#Obamacare: you may have coverage, but just try to find a doctor

April 20, 2014
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

Now that were a few months into our glorious new healthcare regime, we’re seeing more and more examples of something many predicted after the law was passed in 2010: you may have coverage, but good luck finding a doctor who takes it:

While open enrollment for coverage under the Affordable Care Act is closed, many of the newly insured are finding they can’t find doctors, landing them into a state described as “medical homelessness.”

Rotacare, a free clinic for the uninsured in Mountain View, is dealing with the problem firsthand.

Mirella Nguyen works at the clinic said staffers dutifully helped uninsured clients sign up for Obamacare so they would no longer need the free clinic.

But months later, the clinic’s former patients are coming back to the clinic begging for help. “They’re coming back to us now and saying I can’t find a doctor, “said Nguyen.

Thinn Ong was thrilled to qualify for a subsidy on the health care exchange. She is paying $200 a month in premiums. But the single mother of two is asking, what for?

“Yeah, I sign it. I got it. But where’s my doctor? Who’s my doctor? I don’t know,” said a frustrated Ong.

Nguyen said the newly insured patients checked the physicians’ lists they were provided and were told they weren’t accepting new patients or they did not participate in the plan.

And Nguyen says – while the free clinic isn’t technically supposed to be treating former patents they signed up for insurance, they can’t in good faith turn them away.

Dr. Kevin Grumbach of UCSF called the phenomenon “medical homelessness,” where patients are caught adrift in a system woefully short of primary care doctors.

(…)

Meanwhile, the sick and insured can’t get appointments.

“What good is coverage if you can’t use it?” Nguyen said.

(Emphasis added)

“Medical homelessness.” That’s a wonderful term for the chaos caused by Obamacare in provider networks. Not only do you discover that you can’t see the doctor you used to see, the new doctors you try to see may not take your health plan because it either doesn’t reimburse enough, or the regulations are too burdensome. Let’s review a few examples:

  • Thousands of elderly people are losing their insurance in New York. Will they find another doctor who takes Obamacare?
  • Need cancer treatment? Good luck if that top-shelf hospital that used to be on your old plan isn’t on your new one.
  • Thinn Ong in the story above isn’t the first Californian to have doctors turn her away. Maybe she could compare notes with Andrea Redamonti.
  • And one woman has (to date) gone through 96 physicians without finding one who would accept O-care Medicare coverage.

And there are a lot more in the archives.

Obamacare is an anti-constitutional monstrosity that’s not only not helping the people it was meant to help –the previously uninsured– but it’s actively hurting others. There’s only one thing to do with it: repeal it and then burn the legislation and scatter the ashes to the four winds.

And then replace it with something that will work.

Via Rick Moran, who has lots more.

PS: And don’t forget to vote out the idiots who passed it.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#HSR: California high-speed rail boondoggle lowers revenue projections

April 15, 2014
Boondoggle

Boondoggle

Can someone please just shoot this project and put it out of our misery?

In a new business plan submitted to state legislators last week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority offered lower revenue projections than it had two years before, predicting that revenue will be “5 percent lower than originally projected by 2025 and 10 percent lower by 2040,” according to a report by Sacramento’s KCRA.com.

So, let’s see. Costs are higher than projected (pace the HSRA), the train won’t be as fast as projected, even Democrats are breaking with Governor Jerry Brown over the project, and now revenues, which are supposed to pay back the billions we’re borrowing for this thing, won’t meet initial projections.

Explain to me just why Brown deserves reelection? I’m waiting… smiley well I'm waiting

RELATED: Past posts on Uncle Jerry’s high-speed choo-choo.


From Wyoming to New York: America’s Best and Worst States for Tax

April 5, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

I’m very disappointed in my beloved California; we’re only #4 on this list. Surely we can do better and drive more people and jobs away!

Originally posted on International Liberty:

Last August, I shared a fascinating map from the Tax Foundation.

It showed which states have chased away taxable income and which ones have attracted more taxpayers (along with their taxable income).

In other words, what are the “Golden Geese” doing with their money?

Well, the obvious and unsurprising answer is that they are escaping high-tax states and moving to states that aren’t quite so greedy.

Now we have another map from the Tax Foundation. They’ve just released the latest data on state and local tax burdens as a share of state income. Because of lags in data, we’re looking at 2011 numbers, but that’s not important. The main thing is to notice that the states with the highest tax burdens are very much correlated with the states that suffered the great loss of taxable income.

State-Local Tax

You can tell a few additional things just by looking at the…

View original 434 more words


#HSR: Jerry Brown’s high-speed choo-choo not so high-speed

March 28, 2014
Boondoggle

Boondoggle

Via The American Interest, the LA Times reports that California’s high-speed rail project may not be able to meet its promised travel times — shocker!

Regularly scheduled service on California’s bullet train system will not meet anticipated trip times of two hours and 40 minutes between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and are likely to take nearly a half-hour longer, a state Senate committee was told Thursday.

The faster trips were held out to voters in 2008 when they approved $9 billion in borrowing to help pay for the project. Since then, a series of political compromises and planning changes designed to keep the $68-billion line moving ahead have created slower track zones in urban areas.

But Louis Thompson, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, a state-sanctioned panel of outside experts, testified that “real world engineering issues” will cause schedules for regular service to exceed the target of two hours and 40 minutes. The state might be able to demonstrate a train that could make the trip that fast, but not on scheduled service, he told lawmakers. If public demand for the service supports additional investments, travel times could be improved after the currently planned system is built, he said.

Critics of the project have long disputed whether travel times between the Bay Area and Los Angeles will meet the mark of two hours and 40 minutes. Projected trip times for the bullet train are a point of contention in a court fight that could block the state’s access to the voter-approved bond funds.

So we have huge cost overruns, property seized to make way for the train, and now the revelation that it won’t even be all that “high-speed.” Genius. Future generations of dictionaries will include the California high-speed rail authority’s logo in their definition of “boondoggle.”

The puzzling thing is, neither the bullet train fiasco, the ongoing corruption saga, nor the fact that the state is bleeding jobs and businesses is making a dent in Governor Brown and the Democratic Party’s control over the state. But then it becomes not so puzzling when you think about it. As the author at TAI writes:

While Democrats face some internal wrangling over the project, it’s the state’s total absence of an organized political opposition that helps keep ideas like the high speed train alive. As a BuzzFeed article points out, Brown is not suffering in the polls whatsoever from his beloved project—a boondoggle that a majority of Californians now oppose. Similarly, the Golden State’s status as nation-wide leader in job losses isn’t expected to affect the Democrats’ legislative supermajority. In the last three months, three Democratic state senators have been convicted (1) on federal corruption charges including voter fraud, perjury, bribes in exchange for legislation, and weapons and drug trafficking to pay off campaign debts. That’s a list that would make Boss Tweed blush, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting the Democrats’ dominance in Sacramento.

It’s the job of the opposition to oppose, yet the California Republican Party is limp. As I wrote to friends the other day after the Leland Yee scandal broke:

“Which isn’t to excuse the CRP for being flaccid. Last night, several of us on Twitter were ripping them for being milquetoast in the wake of the Leland Yee scandal (and Wright and Calderon). The Republican Party in California is already a rump; why not make some noise, go on offense, and demand to know why the Democratic Party tolerates corruption in its ranks? Call press conferences, get ads out, get all candidates on the same message. Run on a populist clean government and prosperity platform.  We really have nothing to lose and we might peel off enough voters to make a difference.”

Otherwise, we’re just leaving the state to the people running it into the ground.

Footnote:
(1) Actually, one convicted and two indicted. The error has been pointed out at TAI in the comments section.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#CApolitics: Third state senator (D) arrested on corruption charges

March 26, 2014
Not smiling now, I bet.

Not smiling now, I bet.

Earth-shaking news in California politics broke this morning with word of the arrest of State Senator Leland Yee (D, SD-8) on charges of public corruption, including soliciting donations beyond the allowed limits in return for legislative services and –ahem!– firearms trafficking. You can read the indictment (PDF) via the NBC BayArea site (1). From their article on the arrest:

California state Sen. Leland Yee was arrested on public corruption charges as part of several arrests made by the FBI Wednesday morning during a massive FBI sting, the FBI told NBC Bay Area.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California said that Yee and current Chee Kung Tong leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow were among 26 defendants charged in a federal criminal complaint.

Yee and Chow were arraigned before Federal Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins in San Francisco this afternoon.

The federal criminal complaint, filed on March 24, was unsealed in San Francisco Wednesday, charging the defendants with firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes and honest services fraud, announced Haagm FBI special agent David Johnson and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez.

Yee was charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license, and to illegally import firearms as well as a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

Chow’s charges include money laundering and conspiracy to trafficking contraband cigarettes.

From what I gather from skimming the indictment, Yee stands accused of soliciting bribes both to retire his debt from his failed mayoral run in San Francisco and to fund his current campaign for Secretary of State. He is also accused of offering to facilitate an arms deal through New Jersey between a dealer Yee knew and “UCE 4599,” an unidentified FBI undercover agent… in return for a “donation.”

The connection between Senator Yee and “Shrimp Boy” Chow seems to be Keith Jackson, a well-known Bay Area political consultant and associate of Yee. Chow, who has a long record and has been under investigation for years, introduced UCE 4599 to Jackson, who then apparently started supplying weapons for UCE 4599′s “associates” to guard their (imaginary) marijuana farms in Northern California. Jackson and others also apparently ran their own drug ring and even attempted to solicit murder-for-hire. Jackson was also Yee’s money-maker for the illegal donations.

There is no accusation that Senator Yee had anything to do with drugs or murder-for-hire, but, still, he sure keeps nice company.

Aside from the organized crime drama and political corruption, this has serious implications for the Democrats in California. Yee is the third state senator (2), all Democrats, to be indicted or convicted in the last several months. Senator Roderick Wright was convicted of felony voter fraud in January, while Senator Ron Calderon was indicted for corruption in February.

Since the 2012 election, Democrats have held a supermajority in the California legislature, controlling both chambers with two-thirds majorities. Under the state constitution, that gave them the power to do pretty much whatever they wanted: pass irresponsible budgets, fund wasteful programs to their heart’s content, you name it. The Republicans were bystanders, and it didn’t look like they’d have any power any time soon.

Then the majority started crumbling in the state senate. First came Andy Vidak’s (R-SD26) surprise victory in a 2013 special election, then the conviction of Wright and the indictment of Calderon. That last broke the supermajority in the senate, and now Yee’s troubles (3) deepens the hole they’re in. Now, at least, the Democrats have to actually deal with the Republican senate caucus, if they want to get anything done. This means Proposition 13, the measure that protects homeowners from exorbitant property taxes and mandates a 2/3rds majority to raise taxes, making it a prime Democrat target, is safe for a while. The Democrats are likely to regain those seats, given the districts, but a smart Republican or independent candidate might make some populist hay running on a clean government platform. We’ll see.

From a larger view, this is what happens in a state when a party overwhelmingly dominates for too long: without credible opposition, legislators and other government officials come to feel entitled, become complacent, and think of themselves as rulers, not employees subject to the audit of the people. Corruption sets in. California has long been dominated by the Democrats (in the legislature, for decades), but a conservative friend in a long-time Red state has voiced similar complaints. It shows the problems that can set in when a strong two-party system withers to one.

One hopes that revelations such as Senator Yee’s purported activities will lead to soul-searching among the Democrats (4) and the rise of good conservative candidates in more areas to help redress the balance.

For the sake of California’s political health, we need both.

RELATED: More from the San Jose Mercury News.

PS: Did you know Yee once sponsored a measure to require state buildings to be designed according to Chinese Feng Shui principles? There’s a reason we’re called “Crazyfornia.”

Footnotes:
(1) And kudos to them for linking to a primary source. Too few online MSM outlets do that.
(2) But not the last, I bet.
(3) Because Senate President Steinberg (D) is desperate to keep those seats in Democrat hands, rather than risk a special election, Wright and Calderon have been allowed to go on “paid leave,” rather than being expelled. Yes, they still draw a salary, but at least they can’t vote. I’m sure Yee will be shown the same “courtesy.”
(4) Oh, stop laughing. It could happen. Maybe.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Demon-fearing Los Angeles city council blames fracking for earthquake

March 20, 2014
Drill, baby, drill!

Drill, baby, drill!

Remember, kiddies, liberals are the party of science!

Los Angeles City Council members have discovered how to cause earthquakes. Three councilmen think fracking may be the cause of Monday’s earthquake in the Santa Monica Mountains, and they want the city, state, and feds to do an in-depth review.

Councilmen Paul Koretz, Mike Bonin, and Bernard Parks Tuesday introduced a motion calling for the city, the U.S. Geological Survey, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources to report on whether hydraulic fracturing caused the moderate 4.4-magnitude earthquake, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“It is crucial to the health and safety of the City’s residents to understand the seismic impacts of oil and gas extraction activities in the City,” the motion says. “All high-pressure fracking and injection creates ‘seismic events.’ . . .  Active oil extraction activities are reportedly taking place on the Veteran’s Administration grounds in West Los Angeles, nearby the epicenter of the March 17, 2014, 4.4 earthquake.”

Parks, who seconded the motion, tells National Review Online that while fracking is “reportedly” happening near the epicenter, those who signed the motion weren’t completely sure. However, he adds that “earthquakes are happening in areas that are not historically earthquake prone, but they are in places where fracking is going on.”

I’m sorry to say Mike Bonin is my city councilman.

Let’s be honest, here. If Koretz, Parks, and Bonin genuinely think fracking caused an earthquake, they know nothing about earthquakes and are just fearing demons in the night. Earthquakes happen when adjoining tectonic plates, which are constantly in motion against each other, suddenly break and move with a jolt. Sometimes a little bit, as in Monday’s quake, sometimes a lot, as in the 2011 Tohoku quake in Japan. In seismically active areas, such as the western coast of North America, small quakes occur every day and have since long before anyone thought of the words “hydraulic fracturing.”

Here’s the technical information for Monday’s shaker. Note the depth: six miles. This is what a USGS geologist had to say when asked about fracking causing that quake:

However, opponents of the moratorium argue that fracking has not been proven to cause any health risks and that claims that it caused this earthquake are not realistic.

“My first impression is that sounds implausible,” seismologist Lucy Jones said. “The earthquake was so deep. Induced earthquakes are almost always shallower than this.”

In other words, yes you might get hit by a bolt from the blue, but that’s no reason to ban walking outdoors.

This call for a study (borrowing from the neverending studies tactic of NY Governor Cuomo) is just another delaying tactic in furtherance of their earlier motion to ban fracking within city limits.  Hydraulic fracturing opponents are using what’s called the “preventative principle” (1) to stop a promising technology that could do wonders for the economy, because the idea of oil and gas exploration goes against their hardcore environmentalist agenda. And then they find lackwit politicians who know nothing about the subject matter, but who are ever so happy to take activists’ donations and campaign help, and get them to pass laws serving that agenda — to the public’s detriment. Their hope is that through delay after delay and more and more burdensome regulations, they can kill what they oppose altogether.

No matter how discredited their propaganda, no matter how safe fracking is shown to be, no matter that even the Energy Secretary of the most left-leaning administration in US history declares it safe, no matter how much this city, this state, and this nation need the economic boost intelligent exploitation of our vast oil and gas resources would provide, fracking opponents continue to throw anything against the wall in the hopes of finding something that will convince people to support a ban.

And sometimes they find the fools they need.

RELATED: Ten myths about natural gas drilling. The UK government thinks fracking is safe. Nancy Pelosi’s daughter even thinks the evil magic of fracking can cause earthquakes far out at sea.

Footnote:
(1) Watch for words like “may,” “might,” “possible,” “could” and other weak words that don’t require any evidence to back them up, just the doubt and fear they create in the (they hope) credulous listener.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Tweet of the Day, #LAquake edition

March 17, 2014
"Even the monkey is embarrassed"

“Even the monkey is embarrassed”

So, as you probably all heard, we had a light earthquake near Public Secrets Global HQ this morning (1). Not a bad one, though I was near the epicenter and upstairs, so it was still a good ride. But, if you’ve lived in California for your whole life, as I have, it’s also nothing you haven’t been through, before. A momentary “uh-oh” as you wonder if this is the lead in to The Big One, and then back to whatever you were doing as it fades away. And I figured my fellow Angelenos would feel the same way. After all, did we not laugh and point when D.C. had their quake?

Then I saw this (via Twitchy):

Really, people? “Hello? Operator? I’d like to report an earthquake. Would you please send someone out to arrest it?”

Tourists. Yeah, that’s it. It must be tourists.

PS: While we laugh at each other and ourselves, let’s remember that earthquakes are serious business, and it’s our own individual responsibility to be prepared for when a bad one hits; help from the government may take days to arrive, after all. Earthquake Country is a good site with before, during, and after advice.

Footnote:
(1) I deny any and all rumors that I was conducting below-ground atomic testing. Pay no attention to that small radioactive cloud…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Another 2nd Amendment win in California

March 6, 2014

"Crime stopper"

“Self-defense”

Okay, someone has put something in the water at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; this is the second ruling in a row where they’ve defended the right to bear arms in self defense against hyper-restrictive California laws. This time, they smacked down the Yolo County Sheriff:

Just weeks after striking down the San Diego County “good cause” requirement as burdensome to the exercise of the Second Amendment, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Yolo County, CA’s requirement that a concealed carry applicant “prove they face a threat of violence or robbery” before being allowed to carry a gun.

The Court in its new-found crush on the Bill of Rights found that the application of the “good cause” rule in Yolo “impermissibly” infringed the plaintiffs 2nd Amendment rights. While the ruling only applies to the county in question, it seems to me this is another wedge in the door that opens the way for a state-wide ruling.

Civil liberties — what a concept!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Ninth Circuit overturns California gun law

February 13, 2014

law constitution bill of rights

When even the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says progressive gun-grabbers have gone too far, it’s something to take note of:

The court concludes that California’s broad limits on both open and concealed carry of loaded guns — with no “shall-issue” licensing regime that assures law-abiding adults of a right to get licenses, but only a “good cause” regime under which no license need be given — “impermissibly infringe[] on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.” The Ninth Circuit thus joins the Seventh Circuit, and disagrees with the Second, Third, and Fourth Circuits. (State courts are also split on the subject.)

“Shall issue” vs. “may issue” has been a big bone of contention among gun rights advocates here in California, as high-handed county sheriffs and city police chiefs have used the distinction to deny otherwise law-abiding citizens their right to carry a weapon.

Given the differences between the various circuit courts, expect this one to go to the federal Supreme Court.

PS: The Washington Post genuinely upgraded the paper by letting Ezra Klein go and adding Prof. Eugene Volokh, founder of The Volokh Conspiracy.

via PJM.

RELATED: More analysis. What next?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare: Los Angeles residents turned away at the doctor’s office

February 6, 2014
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

This is a story happening all across the country, and it is all due to the chaos caused by Democrats and their precious healthcare “reform:”

After overcoming website glitches (1) and long waits to get Obamacare, some patients are now running into frustrating new roadblocks at the doctor’s office.

A month into the most sweeping changes to healthcare in half a century, people are having trouble finding doctors at all, getting faulty information on which ones are covered and receiving little help from insurers swamped by new business.

Experts have warned for months that the logjam was inevitable. But the extent of the problems is taking by surprise many patients — and even doctors — as frustrations mount.

Aliso Viejo resident Danielle Nelson said Anthem Blue Cross promised half a dozen times that her oncologists would be covered under her new policy. She was diagnosed last year with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and discovered a suspicious lump near her jaw in early January.

But when she went to her oncologist’s office, she promptly encountered a bright orange sign saying that Covered California plans are not accepted.

“I’m a complete fan of the Affordable Care Act, but now I can’t sleep at night,” Nelson said. “I can’t imagine this is how President Obama wanted it to happen.”

That last reminds me of what peasants in Russia used to say about the Tsar: “It can’t be the Tsar’s will our lives are so bad; it must be his evil advisers! If only the Good Father knew, he’d fix everything!” Hopefully the scales of naivete will fall from Ms. Nelson’s eyes, soon.

It’s true there are serious problems with inaccurate information about which providers are in a given network, leading people to think the doctor they want will accept them, only to find out otherwise; that one I’ll lay at the insurers’ doorstep. (Unless someone knows better?)

But the shrinkage of provider networks, something the article and the state insurance people it quotes try to blame on insurance companies trying to save money is, well, less than half the story.

If Obamacare didn’t impose so many needless requirements and instead let insurers design plans to meet individuals’ specific needs, and if it didn’t mandate coverage for anyone regardless of preexisting conditions, expenses wouldn’t have grown to the point where limiting networks to contain costs became necessary.

In the end, the laws of economics win, no matter what Nancy Pelosi demands. When you mandate increased costs, the company has to cut expenses or raise prices, or, as we’re finding under Obamacare, do both.

Of course, when you have a problem caused by government interference, the solution is more government interference:

Looking to head off potential problems, government regulators and patient advocates are pushing for tougher rules to ensure health plans provide timely access to care.

Last week, the California Assembly approved legislation enabling people who lost coverage because of the overhaul to keep seeing their doctors if they’re pregnant or undergoing treatment for cancer or other conditions.

You know, I’m glad pregnant women can continue to see the doctor they like. Everyone should be able to — but they shouldn’t have to go crying for a special fix to take care of a problem caused by the Blind Idiot God “Government” in the first place!

There’s a day of reckoning coming for the Democrats. Bet on it.

via ST in email

RELATED: And speaking of increased costs and the laws of economics — “AOL CEO says ObamaCare adding $7 million to costs.” Gee, what do we think will happen to all those employer-based health plans?

Footnotes:
(1) “Glitches.” The LA Times must’ve gotten the DNC memo on proper spin. “Glitches” sounds so minor and temporary compared to the truth of a huge, honking, crashing failure.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Ding-dong, Waxman’s gone!

January 30, 2014
Henry Waxman, D-Statist

Henry Waxman, D-Statist

Oh, this is a moment I’ve long looked forward to. Henry Waxman (D-CA), one of the most obnoxious progressives in the House and co-author of the economy-killing, state-growing Waxman-Markey climate bill, has decided to retire:

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, whose legislative record has made him one of the country’s most influential liberal lawmakers for four decades, announced Thursday that he will retire from his Westside seat, the latest in a wave of departures that is remaking the state’s long-stable congressional delegation.

Waxman-Markey failed, thank God, but the LAT article reminds us of another of Henry’s gifts to America:

Among his legislative victories was the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which he helped write and push through the House. Passage of the law fulfilled “one of my lifelong dreams” by guaranteeing access to healthcare coverage for Americans, he said.

Translated: “I’ve done all the damage I can do, so, since there is no chance Democrats will retake the House and we’ll likely lose the Senate, I might as well retire to enjoy my pension and become a lobbyist.”

Henry Waxman was Leviathan personified, a statist who tried his hardest to insert the federal government into every aspect of our lives. He is also a vile partisan who, I’m sure, regrets he couldn’t institute one-party rule.

His district here in Los Angeles is solidly Democratic, so there is no hope of a Republican pick up, but almost anyone the Democrats run will at least be no worse.

Goodbye and good riddance, Henry Waxman.

UPDATE: Charles Cooke reminds us that Waxman co-authored the Clean Air Act, which set the stage for the EPA’s aggressive rule-making, and signed off as often as he could on surrendering legislative authority to executive agencies. Bah.

UPDATE 2: Hmm. Per Allahpundit, maybe Henry’s seat isn’t so safe after all.


California: Jerry Brown’s high-speed payoff? #HSR

January 30, 2014
Boondoggle

Uncle Jerry’s High-Speed Boondoggle

Oh, no. This doesn’t look bad at all. First the Tutor-Perini (1) construction company, whom we’ve met before, wins a huge contract to build California’s high-speed rail, even though their record is… not the best. Then, after two defeats in state courts that put the whole project in jeopardy, Brown demands the state supreme court take the cases and overturn them — NOW!!! (2)

And what came between the lower courts’ decisions and Brown’s running to the supreme court? Why, a maximum contribution to Brown’s reelection campaign.

From Tutor-Perini:

The timing of the campaign contribution doesn’t sit well with the state Legislature’s leading critic of the $68 billion high-speed rail project.

“Let’s connect the dots,” said Senator Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, who has introduced a package of legislation “aimed at driving a stake through the heart” of the state’s bullet train. “The HSR Authority’s apparent bid-rigging lands this company a $1 billion contract, then this company gives Brown a max campaign contribution, and then Brown sues to bail the company out?”

“In farm country, this is called ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,’” Vidak said.

If Michelle Malkin ever writes a second edition of “Culture of Corruption,” I have a suggested new chapter for her, titled “California’s High-Speed Rip-Off.”

PS: Yeah, I tweeted this article a few minutes ago, but it has me so ticked off, I had to write about it. Garbage like this is one of the poisoned fruits of decades of one-party rule.

Footnote:
(1) The principal owner of which is Senator Diane Feinstein’s husband, let us not forget. Apparently not true any longer, Blume having divested himself of Tutor-Perini stock around October, 2005. (h/t Brock Winstead)
(2) Where he was rebuffed, I’m happy to say. Even the governor doesn’t get to jump the line.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare: California family finds “affordable care” to be neither

January 29, 2014
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

It’s becoming an all too common story: people who thought Obamacare would solve their healthcare-coverage problems find instead that, thanks to bigger premiums, higher deductibles, and shrinking provider networks, they’re arguably worse off than before.

In this case, the victims (1) are the family of German Campos and Andrea Redamonti, themselves and their children, who live in Chico, CA. Redamonti and one of her children have been denied insurance in the past, so, to them, Obamacare seemed like the answer to their prayers.

But, now that the PPACA has kicked in, Redamonti is learning her dream was just a delusion:

“I was so excited,” Redamonti said about Obamacare. “My son and I had both been denied coverage previously, and with the new Obamacare, they couldn’t refuse us.”

But since signing up for Covered California in October, she’s been going in circles with the health exchange.

Simply securing the coverage has been a major headache. Redamonti has spent hours navigating the frequently failing website and on the phone with her provider, only to be asked for income verification for her sons — ages 10 and 8, and repeated requests for payment, even though her check was sent in weeks earlier.

In addition, their new insurance — the minimum available — costs $800 per month instead of the $650 they were paying before and carries a $15,000 deductible.

“When it finally happened and we figured out what we’d be paying and what our benefits would be, our hearts sank,” Redamonti said.

Technically, she’s been covered since Jan. 1, but still waiting on her medical ID card, it’s been difficult to make doctor’s appointments or fill prescriptions.

“I feel like I have paid for coverage and I don’t have it,” Redamonti said.

This is a story being repeated over and over across California, which, God help us, has one of the better-functioning Obamacare sites, and the nation in general: people think they’ll at last have coverage, only to discover they’ve been sold a worthless bill of goods.

By the Democratic Party, let me remind you.

Normally, this is where I’d express minimal or no sympathy with people like Ms. Redamonti and her family, but I’m actually quite sympathetic to her predicament. Worried for her child who has a congenital heart condition, herself at high risk for breast cancer, both denied coverage… Well, one can understand why she and her husband would see Obamacare as the relief they needed and why they’d be eager to buy into the fairy tale that was sold to them.

By the Democratic Party, I’ll point out, again.

What was it Reagan once said? Oh, yeah:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

I hope, genuinely, that Ms. Redamonti and Mr. Campos learn from this a lesson about government control of the economy –it doesn’t work and it makes things worse– and vote accordingly in the next election.

Where I find my sympathy lacking, though, is for people who just don’t get it, such as one of the doctors interviewed for the article. Co-owner of the pediatrics clinic where Redamonti’s children were treated, Dr. Eliza Brown had to turn them away because the insurance company refused to reveal their reimbursement rates, which were likely to be lower than under the old system. They’re a business after all and they have to recover costs. But then she had this to say:

Brown loves the idea of providing basic affordable coverage for everyone, but said the reality proves to be “nebulous and fuzzy,” and be more of a hindrance to health care than a help.

“If I can’t prescribe medicine because it will be denied or can’t give a vaccine to prevent illness because it will be denied, how do you provide care?” Brown said. “Medical decision-making is being put into insurance companies’ hands. They say what they will and will not provide and what can be prescribed.”

Effective health care reform is not possible without health insurance reform, Sullivan said.

With today’s higher premiums and lower reimbursement rates, the extra profit must go “straight into the pockets of the insurance companies and their shareholders,” she said. Care providers and patients suffer as a result.

I have little but contempt for the big insurers, who saw Obamacare as a way to get guaranteed rents thanks to the individual mandate, but Dr. Brown is missing the root of the problem here: it’s not the insurance companies determining allowed care and reimbursement rates, but the government via the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB), Sarah Palin’s “death panel.” (2) The insurance companies are now little more than divisions of HHS. She needs to learn that government cannot provide “affordable coverage for everyone” without somehow rationing care: by curtailing reimbursements or limiting access, or, in the case of Ms. Redamonti and her children, both.

Of course, situations such as these are opportunities for advocates of free markets and limited government; it’s up to us to explain gently to people suffering the same travails why statist health care cannot work and that there is a better way., which starts by not voting for the Democratic Party.

Because we’re from the People, and we’re here to help.

RELATED: From Moe Lane, more on shrinking Medicare provider networks. The Democrats are so going to enjoy November.

Footnote:
(1) And I use that word deliberately; the whole nation is a victim of this bill.
(2) Oh, that dumb chill-billy. Right again.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


California’s drought situation in pictures – what a difference one year makes

January 18, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

We’re in the worst drought since 1898, at least, but it has to do with the Pacific Ocean, not the demon Global Warming. Read the whole thing. There are some impressive pictures there, too. And once again we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, failing to build enough water storage, thanks to environmental groups adamantly opposed to even the most sensible development. What was that fable about the ant and the grasshopper again?

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

Yesterday, my local reservoir, Lake Oroville, made the front page of Drudge. The photo below shows the Highway 162 suspension bridge and the Bidwell Marina, which is almost in the center of the lake now. The last time I was there at this very spot in September, boat launch ramps were still operable. From what I hear now, they are past the asphalt and down to mud for anyone that dares to try.

oroville-drudge

Below are two photos from the NASA MODIS imaging system that show California from the Los Angeles area north to the Oregon border. One if from January 13th, 2013, and the other is from January 14th, 2014.

The lack of snowpack in the northern Sierra Nevada is quite significant and the visual difference between years is stunning. 

View original 1,571 more words


California: Governor Brown panicking over High-Speed Rail? Updated.

January 8, 2014
Boondoggle

Boondoggle

From The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters. It looks like Governor Brown, faced with recent legal defeats for his “Train to Nowhere,” may be starting to panic:

Jerry Brown may be getting desperate about keeping the state’s increasingly unpopular – not to mention financially and legally challenged – bullet train project alive.

Faced with a judge’s insistence that the project follow the law about having its financial ducks lined up, Gov. Brown is now poised to shift money from the state’s “cap-and-trade” fees on greenhouse-gas emissions into the bullet train.

Brown, it’s been reported in The Bee and elsewhere, will propose in his 2014-15 budget that a portion of the fees being extracted from California business be committed to the bullet train.

Problem is, the money my fellow Californians allocated (1) to fight global warming climate change the evil demon threatening Gaea is “hardwired” by statute; the court may not accept that as a funding source sufficient to let construction go forward. Even if it does, the legislature, whose dominant leftist faction gets a lot of donation money from environmentalist groups, may not agree to reallocate the funds. But, if they do, and if the judge accepts this as a legal source of funds for Jerry’s Choo-Choo, it may still set up the mother of all Blue-on-Blue battles in Sacramento as environmentalist groups and their voters will likely raise an unholy stink over any money being diverted from their religious crusade.

And, when that happens, I’m doubling my popcorn order. smiley popcorn

Footnote:
(1) Passed in a fit of  “It’s for the environment! It must be good!!” Look, I live in a beautiful state and consider myself a conservationist (But not an environmentalist. I don’t join cults.), but passing a crippling new tax to fight a problem that does not exist was stupid and self-destructive for the state. Unfortunately, that’s what you get when an electorate votes with less consideration of the issues than they give to buying a head of lettuce.

UPDATE: There is no way I’m taking Moe Lane’s bet. That’s a sucker’s bet if I ever saw one.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


CA High-Speed Rail Fail: Judge derails Gov. Brown’s choo-choo?

November 26, 2013
"Train wreck"

“Train wreck”

Darn Judge Michael Kenny and his concern for the law! Doesn’t he know he’s standing in the way of the future?

A Sacramento judge put the brakes on California’s plans to build a bullet train after dual rulings Monday blocked the sale of $8 billion in bonds and ordered the rail authority to rewrite its funding plans for the huge project.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that there was “no evidence in the record” to support the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s request in March to sell the bonds from Proposition 1A, a $10 billion measure approved by voters in 2008 that allowed the bullet train project to move ahead.

In a separate but related case, the judge sided with the Kings County Board of Supervisors and two homeowners who sued the rail agency, saying it had failed to detail how the project will be financed, as legally required, before seeking bond money to begin construction.

The judge’s rulings leave the future of the $68 billion project in question. The state has been trying to get the first 130-mile segment in the Central Valley built using $3.24 billion in federal funds and $2.61 billion in Prop. 1A bond money. The rail authority has already signed a construction contract to build the first 29 miles of track from Madera to Fresno.

The judge rejected opponents’ calls for that contract to be rescinded.

The judge’s ruling seems a reasonable one, as he sticks to the question of CHSRA’s authority to sell bonds (1); the contract is a separate matter and, if the State can’t raise the money to pay for it, also moot.

Naturally, this ruling is going to get appealed by proponents of this boondoggle all the way to the State Supreme Court, if need be. Let’s hope they uphold Judge Kenny’s ruling; then maybe we can escape from this fiasco having wasted only $600 million.

I’m not, however, getting my hopes up. The legislature might try to rewrite the law to allow the bond sales. This would be difficult and subject to court challenges, as the original measure approving HSR was a public ballot initiative, and changing it might require another vote, something Brown opposes because the California public has turned against the project. He wouldn’t want to risk a public rejection that would definitively kill his 1930s retro-future dream. Whichever way this goes, it’s going to be a long fight.

As they say, “stay tuned!”

Footnote:
(1) I almost wrote “”bongs.” Fitting, seeing as this is California.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


CA High-Speed Rail Fail: $600 million spent, not a mile of track laid

November 23, 2013
"Train wreck"

“Train wreck”

Because The Future! Or something:

The latest accounting by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to state lawmakers indicates that the agency has spent almost $600 million on engineering and environmental consultants — all without turning a shovelful of dirt on construction.

In the twice-a-year report (PDF) sent to legislative leaders on Friday, the agency is sticking to its estimated price tag of $68.3 billion to build its San Francisco-to-Los Angeles bullet-train line. The agency earlier this year approved a $987 million contract with a team of contractors to design and build the first 29-mile stretch of the line from Madera through Fresno.

But while contractors Tutor Perini Corp., Zachry Construction and Parsons Corp. have been given a green light for engineering and other pre-construction activities, the authority has offered no estimate of when ground may be broken .

If the name “Tutor-Perini” rings a bell, you’re not just hearing things. Tutor-Perini’s principle owner is Richard Blum. Blum has been mentioned before in this blog, and there have been allegations in the past of cronyism in the winning of government contracts by companies he’s involved with. By sheer coincidence, Blum is also the husband of Senator Diane Feinstein.

Fancy that.

But, back to the more than half-a-billion, this is money that has been spent before construction has even begun on the initial Fresno to Madera segment. The Fresno Bee article describes what we’ve gotten for our money, so far:

“The authority has made significant progress in its mission to plan, design, build and operate the nation’s first high-speed rail system as part of the statewide rail modernization program,” agency CEO Jeff Morales wrote in the report.

The report details a raft of administrative advances, including filling all of its executive management positions, developing a risk-management plan, issuing a report on greenhouse-gas emissions, and awarding the construction contracts for the Madera-Fresno stretch.

(I hope those executives got some nice chairs for that $600 million.)

There is still an environmental report –Yay! More consulting fees!– for the area around Chowchilla to be done, which is why this state version of a shovel-ready project hasn’t started. Already they’re two years behind schedule.

And the whole ball of wax (with attendant fees) has to be done for at least six other segments from San Francisco to Anaheim. Luckily, the High-Speed Rail Authority is allowed to spend up to $980 million on pre-construction “consulting contracts” through 2018. No way they’ll come asking for more public money (1). Nope. Nuh-uh.

I can’t wait to see what the costs come to once they actually start building this boondoggle.

Nice legacy ya got there, Governor.

Footnote:
(1) Funded by either public borrowing or higher taxes, of course.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare: California required the canceling of insurance policies

November 4, 2013
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

Pushing back against the growing stories of people losing their individual health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare apologists have taken to scapegoating the insurance companies, even claiming that the cancellations were happening because the companies couldn’t compete, as in this mendacious Talking Points Memo piece.

In California, at least, that just ain’t so:

Specific language in the contracts major health insurers signed with Covered California to participate in the exchange required them to cancel the individual coverage which is at the center of a growing national debate.

Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Health Net and Blue Shield of California have confirmed to the San Francisco Business Times that their Covered California contracts, signed in August or September, required the cancellations. Other plans on the exchange are subject to the same contract language.

“All QHPs (of which we are one) had to sign that contract,” said Darrel Ng, a spokesman for Anthem Blue Cross, referring to insurers known as qualified health plans.

And here’s the language in question:

“Contractor agrees that effective no later than December 31, 2013, except as otherwise provided in State Law, it shall terminate or arrange for the termination of all of its non-grandfathered individual health insurance plan contracts or policies which are not compliant with the applicable provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Contractor agrees to promote ways to offer, market and sell or otherwise transition its current members into plans or policies which meet the applicable Affordable Care Act requirements. This obligation applies to all non-grandfathered individual insurance products in force or for sale by Contractor whether or not the individuals covered by such products are eligible for subsidies in the Exchange.”

“Grandfathered” products could avoid this requirement, but, as we’ve seen, Senate Democrats made it very easy for insurance plans to become non-grandfathered and thus illegal.

I’ve often said that the California legislature is the AAA farm team for congressional Democrats; whatever nonsense federal progressives come up with, their junior partners in Sacramento will sign onto it with pathetic enthusiasm in hopes of earning a promotion to the “Big Leagues” in D.C.

I wonder how Edie Sundby will feel when she learns that her state government had a large hand in endangering her treatment for stage-4 cancer?

via Jim Geraghty

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare: at last, CNN finds someone thrilled with it!

November 2, 2013

At long last, we’ve found people genuinely excited by our new, state-run healthcare system: strippers, escorts, dominatrices and other sex-workers!

Only in California, my friends, and only in San Francisco:

A burlesque dancer dressed as a nurse taunts her co-performer with a toy syringe, dangling the medicine seductively in an act that’s meant to reflect the cat-and-mouse game of U.S. healthcare. They shimmy and eventually end up topless.

The risqué performance was part of an Obamacare registration drive last week in San Francisco, dubbed the “Healthy Ho’s Party.”

Organized by “Siouxsie Q,” a Bay Area sex worker, the event was meant to encourage other sex workers to enroll in the new insurance exchanges. It was a rousing success: Nearly 40 men and women attended and almost all of them filed enrollment paperwork.

In the all-cash, off-the-books sex industry, workers can be particularly high risk and insurance is often out of reach. Many sex workers — a broad term that can refer to a number of services, including sexual massage, prostitution, and escort and dominatrix work — consider themselves self-employed entrepreneurs who can’t afford to purchase healthcare. But that could all change with the Affordable Care Act.

The article then continues with the usual pro-Obamacare tale: insurance for “Siouxsie” and her partner was too big a chunk of their income, plus, given the risks of their “professions,” coverage was more expensive or often unobtainable altogether. With guaranteed coverage and publicly funded subsidies, plans become affordable. Yay!

Well, not so fast. First, as the article notes, subsidies kick in for incomes under $46,000. Many of these women have “regular jobs” — the sex trade is extra income. The article strongly implies that this latter income isn’t being reported. So, there’s a strong possibility of one degree or another of fraud here. But, hey, Obama doesn’t care; they’re not verifying income, anyway.

Second, before jumping with joy, these ladies and gentlemen would be well-advised to check into co-pays, deductibles, and just who is included in their new network, since all of these are already being recognized as problems. (And, to be clear, Obamacare critics have been warning of this for years.) It’s not for nothing that one person described the low-cost plans as “garbage.”

Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Finally, I need to deal with one truly egregious statement that’s indicative of much that’s wrong these days:

“I really do think access to healthcare should be a human right, and I’ve been so brainwashed to think it’s such a privilege,” a sex worker and activist known as “Maxine Holloway” said.

Sorry, Maxine, but healthcare is neither a right nor a privilege: it is a commodity, the fruits of the labor of other people (doctors who have to pay to attend medical school, companies that make the medical instruments, &c.) that is traded for the fruits of still other people’s labor — the money they earn.

Nothing you pay money for is an inherent, natural right. To declare health care a “right” everyone is entitled to, you have to take from someone else, if need be by force, their property, whether it is their time and labor, or the products they produce. Force them to sell something for less than what it is worth or to provide it “free,” and you are effectively stealing from them, even enslaving them. For the government to demand that taxpayers pay far more than they need to for insurance in order to subsidize your medical procedures is no different than a medieval lord taking a farmer’s grain crop and giving it to his favorites.

Look at it from another point of view: assume that one day sex is declared a human right, and that you, as a sex-worker are required to provide it at less than what you think your services are worth, which is analogous to what happens to a doctor under Medicare. (1) Would you be happy with that, Maxine? Would you think it right? Or would you feel oppressed and used?

Put it this way: What the government gives you, it can easily take. Or force you to provide.

PS: For the record, I have nothing against the “sex trade,” as long as all participants are adults engaging in it of their own free will. I suppose this is one place where the “libertarian” part of my self-description as a “conservative with libertarian leanings” comes into play — individualism, liberty of contract, free enterprise and entrepreneurialism, &c. Or, put another way, within broad bounds, it’s none of government’s (or my) business. In fact, I suspect that Siouxsie and Maxine and their friends are far more honest about what they do than the Obama and his team have ever been about their intentions. Given my choice of people to hang around with…

via ST

Footnote:
(1) This is a mistaken analogy on my part, for practices aren’t required to take Medicare and Medicaid patients. Doing so is voluntary on their part, much like pro bono work by attorneys. For a Democrat proposal that would change this, though, see this…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare chronicles: more sticker shock, canceled coverage, and Halloween horror

October 27, 2013
No way!!

Wait! It’s not free??

I swear by the Good Book, I’d love to be working in a Republican communications shop scripting campaign commercials; Obamacare is making their job so easy.

The Los Angeles Times published an article yesterday that tried valiantly to convince us that there are both winners and losers under Obamacare, but it seems the only real-world examples (1) they could cite were of the losers, such a pregnant mother-to-be:

Fullerton resident Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage.

Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don’t qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined.

“It doesn’t seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else,” said Harris, who is three months pregnant. “This increase is simply not affordable.”

Remember what I wrote about campaign commercials? If “Obamacare hurts pregnant women” isn’t being broadcast over every woman-oriented medium in summer and fall 2014, someone needs to be shot.

The quote of the day, however has to come from the unnamed woman who just learned that unicorns don’t exist:

Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.

“She said, ‘I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,’” Kehaly said.

Reality has a way of shattering those Candyland dreams,  doesn’t it? Maybe she can commiserate with these people.

There are hundred of thousands, if not millions of Americans, not only in California but across the nation, finding themselves in similar situations: losing the coverage they like, being cut off from the doctors they trust, finding their choices restricted and their costs increased, and this is all before they actually have to try to get decent medical care under this anti-constitutional monstrosity.

Which means, as time goes by, there are going to be more and more angry people who also happen to vote, which already has Democrats in a near-panic. After all, they voted for this thing; we didn’t.

And we will be sure to make that quite clear to all and sundry.

Oh, that Halloween horror I mentioned? Check out this web ad from Generation Opportunity. This year, the scariest Halloween monster won’t be Frankenstein, but Uncle Sam:

RELATED: From Reason Magazine, Obamacare has a big problem with Medicaid sign-ups — too many of them. After nearly four weeks after the opening of the Obamacare web site, more than 330,000 people have gotten to the point where subsidy calculations can be made. That’s across the entire nation. No word on how many of those actually bought a policy.

PS: I can’t resist going back to the LAT article and pulling one last quote, this from the director of Covered California, that is a sterling example of progressive-bureaucratic arrogance:

“People could have kept their cheaper, bad coverage, and those people wouldn’t have been part of the common risk pool,” [Peter] Lee said. “We are better off all being in this together. We are transforming the individual market and making it better.”

Translation: “People could have kept the coverage they were satisfied with, but then we wouldn’t have been able to force them to pay more for coverage they don’t want or need. We’re from the government and we know how a free market should be run.” Just amazing.

Footnote:
(1) As opposed to “All is well” pronouncements from regime apparatchiks.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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