Boehner’s Obamacare Woes

John BoehnerAs you may recall, yesterday, I wrote about John Boehner’s experience signing up for Obamacare, GOP Silence on Good Obamacare News. My focus was on the fact that when bad news comes out about Obamacare (Or just news that seems like it is bad news), the conservative press is all over it. But when that news is shown to be incorrect, nothing is said. In that case, as soon as Boehner indicated that he wasn’t able to sign up for Obamacare, the right wing chamber started to echo. But when less than an hour later we was able to do it, the right wingers just dropped the subject.

There was also the issue that it seemed like Boehner had received a decent deal on the exchange, so I talked about the fact that he didn’t mention it. But then, his office announced through Politico that he was actually paying twice as much as he was before. I smelled a rat. In an update, I noted:

First, that sounds like it comes direct from Boehner’s office and not an actual journalist. Second, given that the Boehners get their insurance through their employers, wasn’t the actual cost they were paying higher than their own contributions? That is: what about the employer’s contribution? Third, by opting out of employer insurance, are they throwing themselves into a high risk pool—namely the “old and smoking” pool?

Well, my answer came today from some fine reporting by Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times, The Dirty Secrets Behind Boehner’s “Spiking” Obamacare Premiums. I’m still not certain how Boehner’s current plan works, but the main reason he has to pay more is because he is moving from an employer plan that doesn’t take his age into account to a private plan that does.

Think about it: this is how insurance works. We constantly hear conservatives complain about how young healthy people shouldn’t have to subsidize healthcare for the old and unhealthy. But that’s how employer provided insurance works. As Hiltzik shows, if Boehner were 50 instead of 64, he would be paying less through Obamacare. What’s more, if Boehner worked anywhere but in Congress, nothing would change:

Boehner has only his congressional colleagues to blame for his having to use the insurance exchange at all—the Senate GOP mandated that members of Congress and their staffs, uniquely among federal employees, move their insurance to the exchanges. And now they’re complaining about the complexity and cost? That’s gall.

The takeaway from all of this is that Boehner may be doing worse by moving to private insurance through Obamacare. But he is not typical of people who work for Congress. And he is nothing at all like people who don’t work for Congress. This is all very typical: scratch an Obamacare horror story and you find nothing there but a fairly well designed system that is providing people with good health insurance at a reasonable cost.

Update (26 November 2013 2:54 pm)

Brian Beutler provides the full rundown of this at Slate, John Boehner: Obamacare’s New Best Friend. Basically, it is just what I said: Boehner was getting highly socialized healthcare through his employer plan and now he is getting less socialized healthcare in the individual market. But if Boehner were currently in the individual market, he would see that his premiums have gone way down.

The thing that Beutler makes particularly clear is who is paying for what. His old plan cost him $433 per month, but his employer threw in $426 per month. That means his old plan was $859. His new plan costs $875, but his employer is still going to pay the $426, so he will have to pay $449—$16 more than he currently does. It is true that he is getting less, as discussed above. But it most certainly is not the case that he is paying double.

Dog Violence Is Completely Unacceptable

Dog Attack Victim - See TextAs regular readers know, I admire Great White sharks. I admire grizzly bears. And I admire the larger molosser dogs such as the American Pit Bull Terrier. But I don’t think any of them should be kept as pets. These dogs have been bred for fighting. They’re good at it. And when they go bad and attack (and even kill) humans, we shouldn’t be surprised.

It doesn’t help that men who are trying to compensate for their own feelings of inferiority are attracted to these dogs. And according to the ASPCA, “His intimidating appearance has made him attractive to people looking for a macho status symbol, and this popularity has encouraged unscrupulous breeders to produce puppies without maintaining the pit bull’s typical good nature with people.” So we start with a breed that has a violent nature, appealing to macho assholes, causing breeders to make even less domesticated dogs.

I don’t know how we got to this point. We should never have accepted any kind of pet that was not entirely submissive to humans. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have character, but serious injury should not be on the list of “common accidents.” The ASPCA article is largely an apologia for pit bulls. But even it notes, “[T]hey tend to bite harder in play than other breeds.” And, “They’re easily excited and, when in an agitated state, they may have little control over their behavior…” Just great!

The website Dogs Bite produces lists of fatalities from dogs each year. Their list from 2013 includes 29 victims thus far. Almost all of them are pit bulls or other larger molosser breads. And I know: this is a small number of deaths compared to other causes. But these are completely preventable deaths that occur primarily so that some people can keep the most badass dog breed around that is responsible for the vast majority of dog on human death.

I bring this up because yesterday in St. George, Utah, a child’s face was half ripped off by a pit bull. He almost certainly would have died except that his 6-year-old friend pulled the dog off him until help arrived. The story is pitched from the perspective of the heroic 6-year-old. And indeed, he is a hero. But the bigger question is why his dog was being kept as a pet.

This isn’t about pit bulls. Whenever a dog attacks someone, there are always people who want to forgive the dog and justify what happened. I don’t care. I don’t think the dogs are evil; they are just doing what their genetics and environment dictate. But violent dogs should never be pets. And breeds that are known to be violent should not be acceptable pets. See that picture above. That is Nephi Selu, another 6-year-old boy who was killed by the family’s pit bull mix (also in photo). The dog was a male and had not been neutered. The owner was a police officer. According to the family, the boy and dog were best of friends. Until they weren’t.

It’s not acceptable to have dogs bread to fight as pets. It’s like having our children play in mine fields. We try to clean up mine fields; we should try to clean up our pets’ gene pool. Pets add so much to our lives, they should never be allowed to be a mixed blessing.

Jessica Sanford and the Power of Math

Jessica SanfordDanny Westneat wrote a most amazing article over at The Seattle Times, Debunking Obamacare Sob Story. It is about Jessica Sanford, a single mother who has gone 15 years without health insurance. She was able to get it for just $169 per month and the administration used her as an example of an Obamacare success story. And then things went wrong.

The state made a mistake calculating her income and the insurance was going to cost more. But really, not that much more. It was going to cost her $237 for a “bronze” plan for herself and $30 for full coverage for her son. That’s a total of $267, or $98 more per month. That’s a shame, but for a woman making almost $50,000 per year, it doesn’t seem unreasonable. Regardless, Sanford now says she can’t afford insurance.

Of course, this caused the right wing press to go absolutely crazy. Rush Limbaugh published, Another Lie: The Story of Jessica Sanford. And you can well imagine the rest. But here’s the thing: the numbers don’t back up the story that Sanford is being harmed.

Sanford’s son suffers from ADHD and she spends $250 per month on medication for him. That medication should be covered by his $30 policy. So Jessica Sanford should have to pay only:

$237 + $30 – $250 = $17

It could be that the new plan will not pay all of the cost of the medication, but even if it pays 50%, her insurance will be only $142. Or it could be that she is exaggerating about what she now pays for medication. Or it could be that the only way she thinks she can afford insurance is if the government pays her $81 per month ($169 – $250).

But I think the most likely case is that she just hasn’t thought about the savings that the insurance will provide. The whole thing is very frustrating because we hear about these terrible injustices in Obamacare. They are widely reported. And when everything is factored in, people end up with at least reasonable deals. But that isn’t reported. And for an old scientist like me, I don’t appreciate the whole anecdote game anyway. But if we are going to talk anecdotes, we should at least be sure they are true.

Lope de Vega

Lope de VegaOn this day in 1896, the great composer Virgil Thomson was born. I like his work, but it is bizarre in Thomson’s own way. There is, of course, Four Saints in Three Acts with its libretto by Gertrude Stein (And is it ever Gertrude Stein!) with music that is completely fitting. But here is his score to The River, a documentary about the Mississippi. It uses many American standards in what are often very humorous ways:

The great jazz saxophonist and composer Paul Desmond was born in 1924. Here is a reworking of his tune “Take Five” from his album Skylark from the end of his career. The song is called “Take Ten”:

The great R&B singer Percy Sledge is 72 today. He is best known for his mega-hit “When a Man Loves a Woman.” He is actually a lot more than that, but it’s still by far my favorite of his work. So:

Other birthdays: physicist Julius von Mayer (1814); horrible businessman Andrew Carnegie (1835); mathematician Ernst Schroder (1841); hell road paver Carrie Nation (1846); children’s author P D Eastman (1909); baseball player Joe DiMaggio (1914); one of the great villains of the 20th century, Augusto Pinochet (1915); film director Norman Tokar (1919); the stupidest “smart” guy ever Ben Stein (69); and actor John Larroquette (66).

The day, however, belongs to perhaps the greatest playwright of all time, Lope de Vega, who was born on this day in 1562. During his lifetime, he wrote at least 500 plays. He was a writing machine. I can’t help but find Shakespeare wanting in comparison to him, just based upon the fact that Shakespeare stopped writing at the end of his life. Writing seems to have been nothing more than a means to wealth and a coat of arms. Lope was driven. What’s more, Lope was subversive. Whereas Shakespeare never wrote anything that challenged the power elite (quite the opposite actually), Lope did so repeatedly. I wrote about this in, The 500 Plays of Lope We Have Not Read. A great example is from the play Fuente Ovejuna, which I also wrote about:

The synopsis of Fuente Ovejuna is really quite simple. The lord of the town is misbehaving by raping many of the young girl. Finally, the town men rise up and kill the lord. Given that the plot is so simple, the play can deal with the characters, and more important, their interactions.

No character is more important or well written than Laurencia. I know of no female character in all of Shakespeare who can compare with her. There are reasons for this, of course. Vega had actual women actors playing his female characters whereas Shakespeare had boys. As Gary Taylor has noted, this tended to limit the females in his plays to pretty young things and old hags. The only Shakespearean character that strikes me at all like Laurencia is Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. But even Beatrice is at heart a sad sop. Laurencia is captured by the lord, but manages to escape before being raped but after being beaten. She finds the men of the town and yells at them for allowing all that has happened. She shames them into action.

Happy birthday Lope de Vega!