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Friday
Mar282014

The Secret Sexist Roots of the HHS Contraception Mandate

Sexist Roots of HHS MandateGay rights activists protest outside the Supreme Court during the Hobby Lobby oral arguments, calling critics of a law biased against men "bigots."

It didn't come up in the Supreme Court arguments.

No one is mentioning it in major papers.

But the HHS contraception mandate has a secret sexist past.

And present.

Forget everything you've been told by supporters about how the contraception mandate is necessary to help working families, especially low-income working families, afford birth control, because that's not why the Obama Administration is pushing it.

Here's how we know: the mandate doesn't require that covered companies extend birth control benefits to all employees who want their birth control covered, or even to all lower-income employees.

It only covers birth control methods for women. Under HHS Mandate requirements:

  • If you are a female employee of a company subject to the mandate who wants the full cost of your birth control pills paid for by your insurance: covered.

  • If you are a male employee of the same company who wants his condoms paid by insurance: not covered.

  • If you are a woman wanting a sterilization procedure such as a tubal ligation: covered.

  • If you are a man seeking a vasectomy: not covered.

Birth control, at least to anyone not so blinded by ideology that they cannot perceive basic biology, is the ultimate it-takes-two-to-tango issue. No woman ever got pregnant alone.

So why did the Obama Administration specifically create rules that cover women and not men?

Because the Administration's purpose in pushing the mandate is only tangentially birth control.

Its actual, overriding purpose is to improve the economic and social position of women relative to the economic and social position of men.

Not improve the position of women in absolute terms, or women and men both in absolute terms, but the economic and social position of women relative to that of men.

Don't take my word for it. Look at the Federal Register, where the Administration laid out its reasons for imposing the mandate and for doing it the way it did - a document very significant legally, but also one that the Administration realizes few Americans will ever read.

In it, the Administration says that the lack of mandated birth control coverage prior to passage of ObamaCare created a disparity, and "this disparity placed women in the workforce at a disadvantage compared to their male coworkers. Research shows that access to contraception improves the social and economic status of women."

The next paragraph says that eliminating birth control co-pays "is particularly critical to addressing the gender disparity of concern here."

The next paragraph refers to "gender equity interests" as "compelling."

Another speaks of the need to "lessen the disparity between men's and women's health care costs."

And notice that in yet another paragraph, "gender equality" takes a front seat to achieving the underlying goals of the Affordable Care Act: "...there are significant benefits associated with contraceptive coverage without cost sharing. Such coverage significantly furthers the governmental interests in promoting public health and gender equality, and promotes the underlying goals of the Exchanges and the Affordable Care Act more generally."

Notice what all of these paragraphs do not say. They do not say that low-income families have trouble paying for birth control and the HHS mandate is a way to help them. They do not note that while the pill may be only $9 a month at Walmart, that $9 is a lot of money if you make minimum wage. They do not say that both women and men tend to be better off economically if they do not have children to support, or acknowledge that while it is true that only women can get pregnant, it is not true that only women can use birth control or get sterilized. And they also do not say that if anyone actually has a "right" to birth control, then surely both genders have that "right" equally, as men, last I noticed, have equal civil rights to women.

No, the focus is on "gender disparity" - women supposedly not doing as well as men economically and socially, and the need to empower women relative to men.

The HHS mandate is about feminism. Health care is secondary. Perhaps even incidental.

If you still doubt, ask yourself this: If the mandate is intended to help all working families afford birth control, why did HHS purposefully write it to exclude comparable benefits to men?

Thursday
Mar272014

Another Phony ObamaCare Milestone

The Department of Health and Human Services reported today that enrollment in the ObamaCare exchanges had reached 6 million. 

On Wednesday the Administration said that the March 31 deadline would be extended into April for people who had trouble signing up through the website.  But, well, that was yesterday.  From today’s HHS release:

Millions of Americans have gotten health coverage through the Marketplace in the last five months. And there is still time left for you to join them.  But you need to act now.  The deadline to enroll for coverage this year is Monday, March 31.

Of course, once March 31 rolls around, HHS will probably say that there is still time to sign up.  Oh well…if you haven’t noticed that the Administration is making this stuff up as it goes along, then you don’t have a pulse.

There are still plenty of things we don’t know about enrollment, which makes today’s announcement highly suspect.  Most important, how many people have not paid their first premium?  The New York Times reports that number may be as high as 20 percent.  If so, then true enrollment would be closer to 4.8 million.  This matters if for no other reason than it allows the Administration to claim success.  If the true number is 6 million, then Administration lackeys will say, “Hey, look how close we got to 7 million.”  However, if it’s under 5 million, they won’t have much to cheer about.  Indeed, it’s fodder for critics.  Although it’s pretty clear that the Administration has this information, don’t count on them releasing it, especially if it isn’t good.  Rather, will have to wait until insurers start releasing their numbers.

Another important matter we don’t know is how many people who were previously uninsured have signed up on the exchanges.  Estimates vary from 10 percent to 35 percent.  If we assume that there are 6 million enrollees (based on the previous paragraph, that’s a very generous assumption), then the number of uninsured who now have coverage via the exchanges ranges from 600,000 to 2.1 million.  That’s a far cry from 8 million uninsured who would be getting coverage through the exchanges, according to the Congressional Budget Office back in 2012.  Additionally, at least 4.7 million people on the individual market received cancellation notices late last year.  If the number of uninsureds now on the exchange is on the low side, and 13 percent of those who lost coverage in 2013 decide to go without insurance this year, then the impact on the total number of uninsured is a wash.

A few thoughts on the death spiral:

First, increasing enrollment doesn’t mean a death spiral is off the table.  It’s important to have a lot of young and healthy people—i.e. 18-34-year-olds—in the risk pool to keep it stable.  But the last enrollment report showed that 18-34-year-olds comprised only 25 percent of the exchange risk pool, a far cry from the 38 percent the Obama Administration estimates that it needs.  Of the 1.8 million people who signed up since the end of February, about 1.1 million of them (61 percent) would have to be in the 18-34-year-old range to reach 38 percent.

Second, yes, the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that lower than expected enrollment by 18-34-year-olds will have minimal impact.  If enrollment of that group is only 25 percent of the risk pool, costs will exceed premiums by only about 2.4 percent according to KFF.  However, others like Seth Chandler say KFF’s numbers are off, and costs will exceed premiums by 4.5 percent.

Another shortcoming of the KFF analysis is that it only accounts for age, but not gender.  Since women typically use more health care than men, it would be best for the exchanges of the number of men exceeded the number of women.  Thus, it is probably a bad omen that 55 percent of enrollees are women and 45 percent men in the last report.   And the disparity gets worse moving up the age brackets.  Of those ages 55-64 (those likely to have the most medical claims) who are enrolled, 59 percent are women and 41 percent men.  

Finally, there is the warning signal of plan selection.  63 percent of enrollees have chosen a silver plan.  For enrollees at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), silver plans tend to offer the most coverage for the lowest price. For persons under 250 percent FPL, ObamaCare offers help with copays and deductibles, but only if the consumer chooses a silver plan. The actuarial value for a silver plan is 70 percent (that is, a silver plan must, on average, cover 70 percent of a policyholder’s medical claims), but when the subsidies for cost-sharing are included, the actuarial value rises to between 73 and 94 percent. As one writer notes, “Why would someone opt for a silver-level plan over a cheaper bronze or catastrophic-level plan? The most plausible explanation is that the enrollee anticipates incurring significant medical expenses over the coming year, which is to say that he’s not healthy.”

While there is disagreement among conservatives over whether a death spiral will occur, thus far most of the evidence I’ve seen points to one occurring.  That may be why insurers are warning premiums may double in some parts of the nation and why WellPoint Inc. will likely ask for rate increases in the double digits for 2015.

Thursday
Mar272014

ObamaCare "Fix" Shows Democrats Are Clueless

On Thursday five Democratic Senators—Mark Begich (AK), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Mark Warner (VA)—introduced a plan to supposedly “fix” ObamaCare.  Joining them was Senator Angus King of Maine, an Independent who usually votes with the Democrats.

The centerpiece of this fix is “a new lower cost, high-deductible option called the Copper Plan, in addition to the existing Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze options in the marketplace that would give consumers more control over their own coverage, spur competition, and, most importantly, increase affordability. The new Copper Plan would meet the essential benefits laid out by the Affordable Care Act.”

Seriously?!?  

Last time I checked, people on the exchange were not crying out for more plans with even higher deductibles.  In fact, we’ve had numerous news articles with people complaining how high the deductibles and out-of-pocket (OOP) costs were for the cheapest plans.

They’ve also complained that the plans have “skinny networks”—that is, networks of doctors and hospitals that are very limited compared to the plans that existed before the exchange.

To keep premiums on the exchange as low as possible, insurers had to push deductibles and OOP costs as high as the law allowed and to limit networks.  One reason for this is that they had to cover the cost of providing the ten “essential benefits” required by ObamaCare.  They couldn’t offer plans with lower premiums and deductibles and better networks in exchange for covering fewer benefits.

But it seems like a lot of people are willing to make that trade-off if ObamaCare would let them.  And those people cut across the political spectrum.  For example here is ObamaCare supporter Eric L. Wee yesterday in The New York Times:

…having deductibles that high [$10,000] means this is largely insurance to make sure that we don’t go bankrupt if we become very ill. Yes, the new plan has more coverage, including pediatric vision. But we don’t have children, and I’d trade coverage for things like substance abuse treatment and mental health in return for lower premiums. 

Here is ObamaCare opponent Jim Bulger, whose premium increased 84 percent:

He pays extra for benefits he doesn’t need. He has no plans to have more kids, so he doesn’t need a maternity benefit.

“I’m mentally very healthy — so are my kids. No drugs, no problems with alcohol. I don’t need the mental health benefit,” Jim said.

Any real fix would give insurers the freedom to offer policies that differ on the number of benefits they cover and consumers the freedom to choose such policies.  Doing that, though, would completely undermine all the Democratic and liberal rhetoric about ObamaCare providing “comprehensive” coverage. 

So what the Democrats come up with is a plan that offers a solution no one is asking for, while ignoring the problems people have complained about it.  “Clueless” is a pretty good description of that.

Wednesday
Mar262014

VIDEO: No, Donald Rumsfeld Did Not Call President Obama a "Trained Ape"

Project 21's Bob Parks says, no, Donald Rumsfeld wasn't calling President Obama a "Trained Ape":

Bob says, "It would appear the only people who saw racism in Donald Rumsfeld’s criticism of the Obama Administration’s lack of foreign policy competence are the very people who routinely play the race card, and this time it really didn’t work."

Bob's video is quite funny. I had no idea the left compared President Bush to an ape so many times.

Wednesday
Mar262014

Guaranteed Issue For All Of 2014--Death Spiral Comin' Faster

You’d better sit down, because this is a shocker:  The Obama Administration has extended the deadline to sign up for insurance on the exchanges!

Once you are done catching your breath, here are the details from the Washington Post:

Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth….

Starting in about mid-April, people will no longer be able to get extensions through HealthCare.gov. After that, consumers will be able to request one through one of the federally sponsored call centers nationwide. At that point, the grounds for an extension will become narrower, matching rules for special enrollment periods that have existed for the past few months. Those include people who have a new baby, are getting a divorce, lose a job with health insurance or had a technical problem signing up for coverage through HealthCare.gov.

While the rules appear to get tougher in mid-April (and who knows, that deadline may be extended too) how strict will the Administration be in requiring people to prove that they had a “technical problem signing up for coverage”?  The safe money is it won’t be all that stringent.

In that case, guaranteed issue—the requirement that insurers must sell a policy to any person—is now in effect for all of 2014, not just during the open enrollment period as it was supposed to be under the law.

As I wrote last year:

In a market without guaranteed issue, consumers run the risk of insurers not selling them policies when they get seriously ill. But that risk is largely gone under the exchanges. For instance, a young person who gets a serious illness in June only has to wait until October to sign up for insurance and then wait until January 1 of the next year to receive coverage. Combined, community rating and guaranteed issue give the young and healthy big incentives to forgo insurance until they are sick.

At least there was some risk of getting stuck with big medical costs if one didn’t sign up for insurance during the open enrollment period.  That would have probably reduced the number of young people who decided to forego insurance.

Now, however, young people will probably be able to get insurance all year long through the exchange.  If so, it means that more uninsured people who get sick, say, in July, will sign up in that same month and insurers will be responsible for their costs.

That will only make the death sprial arrive a bit quicker.

Oh, and for your pleasure, here is Secretary Kathleen Sebelius two weeks ago on the March 31 deadline:

Wednesday
Mar262014

Project 21’s LeBon Recaps Supreme Court ObamaCare Challenge

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the combined cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood — family-owned businesses challenging ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate under the auspices of free exercise of religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (passed overwhelmingly and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993).

Hobby Lobby won their case to be free not to provide certain contraceptives despite ObamaCare requirements in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Conestoga Wood lost their case in the 3rd Circuit.  A ruling by the Supreme Court is expected before the end of June.

The female justices of the Court’s liberal wing were highly critical of the argument that privately-owned businesses should be allowed to operate under the same exemption the Obama Administration already created for faith-based non-profits and religious institutions.  The RFRA demands the government have a compelling interest to impose restrictions of religious expression and that any impositions create as little burden as possible to those who are aggrieved.

Conservative justices sought to find out from the lawyers on both sides how full contraceptive coverage might be obtained without forcing employers who object on faith-based grounds to do so directly.  Hobby Lobby, for instance, only opposes funding certain forms of contraception believed to end an unborn baby’s life and does not seek to fully overturn the mandate.

For more analysis of yesterday’s arguments, please see Amy Ridenour’s blog post on the proceedings as well as a commentary on the case published earlier this year to learn more about the case in general.

As the justices begin to consider a ruling and craft opinions on the case, Project 21 co-chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon — a former senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee — said:

For me, as woman and a mother, I believe that the most important issue to convey to people in the Hobby Lobby case is that no one in this case is denying women the freedom to make choices about birth control.

No one is denying a choice — not Hobby Lobby nor the Green family who own the company.  Neither is anyone else, for that matter.

At the same time, no one should deny religious believers the freedom not to be involved in other people’s choices in a way that would violate their beliefs.  The Green family, for example, does not object to 16 out of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives.  They object to four.  They believe these contraceptives are abortifacients and, therefore, terminate life.

The freedom to access birth control isn’t dependent on whether someone’s employer is paying for it.  All Americans have Second Amendment protections regarding the right to bear arms, but these rights are not dependent on an employer buying a gun for them.

Sadly, Justice Kagan got it wrong during yesterday’s arguments when she said, women are “quite tangibly harmed” when employers don’t provide contraceptive coverage.

It seems as though Kagan misunderstands the Green family’s intentions.

photo credit: iStockPhoto

Wednesday
Mar262014

9 Takeaways from the Hobby Lobby HHS Contraception Mandate Oral Arguments

Constitution Stethescope istockWA few things leapt out at me as I read the transcript from today's oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court in the consolidated Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood HHS contraceptive mandate case:

Multiple justices see this, in part, as an abortion case. The left has consistently pushed the theme that drugs and devices that stop a fertilized egg from implanting are not "abortion" and are not morally different from drugs and devices that prevent an egg and a sperm from joining. Based on today's oral arguments, two of the many the left has yet to convince on this point are Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer.

Justice Sotomayor may be willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Justice Sotomayor pointed out that the federal government's fine for not insuring the employees is less than the fine for insuring them without full coverage for all contraceptive/abortion drugs and devices covered by the HHS mandate (which, in my opinion, is curious) and probably less than the cost of insurance, so why doesn't Hobby Hobby simply stop insuring its employees? (In response, Justice Roberts noted that employers may have a religious belief that they should provide insurance -- a point Justice Kennedy called "important"; Clement and Justice Scalia observed that employers who do not provide insurance will have to raise wages to remain competitive.)

Someone wasn't paying attention at the beginning. Justice Kagan was under the mistaken impression that Congress, not HHS, wrote the HHS mandate.

Some liberal justices were discomfited by the overwhelming support of Democrats for passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Justices Ginsburg and Kagan argued that the overwhelming popularity of RFRA among both Democrats and Republicans means it could not possibly have meant to cover the religious freedoms of for-profit institutions. Clement had a good answer here from the legislative history but I'll add that it is a bit disingenuous of Ginsburg and Kagan claim a 2014 Democratic Party worldview for the Democratic Party of 1993. They must know better.

Being paid in cash, not contraception, is no hardship. It was taken for granted by both the Solicitor General and his counterpart that the taxpayers could reasonably buy contraceptives for people whose employers did not supply them. But since, as was noted by at least two justices, an employer not offering contraception coverage presumably will pay more in cash or other benefits to stay competitive, wouldn't an employee who took contraception from the taxpayers be double-dipping? (But of course I realize the Court is debating constitutionality, not good public policy, and both men were arguing the same point for opposite reasons. Still.)

Sometimes, there's no there there. The Solicitor General spent a lot of his time trying to prove a religious exemption for birth control creates a substantial burden on third parties.

Some things may exist that have a race but no conscience. Solicitor General Verrilli's curious claim that a corporation can "have a race" and yet not exercise religious freedom seems contradictory.

Some points are stronger than others. Justice Kennedy's observation that a federal agency, not the Congress, decided what the religious exemptions currently are for the HHS mandate is one we probably will hear mentioned again in June.

Some points are stronger still. The Solicitor General repeatedly told Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy that no law currently on the books requires a for-profit corporation to finance abortions. Too bad for him he and they both knew the real point: If the court adopts the Solicitor General's position in these cases, some day there could be.

Tuesday
Mar252014

Project 21's LeBon Dispels Hobby Lobby Case Misconceptions

Cherylyn Harley LeBon, co-chairman of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, schooled ardently liberal host Thom Hartmann on the misinformation surrounding Hobby Lobby’s case against ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate during the 3/20/14 edition of “The Big Picture” on the RT network.

In the one-on-one discussion, Cherylyn noted that the company — which is privately-owned by a devoutly religious family — does not oppose the use of 16 of 20 FDA-approved contraceptives while only “morally object[ing] to four.”

Cherylyn explained that “the [liberal] narrative is wrong” when it’s used to exemplify the liberal “war on women” meme.  She pointed out that companies such as Starbucks are not challenged for their positions when they promoting same-sex marriage (despite its divisive nature) and that companies are also not required to arm their employees because of the Second Amendment.

Monday
Mar242014

ObamaCare's 4th Anniversary: Winners and Losers and Losers and Losers and...

Today is the 4th anniversary of President Obama signing ObamaCare into law.  And despite what Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says, the accurate term is “ObamaCare.”  As for calling it the “Affordable Care Act,” what’s affordable about it?

A few days ago I was interviewed by a newspaper on the subject of ObamaCare’s winners and losers, and I said, “To keep track of the losers, you need a scorecard.  To keep track of the winners, you need a search party.”

Here is a chart from Duke Professor Chris Conover showing the number of insurance winners and losers under ObamaCare:

 

If you do that math, Conover finds that insurance losers under ObamaCare number about four to every one winner.  For more, see his blog post.

However, insurance consumers are not the only losers under ObamaCare.  So here is a list, far from comprehensive I’m sure, of ObamaCare’s losers:

1. Paul Krugman  Since these lists are usually a bit depressing, let’s start with a bit of schadenfreude. Here’s Krugman from July of last year: 

 Yet even as Republican politicians seem ready to go on the offensive, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety, even despair, among conservative pundits and analysts. Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.

And the good news about Obamacare is, I’d argue, what’s driving the Republican Party’s intensified extremism. Successful health reform wouldn’t just be a victory for a president conservatives loathe, it would be an object demonstration of the falseness of right-wing ideology. So Republicans are being driven into a last, desperate effort to head this thing off at the pass. 

Yeah, ObamaCare—how’s that working out for you Mr. Nobel Laureate?

2. You Can Keep Your Plan…er…Look Over There! Income Inequality!  After at least 4.7 million people* on the individual market received cancellation notices, the Administration was casting about for a diversion.  Unfortunately, focusing on income inequality didn’t seem to work.  Maybe people just aren’t that interested in that when they’re worried they could be next.  Indeed, employees of small businesses are beginning to receive such notices, although we don’t yet know how many.  *It was almost certainly more than 4.7 million as the totals were taken from state insurance departments and not every state collects data on cancellation notices.

3. Big Premium Increases.  We’ve seen countless stories of people losing their insurance and finding big premiums hikes with new Obamacare-compliant plans.  As one Obama supporter put it, “Of course, I want people to have health care. I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”

4. Losing Insurance And Delaying Treatment or Incurring Big Medical Bills.  Some people who lost their insurance were unable to get coverage on the exchange due to glitches in getting the exchange that prevented getting the customers information to insurer.  Larry Basich ended up with a $407,000 bill for his heart surgery when the Nevada exchange couldn’t figure out which plan he’d signed up for.  Gary Smith experience similar problems with the Nevada exchange and as of January he no longer had coverage for his diabetes medicines.  These problems are not limited to Nevada.  See this story on Vermont, for example.

5. You Can’t Keep Your Doctor.  In order to pay the costs of covering ten “essential” health benefits and guaranteed issue and community rating as required by the exchanges, plans on the exchange have limited their networks of doctors and hospitals.  Sometimes known as skinny networks, many patients are not pleased as they’ve found that the exchange plans don’t cover their long-time physicians.  Take the case of 17-year-old Johanna Benthel, who has had 84 surgeries over her life due to congenital malformations in her brain.  Her mother, Eileen, said her family policy was cancelled last year.  Last year Johanna was treated in at a clinic at the University of Chicago.  Eileen says the new policy they have offers no coverage for going out of New York and they have lost coverage for one of their doctors.  For more stories of Obamacare hardships, go here.

6. Doctors.  Doctors have lost the ability to own a physician specialty hospital as Obamacare gave this “gift” to the big hospital lobby, like the American Hospital Association, to secure its support for the law. In the end, the ones likely to suffer the most are patients as they will lose the choice of what type of hospital they want to use and as physician-owned hospitals tend to have higher quality than traditional hospitals.

7. Your Subsidy—Now You See It, Now You Don’t.  NCPPR’s Amy Ridenour points to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that found the Federal exchange is using he wrong poverty guidelines, using those of 2014 when it should be using 2013.  That may be resulting in some people qualifying for subsidies (since the 2014 guidelines are a bit higher) when, in fact, they may not qualify.   This has happened before thanks to a glitch in the Washington State exchange.  It happened to Jessica Sanford, who had received a shout out from President Obama at one of his press conferences after she wrote him a thank you note saying the subsidy she received helped her afford insurance.  Oops!  After getting a letter telling her she was not eligible for a subsidy:

Now she says her dream of affordable health insurance has gone poof. She can’t afford it. She’ll have to go without. “I’m really terribly embarrassed,” she says. “It has completely turned around on me. I mean, completely.”

….About 8,000 Washington Health Benefit Exchange applicants will get smaller federal tax credits for their health insurance than originally anticipated because of computer problems on the federal and state health insurance websites.

The average difference is about $100 per month, or $1,200 per year, according to a statement from Richard Onizuka, the exchange chief executive officer. 

8. Specialty Drugs.  If you need to take an expensive specialty drug and you are on the exchange, it won’t be cheap.  According to NewsOK:  

To try to keep premiums low, some states are allowing insurers to charge patients a hefty share of the cost for expensive medications used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other life-altering chronic diseases.

Such “specialty drugs” can cost thousands of dollars a month, and in California, patients would pay up to 30 percent of the cost. For one widely used cancer drug, Gleevec, the patient could pay more than $2,000 for a month’s supply, says the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

As I noted in a blog post, the reason people who really need such drugs are getting the shaft is that they amount to a tiny political force.

9. Medical Device Manufacturers.  ObamaCare imposed a 2.3% tax on gross sales of the medical device industry.  Estimates vary, but some loss of jobs in the industry is likely.  Furthermore, from 2013-2020, the medical device industry will lose a cumulative $18 billion in investment because of the excise tax.  That’s $18 billion that won’t be going into the development of new technologies that could improve Americans’ health and maybe even save lives.

10. Employees Work Less Hours.  We don’t yet know the impact Obamacare’s employer mandate* will have on jobs as the mandate was suspended for 2014 and is suspended for businesses with 50-99 employees in 2015.  However, Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily has compiled a list of 401 employers who are saying they will reduce employee work hours so as to avoid the mandate.  *An employer with 50 or more full-time employees must provide the employees with health insurance or pay a fine.  A full-time employee is defined as working 30 or more hours a week.

11. Income Inequality.  When the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis showing that the incentives in Obamacare would reduce work hours by the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time jobs, Obamacare supporters tried to paint a happy face on it by saying it meant people could retire earlier or mom could spend more time at home with their kids.  Chances are most of the people affects will be low-income workers who now have a big incentive to avoid moving up the economic ladder (they’ll lose their Medicaid benefits or exchange subsidies as they make more income.)  Given that the Obama Administration was harping on income inequality shortly before the CBO released its report, the “happy talk” response seemed particularly dishonest.  After all, if Obamacare given many low-income workers less incentive to move up, what do you think that will do to income inequality?

12. Liberty.  From forcing people to buy insurance with the individual mandate to forcing them to buy insurance with benefits that they don’t want, personal freedom has taken a beating under this law.  The Supreme Court will soon decide if the government can force employers to provide insurance that includes abortifacients and birth control if it violates the employers’ religious beleifs.  Here’s hoping that the Court rules in favor of liberty this time.

On the bubble:

13. Hospitals.  Hospitals may lose because they a receiving lower DSH payments and because of the “skinny networks” in the exchange plans.  On the other hand, they may benefit from the Medicaid expansion.  The jury is out.

14. Pharmaceutical Companies.  The drug makers seemed to get the Democrats off their backs when they supported Obamacare.  Specifically, you’ve heard very little talk about price controls or re-importing drugs since then.  On the other hand, the “law will impose a pharmaceutical industry fee on sales of brand name pharmaceuticals for use in government health programs ($2.5 billion for 2011, $2.8 billion per year for 2012 and 2013, $3.0 billion per year for 2014 through 2016, $4 billion for 2017, $4.1 billion for 2018, and $2.8 billion for 2019 and thereafter.)”  That may affect more than just the pharmaceutical industry.  If it means less R&D into new treatments, patients will suffer too. 

Monday
Mar242014

Holder Fails to Prosecute Vote Fraudster, Sharpton Hugs Her

When Al Sharpton came up close and personal with a living, breathing example of someone who suppressed the lawful votes of her fellow Americans… he hugged the fraudster!

Similarly, after that person had their sentence reduced, the Holder Justice Department has thus far declined to take up the case to make an example of someone who knowingly stole peoples’ legitimate votes through nullification in the 2012 election.

At a recent rally in Ohio, called to fight the state’s voter ID law and push for a state constitutional amendment to loosen registration and voting rules, Sharpton hugged convicted felon Melowese Richardson.

Richardson was just released from prison after serving only eight months of a five-year sentence for committing vote fraud.

In court, Richardson pled no contest to voter fraud charges.  On a local newscast, Richardson — who worked at polling places in Hamilton County, Ohio since 1998 — freely admitted to voting twice for herself (in person and absentee) in 2012 as well as having voted absentee for her granddaughter and another person registered at her home address.  The Ohio Justice and Policy Center appealed her sentence, which was reduced to just five years probation in part because it was reported after her initial sentencing that she has a bipolar disorder.

But Richardson was well enough to attend the March 20 rally at the Word of Deliverance Church in Forest Park, Ohio.  Reverend Bobby Hilton, the president of the Cincinnati chapter of Sharpton’s National Action Network brought Richardson on stage, at which time it was reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer that Sharpton hugged Richardson.

After Richardson’s participation and Sharpton’s affection for the convicted vote suppressor became public knowledge, Hilton attempted to control the damage and deflect bipartisan local criticism by telling the Enquirer that they “congratulated a lady with health issues coming home to take care of her sick sister” rather than someone who felt so strongly about re-electing President Obama that she took it upon herself to vote multiple times for herself and others.

And the U.S. Department of Justice, which has the lawful authority to bring additional charges against Richardson, has thus far not pursued any further prosecution of this known act of vote fraud.

J. Christian Adams, a former attorney in the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, criticized the Obama Administration for “excusing lawlessness” for not prosecuting Richardson at the federal level.  In a commentary published on Breitbart.com, Adams wrote:

DOJ doesn’t hesitate to bring federal charges against local police officers.  For example, when a policeman receives a light sentence in state court after allegedly employing excessive force against a citizen, the DOJ Civil Rights Division is keen to initiate federal prosecution to exact its own federal pound of flesh against that officer.  But the failure to prosecute Richardson demonstrates that criminal behavior which aids the reelection of President Obama receives very different treatment.

Members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network share a combination of outrage and disappointment with the Obama Administration over failing to go the distance regarding a bona fide voter fraud case.

Project 21 member Stacy Washington, a local talk radio host in St. Louis, noted:

I wish I could say that the American people should be surprised by fresh evidence of the U.S. Department of Justice’s culture of lawlessness.  Instead, this is par for the course at a Justice Department that seems to operate above the law instead of as an instrument of fair, unbiased and equal application of the law.

Attorney General Holder recently encouraged state attorneys general to refuse to uphold and enforce laws that they don’t like.

Apparently, they don’t like prosecuting voter fraud against individuals that voted in multiplicity for the President.  Duly noted, sirs.  Duly noted.

Project 21 member Christopher Arps, a founder of the Move-On-Up.org black conservative social networking web site, added:

The Obama Justice Department seems to be making the argument that voter fraud is so rare that, even in clear instances of it happening, it’s still apparently not worth their time to prosecute it.

This sends a horrible message to those unscrupulous individuals who are wiling and able to undermine our electoral process.

And Project 21 member Demetrius Minor, a youth minister and former White House intern, said:

It is quite appalling and nauseating for those on the left to falsely indicate how conservatives are trying to oppress the minority vote through the advocating of voter ID laws while failing to fully prosecute and punish a woman who illegally voted for the President an alleged total of six times.

Liberals are apparently willing to let a violation of federal law occur in order to stay loyal to partisan politics.

This type of behavior is what feeds the political divide in our country today.

Sunday
Mar232014

New ObamaCare Bug Discovered: People With Incomes Just Above Poverty Line are Falsely Being Told They Do Not Qualify for Subsidies

WindowsXPObamaCareBugWarningWDon Sapatkin of the Philadelphia Inquirer has found yet another ObamaCare problem:

Nearly six months after the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov, with the website running smoothly and more than five million people signed up as open enrollment heads to a close, a new glitch has come to light: Incorrect poverty-level guidelines are automatically telling what could be tens of thousands of eligible people they do not qualify for subsidized insurance.

The error in the federal marketplace primarily affects households with incomes just above the poverty line in states like Pennsylvania that have not expanded Medicaid. The mistake raises the price of their insurance by thousands of dollars, making insurance so unaffordable many may just give up and go without.

The error, which The Inquirer discovered while running scores of income scenarios through Healthcare.gov, again raises questions about the site’s accuracy that made daily headlines in early winter and that have cost President Obama considerable political capital.

It also highlights what some public policy experts say is a troubling lack of transparency in the marketplace’s eligibility determinations.

“It is almost impossible to work back from a decision and see what they did,” said Judy Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington. Ideally, she said, a notice would say, “We have found that your income for 2014 will be X, and based on that income your tax credit will be Y.”

But the official determination letters simply state the amount of your tax credit and resulting insurance premium...

Read Sapatkin's entire article here.

Friday
Mar212014

45,000 People Die From Lack Of Insurance Because Michael Hiltzik Of The L.A. Times Says So

Michael Hiltzik is a business columnist for the Los Angeles Times who has spent a good deal of the last few months blogging about ObamaCare.  I noticed that he recently used the discredited statistic that “45,000 Americans die annually because they lack insurance.”

That statistic came from this study entitled “Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults”—henceforth the “Wilper-2009 study” after the lead author.  The Wilper-2009 study examined the insurance status of a group of people in 1993 and then checked their mortality in 2001.  The researchers found a higher death rate among those who where uninsured in 1993 and from that computed that 45,000 statistic.

The big flaw, as I pointed out, is “the authors had no idea how many people uninsured in 1993 subsequently acquired health insurance.  Someone who was uninsured in 1993, got insurance in, say, 1996, and then died in 2000—well, it would be pretty hard to attribute his death to being uninsured, wouldn’t it? “ 

So, I tweeted him my recent post about that:

 

That led to this exchange:

 

Note Hiltzik’s use of ad hominem attacks “conservatives, clutching at straws” and “Right-Wing echo chamber.”  Whether the research in the Wilper-2009 study is flawed is not dependent on the ideology of the person criticizing the study.  But Hiltzik takes the easy, if not cowardly, approach of axiomatically assuming that anything a conservative says is untrue.  That way, he doesn’t have to defend the 45,000 statistic.

And, of course, he didn’t defend it as he never responded to my tweet asking who validated the study. Perhaps that’s due to the fact it’s pretty hard to find anyone who will validate the methodology.  For example, Professors Jenny Kim and Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri have this to say:

A 2009 observational study reported that private insurance status is associated with decreased mortality risk compared to no insurance. Employing the same statistical model but with more recent data, we observe a weaker and statistically insignificant relationship….

We replicate the multivariate analysis in Wilper et al. (2009) with more recent data and find that the association between lack of health insurance and mortality is weaker than previously observed. Moreover, Medicaid coverage is strongly associated with an increased risk of mortality….

We do not interpret our findings to mean that Medicaid kills or that private insurance coverage has no impact on mortality. Instead, this exercise demonstrates the pitfalls of using observational studies to estimate the health consequences of insurance.

Yet Milyo has had associations with the Cato Institute and the Hoover Institution, so maybe he’s part of the Right-Wing noise machine.  On the other hand, David Dranove, professor at the Kellog School of Management, doesn’t appear to have any such associations.  Here’s what he had to say about the Wilper-2009 study:

Now I have to get a bit technical.  In regression and related analyses, a critical assumption is that the unobservable characteristics of the “control” and “experimental” groups are uncorrelated with the observables.  Translation in this case – if the regression model does not include all possible factors that might predict mortality, and just one of these omitted factors is correlated with insurance status, then the reported coefficient on insurance status is biased.   This is an onerous requirement for sure, but it must be met if bias is to be avoided.  Without this full set of variables, and in the absence of a randomized experimental design, it is still possible to avoid bias by using advanced statistical techniques such as “instrumental variables” regression.  But the Harvard study does  not use this technique.

Finally, there is J. Michael McWilliams of Harvard Medical School who does believe there is a link between insurance status and mortality.  Nevertheless, he was not impressed with the Wilper-2009 study:

Yet several other observational studies that controlled for an equally robust set of characteristics have consistently demonstrated a 35-43% greater risk of death within 8-10 years for adults who were uninsured at baseline and even higher relative risks for older uninsured adults with treatable chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension (Baker et al. 2006; McWilliams et al. 2004; Wilper et al. 2009).

Because these observational studies are not sufficiently rigorous to support causal conclusions, we should look to studies that are more experimental in design for more definitive evidence. (Bold added.)

If Hiltzik can show how the methodology has been validated, I’d like to see it.  But it appears he would much rather make unsupported accusations against conservative researchers. For example, Linda Gorman of the Independence Institute wrote a lenghthy post for the National Center for Policy Analysis about the problems with studies linking insurance status to mortality.

I tweeted it to Hiltzik resulting in this exchange:

 

What Hiltzik is referring to in his tweet is the Oregon Medicaid experiment.  Here’s what Gorman wrote about it: “The results from the Oregon Experiment, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on May 2, show that extending Medicaid to low-income adults did not improve basic clinical measures of health.”  Well, that’s what the study found.  There was no improvement in measures for hypertension, cholesterol or diabetes.  The only thing that even came close was that people on Medicaid reported lower rates of depression versus the uninsured.  But this was due to simply being on Medicaid, not because they were receiving therapy or pharmaceuticals.  As Avik Roy pointed out, it was likely a classic placebo effect.  Hiltzik didn’t respond to my question in that instance either, suggesting he knows Gorman didn’t misrepresent anything.

In the end, I guess it’s too much to expect anything more than ad hominem attacks and groundless accusations from a left-wing pundit like Michael Hiltzik, even one working for the Los Angeles Times.  After all, it’s not like he won a Pulitzer Prize or anything.

Thursday
Mar202014

Citizenship Check Counters Voter Fraud Concern

A new ruling by a federal judge now paves the way for states to ask for recently registered voters to prove their citizenship before receiving a ballot.

U.S. District Court Judge Eric F. Melgren ruled on March 19 that Kansas and Arizona are empowered by the U.S. Constitution to require new voters to verify their citizenship with official documents such as birth certificates or passports.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), a federal agency created by the Help America Vote Act in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, which opposed the state laws mandating such a citizenship verification, must now add these state-specific requirements to its mail-in voter registration forms.

In his ruling, Judge Melgren wrote: “The court finds the decision of the EAC denying the states’ requests to be unlawful and in excess of its statutory authority.”  While the EAC must amend its actions immediately, a vindicated but cautious Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach noted that “[t]he only unknown is what the Obama Justice Department decides to do next.”

The secretaries of state for the two states sued the Commission last year.  Arizona enacted a citizenship requirement in 2004, and Kansas enacted a similar one in 2013.  Alabama and George also have similar laws but were not part of the case decided by Judge Melgren.

Members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network applauded Judge Melgren’s ruling, calling it a confirmation of the sensibility and legality of commonsense protections of the rights of lawful voters and sanctity of their ballots.

Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper, a former professor of constitutional law and former congressional leadership staff member, added:

Yesterday’s federal court decision acknowledging the fundamental rights of state governments to verify whether new voter registrants are in fact citizens is sound.

It’s a setback to those who obviously want to “flood the zone” on Election Day with ghost voters — nullifying law-abiding citizens.

In the 2013 decision in the case of Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the U.S. Supreme Court signaled that the federal U.S. Election Assistance Commission operates to assist states in their registration efforts and not to dictate the terms of those efforts.

Judge Melgren’s ruling on the rights of state governments in Kansas and Arizona affirms their actions and will likely lead to a number of other states adopting similar provisions.

Project 21 member Christopher Arps, a founder of the Move-On-Up.org black conservative social networking site, added:

This important and positive voting rights ruling makes two very basic points.

One is that proving you are a citizen of the United States in order to vote is a real no-brainer and legal to ask.  This extra bit of protection is especially important when someone registers to vote by mail.

Second, it unmasks the true agenda of partisans who want to allow anyone with a pulse, especially those who belong to a constituent group tending to skew liberal, to vote without reasonably questioning their legitimacy to cast that vote.

In this age of political correctness and thought police, it’s refreshing to see cases when the rule of law and good old-fashioned common sense is upheld.

Project 21 co-chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a former senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, looking to the future expansion of this basic polling place protection, said:

This decision is a great step in the right direction for states to maintain voter integrity and fight election fraud.

Hopefully, other states will now also feel free to enact similar standards and expect the same support from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to ensure that national voter registration forms are as fraud-proof as possible.

It is the duty of our government to ensure that elections are fair and equitable for all U.S. citizens.

photo credit: iStockPhoto

Thursday
Mar202014

Death Spiral Still A Comin'

While some on the left have emphatically claimed there won’t be a death spiral, the ObamaCare exchanges don’t appear to be listening:

Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.

….insurance officials are quick to emphasize that any spikes would be a consequence of delays and changes in ObamaCare’s rollout. 

They point out that the administration, after a massive public outcry, eased their policies to allow people to keep their old health plans. That kept some healthy people in place, instead of making them jump into the new exchanges.

Federal health officials have also limited the amount of money the government can spend to help insurers cover the cost of new, sick patients. 

Perhaps most important, insurers have been disappointed that young people only make up about one-quarter of the enrollees in plans through the insurance exchanges, according to public figures that were released earlier this year. That ratio might change in the weeks ahead because the administration anticipates many more people in their 20s and 30s will sign up close to the March 31 enrollment deadline. Many insurers, however, don’t share that optimism.

These factors will have the unintended consequence of raising rates, sources said. 

“We’re exasperated,” said the senior insurance official. “All of these major delays on very significant portions of the law are going to change what it’s going to cost.” 

“My gut tells me that, for some people, these increases will be significant,” said Bill Hoagland, a former executive at Cigna and current senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center. 

Hoagland said Sebelius was seeking to “soften up the American public” to the likelihood that premiums will rise, despite promises to the contrary. 

Of course this may prove wrong.  But if insurance industry officials are saying big rate hikes are coming, we might do well to pay heed.

So, if insurance premiums on the exchange are going to skyrocket for 2015, it means:

1. The analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (and touted by the left) showing that the number of 18-to-34-year-olds signing up won’t have much impact on premiums is somehow flawed; or

2. The number of 18-to-34-year-olds signing up is even worse than both the official numbers and the number used in the KFF report because that age group makes up a disproportionate amount of the people who have failed to pay premiums; or

3. The problem isn’t so much lack of 18-to-34-year-olds as it is a disproportionate number of people with high medical claims have enrolled in the exchanges, as evidenced by the huge number of enrollees (63%) who have chosen a silver plan; or

4. Some combination of 1, 2 and 3.

For now my money is largely on 3, with perhaps a sprinkling of 2 and 1.  The article notes that after the Administration let people keep their cancelled plans, it “kept some healthy people in place, instead of making them jump into the new exchanges.”  Thus, the problem appears to be not enough healthy people in risk pools rather than not enough young people.

For now it’s still a guessing game.  However, should premiums jump precipitously, we’ll be undoubtedly be able to find out why, because eventually this Administration will release accurate, detailed information on enrollment.  That I am sure of. 

UPDATE:  For more on this, see Avik Roy’s “4 Reasons Why Obamacare Exchange Premiums May ‘Double In Some Parts Of The Country’ In 2015.”  

 

Wednesday
Mar192014

Project 21’s Cooper Says Obama Internet Retreat is WWWrong

When the White House seeks to avoid scrutiny, news is usually released on a Friday.  This was no exception last week when the Obama Administration announced it was essentially giving up any further control over the Internet.

In the fall of 2015, when the U.S. Department of Commerce’s contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) expires, all remaining American authority over World Wide Web addresses and domain names will cease.  This will herald an end to U.S. influence over this world-changing American innovation.

The only possible American governmental control over ICANN in a little over a year and a half will be the fact that the non-profit is physically located in California, and thus subject to tax rules and other laws.  At least, that is, until it conceivably comes under the control of the United Nations and its employees potentially receive diplomatic immunity!

Robert Russell, a former top technology official to the George W. Bush White House, told the Daily Caller that the upcoming relinquished federal role in managing the Internet “raises the takes when it comes to the future of Internet governance.”  Russell added that the laissez-faire management of the World Wide Web — spearheaded by the U.S. up to now — has been beneficial, saying, “[t]his light-touch oversight has allowed the Internet to blossom without government interference.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai indicated he will oppose the move if he is not assured that Internet freedom can be preserved after the U.S. pulls out of the Internet.  He said “those advocating change must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their proposals would not increase the influence of repressive foreign governments over the Internet.”

There is concern that the Obama Administration making this radical move in an effort to trying to appease critics of NSA spying and ease those with fears that the Obama Administration cannot be trusted to not abuse any authority it has over the Internet.

However, this proposed major change raises new concerns that repressive regimes — such as those in China and Russia — will soon be emboldened in their own ongoing efforts to censor the Internet.  Former Bush Administration State Department senior advisor Christian Whiton warned the Daily Caller that the move could also lead to U.N.-imposed Internet taxes.  Calling it “the Obama equivalent of Carter’s decision to give away the Panama Canal — only with possibly much worse consequences,” Whiton said the U.N. could potentially “impose whatever taxes it likes” on things such as domain names.

Concern over the far-ranging implications of the Obama Administration virtually giving away the Internet is also shared by Horace Cooper, the co-chairman of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network.

Horace, who is concerned most about the notion of foreign control over content available to American users of the World Wide Web, said:

The White House’s plan to essentially cease any operational control over the World Wide Web is a terrible idea.  It will allow cyberbullies such as the Russians, the Chinese and Iran to continue to tyrannize their own people through abusing the Internet.  But those very despots could also now have potential say over what information Americans can access.

Freeing ICANN from U.S. control will ultimately result in less liberty, not more.

Like the Declaration of Independence, birthed in America and which acknowledged the God-given rights that every human deserves, the World Wide Web is a 21st century declaration of the importance of freedom and access to information — regardless of where people reside.

Letting the very people who oppose this freedom get a chance to silence more people on the Internet is tragic.

photo credit: iStockPhoto

Wednesday
Mar192014

Why No One Trusts The Obama Administration, Part MVIII

Well, on Monday the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) trumpeted the news that 5 million people had enrolled in the ObamaCare exchanges.  Unfortunately, releasing data early is something that HHS can’t do lest the data be unreliable.  For example, here is HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius being asked back in September and October if she had enrollment numbers:

St. Patty’s Day wasn’t the first time enrollment data was released early, as I noted a while back in The Federalist:

Fast forward now to December 24, the deadline to sign up on the exchange for coverage that would begin January 1.  If Sebelius’ testimony in late October was any indication, the Administration wouldn’t be able to release “reliable” data on how many people had enrolled through the December deadline until the middle of January.  But on December 29, the Administration announced that more “than 1.1 million people enrolled in a qualified health plan via the Federally-facilitated Marketplace from October 1 to December 24, with more than 975,000 of those enrolling this month alone.”  Two days after that, the Administration released more data showing that over 2.1 million people had signed up through state and federal exchanges.

If data could be released five to seven days after the December deadline, why couldn’t HHS release data in a similarly timely fashion for October and November?

….The most reasonable explanation is that the enrollment number for the October period was only about 106,000 and for November about 365,000.  Those figures were a public relations disaster for ObamaCare, and so the Administration wanted to delay their release as long as possible.  But in December, enrollment had jumped to a much more positive, headline-generating 2.1 million, and so the Administration wanted those figures reported as quickly as possible.

It would seem that if you want to build trust with people, you need to be consistent.  If you say data can’t be released early due to reliability issues, then you don’t release the data early—ever!  Once you start releasing it early—not once, not twice, but multiple times—then your reliability excuse becomes just that, an excuse.  

Tuesday
Mar182014

Is Disney's Robert Iger a Closet Fox News Fan?

With the help of research materials from Newsbusters and the Media Research Center, the National Center for Public Policy Research today challenged Disney chief Robert Iger over media bias at ABC News at Disney's annual shareholder meeting.

National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof asked Iger why, as revealed by the MRC, ABC News devoted only eight words to coverage of the IRS scandal from July 2013-January 2014, even though 53 percent of Americans believe the IRS broke the law and even Democrats, by a 2-1 margin, believe a special prosecutor should be appointed.

Danhof also asked:

In 2009, before the Affordable Care Act became law, Charlie Gibson did an ABC News "Fact Check" segment on President Obama's "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan" promise. ABC reported that critics questioning the President's pledge were wrong to do so.

DisneyLogo

That's the pledge that later was awarded PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" - but by then ObamaCare was already law of the land.

President Obama has apologized and said he is "sorry" to those who thought they could keep their health insurance "based on assurances" they got from him. Do you wish to say anything right now to the millions of people who unexpectedly lost their insurance - perhaps apologize for the role ABC News played in causing that harm?

Iger chose not to apologize for ABC's role as an enabler for White House ObamaCare spin, saying in part,
I actually stand by ABC News, who I believe not only presents the news in a fair and balanced manner, but behaves in a high integrity kind of way.

While there are times that critics have come forward and pointed out mistakes they have made, overall, the quality of our news is something we should be proud of.

I find it interesting that the phrase "fair and balanced" - famously, the Fox News Channel's slogan - came off Iger's tongue so easily, and I wasn't the only one who noticed. So did The Hollywood Reporter.

Is Iger a closet Fox News fan?

The National Center's Danhof also questioned Iger about media bias at last year's shareholder meeting. On that occasion, Iger was more willing to admit to ABC's failings, saying that ABC News has been "guilty of making mistakes."

Iger did twice today say he would pass the National Center's concerns on to ABC News.

Cross-posted at Newsbusters.

Monday
Mar172014

Single-Payer Without Wait Times? Taiwan Is On Borrowed Time

One other matter I didn’t get a chance to address during my testimony at the recent Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging hearing was the issue of why Taiwan, a single-payer health care system, does not use wait times to ration care.

Here is an exchange on the subject between Dr. Danielle Martin and Sally Pipes:

Note that Dr. Martin states, “…single-payer does not equal wait times.  We heard our colleagues from Taiwan tell us quite clearly that they have a single-payer system with virtually no wait times…We should avoid over-simplifying the message and equating a single-payer model with wait times.  That simply is not the case.”

Looking at reports from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development on wait times, many of the nations that have wait times—Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden—have single-payer health care systems.  Saying “single-payer leads to wait times” isn’t an oversimplification.  It’s stating a pattern.

As for Taiwan, its single-payer system is less than 20 years old.  Wait times can take decades to develop, as they did in England and Canada.  As I noted a while back in a blog post titled “The Single-Payer ‘Dance Of Nations’,”:

In 1980, Milton and Rose Friedman noticed the beginnings of the single-payer dance in their book Free To Choose (pages 113-114):

Proponents of socialized medicine in the United States—to give their cause its proper name—typically cite Great Britain, and more recently Canada, as examples of its success.  The Canadian experience has been too recent to provide an adequate test—most new brooms sweep pretty clean—but difficulties are already emerging.  The British National Health Service has now been in operation more than three decades and the results are pretty conclusive. That, no doubt, is why Canada has been replacing Britain as the example pointed to.

The Friedmans went on to point out that there was a waiting list for hospital beds about 600,000 long in Britain. In present day Britain about 2.5 million are waiting for treatment in any given month, 677,000 are waiting for diagnostic tests, and just under 20,000 had their elective surgery cancelled in the first quarter of 2013.

However, the single-payer system in Canada wasn’t fully established until 1966, so single-payer advocates could go on for years singing its praises.  Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, co-founders of Physicians for a National Health Program, spent the early 1990s arguing against the Clinton health plan and in favor of the Canadian system.  They were especially keen to claim that Canada’s system would save the U.S health care system a ton in administrative costs.

Alas, all good propaganda exhibits must come to an end.  Problems with waiting lists, cancelled surgeries, etc. were beginning to make the Canadian news by the 1990s.  In 1999 a psychiatrist in Canada, Dr. David Gratzer, wrote a spectacular book, Code Blue, that blew the lid off the disaster that was the Canadian health care system. Anyone not wearing ideological blinders now had to admit that Canada’s single-payer system rationed care much the way Britain’s did.

But not to worry.  A few years earlier Taiwan had switched to a single-payer system giving single-payer advocates a new nation, without all those ugly warts and scars, that they could bring to the health-care policy dance. Taiwan’s system is not yet two decades old, so the problems that arise from a single-payer system have not yet fully emerged. 

So give Taiwan a few more years.  Unless the laws of economics do not apply to Taiwan’s health-care system, eventually wait times will emerge.  For now, the Taiwanese system provides single-payer advocates with a convenient example.  But that example is living on borrowed time.

Sunday
Mar162014

Some Say "Voter Fraud Doesn't Exist," But Dead People are Voting

Matt Clark, writing for the Long Island Newsday newspaper, reports that Nassau County, NY has 6,100 dead people on its voter rolls.

270 of these dead voters, the paper says, are still lively when it comes to voting. One of them has voted 14 times, at least one other, twice, since passing on to their eternal reward.

VoterIDRally030512c croppedW

Nearby Suffolk County, Clark reports, has 2,490 dead voters on its rolls, with 50 voting since their death. Across the state, 26,500 dead voters remain on the voting rolls, the paper says.

What's more, across New York, 842,000 registered voters have not voted in more than ten years. Many of these people are likely to be voting elsewhere now, but they are still eligible to vote in New York.

The paper opines that clerical errors, not fraud, is likely to be the reason dead voters have voted in New York. Possibly so -- although it is definitely odd that one dead man has had 14 clerical errors happen to him.

The fact that more than three quarters of a million voters may still be listed as eligible to vote when they aren't lends itself to the conclusion that government officials are not making clean elections a priority.

"Voter fraud doesn't exist," said Ed Schultz of America's "Progressive Community," MSNBC, in the video clip above. With possibly as many as 842,000 ineligible voters still listed as eligible in just one state, how can he possibly know that's true?

Sunday
Mar162014

If You Liked Mayor Bloomberg, You'll Love Mayor de Blasio

Compost iStockW

The New York Post reported over the weekend that Mayor de Blasio’s new Department of Sanitation commissioner, Kathryn Garcia, has big plans for New Yorkers like myself and our garbage.

[Garcia] said she’d expand Mayor Bloomberg’s composting program just after de Blasio announced her appointment Saturday as the Department of Sanitation’s new commissioner.

“We’ve spoken about taking this agency to the forefront of the nation in terms of composting,” Garcia said. “Food waste is the largest percentage of waste in New York City, and we have to deal with that if we’re going to sustain the future.”

I’m in favor of voluntary composting. In fact, I’ve done it myself. It’s great for my garden. But if the de Blasio administration wants to make composting mandatory, it’s a rotten idea for the Big Apple.

As we stated in a press release when a more modest plan was rolled out by the Bloomberg administration last year, 

“In fact,” says Stier, “we already have voluntary composting where residents can send their kitchen scraps to gardens around the five boroughs.”

So why the need for a new program? A Bloomberg official admitted to the New York Times that while initially voluntary, the goal is to require all residents of the city to save their kitchen scraps for a government-administered composting program. Those who don’t compost would be subject to fines.

“We live in a big city, not on a farm, and while composting is a great idea in certain circumstances,” says Stier, “it doesn’t make sense to mandate that all New York residents save their rotting food.”

Stier says the Mayor’s view is skewed in favor of anything labeled “green.”

“If the mayor applied his risk-averse trans-fat banning, soda-size limiting science to the risks of composting in NYC he wouldn’t be making it mandatory, he’d be banning it,” exclaims Stier. “Consider the increased risks from disease-carrying vermin (a problem the city still hasn’t conquered), from all of the pre-compost material sitting around our dense living spaces, not going out with the trash each night,” says Stier.

Stier wonders why Nanny Bloomberg isn’t worried about greenhouse gas emissions from the extra “compost trucks” that’ll have to be deployed. “Perhaps they’ll be carrot-peel powered,” chides Stier. “There’s no way food scraps can be picked up from every home throughout the city without greatly increasing the number of trucks, traffic, and tyranny.”