September 24th, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
This week Democrats threw a six-month birthday party for ObamaCare—and the timing was only appropriate since it occurred at the same moment their reform annihilated a corner of the U.S. insurance market.
Democrats were celebrating the arrival of ObamaCare's first regulatory wave, which was designed to land weeks before the election. These include mandated benefits like "free" preventive care (i.e., the cost is built into the premiums). Democrats think these "consumer protections" poll well, even though they're already raising consumer rates across the country. But the most immediately destructive item turned out to be new rules governing private health coverage for children.
This week, almost every big insurance company in America—including Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, Humana, Coventry, some Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates and others—stopped writing "child-only" policies in the individual market. This is a niche product that parents typically buy when their employer health plan doesn't cover dependents. The exact plans vary company to company and state to state, and the insurers will still offer family policies and make good on the child-only policies that they've already sold. But most won't be writing new ones.
In other words, for-profit businesses are refusing to sell products that consumers want to buy. Exact data aren't available, but the child-only market covers roughly a million kids a year.
The reason is a regulation that President Obama mentions every time he talks about health care, as he did recently in Falls Church, Virginia: "Children who have pre-existing conditions are going to be covered." Insurers are now required to cover everyone under 19 when their parents apply for coverage, regardless of health status. The problem with this kind of "guaranteed issue" is that it encourages people, in this case parents, to wait until their kids are sick before seeking coverage.
This drives up premiums for the healthy, encouraging consumers in turn to drop coverage, and eventually it leads to what's known as a "death spiral," the industry term for an insurer with rapidly increasing costs as a result of population changes in its coverage pool. The child-only market is a particular death-spiral risk because it is so small and unstable, which explains why so many insurers left in a stroke.
The collapse of the child-only market is a preview of what will happen when guaranteed issue and the rest of ObamaCare comes on line in 2014 for adults, except then insurers will have nowhere to flee. Exiting the market will mean going out of business.
The irony of this child-only collapse is that it was gratuitous. Guaranteed issue for kids wasn't included in the ObamaCare legislation. The sloppy legal wording only precludes insurers from selling children's health plans that exclude coverage of pre-existing conditions, not that they must sell a full plan to anyone who applies regardless of health status.
But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unilaterally decided that Congress had meant something else. "To ensure that there is no ambiguity on this point," she wrote to the insurance industry trade group in March, "I am preparing to issue regulations in the weeks ahead ensuring that the term 'pre-existing condition exclusion' applies to both a child's access to a plan and to his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs this week sent out a snarky Twitter message, "Kids 1, insurance 0." Actually, everyone is worse off, and his boss is the reason.
September 24th, 2010
CR Editor's note: Billionaire Obama supporter Buffett proves that being a billionaire doesn't necessarily mean that your "all that." What Mr. Buffett doesn't understand is that in order to effect true intrinsic change, a populace must be motivated for change. Anger is a prime motivator in any venue. Take a pamprin Buffett and go back to sleep, besides you voted for him..how smart can you actually be?~Barry S.
Buffett to taxpayers: Get over your anger
Taxpayer anger against President Barack Obama and Congress is counterproductive because policy makers took measures including deficit spending to stimulate the economy, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC.
“Sentiment has turned very sour in the last three or four or five months,” the chairman and CEO of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said in an interview broadcast Thursday.
“I hope we get over it pretty soon, because it’s not productive,’’ Buffett said. “We will come back regardless of how people feel about Washington, but it is not helpful to have people as unhappy as they are about what’s going on in Washington.”
More than three-quarters of U.S. investors view Obama as anti-business and are pessimistic about his policies, a Bloomberg survey this month indicated.
The U.S. unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, even after an $814 billion stimulus measure enacted last year and other government actions.
The Federal Reserve has kept the benchmark overnight lending rate target close to zero and said this week that it was prepared to ease policy further.
“The truth is we’re running a federal deficit that’s 9 percent of gross domestic product,” Buffett said. “That’s stimulative as all get out. It’s more stimulative than any policy we’ve followed since World War II.”
Buffett also said that the economy remains in a recession, by his definition, because most people and businesses still aren’t doing as well as they were before the financial crisis.
Buffett’s assessment of the economy contradicts the view of experts who announced this week that the recession officially ended in June 2009.
Buffett said he uses a common sense standard to evaluate the economy. Buffett gets insight into the health of the economy through the performance of Berkshire’s many subsidiaries.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
September 24th, 2010
Despite the fact that countless Washington reporters couldn't help but watch Stephen Colbert's Capitol Hill testimony Friday, not all were enthralled by the Comedy Central star's performance, as they expressed on Twitter.
"REALLY not sure this is funny," wrote ABC News' Rick Klein.
"Colbert is making a mockery of this hearing," said Mother Jones' David Corn.
"Colbert's testimony made a mockery of Congress," said the Washington Post's Aaron Blake.
The Hill's Mike O'Brien said, "This might be the most amazing public stunt before Congress."
National Review's Kathryn Lopez wrote that "a congressional chairman made a joke of her committee today."
September 24th, 2010
|September 16, 2010||http://detnews.com/article/20100916/OPINION03/9160336|
It was a year ago this month that President Barack Obama stood before a joint session of Congress to confront accusations that his health care overhaul would be a national disaster, raising costs for everyone and putting Medicare at risk.
"Bogus claims," said the president.
"You lie!" shouted Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., from the gallery, in a break from decorum that was roundly and rightly chastised.
A year later, we know that Wilson was pretty much right -- Obama did trash the truth to make his health care train wreck seem as if it sprung from the Big Rock Candy Mountain. The president, who told Congress and the American people his bill would, "slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government," now admits this isn't true.
"As a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that's going to increase our costs -- we knew that," Obama said last week.
Of course he knew, but he wasn't saying so as he lobbied for the bill's passage. In his 2009 speech, Obama assured Americans the expense of extending coverage to the uninsured would be covered through cost cutting reforms.
In the six months since the president signed the bill, not one significant cost-cutting reform has been adopted. Congress, as predicted, avoided cutting Medicare reimbursement rates, a key component of Obama's projected savings.
Instead of declining, Medicare costs are expected to continue to rise at an average rate of 6.3 percent over the next decade.
And the pain to consumers is already being felt. Next week, the first mandates of Obamacare kick in, and will add 1 percent to 9 percent to insurance premiums.
Those requirements, including the creation of high-risk insurance pools and allowing "children" to stay on their parent's plans until age 26, will boost health expenditures by $10.2 billion over the next 2 1/2 years, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Consumers will pay every dime.
Much of Obama's 2009 speech was aimed at reassuring seniors that Medicare as they knew it would not change, except to become more efficient. But the bill is now expected to drive at least 50 percent of seniors out of Medicare Advantage plans, raising their out-of-pocket costs.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the low-premium, high-deductible catastrophic polices favored by students and young adults are also at risk because of the bill's mandates.
So much for Obama's promise that, "Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have."
As for Obama's assurance that he wouldn't put private insurers out of business, his Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, this week contradicted that claim in warning insurance companies not to blame rate hikes on Obamacare lest they be cut off from government payments. In other words, toe the administration's propaganda line or risk going to the gulag. Even free speech is sacrificed to keep the Big Lie of Obamacare from exposure.
Nearly all of the promises the president made in advance of Obamacare's passage are unraveling.
There's no reason to trust that any of the benefits touted by Obama will materialize, or not to fear that all of the doomsday scenarios -- from rationing to the collapse of the private medical system -- won't.
Joe Wilson, you were rude. But you were right.
September 24th, 2010
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – FBI agents searched eight homes in Chicago and Minnesota on Friday as part of an investigation the law enforcement agency said related to "the material support of terrorism."
Targets of the searches accused the government of harassing anti-war protesters.
The investigation "concerns material support of terrorism but there is no imminent threat to the (U.S.) community," FBI spokesman Steve Warfield said.
No arrests were made related to the raids, FBI spokesmen in Minneapolis and Chicago said.
"We are interviewing people in other places in the country," Warfield added, without specifying where.
The FBI did not release the names of the targets and said the search warrants were under seal.
Minneapolis peace activist Mick Kelly's apartment was searched, and agents confiscated computer hard drives, his cell phone, writings, and his passport, Kelly and his lawyer said.
"It's harassment at the highest level of those of us who have spoken out and tried to build an anti-war movement," said Kelly, who helped lead marches during the 2008 Republican party convention in Minneapolis.
"It's an attempt to trample on our right to speak out against U.S. intervention abroad. It's outrageous on every level," he said.
"They were looking for information about folks who had traveled to Latin America or the Middle East. I've traveled in Lebanon."
Kelly's lawyer Ted Dooley said the vaguely-worded warrant sought information on anyone Kelly knew, and mentioned Lebanon-based Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), both of which have been designated terrorist groups by the U.S. government.
Kelly said he has traveled to both Lebanon and Colombia "in solidarity with people who are being oppressed."
(Writing by Andrew Stern; Editing by Jerry Norton)