Recent Posts

health care

Endorsing Richard Painter for US Senate

by Invenium Viam on August 9, 2018 · 5 comments

Painter familyBut she was…
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night
Blinded by the light…

Mannfred Mann’s Earth Band, 1976; lyrics by Bruce Springsteen


Let me be clear at the outset – given nearly any other scenario that I can imagine, I would be supporting and endorsing Tina Smith for the US Senate.


Instead, I’m endorsing Richard Painter. (Insert cries of derision and outrage here).


The reason is simple: Richard Painter is a better candidate and will make a better US Senator for the people of Minnesota.


And Richard Painter, unlike Tina Smith, wants Donald Trump impeached and imprisoned. That’s a BIG plus for me, even if Painter didn’t support many of the progressive policies I believe in. But he does. He comes at them from more of a wonkish angle than I would take, but he gets there in the end all the same. For example, he supports single-payer because it makes the most economic sense. For me, health care is a human right and we can pay for it by eliminating corporate welfare.


I’ve said before, here on MNPP, that if two candidates of different gender stack up roughly equally, I’ll preferentially support and vote for the woman. That’s because, as a member of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, I believe in Democratic principles of political representation. With only 23 members of the US Senate currently women, we need to double that figure to achieve something close to gender equality. So I’d much prefer not to replace Smith with Painter, if it were avoidable.


But this US Senate race is another situation where the party leadership has jammed their preferred candidate down our collective throats and expects us, as always, to fall in line. Had it been former Speaker of the House and Champion of All Things Righteous the Honorable Rep. Paul Thissen, I might have been able to handle their uninvited intimacy with good grace. But they picked another Bogan top-sider and I, for one, am Reggae Tired of t’all, mon. I’ve said many times that all the party leadership really wants from its activists is money, time and shoe-leather (our candidates excepted). When it comes to influencing the appointment of candidates that we’d like to see in office, the attitude among the party leadership is: Stay in your lane and let the grown-ups make the important decisions. We got this.


That’s exactly what they did with Tina Smith: a vacuous tool of the party bosses, an uninspiring wallflower of a political candidate, and no-show when it comes to many of the issues that the DFL rank-and-file care most about including environmental protections, opposition to nickel-sulfide mining in the Boundary Waters, single-payer healthcare, economic relief for the middle-class, and so on.


It’s nothing new. That’s exactly what they did when they fronted Skip Humphrey for Governor in 1998. Humphrey, a feckless gadabout in the Minnesota Senate who was never heard from again, was shaping up to lose the election against former DFL’er and St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, now (then) running as a Republican. That is, until a former Navy Seal, former bouncer at Moby Dick’s, former WWF pro wrestler, former Mongols M.C. biker, former action film actor, and former Mayor of Brooklyn Park, threw his hat into ring. Minnesota voters loved it.


That’s politics. The stakes are so high that everybody’s trying to queer the game in their favor. It’s not that I really blame them for doing it. I blame them for getting it wrong. As a friend once told me, “It ain’t illegal until you get caught.”


Well, the DFL over-seers done got caught. Nobody really knows Smith. She looks like the shy girl who came with a friend that everybody ignores at the after-game party. Her campaign is lifeless. Her campaign team is clueless. Plato Boulevard is on auto-pilot. And the political cross-currents created by #45 among progressives of all stripes across Minnesota are threatening to swamp her boat.


Tellingly, the word on the street is that internal polls show Painter running neck-and-neck against Smith. Oh, you’ll hear plenty of denials, but a big reason for all the sulfur and brimstone coming from DFL-HQ against Painter speaks volumes: The numbers ain’t lookin’ too pretty. If Painter were 20 points back, Ken Martin would be extolling the virtues of an inclusive, Big Tent Party. But it looks like Smith could lose. With less than a week to go, panic is starting to set in.


Add to all that the likelihood of a massive turn-out of primary voters on August 14 due to a high energy, high interest gubernatorial contest – not to mention a high energy, high interest congressional contest in the 5th CD – and you have the makings of a … a … my god, dare I say it … a popular referendum on the current leadership of DFL party. It won’t be the party rank-and-file who decide this primary election. It’ll be any voter who decides to vote the Democrat side of the ballot. A lot of them will be unhappy millennials, current Berniecrats and new voters. In light of the progressive contingency that detonated the DFL State Convention last June, dude, that can’t be good.


One week from today, it will all be over but the weeping and the shouting. If things turn out the way I suspect they’re going to, a lot of resumes will hit the job boards on August 15.
Comment below fold.


Obama-facepalmOne of the things that mainstream media tends to overlook in the current debate over the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) is that it employs the very market solutions that business-centric Republicans love to tout as the panacea for all that ails, but either don’t really seem to understand, or only apply topically when needed — like zinc ointment for a skin rash.
One reason the media keep missing it is because the White House Office of Communications (WHOC) repeatedly fails to point it out.
We need to remember that Obamacare is not socialized medicine, or anything remotely like it, no matter what those reality-challenged moonblind sub-normals in sloth cloth say on the buzzbox.
The foundation of Obamacare is state-based insurance exchanges. The idea is not to socialize medicine, but to socialize risk across a broader population base and thereby to reduce costs for everybody. In fact, that’s all insurance companies of any stripe do — socialize risk by spreading loss across a large subscriber base. The ACA state-based insurance exchanges just make it more efficient.
Here’s where market principles apply: as health insurance companies compete for customers within a huge pool of potential customers, over time there will be winners and losers, as there are in any competitive marketplace. Those who survive and prosper will be those who figure out ways to: 1) Provide better services at lower cost; 2) Create more efficiencies in providing those services; 3) Find innovative ways to create those efficiencies; 4) Increase productivity while decreasing overhead.
What’s for a free market capitalist and Austrian School Tool not to like? Maybe the regulations?

{ 1 comment }

Obamacare doing what it’s supposed to, con’t

by Joe Bodell on September 5, 2013 · 22 comments

Chicken-Little01No surprises here…

The main takeaway from an exhaustive new study of premiums on the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces: They’re generally going to be lower than expected, undercutting the persistent claims of “rate shock” by conservatives.

Marketplaces premiums are coming in below initial estimates, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation in a new report released Thursday.

If Kaiser’s estimates bear out, it could be a big blow to one of the main conservative talking points against the Affordable Care Act: rate shock. Everybody from House Republicans to think tank types like the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy and the Heritage Foundation have been warning that consumers would see skyrocketing prices under the law.

“Higher health care premiums are the last thing single young adults and working families can afford,” the House Energy & Commerce Committee wrote in a March 2013 report purporting to demonstrate rate shock under the ACA. “Yet contrary to what the president promised, that is exactly what Obamacare is projected to do.”


The CBO had previously estimated that Obamacare would increase premiums slightly overall. So while the Kaiser study avoids direct comparisons with current prices, its finding that premiums are coming in below the CBO’s projections calls the “rate shock” claims into question.

Having been stiff-armed when the law was passed and subsequently validated by both the Supreme Court and the voters in last year’s presidential election, where else do those opposed to ensuring health coverage for as many Americans as possible turn? The pursestrings! Public opinion! Obfuscation!

Except that the ACA is doing exactly what it was designed to do: ensure access to affordable health insurance for virtually every American who currently does not have it, forcing down the shared cost of health care, and pushing our society toward better overall health as a result.

Most of us are cheering. The rest will come along eventually.


Obamacare is working, Part 836,305,380

by Joe Bodell on July 30, 2013 · 1 comment

Chicken-Little01Wonder of wonders! Obamacare is doing exactly what President Obama said it would do. Again.


Maryland insurance officials approved final rates Friday for health plans to be sold in the state’s new online marketplace that are among the lowest in the country. The plans, which are for individuals, will be sold beginning Oct. 1.


The Maryland Insurance Administration approved premiums at levels as much as 33 percent below what had been requested by insurance carriers. For a 21-year-old non-smoker, for example, options start as low as $93 a month. Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith reduced the premium rates proposed by every insurance carrier in the individual market, including some by more than 50 percent, according to an analysis by Maryland officials who will be operating the marketplace.


The rates offered by nine carriers are among the lowest of the 12 states that have proposed or approved rates for comparison to date, and among the lowest in the D.C. area.


“We are pleased that Maryland is among the lowest in the country,” said the state’s health secretary, Joshua Sharfstein. He said the rates were an important step for the launch of the online marketplace, the Maryland Health Connection.


According to the analysis, a 25-year-old buying the cheapest “bronze” plan — with the lowest premium but higher out-of-pocket costs — would pay $119 to $129 a month in Maryland,compared with $151 in Washington and $134 in Virginia. A 50-year-old could buy a “silver” plan and pay $260 to $269 a month in Maryland, compared with $319 in New York and $329 in Virginia.


I do believe a pig just flew by my window.


Meanwhile, while Republicans in Congress try to shut down the federal government to “defund” it, conservative lobbyists are trying to make it “cool” to skip it. Of course, as has been said before, the Affordable Care Act really was a Grand Bargain: liberals got near-universal health insurance programs, in exchange for doing it in a mostly market-driven, economic-conservative way. So the GOP and its corporate-backed attack dogs could just review what Saint Newt Gingrich was saying back in the 90s about personal responsibility and encourage American citizens, young and old, to take some.


But that would require shutting their collectively obtuse, insanely political, politically insane pie holes. So let’s not hold our breath.

{ 1 comment }

Health insurers have no plans to stop gouging

by Dan Burns on March 28, 2013 · 1 comment

babyHopefully the White House is a couple of steps ahead of them, on this.

Some of the nation’s largest health insurance companies are warning investors that they’ll raise insurance premiums by as much as 116 percent next year, as the coverage expansion provisions in the Affordable Care Act go into effect and millions of uninsured Americans begin purchasing coverage.

The threats of premium increases come as the industry is experiencing record profits and are part of a well-coordinated publicity campaign to alarm Americans about the cost of coverage, while downplaying mechanisms in the law that will cushion them from rate shock. The effort comes as insurers seek more favorable regulatory changes that would, in part, allow companies to charge older people more for coverage.

(Think Progress)


{ 1 comment }

Minnesota health exchange signed into law

by Dan Burns on March 21, 2013 · 1 comment

rotundaMinnesota’s health care exchange, MNSURE, was signed into law yesterday. Many questions remain, and MPR notes a few.


– Who will Dayton appoint to the powerful board overseeing the marketplace?
– Will insurers balk and refuse to offer plans for sale on MNSURE?
– How many uninsured people will refuse to buy insurance and pay the federal fine instead?
– Will MNSURE’s massive IT system work when the flip is switched on next October?

But (Wednesday’s) bill signing eliminates one question: Minnesota has now joined at least 17 other states in choosing to have its own exchange, rather than accepting one built and run by the federal government.

My biggest questions have to do with the extent to which the system will in fact be subject to greedhead manipulation by profits-first insurers and their bought-and-paid-for elected officials. I think that there’s a strong chance that that will be a big problem, and will create a lot of blowback against the Affordable Care Act in general, until if and when it can be fixed.
Most people reading this are undoubtedly well aware that the exchanges are in fact booby prizes, likely inadequate replacements for the proposed public option that had huge support among the populace, and would function much better as a transitional step to the government-run single payer system that reasonable people know that we need to be aiming at, because that’s what works.
I’ll be among the first to suck it up and admit that I was wrong, if these exchanges do in fact function well and as intended.

{ 1 comment }

More Hell or Health Care?

by Barbarara on February 16, 2013 · 0 comments

If you talk about the fiscal cliff that we just went over in December and January, most people roll their eyes back in their head, their tongues hang out, and they start to drool.  Few people know there were at least two big give-aways to health insurance companies, who are no dummies.

Insurance companies do not like competition.  They have been buying up the smaller companies like crazy. Does United Health come to mind? Insurers in Minnesota made sure that there isn’t any competition here either.  Minnesota is one of the states that had a health care co-op plan, but it was axed along with 39 others as you’ll read about here.

Wendell Potter, author of an expose about health insurance companies, now works for The Center for Public Integrity. On February 4, 2013 he wrote OPINION: favors for special interests-Insurers and drug companies and their armies of lobbyists get what they pay for on Capitol Hill… (Retrieved February 15, 2013)

1.  “In an effort to create more competition, consumer-friendly lawmakers inserted a provision in ObamaCare to make federal dollars available through loans to groups hoping to set up nonprofit co-op health plans in every state.

Insurers tried without success to get that provision stripped out of the final bill, and they have been working relentlessly since the bill was passed to get regulations written in such a way to make life more difficult for the co-ops.

Despite their efforts, 24 groups survived the application process and were awarded the start-up loans. Up to 40 other groups were in the process of applying when the friends of the industry got language slipped into the fiscal cliff bill to eliminate all future loans. This means that people in more than half the country will not be able to enroll in a nonprofit co-op come Jan. 1.” (My italics)

2.  “. . . one big drug company-Amgen-was able to get language quietly inserted in the fiscal cliff bill that will cost the Medicare program millions of dollars.”

Are you getting the picture that Minnesota HMOs are beginning to look like Sacred Prairie Cows?


Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester) held a hearing about her bill that would require health insurance companies to cover autism spectrum disorders. Treating kids with autism gets expensive quickly so it’s no surprise that insurance companies don’t want to cover this condition.

While important, this is not a particularly exciting discussion. Pretty wonky, actually.

But then Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) decided to liven things up by putting her foot in her mouth. She brings up the unrelated and discredited conspiracy theory of how vaccines cause autism:

Transcript from Bluestem Prairie:

Near the end of the hearing, Franson says:
Representative Norton, thank you for bringing this bill forward. As a mother of three children, I am very thankful than none of my children have had to experience autism, or my family hasn’t had to go through that experience.

But also, I’m one of those parents that no longer vaccines either because of the fear that I have had talking to other parents that have experienced their child becoming –experiencing autism after what they found, what they believed correlated with the vaccinations.

But I’m just curious: you know we can talk about insuring and that’s great, that’s hope for the families that are experiencing autism now, but what I’m really interested is ending autism and so that autism is a thing of the past.

And with my own research online, mercury is one of those things, it’s a poison, it’s a neurological poison here that affects developing babies in the womb, it affects small children. . . California, Oregon and Minnesota are the three states  that have the highest incidences of autism. Could you or do you know of any information that you may be able to share with us on what your beliefs are or theories are from the task force on what is being done to hopefully end this?

At this point, Tina Liebling steps as chair:

Representative Franson, this is really off-topic. The bill is not about the origins of autism, so I thinkI’m just going to go on to the next person. I think there will be other opportunities to have this kind of discussion, but today in not the day. And as I said, we’re going to reconvene at four in the basement. We can talk about the bill for as long as members want, into the night.

Isn’t it awesome how Franson’s kids are endangering everyone else’s kids?


The Minnesota legislature is considering building a health insurance exchange. States have been instructed (via provisions in Obamacare) to build their own or you’ll get the federal version of it.

MinnesotaCare currently provides health insurance to those who cannot afford it. It has some problems. Why start building something new on top of something broken?

We have an excellent opportunity to build something that truly benefits the people of MN.

Here are a few items to consider as we build this exchange:

  1. Smart Purchasing – The state of Minnesota must be given the power to negotiate for a better deal for MN consumers, leveling the playing field in terms of cost, quality and access by creating large negotiating pools for consumers where none exist now.  By pooling buying power, the state can negotiate better value (cost + quality) for individuals and small businesses alike.
  2. The new Exchange must have strong conflict-of-interest standards making sure those that profit off of (rationing) health care do not determine what coverage plans and prices offered to Minnesotans on the Exchange.
  3. Build a new nation-leading health care system that will put the health care people need over the profits of corporate insurers.  Health care itself will become the new bottom line, not numbers on a balance sheet.
  4. One in five Minnesotans will use this exchange. That’s a lot of people.
  5. By 2016, 300,000 Minnesotans will gain health insurance coverage through the new Exchange.


This Bachmann proposal for health care reform will kill you.

During the debate yesterday MPR moderator Kerri Miller asked Bachmann and opponent Jim Graves for their specific proposals for stabilizing Medicare and containing health care costs borne by the taxpayers.

Bachmann gave a specific proposal: why don’t we cure the diseases? (No s**t, that’s what she suggested.)

Why hasn’t anybody else in the national health care debate proposed that as a cost-saving solution before?

Bachmann said great strides were being made in research and possible cures for Alzheimer’s (which is true, that’s in the headlines.) But I was amazed by the originality of her thinking. I wondered why she hadn’t proposed “curing all the diseases” as a practical solution to rising health care costs during her presidential bid. It might have made the difference.

Moderator Kerri Miller was not happy with Bachmann’s answer. She said that the things Bachmann was now talking about were not specific solutions to funding Medicare.

Bachmann began to talk about free markets, and she said that she disagreed with Miller that cures are not an answer.

Miller pointed out that no one disputes that cures are an answer to disease, but–

Bachmann said she had an example. Back in the day a lot of money was budgeted for treatment of polio, but Jonas Salk cured it, and the costs designated for treating polio were cut.

See how Bachmann’s plan on Medicare and Obamcare  would work? Simply cure these g***amn diseases–then we don’t have to worry about rising health care costs next year.

Sometimes I think Lewis Carroll is writing her brain. I think her proposal is newsworthy. But in all the pro media accounts I’ve read reporting on this debate so far: no mention of Bachmann’s proposal that the problem of Medicare funding and rising medical costs could be addressed by “curing the diseases.” Her proposal deserves wider attention. The medical community should be alerted and put to work on this, right away.
Graves, on the other hand proposed a practical cost-cutting measure: let’s open up the bidding procedure for pharmaceuticals purchased via Medicare Part D.

Bachmann objected, (ironically) claiming to backing free market principles. Moderator Miller pointed out that Congress has voted not to allow bidding for prescription drugs.

Graves asked Bachmann for a straight yes or no on the idea. Bachmann said that bidding represented price fixing.

Someone asked Bachmann: “Doesn’t it benefit big pharm to have no bidding?”

Michele didn’t want to “go there,” either. She believes: health care cost are the problem–“cures” are the cure.

LINK: You’ll find Bachmann proposing this remarkable solution to the health care problem at about 39:28 in the time code at the audio recording below. She starts out talking about how the government can address the problem cheaply by discouraging obesity and smoking, and then goes into the “I think we should look at cures” thing.

MPR audio recording of the debate: