Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category
This article highlights another set of problems for MNsure. It doesn’t take a great prognosticator to predict that MNsure will be a disaster when open enrollment starts.
Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters Board Chair Alycia Riedl says health insurance brokers who work with MNsure are nervous. Riedl says there is no computerized renewal system in place, and if it is not functional by the next MNsure open enrollment, Nov. 15, it could affect tens of thousands of people who are already enrolled through MNsure.
Riedl says it will severely limit their access to information if they want to change their policies in any way and could create lengthy delays for MNsure consumers. “The renewals would literally have to be done by hand, and that will take a long time, creating a backlog that hurts consumers who want to make better choices, and it will hurt MNsure’s bottom line if it isn’t taken care of soon,” Riedl said.
Considering the incompetence and corruption of the MNsure Board of Directors, Gov. Dayton’s head-in-the-sand routine during debates and the DFL’s insistence that everything’s fine, it isn’t surprising that MNsure isn’t working.
Gov. Dayton should be booted from office for his intransigence. Voters should turn on him for being dishonest about MNsure getting better. MNsure is getting better at a snail’s pace. According to DeLoitte’s study, 47 of 73 sub-functions either won’t work properly or won’t exist at all when open enrollment starts in 2 weeks:
During the assessment, 47 of the 73 sub-functions addressed were found either to be absent or not functioning as expected. Six of the 73 sub-functions could be considered for implementation post-open enrollment. The remaining 41 sub-functions need to be provided for the 2015 Open Enrollment either through changes/enhancements to the systems or through contingent means.
That’s just part of the lengthy list of failures I’ve written about. I don’t want to gloss over it, though, as just another item on a checklist. It’s much more than that.
Not having a “computerized renewal system in place” means everything renewal-related is done manually. If open enrollment started at the beginning of October, Minnesotans would be irate with Gov. Dayton to the point that they’d throw him out of office next Tuesday.
Whether it’s called incompetence or whether it’s called something else, the inescapable truth is that Gov. Dayton a) created MNsure, b) improperly implemented MNsure, c) ignored MNsure’s mismanagement then d) lied about MNsure to get re-elected.
Personally, I’d call it an unmitigated disaster. I’m not alone with that opinion.
This fall, I’ve made a point of checking the fact-checkers’ analysis. This time, I’m factchecking John Croman’s fact-check of Jeff Johnson’s campaign ad titled Unaware. Here’s one thing that Croman talked about:
The ad begins with video of Gov. Dayton with President Obama, and a pseudo headline “140,000 lose insurance coverage.”
Here’s Croman’s opinion:
In Minnesota policies are renewed every year, so those consumers were being notified they would have to buy more comprehensive, and possibly more expensive, plans for 2014. Within a month President Obama announced people in that predicament could keep their old plans if they wanted to. There’s no way to know how many of those 140,000 became uninsured in 2014, kept their old plans, or bought better ones.
And the truth, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota, is that the share of Minnesotans with health insurance went from 92 percent to 95 percent in the past year.
This is a perfect example of the reporter either not understanding the statement or pretending that he didn’t understand the statement. Republicans started using that fact after the Pioneer Press ran this article:
About 140,000 Minnesotans are receiving letters that describe changes to their current health care insurance policies for 2014 due to the federal health law.
And while the national controversy over individuals finding their coverage canceled because of the Affordable Care Act doesn’t technically apply in Minnesota, state law prevents insurers from issuing cancellation notices unless their entire product line is discontinued, potentially higher prices offer little consolation. Because the changes will drive up costs by mandating richer benefits, Minnesota consumers might well be experiencing the same frustrations as those subject to cancellations elsewhere.
The point of this statement is to highlight Politifact’s lie of the year:
Politifact’s Lie of the Year in 2013 was President Obama’s repeated promises that people could keep their health plan if they liked their health plan. I’ll stipulate that the headline should’ve said that “140,000 lose insurance that they liked.” There’s no question that 140,000 Minnesota families lost the insurance that they liked, though.
This statement is DFL spin:
The share of Minnesotans with health insurance went from 92 percent to 95 percent in the past year.
In 2012, before MNsure’s rollout, 93% of people had health insurance. Of those people that didn’t have health insurance, 60% of them were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health care. Had the Dayton administration run a $5,000,000 multimedia advertising campaign telling people how they could’ve enrolled in those programs, more than 97% of Minnesotans would’ve been insured…in 2012.
Here’s another verified fact that Croman missed in his ‘fact-check': a higher percentage of Minnesotans could’ve been insured without spending $160,000,000 on a website that doesn’t work.
In Part I of this series, I highlighted the Times’ sloppiness with basic facts. In this post, I hope to highlight the wishful thinking found in the Times’ article. Here’s the first bit of wishful thinking in the Times’ article:
In addition to leading the Legislature to shore up transportation funding, Dayton should give serious consideration to tax reforms aimed at making Minnesota’s business climate more competitive with other Upper Midwest states.
That’s pure fantasy. The last 2 years, we were afflicted with a DFL legislature and a DFL governor. They could’ve done anything they wanted to do. They chose not to implement “tax reforms aimed at making Minnesota’s business climate more competitive with other Upper Midwest states.” Instead, the DFL legislature and Gov. Dayton worked together to pass tax increases on “the rich” because, in their own words, “the rich” weren’t “paying their fair share.”
With the Times explicitly stating that they want Gov. Dayton to continue and with the Times implicitly stating that they’d prefer keeping a DFL legislature, why would anyone think that the DFL would repeal the tax policies the DFL governor and the DFL legislature just implemented?
This statement is frightening:
The past four years leave little doubt that under his leadership, the state’s budget situation has stabilized.
While government is fat and happy, families that don’t live in southeastern Minnesota are getting hit with skyrocketing health insurance premiums and unaffordable deductibles. The Times’ preference that government funding is stable while families struggle is perplexing. Government’s first priority should be to put in place policies that get government out of the way so businesses can do what they do best: create prosperity. Gov. Dayton’s administration and the DFL have specialized in telling families they know what’s best for them.
When the DFL legislature passed the bill forcing unionization on child care providers and Gov. Dayton signed it into law, Gov. Dayton and the DFL told those small business ladies that they knew what was best for them. When the DFL legislature passed the legislation enabling the creation of MNsure and Gov. Dayton enthusiastically signed it into law, Gov. Dayton and the DFL told Minnesota families that Minnesota families weren’t smart enough to make informed decisions on what they needed for health insurance.
The Times’ endorsements this year have emphatically stated, albeit implicitly at times, that they believe government knows best. It’s apparent that the Times thinks its readers aren’t that bright:
Plus, while he’s certainly been aided by DFL majorities, he’s also demonstrated an ability to compromise. Look no further than scuttling proposals involving major sales tax reform along with repealing the minor ones that did pass in 2012.
The only reason why the DFL repealed the tax increases they enthusiastically passed is because not repealing them would’ve led to a political bloodbath this election. Their decision didn’t have anything to do with compromising. It had everything to do with saving their political hides after they’d overreached.
Technorati: St. Cloud Times, Liberal Media Bias, Endorsements, Mark Dayton, DFL Legislature, Forced Unionization, MNsure, Big Government, Tax Increases, Premium Increases, Insurance Deductibles, DFL, Election 2014
I know it’s a high expectation to hope that a Democrat politician to tell the truth about Obamacare but Sunday morning’s free-for-all featuring Al Franken and Mike McFadden was too much. Here’s the video of that part of the debate:
One of the first things Sen. Franken said was that 95% of all Minnesotans are now insured, which is misleading but statistically true. It’s misleading because 93% of Minnesotans were insured in 2012. Another 60% of Minnesotans were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, either through medical assistance, which is Medicaid in Minnesota, or through MinnesotaCare. Based on a population of 5,300,000, that means 97.2% of Minnesotans would’ve been insured or eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance. It’s worth noting that it wouldn’t have required spending $160,000,000 on a failed website, too. It would’ve only required an advertising campaign that would’ve cost less than $5,000,000 to highlight these programs.
Another of Franken’s chanting points was that Mike McFadden wants to totally repeal Obama, “which means people with pre-existing conditions” wouldn’t get covered. That’s BS on multiple levels. First, it’s impossible to believe that people with PECs wouldn’t get coverage if 97.2% of Minnesotans were insured or eligible to be insured. I know Minnesota is a healthy state but I’m betting that more than 2.8% of Minnesotans have PECs.
Then there’s the myth that Republicans were unwilling to vote for legislation that would’ve guaranteed insurance for people with PECs. If a bill would’ve been written that guaranteed that people with PECs couldn’t be denied insurance, 95%-99% of House and Senate Republicans would’ve voted for it.
If we were to start over and do health insurance reform right, there’s no question that covering people with PECs would be in the bill.
Next, Franken was questioned about health insurance premiums going up. Predictably, he said that “some people’s rates are going up but some people’s rates are going down”, suggesting that there was just as much a chance of a person’s rates going down as there was of them skyrocketing. That’s extremely dishonest and Sen. Franken knows it. Almost 75% of people will see their premiums go up dramatically while less than 25% of Minnesotans will see their premiums shrink marginally.
Franken said this after McFadden talked about a woman he met in Rochester who told him that her premiums are going up 50% and that her deductibles were increasing by 220%.That’s why McFadden called the ACA a “train wreck.” That’s why Minnesotans are increasingly calling it the Unaffordable Care Act. McFadden added that this woman “had a look of fear and anger” on her face.
One thing that came through clearly was Franken’s dishonesty. His faux outrage was contemptible. Major industry organizations like MAHU, aka Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters, have testified under oath to the MNsure board that health insurance premiums are skyrocketing.
If Sen. Franken wants to ignore the truth, then that’s proof that he’ll say anything to get elected. That immediately disqualifies him from elected office. It’s one thing to make statements with statistically accurate information that’s misleading. That happens during a campaign. Franken started by telling outright lies. Those lies were quickly discredited statistically. That didn’t cause him to stop the lies. He’s just continued repeating his refuted lies.
The simple solution to this is to elect Mike McFadden. He’s got a pro-prosperity plan to get Minnesota heading in the right direction. He’s got a plan to do health care reform right. Finally, he’s honest so we won’t have to worry whether he’ll lie to us.
Technorati: Debates, Al Franken, Affordable Care Act, Premium Increases, High Deductibles, MNsure Board, Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters, DFL, Mike McFadden, Patient-Centered Health Care, GOP, Election 2014
Predictably, South Dakota is rounding into shape:
Republican attacks on Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent Larry Pressler appear to have worked, making it more likely that the GOP will pick up the seat of retiring Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, as long expected. Republican Mike Rounds, a former two-term GOP governor, found himself in shockingly uncomfortable position earlier this month, but his standing has improved in the eyes of both strong and weak Republican voters, as well as among Independents.
Support for Pressler, a one-time GOP senator who has said that he would be a friend of Obama if elected to the Senate and has acknowledged that he voted for Obama, has melted away over the past few weeks.
Rounds’ improved position in the race, assuming that the trend holds, means GOP strategists will now have to worry primarily about only a couple of their own seats, in Kansas and Georgia, two red states where Republican nominees have handed ammunition to their opponents.
This was predictable, especially after this stunt:
Weiland never was a serious candidate. Pressler was a challenger…until he said that a) he’d vote to keep Harry Reid as majority leader, b) he supports Obamacare and c) he’s a personal friend of President Obama’s. It was downhill after that.
If Salena Zito’s theory is right, which I’m betting it is, DC elites will badly misread the American people:
Late this summer, along the edges of this Mountain State town, a homemade sign jutted from the edge of a country road. It read, simply: “Change is coming.” A few miles west, toward Coopers Rock State Forest, another sign almost hidden by a cornfield read, “Change is in the air.”
DC elites have tried holding onto tired incumbents or tried running candidates that sound like the Washington insiders that created this mess. That’s why Joni Ernst’s campaign is doing well in Iowa. That’s why Cory Gardner’s campaign is going well in Colorado. That’s why Tom Cotton’s campaign is going well in Arkansas.
Colorado’s Senate race is just stunning: Congressman Cory Gardner is the best candidate the Republicans have in the field, despite being pounded for nine months by incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. In fact, Gardner’s image has only gotten better — he lifts people up, he’s an optimist and happy to be a conservative; in contrast, Udall’s campaign is malpractice.
Joni Ernst in Iowa is a strong candidate for Republicans. Yes, she’s conservative, but her personal strength is what independents like most; she is proof that the GOP can fix its problems with female candidates and voters. Tom Cotton in Arkansas is serious, smart, disciplined, and part of the next generation of Republicans who run on what they have done, not on shrill ideology.
Democrats have spent their money on shrill-sounding ads attacking their opponents as a) shills of the Koch Brothers, b) waging a war against women or c) both. They’ll turn out their progressive base but they won’t win a majority of independent voters.
It is a sign that has been waving in the weeds for more than a year, since the 2013 scandals involving the IRS, the Department of Justice and the Department of Veterans Affairs started rolling out. But it appears that this administration, Democrats in general and Washington’s political class kept driving past those signs and missing them.
This isn’t just about Democrats, though they’ll get hit the worst this November. I wouldn’t say that people hate Republicans but I’d say that they want to see Republicans become the party of sane-sounding solutions.
They want a political party that respects the rule of law. They want a political party that limits government’s authority to reach inside their lives. (Just ask Catherine Engelbrecht on that. Just ask Andy Johnson and his wife about overly intrusive government that doesn’t respect private property rights.)
The general sense is that Washington exists to serve itself, not the people back in their districts or their states. Obamacare is the perfect example of that. The Democrats wanted it so badly that some progressive politicians were willing to vote for it even if it cost them their jobs.
Technorati: DC Elites, War on Women, Koch Brothers, Obamacare, IRS Scandal, Democrats, Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton, Iraq War Vets, Catherine Engelbrecht, Weaponized Government, Republicans, Election 2014
Catherine Richert’s article suggests a significant anti-DCCC backlash forming against Rick Nolan:
In the end, life-long Democrat Andy Larson’s decision to vote for Republican Stewart Mills over DFL incumbent Rick Nolan came down to the ads he’s seeing every day on television. “I’m very disappointed in my fellow party members in the types of advertisements just attacking Mr. Mills for his wealth,” Larson said. “It’s completely unwarranted. It’s really turned me off.”
Larson isn’t the only Democrat disgusted with the DCCC’s ads:
Paul Lemenager, a video producer in Duluth, feels the same way about the ads, which are coming from outside groups, not Nolan’s campaign. But he also says Mills’ business experience is attractive.
“The fact that his family owns a business and understands what it takes to develop a business and jobs and to put a business into the black,” Lemenager said. “Nolan has taken on the tone of a career politician. We have so much of that in Washington. We really need someone who understands what it takes to pull out of the slump economically.”
The Obama economy is the weakest economic recovery since the end of World War II. President Obama’s policies have contributed directly to this current stagnation. There isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between President Obama’s economic plan and Rick Nolan’s voting record. Whatever President Obama wants, Rick Nolan votes for.
The thing that hasn’t gotten talked about, though, is that Stewart Mills isn’t a trust fund baby who’s never worked a day in his life. That’s just the propaganda that the DCCC and Nancy Pelosi’s superPAC have spread since the start of the campaign. Unlike our governor, Stewart Mills has had professional, private sector responsibilities for which he’s been rewarded financially. He’s made things work. He’s grown the Mills Fleet Farm chain. Lots of people are employed through that retail chain.
If it isn’t Stewart’s way to talk about his successes, then I’ll tout them. Stewart Mills is obviously doing things right. Mills Fleet Farm is growing, partially because they self-insure their employees. That means they don’t have to deal with the ACA’s regulations and taxes. Their stores are growing more profitable because they’re the ultimate blue collar retail chain. People in the Eighth District like the Mills chain because it’s got the types of things people use frequently.
It’s hard to characterize Stewart Mills as an out-of-touch rich kid when the retail chain he runs specializes in selling things that middle class families want.
Frankly, I’ve thought that the DCCC’s ads and the ads from Pelosi’s superPAC were way over the top. They aren’t substantive ads, which is what many voters are looking for. These voters aren’t looking for the Democrats’ negativity. They’re looking for solutions and common sense.
If voters elect Stewart Mills, that’s exactly what they’ll get. That’s why the DCCC’s ads are backfiring.
Friday night, Collin Peterson collided with Torrey Westrom in a debate. Here’s the video for the entire debate:
Saying that it was contentious is understatement. It was also inspirational and infuriating. This clip fits into the infuriating category:
Here’s what Collin Peterson said in defending his decision not to vote for Obamacare:
PETERSON: I didn’t vote for this bill. The reason I didn’t vote for it — the reason I didn’t vote for it is because I actually read the bill, which a lot of people didn’t.
That’s the first time Peterson said he’d read the bill prior to passing it. That runs contrary to what then-Speaker Pelosi said:
Here are her infamous words:
But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.
The key point in all this is that, if it’s true, Collin Peterson knew what was in the bill but didn’t criticize the ACA. It’s one thing to stay silent on a bill you mildly disagree with. It’s almost justifiable if you think it might work. There was nothing in the ACA that suggested it would work.
For instance, if Peterson actually read the bill, he would’ve known that people couldn’t keep the plans they liked. Sitting silent while that abomination hits the American people is despicable. Edmund Burke got it right with this famous quote:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Collin Peterson did nothing. As a result, people in the Seventh District are getting bad news. Torrey Westrom is definitely speaking up about it:
“All you need to do is travel the district and talk to the small business owners that are getting renewal notices from their employees,” Westrom responded. “They’re seeing 40, 50, 60, 80% increases. I just talked to a person in my home county two weeks ago at the coffee shop, and they said they’re seeing a 100 percent increase because of Obamacare. That is a critical, a big concern, and why I am pushing that we need to repeal Obamacare, different from the congressman.”
Torrey Westrom’s closing statement was inspirational. Here’s that closing statement:
Saying that he returned to bailing hay on the family farm just a year after permanently losing his sight is inspirational. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I appreciated Westrom’s statement that “even I can see that Washington is broken.”
Torrey’s sense of humor, combined with Torrey’s can-do attitude speak to one thing: that Torrey will be a positive, powerful force in Washington, DC.
Campaigning with Rick Nolan in the Eighth District, the gaffemeister made another appearance:
It was appropriate that Vice President Joe Biden spoke at an Iron Range community college during a campaign rally for 8th District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan Thursday afternoon. The vice president’s speech was professorial at times, citing data from several studies that he said proved the rich are getting richer at the expense of the country’s middle class, which he said “is getting crushed.”
Vice President Biden’s speech is an unintentional indictment of the President Obama’s administration. The policies in place affect job creation, wage growth and other important economic realities. By saying that the nation’s middle class “is getting crushed”, Biden was indicting President Obama’s policies, starting with Obamacare.
President Obama can’t claim to be the man that saved the economy one minute, then say that someone else’s policies are crushing the middle class the next minute. Either his policies work or they don’t. Though he and Vice President Biden won’t admit it, they’ve gotten the policies they’ve pushed for. Their policies are the ones in place that are hurting middle class families. The Obama-Biden policies haven’t worked. Their policies have prevented the Keystone XL Pipeline from getting built.
Thanks to that Obama-Biden policy, Minnesota farmers can’t get their crops to market and Minnesota miners can’t get their ore to port before Lake Superior freezes over.
Vice President Biden is the gift that keeps giving. It’s one thing when Biden does something like this:
Everyone chuckled when they saw that video. It’s a boneheaded mistake made by a bonehead. It’s another Bidenism.
Saying that the middle class is “getting crushed”, however, is different. That isn’t a boneheaded mistake. It’s a truth that Iron Rangers know altogether too well. The percentage of Minnesotans living below the poverty line is 11.2%. In St. Louis County, though, that percentage shoots up to 16.1%. By comparison, 8% of people living in Sherburne County live below the poverty line. St. Louis County, which has the biggest number of votes in Nolan’s district, has 50% more people living under the poverty line than the statewide average. The percentage of people living below the poverty line in Sherburne County is half that of St. Louis County.
The truth be told, there isn’t much of a middle class in Hibbing, where Thursday’s rally was held. Income disparity is the rule, not the exception. Thanks to Vice President Biden, Rick Nolan is faced with the challenge of running against a top tier opponent while defending the Obama administration’s economic policies.
In September, Mark Dayton insisted that PreferredOne’s leaving MNsure was competition in action:
Gov. Mark Dayton says a key provider’s decision to drop out of the state-run health exchange is competition in action.
The Star Tribune is reporting it’s nothing of the sort:
Sometime after the insurer PreferredOne submitted its proposed rates for the first year of the MNsure exchange, state regulators asked the company to consider lowering the numbers. Ultimately, the insurer responded with “a total rate decrease of 37 percent,” according to a July 2013 letter from an outside actuary to the company. Those final rates were the lowest in the Twin Cities, and across the country, in many cases, and helped PreferredOne to grab nearly 60 percent of the MNsure business.
Now, those subscribers face an average premium increase of 63 percent if they stay with PreferredOne, a yo-yo scenario that health policy experts say points to the challenge in setting prices under the federal health law. The big swing also suggests that the low prices were out of step with the reality of the business.
Dayton’s dishonest numbers, combined with his disdain for competition, have caused Minnesota insurance prices to skyrocket. Dayton’s dishonest health insurance numbers were always dishonest. Now it’s verifiable.