N.C. not alone in seeing dwindling Obamacare options

Ali Meyer explains for the Washington Free Beacon that large sections of the United States will see just one option for Affordable Care Act health insurance policies in the next year.

In 2017 there will be only one insurer selling health care plans in the Obamacare exchanges in one-third of the country, according to an analysis from Avalere experts.

Avalere, a health care consulting firm, compared the health insurance carriers that offered Obamacare coverage in 2016 to the carriers who have announced their intention to exit the exchanges in 2017, such as Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and some co-ops.

The experts projected that 36 percent of exchange market rating regions in the United States in 2017 will have just one health insurance carrier, and 55 percent of regions will have two or fewer carriers. This is a significant increase from 2016, when only 4 percent of regions had one or fewer health insurance carriers and 33 percent of regions had two or fewer insurers.

Seven states—Alaska, Alabama, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming—will have only one health insurance carrier per rating region in 2017.

Experts at Avalere said there may be some sub-regional counties where no plans are offered in 2017. No insurer plans to sell coverage in Pinal Country, Arizona next year, according to a report from the Hill.

“Depending on where consumers live, their choice of insurance plans may decrease for 2017,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, senior vice president at Avalere. “Some exchange enrollees may need to choose another insurance plan in order to maintain coverage.”

Large health insurers have announced they are exiting the marketplaces because of unsustainable financial losses.

Walter Williams offers a warning as students return to college campuses

Walter Williams‘ latest column at Human Events decries the “lunacy” plaguing college campuses across the country.

As the fall semester begins, parents, students, taxpayers and donors should be made aware of official college practices that should disgust us all.

Hampshire College will offer some of its students what the school euphemistically calls “identity-based housing.” That’s segregated housing for students who — because of their race, culture, gender or sexual orientation — have “historically experienced oppression.” I’d bet the rent money that Hampshire College will not offer Jewish, Irish, Polish, Chinese or Catholic students segregated housing. Because there is no group of people who have not faced oppression, Hampshire College is guilty of religious and ethnic discrimination in its housing segregation policy.

University of Connecticut administrators think that more black men will graduate if they spend more time together. According to Campus Reform, they are building a new residence hall to facilitate just that. Dr. Erik Hines, the faculty director for the program, said that the learning community “is a space for African-American men to … come together and validate their experiences that they may have on campus. … It’s also a space where they can have conversation and also talk with individuals who come from the same background who share the same experience.” By the way, Hampshire College and the University of Connecticut are not alone in promoting racially segregated student housing.

Then there’s an effort for racial segregation in classes. Moraine Valley Community College attempted it in a class titled “College: Changes, Challenges, Choices.” It mandated that some class sections be “limited to African-American students.” The college defended racially segregated classes by saying that they make students “feel comfortable.” After facing massive national notoriety, the college just recently abandoned its racial segregation agenda.

Suppose a student at Ripon College enrolls in a chemistry, math or economics class. What do you think ought to be the subject matter? Zachariah Messitte, Ripon’s president, who is also a professor in the politics and government department, has encouraged fellow professors to disparage Donald Trump, arguing that it’s “fine” for professors to “acknowledge Trump’s narrow-minded rhetoric” in class, suggesting that Trump’s “bigotry” is a valid topic for most any course.

Sue, settle, send proceeds to Democrats

Michael Bastasch and Ethan Barton of the Daily Caller outline a scheme that uses the legal system and tax dollars to help fund Democrats.

A nonprofit that employs dozens of Democratic donors makes millions by suing the federal government for stricter environmental regulations, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found.

Earthjustice, an environmental law firm that grew out of the Sierra Club, has sued federal agencies at least 39 times since 2009. Using three environmental laws, Earthjustice has raked in nearly $4 million, according to a DCNF analysis of the Department of Treasury’s Judgment Fund, which tracks court ordered federal payments.

Certain Earthjustice staff have donated $2.4 million to Democrats, TheDCNF found. …

… Earthjustice isn’t alone. TheDCNF found many environmental groups, law firms and attorneys have sued the government for millions of dollars in what are called “citizen suits.” Such lawsuits are often environmentalists looking to force a federal agency to issue more regulations.

“Citizen suits are often brought to enlarge environmental regulation beyond the scope of statutory authority and congressional intent, frequently with the willing help of overzealous bureaucrats and sympathetic judges,” Reed Hopper, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), told TheDCNF.

Activists not only use such lawsuits to further their own policy goals, they can also get taxpayers to pay for their legal fees. Republican lawmakers have been huge critics of environmentalists’ use of “citizen suits” to collude with agencies in what are called “sue-and-settle” lawsuits.

“Sue-and-settle” happens when environmentalists sue a federal agency for missing a regulatory deadline under the CAA, CWA or ESA; the federal agency opts to quickly settle the case and issue a new rule instead of fighting it out in court.

An election without a mandate

Whatever the outcome of this fall’s presidential election, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute argues at National Review Online that the winner should not consider victory as a sign of a mandate from the electorate.

Whoever wins in November will likely be the most unpopular presidential candidate ever elected. The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows that 53.5 percent of voters disapprove of Hillary Clinton. And many of those polls were taken during her post-convention bounce. That means that the best she can hope for is that somewhat over half the electorate doesn’t like her. But she actually looks good compared to Donald Trump. Just a third of voters approve of Trump. Nearly 63 percent disapprove.

Even voters who have settled on a candidate are less than enthusiastic about their choice. Less than half of both Trump and Clinton voters say that they “strongly support” their candidate. Overall, 57 percent of voters say that they are dissatisfied with both candidates, including 31 percent who are “very dissatisfied.” Only 13 percent report that they are “very satisfied” with their choice.

Since, barring a Gary Johnson upset or intervention by the Sweet Meteor of Death, one of them will have to win, millions of Americans will be voting for someone they don’t think should be president. In fact, half of all those voting for Clinton and 55 percent of those voting for Trump say that they are actually voting against the other candidate rather than for their choice.

That’s not exactly what one would call a mandate.

Of course, even if Trump or Clinton were far more popular than they are, it’s hard to see what either of them would have a mandate to do. Both candidates have changed positions with almost metronomic regularity. About all we really know about Donald Trump’s program is that he wants to build a wall, loves guns, and doesn’t love Muslims. And for all of Hillary’s 257-page position papers, does anyone really know what she is for besides a vague idea of higher taxes and bigger government? Perhaps that’s why 59 percent of voters say that they are more focused on the candidates’ personalities than on their positions.

The U.S. House agenda nobody knows

Ian Tuttle of National Review Online highlights the often-ignored policy proposals put forward by Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives.

For Paul Ryan, though, the desert of ideas in American politics is an opportunity. In early December 2015, Ryan, just weeks into his tenure as speaker of the House, gave a speech at the Library of Congress entitled, “Confident America.” “If we want to save the country,” he told an audience that included House and Senate GOP leaders, “then we need a mandate from the people. And if we want a mandate, then we need to offer ideas. And if we want to offer ideas, then we need to actually have ideas. And that’s where House Republicans come in.” “Our number-one goal for the next year,” he announced, “is to put together a complete alternative to the Left’s agenda.”

The result, rolled out over this June and July, is “A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America.” Comprising six different areas of focus — poverty, national security, the economy, the Constitution, health care, and tax reform — the agenda aims to articulate not what Republicans stand against, but what they stand for. In Ryan’s preferred terms, it aims to turn the GOP from an “opposition” party into a “proposition” party. …

… That the famously fractious House Republican conference has coalesced around a single agenda is an accomplishment in itself, made possible, members insist, by Ryan’s “bottom-up” approach. “This is real,” says Kevin Brady (R., Texas), who is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and led the Tax Reform Task Force. “Each piece — six major challenges and solutions — was developed by the conference, bringing the best ideas from all Republicans regardless of which committee they serve on or their region.” He notes that the final tax-reform blueprint incorporates ideas from more than 50 members. “It’s the first tax-reform proposal that reflects the consensus of House Republicans since Reagan’s reforms in the ’80s.”

New Carolina Journal Online features

Barry Smith reports for Carolina Journal Online on a new documentary movie targeting North Carolina’s craft beer regulations.

Becki Gray’s Daily Journal explains how N.C. legislators could help remove barriers to economic growth in 2017.

A major history expedition off the N.C. coast

Very cool to see this happening. Per the Charlotte Observer:

The day that World War II reached North Carolina is captured in two rusting hulks 35 miles off Cape Hatteras: A German U-boat and its victim, a passing freighter, together on the bottom since 1942.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the two ships in 2014, just 240 yards apart in 700 feet of water. Both were placed on the National Register of Historic Places last year.

Now NOAA and its partners are preparing to revisit the site, gathering data that will let them virtually recreate an underwater battlefield that’s been intact for 74 years.

It will be an expedition back in time, to the war’s “Battle of the Atlantic” that pitted German U-boats against Allied merchant ships and the Canadian, British and American forces that defended them.

And:

NOAA will work with Project Baseline, a nonprofit conservation group that will supply a research vessel and two manned submersibles for the expedition, which will run through Sept. 6.

2G Robotics and SRI International will provide underwater robots and remote-sensing technology to create detailed acoustical models of the wrecks and seafloor. UNC’s Coastal Studies Institute will do three-dimensional models of the wrecks.

The expedition is part of NOAA’s work to document centuries of shipwrecks in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. NOAA may expand the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary’s boundaries to include the Bluefields, whose crew evacuated, and the war grave of the Germans who died in U-576.

Almost All Of North Carolina Will Have One Insurance Option For Obamacare Exchange Policyholders In 2017

Starting in 2017, 94 percent of North Carolina counties will have just one insurance carrier selling individual health plans through Obamacare’s health insurance marketplace – commonly known as the “Exchange”.  In those 94 counties, people renewing their Exchange plans or enrolling for the first time will have no choice but to pay their premiums to Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Although Cigna has decided to enter into North Carolina’s Exchange, the company plans to establish a market presence in just six counties within the Research Triangle Region. Since Blue Cross will continue offering non-group policies in all 100 counties across the state, residents in this area will at least have two options.

The pickings aren’t slim in just North Carolina. For anyone who is following the unraveling of Obamacare, its a national issue.

When the federal health law’s Exchange provisions went live in January 2014, North Carolina started with three carriers brave enough to enter into uncharted territory. For the first time, they were required to accept every applicant in the non-group market, regardless of health status. They also agreed to be subject to limitations on pricing premiums based on policyholders’ actual risk. As predicted by many experts in the field, the deadly combination of the federal government having a larger hand in insurance regulations combined with a weak individual mandate has produced all sorts of unintended consequences. Not enough low-risk people are signing up for health plans in the individual market (just 27% of enrollees in North Carolina are between ages 18-34), claims costs are outweighing premium revenues, and temporary funding streams provided to insurers by the government that are set to expire in 2017 haven’t really helped suppress their volatility.

The impacts of these unintended consequences are causing a huge disruption in North Carolina’s non-group insurance market. The Exchange infrastructure is unsustainable. Not long ago, United HealthGroup announced its departure from the state’s Exchange. It was offering plans in 77 counties. Last week, Aetna officially announced its exodus, citing losses of $400 million nationwide on Obamacare customers within the first two quarters of 2016. Aetna was operating in 39 counties.

The big question is, “Now what?” Obamacare supporters think insurers should be bailed out with more corporate welfare. Opponents who are mindful of political feasibility think that perhaps uniform universal refundable tax credits will give Americans more health insurance options – whether they opt into a public or private program.  John Goodman, one of the foremost health policy experts, says:

 Those on the left seem to think that government insurance is better insurance. In fact, study after study has shown just the opposite, even though about two thirds of Medicaid enrollees are in plans run by the private sector.

So while the left thinks that public sector competition would improve the performance of private insurance, in reality competition is likely to improve Medicaid. If it doesn’t, Medicaid will wither on the vine, so to speak, as enrollees migrate to better options.  This is a result, by the way, that should be welcomed by everyone – right and left.