Monday, October 31, 2016

Republicans at fault for ObamaCares big rate increases!!! Real Fiscally Conservative-like.

LA Times columnist Michael Hitzik's "Inside those big Obamacare rate increases: State hostility to the law costs residents plenty," should start waking up even hard core stingy conservatives.

Journalists everywhere are starting to acknowledge publically, in their articles, that Republicans aren't really about saving money. Hitzik's article is just another example. It's now becoming very obvious Republican voters are okay paying more for everything if it means their party is in control and cutting government. Despite these increases, many won't see much a of difference because of their subsidies:
On average, states that have been hostile to Obamacare are facing the largest premium increases for 2017. Residents in states that have embraced the law will do much better. Charles Gaba, that indispensable tracker of ACA rates and policies, has fleshed out this phenomenon by comparing the weighted average premium increases for states that implemented the ACA cooperatively, even enthusiastically, with the increases in states that have resisted.
1. He finds that the weighted average rate increase for states that expanded Medicaid is 22.1% for 2017; among the 19 states that still have not expanded the program, it’s 28.9%.

2. In states that formed their own marketplace to enroll Obamacare consumers, the increase is 17.3%; among those that rely on the federal government’s exchange,, it’s 28%.

3. Finally, among states that refused to allow consumers to remain in pre-ACA insurance plans that didn’t comply with the new law as of 2014, the weighted average increase is 18.8%; among those that capitulated to hysteria over canceled pre-ACA insurance plans by grandfathering the non-compliant plans for as long as three years, it’s 28.4%.Put these three factors together, and the states that fully embraced Obamacare will see increases of 18.2%. Those that fully resist will see increases of 29.8%.

4. The enrollment figures include on-exchange buyers and those who have purchased individual plans off the exchanges. The premium rates are pre-subsidy; the vast majority of exchange enrollees are eligible for government subsidies that can cut their monthly costs to as little as a few dollars per month.

5. The two states with the lowest increases, for instance, are bluer-than-blue Rhode Island and deep-red North Dakota.

6. The biggest divergence is between states with their own marketplace exchanges and those using the federal ... it’s possible that the refusal serves as a proxy for all the silly, niggling ways a state government can throw obstacles in the way of Obamacare, such as refusing to fund “navigators” to help residents find the best plan for themselves, or failing to negotiate with insurers to secure the best prices.

7. The federal government’s decision to allow noncompliant plans to remain in effect was a reaction to a political uproar over cancellations of old plans, that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” This always was a bogus controversy. As we observed at the time, the notion that loyal customers were being deprived of plans they absolutely adored, like the family dog, was almost certainly mythical.

8. Expansion states have lowered their uninsured populations and costs to local hospitals of uncompensated care. Moreover, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “states expanding Medicaid have realized budget savings, revenue gains, and overall economic growth.” Throw in Gaba’s findings of larger premium increases, and expansion Medicaid looks even more like a no-brainer. That should raise questions about the brains inhabiting the statehouses of the states still turning it down.
There is an important exception:
Minnesota, where the weighted rate increase is more than 55%, in part because the state’s basic health plan appears to have siphoned off a large number of people who would otherwise be in the Obamacare pool, driving up costs for the latter ... just a few years ago, Minnesota had among the lowest premiums in the nation. Minnesota is in worse shape because it has an unusually small individual market with an unusually large number of sick people.
Keeping the your old policy, what that means: Why did so many Republican states let those old policies continue? Well, they didn't do it because it saved people money; off exchange policies did not get subsidies...not a good way to pay a whole lot less:
Many health economists thought that grandfathering old plans was a bad idea. Their policyholders had been cherry-picked as low-risk customers, and keeping them out of the overall individual insurance pool was sure to force rates in the pool higher, while fostering confusion among insurers about the market they were serving in the ACA. Those concerns tended to be well-founded.
Expanding Medicaid is again a really good idea and money saver for states:

The Journal Sentinel's Guy Boulton broke it down what this means in the Milwaukee area, and the cost of health care is jaw dropping. The scam of high deductibles, co-pays and separate high deductibles for drug coverage proves insurers have gone too far.
A family of four, in which the parents are 40, would pay $13,157 a year, or $1,096.46 a month, for insurance — and that’s with a $10,400 medical deductible and a separate $7,000 deductible for prescription drugs, up to the $14,300 limit on out-of-pocket expenses for family coverage next year.

The plan, offered by Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, is one of the least-expensive in Milwaukee County. “I’ve talked to people who are exasperated,” said Todd Catlin of Transition Benefits in Brookfield. “They are just at wit’s end.” Yet the cost is roughly in line with what employers and employees pay for insurance.
Important to remember...
“Health insurance was expensive before the Affordable Care Act,” said Donna Friedsam, director of Health policy programs at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. “The difference is that people who could not get coverage before can get coverage.”

Holder on Comey: "He made a serious mistake...broke fundamental principles...serious error with potentially severe implications."

Former AG Eric Holder's shocking take down of Comey:
Eric Holder: James Comey is a good man, but he made a serious mistake: I am deeply concerned about FBI Director James B. Comey’s decision to write a vague letter to Congress about emails potentially connected to a matter of public, and political, interest. That decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. And it ran counter to guidance that I put in place four years ago ... The department has a practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations. The department also has a policy of not taking unnecessary action close in time to Election Day that might influence an election’s outcome. 

Director Comey broke with these fundamental principles. I fear he has unintentionally and negatively affected public trust in both the Justice Department and the FBI. And he has allowed — again without improper motive — misinformation to be spread by partisans with less pure intentions. Already, we have learned that the importance of the discovery itself may have been overblown. According to the director himself, there is no indication yet that the “newly discovered” emails bear any significance at all. And yet, because of his decision to comment on this development before sufficient facts were known, the public has faced a torrent of conspiracy theories and misrepresentations.

This controversy has its roots in the director’s July decision to hold a news conference announcing his recommendation that the Justice Department bring no charges against Hillary Clinton. Instead of making a private recommendation to the attorney general — consistent with Justice Department policy — he chose to publicly share his professional recommendation, as well as his personal opinions, about the case. That was a stunning breach of protocol. It may set a dangerous precedent for future investigations. It was wrong.

In this instance, he has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications. It is incumbent upon him — or the leadership of the department — to dispel the uncertainty he has created before Election Day. It is up to the director to correct his mistake — not for the sake of a political candidate or campaign but in order to protect our system of justice and best serve the American people.

Trump experienced at being legally untouchable, while his Breitbart campaign of lies becomes the norm.

It all seems kinda bizarre ; Trump campaign heavy hitters were connectioned to Russia; Wikileaks only hacked the Democrats and Clinton campaign with leaks timed right up through the election; Trump attacked Clinton for supposed corruption and deleted emails...wait a minute, Trump has a corruption and email problem too.

But with lawsuits and legal maneuvers, Trump knows how to game the system forever, a system his voters want to shake up and basically destroy anyway.

Newsweek wrote about this, essentially Trump's greatest strength. This is what the media doesn't have time to cover, and why the election is so close. It's not Clinton whose getting away with corruption, it's Trump. 

The danger is have a president who is really great at knowing how to break the law and get away with it legally. "Believe me," It pays to be the bully:
Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a Newsweek review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.

This behavior is of particular import given Trump’s frequent condemnations of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s use of deception and untruthful affidavits, as well as the hiding or improper destruction of documents, dates back to at least 1973, when the Republican nominee, his father and their real estate company battled the federal government over civil charges that they refused to rent apartments to African-Americans. The Trump strategy was simple: deny, impede and delay, while destroying documents the court had ordered them to hand over... 

...This review of Trump’s many decades of abusing the judicial system, ignoring judges, disregarding rules, destroying documents and lying about it is not simply a sordid history lesson. Rather, it helps explain his behavior since he declared his candidacy. He promised to turn over his tax returns and his health records—just as he promised to comply with document discovery requirements in so many lawsuits—then reneged. As a result, he has left a sparse evidentiary trail that can be used to assess his wealth, his qualifications for the presidency or even his fitness. Should voters choose him to be the next U.S. president, he will enter the Oval Office as a mystery, a man who has repeatedly flouted the rules. He has solemnly told the country to trust him while refusing to produce any records to prove whether he speaks the truth or has utter contempt for it.

Just One Day of Trump Lies: It's weird how Trump voters prefer direct, "tell it like it is" lies, that support their general paranoid world view. But when you leave what "appears" to be Clinton lies up to their imaginations...?

The Toronto Star took a look at just one days worth of lies, which would be a partial list out of a weeks worth of visits around the U.S..

Toronto Star: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump did three rallies on Sunday, October 30. He said 27 false things:
Las Vegas, Nevada

1. Falsely said, “We’re winning many national polls.” (Repeated at both rallies later in the day. At the time he spoke in Las Vegas, Trump was only leading in the Los Angeles Times tracking poll that has been consistently most favourable to him. He was tied in one other poll, by Rasmussen, and trailing in all the others.)

2. Falsely said, “We’re ahead in many states, including your great state and North Carolina.” (The North Carolina claim was repeated at a rally later in the day. Trump is trailing in both Nevada and North Carolina.)

3. Falsely said of Clinton’s email deletion, “Did anybody ever hear of bleaching? You know why? It’s such an expensive process.” (Trump uses “bleaching” to refer to Clinton aides’ use of a software program called BleachBit, which is free.)

4. Falsely said, “It was publicly reported that sources close to Hillary Clinton said, and she actually I think said it to the papers, that she was thinking of reappointing Attorney General Lynch. She was thinking. She said it. I mean, it was a statement she made . . . she said it publicly, I believe.” (The first part is true — a Times story in July said that “Democrats close to Mrs. Clinton say she may decide to retain Ms. Lynch” — but the second part is not. Clinton did not say this publicly; it was not a “statement she made.”)

5. Falsely said of Iran, “Their $150 billion payment started the next day.” (Said at another rally later in the day: “We can’t continue to make deals like that horrible Iran deal where we give them $150 billion back.” The nuclear deal with Iran did not involve a $150 billion payment; rather, a smaller amount of Iranian assets were unfrozen. The Treasury Department told Congress in 2015 that total Iranian assets were estimated at $100 billion to $125 billion; it put the “usable liquid assets” at around $50 billion. Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran would get about $55 billion.)

6. Falsely said of Frank Sinatra, “When he originally heard and sang for the first ‘My Way’ . . . he didn’t like it. But then he sang it a couple times and then it went to No. 1 and all of a sudden he loved it.” (Sinatra did not actually come to like the song. His daughter Tina said in 2000, “He always thought that song was self-serving and self-indulgent. He didn’t like it. That song stuck and he couldn’t get it off his shoe.”)

7. Falsely said, “We have a trade deficit with China (of) almost $500 billion a year.” (Even excluding services trade, the trade deficit with China was $367 billion last year. This year, it was $225 billion through August.)

8. Falsely said of the illegal immigrant who killed Nevada teenager Rene Angulo, “Everybody said we must get him out of our country. We must incarcerate him. This guy was brutal . . . He had a record as long as your arm, but the Obama administration didn’t want to put him out.” (There is no evidence that the Obama administration made any decision about this man. He had been deported twice in the past.)

9. Falsely said of illegal immigrants, “This crime wave will end.” (Repeated at another rally later in the day. There is no wave of crime by illegal immigrants. Trump merely cited two anecdotes.)

10. Falsely said, “We owe China $1.5 trillion.” (This is an exaggeration; it is closer to $1.1 trillion. “The biggest foreign holder of U.S. government debt had $1.19 trillion in bonds, notes and bills in August, down $33.7 billion from the prior month, the biggest drop since 2013,” Bloomberg reported in October.)

11. Falsely said of Hillary Clinton’s handling of convicted illegal immigrants whose home countries would not accept their return: “She would always let them come back (to America). She didn’t want to make waves.” (These immigrants were not actually sent to their refusing home countries; they were simply released from prison in the U.S. This was not Clinton’s personal choice: a 2001 Supreme Court decision requires their eventual release if they can’t be deported.)

12. “Murder is — in 45 years, right now, the rates are the highest they’ve been . . . and they don’t want to talk about it.” (Repeated at another rally later in the day. The murder rate is among the lowest of the past 45 years. While it rose more than 10 per cent between 2014 and 2015 — the biggest spike in 45 years — it was still near historic lows at 4.9 per 100,000 people in 2015; 45 years prior, in 1970, it was 7.9 per 100,000 people.)
Greeley, Colorado
13. Falsely said of Florida’s early voting, “They’ve never had lines before (the Trump campaign came along).” (Florida has indeed had long lines for early voting in past elections. One 2012 headline read, “Florida Early Voting Fiasco: Voters Wait For Hours At Polls As Rick Scott Refuses To Budge.”)

14. Falsely said Clinton wants “virtually unlimited immigration from the most dangerous regions in the world.” (Clinton is calling for no such thing.)

15. Falsely said, “She also wants to raise your taxes through the roof.” (This would only be a fair argument if he was speaking to an audience of rich people. Clinton is only raising taxes on the highest earners. The Tax Policy Center says most residents below the top 1 per cent will receive minor tax cuts under her plan, and even most of the highest earners will not see a doubling.)

16. Falsely said, “Hillary wants to raise your taxes to almost 50 per cent.” (Again, this is only close to true for rich people. Under Clinton’s plan, only people making more than $5 million a year would face a top marginal rate of, effectively, 44 per cent. People below the top 1 per cent will see only minor changes.)

17. Falsely said, “We take care, in many cases, of illegal immigrants more so than we take care of our great veterans.” (Every news outlet that has examined this claim has found it ridiculous.)

18. Falsely said, “Hillary Clinton said the veterans’ administration is doing just fine.” (This is an exaggeration. Clinton said the problems at the VA had “not been as widespread as it has been made out to be,” but she did not say it was “fine.” She went on in the same interview to acknowledge problems and suggest how to improve them.)

19. Falsely said under Clinton’s plan, “We could have 600 million people pour into our country.” (While anything “could” happen, there is no basis for this huge number, nearly double the current U.S. population.)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
20. Falsely said, “We’re tied in New Mexico.” (Clinton leads by an average of nine points in New Mexico polls.)

21. “Hillary Clinton on the other hand is going to raise your taxes by almost 50 per cent.” (There is no basis for this claim.)

22. Falsely said, “Think of this: we’re the highest-taxed nation in the world.” (The U.S. does not even have the highest corporate taxes, though it is near the top. Where all taxes are concerned, the U.S. is below the average for OECD industrialized nations.)

23. Falsely said, “We’ve received the first-ever endorsement from ICE.” (ICE, a government agency called Immigration and Customs Enforcement, does not endorse candidates. Trump received an endorsement from a union of ICE employees, not the agency itself.)

24. “You could have 650 million people pour in and we do nothing . . . that’s what could happen. You could triple the size of our country in one week.” (While anything “could” happen, there is no basis for this huge number, nearly double the current U.S. population.)

25. Falsely said, “The Cubans gave me their most coveted award, and it was a great honour.” (Trump received an endorsement last week from the Cuban-American Bay of Pigs Veterans Association in Miami. It was not an award, nor from “the Cubans” or even the broader Cuban-American community more broadly.)

26. Falsely said of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, “It left a vacuum, and from that vacuum, ISIS formed.” (The complete troop withdrawal happened in 2011. The group has roots as far back as 1999, and it was already using the name Islamic State by 2006.)
27. Falsely said, “Wow, Twitter, Google and Facebook are burying the FBI criminal investigation of Clinton.” (There is no good evidence for this claim.)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Home Depot's Bernie Marcus' Pointless Trumpian Rant...

Trump is big on repeating hyperbolic words and terms like "believe me," "great again," "really bad," "liar," "it's going to be huge," "tremendous," "...has zero credibility," "out of control," "there's something going on," "he doesn't get it," and on and on.

Here's an example of the same words mixed up and repeated:
I have many women at high positions. Iyou know I've gotten a lot of credit for that,I mean I have so many women working for meand so many women in high positions working for meand I've gotten great credit for it.
According to the Washington Post, Trump has...:
...a habit of punctuating each argument with short, declarative sentences. And then he often repeats them.
The Trumpian Age of Pointless Ranting: I'm beginning to think the wealthy have their own Trumpian language, that assumes us little people are too dumb to understand.

Like Home Depot Co-Founder Bernie Marcus, whose Trumpian rant against Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren did nothing to explain why "she doesn't have a clue," and that "they don't know what the hell they're talking about, it's as simple as that."  

Trumps repetition probably has a calming effect on his devoted basket of deplorables who love keeping it simple...because the world should be as simple as Trump makes it all seem:

“Let me tell you” & “Believe me” & “Trust me” Famous phrases said by all con artists meaning…”I’m lying through my teeth and my…wherever.”
“VERY” & “REALLY” Dear God, I am SICK of the words “very” and “really.”
“AMAZING” This is to cover up the fact that he’s lying so much he can’t even fake these so called “results” that he’s pretending to promise that he’s never going to deliver anyway.  
“HATERS AND LOSERS” The obvious…people who don’t like Trump…the majority of the country…the thinking people, non-racist, non-sexist, non-xenophobic public who loathe him.
“NO ONE REALLY KNOWS” This is what Trump says when all proof has been provided proving something is true but Trump doesn’t have any intention of accepting it.  
“I don’t know, but that is what people are telling me.” 

Republicans make raising retirement age for Medicare and SS Worse; Wealth Gap/Shorter Life Spans

Republicans are big on raising the retirement age for both Social Security and Medicare. It makes privatizing them with a one size fits all subsidy seem like a good idea. It isn't.

And now their plan, based on people living longer, is taking a hit because of their own draconian policies. Republicans have again hitched their wagon to a shifting standard that no longer supports their talking point, thanks to the wealth gap:
From 2000 to 2009, American death rates improved at 1.93 percent for men and 1.46 percent for women annually. From 2010 to 2014, that plunged to 0.6 percent for men and 0.42 percent. This is bad news for almost everyone but pension fund managers.

The latest, best guesses for U.S. lifespans come from a study (PDF) released this month by the Society of Actuaries: The average 65-year-old American man should die a few months short of his 86th birthday, while the average 65-year-old woman gets an additional two years, barely missing age 88.

Over the past several years, the health of Americans has deteriorated—particularly that of middle-aged non-Hispanic whites. Among the culprits are drug overdoses, suicide, alcohol poisoning, and liver disease, according to a Princeton University study issued in December. The Society of Actuaries’ website offers a longevity calculator that takes both your age and health into account.

Still, the bottom line is that longevity’s rise has slowed way down. If you’re trying to figure out how long you’re likely to live, estimates of “average” life expectancy may not be that helpful. That’s getting worse in an age of rising inequality. 
And for those who can afford the best health care the U.S. has to offer?

Great medical care and good fortune may add decades to the lives of the wealthy and educated, while much of the rest of America is left behind.Take a 40-year-old man in the top 1 percent. He can expect to live, on average, to 87. His counterpart in the bottom 1 percent would be expected to perish, on average, before his 73rd birthday. For women, who live longer on average, the gap was narrower, but still substantial. Life expectancy for the richest women is almost 89, about 10 years longer than the poorest.
NOTE: I'm not sure if the following was included the statistics above, but medical errors may have played a part in life expectancy rates. The Republican idea that we need to ignore and lessen the penalties for medical errors to bring down the cost of health care is not just upside down and illogical, but it'll just make the problem worse:
Medical errors rank behind heart disease and cancer as the third leading cause of death in the U.S., Johns Hopkins researchers say. ... Based on an analysis of prior research, the Johns Hopkins study estimates that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. Based on an analysis of prior research, the Johns Hopkins study estimates that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. - May 3, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Trump PAC solicits Illegal International Money in exchange for Political Favors!!!

Forget Project Veritas' manipulated video fictions. 

The Telegraph just caught Trump in another couple of lies; that money doesn't influence Trump, and
Trump lied about not getting illegal international donations like Clinton. As Sgt. Schultz would say...

As Trump would say, "big, big story. Unbelievable." The jaw dropping video is killer. The Telegraph:

Taking to a podium in Colorado last week, Donald Trump resumed a line of attack he had long used against his opponent: “Her international donors control her every move”.

Yet fundraisers supporting his bid for the White House were in the process of finalizing the details of a $2 million donation from a Chinese benefactor seeking unspecified future “influence” under a Trump presidency. Under US law it is illegal for a foreign national to make any contribution in connection with an election.

An undercover reporter telephoned Eric Beach, the co-chairman of the pro-Trump Great America PAC, which has the backing of Rudy Giuliani, one of Mr Trump’s most senior advisers, as well as the billionaire's son Eric, to convey his fictitious Chinese client’s desire to make such a donation … his approach did not appear unwelcome … “but he’s not a US national.”

Mr Beach however suggested involving a 501(c)(4) – a tax-exempt “social welfare organization” – which he described as a “non-disclose entity” through which the client could make a contribution for a “specific purpose”.

In return, undercover reporters purporting to represent the fictitious donor were assured that he would obtain “influence” if Mr Trump made it to the White House. Last week Eric Beach, the PAC’s co-chairman, confirmed to the reporters at an event in Las Vegas that their client's support would be "remembered" if Mr Trump became president.

The reporter then received an email from Jesse Benton, a senior figure at the PAC until being convicted in May in connection with buying a senator’s endorsement on a prior campaign. He said he was a “consultant” and that Mr Beach had not wanted a “paper trail” of contact. He and the PAC later denied that he had worked for it at all since May.

He suggested that the $2 million paid to his firm could be billed simply as “a large retainer” for consulting work. He then sent a $2 million invoice, for the sake of “appearances”, for his services providing “analysis of the American political and business landscape”. And the fictitious Chinese benefactor’s generosity would not go unrewarded should the donor a require a line of communication to Mr Trump if he became president.

“We can have that whispered into Mr Trump’s ear whenever your client feels it’s appropriate,” he said. After a telephone conversation with Mr Beach, Mr Benton said that the PAC wished to invite the reporters to a party the group was hosting in Vegas on October 19, the night of the final presidential debate.

Mr Benton denied any “unethical” behaviour and said he was not “an agent of Great America PAC”, while Dan Backer, counsel to the PAC said Mr Benton “has not had a role with the PAC since May and does not speak for it.”
This was a creation of the ridiculous Citizens United decision. The Intercept:
Trump Super PAC Sting Shows How Citizens United Opened Door to Foreign Money: Pre-Citizens United, this would have been pointless, because the U.S. campaign finance system was based on legally-limited contributions from identifiable, individual American citizens. Under those circumstances, Benton would have had to find several hundred illegal “straw donors” to the Trump campaign.

Thanks to Citizens United, however, a corporation like Titan Strategies can make unlimited contributions from its treasury to other organizations trying to elect Trump, as long as those organizations are theoretically “independent” from the Trump campaign.

It’s true that, even post-Citizens United, Benton’s proposed actions all would appear to be brazenly illegal. The difference now is they can be easily executed and almost certainly would escape detection.

Great America’s lawyer Dan Backer emphatically denied to The Telegraph that Super PAC co-chair Beach had asked Benton to act on his behalf.

Wisconsin Solicitor General warns repealing unconstitutional Voter ID laws may make voters lose confidence in Elections.

Even after all the safe guards were put in place with photo ID's, Scott Walker's infallible way to protect the integrity and confidence in our elections, we're finding out now that Trump still thinks the elections are "rigged." Here come the poll watchers. 

Republicans aren't done yet with "reform" and scaring the pants of their paranoid low information voters.They still have to maintain the fear of election fraud to motivate them to show up at the polls.  

That where Wisconsin's rabid conservative solicitor general comes in, (a former president of the student chapter of the Federalist Society!):
Wisconsin's solicitor general Misha Tseytlin said Thursday the state's voter ID law is "quite permissive" and should serve as a model for the rest of the country. 
"Wisconsin's voter ID law is often characterized in, what I would say, the partisan press, as one of the more stringent voter ID laws. I think that’s certainly not true now. Wisconsin might be the most permissive state in the union in terms of how someone can get photo ID to satisfy the photo ID law."
Voter fraud is an "overblown" myth, but that never stopped Republicans from going overboard with ways to suppress our right to vote.

In a jaw dropping turning of the tables, Solicitor General Tseytlin focused on the media's "overblown" coverage of problems experienced by those trying to get a photo ID:  
Tseytlin argued Thursday the problems documented in the media and in court are overblown and amount to a fraction of a percentage of the people who have gone through the process. 
That runs counter to Scott Walker's own logic, where even one disenfranchised voter is one too many. And who cares about a "small fraction" of voters?

Now Questioning Voter ID may hurt voter Confidence...Again? I nearly spit out my coffee when I read this reason to keep these bad unconstitutional voter suppression efforts in place: 
Tseytlin agreed there is "very little" voter fraud, but said voters may lose confidence in elections if they see voter ID laws being questioned and struck down.
As they keep reminding us; it's never good to question our political one party authority. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trump thanks Gingrich for Misogynist attack on Megyn Kelly, and the party's Two different Universes (ah, one is real).

That Gingrich meltdown with Megyn Kelly has been getting a lot press, but many of the clips don't show what really happened, how it all built up. Gingrich affirmed the Republican Party's angry white misogynist takeover, and Megyn Kelly brought it all out into the open:

Two Universes, Two Realities: Remember when we were told by Republicans, "we create our own reality," by a Bush aid trashing the reporter Ron Suskind's "reality based community." 
The aide said that guys like me were ‘’in what we call the reality-based community,’’ which he defined as people who ‘’believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘’That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’’ he continued. ‘’We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’’
In that same Kelly interview, Gingrich set the tone for that new reality, guided by Trump; an "alternative universe." 

Gingrich: "The next two weeks is a contest between two parallel universes."  

Gingrich: "...I just told you we have two alternative universes right now." 

Kelly: "You say two alternative tell me if that's all made up."

Gingrich: "No, I think they're two alternative universes." 

See Trump compliment Gingrich, and see Chris Hayes' conversation with the Washington Post's conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin...she was not kind. Also featured, Raul Reyes, USA Today's Heidi Przybyla, and WaPo's Catherine Rampell who summed it up perfectly:
Rampell: "I think the best part of all of this is when the guy who had the affair, who was supposed to be replaced by someone who had an affair, but instead was replace by somebody who was a pedophile who also happen to have impeached someone who had an affair, is accusing this journalist of being fascinated by sex. I mean there's a comical lack of self awareness." 

If Conservative Leaning Rural Polling Places Favor Republicans, should we get rid of them?

Here we go again. First, Republicans pissed and moaned about the mythical voter fraud problem. Then they complained that early voting hours were unfair to rural voters. Now Trump their candidate for president said the whole electoral system is rigged.

Does it look like Republicans are trying their hardest to turn people off to the whole idea of voting?

Insane New Test and Hoop to Jump Through: Does a voting site provide an advantage to the Democratic Party. JS:
Green Bay city clerk Kris Teske didn't want to allow early voting at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in part because she believed it would give Democrats an advantage, records made public Tuesday reveal … she asked state elections regulators in August if she could prevent making the university an early voting site in the face of requests from state Rep. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay).
Teske became suspicious of the request because a Democrat asked for the early voting site. The Nation-Ari Berman:

The insane part of Teske’s statement begs the question; would a voting site in a heavily conservative rural area also give Republicans an advantage, and shouldn’t that site be closed down as well? Don't think for one moment this excuse won't come up again and again.

And since the city is run by corrupt Mayor Jim Schmitt, guilty of election fraud…
Schmitt agreed to plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges related to accepting illegal campaign donations and falsifying information on his campaign finance reports.
…this incredibly convenient decision was made:
At the time, Green Bay officials said that a time limit prevented them from establishing a satellite voting site … the chief of staff to Green Bay Mayor said Teske was simply trying to properly respond to a judge's ruling that allowed more early voting locations without providing criteria for where they should be located. 

U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson in July struck down limits on early voting that were approved by Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers:
“The court finds that the legislature specifically targeted large municipalities—Milwaukee in particular—intending to curtail minority voting,” wrote Federal District Court Judge James Peterson, who said Republicans were “suppressing the votes of reliably Democratic minority voters.”
Republicans immediately gamed the judges request. That was fast.
Teske also cited concerns about keeping ballots secure and the cost of opening a satellite voting site.
Because as we all know, voting in some areas gets too expensive to justify in a representative democracy.
Students from across the political spectrum in September asked Teske to allow early voting on campus.

When (April 5 primary) polls closed at 8 pm, there were still 150 students waiting to vote. “Some people described it as chaos,” reported Ellery McCardle of the local ABC affiliate. “People were standing shoulder to shoulder, there was absolutely no room to move around in here.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Crooked Mayors City Clerk tried to do away with early voting site because "students lean more toward the Democrats."

Rigged election indeed. Looks like Trump offered up a little insider "projection" of what his own party was up to all the time. WSJ:
Green Bay's city clerk asked state officials if she could rebuff a request to put an early voting site on the UW-Green Bay campus because, in her words, "students lean more toward the Democrats," newly released emails show ... first reported Tuesday by The Nation Magazine, was from Green Bay City Clerk Kris Teske, an appointee of the city's mayor, Jim Schmitt. He reportedly has praised Republican Gov. Scott Walker and was considered for a post in Walker's cabinet, and records show he contributed to the campaigns of Republican state representatives.
Oh, Schmitt is much worse than that. Can you say election fraud....
...facing criminal charges of violating state election law, three misdemeanors, including attempted election fraud.

Schmitt issued a statement Wednesday in which he acknowledges mistakes in how his campaign finances were handled. Each count carries a maximum 9 months imprisonment and $10,000 fine upon conviction. Schmitt is accused of accepting contributions over acceptable limits and wrongfully attributing some to relatives. The mayor is also accused of failing to accurately record and verify financial campaign data.
Republican arrogance has once again exposed for everyone to see in Wisconsin their intention to actually suppress voting by their opposition party. This might be exhibit A in a case before the Supreme Court someday:
The report is likely to stoke the controversy surrounding early voting in Wisconsin. A federal judge in July overturned ... restrictions on early voting. It also may fuel charges from Wisconsin Democrats that Walker and other state Republicans have tried to make it more difficult to vote, especially among demographic groups that tend to support Democrats. "It is troubling to see that... trickle down from our state politics to a nonpartisan office," state Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Of course con man and crook Mayor Schmitt denied everything. You won't believe this one:
Schmitt's office responded Tuesday by saying "media allegations that the City Clerk is attempting to curtail Democratic voting for this election are completely false." The release says an email from Teske to the state Elections Commission, which was the basis for the reports, simply shows her asking how to interpret a state law that requires impartiality in deciding where polling places are located. Schmitt's chief of staff, Celestine Jeffreys, told the Wisconsin State Journal that Teske felt it was important to consider voting access for all groups in Green Bay, not just college students. "Kris' concern is for everyone," Jeffreys said.
Trolls, tell me you believe what you just read.
She then asks if it's possible to justify rejecting the request due to a state law barring voting sites from being located where they give an advantage to any political party. "I have heard it said that students lean more toward the democrats," Teske writes in the email.

Nathan Judnic, legal counsel for the commission, responded to Teske with an email saying she and city officials "decide what is feasible and serves the needs of the city and its voters. As far as stating that one political party may be advantaged more because of a particular location, I might be hesitant to make that argument unless you could point to something other than 'I've heard that students lean more democratic." Judnic also noted that the city has an Election Day voting location on the campus ... "There is no 'political advantage' then, I’m not sure what the difference is for (early) voting at that same location?" 

Student groups from across the political spectrum, including Republicans and Libertarians, supported the move. 

Health Care Ripoff part 3: ObamaCare premiums increase, thanks to Insurance industry Greed!!!

Ouch, health care insurers are increasing premiums on ObamaCare exchanges by double digits. I guess that would mean the smaller single digit increases weren’t as bad as Republicans said they were.

As I been saying here for years, insurers would eventually find a way to game the marketplaces and poison reform. Paul Ryan knew this when he said ObamaCare would collapse.

In the bad old days before the ACA, premiums increase every year between 20 and 50%. Oh, surprised? A short recap:
In August 2008, about six months before debate began in Washington on what would become the Affordable Care Act, 82 percent of Americans were so dissatisfied with the U.S. health care system they wanted it overhauled.

The main reason so many of us were uninsured in 2010 was that health insurance had simply become a budget-buster for many American families. The cost of employer-sponsored family coverage reached $13,375 in 2009, an increase of 131 percent in ten years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
And almost 18 percent of our GDP is consumed by health care expenses, compared to 11.7 percent in France and 11.3 percent in Germany.  
Under Bush, the average family premiums (including both what employers and employees pay) went up $4,677 in his last six years in office, from 2002 to 2008, an increase of 58 percent. Bush’s first six years that increase was 72 percent.
Note: think what would happen in a GOP free market system replaced the ACA, with no plan requirements and no marketplace to compare prices. Do you think prices would increase dramatically even with supposed “affordable,” “buy what you can afford” junk policies? God would they.

Insurance companies want more Money....and are in a full court press to pressure the government to give them more money to boost profits. It worked before, with Medicare Advantage, why not ObamaCare. Briefly, let’s go back 16 years, with former insurance exec. Wendell Potter:

Health Insurers Will Likely Return to Obamacare Fold in 2017: 16 years and five months ago, after the close of trading at the New York Stock Exchange, my staff and I at Cigna disseminated a press release we knew would lead to a lot of angst in Washington, on Wall Street and around the country. Cigna to Curb Medicare-HMO Risk; This was the headline in the company’s hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer: Cigna to Exit 13 Medicare Markets … 104,000 of Cigna’s senior-citizen subscribers were being dumped because the company wasn’t happy with how much the government was paying it to provide access to medical care for those folks.
Guess who instigated the Cigna scheme? The Republican inspired Balanced Budget Act in 1997:
Insurers had been unhappy with their pay from Uncle Sam since the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, when Republicans were in charge of both the House and Senate. The GOP wanted to rein in spending on “entitlement” programs ... It reduced Medicare spending by more than $100 billion between 1998 and 2002 … capped annual reimbursement increases 2 percent on average...(but) medical inflation was averaging 8 percent annually. The companies clearly were not managing medical costs nearly as much as they had told lawmakers and their customers they would be able to do. So Cigna, at least, had decided to cut bait.

Fast forward to August 15, 2016 and the era of Obamacare. That was the day Bloomberg ran this angst-producing headline: Aetna to Quit Most Obamacare Markets, Joining Major Insurers. Why? Because, once again, the big insurers were not only not making the profit margins they felt they should be making, they were losing money on this particular book of business. So, just like they did a decade and a half ago, they decided to cut those enrollees loose.

And they were spectacularly successful back in the early 2000s. In short order, there was a reversal in fortune — in the insurers’ favor. So if the past is prologue, we can expect the insurance industry’s lobbyists to be hard at work to make sure history repeats itself. 

Keep in mind that the insurers’ Medicare + Choice losses were an unintended consequence of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Republicans in particular were alarmed when the insurers began abandoning the Medicare HMO market because it has long been a tenet of faith among many of them that private insurers could operate more efficiently than the traditional Medicare (TM) program, and consequently reduce overall spending on Medicare.
As you can see, this isn't an easy industry scam to explain. Here's more....
Congress Showed Health Carriers the Money: So halfway into the George W. Bush administration, with Republicans still in charge of both the House and Senate, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 became law. The insurance industry’s lobbyists scored two big victories ... the prescription drug benefit (known as Part D) made it necessary for Medicare beneficiaries to buy their drug coverage through private insurers. And second, the Medicare + Choice program was overhauled to the industry’s liking (and renamed Medicare Advantage).

The government began paying private insurers more to cover the cost of sicker Medicare enrollees, so the companies that had bailed came rushing back in. There were also other provisions of the 2003 law that boosted the government’s pay to insurers. As a consequence, by the time Obamacare became law in 2010, the government was actually paying Medicare Advantage plans 14 percent more per beneficiary ($1,100 on average) than it would cost to cover those beneficiaries in traditional Medicare. Between 2004 and 2008, the overpayments totaled almost $44 billion.

One of the aims of Obamacare was to reduce those overpayments, and they have been reduced, but most insurers are still finding their Medicare Advantage business to be very profitable. You certainly don’t hear about insurers threatening to jump ship now.

You can also expect the insurers to lobby for more “flexibility” in designing their policies. They’d love to be able to go back to the days when they could sell junk insurance — policies with such meager benefits they rarely had to pay out much in claims.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Hillary Clinton "third" Obama Term not a bad idea...

Trump continues to say and do everything wrong, and continues to stay in the race for some god awful reason.

As the polling numbers indicate, Trump's claim that a Clinton win would be a third term of Obama is another "doh!" moment, summarized by Republican pollster Frank Luntz:

Health Care Ripoff part 2: Medicaid's Managed-Care Insurers getting Overpaid, wasting Taxpayer Dollars.

Scott Walker and the Republican legislature can't stop whining about how much of the state budget goes to pay for Medicaid. Maybe, just maybe, they're not trying hard enough to save money in the program. The article below wasn't clear about whether Walker's Wisconsin as one of the states that audits Medicaid's manage-care insurers. The state does contract with Health Management Services (Irving, Texas) for spotting fraud, but there was no mention of overpayments to insurers managing Medicaid, or clawing it back.

Leave it to our Democratic President Barack Obama for issuing new rules that cut the programs costs down dramatically:
Medicaid's unmanaged managed care-April 30, 2016: Last year, Rhode Island auditors found a big problem in the small state's $2.6 billion Medicaid program. Its two Medicaid managed-care insurers, Neighborhood Health Plan and UnitedHealthcare, were getting overpaid—by a lot ...  a combined $208 million, or about 8% of the Medicaid budget. Most of the erroneous payments stemmed from a faulty estimate of costs for newly covered Medicaid beneficiaries, who wound up using fewer medical services than anticipated  ... Rhode Island clawed back about $75 million and expects to recoup most of the remaining funds this year, giving credence to the effectiveness of its audit process. 

But it is one of only a few states that have instituted effective Medicaid managed-care auditing programs. In a scathing 2014 report, the Government Accountability Office suggested the Center for Medicaid Service require states audit payments both to and by private Medicaid insurers. The Obama administration responded last week by issuing a final rule ... Regulators and outside auditors will now put more Medicaid insurers under the microscope to ensure federal and state taxpayer dollars are not wasted—the central reason that states moved to managed care in the first place.

A number of major insurers keep their Medicaid medical spending hidden from public view. Four of the nation's large commercial insurers—AetnaAnthemHumana and UnitedHealth—do not disclose specific Medical Loss Ratio's for their Medicaid plans in their public filings despite their massive Medicaid footprints. UnitedHealth, for example, operates in about two dozen states and recorded almost $29 billion of Medicaid revenue in 2015. A few publicly traded insurers with large Medicaid managed-care programs provide a clear view of how they spend their Medicaid revenue. Those that have opted for transparency, Centene Corp, Molina Healthcare, and WellCare Health Plans, show operations well within the bounds of what the CMS wrote into stone. 

A suggested medical-loss ratio (MLR) may now force those payments into the open and help state officials set their rates for insurers. MLRs show how much of the capitated premiums are being spent on medical care and “quality improvement activities.” The Center for Medicaid Services finalized instituting a nationwide 85% MLR standard for Medicaid plans, which will put Medicaid in line with Medicare Advantage, individual and employer plans that are already required to clear minimum MLRs ... require states to conduct or farm out audits of their managed-care plans at least once every three years. However, there's no penalty for not meeting that mark, and states have a lot of latitude in actually establishing MLRs into their rate-setting.

18 states and D.C. have a minimum Medicaid MLR requirement, nearly all of which set the floor at 85% or higher, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. 
For profit industries are crying wolf, suggesting an incentive for racing to the bottom.

Health Care Ripoff part 1: Employees moved into high deductible plans to save Business and Insurers Money.

This is the first in a series of health care related revelations that may just explain why insurance premiums have skyrocketed. Let's take a look at employer based insurance.

As I've said before, Republicans have avoided real reform by talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act. Their replacement plan, based on free market competition, comes with all the horrors we saw before ObamaCare, but worse. It repeals minimum coverage, encouraging private insurers to game the system even more. It took them 6 years to game the exchanges.

Employer insurance deductibles. Republicans say deductibles make people think twice about frivolous doctors visits and tests. They call it "skin in the game." So along with our injury or illness,  we feel the painful cost of care too.

What started as $50 to $1000 of "skin in the game," has been transformed into another way for insurers to game the system before paying a penny to doctors or hospitals. Deductibles have gone well beyond "feeling the cost;" they've now shifted a majority of cost to patients:
While Obamacare premiums rise, employer-based health plans shift to higher deductibles ... 150 million workers get their health insurance through their employers ... the stability in premiums is a trade-off: they’re being shifted to high-deductible health plans, 

“It’s the biggest change in health care in America that we are not really debating,’’ said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It may even be more important than the ACA (Affordable Care Act) in terms of the number of people affected.’’

A survey published in September: 29% of all workers were enrolled in such high-deductible health plans in 2016, up from 20 percent in 2014. To help bear the burden, Health Savings Accounts allow workers to pay for certain medical expenses with tax-free dollars. This year 83 percent of covered workers are paying an average of $1,478.

A 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research followed one company that shifted all of its employees to a high-deductible health plan and even contributed to each worker’s health savings account ... researchers found many employees were skipping important medical appointments completely, from colonoscopies to mammograms, both of which are free preventive care services under Obamacare. That’s why Sam Smith, past president of the California Association of Healthcare Underwriters, calls high-deductible plans “barriers to care,’’ because the worry over paying real-time medical bills under these plans may lead to delays in important medical care.

Hayward resident Sean Wanless, a 48-year-old CalTrans worker recently found out his six percent raise is being wiped out by an eight percent premium hike in his employer health plan that covers the single father and his 6-year-old son, Sean Jr., who racked up some serious medical bills when he recently fractured his arm on the school jungle gym.

Wanless said he’ll never skimp on getting his son care but “To be honest with you,’’ he confided, “I don’t want to go to the doctor. It just costs too much.’’
And that's called "self-rationing," and rationing no matter who does it is bad and the logical outcome of high deductible/HSA plans.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wisconsin Counties Road Construction spending saved by Natural Disaster FEMA relief?

Pretty pathetic when a natural disaster "saves us," and is considered a Christmas present offering "relief." But that's all we have left under Scott Walker:
WPR: Local governments in 10 Wisconsin counties are breathing a sigh of relief after President Barack Obama signed a federal disaster declaration for last month's heavy flooding in western Wisconsin.

Vernon County Highway Commissioner Phil Hewitt said Obama's FEMA declaration is like Christmas coming early. "It means that we're going to be able to do road construction and that sort of thing next year instead of paying for flood damage. This declaration, especially with the townships and even with the county, it saves us." 

Walker calls the federal assistance "a welcome relief" as local governments work to repair roads and other damaged infrastructure. Preliminary assessments determined the storms caused more than $11 million in damage to roads and public infrastructure. Hewitt said FEMA officials usually approve funding for infrastructure improvements, not just replacements. 

Obama's FEMA declaration for 10 Western Wisconsin counties hit by torrential rains are Adams, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland and Vernon.