Monday, December 02, 2013

Cruising the Web

I hope you guys all had a wonderful holiday. I certainly did.

So the administration is claiming that "we have met the goal." However, there is still a whole lot that remains to be done.
Even with the repairs in place, the site still won't be able to do everything the administration wants, and companion sites for small businesses and Spanish speakers have been delayed. Questions remain about the stability of the site and the quality of the data it delivers to insurers....

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said insurers have complained that enrollment data sent to them from the website include too much incorrect, duplicative, garbled or missing information. She said the problems must be cleared up to guarantee consumers the coverage they signed up for effective Jan. 1.
As the WSJ writes today,
This weekend miracle defies other evidence, such as the recent admission by an HHS official that 30% to 40% of the exchanges are still unfinished. Much of this involves the "back end" of the exchange operation that provides information to insurers but that consumers don't see. In a pre-Thanksgiving news dump, HHS even gave up on the federal exchanges for small business and delayed those for a year.

The truth is that the White House is defining as a "success" however well or poorly the website actually works so it can declare political victory. The millions of people who've had their old coverage cancelled must re-enroll by December 23 to avoid gaps in coverage by the New Year. So like the Keynesian multiplier for stimulus spending, the White House is revising its goals along the way and claiming success based on nonfalsifiable standards.

For instance, the progress report reveals that the website is functioning more than 90% of the time—excluding periods when it is shut down for maintenance. HHS won't say how often that is or for how long. Why not simply proclaim that it works 100% of the time, as long as you don't count the times when it doesn't?

HHS touts other measures of progress—four times as much of this, doubled capacity of that—without revealing the original base. They've fixed those 400 bugs but won't say what they are or how many there are in total. Such statistical ploys are like a business claiming its revenues are twice as high as the last quarter's, in order to avoid saying if it's profitable.

Our favorite line in the report is the HHS boast that "the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness." That sure is a remarkable two-month turnaround for the same team that took three and half years to botch the initial launch at a cost of more than $1 billion, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Government.

If this miracle fix is real, the White House will open the ObamaCare black box to an independent audit, or maybe start by answering questions honestly.
Of course, they won't open it up for any sort of independent audit. That would interfere with their feel-good announcement. So maybe the administration has met its goal...if it's goal was the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Obama is still lying about Obamacare. And as the WSJ points out that Obamacare's insurance still costs more for worse coverage. This is all necessary to get money to fund the increased costs from Obamacare.
The reason this furor will continue even if the website is fixed is that the public is learning that ObamaCare's insurance costs more in return for worse coverage.

Mr. Obama and his liberal allies call the old plans "substandard," but he doesn't mean from the perspective of the consumers who bought them. He means people were free to choose insurance that wasn't designed to serve his social equity and income redistribution goals. In his view, many people must pay first-class fares for coach seats so others can pay less and receive extra benefits.

Liberals justify these coercive cross-subsidies as necessary to finance coverage for the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions. But government usually helps the less fortunate honestly by raising taxes to fund programs. In summer 2009, Senate Democrats put out such a bill, and the $1.6 trillion sticker shock led them to hide the transfers by forcing people to buy overpriced products.

This political mugging is especially unfair to the people whose plans on the current individual market are being taken away. The majority of these consumers are self-employed or small-business owners. They're middle class, rarely affluent. They took responsibility for their care without government aid, and unlike people in the job-based system, they paid with after-tax dollars.

Now they're being punished for the crime of not subsidizing ObamaCare, even though the individual market was never as dysfunctional or high cost as liberals claim. In 2012, average U.S. individual premiums were $190, ranging from a low of $123 in North Dakota to a high of $385 in Massachusetts. Average premiums for family plans fell that year by 0.5% to $412.

Those numbers come from the 13,000 different policies from 180 insurers sold on, the online shopping brokerage that works. (Technological wonders never cease.) Individuals can make the trade-offs between costs and benefits for themselves. This wide variety is proof that humans don't all want or need the same thing. If they did, there would be no need for a market and government could satisfy everybody.

....The awful irony of this new ObamaCare health system is that all adults now enjoy mandated pediatric vision benefits, even if they don't have kids, but parents can't take their daughter to an expensive children's hospital if she gets really sick. Everybody gets "free" preventive checkups with no copays, but not treatment for a complex illness from specialists at an academic medical center.

If the old individual market was as bad as Mr. Obama said it was, then he shouldn't pretend it's a place worth going back to, even for a year's delay. His "fix" is necessary politically because ObamaCare's willful destruction of this alternative is the worst act of government mayhem since FDR's National Recovery Act. The Affordable Care Act's main achievement is turning out to be diminishing affordable care.
And now there are four policies to choose from. That's it. It's more expensive with less coverage and less choice. And this is supposed to be the improvement we were promised?

Megan McArdle explains why it's folly for the administration to insist on battling over the contraception mandate. I agree that the mandate was never about the financial or medical necessity for women. It think it was all a political move to get people to object to it so that the Obama campaign could make a big deal about a fake war on women. If the concern was about an unavoidable expense for people, why didn't the administration insist on free diabetes or heart medicine? Why was this the sole item that was mandated to be offered free of charge? It was all about the politics.

Steven Greenhut at Reason looks at how "San Francisco values" are making it impossible for any but those who are comfortably off to live there. They've provided a real-life study for rent control hurts the poor the most.

Get ready for the next legal challenge for Obamacare: does the IRS have the power to enforce tax penalties on the majority of states. Those states didn't establish their own health-care exchange and instead their citizens are using the federal site. The law explicitly says that subsidies and tax penalties for those who don't sign up are only to be imposed on states that created their own exchanges, but, as usual, the administration unilaterally decided to ignore the text of the law and impose those penalties. Oklahoma and Indiana and some others have filed suit. We'll see if the administration can get away with ignoring the actual text of the law.

Here are some questions Al Gore might not want to answer.

The talks with Iran that led to the supposed break-through in diplomacy all began with the return of a 7th century Iranian chalice. It's a shame that the administration couldn't have insisted on the return of the American pastor being held and tortured in an Iranian prison while they were giving Iran something that they wanted.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi (one of the rare modern deserved Peace Prize laureates) and Payam Akhavan, founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center argue in the Washington Post that the Obama administration should be insisting on including human rights in any deal they make with Iran.
Iran is at a crossroads. Its people are caught between paths leading in opposite directions. One promises reintegration into the world community amid a historic transition from authoritarian to democratic rule. The other gives rise to fear that, in a time of reluctant compromises and declining political fortunes, enraged hard-liners will stubbornly cling to power by unleashing even worse atrocities against Iranian citizens portrayed as “enemies,” “apostates” and “foreign conspirators.”

The interim nuclear deal and diplomatic engagement with Iran are a welcome opportunity for change. But the world should ensure that human rights are not sacrificed at the altar of political expedience.

It sounds like some of Hillary Clinton's supporters are realizing that she truly didn't do much as Secretary of State. Somehow, bragging that her biggest accomplishment was that she traveled a lot. Her hope is to color perceptions of her accomplishment-free tenure as Secretary of State when she publishes her memoirs. They hope that she will be able to take credit for John Kerry's supposed accomplishments with Iran. And they'll try to color her actions in Libya getting rid of Qaddafi without anyone noticing the situation now in Libya or the killing of four Americans in Benghazi after her State Department turned down requests for increased security there. She might think that it all doesn't matter now, but if her time as Secretary of State falls under scrutiny, let's look at her full record.

How perfect that unions protesting Walmart have to hire their protesters since they can't get actual Walmart employees to be upset about working there.

P. J. O'Rourke looks at Baby Boomers and sees...Ozymandias

Charles Hurt explains why we should give thanks to George Mason. It's a rather sad that Mason doesn't get more attention in the history books. We might not have a Bill of Rights in the form that we do without his insisting that one must be added to the Constitution and without the model that the Virginia Declaration of Rights provided for George Mason (corrected from earlier).

Byron York sees a parallel between Obama's efforts to politicize the holidays with propaganda efforts by East German's Stasi.
The administration's talking points have been widely mocked. "Incredibly creepy," said the conservative writer Jonah Goldberg. On Twitter, some made parodies of the hand-cutting sequence. And others recalled when the Obama 2012 re-election campaign urged Americans to turn their most personal holidays into celebrations of the president.

"Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?" the campaign asked. "Let your friends know how important this election is to you — register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift. It's a great way to support the president on your big day."

Again: The United States is not East Germany. It's not close to being East Germany. And that is one reason why such efforts to politicize Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, birthdays, and more are especially unwelcome. Christmas is approaching, and no doubt the president and Organizing for Action have a plan for that. Just don't expect millions of Americans to go along.
I would bet that even many Obama supporters were embarrassed by those efforts to make every aspect of people's lives an opportunity to propagandize for The One. In case you still run into those people who are eagerly trying to persuade you of how wonderful Obamacare is, here are some counter-talking points to refute their arguments.

So I note that Google can celebrate Maria Callas's 90th birthday, but couldn't come up with a Google Doodle for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Something is seriously skewed there.

Critics of Obamacare are now being audited. Mark Steyn wonders if this is a coincidence.
In Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, the eponymous Auric Goldfinger observes:
Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.
That may be overly generous.

One thing that the Obamacare fiasco has done is encourage more doctors to run for public office. There are now 11 Republican doctors running for the Senate. They won't all win, but it's a worthwhile trend. If the government is going to be more and more involved in health care, it would help to have some people in office who have experience from the other side.