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

The Real Story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree

When George was a boy his father came to him and asked, “George, did you chop down my cherry tree?”  George replied, “Father, I cannot tell a lie, but I must respectfully decline to answer in this open hearing.”  His father scratched his head and walked away.

This is the real story of how George Washington saved country and the reputation of a future president.

So if you found yourself scratching your head after listening to today’s Congressional testimony from Andrew McCabe,  Rod Rosenstein, and  Dan Coats, just remember what you have witnessed is part of a grand tradition.

TrumpCare Fails the Most Basic Tests of Insurance

My late father, a staunch Republican would sometimes muse, “Which is the greater problem we face, ignorance or apathy?”, only to conclude most would respond, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”  As a life-long Republican myself, it pains me to say that in passing the AHCA, House Republicans are guilty of both.

I spent 30 years in the insurance industry and I can attest the health insurance is complicated.  But the basics are simple!  On day-one of my insurance career in 1970, I learned that insurance serves but one purpose as the instructor drew this “risk treatment” chart on the board. 

I would have to say what the House has passed on to the Senate is a “fine health savings plan.” In other words it fully addresses risks from the left side of the chart, things we could handle on our own with a little planning and budgeting, while excluding entirely anything that might meet the definition of an insurable risk. 

Sure it’s nice that my homeowner’s policy will cover replacing shutters and shingles blown off in a storm, but my reason for buying the insurance is for major events I really never expect to see and I can’t manage out of pocket like fire or tornado.  Fortunately property insurers can’t set up separate pools for those who will experience fires and tornados because the damages from these are immediate and do not carry forward for a lifetime like the illnesses listed below.  Here is a partial list of possible pre-existing conditions in the AHCA that are excluded from the basic plan that may only be covered in separate more costly pools.

My wife, Kathi was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 73.  Like most of those on the list such a diagnosis is a low frequency and high severity event, precisely what insurance was designed for.  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

Uncovering the Truth is Hard

I watched yesterday’s Congressional hearings covering foreign actors who deceived us with fake news stories, top officials who outright lied, intelligence officials who know the truth but just can’t tell and unknown parties who leaked the truth to the press. 

Guess which of these groups the Republicans want to prosecute?  

If it hadn’t been for the damn leakers, we could have avoided facing the truth altogether. 

Moral of the story:  If you want to leak information, make sure it’s false or you could go to prison.

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