Friday, October 4, 2013

Thoughts on the shutdown

So here we are in the midst of a government shutdown, and I personally have felt no pain.  I am appalled at the spiteful actions of the current administration in barricading sites that are normally open 24/7 and have not been barricaded in past shutdowns.  This appears to be a cheap political stunt.

I for one am tired of both side's childish actions. On one side you have the President and the Senate Majority leader refusing to negotiate, and calling the other side terrorists and hostage takers.  On the other you have a group who knew their plan had zero chance of achieving the goal but went ahead anyway to appease the base.

My sympathies lie with the Republican side only because I believe the ACA is a terrible law.  The stated intentions behind it were good, but the law itself is a mess that will never achieve what it was supposed to, and is full of unintended consequences. I believe it gives the government far to much control over what should be a personal choice, saddles businesses and individuals with over 10,000 pages of regulations, and with the various mandates forces people into corners over their religious and moral beliefs.  I have no faith that the law will bend the cost curve anywhere but up, and take our healthcare system anywhere but down.

Having said that, the Republican approach to solving the problem has been horrendous.  They have taken numerous repeal/defund votes in the house knowing full well that  they would go nowhere in the Senate.  While I understand the principle at stake here, I am not convinced that this is not also just a political stunt.

Somewhere there has to be a political leader who will stand up and say ENOUGH!  Obviously none of our current leaders from the President on down are the ones, as they all seem more interested in cheap political stunts and appeasing their respective bases than in doing what actually needs to be done.

Yes, Healthcare needed reform, but a very heavy government hand is not the answer.  Surely somewhere out there is at least one Democrat that realizes that, and can find at least one Republican to work with to come up with a better solution.  A solution that could be supported by both sides and that actually has a chance of working without screwing over some segment of the population as the current law does.  At this late date it is unlikely the solution can involve a full repeal of the ACA, but surely it can be changed (more than just tinkered with) so that the known unintended consequences are eliminated, unfavored segments of populous don't end up getting screwed in the deal.

As to the current shutdown to our leaders I say enough grandstanding.  Get together and negotiate (yes President Obama and Senator Reid actually negotiate in good faith) an end to this farce.


So I have tried for 4 days to get on the Obamacare Exchange Web Site to price their plans.  Every time I try, I have either gotten errors, time outs or a message that the Web site is busy, and I have to wait.  This is crazy.  Imagine if Google or Amazon were run like this.  They would be out of business instead of the major market forces that they are.

My interest in the prices is more than idle curiosity.  As an independent consultant, I carry my own insurance purchased on the individual market. I recently received notice that the plan I carefully researched and selected will no longer be offered once my current plan year ends because it does not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  So much for the promise that if you like your plan you can keep it!  The notice gave no details, but I suspect at least part of the issue is that I don't carry all of the coverage that Washington bureaucrats deem essential.  For example, my plan does not cover pregnancy or new born care.  That is by choice, since I and my wife are at the stage in life where there is 0 chance we are going to need that coverage, but the government is telling me I have to carry it as it is essential.

I want to get the prices so I can budget ahead for when my current plan ends.  I know I will not qualify for any subsidies, and I know that the plan must include coverage I do not want, but the bureaucracy says I must carry.  Given that, I expect my price will go up.  I want to have an idea of how much, but since the government apparently cannot successfully run a high volume web site, I can't even get the information.

UPDATE:  So I finally get past the "Sorry the site is really busy" page, and go about creating my account.  I got as far as clicking the create account button, and was taken to an error page. From there the only choice was to start again.  Very frustrating user experience.

UPDATE II:  I managed to get through the entire process and get prices.  As I suspected, the plans offered to me are all significantly more costly than the one I currently carry.  The current plan for my family of 5 costs $688 a month with a $5000 family deductible (in network). After the deductible everything is covered 100% it is a PPO type plan with a wide range of doctors available. Out of network care is covered as well, but with a higher deductible and greater out of pocket costs. This plan is HSA qualified, meaning I can pay the deductible charges with pre-tax dollars.

On the exchange the cheapest plan I found runs $833 per month and has $6350 per person $8000 deductible. After the deductible only 60% of costs are covered up to the maximum out of pocket of $12.700. This plan is not HSA qualified despite its high deductible.  Doing the math, I will have to pay an extra $145 a month or $1740 per year just to have coverage.  If there is a significant illness in my family, then I could end up putting out as much as $12,700 instead of the $5000 I would put out under my current plan.  All told that is minimum of $1740 extra, and possibly as much as $9440 in a year.  And none of that is tax deductible either.  So much for the if you like your plan you can keep it and the we will lower your costs promises of the Democrats.  I am not one of the rich that they like to rail against, but I am getting screwed by stupid government rules.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Random Thoughts on the SOTU Speech

So I actually watched the State of the Union speech, and the GOP response.  Here are my random thoughts:

  • It is nothing more than a show.  There was nothing really new, no real honesty on the state of the nation, and is more about showcasing a "Regal" presidency than anything else.  Maybe we should just go back to the old days (before Woodrow Wilson) and have the President submit a written report to Congress instead what we do now.
  • The opposition response will always appear weak no matter who gives it.  The President speaks in front of a crowd, with plenty of opportunity for partisan applause, while the opposition gets to speak without an audience, and nothing but a flag for company.
  • Marco Rubio's response will be remembered more for the urgent drink of water than the content.
  • The SOTU speech itself was essentially the same speech we have heard from the President for the last four years.  We need to invest (you can read that as spend) in various democratic favorites (typically unionized workers, and green projects) and the rich need to pay their fair share.  Everything is paid for (as long as we tax the rich more), and on and on. Long on vague big ideas, short on details.
  • It would be more refreshing if the President got up and said the economy still sucks and we need to work together to get government out of the way without removing safeguards that protect the weakest amongst us.
  • This President truly believes more government is the answer to everything.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What is wrong with the Republican Party - Part 1

I have been writing this series in my head for the last 3 months since the Republicans lost the Presidential election.  By all indications, they should have been able to win easily.  The economy still wasn't speeding along, unemployment was high, inflation for basic needs was up (Note, I don't care what government agencies say, I feel the prices every time I get gas or go to the grocery store). There was an American Ambassador killed in Libya just before the election.  All of this should have added up to a significant Republican victory if not an outright landslide.  So what went wrong?  In my opinion, a whole bunch of things.

First they put forward an incredibly competent, but wholly unexciting candidate.  Mitt Romney would have made a fine President, but he was sorely lacking in the charisma department.  In this age of American Idol, and reality TV in general, you need a candidate that will excite the voters and Mitt just was not it.

Second is the media, but that is a topic for a post of its own.  Come back later for that one.

A related problem is messaging.  They have got to have a coherent message with broad appeal, and a way to get it out.  The Democrat message is Vote for us and we'll give you sh*t and make rich people pay.  If the only news you get is from mainstream media or Comedy Central, the Republican message is we hate women, minorities and old people, take stupid pledges, and refuse to raise taxes on anyone.  Not a very appealing message if you are in one of the first three categories, or part of the large percentage of folks that pay no income taxes, or actually use tax credits and get more back than you pay in.  Plus Democrats will give you sh*t.

 To wrap up this post, it appears that the Republican ground game on election day was horrible.  Democrats have lots of community organizers in their camp (Think Acorn, or whatever they call themselves now, and oh yeah the President).  They know how to get their people to the polls (in some areas multiple times).  From what I have read they made excellent use of the latest technologies and got their voters to the polls.  In contrast, Republicans aren't big into the community organizing thing, and there are reports of major technology failures on election day.  I'm a Software Consultant maybe they should give me a call before the next cycle.  I'm pretty adept at developing software that won't crash just when you need it most.

Time to try this blogging thing again

I started this blog back in 2011 with the intent of doing some level of my own research and analysis of current political issues and posting what I found.  Well time for actual research just was not there, so this blog went nowhere.  So now I am going to try again, only this time posting shoot from the hip opinion. 

I'll start by posting a bit about myself just to give some idea of where these opinions come from.  I am a 50ish college educated white male who works in the software industry.  I have worked for both large and small companies, and currently am an independent consultant.  I am firmly in the middle class that both parties give lots of lip service to.  As far as family I have been married for 26 years to the same wonderful woman, and we have 3 kids ranging in age from 8 to 21.