A thousand and one posts

Wow, that last post was my 1,000th post here at Balloon Juice. I was not expecting that when I first got started here.

I’ve been a Balloon Juice reader and primarily a lurker since before the Cole Conversion time. Over the summer of 2013, I saw a lot of good questions about the ACA and how it would effect our community. I got in touch with a front-pager I know in real life and asked if I could write a couple of posts to answer a couple of questions. He e-mailed John and John gave me the keys to this place. I figured that I would twenty to thirty thousand words in forty or fifty posts and then I would be done.

Over the past three years, I have eight hundred or more health insurance posts with about half a million words written.

That was a slight miscalculation.

I’ve rediscovered how much I like to write about a subject that I like. Every day I get to answer a question, explore something that I heard something about but now need to explain, or advocate for a slightly better world with tweaks to the current policy universe. I’ve been able to point people in the right direction when they are getting screwed over. We’ve been able to go through complicated choice structures to get community members taken care of when they know they need to do something but do not know what they have to do.

At the same time, my education has deepened as the community here and a second community of wonks, advocates and researchers. If I need to know about anti-trust law, I have a couple of world class experts who share their time with me. If I need to know more about Medicare, I can talk to people who are on it, I can talk with CMS techno-wonks, and national level advocates. If I need to learn more accounting, there are plenty of people who will share their knowledge and expertise with me.

I never thought I would have written here for more than a couple of months. But between all of you, the community and John’s amazing ability to let things flow, I am more energized than I ever thought I would be a thousand posts ago.

91 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    Congratulations Mayhew !😊☺😀😁
    I know that I am not alone in saying that I learned more about Obamacare from you here at BJ than anywhere else.

    You put the complicated into simple, understandable terms.

  2. 2
    MrSnrub says:


    I don’t comment a lot, but I do read and appreciate your stuff.

  3. 3
    Cambridge Chuck says:

    You’ve educated not only us Juicers, but also everyone we get into arguments with about the ACA (and sometimes about soccer!), because now we’ve got the facts. Great job

  4. 4
    HinTN says:

    Keep on keeping on, Mayhem.

  5. 5
    K488 says:

    I don’t comment often, but your posts have been a real education, in the best sense. Many thanks!

  6. 6
    MomSense says:

    You’re a treasure, Mayhew.

  7. 7
    MariedeGournay says:

    Popping out of the lurker pit to say congrats and thanks for the great info. I have a much better sense of how insurance and the ACA work because of you.

  8. 8
    eldorado says:

    congrats. and i really appreciate the series. have pointed several friends to it.

  9. 9
    Punchy says:

    Thanks to you, I have a much better idea on how often refs sexify their center backs…heh.

  10. 10
    Baud says:

    Congrats! A milestone.

  11. 11
    qwerty42 says:

    Thanks Richard. Have enjoyed your posts and appreciate the info you’ve brought.

  12. 12
    satby says:

    Happy Blogiversary? I’m one of the people you’ve directly helped with advice, and I shared your informative articles often on FB. So another thank you for being here and sharing your expertise and insights with us!

  13. 13
    evodevo says:

    Let me add my congrats, and thanks for policy info/analysis you can’t get anywhere else…and all in one convenient place!

  14. 14
    Raven says:

    Great work!

  15. 15
    Thoughtful David says:

    Like MrSnrub, I rarely comment, but I read all of your posts and really appreciate them. I’ve learned a lot.

  16. 16
    lurker dean says:

    wow, that’s a lot of work, much appreciated!

  17. 17
    Just One More Canuck says:

    Here’s to you Richard – your presence is really appreciated

  18. 18
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Congrats Richard! Your writing is very helpful for those of us who are not experts in the insurance field. Keep up the excellent work!

  19. 19
    Jim says:

    And we appreciate what you do, Richard. This is what “good” blogs are all about.

  20. 20
    BlueNC says:

    Another mostly-lurker delurking to thank you!

  21. 21
    Baud says:

    @Jim: Agree. He balances out Cole nicely.

  22. 22
    droog says:

    Unlike soccer, in healthcare injury time is all the time for ever and ever.

  23. 23
    Auntie Anne says:

    Richard – your work is very much appreciated, and valued!

  24. 24
    gvg says:

    We really appreciate you.

    I have noticed how the comments on your facts loaded posts never seem to attract polls or go off in the weeds. I hypothesize that if our media did more heavy fact based reporting and less punditry or click baiting, news websites wouldn’t turn into such comment cesspools. I don’t forsee being able to test that though.

  25. 25
    tinare says:

    I have also really appreciated your posts. Completely helped me to understand what I think is a truly complex subject. Glad you are here and that you enjoy writing for us.

  26. 26
    Mary G says:

    I have bored a lot of people over the years with rants about insurance companies in America and it’s been so nice to have someone who gets it and explains the other side’s perspectives so well (hookers and blow especially!)

    Thanks for sticking around.

  27. 27
    Jordan Rules says:

    Thanks Richard!

  28. 28
    amk says:

    You are regular as a clock. Congrats.

  29. 29
    Unknown known (formerly known as Ecks, former formerly completely unknown) says:

    Well deserved recognition you are getting here. Enjoy your stuff.

  30. 30
    SIA says:

    I don’t comment much on BJ these days but I frequently read and learn from your posts. I tweeted the Aetna story yesterday and was glad to see see the subject is getting exposure. Keep it up and thanks Richard!

  31. 31
    gogol's wife says:

    You are one of the greatest features of this blog. And that’s saying a lot!

  32. 32
    manyakitty says:

    Right on! Not counting all the useful information I’ve learned from you, I’ve also referred countless others here for your posts, include a phone representative from my insurance company, who I corrected based on knowledge I gained because of you.

  33. 33
    Exurban Mom says:

    Thanks for all of your contributions to this wonderful place. As my life has gotten more complex, the quantity of online sources of information I consult has shrunk, and Balloon Juice is one of the very few places I try to keep up with regularly. Front Pagers are why–all wonderful, all with different voices, perspectives and interests. Thank you for your part in keeping this place awesome. Now all we need is a Walter update from the big dog and my day will be sweet….

  34. 34
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Can not thank you enough Richard.

  35. 35
    HRA says:

    Congratulations and thank you for the very necessary vital information you provide here.

  36. 36
    Bob2 says:

    Thanks Richard. Love your posts even if I don’t comment. I’ve learned quite a bit the last year from them about how health insurance works.

  37. 37
    randy khan says:

    Half a million words? Cole could do that about his car.

    Congratulations! (or condolences, as appropriate)

  38. 38
    terraformer says:

    Your posts on healthcare (and soccer!) are insightful and informative – one of the many reasons I visit BJ several times daily.

  39. 39
    Josie says:

    Thanks for educating us so well on a complicated subject. I hardly ever comment on your posts, but I always read them with great interest. I have sent some to family members who were having issues, and they have been very helpful.

  40. 40
    glory b says:

    I’m another one who doesn’t post, but reads often. You make me sound smarter when discussing these issues IRL, so thanks!!

  41. 41

    You have become the MUST-READ guy about the health care industry, sir.

    The major publishers ought to be paying you for a book or three.

  42. 42
    scav says:

    And another in the general resounding huzzah!! for both stamina and quality.

  43. 43
    msdc says:

    Thanks for writing here, Richard. I have learned more about the ins and outs of health insurance and health insurance policy than I ever would have thought possible.

    To the next half million!

  44. 44
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Congratulations on this milestone, Richard, and thank you for explaining complex issues in clear and simple language, with logic and honesty and humor.

  45. 45
    Central Planning says:

    I’ll echo what others have said: I almost always read your posts but don’t usually comment on them. I find them thoughtful and interesting, whether soccer or healthcare. Thanks!

  46. 46
    Poopyman says:

    You know, it always kind of bothered me that Richard’s posts languished (comment-wise) while posts below him raged on. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who reads them without commenting. Most of my comments employ a “fuck” or 2, which don’t fit well with most Mayhew posts.

  47. 47
    Travels with Charley says:

    I’ll echo as well! I’m a diligent lurker, who enjoys this community of thoughtful commentary (come for the enlightenment, stay to look for the mustard!) – and your posts are a treasure! Thank you for your service! (As a retired Army officer, I thought that might be nice to say to someone else, for a change).

  48. 48
    Elie says:

    Congrats, Richard! I have enjoyed and learned a lot from your posts! Thanks for making your knowledge and experience so accessible to us!

  49. 49
    realbtl says:

    De-lurking to say thanks Richard. I’ve learned a lot from your posts.

  50. 50

    @Poopyman: A friend of mine is a local blogger. We’ve talked about the nature of posts that gather comments. He pointed out that his best posts for comments are “Look at the local news and I am OUTRAGED” while the deeper dives will get a very different comment profile. I can’t do the “I’m Outraged” well as either a writer or as a person who wants my TV to survive more than a year. So I don’t play that game. I know that my writing style, my interest profile and my subject matter pushes me to a niche that is not instant comment bait. And I am more than fine with that as I know my validation is coming from other sources than sheer comment count. I think the quality of comments in my posts tends to be very good, and what I write here is the cost of entry to an entirely different set of conversations that I would not have access to given my meat space life.

  51. 51
    The Ancient Randonneur says:

    Richard thank you for all the work. I have better grasp of the challenges ahead with respect to health insurance. You and Atul Gawande are my two favorites when I read about healthcare and insurance.

  52. 52
    CaseyL says:

    Adding another voice to the chorus: Thanks, Richard, for bringing us The Adventures of Mayhew Insurance and Confessions of a Soccer Enforcer. Wonderful to read and invaluable sources of information.

    Here’s to another series of 1000 (at least)!

  53. 53
    Dnfree says:

    Yes, thank you for your informative and clearly-stated posts. I also seldom comment but I have learned a lot from you. I even read the soccer posts despite not being much of a sports fan, because those posts are frequently entertaining.

  54. 54
    JCJ says:

    Your work is greatly appreciated. Also, I hope the lack of posts involving your son’s asthma is an indication that this is less of a problem now.

  55. 55
    Miss Bianca says:

    You do really quality work, RM, and I know that I have learned a lot. I had a really cool independent insurance broker helping to guide me thru’ the first years of the ACA, which did a lot to pique my interest in the intersection between insurance and actual health care. Your posts have done a lot more to educate me. Thanks.

  56. 56
    RoonieRoo says:

    I never post comments in your thread but I want to let you know that I love your posts. They are a side of balloon-juice that is very special and unique and I hope continues.

  57. 57
    Tim F. says:

    FYI, every year some blog or another asks us to name our favorite/best post of the year. Each year the front pagers generally just agree that it’s something Mayhew wrote. Choosing which is impossible.

  58. 58
    wvng says:

    You got a glowing mention in the LA Times today.

    Indeed, two of our most assiduous Obamacare-trackers, Richard Mayhew of Balloon-juice.com and Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net, put the lie to Aetna’s poor mouthing as it applies to one state it’s departing, Pennsylvania. In both 2014 and 2015, they show, Aetna turned a profit on its ACA exchange business in that state— $6.4 million on $60 million in premiums in 2014, net of claims and administrative expenses, and $13.6 million profit on $71.4 million in premiums in 2015. The figures come from Aetna’s rate filings with the state, in which the company also says it expects to record a profit of 3.9% there in 2017.

    How does the profitability of its Pennsylvania business square with Aetna’s assertion that it can’t afford to continue serving customers in the state? It doesn’t. Nor is there an obvious explanation for why, if it was picking and choosing which states to abandon, it would include one where it’s in the black. As Mayhew says, “Something stinks worse than a wrestling team’s locker room after two-a-days.”


  59. 59

    @JCJ: Yep, asthma is under control right now. Actually the shitty weather this week has led to the first prolonged period of acute problems in almost a year as the air quality is horrendous right now and he is feeling that so he gets the nebulizer 2x a day at the moment. His control inhaler has done wonders.

  60. 60
    PST says:

    @Cambridge Chuck:

    You’ve educated not only us Juicers, but also everyone we get into arguments with about the ACA (and sometimes about soccer!), because now we’ve got the facts. Great job.

    That really says it. You have influenced more people than you can imagine (although granted, many of those we consumers of your knowledge and wisdom talk at are impervious to your efforts and ours).

  61. 61
    JCJ says:

    @Richard Mayhew:

    Very glad to hear that he is doing better. I am sure that lowers your stress level as well.

  62. 62
    Caroline Abbott says:

    I’m emerging from the shadows of Lurkland to thank you for your remarkable body of work. I’m a health law and public policy attorney, but had little access into the operations of the insurance world before you started explaining it in depth.

    Selfishly, I hope that you continue to blog here for a very long time.

  63. 63
    MazeDancer says:

    Your ability to clarify and explain complex issues makes everyone want to read your work, Richard. May that “everyone” continue to include big newspapers, other experts in your field, as well as lucky us here at BJ.

  64. 64
    Applejinx says:

    I can easily believe you’ve written eight hundred posts, because it seems like it.

    The Aetna flap is one time I saw obvious value in you: both for the message, and the calculation of ‘maybe people will listen to this if THIS guy is saying it’.

    Maybe as this Aetna stuff continues (because it will), you’ll get that your entire industry (with or without your support) are literally working to hurt sick people for money. I get that back when Snoopy was hawking MetLife, the industry took more of an actuary’s perspective on things and tried to run the numbers so they’d make a steady small profit, but nobody cares about or can tolerate steady small profits anymore. Your industry is public companies and they’re trapped in the same declining spiral as everyone else, and they lobby and change the rules under which they live, and they will get worse.

    I like wonkery and I like good intentions, but man. Aetna are not bad actors. That’s normal. Expect more.

  65. 65
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Thank you for all your posts, Richard. I know I’ve learned an awful lot, both in terms of “here’s what this thing that happened today means” and in the bigger picture of how health care works in this country. It’s fantastic work that I know I’m not alone in appreciating a lot.

  66. 66
    Jimbo says:

    Richard – I came out of lurk just to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your posts. Not just the ACA and associated insurance posts (though those are great to have as reference points), but I also really enjoy your soccer / ref posts. Thank you for being so generous with you time. Cheers – Jim

  67. 67
    amygdala says:

    Congrats! And thanks.

  68. 68
    Joy in FL says:

    Richard, I have certainly benefitted from your BJ posts over the years.
    I am constantly amazed at the knowledge and generosity you share here. (TBH that applies to lots of people in this community.)
    Just want to say thanks : )

  69. 69
    Nick says:

    Dude, everyone who reads my Facebook stream knows you’re my health insurance man-crush. Here’s to many more posts!

  70. 70
    Singing Truth to Power says:

    Richard, your posts were immensely helpful to me last year when making my Medicare decisions. I relied on you more than any other source. Many thanks! Please keep writing.

  71. 71
    misterpuff says:

    Thank you. You have educated me.
    I know I will have to think, but your posts will get me to understanding…a very wonky issue.

    Hope for a thousand more – on any topic.

  72. 72
    stinger says:

    Congratulations! I read all your posts and have learned a lot about both health insurance and soccer! I’d never have guessed that there are 1,000 of them — time flies when I’m reading Mayhew!

  73. 73
    Betsy says:

    Awesome news, Mr.Mayhew, and thank you. I see your observations are getting noticed more and more widely .. how great!!

  74. 74
    Prescott Cactus says:

    Richard, Much thanks for everything! You bring an insight into the worlds of insurance and soccer that most of us would never see without you. You have the uncanny ability to take deeply complex issues and break them down to where most everyone can understand them (and I almost can).

    You allowed me to share my voice on hospice and death with the community, without ever having met me, for which I am truly grateful. I hope I can share a bit more once the family turbulence dies down.

    Most important is, are a good human being. You have never told us or boasted, but we can read between the lines. We listen to your interactions with other referees and we see your responses to our replies on these posts.

    I hope your son’s asthma clears up and all is well in your world.

    Peace !

  75. 75
    Blue Galangal says:

    Jumping on the delurking/congratulatory bandwagon here to say that you have a real gift for explaining complex and sometimes arcane operations that make up health insurance. I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying writing about it, because I enjoy reading about it and I’m always delighted when I see a “wonky” post up from you.

  76. 76
    J R in WV says:

    @Richard Mayhew:

    Thanks for your help with insurance confusion.

    Keep up the good work!

  77. 77
    The Lodger says:

    I doubt I can say anything others haven’t, but I deeply appreciate your ability to turn complicated, sometimes enervating, subject matter into information we can all use. Congrats on the first 1,000 and keep it up!

  78. 78
    middlelee says:

    Congratulations and thank you. Your clear and interesting writing has helped me so much in understanding a great big subject with many parts.

  79. 79
    The Golux says:

    Richard, your contributions truly have been, to paraphrase Bush the First, “A Thousand Posts of Light.” Great to see you get the recognition.

  80. 80

    I know others have used the exact word, but you really are a treasure. Thank you, and thanks to John for giving you keys to the blog.

  81. 81
    Paul W. says:

    Congrats Mayhew! I don’t have time to read every post, but damn I’ve read a lot of them.

    Always fun and informative once I get to dig in!

  82. 82
    Joe says:

    You have already read many posts here just like mine. I rarely comment, but always read your work. You make me feel more empowered, educated and like I know what is really going on in the world. I would buy your book.

    Snorkel redeployed, returning back under the lurk-surface again.

  83. 83
    jnfr says:

    I really appreciate your posts and point people to them all the time. They are a real service. Thank you.

  84. 84
    Keith G says:

    When’s the book coming out? Since the “…For Dummies” title would get you sued, how-about: The Balloon-Juice Handbook on Obamacare by Richard Mayhew.

  85. 85

    @Keith G: Tires, Anthrax, Kitten Fellatio and healthcare: all we learn at Balloon Juice

  86. 86
    Starfish says:

    I’ve really enjoyed your posts.

  87. 87
    Suffragete City elftx says:

    I want to thank your for your time and even responding once to a stupid question I emailed you!!
    And also for those screenshots yesterday of Aetna in PA. Used them to show a person moaning about that poor poor company being taken under by Obamycare..they shut up after those posts!!

  88. 88
    Prescott Cactus says:

    @Richard Mayhew: I wish they would have quoted the “more hookers and blow for insurance executives” paragraph. . . .

  89. 89
    jenn says:

    A good opportunity to add my thanks, too! I much appreciate the opportunity to learn more about this, and there have been multiple occasions where I have sent on links to others to help explain things. Best!

  90. 90

    @Prescott Cactus: for some reason my press contacts always work around that phrasing

  91. 91
    Epicurus says:

    Mr. Mayhew, let me be one of the last to congratulate you on your yeoman work. So much of the inner workings of our health care system(s) are hidden, invisible or exaggerated. I always enjoy your posts, and hope you will have at least 1000 more in the future. Great work.

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