Tag Archives: Healthcare

The Trainwreck

3 Nov

Obamacare. What a trainwreck. The website is a disaster, and now we learn that 137,000 WNY health insurance policies are going to be canceled. This is why the complete government takeover of healthcare in this country – the socialization of medicine – is such a Kenyan/Mohammedan/Indonesian catastrophe. 

This is what the people who shut down the government say, and want you to think. These are the opinions held by the people who threatened default on our sovereign debt and have worked tirelessly for three years to sabotage health insurance reform in this country. 

The Buffalo News’ Washington correspondent Jerry Zremski wrote an article appearing today, outlining that 137,000 WNY health insurance policies are going to be canceled, in direct contravention of President Obama’s promise that, “if you like your insurance, you can keep it”. 

Cancellations! When you buy a policy on the individual market, you’re buying a 12-month contract, and if the policy doesn’t meet  Obamacare’s bare minimum standards, the insurance company is compelled to cancel it. It can offer you a new policy, or you go to the New York health insurance exchange and shop around for something else

Obamacare’s promise omitted a detail affecting a fraction of the 5% of Americans who buy individual policies – you can keep your insurance if you like it, and it meets the minimum requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Not all policies do. Furthermore, the types of policies being canceled are exclusively ones sold to individuals, not groups. This represents 5% of all health insurance policies sold in the United States, and of those perhaps 65 – 70% of policies cannot exist after January 1st because they don’t meet the bare minimum of what constitutes an insurance policy. 

There’s a reason group policies offer more coverage than individual ones. Volume gives you more for less. Starting January 1st, health insurance policies need to cover pre-existing conditions; if it doesn’t, it’s going to be canceled. Starting January 1st, health insurance policies can’t have a lifetime cap and need to cover lots of things that cut-rate rip-off policies didn’t. 

Now, your policy has to cover preventive care with no co-pay; policies that don’t will be canceled. Now, your policy has to cover maternity care; policies that don’t will be canceled. Now, your policy has to cover mental health care, substance abuse care, lab services, prescription drugs, pediatric oral and vision care, hospitalization, and emergency care; policies that don’t will be canceled. 

That’s the story – that Obamacare finally protects the health insurance consumer from cut-rate insurance, and because of the mandate, all individual policies are treated like group policies. 


The federal exchange website was so bad that only six people signed up the first day. At first glance, that seems horrible. But six people is six more than Republicans wanted to see signed up – that’s infinity percent more. That doesn’t apply in New York, which has its own website, which had its own short-lived problems, but is now working about as well as any high-volume site. Socialization and government takeover of care? That must be why the policies sold in New York under Obamacare come from the same private insurance corporations that sell policies now. 

Jerry Zremski’s article contains salient details about why policies are being canceled, but whoever wrote the headline is deliberately misleading people. Scaring people sells papers

At least 137,000 people in the eight counties of Western New York have received, or will soon receive, a notice that President Obama said they would never get: a notice that their health insurance is being discontinued, and that they’ll have to shop for another plan.

That’s the number of people who get insurance from Buffalo’s three major insurers who are destined to get the government-mandated letter, a jargon-filled tome that one local insurance executive called “a 14-page packet-o-whacket.”

But one line of one version of the letter, which is being sent to people all around the country, is clear.

“Your current plan will cease upon your anniversary date,” said a letter sent to one subscriber in Washington, D.C.

Contrast that line with the words of the president.

“If you like your insurance plan, you will keep it,” Obama said shortly after the Affordable Care Act, his signature health care reform law, was passed in 2010. “No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.”

It’s happening, though, to approximately 12.5 percent of those at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Independent Health and Univera Healthcare, according to numbers the three insurers provided to The Buffalo News.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance policies that existed as of March 2010 could be “grandfathered” into Obamacare, so long as they didn’t change significantly in substance and cost; hence, “you can keep your policy if you like it”. But if your policy is being canceled, blame the private insurer. They changed something

And it’s happening for a reason, Obama said in a speech last week in Boston. The law now prevents insurers from offering “substandard” plans, he said.

“One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured, but also the underinsured,” Obama said.

Zremski’s article goes on to explain the following: 

  • – Healthy NY is changing and adding coverages to comply with the law. People affected will be able to sign up via the NY State of Health program, where people may qualify for generous federal subsidies or even expanded Medicaid coverage. 
  • – Some smaller group policies have to change and add coverages to comply with the law. 

Why, even Chris Collins – who is a multimillionaire Congressman who just a month ago helped to shut the government down in a failed effort to halt Obamacare – complains that his companies can no longer offer cut-rate insurance to its employees. Now, these employees have a right to insurance that includes hospitalization, prescription coverage, emergency services, and mental health coverage. Lashing out at the President, Collins does his best impression of “noblesse oblige”, complaining about how his company is going to manage to offer these new coverages

The cancellation notices are a feature of the Affordable Care Act, not a bug. The idea was to make insurance coverage more robust — and that means cancelling policies that offer less thorough coverage…

…The whole idea of the insurance expansion isn’t to get Americans to purchase anything called “insurance.” It’s to get them to purchase a specific kind of insurance, a plan that is relatively comprehensive and helps protect against financial ruin. If Americans were going to be required to buy a product, the reasoning goes, it should be one that can actually do some good.

Look at the pre-Obamacare individual insurance market this way

The average monthly premiums of the five cheapest plans [in Irvine, California] is $114. So I took the middle plan, HealthNet’s IFP PPO Value 4500. It’s got a $4,500 deductible, a $2,500 deductible for brand-name medications, huge co-pays and a little “bestseller” icon next to it. And it’s only $109 a month — if they’ll sell it to you for that price.

That’s the catch, and it’s a big one. Click to buy the plan and eventually you’ll have to answer pages and pages of questions about your health history. Ever had cancer? How about an ulcer? How about a headache? Do you feel sad when it rains? When it doesn’t rain? Is there a history of cardiovascular disease in your family? Have you ever known anyone who had the flu? The actual cost of the plan will depend on how you answer those questions.

According to HealthCare.gov, 14 percent of people who try to buy that plan are turned away outright. Another 12 percent are told they’ll have to pay more than $109. So a quarter of the people who try to buy this insurance product for $109 a month are told they can’t. Those are the people who need insurance most — they are sick, or were sick, or are likely to get sick. So, again, is $109 really the price of this plan?

Obamacare doesn’t take pre-existing conditions or family medical history into account – everyone gets coverage. If your policy was cheap because it only accepted healthy people, it’s going away. 

This 137,000 number is going to be used as a sword against Democrats and the President for a few years. It’s regrettable, because the Obamacare exchanges in New York are going to offer many people better coverage at an affordable rate – oftentimes subsidized. When the scaremongering dies down, people will find that they enjoy having a policy that covers that unexpected hospitalization rather than trying to pay out-of-pocket. People will find that paying for insurance is better than medical bankruptcy, just like having 3rd party bodily injury coverage on your mandated auto plan is better than hiring your own lawyer and selling your house to pay a judgment. 

The story? 137,000 western New Yorkers to get better coverage through a new plan at affordable rates. 

The Morning Grumpy

30 Jun


I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news and analysis, so each morning I’ll share several links that you can consume during your “morning grumpy”.

1. Last week, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation announced the completion of a new “restaurant” at the Inner Harbor. This is what it looks like:

What was supposed to be announced instead of this slanty-roofed Kone King replica was a restaurant at the Naval and Military Park. Well, that worked out as well as expected.

A waterfront agency was expected to approve $200,000 in April to pay for the buildout of a restaurant with an outdoor patio at Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.

Then the mayor, who said he had been left out of the loop, put the brakes on the project. Now, a refreshment stand on the wharf, but not the restaurant in the museum, will be opening Friday.

Essentially, Mayor Brown wanted the restaurant contract to be directed to former Erie County Legislator George Holt, who turned down the opportunity. Then, the usual palm greasing, crumb hoarding, and backroom haggling began and we end up with a half-assed lean-to which will serve up snacky cakes.

The ECHDC, always desperate to please the Mark Goldman and his 40 friends, decided to put a positive face on this “food shack” and asked for the community for input on what to name the “exciting new development”. Seriously, what exactly are we paying the people at this authority for at this point? Let’s just put Mark Goldman on contract, hire Fred Kent from PPS to do some more Google Image Searches for us and have Goldman’s millionaire brother Tony laugh at the very idea of investing his own money into Canalside. I’ve had enough.

Reminder, the waterfront would have looked something like this, right now, if we hadn’t completely restarted the process:

2. The bane of our political existence is two party rule and First Past The Post (FPTP) voting. It leads to electoral fusion, minimizing variance of opinion and a system which encourages consolidation of power. A solution would be something called Instant Run Off Voting.  Learn about it here and watch a video that explains it in a very simple fashion.


3. An economist blogger has been writing an ongoing series about health care system “memes” that continue to permeate our debate, even when evidence shows them to be false. The introductory post in his series contains links to all entries. This particular entry is about the myth that “tort reform” would result in a significant reduction in national healthcare spending. I link to it today because I watched the documentary “Hot Coffee” last night and you should as well.

For better or for worse, whenever many are asked about how they would help control the cost of the health-care system, tort reform always seems to be one of the first things offered as a solution.

This image should sum up the argument against tort reform nicely.

4. The Economist created a useful interactive graph displaying state-level economic, political, and demographic data. The screenshot below shows GDP numbers by state:

Click here to read the full story

5.new report out of Brown University estimates that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq–together with the counterinsurgency efforts in Pakistan–will, all told, cost $4 trillion and leave 225,000 dead, both civilians and soldiers. That doesn’t include the current Libyan conflict nor incursions into Yemen. In estimating the $4 trillion total, they did not take into account the $5.3 billion in reconstruction spending the government has promised Afghanistan, state and local contributions to veteran care, interest payments on war debt, or the costs of Medicare for veterans when they reach 65.

6. On to lighter fare, ever wonder how a hard drive works? It’s extraordinary technology.


7. Yeah, Grover Norquist is completely rational. Fast forward to 5:30 in the video. I know he was in a jokey environment and all, but Norquist truly believes it is never acceptable to ever raises taxes on anyone in America under any circumstances. This guy is at the heart of the current conservative movement.

8. What’s happening with the national debt ceiling? Here’s an explanation.

9. I’ll close with a life lesson from Leon. Rough language, but advice worth hearing. Curb Your Enthusiasm returns to HBO on July 10th.


Brian Higgins (NY-27) on Healthcare

15 Sep


Wrong Issue for Obama

7 Sep

A quick thought on this relaxing Labor Day, inspired by Clarence Page’s commentary in today’s Buffalo News:

Where are the excited youngsters who dropped their video games, got off the couch and turned out en masse for Obama last year? Hah! Young folks aren’t turned on by health care. They don’t think they’ll ever get sick.

Instead, lots of us older folks turned out.

Older folks may not have their Medicare effected by the new healthcare insurance reform proposals (such as they are), but they know how to organize, how to be angry, and are crossed at a politician’s risk. As Page later points out, ask Bush how crossing seniors worked for Social Security reform.

Healthcare may be in need of serious overhaul. It may be the most important issue facing our country long term. But it is also increasingly clear it was the wrong issue for Obama to start with, because it misread what motivated his base.

Obama my bad

What issue should he have started with? How about the one’s that actually got him elected. Obama’s first qualification was not being Bush. Easy campaign slogan – hard to turn into actual policy. Especially when you keep the wiretapping program, et al. Next, was ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I disagree with the policy, but when folks like George Will are lining up saying its time to get out, clearly this would have acquired wide support. Fortunately for foreign policy pragmatists like myself, Obama has been realistic (read: conservative) on international matters, and we are doubling down in Afghanistan, not withdrawing.

But I think the real issue Obama should have led with, that would have excited his base, and done real good for the country, is a National Call to Service. On Obama’s Inauguration Day, I heard much crowing from national pundits like Chris Matthews that this was a JFK moment, when the best and brightest would be drawn to Washington to serve. Well, those best and brightest either didn’t pay their taxes, or decided to stay home and make more money. Likewise, Obama’s campaign was supposed to spark a Hope and Change movement, where individual communities would start serving eachother. Not quite that either yet.

Obama certainly paid some lip service to national service, and took some beatings for putting it in martial terms. And yes, a National Service Bill expanding AmeriCorps did make it through Congress. But what have you heard since? Bush created a national program to have volunteers help in disaster relief in their communities too – seemed to have worked well in New Orleans. Obama put a new national service bill on his list of things to do, checked it off, and moved on. Meanwhile, the movement itself died in a spate of townhall revolts, mixed messages from the White House, and Congressional mismanagement.

National Service could have done what Obama is only promising he is doing now. The Stimulus Bill was supposed to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, a la the CCC. Unlike those projects, which created parks, bridges and lodges with placards we still see today, the Stimulus Bill has instead funded 6000 road resurfacing projects, a wonderful (and soon to be forgotten) legacy for a Green President who wants to reduce our nation’s dependence on cars. National Service could have organized the country around a couple easy goals: 1) rebuild the economy, 2) rebuild the country (starting with our underfunded parks systems) and 3) serve those in need affected by the economic downturn. I thought this is what Hope and Change was going to be. Instead, its a mismash of disjointed healthcare “goals,” but no proposals. 

To be fair, at this point in Bush’s first term, we were talking about Stem Cell Research and the crew of a spy plane held in China. I hope Obama does not have a 9/11 moment to focus his Presidency. But I do hope he gets his game together.

The Left Misunderstands Again

17 Aug

Why are the majority of Americans upset about our current bout of healthcare reform? That is the fundamental question no one on the Left can answer. Let me try to help.

But first, let me separate the question of 1) why is healthcare FAILing in the Congress, and 2) why are people upset. In a representative democracy, the answers to those questions should probably be the same. Not so this time.

The Democratic Congress and Democratic President are FAILing at passing their signature reform, dreamt of for decades, for a variety of reasons. Incompetency at key Congressional positions (most especially Reid and Pelosi). An inability to enforce party discipline (Blue Dogs). A President more concerned with the ideas than the implementation. And a variety of Dems on the take from the health insurance industry.

Note that the Republican Party is not on this list. With 40 votes in the Senate and 178 votes in the House, the R’s have nothing to do with what comes out of Congress. No party has had this much control of the House, Senate and Presidency in 30 years – if the Dems were competent, they could pass anything they wanted.  This doesn’t make me happy, but that doesn’t stop it from being the truth.

These ideas have been parsed to death, and as the Horse Race is all that is covered on the cable news, this is all you hear about.

My second question, why people are upset, has been glazed over and demagogued. Most seem to think it has something to do with Obama being Hitler. Or death panels. Or evil lobbying firms creating Astroturf. Or Eugenics (how many people spouting on this, on either side, even know what Eugenics is?). Or ignorance. Or that rich white people hate poor minorities and don’t want them to have health coverage.

The last two fit well with the Left Storyline. It allows them to both judge stupid Americans, and still know what’s best for them. Obama as Hitler sticks around because of its tastelessness and inaccuracy, despite the fact that a leading supplier of Obama posters is actually leftist Lyndon LaRouche (oops – BlameFAIL).

LaRouche Poster

Buffalo Pundit asked two very good questions last week:


During its tenure, the Bush Administration ran roughshod over civil rights, wiretapping phone calls without a warrant, detaining people without charge, violated the Geneva Conventions repeatedly, he and Cheney systematically grew the power of the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency at the expense of the other two, constitutionally co-equal branches of government.  The power of the state was used repeatedly to trample constitutional rights in the name of national security.  Here’s a handy list of ways in which constitutional rights were eroded during Bush’s tenure. And yet, astonishingly, there were no tea parties.  No indignant people screaming to drown out Republicans at town hall meetings. . . There were no teaparties over the Bush Administration’s genuine infringement on constitutional liberties. Not. One.

Or, to put it another way, why do people hate healthcare when we’re trying to help them, but not lots of other things that are far worse?


My only hope is that the silent, centrist majority of Americans are quietly watching all this and are appalled by it. 

Ok, that’s not really a question. But it should have been. Are the silent, centrist majorities quietly watching and appalled? If the Left could answer this, we’d have an American public clamoring for a healthcare bill.

So, again, let me try to answer the fundamental question: why are the silent, unscreaming Americans so upset. The answer has nothing to do with healthcare. The answer is the deficit.

Guffaw, you say. Wonks worry about the deficit, not ordinary Americans. But it has grown now to such a point that it has finally entered the public consciousness. A $787B stimulus. A projected deficit from Obama that is equal to the previous 43 Presidents combined. Its finally big enough that the masses are paying attention.

As The Economist recently pointed out, 24% of Americans rate the budget deficit as the number one problem facing the country, and that number has doubled since Obama took over. More telling, while 25% think Obama is spending too much time on healthcare, 40% think he is spending too little on the deficit. That is the appalled silent majority. Appalled by rude, obnoxious, hijacked town halls. Appalled by the massive burden we are passing to our kids for our own “needs” now.

Americans didn’t get loud about Bush’s civil liberty intrusions because, in their minds, it didn’t affect them. Terrorists were the target of those wire taps. Not unreasonably, they thought if they stayed out of a Yemeni training camp, they had nothing to worry about.

But healthcare affects them directly, and so do taxes. Obama thought he could win when he changed the healthcare debate from healthcare to health insurance. Major political blunder. It just got the Left mad he is letting them down (which he is), and allowed the Right to focus on the cost (which is too high for not much).

And the silent majority of Americans may not know the specifics, but they do know the deficit is too high, and their healthcare could be worse.

It Depends on What Your Definition of Change Is

17 Aug


At Netroots Nation, I became the cynical asshole on health care reform. So much so, that I think people were starting to avoid me.  As I listened to all the speeches and read the daily news, it seemed that Obama Administration officials were slowly and steadily preparing the liberal base for a sell out move.  Here’s a couple of thoughts on the matter I posted on Twitter throughout the weekend:

the underlying realization and creeping disappointment that Obama sold out the Netroots is palpable at 9:32 PM Aug 13th

It’s time to reorganize as liberals and force the progressive change we voted for. There’s a reason why I didn’t vote for Hillary 9:35 PM Aug 13th

prediction: In 45 days, Obama will sign a toothless health care bill with no public option but promises of increased “competition” 9:52 AM Aug 15th

Listening to Sr. Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett and it seems like she’s here to soften the landing for the final BS compromise bill. 9:53 AM Aug 15th

And then I wake up on Sunday to read the news and watch the pandering/uncritical morning shows to find a theme developing amongst the Obama talking heads

President Barack Obama’s administration signaled on Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run health insurance as part of his ambitious health care proposal. Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives. Such a concession is likely to enrage his liberal supporters but could deliver Obama a much-needed win on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that government alternative to private health insurance is ”not the essential element” of the administration’s health care overhaul. The White House would be open to co-ops, she said, a sign that Democrats want a compromise so they can declare a victory on the showdown.

Sure, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave a vaguely different statement on another morning show, but he’s the outlier when it comes to the month-long, hint-filled narrative from the administration.

You might remember the Obama Health Plan during the campaign, the centerpiece of which was a public healthcare option for small business and individuals.

– Affordable and high-quality universal coverage through mix of private and expanded public insurance.

– Prohibit insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

– Require all children to have health insurance.

– Require employers to offer “meaningful” coverage or contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the public plan; small businesses will be exempt from this requirement.

– Create a new public plan so that small businesses and individuals without access to other public programs or employer-based coverage could purchase insurance.

It’s a good thing Obama didn’t comfortably win a national election 10 months ago on that platform!  Didn’t America firmly reject a market based private insurance solution as put forth by John McCain and the RNC?  Yup.

The Obama healthcare platform was shared by the entirety of the DNC, which was swept into a massive majority in the House and a near filibuster proof majority in the Senate by a party base starved for healthcare reform.

After six months of right wing asshattery and obstructionism from bullshit DLC “third way” blue dog democrats, the President is prepared to roll over? Seriously?

He blew the overwhelming majority of his political capital for an issue on which he was never non-negotiable? He rode the public option down 20 points in the polls only to give it up?  He asked his Congressional Democrats to stand up and fight for the public option only to leave them twisting in the wind?  They put their seats at risk on this issue and they were forced to listen to screaming idiots at their fundraisers/town halls only to have the President turtle up like the Bills in a Super Bowl? Come on!

Obama was never able to establish a clear agenda and message on healthcare.  Paying heed to lessons learned from the Clinton Administration’s failed top-down healthcare reform act, Obama asked Congress to take the lead.  Not surprisingly, they fumbled the ball and we have four bills floating around the house all with different goals and means. He needed to take a more hands-on role in Congressional planning and he should have been more forceful on the stump explaining what it meant.  Instead, he allowed the Republicans to define the parameters of the debate and that’s why we’re still talking about Sarah Palin’s “death panel” notion a week after she shat it all over Facebook.

So, yes, I’m bitter.  And, I’m angry.  The “public option” WAS the compromise position for the Democratic base and if the President caves on it, I’m not sure where to go next.  It will be at least another 20 years before we get another shot at this.  It’s why we need to force the public option with our Congressmen.  They need to hear from the supporters, not just the whackjobs protesting esoteric bullshit from street curbs.

If you support a public option, call Higgins, Massa, Maffei, Slaughter and Lee and tell them, emphatically. Call Gillibrand and Schumer and tell them to whip their fellow Dems into shape. Attend the town hall meetings of Massa and Maffei and let them know where you stand.  There’s still a chance at the public option and it will be up to those who want it to make it happen.  Clearly, the President isn’t non-negotiable on this, but we are.

Let’s make it happen.

The Fatal Flaw

11 Aug

The Fatal Flaw of Republicans is our lack of ideas. A law to make new Presidents show their birth certificate doesn’t count. It didn’t always used to be this way. The Congressional take over of 1994 was about the Contract with America; real ideas sold and delivered to the public. More on this in a moment.

The Fatal Flaw of Democrats is their inability to govern. And announcing new “transparency” rules you aren’t even following doesn’t count. Democrats “control” the White House and halls of Congress by a margin not seen since Jimmy Carter’s administration 30 years ago. If Bush ever had that kind of margin, we’d have privatized Social Security and permanent tax cuts too. Democrats have been whining for eight years about their inability to address healthcare, climate change, and education reform. Now that they have filibuster proof majorities, and can pass anything they want, what do we have? An aloof President full of grand visions but no grand idea on how to make legislation. A House majority leader who would rather make petty partisan digs than actual policy. A Senate Majority Leader who fails in his most basic job: getting 60 votes for the President’s policies. Blue Dog Democrats obstructing their own party’s agenda far more effectively than Republicans. A stalled cap and trade system and a forgotten plan to close Gitmo. And a liberal elite chattering class who has now proven they would rather complain than do the hard work of “Change”. It took 200 days for liberals to turn on Obama, and declare him not left enough. You won! Its time to put up or shut up. If your ideas are so much better, just pass your bills. But you can no longer complain that a Republican Congress or President are in your way. This echo chamber is so used to only complaining, they still blame everyone but themselves for their inability to govern.

With the Dem’s in disarray, now would be a good time for some Republican ideas. Unfortunately, we are still short in this department, and are spending our time in the political wilderness not regrouping, but turning crazy. Cobbling together enough fringe groups to get 20% of the electorate is not a plan. Yelling that Dem’s are destroying our country with their nothing of a healthcare bill is not a plan. We need some ideas.

So here are some (I can’t seem to embed the video – sorry), from Rep Issa (R-CA) and Rep Kingston (R-GA) on Bill Maher this week. This is the debate we should be having on healthcare (minus the play for laughs cheap shots from Bill).

An Eruption of Disruption

4 Aug

As congressmen and women return to their districts during the break, they will hold town hall meetings in an effort to listen and discuss issues with their constituents, many of whom may be distressed by what’s happening in Washington.

Some of the distress will be sincere, some of it will have its genesis in dumbed-down cable news misinformation and chain e-mails, and some of it will be astroturfed.  (Fake grassroots).

While Buffalo Repat draws parallels between lefty town hall disruptions from the likes of Code Pink and the righty disruptions at health care town hall meetings,  Buffalo Geek rebuts that, pointing out that Code Pink are funded by:

“Big Peace” and “Big Non-Profit” and “Big Wealthy People Advocating For Higher Taxes On Themselves”

Remember when some woman disrupted McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican Convention last year?  I shook my head in embarrassment when that happened.  I don’t think that these sorts of confrontational tactics work.  What war has Code Pink prevented the US from participating in?  What war has Code Pink successfully stopped?  There’s a right to free speech, and no qualification there about them having to be accompanied by good manners, but if you’re disruptive, you should be ejected.

And I thought the right hated lefty troublemakers like Code Pink.  Why emulate them?  They didn’t succeed in their aims, after all.

But with respect to the upcoming disruptions of health care town halls, the funding, initiative, and organization behind this is strictly astroturfed by Washington lobbyists and special interests who want to maintain the status quo.  Period.

For instance, the tea bagger crowd is planning to disrupt town halls that Eric Massa (D, NY-29) will be holding in the coming weeks.  But their tactics will have been spelled out for them by someone working for a lobbying group run by Dick Armey called “FreedomWorks“. (Website here).

They have a right to attend, a right to question, a right to disagree, a right to dissent.  They even have a right to be disruptive douchebags.  And the goal here is to get media coverage so that there is a perception on local TV news that there is a grassroots outpouring of disgust with “Obamacare”.

Based on what I’ve heard and read, the grassroots disgust has been mostly aimed at the misinformation being spread about the current health reform bill rather than its actual contents.   Obama’s going to kill seniors!  I’m going to lose my healthcare plan! Government takeover and socialism!  None of those things are true, so the manufactured outrage is based on a lie being well-funded by private interests who have a stake in maintaining the status quo.

I would be kind of pissed off to find out I’m just a tool in, say, Pfizer’s campaign to quash healthcare reform.

The Insurance Industry And You

30 Jul


The debate surrounding “health care reform” in 2009 has been disingenuous, riddled with anecdotal bullshit, straight up lies, and is being treated as a political football more than the lynchpin to the financial health of this country.  Each day that passes, I become more cynical about our ability to do ANYTHING in this country for the right reasons.

Republican leaders like John Thune, John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Orrin Hatch, and Eric Cantor have appeared on numerous talk shows and panel discussions citing studies from a “non-partisan” think tank which show that a public healthcare option would result in 103 Million Americans losing their insurance.  Of course, none of the dopey “liberal journalists” who host those shows did any research on the veracity of their claim or the connections of the think tank.  They just let the Republicans spout off the numbers without any critical analysis.  Welcome to TV news in 2009.

Along came The Washington Post with a story identifying a few interesting factors to frame the claims from The Lewin Group and the Republicans.

More specifically, the Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a UnitedHealth subsidiary that was accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association, a physician’s group, of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied its parent company and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the “usual and customary” doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-networkcare.

Next up,  Rachel Maddow did some digging and had this to say about the Republican cited “non-partisan thinktank“.


Yes, the Lewin Group is “non-partisan” if by “non-partisan” you mean wholly funded, subsidized and managed by United Healthcare, the second largest private insurance group in America.

The Lewin Group is an Ingenix company.  Ingenix, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, was founded in 1996 to develop, acquire and integrate the world’s best-in-class health care information technology capabilities

As mentioned in the WaPo story and the Maddow segment, Ingenix and United Healthcare were at the center of an investigation by NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo’s investigation concerned allegations that the Ingenix database intentionally skewed “usual and customary” rates downward through faulty data collection, poor pooling procedures, and the lack of audits.  That means many consumers were forced to pay more than they should have.  The investigation found the rate of underpayment by insurers ranged from ten to twenty-eight percent for various medical services across the state.  The Attorney General found that having a health insurer determine the “usual and customary” rate – a large portion of which the insurer then reimburses – creates an incentive for the insurer to manipulate the rate downward.

While the actions taken by Cuomo were necessary to reform a system which intentionally defrauded patients and doctors, Republicans and Libertarians will no doubt claim it was just New York and big government getting between you and your Doctor and “meddling in the free market”.

The fact that Ingenix and The Lewin Group are cited as policy experts and/or non-partisan in any debate after Cuomo’s investigation and settlement defies the bounds of logic.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an honest discussion about the costs and benefits of public healthcare policy without disingeuous talking points and intentional fraud?

Krugman: The Clearest Policy Ever

27 Jul

Paul Krugman, uber-liberal and generally smart if infuriating economist, said the most extraordinary thing on ABC’s This Week yesterday (I can’t embed the video, so you’ll have to follow this link – check it out with about 3:30 to go).

“This is the clearest policy initiative I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Wow. Way to drink the Kool-Aid. When did Krugman go from being opinionated independent economist to full-time shill for the Obama Administration?


What Krugman said is patently untrue. Bush had his share of bad policies, but he was always clear, to a fault (“with us or against us”). The reason healthcare is floundering is no one can sell the bill because no one knows what’s in the bill.

I watch a lot of political TV, read a lot on the internet, and follow the issues closely. I see a lot of coverage of the horserace, and whether It will pass. I see a lot of talk on the cost of It, and It costs too much. What I don’t see is a lot of coverage of what It actually is.

Public option, in or out? Wait, a Co-op, instead of a public option. But we can already legally do Co-op’s now, and they are rare. Is there a reason why, perhaps? Healthcare reform has turned into health insurance reform. Everyone is covered. No, wait, 10% still won’t be covered. Hold on – reforming MEDPAC is the key! What’s MEDPAC, and how is that NOT the government deciding what care I should have (what R’s are complaining about). How will this contain costs? Wait, it doesn’t contain costs? Then why are we doing it? What’s in the bill anyway?

I know I sound like a broken record, but this is what happens when you outsource your mandate to Pelosi and Reid.

Pundit, to his credit, has tried to run a series of posts on healthcare. Unfortunately, what is exposed is that people have a lot of ideological opinions on healthcare (“The government should be out of the business of healthcare,” “Government healthcare is a fundamental right” – thanks for the new insights), and few facts.

One fact that we do have is that the 30 year cost of Medicare was 9 times the projected estimate.  That should give everyone pause.