Friday, March 28, 2014
Screw You, Mickey Kaus
I've been thrown off my health insurance -- THANKS, OBAMACARE! -- and have spent hours and hours over the past month trying to figure out my options now that the Democrats have made my old plan, which I liked, "illegal." (I prefer to think of my plan as "undocumented.")
Whom do I bill for the hours of work Obamacare forced me to perform? How about you, Mickey? You're the smartest living liberal (faint praise), and you assured us that Obamacare was going to be fantastic.
By now, Obama has issued "waivers" from Obamacare to about 99 percent of the country. (Perhaps you've heard, there's a big midterm election this year.) As one of the few Americans not granted a waiver, I'm here to tell you: You have no idea what's coming, America.
I thought I had figured out the best plan for me a month ago after having doctors and hospital administrators look at the packets of material I was sent by my old insurance company -- the same mailing that informed me my old plan was "illegal" under Obamacare.
But when I checked online recently, I discovered the premier plan -- the "platinum," low-deductible, astronomically expensive plan that might be accepted by an English-speaking doctor who didn't attend medical school in a Hawaiian shirt and board shorts -- does not include treatment at any decent hospitals.
That's sort of unfortunate because THAT'S THE ONLY REASON I WANT INSURANCE! That's the only reason any sane homo sapiens wants health insurance: to cover health care costs in the event of some catastrophic illness or accident -- not to pay for Mickey Kaus' allergy appointments. But my only options under the blue-chip plan were hospitals that also do shoe repair.
I called Blue Cross directly to ask if its most expensive insurance plan covered the only hospital I'd ever go to in an emergency. Since that's all I wanted to know, that's what I asked. (I like to get to the point that way.)
But -- as happens whenever you try to ascertain the most basic information about insurance under Obamacare -- the Blue Cross representative began hammering me with a battery of questions about myself.
First my name. (Does that make a difference to what hospitals its plans cover?) Then my phone number. By the time he got to my address, I said, CAN YOU PLEASE JUST TELL ME IF ANY OF YOUR PLANS COVER XYZ HOSPITAL? I DON'T EVEN KNOW IF I WANT TO SIGN UP WITH YOU!
Finally, he admitted that Blue Cross' most expensive individual insurance plan does not cover treatment at the hospitals I named. Their doctors are "out of network" (and the person who designed this plan is "out of his mind").
This was the rest of the conversation, verbatim:
ME: None of your plans cover out-of-network doctors?
BLUE CROSS: No.
ME: Why is it called "Premier Guided Access WITH OUT-OF-NETWORK PLAN"?
BLUE CROSS: Where did you see that?
ME: On Blue Cross' own material describing its plans.
BLUE CROSS: Oh. I don't know why it's called that.
ME: None of your plans cover (the good hospital)?
BLUE CROSS: No.
ME: I don't know who you are, but I have a very specific set of skills that will help me find you. And when I find you, I am going to kill you. (Click.)
True conversation. Except the last sentence. That was my fantasy.
I decided to approach it from the opposite direction and called one of the nation's leading hospitals to ask which plans it accepted. The woman listed a series of plans, but she couldn't tell me if I was eligible for any of them. For that, she said, I'd have to go to the Obamacare website.
Does Obamacare cover suicide?
I went to "healthcare.gov" and -- I guess I had heard this, but had blocked it from my memory like a rape victim unable to remember her attack -- you can't even peek at the available plans until you've given the government reams of personal information about yourself.
How about they let me look at the merchandise first?
Inasmuch as the cost of health insurance under Obamacare is so high that it will generally make more sense just to pay for your own catastrophic health emergencies, I was not interested in telling Kathleen Sebelius everything about me in order to have the privilege of glancing at the government's crappy plans.
But that's the only choice. As the Obamacare website directs:
(1) Create an account. (Name, password.)
(2) Tell us about yourself and your family. (Every single thing.)
(3) Choose a health insurance plan. (That's where you finally get to see the plans.)
I wonder if other consumer-oriented businesses will start demanding names, addresses, passwords and phone numbers before the customer is allowed to browse the merchandise. Maybe Williams-Sonoma could pick up a few sales tricks from Ezekiel Emanuel! Oh, you'd like to see the bronze muffin tin? Sure, but first I'll need your Social Security number, date of birth and mother's maiden name. Sign here, here and here.
The main point of the Obamacare website is to encourage people other than me to get a government subsidy. There's also a section helping you register to vote. You just can't see the insurance plans. (Guess which one you need a government ID for?)
With zero help from the Obamacare website, I eventually figured out that there was one lone insurance plan that would cover treatment at a reputable hospital. The downside is, no doctors take it.
So my only two health insurance options -- and yours, too, as soon as the waivers expire, America! -- are: (1) a plan that no doctors take; or (2) a plan that no hospitals take. You either pay for all your doctor visits and tests yourself, or you pay for your cancer treatment yourself. And you pay through the nose in either case.
That's not insurance! It's a huge transfer of wealth from people who work for a living to those who don't, accomplished by forcing the workers to buy insurance that's not insurance. Obamacare has made actual health insurance "illegal."
It's not "insurance" when what I want to insure against isn't covered, but paying for other people's health care needs -- defined broadly -- is mandatory.
It's as if you wanted to buy a car, so you paid for a Toyota -- but then all you got was a 10-speed bike, with the rest of your purchase price going to buy cars, bikes and helmets for other people.
Or, more precisely, it would be like having the option of car insurance that covers either collisions or liability, but not both. Your car insurance premium would be gargantuan, because most of it would go to buy insurance, gas and air fresheners for other people in the plan.
If you have employer-provided health care, you may not have to make the 400 phone calls I had to, but the result will be the same: You're not getting what is commonly known as "insurance." You're getting a massive bill to pay for other people's chiropractors, marriage counselors, birth control pills, smoking cessation programs, "preventive care" appointments and pre-existing conditions.
Health insurance has been outlawed, replaced with a welfare program that has been renamed "insurance."
When Matt Drudge decided he'd rather pay for his own health care, liberals hysterically denounced him for not buying an Obamacare transfer-the-wealth, fake "insurance" plan. It used to be shameful to be a public charge. Now it's shameful to pay for yourself.
And it's shameful to work for yourself. The self-employed are currently the only Americans subjected to Obamacare. (In a way, it's lucky for the Democrats that there aren't enough of us to hurt them in this year's midterm elections!)
But we're the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. You may have an employer-provided plan now, but the waivers can't go on forever. If you live in America, your health insurance is going to disappear, too.
The government simply cannot force all insurance companies to give subsidized health care to a third of the country, to ignore the pre-existing health conditions of its customers, to pay for every little thing tangentially related to health -- like smoking cessation programs, marital counseling and pediatric dental care -- and also expect them to cover your cancer treatment.
It doesn't matter if you've been paying for insurance your whole adult life. That policy is now "illegal." Put your hands in the air, nice and easy, and step away from the policy ...
You 99-percenters still unaffected by Obamacare will blithely go to the polls this November and vote on some teeny-tiny issue, completely unaware of the total destruction of health insurance in America. The waivers have worked.
Now we'll have to wait 40 years for a future Mickey Kaus to come along and expose the disastrous consequences of this horrendous government program, just like the real Mickey Kaus did with welfare. But for now, I say: Screw you, Mickey Kaus.
Massaging of Critical Data Undermines Our Society
Victor Davis Hanson
Transparency and truth are the fuels that run sophisticated civilizations. Without them, the state grinds to a halt. Lack of trust -- not barbarians on the frontier, global warming or cooling, or even epidemics -- doomed civilizations of the past, from imperial Rome to the former Soviet Union.
The United States can withstand the untruth of a particular presidential administration if the permanent government itself is honest. Dwight Eisenhower lied about the downed U-2 spy plane inside the Soviet Union. Almost nothing Richard Nixon said about Watergate was true. Intelligence reports of vast stockpiles of WMD in Iraq proved as accurate as Bill Clinton's assertion that he never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.
Presidents fib. The nation gets outraged. The independent media digs out the truth. And so the system of trust repairs itself.
What distinguishes democracies from tinhorn dictatorships and totalitarian monstrosities are our permanent meritocratic government bureaus that remain nonpartisan and honestly report the truth.
The Benghazi, Associated Press and National Security Agency scandals are scary, but not as disturbing as growing doubts about the honesty of permanent government itself.
It is no longer crackpot to doubt the once impeccable and nonpartisan IRS. When it assured the public that it was not making decisions about tax-exempt status based on politics, it lied. One of its top commissioners, Lois Lerner, resigned and invoked the Fifth Amendment.
A system of voluntary tax reporting rests on trust. If the IRS itself is untruthful, will it be able to expect truthful compliance from taxpayers?
Many doubt the officially reported government unemployment rates. That statistic is vital in assessing economic growth and is of enormous political importance in the way citizens vote.
It was reported in November that the Census Bureau may have fabricated survey results during the 2012 presidential campaign, sending false data to the Labor Department that could have altered official employment statistics.
In the 1990s, the method of assessing the official unemployment rate was massaged to make it seem lower than it actually was. Rules were changed to ignore millions who had been out of work longer than 52 weeks. They were suddenly classified as permanent dropouts and not part of the idled workforce.
Does the government release an accurate report on quarterly Gross Domestic Product growth -- another vital barometer of how the economy is doing? Maybe not. Last year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis for the first time factored research and development costs of businesses into statistics on investment growth.
Suddenly, a cost became proof of business output and thus was added into the business investment contribution to GDP. That new accounting gimmick may have added hundreds of billions of dollars into the equation of figuring GDP growth last year alone. Not surprisingly, the government reported unexpectedly high 2.8 percent GDP growth after the changes.
Is inflation really as low as the government insists? In recent times the government has not just counted the increase in the prices of goods, but also factored into its calculus theories about changing consumer buying habits when prices increase. The changes have resulted in officially lowered inflation rates.
No one knows how many Americans have now bought and paid for Affordable Care Act health insurance policies. There is no accurate information about how many young people have enrolled -- critical to the success of Obamacare. Nor do Americans know how many enrollees were previously uninsured. Nor does the public know how many enrollees simply switched insurance from Medicaid to the Affordable Care Act. There is no information about how many actually have paid their premiums.
No one knows how many foreign citizens who entered the U.S. illegally were apprehended inside the United States and returned to their country of origin last year -- a figure vital for any compromise on passing comprehensive immigration reform.
The Obama administration claims near-record numbers of deportations. In fact, once again government agencies -- in this case the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) -- have mysteriously changed the way they compile statistics. The ICE now counts as deportations those foreign nationals whom the Border Patrol immediately stops or turns away at the border. Such detentions were not previously counted as deportations.
The result is that bureaucrats can report near-record numbers of deportations, while privately assuring the administration that immigration enforcement has been greatly relaxed.
There is a pattern here. Changes in data collection seem to have a predictable result: Inflation and unemployment rates become lower. Economic growth becomes greater. The IRS focuses on government skeptics. The Affordable Care Act is not in trouble. Illegal immigration is not such a problem.
If the people increasingly believe that bureaucrats try to alter reality to reflect preconceived ideologies or the goals of the particular regime in power, then America as we know it is finished.
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Posted by JR at 1:35 AM