Open Thread: GOP Hair Catches Fire

… to match GOP pants. Steve Benen, at MSNBC:

Based on the latest, overall national averages, Trump isn’t just the leading Republican candidate, he’s actually dominating by more than 20 points. These same overall averages show the frontrunner, at least for now, with more support than Cruz and Rubio combined.

When was the last time a Republican presidential candidate led by more than 20 points in late December and failed to win his party’s nomination? Never. It just hasn’t happened…

Am I saying Trump is going to win the nomination? Not exactly. I am saying we’re looking at a dynamic in which we’ll either see (a) the biggest Republican collapse in modern American history; or (b) the first Republican nominee since 1940 with no experience in public office…

Meanwhile, at a rally for Trump’s mini-me….



Beware of bad maps

Insurers routinely discontinue plans.  For instance Mayhew Insurance filed five distinct networks for the Exchanges.  We had a network/plan design combination which we sold literally dozens of policies.  It was overpriced for a relatively narrow and restrictive product.  So we dumped that combination for 2016.  The dozens of people were told at least ninety days before open enrollment that their plan was being dropped and that a similar, slightly broader network and less restrictive  Mayhew Insurance product would be their default auto-enrollment option.

This is common.  Insurers are allowed to map their members to similar products if the original policy is being dropped.  This is also a point of awareness as some times the mapping leads to extremely painful default outcomes.  There was a recent article with a good example of this problem:

The 60-year-old Southmont man discovered that his current plan, the Highmark Shared Cost Blue PPO 1000, which was eligible for premium tax credits on the Health Insurance Marketplace, was being discontinued — and that he automatically would be enrolled in another plan not on the marketplace if he didn’t take action before Dec. 15….

The company is “mapping” some customers on plans that are being discontinued into new plans, he said.

Factoring in the tax credit, the new plan would have cost Ross $481.02 more a month. It didn’t come close to offering similar coverage, Ross said.

“It’s not even comparable,” he said.

“It’s vastly inferior.”

The new plan to offer family coverage for Ross and his wife, he said, included higher deductibles — $5,000 more per individual and $10,000 more for family — thousands higher in maximum out of pocket in-network, triple his current copays for primary care physician visits and 40 percent coinsurance.

Ross said he’s shocked that he wasn’t at least being rolled into another marketplace plan, where he could have taken advantage of premium tax credits [my emphasis]

The original plan looks to be a narrow network Gold plan.  Given the $6,000 deductible and even higher out of pocket maximum, the mapped plan probably is a Bronze plan.

And since the plan is listed as an Off-Exchange plan, the plan does not have any advanced premium tax credits to reduce the high monthly premiums.

This is a travesty.

CMS, the federal regulating entity needs to improve the regulation on how mapping can occur.  The principle should be the mapped default auto-renewal plan option should be substantially similar to the current plan.  The following criteria should be met as substantially similar:

  1. If On exchange, the mappped plan must be on-exchange if any On-exchange plan is available.
  2. If Off-exchange, the mapped plan should be on-exchange if possible
  3. The same actuarial value band shall be chosen if possible.
  4. If not possible, the default shall be one band higher unless platinum, and then it shall be gold.
  5. Network shall be no smaller if possible.  If all remaining mappable networks are smaller, then choose the broadest remaining network that meet the above criteria.
  6. Members shall be notified in writing of the significant changes in plans
  7. Members who are mapped to plans that fail to meet the above criteria shall have their information passed to CMS/Healthcare.gov for targeted outreach and navigation assistance.

Do that and the mapping effort won’t be an attempt to drive sick people off of high actuarial value coverage plans.



Trans-Plutocratic Plunder

Have you read the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal yet? You can read it right here, as no less a personage than President Obama himself informed me via email the other day. I’ve only made it to Chapter 2 so far (there are 30 chapters). It kicks insomnia’s ass.

As CP Pierce points out, Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs says it’s a lousy deal that should be voted down. According to Sachs, TPP’s provisions “enshrine the power of corporate capital above all other parts of society, including labor and even governments,” and while it gives lip service to social fairness and sustainability goals, “the agreements are thin, unenforceable, and generally unimaginative.”

Climate change isn’t even mentioned, according to Sachs. Senator Warren also gives the proposal a frowny face.

Pierce concludes that this deal, along with education policy, “is going to be one of the only acts of [Obama’s] presidency with which the president justifies the criticisms levelled at him from the left.” Sounds about right.

If these analyses are accurate, I’m glad the Democratic candidates are fleeing the TPP like workers running toward daylight from a collapsing mine. But if the pessimists among us are to be believed, some version of a shitty deal is inevitable because Global Economy.

Maybe President Obama is among those pessimists and that’s why he supports this particular shitty deal. I’ve quoted my old co-blogger StrangeAppar8us on this topic before because he was so right about the declining influence of national sovereignty and rising power of multinational corporations:

In truth, nations have been obsolete as sovereign organizational units for some time. There are sovereign corporations and sovereign piles of capital, but nations are basically accounting entries associated with a particular profile of a) indigenous resources, b) comparative labor costs, c) relative social stability, d) relative currency strength and e) relative weakness of business taxation and regulatory controls. Local military power still matters, and some nations still command a certain reflexive residual deference to their post-WWII/Cold War primacy. However, in an age of cheap intercontinental shipping and wire transfers, nations are basically cultural theme parks competing for ticket sales.

One of my cousins once played “Goofy” at Disney World, wearing a hot, stuffy costume in the 90-degree heat for minimum wage while toddlers kicked him in the shins and older children whacked him in the nuts with replica light sabers. Welcome to the New Economy, fellow characters.



Open Thread: I {Heart} Repubs in Disarray!

The standing “leadership” fustercluck has been a rich gift to snarkists, but seriously: The more energy these mopes expend scheming to destroy each other, the less they have to devote to destroying the American commonwealth for the rest of us.

I’m hoping this show runs longer than The Mousetrap in London. But with a higher body count!

(Complete with surprise twist, at the very end of this thread.)

Elspeth Reeve, “The Republican House Today Was More Melodramatic Than High School“:

… “Be­fore John Boehner stepped down, I said if John Boehner steps down, the same people who were try­ing to take John Boehner down, will try to frag the next guy. … Well, that is just what happened,” Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania told National Journal. Fragging is when soldiers kill one of their own. It is a rather intense metaphor for guys walking around in Brooks Brothers suits. A more apt metaphor might be high school—it’s like prom, except conservative House Republicans dumped pig blood all over the prom queen…

The way the news broke was emblematic of the chaos that took hold today: The press found out about McCarthy’s withdrawal when Representative Ryan Costello bumbled out of this morning’s caucus meeting. “Apparently I broke the news about McCarthy; blame it on being a Freshman and going out the wrong door,” he tweeted…

Mr. McCarthy’s shocking move echoed the stunning events of December 1998, when another Republican speaker-in-waiting, Representative Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana, was forced to withdraw because of marital infidelities. Republicans scrambled to find an acceptable consensus pick, and J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois was plucked from out of almost nowhere to become speaker of the House.

Blindsided by the McCarthy withdrawal, Republicans were assessing their options Thursday even as Mr. Boehner sought to calm nerves by declaring that he would stay in the job until a replacement was found. But in 1998, House Republicans had a strongman in their majority whip, Tom DeLay of Texas, to rally the rank and file behind his choice. No such figure exists today…

Read more



Monday Evening Open Thread: Never Forget



Ya can’t take yer eyes off these bastids, not for a minute!



Turn The Machines Back On

The Kroog looks at the state of global markets after Friday’s bad day (and the impending bad day today) and notes there’s something of a global commodities glut.

What’s causing this global glut? Probably a mix of factors. Population growth is slowing worldwide, and for all the hype about the latest technology, it doesn’t seem to be creating either surging productivity or a lot of demand for business investment. The ideology of austerity, which has led to unprecedented weakness in government spending, has added to the problem. And low inflation around the world, which means low interest rates even when economies are booming, has reduced the room to cut rates when economies slump.

Whatever the precise mix of causes, what’s important now is that policy makers take seriously the possibility, I’d say probability, that excess savings and persistent global weakness is the new normal.

My sense is that there’s a deep-seated unwillingness, even among sophisticated officials, to accept this reality. Partly this is about special interests: Wall Street doesn’t want to hear that an unstable world requires strong financial regulation, and politicians who want to kill the welfare state don’t want to hear that government spending and debt aren’t problems in the current environment.

Once again, with interest rates at rock bottom, Republicans refuse to invest in government spending so they can privatize and profitize as much infrastructure as possible (which is the real problem), and they’re shocked that years of Austerity Bombing hasn’t created utopia yet (ask Kansas how that’s going.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s solution is “I’m really rich and I want to go after hedge fund guys“, which makes about as much sense as the rest of his campaign, but I guess that’s the point.



Open Thread: GOP Monkeys Dance for MotU Dollars — in Public!

Never a meteor around when you need one… From that Politico story:

The gathering – which also will include former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, but notably not Sen. Rand Paul — is hosted by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the umbrella group in the Kochs’ increasingly influential network of political and public policy outfits. It represents a major opportunity for the candidates at a pivotal moment in the presidential primary…

Freedom Partners’ annual summer conference is set for August 1 through August 3, and is expected to draw 450 of the biggest financiers of the right for sessions about the fiscally conservative policies and politics that animate the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch and many of the donors in their network. Most have the capability to write seven- or even eight-figure checks to the super PACs fueling the GOP presidential primary, and a significant proportion have yet to settle on a 2016 choice, or are considering supporting multiple candidates. That includes Charles and David Koch, as well as Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and hedge fund billionaires Paul Singer, both of whom will be represented at the conference by advisers, and a number of other attendees of past conferences whose 2016 leanings are being closely watched…

In addition to meetings with donors on the conference sidelines, the candidates will appear separately on-stage in individual question-and-answer sessions moderated by POLITICO’s Mike Allen.

The sessions are the second installment this year of Freedom Partners’ Policy Leader Forum series. Like the first forum – which took place in January and featured Sens. Cruz of Texas, Paul of Kentucky and Rubio of Florida – next month’s session will be streamed online to media outlets. And, in another dramatic step towards transparency for a network that has had a reputation for secrecy, Freedom Partners plans to invite some reporters into next month’s gathering to cover the forum and other sessions…

We no longer care what you grubby peons think about us auditioning new sockpuppets for “your” Presidency. What, after all, can you do to stop us?

Notice that, for all the “serious permanent GOP establishment” money he’s raked in already, JEB!’s not too proud to hustle out there and try to persuade David and Charles to stuff a few more millions down his g-string…

… By all accounts, the Koch brothers are still considering providing financial support to Paul, as well as the four rivals attending the seminar. There’s a possibility that the brothers might donate to more than one of those candidates, Charles Koch suggested in April.

But, while the Koch operation intends to spend nearly $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 election, it’s considered increasingly unlikely that it will formally align behind a GOP presidential contender in the primary, owing partly to the divided loyalties of its member donors.

“The Kochs are really careful not to impose their preferences on the seminar, except when it comes to free markets,” said Levin. “So, when it comes to the specific presidential choices, our role is more about giving people exposure to the candidates. We know we can come together when there is a nominee.”…

Because it’s not important to the Kochs, or their robber baron peers, which candidate ends up with the “K” brand on his rump, just as long as the brand is clearly legible.