You Can Keep It

WideModern_Obama_130621620x413“You can keep the plan you have.”

Everyone weights in, including Bill Clinton. Everyone has an opinion, on both sides of the aisle; Democrats and Republicans, the Tea Party is running with the idea of the Train Wreak.

The website doesn’t work as well as it should. It is certainly a problem; I think we can all agree.

Sign-up in the federal marketplace for private insurance are far below projections or what is necessary to claim success. The slow sign-up is consistent with the Massachusetts experience and reflective of the gross problems of Healthcare.gov. There are so many different issues, more than are being addressed by the media, the talking heads or by the clamoring politicians afraid of their re-election prospects.

What should we be thinking right now? Who is to blame for the failures? What are the answers?

Without pointing fingers at any single person or entity, is it possible to answer these questions? Probably not, so let’s point some fingers and remind ourselves of what the ACA was supposed to be and who is behind some of the failures and who is not.

Healthcare.gov is a website with a complex integrated system underlying it. It was underfunded, poorly managed from its onset and deployed without appropriate testing. Further to this, thanks to the many obstructionist Republican Governors who refused to establish state exchanges, the Federal exchange is far bigger than originally expected. What does this sizing mean? It means greater complexity, more integration to individual private insurance companies in individual states. Add to this the entrance barriers set up by those states that chose to ‘opt-out’.

Can we blame this entirely, no we can’t. We can point to this as part of the problem though.

We also have to blame the contractors, all of them, responsible for the design and deployment of the Healthcare.gov solution. No, not just the website the entire system; it does not work and this is a clear design flaw. The flaw isn’t just in the front-end, what you or I might see, but in the back-end everything from how it was sized to how it is integrated to the all the other systems it must integrate with to provide the services it was intended for. The contractors hired to provide this system were given a Statement of Work (SOW) to develop this system with what I am certain were clear milestones and requirements, they failed to meet the most critical of these. None of us can know for certain how oversight was provided over the various stages of the contract, how milestones were validated or whether there were periodic quality gates to insure requirements were being met. We do know though taxpayer money was paid to private contractors to deliver a system that does not work and that is doing great harm to citizens and this administration.

Does part of the blame for the system failure fall on the government agency in charge of the development? Yes, it does. They were responsible for oversight. Who within that agency is responsible? Ultimately, it is the head of the agency; however, knowing what I do about this process it is unlikely the top of the line was sitting in status report meetings, performing tests or otherwise involved in the daily activities of this project. There was an accountable deputy.

healthcareNew

Here is what I do know, The President of the United States is not responsible for the failure of Healthcare.gov as a computer system or website frontend and we truly need to stop beating him about the head and shoulders for this specific failure.

Finally, ‘You can keep your plan if you like it’. Yes, the President said this repeatedly. I think he believed it. In fact, within ACA all the policies now being cancelled by the Private insurance carriers were grandfathered for at least two years. This means Americans should have been able to keep their policies through 2015. Let’s talk about both the junk and what else the Private market is doing shall we?

  • High deductibles
  • High co-pay
  • Annual spending limits
  • No catastrophic coverage

These were primarily Defective products, not grandfathered and in many cases, states had thrown the companies out years ago. On the other hand, there were policies that did meet the standard for being grandfathered, even if they did not meet the ‘Basic Coverage’ standard of the ACA. What is happening with these? Why are policyholders receiving letters of cancellation of policies they like, that the President of the United States promised they could keep. There is a simple answer.

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The Private Insurance Carrier decided to re-price their product to ensure they were making a PROFIT.

When the ACA was designed and passed, it was a gimme to the Private Marketplace. It kept Private Insurers in the game, offering them a broader market even if they had to meet some new restrictions and regulations. Although the law was designed in favor of citizens, allowing them to keep their current policies, it cannot force the private insurer to continue offering that policy to the market.

Blaming the President for the greed of the Private Insurer is idiotic, truly stupid. For those making the most noise, I offer this tidbit to chew on. The acts of the Private Market are consistent with Capitalism at its finest.

This is what everyone wants, right? Free Market Capitalism and Competition

Well this is what you got, so stop bitching. The Private Insurance marketplace is doing exactly what they choose; they are evaluating their products, cancelling those that no longer meet their profitability standards and offering alternatives. They are using marketing techniques, while you and I might find them slightly shady; there is nothing illegal about what they are doing. If those receiving the cancellation letters are too lazy, stupid or stubborn to look for alternatives; shame on them.

I am tired of hearing the ACA is a failure. We have only gotten started and even today, with what has already been implemented it has helped Americans. Do we need to look at the ACA and potentially tweak the law? Yes, we do and we should. But this trash talk in Congress, on the street and in the media is ignorant and without merit.

Spare a Job, Brother?

John W. Geary
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Men of authority have employed all the destructive agents around them to promote their own personal interests at the sacrifice of every just, honorable and lawful consideration. 

John White Geary

Brother, can you spare a job?

Since the 1980’s we have been bleeding jobs in this nation. With every recession, recovery is slower, unemployment numbers stagnate and US Citizens sit on the sidelines as their opportunities to pursue the elusive American Dream are shattered.

Meg Whitman, CEO of HP announced there would be a force reduction of 10% due to over a billion dollars in losses last fiscal year. In real numbers, that 27,000 Americans will lose their jobs.

Since 2001, we have lost 42,400 factories, 75% of them employed over 500 people when they were still in business. Overall, we have lost 5.5 million jobs, forever since 2001.

There were 2.8 Billion cell phones sold worldwide, can you guess how many were manufactured in the US? If you guessed zero, you would have been right.[1]

We have 15.1% of our citizens, 46.2 million people in this nation living in poverty, the highest level since 1993. Without jobs, they don’t stand a chance of lifting themselves out either.[2]

Now before you get all weepy, just think all those closed factories are sitting there just waiting for the Job Creators to open them back up, create jobs and fill them with production equipment so Americans can go back to work! All we need to do is cut them some slack, stop punishing their success and give them more tax breaks so they can ‘invest’ in America. Of course, there are a few additional items on the agenda, lest we get ahead of ourselves;

  • Stop being so damned greedy you out of work Americans let those corporations pay you what your worth! How does $1.30 an hour sound? That would make you just a little bit cheaper than your competition over in China that is a whole .06¢. This is what manufacturing labor pay in China costs; the Philippines and India lag slightly behind but I am betting if you agreed to less than a living wage you could be back at work in a heartbeat. [3]
  • But hold on there, all those nasty Communist – Socialist countries way over there (China, Vietnam, Philippines, India) they have one up on us and those Global Industrialists sure do love them for it, can you guess what

    Our Factories Today

    it is? Out of guesses yet? Let me help you, the Government invests in Infrastructure! This investment includes building beautiful state of the art factories chalk full of the latest and greatest cost saving technologies, as well as, housing nearby for workers (primarily a Chinese production). All of this paid for by the government!

  • Finally, all those wonderful Socialist – Communist nations offer something we don’t, want to try guessing one more time, no? Tax breaks, that’s right those nations are acting as tax havens for the American based multinational companies. They take advantage of the infrastructure your hard work, the backbreaking efforts of generations of Americans put into this nation and the taxes we all continue to pay but have sent all the jobs offshore. In fact from 1999-2008, employment in American foreign affiliates rose 30%, creating a total of just over 10 million new jobs, while during the same time we bled 21 million jobs.[4]
    • All of the numbers above are from 2010; these were the most current I could find. They are nonetheless an accurate assessment of our situation.
    • Finally we have the drone attacks on Unions, most especially on Public Sector; Teachers, Police, Firefighters in particular. These days it seems the public sector employee (except the elected official who seems to see him or herself as above the fray) is a figure to be vilified and abused, the enemy and a person to be held in greatest contempt. The meme is these public servants, protectors, educators, first responders and  guardians are not valued members of our community but instead are leeches, sucking at the public teat. This of course is an inaccurate depiction of all our public service resources; police, firefighters, teachers, animal control officers all of them play a vital role in our communities for some reason though there has been a shift away from the respect we once held for them, now we want them to provide their services free of charge.

What does this all mean? Poverty is on the rise though our unemployment numbers are slowly going down. The recession that began in December of 2007 isn’t ending as quickly as we want or need to rebuild a robust and vibrant economy. Austerity is the name of the game; though this strategy has decimated other nations many would have us walk this path insisting it is the fault of the unemployed, underemployed and the poor themselves for their situation.

Click to Expand Image

Don’t have a job? It is your fault; you are lazy according to State Representative Josh Byrnes (R) of Iowa who had this to say in late 2011; There are jobs out there and I think the problem is that some people think some of these jobs are beneath them. When you are unemployed I don’t think there should be any job “below” you. In truth it’s probably more of an ego or perception issue than being lazy. Thank goodness our immigrating ancestors to the United States didn’t have that attitude. According to a study by Deloitte there is a skills gap in the US, this study performed late last year found 600,000open positions in manufacturing with no talent to fill the openings. Really? None, at all nowhere in the US, hard to believe isn’t it? There are no skilled workers anywhere in the US. Could this be the fault of the US worker or is it our education system is failing our children, not preparing them for trades. So here we are the first post-industrial nation and on the cliff of disaster. Our American Dreams, the idea each generation could do better than their parents a thing of the past, most certainly they cannot in this economy or with the future outlook not to change soon.  Public schools have cut out all those frivolous programs, trades, shop and the arts. College isn’t for everyone and these days the cost of a college education is staggering, but

Courtesy USA Today

wait if college isn’t the answer what is? According to Deloitte and employers we have a skills gap, is the answer Vocational or even Apprenticeship in a skilled trade? Well, shockingly, there is little to be found on either but what limited information there is, VoTech training can run into the Tens of Thousands. I found tuitions for Machine Operators at $11,999 for 950 instruction hours including books, the jobs one could hope for after completing this training? Nationally is $41,000, if you took out a subsidized student loan at 6.8% interest you will pay $28,160 for your training which includes $16,161 in interest payments.

The above is just one example, there are others but the real issue is we have no recourse. We are behind the eight ball. We have lost entire industries; we have permanently lost jobs that will never come back. We are not prepared for the new post-industrial America. We have not adapted to the future we have created through runaway greed and unrestrained Capitalism. Our children are not educated or trained and there is an entire swath of our population convinced we don’t owe them a future.

Are you one of them?

John Maynard Keynes
Courtesy Wikipedia

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the for the greatest good of everyone.

John Maynard Keynes

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