Thursday, July 03, 2014

NY Obamacare Premiums Set for Double-Digit Rise; What about Oregon's?

From the New York Post:
Insurance firms participating in New York’s ObamaCare health exchange are seeking double-digit hikes for patient medical premiums in 2015, new figures reviewed by The Post reveal.
The average hike sought by insurers for individual plans is 12 percent—but a number of firms serving large numbers of patients want to boost individual premiums by nearly 20 percent.
What about the requests now going to the Oregon Insurance Division?

It looks like Moda (which now covers more than 40% of Oregon's individual market) is also asking for double-digit hikes: an 11-13% raise in the Portland area for the three categories listed (21 year olds; 40 year olds; and 60 year olds). Moda's small group increase proposals are in the 8-11% range. Below is the chart for individual 21 year old coverage.

As the New York Post notes:
The proposed rate increases call into question one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act — curbing runaway health-care costs.
Indeed. Weren't savings supposed to be something like $2,500 per family?

H/T Byron York

Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court: "Closely Held For-Profit" Corporation Owners Have Religious Rights

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that "closely held" corporation owners have religious rights protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
(a) RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for-profit corporations like Conestoga, Hobby Lobby, and Mardel. Pp. 16-31.
The Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) mandate requiring all for-profit employers to provide twenty free contraceptive types (including four which stop an already fertilized egg from developing) restricts the free exercise of religion. Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and Mardel were willing to pay for sixteen of the twenty which did not kill already fertilized eggs.
(b) HHS’s contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion. Pp. 31-38.
Even though the Court assumed the Government's argument that providing free contraceptives was of compelling state interest, the Court ruled that the Government had not used the "least restrictive means" to reach that goal.
(c) The Court assumes that the interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods is a compelling governmental interest, but the Government has failed to show that the contraceptive mandate is the least restrictive means of further that interest.  Pp. 38-49.
A significant problem for the Government was the fact that they had found a "least restrictive means" for religious and non-profit organizations. That there was a less restrictive means was shown by the Government itself in its "accommodation" for those religious and non-profit employers.
(c) (2) The Government has failed to satisfy RFRA’s least-restrictive-means standard. HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. The Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to no-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That accommodation does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion and it sill serves HHS’s states interests. Pp. 40-45

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Public Confidence in Military High at 74%; In News Media at Only 22%

A Gallup Poll report released this month shows public confidence in the military (74%) and small business (62%) is high. But less than 1/4th of Americans have confidence in the news media. In fact, only Congress (7%) rates worse than television news (18%) and internet news (19%). And newspapers (22%) only rate above those three and big business (21%).

Gallup has been polling on public confidence in various institutions since 1973 and television news since 1993.  Here are some of the differences between 1993 and now:

Public Confidence
1993 . . 2014
68% . . 74% the military
31% . . 22% newspapers
46% . . 18% television news
18% . . 7% congress

Confidence in the military is up about 10%. Confidence in newspapers has dropped about a third. Confidence in television news and Congress has plummeted by about 60%.

H/T Poynter

Monday, June 09, 2014

Under Obamacare More Non-Emergency Patients Using Emergency Rooms; Expanding Unreimbursed Costs Crisis

A study on Oregon's medicaid expansion showed an increase in emergency room use in 2008-2009 when patients got insurance coverage. Under Obamacare that is now being duplicated in other parts of the US.  USATODAY:
Norton Hospital [Louisville, Ky.] has seen its packed emergency room become even more crowded, with about 100 more patients a month.
That 12 percent spike in the number of patients — many of whom aren't actually facing true emergencies — is spurring the Louisville hospital to convert a waiting room into more exam rooms.
"We're seeing patients who probably should be seen at our (immediate-care centers)," said Lewis Perkins, the hospital's vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer. "And we're seeing this across the system."
Obamacare was supposed to cut down on emergency room use because those previously without health coverage would now be able to go to a primary care doctor with their new medical coverage. But, the reverse is happening.

Some say it is because there are too few primary care doctors for the new Medicaid case load. Certainly the healthcare system clientele has expanded under Obamacare.

However, the real problem is that Medicaid, which has seen an 8.2% expansion (4.8 million through March 31, 2014*), underpays considerably the actual cost of care given. So, doctors either don't take Medicaid patients or limit the number they do take. Doctors and their staffs don't like working for less than minimum wage or actually paying to care for patients.

The PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center network in Vancouver, Washington, alone took a $35.9 million loss in 2012 from cost of Medicaid care given vs. Medicaid reimbursement. So, they are paying to care for Medicaid patients. Multiply that by the more than 5,000 hospitals in the U.S., and it becomes big, big money loss and heads the U.S. healthcare system directly towards disaster. That is on top of the obvious crisis in actual medical care of not being able to give quick, complete emergency care to those who really need it in clogged ER waiting rooms.

H/T Byron York

Obama Team Anti-Woman on Sarah Palin; Hillary Refused to Go Along

Sarah Palin:

"Look who fired the 1st shot in the real "war on women". Hint: it wasn't the GOP. See this excerpt from Hillary's book":

Monday, May 26, 2014

In Grateful Memory - Memorial Day 2014

Willamette National Cemetery

In grateful memory to those who died defending us and those who have served and passed on.

Memorial (Decoration) Day:
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
. . .
It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Merkley: "Tuition is too darn high!" But His Fix Keeps Students Paying High Tuition.

Sen. Jeff Merkley
In an email with the subject line "Tuition is too darn high!", Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley says he's working on legislation to address the problem. But the legislation has nothing to do with tuition or any other direct higher education costs. 

No, Senator Merkley's big, bold move is to cut the amount of interest students might owe after borrowing to pay those "too darn high!" tuition rates.

Here's the text from the email:
Tuition is too darn high!
Sent By: Senator Jeff Merkley
On:May 05/22/14 
Making College Affordable 
It’s graduation season, and as many Oregon families understand too well, it is increasingly harder to afford higher education in America. We need an alternative to the broken model of mountains of debt and increasing interest rates. That’s why Jeff recently teamed up with Elizabeth Warren to introduce legislation that will provide immediate relief to students and graduates mired in debt. The Bank on Students Emergency Loans Refinancing Act would allow student borrowers to refinance their private and public student loans at a lower, fixed rate. As the first in his family to attend college, Jeff is personally invested in this issue. Pushing this bill is the latest in a series of steps he has taken to make college attainable and affordable for all Americans. 
Read more in the Register-Guard: "Bill might ease student loan squeeze"
[emphasis added]
Senatorial leadership at it's best. Keep paying the high tuition, but if you borrow to pay it, you might not have to pay quite as much interest. Sheesh.