Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

'The real problem was the status quo'

Here's the play: Someone somewhere reports that the Affordable Care Act will require some change in the status quo. Maybe it's that insurers can no longer discriminate against sick children, and so some of them are pulling products that were only financially viable so long as they could discriminate against sick children. Maybe it's that McDonald's won't be able to offer miniature health-care "coverage" that caps annual benefits at $2,000, a form of insurance that wouldn't protect anyone from a real illness and that Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley once described as "not better than nothing." Maybe it's that 3M is changing its early-retiree health-care plans, for reasons that may or may not be related to the new health-care law. Opponents of the reforms jump on the story. "See!" they say. "This is a catastrophe!" Supporters -- at least some of them -- e-mail me. "This needs a rebuttal, thanks."

But it doesn't need a rebuttal. It needs explanation, and that's what's usually lacking. And when they do explain the particular rule or regulation causing the disruption, the situation often looks very different. The McDonald's plans, for instance, shouldn't continue after 2014, though it looks like the administration is going to give them a waiver to escape the bad press. The point of health-care reform was to get people into real insurance and protect them from illusory plans that run out when they get sick. The 3M situation is too opaque to say anything about. And though I'm actually sympathetic to the argument that there shouldn't be rules limiting insurers from discriminating against applicants until there's an individual mandate and subsidies that can support a universal market, I doubt that there's much support for the "sure, continue turning away sick children" position.

The administration promised that if you liked your health care, you could keep it. In the overwhelming majority of cases -- far more than 95 percent -- that's true. But there are companies and insurers offering spartan products that don't meet the new -- and frankly, quite minimal -- standards. In some cases, they'll improve their products. In some cases, they'll stop offering the product. And in some cases -- and it's important to watch this, too -- they'll continue the pre-health-care reform trend of dropping coverage for employees, but they'll blame the new law, as it's better to have your employees mad at the government than at you. The end result will be a vastly better health-care system, where 32 million more people have coverage and where tens of millions of more are in far better plans than they would've had without the law. But that will require changes in some of the worst plans, and on the part of some of the worst employers and insurers.

"With each new disruption come loud claims -- some from insurance executives -- that the health overhaul is damaging American health care," writes David Leonhardt, who's been looking at the same stories. "On the surface, these claims can sound credible. But when you dig a little deeper, you often discover the same lesson that the McDonald’s case provides: the real problem was the status quo."

By Ezra Klein  | October 7, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: No way to run a government
Next: The turducken of cakes

Comments

One man's "discriminating against sick children" is another man's "preventing people from gaming the system and driving up costs for everybody else by waiting until their child is sick before seeking insurance". My understanding is that those insurance companies will continue existing coverage for families who already had it, whether their children are sick or not. They are just not going to write new policies because they know good and well that many of the who will now buy will do so because they have large claims which will drive up the costs for existing customers.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 7, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,

you're correct in almost everything you say but you don't go to the next logical step. You complain in other posts how businesses aren't hiring, they're hoarding cash, buying back stock etc (which is all true). one of the main reasons is because they realize that with this administration that the cost for this is going to come from somewhere. If we give McDonald's employees a full blown healthplan like you have then McDonald's costs are going to skyrocket from what they are now (remember no free lunches pun intended). Sure in 2014 we'll be further insulated from the cost because it'll be paid by the subsidies but that doesn't mean the costs won't skyrocket to a point where the government will be forced (because of increased subsidies) to address the problem before the US is driven closer to bankruptcy.

Now all this doesn't mean that the low wage work force (here listed as McDonald's employees) don't deserve quality healthcare but it does mean we have to be realistic as to the costs of it and what effect that is having on the economy as a whole. And before someone says it I'm not saying that the entire economic slowdown has to do with PPACA but it absolutely is a factor and when you add that up with new taxes corporations fear from this administration they're waiting for a better government partner.

And as to 3M's case I say good for them and i expect others to follow their lead. Why should retirees who are eligible for medicare have a company sponsored plan that is more rich than it needs to be for them? Why not give them a stipend towards a reasonably priced medicare supplement plan?


The only positive to the subsides issue is that as they explode in 2014 with a greater cost than anyone expects maybe it will force the cost issue to be resolved sooner than anyone expected.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 7, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Isn't the Obama/Pelosi Regime granting waivers so that the status quo can continue? The New York Times had a great report (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/business/07insure.html) yesterday about the PPACA waivers being granted to friends of the regime. It makes one wonder why the PPACA is necessary... until one remembers that a life-granting & cost-saving PPACA waiver makes a great pre-election "gift."

The good news is that the losses due to the PPACA are quantifiable: it is easy to count the letters flowing from the HHS and IRS informing people of loss of coverage and increase in cost. Further, the timing of PPACA implementation allows the data to become a part of ongoing litigation.

Posted by: rmgregory | October 7, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"My understanding is that those insurance companies will continue existing coverage for families who already had it, whether their children are sick or not. They are just not going to write new policies because they know good and well that many of the who will now buy will do so because they have large claims which will drive up the costs for existing customers."

In other words, they were families who could not get affordable coverage under the current system - which, of course, was all their own fault, so to h_ll with their kids, who should have had the foresight to be born to more prudent or richer parents!

Actually, I am not unsympathetic to the companies who are refusing to issue new child only coverage, since as you noted, this is not a viable business model in a system which does not require universal participation and does not have any risk adjustment. But the child insurance issue is just the first glimmer of what the problems are going to be when the rest of the system comes on board. If you can switch policies without regard to preconditions, then what is to prevent you from keeping a bare bones policy in effect, then switching to a comprehensive policy if you develop a serious health condition? Or, as I understand it, you would be eligible to purchase insurance without precondition limitations as long as you were paid up on the 'non-coverage' fines. The kinds of problems discussed yesterday with the house being allowed to burn in Tennessee are only a small inkiling of what the health insurance issues are going to be. The question is, when the wheels start to come off, whether it will be the shock we need to go to univeral care, like the rest of the civilized world, or will we just throw up our hands and let it fall apart?

BTW, I read that the insurance company for the a_hole in the Tennessee let-the-house=burn case is going to pay his claim, so the 'cost' to him of failing to pay his fire protection fee is that he gets a brand new house with brand new everything in it. Guess that'll teach people not to pay their fare share of the cost of public services!

Posted by: guesswhosue | October 7, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story."

- President Barak Obama, July 18, 2009

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Weekly-Address-President-Obama-Health-Insurance-Reform-Will-Strengthen-Small-Businesses/

The insurance industry and the Republicans weren't the ones who made Obama issue the statement guaranteeing that if you liked your insurance you could keep it. Much like his chart that showed what the unemployment rate would be if we passed the stimulus, he has a habit of over-promising and is overly optimistic about the precision with which government policy can influence both the economy and health care system.

If it wasn't realistic to promise "If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance" anyway, then we should have considered more significant reforms to things such as the tax treatment of employer provided insurance. But that would have required repudiating his campaign rhetoric against McCain who made basically that proposal, the same way Obama had to repudiate his position on the individual mandate and adopt Hillary Clinton's position.

Either way, the President has a growing credibility gap.

Posted by: jnc4p | October 7, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

As noted by rmgregory, Ezra, the administration has already done the standard Obama routine of preemptively caving on this too. I can't wait to see him decide not to run for reelection in 2012 because Rush Limbaugh says something mean and he caves in and retires from politics rather than fight back on it.

Posted by: mellifluent | October 7, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Too much vitriol aimed at the relative differences between plans. No empathy for the absolute lack of care for so many. $2k annually could make the difference between seeing a doctor and getting help with a treatable illness and a major chronic condition costing the system enormously. Here's your sign - fix the US health care mess or live with the decline of our country.

Posted by: BertEisenstein | October 7, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"And in some cases -- and it's important to watch this, too -- they'll continue the pre-health-care reform trend of dropping coverage for employees, but they'll blame the new law, as it's better to have your employees mad at the government than at you."

The new law does however provide a more clearer economic incentive to do this.

See "Obamacare By the Numbers"

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2010/03/obamacare-by-the-numbers-part-1.html

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2010/03/obamacare-by-the-numbers-part-2.html

"The question of what impact the reforms will have on existing insurance plans has received even less analysis. According to President Obama, if you have coverage you like you can keep it, and that’s that. For the majority of workers, this will undoubtedly be true, at least in the short term, but in some parts of the economy, particularly industries that pay low and moderate wages, the presence of such generous subsidies for individual coverage is bound to affect behavior eventually. To suggest this won’t happen is to say economic incentives don’t matter.

Take a medium-sized firm that employs a hundred people earning $40,000 each—a private security firm based in Atlanta, say—and currently offers them health-care insurance worth $10,000 a year, of which the employees pay $2,500. This employer’s annual health-care costs are $750,000 (a hundred times $7,500). In the reformed system, the firm’s workers, if they didn’t have insurance, would be eligible for generous subsidies to buy private insurance. For example, a married forty-year-old security guard whose wife stayed home to raise two kids could enroll in a non-group plan for less than $1,400 a year, according to the Kaiser Health Reform Subsidy Calculator. (The subsidy from the government would be $8,058.)

In a situation like this, the firm has a strong financial incentive to junk its group coverage and dump its workers onto the taxpayer-subsidized plan. Under the new law, firms with more than fifty workers that don’t offer coverage would have to pay an annual fine of $2,000 for every worker they employ, excepting the first thirty. In this case, the security firm would incur a fine of $140,000 (seventy times two), but it would save $610,000 a year on health-care costs. If you owned this firm, what would you do? Unless you are unusually public spirited, you would take advantage of the free money that the government is giving out. Since your employees would see their own health-care contributions fall by more than $1,100 a year, or almost half, they would be unlikely to complain. And even if they did, you would be saving so much money you afford to buy their agreement with a pay raise of, say, $2,000 a year, and still come out well ahead."

Posted by: jnc4p | October 7, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

But the child insurance issue is just the first glimmer of what the problems are going to be when the rest of the system comes on board. If you can switch policies without regard to preconditions, then what is to prevent you from keeping a bare bones policy in effect, then switching to a comprehensive policy if you develop a serious health condition? Or, as I understand it, you would be eligible to purchase insurance without precondition limitations as long as you were paid up on the 'non-coverage' fines.

Posted by: guesswhosue | October 7, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse


I've got news for you guesswhosue. Its happening now and has been happening for years. There is nothing in the law that does not allow a small employer that has had coverage for at least 12 months (so no pre-ex thanks to HIPAA) from having a bare bones but credible policy now to go to a comprehensive one that covers all someone's doctors in network once a person gets sick. It happens all the time but no one feels bad for the big bad, EVIL insurance company when a sick person adversely selects against them thanks to the tenor of the debate pushed by this administration and led by Secretary Sebelius. You know who pays for it already, YOU AND ME that's who. that's another reason why our premiums go up but we can't ever say that for fear of starting panic or being branded.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 7, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Let's legalize euthanasia! At least this way, when a patient dropped from their insurance because of high ticket items like cancer, at least they'll die humanely.

Posted by: raduodogi | October 7, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Worth pointing out: the McDonald's plan that provided $2,000 worth of coverage also cost $730 a year.

So, a plan so skimpy that it doesn't cover the costs of an uncomplicated pregnancy and natural childbirth attended by a midwife...is ALSO a plan that costs you $730 a year.

I've seen cash-for-gold scams that were better deals than this.

Posted by: theorajones1 | October 7, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"I doubt that there's much support for the "sure, continue turning away sick children" position."

But there would be support for prohibiting families with sick children from accessing your bank account without your permission and draining your funds to pay for treatment. This is basically what is being done, though people don't realize it because it all occurs via the insurance company blackbox.

"In other words, they were families who could not get affordable coverage under the current system - which, of course, was all their own fault, so to h_ll with their kids, who should have had the foresight to be born to more prudent or richer parents!"

So stealing is okay as long as you've got a good reason? Do I get to decide what constitutes a good reason?

In a free society, most people will feel bad about kids being stuck in bad situations, same as they do today. With individuals having control of all of their own money, I'm sure that there would be plenty of non-profits and voluntary associations that would help with this kind of thing.

"I read that the insurance company for the a_hole in the Tennessee let-the-house=burn case is going to pay his claim, so the 'cost' to him of failing to pay his fire protection fee is that he gets a brand new house with brand new everything in it. Guess that'll teach people not to pay their fare share of the cost of public services!"

In other words, an insurance company honored a contract it had entered into.

Glad to see the market could offset the damage the government had caused by preventing the fire department from putting out the fire to begin with! Wonder if "Government fire department lets house burn to the ground; private insurance company helps homeowner" will be appearing on wonkbook tomorrow?

Posted by: justin84 | October 7, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"Worth pointing out: the McDonald's plan that provided $2,000 worth of coverage also cost $730 a year.

So, a plan so skimpy that it doesn't cover the costs of an uncomplicated pregnancy and natural childbirth attended by a midwife...is ALSO a plan that costs you $730 a year.

I've seen cash-for-gold scams that were better deals than this."

I'll make that trade with you. I'll send you $730, and you offer to pay for up to $2,000 worth of doctor visits.

If you think you might become pregnant, I believe the $10,000 plan was only $1,600.

Posted by: justin84 | October 7, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

theorajones,

I've seen that argument recently by the left. Please let me know why you think its not worth paying $700 to get a potential $2000 in benefit? You do realize that other policies that cost more paid up to $10,000 right? What actuarial or fiance background do you have that allows you to call it a scam?

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 7, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

LOOKS LIKE THE STATUS QUO TO ME! As Obama administration officials put into place the first major wave of changes under the health care legislation, they have tried to defuse stiffening resistance — from companies like McDonald’s and some insurers — by granting dozens of waivers to maintain even minimal coverage far below the new law’s standards.

The waivers have been issued in the last several weeks as part of a broader strategic effort to stave off threats by some health insurers to abandon markets, drop out of the business altogether or refuse to sell certain policies.

Among those that administration officials hoped to mollify with waivers were some big insurers, some smaller employers and McDonald’s, which went so far as to warn that the regulations could force it to strip workers of existing coverage.

Posted by: obrier2 | October 7, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"In a free society, most people will feel bad about kids being stuck in bad situations, same as they do today. With individuals having control of all of their own money, I'm sure that there would be plenty of non-profits and voluntary associations that would help with this kind of thing."

We should call this the "because I say so" argument. No, sorry, your emotional resentment that somebody, somewhere, might be getting something for nothing, + plus the "free-market wreckonomics" quasi-religious intellectual reasoning that buttresses the feeling in time of dire bowels, don't work, no. As a free society we decided by about the time of Adam Smith that there are several public goods whose transactions COSTS can be massively REDUCED by FORCING everybody to CHIP IN. Indeed a moment's reflection about the process of charity shows that it costs us much more in personal time and effort than ought to be necessary, and so we save our social act of charity for the unusual and extreme and non-daily sorts of deprivation and daze. The only way one wouldn't see this, is if one didn't think seriously about charity. So, to make a long story short, by forcing you into our world domination plan to become our commie slave, we'll make the rest of society smell better anyway. Your negative freedoms will be positively offended! And when you get hurt, even though you won't deign to condescend, we're going to try to help you, too. The Theory of Moral Sentiments = sympathy. The other half of the enlightenment, etc. Please grow up soon.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | October 7, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

As a free society we decided by about the time of Adam Smith that there are several public goods whose transactions COSTS can be massively REDUCED by FORCING everybody to CHIP IN


@Lee,

You see for me Lee the question is not that we should have to chip in but the question is where does it stop. Where does the line get drawn? the line in Europe for example is much farther down than ours and they're rioting in the streets. Should we aspire to that? How far is too far? How much is too much? Sure we have people that abuse the system (be it welfare or corporate governance) and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have welfare or we shouldn't allow corporations to exist.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 7, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"In other words, they were families who could not get affordable coverage under the current system - which, of course, was all their own fault, so to h_ll with their kids, who should have had the foresight to be born to more prudent or richer parents!"

First of all, have you ever heard of CHIP?

Besides, these companies are not dropping family insurance coverage under which children are covered. This is a niche product, my guess is for some segment of the market that has discovered that for their particular situation it's cheaper to insure their children separately. One example that comes to mind is the case of employees of small companies that get subsidized coverage for the employee but very high premiums for family coverage. Or possibly situations in which the parent can't get coverage but the kids can.

So,

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 7, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

That McDonald's plan, coupled with a high deductible, inexpensive, catastrophic plan would make a really nice package! So, why can't Obamacare require bare bones and inexpensive coverage and leave it to employers and individuals to enhance that coverage as they see fit?

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 7, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Visionbrkr: "Where does the line get drawn?"

The FEAR that a line needs to be drawn morally, is being INFLATED into some sort of primal, singular emotion by an endless series of conjectures about the decisions of individuals within an institutional framework.

By the way, this is also exactly what the Left does with market competition.

Either way, it is useless. The only way to go is piecemeal.

Europe has little to teach us, despite your apparent trust in business lobby propaganda. Because its size, history and institutional structures are vastly different.

Europe is a group of much smaller economies, therefore much lower division of labor and lower productivity if they had no international trade, each with very different institutional histories that are deep and profound, and which is having a great deal of trouble integrating for several reasons.

The U.S. is a very different sort of place. Self-interest and innovation aren't going to disappear. For you guys, America is exceptional, except when it isn't. The whole compare-to-Europe slippery-slope-to-socialism thing is gibberish.

After that, the "line gets drawn" quite exactly at the extended baseline scenario, or, if Congress doesn't stick to current law and paygo, the alternative fiscal scenario. In fact, they draw both lines-- see both charts Ezra put here:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/06/current_law_is_fiscally_respon.html

People who "abuse the system" are everywhere, on all sides.

There are two basic kinds of problems, but they aren't private/public. The abuses will never disappear and so we just have to deal with all of them, all of the time. There are (1) transaction problems, market failures, and so on; and there are (2) contextual, institutional problems -- things like limited consumer knowledge, "government failure" (public choice), and business management problems are in this same second category. There won't be a defining ideological policy that gives us a linear direction through this stuff. It will be a continuous application of effort.

Both Left progressives and Right libertarians should stop the endless posturing and jabber. It is completely counter-productive and now, the Republicans are about to take over the House while at the same time destroying their old party in pursuit of more of the same.

Nobody has a better idea, in fact or in theory. Governments cannot central plan, and markets cannot be free. Neither one works. Or we should say, neither works by itself -- they appear to have to overlap.

So the only way to preserve freedoms, allow equality, and shave future costs is going to be combined, piecemeal institutional redesign -- slow and imperfect, with market signals, voter feedbacks, the whole works.

I take that as a fairly decent description of Obamacare.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | October 7, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

jnc,

Great link to the New Yorker piece. It's precisely those kind of incentives that are being ignored by Ezra and progressives. ACA is going to be very, very expensive. Lee and others are correct, our system desperately needed reform. Elimination of the tax exclusion coupled with mandatory HSA contributions and a government sponsored public/private universal catastrophic health insurance program would have been very effective and dramatically cheaper.

Posted by: FatTriplet3 | October 7, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"Glad to see the market could offset the damage the government had caused by preventing the fire department from putting out the fire to begin with."

This takes the cake. How did the government "prevent the fire department from putting out the fire?" He prevented them from doing it by not paying the fee. So government should run like a business, but should also provide you with services that you have not paid for? You should bear the costs of your own bad decisions except when that cost actually comes to home to roost, in which case you should be exempted?

Agreed that if the insurance company had not thought to put in it's contract that you had to pay your fire protection fee as a condition of the contract, then they were legally obligated to pay the claim, but that does not mean that the guy is not getting something he does not deserve. The folks that are being screwed in the end are his fellow policy holders. And I would hope that the companies writing insurance in that county are going to be revising their contracts to require the fire fee to be paid.

Posted by: guesswhosue | October 7, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

"No, sorry, your emotional resentment that somebody, somewhere, might be getting something for nothing"

It's a moral objection to theft. I could care less if someone gets something for nothing on a voluntary basis - in fact, I am a huge fan of private charity. I give plenty of people stuff for nothing all the time, for the fun of it! What a concept!

You may dispute that theft is immoral, but please realize that you're the one relying on emotions here.

"plus the "free-market wreckonomics" quasi-religious intellectual reasoning that buttresses the feeling in time of dire bowels, don't work, no."

The wreck you are referring to occurred under a system of tight regulation and where nearly half of the income in the country was controlled or directed by government. The free market may not work all that well, but it is not discredited by the financial crash, and it has the virtue of being free regardless of any flaws in operation.

"As a free society we decided by about the time of Adam Smith that there are several public goods whose transactions COSTS can be massively REDUCED by FORCING everybody to CHIP IN."

I'm sorry, but lower costs or other noble goals does not give you the right to force anyone do to your bidding. You are just another wannabe tyrant.

What are your examples? Perhaps the trillion dollar military? To the extent there are an inefficiencies "force" allows us to fix, we've lost it all and then some on the military alone.

"Indeed a moment's reflection about the process of charity shows that it costs us much more in personal time and effort than ought to be necessary"

In otherwords, you'd prefer to save time and money (and let's be honest, it is a dubious propostion that you save either under the status quo) by having everyone else be forced to give and work in your stead at the point of a gun.

"and so we save our social act of charity for the unusual and extreme and non-daily sorts of deprivation and daze."

Yeah Lee, I'm sure you're all over helping out during the extreme cases (whatever that means) when you can't be bothered to do any basic.

"So, to make a long story short, by forcing you into our world domination plan to become our commie slave, we'll make the rest of society smell better anyway. Your negative freedoms will be positively offended!"

At least you admit freedom is being intentionally discarded.

"And when you get hurt, even though you won't deign to condescend, we're going to try to help you, too. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments = sympathy. The other half of the enlightenment, etc."

Sympathy is fine. Helping others is wonderful. Stealing from others to ease your guilty conscience is not. Even if you intend to help lil' ol' me with the proceeds!

Posted by: justin84 | October 7, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

"This takes the cake. How did the government "prevent the fire department from putting out the fire?""

The money quote:

"When a household has not paid the fee, firefighters are required by law to not respond."

http://abcnews.go.com/US/tennessee-familys-home-burns-ground-firefighters-stand-watch/story?id=11806407

"So government should run like a business, but should also provide you with services that you have not paid for?"

No, the government should not be in the business to begin with.

The FD refused him a service he was willing to pay for (in full, not just the $75) - that doesn't happen too often in the private sector.

"Agreed that if the insurance company had not thought to put in it's contract that you had to pay your fire protection fee as a condition of the contract, then they were legally obligated to pay the claim, but that does not mean that the guy is not getting something he does not deserve."

Well sure, he might not deserve it, but good for him. Doesn't bother me a bit.

If we were upset because his house burning down over not paying a $75 fee, then this windfall is pretty good news, isn't it?

Posted by: justin84 | October 7, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm not upset that his house burned down over not paying a $75 fee. I'm delighted. I would think you would be too. I'm upset that people who play by the rules are constantly taking it in the _ss from people who don't want the burden of following the rules, but do want the benefit. After six decades of 'playing by the rules', I am stuck in a crappy house, while that sh-th--d is going to have a brand new one. If I thought I could get a brand new house by burning some trash in my back yard, I would be out there with lighter fluid right now. Who knows if the fire was even an accident?

Posted by: guesswhosue | October 7, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Justin84: "I'm sorry, but lower costs or other noble goals does not give you the right to force anyone do to your bidding."

Oh, sure it does. I choose to live in a system where you and I are BOTH forced to pay-in and get back benefits. Why? Because this way, when lots of people who feel like you do leave the system and then screw up, I am not forced to bail all of them out, at even MORE time and expense than was ever necessary, just in order to live in a civil and half-decent landscape. It's the second-best outcome, for us both.

And so far, the people who choose in the same way I choose, are winning. So: why is your choice MORE important than ours? Convince us, first.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | October 7, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not upset that his house burned down over not paying a $75 fee. I'm delighted. I would think you would be too."

I'm generally not thrilled by hearing someone's house burnt down. But in general, I don't really feel one way or another. It's his business - not a fun experience, but surely good news for him that his homeowners paid out.

"I'm upset that people who play by the rules are constantly taking it in the _ss from people who don't want the burden of following the rules, but do want the benefit. After six decades of 'playing by the rules', I am stuck in a crappy house, while that sh-th--d is going to have a brand new one"

He played by the rules. He didn't pay the fee, and watched the house he was probably very attached to with all of his belongings (not all replacable) go up in flames. He had to stand around as the firefighters shrug and say "hey, the law's the law".

He did pay for homeowners insurance, and that insurance is helping him pay for a new house.

Anyway, he's not getting a palace - the money is for a replacement, not an upgrade.

Posted by: justin84 | October 7, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

"So, a plan so skimpy that it doesn't cover the costs of an uncomplicated pregnancy and natural childbirth attended by a midwife...is ALSO a plan that costs you $730 a year.

I've seen cash-for-gold scams that were better deals than this."

Not suprisingly, you haven't linked one.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 7, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I work in the insurance industry, and I talk to people every day that make 2K a week or more that reject coverage, because they just don't want to pay $ 400 a month.

There is going to be huge public support to kill the individual mandate, and it is going to SCOTUS. That will be the biggest ruling in our lifetime. If SCOTUS kills the mandate for everyone to buy -- this whole thing falls apart like a house of cards.

Posted by: RMarvel | October 7, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

"So, a plan so skimpy that it doesn't cover the costs of an uncomplicated pregnancy and natural childbirth attended by a midwife...is ALSO a plan that costs you $730 a year.

I've seen cash-for-gold scams that were better deals than this."

Not suprisingly, you haven't linked one.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 7, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

"So, a plan so skimpy that it doesn't cover the costs of an uncomplicated pregnancy and natural childbirth attended by a midwife...is ALSO a plan that costs you $730 a year.

I've seen cash-for-gold scams that were better deals than this."

Not suprisingly, you haven't linked one.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 7, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

"Elimination of the tax exclusion coupled with mandatory HSA contributions and a government sponsored public/private universal catastrophic health insurance program would have been very effective and dramatically cheaper."

Posted by: FatTriplet3

YES! YES! YES! And if the Democrats had just been satisfied with exactly that, and left off with mandating private insurance like individual policies for children and McDonald's mini med policy and whatever other diktats and nonsense they've buried inside Obamacare, they'd probably not be facing a Republican takeover of Congress today. The private market could easily have stepped up and offered a smorgasbord of enhancements for individuals and employers to choose from. grrrrr

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 7, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

So do you think the premium for his homeowner's insurance was underwritten to reflect the fact that he did not take appropriate measures to provide for fire protection for the property. I assume you would not think that his insurance would pay out if he had set the house on fire directly. What he actually did was only different in a matter of degree, not of substance. And why should the other policy holders of his insurance company have to foot the bill for his idiocy (assuming that it was not deliberate, which I don't think you can rule out, since apparently the fire department had let other buildings of non-paying resident burn?) Maybe his wife had been griping at him about the place being a dump, and he decided to set the trash on fire and roll the dice. You have no way of knowing if he was attached to his house or if he lost any 'irreplaceable' personal items. I can just as easily say that he probably stashed the stuff he wanted to save in a storage unit somewhere and let the fire get out of control deliberately. We're both blowing smoke as to what actually happenend, but as an objective matter he is going to be materially better off with a brand new house than he was with an older one.

Posted by: guesswhosue | October 7, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

The administration *waived* a part of the health care law for thirty politically connected businesses, Klein. How many non-politically connected businesses are there out there, who aren't being granted privileges under the law? I guess they are SOL, eh? That's the very malfeasance and corruption and criminality of your stupid collectivism in action, and it's killing this country.

Posted by: msoja | October 7, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

"Oh, sure it does... And so far, the people who choose in the same way I choose, are winning. So: why is your choice MORE important than ours? Convince us, first."

So in other words, might makes right. And people always wonder why the founders were so worried about democracy!

It's awfully hard to convince a bunch of armed thieves who believe they are entitled to your property that they are in the wrong. Remember that the next time a gangbanger sticks a gunbarrel down your throat and "asks" for your wallet.

Your well being depends ever more on political whim and the government's credit card. Let me know how that works out for you when the wrong political party is in control, or the government goes bankrupt.

"Because this way, when lots of people who feel like you do leave the system and then screw up, I am not forced to bail all of them out, at even MORE time and expense than was ever necessary"

In this situation are you aren't being forced to do anything.

I note you realize being forced to do something against your will is a bad thing, even if you can't properly identify what force is. Try running with that thought.

The government is appropriating over $6 trillion dollars every year, creating all sorts of perverse incentives, destruction and poverty traps all the way. The status quo is surely costing you more right now.

Posted by: justin84 | October 7, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

"You see for me Lee the question is not that we should have to chip in but the question is where does it stop. Where does the line get drawn?"

Visionbrkr,

The problem is unless you are standing on principle, you fall into a morass of utilitarian arguments stating that whatever you propose is never enough. The rich don't need their income, and others do, and of course individuals can't plan their own lives out properly. Nevermind that the government plans are routinely hairbrained too.

I tried selling my own 'plan' on this blog. Advocated $1,000 per month to every adult citizen, a system of public (free at POS) hospitals and education vouchers, and a flat tax on all income.

Despite this being worth about $54,000 for a family of four - $24,000 in the guaranteed income, $2,500 value of public hospitals per each family member, $10,000 for education vouchers to two kids - Patrick (if I recall correctly) fought against it as woefully insufficient.

He then listed examples of people who would have a tough time. It was unbelievable. The government litterally couldn't afford more. I recalled msoja saying at one point designing one size fits all systems is like having everyone try to drive the same race car - you'd crash before you got anywhere.

So I admitted that I couldn't design a perfect system, and that no one can. Furthermore, I could never answer the theft objection - if someone has no right to put a gun to your head and demand your wallet, how does it become right if done through a government middle man? Sure, a welfare state feels nice and secure, but the foundation can be a bit shaky from both a moral and practical perspective.

"the line in Europe for example is much farther down than ours and they're rioting in the streets. Should we aspire to that? How far is too far? How much is too much?"

I'm sure they didn't aspire to that either. It's just hard to stop the ball once its rolling. Europe definitely went too far, but it looks almost inevitable that we will, too.

"Sure we have people that abuse the system (be it welfare or corporate governance) and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have welfare or we shouldn't allow corporations to exist."

The government at all levels will spend or redistribute $6.4 trillion in 2010. It's half of the national income. If most of that income were to be left alone, you'd have to think that there would be more than enough availble for all necessary charity.

Posted by: justin84 | October 7, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Justin84: "So in other words, might makes right. And people always wonder why the founders were so worried about democracy! "

Nonsense. Vote for legislators to change the laws. Vote for the Republicans and see how far that gets you! You're in better hands with the Dems. If you want to change it, stop whining and form your own political party. I won't be joining, but it's a free country.

"It's awfully hard to convince a bunch of armed thieves who believe they are entitled to your property that they are in the wrong."

Oh sure, the country goes to war to defend a system that people use to get rich, but these guys take a tax cut instead of paying for the war. There are soldiers without faces in Walter Reed, but the rich scum want their tax cuts. Payroll taxes are increased over decades to cover Social Security for another 25 years, income tax cuts drain it, and these guys claim it's bankrupt. We're talking real morals with these people.

"In this situation are you aren't being forced to do anything."

This is the stupidest thing of all. Of course most of us will want do something -- at great extra time and expense. And that is a complete waste, when a good institutional design could do it first.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | October 7, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

--*Vote for the Republicans and see how far that gets you! You're in better hands with the Dems. If you want to change it, stop whining and form your own political party. I won't be joining, but it's a free country.*--

No, it isn't a "free country" if one's "freedom" depends on who holds public office. Period.

Posted by: msoja | October 8, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

--*Of course most of us will want do something*--

And some of you will want to force others to "do something". It's what separates regular folks from a-holes.

Naturally, you don't have the guts to do your thieving on your own merits, but have to vote up a sufficient thugocracy to do the job for you, slavering all the while over other people's money.

Posted by: msoja | October 8, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Stop it Msoja really, you're tearing our hearts out. Poor little unfree you!

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | October 8, 2010 12:43 AM | Report abuse

--*I recalled msoja saying at one point designing one size fits all systems is like having everyone try to drive the same race car - you'd crash before you got anywhere.*--

Not me, I'm pretty sure. I recall the analogy, but not who offered it.

Hang in there on principles. It is individuals who see these things clearly who have a chance at turning the tide, though it may well be too late, now. The GOP has too long been fraternizing with the enemy, and the political expediencies are so legion that even a hundred percent turnover in Congress with all subsequent decisions made on strict lines will blow the place up (a distinct argument against letting things go the way they have, but of little cheer at this point.) And yet, one has to hope, to use the husk of a popular empty euphemism.

Carry on.

Posted by: msoja | October 8, 2010 12:44 AM | Report abuse

--*Stop it Msoja really, you're tearing our hearts out. Poor little unfree you!*--

Ad hom is not an argument. Does one's freedom depend on which political party holds power?

Have you read the ruling, issued today, from the judge working the first challenge to the health care law? I have. Judge Steeh invented a new doctrine. If it stands, and there's no way to know in the chaos that is the current U.S. leviathan, there is nothing that the government can't decree, and no recourse or redress for the common citizen.

So, play your little game, but when the next (or the next) Congress makes sport with the same reasoning, and it's not to your liking, just suck it up, okay?

Posted by: msoja | October 8, 2010 1:01 AM | Report abuse

After you write

"Naturally, you don't have the guts to do your thieving on your own merits, but have to vote up a sufficient thugocracy to do the job for you, slavering all the while over other people's money."

you then write

"Ad hom is not an argument"

and we're supposed to take you seriously? Really? Have you completely lost your mind with all this fevered libertarian gibberish?

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | October 8, 2010 1:52 AM | Report abuse

JOURNOLISTER who cares what you have to say? The man who you and your sycophantic crew worked hard to get elected is destroying jobs left and right and the US can't take much more. Now go on Maddow and engage in mutual adoration. It's been 19 months since your guy took office and, quite simply, have things gotten worse or better for the average American? You know, for people: 1) outside The Washington Post, The NYT, CNN, and other liberal centers; 2) people who don't believe Paul Krugman's "logic" and financial lunacy makes sense; 3) who don't believe Soros is king because he espouses policies that destroy jobs but benefit his currency plays and investments and practices hypocrisy of the worst kind (what was he up to in Nazi-occupied Europe again); 4) etc., etc.

Posted by: frankensundae | October 8, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company