Over at The Hill, they wrote about some new rules the Trump Administration hopes will drive down costs by increasing competition. I am leary of new healthcare regulations but I think these ideas may actually work. Here is what they said.
One regulation would require hospitals to provide a consumer-friendly online page where prices are listed for 300 common procedures like X-rays and lab tests. A second regulation would require insurers to provide an online tool where people could compare their out-of-pocket costs at different medical providers before receiving treatment.
Both of these regulations are slightly improved ideas for improving cost transparency. Recently I was looking at our Medicare plan to determine if our preferred doctors and hospitals were included in our network. Our preferred emergency care hospital and major hospitalization hospital were in our network so I was happy with our plan. So we know where we want to go. The next thing I looked at was planning our healthcare costs.
I like it when my doctor tells me upfront what a common procedure costs. I do not like it when doctors and hospitals surprise me with exorbitant out-of-pocket costs. This is a bipartisan issue so I help both sides will continue to work for our common good.
It is normal for me to shop for the best price. I do not have a problem shopping for the best price/value for any of the common procedures. As an example, I have been told by various friends that some common procedures such as an MRI may vary widely in price. In-network providers are great but if you have the cash on hand and you know the out-of-pocket costs then it may make sense for you to go out of the network for this service.
A regulation change the Trump Administration did not address is to allow people on Medicare to contribute to an HSA. People my age still have several more years before our first major hospitalization. It makes sense we should be allowed to continue to contribute to an HSA. The better we prepare for our future healthcare expenses, the better off we are. The lure of tax-exempt savings may just be the trick to better preparation.
A great quote from my Quora feed reminding us why old men are best suited to negotiate an uncomfortable peace.
There’s nothing further here for a warrior. We drive bargains. Old men’s work. Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.
I find it somewhat surprising to hear the pundits talk so glowingly about the US-Kurdish friendship. In the past, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran warned the United States about getting too close to the Kurds. As a result, the United States does not directly supply weapons to the Kurds. Both the United States and the Kurds understood that this friendship was never meant to be permanent. Turkey and Syria would determine when peace in Syria could occur.
In one rash moment, Beto accomplished what the NRA could never do, convince America that the true goal of gun control reform is disarming law-abiding citizens. I wanted to believe all of the people who said we are not coming for your guns. Thanks for clearing things up, Beto. America thanks you for your honesty.
In the 1990s when we were living in Texas, my wife was avid dressage rider. She decided she needed to train and compete in Florida for a couple of months if she was going to take her riding to the next level. A female friend upon learning of the plan became concerned that my wife was driving to Florida alone. In those times, it was perfectly normal for her friend to offer to lend a handgun and for my wife to accept. Friends did not ask friends for background checks. They know each much better than any government background check. I had more problems with her being in Florida for three months than her having a handgun for self-defense. I did not expect any problems on the trip but I was confident that my wife could handle a handgun appropriately if the need arose. My wife felt safer because she had a gun available. As expected, the handgun was not needed during the trip.
What surprises me about this discussion of universal background checks is the lack of common sense. Mr. Crenshaw argues for common-sense laws and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez argues for something that sounds weird to gun owners. Gun owners are not obligated to lend their guns. Most gun owners do not want anyone but especially the government to know how many guns they own. The scariest thought for a gun owner is that their gun will be used in a crime. So most gun owners are especially careful who they discuss guns with and who they lend guns to. You have to wonder what was she thinking when she said this.
The people you’re giving a gun to have likely abused their spouse or have a violent criminal record, & you may not know it.
In my wife’s case, I can say that she did not abuse her spouse or have a violent criminal record. I know it because I am her husband. Her friend knew it because she is her friend. The problem with common-sense gun control measures is that gun control advocates cannot utter two sentences without exposing their lack of common sense. Maybe we should wait for our gun control advocates to grow up before we write any new gun control laws.
The individual mandate is an example of why I believe the Affordable Care Act was a bunch of dumb ideas that were poorly implemented. The individual insurance market as envisioned by the ACA depended on a carrot and stick approach. The carrot was affordable health insurance for the unsubsidized healthy people to lure them into the market willingly. This is how insurance companies make the money to pay for their unprofitable customers. The stick was the individual mandate. The individual mandate was designed to be scary, not effective. It would never have an influence on healthy customers like affordable health insurance. In 2010 individual insurance rates were already too expensive so healthy people made their adjustments. Some stuck with their grandfathered plans. Some went to alternative insurance products. Others dropped their insurance because they were exempt from the mandate because health insurance premiums would exceed 8.15% of their adjusted gross income. Insurance companies lost their best customers but were largely protected by the Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridor provisions. There is no free lunch. Like all dumb ideas that are poorly implemented, the American government got stuck with the bill.
The only portion of the ACA that must continue to exist for the subsidized individual health insurance market to continue to exist is the Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridor provisions. If we want to continue to subsidize health insurance premiums for those people earning less than four times the federal poverty level then it will be born the general population rather than the unsubsidized healthy customers. For the unsubsidized healthy customers, this is sweet revenge. The individual mandate has always been a moot point.
Back in 2016, I wrote a post, The Health Exchange Transformation Is Almost Complete, in which I made the argument that the individual health exchange had a better chance of reverting back to a high-risk pool exchange than a market-based exchange. It all depended on the affordability of health insurance for unsubsidized healthy customers. If you do not keep your best customers, the government will be left holding the bag. When it comes to the individual mandate, the people who wrote the ACA were not that smart. The most important thing that matters to a customer who might get penalized is not the penalty but affordable unsubsidized health insurance. Affordable health care has always been the primary objective of the Affordable Care Act and the American people. Our politicians seem to have forgotten that aspect of the ACA. If the individual mandate has always been a moot point then severability has always been a moot point, too.
When you look at the timeline of the events leading up to the FISA warrant request on Carter Page, you see an embarrassed FBI that let down not only the United States but the presumed next president of the United States, Ms. Clinton. When Wikileaks posted the Podesta emails on the 7th of October, the FBI was embarrassed and the Clinton campaign was horrified. One of the major goals of the FBI in 2016 was to prevent Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The DNC hack earlier in the year was a grim reminder of what the Russians were capable of. Despite this warning, the FBI failed on the biggest stage, the Presidential election. A foreigner with ties to Russia claimed responsibility for the Podesta hack but this hack would not have been so important if it wasn’t for the idiots emailing embarrassing stuff to Mr. Podesta. Thanks, Comrade Donna! You are much better at embarrassing America than the Russians. Now the American people had another reason to not trust Ms. Clinton with the presidency.
Another major goal for the FBI was to discreetly monitor the Trump campaign for Russian collusion. As far as I can tell, the FBI spent several months and an untold amount of money trying to entrap Mr. Papadopoulos. Was it more embarrassing that the investigation did not find any Russian collusion or that Mr. Papadolous figured out that the FBI was trying to entrap him? This investigation was so ineffective it reminded me of Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame. Worst of all, Mr. Papadopoulos wrote a book that paints the investigation in unflattering terms. Obviously, the FBI did not learn anything since they moved on to Mr. Page.
Probably the most embarrassing problem for the FBI and the Clinton campaign was that the Clinton Email Server Scandal was going to rear its ugly head again. Around the 29th of September, the New York Police Department notified the FBI that they found several hundred thousand emails from the Clinton email server on Mr. Weiner’s laptop. The FBI sat on the information until early in October when the NYPD notified the FBI that they were going to arrest Mr. Weiner and release the information about the emails to the press. This forced FBI Director Comey to re-open the email server case just two weeks before the election. The Clinton campaign felt the FBI stabbed them in the back.
Considering the preceding events, it should not be surprising that the Department of Justice would ask for a FISA warrant on the 21st of October even though they knew that some of the information was incorrect. The Woods Procedures were created to prevent FISA abuses like this. The investigation of Mr. Papadolous yielded nothing but embarrassment. On the 26th of October, Admiral Rogers was due to appear before the FISA Court to explain why numerous unauthorized searches were committed from November 2015 through April 2016. Were these unauthorized searches used to spy on political opponents? If these searches were part of actual counter-intelligence work I do not think Admiral Rogers would be apologizing to the FISA judges in October. There was no time for the FBI and DOJ to get the facts right for this warrant. This warrant was about damage control before the presumed next President assumed office. Kathleen Kavalec ‘s notes show that the deadline for getting adverse information released about Mr. Trump was political. This also explains why someone at the DOJ/FBI leaked information about the wire-tap on Trump Tower to Louise Mensch. They owed the Clinton campaign some good news and they were not afraid to put their finger on the scale to help out the Clinton campaign.
I am amazed at the efforts the FBI put into entrapping Mr. Papadopoulos. Considering he had little if any Russian contacts and was a low-level foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, most normal people would think he was an unlikely person the Russians would choose to collude with. Obviously, the “Russian Collusion” investigators are not normal. When you look at the Papadopoulos timeline, the “Russian Collusion” investigators had Professor Mifsud meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos just three days after the Trump Team announcement. It is almost as if the “Russian Collusion” investigators were reading the Trump Team emails. When you look at the timeline in its entirety, it reminds you that the “Russian Collusion” investigators were looking for collusion in all of the wrong places. Sacre bleu, they failed to find any Russian collusion! This behavior is both sad and comical, kind of like Inspector Clouseau.
As a conservative-leaning libertarian, I think I can do a better job spending my money than the government can. Naturally, I was skeptical that the Trump Tax Cuts would actually result in a lower tax rate for us. Most tax cuts are in name only. Seeing a tax cut in 2018 would be particularly difficult. 2018 was a good income year for us. In addition to my salary, we had some capital gains and our side gig had its best year ever. This should be the year we jump into the next tax bracket. Yesterday I completed my tax return using TurboTax. Since I have been using TurboTax for five years, the Tax History Report shows that both the 2018 Effective Tax Rate and the Tax Bracket are lower than any time in the last four years! Wow, that was a pleasant surprise!
One of the unanswered questions is who told Mr. Halper to go after Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn? If in 2019 there is not enough evidence to indict anyone for Russian collusion, what evidence actually triggered this “matter”. According to an article by Sara Carter, Mr. Halper “received roughly $1 million in tax-payer funded money to write Defense Department foreign policy reports “. If Mr. Halper was actually being paid for intelligence gathering evidence of Russian collusion in the 2016 election, one would suppose that Mr. Halper would have the evidence that led him to suspect Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn of Russian collusion. After all, he was being asked to spy on American citizens for the American government. The Magna Carta and the United States Bill of Rights is part of our common history. Instead, Mr. Halper and Mr. Mifsud started out with various attempts to entrap Mr. Page, Mr. Papadapolous, and Mr. Flynn. It was as if evidence gathering did not matter. These men were guilty until proven innocent. That was a strange tactic if this “matter” was actually a counter-intelligence investigation sanctioned by the CIA or the FBI. The United States frowns on the CIA or the FBI spying on American citizens without due cause. It is the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution. Hey Mr. Clapper, does contracting the spying of an American citizen to a foreigner somehow make this legal?