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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Open Thread

I have been meaning to write something over the last few days, but have been busy and can’t seem to zero in on one topic – there’s so much to write about and I apparently have ADD.

This is just one subject I was going to address. But there are lot of others, so feel free to bring up whatever you would like:

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Open Thread

 

You Can Soon Play Angry Birds Gate To Gate!

angry-birdsWoo hoo. The FAA has finally determined that it is safe to use your iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Androids, and other electronic devices on airplanes even below 10,000 feet. Thanks to the miracles of modern science, you’ll soon be able to play your favorite mind-numbing games starting as soon as you walk on the plane to when you get up out of your seat and catch your bags falling from the overhead bin. And the plane won’t crash! Progress marches on.

Per the FAA press release:

WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta today announced that the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with implementation guidance.

Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.

The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.

Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll. Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones. If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Big Government, Current Events

 

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Anybody Remember Sears?

It makes me sad that Sears will likely be gone in the not-too-distant future. This article — and the photo essay which inspired it — tell the story:

When Brian Sozzi, the chief executive of Belus Capital Advisors, visited Sears locations in New York and New Jersey this month, he said, he found barren shelves, haphazard displays and badly stained carpets.

Also missing: customers.

“It’s just badness throughout,” Mr. Sozzi said in an interview. “Every store has something fundamentally wrong with it.”

1966 Sears Christmas CatalogThose of us of a certain generation have fond memories of Sears, most particularly the arrival of the annual Sears Christmas catalog in the mailbox each fall. The four of us kids literally pored over that thing, especially the incredible (at least it seemed to us) toy section — a hundred or more glossy pages filled with color photographs of what we presumed to be every toy made in the world. It was the stuff of dreams, let me tell you. We’d earmark the pages and make notes of our wish lists, hoping that somehow our parents (or Santa) would find it within themselves to grant us those wishes.

Alas, at the time we were earmarking our pages, the company founded in 1893 by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck as a mail order catalog was at its peak. In the 1970s, Sears began a long, slow decline. It remained America’s largest retailer until being eclipsed by Walmart in 1989. Sixteen years later, it was bought out by Kmart, which in earlier days seemed like today’s “dollar stores” compared to the stately Sears stores of the sixties.

Now things seem to have gotten pretty bad. I live minutes from a Sears store, and I never give it a thought. Sad, but things change.

Ironically, there’s a Sears commercial on television just as I started writing this. The narrator has a pleasant female voice who makes it sound like it isn’t a bad place to visit. Maybe I’ll head over tomorrow for old time’s sake and check out the Craftsman tools–they’re guaranteed for life!–even though I can get the same Craftsman tools at the nearby Orchard Supply Hardware store.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Current Events

 

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The Next Fox News ObamaCare Poster Victim [Updated]

Look for Dianne Barrette to be splashed across the screens of every Fox News show in the coming days. She’s the woman from Winter Haven, Fla. who appeared on CBS today (yes, dirty, liberal mainstream media!), complaining that her insurance is going up by ten times.

From the transcript:

Last month, [Barrette] received a letter from Blue Cross/Blue Shield informing her as of January 2014, she would lose her current plan. Barrette pays $54 a month. The new plan she’s being offered would run $591 a month, ten times more than what she currently pays. “What I have right now is what I’m happy with, and I just want to know why I can’t keep what I have. Why do I have to be forced into something else?” [says Barrette]

Sure enough, I happened to hear about five minutes of the Sean Hannity radio show today and naturally, he’s now repeating the canard, “Insurance rates are rising by ten times!” with no context–a Hannity specialty.

As with the know-nothings who appeared on Hannity’s television show last week, a diligent reporter followed up; in this case, Erik Wemple. As Wemple writes:

More coverage may provide a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of Barrette’s situation: Her current health insurance plan, she says, doesn’t cover “extended hospital stays; it’s not designed for that,” says Barrette. Well, does it cover any hospitalization? “Outpatient only,” responds Barrette. Nor does it cover ambulance service and some prenatal care. On the other hand, says Barrette, it does cover “most of my generic drugs that I need” and there’s a $50 co-pay for doctors’ appointments. “It’s all I could afford right now,” says Barrette.

In sum, it’s a pray-that-you-don’t-really-get-sick “plan.” When asked if she ever required hospitalization, Barrette says she did. It happened when she was employed by Raytheon, which provided “excellent benefits.” Ever since she left the company and started working as an independent contractor, “I haven’t been hospitalized since then, thank God.” Hospitalization is among the core requirements for health-care plans under Obamacare.

As Wemple notes, Ms. Barrette’s current coverage doesn’t cover hospital stays at all; even a short stay could well bankrupt her under her current insurance.

But let’s look a little further. From Wemple’s article, we know the county Ms. Barrette lives in (Polk County), her age (56) and her income (about $30,000 annually). That’s enough to go shopping for health insurance for her. According the results at healthcare.gov, she could get a catastrophic plan for $235 per month, a bronze plan for $327, and a silver plan for $371. All of these are cheaper than the $591 she claims her new insurance would cost her.

Furthermore, she is eligible for subsidies because her annual income is less than $46,000. Plugging in her data into the Kaiser Family Foundation Subsidy Calculator, we find that, yes indeed, she is eligible for a subsidy. That Silver plan would actually cost her $209 per month, a Bronze plan $97 per month. The Silver plan would pay 70% of her health care costs (the Bronze plan, 60%), and her maximum out-of-pocket would be $6350. She’s not likely to go bankrupt with either plan if her appendix bursts.

Listening to Hannity today, these subtleties are completely lost in favor of repeating the headline, “Under ObamaCare rates are increasing by as much as ten times!” I don’t expect much better from Fox News.

UPDATE: An article at DailyKos has more details about Ms. Barrette’s current plan:

We can see from the video that Dianne Barrette has “GoBlue plan 91”. This is a ‘limited benefit’ plan. It is widely understood that these plans are not replacments for comprehensive health insurance plans, and it’s easy to see why. If Ms. Barrette incurs $30,000 worth of medical care, the plan will pay somewhere between $50 and $500 depending on the services. There are two things you get from these plans: a provider to negotiate down rates for you, and a small amount covered by the insurer themselves. You can see the supporting documentation for this plan here:

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70 Comments

Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Current Events, Health Care, Politics

 

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Lovin’ Me Some ObamaCare

In a previous post, Cluster wrote:

Now don’t get me wrong, if the ACA would have increased competition and allowed me to shop from a cafeteria menu of coverages and policies at lower premiums and reasonable deductibles – I would be for that. But that would have been a free market approach. As it is, the ACA is a Statist approach, so choices will fewer and costs will be higher. At least for most of us.

I wonder if Cluster has actually investigated coverage on ObamaCare.

I am currently semi-retired, meaning I work 20 hours a week. A nice thing about this is that I retain all of my employer-provided benefits, including health care. (And you thought all employers were cutting out health care for their part-timers, didn’t you. :-)) Of course, I’ve been thinking of retiring completely for a while.

One of the biggest concerns related to retiring early is health care. Typically, an early corporate retiree will go on COBRA in order to continue their company-provided health care coverage for as long as possible. The retiree enjoys the exact same health care he had as an employee, but must pay all of the costs, including the portion that was previously paid by the employer. In my case, the monthly cost to continue health care via COBRA would be $907 per month. (This is the cost to cover myself only.)

COBRA lasts a maximum of 18 months. Once COBRA eligibility is used up, a retiree younger than age 65 must seek out health care on the individual market. Prior to ObamaCare, this was a somewhat daunting task filled with unknowns. The problem was that in California, where I live, insurance companies were under no obligation to provide individual insurance, regardless of costs. People in their fifties and early sixties are exactly the kinds of people that insurers avoided on the individual market. For example, the Kaiser Permanente website explained,

“[T]hese plans [individual and family coverage] do go through medical review and those with serious pre-existing health conditions are often denied. The only automatic denial stated by Kaiser underwriters is current pregnancy, but those with serious health conditions such as cancer, HIV, heart problems, obesity, etc. are often denied. If denied, your only chance of getting healthcare coverage may be to find employment (for you or your spouse) that offers a group medical plan or to apply for Medicare or Medi-Cal.”

It’s hard to reach the age of 55 or 60 without some history that would be deemed a pre-existing condition. And most retirees need to consider both their own health as well as that of their spouse.

Acknowledging the uncertainty of the individual market for retirees, my company has for the past several years offered a retiree health care plan through Aetna for retiring employees 55 years of age or older. The main selling point of the plan is that there is no medical underwriting. All retiring employees are accepted regardless of their current health status or their history.

The cost of the Aetna plan is $1538 per month with an annual deductible of $3950 and maximum out of pocket of $6250 in-network, $10,000 out-of-network. After the deductible has been paid, I would then generally pay 20% of the services provided, though for some services I would pay 40%. This is just to cover myself. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?

Now we have ObamaCare. I live in California, which set up its own exchange, Covered California. I went to coveredca.com and checked out the plans. Several insurance companies offer them; There are 26 plans available to someone my age living in my area. The most expensive coverage is a Platimum 90 plan. No deductible at all. Maximum out of pocket of $4000. $20-$40 copay, though no copay for preventative care. (Aetna would charge me 40% for preventative care.) I can get a Platinum 90 plan for $785 per month–about half the cost of the Aetna plan. This is sounding pretty good.

But let’s look for a plan with similar characteristics to the Aetna one. That would roughly be a Bronze 60 plan with a deductible of $5000 and maximum out-of-pocket of $6350. I can get one of those for as little as $464 per month. All of these plans have the same main selling point of that Aetna one–no one can be denied coverage. They just cost a lot less. I’m liking this. A lot.

Now let’s look at Cluster’s situation. I happen to know in which state and county Cluster lives. That state chose not to set up its own exchange, so I shopped for Cluster plans on healthcare.gov. Assuming Cluster is age 50 or over, there are 119 plans available available to him, ranging in price from $178 to $567 per month. What were you saying about competition, Cluster?

There are a lot of choices, but Cluster could get a Platinum plan with $20/$40 co-pays and a deductible of $2000 for $348 per month. A Bronze plan can be had for $237 a month. These prices assume that Cluster would not qualify for any subsidies. Only Cluster could tell us how that compares to his current plan, but as a Californian, I’m thinking I should move into Cluster’s old house when he leaves the country.

I notice they’ve been making improvements to healthcare.gov. A couple of weeks ago, it wasn’t possible to shop for plans without going through the application process. Now you can. It’s actually quite easy and I was able to find 119 plans for Cluster in about a minute.

Apparently, a minute is too long for many people to learn about their options. Instead, they’d rather go on television and demonstrate their ignorance to the rest of us. An example is a recent piece on Sean Hannity’s show about the ObamaCare “train wreck”–his favorite phrase these days. He interviewed six people who recounted their ObamaCare “horror stories,” including tales of “canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on.” As journalist Eric Stern put it upon viewing the segment, “none of it smelled right to me.” So he decided to investigate.

It turns out that none of the folks on Hannity’s show had bothered to look into their ObamaCare options. One couple, Paul and Michelle Cox, who own a small business, complained to Hannity that “they can’t grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers,” all because of ObamaCare. But as Stern points out in his article,

Obamacare has no effect on businesses with 49 employees or less. But in our brief conversation on the phone, Paul revealed that he has only four employees. Why the cutback on his workforce? “Well,” he said, “I haven’t been forced to do so, it’s just that I’ve chosen to do so. I have to deal with increased costs.” What costs? And how, I asked him, is any of it due to Obamacare? There was a long pause, after which he said he’d call me back. He never did.

None of this matters to Hannity, of course, as he depends upon the ignorance of others for a living. And it may not matter to Cluster, as he may well have perfectly fine health care coverage and no need to shop for something different. I wouldn’t look too hard myself, either, if I wasn’t contemplating leaving the corporate cocoon. But hopefully Cluster has, or will, do his own research so that he can come to an informed opinion. I hardly think he’s in the same category as the Hannity know-nothings. As for me? I’m liking what I see.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in Current Events, Health Care, Politics

 

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Things Are Going Well – Don’t You Think?

I contended the other day and still contend that I believe Obama has never even read the ACA. How else do you explain his completely misleading statements over the previous two years that if you liked your insurance plan, you could keep it? He even said emphatically – “end of story”. Well now, because of policy mandates, written into the ACA that is proving not to be the case:

Gerry Kominski, director of public health policy at UCLA said: “About half of the 14 million people who buy insurance on their own are not going to be able to keep the policies that they had previously.”

Now had Obama read the bill, and because he is considered by some to be the smartest man in any room, surely he would have known that many existing policies would not have conformed, right?

But like any good apparatchik, Mr. Kominski then goes on to voice the administrations line:

“You’re paying more for a better product and for more protection — and you won’t understand the value of that until you need it,”

A mind boggling fascist statement, wouldn’t you agree? Are individual Americans now incapable of deciding what coverage and protections are best for them? Is this now the State’s responsibility? To decide what is best for our health needs? Keep in mind that maternity coverage is now mandated, meaning that I, who have had a vasectomy, and my wife, who has had a hysterectomy, now have to pay for coverage that we will never use. Thanks to all knowing progressives who have put themselves in a position to determine what is best for me. How lucky I am. Now don’t get me wrong, if the ACA would have increased competition and allowed me to shop from a cafeteria menu of coverages and policies at lower premiums and reasonable deductibles – I would be for that. But that would have been a free market approach. As it is, the ACA is a Statist approach, so choices will fewer and costs will be higher. At least for most of us.

Meanwhile, the tech contractors are blaming the government, and the government is blaming the tech contractors for the mess that is Healthcare.gov.  Which cost you and I hundreds of millions of dollars. All I can say is – well done progressives, well done.

 
32 Comments

Posted by on October 25, 2013 in Health Care

 

You Say You Want A Revolution

The rhetoric from liberals, the media, elected Democrats, and even the President towards the tea party, Ted Cruz, and conservatives for that matter has been irresponsible and over the top lately, and in my opinion not healthy to any type of constructive debate, hence my absence from the blog as of late and possible departure altogether. When I am called an arsonist, a terrorist, or hostage taker for standing up for what I believe in, it doesn’t encourage me at all to find any compromise, or especially to back down. In fact, it does just the opposite. The more heated and prolonged the rhetoric, the more steel willed people like me become, and when people like Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen calls Tea Partiers “domestic terrorists”, then you know that we have a divide in this country that may be too deep to heal. I personally have lost a lot of respect and interest in American politics lately because of the rancor, rhetoric and progressive direction of the country and am thankfully in a position to charter a new course if I choose, and that may include putting this country in my rear view mirror.

The hope amongst liberal activists and political bureaucrats obviously is that the tea party conservatives will be shamed and marginalized by personally attacking them, but again, I wouldn’t expect that. All that the progressives are really accomplishing is picking a fight – a fight of which may actually materialize soon and one of which they may regret. Let’s look at the numbers – Ted Cruz garnered 4.4 million votes in his Senate victory, and won by a decisive margin over his Democratic opponent 56%-40%. Furthermore, Mitt Romney secured 61 million votes compared to Obama’s 66 million in last November’s election, and many of those 61 million voters are in some fashion behind the Tea Party effort, so we’re not talking about a fringe group here. I can not for the life of me understand what is so wrong with a desire for a smaller, more efficient government, less taxes, and more personal responsibility. Someone has to convince me why that is such a ridiculous goal. But what’s even more aggravating is that liberals and Democrats refuse to talk about the details and results of the growing central bureaucracy, preferring instead to talk about personalities and intent of those who question it – the TMZ approach to politics in my opinion. And when the “theocracy” card is played, you know that the liberal rhetoric has entered the freak zone. Strange how Obama’s 20 year relationship with Rev. Wright and Black Liberation Theology went completely unexamined, but when Ted Cruz speaks to a Values Voters group, the claws come out.

The reason that there is a divide in the GOP is because there is an entrenched bureaucratic faction within the party that understands if they just go along to get along, they can fleece the tax payers and bring home goodies to their home states and win more elections. Sadly that describes the entire Democratic party at the moment. People who are more interested in their positions of power and privilege than they are with governing responsibly. I am thoroughly disgusted with everything about our current culture and society. To put a spin on what Michelle Obama asserted back in 2008 – “for the first time in my life, I am actually proud of this country.” (I guess that was because her husband was leading in the polls), well for the first time in my life, I am embarrassed for this country.  As Mitch likes to incorporate musical lyrics – allow me to offer the following from The Beatles; Revolution:

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow

 
80 Comments

Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Conservative Thought