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Posts published in “Day: February 27, 2010”

Health insurance monopoly, NW

The idea of a competitive health insurance marketplace sounds not too bad, but it's a long way from the reality.

A report from Health Care for America Now (dating from May 2009 but useful again in the current debate) has broken out the concentration of health insurers by state. How did the Northwest states rank?

Idaho had the 16th most concentrated - least competitive, most monopolized - health insurance markets among the 50 states. Blue Cross of Idaho (46% of the market) and Regence Blue Shield (29%) together take up 75% of the Idaho market.

The report: "For family health coverage in Idaho during that time [2000-07], the average annual combined premium for employers and employees rose from $5,160 to $11,432. . . . During that time, health insurance premiums for Idaho working families rose four times faster than median earnings."

Washington was somewhat better off, at 34th among the 50. There, Premera Blue Cross had 38% of the market and Regence Blue Shield 23%, for a total between the two of 61%.

Family coverage cost increases in Washington? On average, from $6,496 to $12,120, or 5.3 times faster than median earnings.

Of the three states, Oregon was actually best off, ranking 40th. Providence Health & Services had 25% of the market, and Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield 23%, for a total of 48% - not quite half.

Family coverage in Oregon rose in those years from $6,654 to $12,321, about 4.7 times faster than median earnings.

Of course, those skyrocketing figures are somewhat out of date; they're obviously larger by now.

10 militia reasons

Not to harp too much on the Pocatello Tea Party, but this one was not to be missed.

The headline was "Ten Reasons Why We Need a State Militia Now."

Here are the ten:

bullet Attacks by international “terrorists”

bullet Invasion by illegal immigrants

bullet Infusions of illicit drugs

bullet Depredations of criminal enterprises organized and operated on a global scale

bullet Rampant domestic “gangster government” at the National, State and Local levels

bullet The dragooning of America as a “global policeman” in the service of special-interest groups, both foreign and domestic

bullet Schemes aimed at overthrowing the Declaration of Independence

bullet Cultural subversion, corruption, and dissolution

bullet The inherent instability and corruption of America’s monetary and banking systems

bullet A staggering burden of governmental financial liabilities

Assuming you could figure out just how a state militia would solve all those problems, there's just one left:

What do you do with the current Idaho militia - that is, the Idaho National Guard?

Biting off one’s nose

There are plenty of people in this country who are here illegally, and one effective way to get a handle on that would be to block their employment. So how far should legislators go in that direction?

In Idaho, there's House Bill 497, backed by Representatives Phil Hart and Raul Labrador, and its statement of purpose says this: "If enacted, this legislation will allow for Idaho employers to have their state, county or city licenses suspended for knowingly employing illegal aliens. Professional licenses are excluded from the legislation. For a first offense, a license will be suspended until the employer signs an affidavit stating that the employer will not hire an unauthorized alien in the future. If the employer signs this affidavit within three (3) days of the court ruling, no suspension of the license will take place. For a second offense in a three (3) year period, the license will be suspended for up to ten (10) days. For a third offense in a three (3) year period, the license will be suspended for up to one year."

The bill died in the House State Affairs Committee, after a motion by Representative Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs. The was followed by a blog post by the Pocatello Tea Party headlined, "Tar & Feather Rep. Andrus." (It was a predecessor to the post, "Tar & Feather Rep. Elaine Smith; her sin had to do with the law on midwives.)

So what does Andrus have to say for himself? Well, this:

HB497 would require an employer’s license to be revoked for up to one year. I do not know the economic impact to the construction, motel and restaurant industries, but I have some experience and knowledge in agriculture. I have employed one or more foreign born workers, continuously, for more than 25 years. I have never illegally hired a worker. It is wrong. I do not condone hiring illegals – period.

Consider the consequence of an employer’s license being revoked for one year. Most agricultural employers operate under a partnership, corporation or LLC license. If the license is suddenly revoked, do the county commissioners or sheriff now come in and take over the farm or ranch and the owner (or former owner) take his family and go to a homeless shelter for sustenance? If a dairyman unexpectedly loses his license and is shut down, who now milks the cows (which may number more than a thousand on some dairies) – the humane society, to relieve pressure and pain in the udder and keep them from getting mastitis? These are realistic scenarios and no answer was given when I asked the question in the committee hearing.

It's called thinking through the effects.