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Archive for March, 2010

What to Expect from Health Care Reform

Solid video from the Heritage Foundation now that it’s the law of the land.

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New York Times Catches Up to AP

I’ll admit, when I saw a bunch of lefties I follow on Twitter talking about this last night (Film Critic Roger Ebert was the most clueless), I had to wonder what planet these guys were on.  Most conservatives knew about this on Tuesday or Wednesday when the AP first mentioned it. Apparently, it’s not news until the New York Times mentions it.

In case you weren’t aware, the Health Care Reform Law has a giant “Oops!” in it.

While supporters were touting that insurance companies could no longer deny parents insurance for their children with pre-existing conditions starting in six month’s time, the bill was not structured as such.  What most attorneys who’ve looked at the language of the law have said, is that in actuality insurance companies are not bound to sell parents anything until 2014 — like much of the rest of the bill.  So parents with children with asthma and other medical ailments won’t be able to get coverage for their children; and more important for Democrats, politically, they can’t use the talking point when they truly need it this November.

The White House has brought in its own team of lawyers, and has sworn it will regulate the change in; but if they do, expect a court challenge from the insurance industry which will claim the administration is over-reaching from the language of the law.

Insurers agree that if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and it does not guarantee the “availability of coverage” for all until 2014.

William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies, said: “The fine print differs from the larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost.”

Congressional Democrats were furious when they learned that some insurers disagreed with their interpretation of the law.

“The concept that insurance companies would even seek to deny children coverage exemplifies why we fought for this reform,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the Senate commerce committee, said: “The ink has not yet dried on the health care reform bill, and already some deplorable health insurance companies are trying to duck away from covering children with pre-existing conditions. This is outrageous.”

The issue is one of many that federal officials are tackling as they prepare to carry out the law, with a huge stream of new rules, official guidance and brochures to educate the public. Their decisions will have major practical implications.

Insurers say they often limit coverage of pre-existing conditions under policies sold in the individual insurance market. Thus, for example, an insurer might cover a family of four, including a child with a heart defect, but exclude treatment of that condition from the policy.

The new law says that health plans and insurers offering individual or group coverage “may not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion with respect to such plan or coverage” for children under 19, starting in “plan years” that begin on or after Sept. 23, 2010.

But, insurers say, until 2014, the law does not require them to write insurance at all for the child or the family. In the language of insurance, the law does not include a “guaranteed issue” requirement before then.

Consumer advocates worry that instead of refusing to cover treatment for a specific pre-existing condition, an insurer might simply deny coverage for the child or the family.

“If you have a sick kid, the individual insurance market will continue to be a scary place,” said Karen L. Pollitz, a research professor at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University.

Experts at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners share that concern.

“I would like to see the kids covered,” said Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas. “But without guaranteed issue of insurance, I am not sure companies will be required to take children under 19.”

A White House spokesman said the administration planned to issue regulations setting forth its view that “the term ‘pre-existing’ applies to both a child’s access to a plan and his or her benefits once he or she is in a plan.” But lawyers said the rules could be challenged in court if they went beyond the law or were inconsistent with it.

Naturally, most liberals are blaming the insurance companies for ‘exploiting a loophole,’ and not the Democratic members of Congress who wrote (and allegedly read) the law in the first place.

So, just so you know, most liberals will not know the world is over when the meteor strikes, but if the New York Times survives long enough to report it.

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Cartoon of the Day

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Cartoon of the Day

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Clear, They Have to Make This Stop

Democrats in Washington, DC are not taking the drip, drip, drip coming from corporate America announcing they’ll be taking charges from their profit margin after the passage of the Health Care Reform well.

The Wall Street Journal’s reporting that California’s Henry Waxman; Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Michigan’s Bart Stupak; Chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Panel, are calling for hearings and will call the CEOs of Caterpillar, John Deere, Verizon, and others to make them explain (who explain what is of course, up for interpretation) the hits their taking from the law.

Even before AT&T Inc. said Friday that it will take a $1 billion charge in the first-quarter because of the new health-care law, the issue was front-and-center with key lawmakers.

Earlier this week, Caterpillar Inc., Deere & Co., and AK Steel Holding Corp. announced their own hefty one-time charges.

Almost immediately, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations panel, announced plans to hold an April 21 hearing on “claims by Caterpillar, Verizon, and Deere that provisions in the new health care reform law could adversely affect their company’s ability to provide health insurance to their employees. These assertions appear to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs.”

The committee wants the companies’ CEOs testify and provide evidence of the law’s projected impact.

The companies have said they are compensating for the expected loss of a tax deduction on tax-free government subsidies they receive when they provide retirees with prescription drug reimbursement under Medicare Part D. The current tax structure won’t change until 2013, but company executives say they’re preparing for the higher costs now.

The White House had no immediate comment on the matter, but administration officials said they believe the announcements are meant to underscore the businesses’ displeasure with the law.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce condemned the health-care law as expensive and disruptive to health-care delivery. The Business Roundtable, composed of top CEOs, offered a bland statement that called the legislation’s passage “just the first step in reforming our nation’s health care system.”

Admittedly, I’m looking forward to this hearing.  Maybe by then Waxman (or his staff) will have read the bill by then.  Because it seems a lot of attorneys and accountants outside of Washington have.

Plus, Stupak getting more attention…someone’s not putting their thinking cap on are they?

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Cartoon of the Day

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“Zoo Interchange” Bridge Closed Indefinitely

Just think, we’re gonna have some really nice highways to Illinois…

State authorities closed the Highway 45 bridge carrying traffic northbound over I-94 in the Zoo Interchange shortly before 11 a.m. Friday, fearing that overweight trucks could collapse the deteriorating span.

The bridge, which carries an average of 42,000 vehicles per day, will remain closed until its replacement is completed. That work, started in January as part of an emergency repair project, is expected to be done by Memorial Day.

“This is a public safety action,” said Ryan Luck, construction manager with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. “There’s no room to gamble on this.”

After inspections detected dangerous cracking and deterioration of the bridge in the summer of 2009, the DOT imposed weight limits on three bridges in the interchange. They then acted to replace them, under an emergency contract.

Officials said that overweight trucks continued to travel on the northbound bridge, compounding the deterioration and creating a danger of collapse.

Northbound traffic will be detoured east onto I-94 and returned to the freeway via 84th St. and the westbound freeway.

This is the heaviest traveled highway in Wisconsin, even more so then the recent replaced “Marquette Interchange” in Milwaukee of I-43/I-94.  How this doesn’t have an effect on the Governor’s race given the history of it (Doyle and Milwaukee Democrats pushed repairs on the Zoo for YEARS because of the urging of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is running to replace Doyle.) is beyond me?

Somewhere, a bunch of Democratic spokes-flacks are huddled in a room in Madison (with a conference call to a room in Milwaukee for good measure) trying to figure out a way to deflect blame.

UPDATE: The Walker Campaign was nice enough to post a map of the detour the Zoo will now be undertaking.

Both the Neumann and the Barrett campaigns have chimed in as well on the Zoo Interchange issue as well.  Neumann comes off like he’s reading you the history of the problem (countless  transportation fund raids, in-fighting from Milwaukee politicians, and poor DOT planning).  Barrett sounds like they know they’re backed in a corner on this one and are lashing out; particularly at the Walker campaign.

Also, in what is a sure sign of the “Oh, $#!+” status for Barrett on this issue, it’s 4:15 CT — admittedly on a Friday — and I have yet to see a post from the usual set of liberal bloggers in the Cheddarsphere trying to spin this one.

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Daily Quick Hits

Video of the Day

Jim Geraghty of National Review talks about Democrats suddenly complaining about their constituents yelling at them, and the myth of the “Conservative Democrat.”

The Last Perfect Bracket in America is No More

It was a great run. Pity that Butler had to ruin it.

That’s Some Co-Winkie-Dink

WKOW in Madison reports that for years, Terrance Wall — Middleton Real Estate Developer and Republican Candidate for Senate — has been the landlord of Russ Feingold for his Senate office and Campaign offices in the greater Madison area.  Both Wall and Feingold view it as no big deal, and the station reports all legally and ethical things were done in terms of disclosure.

That didn’t mean Feingold hasn’t tried to break the lease since Wall announced though…

But even years of the Feingold team turning over thousands of both taxpayer and campaign dollars to T. Wall’s development empire for space in sleek office complexes could not completely survive the political killer instinct.

“His manager came into my office a few weeks ago,” candidate Wall told a large crowd of potential supporters at a Racine rally in January.

“And (he) actually tried to break the lease because I’m running against him.”

Feingold’s two offices pay a combined $55,000 a year for the office space.  Expect DPW or OWN to demand a tax receipt before Easter.

The “What the %^&*” Story of the Day!

Remember the White House party crashers?  Well, they’re about to be featured in “The Real Housewives of DC.”

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Frum Leaves AEI

Kudos to liberal blogger Gregg Sargent for doing what so many other liberal bloggers and commentators seem to be unable to do about this story: Ask Frum what happened.

I just got off the phone with writer David Frum, and he says the conservative American Enterprise Institute assured him today that he isn’t being fired because of his recent blistering criticism of the GOP, as has been widely speculated this afternoon.

Frum wrote on his Website today that he and AEI president Arthur Brooks “came to a termination” of their relationship. That led many to suggest that Frum was fired because he got so much attention for excoriating the party for refusing to compromise on health care.

“It’s Waterloo all right: ours,” Frum wrote.

But Frum says AEI president Brooks at lunch today actually lauded him for making so much noise with that post.

“He said the thought might occur to me that this had to do with that,” Frum says. “He wanted to ally my anxieties on that score. He was very empatic.” Frum adds that Brooks said he “welcomed and celebrated” the debate he’d stirred up.

“He asked me if I’d like to work for AEI on a non salary basis,” Frum added. “He said it had nothing to do with my work and that after all these are hard times.”

“Big bad conservative think tank axes writer for criticizing GOP intransigence” is a seductive storyline for our times, but it may not be true.

I have more than a few friends at DC think tanks, and they’ve been under hiring and pay freezes for much of the economic downturn.  Large donations are down and that’s having an effect on the budgets of many non-profits in DC.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the sole reason I’m not doing research on trade projects for Heritage’s Center for International Trade and Economics (CITE) is because the organization is still under a hiring freeze and not bringing on anyone new unless they absolutely hate to.  So for Frum, it’s very likely the idea of going non-salary was a non-starter for him and is probably the only reason he’s leaving AEI.

Another thing is, seven years is an incredibly long time for someone to be at one job, especially in Washington DC.  It’s not uncommon to see Congressional staffers shuffle back and forth between offices, the professional flacks jump from campaign to Party Committee to a PR shop, and journalists jump from a web magazine to the Post…all within the course of a year.  Heck, the first time I met the Weekly Standard’s Mary Katharine Hamm she was still at Townhall.com and was asking me where I’d be working in 6 months time.

Mind you, at the time, I had yet to have one day on the job at HUD.  That is how DC is with employment loyalty.

That being said, do I think Frum’s gonna be a hot ticket for many liberal opinion shows who want to think his recent comments were the sole reason for him being gone?  Ask and answered.

He’s already scheduled to be on “Countdown” on MSNBC with Keith Olbermann this evening.  (UPDATE: Frum says on Twitter he’s not; though Olby’s people did ask.)

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