Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category
Jay Kolls’ investigative report for KSTP highlights MnSure’s and the Affordable Care Act’s shortcomings:
Jennifer Slafter, and her family, are a good example of a set of circumstances making it tough for some to get the help they need through the state’s new health insurance exchange program known as MNsure.
Slafter along with her husband and two daughters found out their health insurance premiums were going up about 40 percent in 2014. Slafter’s husband was told by the owner of the small company where he works that Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) from the employer would no longer be allowed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because the company did not offer a health insurance plan to its employees.
Faced with a higher deductible and a much higher monthly premium, Slafter says she went to the MNsure website hoping to find a cheaper, or comparable health plan for the family.
Slafter tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she was told her options would amount to a much higher premium and higher deductible than the plan they already have.
Slafter says she called MNsure to see if those were the only options and she says she was told the only cheaper alternative was to put her and her husband on a private plan and shift their two daughters to a Medicaid plan. Slafter does not want to split the family up with different coverage.
The Slafters had a plan that worked well for their family’s needs. When the ACA was inplemented, their premiums jumped 40%. That’s quite the sticker shock. Unfortunately, that isn’t the full extent of their difficulties:
She adds, Fillmore County officials told her there are no Medicaid medical providers in her county, which means they would have to travel much farther to get their children the medical care they need and probably not with the doctor they currently use.
I’m curious how many other rural families are experiencing similar situations. How many rural Minnesota families are getting pushed into higher premiums rather than losing their doctors. How many rural families were told that their children would lose their doctor if they chose Medicaid plans.
This Examiner article highlights how unpopular California’s health insurance exchange is:
An estimated seven out of every 10 physicians in deep-blue California are rebelling against the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange and won’t participate, the head of the state’s largest medical association said.
Here’s why they’re rejecting California’s exchange:
California offers one of the lowest government reimbursement rates in the country, 30 percent lower than federal Medicare payments. And reimbursement rates for some procedures are even lower. In other states, Medicare pays doctors $76 for return-office visits. But in California, Medi-Cal’s reimbursement is $24, according to Dr. Theodore M. Mazer, a San Diego ear, nose and throat doctor.
In other states, doctors receive between $500 to $700 to perform a tonsillectomy. In California, they get $160, Mazer added.
Only in September did insurance companies disclose that their rates would be pegged to California’s Medicaid plan, called Medi-Cal. That’s driven many doctors to just say no.
Something significant is happening. California’s exchange is creating a network of physicians and specialists who won’t participate in the exchange. Eventually, California’s laws will have to change because these exchanges can’t work without doctors, which is already happening.
Further, Medi-Cal’s re-imbursement rates need to improve. Unfortunately, California’s financial situation, putting it charitably, is a basket case. There’s little question that Medi-Cal is giving Californians another excuse to abandon California. This information is disturbing:
They’re also pointing out that Covered California’s website lists many doctors as participants when they aren’t. “Some physicians have been put in the network and they were included basically without their permission,” Lisa Folberg said. She is a CMA’s vice president of medical and regulatory Policy. “They may be listed as actually participating, but not of their own volition,” said Donald Waters, executive director of the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association.
Waters’ group represents 3,100 doctors in the East Bay area that includes Oakland, with an estimated 200,000 uninsured individuals.
“This is a dirty little secret that is not really talked about as they promote Covered California,” Waters said. He called the exchange’s doctors list a “shell game” because “the vast majority” of his doctors are not participating.
Why is this exchange listing doctors as participating in the exchange when they aren’t? I’ll speculate that it’s done intentionally because the exchange can’t admit that it’s a failure. Admitting that 70% of doctors aren’t participating in the exchange would demolish the exchange’s credibility.
When Bill Hemmer interviewed Frank Luntz about the Affordable Care Act, he played this Americans for Prosperity, aka AFP, ad to lead into the discussion:
The ad features Nancy Pelosi spewing the usual Democratic Party chanting points:
PELOSI: Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act.
Then, against a black backdrop, comes this simple, effective message from AFP:
Tell Congress Obamacare isn’t working. Stand tall for patients, not politics.
President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have been exceptionally stubborn in their support of the ACA. Eventually, the people will rebel against them when they see how the ACA is limiting their choices without lowering their costs.
Hemmer asked Mr. Luntz a question that led to this exchange:
BILL HEMMER: The issue is trust. How does that play out in the ad, do you believe?
LUNTZ: That’s exactly the point, Bill. You get it, that it isn’t about the health care act that’s important. It’s about politicians refusing to take accountability when they make mistakes. Clearly, the rollout wasn’t effective. Clearly, people were being thrown off their plans. And health care is just symbolic of a greater problem, that these Washington politicians like former Speaker Pelosi are making promises to the American people that they can’t keep.
It isn’t just that people think Democrats aren’t trustworthy. It’s that they’re mad politicians don’t even listen to them.
Lots of people appear on the Sunday talk shows or on FNC or CNN. They repeat their scripted message as often as it’s warranted. That’s a major mistake. Republicans, myself included, frequently disagreed with Bill Clinton. That said, they learned that listening is a virtue. Democrats seemed to have learned the opposite lesson. Michael Barone noticed that flaw in this column:
If Obamacare’s architects were keen on preventing exit, they blithely ignored voice. The legislation was unpopular when it was proposed, while it was passed and in the months and years afterwards. Barack Obama seldom mentioned it in the 2012 campaign except for the provision allowing “children” under 26 to stay on mommy and daddy’s policies.
That’s another way of saying that Democrats shoved unpopular legislation down the American people’s throats. Then they lied about what the bill wouldn’t do.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that that’s a recipe for disaster.
Thursday morning, Rep. Greg Davids sent a letter to Gov. Dayton about MnSure. Here’s that letter:
In the letter, Rep. Davids highlighted the fact that the MnSure Board of Directors was given authority to vote on something called Active Purchaser. This paragraph hits at the heart of what’s wrong with the MnSure Board of Directors:
The reality is that active purchaser gives seven unelected, unaccountable board members the powers to decide what constitutes a “meaningful choice” for hard working Minnesotans and small businesses.
Here’s what’s wrong with this model:
Shortly aftrer its botched launch, MnSure revealed its vision for active purchaser in response to questions about the lack of choices in southeastern Minnesota. A MnSure representative told an audience in Owatonna that the opportunity to deny carriers from selling on MnSure will result in more competition and reduced costs.
Rep. Davids highlights the foolishness of that type of thinking in the next sentence:
In southeastern Minnesota, reducing options to increase choice and competitiveness is a mathematical impossibility.
I’d modify that statement slightly. I’d argue that reducing options to increase choice and competitiveness is a mathematical impossibility anywhere in the United States, not just in southeastern Minnesota.
I’d oppose this type of board whether the governor was a Republican or Democrat, mostly because it usurps the power of the legislature. Also, that part of the statute is written with vague language and platitudes:
As you may know, the MnSure enacting legislation provided the Board with broad, ambiguous power to limit the number of plans offered on the exchange starting in 2015. This arbitrary authority is based on innocent-sounding, but subjective and easily manipulated terms, such as “quality and value” and “meaningful choices.”
Those terms are subjective to give the board almost unlimited authority over the companies that provide these plans. In short, it’s potentially a legally sanctioned extortion racket. Anyone that thinks that’s tinfoil hat thinking is kidding themselves about the condition of the human race.
Anyone that’s taken an honest look at Ted Kaczynski or Timothy McVeigh must admit that humans are capable of doing exceptionally wicked things.
Finally, Rep. Davids gave Gov. Dayton sound advice that Gov. Dayton will ignore:
It would be much wiser use of MnSure’s time to focus on enhancements to the consumer experience, user security, and the still unaccomplished task of electronically transmitting to insurance companies the application and payment information of those attempting to enroll through MnSure.
In short, Rep. Davids is advising Gov. Dayton to fix what isn’t working first.
I know that’s radical thinking to Gov. Dayton but it works in the private sector every day.
This morning, Torrey Westrom announced that he’s running to unseat Collin Peterson. Here’s Westrom’s statement accompanying his announcement:
TORREY WESTROM ANNOUNCES 7TH DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL BID
Elbow Lake, MN – Today, State Senator Torrey Westrom will announce his plans to run for Congress in Minnesota’s 7th district.
“As Minnesota families are crushed by burdensome regulations and overreaching government policies like ObamaCare, it’s time Minnesotans had someone they could count on to be part of the solution in Washington, DC,” said Westrom. “Washington politicians are out of step with the priorities of Minnesotans and I’m running for Congress because I understand how that disconnect is bankrupting our future.”
Torrey Westrom was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1997. Westrom is a conservative with a record of creating rural jobs and ensuring that the government operates within its means. Westrom is a strong supporter of smaller government and supports the need for a balanced budget amendment.
After losing his sight at the age of 14 in a farm-related accident, Westrom is a strong advocate for people with disabilities and eliminating barriers to help them become more independent in their living and employment opportunities. As a child, Westrom’s family dairy farmed in Wilmer, Minnesota, and later on the family farm in Elbow Lake. Now, Torrey and his wife, Anna, are small business owners, have three children and reside in Elbow Lake, Minnesota.
To learn more about Torrey Westrom, or to contribute, please visit: www.TorreyWestrom2014.com.
Each election cycle brings out the rumors that Rep. Peterson is thinking about retiring. Each time, those rumors turn out not to be true. This year, Torrey Westrom didn’t wait for Peterson to retire. That’s why he jumped in. Westrom represents a strong candidate who will get substantial financial backing from the NRCC in addition to his own fundraising abilities.
Though I don’t have a read on whether Peterson is perceived to be vulnerable, there’s no doubt that Sen. Westrom is a candidate they’ll have to take seriously.
In 2008, Peterson won overwhelmingly. In 2010, Peterson’s share of the vote dropped from 72.2% to 55.2%. Last year, Peterson won by 26 points. The bad news for him is that his percentage of the vote only rose 5 points. Without an Obama wave to ride, Peterson has shown he’s vulnerable. In the past, he’s faced underwhelming opponents. That won’t be the case this year.
Whether this is the year that Peterson retires or the people fire him is still in doubt. What isn’t in doubt is that he’ll face an appealing, well-funded opponent. Also, there’s no doubt that Democrats will be running into strong headwinds like the economy and the Affordable Care Act.
Philip Klein’s blistering article highlights the administration’s happy talk as BS. This information is particularly illuminating:
For instance, an HHS chart, which Zients boasted about, shows system uptime now at 95.1 percent (excluding scheduled maintenance), which compares to 42.9 percent a month ago. But, the industry standard is for websites to be available for users 99.9 percent of the time. Anything below that is considered a failure and 95.1 percent is a disaster.
A 2012 study by web monitoring firm Panopta that looked at the performance of 130 major retailers’ websites from January to August 2012 found that the lowest uptime rate was 99.34 percent.
Another study by web performance firm Pingdom that looked at retail websites during the 2011 holiday shopping season, found that nearly half of the websites (such as Amazon and eBay) were up 100 percent of the time. The lowest performing was Foot Locker, which was at 98.573 percent.
A 95.1 percent uptime means that over the course of a year, a website would be down for about 18 days. Alternatively, imagine what a disaster it would be for sales if, during the holiday shopping season, Amazon’s website were down for about a day and a half, excluding scheduled maintenance.
Brit Hume has a unique perspective on HealthCare.gov, which he explained here:
CHRIS WALLACE: Having said that, Brit, don’t they have a lot riding on how this goes, the next few weeks?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course. I think the website is a little better. We were on it yesterday, just to see what, you know, might be out there, what might be available. The site works better. You can get through and check plans.
It’s not going to remind you anytime soon of Amazon.com or eBay, but it’s in the clunky sort of way it works. In the state of Virginia, which we were, where we live, we were seeing what might be available to, that might be comparable to the wonderful plan we have here at Fox, and there was, there were plans available from exactly one company.
The best plan available, for my wife, had, we tried to see how many of her doctors were covered by, included in the plan, zero.
Now, that’s one person. Many others will have a different experience, those who get subsidies are likely to do well under this, but I think there are going to be continuing complaints and problems going forward, pretty serious ones.
This sentence is the sentence by which everything should be judged:
It’s not going to remind you anytime soon of Amazon.com or eBay.
As Philip Klein stated earlier, Amazon’s website is functioning perfectly 100% of the time during the Christmas season. This is the insurance companies’ busiest time of the year, too. Democrats have tried convincing people that health insurance prices have flattened because of the ACA. Brit Hume quickly dispensed with that myth:
HUME: Well, first of all, the question of costs. Costs started leveling off around the time of the big economic downturn around 2008. They remain essentially flat, or grown only slightly since. So whether we can attribute any of these cost savings to ObamaCare I think is doubtful. And that does remain a big question.
In other words, the administration is attempting to take credit for something it had nothing to do with. Mr. Hume made one final point that’s worth noting:
HUME: Only exchange experience we had yesterday, there was no platinum plan available. I was able to find one later on einsurance.com which seems to work fairly smoothly in distinction from the Obamacare Web site, but not on the exchanges. This thing is a mess.
In other words, HealthCare.gov is still a trainwreck. What’s worse is that the private sector’s websites had plans that weren’t available on the federal government’s exchanges. That means the exchanges aren’t reflecting a full range of options for health insurance shoppers.
Here’s a question for ACA supporters. Given the fact that HealthCare.gov is totally unreliable, especially compared with eBay and Amazon.com, why should we trust the federal government exchanges?
Last week, I spotted a headline that said the Obama administration didn’t want to make a Bush-like “Mission Accomplished” statement. I wish I would’ve copied that link because the Obama administration appears to have made their own “Mission Accomplished” statement:
HealthCare.gov team claims victory: ‘We have met the goal’
That’s a self-serving statement if ever I heard one. What goal was met? Was the goal a political goal? If yes, was it also a policy goal? More importantly, who set that goal? Most importantly, is it a goal that the American people are satisfied with?
Based on this document, I suspect that the answer to that last question will be an emphatic no:
The most telling statement is on the last page:
As the metrics detailed in this report reveal, dramatic progress has been made on improving HealthCare.gov. There is more work to be done to continue to improve and enhance the website and continue to improve the consumer experience in the weeks and months ahead. The new management system and instrumentation have helped improve site stability, lower the error rating below 1%, increase capacity to allow 50,000 concurrent users to simultaneously use the site and will help drive continuous improvement on the site. While we strive to innovate and improve our outreach and systems for reaching consumers, we believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.
This sentence says everything about what a mess HealthCare.gov is:
There is more work to be done to continue to improve and enhance the website and continue to improve the consumer experience in the weeks and months ahead.
In other words, HealthCare.gov has improved but it’s still a gigantic mess. That isn’t what patients who’ve lost their insurance want to hear. Again, we return to question whose goals were met.
Having the administration say that HealthCare.gov has significantly improved in the first sentence, then admitting there’s months of of work still ahead on the last page of a document, won’t build the American people’s confidence.
This morning on Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume talked about visiting HealthCare.gov in Virginia where he lives. He said that there weren’t any platinum plans available through HealthCare.gov, though he later said that there was a platinum plan available through e-Surance.com. Mr. Hume later noted that HealthCare.gov was nothing like the experience one expects from Amazon.com or other similar sites. Mr. Hume finished by declaring that “this website is still a mess.”
The Obama administration might be satisfied with the progress made on HealthCare.gov but they don’t get to cast the deciding vote on what’s successful. The American people cast that vote and, based on recent polling, they aren’t impressed.
Technorati: HealthCare.gov, Obama Administration, Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance Exchanges, Platinum Plan, Mission Accomplished Moment, Progress Report, President Obama, Democrats, Brit Hume, We The People, Amazon.com
Greg Gutfeld’s column offers the perfect explanation why the Affordable Care Act, aka the ACA, is destined for failure. Mr. Gutfeld starts by highlighting what iTunes would look like if it was a government invention:
Now imagine if iTunes had been run by the government. This is how I see it:
To enjoy my recently repurchased Marshall Crenshaw’s song “What Do You Dream Of”, I’d have to pay for an additional 19 songs I do not want, in order to help pay for someone else’s desire to listen to Ke$ha. Or worse, Enya. The iPod would come with a mandated airbag, and it would be the size of a baby’s head, and weigh 45 lbs. It would require that 34 percent of the music I purchase be polka. It would probably start overheating after an hour of use, break down, and give you thyroid cancer.
But as a reasonably compensated guy, the government believes that my desires for my music would require purchasing other music I don’t want, and I’d have to subsidize the musical choices belonging to some old guy I don’t even know.
And chances are all the music would suck (think Dave Matthews and Maroon 5). It would all cost more and satisfy less, which is what happens when choice is replaced by coercion.
That’s essentially what the ACA requires. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky. Those are the principles behind the ACA. Young healthies are essential to the equation because their overpaying pays for older, less healthy enrollees. Then Gutfeld explains why it’s destined for failure:
My point: just as civilization is moving toward an endless fragmentation allowing for options beyond our wildest expectations, President Obama believes the opposite course is “the right thing to do.” It is his warped version of progress. It’s no different than a young man staring at the advances in medicine and thinking, “No thanks, I’ll take the newt’s tail and onion powder for my cancer.” Ancient Chinese secrets no longer are acceptable medicine, except with Obamacare, what’s retro is now progress.
It’s like choosing to eat raw meat even when you know fire’s been invented and works reasonably well under certain circumstances. That’s what Obama is doing. He’s staring at a Ferrari V4i, and thinking, “No thanks, I’ll take this penny-farthing.”
There’s no questioning that world is going megachoice. President Obama’s ‘reform’ relies on limiting choice. By definition, the ACA is a dead man walking. The choice movement is the irresistible force. For all of this administration’s efforts to fix HealthCare.gov, the ACA’s biggest flaw is that it limits appealing choices.
So, you can be depressed over Obamacare, because it’s worth being depressed about. But it can’t win. Not against the human, creative mind and its desire for options. Sooner or later it will collapse, and then people will have the freedom to choose — the way health care should have been from the start.
It isn’t a question of whether the ACA will collapse. The only questions still to be answered are when will it collaps and how much destruction will it cause before it collapses. Charles Krauthammer wisely stated that anything that can’t be sustained won’t be.
Technorati: Greg Gutfeld, Free Market Capitalism, iPods, Affordable Care Act, Command and Control Economy, Individual Mandate, Employer Mandate, Minimum Required Benefits, HealthCare.gov, President Obama, Democrats
It isn’t surprising that the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, aka ABM, put together a deceitful collection of myths about the Affordable Care Act, aka the ACA.
Saying that Minnesota has the lowest rates in the nation doesn’t mean that insurance premiums didn’t go up with the ACA. It simply means they’re the cheapest premiums in the nation. It’s quite possible to have health insurance premiums go up. In fact, it’s inevitable because the required minimum benefits drive health insurance premiums up. That they’re the cheapest in the nation just means that other states’ health insurance premiums just went up more than Minnesota’s.
I read tons of articles a day and I don’t recall any conservative accuse Gov. Dayton of lying about people who like their plans could keep their plans. I’ve heard tons of people from across the political spectrum accuse President Obama of lying about keeping the policies people liked.
ABM is right, though, that Gov. Dayton told people who had their health insurance canceled that he wouldn’t let those insurance companies sell the old policies that people liked.
This sentence simply isn’t credible:
I know you’re going to say that 140,000 Minnesotans got cancellation notices, Aunt Phyllis, but the truth is it’s illegal in Minnesota to cancel health coverage.
I’d love hearing the explanation for that, especially since the ACA requires companies to cancel insurance that doesn’t meet the ACA’s minimum required coverages. If ABM isn’t lying, then it means that Minnesota health insurance companies aren’t complying with the ACA. In other words, ABM is accusing Minnesota health insurance companies of breaking federal law.
Thanks to Gov. Dayton’s ‘leadership’, MnSure is a national laughingstock. It’s the only website I’ve seen that gets weekends and holidays off. We’re the only state with Paul Bunyan ads and Mickey Mouse service.
While it’s true that MnSure is working better than HealthCare.gov, that isn’t exactly a high bar to clear. It simply means it’s outperforming a total political and policy disaster.
Technorati: Mark Dayton, Health Insurance Exchanges, MnSure, HealthCare.gov, Strawman Arguments, Non Sequiturs, Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Affordable Care Act, Insurance Cancellations, President Obama, Broken Promises, Democrats
If you want to read an article that’s filled with political vindictiveness and terrible writing, I’d recommend this article from the AP’s Laurie Kellman. Here’s Ms. Kellman’s opening
A month after emerging from a government shutdown at the top of their game, many Democrats in Congress newly worried about the party’s re-election prospects are for the first time distancing themselves from President Barack Obama after the disastrous rollout of his health care overhaul.
For people keeping score at home, that opening sentence is 45 words long. Run-on sentences of that length don’t help people focus their attention. English instructors frequently recommend that writers keep sentences to 18 words or less. Here’s how that paragraph would’ve looked had I written it:
After winning the government shutdown, congressional Democrats are worried about their re-election prospects. Now Democrats are distancing themselves from President Obama after the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov.
Thank God for ‘professional’ writers. Seriously, what person would be interested in the rest of the article after Ms. Kellman’s opening? It gets worse because Ms. Kellman transitions from unprofessional writer to professional political hack:
Cummings, the White House’s biggest defender in a Republican-controlled committee whose agenda is waging war against the administration over the attack in Benghazi, the IRS scandal, a gun-tracking operation and now health care, said he still thinks Obama is operating with integrity.
Chairman Issa’s agenda thus far has been to highlight this administration’s dishonesty and incompetence. When President Obama and Secretary Clinton ignored Christopher Stevens’ frequent impassioned pleas for more security, they ignored him. As a direct result of their passivity, Ambassador Stevens and 3 other American patriots were executed in Benghazi.
That isn’t “waging war against the administration.” That’s investigating a tragic incident that didn’t need to happen. Investigating the IRS’ targeting of conservative organizations isn’t “waging war against the administration.” It’s investigating the abuse of power that’s happened all too frequently with this imperial administration. It’s a legitimate investigation because abuses of power of this scope can’t be tolerated. Period.
Let’s not be naive. There are political consequences for these foolish decisions. Congress is questioning President Obama’s integrity because he isn’t a man of integrity. The American people have noticed. As a result, President Obama’s approval ratings have dropped dramatically.
Hillary Clinton’s integrity hasn’t dropped…yet. She left Washington, DC before Greg Hicks’ riveting testimony about what happened that night in Benghazi. There will be a political price to be paid for her passivity and terrible decisionmaking. How high of a price she’ll pay isn’t knowable at this time. Suffice it to say it might be a steep price.
Republican members of Chairman Issa’s committee haven’t editorialized. They’ve asked professional, probing questions. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Their job is to investigate, not to be the administration’s stenographers.
If President Obama’s administration hadn’t made this many major mistakes, Chairman Issa’s committee wouldn’t have been justified in investigating this many things. Because they made this many egregious mistakes, Chairman Issa was obligated to investigate.
If that constitutes an attack in Ms. Kellman’s mind, then it’s safe to say she’s a stenographer, not a reporter.