Sunday, October 27, 2013

Arkansas Blue Cross Provides Option for Families Who Eschew Obamacare

In the first "Jurassic Park" movie one of the themes was "life finds a way."  In the movie, life "found a way" around human-devised systems and regulations.    So does the free market.

Obamacare is extremely unpopular in Arkansas.   Most of the state legislature does not seem to know it, but Arkansas Blue Cross knows it.   That is why they have devised a product for individuals and families who want health insurance outside the Obamacare Exchange.   In an example of a real "private option", Arkansas (and other states too) Blue Cross saw a potential market, and built an insurance product to fill it.

The "Essential Blue Freedom Plan" for individuals and families does not have the coverages mandated by the so-called "Affordable Care Act".   It can also deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, so it is actual insurance, not a medical care plan.  But because of those things, it can offer coverage for far less money than even the least-expensive Bronze plan on the state exchange.

I ran the numbers for my family and the difference amounts to over $250 a month savings.   That's $3,000 dollars a year, which for my family is far more than the 1% fine, tax, or whatever they are calling that fee you have to pay for having insurance coverage that does not do all the things that The Resident thinks an insurance plan ought to.  Let's say I make $70,000 next year.  That would be a $700 tax/fine/whatever balanced against $3,000 in reduced premiums.   And the exchange plan has a $12,700 deductible for me, while the Blue Cross Essential Blue Freedom plan has only a $5,000 deductible.

Now if they ever get funded, the exchange plans promise that families under 400% of the federal poverty level will get subsidies, and 70K is still below that measure, so you might have to factor in whatever subsidy is offered to come up with a final cost comparison.  The trouble is that you have to go to that exchange mess to find out, and I don't want anywhere near it.  I don't think it would overcome the price difference even with the subsidy, but it does not matter to me if it did.   I will forgo the subsidy just to keep those people away from me and my family.

How can they do it?   There is a provision in the ACA which says that "temporary" plans of less than a year are not subject to the coverage requirements.   Thus Blue Cross offers these plans for 364 days, at which point they must be renewed.   They don't have to take pre-existing conditions.  That means if you and your family are healthy you won't be subsidizing people who have ruined their health through bad living, like the Resident expects you to do.

If you are healthy, Obamacare is a bad deal.  The premiums are much higher because you are not just sharing risk with people, as in traditional insurance, you are subsidising people who behave irresponsibly.   If Fred drank his liver into submission while you drank moderately, then you pay to get Frank a new liver.   If you did not spend your youth chasing wild women and Buster did, you get to pay for Buster's treatments for VD.   If you watch your diet and exercise, you get to roll out of bed and go to work to pay for couch potatoes who are eating their way into an early grave.

The foundation of Obamacare is that responsible people will be forced to work to provide benefits to irresponsible people.  It is just the Democrats taking care of their base.  I sure wish responsible people had a national party that would take care of their interests, instead of a bunch of posers who shoot in the back any of their own who dares try it.  In the rest of life, the free market provides alternatives to people, such as Blue Cross is doing here.  Only in politics, where the two parties have taken pains to make sure that your practical  choices are restricted to, well, two parties, is the market not allowed to operate and fill such voids.

Another difference with the Blue Cross plan: They also only offer $1,000 of "mental health" coverage.   Plans under the ACA mandate bukoo "mental health" coverage, because crazy people are among the Democrats core voter groups and they want to take care of them- with your money of course.   I don't know if abortions are covered in the "Blue Freedom" plan, but you know you will be subsidizing abortion when you pay into Obama's plan, because the Democrats would rather shut down the government than defund abortion coverage.

I don't even mind that lifetime benefits are "capped" at 1 million dollars.   The only hole in coverage I find objectionable is that maternity coverage is only included if you purchase a separate rider.  I can live with that though because if my essence proves too powerful, I know the cost of a delivery is around $10,000 if I pay cash.  The insurance will still cover any other complications and that total still just brings me barely above the much higher deductible of plans on the Exchange.

For more details, here is an article where the liberals are fuming at how Blue Cross is gaming the system (i.e. working within the law to provide products that customers actually want).  If you are looking for a non-Obamacare health insurance option for you or your family, this plan could be it.   The health insurance "marketplaces" set up by the government are grotesque parodies of a true free market.   The real free market produces plans like this one, designed to end-run the machinations of central planners like The Resident.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Part You Did Not Hear About the Debt Deal

It turns out the debt ceiling vote contained a provision to take away from Congress it's power to approve future increases to the debt ceiling!  Under the new deal, Obama can raise the debt ceiling without the approval of Congress.  Instead of having to get the approval of Congress for an increase in the debt ceiling, they would vote to disapprove such an increase by Obama, which Obama can then veto.   If they fail to override the veto, the increase in the debt ceiling would occur automatically.

The political effect of such a change is that the majority of Congress can pretend to be against an increase in the debt ceiling while going along with the alteration in the rules that allows it to happen.   All of our Arkansas federal delegation voted for this farce.

Now we can look forward to Boozman, Womack and company setting up a February stage performance in which they vote against approving an increase in the debt ceiling.  They will then posture and preen about what fiscal conservatives they are, all the while knowing they have set it up so that they can get credit back home for a "no" vote whilst actually enabling the debt slavery to continue.

This is theatre, not governance, and that they would even vote for a stunt like this illustrates the profound contempt our entire Arkansas federal delegation holds for you and me.   I don't have a problem with that part, because the feeling is quickly becoming mutual.   The part I object to is my kids being made into debt slaves.   Meanwhile, come February I fear they will use this scheme to dishonestly harvest the votes of decent people by fraudulently claiming to be fiscal conservatives.

Because our candidate selection system is so broken we may not be able to hold these men accountable for their policies, or their deceit, this cycle, but we can surely extend our reach to the state legislature and build from there.   That is why I encourage you to investigate Neighbors of Arkansas.  It's not a new party, its a new way.

PS- the offending provision can be found near the end of page 25 of the bill.

Beebe Tries to Grab Local Property Taxes for State Use

Nic Horton has more details about the issue and the debate over it here, and its worth a read.   The bottom line is that some small school districts have giant industrial works available from which to draw property taxes.  Therefore, they can meet the socialistic part of our state's school funding formula without the need to raise property taxes to the level required in most districts.  In a divide-and-conquer maneuver, Beebe has suggested looting eight (for now) prosperous districts and dividing the spoils among poorer districts.

What is not being covered much is that our school funding formula is already fairly socialistic.   The guy who wrote it, deceased Senator Jodie Mahony, bragged that he wrote it so that no one could understand it.  Perhaps I am over-simplifying, but the first 25 mills of every school district's property taxes, or an amount equal to the state per-pupil funding, is tossed into a common till and divided equally.   Obviously some of the poorer districts pitch in less per pupil, and the richer districts contribute more, and from that pool equal shares are drawn.   Anything over 25 mills (or the per-pupil funding amount) is kept by the district.   I bet most of you did not know that the first 25 mills of your local property tax was already sent to the state for redistribution!

Still, that's not enough socialism for Gov. Mike Beebe, and certainly not enough for the folks at the Arkansas Times.   Why, to them its just not "fair" that some districts have a power plant in their district which allows them to operate their school on a lower millage.   Their wealth should be looted, er, I mean "shared" by all.

Never mind that most of these liberals would oppose having a power plant, in particular a coal-fired one like Gentry has, in their town. Never mind that some of the most rural won't even tolerate a Wal-Mart, much less an unsightly industrial plant cluttering their pristine landscape.  Never mind that no one is forcing them to live in the district in which they live, or keeping them out of the towns which are more prosperous.  They want to, through the magical power of socialism and government force, have their cake and eat it too.   They want the other town to put up with the hassle of having a messy power plant, but when its time to enjoy the fruits of this infrastructure they think its not "fair" that the other town has a larger source of property tax revenue than they do.

The whole thing reminds me of the children's tale when the Hen asks who will help her sow her field with wheat?  Then who will help her harvest her wheat?   Then who will help her grind it to flour?  Then who will help her bake it into bread?  At each stage of the story, the other animals say "not I".   Finally she asks "who will help me eat me bread?"   At that point all of the other animals say "I will I will".   In the story, she gets to say "not so, for you did not help me" when it was time to do any of that other work.  In real life, this story may not have such a happy ending, because that sly fox Beebe is going to call it "government" and have the other animals vote that this "unfair" accumulation of bread be shared equally.

You don't have to be a localist, as I am, to know that local property taxes should be kept local and controlled locally. Once the centralizers establish the precedent of controlling local property taxes, there will be no end to Little Rock, and even Washington, rifling through our pockets.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

So Where is the Evolution in Arthropod Nervous Systems?

Sorry to keep posting evolution articles on what is primarily a blog about Arkansas politics.  If I had more time I could probably start a completely separate blog on new science discovers which contradict the macro-evolutionary hypothesis.   I ask that you just scroll to the next one if this is not your area of interest.

Scientists used some very clever techniques to coax the outlines of the nervous system from a 520 million year old fossil nick-named "mega-claw".   This was near the Cambrian Explosion, which is when a vast array of animal forms suddenly appear in the fossil record.  The date for the CE has been calculated to be 543 million years ago.  Scientists have been trying to talk their way around the implications of this event for decades.

What they were trying to determine was where the nervous system of Mega-claw fit into the subphylums of the Arthropods.  Was it more crustacean, or arachnid, or something in-between.    Here was what they found....
"We now know that the megacheirans had central nervous systems very similar to today's horseshoe crabs and scorpions," 
Arachnids then.  To be more specific...

Comparing the outline of the fossil nervous system to nervous systems of horseshoe crabs and scorpions left no doubt that 520-million year-old Alalcomenaeus was a member of the chelicerates. 
Specifically, the fossil shows the typical hallmarks of the brains found in scorpions and spiders: Three clusters of nerve cells known as ganglia fused together as a brain also fused with some of the animal's body ganglia. This differs from crustaceans where ganglia are further apart and connected by long nerves, like the rungs of a rope ladder. 
Other diagnostic features include the forward position of the gut opening in the brain and the arrangement of optic centers outside and inside the brain supplied by two pairs of eyes, just like in horseshoe crabs. 
To make the analysis more robust, the researchers then added these features to an existing catalog of about 150 characteristics used in constructing evolutionary relationships among arthropods based on neuroanatomical features. 
"Greg plugged these characteristics into a computer-based cladistic analysis to ask, 'where does this fossil appear in a relational tree?'" Strausfeld said. "Our fossil of Alalcomenaeus came out with the modern chelicerates."
  So Mega-claw has a nervous system like an arachnid, and not like a crustacean.  It was not a mix between the two.   They had previously done similar research with another fossil, and found that its nervous system was set up just like that of crustaceans.
Less than a year ago, the same research team published the discovery of a fossilized brain in the 520 million year-old fossilFuxianhuia protensa, showing unexpected similarity to the complex brain of a modern crustacean.
So I ask you my friends, with regards to the central nervous system, where is the evolution?  We see the same set up in these 520 million years old fossils as we see in creatures alive today.  Animals with nervous systems just like arachnids and those with nervous systems just like crustaceans were walking side by side 520 million years ago.  Where is the common ancestor between these two groups?   If there really was one, you might expect the central nervous systems of 520 million year old fossils to be more like a cross between the two.

Or as one of the scientists put it..
 "Our new find is exciting because it shows that mandibulates (to which crustaceans belong) and chelicerates were already present as two distinct evolutionary trajectories 520 million years ago, which means their common ancestor must have existed much deeper in time," 
 With the Cambrian Explosion not much before that, that time does not seem to be available.   They expect us to believe that the two types of nervous systems did 100% of their evolving in the short time available (perhaps 23 million years) before these two fossils existed and then stayed essentially unchanged for 520 million years.   And this is not the only example of this sort of phenomenon.   My issue is not that they have found in this case two wholly developed systems where they should find intermediaries, my issue is that this is the norm.  This is virtually all that they ever find.  Every time they do deep research like this where macroevolution would expect to find an intermediate system they find two fully differentiated systems.   Or they find something that they thought came along much later was already fully developed at an early date.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Jonesboro Senate Primary, Those Who Spent the Most Got the Fewest Votes

Interesting data on the recent state senate primary in Jonesboro last week.   It turns out the candidates who spent the most got the least votes in both Republican and Democratic primaries.  Here are the details.    While raising a certain amount of money, enough to get your message out, is important, it seems that having the most money, in and of itself, is not a guarantee of electoral success.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Whose is at Fault for the Shutdown? Mark Debates Talk Show Host Ron Verb

Not that "fault" is  necessarily the right word for finally making FEDGOV live within its means for a couple of weeks, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Against a Strong Governor

So a friend of mine was telling me about the recent "Benton County Tea Party" meeting at which the "other candidate" in the Republican Race for Governor, Representative Debra Hobbs of Rogers, was among the speakers.   She said that one Republican legislator, who she would not name, voted for the "Private Option", Arkansas' version of Obamacare, because Governor Mike Beebe's goons threatened to pull the state license for his business if he didn't.   This legislator had apparently had that license pulled once before leading to a financial rough patch that took years for his family to recover from.    He folded.

During the same conversation I asked my friend what he thought of Hobbs as a candidate.  He said he liked her but complained that he did not think she would be "a strong Governor."     I told him "to me that's a plus, not a minus."  I am not a fan of a strong executive.   It tends toward tyranny.

Love him or hate him, Mike Beebe is a "strong Governor".    The reason he is strong is that he is willing to do things like abuse the state's professional licensing process and use GIF money to bribe legislators.   That is what it takes to be a "strong Governor" in Arkansas, because our state constitution established a very weak executive by the letter of the law.  They way you get strong therefore, is to go beyond that letter.

The other way a Governor is strong is to follow in lock-step with the agenda of his national party.   That way the legislators from his or her party are even more afraid to buck them, because they will fear the wrath of the whole party, not just the one executive.   If you are comfortable with a governor who is an enforcer for the elites of one of the two major parties, then vote for a "strong governor."   My own view is that of the Founders, that the legislative branch ought to be first among equals, with the executive branch simply there to execute the laws passed by the legislature.

If a "weak Governor" is one who faithfully serves and carries out the will of the people in the form of the laws passed by their representatives in the legislature rather than trying to ram through their own agenda, then put me down in favor of a "weak Governor."   I will take service over imperiousness in our elected officials any day.