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    • Inequality is Unnatural
      I’ve been reading UltraSociety, by Peter Turchin. Turchin’s a biologist turned to mathematical models of human society, and he’s done interesting work, not all of which I agree with (or agree is quite as radical as he claims.) But one of the points he makes in UltraSociety, which has been made by many archeologists and […]
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While we wait . . . (an Open Thread)

You might have heard about Anthem Blue Cross’s planned 39% health insurance rate increase for some policy holders. We should probably breath a sigh of relief that the plan is (possibly permanently) postponed but, Ezra Klein might have a point::

The Anthem Blue Cross saga appears to have a happy ending: After criticism from the administration, the insurer has delayed the planned 40 percent rate hike. That will give the company time to reevaluate whether it’s worth the blow-back, and I’d guess there’s a good chance it never takes effect at all.

But if this is a good outcome, it’s a not a good policy. The insured can’t depend on someone in the White House’s communications shop noticing when an insurer tries to screw its customers.

And Ezra goes on to point out the wonderful ways both the Senate and House bills will (eventually) keep future threats from happening. Right.

A friend of mine says, this situation is likely to be a feature not a bug:

Top Five Health Insurers Posted 56 Percent Profit Gains in 2009

If no health care overhaul passes Congress, health insurers may be in for a windfall — and one far larger that most Americans probably realize.

According to a study by a pro-health reform group published Thursday, the nation’s largest five health insurance companies posted a 56 percent gain in 2009 profits over 2008. The insurers including Wellpoint, UnitedHealth, Cigna, Aetna and Humana, which cover the majority of Americans with insurance.

The insurers’ hefty profit gains came even as 2.7 million more Americans lost their insurance coverage due to the declining economy.

At the end of his post Ezra claims that:

In this case, Anthem has an insurance plan with sicker people that is not proving profitable. They’re increasing the costs to either drive those people out or force them to pay a lot more.

But, according to the Alternet Story,

Wellpoint’s Anthem Blue Cross California created a stir earlier this week by announcing that it will raise premiums on individuals by 39 percent in 2010.

(snip)

Yet, the company posted a profit of $4.7 billion for the year. That put it at a higher profit margin (7.3 percent) than any of the other top five American insurers.

Who knows how this is going to end for us — any predictions based on press releases out of the White House or the Capitol are probably as valid as reading tea leaves.

But, it’s painfully obvious that while WE wait, a lot of people are making a lot of money.

. . . What else are you waiting for?

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The Audacity of Republicans going nuclear Against Health Care

The big news today is that the Democratic Congressional leaders met last night and it seems that we’ll need only 51 votes to pass that rumored overhaul of our health care system.  Which gives us some leeway to account for the almost sure-loss of all Republican and some Democratic votes (emphasis mine):

Democrats’ Budget Deal Sets Up Fight on Health Plan

Democratic Congressional leaders were putting the finishes touches Friday on a budget plan virtually certain to protect a proposed health care overhaul from Senate filibusters, an approach likely to touch off a nasty partisan fight with Republicans.

Principals in the talks acknowledged that a tentative budget agreement reached Thursday night between Congressional leaders and the White House would provide for the use of an obscure procedure known as a reconciliation on a health care bill, allowing health care legislation that meets budget targets to be approved by a simple Senate majority.

This news (which has been discussed for weeks) is shocking to Republican Senators! They’ve never, ever heard of such a thing and can’t imagine why the Democrats are breaking the faith of Obama’s bi-partisan pledges to pull a maneuver like this: Continue reading

Could it happen? Health Care for Everyone seems to be on the table after all

Cover Everyone

Cover Everyone

It’s all over the news but, it’s been there before.  Will the Democrats finally get this right?  I hope so — because if they fail, the Republicans have some truly awful ideas.  House Republicans are working on this depressing plan:

House takes up a plan tied to health care overhaul

In the House, Republicans unveiled a budget plan that would gradually eliminate the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program, offering a stark — and politically problematic — alternative to blueprints from Obama and his Democratic allies.

The plan would have future Medicare beneficiaries — people 54 and younger — enroll in private health insurance plans and receive a subsidy on their premiums. Benefits would not be changed for people in the program or those 55 or older.

“If we don’t reform our entitlement programs, they go bankrupt and people’s benefits get cut automatically,” said Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee and author of the plan.

Democrats warned that the GOP proposal would result in sharply higher costs for the elderly as the value of the subsidy fails to keep up with health care inflation.

Health Care for Everyone

Health Care for Everyone

But the Democrats seem prepared to deal with this issue for real this time (giggle – no, it’s NOT HR 676): Continue reading

To Paul K with love

So Krugman says:

The magazine cover effect

I’ve long been a believer in the magazine cover indicator: when you see a corporate chieftain on the cover of a glossy magazine, short the stock. Or as I once put it (I’d actually forgotten I’d said that), “Whom the Gods would destroy, they first put on the cover of Business Week.”

. . . . Presumably the same effect applies to, say, economists.

You have been warned.

Could he be talking about this from Tennessee Guerilla Women?

Newsweek Cover: “OBAMA IS WRONG: The Loyal Opposition of Paul Krugman”
Paul Krugman — who as far as I can see is right about everything — is on the cover of the forthcoming Newsweek. The choice of the cover story — Obama’s Nobel Headache — is explained in a letter to readers by Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham.

Joseph Cannon isn’t going to forget. . . . (and neither will I) Continue reading

Sitting at Obama’s table: The Secret Health Care Talks

New York Times

New York Times

Does anyone else want to burst into tears when they read about millionaires trying to make health care affordable?

Health Care Industry in Talks to Shape Policy

Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation’s long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate’s leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward M. Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.

(snip)

While not all industry groups are in complete agreement, there is enough of a consensus, according to people who have attended the meetings, that they have begun to tackle the next steps: how to enforce the requirement for everyone to have health insurance; how to make insurance affordable to the uninsured; and whether to require employers to help buy coverage for their employees.

(snip)

Kennedy aides summarized discussions of the stakeholders, known as the “workhorse group,” in a recent memorandum obtained by The New York Times.

“While there was some diversity of views,” it said, “the sense of the room is that an individual obligation to purchase insurance should be part of reform if that obligation is coupled with effective mechanisms to make coverage meaningful and affordable.”

The ideas discussed include a proposal to penalize people who fail to comply with the “individual obligation” to have insurance.

(snip)

Their motives vary. Some say the moment to overhaul the health care system has arrived because of a confluence of events, including Mr. Obama’s election, the growing number of uninsured and the relentless increase in health costs. Some want to protect the interests of their members and could ultimately oppose the legislation, depending on its details.

(sigh)

Not once in the article is there a definition of “affordable” — which makes me doubly (if possible) skeptical of the eventual plan. But, then lets look at who’s doing the talking: Continue reading