Archive | February, 2010

Day Fifty-Four

28 Feb

Here is the latest on my retirement, a mostly dull subject of little interest to anyone except me and on occasion my wife.  This is day fifty-four of the event.

I took a trip and when driving down the highway I was forced to pass numerous Buicks on the right, guess where I was going?  When I got there, I noticed when you passed a car all you could see of the driver were two hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel…let’s hope they had a periscope.   You guessed it; I went to Florida, land of average speeds of 22 and ten year old Lincoln Continentals. Unfortunately, my timing was a bit off, the day after I returned home I had to shovel 14″ of snow.

The meat is too well aged, I'll just sleep

I came very close to having dinner at 4:00 while in Florida, but the date was cancelled. I did go to Disney however and diligently paid my money to wait in line fifty minutes for an eight minute ride. I also played golf a few times in Florida freezing my butt off in the process, but keeping a sharp eye out for alligators keeps your mind off the weather.

A highlight was golf at Century Village, the original senior enclave for retirement living.  It reminded me a great deal of my trip to Russia, almost as depressing and with similar 1950s architecture.  There was one benefit though; I was the youngest person on the course.  You have to watch yourself there if you are a man, can drive at night, still breathing and upright (no pun intended) as there are seasoned cougar’s on the prowl, one nearly ran in front of my golf cart…I was flattered.

Every day that passes makes it harder to remember what day of the week it is.  I am grounded in Sunday because that is the day my wife goes to church, but other than that, I have no clue.  No, that is not true.  I remember Tuesdays, that’s the day I get a 10% discount at King’s supermarket and on Wednesday the local bakery gives 25% off to seniors.  This past Wednesday I was at the bakery and asked if I was going to get the discount, the young woman asked if I was a senior, I smiled and held out my hands as if in prayer, she laughed and took 25% off the price of my cannoli. Try as I may to avoid it, it is a foregone conclusion that I am a senior.

I Twitter and I have a Facebook account and I try not to ramble on either…it’s not easy given some of the material I am given to work with.

I have to say there is one thing I miss not going to work, that’s my routine of oatmeal for breakfast and a salad for lunch.  Now you may ask why I cannot have oatmeal for breakfast and a salad for lunch at home, damn if I know.  Rummaging through the fridge is too tempting.

Well, I am off to shovel snow…again.  That is another advantage of not working you can wait until you damn well please to shovel.

“Putting Americans In Control of Their Health Care”

25 Feb


I had two choices today, one was to shovel 14” of snow and the other was to watch the Presidents “bipartisan” meeting on health care.  I paid a college student to shovel the snow…go figure.  I have been at this meeting thing since 10:00 AM and it is now 5:00 pm, I should have shoveled the snow and saved $60.

The meeting on health reform was anything but that, bipartisan that is.  The Democrats spent their time providing ample horror stories and the Republicans played politics with the same old song.  About the most exciting thing was a debate over whether or not the Obama plan would lower premiums for individual coverage.  The CBO says it will not, but the President says that is ok, they will have better coverage.

Thank God that’s over with, where am I going to get another story like that one?

Reid has the best story about a restaurant owner whose child was born with a cleft palette and the insurance company refused coverage because it was a pre-existing condition, sounds like there may have been a few facts missing on that one as that would mean any condition a child was born with would be pre-existing.  Interestingly though while he mentioned the man was fighting to get the $90,000 in medical bills covered by his insurance he never questions why the bill was $90,000.  Reid also lobbied for elimination of the donut hole in Medicare Part D

Mc Cain acted as if he was on the campaign trail and Obama reminded him the campaign was over.

Pelosi, had her share of horror stories, and reminded us how well Medicare works – but failed to mention how we are struggling to afford it and keep it solvent.  She also bashed the insurance companies, but failed to tell people that as desirable as eliminating all underwriting may be, it raises cost for all covered by the coverage.

Senator Harkin argued for a comprehensive approach because you cannot do it incrementally, but failed to understand that if you start with cost you immediately have a positive effect on the access issue.  Harkin also mentioned that after Massachusetts adopted it comprehensive reform premiums dropped by 40%.  In reality, Massachusetts costs are out of control and the State is now looking at enforcing capitation payments on doctors.

Rockefeller says the health insurance industry is terrible and they are in it for the money.  They are looking for reasons to kick you out.  Employees are incentivized to find a way to kick you off the coverage.  The health insurance industry is the shark that swims just below the surface waiting to bite you.  Nobody has oversight over them, they can do what they want, they do, and it is money.  You have to go at them to clip their wings in every way you can.  John Dingell mentioned the high handed abuse by the insurance companies and the fact they can cancel your coverage as you are on a gurney going into the operating room…that and considerable rambling about who knows what.

A great deal was made (mostly by Republicans) of the fact that people should be able to buy insurance over state lines and thus save money.  An example was given that a person living within a few mile of another state could buy coverage in the other state for 25% less than in their home state.  Amazing, suddenly the claims incurred by the insured are no longer important.  State lines have nothing to do with it.  What matters are the mandates forced on insurance policies and the claims incurred by the people insured.

Back and forth, they went on deficit reduction, the Republicans saying the scoring of the Obama legislation was a Ponzi scheme in terms of lowering the deficit.  You decide; revenue is counted over ten years and the spending over six. 

Republicans hammered repeatedly over malpractice reform. Senator McCain used the Texas example of reform. Democrats mentioned that changing malpractice would save 1/5 of one percent of health care costs. Malpractice may help doctors save money, may lower premiums, may even draw doctors back to a state or medical practice, but there is little evidence that malpractice reforms lower health care costs.  Keep in mind that the system still provides incentives for health care providers to provide more health care…that is how they make money.

McCain and others blasted the issue of getting health care reform through reconciliation, which requires 51 votes rather than a full 60-vote majority required in the Senate. 

Pelosi: “The insurance industry has acted shamelessly” “Health care ref, ah health insurance reform is hard.”

In summary, there was nothing new and both Republicans and Democrats used the meeting as a platform to sell their ideas and proposals and to charm the American people…all twenty-three who made it through the day.  Republicans looked weak with tired old ideas and did not make the real case that controlling costs will in fact make it easier to obtain coverage.  Their plea for incremental reform fell on deaf ears and was never correctly explained.  They must have said “start over” fifty times, but failed to outline what steps could be taken and in what order leaving confusion and the idea that “start over” meant do little.

The President outmaneuvered the Republicans picking a few things that Republicans favor such as malpractice reform and buying coverage across state lines and indicating his willingness to consider changes thus leaving no room for any significant change in the Democratic bills.

The liberal pocketbook

25 Feb


I continue to ponder the mind of the liberal. While his goals always are lofty and well meaning, socially moralistic and cloaked in compassion, they are also absent a base in reality.

More disturbing is the mindset that personal responsibility is not the primary resource we should rely upon, but rather the collective resources of others frequently filtered through the morass of government. 

Liberal objectives are hard to argue against except in the cold light of reality. The problem is that reality is easily pushed to the future in the name of “progress.” The liberal mindset is also difficult to overcome because many, perhaps most people live their lives that way, i.e. fulfilling their personal desires regardless of affordability or longer term consequences and ultimately using others resources to alleviate their troubles (bankruptcy, credit card “relief”, income tax settlement or simply walking away from a house).

The United States is in serious financial trouble, likely the most serious in it’s short history. The interest on our debt alone is near $800,000,000,000. Our dependence on foreign lenders threatens our leadership in the world and perhaps our security. What more do we need for a wake-up call? Yet, in the face of the obvious the liberal continues to push for more entitlements, and more spending, content to rely on growing debt and higher taxes. As Margaret Thatcher once said, sooner or later you run out of other peoples money.  Entitlement as a way of life fosters a continuing dependency on others.

Take one minor example. The struggle to contain health care costs is well known, these costs affect every American. Yet, as we attempt to control these costs through reform, the liberal seeks to expand the entitlement indefinitely. Contained in the reform effort is significant expansion of the Medicare prescription benefit. Is this a desirable thing to do, certainly. Is it affordable, no. But we are told it will be paid for with other cuts and there you have the essence of the matter ” other cuts” should be used to lower current costs, not pay for a new irrevocable expense. In a related matter we are told Medicare cuts will be used to pay for government subsidies for other health care, OK sounds good. Except that Medicare is going broke and if there are billions in savings to be had, they need to be used to lower  total costs not shift them from one program to the other. There are many other examples beyond the health care issue but they all come down to the same thing.

We just don’t get it; we cannot distinguish between what we want and what may be desirable and what we can afford.

Why you can’t afford government worker pensions and benefits

23 Feb


The majority of Americans never had a pension in retirement and even among large employers, the lifetime annuity pension is a dinosaur.  That is not a good thing as we are learning in this economy.  On the other hand, there is still one bastion of the traditional pension, public employees.  These workers have two other things that are becoming unique: generous, frequently free health benefits, and union representation. The combination of government employment and unions is costly, powerful and potentially dangerous because union influence over politicians in the public sector means less objectivity in making decisions about employment matters, especially pensions and other benefits.   Public sector unions heavily influence government, especially state government, more so than voters.  Consider this from a recent Wall Street Journal Article:

“The political scientists Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo recently wrote in the Weekly Standard about the 2006 example of former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine shouting to a rally of 10,000 public workers that “We will fight for a fair contract.” Mr. Corzine was supposed to be on the other side of the bargaining table representing taxpayers, not labor.”

In essence, states find it difficult to act like employers approaching their worker’s benefits more like a welfare agency, which does not bode well for taxpayers.  For example New Jersey employs temporary workers during tax season and, during the rest of the year these workers collect unemployment, but keep their free health insurance. No private employer could afford such generosity and neither can New Jersey’s taxpayers.

Taxpayers are generally unaware of the major impact government worker benefits have on their local taxes.

In California many workers can retire at age 50 with a pension that equals 90% of their final year’s pay. The pensions for these (and all other retirees) increase each year with inflation and are guaranteed by taxpayers forever—regardless of what happens in the economy or whether the state’s pensions funds have been fully funded (which they haven’t been).  A worker who retires at age 50 may collect a pension for longer than they were employed. In Ohio, a worker with 35 years of service retires with about 91% of pay.  In addition, benefits in Ohio rise 3% a year after retirement.  In fact, a cost of living adjustment is standard for public employee pensions, but is rare in the private sector.  Such a provision adds substantial cost to the plan.  Politicians appear unable to be objective in their dealings with government workers but rather are driven by selling themselves regardless of the consequences. 

When the formula called for no increase in Social Security benefits for 2010, the immediate political reaction was to either waive the rule or provide yet another new benefit to help offset the lack of a COLA.  More on this topic in the Federal Times . Multiply this tendency by a factor of fifty for each state and you get a sense for the magnitude of the problem.

According to an Employee Benefit Research Institute report (April 2009), of the 50 states, the public pension plans of 20 states had less than 80 percent funding levels in either 2006 or 2007 (before the stock market collapse). The public plans of 19 states had less than 80 percent funding in both years.  In addition, public plans typically measure liabilities much more aggressively than the private sector, assuming returns of 8% to 9% when discounting promised benefits.  Also, from the same report consider this: “Public plan sponsors have not always contributed the amounts to pension plans that their actuaries recommended….public plan sponsors faced with a sharp decline in funding status may eventually have to resort to higher taxes or other public revenue to cover public pension obligations.”

Unlike private pensions, public employees contribute toward their future pension. Therefore one could assume workers are paying for the full cost of these benefits.  However, it is not true in the public sector.  For example, an average private pension is funded at a cost of about 6% of payroll and a good pension at about 8%.  In the public sector workers contribute from around 5% of their pay to as high as 18% (which includes some cost for retiree medical coverage).  However, pension benefits are so generous that the employer also contributes an additional amount often equal to or greater than what the worker pays.  In other words, a public workers pension costs twice or more that of a private sector pension plan. 

Moreover, who pays this cost?  Taxpayers of course.  Yet, the unions seem to be detached from this reality.  Their case is made based on the higher calling of government work and lower pay.  The issue of lower pay simply is not correct and even if it were accurate, it would be far more efficient to raise pay levels than to provide generous retirement and medical benefits where costs are more difficult to control, create an ongoing obligation and rise faster than wages. Public employee unions are doing to government what the UAW did to General Motors and like GM, neither management nor shareholders (taxpayers) are minding the store. 

I don’t care who pays for the pie, I want my slice (Ala mode)

Government workers should have a fair (but affordable) pension and other benefits, but the states go beyond that and add provisions that are unnecessary to that goal.  For example, in New Jersey (and other states) plan participants can borrow from the pension trust at 4% interest while the fund assumes at rate of return about twice that percentage thus assuring a funding loss for each loan granted.  In Ohio, a worker can select a survivor annuity, but if the beneficiary predeceases the retiree at any time, the pension is reinstated to the single life annuity amount.  Liberal early retirement and disability pension provisions and generous benefit formulas, including automatic cost of living adjustments, add to these costs. 

Beyond pensions, government workers especially at the state level have generous and costly health benefits.  The unions also drive such benefits.  The Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that: “Premiums for plans with at least some union workers were 4 percent higher than the premiums for plans with no union workers.” This is even more pronounced when the public employee unions are isolated, but the problem goes much further.  According to an editorial in the February 4, 2010 New York Times, health insurance premiums for retired military personnel have not been raised in 15 years.  Today an annual family premium is $460. Many active employees in the private sector pay that amount or near it as their portion of a monthly premium.  

The Mackinac Center  recently surveyed all 551 conventional (Michigan) school districts about their employer-provided health insurance costs in 2008-2009. The results were eye-opening. The cost of the average family plan for teachers was 39 percent higher than the statewide average for the same type of plan. Teachers on average contributed 4 percent to their own health care premiums, compared to the state average contribution of 22 percent. In more than 300 school district plans, teachers did not contribute anything to their own premium costs. Employees who contribute little or nothing toward their benefits care little or nothing about the true cost of their coverage.  That leaves no one else to care but taxpayers, but most have not made the connection between employee costs and taxes. 

New Jersey recently passed a law requiring government workers at all levels to pay 1.5% of their pay toward health benefits.  For someone making $35,000 per year that equals $43.75 per month, for a worker earning $80,000 it is $ 100.00 per month.  This is progress but insignificant progress.  Compare these premiums with a union worker in one Fortune 500 company in New Jersey.  Newly hired workers pay from a low of $303.00 per month for family coverage to a high of $489.00 depending on the plan selected by the employee. 

States provide not only generous benefits at low or no cost sharing, they enact provisions that make no sense in the real world. For example, in New Jersey if a couple are both covered separately by the state health benefits plan, they can coordinate benefits and receive 100% reimbursement for their medical expenses even though one or both may pay nothing for the coverage.  In addition, most retirees in NJ pay nothing for their medical coverage and the State reimburses them for their Medicare Part B premium.  New Jersey and other states have hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded liability for the health benefits promised to retirees.  In the private sector, such liabilities have caused the reduction and elimination of retiree benefits, not so in the public sector. 

A new study from the Pew Center on the States provides confirmation of the problems faced by the states largely because  irresponsible management of budgets, union negotiations, employee relations and employee benefit programs. 

Does all this matter?  Of course it does. Greece offers us an example of where we are headed. The following is from the Sunday, February 7, 2010 New York Times

DIMITRIS DAMIANIDIS is a high school teacher and a strong supporter of Greece’s socialist government. But that won’t deter him from going on strike with hundreds of thousands of other public sector workers next week to fight for the 28,000-euro pension that he expects to receive annually after he turns 60 next year.

“Why should I as a worker pay for the errors in policies?” he asked, in response to reports that the embattled Greek state will cut his pay and, by extension, retirement benefits. “The worker can’t be the scapegoat. So we have to defend ourselves.”

As Mr. Damianidis and others on the state payroll prepare to stop work on Wednesday, fear is building that the country’s new government may lack the nerve to cut public wages and pension payments, which make up 51 percent of its budget

To me this presents an interesting and somewhat incomprehensible attitude in that this person sees no connection between his entitlement and the country’s ability to pay for it.  This may be an extreme example, but it is little different from the attitude of many unions representing state workers.  Meanwhile the citizens of those states stress under the burden of income and property taxes and declining services.  

Promises are interesting things, people expect you to keep them, regardless of the consequences to anyone else. Somebody should remind our politicians of that.

Ha, here’s the rub, nobody has yet asked the CBO to price the Obama health care proposal

23 Feb

Amazingly the White House is throwing around cost and savings estimates for it’s new health care proposal and it has yet to be given to the Congressional Budget Office to price.

Here is what the CBO Director’s Blog says:

The Obama Administration’s Health Care Proposal

This morning the Obama Administration released a description of its health care proposal, and CBO has already received several requests to provide a cost estimate for that proposal. We had not previously received the proposal, and we have just begun the process of reviewing it—a process that will take some time, given the complexity of the issues involved. Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones. Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.

President’s health care reform proposal, not good news

22 Feb


Here is a summary of the , does it all add up to you? 

The proposal will make health care more affordable, make health insurers more accountable, expand health coverage to all Americans, and make the health system sustainable, stabilizing family budgets, the Federal budget, and the economy: 

  • It makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today.  This helps over 31 million Americans afford health care who do not get it today – and makes coverage more affordable for many more. 
  • It sets up a new competitive health insurance market giving tens of millions of Americans the exact same insurance choices that members of Congress will have.  
  • It brings greater accountability to health care by laying out commonsense rules of the road to keep premiums down and prevent insurance industry abuses and denial of care.  
  • It will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
  • It puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years – and about $1 trillion over the second decade – by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.


 Of special interest are the of the latest version of health care reform.  Here is a sample.

 Title IX. Revenue Provisions

Additional Health Savings

The Act will impose an additional 10 percent penalty on non-health withdrawals from HSAs and Archer MSAs; limit Flexible Spending Accounts under cafeteria plans to $2,500; eliminate, starting in 2012, the deduction for employer subsidies for retiree drug coverage under Part D; raise the floor on the itemized deduction for major medical expenses to 10 percent of AGI for the non-elderly and non-disabled; and limit excessive compensation paid by certain health insurance companies.

White House pushes health care reform with more money

22 Feb


Once again, health care reform is heating up.  This time it will be all or nothing.  The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the President’s proposal will build from the Senate version, but with even more benefits and more taxes, and more costs paid for in large part by additional cost shifting to seniors, employers, corporations, individuals and of course to higher income Americans.   In case no one has noticed, we are setting up a vast new entitlement that will grow in cost far faster than inflation, will be tweaked endlessly by Congress and will eventually add to the Country’s fiscal woes.  No, I am not a Harvard or Stamford economist, but I have observed the past record of promises and costs from Congress and their reaction to both. I have seen what happened to the promises created by Medicare and Social Security and so have you, in short ever-increasing benefits and an ongoing failure to fund them adequately.  This will be no different and in a few years, the health care debate will begin anew, assuming we can afford to keep lights on at the Capital.  And remember, the federal govenrment “saving money” is not you saving money. 

And don’t you forget, when you want to blame someone for health care problems, it’s those damn abusive insurance companies

WSJ:  The proposal would increase the value of the subsidies available to people to buy coverage. It increases aid to seniors buying prescription drugs through Medicare, and it increases funding for states to pay for expansion of the Medicaid program.

The changes will increase the cost of the Senate bill by about $75 billion, bringing the total price tag to about $950 billion, said Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House health reform office.

To make up for the lost revenue and pay for additional subsidies, the bill would apply the Medicare tax to unearned income for upper-income households and increase cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, private plans that serve some seniors. In addition, the higher penalties on businesses that don’t offer coverage and individuals who don’t carry it would raise money.

To pay for the additional Medicare drug benefit, the proposal would increase fees on brand-name drug companies by about $10 billion, above the fees on the drug industry already in the Senate bill.

Federal regulation of health insurance premiums, how dumb can we get?

22 Feb

The following is an excerpt from Bloomberg. Com

“Obama to Endorse Rules to Limit Health-Insurance Rate Increases

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama will endorse new rules giving the government power to stop insurance-rate increases it deems unreasonable, as part of a plan to revamp the health-care system, an administration official said.

Obama’s proposal, which would give the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the new authority over insurers, is to be unveiled today.

On Feb. 9, the President singled out for criticism proposed insurance premium increases by a California subsidiary of Indianapolis- based WellPoint Inc. that the company later delayed.

The proposal, first advanced in legislation introduced by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, would create a seven-member Health Insurance Rate Authority to make recommendations on rate reviews and approvals. The members would include consumer representatives, an insurance industry representative, a physician, and experts in health economics, actuarial science, and related fields. It would publish an annual report on insurance-market behavior, the official said.”

Sure, insurance premiums are the real problem. It has nothing to do with the underlying cost of health care, or adverse selection. Hey, what about my auto insurance or my home owners, don’t we need federal oversight of those “unreasonable” rate increases.

I think the federal government should also regulate the increases in self-funded plans too. I know one that raised employee premiums 23% in 2010.

This move is nothing more than another attempt to focus the debate on health insurance and not the real problems affecting the system. Give the masses a good target for their wrath and put the target far off the mark. Hey, it’s easier.

Anyone want to hire a strategic planner from Wellpoint, there should be someone there looking for a job.

Democrats ready to move on health care, public option back in play

21 Feb

From the

“Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.”

Look for a new bill next Monday

Sadly people are developing a just get er done attitude and America will be left with a health care law crafted by a handful of people largely ignoring many facts and circumstances and the opinions of experts who are not part of the political process.

This is a repeat of the hope and change election with an extra measure of disappointment to follow.

Democrats moving to health care reform by any means

19 Feb

According to Politico,

“Democratic leaders are considering a $200 billion reconciliation bill that includes more affordability subsidies, the union-tweaked Cadillac tax and filling in the gap in seniors’ drug coverage, which would be paid for primarily by additional Medicare cuts and an increase in Medicare payroll taxes above those in the Senate bill…”

This would happen right after the so-called health care summit on February 25th So much for open and honest discussion and bipartisanship. The credibility of the Summit just went down.

Apparently it no longer matters what is right, affordable or acceptable to Americans. The goal is only to have it my way and now. Congress is not only dysfunctional it is a dysfunctional pre-school class and that’s going some.

Is health care reform dead, did it die in Massachusetts?

18 Feb


Not on your life,

it is alive and moving forward.  The President remains committed to health care reform and is not about to let it get away from him.  In addition, do not think he is going to settle for minor changes. Remember, negotiations between the House, Senate and White House reached a point to send a compromise bill to CBO for scoring.  There is still a push for a bigger bill, not incremental change.  In fact, once again there is growing interest among some House and Senate Democrats to push for a public option. There is no time for an array of small pieces of legislation; the mentality now is getting it done before Easter recess.

Democrats believe they will be worse off if they do nothing, so there is a new Democratic surge on health care reform. There is widespread awareness that there may be fewer Democrats in Congress next year (perhaps even a minority), so 2010 may be best last chance for Democrats to claim victory on health care reform.

Democrats are using insurance company proposed 2010 premium increases in the individual market as an rallying cry to push reform, regardless of the facts; it remains popular to attack health insurance companies. Let us hope that insurance companies are not so dumb as to file these rate increases without unquestionable necessity…let’s hope.

Summit on February 25th      at 10:00 am

The White House Summit will include members from House and Senate, staffers, White House, CBO, Senate tax committee, etc.  The President is to monitor the discussion within several goals (1) lower costs for all, (2) correct insurance company “abuses”, (3) expand health insurance coverage, (4) make health care more affordable, and (5) help with fiscal sustainability. In addition, the President will have text of his health insurance reform package posted on the Web before the meeting. According to the Secretary of HHS, this outline will include the best of the House and Senate proposals.

So there you go, in a week it starts all over, the solution to health care problems (whatever they may be) under which everyone wins and nobody loses.

The solution to health care costs is coming in November

18 Feb

A new study from Columbia concludes that happy people were less likely to develop heart problems.

I conclude that fewer heart problems means lower health care costs. I also conclude that the right outcome in November elections will make people happier and therefore there will be fewer heart problems and lower health care costs.

And you thought politicians couldn’t help solve the problem. I feel happier already just thinking of the possibilities.

Government in action, since you paid is it a tax?

18 Feb


This is an excerpt from an article by Cary O’Reilly in Washington (.)

On Bloomberg News

The utilities were obligated by Congress in 1982 to collect spent nuclear fuel on site while a permanent storage facility they would help fund was built at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The companies paid more than $27 billion into the fund over the years, though the storage facility was never built. President Barack Obama last year decided that nuclear waste can never be stored at Yucca Mountain, rejecting the $58 billion project after 20 years of planning.

As a result, the utilities sued the government to get their money back…and are still waiting.  There are  more than 50,000 tons of nuclear waste now held at 122 temporary sites in 39 states, even as utilities seek to build more reactors in the U.S.

But now…amazingly after twenty years it has been discovered that nuclear energy fits into creating jobs and helping the from the Financial Times

Obama backs nuclear-power push with $8.3bn in loans

By Anna Fifield in Washington

Published: February 17 2010 02:00 | Last updated: February 17 2010 02:00

President Barack Obama said that $8bn in loan guarantees for the first US nuclear power plant to be built in three decades was “only the beginning” yesterday, as he redoubled efforts to promote nuclear power.

Portraying nuclear energy as vital to cutting US carbon emissions at the same time as creating jobs, the president appealed for cross-party support for building more reactors, part of his administration’s efforts to pass climate- change legislation.

“On an issue that affects our economy, our security and the future of our planet, we can’t continue to be mired in the same old stale debates between left and right, between environmentalists and entrepreneurs,” Mr Obama said at a job training centre in Maryland yesterday.

“See, our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing energy industries. And nuclear energy is no exception,” he said, pointing to investments in Japan, France, China and South Korea.

Unless these new plants don’t create any, it would appear that we still have a NIMBY problem for the nuclear waste, but hey, every day is election day in Washington.  Oh wait, perhaps Iran can figure out what to do with it.  Nuclear energy is vital that’s true, we can’t be mired in stale debates (I bet we can), but apparently we can ignore solving one of the major problems facing nuclear energy. Remember, you paid for the 20  wasted years of inaction

Their waste is a problem too, but there is bipartisan agreement that pork tastes oh so good

Hey, it’s a party

17 Feb

Here is what Paul Krugman said about the Bayh decision not to seek another term.

“by dropping out with no warning, leaving his own party unable to stage a proper primary, Bayh was behaving selfishly and irresponsibly.”

Others have made similar remarks about the damage to the “party.”

We have a dysfunctional Congress out of touch with reality, paralized by partisianship and still the top priority remains the “party.”

What is wrong with this picture? Are we at the point where acting like every day is election day is more important than doing the right thing?

Of course we are!

Does America spend too much on health care? A different point of view

16 Feb


Consider this from the Healthcare Leaderhsip Council

WHO Rating Obscures U.S. Healthcare Excellence

An honest assessment of America’s healthcare performance shows that we lead all nations on the things that count. The World Health Organization’s subjecting weighting system overlooks the factors that spotlight U.S. healthcare innovation and excellence.

New Hampshire surgeon Mark Constantian took a more meaningful, honest look recently in the Wall Street Journal. The WHO actually does rank the United States first in the world in “responsiveness to the needs and choices of the individual patient.” Dr. Constantian asks, “Isn’t responsiveness what healthcare is all about?”

 The WHO criticizes America for spending the largest share of GDP on healthcare of any country.  

Dr. Constantian asks, “What better way could there be to dedicate our national resources than toward the health and productivity of our citizens?”


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