A few thoughts for Thursday

I would be remiss if I did not express my sympathies to the victims of the terrorist bombing at the conclusion of Ariana Grande’s concert. Targeting civilians is bad enough, but targeting young adults and kids is vulgar in its cowardice and an insult to any deity the perpetrators say they worship.

As a needed antithesis, I applaud the many angels who helped the hurt, lost and confused after the attack. They revealed the best of humanity as a direct contrast to the worst shown by the terrorist. Peace be with those angels, survivors and the families of the victims and injured.

In other news of the week, I do want to give credit to the President for his visit to the Middle East to further relationships. And, he has been surprisingly well behaved, which is traceable to him sticking to script and not tweeting his thoughts. Yet, we do need to peel a few layers back and understand that he spoke to a group of autocratic Sunni leaders in Saudi Arabia about dealing with terrorism. It was an important step away from his negative Islamic rhetoric, but terrorists exist because of the corruption of autocratic leaders who cause disenfranchisement.

The other concern is to paint Shia led Iran as THE bad guy, when they just had an election while he was there and elected the moderate Incumbent Rouhani to continue as President. Iran has a median age of 35, so by trading with Iran and treading carefully, we can help break down barriers for the future.

Finally, just yesterday, a Republican candidate for Congress in Montana named Greg Gianforte apparently does not like tough questions. He has been arrested for assaulting Ben Jacobs, a reporter from The Guardian when Jacobs asked him about the CBO scoring of the repeal and replace AHCA bill that would knock 23 million people off insurance. In front of other reporters, Gianforte choked, shoved to the ground and began punching Jacobs.

Let me state the obvious. A leader does not beat up someone for asking questions you don’t like. I am positive entertainers like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will drum up their fans saying it is OK to beat up a liberal reporter. No, it is not. And, if a wannabe leader has to resort to force, it means you are worse than a name caller and certainly no leader irrespective of the outcome of the election.

Interesting thing is happening at energy company shareholder meetings

An interesting development occurred at annual shareholder meetings of two major companies in the energy business – PPL Corp, a utility serving Pennsylvania and other states and Occidental Petroleum Corp. A shareholder instigated vote took place at each firm and passed over the recommendations against it by their Boards of Directors. The proposal is for each company to share formally a report on what they intend to do about climate change.

Per the website “Financial Advisor” the following was reported earlier this month about the Occidental vote:

“The proposal received the backing of Occidental’s largest shareholder, $5.4 trillion asset manager BlackRock Inc. BlackRock, which owns a 7.8 percent stake in the oil explorer, said it took action due to the “lack of response” on the issue by the company and a lack of improvement in its climate-change related reporting following a similar proposal last year which received more than 40 percent support.”

The shareholder proposals are at the impetus of CalPERS, one of the largest pension trust funds in the world and a major investor in each company. Other state pension trust funds are supportive of CalPERS’ push. A similar vote was taken recently at Royal Dutch Shell and was defeated, with another vote scheduled at ExxonMobil. It should be noted that institutional investor groups are recommending against these proposals, but two have passed.

With a White House at odds with the rest of the world on climate change, we will need a groundswell of advocacy. Fortunately, we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy due to falling prices and rapidly increasing jobs. And, some of these same companies are advocating the US stay in the Paris Climate Change accord. Yet, the US cannot leave the table. To assure that we remain, we need these kinds of shareholder votes and other advocacies.

The White House has now canceled two meetings to discuss the future of our involvement in the Paris Climate Change. I believe this is in reaction to the push back from business. We cannot backtrack on this and other environmental issues. Let’s push forward and, if the President does not want to play a role, we and the rest of the world can leave him behind.

 

Poverty is highly correlated with large families

We have a global poverty problem, but what may surprise some, the US has not escaped the problem. Our middle class has been squeezed, but unfortunately, gravity has caused too many of them to fall beneath or just above the poverty line.

There are many reasons for the decline, but it has been occurring over the last 45 years, so all politicians own this issue. Technology advances, globalization, stagnant wages, downsizing of union populations, costly healthcare, etc. are all contributing factors.

Yet, it should be noted that large family size and one parent families are highly correlated with increased poverty. These two factors should not be a revelation, but too many folks look past these causes to others. This a key reason for the importance of family planning to help families manage their family size and health.

Today, I saw a report that noted the US has more teen pregnancies than other western nations. A data point was cited (without a source) that 30% of teens in the 9th grade have sexual relationships increasing to 60% in the 12th grade. The report supported the practice of more holistic sex education in schools, an experiment being promoted in West Virginia, where 1 out of eight births are to teen mother.

The training speaks to more than abstinence and contraception. It speaks to   how to say no and not give in to pressure. It discusses sexual assault and STDs. It speaks to relationships and the role sex plays when folks are ready.

Family planning and sex education are key tools in fighting poverty. There is a causal relationship between family planning and fewer abortions, which should give  those against family planning some consolation, Rather than condemn or not fund these efforts, we should look at the data and support them.

Celebration for passing a bill may have been premature

With a White House eager to claim legislative victory, there was a celebratory bash after the Republican led House passed the AHCA by a squeaker of margins 217 to 213. The bill has been vilified by several advocacy groups like the AMA, American Cancer Society and AARP and it has still not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. The bill is also dead in the water in the Senate “once it gets sent there.”

Wait a minute, the last sentence said “once it gets sent there.” To the surprise of some Republican House members, the AHCA bill has not yet been sent to the Senate. Why, you might ask? Since the House did not wait for the CBO to score the cost and impact of the bill on the numbers of uninsured, it cannot be included in the budgeting process, and would thus require 60 votes, not 51 to pass in the Senate. The whole idea was to sneak the bill through this process, so it did not need the super-majority of 60 votes, which it cannot achieve.

Unless the CBO scores this where it saves a threshold amount of the budget, it may not qualify. So, the House leadership has not yet sent the AHCA to the Senate. If they did and the CBO results were not favorable, the House would have to start over. Again, I should reiterate that this bill cannot get even the 51 votes needed due to the impact on Medicaid. As we speak, about two dozen state governors are beseeching the Senate about not harming Medicaid. Unlike the House, the Senate is actually listening.

So, the victory lap on mile 250 of the Indy 500, may have been premature. Voting on something without knowing its impact is not the wisest course of action and is unbecoming of a legislator we trust to do our homework.

 

I want to buy this

Little Donnie has always had money. Daddy made sure of that, but Daddy is no longer around. As he was walking down Main Street with his friend Paul, he pointed to the shiny bike in the window and said, “I want to buy that bike.”

“But, you don’t know how much it costs,” said Paul.

“It does not matter, I want it,” said Little Donnie.

“But, you have a bike and it just needs a little oil for the chain and air in the tires. Plus, others can ride if when you don’t.”

“That does not matter. I want it. Go buy it for me,” said Little Donnie.

“OK, but we still don’t know how much it costs and whether others can ride it,” said Paul.

“Just buy the thing or I will tell all my friends you were mean to me. Some of them are your friends, too. They will stop being your friend and some may beat you up, believe me,” said Little Donnie.

“OK, but my big brother Mitch is not going to like this and he may make you give it back. We at least should know what it costs.”

“I will deal with Mitch later as I really want this bicycle,” said Little Donnie, “and I always get what I want.”

ACA truths Republicans don’t want you to know

The Affordable Care Act is an imperfect and complex law, but it is actually working pretty good. It does need improvements, but a few of its imperfections have been heightened by our Republican friends in Congress and in state legislatures. Yet, they do not want you to know about these actions, some of which are quite devious and harmful to Americans. To be frank, this subterfuge frustrates me as people are harmed as the GOP tried to waylay the law.

What has not been reported very much in main stream news is Senator Marco Rubio’s successful efforts to stiff insurance companies. These companies were promised additional funding for taking on excessive bad risk, called adverse selection. This was done successfully when the Medicare Part D plans were rolled out. By stiffing the carriers, the insurance companies had to raise premiums even more than they otherwise would have. Some even left the exchanges as this action hurt their bottom line. Let me say this plainly. Senate Republicans screwed Americans with higher premiums to try and strangle the ACA. Rubio even bragged about this on the campaign, so please Google “Senator Marco Rubio and risk corridors” to read about what he did.

On the state level, 19 Republican led states chose not to expand Medicaid, a key component of the ACA. 31 states who did so are seeing fewer personal bankruptcies and better hospital accounts receivables. Republican John Kasich, who expanded Medicaid as Governor in Ohio and ran for President, said “Medicaid expansion is a no brainier.” I would have likely voted for Kasich had he won the GOP nomination.

Then there is the naysaying that has been facilitated by the 50 plus repeal votes. Far too many folks never gave the ACA the benefit of the doubt. It is imperfect and the exchanges were rolled out horribly, for which I blame former President Obama. Yet, this law has made a huge difference in the lives of many Americans.

Finally, what is ironic is the ACA is built off a Republican idea. This is a key reason Republicans don’t have a good replacement. In fact, former Senator Jim DeMint, the initial Tea Party leader, strongly advocated Romneycare, on which the ACA is loosely based, for the whole country. He even wrote a letter to President Bush advocating for it. Yet, when Romney ran for President in 2012, DeMint said both Romneycare and the ACA were unconstitutional. This hypocritical change of heart can be easily found by Googling “Senator DeMint and Romneycare.”

People need to know the truth. This is not false news as our President likes to claim. Please research these facts and read as much as you like. Then, ask your representatives to start governing with real information and look to help Americans. I strongly recommend we do not repeal the ACA and improve the law. To do otherwise, is poor form for those who hindered it at the expense of Americans.

 

 

 

Encourage a No vote on the AHCA

The following is an email posted to my US Representative’s website today.

As a retired benefits actuary, consultant and manager, I encourage you to vote no on the AHCA vote today. The CBO says the modifications made do not alter the expectation that over ten million people will lose coverage. Plus, two hospital groups, two Doctor groups and the AARP have all recommended a no vote.

As a benefits professional, my strong recommendation is to improve the imperfect ACA. It is disappointing that my former party has highlighted the negatives of the ACA, while downplaying the many positives.

I would recommend the ACA be improved with a few changes:
– fully fund the risk corridors to reimburse insurers for adverse selection, the absence of which drove premiums up and forced some insurers out of the market,
– introduce a public option in areas that have no competition,
– encourage the 19 states who did not to fully expand Medicaid.

There are other changes that would help, but getting rid of this law would cause more problems that it would solve. Also, a poor reason to vote for the AHCA is to do so because a President who has little understanding of healthcare and wants to check a box is threatening you.

Please vote no to the AHCA and improve the ACA instead.