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.



Aetna, cynicism and Pennsylvania

Jonathan Cohn reports on report on Aetna’s strategy on linking Exchange participation and the rapid approval of their merger.

the move also was directly related to a Department of Justice decision to block the insurer’s potentially lucrative merger with Humana, according to a letter from Aetna’s CEO obtained by The Huffington Post.

Aetna Letter

TLDR: Nice exchanges there, be a pity if anything happened.

One of the states Aetna pulled out of is Pennsylvania. This is odd as a friend of the blog pointed out to me offline. Below Aetna’s rate application memo for the individual market in Pennsylvania. You should look closely at the highlighted segment.

Aetna

Aetna was profitable in 2015 in the individual market in Pennsylvania. It is projecting to be profitable in 2017. The filing memo was drafted in late May and submitted to the Pennsylvania regulators in early June. Conditions have not changed enough to make Pennsylvania a money loser in under two months.

My wee bit of cynicism bears fruit. Aetna is trying to logroll an anti-competetive merger with on-Exchange political consequences. If it works for Aetna/Humana it burns a bridge to get the merger, and if it fails, it puts Aetna on the shitlist of any Democratic administration. That is a very interesting strategy when it is highly likely that there will be another Democratic administration.

UPDATE 1: Here is the relevant chunk of the 2016 Aetna filing memo for Pennsylvania.

Aetna 2016 filing memo

So in all years Aetna’s individual market operations in Pennsylvania were either profitable or projected to be profitable. Something stinks worse than a wrestling team’s locker room after two-a-days.



Late Evening/Early Morning Open Thread: The Sky is Falling

Perseid meteor shower live feed!



Dumb idea of the week

And this is not even directly related to Trump.

my first response is to ask if Ryan Lizza guzzles anti-freeze for breakfast as this is breathtakingly stupid.

Let’s make a few assumptions that I think are verifiable within reality.

a) Hillary Clinton has in all projection systems been favored to win the White House at all points to varying degrees (except the 538 click-bait now-cast)
b) A Republican appointed or de facto appointed Supreme Court median judge produces significantly different policy and political outcomes than a median Supreme Court justice that represents a typical Democratic nominee.
c) The Clinton campaign is better run than the Trump campaign.

Now let’s make a few more slightly shakier assumptions.

d) The Democratic coalition has good reason to believe it is a dominant Presidential level coalition ( 5 out 6 most recent elections had Dem popular vote pluralities etc)
e) The Republican coalition is a maxed out coalition with significant headwinds due to higher death and lower replacement rates of their core voters compared to Democratic core voting blocks.
f) The Donald is a dumpster fire which excerbates E

In football analytics terms, Clinton is ahead and she can win with a good, productive 8 minute offense of low variance but efficient plays. There is little reason for the Clinton campaign to adopt high variance vertical shots down the field to score when she is already up 9 with a better quarterback and a better defense. Scoring point is nice but running time off the clock and winning field position works almost as well. Interceptions and fumbles would dramatically drop win probability compared to a counterfactual of boring productive plays.

Promising to nominate a typical Republican judge as the median SCOTUS vote in order to try to capture 2% to 5% of the core Republican vote is a high variance play for a Democratic nominee. It could be worth it if the nominee was down 9 points with three months left. But that is not the case. Promising to nominate a Kennedy clone or more likely a Roberts clone may or may not get any Republican votes as a Trump Administration would nominate at least a Roberts if not an Alito clone anyways while it would cause a lot of trouble on the left flank. That could be acceptable if the left flank was legitimately faced with a “this sucks but it is the only chance to avoid the true suckage of four years of Trump” choice but that is not the choice out there.

Therefore this is the stupidest thing I’ve read this week.



Open Thread: Mirror Images (But Trump’s Is A Funhouse Mirror)


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What’s on the agenda as we gird for another week?



Open Thread: Khizr Khan’s Speech at the DNC

Via Quartz, which further reported:

One particularly notable omission from Fox’s newscast was the decision to skip one of the night’s most acclaimed presentations—a speech by the father of Captain Humayun Khan, a US Army soldier who died at age 27, near Baghdad, while supporting Operation Iraqi freedom. The family immigrated to the US from Pakistan, and are Muslim.

Rather than airing Khan senior’s emotional speech, in which he told the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, that he had “sacrificed nothing” for America, Fox’s show The Kelly File continued with its regular commentary, and then cut to commercials. Those included a Benghazi-themed attack ad on Clinton, Media Matters reported

“Do not take this election lightly!…”



Amen!

If you missed the sermon by the Reverend William Barber, please watch this theologically conservative, liberal, evangelical, biblicist speak about right and wrong, and the heart of our democracy. You owe it to yourself.

Via PBS

ETA: I found the full speech by Mr Khizr Khan, in which he is accompanied by his lovely wife. Also this.

Special mention of the gentleman delegate with the fab red turban.