Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Swinging for the Fences, Using a Balsa Bat

But to explain why they should have done something else, I should first explain why I think that what we’re seeing now was predictable. The answer is that long before the exchanges opened, many critics warned that its weak mandate – the fines for failing to participate are modest -- would result in rampant gaming of the system by people who signed up only when they got sick.

The weakness of the mandate, like other flaws in the law, was politically necessary because the law was already quite unpopular, and its supporters couldn’t afford to alienate a single other voter. So they passed what they could and hoped to fix it later. However, the unpopularity of the law meant that there was a strong risk that they wouldn’t be able to fix it later, and indeed that is where we now find ourselves.

I don’t mean to suggest that the law has been an utter failure by the standards of its architects. They have not achieved anything close to universal coverage, but they did manage to reduce the number of uninsured people by somewhere between a quarter and a third. However, I think that if they had been a little less stuck on the idea of attacking every problem at once, they might have passed a less ambitious plan that would nonetheless have expanded coverage substantially, with far fewer risks to either the system or the Democratic Party.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Anyone who saves me from the boogey man is good enough ... even if they are awash in corruption

Breathtaking how acceptable this is to so many. "Anything's better than a republican", I guess, that's how I feel about a clinton.
But it was always something of a sideshow. The real question wasn't classification but: Why did she have a private server in the first place? She obviously lied about the purpose. It wasn't convenience. It was concealment. What exactly was she hiding?
Was this merely the prudent paranoia of someone who habitually walks the line of legality? After all, if she controls the server, she controls the evidence, and can destroy it -- as she did 30,000 emails -- at will.
But destroy what? Remember: She set up the system before even taking office. It's clear what she wanted to protect from scrutiny: Clinton Foundation business.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Really? No, not really, I was just kidding about that Obamacare lowering prices thing.

Last week, Brian Blase highlighted a more serious Brookings analysis that contradicts Adler and Ginsburg's claims. That analysis, a genuine study by Amanda Kowalski for Brookings's Economic Studies program, found the following: "Across all states, from before [Obamacare's implementation] to the first half of 2014, enrollment-weighted premiums in the individual health insurance market increased by 24.4 percent beyond what they would have had they simply followed state-level seasonally adjusted trends." In other words, Obamacare apparently increased premiums by about 24 percent versus what they otherwise would have been.

"I'm not dead yet. I think I'll go for a walk."

And even with the mandate in place, some people appear to be gaming the system. A top actuary for insurer Highmark told the Times that in Pennsylvania, roughly 250 of its beneficiaries on had already incurred more than $100,000 in expenses this year. "People use insurance benefits and then discontinue paying for coverage once their individual health care needs have been temporarily met," he said, driving up the cost of coverage for everyone. Last year, UnitedHealth also indicated that individuals buying coverage and dropping it was driving losses.
As all this is happening, of course, insurers are bailing on the system, unable to make the numbers add up.
It's not an exact replica of the Washington state experience, but there are certainly similarities. The underlying point of all of this is that if the law's exchanges remain on their current wobbly trajectory, its dysfunction is nearly certain to grow. And the rough negotiations between Aetna and the administration may make insurers who are already losing money even more wary of further participation in the system.
That means that the prospect of significant further reforms may soon be on the table—which will likely include everything from poorly conceived state-based single-payer plans to poorly conceived federal health insurance systemsto, ah, poorly conceived conservative reforms. If anything, reforming health reform will be even more difficult than the initial project.

Damned if you do/don't ...

This week the Administration also released a July 5 letter from Aetna in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Democrats claim the document shows CEO Mark Bertolini conditioning Aetna’s ObamaCare cooperation on merger approval.
This is some gall. Aetna was answering a June 28 “civil investigative demand,” in which Justice’s antitrust division specifically asked how blocking the merger would “affect Aetna’s business strategy and operations, including Aetna’s participation of the public exchanges related to the Affordable Care Act.”
Soliciting sensitive internal information that Aetna is legally compelled to provide—and then making it public to sandbag the company—is the behavior of political plumbers, not allegedly impartial technocrats. If police tried this, it’d be entrapment.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cause and Effect - Don't Trust the Experts

In 1960, well before large welfare states had been created in Nordic countries, Swedes lived 3.2 years longer than Americans, while Norwegians lived 3.8 years longer and Danes 2.4 years longer. Today, after the Nordic countries have introduced universal health care, the difference has shrunk to 2.9 years in Sweden, 2.6 years in Norway, and 1.5 years in Denmark. The differences in life span have actually shrunk as Nordic countries moved from a small public sector to a democratic-socialist model with universal health coverage. Moreover, the longest average life spans among Nordic peoples are found in Iceland — the small Nordic cousin that has the most distinctly Nordic culture, but also the most limited welfare system. It is equally interesting to look at Nordic Americans, a group that combines the Nordic success culture with U.S.-style capitalism. It was mainly the impoverished people in the Nordic countries who sailed across the Atlantic to found new lives. And yet, as I write in my book, Danish Americans today have fully 55 percent higher living standard than Danes. Similarly, Swedish Americans have a 53 percent higher living standard than Swedes. The gap is even greater, 59 percent, between Finnish Americans and Finns. Even though Norwegian Americans lack the oil wealth of Norway, they have a 3 percent higher living standard than their cousins overseas. Perhaps even more astonishing is that Nordic Americans are more socially successful than their cousins in Scandinavia. They have much lower high-school-dropout rates, much lower unemployment rates, and even slightly lower poverty rates. Similarly, immigrants to the Nordic countries fare worse than those to the U.S. with regard to employment, self-reported health, and the school results of their children. In short: What the American Left admires about the Nordic countries clearly has less to do with their social-democratic welfare states than with the exceptional culture in these historically Protestant societies.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Cut Premiums by $2500? Not So Much

Last week, Brian Blase highlighted a more serious Brookings analysis that contradicts Adler and Ginsburg's claims. That analysis, a genuine study by Amanda Kowalski for Brookings's Economic Studies program, found the following: "Across all states, from before [Obamacare's implementation] to the first half of 2014, enrollment-weighted premiums in the individual health insurance market increased by 24.4 percent beyond what they would have had they simply followed state-level seasonally adjusted trends." In other words, Obamacare apparently increased premiums by about 24 percent versus what they otherwise would have been.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Entitled to Fruits of the Labor of Others

Clinton's other pandering claim that we have the most "generous young people we've ever had" is equally false. Thanks to the left, we probably have the least generous young people we've ever had. No generation in American history (with the possible exception of the baby-boom generation) has been so self-centered. The millenials' motto is "Give me."
They say: "Give me a free college education. Absolve me of my financial debts. Give me free health care. Give me benefits until I find the job I deem commensurate with my college degree. "
No wonder the Pew Center found that nearly 50 percent of young Americans have a favorable view of socialism.

She's off the deep end to get the Sanders mob on board.  

What a miserable choice we'll be making in November.

Olympics or Freak Show?

One week before the 2016 Summer Olympics even begin, everyone paying attention seems to be girding themselves for a disaster. Despite promises from officials that Rio de Janeiro would undergo dramatic environmental cleanup ahead of the Games, waterways where some athletes will be performing are still teeming with pollution — prompting one local doctor to tell the New York Times that “foreign athletes will literally be swimming in human crap.” Some of the facilities are unfinished, forcingat least one of the nation’s athletes out of the village in search of last-minute alternative housing.
And then there are the security concerns: Last week, Brazilian police announced they’d arrested the tenth suspect in a terror-cell plot, but in the midst of worries about lone-wolf attacks, the government only just contracted a relatively unknown firm to hire and train more than 6,000 security screeners for the event — a delay one U.S. expert told The Wall Street Journal was “staggering.” The panic over the country’s crime problem is bad enough that a Brazilian soccer star took to Instagramearlier this year to issue a dire warning: “I advise everyone with plans to visit Brazil for the Olympics in Rio — to stay home. You’ll be putting your life at risk here. This is without even speaking about the state of public hospitals and all the Brazilian political mess. Only God can change the situation in our Brazil.”

Dysfunctional culture, with no idea of what liberty is or what it can do to empower the masses, is on display.

Olympics? Yawn

It hasn't been about idealism for a long, long time.  It's about faux nationalism, entertainment and money.  If only it were honest about the making money using faux nationalism and entertainment, it would all be more sufferable.

Ambition Is Not Service

Last week, Gold Star father Khizr Khan made headlines when he ripped Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, declaring at the crescendo of his speech at the Democratic National Convention that Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one.” It was an undeniably powerful moment — made only more powerful by Trump’s personal counterattack against Khan and his wife, Ghazala. The Khans’ son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. At the same time, however, calling out Trump’s lack of sacrifice was an odd choice — especially when Hillary Clinton is his opponent. After all, what has Hillary ever sacrificed? On Saturday, I made that point on Twitter, and the backlash was immediate: Hillary gave up high-paying jobs to work in Arkansas and teach law school; she has a lifetime of “public service.” How dare I compare Trump’s private-sector greed with Hillary’s public-sector “sacrifice.” Let’s be clear. Hillary Clinton hasn’t sacrificed — she’s lived the progressive dream. And she’s certainly not a “public servant” — she’s a cynical, grasping, and ambitious politician. Her accomplishments are meager, and her one guiding star is her own self-advancement.

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Pants on Fire

But he also had a point.
I was on an airport tarmac with Clinton and Sir Edmund Hillary in Katmandu, Nepal, in 1995 when she explained that her mother had read about the famous mountaineer in an article, and named her in his honor. The story seemed a bit strange at the time, if only because Clinton was born in 1947 and Hillary didn’t climb Mount Everest until 1953. It wasn’t until Clinton’s 2006 Senate reelection campaign that her aides acknowledged that the naming tale was a bit of family fabulism, conjured up after the fact to inspire by Clinton’s mother to inspire her to achievement.
In her 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton took to claiming that in 1996, when she was first lady, she and her entourage had landed in Bosnia “under sniper fire” and been forced to run for safety “with our heads down.” Subsequent inquiry disclosed that the airport was safe and that Clinton had bent down only to kiss a smiling 8-year-old Muslim girl who read a poem in her honor. Clinton later amended her account to say that she had vivid memories of an airborne security briefing warning about the threat of sniper fire.