September 10, 2010

Sebelius to Health Insurers: Shut Up Or Else About ObamaCare Increasing Premiums; To AP, It’s Mere ‘War of Words’

sebeliusAdopting language and tactics more typical of tyrants, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday sent a public letter to the head of a health insurance industry group demanding that carriers stop “falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act,” and that “that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”

She reinforced her short-term threat with a longer-term one:

We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014. Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections.

Thus, when Sebelius threatens exclusion from the “Exchanges,” she is really saying: “Shut up and eat your costs, or you’ll be out of business in a few years.”

Keep in mind that three months ago (noted at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), leaked government documents estimated that, depending on the assumption sets used, anywhere from 49%-80% of small employer health plans and 34%-64% of large employer plans would be forced financially or otherwise to “relinquish” their “grandfathered” status by 2013 (a table showing the percentages is here). This necessarily means that the market for private plans will decrease, while the market for those who would be forced to buy coverage through the “Exchanges” (what’s with the uppercase?) will necessarily expand.

If you didn’t expect that the Associated Press’s coverage of Sebelius’s threats by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar wouldn’t make this linkage, you’re right — even though he covered that story (weakly) when it broke.. In fact, the AP writer characterized them as “warnings” and part of a “war of words” in his coverage (HT Hot Air):

HHS to insurers: Don’t blame us for your rates

President Barack Obama’s top health official on Thursday warned the insurance industry that the administration won’t tolerate blaming premium hikes on the new health overhaul law.

“There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter to the insurance lobby.

“Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections,” Sebelius said. She warned that bad actors may be excluded from new health insurance markets that will open in 2014 under the law. They’d lose out on a big pool of customers, as many as 30 million people nationwide.

The letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans was the latest volley in a war of words over who gets the blame for rising premiums. Polls show that many people expect their costs to go up as a result of the law, but there’s also widespread mistrust of the insurance industry.

Note how helpful the AP writer is to Sebelius’s cause with his reference to “bad actors,” as if a company passing on otherwise legitimate cost increases is presumptively so. It’s also a complete whitewash to describe what’s going on as a “war of words,” when the government is browbeating carriers into reducing otherwise presumably justifiable increases, while brazenly brandishing denial of access to the “Exchanges” and other sanctions as weapons.

Though I can’t be sure, it appears that Alonso-Zaldivar got his 30 million figure from estimates of “the uninsured” — really those who don’t have insurance for a brief period during a given year — who would become covered under ObamaCare. If that’s the case, he has totally ignored Treasury’s preliminary estimates of those who would have to flee to the “Exchanges” as a result of employer plan terminations. Even at the low end of Treasury’s estimates (a blended 39% of small and larger employers, assuming that terminated plans have similar average numbers as those which remain), as many as 48 million Americans (39% x roughly 190 million Americans under age 65 x roughly 65% who currently have private plan coverage) would be herded into the exchanges by the end of 2013.

Now there’s a threat, namely that the “Exchanges” will be so overwhelmed by new applicants that they will fail to function properly and disrupt the entire system of medical care delivery.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

The New ORPINO (Ohio Republican Party In Name Only) Home Page

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:49 pm

Here it is, with the “featured candidates” tab chosen:

ORPINOhomePage091010

Note the absence of Rob Portman, Mike DeWine (which is a feature, not a bug), and Josh Mandel. (Update: These folks appear if one scrolls to the right. Thanks to a commenter for pointing that out.)

It’s a good thing GOP candidates’ electoral prospects don’t hinge on the public liking this new design, or the new party logo.

Other than that, words fail.

So does ORPINO’s attempt to explain themselves.

UPDATE: From the explanation — “he elephant is designed to look bold, youthful and determined, with an ear that resembles the state of Ohio.” That’s an ear up there. Really. They said so.

Dems in Peril, Ted and Malice (With Partial Transcript, Tea Party Response)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:39 pm

I’m posting this now (direct YouTube); I’ll try to transcribe it later, if I can bear it (see below for most of it).

But it may be that watching with the sound off will give you the best idea of how truly unhinged this Labor Day rant at the AFL-CIO’s Coney Island picnic was:

Partial Transcript (unfortunately not complete because of weak audio and strident delivery):

The Republican Party has been overtaken by the zealots, by the extremists, by the radicals, by the _____, and they don’t seem to like Ohio very much, and quite frankly, they act as if they don’t like America very much.

They want to change our Constitution, they want to change Medicare, they want to change ___, they want to change this country …. and we say to them, “Hell no, we won’t …”

And so I ask you: Are you read to fight …. against the extremists? Are you ready to fight the Tea Party radicals? … Are you ready to fight John Kasich?

… What we are fighting against is Wall Street greed that brought our economy to the brink of total disaster.

… They like to say that in Ohio has lost 400,000 jobs. What they don’t say is that America lost 8-1/2 million jobs. And why did those jobs leave our people and our country? It was not because of Ohio, it was not because of the men and women standing on this platform with me. It was not because of organized labor. It was not because of Ted Strickland. It was because of Wall Street greed!

… They want to take the culture of Wall Street, they want to take the greed of Wall Street, they want to take the leadership of Wall Street, and take over this country, and we say, “Hell no!” …

Tea Partier Chris Littleton has responded, as carried at RightOhio:

Dear Fellow Citizens and Taxpayers,

There really aren’t any words that describe this video. It’s simply what Governor Strickland thinks of you and me.

He asks the crowd a very simple question – “Are you ready to fight the tea party radicals?”
And just for Governor Strickland’s pleasure, let me outline those “radical” beliefs of the tea party.

1. Limited Government: we think the bigger the government the smaller the citizen. We advocate for less government in our lives and therefore more personal liberty.
We believe the current direction at all levels of government is expanding government’s scope and influence not lessening it.

We also believe both parties are to blame for expanding government in Ohio and elsewhere.

2. Fiscal Responsibility: we think the government should spend less than it takes in. We believe that working Americans and small business owners in every inch of the United States understand this because we live it every day in our personal lives.

We believe the only people that don’t get this are government officials and bureaucrats.

Example (just for governor Strickland): when faced with a budget crisis (AKA more bills than money – had to explain it for Strickland), you can’t expand programs or take money from the federal government just to patch the hole. You must cut spending.

We believe that citizens do this in our personal lives – why can’t government?

3. Free Markets – we believe the government should not be driving the economy – the entrepreneur should. The less tax and regulatory burden placed on business owners, the more wealth and jobs that will be created.

Since Ohio ranks at the bottom of the list in practically every ranking for a business-friendly state, I’m pretty sure neither party for the last 20 years gets this either.

But, our people get it. They say – “Government I don’t need anything from you. I just need to be left alone for my business to succeed. Get out of my hair.”

So Governor Strickland – how are these key principles so radical?

I would consider these American values, but if you want to declare war on the American value system. Who am I to stand in your way.

I wish you the best of luck in declaring war on people who believe in personal responsibility, hard work and strength of character. But, if that’s your belief system…well…I guess we weren’t raised the same way, and thank God for that.

Best of luck to you in the upcoming election. I guess only time will tell how many of us embrace these “radical” ideas and are happy to denounce you.

OPEN INVITATION: If you’d like to sit down with me and discuss my radical value system – open invitation. Happy to chat anytime.

Nice job, Chris.

A Burning Question

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:10 am

A YouTube Search on just one term, “burning Bible” (in quotes), comes back with “about 79″ results. There are a couple of busts in the results that really are recent, so let’s call the total 75.

All but two of the remaining 75 are a month or more old, and thus appeared before the current misguided Quran burning plans of a Florida pastor came to light. Easily two dozen of them (underestimating on purpose) show actual Bible Burnings. Marilyn Manson dominates such results, but nowhere near exclusively.

Even before considering other search terms that might surface other examples (e.g., my search didn’t turn up this instance, the link to which was sent to me by an e-mailer) — Did I miss the dozens of riots in the streets by Christian fundamentalist “fanatics” taking exception to these actions?

Econ Catch-up (091010, Morning)

Filed under: Economy,General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:18 am

Last Friday, the Institute for Supply Management published its August Non-Manufacturing Index. The news was not good, as it dropped to 51.5, compared to 54.3 in July, and it trailed expectations of 53.0.

That’s still in expansion (anything above 50 is), but not by much. Additionally, the employment component of the index slipped back into contraction after going into expansion in July.

On a combined basis, the ISM Non Manufacturing and Manufacturing indices, weighted 85% and 15%, respectively, dropped quite a bit in August, going from July’s 54.48 ([.85 x 54.3] + [.15 x 55.5]) to 52.22 ([.85 x 51.5] + [.15 x56.3]). If a combined drop of that size repeats itself, September will show contraction. I hope not.

_________________________________________

In a “close enough for government work” release, the Labor Department said yesterday that weekly initial unemployment claims came down about 6% from the previous week. But the numbers were estimated (read “guessed”) for nine states (HTs to Hot Air and Zero Hedge), including California, Illinois, and Virginia. Why didn’t DOL just wait a day?

_________________________________________

DOL also released its Employer Costs for Employee Compensation report on Wednesday, which led me to look into some history. This DOL table (obtainable here) shows what has happened to private sector hourly wage and salary compensation since 2004:

EmployerWagesAndSalaries1Q04to2Q10

During George W. Bush’s second term (i.e., from Q404 to Q408), hourly average hourly wages and salaries increased by 13.8% ($19.37 divided by $17.02). Prices rose 10.4% during that time (210.228 divided by 190.3 at this link). Workers achieved modest but real gains during that four-year period.

In the six quarters since, wages and salaries are up about 0.8%. Inflation has been 3.7% (217.965 divided by 210.228). Workers have seen 85% of the gains achieved during Bush 43′s final term wiped out during Obama’s first 1-1/2 years (2.9% real decline vs. 3.4% real increase = 85%).

Positivity: Tuning into God’s call — Former radio personality finds new station in life at Catholic school

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:59 am

From Indianapolis (HT Catholic News Agency):

September 3, 2010

She has met backstage with Taylor Swift, talked with Garth Brooks, had her picture taken with Carrie Underwood and spent time with so many country music singers, including Reba McEntire, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and the members of Rascal Flatts.

She had her own radio program on one of the most popular country music stations in the United States—WFMS, an Indianapolis station with about 400,000 listeners.

People appreciated and followed her so much that they sent her cards every year on her wedding anniversary, and mailed birthday cards to her two young daughters.

Indeed, for 17 years, Vicki Murphy lived what many people would consider a dream life.

So it may seem surprising that Murphy uses the words “fabulous” and “most fulfilling” to describe the career move that she made in July—leaving the radio world of music, stars and promotional appearances to take the position of communications coordinator at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis.

“Catholic schools are something I believe in with every fabric of my life,” says Murphy, 36, a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis. “And marketing and public relations is something [that] I’ve been involved in for 17 years. I thought I could actually work for the Catholic schools now and do a lot for them and me.”

The change means she can spend more time with her husband, Eric, and their two daughters, Julia, 8, and Becca, 6. The new job also means she gets to promote a school and its students that she has already embraced.

“I went to the first pep rally of the year, and everything was fresh and new,” she recalls. “I’m looking at the kids—the football players running in, the cheerleaders cheering and the band playing. I was caught up in the moment—the newness of high school without the anxiety of high school. Everything was hopeful—the new school year, the new football season, a new start for me.

“Then we had the first all-school Mass. I sat behind the students and was impressed by how reverent they were. I love going to a student-run Mass. You get hopeful about the contributions they can make.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.