NBC News:”Obama admin. knew millions could not keep their health insurance”

Lisa Myers & Hanna Rappleye report that:

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
Full report @ NBC News http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/28/21213547-obama-admin-knew-millions-could-not-keep-their-health-insurance?lite

Hat tip to Nick Gillespie @ Reason Hit & Run

Los Angeles Times reports on Medical Insurance “Sticker Shock”

All attention has been on the failed roll-out of the internet based “medical insurance exchanges” that are a central feature of President Obama’s healthcare reform. But the Los Angeles Time reports on a bigger problem – the Affordable Care Act threatens to make medical insurance unaffordable for large numbers of Americans.

Some supporters of Obamacare contend that we should accept price increases for some people in order to pay the cost of insuring the uninsured. But the Affordable Care Act goes beyond simplye requiring people to buy medical insurance. It mandates that all insurance plans must provide a standard set of benefits, rather than allowing people to choose the insurance benefits they want and that they want to pay for.

Many states already mandate a variety of mandated benefits, and that is a cause of the rising cost of healthcare insurance. The new federal law goes beyond already existing mandates, requiring that medical insurance cover birth control, mental health therapy and other benefits targeted to specific groups in the population. While it might be good to have these benefits as possible add-ons for people who do want to pay to have protection, requiring everyone to buy the same benefit package will make medical insurance more expensive for millions.

The new mandates contradict President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.” The Los Angeles Times reports:
Fullerton resident Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage.

Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month.
This is just one example, but as the insurance exchanges become active and people see what they will be required to pay, the honeymoon for the Affordable Care Act will come to an end.

The full article from The Los Angeles Times can be read @ http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-health-sticker-shock-20131027,0,2756077.story#axzz2j4EwYjar

Ronald Bailey:”The Morning After America’s Debt Binge”

President Barack Obama is adamant that he will not be held “hostage” by the Republicans in the House of Representatives, who are threatening not to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without some concessions on future spending and Obamacare. If the debt limit is not raised, allowing the Treasury Department to borrow more money, the federal government will default on some of the bills it owes in the next couple of weeks. Lots of commentators believe that such a default would have significant, if not devastating, downside economic effects.

Maybe so. But we should also want to consider the ways a relentlessly rising level of debt could damage our economic prospects. The debt ceiling for the United States is currently set at $16.7 trillion. In 2000, the U.S. national debt stood at $5.7 trillion. The amount of the U.S. national debt is now roughly the same size as the annual output of the economy. Is this a problem?

Yes, suggests recent research by numerous macroeconomists. Specifically, they find that a big public debt “overhang” likely slows down future economic growth for more than two decades. In other words, excessive national debt racked up now will make future Americans considerably poorer than they would have been otherwise
Full commentary by Ronald Bailey @ Reason Magazine http://reason.com/archives/2013/10/11/the-morning-after-americas-debt-binge

Full Faith and Credit

Ten days after the partial shutdown of the federal government, a number of things have become clear.

If a partial shutdown of the federal government is causing as much inconvenience as the talking heads claim, then the federal government is doing too much. The federal government has constitutional authority to defend the United States from invasion and domestic disturbance, to build highways, and to deliver the mail. But it has taken on many tasks better left to state or local government, or to private enterprise and voluntary associations.

Too many people are dependent on federal checks. Not just the 47% that Mitt Romney talked about, but even many in the middle class and upper middle class that tend to vote Republican. Tens of millions of retired people are dependent on social security for their livelihood, and medicare to pay for their health care. Those checks are going out – now – but as the federal government goes deeper into debt and takes on more responsibilities, the financial resources needed to maintain older Americans in dignity may also be threatened.

Another issue, rarely mentioned, is that the partial shutdown of some federal government services comes after many agencies engaged in a spending spree at the end of their fiscal year in order to avoid a cut in future appropriations. If they had acted more responsibly, some of the closed government bureaus could still be functioning as they await new appropriations.

And now, as the U.S. government reaches the limit of its authority to borrow, the President is asking for Congress to authorize an increase in the debt limit, to authorize the federal government to borrow more. The government is spending money so fast that even with a quarter trillion dollars coming into federal coffers in any given month, the government still has to sell securities to “balance” its books.

Democrats in Congress are pointing to the hypocrisy of Republicans over the debt limit, since Republicans in Congress – with a few exceptions – regularly voted to hike the debt limit to let President Reagan and President Bush run deficits that were unprecendented at the time. During the reign of President George W Bush, an expensive war and expensive new federal programs created new record deficits, and Congress controlled by Republicans voted every time in favor of hiking the debt limit. Republican leaders even suggested at one point that the law be changed, so that if Congress voted to spend money in such a way that new borrowing would be needed, the debt limit would automatically go up.

So we have Republicans in Congress, who approved every big government proposal put forth by George W Bush talking about fiscal responsibility. Democrats who have voted for massive new spending under President Obama now talk about raising the debt limit to protect “the full faith and credit of the United States.” When they voted to spend money, how much did they care about “the full faith and credit of the United States”?

Perhaps Republicans are making themselves look foolish by focusing only on the cost of the Affordable Care Act, when Americans are only now finding out just how much this new government program will cost. But now, as the federal government reaches the limit of what it can take in taxes, and faces a legal limit on what it can borrow, maybe now is the time to talk about the full cost of the federal government – across the board – and not just the cost the latest government program.

And perhaps Republicans can be more honest about how much responsibility they have for expanding the power – and the cost – of government. And Democrats should have to spend a few more weeks talking about “the full faith and credit of the United States” so that we can remind them of their words when they plan to vote for new expensive government programs that will again call into question “the full faith and credit” of the federal government.

Shikha Dalmia:”Republicans Should Convert Obamacare Into a Free-Market System”

Many liberals have been not-so-secretly hoping to use Obamacare as a Trojan horse for implementing a Canadian-style single-payer health care system. But Republicans could slip in market-based reforms that they’ve always wanted into this horse if they’d stop playing hotheaded rebels—a la Sen. Ted Cruz—and wasting time on futile budget battles.

The very fact that Presidents Obama and Clinton last week thought it fit to have an hour-long tete-a-tete on TV to put a happy face on the law suggests that it might be in trouble.

The latest evidence is Health and Human Services figures showing that, thanks to all the onerous new regulations on insurers, young people—whose participation is crucial for the law’s success—will face massive premium increases when the much anticipated insurance exchanges are rolled out across the country today.

Men under 27 would see their premiums rise nearly 100 percent on average and women 62 percent. Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy notes that even Obamacare’s generous subsidies won’t be enough to cover these added costs.

The upshot will be that many young people—who are two-thirds of the roughly 40 million uninsured—will prefer to pay the penalty ($96 in the first year) rather than buy coverage, especially since they can always do so when they fall sick. That’s because Obamacare bans insurance companies from turning away patients with pre-existing condition or charging them rates much above what others pay—the so-called community rating mandate.

After pointing out problems with the new healthcare system, Ms Dalmia proposes a reform strategy:

However, if Republicans play smart, they can use the moment of Obamacare’s reckoning to erect a market-based, patient-centered system that they’ve long advocated. How?

One big obstacle to this goal has been the lack of options for individuals to purchase coverage independently of their employers. Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, essentially on-line shopping malls where consumers can compare plans and prices, could overcome that, if they were properly constructed. But currently they are not.

They are larded with excessive mandates and regulations that’ll inflate premiums and limit coverage options for individuals. Republicans should start focusing on deregulating the exchanges so that insurers can offer more customized packages that genuinely serve customer needs at affordable prices.

Full column by Shikha Dalmia @ Reason http://reason.com/archives/2013/10/01/republicans-should-convert-obamacare-int

Gene Healy:”The NSA Is Still Spying on You”

Bad news for pandaphiles: The National Zoo’s “PandaCam” will go dark during a government shutdown.

However, the federal government’s power to keep an eye on the American people will continue to grow — it’s an “essential service,” apparently.

Sunday brought yet another revelation from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Since 2010, the New York Times reports, the NSA has been exploiting its vast databases to create “sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.”

On Friday, the Hill published a document from the NSA inspector general providing details on several occasions in which analysts spied on current or former paramours.

The NSA’s informal nickname for this is “LOVEINT.” In one case, for example, “on the subject’s first day of access to the SIGINT system, he queried six email addresses belonging to a former girlfriend, a U.S. person.” He got a demotion and two months’ reduced pay.

In 2008, a former Navy intercept operator stationed at a NSA facility described how his colleagues used to pass around highlights of soldiers’ phone calls home from Iraq

Full article by Gene Healy @ Reason http://reason.com/archives/2013/10/01/the-nsa-is-still-spying-on-you