Waiverpalooza rolls on: State of Nevada granted partial #HCR waiver

The Las Vegas Sun reports:

Nevada got a partial waiver from the health care law — a significant development that Democrats are dismissing as par for the course and Republicans are claiming as a political victory.

The Health and Human Services Department announced late Friday that Nevada had secured a statewide waiver from certain implementation requirements of the Obama administration’s health care law, because forcing them through, the department found, “may lead to the destabilization of the individual market.”

The announcement makes Nevada one of only three states to have compliance requirements under the health care bill waived.

Nevada’s Insurance Division had appealed to the feds to reduce the federal requirement that health plans serving people who buy insurance on their own must spend at least 80 percent of the money they collect on medical expenses. Under the national rule, companies that don’t spend that percentage of revenue on medical costs have to cut policyholders rebate checks starting this year.

Nevada asked that requirement be reduced to 72 percent for one year, arguing that top insurance providers would be so strapped to make the payments that they’d exit the state market.

Health and Human Services didn’t fully buy that argument, but did agree to reduce the requirement to 75 percent for a year, expressing concern about what might happen to people with policies from insurers Golden Rule and Aetna if they didn’t.

Together, Golden Rule and Aetna cover 24 percent of Nevada’s insured; but they, along with Sierra Health and MEGA, which cover another 4 percent, are spending nowhere near 80 percent of revenue on health care coverage.

The change is less the feds giving underperforming insurance agencies a free pass than buying time for providers to shape up, or policyholders to ship out with reasonable warning time: Nevada has no law that says if you lose insurance because your insurer shuts down, another company has to pick you up. To prevent that, Health and Human Services determined it had to “provide the opportunity for plans with low ‘medical loss ratios’ to adjust their business models to reach 80 percent” with the reduced, 75 percent mandate for the rest of 2011 — that being the average medical loss ratio that the state’s top 10 insurers currently post.

Let’s all sing it together along with Pelosi and Reid now: “I’ve got friends in high places …”

Via ST reader Neo, who correctly points out that, “Harry Reid won’t be outdone by Nancy Pelosi” – true that, at least in this instance, anyway! ;)

John Huntsman: scratch one candidate

**Posted by Phineas

Not that I was likely to vote for him anyway, but this made it a certainty:

You also believe in climate change, right?

This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community – though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.

Matt [David, Huntsman’s communications director,] says you’ve changed your mind about cap-and-trade.

Cap-and-trade ideas aren’t working; it hasn’t worked, and our economy’s in a different place than five years ago. Much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment.

So, if 90% of scientists said birds chirping in the morning as the sun rose actually caused the sun to rise, you’d take them seriously, John? If it were me, I’d ask what clown college they got their degrees from.

And who cares if whatever percentage of scientists (In what fields?) agree? Science is not about democracy or consensus; it is about empirically derived data, testable hypotheses, and the simplest explanation that best fits the observed facts. On all those scores, the “theory” of dangerous man-caused climate change fails. There is no detectable evidence for it that signals human origin for climate change. Quite the contrary, there are scads of evidence across many disciplines that climate change is a) always occurring; b) operates in a series of overlapping natural cycles; and c) is not anywhere near to exceeding what’s happened in the past per the geological record.

It sounds like the former governor and former ambassador could stand to read a good book or two on the topic.

Oh, and John, it’s never the moment for cap-and-trade, unless you like statist solutions for problems that don’t exist and are guaranteed to cripple your nation’s economy.

And Huntsman wants me to vote for him for president? Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather vote for someone who understands basic science and economics.

via Hot Air

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

California: Democrats shaft farm-workers’ rights

**Posted by Phineas

If you want any more proof that the Democratic Party-Big Labor oligarchy that dominates California doesn’t give a tinker’s cuss about worker’s rights, let me present in evidence SB104, by which the state legislature gutted the right to a secret ballot in union elections:

The state Legislature has passed a bill that would give farm workers an alternative to secret ballots in deciding whether to join a union.

The Assembly approved SB104 on a 51-25, party-line vote Monday. It would allow field laborers to organize by submitting a petition to the state instead of holding a secret-ballot election.

Workers would sign and turn in state-issued representation cards. If the state determined the cards had been signed by a majority of workers, the union would be certified without holding an election.

Sounds so nice, doesn’t it? Farm workers have a choice now! Isn’t choice good?

Some choice. Instead of a secret ballot in which each worker can make his or her free choice about forming a union without fear of intimidation or threats, now union organizers can just ask you to sign a card endorsing a union. Maybe they’ll do it in front of your co-workers or other union organizers — or maybe they’ll come to your home. Regardless, they’ll know exactly who supported them and who didn’t. Only the naive would think this won’t weigh on a worker’s choice.

This is the infamous “card check” method, something Big Labor pushed hard for as a payback for their support of Obama and the Democrats in the 2008 election. Regardless of the pieties spouted by union bosses and their Democratic allies, this is nothing less than a means to coerce people into joining unions when they may not want to and regardless of how they see their own best interests. It violates the rights of the individual to free association and leaves him or her vulnerable to thuggery. Even George McGovern opposed it. As the National Right to Work Foundation wrote about the national card-check legislation:

The Card Check Forced Unionism Bill would effectively eliminate workers’ right to a secret ballot in workplace unionization drives and replace it with overt union intimidation:

Under the Card Check Forced Unionism Bill, the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that refer to the secret ballot election would be rendered a dead letter, even though they are not technically stricken from federal law.

Big Labor spin artists can claim all they want that the workers can still “choose” to have a secret ballot election, but there simply is no way by which workers can force union bosses to file for a secret ballot election – and it is union bosses, not workers, who are in possession of the cards. Reporters who repeat this union boss talking point owe their readers a correction.

Read the full analysis here. Union bosses prefer card check instant organizing because it puts all of the power in their hands — free from the meddling interference of government election supervisors and the workers themselves.

So, since card-check died as a federal effort, union bosses shifted their efforts to preserve their empires to the state level. SB104 is one of their victories, and the problems described in the above quote occur under the state law, too. I have to ask: if unionism is such a good thing, why are labor bosses and Democrats so darned afraid of secret ballots? Maybe there’s another reason

What an irony: after fighting for years for the right to organize, farm workers get the back of the hand — from their own union. And the Democrats? Killing a worker’s right to a secret ballot? The party of the working man? I’d expect them to die from shame, but that assumes they have any sense of shame in the first place.

Oligarchies never do.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Pelosi’s San Francisco Treat: HCR waivers for her district

Well now isn’t this a shocker (not) ?

Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district was the hands-down winner in the latest set of health care law waivers announced by the Obama administration. 

More than three-dozen businesses with locations in Pelosi’s district were granted temporary exemptions from the law in April, according to information released by the Department of Health and Human Services. The businesses — mostly restaurants and cafes, with a few upscale hotels and clubs mixed in — accounted for about 20 percent of all waivers granted last month. 

Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was unclear why so many of the affected businesses were in her district though the Department of Health and Human Services says it determines its waiver policy based on whether businesses can prove they need them to avoid “a large increase in premiums or a significant decrease in access to coverage.” 

Pelosi was among the most vocal champions of the health care law as she and other Democrats helped shepherd it through Congress in 2009 and 2010. 

On the list of San Francisco businesses with a reprieve on the law were The Stinking Rose, an Italian restaurant; TRU Spa, a day spa in the city; and the upscale Hotel Nikko. Daily Caller first reported on the exemptions in Pelosi’s district. 

Mona Charen notes other waiver favoritism shown by the Obama administration (Michelle Malkin writes about that here as well), and cautions as to the dangers of even jokingly suggesting that the admin grant waivers to the entire country:

There are rumblings of suspicion that HHS has shown favoritism — labor unions have received some 26 percent of waivers while constituting only 12 percent of workers. As Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, remarked, “What does it say about the feasibility of the health-care law when the administration needs to exempt over 1,000 health plans from its own law?”

A few wags have suggested that the HHS grant the rest of the country a waiver and be done with it. But the implications of what Prof. Richard Epstein has called “government by waiver” aren’t funny. As Congress has ceded more and more power to regulatory agencies, the opportunities for abuse of power multiply. Writing in National Affairs, Epstein notes that among the companies and entities that successfully sought waivers from Obamacare’s provisions were Pepsico, Foot Locker, the Pew Charitable Trusts, many local chapters of the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and numerous public-employee unions.

But, asks Epstein, “what about employers who do not have the resources to navigate the waiver process? What about those lacking the political connections to make their concerns heard in Washington? And what happens when the one-year waivers run out? Will they be renewed? Under what conditions? And what rights will insurers have to waive then in order to avoid going out of business?”

The world of Obamacare is no place for the little guy.

The danger of waiver power is that it will be used differentially, giving one private entity a competitive advantage over another. The company denied a waiver can bring suit — but litigation is expensive and slow. Additionally, companies may fear government retaliation: “It is no accident that it is often public-interest groups or patient groups that take on the FDA, for instance. It is simply too risky for a pharmaceutical company with multiple applications before the agency to challenge one action if it is vulnerable to a government-induced slowdown on another.” Nor have the courts been particularly solicitous of those who challenge the regulatory state. Epstein observes with regret that “most judges evince great faith in the administrative state, so that the abuse of discretion that lies at the heart of the waiver problem is, to them, a matter best sorted out by administrative expertise — a perpetually overestimated pool of wisdom.”

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.