JLF health expert touts health savings accounts in Forbes

Katherine Restrepo’s latest Forbes column explores the benefits of health savings accounts.

Why is health care so expensive? One reason is that Americans have little sense of what their care actually costs.

Patients aren’t the true customers of health care, insurance companies are. Insurance carriers are the ones that are buying services from hospitals, physicians, medical equipment providers, and other professionals in the field.

Sure, patients who have insurance are subject to co-pays and co-insurance. However, the lack of consumer control and the pervasiveness of government price controls over health care services and health insurance is what keep high health care costs alive and well.

Some members of Congress are trying to make health care more like other sectors of the economy; that is, giving patients (consumers) the option to have more control over how they spend their health care dollars – even for big ticket items. Consumer power drives market competition. It spurs innovation, and it pushes businesses to appeal to those shopping for their goods and services.

So, how can there be more of this in health care?

It can start by expanding health savings accounts (HSAs). HSAs under current law let consumers under the age of 65 build up savings for certain medical expenses, all tax-free. The Health Savings Account Expansion Act, sponsored by US Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) and Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA), would do the following:

  • Triple current HSA contribution limits to $9,000 for individuals and $18,000 for families.
  • Link HSAs with any type of health plan. Today, HSAs can only be linked with high-deductible health plans – defined as plans with a minimum deductible amount of $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family.
  • Pay health insurance premiums with HSA funds.
  • Pay Direct Primary Care (DPC) membership fees with HSA funds.

Gboro cop cam video controversy now a full-blown mess

A lot of people would think maybe–just maybe —the system worked in the case of Greensboro Police Officer Travis Cole’s use of force of a citizen as portrayed in the video released to public earlier this week. Not only is Cole no longer a police officer, but neither is his female partner, who also ‘resigned’ earlier this week. Mind you Officer C.N. Jackson was portrayed sympathetically in earlier news reports because she apparently did not behave inappropriately in the arrest of DeJuan Yourse. But–like the teenage two boys in Hang ‘Em High–who didn’t help Bruce Dern as he attacked Clint Eastwood in the desert, but didn’t do anything to stop him, either—-Officer Jackson got the (proverbial) gallows.

The question of course is whether or not Officer Jackson would have been forced to resign had local activists–led by the Rev. Nelson Johnson–not called for her discipline. And here we have the problem—Johnson and his ilk have the ear of certain City Council members—notably District 1 rep Sharon Hightower and Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who let protesters have their way during the Monday’s special meeting to release the video. As John Hammer writes in this week’s Rhino, “it sounded like Hightower wanted the City Council to run the police department.”

Not to mention the fact that City Manager Jim Westmoreland excluded four officers involved in the Cole investigation from a promotion ceremony because—according to the Rhino—he was concerned the ceremony would be subject to protests. So now Greensboro is going fast down the road to a politicized police force, and that’s never good. and it appears as though Chief Wayne Scott is buckling to the council’s wishes, so much so that he even (briefly) received praise from uber-liberal N&R columnist Susan Ladd. But as we know with leftist political groups, enough is never enough.

Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but the most stable GPD has been period in recent memory was when they brought in Ken Miller from –of all places–Charlotte to head the force. This tells me it’s once again time for an outsider to bring a new vision–which of course would mean that Chief Scott should take an early retirement.

Oh—it’s not about HB2 after all

I’ve been posting a lot about my favorite sportswriter—N&R columnist Ed Hardin—but what can I say he’s the gift that keeps on giving.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read Hardin’s take on the ACC’s decision to move the football championship to Orlando:

This isn’t just about HB 2 and the election. This is ultimately about much more than football. It’s about money. It’s about prestige.

The collegial little league founded at Sedgefield is growing out of its original footprint. The landscape of college athletics is changing around us.

This latest game of political football is just another cleat to fall, along with expansion and the subsequent decision to play the
ACC men’s basketball tournament in Brooklyn. The further we get from Sedgefield, the more uncomfortable we are.

North Carolina has always been the ACC’s home. Greensboro has always been its soft place to land. When we next see a basketball tournament in Greensboro, presumably in 2020, what will it look like? When we next see the football championship game in Charlotte, it might be wearing mouse ears.

If we see it at all.

Gosh you wouldn’t have known that based on all the doom-and-gloom columns from sportswriters all over the state a couple of weeks ago. But as yours truly posted at the time, it’s indeed all about money with the NCAA and the ACC, which makes their so-called ‘principled stances’ ring hollow.

Walter Williams highlights a slippery slope linked to the ‘bathroom bill’ debate

Walter Williams‘ latest column at Human Events exposes logical flaws in the campaign against North Carolina’s House Bill 2.

North Carolina’s legislative body passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which mandates a statewide policy banning individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex, as opposed to their opinion of their sex. That means people must use bathrooms and other public facilities where occupants can be in various stages of undress according to whether their sex chromosomes are XX, in the case of females, or XY, in the case of males. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community claims that the use of biology to determine sex is oppressive and limits alternatives. I agree. I all but argued this in a column earlier this year titled “You Are What You Say You Are.” Let’s look at some possible benefits of freeing oneself from the oppression of biological determinism.

Say that I am sentenced to a five-year prison term for bank fraud. Though confinement can never be pleasant, I’d find it far more tolerable if I could convince the judge that though biologically I have XY chromosomes, in my opinion I’m really a woman and thus my confinement should be in a female prison with a female cellmate. For the court to fail to take my sexual opinion into consideration would violate our Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, I could say.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, the entire NCAA and the NBA have threatened to remove important games and championships from North Carolina because of its law denying bathroom rights to males who feel as if they are females and females who feel as if they’re males. I am wondering just how consistent they are. Only a few college basketball players have the skills to make it onto a professional team, but most of these players have skills that exceed most players’ skills in the Women’s National Basketball Association. What if a college basketball star were to claim to be transgender and go out for the WNBA? Would the self-righteous NBA leaders come out and support him if he were to be refused? …

… It’s not just basketball that would yield benefits for those with XY chromosomes. What about allowing transgender XY people to box women in the WIBA? Then there are the Olympics. The men’s fastest 100-meter speed is 9.58 seconds. The women’s record is 10.49. What about giving XY people a greater chance at winning the gold by permitting them to compete in the women’s event? …

… For most of history, homosexuals were unfairly persecuted. They pleaded, “Get out of my bedroom. What consenting adults do is no one else’s business.” I share that sentiment, and for the most part, homosexuals have won that objective. Had their early campaign against persecution included a demand that males be permitted to use women’s bathrooms, the persecution they suffered would have continued.

States sue over Obama’s latest overreach

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt writes at National Review Online about the latest example of federal government overreach that has united multiple states in opposition.

Unlike the federal government, states like Nevada must actually balance their budgets. That means our officials need to make hard choices on spending priorities.

Take state-employee pay, for example. State payroll has to be carefully weighed against many other spending priorities, and sometimes excruciating budgetary decisions have to be made. While these decisions are never easy, what should be easy to see is who should make them: state officials locally elected by the people of Nevada who are actually footing the bill.

So it is doubly insulting that a presidential administration that has nearly doubled the federal deficit has the audacity to decide — by executive fiat, without Congress — that state and local governments across the nation need to pay certain state employees more. That is easy enough to say for a president thousands of miles away who doesn’t have to pony up the money.

But for state and local governments that now have to adjust their budgets to account for an unfunded federal mandate, the hard question is: Where will the money come from? Which state programs will need to be trimmed or cut? Which Peter will have to be robbed to pay Paul?

Federal law requires overtime pay for work over 40 hours a week. This same law also exempts “bona fide executive, administrative, or professional” employees from the overtime requirement. Two years ago, President Obama ordered the federal Department of Labor to “revise” this so-called white-collar overtime exception. Now the department has done just that — by more than doubling the minimum-salary cutoff for overtime pay and instituting a new indexing mechanism that automatically ratchets it up every three years without going through the process required by federal law.

In short, notwithstanding a federal law requiring an overtime exemption for certain types of workers, the federal executive has unilaterally issued a new rule that disallows such an exemption unless those workers make a specific minimum salary. And worse, the president’s new rule will automatically raise that minimum salary every three years, long after the current occupant of the Oval Office has departed. …

… I challenged the president before when he sought to unilaterally change federal law to mean something other than what Congress intended it to mean. Now I am doing so again, leading a coalition of 21 states composed of both governors and state attorneys general.

Forbes columnist lists the national debt among ‘outrages’ that ought to be addressed

Global economist David Malpass devotes his latest Forbes column to eight “outrages.” Malpass tackles topics such as Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, the ransom of American hostages in Iran, and the “designed” failure of Obamacare.

He devotes the most column space to a long-standing problem tied to government spending.

The national debt will surpass $20 trillion in 2017. It should be refinanced at much longer maturities, but the Fed is buying back the long-maturity debt, leaving taxpayers exposed to higher interest rates.

The Congressional Budget Office says that current policies will cause economic growth to be only 2% per year. That stagnation will push debt up another $10 trillion over the next decade.

Politicians claim to have a debt limit, but it’s written in such a way that they can keep spending freely. Washington has tapped into an endless supply of money. The debt limit doesn’t really cut into spending, because it comes into play after the spending has occurred. That’s like saying you won’t eat a single bite until you’ve lost ten pounds, calling that a diet and renewing the pledge every month.

The only solution that will help taxpayers is to rewrite the debt limit so that it provides actual restraint on spending once the government exceeds it. One concept for the rewrite is to require a gradual decline in debt as a share of GDP. If violated, apply additional spending restraint. Escalate the restraint with more powerful rules until the debt gets back to its downward glide path.

Under current policies the CBO is projecting a steady increase in the public debt-to-GDP ratio to 85.5% in 2026 versus 75.6% today and 39.3% in 2008. It’s imperative to reverse this uptrend. The reality is that debt as a share of GDP is likely to go up unless policies change dramatically in favor of faster GDP growth and slower spending growth.

Forbes foresees ‘reckoning’ for central banks

Steve Forbescontribution to the latest issue of Forbes magazine focuses on the role central banks have played in hurting economic growth.

THE BIGGEST, most immediate obstacle to a vigorous recovery for the U.S. and global economies is the disastrous monetary policies of the major central banks, most notably the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank (ECB), the Bank of Japan (BOJ) and the Bank of England (BOE). Their policies of quantitative easing (QE) and zero interest rates have massively distorted global credit markets and severely hobbled recovery from the 2008–09 economic crisis. Their actions have not only stood in the way of a genuine economic revival but also persuaded governments to put off badly needed structural reforms, because stimulus from easy money would do the job instead!

The manifest failure of these institutions to spark a genuine economic revival has finally begun to generate a much-needed examination of what has gone wrong. Recognizing that there’s a major problem is the first essential step in coming up with solutions and reforms. …

… [T]he Fed’s insufferable, we-know-it-all arrogance has taken a long-overdue hit, opening up the possibility of a productive examination next year. The House has already passed legislation long pushed by Representative Kevin Brady (R–Tex.) that would set up a bipartisan commission to conduct a thorough study of monetary policy. The Senate should quickly follow suit.

This weekend on Carolina Journal Radio

With Election Day approaching, candidates in North Carolina’s down-ballot races are vying for attention. Competitors in the state’s open race for attorney general recently debated in Asheboro. Rick Henderson analyzes that debate and highlights other recent election developments for the next edition of Carolina Journal Radio.

John Hood assesses North Carolina’s electoral landscape during the campaign’s home stretch, and you’ll hear highlights from the N.C. State Board of Elections’ recent debates about local early-voting locations and hours of operation.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s senior education adviser, Catherine Truitt, discusses prospects for education innovation through digital learning. Plus Jon Sanders explains the links between North Carolina’s price-gouging law and the recent state gasoline shortage.