Free Markets, Free People

Jonathan Cohn

Mickey D and health care – an exception to the rule?

Over on Memeorandum, there’s a frenzy of writing about a Wall Street Journal report that says McDonalds may drop its health care plan as a result of the impact of ObamaCare.

Note the operative word – "may". It doesn’t say it will, it doesn’t say it might, it says it "may" drop it because of the type of health insurance it offers and the impact of new regulations governing what amount of money must be spent by insurance companies for care. Specifically:

The requirement concerns the percentage of premiums that must be spent on benefits.

[…]

Last week, a senior McDonald’s official informed the Department of Health and Human Services that the restaurant chain’s insurer won’t meet a 2011 requirement to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care.

It is called the "medical loss ratio", but in reality it is government telling a business how it must spend its money. What the business is telling the government is, given the type of insurance offered by the business, driven primarily by the type of business it does, it won’t be able to comply with the regulation and will have to drop it’s present coverage altogether.

Of course this is bad news for the administration which is still out there pushing the lie that if you like your insurance nothing changes and you get to keep it.  Naturally this flies right in the face of the lie and it’s such a high profile company that, well, something has to be done.

Like, make them an exception to the rule maybe?  You know, special interest government.  If you’re big enough and you can cause us enough embarrassment, we’ll “except” you from that which we require all the other drones to comply.

And that appears to be exactly what’s in the works if Jonathan Cohn is to be believed:

By this morning, both McDonalds and the administration were saying the story is overblown. McDonalds says it has no plans to drop the coverage and that it’s been in discussions with the administration over how to make sure it can keep offering the policies. The administration is saying much the same thing–that it’s aware of the issue, has been talking to industry representatives, and has already made clear these plans will be exempt from some of the early regulations on insurance.

Of course those plans obviously aren’t yet exempt since one assumes the legal team at Mickey D’s was able to successfully interpret how the new law would apply to them.  So what Cohn is really saying is “nothing to see here citizen, move along, nothing to see” – a fairly routine attempt at spinning a situation in which the administration got caught with its pants around its ankles on the road in front of a school into one that’s “no big deal”. 

But it is a big deal.  And, if “these plans” are exempt, why?  And which plans aren’t exempt.  Is Burger King off the hook too?  How about Taco Bell?

More importantly, where does the government get off telling a business how to spend its money?  Cohn tells us it is because the want to make sure executive salaries and perks aren’t excessive and overhead is kept to a minimum.  I say it is plain and simple unwarranted government intrusion that is becoming all too familiar since this administration has been in charge:

More important, the administration has yet to finalize the rule about how insurance companies spend their money (or what is known as the "Medical Loss Ratio".) It’s entirely possible the administration will phase in the requirement slowly. Most likely, then, McDonald’s employees who like these plans will get to keep buying them, at least for the immediate future.

Good thing we can read the bill now to find out what’s really in it, isn’t it?

~McQ

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The liberal left just doesn’t get it

I guess today is "stupidity day", for lack of a better phrase. In an piece at the New Republic, Jonathan Cohn laments "The stupidity of liberal apathy".

Afterall:

This seems totally nuts, purely on the merits. Obama and the Democrats passed a major stimulus that cut taxes for the middle class and invested heavily in public works. They saved the auto industry, created a new regulatory framework for the financial industry, and enacted comprehensive health care reform. Compromises watered down each of these initiatives, to say nothing of the ideas (climate change!) that aren’t going to pass. And still this was the most productive liberal presidency in a generation or maybe two.

He, of course, is focused on the “liberal” agenda and what has been accomplished, such that it is.  And he’s somewhat amazed that liberals in general aren’t incredibly impressed and energized by what has gone on these past 18 months.

But, as he admits, much of it has been watered down through compromise and, of course, it is that he sees as the problem that has deflated liberals around the country.

What he doesn’t seem to understand is only he and the liberal community consider what he lists in that paragraph as “accomplishments”.  It’s a matter of perspective and, if the polls are correct, most don’t see the “stimulus” as an investment, but instead a product of pure pork.  They consider it spending money we don’t have in places the government doesn’t need to be spending money. 

And then there’s the car industry.  A majority doesn’t see what was done as “saving” anything.  Again, they see what was done as government in places it doesn’t belong throwing their good money after bad.  They’re also sophisticated enough to understand why it was done – and the word “union” finds its way into those conversations.

Other majorities see the health care bill as a costly abomination unlikely to deliver on its promise of better health care at a lower cost and they also recognize the “financial regulation bill” as just another in a long line of governmental power grabs.

Most are surely sighing in relief that cap-and-trade, aka climate change legislation, failed to find its way into law.

So perhaps the liberals aren’t just in the dumps about the compromises that watered down what was passed.  Perhaps they realize the lie they’ve been telling themselves for years, decades even, that they knew what America wanted badly.  Here is “the most productive liberal presidency in a generation” and over half the country is up in arms about what has been passed into law during his watch.  And as a result, an energized electorate which isn’t friendly toward liberals or those who represent their ideas is gearing up for a November electoral bloodbath for Democrats.

Heck Mr. Cohn – that would depress even the most rabid of liberals.  To finally understand that your views are a minority view and not popular has to be devastating.  And understanding that what you now have is all you’re going to get is equally as devastating.  The stupidity in all of this is to be found in the pretense that if liberals shook of the apathy it would matter.

It won’t.  November is not going to be a month you like.  Apathetic or energized, the liberal day is setting and there aren’t enough of that type to make a difference in the mid-terms.  Independents, finally scared away from the liberal extremists, will make sure of that.

~McQ

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Health Care Reform – Passage Now An Exercise In Pure Politics And Power

Yesterday we learned that the Congressional Democratic leadership has no intention of following it’s own procedures in order to get the unpopular “health care reform” bill passed:

Now that both the House and Senate have passed health care reform bills, all Democrats have to do is work out a compromise between the two versions. And it appears they’re not about to let the Republicans gum up the works again.

According to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are “almost certain” to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee. Doing so would allow Democrats to avoid a series of procedural steps–not least among them, a series of special motions in the Senate, each requiring a vote with full debate–that Republicans could use to stall deliberations, just as they did in November and December.

“There will almost certainly be full negotiations but no formal conference,” the House staffer says. “There are too many procedural hurdles to go the formal conference route in the Senate.”

Of course the obvious implication of Jonathan Cohn’s report is that they’re doing so to avoid “procedural hurdles” with which Republicans will “gum up the works”. I.e. – the procedure that has been agreed upon for centuries to meld House and Senate versions into a single bill and allow proper debate of the particulars will be thrown out the window in an effort to deny Republicans a chance to challenge the legislation and attempt to modify it or defeat it.

But, it turns out, it isn’t only Republicans they’re interested in denying a say. The Progressive Caucus in the House is none too happy with the development either. Remember, they want a stronger bill which included the public option. And they, like Republicans, would be denied the opportunity to have their say should this plan to “informally” negotiate the bill be undertaken. That has prompted Rep Raul Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to issue the following statement:

“I am disappointed that there will be no formal conference process by which various constituencies can impact the discussion. I have not been approached about my concerns with the Senate bill, and I will be raising those at the Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday. I and other progressives saw a conference as a means to improve the bill and have a real debate, and now with this behind-the-scenes approach, we’re concerned even more.”

Greg Sargent claims that “many expect House liberals to ultimately support the plan no matter how this process plays out.”

Of course they do – it is at least a step in the direction that liberals want, single payer so this is a calculated political risk.  It can be added too incrementally to get there, or at least that’s what is being sold. That’s not at all a hollow promise as we’ve seen with programs like Medicare, SCHIP and Medicaid.

So it is indeed possible that is how this situation will play out. But it is also possible that Republican gains in 2010 and beyond will block further incremental additions such as a public option, etc – at least for a while. So Sargent wonders if, in fact, this shutting out of the Progressive Caucus may not be a bridge too far, assuming it isn’t eventally included in the “informal negotiations” and given some of what they demand:

But House progressives are already infuriated by the multiple concessions they’ve been forced to make, and cutting them out of the process could only bruise feelings more and harden their resolve to hold the line against the eventual compromise.

We’ll see – meanwhile this unpopular monstrosity moves forward as only it can – through procedural tricks which avoid debate and the use of raw power. Remember, once it becomes law (whatever shape “it” is in when that happens) it becomes almost impossible to repeal. The time to stop it is now. But it appears our “representatives” in power have absolutely no desire to let the people’s will have any effect on this naked power grab and will use any means necessary to pass it. This is something the Democrats have wanted for decades and they’re going to get it whether you like it or not. Politics and party rule the day.

~McQ

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