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High-Risk Pools Don't Work, Have Never Worked, and Won't Work in the Future

| Thu Apr. 28, 2016 11:59 AM EDT

Even among conservative voters, Obamacare's protection of people with pre-existing conditions has always been popular. In a recent Kaiser poll, it garnered 74 percent approval from Democrats, 70 percent approval from independents, and 69 percent approval from Republicans.

Technically, this protection is guaranteed by two different provisions of Obamacare: guaranteed issue, which means that insurance companies have to accept anyone who applies for coverage, and community rating, which means they have to charge everyone the same price. But popular or not, Paul Ryan wants nothing to do with it:

In election-year remarks that could shed light on an expected Republican healthcare alternative, Ryan said existing federal policy that prevents insurers from charging sick people higher rates for health coverage has raised costs for healthy consumers while undermining choice and competition.

...."Less than 10 percent of people under 65 are what we call people with pre-existing conditions, who are really kind of uninsurable," Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told a student audience at Georgetown University. "Let's fund risk pools at the state level to subsidize their coverage, so that they can get affordable coverage," he said. "You dramatically lower the price for everybody else. You make health insurance so much more affordable, so much more competitive and open up competition."

It's true that the cost of covering sick people raises the price of insurance for healthy people. That's how insurance works. But there's no magic here. It costs the same to treat sick people whether you do it through Obamacare or through a high-risk pool—and it doesn't matter whether you fund it via taxes for Obamacare or taxes for something else. However, there are some differences:

  • Handling everyone through a single system is more efficient and more convenient.
  • High-risk pools have a lousy history. They just don't work.
  • Implementing them at the state level guarantees a race to the bottom, since no state wants to attract lots of sick people into its program.
  • Ryan's promise to fund high-risk pools is empty. He will never support the taxes it would take to do it properly, and he knows it.

This is just more hand waving. Everyone with even a passing knowledge of the health care business knows that high-risk pools are a disaster, but Republicans like Ryan keep pitching them anyway as some kind of bold, new, free-market alternative to Obamacare. They aren't. They've been around forever and everyone knows they don't work.

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Quote of the Day: John Boehner Sure Doesn't Think Much of Ted Cruz

| Thu Apr. 28, 2016 10:50 AM EDT

From former House speaker John Boehner, asked what he thinks of Ted Cruz:

I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.

The interesting thing about this is that it's not very interesting. It's just par for the course for Cruz.

Democrats Have a Class Gap. Republicans Have a Generation Gap.

| Thu Apr. 28, 2016 12:48 AM EDT

What are the big fault lines within the Democratic and Republican parties? According to a recent Pew report, Democrats have a class gap: Democratic elites are far more liberal than less educated members of the party. But there's not much of a generation gap: old and young voters are pretty similar ideologically.

Among Republicans, it's just the opposite. They have a huge generation gap, with older voters skewing much more conservative than younger voters. But there's no class gap: their elites are in pretty close sync with the party base. The raw data is here, and the chart below shows the magnitude of the difference:

This is interesting, since the most talked-about aspect of the Democratic primary was the astonishingly strong preference of young voters for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. But why did they prefer Bernie? The obvious answer is that they're more liberal than older Democrats and therefore preferred his more radical vision—but the Pew data says that's not the case.

So what is the answer? The age gap could still explain a bit of it, since young Democrats are a little more liberal than older Democrats. And the class gap could also explain a bit of it, since Bernie voters tend to be both young and well educated. But even put together, this doesn't seem like enough.

Obviously there was something about Bernie that generated huge enthusiasm among younger voters. But if it wasn't ideology, what was it?

Weekly Flint Water Report: April 16-22

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 5:24 PM EDT

Here is this week's Flint water report. As usual, I've eliminated outlier readings above 2,000 parts per billion, since there are very few of them and they can affect the averages in misleading ways. During the week, DEQ took 302 samples. The average for the past week was 15.03.

The Media Weighs In On Carly Fiorina

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 5:12 PM EDT

The reviews are in on Ted Cruz's choice of Carly Fiorina as his running mate. Can you spot the consensus opinion?

Carly Fiorina Just Burst Into Song and It Was the Weirdest Thing I've Ever Seen

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 5:06 PM EDT

There we were, as a nation, watching Sen. Ted Cruz attempt to gin up some momentum by announcing Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate, Wednesday afternoon. I was a bit bored. Then this happened, and oh, how I screamed with my mouth and with my keyboard:

Here is the full video for your enjoyment—and for any future horror show reel you want to produce:

We tried to warn him.

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Here's How Unprecedented Carly Fiorina's Nomination Would Be

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 4:48 PM EDT

Ted Cruz may be mathematically eliminated from clinching the Republican presidential nomination before the convention, but that didn't stop the Texas senator from announcing a running mate on Wednesday: Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race after the New Hampshire primary and previously lost a US Senate race in California, is a notable pick not just because she is a woman, or because she previously criticized Cruz for saying "whatever he needs to say to get elected," but because of her past experience—she would be the first vice president in 76 years to have ascended to the post without previously holding elected office.

The last time a major party picked a vice presidential nominee without legislative or gubernatorial experience was in 1972, when Democrat George McGovern chose Sargent Shriver, who had previously run the Peace Corps and worked on President Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty." But you have to put an asterisk next to that, since Shriver was chosen only after McGovern's original running mate, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, resigned amid reports about his previous mental health treatments. Four years earlier, Alabama Gov. George Wallace selected as his running mate Air Force General Curtis LeMay, but Wallace, a longtime Democrat, had chosen to run (and lose) under the American Independent Party.

To find a running mate with no experience in elected office who actually won, you have to go back to 1940, when Franklin D. Roosevelt named Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace as his second vice president, following eight years of John Nance Garner. Prior to that, Calvin Coolidge tapped Charles Dawes, President Warren Harding's budget director, to be on his victorious ticket in 1924. Dawes had lost a Senate race 23 years earlier and written a hit song in the interim, before being dragged into the executive branch. Dawes himself seemed to recognize his lack of qualifications. "I don't know anything about politics," he said after being selected as Coolidge's running mate. "I thought I knew something about politics once. I was taken up on the top of a 20-story building and showed the promised land—and then I was kicked off."

But okay, both of those vice presidents had some experience in the executive branch. The last true outsider to win was in the 19th century. Prior to becoming James A. Garfield's running mate in 1880, Chester A. Arthur had no political experience other than stints as port collector of New York City and chairman of the state Republican Party. In a nice bit of symmetry with Cruz's campaign, Arthur's future presidential campaign was marred by allegations that he was ineligible because he was born in Canada.

Bernie Sanders Is Laying Off Hundreds of Campaign Staffers

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 4:45 PM EDT

A day after losing to Hillary Clinton in four of five primaries in the Northeast, Bernie Sanders announced his campaign will soon start laying off "hundreds" of its staff members, the New York Times reports.

"We have had a very large staff, which was designed to deal with 50 states in this country," Sanders said in an interview with the Times. "Forty of the states are now behind us. So we have a great staff, great people."

The cuts to his staff, however, do not signal he is planning to bow out of the race anytime soon, the Vermont senator said. Instead, Sanders maintained he would remain in the race for the Democratic nomination at least until the end of the summer, and he hopes to rehire laid-off staff members eventually.

Five people familiar with the cuts also confirmed the news to Politico, hinting that Sanders was preparing to shift gears and potentially focus the rest of his campaign on influencing Clinton's platform.

Ted Cruz Will Announce Carly Fiorina as His Running Mate, According to Reports

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 2:45 PM EDT

In an announcement scheduled for later this afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz will name former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his running mate if he secures the Republican nomination, multiple outlets are reporting.

This is a breaking news post. We will update with more as information becomes available.

Trump's Foreign Policy Doesn't Improve When Read From a Teleprompter

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 2:31 PM EDT

I kinda sorta listened to Donald Trump's foreign policy speech this morning. You know, the one we were all looking forward to because it was written by an actual speechwriter and would be delivered via teleprompter. That's Trump being presidential, I guess.

So how did Trump do? That depends on your expectations. For a guy who never uses a teleprompter, not bad. By normal standards, though, he sounded about like a sixth grader reciting a speech from note cards. On content, it was the same deal. Compared with normal Trump, it wasn't bad. By any real-world standard, it was ridiculous.

Fact-checking his speech is sort of pointless, basically a category error. Trump is a zeitgeisty kind of guy, and that's the only real way to evaluate anything he says. In this case, the zeitgeist was "America First"—and everyone's first question was, does he know? Does he know that this is a phrase made famous by isolationists prior to World War II? My own guess is that he didn't know this the first time he used it, but he does now. Certainly his speechwriter does. But he doesn't care. It fits his favorite themes well, and the only people who care about its history are a bunch of overeducated pedants. His base doesn't know where it came from and couldn't care less.

So: America First. And that's about it. Trump will do only things that are in America's interest. He will destroy ISIS, crush Iran, wipe out the trade deficit with China, eradicate North Korea's bomb program, and give Russia five minutes to cut a deal with us or face the consequences. Aside from that, Trump's main theme seemed to be contradicting himself at every turn. We will crush our enemies and protect our friends—but only if our friends display suitable gratitude for everything we do for them. We will rebuild our military and our enemies will fear us—but "war and aggression will not be my first instinct." We will be unpredictable—but also consistent so everyone knows they can trust us. He won't tell ISIS how or when he's going to wipe them out—but it will be very soon and with overwhelming force. He will support our friends—but he doesn't really think much of international agreements like NATO.

Then there was the big mystery: his out-of-the-blue enthusiasm for 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and cyberwar. Where did that come from? In any case, the Pentagon is obviously already working on all three of these things, so it's not clear just what Trump has in mind. (Actually, it is clear: nothing. Somebody put these buzzwords in his speech and he read them. He doesn't have the slightest idea what any of them mean.)

So what would Trump do about actual conflicts that are actually happening right now? Would he send troops to Ukraine? To Syria? To Libya? To Yemen? To Iraq? Naturally, he didn't say. Gotta be unpredictable, after all.

But whatever else you take away, America will be strong under Donald Trump. We will be respected and feared. Our military will be ginormous. No one will laugh at us anymore. We will proudly defend the values of Western civilization. This all serves pretty much the same purpose in foreign policy that political correctness, Mexican walls, and Muslim bans serve in Trump's domestic policy.

And there you have it. Did he really need a teleprompter for that?