Obama Disease: A Call To Action

As we all know, there has recently been a suicide bombing at an arena in Manchester at the end of a concert attended mostly by little girls, allegedly perpetrated by an “Irishman” named Salman Ramadan Abedi, a British-born individual of Libyan extraction.

I pause for my usual formula: May God have mercy on the souls of the dead, and bring healing to the injured and comfort to the bereaved.

The press coverage and commentary which followed contains, in many cases, the usual signs and symptoms of what I have taken to calling Obama Disease: a crippling neurological impairment that renders the speaker unable to say or write expressions like “radical Islamic terrorism,” “Muslim terrorist,” or any similar related phrase.

Accordingly, I hereby call upon the CDC, NIH and our other public health authorities immediately to undertake a costly program of federal research into the causes of, and treatments for, this horrible disease. Lives depend on it!

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We Could’ve Had a Two-fer

NBC reported yesterday that Minnesota health officials have requested an additional $5 million appropriation to deal with an “extraordinarily expensive” measles outbreak among the state’s Somali population, a group which has largely refused measles vaccinations for their children in recent years.

Why the great frozen Upper Midwest, colonized in the 19th century mainly by pioneers of German and Viking stock, is now home to a substantial population of refugees and transplants from the semi-tropical Horn of Africa is in some fundamental sense mysterious. Yes, yes, I know the State Department has run refugee resettlement rackets from time to time in the past, and that do-gooder Lutheran organizations with their roots in the Upper Midwest have participated heavily in these schemes. But taking a step back and viewing the picture from a Martian visitor’s perspective it just seems unbearably odd. Minnesota has gone from 94.4% non-Hispanic white in 1990 to 81.0% non-Hispanic white in 2015, and there hasn’t even been an intervening war, invasion or cataclysm to account for this sudden and massive population shift. Even the very climate seems ideally suited to people with an ancestry within spitting distance of the Polar Circle, while tortuously harsh to those whose roots are in warmer climes. Yet here were are.  The locals just let it happen.

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America is (Slightly) More than the Sum of Her Parts

The clueless press is at it again. Popular outlets are reporting on a paper published in The Lancet, a medical journal, concerning country-by-country life expectancy projections made by some researchers. Both the popular and academic authors note that the U.S. is well behind most other high-income countries, and that it is forecast to fall even further behind by 2030. They attribute this to silly superficial causes like health reimbursement policies and a need for (ever more) socially liberal wealth-redistribution programs.

This is intellectually lazy left-wing political agitation masquerading as science.

I took a step back and thought about the question from the ground-up: These authors compare America to places like South Korea, Japan, France and Spain. But isn’t Diversity our Strength? Isn’t America populated by a mix of people from all these countries, and several others besides?

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Obamacare Fail in Full Flower; Better Way Possible

This is my third essay in an occasional series remarking upon the striking failure of the Obamacare health insurance reforms. The first, published way back on August 16, observed that we were at long last seeing hints that the Obamacare market had begun an adverse selection “Death Spiral“, while the second, published about three weeks ago, brought further confirmation of this fact. In those essays I also remarked upon the deeper issues of efficiency and affordability that Obamacase was intended — or should have been intended — to address, and left open the question of what a sensible reform package would look like; that is, market reforms that would actually help the ordinary working American citizen.

First, I will note here that the steady drumbeat of bad news for Obamacare has continued apace. In fact, this drumbeat has grown more and more insistent. This week, the federal government released figures showing that plans to be offered over federally-run exchanges starting November will be dramatically more expensive compared with last year — by an average of 25%. While previous announcements of price rises have typically been one state at the time, this announcement covers dozens of states, proving that the problems that first came to light in North Carolina and Minnesota are not idiosyncratic, but typical of the system. This time, the failure is widespread enough to be undeniable and noticed nationally; the hand-wringing and political gloating over this has finally spilled onto the national stage. The full weight of these price increases will be blunted for some consumers, as government subsidies rise to help defray premium inflation, but that’s just robbing Peter to pay Paul — and with public debt and the federal deficit at historic highs. The system is not working as promised.

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Obamacare Fail Continues

Minnesota the latest domino to fall

Nearly two months ago, on August 16, I published an essay remarking on the commencement of the Obamacare death spiral: Premiums for individual policies purchased over the much-vaunted online exchanges have increased rapidly; healthy customers are staying away (because the penalties associated with ignoring the individual mandate are rather light) and health insurance companies are dropping out of the game, having lost plenty of money pursuing this market. I forecast that we were no more than a few years away from full collapse of those exchanges.

In that essay I mentioned North Carolina as an example of the trend, as news reports at the time contained plenty of detail concerning the failures of Obamacare in that state; Aetna had also just announced a major nationwide abandonment of Obamacare policies which hit North Carolina fairly hard. While economically illiterate Obama administration sycophants tried to dismiss Aetna’s move as corporate posturing in the face of an antitrust challenge (Aetna was then trying to merge with Humana), casting the withdrawal as a case of evil white male business executives using the health coverage of poor widows and orphans as a “bargaining chip,” those of us with brains realized that this actually represented cold, hard business reality: Obamacare was a bust.

I asserted that further evidence of the Obamacare death spiral would slowly emerge, as each state went through its regulatory rate-setting exercise for the coming year, but that these things make for bad drama as they unfold too slowly for low-attention-span newspaper editors to follow. More evidence has recently emerged proving me right, so allow me a moment of gloating.

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Obamacare Fail

Cost curve bends upwards; death spiral ensues

Seven years is a long time in politics. So I’ll forgive you, dear reader, if you don’t remember the heady days of 2009, when — in the face of a major banking crisis, economic recession and job losses — our brave President thought it best to spend his time and efforts reforming our health insurance markets. Because reasons, as the young people say these days. Or: Never let a good crisis go to waste, as Hizzoner Rahm Emmanuel is supposed to have said. (Speaking of which — how’s the skyrocketing murder rate crisis working out for you in Chicago this year, Mr. Mayor? Taking the opportunity to reform the water and sewer board? Rewriting the municipal parking regulations?)

At first, one of the key selling points of health insurance reform was the idea that health care costs in America were very high, relative to other First World countries, and had been growing strongly year after year. People believed that market reforms could increase efficiency, cut costs and save money. This may or may not have been true: The French may on average spend far less on health care per person and have slightly better life expectancies than Americans, but then the French traditionally haven’t had to deal with the trouble and expense of patching up perforated inner city “youths” on a wholesale basis, for example. It ain’t cheap. The point being, there may be good reasons why Americans need to spend more than the French. Still, given the crazy-quilt patchwork of the American healthcare delivery and payment systems, it seemed more than plausible that there was money to be saved; it still seems plausible. Some of the old-timers here might remember this being summed up as “bending the cost curve” to increase efficiency and affordability.

All this, of course, was a lie.

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