American Elephants

Affordable? Not So Much. Some Big Hikes. by The Elephant's Child

Conservatives have always giggled at the title chosen for ObamaCare — “the Affordable Care Act” — because having observed all the tricks and mandates crammed in, knew it was going to be increasingly unaffordable. And so it is. State Insurance Commissioners are beginning to report in.

Obama said at a July town hall in Nashville, Tennessee that he expected premiums to come in significantly lower than what’s being requested. He added that Tennesseans had to work to ensure the state’s insurance commissioner “does their job in not just passively reviewing the rates, but really asking, “O.K, what is it that you are looking for here? Why would you need very high premiums?”

The Tennessee commissioner, Julie Mix McPeak responded on Friday by approving the full 36.3% increase sought by the biggest health plan in the state, BlueCrossBlueShield of Tennessee. She said the insurer demonstrated that the hefty increase was needed to cover higher than expected claims from sick people who signed up for individual policies in the first two years of the Affordable Care Act.

Oregon’s Laura Call allowed an average 25.6% increase for that state’s biggest plan. In Ohio, it was 14.5%, in Michigan, 11.4%.

Democrats typically add mandates designed to make particular groups like the plan, then are astonished to find that it costs a lot more. Do remember that the Affordable Care Act was passed without a single Republican vote because Republicans thought it would not work and would soon become unaffordable. They just had no idea that it would happen quite so soon.


Some plans offered low rates for the first and second year eager to  capture new business. Others simply found that business was more expensive than expected. Some programs designed to cushion insurers  against high risk participants are ending. Some state commissioners have not yet reported their decisions, or completed their analysis.

Thanks, Obama! U.S. Drops to Number 20 In The Human Freedom Index. by The Elephant's Child
August 21, 2015, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Environment, Health Care, Freedom, Progressivism, Taxes, Capitalism, Regulation, Bureaucracy

The Cato Institute, the Libertarian think-tank, publishes an annual Human Freedom Index, ranking 152 countries in the world according to the level of liberty enjoyed by its citizens.

The index represents a broad measure of human freedom. which can be understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 76 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in these areas:

Rule of Law
Security and Safety
Association, Assembly, and Civil Society
Size of Government
Legal System and Property Rights
Access to Sound Money
Freedom to Trade Internationally
Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business

This reflects the degree to which people enjoy the freedom to engage in voluntary exchange and enjoy major liberties such as freedom of speech, religion and association. Also measures freedom of movement, women’s freedoms, safety and security and the rule of law.

Hong Kong and Switzerland top the list, followed by Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg, Chile, Mauritius —and finally, The United States at Number 20, followed by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Belgium, Taiwan and Portugal.

The U.S. was 17th in 2014. but think of EPA regulations, scheduled speakers disinvited, the government confiscating a big chunk of a raisin farmer’s crop, ObamaCare regulations, you might try tallying up the new constraints you have seen or felt. Swat teams breaking into the wrong house, Lois Lerner, the attack by the Left on anything connected to the South and it’s Civil War history. The attack on free speech has been not only notable, but widespread — things you cannot say. So we are at number 20 and declining. We talk a lot about the Left’s drive for increased regulation and increased control — and just look at where that’s got us!


Schooling the FDA On The Meaning of the First Amendment by The Elephant's Child

_78425952_517716225I’m afraid I’m becoming something of a crank, grumbling constantly about the depredations of bureaucracy. The Food and Drug Administration has believed its powers so encompassing that it can even prohibit drug companies from making true statements about their products unless they are approved by the FDA.

A federal judge has just called this political control a violation of the First Amendment. Once the FDA has approved a new drug for FDA specified uses, physicians often repurpose them in other doses, or for other diseases, or for entirely different patient populations. A drug designed for breast cancer might prove effective against tumors in other parts of the body, or a medicine for adults may prove effective for pediatric care. About one of every five U.S. Prescriptions is for non-FDA approved uses.

In a small miracle, these off-label experiments are legal, and they drive innovation. The artificial conditions that the FDA demands for clinical trials are increasingly divorced from how medicine is practiced, and modern care advances far faster than the FDA’s regulatory molasses. Off-label use is vital for complex conditions like cancer and psychiatric disorders that require trial and error for individual patients, who can’t wait years for the FDA’s blessing.

But the FDA and Justice Department are targeting off-label prescriptions as a threat to their hegemony. Their goal is to force drug makers and physicians to seek FDA approval for every new real-world use, as if it were an entirely new drug. Until recently, drug makers were banned from making off-label claims backed by solid evidence or even from distributing peer-reviewed journal articles.

Prosecutors have also become increasingly aggressive. In 2012 GlaxoSmithKline paid $1 billion for encouraging doctors to use Paxil to treat depression in patients under 18, which research shows helps although the FDA has not endorsed this conclusion. The FDA construes some forms of off-label promotion as crimes, and people are serving jail time.

The nature of a bureaucracy is to grow, prosper, be better rewarded monetarily and extend its reach. Was there ever a bureaucracy that thought that much that they did was unnecessary, and they should probably downsize for the benefit of the taxpayers? I rest my case.

Judge Paul Engelmayer explained to the FDA that if they believed that a different use of a drug gravely undermined the drug approval process, it should have sought review of that decision, not tried to liken distributing information to an assault on their drug-approval authority, and tried to compare it to illegal speech such as blackmail or insider trading. Free speech wins one!


2.3 Million Medical Identities Have Been Stolen From ObamaCare’s Required Computerization of Hospitals and Doctors’ Offices by The Elephant's Child


Perhaps you remember back when the Democrats were pushing ObamaCare through Congress and nobody had read it, but they were sure it was going to be wonderful. They would put the brightest and most educated people in charge of your insurance, and open new agencies and add new regulations and it would be ever so much more efficient and bring prices down, and if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor, and everything would cost 20% less. Uh huh.

One of the big ideas that was going to save great quantities of money and make everything more streamlined was to put everyone’s medical records online. Computerized records meant each doctor and nurse or technician could quickly access your full records.

So anybody and everybody in any clinic or hospital could access a patient’s entire medical history? Unintended consequences! Republicans cried. Identity theft, accessing prescriptions, dangerous, not well thought out.

Democrats never understand consequences, particularly anticipating what they might be, and taking care to think things through.

It has taken hospitals years to get each examination room and office outfitted with a computer with a stand and a keyboard that doesn’t take up much room, yet is networked with the whole local medical complex, and it has cost them millions. My hospital finally has it all completed and working efficiently though it has taken several years. Doctors now commune with the computer instead of the patient, but the computer doesn’t complain about aches and pains.

The problem is that each hospital or medical complex hired their own computer experts and paid millions for their systems and getting them up and working — but they don’t work together with other hospitals and clinics and complexes who had different experts do their systems.

The big idea that there would be one national system where the wise and powerful government could access all those records to see what the statistics from the whole country pouring in to Washington would teach them about the real health of the people and what could and should be done. Quite a few people weren’t so sure that Washington DC was any solution to the national health anyway.

Not going to happen in any case. I’d love to see a total on how much this bright idea cost the nation’s hospitals. Unintended consequences indeed!

What has happened and what will happen is exactly as they were warned: 2.3 million  (2,317,969) medical identities have been stolen. Thieves are using others’ insurance information to pay for their own medical visits or drugs. Most victims do not find out about the theft until an average three months later. Or when they notice unusual charges on their billing statement. The Poneman Institute said:

Unlike credit card fraud, victims of medical identity theft in our study had to pay an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime. In some cases, they paid the healthcare provider, repaid the insurer for services obtained by the thief, or they engaged an identity service provider or legal counsel to help resolve the incident and prevent future fraud.

More than $10,000 to pay because someone stole your medical identity? Better check with your medical provider or local hospital to see what they are doing about the problem.

Sorry. Sick, Sick, Sick. Virulent Summer Cold. by The Elephant's Child
August 6, 2015, 12:05 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Blogging, Health Care, Junk Science | Tags: , ,

Woman-sneezing-into-a-tissueNot much blogging. I’ll think about it tomorrow, at Tara. After all, tomorrow is another day.

The Exciting and Tantalizing Possibilities of the New Materials. by The Elephant's Child


The potential uses of the new materials sound like science fiction: here’s a new electrically conducting fiber for— artificial muscles, exoskeletons and morphing aircraft. The fiber is made from sheets of carbon nanotubes wrapped around a rubber core, and can be stretched to 14 times its original length and actually increases its electrical conductivity while being stretched, without losing any of its resistance.

An international research team based at the University of Texas at Dallas initially targeted the new super fiber for artificial muscles and for capacitors whose storage capacity increase tenfold when the fiber is stretched. The researchers now believe that the material could be used as interconnects in flexible electronics and a host of other related applications.

The team has published research in the Journal Science describing how they devised a method for wrapping electrically conductive sheets of carbon nanotubes around the rubber core in such a way that the fiber’s resistance does not change when stretched, but its conductivity increases.

I wish they had indicated the amount of magnification in the photo above, for those of us who are definitely not materials scientists.

The researchers have also been able to add a thin coat of rubber to the sheath-core fibers and then another carbon nanotube sheath to create strain sensors and artificial muscles. In this setup, the buckled nanotube sheets act as electrodes and the thin rubber coating serves as the dielectric. Voilà! You have a fiber capacitor.

“This technology could be well-suited for rapid commercialization,” said Raquel Ovalle-Robles, one of the paper’s authors, in the press release. “The rubber cores used for these sheath-core fibers are inexpensive and readily available. The only exotic component is the carbon nanotube aerogel sheet used for the fiber sheath.”

As new materials have been discovered or invented, there is a mad rush for patents on potential uses, I  gather based on informed guesses, by corporations hoping to develop what the scientists discover. Free enterprise at work.

For other posts on the new materials, enter “new materials” in the search function over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar.

The Real Ugliness of Planned Parenthood. by The Elephant's Child

RAMclr-072315-fetal-IBD-COLOR-FINAL.jpg.cmsBy now, you have probably seen or heard of the undercover video of the Senior Director of Medical Services released by the Center for Medical Progress, a pro-life group. Deborah Nucatola, an abortion doctor, had a conversation over a quite nice salad and wine lunch with two people  posing as representatives of a company trafficking in body parts of aborted fetuses.

The video exposes the animating principle behind the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood, a tax-payer supported industry. They do not consider abortion as any more problematic than cosmetic surgery.

There’s a lot of pretense at Planned Parenthood. They oppose the use of ultrasounds when the purpose is to reveal the humanity of the child, but use ultrasound to determine which parts of the baby to crush to preserve the desired parts. It’s ugly.  A second video has been released with another Planned Parenthood executive bargaining over prices for the fetal parts. Supporters of Planned Parenthood extol their other services like mammograms,  but its been well established that they don’t actually do mammograms.

The Left is heavily invested in Planned Parenthood, and in abortion, and the media have avoided any mention of the story, except to insist that the Center for Medical Progress is some kind of crazy pro-life group, and the video is false and the attack illegal. A reporter tried to ask a question of Josh Earnest, but was silenced with just an emphatic NO. Obama’s Department of Justice is planning to investigate, not Planned Parenthood for sales of body parts, but of the group that busted Planned Parenthood.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, made the claim that the trade in body parts was a service to scientific research, but embryonic tissue for stem cells is old discredited science, and the gold standard is now adult stem cells.

Health and Human Services rejected an expedited Planned Parenthood Freedom of Information Request for documents and communications relevant to payment or compensation of fees from Mary Hasson of the Federalist. HHS said it didn’t fit the public’s “urgent” right to know.

“Further, in order to meet second prong of the compelling need standard, the requested information must be the type of information that has a particular value that will be lost if not disseminated quickly, and ordinarily refers to a breaking news story of general public interest.”

There are more videos to come, and the Left is in panic mode. Or perhaps “stonewall mode.” The Left has a lot invested in total sexual freedom for all, but I’m getting pretty tired of school teachers having sex with their underage students, and gender-neutral bathrooms, among other things.

Black Americans are about 12.6 percent of the U.S. Population, but they have 35.4 percent of all abortions.  On average 1,876 black babies are aborted every day. That is just terribly sad.


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