Afternoon Open Thread: Cory Booker on Ellen

One of the things about this rich field of Democrats is getting to know them. Corey Booker had a good interview on Ellen that airs today.  Here’s the full interview:

Kamala Harris was on Jimmy Kimmel last night, but I haven’t had a chance to watch that yet. I may post it later if someone else doesn’t. Looking forward to it.

I like the casual nature of the talk shows and seeing them semi-relaxed. But I also think the town halls are really important for understanding their policies. I’m invigorated by the intelligence and compassion of these candidates. Such a contrast from what we’ve been faced with daily since 2016.

Now I need some candidates to remember we need to take back the Senate and they are needed there, too.

Open thread

Open Thread: Warren / Buttigieg 2020!

(I read this anecdote to my Norwegian-American Spousal Unit, linguistics major, who replied, “And nobody ever bothers to learn Maltese… “)

Seriously, though… I was kinda meh about ‘Mayor Pete’ at first, but his campaign is growing on me. Presumably Buttigeig (mayor, Navy vet, served in Afghanistan) and Warren would complement each other’s skill sets. And as much as we all despise the electability argument, there’s something to be said for the every-four-years voter appeal of “Your Favorite Teacher + That Nice Neighborhood Eagle Scout” as a ticket, yes?

The Navy veteran with a hard-to-pronounce name, from a city small enough to fit every resident in a college football stadium, seems to be winning the argument at the moment. Weeks after declaring his interest in challenging President Trump, he has become, if not exactly well-known, a subject of interest for many Democratic voters, buoyed by a breakout performance at a CNN town hall on March 10…

Even in a Democratic field full of nontraditional candidates, Buttigieg stands out in many ways. A military veteran who deployed to Afghanistan, he is openly gay, and his husband, Chasten, maintains a lively Twitter presence. He would be the youngest president in history. No mayor has ever ascended directly to the presidency, let alone from a city of about 102,000…

Some Democrats say privately Buttigieg may not be prepared to be president, given his youth and that he’s never served in national or even statewide office. (Buttigieg is a decade younger than O’Rourke and was not born when former vice president Joe Biden was first elected to the Senate.) Trump’s tenure, they say, has soured Democrats on the notion of inexperienced candidates jumping into the presidency.

Buttigieg responds that, having been South Bend mayor since 2012, he has longer government experience than Trump and more executive credentials than Pence, who was Indiana’s governor for four years…

Read more

Single insurer plan offering choices and implications

I contend that monopolistic insurers in the ACA market are able to shape their risk pool. They have multiple means to implement a strategy. They can use networks. They can use benefit design. They can use formularies.

Starfish made a good comment:

In Mississippi, you cannot play a lot of the games that can be played with a healthy pool in other places. Is a narrow network going to eliminate your town’s only hospital? Are people really driving to Children’s Hospital if they do not live near it or have a child with cancer or some other major issue that can only be addressed there?

Really good comment, and I want to highlight one strategy an insurer can use. They can play spread games. I will make the simplifying assumption that actuarial value correlates to premium level and we’re using a single unified actuarial value scale instead of metal specific scales. I am also assuming a single network and the same plan type for all plans (it could be an EPO, HMO or a PPO, does not matter). I am isolating on plan designs.

The first strategy is a low AV and low spread strategy.

Here the benchmark Silver Plan is near the bottom of the allowable actuarial value range for Silver plans. The cheapest Silver is barely below the benchmark while the insurer is only offering a single Bronze plan. Since we are looking at a monopolistic insurer, there is no competetive pressure that dictates these choices. These choices result in high out of pocket costs for everyone, and since subsidized premiums are predicated on premium spreads, the lowest actuarial value plans won’t be too much cheaper than the benchmark. The healthy and risk embracing won’t see too many good deals.

The other strategy stretches everything out.

Here, the benchmark Silver is near the top of the allowable range. The cheapest Silver is near the bottom of the allowable range. There is a big spread here which means the Silver Gap is large. More importantly, the carrier is offering two Bronze plans. One is still near the top of the Bronze range. The other is near the bottom of the Bronze range. This means that there is a huge actuarial value gap between the cheapest plan offered and the benchmark. Consequently, the healthiest and most risk taking folks will see very low to no dollar premiums if they qualify for subsidies.

It does not matter if the insurers are Silver Loading or Broad Loading their CSR response. It does not matter if they are offering an HMO or a PPO. It does not matter if they are in a high cost state or a low cost state. A single insurer state can strategically choose the premium spreads between the benchmark and least expensive Silver and non-Silver plans.

Wyoming has chosen a big spread strategy. Mississippi has chosen a small spread strategy. These are deliberate choices.

2019 Premium Spread from Benchmark to least expensive plan in each metal band 40 year single non-smoker
StateCountyMetal LevelMaximum Benchmark Spread
WYLaramieExpanded Bronze($265.00)

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Read more

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Welcome the Worm Super Moon

Seriously. According to lore, it’s when the frozen ground softens enough for earthworms to emerge, thereby encouraging the return of the robins. Perhaps more importantly, the Spring Equinox arrives just before 6pm EDT… and I, for one, am ready for this winter to be over.

And speaking of spring, with the impulse for housecleaning it inspires, this is very sweet and also embarrassingly reminiscent of our whole house…

When I was a child, the grownup books in my house were arranged according to two principles. One of these, which governed the downstairs books, was instituted by my mother, and involved achieving a remarkable harmony—one that anyone who has ever tried to organize a home library would envy—among thematic, alphabetic, and aesthetic demands. The other, which governed the upstairs books, was instituted by my father, and was based on the conviction that it is very nice to have everything you’ve recently read near at hand, in case you get the urge to consult any of it again; and also that it is a pain in the neck to put those books away, especially when the shelves on which they belong are so exquisitely organized that returning one to its appropriate slot requires not only a card catalogue but a crowbar.

It was this pair of convictions that led to the development of the Stack. I can’t remember it in its early days, because in its early days it wasn’t memorable. I suppose back then it was just a modest little pile of stray books, the kind that many readers have lying around in the living room or next to the bed. But by the time I was in my early teens it was the case—and seemed by then to have always been the case—that my parents’ bedroom was home to the Mt. Kilimanjaro of books. Or perhaps more aptly the Mt. St. Helens of books, since it seemed possible that at any moment some subterranean shift in it might cause a cataclysm.

The Stack had started in a recessed space near my father’s half of the bed, bounded on one side by a wall and on the other by my parents’ dresser, a vertical behemoth taller than I would ever be. At some point in the Stack’s development, it had overtopped that piece of furniture, whereupon it met a second tower of books, which, at some slightly later point, had begun growing up along the dresser’s other side. For some reason, though, the Stack always looked to me as if it had defied gravity (or perhaps obeyed some other, more mysterious force) and grown down the far side of the dresser instead. At all events, the result was a kind of homemade Arc de Triomphe, extremely haphazard-looking but basically stable, made of some three or four hundred books…

Open Thread: Say It Ain’t So, Joe

I like Joe Biden — it’s hard not to — but this, if true, is just terrible. (I refuse to buy a sub to the WSJ, so I can’t read the whole article, and am open to the idea that they’re trying to shiv Biden as the ‘most electable Dem’ to their readership.) Very few actions are less likely to attract Democratic voters in 2020 than being suspected of ‘talking to big donors’ in order to ensure ‘good finance optics’ in advance. Even for someone who isn’t already widely caricatured as ‘(D-MBNA)’.

It does reinforce my suspicion that Biden is less interested in actually running than he is in… doing what’s required / unable to give up going through the motions / out of touch with what 2020 Democratic voters, specifically women and people of color, want from a President. Better to rest on your laurels, Uncle Joe — don’t break your spirit and our hearts relitigating the Reagan era!

An almost equally tragic trial balloon:

There’s been a great many reports about Biden and Stacey Abrams meeting privately last week. Although doing so would certainly attract a lot of ‘earned media’ (as the Village Idiot pundits prefer to refer to free media, since they are in every sense professionals), at least 75% of it would be derisory — and that’s not even counting Twitter snark. Frankly, I respect Abrams too much to think she’d fall for so cheap an attention grab.

Now, Beto O’Rourke, on the other hand — I think he’s the guy Biden’s backers had in mind in the first place. And I think he’s perfectly capable of saying, off the cuff at some coffeehouse rally, that he’d gladly accept Biden’s offer to serve in a Beto administration just as he did for President Obama. And wouldn’t *that* just set the horserace-tout media to squawking about Dems in disarray

Elizabeth Warren’s CNN Town Hall

Thanks to commentor ‘David Koch’. Since at least one commentor asked about embedding a link, during last night’s not-livestreamed thread…
And this probably deserves its own post, except news moves too fast these days (& I read too slow.) Looks like Sen. Warren’s take on reparations is aligned with at least one Balloon Juice favorite:

NYMag, “Ta-Nehisi Coates Is an Optimist Now”:

When I say I am for reparations, I’m saying that I am for the idea that this country and its major institutions has had an extractive relationship with black people for much of our history; that this fact explains basically all of the socioeconomic gap between black and white America, and thus, the way to close that gap is to pay it back. In terms of political candidates, and how this should be talked about, and how this should be dealt with, it seems like it would be a very easy solution. It’s actually the policy recommendation that I gave in the piece, and that is to support HR 40. That’s the bill that says you form a commission. You study what damage was done from slavery, and the legacy of slavery, and then you try to figure out the best ways to remedy it. It’s pretty simple. I think that’s Nancy Pelosi’s position at this point.

… When I wrote “The Case for Reparations,” my notion wasn’t that you could actually get reparations passed, even in my lifetime. My notion was that you could get people to stop laughing. My notion was you could actually have people say, “Oh, shit. This actually isn’t a crazy idea. This actually isn’t insane.” And then, once you got them to stop laughing, you could get them to start fighting…

Trembling on the Verge Open Thread: Preznit Idle Hands

He can’t stand to be alone with his memories — or his lack of them. Professional (character) assassin Olivia Nuzzi, for NYMag, “Trump’s Phone Friends May Be More Important Than His Staff. So Who’s He Calling?”:

Trump abides by what I call the “Groucho Marx Law of Fraternization,” meaning anyone choosing to be near him is suspect while everyone else gets points simply for existing elsewhere. “He always kind of wants what he doesn’t completely have,” the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman once said. “You are never more valuable to Donald Trump than when you’re walking away from him.”

What explains this social idiosyncrasy? Obvious answers, like self-loathing, don’t quite feel complete. But whatever the psychological cause, the effect is manifest in at least one thing: his compulsive phone habits. His Rolodex is a Greatest Hits and Deep Cuts composed of mostly friends, associates, media figures, and tycoons. Although Trump is known to call senior members of his staff at all hours, his informal advisers share a common attribute: They’re not there and, therefore, they can’t be blamed when things are falling apart. Their praise sounds less sycophantic and, therefore, more compelling; the president seems to grant the calls coming from outside the White House an inherent credibility. They are also a welcome distraction, a link to his old life in Trump Tower, when concepts such as “executive time,” a term used by aides to make it seem like the president is doing something productive when he’s fucking around and calling TV-show hosts to gossip about ratings (a subject of intense interest for him, even now), were irrelevant…

One person who has received late-night calls from the president told me this: “If you’re Trump, the last thing you want is a moment of self-reflection. That’s why he’s constantly on the phone at night. Everybody’s afraid of themselves. People fear silence because they don’t want to hear voices. But Trump really fears that.

This Majestic Motherfucker

I decided I had spent enough time staring at a computer screen and that it was time for a nap, turned around, and saw this handsome bastard lounging on my clothes on the chair I had casually thrown them on:

Sometimes when the light comes through the window in the afternoon his eyes are just so beautiful I could stare at them all day. Looks like I need to brush his beard again.

The Benefit of Minding Your Own Fucking Business

The other day I was surfing the internet (btw- I have about 20 long reads I have saved up and I need to post- will probably do that tomorrow) when I saw this:

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Sam Smith has come out as gender nonbinary.

“I’m not male or female. I think I float somewhere in between,” Smith said Friday on actor Jameela Jamil’s new Instagram show, “I Weigh Interviews.”

Smith said when he saw the words “nonbinary” and “genderqueer” and heard people speak about these identities, which are used to describe those who identify as neither exclusively male nor female, he thought, “F–ck, that’s me.”

Which led to, of course, questions. Question #1 was “Who the fuck is Sam Smith?” and Question #2 was “What does nonbinary and genderqueer mean?”

The first was easily answered with a youtube search, and I think I have heard a song called “Stay With Me” before. The second was a little harder- don’t get me wrong, I don’t live under a fucking rock, I have heard the terms before, and sort of thought I understood what they meant- I mean I know what binary means and I know what a binary construct is and I understand the concept of gender- but I wanted to know if I really know. At any rate, after looking into it, I think I understand on one level what it all means, but it’s hard for me to empathize with because I’m just straight and always have been. I guess what I am trying to say is it is easy to understand, but it’s hard to really understand unless you experience the same feelings and experiences.

And that’s when I realized- I don’t HAVE to fucking understand it. Whether I understand it or not, these people feel it and experience it and live it, and their existence as equal people in society isn’t predicated on whether or not I understand. My job as a non garbage human being is pretty simple- all I have to do is treat them like I would everyone else, call them what they want to be called, and go on about my life.

I can understand how this is difficult for people whose religion teaches them to be bigots or for culture warriors who want to pretend it’s still 1950 or for busybodies who have to have all of life in nice simple categories because they are too simple to deal with the actual complexities of life, but I’m gonna keep doing what I have always done, which is just let people be who they say they are, mind my own fucking business, and vote for people who will treat them like the human beings they are.

Minding your own fucking business is really easy.

The Volunteers (Open Thread)

I’m unimpressed when people in public office refuse to accept a salary for the job. I want them to take the paycheck that comes with the job, even if it’s a trifling sum compared to their obscene personal wealth. If only symbolically, a paycheck reminds the recipient who’s boss.

Rick Scott, the Medicare fraudster who purchased the governorship of Florida for around $100 million over two terms and then bought a U.S. Senate seat for $63 million, famously refuses to accept a salary. He’s a money-grubbing crook without an altruistic bone in his Skeletor-like body, so the reasonable assumption is he’s profiting off the offices. And look!

The governor’s blind trust is managed by a third party — a company that includes the governor’s former personal adviser. The governor reported that in 2017 his blind trust ballooned in value from $130 million to $215 million. The governor’s reported investment income from the trust rocketed from $4.3 million in 2016 to $120 million.

Early in his governorship, Scott ordered drug testing for all state employees and welfare recipients. It just so happened that his assets, which were transferred to his wife in a laughably lame attempt to disguise Scott’s interests, included a chain of urgent care clinics that did drug testing:

The Palm Beach Post reported in an exclusive story two weeks ago that while Scott divested his interest in Solantic in January, the controlling shares went to a trust in his wife’s name.

This raised a groundswell of concern and questions about his health policy initiatives, especially his push to move Medicaid into private HMOs. Solantic does not take Medicaid but does business with private Medicaid HMOs. The questions are growing louder with Scott’s executive order on drug testing.

Drug testing welfare recipients ended up costing Florida taxpayers $45K as a net loss, meaning we paid more for the tests than we saved in denying benefits — and that doesn’t count the legal costs associated with the many lawsuits the drug testing law spawned. But someone profited.

This morning, Trump bragged about donating his quarterly salary to DHS:

While the press doesn’t like writing about it, nor do I need them to, I donate my yearly Presidential salary of $400,000.00 to different agencies throughout the year, this to Homeland Security. If I didn’t do it there would be hell to pay from the FAKE NEWS MEDIA!

The tweet was accompanied by an image of the check, which was a bad move from an “optics” standpoint since it looks exactly like the exhibit Michael Cohen waved around in the Congressional hearing to corroborate his testimony about Trump paying off Stormy Daniels.

But that whiny “If I didn’t do it there would be hell to pay” shows how much charitable giving chaps Trump’s ass. He likes to brag about his generosity, but he doesn’t pay up except under duress, which is why his scam foundation was shut down.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner also claim to work for free. We know Trump and his garbage family are profiting from the presidency in various ways — piles of cash for Trump-branded hotels and resorts from domestic and foreign entities hoping to curry favor, exclusive trademarks for business products in foreign countries, cash to bail out teetering real estate empires, etc.

What hasn’t been fully tallied yet is the cost to Americans for these bribes. Here’s one example:

This week, the payday lenders are gathering at Trump National Doral Miami for the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) annual conference.

They have plenty to celebrate. After years of lobbying and litigation, the Trump administration gutted an Obama-era rule that would have cracked down on the industry’s most abusive practices.

According to Judd Legum, it’s only $450 per round of golf, and the rule change is worth $7 billion to the industry, which is once again free to fleece the poor and desperate. That makes it a pitifully small bribe. Subverting U.S. foreign policy to bail out Jared will likely prove more expensive.

I’m guessing there are decent liberal politicians who are wealthy as hell and eschew their salary without profiting from their offices. I still don’t like it. Take the damned money, rich politicians. Donate the same amount to a charity later if it makes you feel better, but keep the news of the donation to yourself. Otherwise, us working stiffs might suspect you’re a dabbler.

Poor Poor Pitiful Devin

I was going to write something about Devin’s stupid lawsuit against Twitter, but this pretty much encapsulates my view of his hurt fee fees over some mean tweets:

Also, what a snowflake/WATB.

Monopoly insurer strategies in 2019

In 2019, 1,058 counties had only a single insurer on 1,056 of those counties had the insurer offer at least one Silver and one non-Silver plan. I am curious about what we can figure out about the monopoly insurer strategies. I’ve contended for years that a monopolistic insurer can effectively choose their enrollee pool by how they manipulate the spreads from the benchmark plan to the other plans.

Insurers can choose their risk pool by offering very low cost plans. The people who are on the cusp of buying insurance are price sensitive. The healthiest slice of the cohort will be the people who are flipping a coin between buying insurance and not buying insurance. The sickest slice of the cohort will be the people who look at a $1,500 monthly premium and are doing a happy dance as they know they are still getting a great deal. The risk pool will be, on average, healthier if the cheapest plan available costs $15 for the incremental buyer rather than $100.

Monopoly insurers get to choose their spreads**.

So this is very curious when I look at the difference between the Silver Spread which is the difference of the Benchmark Premium to the cheapest Silver premium and the Other Metal Spread which is the difference of the Benchmark Premium to the Cheapest Gold/Bronze premium for 2019.

There is wild variance. A few counties in Wisconsin and Ohio have no Bronze plans. Their cheapest not-Silver plan is significantly above the cheapest Silver plan.

Wyoming, on the other hand, is running a massive spread so that their cheapest Bronze plan has a significantly lower subsidized premium than the cheapest Silver plan.

One of the big things to note is that insurers that are operating as effectively a state wide individual market monopoly do not have to consider risk adjustment in their decisions. Insurers that are in a fragmented state wide market with only a county or regional monopoly may have risk adjustment concerns.

This risk adjustment concern leads me to scratch my head when I look at the different strategies that are evident in Mississippi and Wyoming. Both are single insurer states. Wyoming’s Exchange strategy creates very low premium for subsidized buyers who are flipping a coin. Lots of people earning between 100% to 400% federal poverty level are seeing Bronze and some Gold plans that will cost them and their families less than two medium three topping pizzas at a national delivery chain every month.

Mississippi is also a single insurer monopoly state. There is a different pricing strategy. The Gold plans are priced over the benchmark silvers as they broad load. The low cost Bronze plans are creating very few truly low premium plans.

I am confused as pure monopoly ACA insurers that have no risk adjustment concerns should be able to create their own risk pools for whatever purpose they so choose. They can choose a sick pool. They can choose a healthy pool. They can choose a small pool. They can choose a big pool. Wyoming’s pricing and plan offering strategy is a choice to pick a big and comparatively healthy pool. Mississippi’s sole insurer, Centene, is picking a comparatively small and comparatively unhealthy pool.

That just seems odd to me.

** I am using a single 40 year old non-smoker non-subsidized for all examples. For purposes of the blog, I am not looking into EHB percentage of premium which will slightly alter final numbers.

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Read more

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: All the Way to the Finish Line

Proud to be a Democrat:

As the primary process kicks into full swing, some Democrats are bypassing the kind of experienced Washington “wiseguys” who operated in the caldron of beltway politics — famous strategists like David Axelrod, James Carville and, more recently, Robby Mook. Instead, campaigns are increasingly filling senior positions with a new generation of activist-driven operatives, whose political formation took place in grass-roots movements.

The shift has resulted in greater staff diversity than in previous cycles, but it has also influenced strategy, according to campaign officials. New voices are joining with election-cycle veterans to bring fresh ideas and political approaches to the presidential stage…

Kelly Dietrich, the longtime Democratic consultant, said the surge in Democratic voter enthusiasm since President Trump’s election has helped issue-driven activists become more interested in traditional electoral politics. It has also forced campaigns to take new ideas more seriously, he said.

“We’re seeing a lot more people across the spectrum, both in terms of diversity and political agenda, step forward and want to make change,” said Mr. Dietrich, who founded a campaign training organization called the National Democratic Training Committee. They are “fed up or scared; they are frustrated and are ready to fight back.”

The Democratic Party needs to bring in these activists, Mr. Dietrich said, “so that five years, 10 years, 15 years down the road, this is the norm.”…