Archive for February, 2008

Obama a Centrist?

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

If you are looking for something fun to read (and don’t have anything else to do) check out this blog post at http://agonist.org/ian_welsh/20080218/obama_and_health_care (The Agonist).  Here is an excerpt:

“I remain befuddled and bemused at the way Obama supporters seem to think their man is particularly progressive. He’s a centrist, who chose Joe Lieberman as his Senate mentor and whose voting record is not significantly different from Clinton’s, including on key issues like the occupation of Iraq. He has very effectively built up a large following, whom he will betray in 2009 and 2010 with triangulation to the right. If he does pass a health care bill, as Mike says, it will be a massive insurance company sell-out like the drug benefit.” 

So, Obama is a centrist?  This is the guy that wants to raise the top tax bracket to over 39% and raise Social Security withholding taxes on high wage earners.  According to the Wall Street Journal’s senior economic advisor, Stephen Moore (http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/196/6255/), upper end earners may end up paying over 50% of their income in Federal taxes (income, social security, and medicare).  Obama is the same guy that wants to sit down and talk to our enemies in the world, which would prop up those regime’s leaders.  I also think this is the same guy that wants to help people pay for college, pay bad credit card debt, make sure everyone is guarenteed health insurance, etc…. He just wants to help us all. 

If Obama is a centrist, we are all in trouble if a “left of center” person is ever elected President.

Will New York Destroy U&C Method?

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

As most of you know today, an industry-wide investigation into the reimbursement practices of health insurers has been launched by New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.  From this, a threatened law suit is in play against Ingenix regarding Ingenix’s Usual and Customary database which it sells and most insurers use, to set reimbursement rates for out-of- network medical expense.  The AG described the U&C rates as “defective and manipulated.”

So, how could U&C be a problem in the commercial group health world?  Once a plan member goes out of network in some plans they will have the lesser of 80% of billed charges or U&C rates covered under the plan, but will pay higher premiums in exchange for the “right” to go out of network.  So, a $100 bill that is generated from an office visit to an out of network provider would lead to an $80 payout from the carrier to the provider leaving the plan member to pay $20.  Yet, if U&C takes the $100.00 bill down to $60 (being the lesser), then the patient could be on the hook to pay $40 instead of the $20.  In other words, the patient will be balanced billed.

The main problem with this potential suit to me is not if Ingenix’s data base of rates are perfect, but the fact that the AG of New York could be taking away a control mechanism for keeping medical costs down.  As usual, individuals in the government don’t completely understand how the system works, and that valid controls are in place.  Using U&C simply helps to control unfair billing.  The legal system will determine the validity of the U&C rates, but the concept is a good one.

On the other side of this of course is the fact that carriers need to represent correctly their plans and understand the states they are working in.  With so many laws and rules/regulations it is a challenge to keep up with them all.  So, I understand and agree that the AG has to defend the citizens against anything that is unfair.

Also, more than likely, Mr. Cuomo saw that attacking the insurance industry is good politics.  The last time this happened in New York the situation gave them a new governor, Mr. Spitzer.

Presidential Nominees Almost Set

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Well, it is all set and the Presidential election is going to be John McCain vs. Hillary or Obama.  At this point it simply means the country is going to move left during the next 4 years.  Although McCain is a Republican, he is not a Reagan conservative.  Thus, with Hillary fully believing in socialism and Obama even more to the left of Hillary, we are almost guaranteed to move to a more liberal agenda.

McCain is a good man.  He has really served the country well in both the military and in the Senate.  However, he is really weak on domestic issues including important ones such as the security of the border.  However, foreign policy is strength for him.

A lot of the conservative talk shows are really bashing McCain, which I think is unwarranted.  I am not giving up my conservative ideas, but I will vote for McCain even though he is nowhere close to the benchmark of Ronald Reagan.  He is what he is, a slightly to the left of center Republican.  However, I do believe he will control spending and not support major new social programs.  Thus, he will be my candidate.  I hope other conservatives will at least choose the lesser of the evils instead of staying home on Election Day in November.

It’s Super Tuesday

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Well, I finally made up my mind.  Tomorrow in the Tennessee primary, I will cast my vote for Mitt Romney.  As I take my right and privilege to vote seriously, I studied all the candidates with great zeal.  In the end, my two choices were Mitt Romney and John McCain.

To be honest, I am not sure that either of these two gentleman are the best that America has to offer.  Yet, these are the only two that have a realistic chance of winning the Republican nomination.  Both have qualities that I admire, such as McCain’s military service and Romney’s executive experience.  Yet, I feel that Romney is a stronger conservative, at least in his rhetoric.

As for their positions on healthcare, I can’t say I am completely comfortable with either.  McCain seems to not really know that much about the subject and Romney’s plan in Massachusetts has had marginal success.  The good news is that both don’t desire government programs such as Hillary’s or Obama’s.

So, tomorrow night I will be kicked back in my chair watching the results role in.  At the least, it’s always fun to watch American politics in action.  If you want to share your thoughts on who you voted for and why, I would love to see your comments.

It’s The Economy

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Hmm, this is one of those posts that I might see totally different in 6 months, but feel the need to get this one off my chest.  I keep hearing the media talk about how bad the economy is right now, or is expected to get in 2008.  Yet, I wonder how many of these talking heads on TV or people in general remember what a really bad economy looks like?

I am old enough to remember Jimmy Carter and his “Misery Index”.  I also remember my parent’s generation of the late 1970’s paying around 15% interest rate on a mortgage. During this same time period, a gallon of gas adjusted for inflation was still higher than it is today.  I also remember the feeling that America just could not do anything right and the Soviets were going to take us over.  The late 1970s and 1980-1982 resulted in some real economic down times.  The unemployment rate in 1982 peaked at 9.7% as a result of the Carter years. See http://www.bls.gov/cps/prev_yrs.htm

The “stock market crash” of 1987 hurt a lot of people, but it was the market correction that led to a major market boom. The 1990-1991 recession under George H. Bush was pretty mild as far as recessions go, but it was a recession.  The market does correct itself.  I bought my first house in 1990 with an interest rate of 10%.  I sure don’t miss the 10% rate, it was painful.

Yet, in 2006, the unemployment rate was 4.6% and around 5% in 2007.  When I went to college, this was considered full employment.  In other words, anyone that wanted a job had a job.  Home ownership is still at a high, and interest rates on mortgages are still incredibly low.  Sure gas is high, but as I said earlier it’s still not higher than in the early 1980’s adjusted for inflation. It may be true that the economy is in for a downturn.  We may even see a recession.  Yet, a recession is a necessary part of capitalism.  I guess the bottom could drop out one day and Chicken Little will have been right all along.  However, for goodness sake, let’s all keep in perspective that the economy is still in great shape overall.  Todays younger generations just have not seen a bad economy.  It will come, but is it now?  I don’t know, but I do know this.  The economy, according to my public education from high school, is basically sound.  We have a financial lending crisis going on, but not an overall economic downturn.  The GDP was 5% growth in the 3rd quarter and .5% in the 4th quarter of 2007.  Those numbers are not a recession.

Only time will tell, but I can tell you I will take 2007/early 2008 any day over the Jimmy Carter years and early 1980s.  We can thank Ronald Reagan, and a brave congress, for cutting taxes which saved us all at that time.