North Carolina Approved For 24 Percent Average Health Insurance Premium Hikes

Last week, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina received final approval to increase the underlying cost of 2017 health insurance premiums by an average of 24 percent. The state’s largest insurer initially sought approval for an 18 percent increase, but needed to re-file its rate request to account for an additional 200,000 enrollees who once purchased health insurance through Aetna. Aetna, along with UnitedHealth Group, have departed from the state’s health  Exchange earlier this year. Blue Cross and Cigna are the only two carriers offering federally qualified health plans to people who don’t have job-based insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s individual market Exchange platform.

PBS reports that the White House continues to stress that these underlying premium increases don’t include subsidies which help offset total out-of-pocket costs enrollees pay towards their monthly premiums and deductibles (these sliding scale subsidies are distributed based on one’s household income).

Even with subsidies, these plans aren’t affordable for all., the platform where patients can shop for a 2017 health insurance plan starting November 1, now allows you to preview available plans and their associated costs:

  • A 40 year old female in Wake County earning $50,000 a year doesn’t qualify for a subsidy. The lowest cost HMO Bronze plan through Cigna is $383 a month in addition to a $6,400 deductible. A Blue Cross and Blue Shield bronze plan will cost her over $400 a month with a $7,150 deductible.

40 year old female Cigna

40 year old

  • Meanwhile, let’s say that a 26 year old male living in Wake County doesn’t have health insurance through his job. He’s pulling in $30,000 a year. Even with a $185/mo subsidy, his net premium payment amounts to $122 a month for the lowest cost Cigna plan. Add that to $6,400 in out-of-pocket expenses before the insurance company covers the bill.

Cigna 26

Now, there is nothing wrong with high deductible health plans, however they would be way more appealing – especially for low users of the health care system, if premiums were lower. This doesn’t mean that there should be more subsidies. It means that the federal health law’s Exchange infrastructure needs to let insurance companies have more flexibility with their plan designs and risk- pricing. Of course, there’s a lot of other things that need to be reworked in order for health care to be more accessible and affordable for the masses.

What a mess.

Sometimes we need research that states the obvious: a realization

I have been an unrepentant mocker of that subset of academic research, usually funded with public monies, that purports to “find” the obvious.

Some of those include such game-changers as men want hot women, women appreciate jokes more when they’re funny, distractions impede learning, and a person who hates Israel is more likely to be anti-Semitic. Research has even proven that hugs are good and not disproven, even after three years of study, that drinking water helps prevent dehydration.

Nevertheless, I am very glad Johnson & Wales associate economics professor Adam C. Smith has proven the obvious. Because obviously, his proof was made necessary.

Last year, President Barack Obama issued an executive order requiring federal regulatory agencies to use behavioral economics and psychology in designing their policies. The idea is to address the fact that people often make the “wrong choices” — a “behavioral market failure.” It is to rectify flaws in the “private choice architecture.”

As Smith explains it, “policymakers are increasingly operating under the assumption that people consistently fail to make rational choices.”

What should be glaringly obvious at this point is that, to accept that premise, one must realize that policymakers are people, too.

A syllogism (which otherwise needs not to be stated) would then emerge:

Major premise: People consistently fail to make rational choices
Minor premise: Policymakers are people
Conclusion: Policymakers consistently fail to make rational choices

Smith’s paper argues the need for accounting for public-choice economics alongside behavioral economics or else the endeavor is not likely to succeed. Massaging policies to produce the proper private choice architecture also require the proper public choice architecture. He concludes,

The more general lesson is that without the proper public choice architecture in place, there is little hope for improving private choices in practice. … Without proper understanding of context and the institutional constraints regulators will inevitably face, it is unlikely that behavioral ideas will lead to better private choice architecture. While these efforts are encouraging for attempting to improve the choices people face, this paper exposes the importance getting the institutions right. Those who truly wish to improve private choice architecture should take greater care in understanding the public choice architecture in which their theories are applied.

Addendum: I acknowledge there are those who see certain policymakers as higher beings — i.e., not people — but I consider such a belief the ne plus ultra of folly.

Gboro civil rights hero supports Trump

Interesting AP story—- Clarence Henderson—who joined the “Greensboro Four” on the second day of the their historic sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960—supports—gasp!—-Republican nominee Donald Trump:

For a civil rights hero, he later ended up on a more unconventional political path that he credits to his father, a lifelong Republican.

“My dad, with a third-grade education, said to me, ‘Well, son, you don’t know what the Democratic Party has done as far as blacks are concerned,'” Henderson said.

He discovered the Democrats had created and enforced Jim Crow laws, and the Republican Party was behind the constitutional amendments that abolished slavery, granted equal protection to freed slaves and gave blacks the right to vote.

He cast his first vote for a Republican presidential candidate for George W. Bush. Henderson, who ran a financial services business for more than 25 years before retiring a decade ago, said he respected Bush’s business background.

He continued voting for Republicans, even when Barack Obama stood poised to become the first black president.

“I never thought I would see a black person become the president of the United States,” Henderson said. “His ideologies were different from mine. After looking at his past history, I didn’t see him as a viable candidate.”

I would hope this would many to put aside their belief that opposition to President Obama is rooted in racism, not to mention the belief that opposition to Democratic nominee Hillary clinton is rooted in sexism. Statists are statists—-period.

Note mention of Jibreel Khazan—nee Ezell Blair Jr.—one of the original Greensboro Four—who, although a clinton supporter—-said about Henderson “God bless him and all of those who have a second opinion…….we should not be a one-minded people.”

Obamacare rate hikes substantial nationwide

Robert King of the Washington Examiner surveys the data associated with Affordable Care Act rate hikes across the country.

Obamacare consumers will face double-digit rate hikes for 2017, with most states looking at an average 25 percent increase, according to one estimate.

The premium spikes come as the Obama administration will boost outreach this open enrollment season, which starts Nov. 1, to reach more people who are uninsured. Opponents of the law point to the premium hikes as evidence the law isn’t working, while the Obama administration said healthcare would remain affordable for most customers thanks to tax credits.

An independent estimate from the website found that 41 states approved an average rate increase of about 25 percent. That figure includes Affordable Care Act-compliant individual plans that are sold off the law’s exchanges.

The individual market is for people who don’t get insurance through their job and includes Obamacare’s marketplaces.

Charles Gaba, who runs the website and is an Obamacare supporter, said in a post Wednesday that the 25 percent hike will likely hold.

“Barring any dramatic last-minute development in one or more large states, national speaking, 25 percent is where unsubsidized, ACA-compliant individual market rate hikes are for 2017,” he said.

The increases can vary depending on states and individual plans. Some states are seeing increases as high as 75 percent.

The danger of a cyber war with Russians

Morgan Chalfant of the Washington Free Beacon explains why experts believe the United States should be wary of a conflict with Russia in cyber space.

The reliance of the United States’ critical infrastructure on high technology renders it vulnerable to future cyber attacks by the Russians, making it difficult for the U.S. government to retaliate against Moscow for trying to interfere with the presidential election.

The U.S. intelligence community formally accused Russia earlier this month of hacking into American political organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, in order to influence the 2016 election.

But experts warn that the United States should be wary of starting a “tit-for-tat” cyber war with the Russians, given that the U.S. economy and other critical systems are more dependent on advanced technology and therefore more vulnerable to attack.

“Though we have overwhelming power in this policy area, we are also the most vulnerable nation in terms of the very advancement of the Internet as a part of our society and as a part of our economy,” Claude Barfield, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute with expertise in international trade and cyber security, told a small audience in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

“We are afraid in terms of retaliating against the Russians that we will not be able to have what is called ‘escalation dominance,’” Barfield continued. “In other words, you start a tit-for-tat. If the Russians came back at us, and if we went back at them, our economy and society are more vulnerable than the Russians, and the Russians know that.”

Government credit cards not monitored closely

Kathryn Watson of the Daily Caller highlights an alarming lack of oversight associated with federal government credit cards.

Federal employees are buying more with government credit cards than ever, but Americans don’t know how much of the billions of tax dollars being spent annually is legitimate versus what is lost to waste, fraud and corruption.

“We’ve been tracking this issue for years, and that’s why it’s unfortunate that it just doesn’t seem to go away,” Scott Amey, general counsel for the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight (POGO), told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

A widely read report earlier this month detailing a top Pentagon aide’s use of his government credit card at foreign strip clubs highlighted how egregious abuses still plague the federal government. But waste, fraud and corruption can be difficult to catch when credit card spending is so high.

An estimated 261,000 federal employees spent $19 billion using government-issued credit cards in fiscal year 2015, up from 2014’s 263,000 employees spending $17.1 billion, and the most since that kind of spending reached $19.5 billion in 2011, according to the credit card-managing General Services Administration (GSA).

That’s more than enough to buy the five most valuable NFL teams, worth a combined $16.65 billion, and more than twice as much as the $8.4 billion the National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend on Halloween this year.

But efforts to strengthen oversight — like the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act introduced by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and passed in 2012 — haven’t required the federal government to calculate how much is lost to waste, fraud and abuse.

Looking ahead to the GOP’s future

Election Day is still a couple of weeks away, but Peter Wehner is already looking ahead to the future. He shares his ideas with National Review Online readers.

There is much discussion among Republicans, and particularly for those of us who have long counted ourselves as Never Trump, about the future of the Republican party once Donald Trump is defeated on November 8, as many of us expect he will be.

Sometimes the best way to think things through is by asking the right questions, in order to help elicit the correct answers. (That’s especially true when you’re unsure of what needs to be done, as I am just now.) With the future of the Republican party and the conservative cause in mind, here are some questions I’ve put together, with the help of others, that may help organize our thinking in the months ahead.

1. Does Donald Trump represent, as former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels asked, an aberration, or a long-term, ongoing shift in what the Republican party stands for? Is he an anomaly — or a culmination of worrisome forces within the GOP and the Right? …

… 2. What are the two to three things those of us who are Republicans need to understand after this election because, if we don’t, we can’t possibly fix things going forward? (My assumption here is it would be a significant error to try to return the GOP to a pre-Trump party, as if the last 15 months hadn’t happened and that old, pre-Trump message was working.) ??

3. How much of what is unfolding is specific to American politics and America itself; and how much of it is connected to forces and movements that are sweeping much of the Western world? To simplify things a bit: What is the relationship between the rise of Trump and something like Brexit?

4. What has this year taught us about voters on the right that needs to inform any rebuilding?

5. What has this year taught us about Republican politicians and institutions that needs to inform such rebuilding?

6. What do we need to learn and act on from the Trump experience, and what do we need to forthrightly reject??

7. Assuming a significant Trump loss, what needs to be said and done first and most quickly?

8. Is the Republican party still the best vehicle through which to advance a conservative agenda?

Bipartisan opposition to free trade

Those of you who’ve watched Scott Lincicome‘s recent speech to the John Locke Foundation on the challenges free-trade advocates face today might be interested in James Capretta‘s latest article at National Review Online.

President Obama is pressing to have the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) approved by the Republican-controlled Congress — after the election. He’s right that it should be approved. But if it isn’t, and it might not be, there will be plenty of blame to go around in both parties.

The problems for the TPP — an agreement among twelve countries, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, in addition to the U.S. — start with Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton. Trump has based much of his campaign on his view that the TPP and every other previous trade deal has been negotiated by incompetent U.S. officials. Sanders argued during his run for the Democratic nomination that basically all international trading arrangements are giveaways to the rich and corporate interests at the expense of working people. And Clinton, after supporting TPP as secretary of state, switched to opposition without ever offering any kind of detailed or clear reason for her flip-flop. The anti-trade push by these three candidates has dominated the national discussion on the issue for well over a year now.

But TPP’s problems don’t end there. As the anti-trade rhetoric has heated up, there has been almost no one on the national stage willing to push back on the misleading arguments that have been made.

The GOP candidates competing with Trump were especially feeble in this regard. They largely went silent when Trump went on his repeated anti-trade rants during the primary debates. Not one of them stepped forward in any kind of sustained and meaningful way to challenge Trump’s false claim that trade deals in general, and the North American Free Trade Agreement in particular, were damaging for the U.S. economy, despite the abundant evidence that, on balance, trade has led to stronger economic growth, more employment, and higher living standards for those in the U.S. and throughout the world.