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If You Like Choice, Competition and Entrepreneurship, You Should Like Obamacare

By Gene Sperling

Free market competition. Informed consumer choice. Greater freedom to start a business. These values are often espoused by critics of the Affordable Care Act. Yet too many of those critics ignore the law’s fundamental reliance on market principles of choice and competition to drive better deals for consumers and the government, or the degree to which it unlocks the possibilities of entrepreneurship.

Prior to the ACA, there was little about the individual health insurance market that supported competition or consumer choice. Most individual markets were being dominated by just one or two insurance companies. In 2012, two insurers covered more than half of the individual market in 45 states and the District of Columbia. In 29 states, a single insurer covered 50% or more of all enrollees. Without competition, prices rose – by as much as 15% a year for those renewing in the individual market.

Further, where choice among insurers did exist, consumers were not able to meaningfully compare their insurance options. If grocery shoppers could not tell how many ounces were in a bottle of milk–or whether the milk was skim or whole–it would be impossible to have sound competition. The same is true for health care. And, consumers were routinely forced to undergo underwriting screens–often with a different questionnaire for each plan offered–that would disqualify applicants for any perceived risk to the insurer, making any choice that did exist illusory at best.

The Affordable Care Act’s new health insurance Marketplaces are bringing millions of Americans into a truly competitive insurance market for the very first time–and competition to attract these new customers is on the rise. One in four insurers in the federal Marketplace are new entrants to the individual market. On average, there are 8 different health insurers participating in each of the 36 Marketplaces being operated by HHS, with as many as 169 plans for consumers to choose from.



Send it to the righties you know, just to make their heads explode. From Forbes, no less.

Raw Data: By 2017, Obamacare Will Be Covering 36 Million People

Megan McArdle asks, "Is Obamacare now beyond repeal?" Good question! McArdle goes through the various estimates of enrollment figures, concluding that something in the neighborhood of 5.5-6.5 million people are likely to sign up this year, depending on how much enrollment accelerates in the last few days of March and how many people drop out because they fail to pay their premiums. That sounds reasonable to me. Then this:

Does that mean that Obamacare will basically be beyond repeal, as its supporters hope? It certainly makes things harder. But we still don't know how many of these people are newly insured, or how many of the previously insured like these policies better than their old policies — nor how much pressure it is going to end up putting on the budget. Those are things we won't know for quite a while. But if it were impossible to ever cut off an expensive entitlement that goes to the middle class, TennCare would never have been cut.

But there's something missing here. It's something that nearly everyone has neglected in the frenzy to figure out what's happening right now. Here it is: the world doesn't stop in 2014. Enrollment of around 6 million makes Obamacare hard to repeal, but for now that's not really what's holding it in place. What's holding it in place is the fact that Democrats control the Senate and Barack Obama occupies the White House. And even if the Senate switches parties next year, I think we can all agree that Obamacare is going nowhere as long as Obama stays president. So 2017 is the earliest it could even plausibly be repealed.

But what do things look like in 2017? The chart on the right shows the latest CBO estimates. By 2017, a total of 36 million Americans will be covered by Obamacare. Of that, 24 million will have private coverage via the exchanges and 12 million will be covered by Medicaid. Those are very big numbers. Even if Republicans improbably manage to get complete control of the government in the 2016 election and eliminate the filibuster so Democrats can't object, they'll still have to contend with this.



Here comes JEB…..

Influential Republicans working to draft Jeb Bush into 2016 presidential race

By Philip Rucker and Robert Costa,

LAS VEGAS — Many of the Republican Party’s most powerful insiders and financiers have begun a behind-the-scenes campaign to draft former Florida governor Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race, courting him and his intimates and starting talks on fundraising strategy.

Concerned that the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal has damaged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political standing and alarmed by the steady rise of Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), prominent donors, conservative leaders and longtime operatives say they consider Bush the GOP’s brightest hope to win back the White House.

Bush’s advisers insist that he is not actively exploring a candidacy and will not make a decision until at least the end of this year. But over the past few weeks, Bush has traveled the country delivering policy speeches, campaigning for Republicans ahead of the fall midterm elections, honing messages on income inequality and foreign policy, and cultivating ties with wealthy benefactors — all signals that he is considering a run.

Many if not most of Mitt Romney’s major donors are reaching out to Bush and his confidants with phone calls, e-mails and invitations to meet, according to interviews with 30 senior Republicans. One bundler estimated that the “vast majority” of Romney’s top 100 donors would back Bush in a competitive nomination fight.



The Fight for Wisconsin’s Soul

MARCH 29, 2014

WISCONSIN has been an environmental leader since 1910, when the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment promoting forest and water conservation. Decades later, pioneering local environmentalists like Aldo Leopold and Senator Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day in 1970, helped forge the nation’s ecological conscience.

But now, after the recent passage of a bill that would allow for the construction of what could be the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, Wisconsin’s admirable history of environmental stewardship is under attack.

The mine, to be built by Gogebic Taconite (GTac), owned by the coal magnate Chris Cline, would be in the Penokee Hills, in the state’s far north — part of a vast, water-rich ecosystem that President John F. Kennedy described in 1963, in a speech he delivered in the area, as “a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country.”

The $1.5 billion mine would initially be close to four miles long, up to a half-mile wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep, but it could be extended as long as 21 miles. In its footprint lie the headwaters of the Bad River, which flows into Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world and by far the cleanest of the Great Lakes. Six miles downstream from the site is the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose livelihood is threatened by the mine.



Wal-Mart has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard

This year's Ivy League admissions totals are in. The 5.9 percent acceptance rate is impressively exclusive, but compared to landing a job at Wal-Mart, getting into the Ivy Leagues is a cakewalk.

Last year when Wal-Mart came to D.C. there were over 23,000 applications for 600 jobs. That's an acceptance rate of 2.6%, twice as selective as Harvard's and over five times as choosy as Cornell.

This isn't an anomaly - last year a Wegman's in Pennsylvania boasted an acceptance rate of 5%, while Google only has room for one half of one percent of its job applicants.

Parents and students - particularly those from a certain socio-economic background - tend to obsess a lot over the college admissions process. The danger, of course, is that this single-minded focus on preparing kids for college - the extra-curriculars, test prep, admissions coaching, and the like - is coming at the expense of prepping them for the job market hurdles that come after.


FBI Smashes Alleged Radical-Right Terror Plot in Texas

FBI agents in Texas have arrested a man who allegedly was plotting to use C-4 explosives and weapons to kill police officers, rob banks and armored cars, and blow up government buildings and mosques, authorities announced today.

Robert James Talbot Jr., 38, of Katy, Texas, was arrested Thursday on federal charges of attempted interference with commerce by robbery, solicitation to commit a crime of violence and possession of an explosive material, the FBI said.Robert-James-Talbot

After setting up a Facebook page called American Insurgent Movement (AIM), Talbot allegedly sought to recruit five or six like-minded people who wanted “to restore America Pre-Constitutionally and look forward to stopping the Regime with action by bloodshed.” He wrote this year on the AIM page that he was seeking people interested in “walking away from your life … to stop the regime.”

Talbot’s Facebook post continued: “That is exactly what I will have my men do during the heist. Same goes with the Muslims. Mosques are to be a blast! With three of my guys with FA [full automatic] AK’s [AK-47 semi-automatic rifles], we will send that white house worthless piece of dirt and his Muslim brotherhood a message they will never forget.”



How Cincinnati Beat The Tea Party

The refrain of privatization seems to play over and over. Our cities are going broke and can’t afford to make retirement payments; public health nurses, city park employees, and other workers who provide important services will not get what they worked hard for all their lives; and the only way out is to put pensions into the hands of privately held corporations. Or at least, that’s what the tea party and other political interests would have us believe.

Fortunately, there is a recent example of a city where people have fought back against this prevailing narrative and won: Cincinnati. Although public employee pensions may seem an unlikely proving ground for new alliances between local unions and business leaders, the people of Cincinnati showed that unity was possible when, last November, 78 percent of voters rejected a tea-party-backed ballot measure that would have drastically altered the retirement prospects for city workers.

Cincinnati’s resounding defeat of an organized effort to privatize public employee pensions is surprising because of the broad spectrum of people who opposed it. As a supporter of organized labor and an opponent of pension privatization, I was struck by the way in which unions and their community allies were able to mobilize major business executives, faith groups, seniors’ rights organizations and even the local chamber of commerce around a single outcome: safeguarding stable retirement for the people who have worked for it.



Toon: Crossing the goal line

And still going….

City too corrupt for Florida is spared

Source: CNN

Hampton, Florida (CNN) -- This worn-down, one stoplight town found redemption Friday night in a Baptist church named Victory. Cheers broke out in the pews as two Florida lawmakers abandoned their quest to strip Hampton of its cityhood.

The battle for the 89-year-old city's survival began in February with the release of a scathing audit that read like a textbook of municipal malfeasance -- finding 31 violations of local, state and federal codes, along with allegations of nepotism, double-dipping and personal use of city property.

Surviving was a sweet win for this city of just 477 residents -- 476 if you don't count the former mayor, who's sitting up the road in jail on a drug charge.

Already a notorious speed trap, the place gained even more infamy as a symbol of small-town corruption when the legislators threatened last month to yank its city charter. Late-night comedians mocked Hampton as "too Florida, even for Florida."

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/29/us/hampton-florida-corruption-survival/

Weekend Toon Roundup 2- The rest










N. Korea

The End

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