Category Archives: Economics

My letter to Joni Ernst – “Put insurance back in the American Health Care Act”

June 14, 2017

 

Senator Joni Ernst

111 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Re: American Health Care Act – let’s get it right

Honorable Joni Ernst,

I became a registered Republican in 1966 because I believe private enterprise can solve most any problem and the only role for the government is to give us a fair playing field conducive to the goal.  There has been little else the party has to offer to keep me in the fold.  I am now confronted with a new generation of Republicans who have lost the faith.  They believe they have a duty to rig the playing field to generate profit for profit’s sake, while ignoring the goal altogether.  Profit should be the reward for solving the problem (which the AHCA doesn’t) and forgetting this only erodes the cornerstones of capitalism. Continue reading

How Not to Fix Obamacare: Part 4

They should have known how a kamikaze mission must end.

In my September 26, 2013 letter to the editor I characterized the Republican attack on the ACA or Obamacare as a “kamikaze mission” because of course the fate of the pilot is the same whether or not he succeeds in blowing up Obamacare.  But Republicans have exceeded my wildest expectations!  Whatever happens with today’s vote many political careers are going down in flames. While Obamacare has substantially reduced the number of uninsured, it has had little effect on the overall cost of healthcare at around 18% of GDP, which is expected to rise with the aging baby-boomer population. 

The fact is that healthcare costs in the U.S. have risen far faster than inflation over the last fifty years (not just since Obamacare) while other wealthy nations provide the comparable or better health care at half the cost.  Of 17 high-income countries studied by the National Institutes of Health in 2013, the United States had the highest or near-highest prevalence of obesity, car accidents, infant mortality, heart and lung disease, sexually transmitted infections, adolescent pregnancies, injuries, and homicides. On average, a U.S. male can be expected to live almost four fewer years than those in the top-ranked country.  A 2014 survey of the healthcare systems of 11 developed countries found the US healthcare system to be the most expensive and worst-performing in terms of health access, efficiency, and equity.  The only conclusions we can draw from this is up to half of cost of health care in the U.S. is a result of waste and somebody’s getting richer at our expense.  And from the number of wrong-headed ideas I’m hearing out of Washington, Congress remains oblivious to the back-door deals creating this waste. Continue reading

The Surprising Role Independent Voters Can Play in Changing the Course of American Politics

Independent voters have no say in selecting candidates.  It doesn’t have to be this way!

 In my previous post,” What Really Explains Polarized Elections?” we discussed other voting methods both in practice and in theory including one I called the “bad apple sort.”  You can think of this a going through the apple basket throwing out the worst apple until only the prize apple remains.   

Now if you’re an independent voter, you may feel the two major parties already sorted through their respective baskets, handed you the worst from each basket and asked you to choose. 

Continue reading

What Really Explains Polarized Elections?

It has been said that the 2016 election gave us the worst pair of presidential candidates the two major parties could have found.  Whether or not that’s true, all the mudslinging certainly made them seem this way.  Beginning with the primaries every candidate’s strategy is to fire up his base and to hell with the rest of us.

We tend to blame social media and fake news stories for the polarization and lack of civility, but I think we are overlooking the obvious culprit, our voting method.

Continue reading

How Not to Fix Obamacare: Part 3

You picked the wrong insurance plan.  No, I picked the wrong Congress!

 On Sunday HHS chief Tom Price said, “I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially (under the GOP’s health-care replacement bill).”  We’re getting used to listening to what this administration says only to learn later that wasn’t what they really meant, so let’s figure out what he meant.  As an economic conservative and long-time Republican I find fewer and fewer things I have in common with the party, but trying to duck responsibility for their own actions makes the top of my list.  We know Price didn’t really mean what he said.  It must be obvious even to him that if you choose not to buy insurance and then suffer serious medical problems you will be financially worse off.  When this doesn’t work out he won’t be able to blame the Democrats.  He needs someone else to blame so he’s setting it up to blame you for picking the wrong plan.  What he really meant was; 

Nobody will be worse off financially,… if they picked the right plan.

Continue reading

Is an Unfavorable Balance of Trade Really Unfavorable?

Are “unfavorable” and “trade deficit” just words economists use to describe what they are measuring or should we heed the negative connotation attached to these words?

Certainly President Trump thinks an unfavorable balance of trade is a bad thing.  You probably do too.  But what if we called it “favorable balance of goods and services” instead?  Would you still feel the same way?  Continue reading

How Not to Fix Obamacare: Part 2

What kind of choices do you want to have to make?

House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “What we’re proposing is a patient-centered system where patients get to decide what to do.”  He says the replacement bill for Obamacare would give consumers the power to choose their own health care plans in a more competitive marketplace.  We’ve been taught it’s always better to have choices, but what kind of choices do you really want to make with healthcare.  Choices are great when you’re buying a car or a house, because you know how you want to use it.  Continue reading

How Not to Fix Obamacare: Part 1

The Kamakaze Mission

In my editorial published September 26, 2013 I characterized the Republican attack on the (then pending) ACA or Obamacare as a “kamikaze mission” because of course the fate of the pilots is the same whether or not they succeed in blowing up Obamacare.  Now we get to see how that plays out.  While Obamacare has substantially reduced the number of uninsured, it has had little effect on the overall cost of healthcare at around 18% of GDP, which is expected to rise with the aging baby-boomer population.  The fact is that healthcare costs in the U.S. have risen far faster than inflation over the last fifty years (not just since Obamacare) while other wealthy nations provide the comparable or better health care at half the cost.  Of 17 high-income countries studied by the National Institutes of Health in 2013, the United States had the highest or near-highest prevalence of obesity, car accidents, infant mortality, heart and lung disease, sexually transmitted infections, adolescent pregnancies, injuries, and homicides. On average, a U.S. male can be expected to live almost four fewer years than those in the top-ranked country.  A 2014 survey of the healthcare systems of 11 developed countries found the US healthcare system to be the most expensive and worst-performing in terms of health access, efficiency, and equity.  The only conclusions we can draw from this is up to half of cost of health care  in the U.S. is a result of waste and somebody’s getting richer at our expense.  And from the number of wrong-headed ideas I’m hearing out of Washington, Congress remains oblivious to the back-door deals creating this waste.

Let the insurance company do it’s job

For example, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in explaining his plan to replace Obamacare says, “There’s no reason why (a business owner) with four employees shouldn’t be able to join with hundreds and hundreds of other businesses that are small to become a large entity to get leverage to bring your prices down.” Paul is a physician and I’m sure he knows medicine, but he doesn’t know insurance.  I’m sure the arguments the insurance lobby gave him for letting them contract with such groups were very convincing; I’ve heard them all.

As someone who spent 30 years in insurance and served as COO of an insurance company I can tell you, “There’s no reason why (a business owner) with four employees should have to join with hundreds and hundreds of other businesses that are small to become a large entity to get leverage to bring your prices down.” It makes no more sense than saying the only way to get affordable homeowner’s coverage is to join with hundreds and hundreds of other homeowners to become a large entity to get leverage to bring your prices down.”

If we could do that we wouldn’t need insurance.

Using the law of large numbers to spread the risk is the health insurance company’s job, not ours. Continue reading

Keystone, the Jobs Pipeline to Texas

Sending our jobs to Texas in a pipe isn’t patriotic; it’s just stupid! As the Big Oil spokeswoman says on TV, “Now, that’s something we can all agree on.” Look at the map and tell us why we would want to pump crude oil from border to border when all the finished products have to be trucked back north again.
Continue reading

When LaPierre says gun owners will not accept responsibility, he’s got it wrong.

Actually what National Rifle As­sociation CEO Wayne LaPierre said was, “Gun owners will not accept blame for acts of criminals.” It may seem like I’m parsing words here but the only difference between the two words is that “blame” implies we have no control over the situation and that simply isn’t true. And either way, he’s got it wrong, because the gun owners I know want to take responsibility and they only need a little help from lawmakers who just don’t seem to get it. Continue reading