Health Insurance Companies Seek Big Rate Increases for 2016
And how big was it?
WASHINGTON — Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Actturned out to be sicker than expected. Federal officials say they are determined to see that the requests are scaled back.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.
The Oregon insurance commissioner, Laura N. Cali, has just approved 2016 rate increases for companies that cover more than 220,000 people. Moda Health Plan, which has the largest enrollment in the state, received a 25 percent increase, and the second-largest plan, LifeWise, received a 33 percent increase.
Why? Let's bottom-line this:
Federal officials have often highlighted a provision of the Affordable Care Act that caps insurers’ profits and requires them to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care and related activities. “Because of the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Obama told supporters in 2013, “insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of every dollar that you pay in premiums on your health care — not on overhead, not on profits, but on you.”
In financial statements filed with the government in the last two months, some insurers said that their claims payments totaled not just 80 percent, but more than 100 percent of premiums. And that, they said, is unsustainable.
At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, for example, the ratio of claims paid to premium revenues was more than 115 percent, and the company said it lost more than $135 million on its individual insurance business in 2014. “Based on first-quarter results,” it said, “the year-end deficit for 2015 individual business is expected to be significantly higher.”
But this is a post of hope and I've got some good news, listen: if you are talking to your family about ObamaCare this weekend, remind that not to worry about the premiums - they are probably spending other people's money!
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, said that federal subsidies would soften the impact of any rate increases. Of the 10.2 million people who obtained coverage through federal and state marketplaces this year, 85 percent receive subsidies in the form of tax credits to help pay premiums.
Hillary can explain all this next summer.
TO WHICH I MIGHT ADD: Federal subsidies of a product can bring down total cost if (IF!) the subsidies carry the producer past the problems of achieving economies of scale and progress on the learning curve. Of course, the manufacturers often absorb that - the first new model car, or Boeing jet, or solar panel to roll off the production line costs a lot more than the thousandth.
But is that happening in health care, or higher education? Doubtful. In which case, the subsidies merely transfer costs, rather than reduce them. And, in the case of health care, raising demand for services without increasing the supply (e.g., relaxed licensing requirements or expanded professional scope for Registered Nurses) ought to lead to price increases.
I would say, read it all - some of the "right wing terror" may not be and some jihadists (specifically, the Beltway Sniper) may have been inappropriately omitted. Her most important point is this:
The most obvious thing to note is the choice of start date: Sept. 12, 2001. That neatly excludes an attack that would dwarf all those homegrown terror attacks by several orders of magnitude. Ah, you will say, but that was a one-time event. Sort of. It is no longer possible to destroy the World Trade Center, but we can't be certain to never again have a large-scale terror attack that kills many people. If you have high-magnitude but low-frequency events, then during most intervals you choose to study, other threats will seem larger -- but if you zoom out, the big, rare events will still kill more people. We don't say that California should stop worrying about earthquake-proofing its buildings, just because in most years bathtub drownings are a much larger threat to its citizens.
Yes. But let me add two related points. First, we are looking at fatal outcomes NET OF preventative measures. What is the mix of resources devoted to stopping jihadists, versus stopping right wing nutjobs? Just for example, why are we standing in airport lines with our shoes off?
Over their chosen time period 302 individuals have been arrested for jihadist plots while 183 non-jihadists have been arrested. If Team Obama can measure jobs created or saved, can't these researchers measure lives saved? OK, probably not - as an poor, out-of-timeframe example, this 1997 "plan" (with a possible KKK link) to blow up a Mitchell Energy natural gas plant might have killed thousands. Or not. Or what about the Times Square bomber, whose failed bomb might have killed thousands? Of course, these prospective casualty estimates come from law enforcement officials - the day may come when the FBI announces they have foiled a plot the consequences of which would have been trivial, but that day has not arrived.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT ANSWERS: The fool who posted that he was "putting wings on pigs" and then drove from Baltimore to NYC to gun down two police officers is not presented in this study as an example of ideologically motivated domestic terror. Why not? I can only guess.
We examine both those individuals motivated by Jihadist ideology, understood as those who worked with or were inspired by al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, as well as those motivated by other ideologies that are non-Jihadist in character, for example right wing, left wing, or idiosyncratic beliefs.
Even if the cop-killer doesn't fit their right wing profile, there ought to be room for him under "left-wing" or "idiosyncratic".
In the dire prophecies of science-fiction writers and the fevered warnings of left-wing activists, big corporations will soon rule the earth — or already do.
Fine with me.
They’ve been great on the issue of the Confederate flag. Almost immediately after the fatal shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., several prominent corporate leaders, including the heads of Walmart and Sears, took steps to retire the banner as a public symbol of the South; others made impassioned calls for that.
And when Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor, said that the Confederate flag at the State House should come down, she did so knowing that Boeing and BMW, two of the state’s major employers, had her back. In fact the state’s chamber of commerce had urged her and other politicians to see the light.
Eli Lilly, American Airlines, Intel and other corporations were crucial to the defeat or amendment of proposed “religious freedom” laws in Indiana, Arkansas and Arizona over the last year and a half. Their leaders weighed in against the measures, which licensed anti-gay discrimination, and put a special kind of pressure on politicians, who had to worry about losing investment and jobs if companies with operations in their states didn’t like what the government was doing.
And if it were up to corporations, we’d have the immigration reform we sorely need. Early last year, the United States Chamber of Commerce publicized a letter that urged Congress to act on “modernizing our immigration system.” It was signed by 246 enterprises large and small, including Apple, AT&T, Caterpillar, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, McDonald’s, Marriott and Microsoft.
Are these companies acting in their own interests? Absolutely. They’re trying to make sure that laws and local customs don’t prevent them from attracting and retaining the best work force. They’re burnishing their brands in a manner that they hope will endear them to customers.
Not all good things come from government? This is breakthrough stuff. Someday he may discover that, just for example, the drugs discovered by Big Pharma save lives, including gay ones.
OK, then maybe one day he will discover the 'regulatory capture hypothesis' and learn that Big Business often co-opts Big Government. It is a matter of suspense as to whether he will conclude that the solution is Bigger Government.
Just a few days back as a flurry of controversial decisions were announced Andrew McCarthy of NRO railed against the left-wing voting bloc on the Supreme Court:
Did you notice that there was not an iota of speculation about how the four Progressive justices would vote? There was never a shadow of a doubt. In the plethora of opinions generated by these three cases, there is not a single one authored by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, or Sonia Sotomayor. There was no need. They are the Left’s voting bloc. There was a better chance that the sun would not rise this morning than that any of them would wander off the reservation.
How can that be? Jurisprudence is complex. Supple minds, however likeminded, will often diverge, sometimes dramatically, on principles of constitutional adjudication, canons of statutory construction, murky separation-of-powers boundaries, the etymology of language, and much else. Witness, for example, the spirited debate between the Court’s two originalists, Scalia and Clarence Thomas, over a statute that, in defiance of Obama policy, treats Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory.
But not the Court’s lefties, not on the major cases.
And it is not so much that they move in lockstep. It is that no one expects them to do anything but move in lockstep — not their fellow justices, not the political branches, and certainly not the commentariat, right or left.
One might infer from his tone that he considers this behavior to be a bad thing. So let's see how a Big Time Legacy Media Reporter makes the same points - this is Adam Liptak in today's NY Times, with my own editorial suggestions included:
Right Divided, a Disciplined Left Steered the Supreme Court
Who wants to be "divided"? No one. Who wants to be "disciplined"? Everyone! Continuing, with my suggested NRO rewrite in brackets:
WASHINGTON — The stunning series of liberal decisions delivered by the Supreme Court this term was the product of discipline [ideological lockstep] on the left side of the court and disarray [diversity] on the right.
In case after case, including blockbusters on same-sex marriage and President Obama’s health care law, the court’s four-member liberal wing, all appointed by Democratic presidents, managed to pick off one or more votes from the court’s five conservative justices, all appointed by Republicans.
“The most interesting thing about this term is the acceleration of a long-term trend of disagreement among the Republican-appointed judges, while the Democratic-appointed judges continue to march in lock step,” said Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago.
Many analysts credit [blame] the leadership of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the senior member of the liberal justices, for leveraging their four votes. “We have made a concerted effort to speak with one voice [stifle dissent] in important cases,” she said in an interview last year. [Uhh, the cases are not all important? They made it to the Supreme Court!]
The court’s conservatives, by contrast, were often splintered [nuanced], issuing separate opinions even when they agreed on the outcome. The conservative justices, for instance, produced more than 40 dissenting opinions, the liberals just 13.
Ok, fun's fun but this next is a 'to be fair' paragraph which, to be fair, may be making an important point:
The divisions on the right, Professor Posner said, may have occurred in part because the mix of cases reaching the court has invited a backlash. “Conservative litigators who hope to move the law to the right by bringing cases to the Supreme Court have overreached,” he said. “They are trying to move the law farther right than Kennedy or Roberts think reasonable.”
And on the overall measurement of the left/right divide, these paragraphs trouble me:
When the administration ended up on the losing side, it was often because it took a conservative position, particularly in criminal cases, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“The administration most often lost the court because it couldn’t hold the liberals,” Professor Winkler said. “The administration’s positions in the Supreme Court were too conservative. Shockingly, the Supreme Court may have been more liberal than the Obama administration this term.” This was so, he said, in cases involving drugs, guns, searches and threats posted on Facebook.
I would be curious to learn which cases he has in mind but it may be that libertarian positions on drugs and searches are being scored as "liberal". I certainly think I would have noticed the howling if a recent Supreme Court decision rolled back gun ownership rights. OTOH, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of this 2014 federal court decision from San Francisco:
SAN FRANCISCO – A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld two San Francisco gun laws challenged by the National Rifle Association and gun owners who live in the city.
San Francisco requires handgun owners to secure weapons in their homes by storing them in a locker, keeping them on their bodies or applying trigger locks. The city also bans the sale of ammunition that expands on impact, has "no sporting purpose" and is commonly referred to as hollow-point bullets.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the requirements are reasonable attempts to increase public safety without trampling on Second Amendment rights.
Judge Sandra Ikuta, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said modern gun lockers can be opened quickly and "may be readily accessed in case of an emergency." She also said that gun owners concerned about safety can carry them around the home as well.
As for the ammunition ban, Ikuta said San Francisco residents were free to buy the banned bullets outside city limits. That limitation "imposes only modest burdens on the Second Amendment right," she said.
How much that intrudes on Heller is a matter of opinion. And this was a lower court opinion the Supremes declined to review, so it may not be relevant to discerning the court's left/right split.
I will guess that the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, while hardly a surprise, was not the best news for earnest Christians. This is from the Times:
The dramatic shift in public opinion [on gay marriage], and now in the nation’s laws, has left evangelical Protestants, who make up about a quarter of the American population, in an uncomfortable position. Out of step with the broader society, and often derided as discriminatory or hateful, many are feeling under siege as they try to live out their understanding of biblical teachings, and worry that a changing legal landscape on gay rights will inevitably lead to constraints on religious freedom.
No kidding. Too many Christians vote for Republicans so progressives will double down on labeling them as bigots and homophobic haters.
On the other hand, the scene in the Charleston courtroom at the bond hearing for Dylann Roof was a stunning display of Christian love, forgiveness and witness. Here is Times coverage and a recent description (in the context of taking down the Confederate flag):
And, in the country’s most churchgoing region, Christianity played a potent role. White worshipers described themselves as pained by guilt and moved beyond measure after watching relatives of the nine victims in Charleston deliver an unexpected message, distilling the essence of Christianity at a bond hearing for the suspect: We forgive.
Although theology is far outside my operating area, my thought is this: if a devout Christian florist or baker is asked to work for a gay wedding, maybe he (or she) could say something like "That is contrary to my religious beliefs and I hope you can respect my desire to refuse, but if you insist then I forgive you and will pray that God grant both of us a greater understanding of his message and his love". That would be a more elaborate version of "Love the sinner, hate the sin".
And just to complicate the issue - my impression is that celibate homosexuals are not considered to be sinners (I also glean this from the same Times article linked earlier). Now, people get married for all sorts of reasons, such as creating clarity for legal, insurance, real estate and adoptive issues. And I daresay that few in the homosexual community are getting married because they had forsworn pre-marital sex. So (this is a logical leap, but hardly Beamonesque), unless there is a concern that the newlyweds will have sex during the ceremony, any sinning is entirely hypothetical and not truly contingent upon the wedding ceremony which might will be happening for other reasons. In which case, getting married is not, in itself, sinful, nor is contributing to it.
Libya Emails Seem To Contradict Clinton On Adviser's Role
Currently they offer a bit of a headscratcher:
Benghazi Emails Put Focus on Hillary Clinton’s Encouragement of Adviser
WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters last month that the memos about Libya she received while secretary of state from Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime adviser whom the Obama administration had barred her from hiring, had been “unsolicited.”
But according to officials briefed on the matter, email records that Mrs. Clinton apparently failed to turn over to the State Department last fall show that she repeatedly encouraged Mr. Blumenthal to “keep ’em coming,” as she said in an August 2012 reply to a memo from him, which she called “another keeper.”
All or part of 15 Libya-related emails she sent to Mr. Blumenthal were missing from the trove of 30,000 that Mrs. Clinton provided to the State Department last year, as well as from the 847 that the department in turn provided in February to the House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The emails were reviewed by a reporter.
So she lied, sorry misremembered about her relationship with Sidney Blumenthal (who was trying to hustle Libya business for some contacts) and lied, what's with me, misremembered about the completeness of her email dump.
So, business as usual. This is only news for anyone who does not yet grasp Hillary's true nature. Nixon in a pantsuit.
In a case of life imitating art, the two killers who escaped from a prison in upstate New York in early June may have evaded capture for as long as they did with the help of an unlikely ingredient, authorities say.
Richard Matt and David Sweat, who broke out of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, may have used black pepper to throw off their scent from the dogs that were tracking them, Joseph D’Amico, superintendent for the New York State Police, told the Associated Press after authorities recovered Mr. Sweat’s DNA from a discarded pepper shaker at a camp where the fugitives may have spent time.
The con was used in the 1967 film, “Cool Hand Luke.
When life hands you lemons, make a G&T. Or several. Then consider the positives of the latest ruling on RobertsCare:
1. Scalia is still breathing, so extreme outrage probably won't trigger that long-feared aneurysm. Bloggers and commenters everywhere can rest easier. And blog harder!
2. Let's give props to John Roberts, who was no doubt putting America's national security ahead of bickering over the meaning of obscure phrases such as "established by the state". With national health pinned down, Obama's thirst for a legacy may be quelled and his enthusiasm to sign on to a bad-and-getting-worse nuclear deal with Iran may ebb. After all, Obama already has a Nobel Peace Prizel, Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine notwithstanding. Of course, John Kerry is still looking for something to validate his life... Hey, why can't the Nobel people create a formal "Still Not George Bush" prize and give Kerry that? Just trying to think outside the box (but inside the ice cubes) here.
3. This one really cheered me up and I know it will give everyone a boost if I can ever remember it. Darn. So much for this idea.
NRO has an interesting give and take on the symbolic meaning of the Confederate battle flag. Here is Iraq war veteran David French:
Like many Southern boys, I grew up with two flags hanging in my room — an American flag and a Confederate battle flag. The American flag was enormous, taking up much of one wall. It was the “1776” flag, with 13 stars in a circle in the field of blue. My grandmother bought it for me on the bicentennial, and for years it was a treasured possession. The flag took on a special meaning later in life, when I learned more of a family history that included service with General Washington, suffering at Valley Forge.
The Confederate battle flag was much smaller, and it hung over my bookshelf. We bought it at the Shiloh battlefield in Tennessee, where one of my Confederate ancestors fought and where Albert Sidney Johnston died — the general that many considered the great hope of the Confederate Army in the West. My Confederate forefathers went on to fight at Vicksburg, at the battles of Franklin and Nashville, and in countless skirmishes across Tennessee and Mississippi. I grew up looking at old family pictures, including men who still wore their Confederate uniform for formal portraits — long after the war had ended.
So, family history and martial valor. However...
If the goal of our shared civic experience was the avoidance of pain, then we’d take down that flag. But that’s of course not the goal. Rather, we use history to understand our nation in all its complexity — acknowledging uncomfortable realities and learning difficult truths.
It is telling that the South’s chosen, enduring symbol of the Confederacy wasn’t the flag of the Confederate States of America — the slave state itself — but the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s army. Lee was the reluctant Confederate, the brilliant commander, the man who called slavery a “moral and political evil,” and the architect — by his example — of much of the reconciliation between North and South. His virtue grew in the retelling — and modern historians still argue about his true character — but the symbolism was clear. If the South was to rebuild, it would rebuild under Lee’s banner.
Since that time, the battle flag has grown to mean many things, including evil things. Flying it as a symbol of white racial supremacy is undeniably vile, and any official use of the flag for that purpose should end, immediately. Flying it over monuments to Confederate war dead is simply history. States should no more remove a Confederate battle flag from a Confederate memorial than they should chisel away the words on the granite or bulldoze the memorials themselves.
Whether you think it’s all right for South Carolina to fly a Confederate battle flag over a Confederate memorial on its capitol grounds depends on whether you think that the Confederate war dead should be honored. If you do, then you can, as David French does, see the flag as a symbol of their valor and skill while decrying its use by white supremacists.
This strikes me as a whitewash of both the flag and the Confederacy. The Confederacy was a rebellion founded on the incoherent idea that the sovereign authority of the United States might be shucked off at the states’ pleasure, and the Confederacy’s primary reason for being was to preserve racial slavery — that is, to violate natural rights rather than to secure them. That is what Confederate soldiers fought for. Whatever else their battle flag may mean, it has to mean that. It did not become a banner of white supremacy in the mid 20th century when racial segregationists took it up. It was a banner of white supremacy, and of lawlessness, from the beginning.
Reihan Salan reviews the history and comes away suggesting that the use of the flag morphed from honoring the Confederate veterans and dead to resisting the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's. This is from a study he excerpted:
From the end of the Civil War until the late 1940s, display of the battle flag was mostly limited to Confederate commemorations, Civil War re-enactments, and veterans’ parades. The flag had simply become a tribute to Confederate veterans. It was during that time period, only thirty years after the end of the war and fifty years before the modern civil rights movement, that Mississippi incorporated the battle flag into its own state flag – well before the battle flag took on a different and more politically charged meaning.
In 1948, the battle flag began to take on a different meaning when it appeared at the Dixiecrat convention in Birmingham as a symbol of southern protest and resistance to the federal government – displaying the flag then acquired a more political significance after this convention. Georgia of course, changed its flag in 1956, two years after Brown v. Board of Education was decided. In 1961, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama, raised the Confederate battle flag over the capitol dome in Montgomery to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War. The next year, South Carolina raised the battle flag over its capitol. In 1963, as part of his continued opposition to integration, Governor Wallace again raised the flag over the capitol dome. Despite the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War, the likely meaning of the battle flag by that time was not the representation of the Confederacy, because the flag had already been used by Dixiecrats and had become recognized as a symbol of protest and resistance. Based on its association with the Dixiecrats, it was at least in part, if not entirely, a symbol of resistance to federally enforced integration. Undoubtedly, too, it acquired a racist aspect from its use by the Ku Klux Klan, whose violent activities increased during this period. However, it is important to remember that in spite of these other uses, there remained displays of the battle flag as homage to the Confederate dead, with no racist overtones.
Well. At the risk of a Godwin's Law violation, I would note that German history is complicated and many Germans fought valiantly and honorably during WWII. But despite its long history of other meanings we don't see Nazi flags at German war cemeteries, and, although tributes to conventional German soldiers are within bounds, the politics of a cemetery which includes the Waffen SS are deeply fraught.
People who wanted to reserve the battle flag for honoring the soldiers of the Civil War should have piped up when that flag was politicized by the leaders of the retrograde South. They're a bit late now.