Quote of the Day

“People in Libya want Moammar Gadhafi to leave. The problem is, he’ll be replaced by his idiot son, Moammar W. Gadhafi.” –David Letterman

(Letterman has done numerous variation son this same joke, yet for some reason it continues to be funny).

The Mandate Is Now Winning 3-2 In The Courts–But Remains A Bad Idea

While rulings against the Affordable Care Act tend to get more publicity, a third judge has ruled that health care reform is constitutional. The latest case was heard in  the District of Columbia by a Clinton appointee. We now have three Democratic appointees ruling in favor of the law and two Republican appointees claiming it is unconstitutional. It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will rule.

The ruling points out that to make one of the arguments against the law is to “ignore reality.” This could also be said for most conservative arguments on pretty much any topic these days.

While I believe the constitutional arguments against the individual mandate are nonsense, and that the mandate is not sufficient reason to oppose the necessary reforms in the act, it remains a mistake for Democrats to support the individual mandate. This is an old Republican idea which Democrats never should have adopted. There are other ways to handle the free rider problem.

The division here is often between the more traditional Democrats and those of us who vote Democratic primarily because we oppose the type of big government supported by Republicans which generally is more intrusive in the lives of individuals. Unlike conservatives, we also recognize that there are areas where government action is necessary when the market fails, such as with the individual insurance market.

The underlying problem here is that, while there are justifications for it, the individual mandate changes the perception of health care reform from something being done by government to assist those who desire assistance to something which is being imposed by big government. I know some on the left respond to arguments such as this by claiming it helps conservatives by using conservative frames. As I have argued many times before, they are wrong. Individual liberty has historically been the liberal position and liberals should both embrace this position and take it into consideration in the drafting of legislation. The old Republican position of using individual mandates to solve the free rider problem should be rejected in favor of alternative measures.

Many ideas have been proposed to handle the free rider problem to prevent people from waiting until they are sick to purchase health insurance if there are no restrictions on pre-existing conditions. We could have open enrollment periods like the voluntary Medicare Part D program, with those who purchasing outside of such open enrollment periods being subject to the old insurance company rules. There could also be higher premiums for those who sign up later, as is also done with Medicare Part D, to make up for the premiums not paid into the system when the individual was younger and healthier. There could be financial penalties, possibly enforced by the IRS, upon those who cost the government money by seeking health care coverage after failing to purchase insurance to compensate for this cost to society. Bankruptcy laws could be changed so that people who declined insurance cannot eliminate debts for health care. Changes such as this could limit the problems from the free rider problem, while eliminating the major reason why many on both the left and right have opposed the current plan.

David Letterman’s “Top Ten Little-Known Facts About United States Presidents” & Other Presidents’ Day Jokes

It’s a little late, but here’s some highlights from Presidents’ Day.

David Letterman’s “Top Ten Little-Known Facts About United States Presidents

10. William Howard Taft was so fat, he’s considered our 27th and 28th presidents
9. Teddy Roosevelt answered the phone, ‘Hellosevelt?’
8. The K in James K. Polk stood for Kanye
7. Like the cartoon cat, James A. Garfield loved lasagna and hated Mondays
6. To conserve energy when possible, Jimmy Carter would travel via pogo stick
5. During one of his fireside chats, FDR accidentally burned down the map room
4. John Tyler was the only president to work his way up from the mailroom
3. Zachary Taylor’s vice president was a cocker spaniel named Angus
2. Our only unmarried president, James Buchanan was fond of posing as his own first lady
1. George W. Bush was not born in the United States

And some bonus Presidents’ Day jokes:

“Bill Clinton recently revealed that he only sent two e-mails while he was President. Then he added, “And it turns out those pills are just a scam.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Happy Presidents Day. This is a day when we celebrate history by getting great deals on mattresses.” –Craig Ferguson

“President Taft was so fat that before he was elected to the Oval Office it was square.” –Craig Ferguson

“I’m glad we have a day for the presidents, but shouldn’t we have a day for Congress when the Senate and the House can kick back and not worry about getting anything done? Oh, wait.” –Craig Ferguson

Quote of the Day

“All across the Middle East in the streets, people are demanding democracy. It’s amazing. The only way in America you get people to get worked up like that is to threaten to give them health care.” –Bill Maher

Redistribution of Wealth

Mother Jones has a set of eight charts which show the tremendous increase in income inequality in this country. Years of Republican policies designed to redistribute the wealth towards the top one percent have worked. The richest ten percent of Americans control two-thirds of its wealth. When polled, most Americans greatly underestimate the degree of income inequality, and think there should be even less:

With all the talk about tax rates, the rich are now being taxed at lower rates than when Ronald Reagan was president. That would continue to be true even if the Bush tax cuts (a major cause of the current deficit) were repealed:

Check out the full post for more charts and links to their sources.

Question of the Day

If the goal of Republicans is to reduce abortions, shouldn’t they be supporting organizations such as Planned Parenthood which assist women with birth control rather than cutting funding for the organization? If the Republicans don’t want government to pay for health care such as cancer treatment, wouldn’t it make more sense to continue funding for for early screening by groups such as Planned Parenthood?

Quote of the Day

“President Obama was in San Francisco today, meeting with a group of technology executives, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Their goal is to figure out how to create new jobs, to replace jobs that have been lost as a result of everyone spending all their time at work on Facebook.” –Jimmy Kimmel

Bonus Quote of the Day:

“The President hopes that, based on the success of programs like Farmville, a million new imaginary jobs can be created by the year 2012.” –Jimmy Kimmel

Question of the Day

With so many states along with the federal government not having enough revenue to pay for current services, if spending for the drug war were eliminated would this get them out of the hole?

Posted in Drug Policy, Economy. Tags: . No Comments »

Snyder Chases The Avengers Away From Detroit

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has accomplished what many super-villains could not do–chase away The Avengers. One aspect of Snyder’s budget proposal is to eliminate the tax breaks provided to the movie industry to film in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports on the decision not to film portions of the upcoming Avengers movie in Michigan as a consequence of the change:

Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal on Michigan film incentives is sending immediate aftershocks.

“The Avengers” — a big-budget Marvel superhero film featuring Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and others that was to be partially shot here this summer — has already decided it won’t be filming in the state, several people with connections to the film told the Free Press.

The “Avengers” story echoes the buzz spreading through the local film industry that projects wanting to come here are either holding off on their plans or changing their locations to another state.

Anxiety, uncertainty and anger are building in the metro Detroit film community over Snyder’s budget plan, which essentially would eliminate the current film tax incentive and instead call for $25 million in each of the next two years for future movie projects.

Previously the tax breaks were considered to be valuable as the presence of the movie industry was helpful for local businesses:

The departure of the “The Avengers” project means a loss to more businesses than those involved with on-set duties.

“We were currently in negotiations to work with them at some point during their stay,” said Scott Stinebaugh, director of sales and marketing for the Westin Book Cadillac.

The film industry in general represented more than $1 million to the Book Cadillac in 2010, Stinebaugh said.

If those opportunities go away, “it will be a devastating blow not just to us, but to all of the metropolitan Detroit hospitality community,” he said.

To be fair to Snyder, it should also be noted that he is arguing that his proposed reductions in business taxes solve the problem which made it necessary to provide these breaks in the first place, but it does not appear that the movie industry is seeing it this way. Snyder is basing his tax policies on the argument that they will bring more business to Michigan, but he has failed here.

The Failure Of The Individual Market For Health Insurance

A major reason why health care reform is needed is the failure of the free market to provide reasonably priced health care to those on the individual market. An op-ed in The New York Times describes the problems faced by one affluent family when their company was bought out and they attempted to purchase insurance on the individual market:

The truth is that individual health insurance is not easy to get.

I found this out the hard way. Six years ago, my company was acquired. Since my husband had retired a few years earlier, we found ourselves without an employer and thus without health insurance.

My husband, teenage daughter and I were all active and healthy, and I naïvely thought getting health insurance would be simple.

Why did we even need insurance? First, we wanted to know that, if we had a medical catastrophe, we would not exhaust our savings. Second, uninsured patients are billed more than the rates that insurers negotiate with doctors and hospitals, and we wanted to pay those lower rates. The difference is significant: my recent M.R.I. cost $1,300 at the “retail” rate, while the rate negotiated by the insurance company was $700.

An insurance broker helped me sort through the options. I settled on a high-deductible plan, and filled out the long application. I diligently listed the various minor complaints for which we had been seen over the years, knowing that these might turn up later and be a basis for revoking coverage if they were not disclosed.

Then the first letter arrived — denied. It never occurred to me that we would be denied! Yes, we had listed a bunch of minor ailments, but nothing serious. No cancer, no chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes, no hospital stays.

Why were we denied? What were these pre-existing conditions that put us into high-risk categories? For me, it was a corn on my toe for which my podiatrist had recommended an in-office procedure. My daughter was denied because she takes regular medication for a common teenage issue. My husband was denied because his ophthalmologist had identified a slow-growing cataract. Basically, if there is any possible procedure in your future, insurers will deny you.

The broker then proposed that the three of us make individual applications. Perhaps one or two of us might be accepted, rather than the family as a group.

As I filled out more applications, I discovered a critical error in my strategy. The first question was “Have you ever been denied health insurance”? Now my answer was yes, giving the new companies reason to be wary of my application. I learned too late that the best tactic is to apply simultaneously to as many companies as possible, so that you don’t have to admit to a denial.

When faced with situations such as this, many go without insurance while others wind up with expensive, high deductible policies which often provide limited coverage. While one of the more worst examples, earlier this month I had a patient come in with a newly purchased health insurance policy which had an annual limit of $150 in coverage. Health care reform is not a “government take-over of health care” as conservatives claim. It is a reasonable act of government stepping into an area to provide necessary regulation when the market has failed.