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Rollout or Fallout? Cover Oregon Failure Would Bring Down Many

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By HCI Mid-Valley Staff

Cover Oregon is our state’s implementation of the Federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare.  Oregon’s proactive development and huge investment in rolling out the ACA in our own way along with other new health care policies has often resulted in our state being heralded as a national leader in health care reform.

Certainly no politician in Oregon has aligned and attached themselves more closely to all of this than Governor John Kitzhaber.  Dr. Kitzhaber has been working hard to be just that…the Doctor Governor.  Numerous other politicians have put their names next to “health care reform” as well—need we even mention President Obama?

But with Cover Oregon now trailing the rest of the nation in ACA enrollments and with difficulties plaguing the national system, will there be significant fallout in next year’s elections and who will be the target of the blame?

Let’s start with 8 facts about the state of the ACA Rollout:

1)      When we say Oregon is trailing the rest of the nation in health care signups through its new insurance exchange, what we really mean is that no one has signed up yet.  Cover Oregon has yet to enroll any Oregonians and is likely only accepting paper applications for the rest of 2013, making its website useless for signing people up for coverage that will be starting on January 1st.

2)      Oregon has spent over $300 million thus far on its health care exchange.  As of October, over $20 million had been spent specifically on advertising the exchange.

3)      Some 145,000 Oregonians who currently have individual health plans will lose those plans by the end of next year because they don’t comply with ACA requirements.  Originally, these plans had to expire by the end of this year.  Now, Oregon’s Insurance Commissioner has allowed insurers to extend health plans through next year, if they choose to.  The delay still leaves a lot of uncertainty in the system but makes up for the fact that there is no easy way to sign-up for compliant insurance plans on the exchange right now.  The only way to do that is with a paper application that will take weeks at least to process.  For those who try, they cannot easily know in advance what subsidies they are eligible for, which means they may end up paying more for the new policies that provide more coverage than they previously had.  And all of this is not to mention the promises numerous politicians made—from the President to members of Congress—that current health insurance plans would not change.

4)      The President announced last week that these existing health insurance plans can be extended through next year, followed by a similar decision here in Oregon.  However, it’s not clear whether health insurance companies can or will keep the plans available for consumers at the same price.

5)      There are countless anecdotal reports of people with existing plans that are not being canceled because they meet the ACA’s requirements but are going to become much more expensive starting next year.  We were not able to find conclusive data on the number of Americans in this situation though there are many individual cases that are examples.

6)      For those of the 145,000 Oregonians who will eventually lose their current insurance but do find new plans on the Cover Oregon exchange, many are discovering the plans cost more.  One reason is because there is now less flexibility in what kind of coverage level you can choose.  Many younger people are not quick to sign up on the exchanges for fear that their insurance will cost more in order to subsidize older and sicker people—one of the primary purposes of the ACA in the first place.  And of course, if younger, healthier people do not sign up on the exchanges the result may be the financial collapse of the entire system.

7)      Then there are some of those whose health care plans were cancelled but can afford a new plan on the exchange because of a provided subsidy.  Take a couple in Vancouver,Lindsey and Jesse McChesney.  Through Washington’s new “Healthplanfinder” (which seems to actually work, unlike Cover Oregon), the couple can find a new plan that is only $30 more per month due to a federal subsidy of $230 each month.  The problem is not the cost but rather the shift away from market-based prices on the supposed marketplace.  Here’s Lindsey’s take on it: “Before this law goes into effect, I was paying for my health care myself.  Now, I have to get help from the federal government to pay for it. So I’m just another person on welfare, basically.”  How big of a welfare state are we talking about?  “About 55 percent of the Oregonians who must buy insurance from Cover Oregon will be eligible for federal subsidies to help them pay their monthly premiums….”  About 17 million people nationwidecould qualify for federal subsidies.

8)      Lastly, the economic impact of the new system appears to be significant.  A survey of businesses that have 40-500 employees found that “Health care reform already is leading many businesses to cut workers’ hours, hire part-timers or stay below the employer mandate’s 50-employee threshold.”  Additionally, “more than 30 percent of franchise businesses have reduced workers’ hours because of the law, which counts anyone working more than 30 hours a week as a full-time employee. The survey found that 12 percent of non-franchise businesses have cut employees’ hours due to the law.”

The List:

Besides those needing insurance, who else does a failure of Cover Oregon hurt?

Now that we’ve looked at the facts about the Cover Oregon and ACA rollout, let’s look at who may be impacted now or on Election Day, 2014:

1)      Governor John Kitzhaber:  In a previous post about a possible matchup between Kitzhaber and Republican Representative Dennis Richardson in next year’s gubernatorial election, we wrote the following:

While Kitzhaber is popular amongst voters and does not seem to have lost his likability, his last year of governing has not been his best.  Representative Richardson’s challenge in this area is to introduce himself to voters and show how his style of leadership will serve them better than Kitzhaber’s.

A continued failure of Cover Oregon may be a significant blow to Dr. Kitzhaber’s reputation because of how much he has personally staked on health care reform.

2)      Members of the Oregon Legislature:  You can check out the voting records of legislators on Senate Bill 99 (2011), the implementation of Oregon’s Health Insurance Exchange Corporation.  Whether Cover Oregon will be a major election issue in legislative elections next year remains to be seen.  But many incumbents will not be able to run from this and other votes on their records.

3)      Members of Congress:  Politicians are now running from Obamacare as if it were on fire.  Or at least some members of Congress who are up for reelection next year are distancing themselves from the law and from the President.  Two recent examples are Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon’s 5th District who said that Obama was “grossly misleading to the American Public” about the health care law and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley—who is attracting a lot of Republican challengers after his first term—who surprised many by signing onto a bill modifying the ACA.

4)      Government in general:  Polling shows that “dissatisfaction with government” has beenthe most important problem facing the country, according to voters, for the last two months—a first since the question was first asked in the 1930s.  Furthermore, only 19% of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing most or all of the time.

5)      President Obama:  The President is not up for election again but he does face the challenge of pushing his agenda during the rest of his second term.  This only becomes more difficult as the health care debacle drags down his presidency.  The same polling mentioned above shows he is at the lowest approval rating of his presidency—39%.  He is beingespecially lampooned over his endlessly repeated campaign promise that Americans could keep their health care plans and doctors if they so desired.  This promise, of course, has since been broken.


Which Is the Monster? Tax limitations, or the taxes they limit

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A City Club of Portland research panel has concluded that property tax limitation Ballot Measures 5, 47, and 50 have created a “Frankentax” monster that is “slowly but surely wreaking havoc upon its creators and their communities in ways they might not yet realize.”…

So-called government revenue “losses” from property tax limitations are also “gains” to taxpayers who pay less than they otherwise would―in some cases enough less to keep from losing their homes…

– Steve Buckstein, Cascade Policy Institute, November 13, 2013

Lane Solutions Responds and Leave Your Comments

We give a loud, enthusiastic “Hooray” and a tip of the Lane Solutions hat to Mr. Buckstein.

Most people who talk about a “tax loss” to the government believe that the government has first call on every dollar you earn and that anything that they, in their magnanimity, allow you to keep is a “loss” to the ever demanding, ever growing blob called government. These people generally work for the government, or are slopping up at the federal or state trough and really believe that any money you keep is a loss to them.

On a deeper level they believe that the government is better at allocating resources than are private markets. If this were true, North Korea and Cuba would be economic powerhouses. Instead, they’re economic basket cases that regularly go hat in hand to America (North Korea) or the about to be basket case Venezuela (Cuba).

So we say “Right on,” Steve and the rest of Cascade Policy Institute! Keep getting the message out.


Golden Fleece – Issue #50

Monday, October 28, 2013

It’s Your Money And We Don’t Give a Flip

Rarely do we cross an Oregon border to find a Golden Fleece. Heaven  knows that Salem  turns out a new fleecing or two most weeks.

But for this 50th issue of Lane Solutions we award a Golden Fleece with a Rancid Bologna Sandwich to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services – which gives us neither health nor services human or non human.

Here’s why: They created an Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”) website and blew upwards of $634 Million of your dollars doing  it!

And did we mention that it was budgeted at $93 Million?

And did we mention that the site doesn’t work and will require rewriting up to 5 million lines of code?

And from what we hear, insurance through the Affordable Care Act is about as “affordable” as the website!


Legislative Special Session Report

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Salem – …The carefully balanced, bipartisan package, which Gov. John Kitzhaber and key lawmakers have been working on since late last year, centers on curbing public employee pension costs and some targeted tax increases. Also included in the deal to garner more Republican support are a tax cut for certain businesses…

The Register Guard,  October 3, 2013

Lane Solutions Responds and Leave Your Comments

 Gosh, Don’t You Wish You Were as Smart as These Guys?

“Targeted  tax increases” and cuts for  “certain businesses.”  Sounds good – Tax hikes for schools and  cuts to help some businesses.

But who‘s doing the “targeting” and which are the “certain” businesses?

This is where government always runs into trouble. Because when it comes to picking winners and losers it does a very bad  job.

“Targeting” is what got us Solyndra, Brightsource and Geothermal – who went belly up with more than $2.2 Billion of your tax dollars. These and other greenies burn through upwards of $5 Billion in “targeted” subsidies yearly. And that’s not counting 600,000 birds chopped up annually in windmills.

What do we get for these diced birds and billions of bucks? Excluding  hydropower, less than 1/10 of our energy.

Why “targeting” fails:

  • No group of people (even wizard politicians) can direct the economy, which is a result of billions of individual decisions each day.
  • It usually rewards friends or punishes enemies;
  • Politicians target with your money. So what if they lose it?

As for “certain businesses”: This usually means “In my district,” “Gave me money,” or our favorite – “My brother in law.”

So – Don’t worry if you’re not smart enough to target other people’s money or figure who should pay what  taxes. Neither are they!


The Rising Wage Tide

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oregon helps lead the way on raising minimum

California’s recent decision to rocket its minimum wage from $8 an hour to $10 an hour in 2016 makes Oregon’s scheduled 15-cent increase in 2014 look microscopic by comparison…

Since indexing took effect in 2004, the hourly minimum has steadily climbed by $2.05.

The scheduled 15-cent increase will add about $300 to a full-time worker’s compensation…

The raises that these lowest-paid workers receive result in increased consumer demand. Fast-food businesses that complain about minimum wage increases often fail to mention that their own businesses are among those that reap the greatest benefits.

In Oregon, minimum wage increases have been a welcome boost for the state’s economy…

The Register Guard, September 23, 2013

 Gosh, These Guys Are Really Smart!

Did you know that here in Eugene we have geniuses who know exactly what people should be paid and what employers should do with their money?

Thinking that paying workers more money results in more money injected into the economy rests on the premise that this money came out of nowhere and that if it hadn’t been plucked out of thin air by employers it wouldn’t have existed.

No – that money is taken from the pockets of owners or shareholders and given to employees.

What do these RG economic giants think would have been done with the money had employers kept it? Burned it?

Anyone with an ounce of economic smarts knows that the money might have been spent on opening a new restaurant (and hiring more people). Or on a new grill (and hiring cooks to grill more burgers). Maybe it would have gone to hiring another reporter.

Here’s the real killer – and it’s at the core of Liberalism (Sorry. We meant “Progressivism”). The  editors think they’re so smart that they can decide for everyone the most efficient allocation of financial resources.

Note to RG: Thinking that experts can plan and direct the economy is the mentality that brought Eastern Europe and Cuba to economic ruin.


Gun control wasn’t the only issue in recall election

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Sept. 10 recall of a pair of state senators who spearheaded passage of stricter gun regulations in Colorado earlier this year is being widely interpreted as a win for gun rights and a defeat for gun control. Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, declared the election a “plebiscite on guns,” adding, “Unless you are in New York City or downtown Chicago, the message is: You are going to pay a steep price for voting for gun control.”

Maybe. Or maybe not.

Viewing the Colorado recall as a proxy vote on national gun control legislation could be a stretch…

The Register Guard editorial, Sept. 21, 2013

Lane Solutions Replies and Leave Your Comments…


One thing you know: When they say it’s not about the money – It’s about the money. When they say it’s not about the sex, it’s sure as shootin’ about the sex. And when they say it’s not about gun control – well, you get the picture.

So – What was it about? Take your pick from the RG menu: Was it about: 1) Confusion due to the lack of mail-in ballots? 2) Legalizing pot? 3) 5th & 14th Amendment guarantees of due process? 4) Instate tuition for illegal immigrants?

Heck, maybe it was really about Pres. McKinley’s assassination, Hurricane Katrina, or life on Mars!

The RG also reported that noted gun control advocate New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $350,000 toward beating the recall and the NRA supported the recall to the tune of $361,000. Ever seen the NRA toss $361,000 after tuition or marijuana issues? We didn’t think so.

In the words of the The Register Guard, the recall was “…of a pair of state senators who spearheaded passage of stricter gun regulations in Colorado…” Could that possibly be what it was about?

So, what was the recall about? To paraphrase that great philosopher Groucho Marx, “Who ya gonna believe, readers – The Register Guard, or your lyin’ eyes?”


Want a Highrise Next to Your Home? No? How About a Pig Farm?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Do you think it is a good idea to give the Department of Housing and Urban Development unchecked power to put an apartment building in your neighborhood? HUD has proposed a new rule that could do just that.

In July, HUD published its long-awaited proposal on “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” in the Federal Register. It is a sweeping set of land-use regulations that has attracted little national attention. The agency wants the power to dismantle local zoning so communities have what it considers the right mix of economic, racial and ethnic diversity. A finding of discriminatory behavior, or allegations of discrimination, would no longer be necessary. HUD will supply “nationally uniform data” of what it thinks 1,200 communities should look like…

HUD and Westchester are battling over local zoning that arose from a 2009 settlement (signed by my predecessor) to build 750 affordable-housing units in 31 mostly white communities. Westchester is well ahead of schedule in meeting these obligations. Almost 400 units have financing and 124 are already occupied. But HUD isn’t satisfied because it wants to control local zoning and remake communities.

–       Robert F. Astorino, The Wall Street Journal

Lane Solutions Replies

So – HUD knows exactly what 1,200 communities should like. And Westchester County, NY, should look just like the other 1,199. And if it doesn’t, HUD, in its bureaucratic wisdom, will withhold $17 million that it had promised to the County to build new sidewalks, playgrounds, and other good stuff in poor communities.

What’s that you say? Westchester is already the fourth most diverse county in New York in terms of Blacks and Hispanics? HUD’s federal monitor found no evidence of exclusionary zoning based on race or ethnicity? HUD doesn’t know what its new rule will cost or if it will work? Why does it matter to Lane County what happens in New York?

It matters because if the Feds can “…dismantle local zoning rules” in Westchester they can do it (and more) in Eugene. Or Creswell.

It matters because if you take money from Washington it can tell you what to do with it. And it can take money from you.

It matters because the Feds think they’re smarter than you. This is rule #1 of Liberalism (oops, we meant “Progressivism”). So they can tell you who should be able to build what next to your house.

Oh, and did we mention that complying with HUD’s new rules will cost Westchester between $3 and $9 million? What could it cost in Eugene?


Golden Fleece Award – Issue #44

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

GoldenFleeceThis week Lane Solutions’ coveted Golden Fleece Award, presented to a government entity that wastes humongous amounts of your money, goes to Obamacare, which is blowing $20 Million to create and run TV ads educating Oregonians on the wonders of Cover Oregon, the online shopping mart for health insurance, money to pay for it and free pizza and ice cream (just kidding on that last).

To the sounds of mellow folk singers and strumming guitars Oregonians will be introduced to Obamacare, which commands  all Americans to buy health insurance by next January 1 or pay a fine.

Soon our dewey Salem based folkers will yield to the Portland hip-hop duo “Lifesaves,” who’ll tout the wonders of Cover Oregon to the younger set.

Yes, readers, it takes a cool $20 million to ”… create a positive vibe associating the (Cover Oregon) brand with Oregon’s cultural identity.” No doubt the crooners and hip-hoppers will be sporting Birkenstocks, crunching vegan granola, and flashing their Oregon Trail cards.


Wow! It’s Free Money! Really?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A new state program to prevent home foreclosures will launch Wednesday in Lane and 32 other Oregon counties. The Home Rescue Program will provide a year’s worth of mortgage payments, up to a total of $20,000, and up to $10,000 in back payments to bring mortgages current, according to Benjamin Pray, spokesman for Oregon Housing and Community Services, Oregon’s housing finance agency.

The program, which aims to provide assistance to about 2,500 homeowners across the state, will begin accepting applications online at noon Wednesday, Pray said. To qualify, applicants must be able to show that their income is at least 10 percent lower than it was in 2011 or 2012, and meet other eligibility requirements.

They do not have to be behind on their mortgage payments to qualify for the program, which is intended to give struggling home­owners some breathing space and allow them to stabilize their finances, he said. – The Eugene Register Guard

Lane Solutions Responds…

It sounds so good – help (to the tune of $20,000) for up to 2,500 Oregonians having trouble paying their mortgages. And it’s Free Money From the Government! What’s not to like?

Plenty. First, there’s the issue of “Moral Hazard.” Some call it “Perverse Incentives.” That means doing something that encourages people to engage in damaging behavior. In this case, taking on mortgages they can’t afford and not setting aside “rainy day” money. Rewarding people who do this simply encourages others to take the same risks.

Then there’s the issue of the “free money.” No, it’s not free – somebody has to pay it. And since the government’s overwhelming source of funds is taxes, that somebody, dear reader, is you.

If you’re like us you’re more than willing to help that neighbor who’s sick, whose house burned down or who fell off his roof. But you’re probably thinking what we’re thinking – “I didn’t buy a house I couldn’t afford or assume a mortgage I couldn’t pay and now I’m having money taken from me to give $20,000 to somebody who’s not even behind on his mortgage?”

Compassion is admirable. And each of us should show it. But we believe in showing it with our own money, not money taken from one person and given to another.

Just like there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s no such thing as free money – especially from the government.


Gov. Kitzhaber’s Guide to Cost Cutting

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

SALEM, Ore. — Gov. John Kitzhaber has signed a bill he hopes will curb the state’s prison population. Kitzhaber signed the measure during a ceremony in his office Thursday, flanked by district attorneys and sheriffs. Among other things, the measure reduces sentences for certain drug and property crimes and driving with a suspended license. It’s projected to keep the prison population flat for about five years. Kitzhaber sought to limit prison growth for a decade, but he made concessions to win support from the law-enforcement community.- Associated Press

Lane Solutions Responds…

Congrats to Guv Kitzhaber for finding the golden key to cutting costs. Want to save money on prisons? Presto – Cut the punishment for crimes. Maybe we can save money on the Oregon Highway Patrol by raising the speed limit to 95 MPH. Save hospital costs by treating all strokes and heart attacks as outpatient cases?

Here’s what we won’t do to save money on prisons: Ask why, of the 14 states with populations of 2 to 5 million, 10 spend less per inmate than Oregon and 9 of those are right-to-work states. 3 of the 4 that spend more are, like Oregon, forced-union states.

Nor will we ask why Oregon entry level correctional officials pocket 24% more annual take home pay than nearby states’ officials.

Heaven forbid that we ask why, in the Oregon Legislative Fiscal Office study of Oregon and 11 surrounding states, Oregon was the only state in the sample which paid the entire employee contributions to the retirement plan and health insurance premiums.

We conclude that it’s just easier to turn criminals loose on Oregonians than rein in unions.