Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Obamacare to begin rating network size of health plans

Hot Air.com ^ | March 7, 2016 | JOHN SEXTON 

If you like your doctor, HHS will create a rating system to show you that your doctor isn’t covered under the new, narrower network. That’s what the President promised us, right?
HHS is moving to make it easier for consumers to find out the size of the network of doctors and hospitals they are joining when they sign up for a health plan on the Obamacare exchange. The New York Times reported on the changes being made Sunday:
The Obama administration, responding to consumer complaints, says it will begin rating health insurance plans based on how many doctors and hospitals they include in their networks…
Many health plans offered in the public marketplaces provide a limited choice of doctors and hospitals, and some insurers narrowed their networks this year by excluding some doctors and dropping popular teaching hospitals.
Consumers have grumbled about the changes, and some say they have had difficulty finding medical specialists. But cost-conscious consumers have gravitated to these plans because they tend to offer lower premiums than health plans providing a greater choice of doctors and hospitals.
The Times notes that consumers have “grumbled” about the narrow networks but doesn’t point out narrow networks are not some unexpected new outcome of Obamacare. In fact, this aspect of the President’s policy was an inevitable part of the design and has been reported on for several years already. Here’s the Washington Post writing about this from November 2013:
As Americans have begun shopping for health plans on the insurance exchanges, they are discovering that insurers are restricting their choice of doctors and hospitals in order to keep costs low, and that many of the plans exclude top-rated hospitals…
That’s forcing people such as Michael Justice, 63, a Web developer from Peterborough, N.H., to leave doctors they like. Justice has been treated by primary-care doctors, cardiologists, orthopedists and eye doctors affiliated with Monadnock Community Hospital in his town for 15 years, and his wife for 30 years. But starting in 2014, that medical center will no longer be in network for the Anthem plans sold in his state, whether he buys the insurance through the health exchange or on his own.
As insurance industry expert Bob Laszewski explains, creating smaller networks has become one of the only ways left for insurers to vary plans and thus prices:
In the old health insurance market, insurers competed for business through price and plan design. Network size has historically been a minor factor with consumers and employer plan sponsors expecting to be able to use about any doctor or hospital, especially those with the best reputations.
But with the Affordable Care Act, health plans lost two of their historically big plan pricing variables; medical underwriting and plan design.
Under Obamacare, insurers can no longer underwrite, or exclude people, to keep the cost of their individual market health insurance plans down––a good thing.
Under Obamacare, insurers can no longer offer a wide variety of health insurance products in the individual health market––a good thing when it gets rid of the worst of the health plans out there but not such a good thing when it gets rid of the many policies people could choose and have liked and are now mad about losing. Now, all health plans have to fit into four strict boxes: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. And, these boxes can only differ by out-of-pocket costs––not benefits.
So, if a health plan can no longer vary its benefit choices, how can it distinguish itself on price? A big variable therefore becomes the provider network.
In the long run having networks choose not to include expensive hospitals and doctors could pressure those hospitals and doctors to bring their prices down a bit. Of course that’s not the sales pitch we were all given. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” the President said back in 2009. Now we’re at the point where HHS is creating a new rating system to help people get an idea just how small their new Obamacare network really is.

Why European Leaders Hate Trump

The Market-Ticker ^ | March 7, 2016 | Karl Denninger 

It's really quite simple.
Trump has put on the table a promise to stop them from stealing from the United States.
Yes, stealing.
First, in national defense. Europe steals something around $100 billion in national defense spending that they ought to be spending every year, but we end up covering.
Trump has made clear he intends to put a stop to that crap whether it's Mexico by stopping their citizens, including their drug dealers, from invading the United States or other nations that enjoy our personnel and weaponry protecting their land and people instead of them expending their own money and personnel.
But second, and far more importantly, is found in medical care and drugs which Europe uses to make their "socialized" schemes workable. The national defense theft is tiny by comparison; Europe's theft in this regard, along with the rest of the world, is close to $800 billion annually. That utterly dwarfs the defense spending rip-off; we don't even spend that much in total on national defense in any given year!
Trump is hated for his policies all right -- he's rabidly against those nations stealing from the United States, and justly so, exactly as he is against China stealing from our manufacturing sector.
This is why Europe hates Trump -- he proposes to stop their wholesale theft.
And while he'd have to get Congress to go along with the national defense side when it comes to the health care theft he can stop it in the Executive by merely enforcing existing law against all health-related businesses in the United States.
PS: Between national defense and health care that's roughly a trillion dollars a year President Trump would take out of the "expense" side of the Federal Budget, or roughly a quarter of the total immediately and permanently. The economy would explode upward were this to take place, as would employment and real purchasing power for everyone in America.

Get Ready to Say President Trump (Trump has the advantage in seven crucial states).

US News ^ | 3/1/2016 | Jeff Nesbit 

Be careful what you wish for.
Barring something cataclysmic coming out of the presidential primary contests throughout March, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are most likely now headed toward their national party's nomination.
Until recently, a Trump nomination at the head of the Republican Party in 2016 is what Clinton's staff and political consultants had hoped for. Trump's high negatives mirror Clinton's in a general election – meaning that party loyalty and voter turnout matter more than momentum or message.
That, in theory, gives Clinton an edge. In every head-to-head national poll, Clinton tends to beat Trump by a few points.
But here's the thing. You don't become president by winning the national popularity contest. If that were the case, Al Gore would have been president, not George W. Bush. You become president with 270 Electoral College votes or more. And Trump, based on data (not emotion), is within striking distance of that benchmark based on historical data points.
There's been an underlying truth of presidential politics for more than 50 years, one that political scientists such as Larry Sabato and data mavens including fivethirtyeight's Nate Silver have understood for some time now.
The truth is this: presidential elections are now fought and won in just seven states. The other 43 (with a few rare exceptions) are largely pre-ordained. States that vote Democratic or Republican in presidential elections have remained that way since John F. Kennedy's era. There have been only a handful of exceptions in states such as Indiana or North Carolina.
But those exceptions are rare. If the party's leadership supports their candidate (and I would argue that the GOP leadership will eventually swing in behind the Trump candidacy, because to fail to do so would end their party), then historical patterns and political data all show that the real presidential election is confined to just seven states: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire.
And, based on recent Clinton vs. Trump head-to-head polls in these seven states and the likelihood that the white vote may increase in 2016, Trump is within striking distance of winning a general election against Clinton. For those who believe a Trump presidency is not really possible in today's America, you may want to re-think that proposition.
On the first caveat, time will tell. Yes, polls shift some over time – but they nevertheless tell a certain truth right now. On the second, the GOP leadership is already bracing itself for the necessity to back Trump. In the end, the party will embrace Trump.
And on the third, remember that Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was the national voter registration director for the Koch donor network's massive and well-funded political grassroots field organization, Americans for Prosperity. Lewandowski was also the director for AFP in New Hampshire, one of the seven swing states that will determine the 2016 presidential election.
Trump – once you strip away his foul language about bombing the you-know-what out of ISIS – is precisely the presidential candidate for the new Republican Party that the Koch donor network has meticulously assembled for 20 years in partnership with the tobacco industry, and other industries threatened by Washington regulations. (I've written about this effort in a new book, "Poison Tea," scheduled for publication April 5.) Trump is, in fact, their nearly ideal, prototypical, anti-Washington candidate. So are Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. For these and other reasons, the Koch network, too, will swing in behind Trump.
Here are the political data specifics. Clinton goes into the general election with a built-in advantage. She starts with an electoral base of 247 Electoral College votes out of 270 needed to win the presidency. That includes solid-to-leaning Democratic states. Trump starts with 207 solid-to-leaning GOP states.
For Clinton, then, she needs just 23 electoral votes to become president. Winning Ohio (18) and Virginia (13) puts her over the top. Virginia and two other smaller states (like Nevada and New Hampshire) also put her over the top. It's for this reason that her most likely running mate is Tim Kaine, Virginia's junior Democratic senator.
But Trump has the same electoral math in front of him. And, right now, he may be in better shape in these seven swing states than Clinton.
Start with Florida. There have been two head-to-head polls (PPD and Florida Atlantic University) since the first of the year, according to RealClearPolitics. Trump beats Clinton by 2 and 3 points respectively. So, for discussion purposes, add 29 electoral votes to Trump's column, moving him to 235.
In Ohio, there's been just one head-to-head Trump-Clinton poll (Quinnipiac) in 2016. But it's recent, conducted in late February. Trump beats Clinton by 2 points in Ohio in that one. But here's what's notable. In head-to-head matchups in Ohio last year, Trump lost to Clinton. Not now. So, again for the sake of argument, let's give Ohio to Trump. That gives him another 18 electoral votes, moving him closer to 270 with 253 electoral votes.
The next largest swing state, Virginia, likely goes to the D.C.-friendly Clinton, especially if Kaine is her running mate. So she picks up those 13 electoral votes, putting her at 260.
This is where it gets interesting. We could, quite possibly, see the 2016 presidency determined by just four states: Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire. None of these four are especially friendly to either Trump or Clinton. There aren't many current head-to-head polls in any of them.
But Colorado may be a lost cause for the former secretary of State. While there haven't been any head-to-head polls in Colorado this year, polling last year showed virtually any GOP candidate (including Trump) beating her by double digits. "A chilly if not frigid reception for…Clinton in her second quest for the White House," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in the fall of 2015. So throw those to Trump. That's another 9 votes, putting him within striking distance of the presidency at 262.
The next largest swing state, Nevada, may also be friendly territory for Trump. He has deep roots in the state, and a great deal of support from wealthy casino owners. There haven't been any recent head-to-head matchups, but a Morning Consult poll in November had Trump beating Clinton by 3 points. So give those 6 electoral votes in Nevada to Trump. That puts him at 268, just two shy of what he needs to move into the White House.
So we're down to Iowa and New Hampshire. Iowa has been unkind to Trump – and will almost certainly be again in the general election against Clinton. The only poll that has been conducted recently has Clinton beating Trump by nearly double digits. So Iowa is almost certainly hopeless for Trump. Give those 6 electoral votes to Clinton, putting her at 266.
Which leaves New Hampshire. Those four electoral votes from the seventh, and final, swing state might just give the presidency to either Clinton or Trump. The head-to-head polling in New Hampshire is all over the map right now. One (NBC) has them in a dead heat. Another (CNN) had Clinton up by nine. But they were all taken in early January, long before primary madness swept through the state – and where Clinton was soundly beaten by Sanders, and Trump cruised to a massive victory over many rivals.
And, remember, Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, not only ran the Koch political network's national voter registration efforts, he also directed AFP's New Hampshire office. So, if you're being honest about the current points of data on the political table, you'd give New Hampshire to Donald Trump. That gives him 272 electoral votes, two more than he needs.
Welcome to the White House, Mr. Trump.

Giddy Up!


Feels The BURN!


Black Lives?




Don't Worry!




Where She Belongs


Trump Near-Certain to Defeat Democrat in November According To Primary Model

Huffington Post ^ | 3/7/2016 | Helmut Norpoth 

With Donald Trump as the nominee, Republicans are highly certain to win the presidential election on November 8, 2016. Trump will defeat Hillary Clinton with 87 percent certainty, and Bernie Sanders with 99 percent.
These forecasts come from the PRIMARY MODEL. It is a statistical model that relies on presidential primaries and an election cycle as predictors of the vote in the general election.
Early primaries are a leading indicator of electoral victory in November. Trump won the Republican primaries in both New Hampshire and the South Carolina while Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders split the Democratic primaries in those states.
What favors the GOP in 2016 as well, no matter if Trump is the nominee or any other Republican, is a cycle of presidential elections. After two terms of Democrat Barack Obama in the White House the electoral pendulum is poised to swing to the GOP this year. This cycle, which is illustrated with elections since 1960, goes back a long way to 1828.
(Excerpt) Read more at huffingtonpost.com ...