Electoral Consequences of the Rapture

“We always talk about demographic change helping Democrats with the rise of the Hispanic vote, but if the Rapture occurs it would be an even more immediate boost to Democratic electoral prospects.” –Public Policy Polling

Public Policy Polling found  that if the Rapture occurs, this will provide a  2-5 point boost to Obama’s reelection prospects as a larger percentage of those who believe the Rapture will occur are Republicans. (For the sake of discussion I’ll go along with their assumption that those who believe in the Rapture are more likely to actually be affected if the Rapture occurs, but there are certainly  counter-arguments to this imaginable.) Here is  how the match-up changes with different candidates:

Obama’s lead over Romney is 7 points with all voters, but if you take out the ones who think the Rapture will occur in their lifetime his advantage increases to 9 points. That’s because the Rapture voters support Romney by a 49-35 margin. Against Gingrich Obama’s 14 point lead overall becomes a 17 point one if you take out take the ‘Rapturers’ because they support Gingrich 50-37. And Obama’s 17 point lead over Palin becomes a 22 point spread without those voters because they support Palin 54-37.

Sarah Palin is the most popular potential candidate among those who believe the Rapture is going to occur but, unfortunately for her, her approval rating is quite low with everybody else.

One other bit of trivia from the poll: Only two percent believed the Rapture was going to occur last week, as compared to ten percent who believe Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ.

Bills Introduced in House To Protect Medical Marijuana Industry

House Democrats, with the support of Republicans such as Ron Paul, have introduced legislation to reverse the unfair treatment which  medical marijuana dispensaries are subjected to. AlterNet reports:

Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA), Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced legislation to the House on Wednesday aimed at ensuring the medical marijuana industry is treated like any other business.

The legislation was supported by Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (CA) and Ron Paul (TX).

The Small Business Tax Equity Act, introduced by Stark, authorizes medical marijuana dispensaries to take the full range of business expense deductions on their federal tax returns, like other legal businesses are allowed to.

“Our tax code undercuts legal medical marijuana dispensaries by preventing them from taking all the deductions allowed for other small businesses,” Stark stated. “While unfair to these small business owners, the tax code also punishes the patients who rely on them for safe and reliable access to medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor.”

Fifteen states and the District of Colombia have passed laws permitting marijuana to be used as medicine.

Another bill, introduced by Frank, would make individuals and business immune to federal prosecution if they are acting in compliance with local marijuana laws. Additionally, the legislation would direct the White House to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act so that it is no longer considered a highly addictive substance with no medical value.

Marijuana is currently listed as a schedule I drug, the most restrictive schedule with the greatest criminal penalties.

“The time has come for the federal government to stop preempting states’ medical marijuana laws,” Frank said. “For the federal government to come in and supersede state law is a real mistake for those in pain for whom nothing else seems to work. This bill would block the federal prosecution of those patients who reside in those states that allow medical marijuana.”

Lastly, legislation introduced by Polis would ensure that medical marijuana businesses that are state-certified have full access to banking services.

While far more needs to be done to end the counterproductive war on drugs, these are stops in the right direction. Prohibition doesn’t work, and it is especially unfair to penalize those who use marijuana for medical reasons while  following state laws which allow for this.

David Letterman: Top Ten Harold Camping Excuses

David Letterman: Top Ten Harold Camping Excuses

10. “Rapture got rained out”
9. “Forgot to carry the 1″
8. “Dates got screwed up because of the Jewish holidays”
7. “Que?”
6. “Hold on, God’s texting me . . . Yeah, it’s been postponed”
5. “Don’t blame me! I voted for Kucinich”
4. “To prevent bear attack, be sure to suspend all food and trash in a tree. I’m sorry, that’s from ‘Top Ten Wilderness Camping Tips’”
3. “At 89, I can’t remember how to operate the toaster”
2. “Didn’t everybody’s world end when ‘Oprah’ was canceled?”
1. “I’m crazy”

Quote of the Day

“The pastor who incorrectly predicted the Rapture said it was a very tough weekend. To make it worse, his friends keep calling him saying, “Hey, it’s not the end of the world!” –Conan O’Brien

Overpayment For Specialty Care and Underpayment For Primary Care

One cause of higher health care costs in the United States as opposed to other countries is the manner in which payment is higher for procedures than for primary care services.  This problem is exacerbated by the politics of specialty groups lobbying Medicare and insurance companies. Areas with a larger percentage of primary care physicians typically show better health care outcomes at a lower cost, but the current payment structure is leading to increasing numbers of physicians choosing sub-specialties as opposed to primary care. The need for primary care physicians will increase with the adoption of the Affordable Care Act. The Health Care Blog has described the problem with how Medicare receives recommendations for pay from a panel which is dominated by specialists:

Last October, the Wall Street Journal ran a damning expose about the Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), a secretive, specialist-dominated panel within the American Medical Association (AMA) that, for the past two decades, has been the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) primary advisor on valuation of medical services. Then, in December, Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt followed up with a description of the RUC’s mechanics on the New York Times’ Economix blog. We saw this re-raising of the issue as an opportunity to undertake an action-oriented campaign against the RUC that builds on many professionals’ work – see here and here – over many years.

We have focused on rallying the primary care and business communities to pressure CMS for change, and are contemplating a legal challenge. But the obvious question is why these steps are necessary. Why doesn’t CMS address the problem directly? Why does it continue to nurture the relationship?

The Negative Consequences Of The RUC

There is overwhelming evidence that the RUC has used flawed and capricious methodologies. It has systematically under-valued primary care and operated without regard for financial conflicts of interest. Its influence has compromised care quality and facilitated the primary care labor shortage. The Chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) is on record before a Congressional Committee describing its harmful characteristics. We know that the valuations it recommends – and CMS accepts – are major contributors to unnecessary utilization and cost. Former CMS Secretary Tom Scully has publicly condemned it as “indefensible.”

In studying the RUC closely, we have come to believe that the structure of CMS’ relationship with the RUC has violated the management and reporting requirements of a “de facto” Federal Advisory Committee. Meanwhile, the nation generally and publicly funded health care programs specifically are under intense fiscal pressures that have resulted, at least in part, from the runaway health care costs associated with the RUC’s influence…