Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

WSJ Misleads Its Readers, Defends Big-Government on Student Loans

Alan Collinge of StudentLoanJustice.Org” and I go back a long ways. I have sponsored his posts at Angry Bear. Other sites have done the same. The point to all of his words in unfair practices by nonprofit and for profit higher education schools with regards to student loans before and after college. There is no escape from Student Loans. Thank you Joe Biden.

The Wall Street Journal editors recently published an editorial, The Great Student Loan Write-Down, in which they cite a recent Congressional Budget Office report claiming the government is going to be forgiving over $200 Billion in student loan debt over the next decade. They also cites another CBO report which uses so-called “fair value” accounting to claim the government will be losing $11 Billion from the lending system over roughly the next decade. Judging from the angry vitriol in the comments under this editorial, the WSJ certainly succeeded in awakening the indignation of its conservative readership.

The astonishing truth is the assumptions upon which the WSJ and the CBO reports are resting their claims on are false. In fact, the opposite of what they are claiming is true. WSJ readers, and the public at large should be very concerned by what follows. Past the leap, IBRs and “fair value” costing.

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Five Charts, Graphs, Depictions to Help Explain What Voters are Thinking about Health Care – Election 2020

KFF Health Tracking Poll – February 2020: Health Care in the 2020 Election

As SCOTUS decides (this last Friday) whether it will take up he ACA and its constitutionality in Texas v. United States challenging the constitutionality of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), the
attitude of the public towards it has changed since the 2016 election. The February 2020 KFF Health Tracking Poll finds attitudes towards the ACA hit its highest favorability rating since KFF began tracking opinions ~ ten years ago. The poll finds a clear majority of the public viewing the law favorably (55%), while slightly more than one-third (37%) of the public hold unfavorable views. In my own opinion, much of this change in attitude is the result of the rising patient costs of healthcare due to pricing increases, increased commercial healthcare costs, and the elimination of the CSR subsidies which also impacted people above 400% FPL in income causing many of them to drop healthcare insurance.

Attitudes amongst Republicans have also changed (chart to the left) from 2016 t0 2020 with a greater priority being given to lowering healthcare cost over repealing the ACA. Most Republican voters (84%) hold unfavorable views towards the ACA; however, few offer up the ACA when asked to describe in their own words what about health care is important to their vote. Three percent of Republican voters offer opposition to or repealing the ACA as their top health care issue down from 2016. Twenty-four percent now list healthcare costs as their number one issue.

Attitudes amongst all voters towards the Affordable Care Act during the 2020 presidential election is quite different than how it was in 2016. As always click on the graph to enlarge. Beyond the leap, what is favored.

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TPM has the Running Dialogue between Stone’s Attorneys and the Court – Update

Click on the link and scroll down to the beginning

Roger Stone Is Sentenced

“Tierney Sneed is at the federal courthouse in DC.” Live Blogging

I believe Judge Amy Berman Jackson is getting close to Sentencing Stone.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson is back and starts off: “Unsurprisingly, I have a lot to say,”

Judge Berman Jackson signals that she is also not going to go with Stone’s proposal for only probation.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has sentenced Trump ally Roger Stone to 40 months in prison.

Updated developments during the Hearing beyond the Leap

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Bronze ACA Plans are Terrible. Bronze plans are often the best Choice

Andrew Sprung writes about the ACA. I read him quite often as his posts are expert analysis of the ACA and healthcare.  Mostly recently this commentary was posted by Andrew on the benefits of getting a Bronze plan as opposed to a Gold plan if facing large out of pocket expenses (premiums + deductibles).

“XPOSTFACTOID”   Mostly about the ACA: Obamacare to Trumpcare.

Bronze plans are terrible. Bronze plans are often the best choice.

In discussion of the ACA marketplace (and health insurance generally), deductibles are often used as a stand-in for out-of-pocket costs. Now here cometh David Anderson to remind us that a plan’s maximum out-of-pocket cost (MOOP) can be just as important — and that the MOOP often does not particularly correspond to metal level.

The highest allowable MOOP at all metal levels is $8,150 (a travesty by international rich country standards). Here is David’s mapping of the range of MOOP for gold plans in HealthCare.gov states. Dark green is $2,500 MOOP; dark red is $8,150.

As David points out, bronze plans will be a better deal for anyone who knows they’ll hit the out-of-pocket max. As he’s pointed out elsewhere (and in passing here), it takes a lot more spending to hit the high max in a gold plan — say, $30,000 — than in a bronze plan. That’s because once you meet your deductible (likely to be relatively low in a gold plan with high MOOP), a high percentage of ensuing costs will be covered in a gold plan until the MOOP is reached, at which point coverage goes to 100% for ensuing costs (if you stay in network).

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Surprise Billing To Be Resolved in February 2020 to be Enacted in 2022

I had wondered why the Senate (Schumer) had backed off on legislation controlling surprise billing. It turns out there is a House bill also and I am sure they are going back and forth on this. Recently, two bills have emerged in the House and one from the Senate. Medscape, “House Committees Advance Bills to Address Surprise Billing.”

Of course if Congress’s butt was on the line, a solution would have been found quickly and enacted in 2020. At the end, see which one I would back.

The House Ways and Means Committee bill passed by a voice vote bipartisan bill. It seeks to establish more use of third-party negotiators ( arbitration) for settling certain disputes about payment for out-of-network care. This bill has the support of the American Hospital Association and the American College of Emergency Physicians. The American Medical Association also praised the committee’s reliance on mediation for disputes on bills.

The House Education and Labor Committee advanced a hybrid proposal seeking to use established prices in local markets to resolve many disputes about out-of-network bills. Key to this bill is the use of arbitration above a certain cost. Bills greater than $750 or in the case of air ambulance services $25,000; clinicians and insurers could turn to arbitration for an independent dispute resolution. House Education and Labor passed this bill in a 32-13 mixed vote with some Republicans and Democrats opposing and in favor.

The latest Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee of legislative proposals also addresses surprise medical billing. The HELP bill called for mandating that insurers reimburse out-of-network costs on the basis of their own median rates for in-network providers.

The Education and Labor Committee bill is estimated to save $24 billion, the Senate HELPS bill is estimated to save $25 billion, and the Ways and Means’ bill would save almost $18 billion  all over 10 years. It is suggested the greater use of arbitration in the Ways and Means’ bill will result in less savings.

Read on about the private equity involved and providers.

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Doctor Surprise Billing

This doctor is a bit much; but, he gets a point across which I have been making also. The issue(s) Dr. ZDogg  is describing about what commercial healthcare insurance, Medicare Advantage plans, hospitals, and now doctors are doing needs to be told over and over again. Schumer and the Senate have to release the portion of the House Budget bill that dealt with Surprise billing.

ZDoggMD reacts to ridiculous medical bills, MedPage Today, February 6, 2020

 

Going to her PCP located in Manhattan, a woman complains of a sore throat. Forget the Manhattan part of this as various versions (surprise billing)  of this situation are happening everywhere. The doctor swabbed the throat, sent it off to the lab, ordered some tests, and then gave her a prescription for antibiotics. She took her meds and went on vacation feeling better.

The tests came back negative. She later received a bill for ~$26,000.

The  lab was out of network which usually results with insurance only paying a portion of the bill and the patient the balance unless the insurance negotiates a lesser charge (hospital 3rd party employees) which they will pay. This is another version of Surprise Billing, not in a hospital setting, which we have heard so much about, and the patient gets screwed with the balance of the Surprise Billing.

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Does America Hate Its Children?

December 2012,  Robert Reich wrote about America’s children   .   .   .    Remember the Children.

“America’s children seem to be shortchanged on almost every issue we face as a society.

Not only are we failing to protect our children from deranged people wielding semi-automatic guns.

We’re not protecting them from poverty. The rate of child poverty keeps rising – even faster than the rate of adult poverty. We now have the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world.

And we’re not protecting their health. Rates of child diabetes and asthma continue to climb. America has the third-worst rate of infant mortality among 30 industrialized nations and the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancy, after Mexico.

If we go over the “fiscal cliff” without a budget deal, several programs focused on the well-being of children will be axed – education, child nutrition, school lunches, children’s health, Head Start.

Even if we avoid the cliff, any “grand bargain” to tame to deficit is likely to jeopardize them.

The Urban Institute projects the share of federal spending on children (outlays and tax expenditures) will drop from 15 percent last year to 12 percent in 2022.

At the same time, states and localities have been slashing preschool and after-school programs, child care, family services, recreation, and mental-health services.

It seems as if every one of usual major interests have political clout – except children. They can’t vote. They don’t make major campaign donations. They can’t hire fleets of lobbyists.

Yet they’re America’s future.

If you follow the link to Robert Reich’s commentary you can read what major interests have the clout and dominate America’s interests.

 

Eight years later, January 2020 and Paul Krugman is asked a question by a correspondent.

“What important issue aren’t we talking about?”

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Why You May Never Learn the Truth About Anything in Washington

I hang around some pretty intelligent people who have smart friends commenting on their facebook pages. The first part of this post is from a comment on Claude Scales’s Facebook page by William R. Everdell. I think it fits with the NYT article Claude referenced. The second part of this is a shorten version of the NYT Opinion article “Why You May Never Learn the Truth About ICE,” Matthew Connelly, Professor of History, Columbia.

George Orwell in “‘1984’, Winston Smith was dropping documents into the ‘memory hole’ by his desk at the Ministry of Truth – Minitrue

‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

The Department of the Interior and the National Archives have decided to delete files on endangered species, offshore drilling inspections and the safety of drinking water.

This turns out to be just one action in a series of Trump administration attacks on the National Archives and the laws and funding supporting it, all of them aimed at preventing citizens of the republic learning from History.” William R. Everdell, Historian – Facebook

Examples of how this is happening have yet to be examined by Congressional Hearing.

Early in the new year, a photograph of the Women’s March – 2017 was put on display for the “Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote,” exhibit. The photo was altered to purposely distort Trump’s name and any words “referencing female anatomy” on depicted posters. Archivist of the United States David Ferriero later apologized for the distortions.

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Near Where I Live

If you not seen it in the news at night, online, or in a physical newspaper; there was an incident which occurred not far from my home which I believe is important. Washtenaw County is south of where I live (Livingston County) and is a blend of ethnicity, different cultures, citified spots, and rural areas. In it is Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor is a hotspot for liberal attitudes and consequently  .   .   .  Democrats. The whole area from Detroit westward to Ann Arbor and north into Livingston County is changing.  While this is not a story about Livingston County, the county residents there are afraid of the change which a proposed light rail service going into Ann Arbor from Livingston and then Detroit which could carry people to work   .   .    .    would bring. The train would go both ways.

Michigan coming into the 21st Century (finally) is scary for people accustom to driving as lone passengers in  too big, too fast, too often pickup-trucks and “suvs” everywhere including work.  The growing population is changing  both counties from rural farming to suburban/urban. It screams for other modes of transportation and living.

This is a long introduction  to the ” rest of the story.”

I live in Livingston County which is situated north of Washtenaw County. Besides Ann Arbor there are a number of small communities surrounding Ann Arbor, which are growing, and slowly crowding out the rural farm areas. There is an influx of Black and Hispanic citizens moving into these areas which has newer and less costly homes which would not be found in the wealthy belt surrounding Detroit. The schools are having to make room for other cultures and races. Saline is one of the growing communities with a population of ~10,000.

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And the Verdict . . . (as if we did not know)?

Stolen from the comments section. Will Romney pay the price? I do not think so. He may get critiqued by the madman in the White House; but, I am not so sure if he can touch Romney.

By EMichael

Credit where credit is due. Despite the fact that he faces almost no repercussions for his vote, Romney deserves credit.

Otoh, let us hope that Collins latest reptilian act costs her the Senate.

“No, Romney set himself apart. Even if he is only concerned with the judgment of history, it has put him in a far better place than the sycophants and enablers who so befouled the old halls of the legislature during the president’s pantomime State of the Union address Tuesday night. Romney’s speech was sweeping, decisive, and hardly short on moral clarity.
In one section, he got to the heart of it.

‘What he did was not “perfect”— no, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.’

That’s it. The president attacked American democracy, undermining the legitimacy of an American presidential election, to keep himself in power. He used his power to stay in power, regardless of the people’s will. It is the essential abuse of power. It is the elemental high crime and misdemeanor. The president extorted an ally who’s under assault by authoritarian Russia until they agreed to ratfuck his domestic political opponent for his own personal gain. Then he sent his lawyers to the floor of the United States Senate to argue that if he deems his re-election to be in the national interest, he can do anything to get re-elected. Never mind that the purpose of the election is to allow voters to decide if his re-election is in the national interest. These craven fools would make for themselves an American king and gleefully bow before him.

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