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Resetting America’s Priorities

I must admit that conservatives have done an absolutely fantastic job at selling their agenda. Over the last 30-40 years they have been extremely consistent. We’ve heard it over and over again. The problem with America is “big government.” This can be used for anything. It’s nonspecific, which is part of its beauty. Big government can be a euphemism for city government, state government or the federal government. It can stand for all three. It doesn’t really matter. One of the overarching, big goals of conservatism has been to defund the government (everything from Planned Parenthood to NPR). If you can reduce the amount of money that the government has, all the programs that they hate (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare and the like) must also be decreased in size or even eliminated. So, now, after Wall Street bailouts and the Great Recession, we are looking at large deficits. Republicans are using this opportunity to push their agenda to reduce the size of government. The Republicans are proposing large spending cuts. These are cuts in discretionary spending. These are cuts in programs that actually help lower and middle income Americans.

If the goal is reducing our deficits then we need to realistically look at their fiscal solutions. (I don’t think that Republicans really intend to reduce the deficit. Their focus is on reducing the size of government and eliminating programs that they hate.) The quickest way to reduce the deficit is to look at both sides of the equation. First, increase revenue. Second, decrease expenses. This simple graph shows how much we can close the gap by reversing the Bush tax cuts. Until we talk about increasing taxes on those who can afford it, we are not seriously talking about deficit reduction.

By |2011-03-24T12:49:54-04:00March 24th, 2011|Budget, Congress|2 Comments

Status quo must change

I don’t hate insurance companies. I really don’t. I know that they are in a pickle. Investors are demanding bigger and bigger profits. They have to increase efficiencies, decrease expenses or increase premiums. There are no alternatives. If they decrease their profit margins, expect investors to be brutal. Our financial system is clearly partly to blame for this situation. So, what to do?

From Political Animal:

Even those who’ve come to expect private health insurance companies to tighten the screws on their customers were taken aback this week when Anthem Blue Cross — the largest insurer in the nation’s largest state — told nearly a million customers that, next month, they’ll face premium increases up to 39%. That’s on top of last year’s increases. The LA Times noted, “Anthem’s actions offer the best argument yet for Congress to complete work on a comprehensive bill without delay.”

But the AP explains today that the outrage in California is not unique, and that consumers in at least four other states, all of whom buy coverage as individuals because they’re not covered by their employers, will see premiums increase by at least 15%. In Maine, some Anthem Blue Cross customers saw premiums go up 32% last year, and some will see a 23% increase again this year.Karen Tumulty noted that a family of four in Maine can now expect to pay over $22,000 a year for health insurance.

And yet, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe won’t even give health care reform an up or down vote.

This is only going to get worse nationwide.

Premiums are far more volatile for individual policies than for those bought by employers and other large groups, which have bargaining clout and a sizable pool of people among which to spread risk. As more people have lost jobs, many who are healthy have decided to go without health insurance or get a bare-bones, high-deductible policy, reducing the amount of premiums insurers receive.

Steep rate hikes in this sliver of the insurance market — about 13 million Americans, as of 2008 — have popped up sporadically for years. Experts see them becoming increasingly common.

“You’re going to see rate increases of 20, 25, 30 percent” for individual health policies in the near term, Sandy Praeger, chairwoman of the health insurance and managed care committee for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, predicted Friday.

Now, regular readers at this point know full well what I’m thinking: pass … the … damn … bill.

But let’s go just a little further and consider the politics here. With these kinds of premium hikes, politicians should be tripping over each other to support reform. Maine’s senators should, in theory, be begging Democrats to help them pass a comprehensive package. The electorate should, if our discourse were sane, be demanding immediate passage of reform, and be threatening obstructionists who stand in the way of passing legislation.

And yet, here we are. The ridiculous and dysfunctional status quo is deteriorating further, and Republicans still want to block even a vote on health care reform, and panicky Dems are wondering if they should walk away from their already-approved fix.

The mind reels.

By |2010-02-14T15:55:49-04:00February 14th, 2010|Healthcare|Comments Off on Status quo must change
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