American Elephants


The Trump Administration is Reforming Medicare with Competition and Common Sense. by The Elephant's Child

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President Trump has approved a new medicare rule to reduce prescription drug prices through competition. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar explained to reporters on Saturday. Few people know that America leads the world in encouraging doctors and patients to use low-cost, high-value generic drugs. More than four-fifths of all prescriptions in the U.S. are for unbranded, off-patent generic drugs that cost less than a typical bottle of mineral water. A tremendous help for people with ordinary medical issues like high blood pressure, early-stage diabetes, and high cholesterol.

The cost problem is the high cost of branded, on-patent prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies take advantage of their market power to charge unreasonably high prices unrelated to the true clinical and economic value of the underlying medicine. The way Medicare — with four different insurance programs with different premiums and copays—covers different kinds of prescription drugs. Medicare Part A covers hospital stays, including the drugs administered there. Medicare Part B, covers drugs administers in doctors” offices such as intravenous infusion. Medicare C, “Medicare Advantage”, is a new, popular, privately-administered Medicare program that covers the same services and Parts A and B. The Bush administration created a 4th Medicare program to cover retail prescription drugs from your pharmacy.

Part D has done a great job of helping competition among private insurers and drug companies to bring lower prices, and the program has come in way under budget. A novelty in U.S. history. However Medicare’s design puts a ceiling on competition because it prevents competition among retail drugs and those administered in doctors offices and hospitals.

A number of expensive drugs for rheumatoid arthritis are administered in doctors offices under Medicare Part B. Doctors get a 6% commission on the average selling price of prescription drugs they administer in their offices, which means a big incentive for doctors to steer patients to these drugs. A new generation of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are oral drugs financed through Medicare Part D. Because the different Medicare programs operate separately, seniors don’t get the benefit from competition between the new oral drugs and the older drugs covered by Part B.

The new rule allows Medicare Advantage plans to use “step therapy” under which seniors might start with an oral drug paid for by Part D, if it’s of equal clinical value but lower cost, and then step to a more expensive injectable drug if the first medicine fails to work. Insurers would be required to return at least half of the savings to seniors, possibly in the form of those Visa gift cards often sold in grocery stores and pharmacies.

This gives Medicare Advantage plans the tools to get a better deal for patients. Competition works. This is free market capitalism at its best.

There are two short books that I recommend highly, by Philip K. Howard: The Death of Common Sense and The Lost Art of Drawing the Line. He explains how government rule books (law) dictate results that never make sense. Government, with the best of intentions, hands out new legal rights that screw up something else. Intending to be fair, in the name of individual rights, Americans end up losing much of their freedom. Brilliant books that help in understanding why free market capitalism brings prosperity that simply eludes the control freaks of the world.

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More Good News Is Coming Our Way! Maybe. by The Elephant's Child

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Fabulous news, maybe. The Daily Caller reports that “the Trump administration is preparing to repeal an Obama-era rule effectively outlawing a wide swath of popular lightbulbs, the Washington Post reported Wednesday”

The Department of Energy is ready to scrap a rule broadening the number of lightbulbs that must meet strict energy efficiency standards set to take effect in 2020, according to a document the agency published on its website. The document was later removed from the site, WaPo noted.

Former President Barack Obama’s DOE expanded the class of bulbs covered by a 2007 lightbulb ban to include bug lights, three-way bulbs, “rough service lamps,” and some decorative bulbs, such as globe-shaped bulbs. Obama’s decision came in January 2017 and roped in bulbs that had previously been exempt from the ban.

Obama officials argued the expansion was needed because consumers might use the unregulated bulbs to replace regulated ones. “DOE expects these sales will likely increase since these lamps could be used as replacements for other regulated lamp types,” the law notes. The Trump administration is clamming up about the change.

The administration is clamming up because they don’t discuss rule-making while they are in the middle of making rules, they’ve got enough arguments as it is, and they don’t need the public involved at this stage.

I don’t know about you, but I want my 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs back. The worst current shopping experience of all time is standing in front of the display of lightbulbs at Home Depot and trying to figure out what to buy that will not prove unsatisfactory. Everything seems to take a different kind of lightbulb because everyone is trying to save energy because? They had some nutty idea (actually the big lighting companies wanted to buy cheaper bulbs from China I think) about decreasing carbon emissions. The emissions are carbon dioxide (not carbon which is a solid) which is a benign gas that we exhale every time we breathe. Plants take in the CO² which they use as fertilizer, which is greening the world and releasing oxygen which we breathe. So they had force us to use twisty lightbulbs because global warming, although the science is quite clear.

During 2017, there were 150 graphs from 122 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals indicating modern temperatures are not unprecedented, unusual, or hockey-stick-shaped — nor do they fall outside the range of natural variability.  We are a little over halfway through 2018 and already  108 graphs from 89 scientific papers undermine claims that modern era warming is climatically unusual.

The belief in unprecedented global warming is important to Democrats, because it is their chosen weapon to destroy capitalism, which they don’t like, though it provides them with all the life enhancements they depend on. They refer to conservatives as “Deniers” meaning that we deny that the climate is changing, which is nonsense. The climate is always changing. Europe is currently sweltering under “unprecedented” hot weather, which we normally call “summer” and which will end sometime in late September or early October, which we call “fall.”

The Daily Caller added:”Advocates of the phase-out bans believe the regulations will increase efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and lead to greater technological innovation.” That summarizes the problem at the lighting aisle in Home Depot fairly well.



No More Useless Increases in CAFE Standards! Good Riddance. by The Elephant's Child

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Last Thursday, the EPA and the DOT announced a new proposed rule on automobile fuel efficiency standards. The Obama administration’s rule promulgated in 2012 was supposed to achieve a “corporate average” by the car companies for their new vehicles of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Instead it increased the cost of automobiles and the cost of gas.

The American people apparently are not capable of choosing how fuel-efficient they want their new cars to be. Fuel efficiency is not the number one issue in a car purchase. The most popular vehicles in recent years have been pickup trucks which are not particularly fuel efficient. The Ford F-150 is rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway — nowhere near 54.3 mpg. The new rule will end the ongoing increases in CAFE standards after 2020 applicable to new vehicles sold.

A report from the Environmental Protection Agency has found that including ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply is wreaking havoc on the atmosphere and on the soil.



A Quiz From Daniel Pipes by The Elephant's Child



It’s Not Climate Change that is Fueling Destructive Wildfires by The Elephant's Child

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People here in the Seattle area are complaining about the smoky air. There are some forest fires, mostly on the other side of the mountains around Omak, and in the Okanagan. In California, Governor Jerry Brown screeches that “since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse and that’s the way it is.” At a state Office of Emergency Services press conference he said firefighters would have to adapt to increasingly severe wildfires because of climate change.

To quote from the Daily Caller “Years of mismanagement built up in California forests are feeding massive wildfires scorching the state, which is on track to experience its most destructive fire season ever. Nearly 3,000 acres of state and local lands in California have been burned this year, about triple the size of the five-year average for this time of year. The amount outpaces 2017’s historic fire season in the state by about 70,000 acres, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Little Hoover Commission (LHC), an independent California oversight agency, has been documenting forest mismanagement in the Golden State for decades. LHC described California’s Timber Harvest Plan in 1994 as an “inadequate tool” for balancing environmental and economic needs.

The environmental movement got all excited about preserving our forests and put enormous pressure on governmental agencies to stop cutting down trees, stop logging, and stop building logging roads into the beautiful forests. Logging provided lumber for building homes, and the price of lumber went way up, so nobody is building “starter homes” anymore. Ending logging meant that forests were not thinned as they were when logs were harvested, which means the trees are too close together, and there’s more deadwood and brush, which means more fire danger. There are always consequences for your actions. But aside from being wrong about the 10,000 years, Jerry Brown is wrong about climate change as well.

Wildfires have always been nature’s method of forest management.The U.S. Department of the Interior explains:

Fire has always been a natural process that is essential to healthy ecological systems. In the early 1900s, land management agencies sought to suppress all fires in an effort to preserve the timber supply. Over the decades, fire exclusion led to more living and dead vegetation on the landscape, increasing the fuel and as a result, the risk of large wildfires in our forests, rangelands, and near communities.

There are currently an estimated 66 million dead trees in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The land there can comfortably support between 20 and 100 trees per acre, There are currently around 266 trees per acre.

Granted, the Carr fire in Northern California has been devastating, burning much of Redding and Shasta, there have  been 6 deaths and many  homes have been destroyed, which is why Jerry Brown is looking for someone to blame other than mismanagement.  But then he is sure that the end is near from global warming.

A September 2017 report in the journal Science found that the global burned area has dropped by about 25 percent over the previous 18 years,  consistent with a May 2016 paper published by the Royal Society B:Biological Sciences.

During 2017, there were 150 graphs from 122 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals indicating that modern temperatures are Not unprecedented, unusual, nor hockey-stick-shaped —nor do they fall outside the range of natural variability. So far in 2018, there are 108 graphs from 89 scientific papers that undermine the claims that the modern era warming is climatically unusual, so it would seem that the attempt to blame global warming won’t work either.

It is often assumed that most forest fires are caused by lightning strikes, but it is reported that 90 percent of forest fires in this country are caused by human action. Like Smoky Bear said: “Only you can prevent forest fires”



Smoky Air Today: Here’s Why: by The Elephant's Child

If you looked out the window today, you may nave noticed a tinge of smoke in the air. Sure sign of forest fires. This particular map did not include Canada, which also has forest fires, and the smoke, depending on the winds, is apt to affect us. Some rain expected later in the week, which might clear things up.

The so-called “environmentalists” have worked hard to prevent trees from being harvested for lumber. They do not want trees to be cut. But that has consequences as well. Logging roads do not get built into the timber so access to fight fire is more difficult so more territory burns. That dreadful Carr fire in California has burned over 90,000 acres and 6 people have died. It is only 20 percent contained, family homes burned.

Some expert mentioned that there are no “starter homes” being built any more. The cost of lumber has gone up dramatically because less lumber is being harvested.  I posted a story about 3-D printed houses in the Netherlands.

The Left envisions very dense American cities with everyone in high rise apartments (except for the important people, of course) They will have their estates, of course, but with the hoi-polloi  all in high rises, the rest of the country can all be parkland. Government owned, of course. Yet the federal government is having a hard time keeping up the national parks. My point is simply that there are always consequences. Studying up and doing our homework is a lifelong requirement. Sometimes we can prevent the consequences from overwhelming us.



Life Without Oil Is Not As Simple As You May Think by The Elephant's Child

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