Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Everywhere

First Tomatoes From The Garden I am picking tomatoes and peppers once a day. I have tomatoes on the counter and in two refrigerators. On Sunday night I opted to vacuum seal and freeze a batch to see how they turned out. Canning is a longer process so I am hoping that this can be a quicker and tastier alternative. I hate to see good vegetables rot so I may end up vacuum sealing tomatoes and peppers every night this week.

Can We Start Talking About Gutting The Affordable Care Act?

Until the Progressives are willing to perform a seppuku on the Affordable Care Act, health care reform will be stuck on stupid. I hate to be brutally honest but there is not much left to gut when you look at all of parts of the Affordable Care Act that have been delayed. Since the Democrats wrote the bill by themselves, they own the Affordable Care Act problems and gutting the bill is preferable over a long prolonged death.  When the smarter half of the Democratic party drew that imaginary line in the sand, they were of the opinion that health care reform cannot not succeed unless we get a majority of the states to set up health exchanges. For both political and governing reasons this form of co-operative federalism depends on states being willing  participants. Without a majority of the states participating via state exchanges the backup plan of a federal exchange would transform the law  into a plain old federal power grab built on the shifting sands of administrative law rulings. This smarter half probably viewed the federal exchange scenario as a recipe for political and governmental disaster and extremely hazardous to their re-election. Unfortunately they were proven right. The healthcare.gov roll-out was a grim reminder that our federal bureaucrats are not as competent as we thought and if you want to create a really big problem, the first step is to make it a federal program. The problem we are faced with now is that we are ignoring our past mistakes. Ms. Greenhouse in her article, “By Any Means Necessary”, seems to think that we can safely ignore the legal problems and the lack of political consensus. In a way she is advocating the idea that laws do not matter if it impedes the society’s greater goal, health care reform. This is what I call the “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while” management style or otherwise known as management by accident. This is the evil twin of the more successful management style employed by businesses called management by objective. The management by accident approach is based on the hope that if we have enough people stumbling around trying to fix things they think might be wrong then we will eventually fix all of the Affordable Care problems regardless of how badly the law was written or administered. All we need is money, people, and lots of patience with government failures. This might be an acceptable solution in the federal bureaucratic universe but it reminds me why the  healthcare.gov roll-out was such a miserable failure and why my insurance premium continues to go up despite promises otherwise. It should be amusing to see who gets the blame if the number of uninsured returns to historical norms this Fall. This is the Progressive’s proudest Affordable Care Act achievement.  Will we be reminded once again that the Affordable Care Act was a health reform in name only? If this is the Progressive idea of health care reform then would someone  “wake me when it’s over.”

Clueless Politics In Texas

The news channels were bubbling this weekend with the riots in Ferguson and the indictment of Governor Perry on two counts of abuse of power. These are sad and avoidable issues that left me confused. My morbid curiosity finally got the best of me after I watched the video video of Ms. Lehmberg’s arrest for drunken driving. Even though I lived in Texas for twenty years her behavior was appalling even by Texas standards so I was curious why she was still in office.  The best source for information about Ms. Lehmberg’s arrest was the Austin Chronicle article from last year titled, “What Happens Next?” I suspect everyone thought this would be the time when leaders in both parties quietly agree to show her the door and quietly clean up the mess. A temporary district attorney would be in charge until an election could be held in November of 2014. That doesn’t sound too bad but that did not happen. The best explanations for the Perry indictment is that the public integrity agency is the only tool left for Democrats to attack their political rivals if they cannot win in the ballot box.  Despite losing the appeal in the Tom Delay case and the continued allegations that this agency is overtly partisan, I guess it is not surprising that her office chose to double down on the issue and decided to indict Governor Perry for abuse of power when he threatened to veto her funds.  The image of a district attorney conducting public integrity investigations from a prison cell has to look bad to independent voters. With the Democratic party struggling at the polls, this effort makes them look both foolish, desperate, and vindictive. In this case Ms. Lehmberg and the public integrity commission were better off when people thought they were a bunch of fools. Now they have removed all doubt.

Update: I read that some of the people on the grand jury have come out to discuss why they chose to indict Governor Perry. I do not know if discussing grand jury deliberations with the press is illegal but it is ill advised with so many of the cool headed Democratic and Republican political operatives saying the legal foundations for the indictment are very “sketchy”. The jurors’  willingness to talk to the press makes a strong case that the district attorney and the jurors are too personally invested in this decision for the average person to believe that this was the result of a careful evaluation of the evidence. If a Republican governor cannot get a fair grand jury in Travis county solely because he is a Republican then it is time to move the responsibility for public affairs investigations to a different location with less partisanship. Sorry Austin you blew it! It is time for a change and you have no one to blame but yourselves. You abused it so now it is time that you lose it!

Congratulations To The Ohio Medicaid Expansion

I saw an article about the Metrohealth experiment several weeks ago but when I went back to find the link I could not find it. Here are some of the highlights in the article, “In Ohio: Medicaid Saves Money, Improves Health”.

MetroHealth, used extensive electronic records to carefully select patients and sent them Medicaid insurance cards before they even applied. Then, they gave each patient personalized attention.

They assigned each patient a nurse. That nurse booked their appointments, called them if they missed one and checked to make sure they took their meds.

Emergency department visits dropped 60 percent. AND primary care visits went up 50 percent.

The hospital ended up spending less on the program than expected, saving an average of $150 on each patient every month.

“Better care, better outcomes, better costs,” Cebul says.

Once again I am reminded that successful health care reforms like this have goals that are defined, measurable, and achievable.  A little less focus on politics goes a long way to making health care reform work better. This is a classic example of management by objectives. Congratulations go out to Mr. Corbett and Dr. Cebul for a job well done!

The Creation Of The Affordable Care Act

In the Beginning was The Plan
And then came the Assumptions
And the Assumptions were without form
And the Plan was completely without substance
And the darkness was upon the face of the Congressional Staff Workers
And the Staff Workers spoke amongst themselves,
"It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh."

And the Staff Workers went unto their Supervisors and sayeth,
"It is a pail of dung and none may abide the odor thereof."

And the Supervisors went unto their Senators and Representatives
and sayeth unto them,
"It is a container of excrement and it is very strong, such that none may abide by it."

And the Senators and Representatives went unto the Speaker of the House
and Senate Majority Leader and sayeth,
"It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength."

And the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader spoke among themselves,
saying one to another,
"It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong."

And the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader went unto the Vice President
and sayeth unto them,
"It promotes growth and is very powerful."

And the Vice President went unto the President and sayeth unto him,
"This new Plan will actively promote the growth and Efficiency of this Country,
and in this Area in particular."

And the President looked upon The Plan,
And saw that it was good,
and The Affordable Care Act became Policy.

And this is how Shit Happens.

The Federal Health Insurance Exchange Is A Lousy Tool To Fix These Health Care Problems

I was reading John Graham’s post, What is To Be Done with Health Insurance Exchanges, Post-Obamacare?, and could not resist saying the federal health insurance exchange is a lousy tool to fix these health care problems. Here are my reasons.

1. The cost of health care for people with high cost, pre-existing conditions is being spread across a fairly small group of people buying their health insurance via the exchanges. If health care for people with pre-existing conditions is society’s responsibility than the cost should be spread over a much larger group of people. Until we solve the problem with paying for pre-existing condition health care in a more equitable manner, health insurance exchanges will be plagued with high risk premiums and are likely to fail.

2. Health exchanges in general are a lousy way to subsidize health insurance for people earning less than 400% FPL if you want to control health care costs. This is the same problem faced by expanding Medicaid. The Oregon Medicaid experiment leads us to speculate that this group of people will consume more health care services without an improvement in health care outcomes. A health insurance credit is probably a step in the right direction of simplifying the subsidy system while providing subsidies and cost control incentives.

3. With the market distortions from pre-existing conditions and subsidies and overall incompetence in the roll-out, it is hard to imagine health insurance exchanges as an adequate substitute for the fair, unbiased health insurance market place we expected in 2013. As a person who has purchased health insurance from eHealthinsurance.com in the past, I have to assign blame for the overall incompetence of healthcare.gov to politics. The ACA made purchasing health insurance unnecessarily complicated. When you combine the public’s unfavorable view of the federal health exchange with its history of being a political football, this would be a good time to look at a replacement that involves less federal government and political partisanship. The original ACA plan relied on state exchanges and we should go back there in a modified form. My personal favorite idea is to simplify the enrollment process and replace the federal exchange with state exchanges run in cooperation with insurance companies and insurance marketers. eHealthinsurance.com and other companies like them already had the infrastructure in place. You can call this the Halbig solution with adults in the room. If we cannot get rid of the amateurs in the federal government we should at least minimize their damage.

Does Socialism Work? A Classroom Experiment

Here is a old joke Dan Mitchell posted in 2011. I thought it was worth keeping and repeating.


An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
It could not be any simpler than that.

There are five morals to this story:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Virginia Tech is the 3rd best college campus in the US

I have to brag a little about one of my alma maters, Virginia Tech. Business Insider says it is the 3rd best college campus in the US. A couple of years ago I took my gave my son a guided tour of Virginia Tech. We were going to my niece’s wedding in Charlottesville so a stop at Virginia Tech was along the way. At this time he was planning on going to West Point but he had been accepted at Virginia Tech, too.  I thought this was just a fun diversion. We arrived on  a Friday so it was a school day. It has been many years since I found myself wandering through campus on a school day. My son got a first hand glimpse at what college students and college life look like. It was fun. I reminisced about classes I took in the various buildings. My son wanted to visit the ROTC office so we wandered in that direction. When I was at Virginia Tech participation in the Corp was at an all time low. The Vietnam war had just ended and not many young people wanted a military life. I did not know a single person in the Corp so I only knew in a general sense where the ROTC buildings were located.  I got us in the vicinity before we finally resorted to looking at a map. Several students noticed our confusion and stopped to offer help. One of them knew where it was located and provided directions to the Military building. Although we had not planned on talking to the Commandant the secretary offered to check and see if he was available. He was available. He was a cheerful, helpful guy who answered my son’s questions. He was an older embodiment of the friendly students who gave us directions to the building. I was impressed with everyone’s friendliness. Evidently my son was impressed, too. The next day he announced that he was going to Virginia Tech.

Virginiatech-burrusshall-fromdrillfield

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Blacksburg, Virginia

Virginia Tech’s campus has the exclusive use of Hokie Stone, a combination of different colored limestone, which adorn most of its buildings and other campus features, including a memorial to the 2007 massacre at the school.

Blacksburg, Virginia, where the campus is located, is the largest town in Virginia and boasts close relations with the university. V.T. also took home the top spot in campus food.

Things That Make Me Go Hmm… Are Health Exchanges Medicaid For The Middle Class?

I have been thinking about this HHS quote I saw on a Zane Benefits blog post today. It got me to thinking. Are health exchanges sustainable if only 13% are paying the full price for health insurance? If health exchanges are not sustainable without government subsidies then they begin to look like Medicaid for the middle class. Does this mean that we are gradually turning our health care system into one modeled after Medicaid? I want the old health care system! It was not only cheaper but it provided me with better health care options than this new, improved one.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), 87 percent who purchased health plans through Healthcare.gov in 2014 qualified for premium tax credits, with the tax credit covering 76 percent of the premium cost.

Takeout-style Kung Pao

p5rn7vb

I saw this recipe on SeriousEats and thought it would be a good match for us. I had all of the ingredients in the kitchen except for the Chinese wine and peanuts so I used sherry and cashews instead. The meal has some nice bursts of flavor in it. It is a good leftover meal, too. Here is the recipe list if you are too lazy to go over to Serious Eats.

Ingredients

  • For the Chicken:
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch chunks (see note above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine (see note above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  •  
  • For the Stir-Fry:
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil, divided
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 scallion, white and light green parts only, finely minced
  • 8 small dried red Chinese or Arbol chilies (see note above)

Takeout-style kung pao chicken