October 31, 2013

Okay, So Maybe the States With Their Own Obamacare Exchanges Have Their Acts Together

Filed under: Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:14 pm

Uh, no (video at link):

States’ insurance exchange websites cost taxpayers $1B; contractors often paid to do same job in different states

Sources tell CBS News that the 15 states that have set up their own insurance exchanges used more than $1 billion to pay for their own Obamacare websites. That huge price tag, CBS News’ Jan Crawford reported on “CBS This Morning,” is being paid for by the federal government — courtesy of taxpayers — and some of these websites have also struggled to get off the ground.

A CBS News analysis shows that the 15 states that opted to set up their own exchanges are spending more than $1.1 billion to launch and implement their own websites, often paying the same government contractors to do the same job in different states.

California has dedicated $359 million, while New York is spending $161 million. In Kentucky it’s $100 million, and in Oregon the price tag is $50 million. (That’s $670 million in just four of the 15 states with their own exchanges. The full sum, especially after all too predictable cost overruns, will probably be “way, way over $1.1 billion.” — Ed.)

The president has pointed to Oregon, which has enrolled 56,000 people in Medicaid – to argue things are working. “That’s 56,000 more Americans who now have health care,” the president has said. “That doesn’t depend on a website.”

And it’s a good thing, because Oregon’s website doesn’t work. The new Medicaid enrollments came through the mail. The state website has yet to enroll a single person.

And how are people reacting to what they see at their state exchange’s web site when they can actually get in? Pretty much the way those in states using HealthCare.gov are reacting (HT Hot Air):

Money quote: “Thus far, everybody’s taken a look at the rates and they’ve just walked out the door. It’s sticker shock. They just can’t afford it.”

Press Ignoring CNN’s Report of WH Pressure on Health Insurance Industry to Stay Mum on Obamacare-Driven Policy Cancellations

Tuesday evening (noted by Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters early Wednesday morning), CNN’s Drew Griffin reported on Anderson Cooper’s show that there is a “behind the scenes attempt by the White House to at least keep insurers from publicly criticizing what is happening under this Affordable Care Act rollout.”

Such a report occurring during a Republican or conservative administration would spread like wildfire. Sadly and predictably, that hasn’t happened with CNN’s bombshell. Using search strings which should have surfaced relevant results if present, I couldn’t find anything on the topic at the Associated Press, New York Times, the Politco, or Washington Post.

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Obama’s Advice to Those Whose Policies Were Cancelled: ‘Shop Around’ (But Only At My Store)

Filed under: Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:43 am

The trouble with President Obama’s “suggestion” for people whose individual plans have been cancelled is that there’s only one place to buy, and the law says you have to buy something from that place or face a penalty.

Obama’s statist brand of “shop around” advice is not what was rendered in this classic cover by the Captain the Tennille from back in the mid-1970s, complete with absolutely awful male outfits which would be pretty good modern-day Halloween costumes for those who would look good in them (present company definitely excluded):

Key line:

“… keep your freedom for as long as you can now”

That was good advice, wasn’t it? Now we have a long fight ahead of us to get it back.

Here’s the Smokey Robinson and Miracles original for traditionalists:

Initial Unemployment Claims (103113): 340K SA; Raw Claims Down 6.5% From Same Week Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:24 am

This report has been a source of frustration for several weeks, as California and sometimes other states have not consistently been turning in up-to-date data.

Perhaps that problem will finally be overcome today. Attempting to filter out that noise, and even after factoring in the negative effect of the 17 percent partial government shutdown, it’s still safe to say that weekly seasonally adjusted claims have been heading in the wrong direction.

Today *should* be different, one would think, because the week involved is the first full week of business after the partial shutdown ended.

Predictions:

Seasonal adjustment factors:

  • Week ended Oct. 26, 2013 — 93.5
  • Week ended Oct. 27, 2012 — 92.7

Raw claims:

  • Week ended Oct. 19, 2013 — 310,814 (before revision)
  • Week ended Oct. 27, 2012 — 339,917

For the prediction to come true, raw claims will have to be 316,000 or lower (316K divided by .935 is 338K, rounded). That seems eminently achievable, and I would hope that today’s news is of a result significantly better than expectations — muddied by the processing factors described above.

The report will be here at 8:30 a.m.

HERE IT IS (permanent link): Basically on target –

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending October 26, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 340,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week’s unrevised figure of 350,000. The 4-week moving average was 356,250, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 348,250.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 317,580 in the week ending October 26, an increase of 6,064 from the previous week. There were 339,917 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

I would tend to agree with Steve in the comments that we’re in a “new normal” of 340K-350K in claims, which I consider an unacceptable level.

I should note that “covered employment,” the number of people who would be eligible for unemployment benefits if they were to be laid off, ticked up slightly a few weeks ago to 130.4 million from 129.8 million. That’s still 2.7 percent below the 133.9 million peak seen five years ago, and is one of the more obvious indicators that this “recovery” has been painfully and historically awful.

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UPDATE: In a welcome bit of news from Ohio, where the news outside of Metro Columbus has been mostly not good for some time, weekly claims declined by 2,164 and 1,115 during the weeks ended Oct. 12 and 19, respectively, to 9,152. That’s a 19% drop from the 11,303 seen during the same week last year.

That said, the Buckeye State’s covered workforce, which dropped a bit a few weeks ago to 4.940 million, is still 5.8 percent below its 5.243 million mid-2007 peak — over twice the national shortfall.

UPDATE 2: Zero Hedge says that California finally caught up with its claims backlog a week ago.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (103113)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:00 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

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Marc Thiessen: “Obama lied and the individual market died.”

Charlie Martin at PJ Media: “The Arithmetic Absurdity of Obamacare”

Matt Hadro at NewsBusters: “CNN anchor Carol Costello thinks Hallmark is ‘homophobic’ for changing the word ‘gay’ to ‘fun’ on its “Holiday Sweater” ornament.” CNN anchor Carol Costello needs to get a life.

Fun Healthcare Fact: In fiscal 2013, health care spending in Massachusetts, home of RommeyCare, ate up over half of the state’s budget.

At Anderson Cooper’s place at CNN: “Did the Obama administration pressure insurance companies?” Watch the video. There is absolutely no need for the question mark.

Mind-Boggling Attempts at Blame Shifting

Hardened leftists, including Journolister Ezra Klein, really believe that Obamacare has been “sabotaged.”

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This column went up at PJ Media late Monday night and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday morning.

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During the Bush 43 administration, leading lights on the left arrogantly christened themselves “the reality based community.”

Many of the same people who claimed at the time to base their assertions and beliefs “more on observation than on faith, assumption, or ideology” have hysterically concocted reasons why HealthCare.gov, surely in size and scope the most disastrously incompetent website rollout ever, cannot possibly be more than partially the Obama administration’s fault. Other nefarious people and shadowy forces, particularly Republicans and conservatives, who in reality “didn’t cast a single vote in favor of the ACA and had no control over its 42-month rollout,” somehow deserve the lion’s share of the blame.

On Thursday, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein promulgated perhaps the longest list of ways Republicans did “everything possible to sabotage” Obamacare. He considers them hypocrites for criticizing the HealthCare.gov debacle, and believes that “their plan to undermine the law worked too well.”

As he blusters about this non-existent conspiracy, one thing about which Klein can claim legitimate expertise is orchestrating one. In 2008, he founded Journolist, a private and intensely secretive Google Groups forum of 400 left-leaning journalists he coordinated from his blog perches, first at the far-left American Prospect and then, beginning in May 2009, at the Post.
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Positivity: Costa Rica court: Church has right to speak on social issues

Filed under: Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:00 am

From San Jose, Costa Rica:

Oct 30, 2013 / 04:09 pm

Costa Rica’s Electoral Supreme Court has said that the Church has the right to speak about social and moral issues, proclaiming its teaching freely in order to inform the nation’s voters.

The Catholic Church has the right to “take stances on the country’s social problems, as well as to preach the faith with authentic freedom, teach its social doctrine, exercise an earthly mission without interference and issue moral judgments, even on issues related to public order and others of interest to it,” the ruling said.

In an Oct. 25 decision, the court rejected a lawsuit filed against the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica over a recent document on the electoral process and democracy, which was accused of being detrimental to the freedom of voters.

The court said that what Costa Rican law prohibits “of Catholic clergy (and of the laity as well)” is engaging in religiously-motivated political propaganda or using religious beliefs as a means for such.

Such restrictions are intended to protect the free will of voters, the court explained.

However, after a careful reading of the bishops’ document issued on Oct. 7, the court found that nowhere does it favor any one political tendency or group.

On the contrary, the justices explained, “The reflections of the bishops are limited to explaining their positions regarding fundamental issues of the national reality, which they base on quotes from documents related to the social doctrine of the Church.” …

Go here for the rest of the story

October 30, 2013

These Are What Obama’s Defenders Say Aren’t Lies

Filed under: Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:19 pm

Roll tape:

The video shows 22 instances from 2008 until September 2010, six months after March 2010, when Obamacare became law, where Obama made the “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” promise. Two of those instances are from after March 2010. Others in March 2010 may have been after the law was signed.

In two of the video’s instances, he even referred to “private insurance.”

Sebelius: ‘Don’t Do This to Me’ (i.e., Ask Me a Legitimate Question)

Filed under: Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:04 pm

Kathleen Sebeluis (HT Twitchy), begging not to be asked a question she thought she had escaped before she found out that the “follow-up” was just a political ploy by Henry Waxman to get her out of the jam into which a Republican Congressperson had put her:

(at the 0:30 mark: “Don’t do this to me.”)

She thought Waxman was going to force her to answer the question of whether she would join the exchanges like everyone else if she didn’t already have gold-plated federal employee coverage. Waxman, prog dissembler that he is, ended up “asking” a non-question about insurance against “cheap shots.”

Millions of Americans are saying the same thing about being forced to deal with the pile of crap known as Obamacare.

WaPo’s Kessler Gives Obama’s ‘You Can Keep Your Plan’ Promise ‘Four Pinocchios,’ Still Blows Key Points

43 months after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, another national establishment press outlet has called President Barack Obama’s serially made promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health plan” a lie. Specifically, Washington Post designated fact-checker Glenn Kessler has given it “four Pinocchios,” the lowest possible rating on his scale reserved for “whoppers.”

Kessler joins other press organizations admitting to the obvious way too late to matter. The Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, with rare exceptions (and note that the linked analysis did not directly address the individual market), studiously avoided looking at the truthfulness of Obama’s core Affordable Care Act promise for 3-1/2 years. Finally, on September 30, Calvin Woodward in Paragraph 15 of a multi-item “fact check,” called Obama’s pledge  ”an empty promise, made repeatedly.” Kessler’s work has one remaining hole that I will identify after presenting excerpts (HT Twitchy; bolds are mine):

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October ADP Employment Report (103013); 130K Private-Sector Jobs Added; Aug. and Sept. Revised Down; See Conference Call Notes

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 7:30 am

ADP’s national report will be released today as originally planned.

The government’s jobs report has been pushed back to November 8 from November 1 ostensibly as a result of the 17% government shutdown.

Business Insider predicts 150,000 private-sector jobs added in the ADP report, down from 166,000 in September.

The report will be here at 8:15 a.m. I will be on the conference call and take notes at 8:30.

HERE IT IS (permanent link): Ruh-roh —

Private-sector employment increased by 130,000 from September to October, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Highlights:
- Small businesses (1-49 employees) +37,000
- Medium businesses (50-499 employees) +13,000
- Large businesses (500 or more employees) +81,000

August has been revised down to 151,000 from an original 176,000, and September down to 145,000 from last month’s 166,000.

From the predictable press release:

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “The government shutdown and debt limit brinksmanship hurt the already softening job market in October. Average monthly growth has fallen below 150,000. Any further weakening would signal rising unemployment. The weaker job growth is evident across most industries and company sizes.”

I should also note that June and July, which started out in their original releases at 188K and 200K, respectively, are now at 190K and 161K. In general, since July subsequent revisions have been knocking down the original numbers by roughly 15 percent.

Conference Call Notes (mildly revised after listening to an audio replay at 11:15 a.m.):

MARK ZANDI’S comments:
- on the soft side. Below the roughly 150K average we’ve been getting.
- Oct. was a weak month, but job market was weakening going into Oct.
- “due to very significant fiscal austerity the economy is trying to digest (taxes and spending).
- affected by shutdown and brinksmanship over debt limit; there’s no proof positive here.
- Some direct impact from furloughs, but hard to disentanble from unemployment claims measurement issues.
- All of the slowdown was among smaller companies, particularly very small companies, but big cos. had no ill effects; consistent with impact of govt. shutdown. Big cos less likely to respond to shutdown (really? — Ed.).
- Obamacare not having much of an impact thus far.
- Softness was on the service side and not on the goods-producing side.
- Clear that job market has slowed; growth is weak.
- But I don’t think the recovery has been undermined, and we’ll see a revival of growth next year.

My Q: revisions (Why?) –
- ADP report is constructed in a similar way.
- ADP is benchmarked to BLS and is adjusted in response to BLS after revisions
- Annual benchmark rev also gets thrown in.

CNN Q: What’s going on in small biz, esp 20-50 group?
-3 potential factors: month-to-month volatility (i.e., don’t draw too much), govt. shutdown fallout causes less hiring due to increased uncertainty and nervousness, and possibly health care reform (lowest on list).
-The 20-50 impact is across all industries. He thinks of the three that the shutdown is the most important factor, but can’t prove any of it.

CNN follow-up re Fed meeting and taper:
- Expects no action or beginning of tapering; in fact, we’re moving in the wrong direction.
- Inflation is low, well below target. Core is 1%-1.5% (target is 2%), and Washington is still an issue.
- Going to be hard to assess shudown’s impact on data collection at the federal agencies.
- Conceivably might start tapering in March 2014 or even May 2014.

LA Times Q: What is projecting for jobs report —
- Zandi thinks it will be close to 100K, with govt. being weak. (Furloughed with back pays will STILL be counted as employed). Thinks timing of teacher hires dropping off (even w/ seasonal adjustment? — Ed.)
- Unemployment rate will probably rise, partially b/c of shutdown but also because furloughed employees WILL influence the Household Survey.
- Conference Board survey “are jobs available?” question deteriorated, another indicator of an unemployment rate rise.

My 2nd question on HC reform and small group plan terminations: Doesn’t know impact.

Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (103013)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: 86-year-old nun called ‘the prison angel’ dies in Mexico

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Tijuana, Mexico and Los Angeles, California:

Oct 29, 2013 / 04:01 pm

Mother Antonia Brenner, who married and divorced twice before converting to the Catholic faith and devoting herself to prison ministry for nearly 39 years in Tijuana, died Oct. 17 at the age of 86.

“Humanly speaking, this is an irreparable loss, but from the point of view of the mission that she had, I think we have won something,” Archbishop Rafael Romo Munoz of Tijuana said after receiving news of her death.

“She is a woman with the characteristics of a saint. I say that because I knew her and loved her a lot. I also received much affection from her. She has the traits of a saint, and that is why the Church has come out winning.”

Mother Brenner was born Mary Clarke and was the mother of eight and lived in Beverly Hills prior to her conversion, which was effected by a dream. Even before this, she had done volunteer work for the poor in both Mexico and California.

In 1969 she dreamt she was a prisoner at Calvary preparing to be executed. Suddenly, Jesus appeared and offered to die in her place, which she refused, saying she would never leave him no matter what happened to her.

After this dream, Mother Brenner decided to devote her life to the Church.

Despite initial difficulties due to her status as a divorcee, in 2003 she founded the order of the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour, which was founded for older women who feel called to serve the poor.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1982 about her prison ministry, Mother Antonia said, “Something happened to me when I saw men behind bars. … when I left, I thought a lot about the men. When it was cold, I wondered if the men were warm; when it was raining, if they had shelter.”

“I wondered if they had medicine and how their families were doing. …when I returned to the prison to live, I felt as if I’d come home.”

Both for the guards and the inmates at La Mesa penitentiary, Mother Brenner was the prison angel. But behind bars she was known as “Mama.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

October 29, 2013

Megyn Kelly Reminds Viewers: Obama Said You Can Keep Your ‘Acme’ High-Deductible Plan

Originally posted very early Tuesday morning. Moved to the top because of the topic’s importance.

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Monday night on her Fox News program, Megyn Kelly played a clip of President Obama going beyond the now-infamous “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” promise. Earlier Monday, as Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters noted, Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye at NBC News revealed that the Obama administration knew three years ago that “more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.”

At the 0:59 mark of the video which follows (HT Mediaite), viewers will see Kelly introduce and then replay Obama’s February 2010 promise that “any insurance you have will be grandfathered in,” even if it’s an “Acme Insurance, just a high deductible catastrophic plan”:

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Three Admin Officials Swing Back Furiously at NBC Over Obamacare-Driven Health Policy Cancellations, Miss by Miles

Originally posted very early Tuesday morning. Moved to the top because of the topic’s importance.

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On Monday, as Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters noted, Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye at NBC News reported that the Obama administration knew three years ago that “more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.” This of course directly contradicts President Obama’s repeated promises that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

I will get to the gambit the administration used to convince people that it wouldn’t do what it originally intended to do in the runup to Obamacare’s passage, a strategy which may have resulted from objections raised in a July 2009 Investor’s Business Daily editorial, later in the post. But first, we have to look at tweets sent out tonight by three Obama administration officials in response to the NBC report, all of which dodge NBC’s substantive point that the Obama administration knew policy terminations would occur, and claim that “the ACA” (the Affordable Care Act) is not to blame:

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