Saturday, February 25, 2017

GOP Obamacare replacement "in situ" involves continuous coverage, risk pools, ending mandate, ending employer tax break

Vox has a detailed article on the “leaked” GOP plan to “replace” aka “repair” Obamacare, by Sarah Kiff, here.

There seem to be two key concepts in dealing with pre-existing conditions.  One of these ideas is allowing people with continuous coverage to keep plans at the standard rate.  That may help some.

 That means if you were covered before, then get cancer, and keep the same coverage even if you change jobs (the GOP wants you to), you don’t get charged higher premiums.

The other is helping states set up high-risk pools.

My personal belief that it is better to re-insure  claims from  certain conditions (or cover them the way we cover end-stage renal disease) rather than separate people and cover them differently. On the other hand, as a philosophical matter, it makes sense in the long run to privatize retirement (social security) and old age medical care (Medicare) because we will all get old and, from some starting point, should plan for it.

On the other hand, it seems wrong to require people to pay for other people’s known problems products they purchase from a market.  It sounds better to segregate the costs of these problems and fund their reimbursement publicly as necessary.

The GOP wants to end the tax break for employer plans, which tend to cherry pick healthier people.
States could allow plans to eliminate mandatory coverages – like maternity coverage for single men.
 The bill would also eliminate the individual mandate, which insurers maintain is necessary to counter anti-selection.

It also wants to reverse the expansion of Medicaid and change the whole thing into block grants to states (separate explainer).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cato Institute energy forum splits on GOP carbon tax, emphasizes market forces, little attention to grid security

The Cato Institute held a forum today, February 22, “Trump’s Energy Policy Promise or Peril”,  with Peter Russo moderating, with Robert L. Bradley. CEO and founder, Institute for Energy Research; Adele Morris, Senior Fellow and Policy Director at the Brookings Institute, and Catrina Rorke, Senior Fellow and Policy Director, R Street Institute.

Bradley favored a free market approach to everything and argued against the carbon tax, in a manner similar to what is said in this paper from Cato in October 2016.

The paper tends to suggest that economic growth (using actuarial math and present values) even with expected global warming, will more than offset any savings from a carbon tax.  There is suspicion that carbon tax implementation wouldn’t be neutral.  There is little attention to catastrophic events (which are considered unpredictable from a policy viewpoint) or to the international political consequences in developing countries from global warming.

Adele Morris gave much more support to the idea of a carefully constructed carbon control policy, and emphasized that there was not enough demand for coal to continue developing it, the way Trump wants to.

Rorke seemed to express similar sentiments.

There was incidental support for renewable sources, but a general feeling that market forces won’t support them.  One speaker said that in time some wind turbines will be taken down, and than many landowners in western states don’t like them. 

There is no effective market mechanism to encourage utilities to decentralize their power grids, or to build many small reactors, even fission, as Taylor Wilson has proposed (my question).

“The Case Against a Carbon Tax”, policy paper by Robert F. Murphy, Patrick J. Michaels, and Pal C. “Chip” Knappenburger, link.

"A U.S   carbontax and Earned Income Tax Credit" by Adele Morris and Apama Mathur 

"James Hansen's Failed Ultimatums", Bradley paper for IER. 

Catrina Rorke, blog post for R Street Institute 

I have my own video on Wordpress here

Monday, February 20, 2017

My visit to immigration-friendly Harrisonburg VA; a disturbing new right-wing religious organization in Michigan

Back on Sunday, February 12, 2017 the Washington Post had run a story by Andrew D. Perrine, “How one Virginia town got immigration right” .  The story concerns Harrisonburg VA, in the Shenandoah Valley, 130 miles from Washington DC, “The Friendly City”, home of James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University, and a Church World Service refugee resettlement area.

I did visit the area today, Presidents Day, too warm for our own good.  I saw the small Islamic center, which got a large food donation – it was hard to see because of road construction near I-81.  I also saw the Immigration and Refugee Office close to downtown.

The personal conversations yesterday were suspect of Trump (in comparison to other rural places).

A few of the web references suggested that some refugees do stay in private homes.

Of course, it is hard to tell yet how Trump’s executive orders will play out with the CWS program.
 They would seem to stop the refugee flow for 120 days and all immigration (except now all of those now legal residents). A typical CWS posting is here.

There is also a disturbing story in the Detroit Free Press today.

.While out today a saw (in USA Today) a Detroit Free Press story by Robert Allen "How a right-wing Ferndale group is building a multi-media empire"  The group is called Church Militant. It seems to believe there is only one “right religion” (we’ve heard that before, even in these days of quantum physics) and that people should be forced to live righteously, so “everyone else can”.  The group wants to abolish the US constitutional commitment to separation of church and state.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Could the GOP "intervene" and get Trump to resign, letting the true conservatives "take power"?

The Hoover Institution has a stirring article today by Richard A. Epstein, “Time for Trump to Resign?”  The author describes himself as a “classical liberal who did not vote for either candidate.”

You get the impression that the GOP could have pulled this entire thing as a coup, with the idea of doing an “intervention” to get Trump to resign so that the arch-conservative Mike Pence could take over.

Even the Comey letter on Oct. 27, you wonder how those emails really would wind up on another personal laptop (Weiner's wife) even if she had worked for Clinton/

Epstein gives all kinds of arguments that are more in line with typical liberal Republicanism, with a touch of libertarianism, and a little bit of Bill Clinton Republicrat.  Epstein wants free trade back.

The article appeared linked on a website today broadcast by Richard Sincere (formerly Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty).  But Pence, remember, back in 2000 had advocated conversion therapy for gay men as a “rational” way to control HIV.  Pence today says people should be left alone.

CNN is calling Trump's pre-inauguration behavior with regard to Russia unprecedented today, story.

And this is getting worse.  The New York Times this morning published "From Russia With Love" (1962) without Sean Connery's chest, link.  And there is no James Bond or Superman to save us all.  Michael Moore is demanding immediate impeachment of Donald Trump on Facebook but that is no surprise.  We'd get Pence.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

GOP suggests carbon tax with progressive rebate to consumers

A number of Republicans in Congress have put forth a proposal for a carbon tax that is revenue neutral:  the tax is returned to consumers in terms of annual rebates.  Republicans argue that the effect of the tax would be progressive, relatively helping low income people more.

Larry Summers endorsed the plan in an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning.
Is this report encouraging in that the GOP is starting to accept the science of man-made climate change as “truth”?

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Unusual AIDS-like syndrome without HIV; more analysis of "moral hazard" or anti-selection in today's Obamacare

There are a couple of interesting health care stories to cover.

One (“Doctor, Cure Thyself ) is in Sunday Business in the New York Times, by Katie Thomas, about a 25-year-old physician and former football player who developed multicentric Castleman’s disease.

The history illustrates the health insurance problems and treatment problems of rare diseases, often genetic, and often requiring unusual drugs.

Castleman’s is often associated with HH8, the same virus that causes Kaposi’s Sarcoma in HIV-infected gay men.  It is similar to lymph-node KS, but can occur without HIV infection.  The onset can be sudden.  It seems to be a mix of infectious disease, lymphoma, and immune disease.  Susceptibility to HH8 or some similar virus has to be genetic, something that compromises the immune system (helper cells) in a way perhaps analogous to HIV.  Other similar diseases were known before AIDS, like HTLV-1 leukemia in Japan.  They may result from unusual herpes viruses or retro viruses that can affect only genetically susceptible individuals and cannot be spread person-to-person (except maybe to someone with the same genetics).  Normally HH8 will not cause disease, without HIV or some unusual genetic susceptibility.

The Epoch Times has a long article, the “breaking apart of Obamacare” showing that Obamacare now has repercussions over moral hazard and anti-selection.  It makes the young and healthy pay for the old and sick, and it makes single men pay for other people’s pregnancies.  (But, then again, it makes straight people pay for gay men’s HIV.)

When I had health insurance through my employer, my own premiums were usually about 30% of a family plan premium.  I think I probably did not have to pay for women's pregnancies when getting cherry-picked insurance through an employer, who got the tax break.

I thought there was some staging of premiums with age.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Campuses give in to "heckler's veto" when Milo Yiannopolos has events (and there are new conspiracy theories)

Violent protests erupted at UC Berkeley Wednesday night, forcing the University to cancel provocateur and Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos   News accounts from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Yahoo! give details.

When I read Milo’s posts, I find most of them to be satirical, intended to make fun of identity politics, political correctness, and the idea that people need safe zones and shelter ("trigger warnings") from offense (as from “microaggressions” in campus speech codes, as in this recent WSJ article by Peter Berkowitz  ).   But occasionally he apparently makes comments at specific individuals (such as some transgender) who don’t conform to his own idea of what is virtuous.  (As a “dangerous faggot”, Milo actually says he is attracted to men who look and act like real men.)  Some of his comments are construed by some as slights against people with disabilities that, if unchecked, tend to underscore Fascist ideology as shown in history.  And they gay male community often has to deal with its own “body fascism.” Milo can be quite handsome when he loses the hair dye, but some liberal publications have shown him with his face computer-aged.

Milo denies he is a white supremacist or a member of the “alt right”, and has even threatened legal action against at least one publication for calling him that (Breitbart story)

I’m not completely sure of the facts on the Leslie Jones-Ghostbuster affair that got him banned from Twitter.

But Milo has also supported admissions policies that help men because fewer men are going to college now (Breitbart).

The violent demonstrations are a form of “heckler’s veto” and indeed a threat to free speech from others, especially other conservatives who may be more temperate but may be viewed as “the enemy” by the Left.  Repeated violent outbursts can led to crackdown on free speech by everybody – a typical terrorist or “revolutionist” or mass movement approach.

Some conservative commentators have noted that it is the violent element of the far left that has given Milo his career (like the last movement of Shostakovich's 13th Symphony, which is called "A Career").

As for Twitter banning, it may be a little capricious, as with the Washington Post analysis.  In December 2015 I wrote some pieces on my "BillBoushka" blog on Twitter standards of behavior after one good friend in the music world blocked me under circumstances that seem mysteriously or somehow factually wrong.  It hasn't happened since then as far as I know, so I think it was a fluke.

Milo reminds me of bad boy Shane Lyons in the 2011 film "Judas Kiss", a character whom the actor who plays him, Timo Descamps, has characterized as "a little mean" and "a little spoiled" and even "evil".  But in "The Dark Place" (2014) Descamps played a similarly demeaanored charismatic gay character Wil, except this time Wil is a very good person, possibly with superpowers (a gay "Clark Kent") who saves Keegan at the end.  Ironically, I think either Milo or Descamps would have sailed through all challenges that a Donald Trump could have thrown at them on "The Apprentice" and survived all the boardrooms.  (Just don't ask them, like Troy McClain, to "take one for the team".   So, let Milo replace Steve Bannon in Trump's administration."He's hired."

Wikipedia attribution link for University of California picture CCSA 3.0 by Koenig.

Update: Feb. 11

Here's another "conspiracy theory" (Volokh Conspiracy and  Paul Cassell) about the Berekeley attack, and one concern is that police can't find any digital fingerprints (I guess they can't see TOR).  If so, that's a legitimate national security concern that Trump could address;  we wouldn't see it coming if this were WMD. Milo says the Left muzzles the difference between speech and action.

CNN has another take on this;  is Milo "normalizing" an attitude of deprecation toward some people?