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“Political Skullduggery”: Indiana Fudges Truth On Health Exchange Rates To Make Obamacare Look Bad

Sometimes, the political urge simply overwhelms anything resembling common sense and appropriate behavior.

Witness the latest example of political skullduggery playing out in the great State of Indiana where GOP Governor Mike Pence has found it necessary to take extreme liberties with the reporting of the state’s healthcare exchange data—all to justify his anti-Obamacare political positioning.

Anyone paying attention to data projecting what a health insurance policy will likely cost on the newly formed individual policy insurance exchanges could hardly miss the headlines late last week announcing that premiums for health insurance policies stood to rise to an average monthly price of $570—a 72 percent increase over current rates in Indiana.

Of course, if this data is correct, it would be quite a blow to Indiana residents at the hand of the dreaded Obamacare.

At first glance—the only glance the Indiana officials intend for you to see—this is certainly disturbing news. Even those willing to accept the projections and claims made by the President during last week’s health care address—where he referred to the ‘good news’ in California, Oregon, Washington and, particularly, New York—would have to come to the understanding that there may, indeed, be states where the law is going to badly hurt consumers.

Fortunately, there are those whose job it is to dig below the surface of that ‘first glance’ to discover the truth of any situation—and, in this situation, we learn that Indiana has sought to play cute in its efforts to present a grim picture of the healthcare reform law, even when the data reveals otherwise.

You see, while the states that have already released their projections have based their price expectations on what insurance company filings suggest will be the cost of a ‘Silver’ plan (the second least expensive option to be offered on the exchanges), Indiana decided to publish their projections based on a calculation that took all the levels of plans to be offered—ranging from the less expensive Bronze and Silver plan to the most expensive Gold and Platinum plans—and averaged them all together to come up with their projected rates.

As Sy Mukherjee points out, “That’s like saying the average cost of a car in an Indiana dealership is $100,000 because it sells $20,000 Fords, $60,000 BMWs, and $220,000 Lamborghinis — technically true, but highly misleading.”

Exactly.

What possible benefit can there be to taking an average of costs ranging from most expensive to least expensive when we know full well that the overwhelming majority of those living in Indiana—and, for that matter, everywhere else—will purchase the policies in the lower cost ranges?

How do we know this?

We know this because we have the evidence of buying patterns provided by the State of Massachusetts, a state that has been utilizing this system for quite some time now.

As Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post  reports—

“In Massachusetts, 8 percent of enrollees bought a gold plan. Eighty-four percent chose bronze or silver. At least one carrier in Indiana seems to agree with this distribution. In state rate filings, Physicians Health Plan of Indiana estimates that 45 percent of its enrollees will pick bronze and 38 percent take up silver. It is expected that the average mix of Individual Market will be more toward less rich benefit plans and credit should be given for the associated reduction in induced utilization,” the company wrote in its filing. In other words, the average plan cost isn’t a great estimation of what the average person will pay.”

Ms. Kliff also did a little digging to discover that the actual prices for Bronze and Silver plans in Indiana are going to be far below the $512 a month estimate provided by the state’s government.

“Anthem’s rate filing includes projections for health insurance costs in their bronze plans. A 47-year-old male who does not smoke would be charged, on average, $307 per month. Sample plans from another plan, MDWise, predict a 47-year-old man will be charged $294 and $391 for a bronze and silver plan, respectively.”

While you may find the actual rates of the policies to be made available on the Indiana individual exchange to be good news or bad— depending on what you currently pay for health coverage—one would at least hope that the state would want to put out an honest analysis.

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Turtle Vs The Con Man”: Mitch McConnell Gets A Tea Party Challenger

After years of speculation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is finally getting a Republican challenger in his 2014 re-election bid. Louisville businessman Matt Bevin is expected to officially announce his primary challenge to McConnell this week, with the hope of consolidating Tea Party support to depose the four-term incumbent from the right.

Bevin, who is currently a partner at the Louisville-based investment firm Waycross Partners, will formally declare his electoral plans on Wednesday, according to a Monday press release. Given that Bevin’s campaign has already announced a planned three-day tour of the state, all signs point to him joining the race.

Bevin has long hinted at challenging McConnell from the right. Tea Party groups reportedly began recruiting Bevin into the race in February, and in March he told the right-wing news organization The Daily Caller that he was considering a run.

“If I can be a part of the dialogue that leads to a reversal of the downward economic spiral that faces us as a state and as a nation, then I am willing to do so,” Bevin said at the time. “The people of this state are self-reliant, hard-working and strongly principled citizens and many of us are disheartened by the idea that the values we hold dear are being left behind at the state border by some of those who are representing us in Washington…We deserve better.”

Politico reports that Bevin has recently been meeting with influential right-wing groups such as the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Madison Project, hoping to marshal support for a serious challenge to the deep-pocketed, well-connected McConnell.

McConnell, who is an obvious target for a Tea Party challenge due to his image as the consummate Washington insider, has long prepared for a primary battle — and is highly unlikely to lose such a contest, despite his low poll numbers. McConnell has an intimidating war chest of nearly $10 million in cash on hand that he can spend to fight off opponents, and he has gone out of his way to forge a close relationship with the Tea Party’s favorite politician in the state, Senator Rand Paul. McConnell — who initially opposed Paul’s Senate run, instead backing then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson — even hired longtime Paul ally Jesse Benton to manage his re-election campaign.

On Friday, Benton served notice that McConnell is not overlooking Bevin, and that his famously vicious political operation would not shy away from attacking a fellow Republican. In a statement, Benton dismissed the Connecticut-born businessman, saying “Matthew Griswold Bevin is not a Kentucky conservative, he is merely an East Coast con man.”

The winner of the Republican primary is expected to face Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, July 22, 2013

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rebranding Failure”: John Boehner Tries To Defend Congress’ Ineptitude, Because Getting Nothing Done Is Exhausting

This Congress is generally perceived as failing miserably when it comes to governing, and a few weeks ago, we learned this perception is quantifiably true: the 113th Congress is on track to pass fewer bills than any since the clerk’s office started keeping track in the mid-1940s.

When a reporter asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) late last week about the institution’s “historically unproductive” nature, the Republican balked. “That’s just total nonsense,” he snapped, before the question was even finished.

Over the weekend, however, Boehner reversed course, deciding that his unproductive tenure isn’t something to be denied; it’s something to be celebrated.

House Speaker John Boehner says Congress “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

The Ohio Republican makes the comments on an interview aired Sunday on CBS “Face the Nation.” He was responding to a question about how little Congress is doing these days.

Boehner says Congress “should not be judged by how many new laws we create.”

Let’s appreciate exactly what Boehner is trying to do here. When he and his Republican colleagues sought power, they told the electorate that they would work to find solutions to national problems. After having been unsuccessful, the Speaker of the House has decided to rebrand failure — he wants credit for his record of futility and expects praise for the fact that he and his caucus have made no legislative progress since he took power three years ago.

Instead of finding solutions to ongoing challenges, Boehner believes Congress should be focusing on undoing solutions to previous challenges. By the Speaker’s reasoning, we should probably change the language we use when it comes to Capitol Hill — Boehner and his colleagues aren’t lawmakers, they’re lawenders.

The House Speaker is on his way to establishing an accomplishment-free legacy, and at this point, he’d like you to think that’s great.

Indeed, the closer one looks at Boehner’s argument, the more bizarre it appears.

On the surface, his rhetoric is the epitome of the kind of post-policy nihilism that dominates Republican thought in 2013 — Boehner doesn’t want to build up, he’d rather tear down. Given an opportunity to look forward and make national progress, the Speaker sees value in looking backward and undoing what’s already been done.

And just below the surface, the argument reinforces what has long been suspected: House Republicans not only don’t have a positive policy agenda, they don’t even see the point in pretending to want one.

But then there’s the most problematic angle of all. Congress “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal”? I’m afraid I have bad news for the Speaker: Congress isn’t repealing laws, either. Indeed, in order for lawmakers to repeal laws, Congress has to — wait for it — pass legislation addressing those laws.

In other words, by Boehner’s own standards for evaluating Congress on the merits, he’s failing.

Don’t expect a sudden burst of productivity, either — after taking four weeks off for the August recess, Boehner announced late last week that the Republican-led House only intends to work nine days in the month of September.

Keep in mind, in an election year, we might expect congressional leaders to schedule fewer work days in September because members want to be on the campaign trail, but odd-numbered years are generally supposed to be focused on governing.

It seems getting nothing done is exhausting.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 22, 2013

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Privilege Of Whiteness”: Since White Is The Default Setting, There’s No Such Thing As White Crime

As a biracial child who spent part of his youth abroad, Barack Obama learned the feeling of otherness and became attuned to how he was perceived by those around him. As a politician, he knew well that many white people saw him as a vehicle for their hopes for a post-racial society. Even if those hopes were somewhat naïve, they came from a sincere and admirable desire, and he was happy to let those sentiments carry him along. Part of the bargain, though, was that he had to be extremely careful about how he talked about race, and then only on the rarest of occasions. His race had to be a source of hope and pride—for everybody—but not of displeasure, discontent, or worst of all, a grievance that would demand redress. No one knew better than him that everything was fine only as long as we all could feel good about Barack Obama being black.

So when he made his unexpected remarks about Trayvon Martin on Friday, Obama was stepping into some dangerous territory. By talking about his own experience as a black man, he was trying to foster both understanding and empathy, to explain to white Americans why the Martin case has caused so much consternation and pain among black Americans. The petty (and not so petty) daily suspicion and indignities and mistreatment black people are talking about? Even I, the most powerful human being on the planet, know it well.

In doing so—and by saying “it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching”—he may have implicitly encouraged white people to think about their own privilege, the privilege of whiteness. Privilege is a dangerous word, one that raises lots of hackles, and one Obama himself would never, ever use. But it’s inescapable.

Despite the way people react when the word is introduced, acknowledging your own privilege doesn’t cost anything. I grew up in a home with lots of books, in a town with good schools, in a country with extraordinary opportunities. I benefited hugely from them all, though I created none of them. I may have earned my current job as a writer, but compared to the labors of those who wait tables or clean houses or do factory work, it’s so absurdly pleasant you can barely call it work at all. But more to the point, in all my years I’ve never been stopped by a cop who just wanted to know who I was and what I was up to. I’ve never been accused of “furtive movements,” the rationale New York City police use for the hundreds of thousands of times every year they question black and Hispanic men. I’ve never been frisked on the street, and nobody has ever responded with fear when I got in an elevator. That’s not because of my inherent personal virtue. It’s because I’m white.

I will never have to sit my children down and give them a lengthy talk about what to do and not to do when they encounter the police. That’s the talk so many black parents make sure to give their children, one filled with detailed instructions about how to not appear threatening, how to diffuse tension, what to do with your hands when you get pulled over, and how to end the encounter without being arrested or beaten. I can tell my children, “Don’t do anything stupid,” and that will probably be enough. I worry about them as much as any parent, but there are some things I don’t have to worry about.

Because of my privilege, I also don’t have to concern myself with how strangers are thinking of me when I leave the house, because their thoughts will bear on me not a whit. Amir “Questlove” Thompson, drummer for The Roots and bandleader for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, wrote last week about how he is constantly made aware of the fact that, as a large black man, he makes other people uncomfortable. “My friends know that I hate parking lots and elevators, not because they are places that danger could occur, but it’s a prime place in which someone of my physical size can be seen as a dangerous element. I wait and wait in cars until I feel it’s safe for me to make people feel safe.” Privilege means not spending any mental energy worrying about how you make other people feel by your very presence. Privilege means never having the thought even occur to you.

My privilege as a white man is to be unnoticed if I choose, because when I step into an elevator or walk through a store or pass a cop on the street, I’m an individual. No one looks at me and says, “Hmm—white guy there,” because I’m the default setting. I’m not suspicious, I’m not a potential criminal, I ring no alarm bells in anyone’s head. And that is a gift. Even as an adult, Barack Obama, the “articulate and bright and clean” Harvard-educated lawyer, had something in common with Trayvon Martin and every other 17-year-old black kid: the presumption of suspicion with which they found themselves treated. They couldn’t just be themselves. To so many people, they were a type, and a bad one at that, or at least assumed to be of a lesser station. So a fellow guest at a posh party in 2003 could walk up to state Senator Obama and ask him to fetch the man a drink. Has that happened to you?

Privilege is also not worrying that the deeds of other people who are like you in some way will reflect poorly on you. As Jamelle Bouie wrote last week, at times like this, some conservatives will always bring up the idea of “black on black” crime as a justification for the presumption that young black men are criminals, but we never speak about “white on white” crime. The reason? When a white person robs a liquor store or beats someone up or commits insider trading, we see it as just a crime, not a crime that has anything to do with the whiteness of the perpetrator. Since white is the default setting, there’s no such thing as white crime. Each white criminal is just himself.

And retaining your individuality means you’re granted an exemption from some kinds of costs. Last week The Washington Post‘s Richard Cohen wrote a remarkable column arguing that it’s perfectly reasonable to treat all black men like criminal suspects, since there are some black men who commit crimes. As Ta-Nehisi Coates noted, Cohen was “arguing for a kind of racist public safety tax” that black men should be forced to pay. Sure, most black men are perfectly law-abiding, but since some aren’t, you sir are just going to have to put up with getting stopped and frisked, getting followed by store security, and getting pulled over even when you haven’t been speeding. If you’re white, that’s a tax you will never have to pay, because you will be treated as an individual.

As a white person, I’ll continue to enjoy this privilege almost no matter who I am or what I do. In my heart I could be the most kind-hearted humanitarian or the most vile sociopath. I could be assiduously law-abiding or a serial killer. I can dress in a suit or in torn jeans and a hoodie, and no one will react to me with fear or suspicion, because if they don’t know me they will assume they know nothing. I am myself, nothing more or less. That’s privilege.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 22, 2013

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Racism | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Public Ninth Amendment Fund?”: Ohio PAC, “We’re Buying George Zimmerman A New Gun And We Need Your Help”

The Buckeye Firearms Association, an Ohio-based political action committee, has issued a startling statement in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial: “We’re buying ZIMMERMAN a NEW GUN – We need your help.”

The PAC is in fact not just buying Zimmerman a new gun, but asking the public for donations — “$100 … $50 … $25 … even just $10” – to fund the replacement of his “firearm, holster, and other gear.”

The statement even reminds readers that Zimmerman – who stood trial for the fatal shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida – has “no current source of income.”

And last week, conservative author Brad Thor used Twitter to say that he would buy Zimmerman a new gun and “as much ammunition as he wants.”

The offers come after both Thor and the pro-gun group expressed their disagreement with the Department of Justice’s decision to put a hold on all evidence in the case, including the gun that he used to kill Martin, until it can determine whether or not to charge Zimmerman with violating Martin’s civil rights.

The Buckeye Firearms Foundation has now established what it calls the “Zimmerman Second Amendment Fund,” arguing that the fund is “about more than mere principle. …Gun owners must stand together and refuse to allow an injustice like this to go unanswered.”

The article also adds: “Zimmerman and his family now face daily threats on their lives. More than ever, he has a right to defend himself against those who would seek to do him harm.”

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “Public Ninth Amendment Fund” to protect those of us who have to share the streets with a gun-toting murderer while still being told we have the right to life.

 

By: Elissa Gomez, The National Memo, July 22, 2013

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Constitution | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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