Another Study Showing No Medical Benefits From Prayer

Periodically there have been reports in which someone actually bothered to compare medical outcomes with and without prayer. As expected, no benefit was found from situations in which someone was praying for someone else without their knowledge (to remove any psychological benefits). Irregular Times has reported on another study:

Does prayer really work wonders? Not according to epidemiologst Maria Inês da Rosa.

Da Rosa and her research team published results of a double-blind randomized trial in the Brazilian Journal of Science and Public Health last year. Half of the more than five hundred pregnant women in the trial had their health prayed for from a distance by a prayer team. The other half received no such prayers. When Da Rosa’s team measured the apgar scores, type of delivery and birth weight of the two groups, there was no difference in pregnancy outcomes.

A few years ago, intercessory prayer researchers were promising a golden age in which they would supposedly prove the effectiveness of their religion. That’s not happening. Careful science is establishing the opposite.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Sleepy Hollow; Arrow; SHIELD; DC Movie Plans; The Americans; The Blacklist; Scarlett Johansson Gets Superpowers; Groundhog Day;Death of the Rani; How I Met Your Mother Finale

Hannibal Murkozuke

This week’s episode of Hannibal, Mukozuke, had Jack Crawford viewing Beverly’s sliced body. Bryan Fuller described Hannibal breaking her down as being like how Beverly would break down a crime scene. Her murder had major effects on several characters, especially Will Graham who was driven to have Hannibal killed in revenge. He found a clever way to attempt this despite being incarcerated, finding his admirer who killed the bailiff (in an attempt to provide evidence that Will was not the Chesapeake Ripper) using Freddy Lounds.

This was a dangerous move on Will’s part as it could reinforce the idea held by others that Will is the murderer and Hannibal has been the victim of his slurs. I suspect that Will’s vision of dripping blood might represent realization that he was wrong to attempt murder. At least he was unsuccessful and does not actually have blood on his hands. Will didn’t even bother to tell others this week that Hannibal killed Grace, even when viewing her body in the restraints we were more accustomed to seeing Hannibal wearing in Silence of the Lambs,  presumably preferring that they figure it out for themselves. The preview from next week’s episode does suggest that Jack is starting to investigate Hannibal, and we saw in the season premiere how that will turn out.

I wonder if Hannibal will actually have more respect for Will for taking this action, and if he will take pride in being successful in driving Will to attempt murder (even if it had to be by proxy).

I was fearful that having Will in the asylum all season would limit his role, but episodes such as this show how he can remain fully part of the show. Having Abel Gideon as his asylum mate now presents yet another way for Jack to have significant dialog beyond being limited to FBI visitors.

There have been accusations of racism and sexism raised against Bryan Fuller due to the manner in which Beverly Katz was treated as an expendable character. Hetteinne Park, who played Beverly, defended Fuller here.

Sleepy Hollow Cast

News on the second season of Sleepy Hollow from PaleyFest can be found here. Among the news, it sounds like one of the cliff hangers at the end of the first season will not  be settled quickly:

There’s a New Sheriff in Town: Literally Orci teases, “There’s a new sheriff in town. Obviously, Irving has been discredited and now he’s been taken Upstate, so the Sleepy Hollow Police Department still has to be run by somebody and that person may not be as open as Irving was by the end of the season with Abbie and Crane. So somebody may be making their life very difficult.”

Orlando Jones is definitely not down with the new Sheriff, even making his own t-shirt, which said, “Free Frank Irving.” (Yes, he’s the best.)

There will also be fifteen or more episodes next season.

Arrow Birds of Prey

Jessica de Gouw returned as Helena Bertinelli/The Huntress on Arrow, tying up the storyline of the relationship between Helena and her father, leaving the character free to move in other directions. Caity Lotz was a second Bird of Prey as the Black Canary.

It appears that Laurel’s drug use has affected the powers of observation in Katie Cassidy’s character. Despite the two speaking while sitting as closely together as in the picture above, Laurel did not recognize that Black Canary is her sister Sara. It is a theme taken from the comics to have a tiny mask be enough to hide a superhero’s identity, but this was hard to believe in this scene. I also wonder if having the two meet is a first step towards Laurel ultimately becoming the Black Canary as in the comics, or if this something which the comics and television show will always differ on.

The episode also ended with quite a cliff hanger. More here, including why they killed off Helena’s father:

On why they killed Helena’s father:
Guggenheim: We definitely went into this with, “We’ve got to wrap up the whole Helena and her father storyline.” The one thing we were agreed upon in the writer’s room from the get-go was that Frank could not survive the episode. We had to end that story and close that chapter of Helena’s life so we could start a new chapter for her. … We definitely have an idea for a season 3 episode with the Huntress.

De Gouw: I think how this episode ends just puts her into a completely different headspace…and I think it’s opened up a whole new set of possibilities for her because she was so set on one path and now that it has been realized that that’s not what she wanted, it just frees her up for an entirely different life.

On whether The Huntress is redeemable:
De Gouw: I think most people are. And I think the place she’s at at the end of this episode, she’s certainly in a place where she can be redeemed…I think that it will be very interesting to explore her fighting for good or for very different reasons. But I think [she] definitely [is].

Amy Acker SHIELD The Cellist

The addition of Amy Acker as a regular has greatly strengthened Person of Interest, including on this week’s episode. Hopefully her presence, even if more limited, can also help Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. improve. Acker has been cast as Agent Coulson’s former cellist girlfriend, Audrey.

DC might have the best superhero television series on the air, but is far behind Marvel in big screen success. The New York Times interviewed Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who wants to be more aggressive in taking on Marvel:

The studio has been painfully slow to establish a slate of films based on DC Comics characters like Wonder Woman and the Flash, watching as Disney’s Marvel Entertainment churns out one superhero hit after another…

As for DC Entertainment, cross-studio collaboration to make better use of its comic book characters appears to have accelerated considerably since Mr. Tsujihara took over, in part because he eliminated some management layers. (He has not named a chief operating officer and did not replace Mr. Rosenblum and Mr. Robinov, choosing instead to divide up their duties and assume some himself.) Two new television shows are coming to the CW and Fox, including one based on the Flash and another on a young Batman, and a film series will be announced in the near future, Mr. Tsujihara said. It is expected to include a “Justice League” movie.

Underscoring his aggressive approach to the DC Comics universe, Mr. Tsujihara and Dan Fellman, Warner’s domestic film distribution chief, recently moved the studio’s untitled Batman-Superman movie — a hotly anticipated follow-up to last year’s “Man of Steel” — to a release date in May 2016 previously claimed by Marvel for one of its own films. It created an industry dust-up, and Marvel retaliated with a date change of its own. But the move sent a blunt message: Warner takes a back seat to no one.


In other notable television moments of the week, Philip seemed really evil on The Americans when he sent the poor physicist home while Elizabeth did a great job smoothing over things with Martha. I do think that Phillip and the Mossad agent did have mutual respect for each other as each did what they knew they would do if in the position of the other.

On The Blacklist I was glad to see that once they revealed to the audience what we already suspected about Tom, they didn’t wait long to have Lizzie also figure out the truth about him.


Scarlett Johansson gets superpowers in Lucy. From Entertainment Weekly:

Don’t do drugs, kids…unless said drugs transform your neurological makeup to give you superhero-level mind powers. That’s what happens in Luc Besson’s action thriller 
Lucy (out Aug. 8), starring Scarlett Johansson as a young woman who turns the tables on those exploiting her when experimental drugs give her hyperpowered ass-kicking abilities. “I love to see a woman as a very strong character,” says Besson (The Professional and La Femme Nikita). “It’s like cooking: sugar with a 
 bit of salt, and Lucy definitely can get salty.” Keep your eyes peeled for the trailer, which is scheduled to hit iTunes on April 2.

Groundhog Day

I don’t agree with all of Charles Murray’s Advice For A Happy Life, but I do agree with watching Groundhog Day:

The movie “Groundhog Day” was made more than two decades ago, but it is still smart and funny. It is also a brilliant moral fable that deals with the most fundamental issues of virtue and happiness, done with such subtlety that you really need to watch it several times.

An egocentric TV weatherman played by Bill Murray is sent to Punxsutawney, Pa., to cover Groundhog Day. He hates the assignment, disdains the town and its people, and can’t wait to get back to Pittsburgh. But a snowstorm strikes, he’s stuck in Punxsutawney, and when he wakes up the next morning, it is Groundhog Day again. And again and again and again.

The director and co-writer Harold Ramis, whose death last month was mourned by his many fans, estimated that the movie has to represent at least 30 or 40 years’ worth of days. We see only a few dozen of them, ending when Bill Murray’s character has discovered the secrets of human happiness.

Without the slightest bit of preaching, the movie shows the bumpy, unplanned evolution of his protagonist from a jerk to a fully realized human being—a person who has learned to experience deep, lasting and justified satisfaction with life even though he has only one day to work with.

You could learn the same truths by studying Aristotle’s “Ethics” carefully, but watching “Groundhog Day” repeatedly is a lot more fun.

Kate O’Mara, The Rani, died today. There was no regeneration. Above is a scene from Doctor Who: The Mark of the Rani from 1985. Besides her role on Doctor Who as a renegade Time Lady, she is also known for her roles on Dynasty and Absolutely Fabulous. She has had other cult television appearances on two British shows,  The Avengers and The Saint.

(Video no longer available)

Barney and Robin actually did get married last week and tomorrow we will find out if the fan theories about Ted and the Mother are true. I suspect we are in for a different surprise, which will be legendary. Above is the video of the cast of How I Met Your Mother on Inside The Actors Studio with the series finale airing tomorrow night.

Democrats Need A Message

One reason that the Republicans get people to turn out to vote in off year elections, often to vote against their economic self-interest, is that they have a message. The message might be based upon dishonest claims and incorrect views as to how the economy and government work, but it is a message. In contrast, many Democratic voters feel less interested in turning out to vote, especially in off year elections. To some degree the Democrats have difficulty in defining a message as they are a big tent party which wins elections by appealing to a wide variety of voters, ranging from center-right to left wing. Issues which appeal to some Democratic voters might turn off others.

The Washington Post describes how Senate Democrats are struggling to define a message:

Senate Democrats’ latest effort in that regard is a 10-point plan for legislation they intend to bring to the floor over the spring and summer.

The issues are familiar ones for Democrats, and poll well among Americans generally.

Yet they are top priorities to narrower slices of the Democrats’ constituency — particularly those who showed up to vote for President Obama in 2012, but who do not have a history or voting in off-year contests.

The first items up for Senate debate will be increasing the minimum wage, from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, and a bill to assure paycheck equity between male and female workers.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said that those are measures that would have their greatest impact on young people, unmarried women, Latinos and African-Americans — all of whom can be difficult to turn out in years when there is no presidential election.

“This doesn’t replace a broader economic message. In the long run, we have to do that. But in the short run, this is very helpful,” said Lake, who has warned that the Democrats face a large turnout disadvantage in a year when Republican voters appear to be more motivated.

GOP pollster Neil Newhouse said the Senate Democrats’ targeted strategy echoes that of Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, where he emphasized a number of “niche group” issues such as the Dream Act, mandatory contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act, student loan expansion and support for same-sex marriage.

Why haven’t Democrats been pushing for legalization of same-sex marriage more strongly in the past? As Michigan and other states saw recent legal victories for marriage equality I thought that, although this is an issue far more associated with Democrats than Republicans, the victories are in the courts and not the result of actions by the Democratic Party.

Perhaps Democratic leaders did not want to be associated with bringing about marriage equality out of a fear of losing socially conservative Democratic voters. Maybe, but I also wonder how many socially liberal people who lean Democratic don’t bother to get out to vote because of not seeing a real commitment from Democratic leaders for liberal causes.

Republicans have learned that people tend to take on the other views of the party they associate with when there is a consistent message. They get social conservatives to back their economic policies by joining these as a common conservative philosophy. If the Democrats were to put out a more consistent message, perhaps those who vote for Democrats for other reasons would also “evolve,” as Barack Obama has, on issues such as same-sex marriage.

Democrats should frame this as a consistent platform of keeping government out of the private lives of individuals, along with support for reproductive rights and ideally an end to marijuana prohibition (or at least a stronger defense of medical marijuana). It is amazing that Democrats have allowed Republicans to take an advantage on issues which should be seen as reasons to vote Democratic, from size of government as it relates to private lives to support for Medicare.

Democrats also think too small on economic matters. Rather than just concentrating on issues such as increasing the minimum wage, Democrats need an economic message showing how Democratic ideas strengthen and grow the economy while Republican economic policies lead to economic stagnation and a concentration of wealth in a small minority. Income inequality is an important issue, but only when placed in an overall economic message of expanding the economy and how extreme income inequality destroys the middle class. An economic message seen as merely dislike for the rich (or the Koch brothers) will never sell.

Of course making a coherent economic message which will not only mobilize their own voters but bring in new voters will take time and cannot be done in only one election year. The Republicans have been working for years at indoctrinating the country in their type of Voodoo Economics. It will also take several years to get out the message on how the economy actually works, but the Democrats might as well start now.

Health care remains one of the strongest reasons to vote for Democrats. Even those who have a negative view of the Affordable Care Act based upon Republican misinformation still prefer to improve it over either repeal or turning to any Republican alternative. As I have written before, Democrats need to go on the offensive on health care reform, not run away from the issue. Joe Conason has the same message again, with numbers now out showing that enrollment through the exchanges has exceeded the projected number of six million:

Success for Obamacare might boost the turnout projections that Republicans have tried so hard to suppress and that Democrats have so far proved unable to resuscitate.

Dominant forces in the Republican Party — including the tea party and its billionaire financiers — have staked everything on the commonplace assumption that Obamacare will drag down Democrats across the country.

Indeed, they make almost no other argument. Bolstering that cynical bet is the Democratic hesitation to mount a powerful counteroffensive on health care, with the impulse to push the minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and other vital issues that still feel safer.

But as Clinton warns, they will find no shelter from this storm. They cannot hide from their own history; and the more they pretend to do so, the more they risk contempt. For decades, Democrats have insisted that all Americans must have health coverage — a momentous and admirable goal advanced by the Affordable Care Act.

With the numbers now on their side, they should lift their heads, raise their voices, and lean into the midterm debate. They have no better choice.

Cross Posted at The Moderate Voice

Quote of the Day

“A new poll found that two-thirds of Americans are following the situation in Ukraine, which is impressive. Usually, you can’t find two-thirds of Americans who are following the situation in America.” –Jimmy Fallon

Denial Of Climate Change Is A Hoax

Climate change deniers often cite sources other than experts in climate science to support their position. They would have a tough time finding actual experts in the field to agree with them.

As geochemist James Lawrence Powell continues to prove, the only people still debating whether or not climate change is “real,” and caused by human activity, are the ones who aren’t doing the actual research. In an update to his ongoing project of reviewing the literature on global warming, Powell went through every scientific study published in a peer-review journal during the calendar year 2013, finding 10,885 in total (more on his methodology here). Of those, a mere two rejected anthropogenic global warming…

Adding this new data to his previous findings, Powell estimates that the going rate for climate denial in scientific research is about 1 in 1,000. The outliers, he adds, “have had no discernible influence on science.” From this, he comes up with a theory of his own:

Very few of the most vocal global warming deniers, those who write op-eds and blogs and testify to congressional committees, have ever written a peer-reviewed article in which they say explicitly that anthropogenic global warming is false. Why? Because then they would have to provide the evidence and, evidently, they don’t have it.

What can we conclude?

1. There a mountain of scientific evidence in favor of anthropogenic global warming and no convincing evidence against it.

2. Those who deny anthropogenic global warming have no alternative theory to explain the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 and global temperature.

These two facts together mean that the so-called debate over global warming is an illusion, a hoax conjured up by a handful of apostate scientists and a misguided and sometimes colluding media, aided and abetted by funding from fossil fuel companies and right wing foundations.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Obamacare Delay Similar To Previous Medicare Delay Under George Bush

Republicans are obsessed with Obamacare delays. Some of the delays have been helpful to allow for orderly transition to the new rules. The latest, allowing people to complete the process if they started an application for insurance before the deadline, seems like common sense and basic fairness (which might be why Republicans have such a problem with it). NBC News pointed out that George  W. Bush also had a similar delay with the Medicare D program:

As Republicans complain about the Obama administration’s latest deadline extension for Americans to purchase health insurance, Democrats are countering with this reminder: The Bush administration did something similar in 2006.

Back then, as it was implementing the Medicare prescription-drug benefit Bush had signed into law, the GOP presidential administration announced it was waiving penalties for low-income seniors and those with disabilities who signed up late.

As one Knight Ridder report put it at the time:

The move follows a recent administration decision to allow the same impoverished beneficiaries to sign up for Medicare drug coverage until Dec. 31.

“In other words, you can apply after May 15th without penalty. And that’s important for low-income seniors to understand,” President Bush told a group of older Americans in Sun City Center, Fla., on Tuesday.

There’s one key difference between Bush’s Medicare prescription-drug benefit and Obama’s health-care law: Democrats didn’t try to scuttle the Medicare law’s implementation (especially since some of them had voted for it), while the same isn’t exactly true of GOP actions regarding the health-care law.

But the 2006 story is a reminder that when it comes to the implementation of complex new laws, both Democratic and Republican administration have changed the rules to encourage enrollment.

Republicans who complain about delays in the Affordable Care Act under Obama had no problem with a comparable delay under George Bush, showing once again that their positions are motivated by opposition to Obama and not any higher principles.

Bill Calls For Adding ICD-10 Delay To Latest “Doc Fix”

I recently pointed out that the Republicans killed a recent attempt to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate formula by attaching a measure to end the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. With failing to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate it becomes necessary for Congress to pass yet another temporary “doc fix” to prevent Medicare reimbursement from automatically falling so low that doctors will not be able to afford to see Medicare patients.

Medical Economics reports that a proposal to delay the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 diagnoses codes from October 2013 to October 2014. The transition was originally passed under the Bush administration, so ignore the Republican claims which are out there which blame Obamacare for the change. While there are benefits to the newer system which is used by the rest of the world, the change would be very expensive for medical practices. Changes such as this also take up a lot of physician time, reducing the number of patients which can be seen each day.

Such decreases in productivity would come at a poor time in 2013 when millions of new people will receive health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act and will need to find physicians who are accepting new patients. In addition, the second phase of requirements for electronic medical records (EMR’s) also kicks in for many physicians this October and having two sets of major changes will further reduce physician productivity, making it more difficult to accept new patients. Personally I had to greatly restrict accepting new patients for several months after the first phase of requirements went into effect, and anticipate again having to limit accepting new patients this fall if both the new EMR requirements and change to ICD-10 take effect simultaneously.

The AMA and many other physician groups have been lobbying for a further delay in ICD-10 implementation, which has already been delayed in the past. Medical Economics reports:

The ICD-10 transition has been a major point of concern for physicians due to its scope and cost to implement. In recent months the American Medical Association (AMA) ramped up opposition to the ICD-10 transition, and petitioned CMS for a delay to the implementation of ICD-10.

According to the AMA, small practices can expect staggering costs ranging from $56,639 to $226,105 to implement the new code set. According to a February survey by the Medical Management Group Association, 79% of physicians report that they haven’t begun ICD-10 implementation, or were only “somewhat ready.”

Molly Cooke, MD, FACP, president of the American College of Physicians, said the college favors the delay. “The college has expressed concern at every opportunity about the implementation of ICD-10. I’m not sure the healthcare system loses a lot if we delay implementation for another year, and it certainly would give our members a bit of a breather.”Earlier this month, the Republican-led House passed a bill to repeal SGR and replace it with a formula that would calculate payments based on quality metrics. But the bill received widespread opposition from Democrats because it was paid for by a five-year delay in the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Lack Of Information And Misinformation Suppressing Enrollment In Insurance Plans

Recent polls are showing some of the obstacles to extending coverage among the uninsured. A study published Monday by the National Academy of Sciences showed that a substantial number of consumers lack basic knowledge of how insurance works which would be necessary to intelligently purchase coverage. A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows lack of knowledge of the deadline for obtaining coverage and widespread belief in many of the false claims being spread by opponents of the Affordable Care Act.

Many are unaware of next week’s deadline to obtain coverage and avoid potential tax penalties:

A third of those who lack coverage as of mid-March are unaware that the law requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine. When it comes to the specifics, four in ten of the uninsured (39 percent) are aware that the deadline to sign up for coverage is at the end of March, leaving about six in ten unaware of the March deadline.

When reminded of the mandate and the deadline, half of those without coverage as of mid-March say they think they will remain uninsured, while four in ten expect to obtain coverage and one in ten are unsure.

Many plan to not obtain coverage due to cost concerns, unaware of financial assistance available:

While some report trying to get coverage from new options available under the ACA, large shares of the uninsured remain unaware of two of the law’s key provisions that could help them get coverage. About half the uninsured are unaware that the ACA gives states the option of expanding their Medicaid programs, and more than four in ten don’t know that it provides financial help to low- and moderate-income individuals to help them purchase coverage.

The Kaiser poll showed a reduction in the gap between those who see the law unfavorably as opposed to favorably. While more now have a favorable opinion than previously, the majority continue to have an unfavorable opinion. Much of the opposition is based upon misinformation spread by opponents:

“It’s too expensive for regular people.”
“it’s costing too much money. It’s supposed to help people with low incomes and it’s not.”
“Because it’s a financial hardship on the U.S.”

The first two are based upon lack of knowledge of the assistance available which does make coverage more affordable. The third has been shown by the recent non-partisan report from the Congressional Budget Office to be false. Among its other benefits, the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit, reduce unemployment, and help stimulate the economy by freeing people from the insurance trap, enabling more people to work for and start small businesses

Opposition also includes a belief that the individual mandate is unconstitutional despite a Supreme Court ruling upholding the law. Some expressed the false belief that the ACA gives government more control over personal health care choices, echoing further scare stories from the right wing as to what the law does.

Despite unfavorable views about the law, a majority still would prefer to see improvement to the law as opposed to repeal or a Republican alternative:

Perhaps reflecting this sense that the debate has gone on long enough, more of the public would like to see Congress keep the law in place and work to improve it (49 percent) or keep it as is (10 percent) rather than repeal it and replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative (11 percent) or repeal it outright (18 percent).

The poll found that many aspects of the law are popular, even if many people are unaware of these and other benefits:

As previous Kaiser tracking polls have found, many of the ACA’s major provisions continue to be quite popular, including across party lines. For example, large shares of Americans – including at least seven in ten overall and at least six in ten Democrats, Republicans, and independents – have a favorable view of the fact that the law allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans up to age 26, closes the Medicare “doughnut hole” for prescription drug coverage, provides subsidies to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them purchase coverage, eliminates cost-sharing for preventive services, gives states the option of expanding Medicaid, and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Nearly as many (including a majority across parties) have a favorable view of the “medical loss ratio” provision that requires insurance companies to give their customers a rebate if they spend too little money on services and too much on administration and profits. Somewhat more divisive is the law’s Medicare payroll tax on earnings for upper-income Americans, which is viewed favorably by about three-quarters of Democrats and just over half of independents, but just a third of Republicans.

The individual mandate remains highly unpopular. Anticipation of this is one of the reasons I opposed the individual mandate prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, preferring an alternate system to provide incentives to purchase coverage and penalize those who try to game the system by waiting until sick to purchase insurance.

Much of the opposition to the ACA is based upon beliefs about the law which are untrue:

Misperceptions also persist about things the ACA does not actually do. For example, nearly half the public (46 percent) think the law allows undocumented immigrants to receive financial help from the government to buy health insurance, and another two in ten (22 percent) are unsure whether it does. A third of the public (34 percent, including 32 percent of seniors) believe the law establishes a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare, with another quarter saying they are unsure (23 percent of the public, 25 percent of seniors).

Unfortunately both lack of information and intentional misinformation being spread by opponents of the Affordable Care Act is likely to cause a substantial number of people to go without coverage this year. The deadline is fast approaching for purchasing coverage on the exchanges. There is no deadline for those who qualify for coverage due to Medicaid expansion, but Republicans in many states are also denying this benefit to residents of their states even though the federal government picks up almost all of the cost.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Republican Candidate And Pro-Republican Ad Both Making False Claims About Obamacare

Brian Buetler points out that the conservative claims of people not signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act are falling apart as we reach the end of the open enrollment period:

Charles Gaba — an ACA supporter and data Hoover — has been documenting the March surge, state by state on his Twitter account and his site, Gaba has the best numbers out there, and has been accurately forecasting official enrollment statistics for weeks. He currently projects total exchange enrollment will hit 6.2 million by the end of the month, not counting enrollment in off-exchange plans, and puts the grand beneficiary total (including Medicaid beneficiaries and “young invincibles” on their parents’ plans) at 11.9-15.6 million as of Saturday. Conservatives are thus, to no one’s surprise, furiously attempting to “un-skew” his figures.

And, as Vanderbilt health policy and med school professor John Graves notes in Health Affairs, turnover is a major hallmark of the insurance market. People who lose or change jobs, and thus become temporarily uninsured, will be eligible for ACA enrollment, even after March 31. Medicaid, isn’t bound by open enrollment. As such, enrollment numbers will continue to grow throughout the election season. Exchange beneficiaries might even reach the elusive 7 million total this year, a few months late, but before the midterms.

He also noted a “glaring error” regarding the Affordable Care Act in a conference call for Michigan Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land. Such errors are quite common whenever Republicans talk about health care. He pointed out that Land’s proposal (an idea commonly promoted by Republicans) could lead to anyone whose coverage lapses being permanently denied insurance coverage.

Just as incorrect and claims about Obamacare are common from Land and other Republican candidates, Glenn Kessler points out that the latest ad from the Koch financed Americans For Prosperity is making more misleading claims:

“Millions of people have lost their health insurance”

We’ve repeatedly written about this claim, most recently when House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) incorrectly claimed that so many people have lost insurance that there’s even been “a net loss” of people with insurance. Actually, there has been an increase in the number of people with insurance, though not as much as the Obama administration had hoped.

The Associated Press estimated that nearly 5 million Americans had their insurance canceled, but a large percentage of the people whose old plans were canceled were automatically moved to new plans offered by the same insurance companies. These people may not be happy with their new coverage, but they got a plan without going through Precise figures are not available, as the insurance market is private and fragmented, but insurance company officials say a majority of people could move to new plans they were offered.

The White House last year ordered an administrative fix that, depending on the actions of individual states, allowed as many as 2.3 million people with “canceled plans” to simply stay on their old plans for at least another year. (In early March, the White House extended that deadline to 2016.) The administration in December also announced a new catastrophic exemption to fill any remaining gaps in coverage — estimated to affect as many as 500,000 people.

In other words, only in a narrow sense have “millions” lost their health insurance.

“Millions of people can’t see their own doctors”

This sweeping statement could just as well describe the world before implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Most Americans get their insurance through their employers, and those plans could be changed at any time. Moreover, when people change jobs, they often also change health plans, which could also force changes in doctors. Of course, most plans do not prevent you from seeing a doctor who is not in a network; instead, your co-pays would be higher.

AFP in the past has run ads that feature people upset at losing their doctors, but this line is misleading because it presumes that everything was perfect before the Affordable Care Act became law.

“Millions are paying more and getting less”

This is another sweeping statement, and the most misleading. (Advocates could argue back that “millions more are paying less and getting more.”)

In terms of premiums, there is a fierce dispute now among policy experts about the impact of the law on the cost of health care. When we previously looked at this issue, after President Obama claimed that the law “has helped the cost of health care grow at its slowest rate in 50 years,” we settled on a “verdict pending.” It’s still difficult to compare premiums from before the law with premiums after the law — or to determine how much the law has to do with health-care costs today.

One big reason why it is difficult to compare premiums, before and after, is because the law mandates a comprehensive package of benefits — benefits that many plans in the individual market previously lacked. That increase in insurance coverage, according to a Congressional Budget Office study in 2009, was expected to boost the premiums of nongroup plans by about 30 percent, but the impact would be negligible for large group plans, which already provided many of those benefits.

But, wait, there’s more: Other factors were expected to reduce premiums in the individual market, so the total difference (before subsidies) was an increase of 10 to 13 percent per person. For people receiving subsidies, the cost of premiums in the individual market would actually decline nearly 60 percent, CBO calculated.

In other words, the insurance premiums may be slightly higher for some — or significantly lower for many — but the plans are also more robust.

So how does AFP justify that people are getting “less”? Levi Russell said the ad is referring to narrower health-care networks. He pointed The Fact Checker to an article in The Wall Street Journal on a McKinsey & Co. report that found that the percentage of plans with “ultranarrow” or “narrow” hospital networks had increased — though that also meant lower premium costs. In fact, many people apparently would happily pay less to get less.

“McKinsey found that nearly two-thirds of about 150,000 consumers surveyed since 2011 said they were willing to trade provider choice to lower their premium costs,” the article said.

Insurance companies have also been going to more restricted panels of physicians for several years, and this likely would have increased with or without the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act also increases the chances people can keep their own doctor as consumers will have more choices in health care plans, giving them greater opportunity to sign up for a plan which their doctor is in.

Update: Lack Of Information And Misinformation Suppressing Enrollment In Insurance Plans

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Don’t Panic Because Nate Silver Predicts Republicans Will Take Senate

I was traveling yesterday and when I finally got on line saw a lot of panic over Nate Silver predicting that the Republicans were favored to take control of the Senate. I don’t find this terribly significant.

We already knew that there was a real possibility that the Republicans could take control of the Senate and Silver’s prediction does not provide any new information. Silver making the prediction does not mean it is any more likely to occur than it was last week. He was way off in predicting a 61 percent chance the Republicans would take control of the Senate in 2012. I hope he is wrong again.

As I noted recently, Nate Silver’s predictions in the 2012 presidential election were similar to those from other sources (ignoring the Republicans who made predictions contrary to polling results). His predictions for the Senate in 2012 were also comparable to predictions being made by others at that point. His prediction for the Senate in 2014 is comparable to predictions already made by others.

There is real reason to fear that the Republicans will take control of the Senate is year, but the news of Nate Silver predicting this does not alter what we knew before he made this prediction and does not mean that it is any more likely to occur.