the faith, there have been occasions when "a supposedly changeless truth has changed," as the great church historian and theologian Jaroslav Pelikan put it.

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Do you need a supposedly changeless truth, a spiritual stake in the ground?  Or do you need a framework to make a meaning out of the seemingly endless and possibly pointless struggle of life?  (or something else?).

Cialdini Identifies How to Influence

1. Reciprocation - the cult member leads with a flower, then asks for money
2. Scarcity - "produced only 2 or 3 times per decade"
3. Authority - "experts agree", celebrity endorsement
4. Commitment/consistency - get you to agree, keep you going that way.  "wouldn't you agree that .....", well, given your commitment to this cause, please support our efforts by ....
5. Liking - tupperware party; you are more likely to buy from someone you like
6. Consensus - going with the crowd; be an individual like all of us millions that like Dr. Pepper

The Obamacare Generation | RealClearPolitics

Among these unanswered questions, the most disturbing pertains to the demand that millions of so-called millennials under 30 must purchase health insurance -- estimated at about $1,700 a year -- that they will hardly use. Their premiums supposedly will subsidize older, in-need Americans who cannot pay the full costs of coverage that they will draw on frequently.
We forget that young people are already targeted for a number of government redistribution plans. Of America's age cohorts, the under-30 bunch is the least likely to be employed, and the most likely to work at low-wage or part-time jobs.
Millennials already pay high payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare coverage for the elderly. Yet most economists predict that both programs will soon prove insolvent and will not be able to extend the present level of benefits to young contributors when they retire.
Read more: 

The Grumpy Economist: Chris Demuth on Obamacare

This is an important point. The alternatives will advance "liberal" values, and give people of modest means better care at lower cost than Obamacare. They "go further and aim higher."  This is not the usual narrative of "people need" government help vs. stingy budget hawks. This is about a better way to achieve the same goals-- and more. 

What are we talking about? In a nutshell, 
Tax and regulatory reforms, and targeted public subsidies, would provide portable and renewable insurance, including for those who have developed costly health conditions; would legalize (rather than banish) low-cost insurance for essential medical services..and would encourage direct purchase of routine medical goods and services where insurance has nothing to offer but paperwork.

Inequality and Unicorns, Darlings of the Progressives

Virtually all of the data cited by the left to decry the supposed explosion of income inequality, as Lee Ohanian and Kip Hagopian point out in their seminal paper, "The Mismeasure of Inequality" (Policy Review, 2011), use a Census Bureau definition of "money income" that excludes taxes, transfer payments like Medicaid, Medicare, nutrition assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and even costly employee benefits such as health insurance.
Thus the data that is conventionally used to calculate the so-called Gini coefficient—the most commonly used measure of income inequality—ignore America's highly progressive income tax system and the panoply of benefits and transfer payments. According to Messrs. Ohanian and Hagopian, once the effect of taxes and transfer payments is taken into account, "inequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009, when the Gini coefficient dropped from .395 to .388."
"Seek and you shall find."  Unless what you seek is a reason why inequality of income or wealth matters.  I have yet to find even a bare bones explanation that goes beyond voodoo and chicken bones for rationale.  

Why Inequality Matters -

There's weak sauce and then there's this.  The most vague, assumption upon assumption laden of arguments FOR increasing the use of force against the citizenry by the government.  

I'm still waiting for anyone to address what could be done to change the so called inequality problem.  I'm still waiting for anyone to describe in terms other than wishes and horses how they can tell inequality of outcome causes harm to anyone, rather than people causing themselves harm by inequality in ability to choose well what to do with one's time/money.  

Krugman's opinion is the field was rigged by bad government to stack it towards the enrichment of the rich to the detriment of the poor.  My opinion is, all attempts to organize economies hurt the poor, since the reason they are poor is they are not as resourceful and cannot dodge consequences of government meddling like the rich can.  The poor also cannot set themselves up to get big payouts from government like the politically connected do.  IOW - more government meddling, more inequality.  

If there's anything in Krugman's analysis that would justify the use of the government's monopoly on coercive force, I'd like to see it.  I think his answer would, "If I could just run all this like I think it should be run, we wouldn't have all this inequality, everybody would be better off."  

Really?  OK great, just run this whole show then Paul, what could possibly go wrong.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Smart Step for Child Safety

Don’t visit Viola Nelson Elementary School in Niles, Ill., if there’s a warrant out for your arrest. All guests must present a photo i.d. before they can get past the staffer at the school’s locked doors, and when they do a computer runs an instant criminal background check.
As the anniversary of Newtown looms, security experts say the grade school in suburban Chicago is a model of the sort of technology, security training and forethought that can prevent a worst-case scenario. “What the Nelson School is doing is absolutely correct,” said safety consultant Sal Lifrieri, a former director of security at the New York City Office of Emergency Management. “They understand the reality and are taking the steps necessary to protect students.”

Gun-Control Dishonesty | National Review Online

You will notice that in not a single one of the cases listed above did a perpetrator buy his weapon through an "unregulated private sale," through "the Internet," or in "the parking lot at a gun show." Not one. Instead, in each and every case, one of two things happened: Either (a) the killer followed the law to the letter, or (b) he broke it spectacularly. That Sandy Hook involved little children made it that much harder to bear. But it did not change the salient fact: that massacrs eand private sales have pretty much nothing to do with one another.

George F. Will: Raise the minimum wage? It’s iffy. - The Washington Post

And that's about all I have to say about that.

Raise minimum wage? It's iffy

"It's not true that life is one damn thing after another — it's one damn thing over and over."
— Edna St. Vincent Millay

Liberals' love of recycling extends to their ideas, one of which illustrates the miniaturization of Barack Obama's presidency. He fervently favors a minor measure that would have mostly small, mostly injurious effects on a small number of people. Nevertheless, raising the minimum hourly wage for the 23rd time since 1938, from today's $7.25 to $10.10, is a nifty idea, if:
If government is good at setting prices. Government — subsidizer of Solyndra, operator of the ethanol program, creator of — uses minimum-wage laws to set the price for the labor of workers who are apt to add only small value to the economy.

The rest of the list is just as awesome or moreso.

Charles Krauthammer: Obama the oblivious - The Washington Post

I guess now we know why he leans on that teleprompter so much.

Obama's late discovery is especially remarkable considering that he built his entire political philosophy on the rock of Big Government, on the fervent belief in the state as the very engine of collective action and the ultimate source of national greatness. (Indeed, of individual success as well, as in "If you've got a business — you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.")
This blinding revelation of the ponderous incompetence of bureaucratic government came just a few weeks after Obama confessed that "what we're also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy." Another light bulb goes off, this one three years after passing a law designed to force millions of Americans to shop for new health plans via the maze of untried, untested, insecure, unreliable online "exchanges."

RealClearDefense - CIA Benghazi Team Clash Led to "Stand Down" Report

This narrative makes more sense to me than any prior piece that I read on this topic.

Boskin: ObamaCare's Troubles Are Only Beginning -

The risk of a complete repeal if a Republican takes the White House in 2016 will put enormous pressure on Democratic candidates—and on Republicans—to articulate a compelling alternative to the cost and coverage problems that beset health care. A good start would be sliding-scale subsidies to help people buy a low-cost catastrophic plan, purchasable across state lines, equalized tax treatment of those buying insurance on their own with those on employer plans, and expanded high-risk pools.

Climate change expert's fraud was 'crime of massive proportion,' say feds - Investigations

Your government, hard at work.  The mission - it's so very critical!

Beale was caught when he “retired” very publicly but kept drawing his large salary for another year and a half. Top EPA officials, including McCarthy, attended a September 2011 retirement party for Beale and two colleagues aboard a Potomac yacht. Six months later, McCarthy learned he was still on the payroll
In a March 29, 2012 email, she wrote, “I thought he had already retired. She then initiated a review that was forwarded to the EPA general counsel’s office. But the inspector general’s office was not alerted until February 2013 and he didn't actually retire until April.
Sullivan said he doubted Beale’s fraud could occur at any federal agency other than the EPA. “There’s a certain culture here at the EPA where the mission is the most important thing,” he said. “They don’t think like criminal investigators. They tend to be very trusting and accepting.”

Record High in U.S. Say Big Government Greatest Threat

Can this be true?  I hope so.

PRINCETON, NJ -- Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in the nearly 50-year history of this question. The prior high for big government was 65% in 1999 and 2000. Big government has always topped big business and big labor, including in the initial asking in 1965, but just 35% named it at that time.

What We Imagine We Can Design

Freaking love this analysis of the effects of implementation of minimum wages.  These things don't happen in a vacuum, be we dearly love the idea that simple coercion by the state will result ONLY in the thing we want to think should happen.

Economic Reality and the Minimum Wage | RealClearPolitics

But they must doubt their own case. Otherwise, they would propose an even higher amount, confident it will be irrelevant to hiring decisions. If a minimum wage of $20 or $30 an hour would cause layoffs, though, why wouldn't $10.10? At what point on the wage scale does the law of supply and demand take effect?
Even liberal hero Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics and columnist for The New York Times, has grudgingly acknowledged this reality. In his 1998 textbook, he wrote that "the centrist view is probably that minimum wages 'do,' in fact, reduce employment, but that the effects are small."
In the short run, McDonald's and KFC might have little choice but to keep staffing at current levels and cough up more on payday. But in the long run, employers would have a significant incentive to find ways to employ fewer workers -- by automating tasks, moving to more self-service, demanding more of each employee, cutting back store hours or closing marginal outlets.

Oh no, they are so smart they can pick the exact right amount of the minimum wage so that no one gets hurt by their use of force.  You see, folks with uniforms and guns can solve anything if the leadership is as smart as this administration is.

What Insurance Does

The BLUF:  Paying for expected and routine health care transactions via insurance policies is expensive.  Insurance is only a smart way to get care if the care is unexpected and expensive.

This is a passionate description of the change that is coming with Obamacare, but this is the good part - more people will be paying more money out of pocket for their health care.  I don't think folks with more comprehensive insurance know this is good - it is good because it will tend to reduce consumption of health care and decrease total cost for health care and will put some market tension back into health care delivery.  however, as it stands now, many younger healthier folks will be paying higher premiums AND higher out of pocket expense.  Like this person:

"That is putting everyone under $75k a year on welfare... If u r an average family with two kids, and you each go for preventive maintenance (ie well doctor/routine visits).. Which includes two dentals a year, one vision, one doctor visit each... For women over AND UNDER forty that is also an GYN visit... Over forty add a mammogram and a prostate exam for men, which also means TYPICAL AND ROUTINE blood work once a year... And doc visits cost $150-$250 a pop, no insurance, NO TESTS...SO SAY, $200x 6 =$1200.+ 200x4=800 dental + $50x4 =$200(lowball) vision. Nobody needs glasses, nobody had any cavities, nobody had a cold or sinus infection, nobody needed prescriptions. Each member gets bloodwork once every four years, not true... But let's say it is. So basically, one person a year... Routine stuff... You increase the cost of the doc visit because of phlebotemy by at least $40, and you now have a routine labwork that costs another $200. $2,440 a year in basic costs. Nothing wrong. No sickchild visits. So, if you can't find an average of $200 extra a month to budget for medical expenses you need welfare? Now... Add your risk of having two kids and a broken arm er visit.... $10k easy. Add two doc visits for flu... The higher rate for doc visit of $250 each, $200 labs each. A cavity, $200. An irreg pap... Which happens ALL of the time... But I havent even included the labwork for gyn paps or the mammogram or prostate exam. IF you go to the doctor on a preventive care REGULAR basis, as suggested... And only get those associated labs, for parents over 40...that's another $750 cuz of radiology, higher doc visits, phlebotemy, labs, etc.... So over $3k a year, and add that flu stuff.. Another $1100... Now over $4000. Now u need meds for flu... Time off of work because one adult got it from a kid. Self-employed, no work, no money. Seriously dude... Get a grip on reality.

A respondent nails the answer:
You are doing the budgeting backwards. You do not find an extra $200 a month for medical expenses any more than you find an extra $400 a month for food. You budget that up front.

Call around, you should not be paying more than $125 for a routine doctor's visit. Flu stuff $1100?? Flu shots are $35 at Wal Mart and there is very little point in going to the doctor if you get the flu (for most people). If you are routinely spending $1100 for flu treatment a year, you are doing something wrong (or your wrote something that I did not remember).

Same with $200 per cavity, you can find dental care much cheaper than that. Dentist are amazingly competitive. Go out of town if you have to, I have found dental offices that open at 5am so you do not even have to miss work.

And even if your numbers are all correct and those are common, everyday expenses for routine medical care, WHY on earth would you want to pay EVEN MORE to have those expense covered by insurance? Insurance adds paperwork and the insurance companies make a profit on every dollar they collect.

In her response, she seems to part get it, part not get it.  I think she's just angry because now she's paying higher premiums AND more out of pocket.  I believe this is because she is young and healthy and now is paying higher premiums so that Obamacare can fund older, sicker folks.  This is the strangeness - the old are perceived as having less money and fewer options, but on average, the old are wealthier than the young.  Obamacare means the poorer young are financing their health care, the healthcare of older, and wealthier citizens, in addition to Medicare and Social Security.  It is a massive transfer of wealth from the old to the young.  Will the young get their payback?  Will this system survive the demographics of the next 50 years?  It seems unlikely.  This is the part democrats/progressives can't keep strait.  They want fewer folks on the planet because they view us as inherently damaging to the environment (they may be right about that), but they keep building government systems that only work if old folks die relatively young, or if for each old person there are 3 or more young people (IOW, they are betting on a high birth rate and an expanding population forever).  The response:

Because that is average... Because most people also have a lid get a broken arm, too. Because most People get a root canal or have a kid with a cavity... Because most people need contacts or glasses. Because many people need a chiropractic visit every now and then, or a mental health professional.

Those are not abnormal costs. Those are the things that will break your bank if ALL you are doing is trading an insurance premium for "routine" doctor visits. Not huge hospital stays and emergencies. Normal, everyday crap that just "is"... Now add in the crap like happened to me.....the stuff you would NEVER think happens... But DOES ALL OF THE TIME... Or weird things, like I was evidently born with deformed first ribs, and an extra one on one side. Caused my hands to have pain, arms shooting pains, but was worse on left side. Xrays didn't show it... Mri with dye contrast had to be done, while we scheduled the biopsy cuz doc thought it was cancer. Found out, eventually, what it was... Thoracic outlet syndrome. Went to cardiothoracic surgeon.... ONLY ONE WHO COULD do surgery at kirklin clinic, one of like five in country. They go in, and find an extra rib too... Never showed on anything.. They removed both of those ribs.

All of that was about 20 years ago... Cost ? About $100k. Nine years ago hospital stay due to birth complications? About the same... A little under. Since she was Also in NICU for 7 weeks.

My point to Donna and Carrie was this... You have KIDS.... you NEED the insurance. You cannot predict life... Especially not for them.

My point about healthcare reform? My answer would've been easy, solved the problem, not had hard to follow metal plans, would've created competition, kept government involvement without the need for an IRS oversight, reduced actual medical costs, reduced insurance spikes, made it MUCH closer to affordable, would've created some semblance of required responsibility from those receiving welfare. And that this current system is NOTHING like what medicaid and medicare were like even three years ago.