Morning Must Reads -- Obamacare pays the price for lack of cost controls 

Washington Post -- Obama launches attack on health insurance companies

A deadly consensus being reached about Obamacare is that it does not control costs but does seek to regulate prices.

Under the president’s plan, the cost of health care would go up at an even faster rate than it currently is – more users for the same resources and more bureaucracy.

That’s why we’ve seen forecasts from economists of even higher insurance premiums than the current trend would deliver if the president’s package becomes law. It’s become the most popular complaint among fence-sitting House Democrats and one that might sink the listing legislative hulk.

The White House solution is to regulate the prices insurance companies charge.

It would be like requiring coffee shops to buy only exotic Sumatran coffee beans but then restricting the price they could charge for a cup of joe. Starbucks might have some breathing room in the profits on a latte, but Dunkin Donuts couldn’t afford to keep selling coffee with its crullers.

Writers Amy Goldstein and Scott Wilson look at Obama’s new insurance-bashing stump speech and the new pressures from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the industry.

On the stump, Obama is looking for a bigger villain than the federal government – saying that “we allow the insurance industry to run wild in this country.” And beyond the legal profession and the media it would be hard to find another industry as loathed by the American electorate.

But as Goldstein and Wilson tell us, that doesn’t mean voters are going to warm to the idea of dropping the regulatory hammer on insurers. Most people are relatively satisfied with their policies and the greatest fears are rising premiums and more expensive care. The president would exacerbate the latter and try to solve the former through price controls.

His current pitch may actually make his plan more unpopular than it is.

Also, the insurance industry, which helped draft the original Obama plan, will now briefing against it.

“America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's main lobby, plans to spend more than $1 million on a nationwide advertising campaign this week to, as one official with the group said, ‘set the record straight about rising health-care costs.’”


New York Times -- State Insurance Experts See Flaw in Obama’s Plan to Curb Health Premiums

States are among the biggest losers in the president’s health plan as unfunded mandates on Medicaid would immediately kick in. That’s why governors from both parties have been pleading for the chance to get into the legislative process.

Another concern for states, though, is that they are responsible for making sure that the insurance companies that operate within their borders offer fair coverage and have the money to pay off claims. But if Obamacare becomes law, their regulations could be in conflict with the new federal panel that would set premium rates. States can’t allow insurance companies to operate if they don’t have enough resources to pay claims, but if Washington caps rates, solvency will become a concern.

Writer Robert Pear talks to state insurance commissioners who seem confused at what would happen if the president gets his way.

The answer is plain – once enough insurers shut down or abandon states with high-risk populations and small risk pools, the state regulation of insurance will be ended and the feds will take over. Then Washington would determine the kind of policies that can be sold and how much companies can charge. Once the trend toward more goodies for less money runs its course, the industry will stop working and the only coverage available would be through the government.

“Mary Beth Senkewicz, a deputy insurance commissioner in Florida, said, ‘If you divorce rate-setting from financial oversight, that’s a fundamental flaw.’

‘Premiums must be reasonable in relation to the benefits,’ Ms. Senkewicz said. ‘That becomes a fairly complex analysis.’”


New York Times -- House Democrat Quitting Amid Ethics Inquiry Blames His Party

A strange end to a strange story. Rep. Eric Massa, the New York Democrat who quit Monday amid an ethics charge that the father of three sexually harassed a male member of his staff, says that the charges are false and that he was railroaded by Democrats who wanted him out of Congress before the health-care vote – he was a no vote.

Of course, Massa could have harassed his staffer, thereby making himself a doubly appealing target for Democrats – look tough on ethics and get rid of a no vote too.

If that were the case, Massa would be complaining that it is hypocritical for Democrats to shield party line voters from their own misconduct but allow mavericks to suffer.

Massa will be on Glenn Beck’s show today, so more may emerge about White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

“Mr. Massa, a freshman member of Congress, said he had had a turbulent relationship with Mr. Emanuel since his early days in Congress. He said they had an argument in the House gym over Mr. Massa’s refusal to support President Obama’s budget proposal.

“‘I am sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel,’ Mr. Massa said, adding that Mr. Emanuel poked ‘his finger in my chest, yelling at me at me because I wasn’t going to vote for the president’s budget.’

‘You know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man?’ he continued.”


Washington Post -- Zabul province seeks U.S. troops, but is caught in Afghan numbers game

Writer Joshua Partlow looks at what’s happening outside of the targeted area of the second Obama surge.

Fears of a Talibani resurgence in places where there had been relative stability are growing, and local leaders and the government in Kabul are pressuring American commanders to alter their plans for the time-limited surge.

“The provincial governor, Alhaj M. Ashraf Naseri, said that about 2,000 Taliban fighters, operating in more than 100 groups, use motorbikes to crisscross his province at will. One of the 11 districts, Khak-e-Afghan, has been abandoned to the Taliban by both NATO and Afghan troops.

‘This is the main gateway for the Taliban,’ Naseri said. ‘Why are they neglecting Zabul?’

Naseri helped lead the effort to persuade NATO commanders to revise plans that had called for an even more dramatic retreat -- consolidating the remaining troops in a tighter knot in towns and abandoning some districts.”


Financial Times -- EU climate chief delivers treaty blow

With only nine months remaining until the next global warming summit, world leaders are lowering expectations, including the new EU climate boss.

It’s part of an overall strategy to keep the issue alive rather than force a destructive final confrontation at a time when the Warmist movement is back on its heels.

The Obama administration is talking about delaying EPA restrictions on carbon dioxide for two years and liberals in Congress are open to a more gradual phasing in of carbon caps.

“Governments had been hoping to forge a final treaty at a global conference this December in Mexico, after failing to do so in Copenhagen.

However, Ms Hedegaard said this was more likely to happen at a follow-up meeting next year in South Africa.

That would still allow governments to meet their self-imposed deadline of forging a new agreement before the end of 2012, when the current provisions of the world’s only existing treaty on greenhouse gas emissions, the 1997 Kyoto protocol, expire.”


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Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
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