Are The Republicans Trying To Lose Their Majority In Congress?

“The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy” (Georgetown University Professor Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, 1966.)

It is my opinion that the above quote perfectly describes the ObamaCare repeal bill the Republicans are attempting to see to the American people.

Yesterday Reason Magazine posted an analysis of the proposed bill. We all remember the Republicans promising the voters that if we would give them the House, they would repeal ObamaCare. Then they promised the voters that if we gave them the Senate, they would repeal ObamaCare. Then they promised the voters that if we gave them the White House, they would repeal ObamaCare. Now they are trying to sell us a bill that does not repeal ObamaCare. The bill continues the bad policies that have caused so many insurance companies to opt out of ObamaCare. The bill continues the bad policies that have caused health insurance premiums to rise sharply and government expenditures on ObamaCare to skyrocket. This bill will ensure that a large number of Republican Congressmen running for office in 2018 will be voted out of office. The bill should be called the ‘give Congress back to the Democrats’ act.

The article at Reason Magazine explains:

In other words, it is exactly what critics predicted: a bill that, at least in the near term, retains weakened versions of nearly all of Obamacare’s core features while fixing few if any of the problems that Republicans say they want to fix. It is Obamacare lite—the health law that Republicans claim to oppose, but less of it. It represents a total failure of Republican policy imagination.

To understand the Senate plan, it helps to recall Obamacare’s underlying framework. The centerpiece of the law was a reform of the individual market, intended to give those who do not get coverage through work or a federal program access to subsidized, regulated coverage. The law created a new federal subsidy, based on income, for lower- and middle-income households to purchase health insurance. It set up federal rules requiring insurers to sell to all comers while limiting their ability to charge based on health history. It mandated that all individuals obtain health coverage or pay a tax penalty. And it erected a system of government-run health insurance exchanges on which consumers could purchase subsidized, regulated individual market coverage.

Those exchanges have never been fully stable as either business or policy propositions. Premiums have marched steadily upwards; last year, the price of a typical plan rose by 22 percent, and early reports show large spikes coming this year as well. The non-profit health insurance organizations that Obamacare funded have mostly shut down. Large, for-profit health insurers, meanwhile, have lost money and either scaled back their participation or dropped out entirely.

Republicans have repeatedly criticized these marketplaces for being expensive and unstable. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who spearheaded the drafting of this bill, likes to say, “Obamacare is collapsing around us.”

Yet even more than the House plan, the Senate plan retains the essential structure of Obamacare’s individual market reforms. It would likely result in fewer people being covered, and it would not stop the destabilization of the market.

There is a correct way for Congress to deal with healthcare reform–get the government out of it, and let the free market prevail. That would mean a true repeal of ObamaCare. Unfortunately we have reached a point where neither political party truly shares the interests of the American people. The first step in the process of fixing healthcare in America should be the full repeal of ObamaCare. It was a bad bill. The second step in this process should be to make sure that Congress is covered under whatever healthcare plan they pass. That might result in a better product. The third step would be to look at the tort reform that was successful in Texas and see if it could be applied on a national level. The fourth step would be to make health insurance something that could be purchased across state lines. These four simple steps would stop the damage currently being done by ObamaCare. There are other things that could be done–tax credits that help people pay health insurance premiums, health savings accounts, etc., but these could be added later. Right now we just need full repeal.

If the current ObamaCare Lite bill proposed is not significantly altered, it should not be passed. However, what is actually happening here is that the Democrats are moving ahead with their plan for total government healthcare (single payer), which is what will magically appear when ObamaCare collapses. It is time for the Republicans to repeal ObamaCare fully. Then they can worry about how to replace it. Right now, they are simply working hard to remove themselves from office.

 

What Tax Reform Can Do

President Truman is quoted as saying, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” He also said, “You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.” We are seeing the truth in both of those observations in the current tax debate.

This is a picture of America‘s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in recent years from the balance:

You might remember that 2012 was the year the tax increases to pay for ObamaCare began. In 2013 the Capital Gains tax increased for high income earners, and the increase in the medicare payroll tax also began in 2013. Obviously raising taxes did not help the economy.

This is the laffer curve:

As you can see, there is a point where tax increases no longer generate revenue.

I am going to assume that Democrats are going to try to block President Trump’s tax reform. I think that is rather obvious. So the question becomes, “Do Democrats not understand economic principles and economic growth (e.g. the Laffer curve) or do they simply want to enslave the American worker?” At this point it is a valid question.

I can understand high-tax states not wanting to give up the benefit they reap in the current tax code. I can also understand all the lobbyists tearing their hair out because their special interest will no longer get a tax break, but at some point Congress needs to do what is best for the country and for the American people. Economic growth is struggling under the current tax burden. Every American who works is giving the government a higher percentage of what they earn than the Medieval surfs paid their lords. That is a scary thought. At the same time, many people who choose not to work are driving expensive cars and living better than the people who do work. The poverty in America that the government is now supporting currently owns a nice car, a big-screen television, an ipad, a smart phones, and central air conditioning. I am all for helping people in time of need, but I think we have lost our way.

Congress needs to pass President Trump’s tax plan. Every Congressman who does not support the plan needs to be voted out of office as soon as possible. Unless the American voters begin to hold their representatives accountable for what they do, the swamp will never get drained. The problem is in both political parties. It is time to take note of the people whose votes help America and the people whose votes hurt America.

 

Has Sovereignty Become An Issue?

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posted an article today about the repeal of ObamaCare. That’s not so unusual, but some of the source of the pushback against the repeal is interesting.

The article reports:

Dana Milbank reports, with glee, that the United Nations “has contacted the Trump administration as part of an investigation into whether repealing [Obamacare] without an adequate substitute for the millions who would lose health coverage would be a violation of several international conventions that bind the United States.” The warning comes from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission (now known as the Human Rights Council) purports to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,“ Its members include China, Cuba, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.

This would be laughable if it were not serious. So what is happening here? President Trump is not a globalist. Unfortunately for a number of decades, the American government has been run by globalists. Our recent Presidents have been in step with the United Nations and have done things that have put our national sovereignty in jeopardy. Evidently the globalist elites at the United Nations now feel that they have a valid voice on the American political landscape. That’s a notion that needs to be put to rest very quickly. It is a little upsetting to think that countries with such dismal human rights records as China, Cuba, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela feel free to criticize America because America does not want socialism. Let’s look at what poverty looks like in those countries versus what poverty looks like in America.

The article goes on to report:

By way of illustration, one of the provisions the U.N. relies on in this case is Article 5(e) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ratified by the U.S. in 1994. It calls on states to “guarantee the right of everyone” to, among other things, “public health, medical care, social security and social services” without regard to race or color.

It is not far-fetched to imagine lawsuits in U.S. courts based on claims that the government is violating this kind of “obligation” to which America agreed. How far-fetched is it to imagine left-liberal judges seriously entertaining such lawsuits? Not very, in my view.

In reality, pre-Obamacare America offered health care to everyone without regard to race or color. It provided poor Americans with free health care via Medicaid. Millions of other Americans received health insurance from their employer. The rest (except those with pre-existing conditions, a matter of real concern) were free to purchase health insurance, if they so desired. The market offered plans that were not expensive — my wife had one — at least not compared to the ones Americans are required to purchase under the Obamacare regime.

No one was denied health insurance due to race or color. Nor, to my knowledge, was anyone denied service — e.g. at an emergency room — on that basis.

The article concludes:

The U.N., through its “investigation,” is claiming the right to evaluate Obamacare replacement packages. In effect, it asserts the right to assess whether the replacement incentives measure up to the Obamacare incentives (inadequate though these are).

The U.N.’s infringement on our democracy is obvious.

It’s not surprising that elites in the rest of the world want to dictate to America. It’s not surprising that many of the left want such leftist elites to dictate to us. What’s surprising is that America has gone as far as it has to provide the tools with which claims like those being made by these elite, via bureaucrats in Geneva, can be asserted with a straight face.

When the United Nations begins to attempt to interfere in internal politics of its member countries, it is time for the United Nations to go away. We need to withdraw our membership, make them pay their parking tickets, and kick them out of the country.

Why We Need A Clean Repeal Of ObamaCare

The Daily Caller posted an article today about the first U.S. city to feel the effects of the failure of ObamaCare.

The article reports:

Knoxville, Tenn., could be the first city in the U.S. where Obamacare completely collapses, leaving tens of thousands of people without the option to buy a subsidized insurance policy.

Humana, the city’s only remaining insurance provider on its Obamacare exchange, announced it is exiting the market in 2018. If that happens, Knoxville citizens will be in a rough spot. Unless another insurance provider fills Humana’s place, some 40,000 people in the Knoxville area will likely be left without the option to purchase an Obamacare-subsidized insurance policy, CNN reports.

Knoxville is illustrative of one of the main problems with Obamacare: It doesn’t promote market-based competition. Insurers pull out of marketplaces where it is not cost-efficient for them to provide services, and, as a result, consumers are left with fewer options at higher prices.

When the government interferes with the free market, bad things happen.

Because of the collapse of ObamaCare, people will have to buy their insurance in the private marketplace. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee have proposed a bill that would allow consumers to purchase any state-approved health insurance plans with ObamaCare subsidies. Again, the government is interfering in the free market.

The health insurance industry is not the villain here. Insurance companies use statistical tables to determine rates. They are in business to make money and should be allowed to do so (although allowances should be made for pre-existing conditions and long-term issues). There are a few steps that can be taken to bring reason back into the health insurance market–tort reform, selling insurance across state lines,  and high risk pools for pre-existing conditions.

Texas succeeded in slowing the rise of health insurance premiums by tort reform. Unfortunately a large percentage of the campaign money that goes to Congressional campaigns comes from trial lawyers. That will make it very difficult to pass tort reform on a national level. This is another reason to get the federal government out of the health insurance business.

Changing the Wrapping Doesn’t Change The Package

Yesterday Paul Mirengoff posted an article at Power Line about the changes made to the ObamaCare replacement bill.

The article quotes Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton:

“Despite the proposed amendments, I still cannot support the House health-care bill, nor would it pass the Senate. The amendments improve the Medicaid reforms in the original bill, but do little to address the core problem of Obamacare: rising premiums and deductibles, which are making insurance unaffordable for too many Arkansans. The House should continue its work on this bill. It’s more important to finally get health-care reform right than to get it fast.”

The article at Power Line states the following:

If, under a Republican plan, premiums/deductibles continue to rise, people will believe that Obamacare’s replacement made things worse. They will blame Republicans and the GOP will pay a heavy price.

No Republican should support replacement legislation unless he or she is confident it will result in better outcomes with regard to premiums/deductibles. If Democrats won’t support legislation that’s likely to produce that result, Republicans should either push such legislation through without Democratic support (overruling the Senate parliamentarian) if necessary or let such legislation be voted down.

Republicans have no obligation to pass replacement legislation they don’t like in order to patch up Obamacare. The Democrats created the current mess. If they won’t cooperate with the GOP in fixing it properly, Republicans shouldn’t take the political hit that would come with pretending to fix it on their own.

I left the Republican Party because I felt that they had forgotten their commitment to smaller government and had become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. The current ObamaCare replacement bill is a perfect example of that. Republicans were told that if we gave them the House, ObamaCare would be gone. When it wasn’t gone, we were told that if we gave them the House and the Senate, ObamaCare would be gone. When it wasn’t gone, we were told that if we gave them the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, ObamaCare would be gone. If this bill passes, it won’t be gone. We will simply have ObamaCare Light, a bad bill that the Republicans would be totally responsible for–just as the Democrats were totally responsible for ObamaCare. That is not a step forward–it is a step backward! Please, Republicans, do not pass this bill. Simply repeal ObamaCare. Then you can fight over its replacement. Don’t break faith with the voters.

 

One Disaster Under ObamaCare

Yesterday The Daily Signal posted an article about Pamela Weldin, a Nebraska woman who has lost her health insurance four times under ObamaCare.

The article reports:

A former dental hygienist, Weldin has all the hallmarks of a consumer intended to benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

She has been denied coverage in the past because of a pre-existing condition related to her career as a dental hygienist.

Additionally, Weldin qualifies for a tax credit, which she has received every year since 2014.

As a result, her premiums are low when compared to consumers who don’t qualify for financial assistance: In early 2015, Weldin purchased a plan through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska that cost her $232 each month.

This year, premiums for her silver-level plan with Medica are $161 per month after her tax credit.

But though Weldin has benefited from aspects of the law, she hasn’t been immune to the changes in the health insurance market that have occurred in last few years.

“I’m a person who has been denied because of pre-existing conditions,” Weldin, a Pampered Chef director, said. “I’m on Obamacare and have lost my insurance four times in three years. I understand the challenges, but it’s not sustainable.”

It gets worse:

It wasn’t until after she paid her first month’s premium, however, that Weldin learned from the insurance company that any doctor located more than 100 miles from her rural Nebraska home wasn’t in her network.

If she wanted to see her doctor in Colorado—considered out-of-network now—Weldin had to meet a $20,000 out-of-network deductible before Aetna would start covering her medical expenses.

That information, she said, wasn’t listed on HealthCare.gov when she was shopping for plans.

“$20,000 for a deductible? Are you kidding me?” Weldin said. “How is that affordable?”

If the Republican Party ever wants me to support one of their candidates again, they need to make sure ObamaCare is gone permanently by June. Otherwise they might as well be Democrats.

The Facts You Need To Fight The Current Spin

Yesterday Investors.com posted a story about what the repeal of ObamaCare will actually mean. The story separates the lies we are being told from the actual truth.

These are the five main points from the story:

  1.  Repealing ObamaCare will not add 20 million to the number of people without health insurance.
  2.  Repealing ObamaCare will not increase the deficit–leaving it in place with significantly increase the deficit in coming years.
  3.  Repealing ObamaCare will not mean that people with pre-existing conditions cannot get health insurance–the replacement plans being considered will have a place a way to cover pre-existing conditions.
  4. Repealing ObamaCare will not increase health costs. The article points out that the rate of increase in premiums for employer-provided insurance had also slowed before ObamaCare took effect. The shift in the employer market toward Health Savings Account plans — which Democrats hate — is largely responsible for that.
  5.  The claim that the voters do not want ObamaCare repealed is also false. The passage of ObamaCare strictly along Democratic Party lines lead to the loss of the House of Representatives by the Democrats in 2010, the loss of the Senate by the Democrats in 2014, and the loss of the Presidency by the Democrats in 2016.

Please follow the link above to read the details of the above points. We need healthcare to be allowed to function under a free-market system with as little interference from the government as possible. That will provide the most cost-efficient and most available healthcare for everyone.

An Idea To Replace ObamaCare

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posted an article today about a plan to reform ObamaCare suggested by James Capretta and Scott Gotlieb of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

The article lists four suggestions to make healthcare affordable and practical for Americans:

1. Provide a path to catastrophic health insurance for all Americans.

2. Accommodate people with pre-existing health conditions.

3. Allow broad access to health-savings accounts.

4. Deregulate the market for medical services.

These reforms would bring healthcare closer to a free-market system. The suggestions would also take away the provisions in ObamaCare that require people to pay for healthcare coverage they do not need (most couples over the age of 50 don’t need maternity coverage).  The Little Sisters of the Poor should not be required to pay for birth control coverage–they are Catholic nuns. Under ObamaCare they were sued by the federal government to provide coverage for things that went against their Christian beliefs. The idea that the government can tell people what coverage they have to have needs to go away quickly.

President-elect Trump has promised to end ObamaCare. We have heard that promise before from Republicans–give us the House and we will repeal ObamaCare; give us the Senate and we will repeal ObamaCare; give us the White House and we will repeal ObamaCare. Well, President-elect Trump, I suspect you have less than two years to make good on your promise. The anger of the American voters did not disappear when you were elected–that anger is simply waiting to see if you will keep your promises. It is a pretty safe bet that if ObamaCare is still with us in two years, the Republicans will lose the House and the Senate. At that point the Republican Party will go the way of the whigs.

The Real Numbers About The Budget

This is a picture of the federal budge deficits over the years:

federaldeficitsthrough2016The chart and other related information can be found here.

On Saturday, Conservative Treehouse posted an article about an aspect of the federal budget under President Obama that you may not be aware of.

The article reports:

The last federal budget was signed into law in September of 2007 by President George W Bush for fiscal year 2008.  Since then the entire mechanism of the federal government has been carried out by continuing resolutions, raises in the debt ceiling, and unfettered spending.

Absent of an actual federal budget, all spending falls under a process called base-line budgeting to determine allocation.  Federal distribution of the money within the continuing resolution, is essentially a year-over-year expenditure with a statutory increase based on inflation.  Essentially, whatever was spent in 2009 was respent in 2010 along with a little bit more.   What was spent in 2011 was a little more than ’10, and so forth.

In February 2009  congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, commonly referred to as Obama’s stimulus plan.  The stimulus was just shy of one trillion ($986 billion +/-).

At the time of passage this single stimulus expenditure reflected a growth of approximately 20% in total federal spending.  The spending went directly into the deficit.

Approximately 30% of that “one time” trillion dollar stimulus was spent in 2009, the remaining 70% was spent in 2010.  (*note fiscal years run from October 1st to September 3oth annually).

However, absent a federal budget -and because of baseline budgeting- it became a repeated expenditure in each of the following fiscal years.

The $1 Trillion Stimulus was spent eight more times.

The article points out that most Americans cannot tell you what the stimulus was spent on. President Obama put money into the Department of Education to subsidize state education and teachers’ salaries, keeping the teachers’ union happy.

The article reports:

The key point is the $1 trillion 2009 “stimulus” funds, became a tool for President Obama to use in whatever cabinet office need he saw.

So long as congress never passed an actual budget (and the traditional budget appropriations process kicked in), he would always have this massive amount of extra money to play with.  Obama, Pelosi and Reid ensured there was never going to be a budget.

As the economy somewhat gained footing (2012), for the last several years a lot of the money appears to have been spent on propping up ObamaCare and hiding the structural financial collapse.

If Obama didn’t have this extra $1 trillion at his disposal, ObamaCare would have already collapsed.  If you were wondering why ObamaCare didn’t collapse, well, there’s your answer.

This scheme worked brilliantly so long as Team Obama could kick-the-budget-can into successive years.  They did.

…Remember: #1) Obama’s trillion stimulus was a +20% jump in federal spending which has continued year-over-year since 2009, #2) most of that money is now spent on propping up Obamacare via the insurance corridor reimbursement program.

…That $1 trillion in annual expenditure is what initially kept government at full size when originally passed in ’09.  It then transmogrified into a slush fund two fiscal years later, and ever since about 2012 it’s been a way for Obama to fund his priority list – and the UniParty congress has done nothing about it; because, well, essentially, congress agrees with what it’s being spent on.

It’s a staggering amount of money, $986 billion.  If Trump/Ryan eliminate the worst aspects of ObamaCare they can save a massive amount of that expenditure.  However, beyond that – it shows you just how much money can –and hopefully will– be cut out of government by that elimination alone.

It would be wonderful to have a Congress and a President who want to bring federal spending under control, but I am not convinced yet.

This Isn’t Really A Surprise

How many promises that were made so that ObamaCare would pass Congress have been broken? Do you remember that not one Republican voted for ObamaCare and that the certification of the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts was delayed long enough so that he would not be seated in time to vote against ObamaCare? Do you remember Nancy Pelosi saying, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy?” Was it a fog of controversy or a fog of deception? Right now it looks as if it might have been a fog of deception. Remember, “If you like your plan, you can keep it?” Remember, “If you like your doctor, you can keep him?” How is that working for you?

CBS New York posted a story yesterday about the upcoming rise in ObamaCare premiums.

The story reports:

The Department of Health and Human Services revealed Monday that premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, and that about 1 in 5 consumers will have plans only from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles.

However, in Arizona, unsubsidized premiums for a hypothetical 27-year-old buying a benchmark “second-lowest cost silver plan” will jump by 116 percent, from $196 to $422, according to the administration report.

The Obama Administration claims that along with these increases in premiums there will be increases in the subsidies paid to Americans buying health insurance. Who pays the subsidies? The subsidies are paid for by taxpaying Americans (most of whom are not eligible for the subsidies). This plan essentially uses the cover of health insurance to redistribute wealth. It takes money away from the working middle class and gives it to the underclasses, insuring future votes from the underclass who don’t want the free ride to end.

ObamaCare was designed to fail. The eventual goal is government healthcare–where the government controls who receives treatment and what treatment they receive. It it important to note that many Canadians come to America for surgery to avoid their own government healthcare. That should tell us all we need to know about the quality of government healthcare.

A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for government healthcare. It is also a vote for higher taxes on people who work for a living. It is also a vote for limits on free speech and limits on gun ownership. That is the world she represents.

 

More Bad News From ObamaCare

Ed Morrissey posted an article at Hot Air today about some of the recent developments in ObamaCare. As ObamaCare quietly implodes, it is deeply impacting the cost of healthcare and health insurance in America.

The article reports:

Just over half of employees this year have a health insurance policy with a deductible of at least $1,000, according to a survey of employers from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It’s the continuation of a multiyear trend of companies passing more of the costs of employee health care back onto workers.

Overall, health insurance premiums for a family covered by an employer health plan rose an average 3 percent this year to $18,142. Of that, employees pay an average of $5,277.

The thing we need to remember is that insurance companies are in business to make a profit. If they don’t make a profit, they won’t be in business. The percentage of profit of insurance companies is well within the range of other businesses. If you want to complain about the salaries paid to heads of insurance companies, also take a look at the salaries of other corporations–including nonprofits. You may argue that you think the salaries are out of line, but remember that stockholders make those decisions in public companies.The decisions about insurance rates are based on actuary tables which predict their cost of the coverage they provide to their policy holders. When the federal government gets involved and chooses to ignore those actuary tables, they skew the business model and things do not work the way they would in a free market.

The solution to health insurance costs is to go back to the free market. The competition will bring the price down faster than any government program. We need health insurance that goes across state lines, that follows the insured, rather than being provided by an employer, and that provides only the insurance the person being insured wants or needs–sixty-year-old grandmothers do not need pediatric dental coverage or birth control coverage. ObamaCare has been a disaster–it is time to replace it with a free market system.

The Crash Of ObamaCare

On Monday The Washington Free Beacon posted an article about changes in ObamaCare.

The article reports:

Aetna, one of the largest health insurers in the United States, announced Monday it would be dropping out of 70 percent of the counties in which it offers coverage through Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act.

According to Business Insider:

“The firm said that, after a review of its public health-exchange business, it determined that the nearly $200 million in pretax loss that it was sustaining on an annual basis was not worth the business.”

Aetna will continue to offer health care options through the public exchanges in Delaware, Iowa, Nebraska, and Virginia but its services have been reduced from 778 counties to 242.

UnitedHealth Care, another leading health insurer announced its decision to completely quit Obamacare by 2017 in April:

“Aetna’s and UnitedHealthcare’s decisions to scale back is problematic for customers because the number of insurers competing through the exchange is closely linked with the affordability of the plans.”

The collapse of ObamaCare is partially a result of the design of the program–it was designed to collapse so the Democrats could go to full government health insurance–and partially the result of the House of Representative refusing to fund reimbursements for insurance companies.

In May of this year, I reported:

Today The Los Angeles Times reported:

A federal judge ruled for House Republicans on Thursday in their suit against President Obama and declared his administration is unconstitutionally spending money to reimburse health insurers without obtaining an appropriation from Congress.

The judge’s ruling, though a setback for the administration, was put on hold immediately and stands a good chance of being overturned on appeal.

In North Carolina, there will only be one health insurance company left that will be operating through the ObamaCare health exchange. Stay tuned. The rise in ObamaCare premiums in most states is going to astronomical.

 

I Guess Things Didn’t Go As Planned

ObamaCare is touted as one of the crowning achievements of the Obama Administration. Like some of the other achievements touted, the benefits are somewhat questionable. The two main promises of ObamaCare–if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it, and if you like your doctor, you can keep him–have not really worked out as claimed. Now the claim that ObamaCare has cut the cost of health insurance seems to be in doubt as well.

Forbes Magazine posted an article on Thursday disputing the claims of Loren Adler and Paul Ginsburg of the Brookings Institution that health insurance premiums have decreased under ObamaCare. The authors cite a 2014 Brookings study that concluded premiums have increased.

The article reports:

While I will discuss the relevant evidence of the ACA’s effect on premiums in depth, there are three data points worth emphasizing. First, unlike Adler and Ginsburg’s approach, Brookings 2014 study used actual data and found that “enrollment-weighted premiums in the individual health insurance market increased by 24.4 percent beyond what they would have had they simply followed…trends.” Second, S&P Global Institute found that average individual market medical costs increased substantially between 2013 and 2015, up an estimated 69%. Third, 2014 insurer data shows that premiums for individual market Qualified Health Plans (QHPs), ACA-compliant plans certified to be sold on exchanges, were much higher than premiums for individual market non-QHPs, mostly plans in existence before 2014 that did not comply with the ACA. Relative to non-QHPs, insurers collected more than $1,000 per enrollee in higher premiums and more than $2,300 in higher premium revenue per enrollee in 2014 after accounting for large premium subsidy programs for their QHPs.

The article includes the following graph:

PMPM Chart - Mercatus

The data shows a huge increase in PMPM costs in the individual market between 2013 and 2015. According to S&P, PMPM costs increased 38% between 2013 and 2014, and another 23% between 2014 and 2015. The two-year increase (69%) is the product of the two single-year increases.

…It is worth noting that the individual market includes both ACA-compliant plans as well as non-ACA-compliant plans. If only ACA-compliant plans were included in the post-2013 data, the spike would likely be much larger.

I do wonder how much of this will be reported by the mainstream media. The fact that most people will experience this on a personal level means that the public will become aware of it.

 

 

 

A Small Step In The Right Direction

Generally speaking, I have my differences with the Republican Party. I changed my party affiliation earlier this year to unaffiliated. However, every now and then, the Republicans do something right. What follows is an example. There is no point in detailing an alternative to ObamaCare while President Obama is in office. However, he has approximately six months left. The House of Representatives has now released an alternative. Note that the alternative is being released just as ObamaCare premiums are about to skyrocket (probably right after the November election) and many health insurance providers are leaving ObamaCare. As ObamaCare collapses under its own weight, the Republicans have introduced an alternative. So what is the alternative?

The Weekly Standard posted a story yesterday about the proposed plan.

The article explains:

The proposal pairs an Obamacare alternative with Medicaid reforms and the crucial Medicare reforms (amounting to a kind of “Medicare Advantage Plus”) that Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans have long championed. As Ryan put it after the proposal’s release, “The way I see it, if we don’t like the direction the country is going in—and we do not—then we have an obligation to offer an alternative….And that’s what this is.” He called the plan not merely “a difference is policy” but “a difference in philosophy.”

Here are a few highlights from the plan:

1. It would dramatically lower health-care premiums. Obamacare drives up premiums though its inept and arrogant way of addressing preexisting conditions, and by mandating coverage of things that people don’t want. The GOP plan would drive down premiums by repealing Obamacare, putting people in control of their own health-care dollars, and letting them shop for value.

2. It would restore liberty while stopping Obamacare’s consolidation and centralization of power and money. Private American citizens would no longer be compelled (for the first time in all of United States history) to buy a product or service of the federal government’s choosing. The flow, like a river, of money and power to Washington, D.C., would be reversed.

3. It would lower Americans’ tax burdens. In addition to raising taxes, Obamacare raises spending—by about $2 trillion over a decade, per the CBO—at a time when the U.S. government is already almost $20 trillion in debt. The GOP plan would cut taxes even versus the pre-Obamacare status quo while saving hundreds of billions of dollars (and hopefully a trillion dollars or more) in spending versus Obamacare.

4. It would re-attract needed talent to the medical profession and thus improve the quality of care. Who, other than the truly committed few, would want to become a doctor under Obamacare’s regime of bureaucratic control over “health-care providers”? (Obamacare, which effectively bans the building or expanding of doctor-owned hospitals, doesn’t like to call such individuals “doctors.”)

5. It would stop Obamacare from being a vehicle for executive lawlessness. At practically every turn, the Obama administration has tweaked, altered, and even funded parts of Obamacare without congressional involvement. Three major casualties of Obamacare have been the rule of law, the separation of powers, and the Constitution.

6. It would stop Obamacare’s taxpayer funding of abortion. As the write-up for the GOP plan notes (citing the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office), insurance “plans that cover abortion are receiving federal taxpayer dollars under Obamacare.” Indeed, “California now requires all health insurance plans to cover abortion services.” Under the GOP plan, federal taxpayer dollars wouldn’t be allowed to fund abortions.

7. Even beyond these six ways, it would also lead to most Americans faring much better than under Obamacare. The exact dollar amounts of the GOP’s non-income-tested tax credits aren’t provided, but if they were to be the same as those called for by the 2017 Project, the Hudson Institute, Gillespie, Price, and Walker, most Americans of various incomes, ages, and family sizes would fare much better than under Obamacare. For example, the typical 36-year-old woman who makes $36,000 and buys her own insurance gets $0 under Obamacare, whereas she’d likely get something on the order of a $2,100 tax credit under the GOP plan (See the chart on page 9 of An Alternative to Obamacare for more detail on this point.) This overdue tax cut would be like $2,100 in her pocket.

Please understand–a Democratic President will not approve this plan. The changes made to ObamaCare have been laws not passed by Congress–the rules have been written by President Obama who has no constitutional authority to make those rules. Companies whose owners oppose abortion have been put out of business through executive orders. ObamaCare needs to go. It is expensive, unconstitutional and damaging to our republic. This is another reason the 2016 election is so important.

Getting Old In American Just Got Worse

Generally speaking, American senior citizens get reasonable medical care. Medicare takes care of joint replacements, cataracts, and other senior-related ailments. However, that is about to change.

Yesterday The New York Post posted an article discussing changes President Obama is about to make to Medicare. The changes President Obama is suggesting will impact the quality of life that American senior citizens now enjoy.

The article reports:

The president’s Medicare reforms make it harder for seniors to get joint replacements. His new payment rules shortchange doctors, discouraging them from accepting Medicare in the first place. New ER rules clobber seniors with bills for “observation care.” Under ObamaCare, hospitals get bonuses for spending less per senior, despite having higher death rates and infection rates.

Expect the Medicare Trustees’ annual report, due out Wednesday, to ignore these problems.

…The new rules also make seeing Medicare patients a money loser. Annual fee increases for doctors are capped at a fraction of one percent — even though rents and other costs go up every year.

No wonder nine out of 10 solo practitioners admit they’ll avoid Medicare patients — right when 10,000 new baby boomers are joining each day.

Obama’s rules spell trouble for seniors with cancer. Doctors administering chemotherapy are getting a pay cut and being prodded to choose the cheapest drug, regardless of which medication is best for their patient. Dr. Debra Patt warned Congress this’ll hinder access to drugs like the immunotherapy that subdued former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer.

Another Obama rule penalizes hospitals for doing hip and knee replacements on patients likely to need rehab after surgery, causing hospitals to shun older patients with complex conditions. Grandma will have to settle for the painkiller as candidate Obama notoriously suggested.

…Clinton proposes opening Medicare to people in their 50s. That would force seniors to compete with younger patients for resources — like in Britain and Canada, where seniors are labeled “bed blockers,” and certain treatments are reserved for younger patients with more life ahead.

When ObamaCare was first enacted, there were discussions about denying care to senior citizens–we all remember Sarah Palin‘s claim that ‘death panels’ were built into ObamaCare (which actually turned out to be true). My real question in all of this is whether or not the politicians who are going along with these ‘reforms’ are going to have to live under them.

I Guess Representative Joe Wilson Was Right

The Washington Examiner reported today that California will ask for a waiver to cover illegal aliens under ObamaCare.

A Politico article posted last July explains how this works:

The California bill wouldn’t immediately open the state’s exchange to undocumented immigrants, who are primarily Latino. Instead, it would direct California to seek permission from the federal Department of Health and Human Services through an Obamacare waiver program that allows states to shape their own health care reforms.

However, the administration hasn’t spelled out the guidelines for the “state innovation waivers” program, which doesn’t start until 2017, and it’s unclear whether the White House would rethink its Obamacare coverage ban for undocumented immigrants. An HHS spokesperson said the department hasn’t discussed the California proposal with state officials and declined to comment on the bill.

Note that the waiver program was already built into the law. The Republicans in Congress have believed from the beginning of ObamaCare that the Democrat’s plan was to cover illegal aliens.

Wikipedia reminds us of an event that underlined that point:

On September 9, 2009, Wilson shouted at President Barack Obama while Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to outline his proposal for reforming health care.[35] During his address, Obama said: “There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”[36] In a breach of decorum,[37] Wilson pointed at Obama and shouted, “You lie!” twice.[38][39][40][41] Wilson attracted national and international attention for the incident.[42][43] He said afterwards that his outburst reflected his view that the bill would provide government-subsidized benefits to illegal immigrants.[44]

Then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel immediately approached senior Republican lawmakers and asked them to identify the heckler and urge him to apologize immediately.[45] Members of Congress from both parties condemned the outburst. “Totally disrespectful”, said Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) of Wilson’s utterance. “No place for it in that setting or any other and he should apologize immediately.”[46][47] Wilson said later in a statement:

This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.[48]

Obama later accepted Wilson’s apology. “I’m a big believer that we all make mistakes”, he said. “He apologized quickly and without equivocation and I’m appreciative of that.”[49]

What Joe Wilson did was a total breach of decorum, but he was the only one in the room telling the truth to the American people. It is obvious that the President was lying and the Congressman was telling the truth.

 

Effectively Using The Power Of The Purse

Theoretically, the House of Representatives can limit executive power by using its control of the purse strings. According to the U.S. Constitution, the government cannot spend money unless that spending is authorized by the House of Representatives. We haven’t seen the House of Representatives use that power as much as I would have liked under the Obama Administration, but the power is there. In fact, there was one recent incident where the House of Representatives successfully used that power.

In October I posted a story about the Obama Administration attempting to spend money that was not allocated by Congress. At issue were payments to insurance companies to alleviate their losses under Obama.

As reported by the Daily Signal in October:

In January, Sessions’ committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee had identified that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lacked an appropriation for bailing out insurance companies through the risk corridors. They asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the matter. That September, the GAO issued its legal opinion: the administration would need an appropriation from Congress to make outgoing payments.

Today The Los Angeles Times reported:

A federal judge ruled for House Republicans on Thursday in their suit against President Obama and declared his administration is unconstitutionally spending money to reimburse health insurers without obtaining an appropriation from Congress.

The judge’s ruling, though a setback for the administration, was put on hold immediately and stands a good chance of being overturned on appeal.

The ruling upholds the Constitution, why would it be overturned on appeal?

The article at The Los Angeles Times reports:

The Constitution says “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law,” said Judge Rosemary Collyer, yet the administration has continued to pay billions to insurers for their extra cost of providing coverage for low-income Americans.

“Paying out Sec. 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution,” she wrote. “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”

Stay tuned to see if the Constitution will be upheld.

A Law Went Quietly Into Effect January 1

The American Spectator posted an article today about a law that quietly went into effect on January 1, 2016.

The article reports:

One of the worst of Obamacare’s ill-conceived provisions went quietly into effect on January 1. The employer mandate, previously inflicted only on businesses with 100 or more employees, will now be imposed on those with as few as 50. This mandate will prevent countless small employers from hiring workers they would otherwise have hired and incentivize many others to replace full-time employees with part-timers. It is such an obvious job killer that the Obama administration delayed enforcement until after the 2014 midterms, the liberal Urban Institute has called for its repeal, and it has even been obliquely criticized by Hillary Clinton.

The employer mandate requires all businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health coverage to at least 95 percent of these employees as well as any dependents they may have under age 26 — or pay crippling fines. But not all small employers can afford to offer insurance. Those which lack the resources to do so will avoid the mandate by assuring that the number of full-time workers they employ remains below 50. And, because Obamacare has arbitrarily redefined “full-time” to mean 30 or more hours per week, the employer mandate effectively caps both the number of workers many businesses can hire and how many hours they will work.

As someone who spent most of my working career working for small businesses, I can state from personal experience that small companies are very aware of government regulations and how to avoid them. One way to get around this rule is to keep the size of a company under 50 employees–this impacts unemployment–companies that might want to hire additional people will not hire them because they want to avoid coming under the employer mandate. The other way to get around this is to use contract workers that are self-employed and do not receive any company benefits, but there are very strict rules governing contract workers, and they are not practical for every business. Either way, the employer mandate is going to have a chilling impact on hiring. The labor force participation rate has been dropping consistently during the Obama Administration. The employer mandate will cause it to drop further. Bringing companies of more than 50 employees under the employer mandate will not be a good thing for the economy.

The article further reports:

Ironically, considering that the question came from an obvious audience plant, Mrs. Clinton got it wrong on the Family and Medical Leave Act. FMLA eligibility isn’t based on full time or part time status. And she also seems unaware that an employee can work fewer than 40 hours per week and still be considered full-time in the brave new world of Obamacare. But the most telling part of her answer was her use of the word “believe.” Playing off the questioner’s placement of the FMLA issue in the realm of “discrimination,” she implied that employers who are simply following federal law are in reality just crooks who want to deny benefits to their workers.

She was clearly waiting for that question and the opportunity to suggest that, as President, she would work to fix the “unfortunate incentives” created by Obamacare. However, considering that Hillarycare included an employer mandate, and that it was an integral part of the health care reform plan she offered the last time she ran for President, it’s extremely unlikely that she would follow the eminently sensible policy recommended by the authors of the Urban Institute report: “In summary, eliminating the employer mandate would eliminate labor market distortions in law, lessen opposition to the law from employers, and have little effect on coverage.”

Is there anyone in the Obama Administration that understands basic economics and business?

Creating More Unemployment In America

Investor’s Business Daily posted a story today about an executive order issued by President Obama.

The article reports:

This time, the president isn’t seeking to flood the country with tens of thousands of indigent, border-surging migrants in search of bigger benefits packages.

Instead, he plans to award via executive order work permits to 100,000 foreign college grads (including deportable aliens) to compete with U.S. workers for jobs.

Cui bono? Certainly not the U.S. workers he purports to champion.

Obama’s Homeland Security rule, published in the Federal Register on Thursday, amounts to yet another illegal power grab by explicitly treading on Congress‘ constitutional prerogative to set immigration quotas.

It also comes at a time when 94 million U.S. workers have been unemployed so long they’re no longer counted in labor-participation statistics. Some New Year’s Day present for millions of discouraged Americans.

The move is especially nefarious not just because it stands as another example of executive overreach but also because foreign workers already have U.S. workers at a disadvantage.

For one thing, they’re able to work cheaper. Unlike Americans, most have had free tuition rides from their sponsoring countries and carry no student loan debt. This enables them to tolerate lower wages than American grads saddled with high loan costs that can’t be shirked even in bankruptcy court.

The foreign workers are also exempt from Obamacare rules that add to the employer cost of hiring workers. While liberal politicians complain about sending jobs oversees, they seem to have no problem bringing foreign workers here to take American jobs. It is time Congress put an end to these endless executive orders. It is time for Congress to develop a spine.

When Former The Newspaper Of Record Chooses To Leave Common Sense Behind

On July 3rd, The New York Times (formerly known as the newspaper of record) reported that health insurance companies around the nation are asking for rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more. What is that about? It’s about human nature and economics. Healthy people have not signed up for ObamaCare, sick people have.

The New York Times reports:

Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.

The Oregon insurance commissioner, Laura N. Cali, has just approved 2016 rate increases for companies that cover more than 220,000 people. Moda Health Plan, which has the largest enrollment in the state, received a 25 percent increase, and the second-largest plan, LifeWise, received a 33 percent increase.

This has to do with something called an actuary table. Actuary tables are generally used to determine life insurance premiums. They determine expected life spans based on information including health habits, family health history, and other variables. They then establish an insurance rate that will provide life insurance and still make a profit for the company. It is important to remember that companies are in business to make a  profit. Similar charts are used in health insurance to make sure that both healthy and sick people will have the insurance they want. The problem with ObamaCare is that young, healhty people are paying higher rates to cover the cost of older, less healthy people.

The article further explains:

In their submissions to federal and state regulators, insurers cite several reasons for big rate increases. These include the needs of consumers, some of whom were previously uninsured; the high cost of specialty drugs; and a policy adopted by the Obama administration in late 2013 that allowed some people to keep insurance that did not meet new federal standards.

Healthier people chose to keep their plans,” said Amy L. Bowen, a spokeswoman for the Geisinger Health Plan in Pennsylvania, and people buying insurance on the exchange were therefore sicker than expected. Geisinger, often praised as a national model of coordinated care, has requested an increase of 40 percent in rates for its health maintenance organization.

Insurers with decades of experience and brand-new plans underestimated claims costs.

What ObamaCare has done is to disrupt health insurance for 80 percent of Americans who were happy with their health insurance in order to insure the other 20 percent. What has actually happened is that the 80 percent have been disrupted and the 20 percent have not signed up. It really would be a good idea to simply scrap ObamaCare and replace it with something that was free market based. I am sure something could be worked out to help low-income Americans afford the insurance they need.

I Am Definitely In The Wrong Business

The chart below is from a Daily Caller article posted this morning. It shows the salaries of the top executives of the ObamaCare state health exchanges:

2013SalariesofTopObamaCare

As you can see, these executives are paid very well for their efforts.

The article reports:

More than a million Americans have enrolled in the 23 non-profit Obamacare co-ops since they began in 2011. The co-ops were intended to be consumer-operated non-profits focused on delivering healthcare to the working poor and others needing health insurance.

Eighteen of the 23 co-ops paid their top executives prodigious salaries ranging from $263,000 to $587,000, according to 2013 IRS tax filings.

The high take-home pay for the “nonprofit” executives appears to violate both federal law and Obamacare rules prohibiting “excessive executive compensation.”

I strongly suggest that you follow the link above to read the entire article, but here are two examples of your tax dollars at work:

The top paid co-op executive was Thomas Policelli, CEO of Massachusetts’ Minuteman Health. He was awarded $587,000 in 2013, according to the co-op’s tax return. Minuteman was also among worst performing Obamacare co-ops, reporting only 1,700 enrollees at the end of 2014.

Minuteman’s cash-burn rate was 53 percent, with a net operating loss of $21 million last year, according to an analysis by Galen’s Turner and Thomas Miller, a senior health fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

In nearby Connecticut, HealthyCT paid Kenneth Lalime $352,000. The co-op reported total enrollment of only 7,966 and suffered operating losses of $28 million. Standard & Poor’s estimated its cash-burn rate at 61 percent.

It is not news that the private sector runs things better than the government. You would think that after all the years that we have seen government waste and inefficiency, we would have learned that lesson by now. Healthcare needs to be part of the free market. There need to be things in place to help people who need assistance in obtaining health insurance because of their financial situation or because of a pre-existing condition, but generally speaking, healthcare needs to operate in a free market environment. It is obvious that ObamaCare has because a government money hole that will eventually provide poor quality healthcare to everyone who is enrolled in it. There is a reason that the Supreme Court, despite their obvious belief that ObamaCare should stand, is not enrolled in ObamaCare.

 

The Right Answer To The Wrong Decision

The Hill reported yesterday that Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) has introduced a bill into the House of Representatives that would require the Supreme Court Justices to participate in ObamaCare. I agree with that, but while we are at it, let’s include Congress and the President.

The article reports:

Babin’s potential legislation would only let the federal government provide healthcare to the Supreme Court and its staff via ObamaCare exchanges.

“By eliminating their exemption from ObamaCare, they will see firsthand what the American people are forced to live with,” he added.

His move follows the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday morning that upheld the subsidies under ObamaCare that are provided by the government to offset the cost of buying insurance.

All government officials and employees should be required to live under the laws they pass and uphold. We have had enough of ‘one law for me and one law for thee.’

 

The Government Does Not Know How To Run The Healthcare Insurance Business

Yesterday Investor’s Business Daily posted an article about the steep rise in ObamaCare premiums.

The article reports:

Last week, IBD reported that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee wants to jack up its ObamaCare premiums by more than 36%; CareFirst in Maryland by close to 30%; and Moda Health in Oregon by almost 50%.

Since then, North Dakota has reported rate hike requests of 43%, Kansas 38% and Iowa 18%.

Insurance companies (and all other companies–even health insurance companies) stay in business because they are profitable. When they stop making a profit, they go out of business. Insurance companies use something called actuary tables to assess risk, set premiums, and maintain profitability. Unfortunately, the people in the government responsible for ObamaCare do not seem to have any idea what an actuary table is–they can’t understand why the premiums keep rising. Meanwhile, the infirm are signing up for ObamaCare and the healthy people who would balance the load are not signing up.

The article concludes:

First, ObamaCare imposes a pile of costly rules and regulations on the insurance industry — mandating generous coverage, outlawing risk rating, and so on.

Then, to cope with these costs, insurance companies employ large deductibles and co-pays to keep premiums within the realm of reasonable.

Now, the same Democrats who created this problem want to force insurers to lower deductibles and co-pays so health care will be more “affordable.”

Never mind that this would, if enacted, produce yet another round of massive premium hikes.

Someone needs to instruct these Democrats on a fundamental truth of economics: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Someone might also tell the Democrats that the government has never successfully run anything–much less an industry that is a major part of the American economy.