Sunday, May 31, 2015
New York Times Still Deceiving About Obamacare
The New York Times is at it again. In a front page story in Tuesday's print edition, the Times is dishonestly pushing an argument that they hope will result in a favorable Supreme Court decision for President Obama's so called Affordable Care Act. The mantra repeated over and over again is this: those four words in the Obamacare law-"established by the state"-were actually an accident, a drafting error. And those words, according to the Times and all of the sources they chose to comment on it for the article, are being misinterpreted by some who want to, shall we say, "degrade and defeat" the law.
The plain language of the law is that subsidies were only meant for those who purchase their plans through exchanges set up by the individual states. But that's not what the Times and their sources want you to believe. Even if the Times were to admit that is the plain meaning based on the language in the law, their argument is that it still wasn't the intent of the lawmakers and staffers who composed and approved of the legislation.
So now comes the Times, a month before the Supreme Court is planning to announce its decision, with a front-page article that is dishonest on many levels. If you are doing a news story, as opposed to a not-so-carefully disguised editorial, you would seek opposing points of view. In reading this article, you find that there is not one person among those interviewed who even knew that there was an issue regarding subsidies as they related to state exchanges versus the federal exchange.
First, the Times posed the questions: "Who wrote [those four words], and why? Were they really intended, as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim, to make the tax subsidies in the law available only in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces, and not in the three dozen states with federal exchanges?"
Then it states: "The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as ‘inadvertent,' ‘inartful' or ‘a drafting error.' But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia."
If this were a real news story, and not a front-page editorial disguised as a news article, these reporters would have sought out the opinion of people who disagree with those "more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law."
I cited the evidence in a column last March when the King v. Burwell case was being argued, and the same narrative was being pushed at that time by the Times and other liberal news organizations. I linked to a National Public Radio (NPR) article that had actually practiced journalism by talking to one of the plaintiff's lawyers in this case; he pointed out that regarding this supposed drafting error, "those words are in the bill 11 times."
I also cited an article published in Politico, two months before the bill passed in 2010, that cited then-Senator Ben Nelson's opposition to a federal exchange: "Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Monday that he would oppose any health care reform bill with a national insurance exchange, which he described as a dealbreaker." If that isn't clear enough, Politico added this: "Nelson could have deprived House Democrats from securing what they have increasingly viewed as a must-have-a national exchange rather than a series of state exchanges."
My column cited an American Spectator piece that details Nelson's position on this issue. And then there's Jonathan Gruber. As I wrote at the time: "And don't forget Jonathan Gruber. He was one of the architects of Obamacare, and a close adviser to President Obama. He received millions of taxpayer dollars, from various states and the federal government. Gruber is the person who said that passing Obamacare depended ‘on the stupidity of the American voter,' and that it was ‘written in a tortured way' in order to deceive the voters about all the taxes they would have to pay.
Regarding the subsidies being paid only to state exchanges, Gruber said that was ‘to squeeze the states to do it [to set up exchanges].'"
So there you have it. After reading what Gruber said, what Politico wrote months before the bill became law, how NPR reported it, and what Sen. Nelson told Greta Van Susteren, it becomes clear that the Times is editorializing, and not reporting, in a front-page story intended to influence a Supreme Court decision.
Planned Rate Hikes Presage a Health Insurance ‘Death Spiral’
The Wall Street Journal has reviewed health plans’ rate filings for 2016 in Obamacare exchanges:
In New Mexico, market leader Health Care Service Corp. is asking for an average jump of 51.6% in premiums for 2016. The biggest insurer in Tennessee, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has requested an average 36.3% increase. In Maryland, market leader CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield wants to raise rates 30.4% across its products. Moda Health, the largest insurer on the Oregon health exchange, seeks an average boost of around 25%.
All of them cite high medical costs incurred by people newly enrolled under the Affordable Care Act. (Louise Radnofsky, “Health Insurers Seek Healthy Rate Boosts,” May 21, 2015)
The article also notes that Insurance Commissioners in some states have the power to roll back rates hiked too high (and the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services also asserts a similar power, although there is no legal basis for it). It is unlikely that Insurance Commissioners can protect people from these rate hikes: Excessive rollbacks will merely cause health plans to exit the market, which would be catastrophic for Obamacare’s political future.
Readers of this blog knew that this death spiral was coming. What is remarkable is that it is happening now. Things must be worse than insurers are disclosing to make them jack rates so high, so soon.
Think about it: Obamacare is the best possible scenario for health insurers. Obamacare is still very much at risk from the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell and Republican politicians who remain united in pledging to repeal and replace it with patient-centered health reform.
If anything, health plans should want to move public opinion in favor of Obamacare by keeping rate hikes low. Indeed, they should (collectively) be prepared to lose money in exchanges until Obamacare is secure. (The exchanges are still a small part of their book of business. They can subsidize losses in exchanges for a while without risking their solvency.)
A lot of the cost of the rate hikes will be borne by taxpayers instead of enrollees, because Obamacare’s tax credits to insurers operating in exchanges are based on the benchmark (second cheapest silver plan) and limited by beneficiaries’ household income. Nevertheless, that is also hardly good news for Obamacare’s political future, either.
Announcing these rate hikes in the summer of 2015 (and, likely, the summer of 2016) indicates that health plans’ experience in Obamacare exchanges is painfully expensive.
Ann Coulter's War on illegal immigration
This week, iconoclastic master Ann Coulter released her new book, "Adios, America!" The book has already been labeled racist by the mainstream left, which fears her argument, and will undoubtedly be marginalized by the mainstream right, which doesn't want to hear it. Coulter's thesis is simple: Since Senator Teddy Kennedy, D-Mass., rammed through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, America's immigration system has transformed from a device for enriching the nation for both native-born and immigrants into a scheme for importing anti-American voters.
What made America America, Coulter argues, was a particular blend of Protestant religion and European civilization that led to the rise of the greatest nation in human history. What will unmake America, she continues, is a deliberate attempt to poison that blend with a flood of immigrants with wildly different values.
Coulter points out that the real number of immigrants currently residing in America illegally far surpasses the 11 million consistently put forth by politicians and media. That 11 million springs from census data, which is notoriously unreliable, given that immigrants here illegally typically don't spend time answering government surveys. The real number, she argues, is far closer to 30 million. And those 30 million immigrants in America illegally drive down wages, shred social safety nets, drive up the crime rate and congeal the American melting pot into a melange of inferior cultural values competing for local dominance.
"The foreign poor are prime Democratic constituents because they're easily demagogued into tribal voting," Coulter points out. "Race loyalty trumps the melting pot. ... The American electorate isn't moving left — it's shrinking. Democrats figured out they'd never win with Americans, so they implemented an evil, genius plan to change this country by restocking it with voters more favorably disposed to left-wing policies than Americans ever would be."
And the Democrats have achieved their goals. America is more polarized than at any point since the civil rights era, and not by chance. Americans have been told that they have a responsibility to anyone who wants to enter the country, even as they are lectured that it would be gauche for them to ask just who wants to come in. "At what point will Americans remind their government that it has a responsibility to us, not to every sad person in the world?" Coulter laments.
The answer, if the left has its way: never. Bearing nostrums like "diversity is our strength" and "through no fault of their own," Democrats will browbeat Americans into accepting the demise of American values. The shock isn't that millions of foreigners want to get into the United States — that's always been true. The shock isn't even that Democrats want to open the floodgates to unchecked, unscreened immigration — that's been true for decades, given that the modern American left despises founding philosophy and the capitalist system more generally. The shock is that so many conservatives have capitulated, granted the left's premise in the hopes that America's new immigrants will resemble her old immigrants, even though the America that welcomes them has changed dramatically.
Coulter's argument — that the media and our politicians conspire to keep information from us about the effects of mass immigration from non-Western countries, and that such immigration will destroy the fabric of the country — is virtually unassailable. The only question left: Who will stand up to the tidal wave of political correctness to pursue a reasonable and sane immigration policy, rather than the insane combination of ignorance and bullying that currently dictates who gets to live in and help redefine the greatest country in the history of mankind?
Look at What Happened When Maine Forced Welfare Recipients To Work For Their Benefits
Maine finally took a bold step forward in welfare reform and it’s paying huge dividends.
Last year Maine passed a measure that would require recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, to complete a certain number of work, volunteer, or job-training hours before being eligible for assistance.
Main Governor Paul LaPage passed the measure last year and the resulting drop in food-stamp enrollees has been dramatic.
At the close of 2014 approximately 12,000 individuals were enrolled in the state assistance program. Keep in mind that these individuals are adults who aren’t disabled and who don’t have children at home and who are claiming the food-stamp benefits because of a lack of financial resources.
After forcing these individuals to either work part-time for twenty hours each week, enroll in a vocational program, or volunteer for a minimum of twenty-four hours per month, the numbers showed a significant drop from 12,000 enrollees to just over 2,500.
Republicans in the state are calling it a major victory, while Democrats are infuriated and are calling for special measures to roll back some of the strict requirements.
However, even if the requirements lose some of their strictness, once an individual is removed from the Maine food-stamp program they cannot receive benefits from the program for three years.
This is a true victory for welfare reform, and, while opponents are continuing to push back, we can hope that other states will notice the effectiveness of Maine’s program.
Meanwhile, for all the naysayers who say that this program is unfairly targeting those in rural or extremely poor areas, let’s remind ourselves who this program is really affecting.
These individuals who were benefiting from the food-stamp law and who now can’t are able-bodied, capable adults. These aren’t people with physical or mental disabilities or raising growing children. These are regular Joes who don’t seem to want to get a job.
And while I will say that getting a job can be harder than it sounds, Maine’s program solves that difficulty beautifully. If individuals can’t get and hold a part-time job of twenty hours per week, they can qualify by enrolling in training program. If that doesn’t get them a job, they can still qualify by volunteering.
Do you see what Maine did there? They’re making people exhaust their possibilities for employment before giving them a handout. Finally a state government has hit upon a great way to reward people for trying to get jobs and to punish those who sit around feeding off the taxes of the rest of the country.
Now the struggle remains for the rest of the country to work to adopt similarly effective laws.
Los Angeles Labor Leaders Want Minimum Wage Exemption
Oh the irony. Fourteen Los Angeles council members recently voted to incrementally raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Considering a whopping 50% of the city’s workforce makes minimum wage, the new law is bound to have significant ramifications — which may explain this oddity from the Los Angeles Times: “Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.”
Rusty Hocks with the Federation of Labor defended the proposed exemption by opining, “With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them.” Yet, as the Times notes, “For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.”
In other words, labor leaders want the flexibility to negotiate a mutually fair hourly wage — one that may very well fall below $15 — while forcing non-unionized businesses to comply with an admittedly harmful law. The Left, it seems, doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage so much as coerce businesses into joining a union, which would then translate into political capital.
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Posted by JR at 12:37 AM