Thursday, November 21, 2013

Not Again

Yes, I’m afraid it’s more about the Affordable Care Act. After all that’s the big news these days, unless you’re fixated on George Zimmerman’s latest escapades, so here’s the latest on what I, and some of the public may have  learned since my last version.

Barack Obama was not lying when he said that people could keep their insurers and doctors if the ACA became law.Whatever policies were in place when the law was passed, even if they had sky high deductibles and extra limits to the people and conditions covered, were grandfathered from having to meet the higher standards set by the ACA. Of course premiums can change, insurers can terminate policies or simply go out of business and doctors can retire or die. But that’s always been par for the course.

The only policies subject to cancellation were written during the three years after the law was passed and before it took effect that didn’t meet or weren’t modified to meet minimum ACA standards. Obama has just extended the deadline for compliance an additional year. Surely insurers worth their salt knew that these contracts had a limited life and had an obligation to inform their prospective clients all of whom may not have read the “small print” in the law, although given the direct stake of consumers in this legislation the small print is deceptively bold.

While some of the holders of these inferior policies have been duped by unscrupulous insurers I strongly suspect many of the “victims” are plants, the more pathetic the anecdotes the better. Some of them are ringers. I saw two of these poster boys in business suits on Fox, where else, pleading personal hardship who were later identified on MSNBC, where else, as corporate executives.

Republican spin masters have been referring to this scenario as “Obama’s Katrina,” a bit of a stretch to equate a malfunctioning website and deadly storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Then too this president’s has yet to say to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius, “Katy, you’re doing one heckuva job.”





Saturday, November 16, 2013


One of several mistakes in making the Affordable Health Care Act or “Obamacare” law was that even now too few people are informed of its details. In commenting on it we can only speak of what we know or believe we know. To my knowledge this law by itself has not and cannot order the cancellation of a single policy. Only the insurance companies and policy holders can do this. Sub-par policies in existence before the law was passed have been grandfathered while policies written in the three years since, including those now mandated by ACA, must meet minimum standards. This is the cause of many of the cancellations now making news. Has the government set unreasonably high qualifications? This is a question that might be raised by the insurance companies. Their silence on this subject should be noted.
A typical right wing response to the issue would be to invoke the free market as a guide to what consumers should get for their money. But there is another consideration here. The cheaper the policy the less the coverage, with considerably higher deductibles and more exceptions for customers and ailments. This may be all that poorer people can afford yet they are the ones most vulnerable to these limits to their coverage. Those who need comprehensive coverage the most can afford it the least.
The per capita cost of our health care is by far the world’s highest yet the results are worse than nations that provide universal health care. The discrepancy is that our national health care doesn’t begin until a person reaches the age of sixty five. A lot of people die before that age and many more develop conditions that preventive medicine would have cured or lessened had they been treated before becoming eligible for government sponsored health care. It is common sense that the cost of treating Medicare beneficiaries would be considerably less had their conditions had been tended to earlier.
Unmitigated self-interest is just that. I can think of no part of our complex society in which it is more reprehensible than caring for the sick.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mimimum But No Cover

I recently emailed the New Haven Register saying that while I agreed with its editorial that Obama had not been 100% square with us I had something to add. Specifically, inasmuch as Congress, the President and the Supreme Court have concluded that mandated health insurance was within federal purview, it is incumbent on the government to require that this insurance meet some reasonable minimum standard. I equated this with auto emission controls in which state government can force consumers to change cars if they decline to have theirs brought up to minimum requirements.

Obama can be faulted for not mentioning that mandated health care must be part of a plan that meets minimum standards. Sub-par policies are grandfathered. But the insurers are prohibited from issuing new policies in effect forcing them out of business. I suppose he could be guilty of a half-white lie.* I would also argue that it was done to pass legislation that was clearly in the national interest. I wonder how St. Peter would balance the two.

Opposition attempts to sabotage “Obamcare” have been disingenuous. Pricier policies are being peddled by insurance companies under the threat of even more expensive plans after the law kicks in on Jan. 1, yet available new policies, which affect about 3% of the population, are expected to be the same if not cheaper. A friend who is the widow of an IBM employee, is quite pleased with her new policy. But since she is a devout Republican I expect this to be temporary. It’s easy to understand the opposition to this law by much of the medical complex beginning with insurance companies. But one would think that corporations like IBM would be glad to be relieved of the expense of administering these policies.

There’s very little of Marquis de Queensberry influence in American politics. Still there have to be some limits. Most people have standards to which they adhere. Relatively few condone murder. These standards vary with individuals and groups and have been declining steadily, too fast as I see it. To this unabashed partisan, at any given time the ethical bar both political parties have set for themselves is much lower for Republicans.


*My apologies to those who consider this politically incorrect. But I just couldn’t resist it.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

GOP Priority

Shortly after the last presidential election a friend, whom I consider reasonably intelligent but unsophisticated politically, told me that he voted for Romney because “the other guy has had four years and hasn’t fixed things.” While there may be a grain of logic here it ignores a major part of the picture. This is the same line of reasoning that elected Hitler. Yes, he was elected.
Of course it’s quite a stretch to equate a vote for Romney with a vote for Hitler. The common line of reasoning here also led to the election of FDR a year earlier, an outcome that most of us view favorably. Germans had suffered much more after the fifteen years that followed the Great War than we had after just four years of the Great Depression. For this reason it seems obvious that today’s Republican Party has a motive, if it desires, to drive this nation closer to the conditions that created the Third Reich, at least as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House.
To view the Republicans Party as a monolith is an over simplification. The establishment, which contains a majority of the current leadership, is driven by an insatiable desire for wealth. It is the home of whatever rationality exists in the party. The base, which provides an indispensable portion of votes, is driven by a combination of religious fervor, racism, xenophobia and a propensity for hatred in general. It’s hard to imagine how these people would govern together. The only thing they share is an intense dislike of Democrats; the establishment for their trying to regulate its thievery and the base for what it considers cultural depravity.
For both the first order of business is taking over the nation and soon, before they become extinct. This goal is not out of reach. They’ve held a narrow but secure control of the judiciary since 1991 when Poppa Bush engineered the replacement of Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas. They’ve developed gerrymandering to a state of the arts level which has given them the House for another seven years and, as I’ve mentioned, could set the stage to steal the presidency at the state level next year by changing Electoral College vote counting.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” “a stitch in time saves nine” “better to be safe than sorry. Choose your metaphor.