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Obamacare Enrollment Counted Using Common Core Math Standards

March 26, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

ABC-Diane-Sawyer-Obamacare-numbers-release-11-13-2013-620x427Last year the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obamacare would enroll 7 million customers by March 31, 2014, a number the administration subsequently adopted as its goal.  As it became clear that that target would remain elusive, the administration proceeded to move goalposts and extend deadlines so that they would be able to claim, at the end of the open enrollment period, that they had succeeded.

Despite all their cheating and number-fudging, they still can’t make that claim.

On October 23, 2013, after three weeks of dismal healthcare.gov performance, President Obama extended the deadline for complying with the individual mandate from February 15 to March 31, 2014.

On November 22, he extended the deadline for those who wished to receive coverage starting January 1 from December 15 to December 23.

On December 12, he strong-armed insurance companies into letting consumers make their first payments by January 10 rather than January 1.

On December 23, he extended the December 23 deadline for January coverage to December 24.

On December 24, he announced that those signing up at the last minute who were having trouble with healthcare.gov could have their enrollment deadlines extended if they could prove they had tried but failed to enroll in a plan.

In February 2014, when time was running out, the administration quietly revised its enrollment target from 7 million down to 6 million.  This would allow them to later falsely claim that their goal was never 7 million, and that they needed only 6 million enrollees for Obamacare to be sustainable.  (Note: The administration’s original projection in 2010 was 13.9 million, which means that the 7 million target was already a 50% reduction from their original expectation.)

Yet all of these tricks haven’t been enough to carry Obamacare over the finish line.  Perhaps because of the politically motivated one-year delays in the large and medium employer mandates, and the three-year delayed individual mandate for those with health plans that don’t comply with Obamacare, total enrollment isn’t predicted to hit even 6 million by March 31.

The Obama administration reported 5 million enrollees as of March 17, 2014.  Democratic activist Charles Gaba, who styles himself as a Nate Silver of Obamacare enrollment prediction, correctly foresaw the date the government would hit the 5 million mark.  He projects 5.4 million enrollees by March 31.

But Gaba admits that his estimate doesn’t factor in whether these enrollees end up paying their first monthly premiums.  Insurance companies have estimated that about 20% of so-called enrollees never make their first payment.  So even by the modified estimate of a pro-Obamacare statistician, total paid-for enrollments by the repeatedly extended deadline would be a paltry 4.3 million, or 62% of the administration’s goal.

As embarrassing as are that number and the administration’s attempts to spin it as a huge success, the crucial recruitment test is whether they get the right mix of enrollees.

Obamacare needs enrollees in the following categories, in descending order of importance: healthy young people, healthy old people, sick young people, and sick old people.  Tracking healthy and sick participants is difficult, but so far the administration has enrolled a smaller-than-desired percentage of young people.  The administration needs the enrollee base to consist of at least 40% young people, but they’ve hit only 25%.

So recruitment is well below the needed enrollment target, and well below the target percentage of young enrollees.  In addition, there’s an elephant in the room that upends all of these calculations.

Namely, it’s still the case that more people have been kicked off their plans than have enrolled and paid for plans on the federal exchange.

Even if every single exchange enrollee had been previously uninsured, the net difference between new enrollees and those who lost their plans would be negative.  But many consumers who signed up for the exchanges did so only because they were kicked off their old plans.  A recent McKinsey survey revealed that only 14% of exchange enrollees had previously been uninsured, and that most who had been insured were finding replacement coverage.

Everyone knows that it’s difficult to precisely track participation in large, unwieldy programs like Obamacare.  It’s understandable if groups for and against the legislation derive slightly higher or lower counts.  But when Democrats cut themselves break after break in interpreting the numbers, ignore qualifiers that greatly alter, mitigate, or render their counts useless, and redefine the meaning of the word “enrollment,” we’re not talking about harmless rounding error.  We’re talking about brazen mendacity.

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Obamacare Is a Negative-Sum Game

March 19, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

????????????????????????????????????????????????????Democrats’ strategy for vulnerable Obamacare-supporting Congressmen up for reelection this fall seems to be: “Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative.”

That may be great advice for characters in Hollywood musicals, but it’s a lousy way to judge a shoddily-written, government-mandated, never-read-in-its-entirety-by-any-human-being takeover of one-sixth of the American economy, and voters know it.

As Democratic shill Eugene Robinson coos, “Democrats should talk about what’s right with the ACA [Affordable Care Act].  They should talk about the millions of formerly uninsured Americans who now have coverage.  They should talk about the millions of others who are covered for the first time under Medicaid.  They should talk about the young people who are able to be covered under their parents’ policies.  They should talk about the diabetics and cancer survivors who now cannot be denied coverage because of their conditions.”

First, there’s no evidence that “millions” or even a million formerly uninsured Americans have coverage.  Of the few million Americans who have signed up for coverage via the exchanges—most of whom the government can’t verify payment for—multiple large-scale surveys suggest that the overwhelming majority of these previously had insurance, and that the preponderance of the latter shopped on the exchanges because they were kicked off their old plans.  Only a sliver of the uninsured report having browsed the exchanges, let alone chosen and paid for plans.

Second, a vast expansion of a behemoth federal welfare program that’s going bankrupt isn’t something to crow about.  And ballooning Medicaid coverage can hardly be considered an integral part of a supposedly innovative healthcare redesign that was supposed to cut costs by restructuring the insurance industry and fostering vigorous competition in the private market.

Third, it’s not clear that most Americans view coddling young adults through their 20s by allowing them free coverage while living in their parents’ basements as a gain.  Voters ridiculed the administration’s recent “Pajama Boy” ad—and that guy was trying to buy insurance!

As for those with preexisting conditions who can get coverage more easily and don’t have to shell out for high-risk pools, that is a legitimate example of an Obamacare feature that is popular with the public and will do good for a lot of people.  Another such provision is “community rating,” which prevents high-risk populations such as older people and smokers from having to pay higher than a certain percentage more than their low-risk counterparts.

People with chronic illnesses, older folks, and females will do relatively better under Obamacare than the healthy, young, and male.

But we can’t just point to people who make out like bandits under Obamacare and call it a day.  There are more people who end up worse by being kicked off their plans, having to sign up for plans with more expensive premiums or deductibles, getting stuck with narrower networks of doctors and hospitals, not being hired by employers keeping their employee counts down, or having their hours cut to compensate for the cost of covering other workers.

The Manhattan Institute’s recent 49-state study of premium cost changes revealed that states like New York, Colorado, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Hampshire—whose state healthcare markets are already heavily regulated—will see cost declines under Obamacare, but most states will face increases.  Presumably Robinson would recommend that Democratic Senators in Colorado and New Hampshire brag about lowered Obamacare costs in their states, while vulnerable Democrats in South Dakota (77% projected increase), Arkansas (138% increase), Louisiana (53%), North Carolina (136%), Georgia (92%), Michigan (66%), and Iowa (72%)… change the subject.

Any piece of legislation that affects the citizenry must be sound in its entirety.  Each of its components must be Constitutional.  The collection together must do more good than bad.  And the bill must not do undeserved harm to any of the people it affects.

Obamacare fails on all counts.

The individual mandate is unconstitutional, despite what Supreme Court Justice John Roberts thinks.  Until recently, Obamacare had booted more insured people off their plans than it had enrolled uninsured customers.  And numerous individuals with life-threatening illnesses found their continuity of care disrupted by having to switch to plans they couldn’t afford or losing coverage for treatments or drugs they relied on.  Even Harry Reid is finally acknowledging that some of the horror stories are true—at least when they involve his constituents.

Certain provisions of Obamacare are popular, but the law isn’t “certain provisions of Obamacare,” it’s “all of it.”  I hear that certain provisions of “having a job” are popular, like “getting a salary,” but that doesn’t mean we can keep the salary without including the “getting up early” and “dealing with annoying coworkers” parts.

In the best-case scenario, Obamacare would be a zero-sum game, in which the government confiscated resources from some taxpayers and redistributed them to needy individuals.  Many would oppose such a plan, but at least we could say the gains of some balanced out the losses of others.

But Obamacare architects weren’t content to spread the wealth around; they had to upend the whole system and rewrite the rules of the game for everyone.  Now, not only do millions of Americans lose at the expense of others, the entire system suffers from the introduction of chaos, uncertainty, arbitrary dictates, and capriciously tendered waivers to politically connected cronies.

Obamacare isn’t a zero-sum game, it’s a negative-sum game.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Reelecting Democrats: More Urgent Than Fixing Our Healthcare System

March 12, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

vulnerable_senate_2014_democrats_ap_328Even though there hasn’t been much Obamacare news this week, more happens with the Affordable Care Act during a slow week these days than occurred during long stretches of time after it was passed in 2010.  Why?

Congressional Obamacare supporters could have spent the months and years between the bill’s signing in 2010 and its rollout in 2013 starting bill implementation, including instituting and enforcing the individual mandate.  Instead, Democrats postponed most of the bill’s provisions until after the 2012 Presidential election, because they knew that the bill was unpopular and that voters wouldn’t reelect President Obama if they suffered its damaging effects right before the election.  It was an artificial, three-and-a-half-year, Democrat-induced calm before the storm that started on October 1, when millions of cancellation notices gusted into subscribers’ mailboxes, federal and state websites crashed against shoppers’ screens, and voters with few affordable options in sight became lost at sea.

Those months and years were squandered; the administration can’t get them back.  But why is Obama continuing to postpone enforcement of the individual and employer mandates, when he claimed back in 2009 that it was so urgent for us to fix our hopelessly broken healthcare system?  It’s as though every single essential component of Obamacare turned out to be not so essential after all.  Someone should ask Obama: Do we all need insurance that covers pediatric dental care and marital counseling right now, or don’t we?  Will we need it over the next three years, or won’t we?  Obama presented his bill as necessary to avert millions of unnecessary illnesses and thousands of avoidable deaths, not to mention millions of dollars squandered on treating conditions that could have been prevented.  So how is putting off the bill’s most important provisions for years at a time helpful for the country’s health?

Does Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid think his claim that all health care horror stories are false is remotely believable, when the administration’s endless delays of Obamacare provisions are clearly designed to prevent more horror stories from circulating?  Does anyone believe that all these postponements aren’t taking place for political reasons—first the ones postponed until after the 2010 midterm elections; then those postponed until after the 2012 Presidential election; and now endless delays past the 2014 midterms, the 2016 Presidential election, and probably beyond?

A great campaign strategy to defeat Hillary Clinton, or whoever ends up being the Democratic nominee in 2016, would be to ask the candidate whether she supports all these Obamacare delays.  If she says no, then she is sharply at odds with Obama, which is politically risky.  But if she says yes, then she must be asked: How can all of these delays be good for the country, if there are tens of millions of people desperately in need of health insurance right now?  And how can a delay strategy be helpful if there are so many people with inferior insurance who are one illness away from going bankrupt?  Does Clinton want her constituents to die or go bankrupt?

Well actually, yes—many Democratic politicians wouldn’t mind, or at least would benefit politically, from more economic hardship among the electorate.  That would enable them to step in as saviors of the ever-growing downtrodden class and snare us into spending even more money on programs to support the general welfare.  Americans going bankrupt from expensive medical care would be all the more justification for Democrats to heavily regulate health insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, and medical device manufacturers.  Democrats are experts at frightening voters with nightmare scenarios about how bad things will get if Republicans deregulate the free market, and health insurance is an especially sensitive area of that market.

Speaking of scare tactics, Salon.com recently published an astonishing essay arguing that the wealthiest 1% of Americans are “sociopathic,” in that they don’t care about other human beings and enjoy attaining positions of power at companies so they can lay off workers.  This is yet another example of the left exaggerating the extent to which Republicans prefer people to fend for themselves: liberals imply that conservatives want everyone to live on an island, carry out every municipal function on his own, and refuse to work together in a community or divvy up responsibilities.  This argument, in addition to being ridiculous, is belied by the fact that conservatives voluntarily give more to charity than liberals.

Which party is really made up of sociopaths?  I say it’s the one that tells us that millions of Americans are going to die over the next few years if they don’t have adequate health insurance—and then promotes that outcome anyway for purely political reasons.

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Deconstructing Harry Reid

March 05, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

HarryReidThis could be a hunch, but I suspect vulnerable Congressional Democrats are going to regret Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid having kicked off the 2014 midterm season by declaring his party’s campaign slogan to be “All Obamacare Victims Are Liars.”

Last week, after regaling his colleagues with the glories of Obamacare, Reid warned, “Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told.  All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.  Those tales turned out to be just that—tales, stories made up from whole cloth.”

Reid is far from the only liberal claiming Obamacare victims are an urban myth.  Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik mused, “Maybe there are no genuine Obamacare horror stories.”  Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum demanded, “Has anyone in America actually been harmed by Obamacare?”  The ever-certifiable Paul Krugman decried “Health Care Horror Hooey.”

Yet according to a recent Rasmussen survey, one third of Americans report that they personally have been hurt by Obamacare.  Projecting to the entire U.S. population, that’s an awful lot of liars.

Can we reflect for a moment on the insanity of Reid’s claim?  Supporting Obamacare because you believe it will help the needy, even if the middle class and well-off will suffer, is one thing.  And downplaying the cost of redistributing wealth through government subsidies is Democratic boilerplate.  But claiming that there is literally no downside to a law this big and complicated, that not one single person will be adversely affected by it, is borderline demented.

Consider the circles of hell Obamacare victims have wandered through in the past six months:

  • Millions have lost their health care plans
  • Many haven’t been able to find equivalent coverage due to higher premiums or deductibles
  • Some with life-threatening illnesses have lost their doctors or hospitals and watched their conditions worsen due to discontinuity of care
  • Millions have had to waste hours, days, or weeks scouring poky online exchanges to replace something they already had
  • Many are being forced to buy coverage for things they don’t need
  • Many who didn’t lose coverage are watching their premiums increase
  • Employees are having their hours cut or losing their jobs
  • The eventual enforcement of the delayed employer mandate will yield millions more policy cancellations

Yet liberals’ argument against these complaints is: “No one has been hurt by Obamacare, or if they have, it was completely unnecessary.  If only they’d spent hours researching dozens of plans and generating spreadsheets comparing premiums, coinsurance, and deductibles, they’d find a plan we think is better for them.  And if their costs are going up, it’s because greedy insurance companies raised their rates—which totally coincidentally happened right as Obamacare began.”

The left is ecstatic that they’ve been able to poke holes in the stories of a few cancer victims whose coverage was dropped and supposedly could have gotten comparable Obamacare plans.  Liberals believe that, because trained investigative reporters who consult insurance executives and interview Consumer Reports writers are able to sleuth around for hours comparing the costs of various bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans, little old ladies who are scared of computers should be ashamed at themselves for not doing the same.

So what if a few of the horror stories aren’t as egregious as their confused victims believe?  The fact that these victims are confused by what Obamacare is doing to them while they’re trying to fight life-threatening diseases should be horrifying enough to anyone with a conscience.

Even Hiltzik admits that there are “numerous cases of individuals or families who are paying more for coverage this year than last, and possibly for less coverage than they had before.”  He concedes that provider networks are smaller than those subscribers previously had, and acknowledges that many major insurance carriers did a poor job explaining options to customers after dropping coverage.

But in Hiltzik’s mind, stories of frustration and hardship don’t rise to the level of “horror” unless patients’ Obamacare doctors are sporting hockey masks and chainsaws.

There are numerous other reliable stories out there—see the cases of Stephen Blackwood, Jeff and Victoria Haidet, Linda Deright, Tom Gialanella, and Julie Stovall—that the left hasn’t been able to deconstruct.  But liberals aren’t interested in learning whether there are any genuine Obamacare horror stories; they’re interested in snookering the public into accepting their sneers about how all such stories are false.

If Democrats don’t start acknowledging the people hurt by the fatally flawed Affordable Care Act and supporting its delay or repeal, they may be the ones with Obamacare horror stories come November.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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For Liberal Politicians, Lane Closure Is a Way of Life

January 22, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

dmvImagine the governor of a large state closing down two lanes of the busiest bridge in the country, holding up hundreds of thousands of drivers for four days, causing delays, confusion, and lost productivity.

Now imagine the President of the United States holding up millions of online shoppers for three months, causing frustration, chaos, and anger, not to mention lost health insurance coverage and continuity of care.  Which do you think liberals would be livid about and demand federal investigations into?  Which do you think they would brush off as trivia hardly worth mentioning?

Despite the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge last September as part of the BridgeGate scandal, traffic flowed faster into Manhattan than customers were able to navigate the troubled HealthCare.gov site in its first few months of operation.  The website’s time-wasting woes included: taking whole minutes to load pages and upload input; repeatedly crashing, often after visitors had spent time entering detailed personal information; freezing up; calculating incorrect subsidies for applicants; and creating multiple accounts for the same person, thus sowing confusion over which applications were being sent to insurance companies.

But make no mistake: Democrats are still in denial about the extent of the problems that remain with HealthCare.gov.  And both the federal and state exchange sites continue to reveal comical new mishaps on a weekly basis.  The latest thigh-slapper (for those unaffected by it) is that Maryland’s health care site has been directing hundreds of callers to a pottery supply store in Seattle.  Demonstrating the rapid-fire, can-do attitude of government workers everywhere, Maryland officials didn’t just rewrite the incorrect line of code and change the number.  According to the Baltimore Sun, “A state spokeswoman said Saturday that she had no update on efforts to fix the problem.”  A problem, you’ll note, that Maryland discovered on Friday, but that has been present SINCE OCTOBER 1.  No, of course we haven’t fixed the problem yet.  First we need to form a committee to investigate how such a thing could have happened, and then we need to launch a study into the most efficient way to make the change, and then we need to draft a contingency plan for other proprietors in case this happens again…

Don’t forget the hundreds of hours of time that will be wasted after hackers inevitably penetrate the tissue-thin HealthCare.gov security protocols and start accessing hundreds of thousands of Obamacare subscribers’ personal information.  Enrollees will have to waste time tracking down the illegal charges made on their accounts, apply for new cards, and change their passwords.  A traffic jam will seem like paradise in comparison.

Or the time insurance companies and subscribers will waste sorting out the tens of thousands of erroneous transmissions resulting from the site’s pathetically high error rate, including resolving such basic details as applicants’ gender.

Or the time consumers have already wasted navigating the hundreds of fake websites mirroring the federal and state exchanges, a result of the government’s failure to take the standard precaution of purchasing similar domain names so it can redirect misguided visitors to the correct site.

Or the hundreds of hours we’ve had to waste chronicling this embarrassing rollout.

Yes, BridgeGate was perpetrated deliberately and maliciously, whereas HealthCare.gov-Gate resulted from incompetence.  But does that distinction matter to consumers who had to waste hours or days trying to sign up for a plan, who trembled in limbo for weeks or months unsure whether they had coverage, who outright lost their plans or doctors and have to hunt for new ones they can afford?

Anyway, incompetence starts to bleed into maliciousness when you look at the bigger picture.  As they say, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  The Obama administration had to know that by waiting until well after the 2012 election to build the site, it was setting the country up for major problems on October 1.  Those in charge of developing the site, for example, waited until the day before it launched to conduct crucial stress tests, at which point they discovered that the site froze with a mere 1,100 simultaneous users.  If allowing yourself to display that level of boneheaded ineptitude isn’t malicious, I don’t know what is.

And it’s laughable that the left now complains about the time the poor citizenry of Fort Lee lost during the traffic snafu.  Liberals are the ones who make us waste an average of 22 hours a year preparing our taxes instead of letting us institute a flat tax; who cost business owners hundreds of hours a year complying with unnecessary regulations; who force us to wait in protracted lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Post Office instead of letting us privatize these services.  These are the same people who pat themselves on the back for delivering a government service that manages to be “not a third-world experience.”

Liberals don’t care about your precious time, your property, or your quality of life.  They care only about getting and maintaining power, so they can dispense with all of the above commodities as they see fit.

The left’s raison d’être is closing lanes in every area of our lives.  At least Christie’s aides stopped their shenanigans after four days.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Who Should Decide Whether Multivitamins Are Useless?

December 18, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

748269-4b723010-6779-11e3-879d-630c394bcc3dSeveral Johns Hopkins medical doctors recently published an eye-opening editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine arguing that multivitamins and nutritional supplements are a complete waste of money.  (We’ve known that for a long time about, say, Head Start and a thousand other useless government programs.  Will we be defunding them anytime soon?)

The authors discuss research that they and their colleagues conducted for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, in which they found that Vitamin B, folic acid, numerous antioxidants, and virtually all daily multivitamins have no effect in preventing heart disease or prolonging longevity.  Multivitamins may have a minor impact—much less so than eating healthy and exercising—on preventing cancer, but only in older men.

Other research found that Vitamin D was ineffective in strengthening bones; fish oil was useless for treating atrial fibrillation; and nutritional supplements had no effect on preventing dementia.  (Watching MSNBC, on the other hand, accelerated dementia onset.)  In addition, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and beta carotene had no detectable prophylactic effects, and might even be harmful to people at risk for lung cancer.

As compelling as the Annals findings are, there are dissenters, and these don’t just include CEOs of vitamin manufacturers.  Critics note that the researchers’ conclusions apply only to people with no nutritional deficiencies—which may not describe a very large set of Americans—and that pregnant women and those with nutrient absorption problems may benefit from some multivitamins.  Methodological flaws—noncompliance in the heart health study, the fact that participants in the dementia study were all male doctors over 50—make firm conclusions difficult.

And isn’t it suspicious when researchers in some poorly understood field declare their conclusions with utter certainty, as the doctors in the Annals do?  “We believe that the case is closed—supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful…  Enough is enough.”  And this: “The probability of a meaningful effect is so small that it’s not worth doing study after study and spending research dollars on these questions.”  Resistance is futile—the science is settled.  Sounds eerily familiar to the tone global warming advocates use to bully skeptics into silence.

Yet there may be something to the researchers’ findings, and I give them credit for daring to oppose the multibillion-dollar vitamin industry.  People are slow to change and sometimes need a kick in the pants to get them to stop engaging in pointless or unhealthy habits.  Remember how long it took for the USDA’s ridiculous food pyramid—with its hysterical warnings against eating too many servings of food groups that include things like fish, olive oil, and nuts, and its reckless injunction to eat up to 11 servings of starch, pasta, and bread a day—to be discredited?

In the end, decisions about multivitamins and other health issues should be made on an individual basis, by those who would take or eschew them, based on individual risk tolerance and health.

Preventive Services Task Force member Wanda Nicholson states it perfectly: “In the absence of clear evidence about the impact of most vitamins and multivitamins on cardiovascular disease and cancer, health care professionals should counsel their patients to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that is rich in nutrients.  They should also continue to consider the latest scientific research, their own experiences, and their patient’s health history and preferences when having conversations about nutritional supplements.”

As an example of such considerations, I was fascinated to discover that the Japanese have similar smoking rates as Americans, but lower lung cancer rates, presumably because they drink an average of five cups of antioxidant-rich green tea a day.  Informed and engaged people should be allowed to consider such tradeoffs.

And that, to bring the political angle into all this, is exactly the sort of behavior that Obamacare is designed to halt, with its one-size-fits-all regulations that trample on individual choice, blanket mandates that deny controversial treatment options, and end result forcing everyone to lobby the government for special treatment.  Everyday citizens who read headlines declaring multivitamins useless no doubt feel some cognitive dissonance over having engaged in behaviors that may be useless over the past several decades.  That discomfort is a good thing.  The research on vitamins isn’t even close to settled, and controversial findings should prompt people to seek additional information and demand further study.

But people like quick, easy answers, and government agencies are often too quick to supply them.  Some portion of the population appears to conclude with regularity, “If the government says so, doesn’t that mean it’s true?”

If we don’t rid ourselves of the pestilence known as Obamacare, then ten years down the road the decision to take multivitamins—and other, far more substantial health decisions—may be one people don’t even think of making themselves, but passively follow whatever their government-controlled doctors direct them to do.

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All Obamacare Plans Are Aluminum

December 04, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

RustyCarLiberals pretend that, for people who lost their health care plans because of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act will lower monthly premiums while offering the same or better coverage—and other people won’t even be affected!  They promise a veritable gold standard for 21st-century health care delivery.

Their claim is all flash and no substance.

First, health care premiums are not lower across the board, as Obama promised they would be once his act was passed.  They are lower only for certain subgroups, such as people who qualify for federal subsidies; people who live in states like New York or California that have already jacked up premiums exorbitantly; and people with preexisting conditions who justifiably get charged more for the cost risk they pose.

For just about everyone else who lost his plan, premiums are heading north.  In 2014 this will affect those on the individual market and those who work for small businesses.  In 2015, when the employer mandate kicks in, it will affect many if not most who receive insurance through large employers.

Second, even for the minority of plan-losers who enjoy lower premiums next year, the government is offsetting this cost through huge annual deductibles, coinsurance, and copays.  Many low-income people who can afford only the cheapest “Bronze” Obamacare plans can’t budget the outrageous annual deductibles they must pay before they see a penny of reimbursement.  Many middle-income people who fall just below the threshold for subsidies face a lose-lose tradeoff: buy a Bronze plan with monthly premiums similar to what they paid before but a huge deductible, or minimize their deductible by paying higher monthly premiums.

Lots of middle-income people who do meet the subsidy threshold will nonetheless find themselves paying more.  Why?  Because federal and state exchanges cover a narrower range of hospitals and doctors than many plans do now, and consumers who want to stick with their current arrangement will shell out more for out-of-network services that were previously considered in-network.

To sum up, low-income people won’t have it nearly as easy under Obamacare as promised, and many with high deductibles will pay the full cost of expensive medical bills in addition to monthly premiums they didn’t pay before.  Many middle-income people will pay higher premiums, deductibles, or both for the same coverage.

Third, even if Obamacare manages to cover a few people at near-zero premiums and drastically reduced deductibles, it will either help only a tiny sliver of the population, many fewer people than promised; or generate enormous costs to taxpayers who will have to pick up the tab if the program expands to generously cover more people.  As Huffington Post writer Nathan Newman admits, “As conservative critics snipe at Obamacare for out-of-pocket expenses being too high for families making more and not qualifying for these subsidies, we should be pointing to these formulas [for poor people] and agreeing that we need amendments to extend cost sharing subsidies to more families” [emphasis added].  In liberals’ dream world, everyone but wealthy Obama donors will be saddled with Bronze plans.

So a few poor, older people in New York and California may end up better under Obamacare.  But liberals are pushing for generous health care entitlements to spread to an ever-growing swath of society, an arrangement that will eventually squeeze the middle class out of the health care market.  And a nation without a stable middle class can’t fund a massive new entitlement for a swelling portion of society, which means even the poor won’t get much help for much longer.

Finally, Obamacare is funded through openly larcenous schemes such as swiping billions of dollars in tax credits from people who used to be allowed to deduct most medical expenses from their incomes for tax purposes.  This is yet another way in which Obamacare hurts the people it is supposed to be helping.

So Obamacare doesn’t help people who can barely scrounge up enough to pay for a Bronze plan, and it doesn’t help people who have to upgrade to Silver for the same coverage.

It doesn’t help individual market subscribers or those who work for small businesses, and soon it won’t help those with large employers.

It doesn’t help frugal red states, and soon it won’t help prodigal blue states.

It doesn’t help young people, and soon it won’t help old people.

It doesn’t help the middle class, and soon it won’t help the poor.

In the long run, Obamacare’s cheap, flashy, structurally hollow aluminum plans help no one.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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America: The New France

November 27, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

www.pinterest.comWith John Kerry’s deal allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium while the U.S. lifts billions of dollars in sanctions, Obama hasn’t had a foreign policy success this rousing since the Syrian crisis!

As The Financial Times put it, “For the Obama administration, which is reeling from the chaotic rollout of its healthcare reform and whose credibility has taken a battering with allies and foes from the wavering over Syria, even this interim deal with Iran represents a substantial diplomatic achievement.”  Well, yes—compared to Obamacare and Syria, the Hindenburg is a substantial achievement.

According to details hammered out over the weekend in Geneva, the U.S. will unfreeze $8 billion in Iranian assets, including gold, oil, and other resources.  In exchange, Iran will suspend installation of new centrifuges for its heavy water reactor at Arak, though it is free to continue operating its 19,000 existing centrifuges and build new ones.

Iran also had to promise it was enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, would never use it to build a bomb, and would give international weapons inspectors a bit more freedom than they currently have for the next six months to inspect certain parts of select sites with advance notice.

Basically, Iran agreed not to go nuclear until Memorial Day.

As Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif declared in a breathless, run-on statement reflecting his astonishment at the U.S.’s stupidity and Iran’s good fortune, “None of the enrichment centers will be closed and Fordo and Natanz will continue their work and the Arak heavy water program will continue in its present form and no material will be taken out of the country and all the enriched materials will remain inside the country…  The current sanctions will move towards decrease, no sanctions will be imposed and Iran’s financial resources will return.”

Could the U.S. possibly have gotten a more awesome deal than this?  I almost feel bad for Iran’s Foreign Minister, having to butt heads with Barack “The Ram” Obama.

Meanwhile, which United Nations Security Council member bravely stood up and opposed this lunatic deal?  Not England, not Germany, not China, not Russia.  France.

Yes, the same France that boasts a storied role since World War II as a cowardly nation that refuses to persevere through difficult conflict and relies on more powerful forces to protect it.

But truth be told, France’s reputation has been improving over the past couple of decades.  France was an early adopter of nuclear weapons—it currently has the third-largest nuclear force in the world—and sent tens of thousands of troops to fight in the Gulf War.  In 2007 France elected as President the relatively conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, who declined to tiptoe around immigrant sensibilities and decried Arab newcomers who refused to assimilate and wreaked havoc on the Parisian populace through riots and car-bombings.

Whatever you think of the Libyan intervention in 2011 or proposed strikes against Syria this fall, France was out in front of the U.S. on both counts.  Most importantly, in 2012 France almost single-handedly beat back Islamist forces in Mali and other parts of the Islamic Maghreb while Obama—satisfied that al-Qaeda was gone now that bin Laden was dead—looked the other way.

Now witness France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius refusing to reverse economic sanctions against Iran, while Obama and Kerry gleefully hand over the store.

Why can’t we have a Commander-in-Chief that tough?  Hardliners in Iran are actually mad at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for selling out to the U.S.  Why aren’t more Democrats mad at Obama for selling out?  Senator Chuck Schumer and a couple of other semi-hawkish types have grumbled, but for the most part all we’ve gotten is a chorus of dipsticks like Nancy Pelosi gushing over Obama and Kerry’s magnificent accomplishment.

How bad is this deal for the U.S.?  Hours after it was signed, Iranian propagandists were jumping on television and declaring victory over the U.S. and proclaiming that we had given up everything and they had conceded nothing.  Meanwhile, John Kerry was scrambling to give interviews on Swiss morning TV denying everything Iranian newscasters were claiming had happened the night before.

As an added bonus to this magnificent coup, Obama’s deal invalidates six hard-won United Nations Security Council resolutions against Iran, which we had to pull teeth to get China and Russia to support.

And not to keep bringing up Syria, but what are the prospects that a President who declared a red line that, if crossed, would lead to military consequences, then denied ever making that claim, will enforce sanctions against Iran six months down the road?  What are the prospects that Iran will believe he will?

It seems there’s always some Western power that’s the butt of foreign policy jokes, with an embarrassing reputation for refusing to fight or take sides—whether it’s Switzerland, Canada, or all of Europe.  But with France strapping on its fighting boots and rejecting crappy deals like the one Obama just accepted, it appears the U.S. is going to be the butt of international jokes until we get another Republican in the White House.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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T*lerant, Resp*ctful L*berals Everywhere You L**k

November 20, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

alec-baldwin-angry-300x300Over the past week, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of prominent liberals calling a reporter a “c**ksucking f*g,” telling America to “f*ck the troops,” labeling Sarah Palin a c*nt, and advocating that someone sh*t in her mouth and p*ss in her eyes.

How on earth would Associated Press reporters ever inform us about the foibles of liberals if their asterisk keys broke?

After hurling antigay slurs at a reporter trying to interview his wife, 30 Rock star and f*t sl*b Alec Baldwin lied and said he hadn’t used the word “f*g” but rather “fathead.”  Baldwin later changed his story and claimed that it was “unclear” what he had said—even to him, apparently.  He never denied using the word “c**ksucking,” however, and feigned ignorance that it was an antigay epithet.

MSNBC suspended Baldwin’s new TV talk show Up Late for two weeks, but National Public Radio declined to touch his radio show Here’s the Thing, which interestingly featured lesbian guest Rosie O’Donnell last Friday.  (In a sign that his anger management classes are working, Baldwin lasted the entire hour without calling O’Donnell a “c*rpet-m*nching m*ff d*ver.”)

Nor did Capitol One alter its lucrative, long-running credit card contract with Baldwin.  The wink-wink pass Baldwin has been getting from these outlets is much more lenient treatment than Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum got from their Wall Street backers and corporate sponsors when they referred to gays as “sinful f*gs.”  No, wait—nothing in the second half of that sentence is true.

Baldwin’s tirade followed another incident several months ago in which he called a reporter a “toxic little queen” and a “f**ing little b*tch,” and added, “If [sic] put my foot up your f*cking *ss, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much”—comments for which he similarly received no sanction from his socially conscious business partners and no material disapprobation from Hollywood.

Self-described “radical f*g activist” and perverted sex columnist Dan Savage defended Baldwin by saying that he supports someone who advocates for gay rights and uses anti-gay slurs over someone who opposes them and speaks respectfully of gays.

Is that our choice?  In that case, Savage must be wild about Andrew Breitbart, a vocal supporter of gay Republican group GOProud who never insulted gays; or the libertarian site Reason.com, which has supported gay marriage since the 1960s and been respectful to gays since then.

Savage must also adore the following commentators and politicos who have expressed support for same-sex marriage and never disparaged gays: Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly, Dick Cheney, Laura and Barbara Bush, Cindy and Meghan McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, S. E. Cupp, Margaret Hoover, and Ted Olsen, to name a few.

You’d think so, but not if Savage feels the same as fellow liberal Baldwin, who followed up his pseudo-apology with a tweet complaining about “libertarian trash” who defend gay rights.

Also, Savage frequently uses the term “teabagger” to refer to Tea Party members.  (It’s ironic that gay men on the left find it a high insult to accuse political opponents of sodomy.)  So based on his record, Savage not only prefers those who use anti-gay slurs and support liberal causes to conservatives who respect gays, he also prefers those who use anti-gay slurs and support liberal causes to those who don’t use anti-gay slurs and support liberal causes.

Meanwhile, serial suicide tweeter Cher demonstrated her feminist credentials and deep respect for women by labeling Sarah Palin “The ‘C’Word,… [the] DUMB C WORD”.  (The grammar- and punctuation-challenged Cher is also irony-challenged.)  At least she’s graduated from her suggestion last month that we engage in wholesale slaughter of Republicans: “WE R NOT HOSTAGES.If UR REPUBLIC IS FREAKING THE WHOLE WORLD OUT,MAYBE WE SHOULD DEEP 6 THEIR WEAK A**’S (sic),”.

Oprah Winfrey joined in the fun by advocating the genocide of seniors who predicted Obamacare would fail.  In an interview with the BBC, Winfrey offered the staggeringly original point that criticism of Obama and his health care bill is based on… racism!  She sputtered, “It’s the kind of thing no one ever says, but everybody’s thinking”—which is hilarious, because liberals have been saying it nonstop since before Obama was elected.  She added her own original twist that the country won’t heal until millions of old people drop dead.

Politico reporter Ian Murphy weighed in with an editorial reprinted from 2008 titled “F*ck the Troops,” in which he wrote, “So, 4000 rubes are dead.  Cry me the Tigris.  Another 30,000 have been seriously wounded.  Boo f*cking hoo.  They got what they asked for…  The nearly two-thirds of us who know this war is bullsh*t need to stop s*cking off the troops.  They get enough action raping female soldiers and sodomizing Iraqi detainees [asterisks added].”

But it was Martin Bashir who took the cake when he described cruel punishments invented by a 19th-century Jamaican slaveholder involving defecation and urination, then suggested of Sarah Palin, “[I]f anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.”  (Bashir really needs to stop revealing his twisted sexual fantasies to the public.)

What’s galling about this recent spate of liberal foul-mouthed invective isn’t that conservatives say these things too, but only we get blamed for them.  It’s that we don’t say these things, and we get blamed for them.  We don’t even want to say these things.  That’s not how conservatives operate.

The left accusing the right of foul-mouthed, uncivil discourse is the DSM definition of “projection.”  Liberals feel guilty about their filthy slander and degraded standards, then hunt for remote signs of them in conservatives to assuage their guilt.

Liberals’ M.O. is to ferociously jump on the slightest conservative slip of the tongue, all in order to distract attention from the bile they can’t stop their out-of-control egos from spewing.

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Note to Dems: Disapprobation Does Not Equal Sabotage

November 06, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

438px-VillaincLiberal journalists prostituting their reputations by defending the disastrous Obamacare rollout have been wailing that the real reason for HealthCare.gov’s failure is GOP sabotage.  But there’s a huge difference between the tactic Republicans have been using—withdrawal of support—and the active interference of which Democrats accuse them.

Confusing inaction with action, Politico’s Todd Purdhum labeled the GOP’s restrained disapprobation “calculated sabotage.”  He wrote that Republicans “kept up their crusade past the president’s reelection, in a pattern of ‘massive resistance’ not seen since the Southern states’ defiance of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.”  (Someone needs to remind Purdhum that it was his party leading the segregationist charge.)

Purdhum complained, “Party leaders enforced discipline, withholding any support for the new law—which passed with only Democratic votes, thus undermining its acceptance”—as though voting against the opposition’s legislation represents some kind of heinous, borderline felonious tactic outside the bounds of legitimate governance.  He decried Republican governors’ refusal to implement Obamacare exchanges, whining that the federal government was forced “to take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states—far more than ever intended.”  Boo-hoo.  Be glad all 57 states didn’t reject Obama.

Steve Benen approvingly cited an administration official saying, “You’re basically trying to build a complicated building in a war zone, because the Republicans are lobbing bombs at us.”  Lobbing bombs?  More like failing to provide gold-plated reinforcements rushed in by barefoot runners.

Washington Post reporters Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin sympathetically repeated the White House’s sobbing claim that it couldn’t bless states with its own calligraphic diagrams showing how to run a perfect state exchange, because big bad Republicans would “brandish” their charts to the media as the bureaucratic Rube Goldberg schemes they are.

Goldstein and Eilperin also reported that the White House suppressed the number of states refusing to set up their own exchanges and relying on the federal exchange, claiming that Republicans would use this revelation to their political advantage.  (Apparently history repeats itself: Now the administration can’t, just can’t release Obamacare enrollment numbers to a public that’s paying for the program because… Republicans will use the revelation to their political advantage!)

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones argued that most of the administration’s missteps in its Obamacare implementation resulted, not from managerial incompetence or political calculation, but from resistance to Sun Tzu-derived stratagems like “Sabotage Works.”

To be fair, Dick Morris did nastily urge his supporters to visit HealthCare.gov repeatedly and try to push its capabilities to the limit, overload it, and break it.

Wait—Morris didn’t do any of that; he urged his supporters to “sign petitions asking their states to refuse to establish exchanges.”  Armed insurrection!

In fact, Republicans and Tea Partiers have been practically Gandhi-like in the non-aggressiveness of their measures to overturn the law.

Here are the actual tactics Republicans have used: not voting for Obamacare, not allocating money for the development of the federal exchange, refusing to confirm radical recess appointments to oversee Medicare, refusing to gloss over the macro- and long-term implications of the program, rejecting the administration’s appeals to young people to buy a product not in their economic interest to purchase, declining Medicaid funds that would require their states to kick in taxpayer funds once the money runs out, declining to spend billions in taxpayer money to set up 51 state health exchanges, not approving more money to fix the broken website, not sympathizing with beleaguered Health and Human Services officials in the hot seat, refusing to waste time personally navigating individual voters around HealthCare.gov, not explaining away the website’s glitches, refusing to preach to Americans the wonders of Obamacare, and refusing to accept Obamacare as “settled law.”

That’s a lot of focused, frenzied activity, but notice what it all has in common: not doing things.

Here are some actions that would constitute genuine sabotage if Republicans actually carried them out: enacting provisions that would hobble the law and make it harder to implement; encouraging constituents to flood the site and put strain on its servers; and lying about premium increases, to name three off the top of my head.  (It’s hard for me to generate more, because I’m not a Democrat and I don’t think that way.)

In the same way that conservatives generally support the “negative liberties” actually protected by the Constitution—the right not to be physically attacked or slandered, not to have your property or firearms confiscated, not to have your income stolen and redistributed—they have similarly pursued “negative tactics” in opposing Obamacare: namely, refusing to condone, fund, or support it.

In other words, Republicans’ means match their goals.

Meanwhile, Democrats who favor imaginary “positive rights” involving redistribution of wealth, judicial activism, and government promotion of social justice naturally confuse Republican failure to help implement Obamacare with active efforts to hamstring it.  Democrats have spent so long pursuing an interventionist government that they can’t distinguish legitimate political dissent from ornery sabotage.  In their view, “all-out war” is equivalent to “not lavishing trillions of dollars on something your constituents despise but the opposition party adores.”

Ironically, the party regularly smeared as “war-mongerers” is engaging in the most passive, serene opposition campaign to Obamacare possible: embodying the mantra, “This too shall pass.”

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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