Tag: Obamacare

Wishful Thinking about ObamaCare Investigations

NPR found two Republicans who caution House Republicans that their efforts to investigate ObamaCare could “backfire.”

But all those hearings could also have the opposite effect — giving the administration a chance to make its case in favor of the law, a case that often got drowned out during the election campaign.

“The next round of this, while there will continue to be the broad sloganeering on both sides, will presumably get a little bit more into the detail,” says Martin Corry, a health care lobbyist and former official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration. “So if you’re a family with a 22-year-old still in college, you may not want to see that provision [that lets grown children stay on their parents’ health plans] repealed.”

… Former Republican Sen. Dave Durenberger of Minnesota says he thinks the Democratic-led Senate could try to dampen the House repeal efforts by holding a series of hearings of its own.

Let me see if I understand.  If House Republicans hold hearings, it will be a boon to ObamaCare.   Even though House and Senate Democrats stoutly refused to hold such hearings.  If House Republicans hold hearings, sloganeering will give way to detail.  And if House Republicans hold hearings, ObamaCare supporters will finally be able to get their message out — something they were unable to do while they controlled both chambers of Congress and the executive branch.

ObamaCare Takes a Shellacking

It wasn’t just the party of ObamaCare or its champion that took a “shellacking” at the polls yesterday.  The law took a shellacking as well.  One pollster reports:

This election was a clear signal that voters do not want President Obama’s health care plan.  Nearly half (45%) of voters say their vote was a message to oppose the President’s plan….

Arizona and Oklahoma passed constitutional amendments designed to block ObamaCare’s individual mandate.  Many new governors either plan to join the 22 states already challenging ObamaCare in court, or to block its implementation in other ways.  Congressional Republicans appear determined to use every tool in their arsenal to repeal it.

President Obama is striking a conciliatory note, saying he is open to “tweaks:”

If the Republicans have ideas for how to improve our healthcare system, if they want to suggest modifications that would deliver faster, more effective reform… I am happy to consider some of those ideas.

There is room to doubt his sincerity.  The Washington Post has reported that when President Obama begins a sentence with, Let me be clear, it is “a signal that what follows will be anything but.”  Obama has likewise claimed open-mindedness and flexibility when his behavior exhibited the opposite qualities.  (Remember how last year’s White House summit on health care was all about gathering “the best ideas.”)

Yet with a firm conviction that facts and science and argument still matter, I resubmit to President Obama this Cato Policy Analysis: Yes, Mr. President: A Free Market Can Fix Health Care.  In fact, a free market is the only thing that will.  But a reasonably free market is impossible with ObamaCare still on the books.

I doubt the president will read it.  But Republicans should.  They seem pretty solid on Repeal.  They’re weaker on Replace.

NPR Story Was Hardly Biased, but the Headline?

Today’s NPR story, “Health Law Hardly At Fault For Rising Premiums,” was much fairer than its headline (and the sub-heads, if that’s what we call them).   ObamaCare is “hardly at fault for rising premiums?”  Really?  The story quotes an insurance-industry flack who well establishes what the Obama administration’s own regulations confirm: ObamaCare will be a major driver of premium increases for some health plans.  A sub-head calls such claims “misinformation.”  Oh?  The article does more to bolster those claims than the administration’s flack does to knock them down.  A more accurate headline would have been, “Health Law at Fault for Rising Premiums? In Some Cases, Yes.”

One wonders whether, in some posh Versailles salon, there’s an editor who already knows what the headline should be – never mind what the article says.

Boehner Endorses More Medicare Spending: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss?

While flipping through the radio on my way to pick my son up from school yesterday afternoon, I was dumbfounded to hear Congressman John Boehner talk about repealing Obama’s Medicare cuts on Sean Hannity’s show.

I wasn’t shocked that Boehner was referring to non-existent cuts (Medicare spending is projected to jump from $519 billion in 2010 to $677 billion in 2015 according to the Congressional Budget Office). I’ve been dealing with Washington’s dishonest definition of “spending cuts” for decades, so I’m hardly fazed by that type of routine inaccuracy.

But I was amazed that the presumptive future Speaker of the House went on a supposedly conservative talk radio show and said that increasing Medicare spending would be on the agenda of a GOP-controlled Congress. (I wondered if I somehow misinterpreted what was being said, but David Frum heard the same thing)

To be fair, Boehner also said that he wanted to repeal ObamaCare, so it would be unfair to claim that the interview was all Bush-style, big-government conservatism. But it is not a positive sign that Boehner is talking about more spending before he’s even had a chance to pick out the drapes for his new office.

Bootleggers & Baptists, Sugary Soda Edition

Here’s a poor, unsuccessful letter that impressed the relevant New York Times reporters, but not their editorial overlords:

It may seem counter-intuitive that bleeding-heart anti-hunger groups and “Big Food and Big Beverage” would ally to oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s request to prevent New Yorkers from using food stamps to purchase sugary sodas [“Unlikely Allies in Food Stamp Debate,” October 16].  Yet the “bootleggers and Baptists” theory of regulation explains that this “strange bedfellows” phenomenon is actually the norm, rather than the exception.

Most laws have two types of supporters: the true believers and those who benefit financially.  Baptists don’t want you drinking on the Lord ’s Day, for example, while bootleggers profit from the above-market prices that Blue Laws enable them to charge on Sundays.  Consequently, both groups support politicians who support Blue Laws.

Baptists-and-bootleggers coalitions underlie almost all government activities. Defense spending: (neo)conservatives and defense contractors.  President Obama’s new health care law: the political left and the health care and insurance industries. Ethanol subsidies: environmentalists and agribusiness. Education: egalitarians and teachers’ unions. The list goes on.

It’s easier to illustrate the theory (and sexier) when the bootleggers are non-believers who cynically manipulate government solely for their own gain.  Yet one can be both a Baptist and a bootlegger. The Coca-Cola Company may sincerely believe that society benefits when the government subsidizes sugary sodas for poor people.  Even so, a bootlegger-cum-Baptist can still rip off taxpayers.

This morning, NPR reported on another bootleggers-and-Baptists coalition: anti-immigration zealots and the prison industry.

Cost-Slashing? No, Cost-Shifting.

Here’s a poor, unsuccessful letter I sent to the editor of the Los Angeles Times:

Three and a half million Californians may become eligible for subsidized private health insurance in 2014 under ObamaCare [“3.5 million Californians would be eligible for healthcare tax credits, study finds,” October 6], but those subsidies will not “slash the cost” of their health insurance.  As ObamaCare causes health insurance premiums to rise by as much as 30 percent, the private-insurance subsidies will shift those costs to taxpayers.  A bipartisan majority of Americans opposes ObamaCare in part because such shell games increase costs rather than reduce them.

Washington State Regulator Can’t Prevent ObamaCare from Destroying Child-Only Market

ObamaCare has touched off a battle between Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield and Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. From the commissioner’s press release:

Kreidler orders Regence BlueShield to cover children

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler ordered Regence BlueShield this morning to stop illegally denying insurance to children, effective immediately.

“Regence is in clear violation of state law that prohibits insurers from denying insurance to people on the basis of age,” said Kreidler. “I was shocked and deeply disappointed when Regence announced its decision last week to stop selling insurance to kids.”

The Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to cover kids with pre-existing conditions…

Regence Blue Shield, the largest health insurer in the individual market, notified Kreidler on Sept. 27 that, effective Oct. 1, it would no longer sell individual health insurance policies to kids.

From Regence’s press release:

We were shocked by the Commissioner’s action and press statement this morning. This gross politicization of such a complex regulatory problem does not help address the very real economic challenges of providing coverage to Washingtonians seeking individual insurance policies, especially children.

Over the past several months, we have had at least five separate conversations with the Commissioner and his staff regarding planned changes to how we would cover children under age 19. Our goal in those discussions was and continues to be a solution that would allow us to serve all of our individual members – including children – without exacerbating costs and increasing coverage risks for the entire pool. Never once did the Commissioner or his staff express any concern that these changes might violate state law. We’re disappointed that the Commissioner appears to have suddenly changed his perspective…

We’ve been very clear that we will insure kids during open enrollment periods when the child is not the sole subscriber – and we will do so regardless of health status. Dozens of carriers across the country have found it necessary to adopt similar policies.

We disagree with the Commissioner’s action today and will consider how it might impact our ability to offer coverage to all individuals across the state. While more than ten carriers have deserted Washington’s individual market – leaving three today – Regence has continued to insure these members despite losses of more than $33 million in the last three years. While we remain committed to our individual members, we simply cannot expose our broader membership to greater risk. Therefore, we believe the changes we made are in the best interest of the nearly one million Washingtonians we serve today.

Washingtonians want and need an equitable, stable insurance market that people can afford. We want to avoid the mistakes of the 1990’s when a small minority was allowed to game the insurance system by purchasing insurance only when they were sick, which led to rate spikes and the collapse of the individual market.

Either way, the child-only market is toast.