Those planning to purchase health insurance on the Obamacare exchange will soon find out how much rates have increased — after the Nov. 4 election.
Enrollment on the Healthcare.gov website begins Nov. 15, or 11 days after the midterm vote, and critics who worry about rising premium hikes in 2015 say that’s no coincidence. Last year’s inaugural enrollment period on the health-care exchange began Oct. 1.
“This is more than just a glitch,” said Tim Phillips, president of free-market Americans for Prosperity, in a Friday statement. “The administration’s decision to withhold the costs of this law until after Election Day is just more proof that Obamacare is a bad deal for Americans.”
[…]The Iowa insurance commissioner approved last week premium increases for three insurance carriers: Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, CoOpportunity Health and Coventry Health. Two of those insurers will implement double-digit hikes ranging from 11.9 to 19 percent, the Des Moines Register reports.
[…]The issue is also resonating in the Louisiana Senate race, where Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is seeking re-election against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. Documents filed with the Louisiana Department of Insurance show some insurers are anticipating double-digit rate hikes, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Mr. Cassidy, who’s a doctor, issued a statement Thursday calling the higher premiums “another hurdle for families and businesses already struggling under the demands of Obamacare.”
“Premiums have gone up by 53 percent for the average Louisiana policyholder and many of these policies will again see double-digit increases,” Mr. Cassidy said. “It’s unfair to Louisianans who have to balance their budgets and their businesses.”
I can understand why the Democrats would want to keep the exchange rates private before the election. They are counting on hoodwinking the American public again – vote first, find out what’s in the bill later.
Do people who talk about race the most actually favor policies to help minorities? Thomas Sowell writes about it in Investors Business Daily.
If anyone wanted to pick a time and place where the political left’s avowed concern for minorities was definitively exposed as a fraud, it would be now — and the place would be New York City, where far left Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched an attack on charter schools, cutting their funding, among other things.
These schools have given thousands of low-income minority children their only shot at a decent education, which often means their only shot at a decent life. Last year 82% of the students at a charter school called Success Academy passed citywide mathematics exams, compared to 30% of the students in the city as a whole.
Why would anybody who has any concern at all about minority young people — or even common decency — want to destroy what progress has already been made?
One big reason, of course, is the teachers’ union, one of de Blasio’s biggest supporters.
But it may be more than that. For many of the true believers on the left, their ideology overrides any concern about the actual fate of flesh-and-blood human beings.
Something similar happened on the West Coast last year. The American Indian Model Schools in Oakland have been ranked among the top schools in the nation, based on their students’ test scores.
This is, again, a special achievement for minority students who need all the help they can get.
But, last spring, the California State Board of Education announced plans to shut this school down!
Why? The excuse given was that there had been suspicious financial dealings by the former — repeat, former — head of the institution. If this was the real reason, then all they had to do was indict the former head and let a court decide if he was guilty or innocent.
There was no reason to make anyone else suffer, much less the students. But the education establishment’s decision was to refuse to let the school open last fall. Fortunately a court stopped this hasty shutdown.
These are not just isolated local incidents. The Obama administration has cut spending for charter schools in the District of Columbia and its Justice Department has intervened to try to stop the state of Louisiana from expanding its charter schools.
Why such hostility to schools that have succeeded in educating minority students, where so many others have failed?
Some of the opposition to charter schools has been sheer crass politics. The teachers’ unions see charter schools as a threat to their members’ jobs, and politicians respond to the money and the votes that teachers’ unions can provide.
The net result is that public schools are often run as if their main function is to provide jobs to teachers. Whether the children get a decent education is secondary, at best.
In various parts of the country, educators who have succeeded in raising the educational level of minority children to the national average — or above — have faced hostility, harassment or have even been driven out of their schools.
Not all charter schools are successful, of course, but the ones that are completely undermine the excuses for failure in the public school system as a whole. That is why teachers’ unions hate them, as a threat not only to their members’ jobs but a threat to the whole range of frauds and fetishes in the educational system.
The autonomy of charter schools is also a threat to the powers that be, who want to impose their own vision on the schools, regardless of what the parents want.
This story reminds me of another story of people on the left blocking poor minority children from better schools, in order to protect the jobs of underperforming unionized teachers.
The Heritage Foundation explains how the Department of Justice, in a Democrat administration, hurts the poorest minority students.
On August 22, 2013, the United States Department of Justice filed a motion in federal court to stop Louisiana from issuing school vouchers to low-income children in numerous school districts. DOJ is basing the suit on decades-old desegregation orders that treat Louisiana as if it were the same state it was nearly 40 years ago—something that the United States Supreme Court recently rejected in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. Ironically, DOJ’s action will prevent low-income and minority students from accessing the successful Louisiana school choice program, which empowers children, underserved in their assigned public schools, to attend schools of choice that match their learning needs. Vague, open-ended, and stale court orders should not be used to prevent educational innovation and opportunity.
Vouchers are a way of helping poor, minority students to get a quality education by letting them choose to attend better schools – any school the parents choose. But school choice is a thorn in the side of the public school unions who support the political left, because it allows poor, minority child to escape underperforming schools. Poor, minority students don’t help Democrats to get elected, but public school teachers do. And that’s why the administration sides with them against the children. On the other side of the aisle, it’s the conservatives who push for more school choice, and better education for poor and minority students.
But education policy is only one area where minorities are harmed by leftist policies. Minimum wage is another obvious choice.
Let’s take a look at the data and see how minorities are affected by leftist policies.
Battles are brewing in New York, California, Minnesota and the nation’s capital over hiking minimum wages, with Democrats having the votes to ram through hikes in all four cases.
These politicians are claiming the moral high ground, saying it will help the poorest in our communities. Don’t be fooled.
Hiking the minimum wage hurts — not helps — the lowest-paid workers, especially young black men. A 10% hike in the minimum wage causes a 2.5% drop in employment among young white men without a high school diploma and a staggering 6.5% drop among young black men without that degree.
Young black males get clobbered three times as hard because they tend to work in the fast-food and restaurant industries, where any increase in labor costs produces layoffs.
[…]Only 5% of American workers earn the federal minimum, according to the latest government data, compared with 13% in 1979. Minimum wage workers are largely first-time workers. They are learning what all of us learn on our first job: to be prompt, dress appropriately, do what the boss asks and be reliable.
First-time workers face the biggest risk of being priced out of the job market by a minimum wage hike. They aren’t worth much to an employer when they start working. They don’t have the skills.
When the government increases the minimum wage, it’s more expensive to hire first-timers. According to David Neumark and J.M. Salas, University of California economists, and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve Board, “minimum wages tend to reduce employment among teenagers.”
[…]All teens are harmed, but black male teenagers are hit hardest by minimum wage hikes, according to a 2011 study by labor economists David Macpherson and William Evans. Unemployment among young black males is currently 29%, double the rate for young white males.
Macpherson and Evans found the reason is that one out of three young black men without a high school diploma works in the restaurant/fast-food industry, where profit margins are thin. Any labor-cost hikes compel these businesses to cut their workforce.
The truth of the matter is that the real minimum wage is zero. In order to help minority young people find jobs, we should strengthen the institution of marriage, encourage people to get married and stay married, lower taxes on businesses, lower regulations on businesses, and so on. But strangely, the people who talk the most about helping the poor and poor minorities in particular are all opposed to that. The Democrats won’t even build the Keystone XL pipeline or expedite other energy development initiatives to create good paying jobs. So don’t believe that people who talk the most about poverty actually have the right answers about how to solve it. After all, the Obama administration talked a lot about health care, but clearly the people who lost their doctors, lost their health care, or are paying more for less health care, do not now believe that Obamacare was the answer to the health care problem.
If you’re looking for a good recent study on the minimum wage and minority youth, take a look at this study from the Employment Policies Institute. More studies here in a previous post on this blog.
Released into a news black hole last Friday, an official Obama administration report finds that ObamaCare will push premiums up for two-thirds of small businesses. Cross off another ObamaCare promise.
The report came from the actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which means it’s from the administration’s official ObamaCare number cruncher.
What it found was that 65% of small businesses that offer insurance will likely see their premiums rise thanks to ObamaCare. That translates into higher insurance costs for 11 million workers.
The reason? These companies generally employ younger, healthier workers and so had been paying lower-than-average rates.
But since ObamaCare bans insurance companies from considering health when setting premiums, these companies will get hit with higher costs.
“We are estimating that 65% of small firms are expected to experience increases in their premium rates,” the report said, “while the remaining 35% are anticipated to have rate reductions.”
The report doesn’t say how big these hikes will be, but we have good reason to believe the extra costs will be significant.
One study, for example, found that 63% of small employers in Wisconsin will see premiums jump 15% because of ObamaCare. A separate study found that 89% of small companies in Maine would see rate hikes of 12% on average.
Another, by consulting firm Oliver Wyman, concluded that ObamaCare would push up small group premiums nationwide 20%.
Is this how the bill was sold to us by the Obama administration and their supporters in the mainstream media?
In 2009, Obama promised small businesses that his plan would “make the coverage that you’re currently providing more affordable.” Later he said it would drive small-business premiums down by 4% in its first year, and as much as 25% by 2016.
As recently as last summer, Pelosi was proclaiming that “if you’re a small business … it lowers costs,” while Waxman said the law would make “high-quality healthy insurance more affordable and more widely available for small businesses.”
Notice that nowhere — either before or after ObamaCare passed — did any Democrat say anything about two-thirds of small businesses paying more for health coverage so the lucky one-third could get rate cuts.
Next time you hear a big government liberal promising you goodies at no cost, keep in mind their record. They are making policy from emotions, not from mathematics. They believe that they are lying to you for your own good. Their goal is not to tell the truth at all. And don’t rely on the left-wing journalism crowd to hold them accountable, they flunked math too.
Walmart offers its employees two standard plans, a Health Reimbursement Account and an alternative it calls “HRA High” that costs more out of employees’ pockets but has lower deductibles. Blue Cross Blue Shield manages both plans nationally.
Also offered is a Health Savings Account plan that includes high deductibles but allows tax-free dollars to be used for coverage.
For a monthly premium as low as roughly $40, an individual who is a Walmart HRA plan enrollee can obtain full-service coverage through a Blue Cross Blue Shield preferred provider organization. A family can get coverage for about $160 per month.
Unlike Obamacare, there are no income eligibility requirements. Age and gender do not alter premium rates. The company plan is the same for all of Walmart’s 1.1 million enrolled employees and their dependents, from its cashiers to its CEO.
A Journal of the American Medical Association analysis from September showed that unsubsidized Obamacare enrollees will face monthly premiums that are five to nine times higher than Walmart premiums.
JAMA found the unsubsidized premium for a nonsmoking gouple age 60 can cost $1,365 per month versus the Walmart cost of about $134 for the same couple.
The medical journal reported a 30-year-old smoker would pay up to $428 per month, in contrast to roughly $70 each month for a Walmart employee.
A family of four could pay a $962 premium, but the same Walmart family member would pay about $160.
Low premiums are not the only distinguishing feature of the Walmart plan. The retailer’s employees can use eight of the country’s most prestigious medical facilities, including the Mayo Clinic, Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic.
At these institutions, which Walmart calls “Centers of Excellence,” Walmart employees and their dependents can get free heart or spinal surgery. They can also get free knee and hip replacements at four hospitals nationwide.
Many top-rated Walmart hospitals — such as the Mayo and Cleveland clinics — are left out of most Obamacare exchange plans.
But the real difference between Obamacare and Walmart can be seen in the levels of day-to-day access to doctors and hospitals.
Robert Slayton, a practicing Chicago independent insurance agent for 11 years and the former president of the Illinois State Association of Health Underwriters, described to the Examiner the differences between Walmart and Obamacare provider networks.
Slayton said the BlueChoice exchange network for President Obama’s hometown has very limited hospital participation. “In downtown Chicago, the key is the number of hospitals: 28,” he said.
“Now we’re going to the national network — this is what the Walmart network would most likely be — and you have 54 hospitals. That’s a big difference,” he said.
[…]Slayton said the gap between doctor availability in Chicago under the Obamacare and Walmart plans is dramatic.
“You will notice there are 9,837 doctors [under Obamacare]. But the larger network is 24,904 doctors. Huge, huge difference,” he said.
Walmart also offers a free preventive health plan that mirrors the Obamacare plan. Its employees can take advantage of a wide range of free exams and counseling, including screenings for colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, chlamydia, diabetes, depression and special counseling for diet and obesity.
Their children can get more than 20 free preventive services, ranging including screenings for genetic disorders, autism and developmental problems to obesity, lead poisoning exposure and tuberculosis. There are also 12 free vaccinations, and free hearing and vision testing.
Walmart employees pay as little as $4 for a 30-day supply of generic drugs and only $10 for eye exams through a separate vision plan.
And Wal-Mart didn’t need to waste $600 million of taxpayer money on the web site. See why we need to led the private sector handle these things? Obamacare sucks, and that’s why the Democrats voted to exempt themselves and all their staff from it.
It’s one of the most oft-repeated justifications for socialized medicine: Americans spend more money than other developed countries on health care, but don’t live as long. If we would just hop on the European health-care bandwagon, we’d live longer and healthier lives. The only problem is it’s not true.
[…]If you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. If you have a heart attack, how long do you live in the U.S. vs. another country? If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer? In 2008, a group of investigators conducted a worldwide study of cancer survival rates, called CONCORD. They looked at 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. I compiled their data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and western Europe. Guess who came out number one?
Another point worth making is that people die for other reasons than health. For example, people die because of car accidents and violent crime. A few years back, Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to…you guessed it…first. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.
It’s great that the Japanese eat more sushi than we do, and that they settle their arguments more peaceably. But these things don’t have anything to do with socialized medicine.
Finally, U.S. life-expectancy statistics are skewed by the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have one health-care system, but three: Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance. (A fourth, the Obamacare exchanges, is supposed to go into effect in 2014.) As I have noted in the past, health outcomes for those on government-sponsored insurance are worse than for those on private insurance.
To my knowledge, no one has attempted to segregate U.S. life-expectancy figures by insurance status. But based on the data we have, it’s highly likely that those on private insurance have the best life expectancy, with Medicare patients in the middle, and the uninsured and Medicaid at the bottom.
I know that my readers who like to dig deep into economics and policy will love the links at the bottom of the article:
For further reading on the topic of life expectancy, here are some recommendations. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw discusses some of the confounding factors with life expectancy statistics, citing this NBER study by June and Dave O’Neill comparing the U.S. and Canada. (Mankiw calls the misuse of U.S. life expectancy stats “schlocky.”) Chicago economist Gary Becker makes note of the CONCORD study in this blog post. In 2009, Sam Preston and Jessica Ho of the University of Pennsylvania published a lengthy analysis of life expectancy statistics, concluding that “the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system.”
The funniest thing I have found when talking to people from countries with socialized health care systems, like Canada and the UK, is that they are woefully uninformed about American health care. They literally do not know about free emergency room care, which is free for anyone regardless of insurance – including illegal aliens. They do not know about our expensive Medicaid program, which helps people who cannot afford health insurance. And our very very expensive Medicare program, which provides health care to the elderly – including prescription drugs. I get the feeling that foreign critics of American health care are getting their views from amateur documentaries produced by uneducated Hollywood propagandists, or maybe from TV shows on the Comedy Channel. They certainly are not getting their information from peer-reviewed studies by credentialed scholars from top universities, like the ones cited above.
I have literally spoken to Canadians who think that people in the USA without insurance do not get treatment and just die in the streets from stab wounds. They don’t know about the emergency room rule, or about charity care, or about Medicaid and Medicare. There is a lot of ignorance up there – wilful ignorance, in some cases. And keep in mind that the average Canadian household is paying over $11,000 a year for this substandard health care! They are paying more for less, and that’s not surprising since a large chunk of the taxes that are collected for health care go to overpaid unionized bureaucrats. Naturally, when their left-wing politicians need treatment, the first place they go is to the United States, where they pay out of pocket for the better health care. But that doesn’t stop them from denouncing American health care when they are talking to voters.
Higher infant mortality rates?
One of the other common arguments you hear from uninformed people outside the USA is the higher infant mortality rates argument.
Here’s an article by Stanford University professor Scott Atlas to explain why the argument fails.
Virtually every national and international agency involved in statistical assessments of health status, health care, and economic development uses the infant-mortality rate — the number of infants per 1,000 live births who die before reaching the age of one — as a fundamental indicator. America’s high infant-mortality rate has been repeatedly put forth as evidence “proving” the substandard performance of the U.S. health-care system.
[…]n a 2008 study, Joy Lawn estimated that a full three-fourths of the world’s neonatal deaths are counted only through highly unreliable five-yearly retrospective household surveys, instead of being reported at the time by hospitals and health-care professionals, as in the United States. Moreover, the most premature babies — those with the highest likelihood of dying — are the least likely to be recorded in infant and neonatal mortality statistics in other countries. Compounding that difficulty, in other countries the underreporting is greatest for deaths that occur very soon after birth.
[…]The United States strictly adheres to the WHO definition of live birth (any infant “irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy, which . . . breathes or shows any other evidence of life . . . whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached”) and uses a strictly implemented linked birth and infant-death data set. On the contrary, many other nations, including highly developed countries in Western Europe, use far less strict definitions, all of which underreport the live births of more fragile infants who soon die. As a consequence, they falsely report more favorable neonatal- and infant-mortality rates.
[…]Neonatal deaths are mainly associated with prematurity and low birth weight. Therefore the fact that the percentage of preterm births in the U.S. is far higher than that in all other OECD countries — 65 percent higher than in Britain, and more than double the rate in Ireland, Finland, and Greece — further undermines the validity of neonatal-mortality comparisons.