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TomCADem's Journal
TomCADem's Journal
December 31, 2013

The amazing, indisputable slowdown in health spending

Here is another story that is rarely reported: that there has been a clear slowdown in the growth of healthcare spending.

The great deceleration in health costs continues, with nominal Medicare spending actually lower in the first two months of fiscal year 2014 than in 2013. Focusing on Medicare is particularly interesting, since there is no reason to suspect that Medicare spending has been affected by the recession. If the slowdown in Medicare were to continue in the future, everything we think we know about the nation's long-term fiscal picture is wrong -- as this crucial graph from the Council of Economic Advisers shows. There's plenty we can be doing to increase the odds that the deceleration goes on.
December 31, 2013

Obamacare just might net its 7 million sign-ups

A lot of news stories mention that the enrollments are still short of the 3 million projection, which did not take into account the fact that October and November were essentially lost, but with 2 million signed as of now, it is pretty amazing the ground that was made up.


Health law opponents, too, focused on the CBO projection when they saw terrible sign-up numbers in October and November. How could you get to 7 million sign-ups, after all, when the first day of enrollment had netted a mere six customers?

But what seemed impossible in October suddenly became a lot more plausible in late December. This weekend, new enrollment data showed approximately 2 million Americans signed up for private health insurance plans since the start of open enrollment. Health policy experts now see a space to get to 7 million -- although it's by no means a guarantee.

"October and November were essentially lost months," says Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "December is the first month where we're getting an indication of how things are working. It's starting to track with what people, particularly the CBO, projected originally."

* * *
"I think January and February will probably slow down, but I would not be surprised at all if March is much bigger than December," Levitt says. "I don't think the outreach campaigns have peaked yet, and March is when you actually have to get coverage. That will be the real story."

December 28, 2013

Obama to Congress: Extend unemployment insurance

Source: USA Today

With unemployment insurance set to expire on Saturday, the White House is seeking to pressure Congress into extending benefits when it returns next month.

While on vacation Friday in Hawaii, President Obama called two senators -- Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nevada -- who are sponsoring a bill to extend the jobless benefits.

The president promised to push Congress on what he called an "urgent economic priority," said the White House, reports the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Gene Sperling -- the director of Obama's National Economic Council -- issued a statement saying that "never before have we abruptly cut off emergency unemployment insurance when we faced this level of long-term unemployment and it would be a blow to these families and our economy."

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2013/12/27/obama-gene-sperling-unemployment-insurance-extension/4222983/

The sad thing is that I think that the American public has been conditioned to blame the opposition of Republicans on President Obama. You have Bob Woodard saying ambiguously inane things like saying President Obama "should lead," which generally accepted as meaning that President Obama should pay the Republican's latest ransom demand. As a result, Republicans are given a free pass on immigration, unemployment benefits, and federal appointments on the ground that "both sides" are at fault.

We either get false equivalency or an outright blame of Republican intransience on the failure of Democrats to "show leadership" by paying the Republicans' latest ransom demand.
December 27, 2013

Obamacare had lots of sign-ups on deadline day

Source: Washington Post

California estimates that 27,000 people picked insurance plans this past Monday and 29,000 the Friday prior. Just last week, the state was averaging 15,000 sign-ups per day. Washington state had 10,000 people enroll Monday, and a total of 20,000 from Dec. 20-23. That accounts for one in 10 Washingtonians picking private health insurance plans. And New York had about 20,000 sign-ups come in that same day.

Of course, these are only the three states we know about. The 36 states on HealthCare.gov do not release data on their own schedule but rather rely on the federal government's monthly data sets. We won't know December enrollment numbers until sometime in the middle of January

Charles Gaba has been going to painstaking efforts to show the trajectory of health law sign-ups over the past three months. His graph (which is better viewed here, on his Web site) gives a helpful visual sense of what the last month has looked like for health-care enrollment. This uses all available data, including the monthly, federal reports and more up-to-date state data, too.

By Gaba's count, we're at 5.75 million sign-ups, between those who have enrolled in private plans and those who have qualified for the Medicaid program. The balance still tips toward public plan enrollments, but, as the chart cautions, this is still preliminary data. If we do see a similar December enrollment spike among the federally run state markets, that will be a pretty quick turn-around from October's dismal showing. If not, though, that's going to make the next three months of open enrollment, which runs until March 31, all the more crucial.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/12/26/obamacare-had-lots-of-sign-ups-on-deadline-day/

The graph at link is very instructive. Also, what is often ignored is that the enrollment numbers typically do not include the 3.1 million young people who are enrolled in their parent's plans by virtue of the ACA. If you add them to the 5.75 million who have coverage through enrollments and the expansion of Medicaid, then by virtue of the ACA, nearly 9 million people have gained access to healthcare coverage. But, have you heard this in the MSM?

Of course not. And, it is this corporate censorship, which helps explains why Republicans have been able to increase their standing in the polls.
December 25, 2013

Federal Officials Report a Late Surge in Insurance Enrollment

Source: TIME

As a Dec. 24 midnight enrollment deadline approached, the federal government announced Tuesday that HealthCare.gov logged some 2 million visits on Dec. 23. Consumers were scrambling to select plans before Christmas in order to get coverage that begins Jan. 1.

The high traffic volume caused HealthCare.gov’s queuing system to kick in on Monday, forcing consumers to wait in a virtual line. Volume remained higher than average on Tuesday, but the queuing system was not used, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In a statement, CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said the federal government’s enrollment assistance call center received some 250,000 calls on Monday.

States running their own insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act reportedly similarly high interest from consumers seeking coverage in recent days. California reported that more than 77,000 residents enrolled in health plans between Dec. 20 and Dec. 22; the state has reported more than 400,000 sign ups in total. New York said Tuesday afternoon that more than 25,000 people signed up for coverage through its exchange since Monday—214,077 have signed up in the state since Oct. 1.

Bataille said consumers who begin the process of selecting health plans after midnight Tuesday will be able to purchase coverage that begins Feb. 1. Open enrollment for individual market plans available through Obamacare’s insurance exchanges lasts until March 31, 2014.

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/12/24/federal-officials-report-a-late-surge-in-insurance-enrollment/

The MSM has been pushing the narrative that these extensions are a bad thing when the fact of the matter is that it benefits people who want coverage effective January 1st. Yes, the Obama administration could take the stance that people who sign up after December 23rd, can have their coverage start on February 1st. However, the extension helps people who procrastinated and are signing up on the very last day. Put another way, the surge in applications shows that people want to be covered on January 1st. Otherwise, there is no rush because the deadline to have coverage is in March.
December 24, 2013

California health exchange tops 400,000 enrolled prior to deadline

Source: LA Times

California's health insurance exchange said more than 400,000 people have signed up for health plans ahead of Monday's enrollment deadline as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The Covered California exchange said the latest figures are based on preliminary data through Sunday, when about 27,000 people picked an insurance company. Enrollment Friday was even higher, at 29,000 people, according to the exchange.

"We very much expect today will be a big day," Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said Monday. "We are seeing huge interest online."

The state's latest official figures were 156,000 enrolled in health plans through Dec. 7, and an additional 179,000 people who had qualified for an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/business/healthcare/la-fi-mo-california-exchange-enrollment-20131223,0,705768.story#axzz2o9khwo5Q

December 24, 2013

Nearly 3.9 Million Qualify For Medicaid Under Health Law

The MSM tends to report the expansion of Medicaid as a bad thing, which I just don't understand. I would think that expanded health coverage to folks with less income is a desirable goal.


WASHINGTON (December 20, 2013) Nearly 3.9 million people have qualified for coverage through the health care law's Medicaid expansion, according to numbers released Friday by the Obama administration.

The numbers cover the period from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30 and underscore a pattern of Medicaid outpacing the law's expansion of private insurance.

Through the same time period, about 365,000 people signed up for subsidized private insurance through new federal and state markets.

President Barack Obama's health overhaul expanded Medicaid to cover people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $15,860 for an individual and $32,500 for a family of four.
December 24, 2013

Confident consumers brighten economic outlook

Source: Reuters

(Reuters) - Consumer sentiment hit a five-month high heading into the end of the year and spending notched its strongest month since the summer, the latest signs of sustained vigor in the economy that are fostering hopes of a strong 2014.

Consumer spending rose in November at the fastest pace since June and an upbeat sentiment reading for December suggests consumers will keep shopping despite tepid income growth.

"Next year is shaping up to be the better tomorrow we have wanted to see ever since the recession ended almost five years ago," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York.

Consumer spending rose 0.5 percent after gaining 0.4 percent in October, the Commerce Department said on Monday. The rise matched economists' expectations and was the seventh consecutive monthly increase.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/23/us-consumer-spending-idUSBRE9BM0FN20131223?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=71&google_editors_picks=true

December 22, 2013

Obamacare: Who’s buying in?

Here is a nice graphic illustrating the fast growing number of folks taking advantage of the ACA:



December 22, 2013

A Sharp Progressive Joins the D.O.J.

The addition of Karlan to the DOJ will likely infuriate Republicans who are seeking to expand voting restrictions.


Pamela Karlan, a noted voting-rights expert and professor at Stanford Law School, will join the Obama Administration shortly as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of the voting-rights section. Karlan, a favorite of many liberals in the legal world, will join the department as it begins a strong counter-offensive on voting rights following the Supreme Court’s limiting of the Voting Rights Act in a decision earlier this year.

Karlan’s post, which does not require Senate confirmation, will likely be at the center of a major legal controversy in the President’s second term—the attempt to salvage federal oversight of voting rights following the Supreme Court’s decision, last term, in Shelby County v. Holder. Karlan will be responsible for the Justice Department’s high-profile legal challenges to voting restrictions, including photo-I.D. requirements, in North Carolina and Texas.

Karlan, who is fifty-four, has been a leader of the progressive movement in the legal world for several decades, since she clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun following her graduation from Yale Law School, in 1984. Her specialty is voting rights, but she has been involved in a range of liberal causes, as both a professor and litigator. She is a co-author of the leading textbook on voting rights.

In the immediate aftermath of Obama’s election, Karlan was a favorite of many liberals for a judicial nomination, including to the Supreme Court. Before the Senate imposed the nuclear option last month, those hopes were largely abandoned; it was widely believed that Karlan could never muster enough votes to overcome a sure Republican filibuster. But since the Senate effectively returned the threshold for confirmation to fifty votes, Karlan may resurface as a judicial nominee once again. For now, though, she has a different—and important—assignment from Attorney General Eric Holder.

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