Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 7:39 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 11

Memo to the airlines: You whiny bitches can just pay your taxes like everybody else does.

Oh, good. Another war. Because we were running out of them, or something. People, ISIS is NOT an existential threat to this country. If you think otherwise, imagine ISIS trying to capture Detroit or Dallas, mmkay? Relatedly, if Chris Matthews wants a war so damned badly, let him go fight it himself.

Meanwhile, a committee of the Arizona Senate wishes to reprosecute the Civil War. Didn’t work out too great for their side last time, but what the hell, you know?

Our “allies” in Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t allowed to drive, apparently believe women drive in the U.S. and elsewhere because they don’t care whether they get raped. Evil AND stupid is no way to go through life, son.

FBI director James Comey is urging Americans to panic about possible ISIS militants under their beds. It’s a real shame the Snowden revelations and that lib’rul Obama cut back so badly on our nation’s intelligence-gathering capabilities; otherwise, we wouldn’t need to wet our pants like this. Oh. Wait.

#AdviceToYoungJournalists is trending on Twitter. Here’s mine: Run. Save yourself. While you still can.

Our new idiot senator, Thom Tillis, has hired a new idiot legislative director who thinks birth control causes cancer.

Cops in N.C. are spying on citizens. One would think the GOP-controlled legislature might want to do something about Big Gummint, but one would think that only if one believed Republicans are serious about stemming the overreach of Big Gummint.

NBC’s Brian Williams gets suspended for six months for misremembering what happened in Iraq. Good. But Alberto Gonzalez took the Fifth 67 times before Congress, and we’re still paying his ass. Just saying.

Our “divisive,” “obstructionist” president has, when his length of service is taken into account, vetoed fewer bills than any president since James Monroe.

Even in Colombia, there’s no uprising so nasty that the addition of Miss Universe might not ameliorate it.

I’m starting to think technology and Republicans just don’t mix. This week, the N.C. legislature’s main website went down after — no kidding — someone forgot to renew the domain.

What happens if the anti-ACA case King v. Burwell, now before the Supremes, results in the ACA (or at least the part about exchanges) being overturned? Insurance exec Richard Mayhew says it won’t be pretty, with most subsidized exchange policies being yanked this summer. But wait! There’s more!

After [those policies are yanked], the remaining individual insurance market now looks like the pre-PPACA New York State insurance market, where there is guarantee issue and no medical underwriting but no subsidies and no mandates to get healthy people into the risk pool.  We get a death spiral where average premiums for a 30 year old would almost double in two years, and most reasonably healthy people who otherwise would have qualified for subsidies now sit out of the market because they can’t afford the coverage.

 

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Thursday, August 7, 2014 8:31 pm

“With the ACA we have placed a lot of bets.”

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong offers 10 big-picture thoughts on the Affordable Care Act’s history, politics, and performance to date. It’s smart, it’s easy to understand, and, to my eye, it’s 100 percent right — even the parts where he criticizes President Obama.

Thursday, December 5, 2013 5:42 pm

If you want to lay money on how well Obamacare is going to work …

… then you might want to pay attention to where insurance companies are putting their money, as insurance executive Richard Mayhew points out:

I was at physical therapy this morning.   As I did my stretches and balancing exercises for my ankle, the local generic “alt” rock radio station was being piped through the speakers and Good Morning America was on the wall television.

On the rock station, I heard a Healthcare.gov “I got covered” ad, an ad from my company advertising its Exchange product.  I heard two other competitors advertise their on and off-Exchange products.  This radio station’s typical advertising rotation is a combination of bars, strip clubs, debt consolidation agencies, cash for gold and structured settlement companies.  The normal advertising mix assumes a fairly young, male and broke listening audience.  This is a prime demographic for the subsidized Exchanges.

On Good Morning America, I saw another Healthcare.gov ad, and three ads from two other insurance companies in the area.  One was the same company on the radio, and the other was the fourth private plan advertising.  The pitch for the last one was “You need to sign up by Dec. 23 for Jan.1 coverage and even if the government website is jacked up, we can help you at 1-800-555-5544″

[That] four  insurance companies are putting their money behind the relaunch with the advertising campaign is a tell that entities with real money to lose if they guess wrong are guessing that things are working right.

But Obamacare will never work. It can’t work!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 7:57 pm

Obama lied about keeping your existing health-insurance policy … or DID he?

Actually, The Washington Post (among others) did the lying, as economist Dean Baker helpfully notes:

The Washington Post joined Republicans in hyping the fact that many individual insurance policies are being cancelled with insurers telling people that the reason is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The second paragraph comments on this fact:

“The notices [of plan cancellation] appear to contradict President Obama’s promise that despite the changes resulting from the law, Americans can keep their health insurance if they like it.”

It would have been useful to point out that the plans that were in effect as of the passage of the ACA were grandfathered. This means that any insurers that cancel plans that were in effect prior to 2010 are being misleading if they tell their customers that the cancellation was due to the ACA. It was not a mandate of the ACA that led to the cancellation of the plan, but rather a decision of the insurer based on market conditions.

But Obama is black!

Also, if you really want to know what’s going on in the economy, just read Baker’s blog every day. It’s called Beat The Press, and that’s what it does. Pretty much the only thing he ever posts about is mistakes made by major news-media outlets in coverage of economics, and he never lacks for material, averaging about 3-4 posts per day. He also doesn’t have to go far afield for material: The major print, broadcast and cable outlets keep him supplied without his having to go beat up on a 22-year-old cub reporter in East Buttville to flesh out an item. I started reading him several years ago, and in less than a week, I arrived at the conclusion that where economics coverage is concerned, American news  media just ought to be ashamed, full stop. This matters not only in and of itself but also because the income and wealth of working people and the middle class are under siege right now by the 1%, who are counting on people’s economic ignorance to let them do what they want to do, which is rob us blind. Baker is our Thin Blue Line. Read him and support him.

Sunday, October 27, 2013 9:50 pm

Oh, I’M sorry, you were worried about the DEFICIT and not whether Americans had health care?

Read this and weep, you freakin’ sociopaths:

The Affordable Care Act is already working: Intense price competition among health plans in the marketplaces for individuals has lowered premiums below projected levels. As a result of these lower premiums, the federal government will save about $190 billion over the next 10 years, according to our estimates. These savings will boost the health law’s amount of deficit reduction by 174 percent and represent about 40 percent of the health care savings proposed by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform—commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles commission—in 2010.

Moreover, we estimate that lower premiums will lower the number of uninsured even further, by an additional 700,000 people, even as the number of individuals who receive tax credits will decline because insurance is more affordable.

In short, the Affordable Care Act is working even better than expected, producing more coverage for much less money.

And just because you’re evil and you suck, you should also read the whole damn report, while I make an adult beverage out of vodka and your bitter, bitter tears.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:42 pm

Making shareholder omelettes, Guardian Life Insurance-style; or, We finally found the death panel

Americans don’t care about collateral damage. I’m not talking about the American military. I’m talking about American insurers:

After decades of medical emergencies, we still weren’t prepared for the latest crisis — this one created by the same insurance company that once saved my life. Guardian abruptly withdrew our health plan from all policyholders in New York where my father’s business is based. Guardian offered a ‘replacement’ plan with low benefits and no home nursing benefits. They knew that I would never survive with such a plan, but they didn’t care.

Suspecting that this action was related to the high cost of my care, we filed a lawsuit and have asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enforce existing federal laws and require Guardian to continue my health plan. Without federal intervention, I will lose this insurance, and that would be a death sentence.

Our lawsuit uncovered insurance company documents that confirmed my suspicion that I’m a target of discrimination. The documents revealed Guardian had compiled a “hit list” of its costliest members, including patients with muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, and paralysis. Guardian executives referred to us all as “dogs” and “trainwrecks,” and they debated how and when to dump us from the rolls. Laws prohibited the cancellation of the individual members with serious chronic health problems, so Guardian opted to cancel the plan for all members of this specific health plan in New York, an action that violates federal law. …

While all this was going on, Guardian reported $7.5 billion revenue, net income of $437 million, and available capital of $4.3 billion in 2008.

Someone should go to prison for this. It’s fraud at the least and, depending on the medical outcomes of the people covered, could well have extended to manslaughter.

Saturday, October 24, 2009 10:43 pm

Trigger this

The guy who came up with the idea of a public option in health insurance reform explains why a trigger is a bad idea. The short version: People would be required to buy health insurance a lot sooner than any trigger could possibly be tripped that would lead to creation of a public option, and it would take even longer after the trigger was tripped before that option was available.

In short, any support for a trigger is basically stealth opposition to a public option. So whatever your position on a public option, forget the trigger. Let’s either have a public option or not, and let’s have our public conversation focus on those two choices — at least they’re realistic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 6:01 am

Shorter health-care debate

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 6:01 am
Tags: ,

Shorter health-insurance industry: Nice health-care system ya got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

Shorter Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.: G’head, punk. Make my day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009 2:20 pm

“Tort reform,” lawyers, malpractice and health-care reform

You no doubt believe, in significant part because a lot of people who ought to know better are saying so, that malpractice insurance is a big and preventable part of our huge health-care costs.

It’s an attractive scenario, not least because it makes lawyers the bad guys. Just one problem: It’s not true.

Also, a lot of people will be making a big deal out of a Congressional Budget Office report that “tort reform” would save $54 billion from federal deficits during the next 10 years — $41 billion in spending reductions and $13 billion in new revenue.

That’s not peanuts … except in the case of what the U.S. spends for health care. We spend roughly $2.4 trillion every year on it. So these savings would be the equivalent of saving a nickel on a $24 restaurant tab.

Here are the relevant facts about medical malpractice:

  • A disproportionately small number of health-care professionals is responsible for a disproportionately large percentage of malpractice claims.
  • This can happen because the states and professions do not adequately police their own. In particular, details on every malpractice claim, merited and unmerited alike, need to go into a publicly available national database.
  • The biggest driver of malpractice-insurance premiums isn’t malpractice-suit judgments or settlements, it’s the performance of the insurers’ own investments. This was true a long time before last year, when all the markets went to hell.
  • The fact that doctors push patients toward diagnostics and treatments in which they have a financial interest is a far bigger driver than all malpractice-associated costs.

This information has been publicly available and factually undisputed far too long for the misinformation to be entirely accidental. So we must ask ourselves: Who benefits from having this misinformation out there?

Well, because malpractice patients’ lawyers tend to donate disproportionately to Democrats, and because the targets of suits against doctors, hospitals, and drug and device makers tend to be run disproportionately by Republicans, you can argue that Republicans benefit financially and politically.

Of course, you also can argue that, financially and politically, Republicans would benefit equally, if not more so, from an actual reduction in malpractice, following some of the steps suggested above. But where would the fun be in that?

UPDATE: From the comments, Mark Baird adds ammunition to the argument that talk about “tort reform” is just a distraction:

Following is a [Government Accountability Office] report on medical malpractice [that] could not find any evidence to substantiate the claims of lawsuits impacting health care costs, access to health care or defensive medicine (with one possible lose connection relating to OBGYN). But of course you will not see this report on any media outlet swinging left or right.

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d03836.pdf

Remember the CBO report regarding the cost of a single payer system that we all grasped to support our arguments against a single payer system…

Well, there is the CBO report which had this to say about tort reform:

“But even large savings in premiums can have only a small direct impact on health care spending–private or governmental–because malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of that spending.”

http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=4968&type=0#t3

And of course there is Tillinghast-Towers Perrin (one of the largest in the world that provides risk management for the insurance and reinsurance industry).

According to the actuarial consulting firm Towers Perrin, medical malpractice tort costs were $30.4 billion in 2007, the last year for which data are available. We have a more than a $2 trillion health care system. That puts litigation costs and malpractice insurance at 1 to 1.5 percent of total medical costs. That’s a rounding error. Liability isn’t even the tail on the cost dog. It’s the hair on the end of the tail.

Of that 1 to 1.5 percent what portion of that is “frivolous”?

http://www.towersperrin.com/tp/getwebcachedoc?webc=USA/2008/200811/2008_tort_costs_trends.pdf (Page 10)

And then of course the report from Towers Perrin that states that the total tort cost in the US is 2% of the GDP. What percentage of that is “frivolous” and of that percentage what percentage is “frivolous” corporate lawsuits. So how much are “frivolous” lawsuits driving up the cost of everything? Maybe less than 2 cents on the dollar or maybe even less the 1 cent on the dollar?
http://www.towersperrin.com/tp/getwebcachedoc?webc=USA/2008/200811/2008_tort_costs_trends.pdf

Thursday, September 10, 2009 8:28 pm

Advertising Fail

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:28 pm
Tags: ,

Apparently Congressional Republicans think one good way to make health care more affordable is to … wait for it … let health insurers advertise direct to consumers on TV like drug companies do.

Never mind that the cost of advertising would be passed on to those who pay the premiums. Never mind that it’s impossible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of health insurance plans on the basis of a 30-second TV spot. Never mind that in most states one or two insurers effectively control the market — and they, not their smaller competitors, will be the ones in the best position to benefit from TV advertising.

Direct-to-consumer advertising of name-brand prescription drugs is a horrible basis for a model to improve health care. Not  only does the advertising steer consumers toward higher-priced name brands, it steers them away from lower-cost generic drugs, or even effective nonprescription treatments. And if people think it’s a bad idea to put government between you and your doctor (and it is), why do they think it’s such a hot idea to put a private, for-profit drug maker between you and your doctor, who probably knows a lot more about this stuff than you do? Direct-to-consumer advertising of Rx drugs is so full of Fail that only one other industrialized democracy in the top 35, New Zealand, allows it. And yet these guys think it is a model for saving money on health care.

OK, in fairness, I don’t think they’re actually stupid enough to believe what they’re saying. I think they’re saying this because the health insurers want them to. But that still doesn’t make it a good idea.

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