Not So Bad

I know Sean (“Death Spiral”) Hannity won’t see it this way, but the demographics of Obamacare so far aren’t that bad.  They had hoped about 40% of those signing up would be 18-34.  So far, it looks more like 24%, so the insurance pool is older and sicker than they’d like.

But, there’s three more months of open enrollment, and it was always expected that the old and sick would sign up first, since they need coverage more desperately, and the young and healthy would be stragglers.  That’s how it played out in Massachusetts when Romneycare first took effect.

Also, the Kaiser Family Foundation says that even with this pool, the insurance market should be stable, with premiums rising maybe a percent or two.  If the risk pool improves as expected, that will help keep premiums down.

Looking a lot better for the Prez (and Dems running in 2014) than it did three months ago.

However Many Problems You Solve, Fox News Will Find More

When wasn’t working, Fox News bitched and moaned about how awful it was that you couldnt use the web site.   Now that the site’s much improved, they’re trying to scare people away, claiming you shouldnt use it because of vague “security” risks.  They have yet to actually find a family who bought health insurance and had a cyber thief book a Mediterranean cruise using their AmEx, but still…

Sean Hannity has gone from having Ainsley Earhardt sit there unable to log on, to having her refuse to give her Social Security number, which clearly is what Fox News wants everyone to do.  If that sweet little South Carolina cupcake Ainsley pouts her glossy lips and says “Hell, no,” you can (and should) too!  Because if we all refuse to give our Social Security numbers, Obamacare will fail, the Muslim Socialist will go back to Kenya, and America will be saved.

Meanwhile, down the hall, Megyn Kelly is obsessed with the 834’s, the form that sends to the insurance company you choose.  While the error rate on the 834’s was about 25% back in October and November, some of those errors were de mininis (your middle initial was wrong) and that rate is now about 10%.  And mostly we are talking mistakes, like people getting enrolled twice, not “lost” applications where people think they have insurance, but they don’t.

Anyway, Megyn is worrying her pretty blonde head about how in the world people can possibly figure out if they have insurance, without showing up at the hospital on January 1st and being left in the lobby to die.  Actually, it’s pretty simple, something even folks who work at Fox News should be able to grasp.  If you get a bill for your first premium, which happens pretty quickly after you enroll, congratulations, you have insurance.  Well, as long as you pay that bill.  If you don’t get a bill, you don’t have insurance, and you need to contact the company you wanted to sign up with.  Since this is basic capitalism — you get stuff by paying for it — you’d think Fox News would understand the whole billing-and-premium-paying thing, as opposed to the how-the-Hell-can-anyone-tell thing Megyn Kelly is pushing.

Quote of the Day

“The website is really just the beginning.  I think you’re talking about the potential collapse, not only of Obamacare as we have understood it, but potentially the insurance industry more basically.”

Stephen “Chicken Little” Hayes of The Weekly Standard on Fox News

Because it’s not enough to misinform “the folks,” we have to scare the crap out of them, too.

Hannity and Cruz Flat Out Lie About Obamacare Costs

I thought Forbes was a serious publication, but apparently not.  Check out Chris Conover’s “Obamacare Will Increase Health Spending by $7450 for a Typical Family of Four.”

Here’s a news flash for you — if you provide health insurance to 30 million more people, health care spending will go up!  Conover takes the Medicare actuary’s prediction that health care spending will go up $621 billion over the next ten years, and works that out to $7,450 for a “typical” family of four.

Conover contrasts this increase in spending with Obama’s promise that premiums would go down $2,500 a year for a family of four.  Now, if you read the article carefully, it’s clear that he’s comparing the apples of $7,450 over ten years with the oranges of $2,500 per year.

Guess who either didn’t really the article carefully or who doesn’t give a damn about the truth (and I suspect it’s the latter)?  Sean Hannity and Ted Cruz.  On his show tonight, Sean explicitly said that it would be an increase of $7,450 per year for a family of four.  Ted Cruz chimed in that it was a $10,000 swing compared to Obama’s promise.  Um, only if you purposely confuse a single year with a decade because you’re trying to scare the hell out of people.  I’m guessing that many more people watch Sean than will read the Forbes article, let alone read it carefully.

The other problem with Conover’s article is that he talks about an increase in health care spending as if he were talking about a family’s outofpocket costs.  He makes no attempt to distinguish how much will be paid by the government (expanded Medicaid, health insurance subsidies, etc.), how much will be paid by insurance, and how much will actually paid by that “typical” insured family of four.

Because if he did that, if he were honest, it wouldn’t be anywhere near $7,450, and it wouldn’t be so impressively scary.


The GOP’s Phony Outrage on Subsidies

If Obamacare were going to be as apocalyptic as the GOP claims (The whole country will be working part-time!), they’d just sit back and wait for that disaster and savor their sweep of both Houses of Congress in 2014 and the White House in 2016.

But, really, they are afraid that people are going to like Obamacare, especially with the subsidies for lower and middle-income families.  They are outraged about these “government subsidies.”

But what do they think the government is already doing with health care?  Health care subsidies are the biggest tax expenditure in the tax code, costing the government hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

If you get health insurance from your employer, you don’t pay taxes on the value of that benefit, it’s not counted as part of your income.  Your employer, in turn, gets to deduct all those health insurance premiums as a business expense.

So our current employer-based health system is already heavily subsidized by the federal government.  And by the way, one of the reasons wages have stagnated is the growing cost of health insurance.  Your employer is paying you more, he’s just doing it by paying those increased premiums for you.

So for the GOP to decry that the government is suddenly subsidizing health insurance is specious.  It’s been going on for decades. Big time.

The GOP claims they want consumer-based health care.  Well, this is it.  Every time someone buys insurance on the new exchanges from a private insurance company, that’s consumer-based health care.


Krugman — Obamacare Here to Stay

From “One Reform, Indivisible,” Paul Krugman, NYT:

“Start with the goal that almost everyone at least pretends to support:  giving Americans with pre-existing conditions access to health insurance.  Governments can, if they choose, require that insurance companies issue policies without regard to an individual’s medical history, ‘community rating,’ and some states, including New York, have done just that.  But we know what happens next:  many healthy people don’t buy insurance, leaving a relatively bad risk pool, leading to high premiums that drive out even more healthy people.

“To avoid this downward spiral, you need to induce healthy Americans to buy in; hence, the individual mandate, with a penalty for those who don’t purchase insurance.  Finally, since buying insurance could be a hardship for lower-income Americans, you need subsidies to make insurance affordable for all.

“Oh, there will be problems, especially in states where Republican governors and legislators are doing all they can to sabotage the implementation.  But the basic thrust of Obamacare is, as I’ve just explained, coherent and even fairly simple.  Moreover, all the early indications are that the law will, in fact, give millions of Americans who currently lack access to health insurance the coverage they need, while giving millions more a big break in their health care costs.  And because so many people will see clear benefits, health reform will prove irreversible.”

Thank You, SCOTUS

When the Supreme Court voted that Obamacare was constitutional, they also held that states didn’t have to expand Medicaid as the law intended.  About 25 states, with GOP governors or legislatures or both, have so far refused to expand Medicaid.

This leaves us with the bizarre anomaly that more prosperous people will be eligible for health insurance subsidies, while poorer people still won’t be able to get health insurance.

The NYT* points out that the head of a family of four making $14 an hour will qualify for subsidies, but someone making $10 an hour won’t be able to get any help at all.

This is what happens when the law is an ass, and one of our two major political parties hates poor people.

*  “States’ Policies on Health Care Exclude Poorest,” Robert Pear

Shame on You, Rick Perry

What state has the highest percentage of residents without health insurance?  You might expect Mississippi or Alabama or Arkansas, which usually win these dubious-distinction contests, but in this case it’s Texas.

Twenty-four percent of Texans don’t have health insurance, and the federal government is offering expanded Medicaid that would insure more than one million of them.  Plus, it wouldn’t cost Texas anything for the first three years, and after that, Texas wouldn’t have to pay more than 90%.

You’d think any governor would jump at the chance to have a healthier work force and give kids a better start in life, but if your governor is Rick Perry, not so much.  Because, you know, the Medicaid expansion is part of evil Obamacare.

Somebody seems to be thinking more about 2016 GOP primary voters than about his own citizens.  Very sad, very shameful.

72 Million Without Health Insurance?

The Commonwealth Fund predicts that under Mitt’s health insurance plan, 72 million Americans would be uninsured by 2022, primarily because of Mitt’s plans for Medicaid.

Under Obamacare, by contrast, they predict 27 million uninsured, compared to 60 million if Obamacare had not been enacted.

Their projections are based on calculations by MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, who worked with Mitt on Romneycare and with the President on Obamacare.

Fox Treats Mitt Like a Hen

Roger Ailes’ pet Megyn Kelly oozes ambition and is clearly gunning for a prime-time show on Fox News (goodbye Greta?) rather than her current daytime slot.  So she’s going to look for opportunities to generate buzz and attention to her sleepy afternoon backwater.

Mitt Romney was her opportunity du jour.

Expecting a warm and fuzzy chat, a sympathetic setting to lick his wounds after the South’s revenge on his Yankee ass, because she’s not supposed to be Mike Wallace on Sunday morning for Christ’s sake, Mitt was clearly taken aback when Kelly played a clip from a 2008 presidential debate, where Mitt said he liked [health care] mandates and Fred Thompson ridiculed him.  Those mandates requiring people to buy health insurance that for some reason are a fantastic idea for Massachusetts (Romneycare), but a terrible idea for the rest of the country (Obamacare).

Mitt looked miserable as he danced around Megyn’s request for an explanation of the tape.  There is a very good explanation, but unfortunately, Mitt can’t use it.  The truth is that he now hates mandates not for anything to do health care, but simply because they hurt his chances of becoming president.

Don’t expect to see Mitt and Megyn together again anytime soon.