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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.


Wage & Price Controls – That’s the Ticket!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A union representing health care workers on Monday filed five ballot measures with the Secretary of State’s office targeting hospital pricing, executive salary and transparency.

Local 49 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed the measures for the November 2014 ballot after years of trying to make progress in the Legislature…

The ballot measures cover separate topics:

Executive compensation caps limiting hospital chief executive salary to 15 times the salary of the lowest­-paid employee…

Price limits for larger hospitals…

The Oregonian, October 22, 2013

Lane Solutions Responds and Your Comments

We don’t often tip our hats to the SEIU, but today we just can’t resist it.

Because it takes special gall, guts, chutzpah or whatever you call it to ask Oregonians to vote for a measure whose backer has absolutely no intention of applying to himself.

The SEIU wants hospital CEO salary limited to 15 times the salary of, say, a dishwasher or janitor working there. Sounds good – right? It’s just so “fair.”

So, what does the SEIU pay its CEO? Former chief Andy Stern pulled down a cool $306,388 all in. Poor Mary Kay Henry, his replacement, is forced to live on only $256,065. Do you suppose that the lowest paid janitor or window washer whose dues fuel these salaries make one fifteenth of these amounts? That would be $20,426 of Handy Andy’s loot and $17,071 of Poor Mary Kay’s.

And did you notice that Poor Mary Kay’s salary is $50,000 less than Andy’s? Maybe she needs a union to fight for “equal pay for equal work?”

And did we mention that the SEIU, that tireless champion of equal pay, has nine union headquarters sub-bosses banking more than $200,000 per year?

Then there’s the measure to put price controls on “larger” hospitals. Larger than what? MASH units? Yeah – price controls are turning Cuba and Venezuela into economic power houses. Remember gas lines?


Of College Tuition and Cheeseburgers

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

College tuition increases for this academic year were small by recent standards. But students and families are nonetheless paying significantly more on average because federal financial aid, including grants and tax credits, failed to keep pace.

–       The Oregonian, October 22, 2013

Lane Solutions Responds and Your Comments

There’s an “Iron Rule of Economics” that you probably know but that politicians either don’t know or don’t care about (after all, it’s not their money they’re spending), Here it is: subsidize the cost of anything and demand for it and the price of it will go up. Every time – just like water running downhill and government sticking both hands in your pocket.

Here’s a simple example. A cheeseburger at McDonald’s costs $1.00. If someone stood outside  every McDonald’s holding a sign saying “I’ll give you $.50 if you buy a cheeseburger” what would happen?

The line of cheeseburger buyers would lengthen and McDonald’s would raise the price to $1.30.

Each year the Feds pour $30 Billion and 16 tax breaks into helping parents pay tuition. And sure enough – tuition goes up. So do binge drinking and drug use on campus, partially caused by kids lining up for four plus years of financial aid and fun.

What goes down? Not adult illiteracy. And certainly not tuition.

Here’s another iron rule: When politicians create a program that doesn’t work they don’t cancel it. Heck no – they double down. So their answer to rising tuition is always more subsidies, which cause tuition to rise, which calls for more subsidies…


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!


Editorial: Driver cards about road safety

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oregonians are about to embark on a difficult yearlong debate on public safety: Would Oregon roads be safer if undocumented immigrants had driver’s licenses and vehicle insurance?…

It is no secret that many undocumented immigrants in Oregon overstayed their visas, or crossed into the country illegally, in search of a better life for their families and themselves. They are driving — to work, to medical appointments, to church and to other activities.

Instead of ignoring that reality, it is good government policy to have them drive legally — with knowledge of Oregon and U.S. driving laws and customs, which differ from those in some countries, and with liability insurance in case of accidents…

The Salem Statesman-Journal

October 20, 2013

Lane Solutions responds & your comments

Drivers’ cards for illegals may or may not be a great idea – that debate’s for another day. Our objection is to the Statesman-Journal’s argument.

A couple hundred years ago poet Samuel Coleridge coined the term “willing suspension of disbelief.” This is why you get tense when the bad guy’s going to ambush Agent 007 in a movie or laugh when Larry pops Moe in the noggin with a pipe wrench. You know that neither is real but you get a kick out of them anyway.

Coleridge would have loved the Statesman-Journal, which asks us to buy their line that people who a) are in the country illegally and b) stole a Social Security number if they got a job are c) going to immerse themselves in our driving laws and d) shell out a pile of money for liability insurance.

If the paper wants to argue for or against driver’s cards for illegals – fine. All we ask is that they don’t treat their readers like idiots who don’t know a moronic argument when they see one.


State should make investment in Malheur County

Monday, October 28, 2013

As the hard work of rezoning land in Malheur County to industrial use continues, another, perhaps larger, challenge looms on the horizon. City and county officials are going to have to figure out a way to get sewer, water, electricity and roads out to these properties to serve potentially large-scale industrial developments.

In a visit to the Argus Observer editorial board last week, state Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ore., suggested that preliminary estimates for the cost of these infrastructure improvements in Malheur County are in the neighborhood of $50 million.

The big question in the coming months and years will be how to — and who should — pay that tab.

–        The Ontario Argus Observer

–        October 20, 2013

Lane Solutions  Responds & your comments

We’re not taking sides on who should pay for Malheur County’s infrastructure improvements.

Our beef is with the Observer’s use of the word “investment.” We believe “investment” implies some sort of ownership and reasonable expectation of a return of more money than you invested. And we think there’s a big difference between “investing” and “spending,” which implies giving up money for any other reason.

Calling what we all know is spending “investing” makes the act of relinquishing money to the government sound palatable. This is a pet tactic of liberal (darn – we did it again. But you know we meant “Progressive”) politicians who tell us they’re confiscating our money to “invest” in children, education and so on. Ever hear them say they want to “invest” in a new jet fighter? We didn’t think so.

So let’s call government outlays of our money what they are – “spending.” As for investing, if you want to do that we suggest that you send your money to our son in law the stock broker. He’ll do what you want with it,  send it back to you if you tell him to, and won’t send you to jail if you don’t send him more next year.


The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act: Protecting Your Family

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

By Kevin Mannix

Just imagine you’re at home relaxing in the living room with your spouse and kids, when an intruder attempts to break down your door. What would you do?

  • Submit, give in to the intruder’s effort to break in and not protect your family
  • Protect yourself and your family  

Clearly, the choice would be to protect yourself and your family, but this can have legal implications, especially under the civil law.

Under these circumstances, there are two parts of Oregon law to be concerned about:

The big issue is possible civil liability.

An attorney for the criminal intruder may seek damages from you on various legal theories including the argument that you should have retreated, with your family, in your own home. There was a case in another state where a burglar shot and wounded a homeowner; the homeowner returned fire and wounded the burglar, who escaped. The burglar was later found, and tried and convicted of burglary and assault. Yet, the burglar then filed a civil suit against the homeowner for injuries suffered by the burglar when the homeowner fought back and shot the burglar.

Realistically, you would probably win a civil case brought against you by a criminal intruder but only after much time, trouble and expense.

Secondly, it is possible you could be prosecuted; the reality is most prosecutors will not bring charges in these types of cases because the juries will not look kindly at criminal intruders, but the possibility is still there.

Common Sense For Oregon is working to clean the air about your rights through a citizen initiative, The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act. Common Sense For Oregon is currently collecting petition signatures (we need 130,000 before July 1st) to get this major citizen initiative on Oregon’s November 2014 Ballot. To date, 35 states have adopted a “Castle Doctrine.” Now let’s make Oregon the 36th state!

The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act would allow homeowners to defend themselves and their loved ones, without having to later defend themselves in court.

If you would like to know more about supporting The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act you can visit the Common Sense For Oregon website , call 503-480-0523, or email

If you want to be able to defend yourself and your loved ones against a criminal trying to break-in, without having to worry about being sued, support The Oregon Castle Doctrine Act.


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.