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Why Progressives Are Batsh*t Crazy to Oppose the Senate Bill

Op-ed by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com

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Pick your sub-headline:

a) It’s time to stop being polite and start getting real.
b) Here’s hoping a picture is worth 1,000 words.



Any questions?

OK, I imagine that there will be a few. Here’s how I came up with these numbers.

Senate Bill. These estimates are straightforward — they’re taken directly from the CBO’s report on premiums for people at different income levels. A family of four earning an income of $54,000 would pay $4,000 in premiums, and could expect to incur another $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs. The $4,000 premium represents a substantial discount, because the government is covering 72 percent of the premium — meaning that the gross cost of the premium is $14,286, some $10,286 of which the government pays.

One caution: this reflects the situation before the public option was removed from the bill. But, provided that the subsidy schedule isn’t changed as well, that shouldn’t change these numbers much.

Status Quo. In 2009, the average premium for a family in the individual market was $6,328, according to the insurance lobbying group AHIP. However, this figure paints an optimistic picture for two reasons. Firstly, the average family size in the AHIP dataset is 3.03 people; for a family of four, that number would scale upward to $7,925, by my calculations. Secondly, the CBO’s estimates are based on 2016 figures, not 2009, so to make an apples-to-apples comparison, we have to account for inflation. According to Kaiser, the average cost of health coverage has increased by about 8.7 percent annually over the past decade, and by 8.8 percent for family coverage. Let’s scale that down slightly, assuming 7.5 annual inflation in premiums from 2009 through 2016 inclusive. That would bring the cost of the family’s premium up by a nominal 66 percent, to $13,149. And remember: these are based on estimates of premiums provided by the insurance lobby. I have no particular reason to think that they’re biased, but if they are, it’s probably on the low side.

Not only, however, would this family paying a lot more under the status quo, but they’d be doing so for inferior insurance. According to the CBO, the amount of coverage in the individual market would improve by between 27 and 30 percent under the Senate’s bill. Taking the midpoint of those numbers (28.5 percent), we can infer that there would be about $1,427 in additional cost sharing to this family in the status quo as compared with the Senate bill; this would bring their cost sharing to $6,427 total.

Add the $6,247 to the $13,149 and you get an annual cost of $19,576 — for a family earning $54,000! Obviously, very few such families are going to be able to afford that unless they have a lot of money in the bank. So, some of these families will go without insurance, or they’ll by really crappy insurance, or they’ll pay the premiums but skimp on out-of-pocket costs, which will negatively impact their fiscal and physical health. But if this family were to want to obtain equivalent coverage to that which would be available to them for $9,000 in the Senate bill, it would cost them between $19,000 and $20,000, according to my estimates.

Status Quo with SCHIP. Fortunately, some families in this predicament do receive some relief via the SCHIP program. SCHIP eligibility varies from state to state; a family earning income at 225 percent of the poverty line, as this family does, is eligible for SCHIP in about half of the country.

Premiums are fairly cheap under SCHIP — for a family at 225 percent of poverty, generally on the order of about $60 per month to cover two children. We’ll assume that this will inflate slightly to $75 per month, or $900 per year, by 2016.

The two adults in the household will still have to buy insurance in the individual market, which will cost $7,684 by 2016. That makes the family’s total premium $8,584.

For the adults, we assume that the cost sharing component runs proportional to premiums, and totals $3,756. For the children, this calculation is a little bit more ambiguous. Out-of-pocket costs under SCHIP are capped at 5 percent of family income, which would be $2,700 for this family. But that’s a cap and not an average — we’ll assume that the average is half of the cap, or $1,350. Total cost-sharing, therefore, is $5,106 between the adults and the children.

This means that premiums plus out of pocket costs will equal $13,690 for this family. I estimate the subsidy by subtracting this figure from the cost of unsubsidized insurance in the individual market; the difference is $5,885.

Caveat/Disclaimer. There are, obviously, some simplifying assumptions here, especially with regard to SCHIP. The only thing I can promise you is that I’m “showing my work“. I would actively encourage people to pick apart these numbers and come up with their own, more robust estimates. One thing that should probably be accounted for is that the families in both the status quo and the status quo + SCHIP cases will frequently be able to deduct their health care expenses from their taxable income, especially if they’ve incurred substantial out-of-pocket costs. That means that the difference in net costs is slightly exaggerated by my figures.

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The closing…

Nate SilverI understand that most of the liberal skepticism over the Senate bill is well intentioned. But it has become way, way off the mark. Where do you think the $800 billion goes? It goes to low-income families just like these. Where do you think it comes from? We won’t know for sure until the Senate and House produce their conference bill, but it comes substantially from corporations and high-income earners, plus some efficiency gains.

Because this is primarily a political analysis blog, I think people tend to assume that I’m lost in the political forest and not seeing the policy trees. In fact, the opposite is true. For any “progressive” who is concerned about the inequality of wealth, income and opportunity in America, this bill would be an absolutely monumental achievement. The more compelling critique, rather, is that the bill would fail to significantly “bend the cost curve“. I don’t dismiss that criticism at all, and certainly the insertion of a public option would have helped at the margins. But fundamentally, that is a critique that would traditionally be associated with the conservative side of the debate, as it ultimately goes to mounting deficits in the wake of expanded government entitlements.

And please do pick apart my numbers: I’m sure that you will find some questionable assumptions and possibly some outright errors. But if you found a persuasive, progressive policy rationale against the bill, I’d be stunned.~~Nate Silver

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Filed under (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid, Government, Health, Health Care Reform, Media and Entertainment, Medicine, Nate Silver, Obama Administration, Politics, Pres. Barack Obama, Public Option, Senate, Uncategorized, United States

Colbert Skateboards With Congress (VIDEO)

Pez Museum, Gay Marriage and more…It’s highlarious

Vodpod videos no longer available.


courtesy:

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Vice-President Biden Unveils Report Focused on Expanding Green Jobs And Energy Savings For Middle Class Families

Posted by Buellboy

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WhiteHouse.gov—Vice President Biden today unveiled Recovery Through Retrofit, a report that builds on the foundation laid in the Recovery Act to expand green job opportunities and boost energy savings by making homes more energy efficient. Joining the Vice President today were Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy; Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor; Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; and Karen Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

At a Middle Class Task Force meeting earlier this year, the Vice President asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to develop a proposal for Federal action to lay the groundwork for a self-sustaining home energy efficiency retrofit industry. In response, CEQ facilitated a broad interagency process with the Office of the Vice President, eleven Departments and Agencies and six White House Offices to develop recommendations for how to use existing authority and funding to accomplish this goal. These recommendations are described in detail in the Recovery Through Retrofit Report.

Recovery Through Retrofit is a blueprint that will create good green jobs – jobs that can’t be outsourced, and jobs that will be the cornerstones of a 21st-Century economy,” said Vice President Biden. “And, thanks to the Recovery Act’s unprecedented investments in energy efficiency, we are making it easier for American families to retrofit their homes – helping them save money while reducing carbon emissions and creating a healthier environment for our families.”

Vice-President Joe Biden

Vice-President Joe Biden

This report builds on the foundation laid in the Recovery Act to expand green job and business opportunities for the middle class while ensuring that the energy efficiency market will thrive for years to come,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “An aggressive program to retrofit American homes and businesses will create more work, more savings, and better health for middle class Americans.”

Existing techniques and technologies in energy efficiency retrofitting can reduce energy use by up to 40 percent per home and lower total associated greenhouse gas emissions by up to 160 million metric tons annually. Retrofitting existing homes also has the potential to cut home energy bills by $21 billion annually. Yet, despite the real energy cost savings and environmental benefits associated with improving home energy efficiency, a series of barriers have prevented a self-sustaining retrofit market from forming. These barriers include a lack of access to information, financing and skilled workers.

The recommendations and actions in this Report have been carefully designed to help overcome these barriers and to leverage Recovery Act funding to help ensure that the energy efficiency market will thrive long after the Recovery Act money is fully spent.

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Texas Governor Perry May Have Put a Lid on Arson Report

Posted by Libby Shaw

Republican Governor Rick Perry

Republican Governor Rick Perry

According to the Houston Chronicle Perry received an arson report from an expert in 2004 but he won’t reveal if he read it before Todd Willingham was executed.

In a letter sent Feb. 14, three days before Willingham was scheduled to die, Perry had been asked to postpone the execution. The condemned man’s attorney argued that the newly obtained expert evidence showed Willingham had not set the house fire that killed his daughters, 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron, two days before Christmas in 1991.

On Feb. 17, the day of the execution, Perry’s office got the five-page faxed report at 4:52 p.m., according to documents the Houston Chronicle obtained in response to a public records request.

But it’s unclear from the records whether he read it that day. Perry’s office has declined to release any of his or his staff’s comments or analysis of the reprieve request.

A statement from Perry spokesman Chris Cutrone, sent to the Chronicle late Friday, said that “given the brevity of (the) report and the general counsel’s familiarity with all the other facts in the case, there was ample time for the general counsel to read and analyze the report and to brief the governor on its content.”

A few minutes after 5 p.m., defense lawyer Walter M. Reaves Jr. said he received word that the governor would not intervene. At 6:20 p.m. Willingham was executed after declaring: “I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit.”

Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in Texas

Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in Texas

In the past, as recently as during George W. Bush’s term, gubernatorial reviews were made public. Rick Perry, however, does not believe any of his or his staff reviews should be.

A Forensic Science Commission was about to disclose a report that seriously questions the arson evidence in the Willingham case. But Perry had immediately fired three of the Commission’s members, including the Chairman. The meeting at which the report would have been revealed was canceled.

His 2004 execution gained renewed prominence this year after the newly formed Texas Forensic Science Commission, created by the Legislature to explore and fix forensic flaws, released a report that criticized the arson evidence. Two days before the panel was to review that report, Perry abruptly replaced three members, including the chairman, and the meeting was canceled. The governor also attacked the report, according to other media reports.

The report reveals that the investigators in Willingham’s case made serious errors and had relied on junk science.

The five-page opinion faxed to Perry’s office on Willingham’s execution day in 2004 was the first. It said investigators made “major errors” and relied on discredited techniques akin to an “old wives tale.”

It was authored by Dr. Gerald Hurst, an Austin-based arson expert who holds a doctorate in chemistry from Cambridge University.

By 2004, Hurst already had received national media coverage for helping to obtain a string of high-profile exonerations by debunking arson evidence in other criminal cases. Hurst said in an interview that his previous analysis of flaws in another Texas arson-murder case had helped prompt the Board of Pardons and Paroles in 1998 to free a woman convicted of setting a fire that killed her infant son. She had served six years of a 99-year sentence.

By his actions one can only assume that Governor Rick Perry is attempting to cover up his negligence. Otherwise, he would admit if he did nor or did not read the report. For a man with 20 executions on his watch, one would think Governor Perry should, at the very least, want to know if the state has executed an innocent man. A person’s life is far, far more important than an election outcome.

Please call Rick Perry’s office and demand that he release all reports at 512 463 1782. Please also check Scott Cobb’s post over at the The Burnt Orange Report and Daily Kos. He provides links to a petition and the site to send an email to Perry.

Texas must immediately declare a moratorium on all executions until a complete and thorough review of all procedures on all levels is done by an outside, non-partisan board of experts. One innocent death is one too many.

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Filed under Crime, Death Penalty, Elections, Law, Partisan Politics, Politics, Republicans, True Crime, Uncategorized, Violence