American Elephants

What Are the New Rules for ObamaCare? Whatever Secretary Sebelius Says They Are. by The Elephant's Child

When the Democrats dreamed up ObamaCare in the back rooms (closed doors) of Congress, and came up with 2,700 pages of mandates and musts and requireds, which were signed into law by President Obama, followed by another deluge of amendments which were signed into law by President Obama — then the bill and the amendments were sent off to  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to flesh out all the named departments and agencies and offices. All the 2,700 pages didn’t include just how things were supposed to work.

What we have learned about the Independent Pay Advisory Board (IPAB) and the new rules for the Health Insurance Exchanges demonstrates pretty clearly that HHS has no business making up regulations because they simply don’t have the needed skill set.

So last Monday, HHS released its proposed regulations (244 pages) for the ObamaCare version of health insurance exchanges, which go live in 2014.

In paragraph (a) of proposed §155.105, we propose to codify section 1321(c)(1)(B) of the Affordable Care Act that directs the Secretary to determine by January 1, 2013 whether a State’s Exchange will be fully operational by January 1, 2014. We believe that “fully operational” means that an Exchange is capable of beginning operations by October 1, 2013 to support the initial open enrollment period proposed in §155.410. HHS will make this determination through applying the State Exchange approval standards and process established in this section.

In paragraph (b), we outline the standards upon which HHS will approve a State Exchange. First, an Exchange must be established consistent with this subpart and be capable of carrying out the required functions of an Exchange consistent with the subparts contained within this part, including: subpart C related to minimum Exchange functions; subpart E related to enrollment; subpart H related to the operation of a SHOP; and subpart K related to certification of QHPs.

State lawmakers want to know what exactly they  have to do by January 1, 2013 (the date that state exchanges have to be approved).  The answer is yet to come.  HHS says that it will issue future”guidance” on what has to be in the “exchange plan” and how “operational readiness” will be determined.  State officials correctly see ObamaCare as a federal, not a shared , program.  The states don’t own this legislation or its implementation.  Many are committed to reversing it, others want to design and operate their own exchanges.  The big question is how much damage their federal “partners” will inflict on the states and how can the states limit it.

The Independent Pay Advisory Board suffers from the same top-down control errors. Fifteen unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats will decide how much Medicare will pay for anything and everything, and when they will not pay.  The federal government will decide what the best procedures are for whatever illness or problem and doctors will be expected to follow “best procedure”rules. And they know what is best because…?

Paul Ryan attempted to school Secretary Sebelius in a little, well, common sense, when she appeared before Congress.

There is evidence for socialized medicine, from every country that has tried it. There is evidence for things like IPAB in Britain’s NICE.  Democrats, looking through their usual rose-colored glasses, see only how it has cut costs, but not the people it has killed nor the misery it has caused.  They just know that single-payer socialized medicine is better, because it is — what?  Fair?  Tell that to these folks.

And Now the News — Nothing Happened! by The Elephant's Child

The big story of the weekend has been about something that didn’t happen. It was an event widely promoted and expected by the media, and then — nothing. The San Diego Freeway (405)  in Los Angeles, (and it is in Los Angeles, not San Diego) is one of the busiest in the country.  They needed to tear down the Mulholland bridge over the freeway, so they decided to close down the freeway for 52 hours.

Expectations of the rage of Los Angelinos at being deprived of a stretch of freeway for 52 hours led to hours of speculations about the nature of the disaster they called “Carmageddon.” Well, never happened. People stayed home or took other routes, and undisturbed, freeway workers finished the job ahead of time.  But on the hour,  every hour, all weekend long, newscasters have been talking about the Carmageddon that never happened.  S-l-o-w–n-e-w-s–w-e-e-k-e-n-d? Does that say something about the state of the media?

Government Mandates Aren’t Required to Make Sense! by The Elephant's Child

Oh the wonders of Big Government! What happens if the government mandates the consumption of a product that — doesn’t exist? The EPA  (Environmental Protection Agency) has decided to punish gasoline refiners because they can’t buy a type of alternative fuel that no one is making. Consumers will also feel the wrath of the EPA.

The 2007 energy bill increased the mandated amount of corn ethanol that must be blended into gasoline, under the Congressional delusion that putting food crops into our gasoline is a good thing, even if it means that a gallon of gas won’t take you as far.  And if putting corn into your gas tank is a good thing, then ethanol made from stocks like wood chips or switchgrass would be even better.  At that time, no cellulosic ethanol was being produced on a commercial scale, but enthusiastic ethanol producers and the green lobby insisted that it would happen really soon. Both the Bush administration and the Obama Administration provided handsome subsidies to help it to happen.

The EPA, who sets the standards, set the 2011 standard at six million gallons. “Unexpectedly” zero gallons have been produced in the last six months, and it doesn’t look like any will be produced in the next six months either. The EPA approved a single plant to sell the stuff, which was operated by Range Fuels near Soperton, Georgia. They shut down their cellulosic operations earlier this year to work through “technical difficulties.”

Congress decided that some companies should be penalized if the targets are not met — but not the companies that got subsidies  and asked the government for mandates and corporate welfare.  Instead it is American oil refiners who make gasoline and could not buy the mandated cellulosic ethanol because none is being made. Refiners will end up buying six million cellulosic waivers by year’s end at $1.13 a pop. For consumers that is $6.78 million in higher costs at the pump in return for nothing at all.

Late last month the EPA proposed raising the mandate for 2012 to somewhere between 3.55 million and 15.7 million gallons. It would take a minor miracle for cellulosic producers to produce enough to reach the smallest number. The refiners and the driving public will continue to pay for the stupid mistake, and the mandate will continue to ratchet up each year. If you think this is something unusual and remarkable, do remember that only this year did the EPA say that they would consider removing the mandate to treat spilled milk as an oil-spill, as they have been since 2007. Slowly grind the wheels.

Range Fuel’s Georgia wood-to-ethanol plant received $150 million in federal grants and loan guarantees by 2010. Haven’ t dribbled out  the required fuel yet.  Maybe next year?

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