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1) I kept meaning to write about Anthem Blue cross jacking up its rates by almost 40 percent and kept getting sidetracked. So just read what Jon Cohn wrote about it.

2) Is the Toyota mess a failure of regulators?

3) Obama has not done nearly enough for unions.

4) What game theory can teach us about health-care reform.

5) Some unorthodox job creation ideas from Dean Baker.

Recipe of the day: I'm making Dan Dan noodles tonight. If you can find pickled mustard greens -- or "Sichuan preserved vegetable" -- you should, too.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 10, 2010; 7:05 PM ET
 
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Comments

That's not a bad version of dan dan noodle but I prefer the more simplistic version: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/dan-dan-noodles

Posted by: GregHao | February 10, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I actually use the version in Fuschia Dunlop's cookbook, but I couldn't find it online.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | February 10, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Before I left for my old job, I was on the precipice of losing my health insurance. Which was with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee. Because they were raising the rates for my family plan by 113%. It was going to literally going to cost more to insure me per year (and, to be fair, my family) than most of the employees were making. But one of the problems was that we were a very small company. We lacked any negotiating leverage.

I currently work for a county school system, which is quite large, and I get decent coverage. I pay more for prescriptions, but an extra $10 per scrip versus the extra $13k a year I was going to have to come up with . . . I'll take that deal. I could opt out and self-insure if I wanted. It's really pretty good. Dental, vision. Numerous tiers of options.

So, I think the solution for healthcare is that everybody needs to go get a government job. Federal government is probably best (so I hear), but, failing that, state or local government is the way to go. :)

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 10, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

As Marie Antoinette said, "If the people have not bread (on their supermarkets' shelves) let them eat pickled mustard greens."

On the other hand, according to the discussion at the Marginal Revolution blog, standard items sell out first, so pickled mustard greens may be the way for Washingtonians to go. (But maybe pickled mustard greens are the standard item at the stores that carry them....)

Posted by: 19055 | February 10, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Kevin,

that's really a good story. Until you see what's happening in Greece right now and fast forward us 20 years. I get it though, you were being facetious.

Interesting that the story seems to surround the PARENT company's profit for the previous quarter and not costs in California.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 10, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Dean Baker is confused about something. Furthermore I can't figure out how to comment on his site. He wrote

"Most of the alternatives to patent-supported drug research would involve direct commitments of public funding. The obvious place to begin is by creating a system of publicly funded clinical trials."

OK now it is silly to talk about a "place to begin" public funding of drug research. There is already public funding of drug research via the NIH (this includes a specific program of pharmaceutical (small molecule) development although most NIH funded research is either fairly pure or development of biologicals (in practice monoclonal antibodies and peptide hormones).

The NIH also finances clinical trials including the huge phase III clinical trials. It is true that a large part of what pharmaceutical companies do is run clinical trials, but it is also true that there are huge publicly funded clinical trials.


Results of some clinical trials are available on the clinical trial registry. OK so there are only 1374 studies with results reported on the registry out of 52723 closed studies so he has a point there.

Finally, the stimulus already included a large amount of extra money for the NIH. I mean it's been done.

Posted by: rjw88 | February 10, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

I was hoping to see Ezra use the Anthem in CA story as a great example of why we need the individual mandate. I was trying to explain to my wife why it wasn't necessarily just some company doing something crazy with pricing. At some point, you spend all of the pooled premiums and you have throw more money into the pool. If the healthy people leave, you have a lot more net takers of other people's money.

I was then hoping to make the additional point that healthy people wouldn't drop the coverage if it was significantly cheaper for them. They just don't perceive it to be a good deal and would be better off with a high deductible plan that covers all the stuff you actually need insurance for. Insurance is something that should be used rarely- not for checkups and ordinary office visits.

I am guessing that the ridiculous cost of covering everything is going to result in the economic failure of some highly regulated plans- just as it is proving extremely problematic for Medicare, just with out the pyramid scheme angle.

Posted by: staticvars | February 10, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

1. Cherry-picking horror stories like Anthem is a bad rationale for health reform. Some large groups had premiums go DOWN in 2010.

3. Obama has done NOTHING for unions. Even Hilda Solis has been a disappointment. It's a tragedy for middle class families.

Posted by: bmull | February 10, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr's consistent theme when it comes to health care reform is "America is too stupid/incompetent to do it." His latest argument is that if people have health coverage, the nation will be destined for the same fate as a country with a poor, agriculture-and-tourism based economy.

Posted by: tyromania | February 11, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

In fairness, Visionbrkr was responding to my suggestion that everyone get a government job. If we did that, then we'd be like Greece, says he.

While I was being semi-facetious, working for the county government has turned out to be a very good gig. I work with great people on significant projects and we get stuff done. The difficulties are the same as any large bureaucracy--certain things do move slow, and there are lots of meetings.

But the insurance is good. While I realize not everybody can work in government (that would kind of erode the tax base that, um, pays for government), I can certainly see why one would want to. Good work environment, good benefits, good people.

All I can say is, three cheers for the American tax payer. And our local county property tax payers, given that we are funded by grants, the stimulus bill (we had to put up a sign that says so on the door) and county property taxes.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 11, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

tyromania,

actually NO. My over-riding theme is we need actual cost controls. We need to STOP the overflow of entitlements that are now too much of our budget and that's even before baby boomers are starting the meat of their retirement. No employee anywhere should be promised benefits for life. That ship should have sailed long ago (sorry Kevin). NJ is finally tackling this issue and asking unions and government employees to pay 1.5% of their income to benefits. Really? Just 1.5% and unions are squawking. They need to get a true picture of what the real world is like. I'm sure those individuals in CA that are getting their renewal increase from Anthem would sign on for that in a heartbeat.

I have three teachers that live on my block and they're all paid almost what I make PLUS they're handed gold plated benefits, generous retirement plans etc and yet they complain about NJ's property taxes being the highest in the state. Do they not know what property taxes are used for???

I have a client who was starting up a business a couple years back and one of his employees came to me with a dilemna. He said he worked for Verizon and had healthcare benefits for life for his entire family and his wife worked for AT&T and had likewise healthcare benefits for life for the entire family as a secondary coverage and he had the audacity to ask me which plan he should take the HMO or the PPO.

NEITHER!! You won't ever see a penny yet you'll waste your employer's premium.

Some people just don't get it and when we end up with a debt problem that we can't get out it'll be too late.

I give credit to President Obama for tackling the tough issues and I'd sign off on the Senate bill right now (even with all its faults). I applaud him for his work on trying to set up a commission to look at the defecit and blame Dems and republicans for politicizing it.

I voted for McCain but if given the chance again, I'd vote for Obama.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 11, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

My plan is to go work for the feds when my job is eliminated due to health care reform. Pretty soon the only jobs left will be in government, and with the considerable expansion of federal bureaucracy that will be implemented by the current HCR bills, there will be plenty of cushy management jobs available at the Exchange(s), HHS, and subsidiary agencies. I'd love to be able to just push paper 9-5 and get all those federal employee perks for more than I'm making now.

The only problem I see with that plan is that I'm too competent, I work too hard, and I'm not a relative of a politician.

You think I'm joking? I'm not.

Posted by: Policywonky | February 11, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Policywonky,

that's sad but i may be joining you. Maybe we can both be useless bureaucrats making 10x what we're worth!!

oh btw, here's a snippet of Anthem's response to Secretary Sebelius. Someone still needs to explain to her the difference between parent companies and subsidiaries.

"Sassi also said that Anthem's individual business in California lost money in 2009 -- although he did not say how much -- because the company paid our more in claims than it received in premiums. The weak economy prompted many customers to switch to lower-cost options and led healthier consumers to go without insurance, leaving a smaller pool of ailing customers to share the cost of coverage."

Its gonna suck for the administration when the facts come out and COST is the issue.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 11, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Someone needs to head out to California and FORCE people to subscribe to Anthem's policies, so that rates don't have to rise on a declining pool of sickos. A combination of threatening impoverishment or incarceration ought to do the trick nicely.

Success is surely assured.

Posted by: msoja | February 11, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

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