Saturday, October 26, 2013

Obamacare meets extra resistance in Oklahoma - Page 2 - Los Angeles Times

The cognitive dissonance should make these people’s heads explode, but I don’t think there’s enough cognition to create the dissonance.

In dozens of interviews here, many said they feared they would be forced to buy insurance they couldn't afford. Some said they were told (erroneously) that insurance penalties would come out of their Social Security checks; others said they'd heard the law meant they'd soon have to travel several hundred miles to see a doctor.

"They say it's affordable, but when you ain't got no money, nothing's affordable," said 55-year-old Paul Bush of Midwest City, who accompanied his sister to a clinic for care last week. While he supports efforts in Congress to kill the program — "Heck yeah," he said — he wasn't happy about Fallin's decision to reject the Medicaid expansion: "The state could really have used the money."

Bush's sister, Teresa Springer, might have qualified for care under a Medicaid expansion, but she supported Fallin's decision.

Springer, who has applied for disability assistance, said she worried that fines related to the healthcare law would cut into her disability checks at the same time that some Republicans in Congress were talking about cutting food stamps.

"That's all I have," she said after a visit to the Mary Mahoney Memorial Health Center in Spencer, Okla. "I'm going to either pay my bills or not eat." The law, she added, "is hurting everybody."

Obamacare meets extra resistance in Oklahoma - Page 2 - Los Angeles Times

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Obamacare and part-time jobs: The myth exploded (again) -


Tuesday's tepid brew of jobs data, delayed more than two weeks by the government shutdown, wasn't worth waiting for. It shows an increase in total nonfarm employment by 148,000 in September over August, which is consistent with economic growth crawling along in second gear.

The report's most notable nugget is the change in part-time work. Over the last month the number of workers in part-time jobs for economic reasons--slack demand, cutbacks in hours--has remained stable. Over the last year, however, it has fallen by 681,000. Those part-timers also constitute a smaller share of all workers--5.5% in September compared to 6% a year earlier.

That puts the lie to the popular conservative meme that Obamacare has transformed America's workforce into part-timers. The idea is that employers wishing to evade the law's requirement that they offer health insurance to employees working more than 30 hours a week will cut their hours to 29 or less. The shorthand about this provided by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), that one-stop shop for Obamacare disinformation, was "single parents who have been forced into part-time work."

Obamacare and part-time jobs: The myth exploded (again) -

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Don’t Blame Health Law for High Part-Time Employment - Real Time Economics - WSJ


Don’t blame the health law for high levels of part-time employment. In fact, using the law’s definitions, part-time work isn’t increasing at all as a share of employment, at least not yet.

Nearly 8 million American were working part-time in September because they couldn’t find full-time work. Overall, 27 million people — nearly a fifth of all employees — are working part-time, well above historical norms.

Many critics of the Obama administration have pointed the finger for the prevalence of part-time jobs at the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law better known to some as “Obamacare.” The law’s so-called “employer mandate” requires most midsize and larger companies to offer health insurance to their full-time employees. That, critics argue, provides companies with an incentive to hire part-timers instead.

The Obama administration earlier this year said it would delay the requirement until 2015 to give companies more time to comply. But some employers have said they are nonetheless cutting back on full-time hiring. Indeed, part-time employment rose early this year, while full-time employment growth stalled.

But a closer look at the data provides little evidence for the notion that the health law is driving a shift to part-time work, although it could as the mandate deadline approaches.

First of all, over a longer time frame, part-time work has actually been falling as a share of employment in recent years. Before the recession, about 17% of employed Americans worked 35 hours or less, the standard Labor Department definition of “part time.” During the recession, that figure rose, briefly hitting 20%. It’s been trending down since then, but only slowly, hitting 19% in September.

Don’t Blame Health Law for High Part-Time Employment - Real Time Economics - WSJ

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Uninsured in Pennsylvania reaches record high - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Overall the number of uninsured Pennsylvanians increased by 11 percent from 2011 to 2012, while nationally the number decreased by 1.4 percent.

The numbers, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reflect a troubling trend in health care insurance, which people traditionally received through their employer.

"We continue to see a dangerous erosion of employer-based coverage," said Andy Carter, president and CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association that represents the interests of nearly 240 health facilities.

"The number of Pennsylvanians covered by private, employer-based plans hit an all-time low of 59.5 percent in 2012," he said.

And that's not solely because people are out of work, he added.

"Three out of every 4 uninsured Pennsylvanians live in a household with at least one working adult, and nearly 4 out of 5 live in Pennsylvania's suburban and rural regions," Mr. Carter said.

The association has advocated for the expansion of Medicaid as outlined under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Uninsured in Pennsylvania reaches record high - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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The Myth of the Medical-Device Tax -


Not only can the medical-device industry easily afford the tax without compromising innovation, but the industry’s enormous profits are a result of anticompetitive practices that themselves drive up medical-device costs unnecessarily. The tax is a distraction from reforms to the industry that are urgently needed to lower health care costs.

The medical-device industry faces virtually no price competition. Because of confidentiality agreements that manufacturers require hospitals to sign, the prices of the devices are cloaked in secrecy. This lack of transparency impedes hospitals from sharing price information and thus knowing whether they are getting a good deal.

Even worse, manufacturers often maintain personal relationships (sometimes involving financial payments like consulting fees) with physicians who choose the medical devices that their hospitals purchase, creating a conflict of interest. Physicians often don’t even know the costs of the devices, and individual physicians often choose devices on their own, which weakens a hospital’s ability to bargain for volume discounts.

Such anticompetitive practices help generate a wide variation in the prices of medical devices — and contribute to higher prices in general. For example, the Government Accountability Office found that prices for cardiac implantable medical devices in the United States vary by several thousand dollars. And even the lowest-priced devices in the United States are expensive compared with those in other developed countries. According to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the United States spends about 50 percent more than expected on the top five medical devices, compared with Europe and Japan. McKinsey calculates that this amounts to $26 billion in excessive spending each year. Medicare, private health insurers and patients end up paying these inflated prices.

Excessive prices fuel enormous profits — profits that dwarf both the medical-device tax and the industry’s investments in research and development. Consider the device division of Johnson & Johnson, which in 2012 had an operating profit of $7.2 billion. By the company’s own estimate, the device tax would amount to at most $300 million, and its investment in research and development amounts to only $1.7 billion.

The Myth of the Medical-Device Tax -

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Tax the rich? IMF sparks a mini revolution |


Tax the rich and better target the multinationals: The IMF has set off shockwaves this week in Washington by suggesting countries fight budget deficits by raising taxes.

Tucked inside a report on public debt, the new tack was mostly eclipsed by worries about the US budget crisis, but did not escape the notice of experts and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

"We had to read it twice to be sure we had really understood it," said Nicolas Mombrial, the head of Oxfam in Washington. "It's rare that IMF proposals are so surprising."

Guardian of financial orthodoxy, the International Monetary Fund, which is holding its annual meetings with the World Bank this week in the US capital, typically calls for nations in difficulty to slash public spending to reduce their deficits.

But in its Fiscal Monitor report, subtitled "Taxing Times", the Fund advanced the idea of taxing the highest-income people and their assets to reinforce the legitimacy of spending cuts and fight against growing income inequalities.

"Scope seems to exist in many advanced economies to raise more revenue from the top of the income distribution," the IMF wrote, noting "steep cuts" in top rates since the early 1980s.

According to IMF estimates, taxing the rich even at the same rates during the 1980s would reap fiscal revenues equal to 0.25 percent of economic output in the developed countries.

"The gain could in some cases, such as that of the United States, be more significant," around 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, said the IMF report, which also singled out deficient taxation of multinational companies.

In the US alone, legal loopholes deprive the Treasury of roughly $60 billion in receipts, the global lender said.

The 188-nation IMF said that it did not want to enter into a debate on whether the rich should pay more taxes.

But, it said: "The chance to review international tax architecture seems to come about once a century; the fundamental issues should not be ducked."

Tax the rich? IMF sparks a mini revolution |

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