Tag Archives: Obamacare

Julia Hurley Lost Her Insurance

That’s pretty much all you need to know about the former Republican state rep/dog surfer, who has written an Obamacare op-ed (excerpted here).

In it, Hurley states that since she lost her job and got dumped by her insurance company, she is rethinking Obamacare. As so often happens with Republicans, all bets are off once the plight of the plebes lands on their doorstep. Suddenly the social safety net isn’t the “hammock” they thought it was.

Hurley makes one good point:

I am a conservative Republican who believes in providing a future for myself without government involvement. I have been unemployed for nearly 14 months. Unable to collect unemployment and unwilling to take government assistance, I have spent nearly all my savings and, unless an employment option arrives, soon will be spending my retirement savings as well.

[…] If the Republican Party continues to fight Obamacare without offering an alternative, I fear the failure of my party is inevitable. The expectation of personal responsibility is being outweighed by the overwhelming number of unemployed voters, uninsured voters and, to be honest, voters without hope who are tired of being told to just hang in there a little longer because things will get better.

Well, join the club, honey. Yes, we’ve all been dying to know what the Republican healthcare plan is. Cue the *crickets*, right?

Then she says this:

If the Democratic Party continues to provide everything for a voter without encouraging some personal responsibility, I fear a gap between taxpayers and beneficiaries will open so wide that our government will not be able to repair the financial damages.

While I do not support the premise of Obamacare, I can fully understand the frustration of the unemployed, uninsured American. I cannot judge those who choose to use the program, for I know exactly what it is like to need it.

Gosh, I’m so old, I remember when Republicans sold the individual mandate as a “personal responsibility provision.” I mean seriously, Julia?

I still think Julia Hurley is an idiot, but she’s the kind of idiot who’s slowly starting to realize that Obamacare sure beats “I don’t care.”


Filed under health insurance, healthcare, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

Death Of Another RW Talking Point, v. Twentygazillion

Obamacare is lowering healthcare costs, not increasing them:

Even as coverage efforts are sputtering, success on the cost front is becoming more noticeable. Since 2010, the average rate of health-care cost increases has been less than half the average in the prior 40 years. The first wave of the cost slowdown emerged just after the recession and was attributed to the economic hangover. Three years later, the economy is growing, and costs show no sign of rising. Something deeper is at work.

The Affordable Care Act is a key to the underlying change. Starting in 2010, the ACA lowered the annual increases that Medicare pays to hospitals, home health agencies and private insurance plans. Together, these account for 5 percent of the post-2010 cost slowdown. Medicare payment changes always provoke fears — in this case, that private plans would flee the program and that the quality of care in hospitals would suffer. Neither of these fears has materialized, however. Enrollment in private plans is up since the ACA changes.

The law also emphasized that payments should be based on the value, not the volume, of medical care. In a value-based system, compensation is made for the patient as a whole, not for specific services provided. As a result, eliminating services that are not needed is financially rewarded. The reaction to this change has been rapid: Hospital readmissions, which used to bring in substantial dollars, are now penalized.


Before he was criticized for his statements about insurance continuity, President Obama was lambasted for his forecasts of cost savings. In 2007, Obama asserted that his health-care reform plan would save $2,500 per family relative to the trends at the time. The criticism was harsh; I know because I helped the then-senator make this forecast. Yet events have shown him to be right. Between early 2009 and now, the Office of the Actuaries at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has lowered its forecast of medical spending in 2016 by 1 percentage point of GDP. In dollar terms, this is $2,500 for a family of four.

Looking ahead, there is every reason to believe that costs will continue to grow slowly, maybe even more slowly. A study in Massachusetts showed that ACO savings increase over time as organizations move into more areas that can slow cost growth. An analysis of exchange premiums estimated that insurance costs in the exchanges are 16 percent below what was forecast two years ago; the lower costs were attributed to competition from new entrants in the market.

If cost growth continues at its low pace, the cumulative savings to the federal government would be more than $750 billion over the next decade. Such savings are likely to dwarf anything that comes out of Congress this year.

Every time Republicans fearmonger about Obamacare, facts prove them wrong. Yes, the website was a problem. But the underlying fundamentals of Obamacare are working. Costs are slowing. And Republican governors have lost their main excuse for not expanding Medicaid.

Yet I just saw the Republican former governor of Virginia Jim Gilmore on my TV repeating about a hundred times that “there are no cost savings in Obamacare” and “costs are going up.” It’s simply not true. Just because you repeat something over and over again does not make it true, Republicans.

This is what I don’t understand about Republicans. This fact-free bubble in which they live and breathe, where they seem to think if they say something enough times it will magically become true? It’s not working for you guys. Facts are facts, wishing they weren’t so doesn’t change them. And none of these facts has anything to do with a crappy website.


Filed under healthcare

Today’s Moment Of “Huh”?

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander joins the chorus of Republicans — all of whom have been trying to destroy Obamacare for the past three years — in calling for the resignation of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the website’s faulty launch.

Let that one sink in for a moment. The people who have voted to defund Obamcare eleventybillion times and shut down the government for two weeks over this very law they despise want the person who botched the rollout to resign.

Dudes. She should be your 2016 front-runner.

I see absolutely no reason to take these folks seriously, ever. It’s just more Kabuki.


Filed under health insurance, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

Obamacare War Is Over (If You Want It)

Republicans, you can end the Obamacare War if you want. You’ve already lost. It’s a free-market program, you know it is. You can get on board and implement it and let the free market do its thing, or you can continue to drag your feet and have whiny-baby fits, driving up costs with your inaction and obstruction. That’s not exactly how you tell us conservativism is supposed to work, but you know, the choice is yours. Be the principled free market conservatives you claim to be or continue to be this recalcitrant caricature of a political party. Your choice. If you choose the later your party will die, because reality is a potent neutralizer of fear.

Obamacare is working where it’s allowed to work.I give you this headline:

California Man Get Health Insurance For $1 A Month Through Obamacare

And here’s the story:

This is California, where the state didn’t attempt to sabotage the law. There weren’t efforts to obstruct, defund, misinform the public or prevent them from signing up. They didn’t dig their heels in and say, “fuckitall, we’ll just let the Feds set up our exchange, we don’t want to do it.” There wasn’t a rejection of Medicaid expansion, or this ridiculous notion that people could just go to emergency rooms and somehow the rest of the state wasn’t paying for it.

No, in California the state created its own website and was able to roll out its exchange, tailored to its specific needs. It worked on this for months and everything is going well. California is the nation’s largest market, and the rollout here, while not perfect, is also not plagued with the glitches seen elsewhere. It works here because people wanted it to work. Amazing what can happen if you have your want-to.

The war is over, Republicans. Do not be like the lone Japanese sniper living in a tree who still doesn’t know, decades later, that the Empire lost the war.

I find it really interesting that Republicans are working off a 50-year-old playbook when it comes to Obamacare. Today, Medicare is so widely popular, you even have Tea Partiers saying “Hand off my Medicare.”

Cognitive Dissonance Alert

Cognitive Dissonance Alert

Obamacare can work if you want it to. California proves it. If you’re unfortunate enough to live in a state governed by Republican’ts, whose guiding theology is government can’t work and government is the enemy, then it won’t. Simple.


Oregon cuts number of uninsured in its state by 10% in less than two weeks. This thing nobody wanted .. people want! And Blue States are able to implement it nicely.

Imagine what we can do when we work together.


Filed under California, health insurance, healthcare

Obamacare Fearmongering In One Screen Shot

I went to Snopes today, you know, the place that debunks internet rumors? I was looking for something else but while I was there I did a search for “Obamacare.”

Here’s what I got:


Microchips? Forced home inspections? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.


Filed under conspiracies, conspiracy theory, health insurance, healthcare

Denial Is A Habit They Just Can’t Quit

The awesome Juanita Jean caught this quote from Texas Republican Congressvarmint Michael Burgess. Appearing on CNN, Burgess reflected that the overwhelming, server-crashing response to the opening day of Obamacare sign-ups was really no big deal:

“I think if you subtract out members of Congress and their staff and reporters who called in those first 48 hours the numbers will be considerably lower,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), who is also a medical doctor, told CNN. “We will have an opportunity to dissect these numbers in our subcommittee of oversight investigations later this month or next month.”

Um, yeah. I’m sure members of Congress and their staff, up to their eyeballs in government shutdown drama, were just spending all of their time trying to check the Obamacare website ad nauseum all day long.

All of which illustrates how the Republican Party is still deeply wracked by the same denial which cost them the 2012 election.

Paul Krugman made an interesting observation about the long-term damage the GOP has done to itself:

It goes back to something Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo used to say — that Washington is, in effect, wired for Republicans. Ever since Reagan, the Beltway has treated Republicans as the natural party of government. Sunday talk shows would feature a preponderance of Republicans even if Democrats held the White House and one or both houses of Congress. John McCain was featured on those shows so often you would think he won in 2008.

And there was a general presumption of Republican competence. It’s hard to believe now, but Bush was treated as a highly effective leader who knew what he was doing right up to Katrina, while Clinton — now viewed with such respect — was treated as a bungling interloper for much of his presidency. Even in the last few years there was a rush to canonize Paul Ryan as a superwonk, when it was quite obvious if you looked that politics aside, he was just incompetent at number-crunching.

But I think the last two years have finally killed that presumption. It wasn’t just that Romney lost — his shock, the obvious degree to which his campaign was deluded, was an eye-opener. And now the antics of the Boehner bumblers.

Suddenly the old Will Rogers line — I’m not a member of any organized political party,I’m a Democrat — has lost its sting; the upper hand is on the other foot. And that’s going to color narratives and shape campaigns for a long time.

When Republican members of Congress grandstand about closed World War II memorials and shuttered national parks when they’re the ones responsible for closing the government in the first place, they look ridiculous. These PR stunts play well to the Fox News/right-wing rantosphere, but out here in the real world where we breathe oxygen not right-wing cray-cray, the sane people wonder if they’ll ever reattach themselves to reality.

And folks like Michael Burgess claiming the millions trying to access the Obamacare website were just members of Congress and the news media? Not helping, dude.


Filed under politics, Republican Party

The Root Of The Problem

Via Gawker, here’s why we have a government shutdown:

Kudos to the guy who says “Just the name says it all.” LOL. A nation this uninformed deserves what it gets. Then again, maybe I’m being too harsh. Conservatives spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to confuse Americans about what the Affordable Care Act really is and does.

Republicans can’t govern their way out of a paper bag but when it comes to confusing the American public, they do a masterful job.


Obamacare enrollment website has been completely overloaded.

Apparently there’s a demand for this thing that nobody wants/needs/understands.


Also via Gawker, How The Government Shutdown Is Affecting You. A lot of this stuff, like backlogs in paperwork at the VA and delays in approving contracts and grants, will have a ripple effect down the pike. Don’t be surprised if Republicans moan about government inefficiency in about six months, when the very thing they complain about was caused by shutting down the government.

Which reminds me of that other great quote, this one from P.J. O’Rourke: “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”


Filed under health insurance, healthcare

Maybe This Is What Scares Them

I know I’m repeating myself, but just to build on this morning’s post, let me share this item out of North Carolina:

One dynamic that analysts are interesting in observing is whether the health exchange serves as a mechanism for encouraging workers to change employers even in a tight job market.

One traditional drawback for employees leaving a job has been concerns about losing health insurance coverage during a transition period or receiving reduced benefits. With the exchange, health insurance would be portable since it is based on 7 percent of an individual’s or a household’s income, and not tied to the employer’s choice of insurer and plan options.

Making health insurance portable is an Obamacare benefit you don’t hear talked about enough, in my opinion. But it’s a chink in the plutocrats’ control over the workforce. It cuts one of the puppeteer’s strings.

It will indeed be fascinating to watch from a social studies perspective. Will people feel freer to pursue their passions, be it at another career or even as an entrepreneur? Will people fee freer to leave their jobs and get new work skills by returning to school?

I predict this portability will be a subtle but over time increasingly important change for American workers. Surely most people will stay at their jobs but, over time, as the realization that this important area of a person’s life is no longer out of their control, the change will be profound.

Millennials have all the luck.


Filed under employment, health insurance, healthcare

Kicking & Screaming

Obamacare obstruction, Tennessee-style:

Some states are going further, passing measures to make it difficult for people to enroll. The health-care-reform act enables local health centers and other organizations to provide “navigators” to help those who have difficulties enrolling, because they are ill, or disabled, or simply overwhelmed by the choices. Medicare has a virtually identical program to help senior citizens sort through their coverage options. No one has had a problem with Medicare navigators. But more than a dozen states have passed measures subjecting health-exchange navigators to strict requirements: licensing exams, heavy licensing fees, insurance bonds. Florida has attempted to ban them from county health departments, where large numbers of uninsured people go for care. Tennessee recently adopted an emergency rule declaring that anyone who could be described as an “enrollment assister” must undergo a criminal background check, fingerprinting, and twelve hours of course work. The hurdles would hamper hospital financial counsellors in the state—and, by some interpretations, ordinary good Samaritans—from simply helping someone get insurance.

This has prompted some folks to ask if it’s easier to get a handgun-carry permit in Tennessee than to help a poor person get health insurance. It appears the answer to that question is, yes. This defies logic and common sense, not to mention human decency, but it’s also par for the course where Southern states are concerned:

This kind of obstructionism has been seen before. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, in 1954, Virginia shut down schools in Charlottesville, Norfolk, and Warren County rather than accept black children in white schools. When the courts forced the schools to open, the governor followed a number of other Southern states in instituting hurdles such as “pupil placement” reviews, “freedom of choice” plans that provided nothing of the sort, and incessant legal delays. While in some states meaningful progress occurred rapidly, in others it took many years.

It’s beyond tiresome that we have to keep replaying these same movies, that we’re constantly revisiting this same script. The end result will be the same as it’s always been: Southern States and their honorary cousins to the West (hello, Utah!) will be dragged kicking and screaming into that bright future where everyone has access to health insurance. Yes, it will happen eventually. In the meantime, all they’re doing is prolonging the misery and suffering of thousands.

Here’s what they’re fighting:

Still, state by state, a new norm is coming into being: if you’re a freelancer, or between jobs, or want to start your own business but have a family member with a serious health issue, or if you become injured or ill, you are entitled to basic protection.

That’s it in a nutshell. Health insurance will no longer be a point of fear or worry. No more will there be the “I can’t because I could lose my health insurance” excuse.

And as I wrote last week, we’ve been heading in this direction for decades, especially here in the anti-union, “right to work” South. This is from 2010, but it shows how the American labor market has been transformed:

Research by The Human Capital Institute indicates that one-third of the U.S. work force is now composed of freelancers, also known as contract workers. And the institute says the pool of these workers, who often are part-time, is growing at more than twice the rate of the full-time work force.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, freelancers were one of the few groups that continued to see job growth throughout the recession and the slow economic recovery. The bureau adds that this trend has been building for a number of years. From 1990 to 2008, the bureau says the number of contract positions grew from 1.1 million to 2.3 million and includes a larger share of workers in higher-skill occupations.

Another labor bureau study found that about one in nine American workers is self-employed. It’s not just entry level, or even midcareer, job hunters who are joining the freelance world. Increasingly, top-level managers and executive teams are being shaken from established bureaucracies, replaced by temporary CEOs and troubleshooters brought in for their expertise in solving specific problems.

It is incredibly bizarre that employers turned to contract workers en masse as a cost-saving measure, yet now appear to be fighting the very healthcare reform made necessary by that act. Do they just not want a workforce with health insurance? That makes sense how, exactly?

Individuals trying to access the health insurance market have always been at a disadvantage: we’ve paid more and received less, we’ve paid our premiums and been denied coverage when we needed it, we’ve had rationed care, we’ve been loners in a marketplace dominated by big pools. Obamacare levels the playing field for all workers — including those who are out of work, in between jobs, or just starting out.

That Southern states are fighting this would be hilarious were it not so typical. This is how how the South has dealt with everything tp come down modernity’s highway: petulant intransigence followed, eventually, by grudging acceptance.

In the meantime thousands if not tens of thousands must suffer from this willful, self-imposed ignorance.

Same as it ever was.


Filed under health insurance, healthcare, South, Tennessee

Why Is This A Bad Idea Again?

No wonder Ted Cruz and the Republicans are having hissy fits over Obamacare. They aren’t scared it will be a disaster. They’re scared it will be a huge success:

TN health premiums on federal exchange to be among lowest

In Tennessee, sticker-price premiums are well below the national monthly average, officials said. That’s before taking into account tax credits that work like an up-front discount for most consumers.

For instance, premiums under the cheapest, or bronze, plan would average $181 a month, the third-lowest rate in the country after Oklahoma and Minnesota.

Premiums under the next-highest level, or Silver, plan would average $235 a month, the second-lowest rate in the country after Minnesota.

Death of another right-wing talking point. Ah, well.

We’ve seen a lot of teeth-gnashing and rendering of garments over employers cutting their health benefits for part-timers, pushing them onto the exchanges. The case of Trader Joe’s has gone viral, with the company explaining itself thusly:

Rather than provide affordable options for purchasing health insurance to part timers (those working less than 30 hours weekly), as Trader Joe’s does now, as of January the company will simply cut them a $500 check to help cover the costs of obtaining coverage under the new exchanges forming under the rubric of the Affordable Care Act.

This, in a nutshell, is Trader Joe’s reasoning, quoted from the email:

Stated quite simply, the law is centered on providing low cost options to people who do not make a lot of money. Somewhat by definition, the law provides those people a pretty good deal for insurance … a deal that can’t be matched by us — or any company. However, an individual employee (we call them Crew Member) is only able to receive the tax credit from the exchanges under the act if we do not offer them insurance under our company plan.

The email offers the example of a single mom making $18 an hour working 25 hours a week who currently pays $166.50 per month for her Trader Joe’s coverage. With the tax credits under the ACA, the message says, she can get nearly identical insurance for roughly half that under an Obamacare health insurance exchange. Add to that the $500 she’ll get in January and the bleak picture of lost benefits starts to change rather dramatically.

Over at Forbes, David Whelan whines that it’s “unfair” that he has to subsidize these part-timers, writing:

Here is the fairness issue. Like most working Americans, I pay an arm and a leg to provide my family with a health plan. I pay my own share of the premium and I forego the tax-adjusted employer-provided portion in higher income. I also have seen my taxes go up, on investments, Medicare, and after we went over the fiscal cliff. I also saw my future Medicare benefits decrease while new taxes on health products (devices, insurance) have been passed on to me indirectly.

So in a variety of ways, through new taxes and a loss of services, taxpayers are now paying not only for their own coverage but also for others to get almost-free health care.

There’s a lot wrong with this, but let’s start with “taxpayers are now paying not only for their own coverage but also for others to get almost-free health care.” Dude. Taxpayers already pay for this — a lot. A LOT. We pay more for healthcare than any other developed country in the world and we already subsidize, through higher healthcare costs, those who are uninsured and underinsured. It’s the cost of the broken healthcare system we currently have.

A helpful video:

A lot of what I see Obamacare doing is unhooking our health insurance access from employment. This is a major social transformation, but it’s one that is utterly predictable given the major workplace transformation which has taken place over the past 20 years: namely, the shift toward “independent contractors” and “part-time workers.”

This is something that hit my life about 20 years ago: even when I was “hired” by an employer, I was still considered an “independent contractor,” meaning I was responsible for my own health insurance (not to mention my own “pension”). And then there are the “part-timers” — that increasingly large share of the workforce given limited hours at places like Walmart, precisely so these companies don’t have to pay benefits.

This transformation in the workplace is very real, and it’s utterly predictable that there would have to be some kind of shift in our health insurance and pension delivery systems to accommodate those who no longer get benefits from their employers. You just can’t pretend these changes haven’t happened and carry on with an outdated system.

While most of us on the left would have preferred universal health care — “Medicare for all” — this is at least a start. No one should be forced to stay at their sucky job because they’re afraid to lose their health insurance. No one should be forced to declare personal bankruptcy because they can’t afford their medical bills because their crappy policy won’t cover them (or they couldn’t afford the policy in the first place). These are realities for millions of people.

And I have to wonder if some employers aren’t fighting Obamacare because they don’t want to lose that element of control over their workers? The “you can’t quit because you’ll lose your healthcare” cudgel?


Filed under health insurance, healthcare