Despite latest media narrative, Americans know exactly why Obamacare is a mess…and who is at fault
The following column first appeared at the MacIver Institute.
Instead of reporting on Obamacare’s fundamental flaws, illegal subsidies to insurance companies, and catastrophic premium increases, some in the media are pointing the finger at potential “confusion” among customers as the reason why former President Obama’s signature law continues to crater.
In reality, it’s these reporters who are confused about why Obamacare is unraveling. The American people, who have to deal with the law’s disastrous reality, understand why Obamacare is a failure and who is at fault. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, 67 percent of Americans say that Obama and the Democrats are to blame for the ongoing train wreck, including 61 percent of Democrat voters. Only 36 percent think the law is “excellent” or “good” and just 20 percent think President Trump is to blame for the law’s failures.
Still, some media reports are channeling Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, who famously commented that the “stupidity of the American voter” was critical to enacting Obamacare in the first place. In that spirit, one Associated Press article opens by declaring, “The Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act have health care advocates and insurers concerned that the open enrollment period will be one of chaos and confusion.” The reporter apparently forgot about the years of Obamacare’s failures and lies that have been unfolding since long before Trump took office.
The failed system has deprived people of their coverage and saddled Americans with skyrocketing premiums and deductibles. It’s these Americans who are angry – not confused – that they were lied to. They are the ones who helped sweep Trump into office.
The AP article goes on to lament that Trump cut marketing budgets intended to advertise Obamacare plans. It cites exchange officials who complain they don’t have as much money to convince Americans to buy Obamacare plans that they can’t afford or can’t actually use thanks to outrageous out-of-pocket costs.
The condescension and shifting of blame is typical of the big government mindset. What people are really angry about is the fact that the “Affordable Care Act” is anything but affordable, despite the snake oil salesmanship Obama and allies used to sell the scheme.
After years of lies, including the crown jewel 2013 PolitiFact Lie of the Year, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” Americans have had enough Obamacare “marketing.”
Obama also promised that Obamacare would “bend the cost curve down,” but earlier in October we found out that Americans with Obamacare will endure yet another astronomical premium increase. Prices will jump an average of 34 percent nationwide – 36 percent in Wisconsin – in 2018. Worse, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites will lose their coverage at the end of the year.
The latest bad news comes on top of a 16 percent premium increase in 2017.
The largest insurers in the state have abandoned the rickety Obamacare scheme in Wisconsin, including four of the five biggest health insurance companies in the country. Their withdrawal means 75,000 people are now shopping for new coverage, whether they want to or not.
Obamacare is failing because it’s attracting older, less healthy, and more expensive patients. Meanwhile, younger and healthier people are opting out of what is becoming increasingly unaffordable insurance, creating a toxic risk pool shouldered by fewer and fewer insurers.
But that’s not the story being pushed in many corners of the media.
Joining the AP, the Wisconsin Radio Network predicted mass “confusion” as Obamacare open enrollment gets underway, in part because the Trump administration is ending Obama-era payments directly to insurance companies.
Once again, the media is missing the point. These Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments compose about 15 percent of premiums, according to JP Wieske, Wisconsin’s deputy insurance commissioner. Even if the payments continued, Wisconsin’s rate increase would be north of 20 percent, Wieske said.
Moreover, the payments are illegal because they were never approved by congress. Obama simply ignored that pesky old constitution, which gives congress the exclusive power of the purse. How would the media react if the Republicans staked their names to a law that required regular corporate bailouts without congressional approval?
Trump rightly called the unconstitutional payments an illegal corporate bailout and decided to end them.
The AP article is headlined, “A tale of two countries.” In one “country,” states that run their own Obamacare exchanges have the flexibility to spend more on advertising Obamacare plans, hire bureaucrats to guide people through the law’s bureaucratic morass, and extend open enrollment periods beyond the federally run exchanges’ six week window.
More bureaucrat hand-holders and advertising dollars aren’t the cure to the disastrous health care law, they’re a symptom of the mess it has created.
Minnesota is one state that bought into Obamacare early on and runs its own exchange. While Minnesota has more flexibility to hire more bureaucrats and spend more on advertising the unaffordable insurance, Obamacare has cost the state’s taxpayers dearly.
Lawmakers in Minnesota were forced to scramble last year to paper over astronomical premium increases in the state, which ranged from 50 to 67 percent in 2017. While lower-income Minnesotans could rely on federal Advance Premium Tax Credits to help cover the rate hikes, middle class individuals who earn too much to qualify for help were set to be steamrolled. More than 100,000 middle class Minnesotans who don’t receive federal subsidies had to be bailed out by the state – at a cost to state taxpayers now at nearly $800 million.
Unfortunately, Minnesota and many other examples of Obamacare’s repeated failures interfere with the media’s “confusion” narrative and must be ignored for the sake of portraying the law’s troubles as something new so the blame for future failures can be shifted to Trump.
The media’s efforts to drag a red herring through the Obamacare debate – distracting Americans from the actual cause of the law’s death spiral – will only serve to prop up a fundamentally flawed system and stand in the way of real reform that could actually lower costs.
Fewer bureaucrats, marketing dollars, and corporate subsides are not to blame for Obamacare’s downward spiral, and more of those things are not a solution. The only solution to Obamacare’s failures is to get rid of the law and replace it with reforms that increase choices for customers and minimize the federal government’s role in the health care and health insurance business.
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I joined Greg Neumann on WKOW’s Capital City Sunday on Friday, October 13 to discuss the Trump administration’s decision to scuttle the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan.” I was joined by Keith Reopelle, clean energy czar of Dane County and formerly of Clean Wisconsin.
It may have been Friday the 13th, but Greg Neumann’s questions weren’t scary – even though I was going up against a debate partner with decades in the business.
See the video here.
The following report first appeared at the MacIver Institute.
Consumers shopping for health insurance on Wisconsin’s Obamacare exchange for 2018 can expect an eye-popping 36 percent premium increase, far surpassing last year’s 16 percent hike.
Customers in the individual insurance market will be hit with the sticker shock on Nov. 1, when Obamacare’s open enrollment period begins, and 75,000 Wisconsinites who had coverage in 2017 will be shopping for new coverage whether they want to or not.
State officials announced the massive increase on Thursday, adding that 75,000 people will lose their coverage at the end of the year, mostly the result of several major insurers exiting Wisconsin’s Obamacare market in 2017. That’s a considerable chunk of the overall individual market, where about 215,000 Wisconsinites buy their coverage.
“Obamacare is collapsing, and these huge premium increases show the law failed on its promise to deliver affordable healthcare,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement. “While our state remains one of the best in the nation for health insurance coverage and quality, Obamacare is disrupting healthcare markets in our state and across the country.”
The finalized 36 percent average premium increase is three times larger than the preliminary 12 percent increase announced by the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) in August. The increase reflects the greater risk that a smaller number of insurers will have to take on by offering plans in a shaky, risk-riddled market, said J.P. Wieske, deputy commissioner of insurance.
The size of the price spike could indicate Wisconsin’s individual insurance market is in the “death spiral” that has gripped Obamacare markets across the nation.
“I think we’re sitting in a market where there is some concern that we’re in a death spiral, and the individual market’s experience is deteriorating,” Wieske said, adding the individual insurance market in Wisconsin has lost $400 million over the last three years. “That’s a very significant amount of money to have lost in just the individual market.”
“The fact that nobody wants to compete for this market despite the subsidies that are available to consumers, I think that’s sort of troubling,” Wieske said.
He contrasted Obamacare’s individual market increases with non-Obamacare group insurance plans, which increased just 4.89 percent for 2018 – less than one-seventh the rate of Obamacare plans. “That indicates some concern that the individual market under this regulatory scheme of Obamacare is just not sustainable,” Wieske said.
— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017
A double-digit increase was widely expected after preliminary rate requests released in August topped 12 percent. Insurers have also continued dropping out of Wisconsin’s Obamacare market, citing massive losses as a result of more expensive enrollees, fewer younger and healthier enrollees, and more people deciding to pay the penalty rather than buying increasingly expensive insurance plans.
In 2017, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield joined several other major insurers in dropping out of Wisconsin’s individual insurance market. They were followed by Molina Healthcare, the largest remaining insurer, which dropped out after proposing a rate hike of more than 40 percent. Health Tradition Health Plan, offered by Mayo Clinic Health System of La Crosse, also fled Obamacare this summer.
Anthem, Aetna, UnitedHealth, and Humana – four of the five largest health insurers in the country – all left Wisconsin’s market in the past two years.
— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017
OCI reviewed the preliminary increase requests over the last several months and approved the final rate changes requested by Wisconsin insurance companies that will continue offering plans on the state’s Obamacare exchange. OCI instructed insurers to assume federal Cost Sharing Reduction payments (CSRs), taxpayer money paid to insurance companies, would terminate in 2018. CSRs make up about 15 percent of the total premiums.
Last year, premiums for Obamacare-compliant plans in Wisconsin increased 15.88 percent, the MacIver Institute reported in November. In addition, that analysis found the average statewide deductible for the benchmark bronze plan in 2017 was $12,414.46 for a family and $6,207.23 for an individual.
The price increases are the result of an older and less healthy group of enrollees, factors that have caused many of the nation’s largest insurers to stop offering plans on Obamacare exchanges altogether. Rate increases for 2018 will likely make the problem of attracting younger, healthier people to the individual market worse.
On average, 21-year-olds shopping for a Silver Plan, the second-lowest-cost Obamacare plan, will see an average premium increase of 51 percent, according to data provided by the OCI. Individuals that age can expect to see a 105 percent increase in Marinette and Oconto counties and a 77.27 percent increase in Outagamie, Sheboygan, and Winnebago counties.
In a statement, Commissioner of Insurance Ted Nickel said the OCI would explore options at the federal level to mitigate the price spike. “The ACA destabilized the Wisconsin individual health insurance market and federal health care reform efforts continue to face significant challenges…As a result, we are exploring our options available under the ACA Section 1332 Waiver for State Innovation.”
Wieske said other states, including Iowa and Minnesota, have used similar waivers to mitigate massive price spikes. Minnesota’s attempt to hold premium increases for those not receiving federal subsidies has cost the state $800 million.
“We stand committed to continuing our efforts in ensuring a stable and competitive market and affordable coverage for Wisconsin consumers,” Nickel said.
The decline in competitive markets has also played out nationally. While no counties are currently projected to have zero insurers, vast swaths of the country will have just one option on the individual market. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), 1,524 counties will have just one insurer offering a plan – nearly 50 percent of all counties.
— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017
Obamacare requires insurance plans to provide a wide range of coverage in order to qualify for subsidies, reducing the variety of plans that insurers can offer and limiting choice for consumers. But on Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order relaxing those mandates.
Trump’s action, which comes a month after the collapse of congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, is intended to allow insurers to offer lower-cost plans, a key to increasing competition and choice in the individual market and attracting younger and healthier people into the marketplace.
MacIver News Service will continue to analyze premium, deductible and other pricing information as it becomes available and publish our findings as soon as possible.Image: ZeroHedge
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The following video was captured by the MacIver Institute and first appeared on their website.
In response to a fellow student who said a campus rape could have been prevented by concealed carry, protesters wielding penis-shaped sex toys refused to answer her, and then shouted her down at Tuesday’s speech by Townhall editor Katie Pavlich on the UW-Madison campus.
The student told protesters that she has a friend who was raped, a crime that would have been prevented if her friend was able to carry her concealed weapon. After a brief silence, protesters responded by waving dildos in the air and shouting “this is what Democracy looks like” and “Cocks not Glocks.”
Inside, Pavlich told a polite, standing-room-only audience that allowing concealed carry on campus would allow young women to defend themselves in dangerous situations.
A group calling itself “Cocks Not Glocks” arranged the protest, the “Bonerfide Penis Arts Festival” in response to Pavlich’s pro-Second Amendment message.
The post Protesters Wave Sex Toys In Response To Tale of Campus Rape appeared first on Morning Martini.
Embattled big government overreach finally meets its demise
MacIver News Service | October 9, 2017
The following first appeared at the MacIver Institute.
The Trump administration on Tuesday will officially put an end to a draconian slate of Obama-era environmental regulations known as the “Clean Power Plan.”
The EPA’s decision comes as little surprise after President Trump in March issued an executive order instructing the agency to begin a review of the controversial, economically devastating rules. Repealing the CPP was a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign platform.
“That rule really was about picking winners and losers,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told Fox News on Monday. “The past administration was unapologetic, they were using every bit of power, authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers on how we pick electricity in this country. That is wrong.”
“Repealing the Clean Power Plan is the right move for the economy and for the rule of law. The Obama administration’s signature climate rule was a vast, unlawful expansion of government authority into the energy sector with wide-reaching consequences for our economy,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) in a statement.
The Clean Power Plan, a series of devastating regulations developed by Obama’s EPA, would limit carbon emissions from coal-fired electricity power plants, cutting the allowable amount of emissions by more than half. Despite the high economic cost, the CPP would only change global temperature by under two-hundredths of a degree Celsius by the end of the century, according to researchers at the CATO Institute.
Volumes of research clearly show the economic damage the rules would have inflicted across the nation. The CPP would have hit Wisconsin particularly hard, since its electricity supply is more reliant on coal power than most states.
A joint study by the MacIver Institute and The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in 2015 found that the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan would cost Wisconsin $920 million in 2030, and reduce disposable income in the state by nearly $2 billion.
The study also found that the CPP would have cost Wisconsin 21,000 jobs and increased the average household electric bill by $225 per year and the average commercial business electric bill by $1,530 per year. The average Wisconsin factory would be hit with an extra $105,094 per year in higher energy costs if the CPP were implemented.
Recognizing the regulations’ devastating costs, Wisconsin joined 26 other states in suing the Obama EPA over the rules, a lawsuit that eventually resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court halting the rules’ implementation in early 2016 for further review. Delaying regulations and overturning a lower court is a rare move for the high court, indicating the justices saw compelling evidence that the burdensome rules presented the risk of immediate harm to the economy.
The MacIver Institute joined Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General Brad Schimel, and Speaker Paul Ryan in celebratingthe court’s decision. “The Supreme Court recognizes the significant damage this rule will have on our economy and our way of life,” said Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute.
In their lawsuit, Wisconsin and other states argued that the Clean Power Plan, which relied on the authority given to the EPA under the Clean Air Act, was an unlawful power grab by federal bureaucrats that exceeded the law’s authority.
By scrapping the Clean Power Plan, the Trump EPA also repudiates the federal overreach and recognizes, like the Supreme Court, the imminent harm the new regulations posed to the nation’s economy.
After he signs an order on Tuesday formally rolling back the Clean Power Plan, Pruitt intends to begin work on a new rule that falls within the bounds of the Clean Air Act.
The post Trump EPA Scuttles Costly Obama-era “Clean Power Plan” appeared first on Morning Martini.
I joined Bob Schmidt on his morning show on Today’s Talk 1490 WLFN in La Crosse to talk about the newly passed 2017-19 state budget and why prevailing wage repeal and school choice expansion are important aspects of the new spending plan.
Read MacIver’s budget analysis here: bit.ly/2xv2Bel
The race for Wisconsin governor is getting more crowded on the Democratic side. So far, five have officially entered the Democratic primary, and two other possible contenders have set up campaign committees.
Here’s an updated list of announced candidates for statewide and federal elections in Wisconsin in 2018. While formal announcements by incumbents from governor to Congress are so far few and far between, it’s generally expected that most incumbents will run for re-election. We will update this list as formal announcements start rolling in.
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Congress, 1st District
Congress, 2nd District
Congress, 3rd District
Congress, 4th District
Congress, 5th District
Congress, 6th District
Congress, 7th District
Congress, 8th District
By throwing her hat in the ring for U.S. Senate, Sen. Leah Vukmir will give up her seat representing the 5th Senate District. Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) has announced his candidate to replace Vukmir. Barring a surprisingly strong primary challenger, the good money is on Kooyenga taking the 5th S.D.
That leaves Kooyenga’s 14th Assembly District seat up for grabs. No one has announced their candidacy for it yet, but possible candidates are current state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, whose family owns property in the district; Johnny Koremenos, who runs communications for the Attorney General’s office; and Luis O. Cardona, who served in the U.S. Army with Kooyenga and currently works for Rep. Shannon Zimmerman.
On the other side of the state, Mel Pittman has officially reprised his 2014 bid for the 31st Senate District. His announcement came days before Vinehout’s announcement in Black River Falls that she’d run for governor. It’s worth noting that Vinehout only defeated Pittman in 2014 with 52.4 percent of the vote, the 31st went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016, and the only incumbent Democrat to lose their seat in 2016 was Chris Danou, whose district is within the S.D. 31.
With Pittman the heir apparent in S.D. 31, it’s unclear who the Democrats could put up in Vinehout’s stead. The notoriously party-blind region of the state could go either way despite its lurch toward Trump, but the highest-profile elected Democrat in the district with Danou out is Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), who is also running for governor.
Rumors are also circulating that Sen. Sheila Harsdorf might be under consideration to run the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). If that happens, her senate district (S.D. 10) would be an open seat. An early potential contender is Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake), but freshman Rep. Shannon Zimmerman – a successful businessman who could potentially finance a senate race in that expensive media market – is another possibility. Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) rounds out representatives in S.D. 10.
Some in the media may try and portray Harsdorf’s district as a possible pick-up for Democrats, but that’s unlikely. In her last election in 2016, Harsdorf annihilated her Democratic opponent, Diane Odeen, with 63.22 percent of the vote.
The post Candidates, Wisconsin Statewide and Federal Elections appeared first on Morning Martini.
The following first appeared at the MacIver Institute.
Back-to-school shopping in Wisconsin is once again more expensive than in neighboring states thanks to the state’s minimum markup law, which outlaws sale prices that are too low.
The minimum markup law, formally known as the Unfair Sales Act, bans retailers from selling merchandise below cost. The law, originally passed back in 1939, also requires a 9 percent price markup on specific items like alcohol, tobacco and gasoline.
Unfortunately, Wisconsinites are forced to pay for this archaic law that’s still on the books despite ongoing efforts to repeal it.
According to advertisements obtained by the MacIver Institute from late August, Walmart stores in Milwaukee charged higher prices for a number of back-to-school items compared with other Walmart stores in Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan.
Families in Milwaukee buying basic items like composition books, markers, and crayons can expect to pay anywhere from 12 to 146 percent more than shoppers in St. Paul, Minn., Dubuque, Iowa, and Kalamazoo, Mich.
Some common school items cost on average 90 percent more in Milwaukee. Crayola Crayons posted the single biggest price variance, costing almost 150 percent more in Milwaukee than in cities in neighboring states.
Parents picking up a Composition book in St. Paul, for example, only paid 50 cents. That same Composition book cost 56 cents in Milwaukee. Crayola markers cost 97 cents in St. Paul, but thanks to the archaic minimum markup law, those same markers cost $1.97 in Milwaukee, a 103 percent difference.
Walmart’s circulars boast that their great sale prices mean “$10 goes far,” but it goes a lot farther if you’re not shopping in Wisconsin. A basic shopping list would cost 90 percent more for a Milwaukee back-to-school shopper than in nearby states.
Shoppers in Illinois have previously enjoyed the same lower prices as other Midwestern states, as pointed out by the MacIver Institute last year. But this year, possibly thanks to the state’s recent draconian tax increases, families from Rockford to Chicago are joining Wisconsinites in paying inflated prices.
Efforts to repeal the antiquated minimum markup law stretch back several years.
In 2015, Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) introduced a bill that would have eliminated the Unfair Sales Act. Unfortunately, the repeal bill did not receive even a public hearing in either house.
Another effort earlier this year by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) to reduce the minimum markup as part of a transportation funding package also fell flat, so the law remains on the books.
Vukmir, Ott, and other legislators haven’t given up. Earlier this year, they were joined by Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) and Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville) in introducing a modified repeal bill.
This latest effort to relieve Wisconsinites from the burden of higher prices, however, has received the same silent treatment as previous repeal efforts.
Even though minimum markup repeal has hit a wall in the Legislature, a 2015 poll found that Wisconsinites are tired of paying higher prices and want the law taken off the books. The poll was conducted by reputable research firm Public Opinion Strategies and found that 80 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the minimum markup law when told “Wisconsin residents are required to pay more for many on-sale items than residents in neighboring states simply because of this 75-year-old law.”
Wisconsinites were just as angry when told that “the law forbids retailers from selling to consumers below cost and also requires that gasoline retailers sell gas to consumers with a minimum 9 percent markup, meaning Wisconsin drivers have to pay more for gas here than drivers do in other states.”
Some retailers have used the law to file complaints with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) against competitors who were offering items for too low of a price. In 2015, MacIver first reported on numerous complaints filed against Meijer, a privately owned Michigan-based grocery and supercenter chain of stores with more than 200 locations nationwide, as it made its first foray into the Wisconsin market.
The minimum markup law also makes illegal in Wisconsin many of the discounts received on popular national bargain hunting days like “Black Friday” or “Amazon Prime Day,” which in Wisconsin could better be called “Amazon Crime Day.”
With repeal efforts on the rocks once again, bargain hunters should beware: Wisconsin’s Price Police remain on the prowl.
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