Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a fun ride.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an enjoyable and exciting movie. While still carrying a parallel plot of the first, it is a bridge movie just as a second book is in a trilogy.  That said, because we already know about Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Gale Hawthorn, Haymitch Abernathy, and, of course, President Snow, we don't need nearly the background set up, but what we do need is the beginnings of Katniss' transformation from Hunger Games victor to revolutionary symbol, the Mocking Jay.  It is something that the movie drives home again and again from gesture to a visual symbol to physical determination.

We get to know the characters better and are introduced to some new ones. We understand Katniss', played by Jennifer Lawrence, problem with loving both Gale, (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).  The movie is also joined by some new characters like Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymore Hoffman). Through the games, we get the back story of some of these characters.

If there is one character flaw in the movie, it may be with President Snow played by Donald Sutherland.  I am told in the books, Snow is more humanized than he is in the movies.  The problem I have is that for someone who wants to stop a rebellion and maintain his power, President Snow has zero understanding about how to use his power to control.  He is just so evil, all Sutherland needs to do is twirl his mustache.  Sutherland is one of the finest actors in the cast.  He could easily pull off a more human villain if he was just given something more to work with.  We see this in the fleeting moments of Snow and his granddaughter.  Perhaps more will be done with the character in the next two movies, but for now, he seems a bit two dimensional for the complexity that such a character could have and that have been built into the other characters. A great antagonist needs to be more complex and far less two dimensional.

The plot is simple enough.  Unable to control the public reactions to Katniss Everdeen and "her love" in the year following the Hunger Games, Snow, determines that she must be destroyed.  When a miserable attempt at intimidation fails, a new Games to celebrate the 75th year of the killing event is declared.  Only tributes who were victors in previous Hunger Games will be brought to do battle and so it is that Peeta and Katniss must once again enter the arena in which only one can survive.  It is in this crucible that Katniss must be forged into the symbol the people of the world of Hunger Games so desperately want.

I liked the movie.  It hits a good blend of humor, turmoil, excitement, dialog and action.  Go see it.  It is worth the money. It is also the Part 2 of 4 movies.  Parts 3 and 4 are filming as I write.  I will buy the DVD.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Just Say "No."

 It's the commercialization of the holidays. If you want to stop this, the answer is simple. Don't go.

It is unfortunate that we cannot do anything for the people being forced to work on Thanksgiving Day or 20 or more hour shifts.  We can, however, make their time an easy one.  Don't go.  I do realize that there are a few events that cause work.  TV, the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade, and football, but Christmas shopping is not one of those traditions. Don't go!

If stores lose money they will not open next year.  They will realize that to us, the time with our family is not about buying stuff, for once.  Now I could tell you that you can go and protest or drive by those stores and shame the people who go there to shop, but I am not. Don't go.

So here's the deal.  On holidays, we don't shop.  We don't go to the movies.  We don't try to get that special something that will end up in a closet or a yard sale or on eBay.  We make it clear that if places want to open early that we won't show up before 6:00 am.  I say 6:00 am not because that's when I will go.  You might even want to go on Small Business Saturday and really invest in the community.

I have never gone out shopping on Black Friday to get that certain great deal.  And you know what? I've survived.  My wife has survived.  My kids have survived.  What is more, I've still found the occasional great deal.

If you want to sleep in on the day after Thanksgiving...Don't go!

What if there was a war and no one showed up? The war would end. What if there was a holiday-destroying, family time-interrupting, useless sale and no one showed up? That event would wither and die, and all the workers could go home.


Don't Go!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Day to Remember

It is said that anyone who was alive when it happened remembers where they were when Kennedy was shot in Dallas.  I was at recess.  I've said this before, but I think one of the other kids announced that President Lincoln had been shot.  He and Washington were probably, at that time, the only two presidents we six-year-olds knew.  We would soon add a name to our list: John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  We will perhaps never know what Kennedy's legacy, had he survived, would have been.

Fifty years ago, today, the President of the United States was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald or whatever you want to believe. It makes little difference.  There are just some events that will mark our lives.  This, those of us living then, was one of them.

We remember JFK.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


A little while back, I posted about yet another silly meme.  I've done this for a while now.  What was exciting was I got my first true far right comment.  I don't know if the person commenting is a Tea Party member, but his comment is the one that's been fed since Obama's election and then re-election.  The person announced "that he's [Obama] communist." I've heard this charge before.  I've heard that Obama is a socialist and that he is Hitler, who was actually a Fascist despite the name his party, That National Socialist German Workers Party or Nationalsozialismus  in German, Nazi for short. It was considered a far right group who behaved more as an alternative to socialism.

So first if we are going to call someone a name like socialist, communist or fascist we need definitions.  Rather than listen to so and so, who throws the terms around on his website or talk show, we should have a definition.   I would tell students that if they were going to call someone a name, they should understand the definition.  For example, I once had a young feminist who called every male, including me, a male chauvinist.  I asked her if she knew what a chauvinist is? She didn't.  I told her that she could call me a chauvinist only if she knew the definition and that I met the definition.  She went to the dictionary. She also never used the word in my presence again. Chauvinist: 1. excessive or blind patriotism 2. undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs or has belonged 3. an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex; also : behavior expressive of such an attitude.

So let's define the words. I am going to use the dictionary to start.

Fascism: : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Socialism: a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies. b. Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. c. A stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

Communism: a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property. A theory advocating elimination of private property. b : A system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed.  2. (capitalized)  a : A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. b : A totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production. c: A final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably.

Is Obama a Fascist? If he is, he cannot be a Socialist or Communist by definition.  If he is a dictatorial leader, given his inability to get congress to pass anything, he is either not a dictator or has the worse understanding of a dictatorship ever.  So the answer is no.  He is not even close to the kind of leader Hitler was.

Is he a Socialist?  Let's not confuse Socialist with Liberal.  Has he organized industries to be controlled, not to be confused with regulated, by the government? No.  Even Obamacare includes the insurance industry who determine the plans and the cost.  Given the current behavior of the free market, or stock trading on Wall Street, he also fails as someone who has government control of the industry market.The free markets are at record levels, over 16,000.  This makes him the worst Socialist ever.  Even in 2012, the president of the Socialist Party announced Obama is not a Socialist, calling him "another corporate funded politician placed in the White House to protect the wealth and status of the 1 percent."

If he were actually a Socialist and the ACA was Socialist, we would all wake-up tomorrow to have exactly the same health care insurance, cost and coverage.  Obamacare is not socialist; it is liberal. So by definition, he is not a Socialist or at the least not a very good one. There is the issue of those who think Obama is both Muslim and Socialist pointing to his socialist leanings of having attended  Chicago Trinity Church  years ago. On the church's website they write, "We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian..." Obama the horrible Socialist must also be a pretty bad Muslim.

Is he a Communist?  Note that Socialism is the step between Capitalism and Communism.  This means that all Communists should be Socialist, but not all Socialists are Communist.  Since Obama is not a Socialist, then he is not a Communist, but if I grant you that he is just a bad Socialist, there is that other problem in the definition of a "single authoritarian party [that] controls state-owned means of production." We also know that we don't have a single party in this country, but a bunch and again Obama seems to lack any authoritarian control, especially when it comes to the House and the Supreme Court.  So the answer must also be no.  I should also point out that one of the tenets of Communism is Athiesm,  hence the saying of those "Goddless Comunists." Not good for a Christian or a Muslim.

Actually if you think about it, to put Obama in the same picture as Hitler, the Fascist,  and Lenin, the Socialist,  is something of an oxymoron. In case you didn't know, Lenin was declared a traitor to the movement and exiled from Russia when Stalin took over effectively moving the Socialist movement to the definition of Communism ran by an authoritarian party. 

Is Obama liberal? I know I didn't define Liberal. Yes.  Is he an a far left Liberal? No.  If he were, Obamacare would have the single payer option and not what it has with the industry.  Is he a Democrat? Again without a definition, Yes.  Given the size and scope of Obamacare, does he believe in big government as a means to help? Yes, he probably does.

I will gladly entertain anything he has done that shows him as a Socialist, Communist or Fascist, but it needs to be more than because Fox, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reily or other pundit says so.  It has to meet a real definitions.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Staking a Claim

Has anyone seen the Ashton Kutcher video from Ellen? He discusses the work ethic. It is a statement about his Teen Choice Award.  If you haven't, click the link.  I'll wait....


Oh good you're back.

Good stuff. Huh?

Most of us were raised with some sort of a work ethic.  My father and mother instilled a strong one in us. My siblings all work(ed) insane hours in a week. Working is important and wanting to work is important.  I agree, sometimes you have to take jobs that you don't like.  I  spent one summer painting outhouses. I sold shoes in K-Mart, worked as a mop boy in a cafeteria, mixed feed at a mill, rented videos and sold gas, and painted schools and water towers.  None of these a particularly glamorous jobs.  I applaud Mr. Kutcher's statement about working while you search for what you want to do, especially when you consider the recent survey asking kids what they wanted to do when they grew up, and the number one answer was "Be Famous."

My problem is  claiming the video for political gain while making statements about how Kutcher hasn't gone Hollywood as if all of Hollywood except a select few are among the famous for being famous. Work ethic is not a political agenda.  It is an attitude that Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and any other group can have.

The Robertson Brothers
Duck Dynasty
Most work hard to reach even a tiny amount of stardom, and as Kutcher points out, he has been "incredibly lucky." Let's face it, the famous for being famous crowd whether it is the Kardashians or Duck Dynasty is actually a pretty small group.  I am also pretty sure that the guys who founded a very lucrative hunting equipment company, Duck Commander, worked hard before becoming famous for a very staged reality show.  Still claiming work ethic as the domain of one political group or another is simply nuts.   To dismiss anyone because of what they do for a living is also just as wrong.
The Roberson Brothers
A few years before Duck Dynasty
So when this video appeared on my timeline courtesy of Facebook's Conservative Daily's page, I say "bravo" for bringing out this video and "no," you have zero claim to work ethic as a political agenda item.

By the way, Kutcher, stated on Bill Maher's show, "I am a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, independent."  Sorry to both Democrats and Republicans, neither of you get to claim him.

(I should note shortly after I wrote this blog, the video also appeared on Up-Worthy.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In Search of Leading

When I started this blog, I did so because I like to write, and I could feed my once secret passion of being a politics junky, and to write about movies, education and any of the other things I feel like.  I have also been considering my political beliefs.

You see, I consider myself an information voter.  I don't vote one way or another because of a political slant.  I was a Republican years back, but I left the party because I have never voted for a party.  I vote on what I think is correct and best.

And what caused me to ponder my political leanings?   The other day, my son told me I was a left leaning blogger.  I have to admit that given recent events and topics, it's true of late.  I also have an advantage.  I actually have the time at my disposal to look up what I see online.  Still I think my wife and I have done pretty well.  My wife and I are both, I think, pretty much centered in our view points.  She is slightly right of center and as I've grown older, have become, at least on social matters, slightly left of center.  We've raised two really great kids who we are quite proud of.  My son is probably right of his mother and my daughter is probably left of her father.

Nevertheless, none of us is afraid to talk about our beliefs.  I believe we respect each other, and when one or the other of us starts going over the edge, or as my son put it leaning to far that we might fall over, we remind each other that heading for the extreme fringe is not a good idea.

I also admit that I may seem more left than I am but that is because the hate and fear brigade has offered so much material.  I may have built my reputation as a cynic, but in truth I am a bit of an idealist.  I keep hoping that the haters on the fringe will crawl back into the shadows. Perhaps this is naive. I so want to see the rise of a truly great leader, not just some politician running scared for his job.

I believe that greatness is not something that accidentally occurs. I don't believe the old adage of "some men are born great while others have greatness thrust upon them." It is clear to me that given the way so many who were born wealthy and powerful, that greatness is not something one is born to.  Too often, they care about no one but themselves.  They often live cowardly existence pushed by their own petty beliefs.  They are not great, but they may believe their money will buy them their place in history.  And so I live in hope that a Franklin or Douglass or Lincoln will rise and lead.  Great leaders lead by serving.

That may occasionally make me look too liberal or too conservative.  I've been accused of both.  But is hope for greatness so wrong?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Health Care Hype Part 3:Beyond the Hype and Fixing the Cracks

So we have looked at the numbers, the political hype, and now it's time to look at the law.  Before I begin, I want to point out that 1. I am only trying to list what the law does and what it fails to do. 2. I have no vested interest in the success or failure of the law.  I have insurance and will continue to.  3. I am often surprised how little reporting I've seen on the actual law.

What does the law do?

From the onset, the law was designed to try and get control of skyrocketing health care and insurance costs.  As a nation we pay more for health care than any other industrial nation on the planet.  The economics of the cost as a nation before the ACA was unsustainable.   The question is will the ACA contain this raise in cost?  The US pays nearly 18% of it Gross National Product for health care. Growth before 2006 was a little less than 5% but after that growth rate was lower at about 2%.  It is true that since the ACA the growth rate of health care is at an all-time low. There is, however, no direct correlation between the ACA and the drop in cost.

There are other reasons cost are higher.  America tends to try and buy the new technology while it is still more expensive, but also cutting edge.  We have an inordinate number of people without any insurance. About forty-four million do not have insurance and 8 of 10 those are employed or are their dependents.    This means they rely on the most expensive form of health care, the emergency room.  What is more, if they cannot afford the cost of the ER, someone has to pick up the tab.  Guess who that would be? It is those of us who do have insurance and money to cover that cost.  By forcing many to get insurance, the idea is to create large groups to negotiate the cost of insurance.  Large companies get better rates because of numbers. The other essential is that these group policies include everyone from those with pre-existing to the young and healthy.  This means everyone pays the same, but the healthy are actually covering the cost of having less healthy folks in the plan.  The exchanges have the same goal, and that is why it is important that everyone get signed up.

It is the law. Like most laws of this nature the odds of it going away are not good.  Changes that repeal, gut, or defund will not pass for at least the next two years. Like it or not, eventually the exchanges will be up and running, and there will be more and more people getting them.  The current conversation is still over a much smaller number of people who are losing plans than those 44 million that have no plan.  So really, most votes that do not truly improve the law are moot and symbolic be it a Democrat or Republican vote. The law may grow more slowly or collapse under its own weight, but little that congress does will get rid of it.

So what has health care do?

1. It closes the "doughnut hole" in the Medicare Part D program expanding medicine coverage for older Americans.

2. It prevents insurance companies from charging more or denying anyone coverage for a pre-existing condition.

3. It prevents insurance companies from charging more because the client is a woman.

4. It allows children to stay on their parent's plan until they turn 26.

5. It prevents companies from putting lifetime caps or limits on payout.

6. It requires that insurance include coverage of preventative care.  This also includes the controversial birth control option.

7. It requires that any company that has employees of more than 50 to offer insurance to their employees or to offer them help in paying for insurance on the exchanges.

8. It offers small business up to 50% tax breaks for the employer's share of the employees cost in the exchanges.

9. If all states were to be involved in the Medicaid Expansion, it would cover 15 million Americans who do not have and cannot afford assurance.

10. People entering the exchanges will in many cases qualify for some subsidy to help reduce the cost of the insurance.  The subsidies cover people making up to the 400% of the national poverty levels.  Those above the 400% threshold will not receive any tax subsidies.

11. Persons not entering into the exchanges or not having insurance will pay $95 or 1% (whichever is greater) in the first year rising to $685 or 2.5% (whichever is greater) by 2016.

12.  No person may be discriminated against by insurance companies. Factors such as pre-existing conditions, health status, claims history, duration of coverage, gender, occupation, and small employer size and industry can no longer be used by insurance companies to increase health insurance premiums.

13. Factors that can affect premiums of new insurance beginning in 2014 are income, age, tobacco use, family size, geography and the type of plan you buy. This applies to all plans including those sold in state exchanges.

14. Congress must shop on the exchanges.

15. Pharmaceutical companies will be subject to new taxes.

16. Insurance companies will be taxed on the basis of their market share.

17. Insurance companies cannot handout outrageous bonuses and then pass that cost onto consumers.

18. Establishes a reserve corps of doctors and medical personnel for emergency response during disasters.

Note there are a number of items that will continue to be implemented until 2020. I also keep stumbling across more things the ACA is supposed to do.

Until a few days ago other than the call for tort reform which would basically protect insurance companies more than they already do, I had never heard any changes, add-ons or fixes from a Republican.

Sean Spicer who is GOP National Committee Communications Director offered this.  He didn't announce we need to defund, and I don't think he mentioned tort reform. He suggested that we open the selling of insurance across state lines and allow small businesses and individuals to gather into groups so they can get the discounts enjoyed by larger employers and continue to allow those under 26 to stay on their parent's plan.  It was an odd statement for someone who was opposing Obamacare.  Why? This is exactly what the national exchange does.  It allows anyone to join the exchange making it a group and it allows anyone from any state to buy insurance across state lines.

Oddly, on paper, this looks very reasonable. So what are the fixes?

First is the "keep you policy" fix.  There is intent by both congress and the white house to try and make sure that the "You can keep your insurance" promise is fixed.  Obama admitted in a news conference that the grandfather clause in the ACA did not cover as well as he thought it did.  In an effort to correct this, he has left the determination of policies that have been cancelled up to individual state's insurance controller and the insurance companies until 2014.  There is some question though what Obama can actually do without the Congress weighing in.  As I discussed in a previous blog, that could be a reality, if it actually fixes the problem.

Second is getting the website up and running.  The website is not the law, but it is a part of implementing it.  It will continue to be a complex site to build and update.  One thing we could do to avoid the problem of how we get technology bids in the future is to simplify the process and not take the cheapest but oick the best company for the job.  We also need to encourage states to create their own.  Most states that have their own website are actually doing better.

Third we need a way to make sure the Medicaid  Expansion works.  It needs to become less of a political football and be seen as the economic add to the state that it is.

Fourth with the horrendous roll out, getting the young healthy back on the site is essential.  As more people join the insurance the better the rates and offerings.  I do not know what the solution is; only that it needs to happen. I do know that it behooves the insurance companies involved to get the so called "young indestructibles" into the plans to make money.  Insurance companies do bear some of the responsibility in this since so many failed to explain the options to their clients and continued to sell plans they knew would eventually be cancelled.

What does it all boil down to? The ACA is the law.  The press needs to inform as do insurance companies.  The constant sensational story mongering serves no purpose.  News reports and informs, but so far it hasn't done much informing.  We have problems to fix.  If congress had actually spent time trying to fix it as they eventually have on every social program ever passed from Social Security on, we would actually have something that both parties could actually run on instead of against.

I still believe that if we use our voice and our vote, we can make politicians do the hard work.  Polls show that while many do not like the Affordable Care Act, they want it fixed, not repealed or defunded.  We are all tired of the congress playing politics.  Its 9% approval rating proves it, and somehow they still don't hear us.

It is time to govern.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Health Care Hype Part 2: The Politics

We know that this program was no small issue.  Big programs never do run well to start.  The Bush Medicare Part D program did not go well either.  It was unpopular according to the polls.  Its rollout was rocky despite having two and half years to prepare.  It was opposed by Democrats, although not to the point of shutting down the government. It is now a very popular program.  According to Reuters even Social Security was no picnic. "Social Security, that now beloved centerpiece of the nation's social safety net, offers a case in point. Created in 1935, the program took 40 years just to include all working Americans." It was "blamed ...for a slowing economy and a swelling federal bureaucracy. Fierce congressional opposition led to the formation of a blue-ribbon panel to overhaul the measure. Medicare fared no better.  The elderly didn't like it, and it had to be sold door to door. No one knew if it would even work.  Giving birth to a big program is not easy.

Does it mean we shouldn't try?

In 2008, President Obama, who had as a part of his campaign promised to try and get Health Care reform, began to push for exactly what he promised.

Perhaps more than any other issue, the Affordable Care Act has created the division. When it was passed in 2009 by Democrats, no Republicans in either the House or the Senate voted for its passage. One Republican did not vote in the Senate as he was absent.    It should be noted that even though Republicans had been involved in the crafting of the Senate bill, they voted against what they had helped to build.  The passage gave rise to the Tea Party.  The ACA was passed without bipartisan support, but not without input. The Bush Medicare Part D was passed in much the same way except 16 Democrats did vote for the law.

Riding a wave of resentment by many red and purple states and in an off year election, the Senate lost its super majority and Republicans took control of the House. The loss was actually not just due to the ACA, but it contributed.  It was at this point that the Republicans became known as the "Party of No."  The battle over the health care culminated with a shutdown of the government and a threat to not raise the debt ceiling.  The majority of Republican Senators remained for the most part seeming more centrist Republicans.  There are a few that cater to the far right.  The House took over 40 votes to repeal the law.  These were votes that they knew could not be any more than a political statement. Their concerns about the cost, it turned out, was somewhat justified, but they spent so much time in opposing everything, the problems became more and more convoluted.

Here is the problem with both parties playing politics with the law.  It is a law not a policy or a bill which frequently appears in talking points.  It is a law.  Never in the history of the US has any Congress done so little.  It is the price of playing politics without governing.  What needs to happen is what should have happened is once the ACA was passed into law, the Republicans should have immediately began to work on making it work for them.  Opposition without a plan is not governing.   If one team stands at the goal line and refuses to play, they forfeit.  They don't get to complain about how the other team is playing.  It is time, dear congress, to share the sandbox and play together.

But it doesn't stop there.  With the dismal rollout of the website, we immediately had hearings.  That is a good thing.  Oversight is one of the things congress is supposed to do.  The question is that will the hearings actually offer up solutions or will they continue to be, as I have watched them, political grandstanding.  I remind you, that the shutdown cost by every economist's point of view at minimum 24 billion dollars. The outrage that started out was about a website that cost $70-$93 million dollars to build, not $500 million as has been reported on the right or the under $50 million as reported on the left. So the question became who is responsible for this disaster? Personally, if I contract someone to do work, I think they should do it.  If they fail, they don't get paid.  Unfortunately, government contracts don't work that way.  Perhaps, they should.  The fact remains the site was not ready.

Then came the loss of insurance by what will most likely turn out to be around seven million people.  The Republicans actually have a bill in the House which would prevent the loss of the insurance.  There is hope...or maybe not.

You see what it boils down to is how the bill is worded. Right now, as it stands, the actual bill doesn't just protect those folks who have cancelled plans because of the roll out.  It protects those who have junk plans, it allows insurance companies to continue selling plans that do not meet the basic needs, it allows insurance companies to deny because of pre-existing conditions, and it allows insurance companies to charge more for women.  In other words, it basically is another attempt to gut the ACA and not just protect those who might be damaged by it.  Still, all bills are negotiable, but will they negotiate.  Perhaps, they will negotiate the bill in the Senate which seems to prevent the loss of those insurance plans.  The only problem is that some of those plans were to go into the exchange which would help support the cost of the law. In other words, it could subtract money from a law that was essentially supposed to be paid for. The fact also remains that Obama is not running again and will veto any bill that undermines the law. It still requires a 2/3 majority to override a veto and that is not likely to happen.

News programs have their own politics to play as well.  I am not talking about Fox or MSNBC either.  We all know their agendas.  I am talking about mainstream media which continues only to report on the failure and not the success.  Why?  I have my suspicions that it goes back to that fear of appearing unbalanced.  The Republicans took such a hit during the shutdown in mainstream, now mainstream media outlets are feeling the pressure to report only the problems of the Democrat created program.  When the reports turn out to be inaccurate or based on partial leaked information, little is done to correct the error. It is also easier to report on the failure on either side because it guarantees better ratings and more sensational reporting.  Even the news now worries about the bottom line.

So far the playing of politics has outweighed governing and reporting.  Sad but true. So what does the law do? Surprisingly, little is covered in reporting and the White House has not  been successful at getting this information wide spread.  The opposition party has also done a lot to prevent the public from getting an acurate picture.  So in my last post, I want to try and list what the law is supposed to cover.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Health Care Hype Part 1: The numbers and the lies.

So I've been trying to sort out the whole Health Care thing from the massive hype. This is going to take at least three blogs maybe more to work through it.  Like or dislike the ACA, there is a boatload of information that is just wrong from both sides of the fence.

The website was a mess.  Obama's promise about keeping your own insurance was a lie, misleading, poorly stated...take your pick of terms. It was wrong.  Politicians lie.  From "I am not a crook" to "I did not have sex with that woman" to wondering where the WMDs in Iraq are, it is what politicians do. To quote H.L. Mencken, "A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar."

So now what?

 Quite honestly, I didn't worry too much about it.  I've pretty much always had insurance through work, and now I buy it through my retirement plan, so I haven't gone on the website except to see what it looks like.

This is, as I understand it what is supposed to happen.  You can go on a state website if your state has one or on the national one which is not working if you don't .  From there you can look at insurance plans from bronze level to gold.  You can also call or find one of the places that will help you.  You can see plans from several companies and then pick the one you like.  Depending on your income, you may receive a tax subsidy to reduce the cost.  For some the cost will remain the same.  For some the cost of their new insurance will go up. But everyone who applies will get insurance and for millions it will be the first affordable insurance they will ever have. It has never been a secret that the insurance would not cost something.

The Medicaid expansion was designed to help millions who could not afford that cost.  The Supreme Court, however, ruled that states could choose to expand Medicaid.  Most thought that since it would actually save state money for the first three years and then still be 90 percent covered by the Federal government making Medicaid still cheaper than it is now, states would jump at the offer.  They didn't.  Again, take your pick of political view point. Some states honestly believe that Medicaid is going to create more poor or are just being obstructionists not caring about the poor.  Add to this that states have the option to create their own exchanges or rely on the Federal exchange. Again, many states decided not to create their own.

We also know that because of these options given to the states, the plan may struggle.  We also know that when it became apparent that many states were leaving it up to the Federal Government, the request for funds to expand the system was denied by Congressional appropriations. So the website, which was badly designed to begin with, then took the extra hit of having way more traffic than it was designed for. The question is will the exchange work? It is not government health care.  The insurance is through private insurance companies but has an oversight by government statute.  The other problem is that it is not just connected to insurance companies but must also be connected to the IRS, Social Security and other agencies for the subsidy portion to work.  The website becomes pretty complex.

Next came the cancellations.  Insurance policies are cancelled and changed every year. So to say every cancelation is a result of the ACA is wrong.  A number of the policies cancelled are junk policies but not all.  Some were not cancellations, but notification that the insurance would now be offered on the exchange.  Some of the cancellations are unscrupulous insurance companies trying to take advantage. And some were caused by the implementation of the ACA.

Predictions of the numbers are hard to come by because some states just don't know. The last figure I saw on cancellations was 3.5 million, but that was without the information from several states.  Another estimate was that the policies cancelled would be about five percent.  If we use the 3.5 million figures, then that means, given the projected population by the US Census Bureau of the US on November 10, 2013 which is 317,044,892, we are looking at 1.1 percent of the population losing their current insurance.  The five percent figure then means 15,852,245.  We begin to see how these numbers matter.

The other thing that I've found little in the way of numbers is how many of the plans cancelled are individual and how many are from the plans known as small group plans.  We also know that when the ACA was passed that most could actually keep their old plans.  The problem is that plans change and turn over at such a high rate that any plan that didn't meet the standard after the law was passed is not protected by the law.  So insurers continued selling bad plans for the past three years knowing they would have to replace them.  We can also look at the numbers from the above link which say about seven to eleven million will be cancelled.

Again we face the issue that the website was so poorly done, people who could get better plans and possibly cheaper cannot get through.  We also know that a "young, healthy people who had cheap plans with high deductibles, will end up paying more."  That's a fact that was not actually hidden.  It was just that many getting sticker shock never bothered to find out.

Those are some of the numbers which seem to change daily, but what of the politics of the law. That's up next.