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The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More Wool For Our Eyes

There's a lot of hubbub over President Obama's "apology" and attempt to correct the problem of people having their insurance cancelled (5+ million and counting) due to Obamacare. Of course, the administration pointed out that The ACA (Obamacare) law did not cancel those policies, the insurance companies did. That's correct. However, it was because of requirements for coverage that were imposed by that law which led to the companies cancelling the policies. Even though Obama made the promise (many times) that "If you like your policy, you can keep it. Period."

So, now he has, once again, made a change in the law without having either house in Congress having a vote. This is blatantly unconstitutional but very few seem to care.

Here's what he said in a recent speech:

"Already people who have plans that pre-date the Affordable Care Act can keep those plans if they haven’t changed. "

One little problem, they never changed, the requirements set by the government changed. None of the cancelled policies changed. They were cancelled because they did not meet those new requirements. The above wording suggests that if the policy you had changed in any way (the amount of change was not specified), then you cannot keep your policy. It also does not actually reinstate the policies that were cancelled but it allows the insurer to reinstate them... IF the individual state governments allow it (they do not have to) AND the insurance companies jump over some difficult hurdles AND the individuals whose policies were cancelled petition their insurers to reinstate said policies.

To me, that's a pretty empty promise and a scam.  But what do I know?

Speaking of Obamacare, the president says he was unaware of the problems with the website. Apart from the fact that it seems reasonable that he should have known, it seems odd that his hand-picked people didn't keep him "in the loop." Does he tell them not to bother him with details? If so, then he was willfully ignorant of the problems. If not, then why didn't he know?



Tom Sightings said...

I'm not going to defend Obamacare b/c, honestly, I don't know much about it. But you gotta admit, the old system was totally random and arbitrary. Why is health care provided through the workplace? There's no logical connection at all. It's only that way by accident of history. And while it's great for people who work for the govt. or large corporations (which I did for a while), it's completely unfair to everybody else. If you were an individual trying to buy health insurance, you were in big trouble. It was ridiculously expensive, if you could get it at all. And how is it fair that people who pay for health insurance through work get a tax deduction, while people who pay on their own do not? That's absolutely unfair.

There was no rhyme or reason to medical insurance or medical costs; and there was no legitimate marketplace for either one, since the knowledge difference between sellers and buyers is too big, and the opportunities for negotiating price are extremely limited. (Are you going to make a deal with a "discount" doctor for your hernia operation?)

Since I just got on Medicare, it doesn't affect me directly. But in my post-work, pre-retirement years I had to scramble around just to buy health insurance even at a high cost. And I saw plenty of people who simply could not get health insurance at all, no matter how hard they tried. I saw a similar problem with the post-college set -- unless they worked for a large company (and most did not) they were not getting insurance and basically playing Russian roulette.

Finally, what about all those people who don't have insurance and run to the emergency room every time they get the sniffles (or drug overdose)? Isn't that at least one reason why our health care is so expensive ... because we responsible people are picking up the tab for all those irresponsible ones? I say: since a hospital is forced to take in people who can't or won't pay, then it only makes sense to require everyone to have insurance -- like we require all drivers to have insurance (and like all gun owners should have insurance).

Responsibility. That's traditionally a conservative notion, not a liberal one.

Surely, Obama and the Dems. have broken a lot of eggs with this thing -- and naturally they don't want to admit to those broken eggs. But you know what they say about making an omelette.

Yes, they've tripped up (to mix a metaphor). But they don't have a very high bar to clear to make things better.

Douglas said...

Let me address those points.
1. the reason that health insurance is provided by the employer is unions. You can also thank President Truman. And government.
2. they do not get a tax deduction, they buy it pre-tax. Those who do not pay it pre-tax could get a deduction but the cost (plus other medical expenses) had to meet a certain percentage of their income in order to do so (today that is 10%). It also applies to those who pay for it outside of work, same conditions. Assuming, of course, you have enough deductions to make it worthwhile to do a schedule A with your taxes.
3. I don't know why it doesn't affect you, my portion of the Medicare supplemental policy (which I get through my former employer) increased many times over. Faye's coverage doubled. And, before you blame that on the insurers, remember that the ACA added requirements for policies... these drive up the costs.

4. I went through an 18 month period where I had no health insurance coverage (1971-1972) for me or my family. I simply could not afford it. Instead, I paid the doctor bills and got vaccinations through public health outlets.

5. We will still pay for the coverage and treatment of those who once just used ERs (which the government mandated treated for). Now we will pay for it in increased premiums. Nothing is free... ever. And most of those who used the ERs in that way will be subsidized or get on Medicaid.

You are correct, you know very little about Obamacare. Perhaps you should take the time to educate yourself about it and about how we got into this mess over the last 68 years. You might find the answers to your issues and you might be surprised at why those issues came to be.

Tom Sightings said...

Oh boy, we got ourselves a discussion here. Have you read the Affordable Care Act? I admit I have not. But ...

1) You are correct, kind of: Employer-sponsored health insurance plans dramatically expanded as a result of wage controls during World War II.[28] The labor market was tight because of the increased demand for goods and decreased supply of workers during the war. Federally imposed wage and price controls prohibited manufacturers and other employers raising wages high enough to attract sufficient workers. When the War Labor Board declared that fringe benefits, such as sick leave and health insurance, did not count as wages for the purpose of wage controls, employers responded with significantly increased benefits.[28] In other words ... it's accident of history.

2) You're correct, technically. At work it's not actually a tax deduction. But the point is, employees do NOT pay tax on income they use to buy health insurance, whereas individuals DO pay tax on that income -- except, as you noted, on expenses above the threshold that employees do not have to meet. So: Unfair and discriminatory!

3) Last year my private insurance premium increased by 6.3%, the lowest in years. The year before that it went up 15.9%. But I just got the notice from my Medicare supplement plan: next year it's going up 3.3%. I ain't complaining.

4) You cannot compare health costs from 1971-2 to those in 2013. It's a whole different system, different population, different country, different cost structure. And people have different (and far more costly) expectations as well.

5) You're absolutely correct, nothing is free. But I'm guessing and hoping -- and all we can do at this point is guess, relying on how the government, the medical establishment and the insurance industry figure this all out -- that a systematized approach, with subsidies and requirements, will be more fair and efficient than the haphazard jumble of practices in place today.

Listen, I'm as suspicious of big govt. as you are (well... maybe not quite), and much prefer the marketplace as a distributor of goods and services. But as I pointed out, the marketplace for medical services is too distorted, dominated by huge institutions, for an individual to negotiate the system by him or herself.

And finally, what about responsibility? In the libertarian world, if people refuse to buy health insurance and they can't afford the hospital, they go home to suffer and die. I don't think we're going to agree on a system like that. When people won't be responsible sometimes they have to be required to be responsible. So I don't have any problem with requiring people to have health insurance -- just like we require them to have car insurance.

Enuf. said for now. Sorry to bug you. Blame it on the weather. If I lived farther south I'd be out playing golf today instead of hunched over my computer annoying people.


T.C. said...

Tom, the distortions you speak of will NEVER be put right by government. Government intervention ALWAYS skews. Government only understands 'one size fits all' and uses coercion to force those who disagree into its laws for the 'greater good.'

To me, it should be fairly obvious by now - except to die hard progressives - this model is dead.

As for Obama, there's no sugar coating it - dude is an amateur. Not even Bush was this bad. Like, I mean, he's real bad.

Incidentally, that life expectancy link you have has me living to 91 years. Not sure I want to live that long.

Douglas said...

Tom, basically, we agree that nothing is free. Therefore, what one doesn't pay for must be paid by others in a group setting (such as a society). Some (a few) will see reductions and many will see increases. That widely changing number of those without health insurance (it varies from 40 to 50 million) will be forced (whether they like it or not) to get health insurance. The auto insurance analogy doesn't work. You do not have to drive. Therefore, you only have to have insurance if you do. With health insurance, all you have to be is alive and you are forced to buy insurance. The insurance on a driver is to protect others, health insurance is to protect the individual. And simple economics says if you increase requirements (things that must be covered), you increase costs. Finally, government does nothing well. Those that point to the military as an example of what government does well likely never served; incredible amounts of waste and confusion is what I observed. It is not efficient (though it is now better than it was when I served). I am not libertarian (yet... I am leaning more and more that way) and do not see anyone advocating seriously that people be able to pay or suffer the consequences. I do, however, see pro-Obamacare folks making that accusation. The term for that is demagoguery. Yet, it was Harry Reid who did not want to make sure children who needed treatment for cancer could get it during the government shutdown. I did not realize Reid was libertarian.
We disagree, Tom, which is our right. We debate and try to convince each other that each of our positions is superior. Swaying public opinion is how things should be done in a democratic society. Obamacare was imposed, with a majority opposed and still opposed. It has been altered a few times by presidential edict, not through legislative process. The poor rollout is only an indication of things to come.

Douglas said...

Oh, and I might add that it is perfectly fine to compare 71-72 to today. Dollar values are relative to the time period. At the time, I was poor, had a toddler and a wife and was working for minimum wage. I was a member of the "working poor." My employer provided no benefits at all and urged me to apply for food stamps and other assistance. I managed to get by until I got a better job. I refused to remain stuck where I was.

Anonymous said...

You also didn't mention the $713million Obama pulled out of Medicare to cover Obamacare. You guys will be feeling that pinch soon, should Obamacare really go through. Which now, I doubt.
Obama, or someone like Obama has been the liberal wet dream for the past thirty to forty years. I'll never forget the first time I took sociology in college. My professor professed a new world 'gray race': half white and half black, that the liberals were hoping would take over the world. That was back in 1973. I was appalled then and I am still appalled. Obama was their orgasm come true. Obama has been nothing more than a puppet for the progressive liberal agenda. It pleases me nothing more than to see this madness disintegrate right before our eyes. I had a tough time trying to undo the brainwashing my own children came home with when THEY attended liberal-ass colleges. One day my daughter came home and declared I was an evangelical and watched Fox News. Like, WTF? Where did THAT come from?
America is NOT like Europe so we can not expect to live like Europe. We are not nanny-state people. We have been self-reliant for generations. That is why these govt handouts will never work here. Plus we are 330million strong (plus a few additional million of illegals). We are much bigger than European countries. Americans don't want hand-outs, govt assistance, UI benefits, food stamps. WE WANT FUCKING JOBS AND WE WANT TO WORK!!!!!!
I want my health insurance to go back to the way it was 3 years ago, before all this Obamacare madness. My monthly premium was $498 a month with a $20 co-pay. THAT WAS IT! No high deductibles, and no worry about pre-existing conditions because that was outlawed in NY State. I paid for my insurance myself, through a program set up by Governor Pataki, a Republican through Healthy NY. It was fantastic. That's what I want back. But as of 12/31/13 Healthy NY is forever gone and if I want health coverage now I either go on Medicaid or take a subsidy. Somebody else is going to be paying for my health coverage, instead of me!!!!
I am soooooo glad Barrack Obama is failing like a ton of bricks. Every dog has their day. I am LMBFAO as I watch progressive liberalism fall into the sea, never to be heard of again. But then of course, NYC just elected a disasterous progressive liberal to Mayor (DiBlasio), based on the promise he is going to take from the 500,000 remaining rich people living in the five boroughs and give out free kindergarten to the masses. Sure he is. NOT!
I love it! Bring it on.

Douglas said...

Tom, I forgot to address your "accident of history" remark and I wanted to. The use of benefits as enticements for workers did begin during wage and price controls due to WWII. But the war was no accident of history (and wars never have been) and the concept of benefits as enticements would have eventually happened anyway. The war just created an environment which sped that up. Just as it sped up air travel, medical advances, space exploration, deep sea exploration, and countless other things we often take for granted these days.

We need to sit down with a full urn of coffee and chat sometime for hours.

Kirk said...

The reason health insurance came to be based on employment was wage controls during WWII. Since wages couldn't be raised, employers needed to add perks in lieu of raises. Health insurance was a popular add-on and soon became very widespread.

Douglas said...

Kirk, yes, that is when it started but it is not why it came to be a standard. The fact that some people (certain jobs came with those benefits and others did not) had coverage while most did not led to the first call by Truman (just after the war) for a national health insurance plan:
"The most controversial aspect of the plan was the proposed national health insurance plan. In his November 19, 1945 address, President Truman called for the creation of a national health insurance fund to be run by the federal government."

It's the reaction to that which led to more widespread use of health insurance as a benefit of employment. It was seen as more palatable than a national health system run by the government. Read the cited article and note the plan was introduced as part of a Social Security expansion bill. And note the use of the "for the children" hook.