Food is More Expensive Under Obamacare

On top of everything else, now food is more expensive thanks to #Obamacare. Health insurance premiums rising, which is passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices for almost everything, including food. But obamacare pizzathis latest salvo from the battleship USS Obamacare comes in a way you may not have expected.

Mary Lynne Carraway owns 60 #Domino’sPizza stores. Most of her business is delivery from orders placed online, but that doesn’t matter to the clowns in DC.

Obamacare says she has put up a menu board in each of her 60 Domino’s stores that tells people the calorie count of every possible combination.

Heritage

Almost 70% of her business starts online, and the nutrition information is there but that isn’t good enough for the folks who are charged with implementing Obamacare. She has to make up menu’s for each restaurant listing the MANDATED nutrition information.

What would it mean for each of her stores to have to install such a menu board? A cost of about $5,000 per store

That additional $5000 doesn’t come out of profits. It is passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices. Thanks to Obamacare, food is more expensive.

It may also mean lost jobs.

I have 1,800 people who believe in this company, who need this work, who need these jobs. And this is a small thing, maybe, that people could think of, “Well, $5,000 for a menu board” or whatever. But it’s the added on regulations, it’s the added things that are constantly being thrown at us. And as a small business person that wants to keep going, it is really, really hard to do that.

Excessive government regulation.

The number one jobs killer.

So why is DC doing this?

Because they can.

Those who favor big government feel that consumers are dumb and need the nanny state to make decisions for them. We are creating a nation of people who are taught to rely on the government for everything, and that just isn’t right.

Mandates. Obamacare. Just another stupid government trick and the result is food is more expensive. 

Health Care Reform Hocus Pocus

Health insurance reform is about give and take. If you waddle through the maze and countless pages in all the various bills before Congress you really have to wonder what is going to come out on the other end if and when this massive spending bill is finalized.

I have wondered about all the new taxes to pay for health insurance (supposedly for the uninsured) but something I read this morning crystalized the games they are playing in Washington with our money. The AP reported this on the tax credits that everyone got as part of our share of stimulus.

The tax credit, which is supposed to pay individuals up to $400 and couples up to $800, was President Barack Obama’s signature tax break in the massive stimulus package enacted in February.

Most workers started receiving the credit through small increases in their paychecks in April. The tax credit was made available through new withholding tables issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

The withholding tables, however do not take into account taxpayers with multiple jobs or married couples in which both people work. They also don’t take into account Social Security recipients with jobs that provided taxable income.

The Social Security Administration sent out $250 payments to more than 50 million retirees in the spring as part of the economic stimulus package. The payments were meant to provide a boost for people who didn’t’ qualify for the tax credit.

However, they went to many retirees who also received the credit. Those retirees will have the $250 payment deducted from their tax credit — but not until they file their tax returns next year, long after the money may have been spent.

That’s a bit of a rude awakening.

President Obama called and he wants his money back.

Congress is doing the same thing with health insurance reform under the guise of taxing the rich to pay for health insurance for the poor.

That finding from a new Associated Press poll will be welcome news for House Democrats, who proposed doing just that in their sweeping remake of the U.S. medical system, which passed earlier this month and would extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

The poll found participants sour on other ways of paying for the health overhaul that is being considered in Congress, including taxing insurers on high-value coverage packages derided by President Barack Obama and Democrats as “Cadillac plans.”

That approach is being weighed in the Senate. It is one of the few proposals in any congressional legislation that analysts say would help reduce the nation’s health expenditures, but it has come under fire from organized labor and has little support in the House.

Lawmakers also are looking at levying new taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers.

Think about this for a moment.

They want to assess health insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers to pay for health insurance for the poor. But what happens when the tax is imposed?

Drug companies will pass the tax on to consumers who will pay more for medication. Prescriptions covered by health insurance will be more expensive which will result in higher premiums.

Medical devices like pacemakers and wheelchairs will become more expensive which will result in higher costs to the consumer and health insurance company. This mean higher premiums.

Of course let’s not forget that drugs, pacemakers and wheelchairs are also covered by Medicare and Medicaid, so those costs will increase as well.

And that tax on health insurance companies? It will be passed through as well to those who pay the premium.

As health insurance premiums rise, to cover the cost of new taxes, higher prices for medication, pacemakers and wheelchairs those plans are in danger of becoming a “Cadillac” plan . . . which will be taxed.

These changes don’t even take into account the required 30%+ increase in premiums caused by health insurance reform that mandates more expansive (and expensive) coverage for wellness and mental health parity as well as the “no restrictions on pre-existing conditions” requirement.

So just like the government is giving us a break by lowering our withholding taxes and tossing a bone to Social Security beneficiaries, then taking it back next April, they are doing the same thing with health insurance reform.

Giving us more benefits (no pre-existing, low copays, wellness, mental health parity) which increase premiums so we will have to pay more tax. Actually, it is a double tax.

We pay the tax the first time when we consume goods like medication and medical devices, and then we pay again because we were forced to buy an expensive “Cadillac” plan.

This is a dog only a politician could love.

Change you can believe in. Yes you can.

Obamacare Close to a Vote

Back from the dead, Obamacare now seems like it will come to a vote. The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) has put a price tag on the latest version that just barely comes in under PresBO’s limit of $900 billion.

The version of the bill draft that the CBO and JCT analysts used would require most legal U.S. residents to have health insurance; set up insurance “exchanges” that some individuals and families could use to buy subsidized health coverage; expand eligibility for Medicaid; slash the growth of Medicare’s payment rates for most services; and impose an excise tax on insurance plans with relatively high premiums.

Some items of note.

The bill only includes federal budget expenditures. It does not factor in the increased health insurance premiums to cover mandated items like banning underwriting of pre-existing medical conditions (guaranteed issue), community rating, age rated limits, mental health parity, etc. which will at the very least, DOUBLE current health insurance premiums.

So much for coming up with affordable health insurance premiums.

We have to at least wonder about the savings that will originate by “slashing the growth of Medicare payment rates” and what this means to medical providers and Medicare beneficiaries as well.

The obvious answer is, fewer docs willing to accept Medicare patients and more out of pocket for Medicare beneficiaries for non-covered items.

And how about that excise tax on high premium policies?

The expansion of health coverage would add $829 billion in costs from 2010 to 2019, but it should add $201 billion in health plan excise tax revenue, achieve $110 billion in miscellaneous net savings, lead to $404 in federal spending reductions, and lead to $196 billion in other federal revenue increases, the analysts estimate.

You don’t suppose people will cut benefits to lower the premium and avoid the excise tax do you? Wonder how that will muck up the works for the bean counters in Washington?

Given the track record of the CBO and their inability to accurately project costs for Medicare, the Part D drug coverage and Medicare Advantage plans we don’t hold much hope that projections on this will be any better.

In other words, I’m not buying their numbers.

For those who want to read the letter from the CBO Director to Sen. Baucus, here you go.

We want to thank Cigna for making this summary possible.

Abortion Secrets

The latest fly in the ointment of health care reform is whether the new plan(s) will cover abortions.

No one want’s to handle that hot potato.

An Obama administration official refused Sunday to rule out the possibility that federal tax money might be used to pay for abortions under proposed health care legislation.

Peter R. Orszag, the White House budget director, asked whether he was prepared to say that “no taxpayer money will go to pay for abortions,” answered: “I am not prepared to say explicitly that right now. It’s obviously a controversial issue, and it’s one of the questions that is playing out in this debate.”

Why all the secrecy?

Or is it just ignorance?

Either way, we have a right to know how our tax dollars will be spent.

In an analysis of the House bill, the National Right to Life Committee said that ordinary principles of administrative law could allow the Obama administration to determine what would be included in the benefits package. “There is no doubt,” the group said, “that coverage of abortion will be mandated, unless Congress explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of federal authority to define ‘essential benefits.’ ”

“No doubt” may be an accurate assessment or just inflammatory rhetoric. I can’t say one way or the other.

What I don’t like is Washington telling me what kind of policy I must buy and what kind of benefits it must cover.

Susan M. Pisano, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, said that most insurance companies offered benefit packages that included abortion coverage but that many employers decided not to buy such packages.

That may no longer be an option under the change you can believe in health insurance plan.

Since 1976, Congress has imposed sweeping restrictions on the use of federal money for abortions. The Hyde Amendment, for instance, prohibits the Medicaid program from spending federal money on most abortions.

If abortions have been debated for 33 years you would think the folks in Congress would be able to answer a direct question.

Apparently not.

Smaller cars, bigger health insurance, Poppa Washington.

Poppa Washington

The Oracle of Washington, who knows all, see’s all, is poised to pronounce what is good for us in the way of health care.

This is the same group that thought it was a great idea to make housing available to everyone regardless of their ability to repay their mortgage.

The same group that thinks spending more than you earn is a great idea.

First they loaned money they didn’t have to folks in Detroit who make our cars. Then they decided to assume control of an industry they know nothing about. Their solution is to sell one company to the Italian’s so that company can now import cars that no one bought 20 years ago.

Apparently Washington thinks America is ready for the “Fix It Again Tony” (Fiat). The car that voluntarily withdrew from the U.S. market rather than meet (what was then) tough emission standards.

The other car company has either sold, or is in the process of selling off the Hummer. They will also cut back on other big cars with high profit margins in favor of smaller cars with little or no profit margin.

And let’s not forget the guy (Brian Deese) in Washington who is the “brains” behind the bailout, no wait, bankruptcy of the automakers is a 31 year old law school dropout.

But wait, there’s more!

The new head of GM (Ed Whitacre) by his own admission “knows nothing about cars” but why should that stop him?

So now that we will be building and buying (or so they hope) smaller cars in order to save the American auto industry, what is next on the agenda?

Bigger health insurance.

Washington want’s to provide (their term, not mine) “basic, universal” health care (actually coverage, but why split hairs) for everyone.

So what is their idea of basic?

We don’t really know because that is a moving target, but using politicians outside the beltway as a guide, perhaps we can get some insight into what needs to be covered by health insurance.

According to the NCPA (National Center for Policy Analysis) state mandates, benefits that MUST be covered by health insurance, increase the cost of health insurance by 20 – 50%, depending on the state.

Here is a sampling.

Nine states require coverage (no pun intended) for hair prostheses (wigs).

Thirteen states require coverage for IVF (in vitro fertilization), a topic that is near and dear to our hearts.

Four states mandate coverage for massage therapists, three states for naturopaths. Fifteen states require coverage for “bone mass measurement” and thirty have mandates for dental anesthesia.

Now I am to be included in those who do not like pain and will go out of my way to avoid it. But since when is the cost of dental anesthesia so great that it must be an insured item? I would gladly pay for dental anesthesia even it if wasn’t covered and I bet I am not alone. So why do 30 states feel it must be an insurance mandate?

Is this their idea of “basic” coverage? How do residents of the other 27 states get by without having their dental anesthesia covered by insurance?

The list goes on . . .

One reason why health insurance is expensive is because we are insuring things that don’t need to be insured . . . like all of the things listed above.

I constantly remind clients that their auto insurance (mandated in all 50 states) does not cover things like tires, brakes and oil changes. But now that Washington has decided we will build smaller cars (regardless of whether anyone buys them), what if they decided it was for our own good that auto insurer’s cover oil changes?

Your auto insurance premiums would rise proportionate to the number of miles you drive. If you drive 12,000 miles per year that is 4 oil changes at $40 each so your premium needs to increase by $250 to cover the cost of the anticipated oil change plus the administrative handling fee for processing your claim.

I imagine quite a few folks would balk at that but some would cheer because they no longer have to pay for oil changes.

This same mentality seems pervasive among politicians when it comes to health insurance. This is especially true when no one has to pay for health insurance any more, it will be provided for by the government.

Like their free Medicare coverage.

Taking a cue from a pizza company, I can imagine the commercials for the change that is coming from Washington.

“Smaller cars, bigger health insurance, Poppa Washington.”

Ta-Da!

According to the New York Times the House has revealed a plan for sweeping health care reform in the United States.

But there are a few hitches.

They don’t know how much it will cost.

They don’t know how to fund it.

But other than that . . .

The draft bill would require all Americans to carry health insurance. Most employers would have to provide coverage to employees or pay a fee equivalent to 8 percent of their payroll.

Everyone must have health insurance or else what?

Then there is this goody.

The plan would also end many insurance company practices that deny coverage or charge higher premiums to sick people.

This is no problem. A handful of states already prohibit carriers from denying coverage (aka guaranteed issue) and/or charging a higher premium (known as community rating) for those with health problems.

Premiums in those states are 2x to 3x higher than comparable plans in states where carriers are free to medically underwrite coverage.

The 852-page House bill, as expected, is more expansive than the legislation taking shape in the Senate, where work on the issue bogged down this week after early cost estimates came in far higher than expected.

No one read the 1100 page stimulus bill. Wonder if anyone will read this one?

That’s probably expecting too much, don’t you think?

The proposal would expand Medicaid eligibility, increase Medicaid payments to primary care doctors and gradually close a gap in Medicare coverage of prescription drugs known as a doughnut hole.

If this were a car company, the design would look like a gas guzzling Hummer on steroids.

But wait! American car companies are not supposed to produce these kinds of car’s any more. America wants smaller, fuel efficient “green” car’s.

The bill would impose a new “tax on individuals without acceptable health care coverage.”

I can hardly wait to find out how “acceptable coverage is defined.

The tax would be based on a person’s income and could not exceed the average cost of a basic health insurance policy.

Define “basic”.

The House bill shows what Democrats mean when they speak of a “robust” public insurance plan.

Under the bill, the public plan would be run by the Department of Health and Human Services and would offer three or four policies, with different levels of benefits. The plan would initially use Medicare fee schedules, paying most doctors and hospitals at Medicare rates, plus about 5 percent. After three years, the health secretary could negotiate with doctors and hospitals.

American’s turning 65 have a difficult time finding doc’s willing to accept Medicare patients due to the low reimbursement. Anyone want to wager if folks under the “public plan” will encounter similar obstacles?

But the bill says, “There shall be no administrative or judicial review of a payment rate or methodology” used to pay health care providers in the public plan.

Sounds like no oversight to me. Isn’t this what led to Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac crashing on the rocks?

The bill would limit what doctors could charge patients in the public insurance plan, just as Medicare limits what doctors can charge beneficiaries.

Wonder how the doc’s feel about that?

The bill would require drug companies to finance improvements in the Medicare drug benefit. Drug companies would have to pay rebates to the government on drugs dispensed to low-income Medicare beneficiaries.

Gosh, this sounds an awful lot like cost shifting to the private sector.

The bill would expand Medicaid to cover millions of people with incomes below 133 percent of the poverty level ($14,400 for an individual, $29,330 for a family of four). The cost would be borne by the federal government.

The government would also offer subsidies to make insurance more affordable for people with incomes from 133 percent to 400 percent of the poverty level ($43,300 for an individual, $88,200 for a family of four).

I still have difficulty thinking of a family that earns $88,200 as poor. I guess it is something I will have to get over.

Unfair Competition

Say you owned a business selling hot dogs on the street corner. Hot dogs are easy to prepare, affordable for most and in high demand (especially at lunch time).

You have run this business for some time, have established clientele for repeat busienss and even pick up new clients from time to time. Even though there are restaurants nearby, you really have a niche market with almost no competition.

Life is good.

But say a new hot dog vendor shows up one day and parks their cart next to yours. Your hot dogs sell for $2.50. Add a little more for cheese or chili.

The new guy is selling the same hot dog for $1.25 with all the works.

How long will you stay in business?

More importantly, how long will your competitor stick around when his dogs are half the price of yours? [Read more…]

Mass Revisited

It has been a while since we looked at the Massachusetts experiment to provide universal health care, so we decided to take a closer look. We were prompted, at least in part, by the fact that the folks in Washington who think money grows on trees seem to be eyeing the Mass plan as a model of efficiency and something that should spread to the other 49 states.

While the plan may not have driven off the Chappaquiddick bridge . . . yet . . . it is certainly in need of some retooling.

According to Cato (no, not the O.J. house guest):

Massachusetts has significantly reduced the number of people in the state who lack health insurance. However, it has not achieved, nor does it expect to reach, universal coverage. (The best estimates suggest that more than 200,000 state residents remain uninsured). And, significantly, roughly 60 percent of newly insured state residents are receiving subsidized coverage, suggesting that the increase in insurance coverage has more to do with increased subsidies (the state now provides subsidies for those earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level or $66,150 for a family of four) than with the mandate.

The cost of those subsidies in the face of predictably rising health care costs has led to program costs far higher than originally predicted. Spending for the Commonwealth Care subsidized program has doubled, from $630 million in 2007 to an estimated $1.3 billion for 2009. [Read more…]

Good News, Bad News

After trudging through deserts, swamps and steamy jungles for days, the troops were called to order and addressed by the Commander.

“We have good news, and we have bad news. First, the good news. Everyone get’s a change of underwear.”

Cheers go up from the crowd.

“Now, the bad news. Joe, you change with Sam. Sam, you change with Bill. Bill you change with . .”

USA Today is reporting that the health insurance industry is offering ” to curb its controversial practice of charging higher premiums to people with a history of medical problems.”

That’s the good news.

Now the bad news.

EVERYONE pays a higher premium. Based on what we see in states that prohibit medical underwriting, expect rates to be 200% – 300% higher. [Read more…]

Pig Farts and COBRA

LBJ conceived the Great Society to eliminate poverty and racial injustice.

George H. W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind to provide quality basic education to all children.

Obama is promising there will be No Patients Left Behind as part of his master plan to save the USA from economic collapse.

We still have poverty, racial inequity and students in public schools are still failing. So will the Spendulus Bill with promises to end inequity in health care and provide universal coverage succeed? Will there be No Patients Left Behind?

Let's see what Cassandra Kelsey has to say about that.

Cassandra lost her job with Verizon in January.

Kelsey walks with a cane and lists a litany of ailments, including degenerative arthritis and hypertension. For her, going without health insurance is unthinkable.

COBRA became law in 1986 and provided, among other things, a way for employees to continue their group insurance plan for up to 18 months (in most cases), providing them a way to bridge over to their next job with benefits. For the last 22+ years employees have had an option to assure they would not be without health insurance after leaving their job. So how many have prepared for that situation?

Very few.

Outside a District of Columbia career center on a recent morning, Kelsey clutched copies of her COBRA invoice, clippings from a newspaper about the stimulus bill, and a form letter she received from the White House after writing to President Obama.

Kelsey knew about the reduced premium and said it would bring her COBRA costs below $200 a month. But when she called her benefits department, she was distressed to learn that she would not be able to get the reduced cost immediately, probably not until May.

"I can't take advantage of it now, which I think is totally unfair,"

Unfair? As much as I empathize with Ms. Kelsey I fail to see how this burdensome new program from the O.G.M. (Office of Government Meddling) is unfair.

As part of the Spendulus Bill, employers are now required to subsidize 65% of the COBRA premiums for severed employees for up to 9 months. Supposedly they will get a credit against future payroll taxes to offset this cost but the program has only been in the air for a few weeks and already some employers are considering dropping their group coverage as a way of avoiding the financial burden of paying for benefits for laid off employees.

A $25 billion provision in the stimulus plan aimed to cut COBRA's price tag, reducing its cost 65 percent for workers laid off as far back as Sept. 1.

That's $25 billion out of $787 billion to spendulate the economy. If Congress really wanted to help those out of work you would think they would allocate more to COBRA subsidies and find a way to make it less onerous for employers who are already struggling.

Instead, Congress deems it better to spend $1 million on Mormon Crickets in Utah, a total of $41.5 million to renovate libraries for 3 dead presidents, and another $1.8 million for Swine Odor and Manure management.

In the big scheme of things, when you are talking about spending billions of taxpayer money, allocating $300,000 for GoGirlGo is not a lot of money. But somehow I don't think Ms. Kelsey will agree that it is better to support mormon cricket research and pig farts is more noble than helping out people who are unemployed.