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Obamacare - The Reality

Good News for Obamacare Is Bad News for Conservative Pundits

The warnings that insurance premiums will skyrocket next year look increasingly hyperbolic.

(Yuri Gripas for AFP via Getty Images.)

photo of Lucia Graves
April 18, 2014

Conservatives were sure at every turn that Obamacare would fail, but as the numbers roll in, those convictions are looking increasingly ideological.

First they said nobody would enroll. Then they said first-year premiums would be through the roof. And later, they warned of a "death spiral," wherein premiums would go up uncontrollably. My colleague Sam Baker has written an excellent analysis of the situation, the upshot of which is that Obamacare is on a winning streak.

The next great frontier of conservative hyperbole concerns premiums for 2015, with critics warning that costs will double or even triple next year.

 

As of this week, we have good evidence to the contrary. Health insurance premium rates are expected go up just 7 percent—a rate of increase much lower than what critics were predicting. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that premium hikes will be relatively modest.

"The double-rate increases we've been hearing are probably exaggerated," Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, told USA Today. "That's not what we're seeing from the actuarial organizations—I guess we're being a little bit more optimistic."

"A little bit more optimistic" is something of an understatement. For weeks, pundits have been spouting apocalyptic notions about the costs of insurance premiums, warning Americans that"the worst is yet to come."

Writing in The Washington Post last month, Michael Gerson speculated that premium increases could hit triple digits. "Over the past several years, increases in insurance premiums have averaged nearly 6 percent," he wrote. "Because of the rocky launch, age distribution, and delayed provisions of Obamacare exchanges, insurance company officials expect far larger premium increases this spring—in the double digits, if not the triple digits, in many places."

He goes on to reprimand the Obama administration for failing to prepare Americans for these drastically increased premiums, calling it "another round of Obamacare overpromising." In fact, it's Gerson who's blown the expectations game—not that he's alone in that.

Just last week, Scott Gottlieb, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote inForbes that "health insurance premiums are showing the sharpest increases perhaps ever" and that "rate hikes have accelerated as Obamacare's regulations have started to get implemented."

In an appearance on Meet the Press, John Sununu cited a report from WellPoint that predicted "double-digit-plus" increases. The report startled analysts at the time, with some saying they suspected the company was "hedging bets" in case of a change in rules. But that nuance didn't make it into Sununu's talking points.

And conservative blogger Ed Morrissey cited a sensational headline to make his case. "Remember how Barack Obama and Democrats promised to 'bend the cost curve downward' with ObamaCare?" he wrote on Hot Air. "Well, they got most of that promise correct. Obamacare has bent the cost curve all right, but sharply upward—and in 2015, expect them to not just bend but absolutely 'skyrocket.' "

That report was widely bandied about in the conservative blogosphere. "In politics, there's only so much massaging of the truth and flat-out lying that one can do before the headlines catch up with the deceit," wrote National Review's Charles Cooke. "Here's one that ought to scare the hell out of any Democrats who are still hoping that The Charge of the Light Brigade can be an effective electoral strategy for them: 'O-Care premiums to skyrocket.' " In this case, of course, it was deceit that caught up with the headlines.

The origin of these critics' argument can be traced to a thinly sourced article in The Hill, which quoted a former Cigna executive saying things like, "My gut tells me that, for some people, these increases will be significant." The reports about insurance rates possibly tripling, which were widely repeated, appear to come from a single anonymous insurance executive.

The irony is that, had conservatives been a little less quick to trumpet every nugget of potentially bad news, the administration would be riding a little less high right now—and their own predictions would look a little less silly.

Nobody knows for sure what will happen next year. And there are still plenty of Obamacare supporters who envision premium increases in the double digits. But pundits like Gerson and even some straight news outlets have been far too confident that everything will be terrible.

Staples and the Post Office

Postal Workers to Protest Privatization at

Concord Staples Store on Thursday, April 24

Local Activists Join National Day of Action

Many Details of the Deal Between USPS and Staples Remain a Secret

Concord, NH -- Members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), Manchester Area Local , will protest on Thursday, April 24, against a sweetheart deal between the U.S. Postal Service and Staples that is privatizing USPS retail services and replacing good, living-wage postal jobs with low-wage, high-turnover jobs at Staples. The deal will compromise service to customers and jeopardize the security of the mail. Details of the agreement are being kept secret and have not yet been made available to the public.

Who:         Members of the Manchester Area Local APWU, the National Association of Letter Carriers, The National Postal Mailhandlers Union, and the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association will be joined by the NH AFL-CIO, members of numerous local unions, other working men & women throughout the state, and friends and allies who believe in maintaining a public Postal Service.

What:       Protest at Concord Staples, against privatization of U.S. Postal Service retail services. 

When:       Thursday, April 24, 4-6 pm

Where:     Staples, Fort Eddy Plaza

The protest in Concord is part of a National Day of Action, where participants will protest the USPS-Staples deal, which in October/November 2013 established postal counters in more than 80 Staples stores in four geographic areas. The Postal Service plans to expand the program to Staples’ 1,500 stores nationwide. All of this is occurring despite problems that make the future of some Staples stores very uncertain.

“Staples employees receive minimal training, and the company’s low pay results in high employee turnover,” said Dana Coletti, president of Manchester Area Local APWU.  “With so many concerns about privacy and identity theft, the U.S. mail should be handled by highly-trained, experienced postal employees, who swear an oath to protect your letters and packages and who are accountable to the American people. This program is compromising service to our customers.

"While many of the details of this pilot program are being hidden from the public, many things remain quite clear. The Postal Service, which is the largest civilian employer of veterans, requires postal employees to pass a test and a background check, to complete intensive training and to take an oath to protect the security and safety of the mail. It should be a matter of concern to the public that packages and letters at Staples stores are not even considered mail until they are picked up by the Postal Service. This program threatens both mail security and good, stable jobs” said Janice Kelble, Legislative & Political Director for Manchester Area Local APWU.  “It’s bad for postal workers, bad for our communities, and bad for our country.”

“But this isn’t just about postal jobs,” said national APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. “Many people are outraged that a tremendous public asset is being turned over to a struggling private company.”  Staples recently announced that it would close 225 stores by 2015.

Note: In NH a Hooksett Staples store suddenly disappeared only months ago. Will the same thing happen with postal services vanishing, based on Staples bottom line, with no regard to the needs of a community? 

“Staples makes business decisions based on the bottom line, not service to the people of the country,” Dimondstein said. “As a nation, we need to decide what kind of Postal Service we want. Are we going to have a vibrant, modern, public mail system that serves all of the people, or are we going to let privatizers kill this great institution?”

Thursday’s National Day of Action follows dozens of protests by postal workers and community allies in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities.

For more information about the campaign to stand up for quality service and good-paying jobs, visit Stop Staples.com.  See also “Postal Union Fights Staples Partnership,” in the Huffington Post, and “The Postal Service Outsources Itself to a Company Doing Almost as Badly as the Postal Service,” in The New Republic.

A copy of the agreement between Staples and the USPS – heavily redacted – is available on the APWU website.

*  *  *

The American Postal Workers Union represents 200,000 employees of the United States Postal Service, and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Health Care Coverage Numbers Increase

In a remarkable rebound from the botched rollout of Obamacare, 8 million people have signed up for private health insurance via the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act since October, President Barack Obama announced during a press briefing at the White House Thursday. Read More         http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/17/obamacare-sign-ups_n_5167080.html#

Postal Workers Fight Privatization at Staples
LMWOOD PARK, Ill. -- On a recent Saturday morning, 500 protesters poured out of a parade of school buses, signs and megaphones in hand, and tried their best to shame a single Staples store just outside Chicago. Among them was Mike Suchomel, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service, who traveled all the way from New Jersey for a nearby labor conference.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/15/postal-service-staples_n_5155270.html#
The Middle Class
What Happened to the Middle Class? by Jim Ronayne Servicing director, UFCW Local 1445 A small number of people in power have deliberately put in place policies that have enriched themselves while cutting the ground out from underneath America’s greatest asset – the middle class! Their actions, going back more than three decades, have relegated untold numbers of American men and women to the economic scrap heap, to lives of reduced earnings, little job security, and retirements with fewer and fewer benefits. Millions have lost their jobs; millions have lost their homes. Nearly all face an uncertain future. This has been carried out in what is considered the world’s greatest democracy, where the will of the people is supposed to prevail. It no longer does: America is now ruled by the few – the wealthy and powerful who have become this country’s ruling class, led by the Koch brothers. Charles Koch and David Koch, the brothers at the helm of Wichita-based Koch Industries, Inc., have a net worth of $40 billion apiece, according to Forbes. They’re tied for 5th on the magazine’s list of the 400 richest people in America. The Koch brothers are plutocrats from central casting, oil and gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, and shrink any tax burden (their own) to push their “free market” religion and pump up their profits, all at the expense of the rest of us. Over the past 30-some years they’ve sunk more than $100 million into a sprawling network of foundations, think tanks, front groups, advocacy agencies, lobbyists, and GOP lawmakers, all to the glory of their hard-core libertarian agenda. They oppose government, taxes, environmental protections, social safety net programs, and public education – in other words, anything that might benefit or protect the majority of the American population. For more about the Koch brothers, watch Robert Greenwald’s film “Koch Brothers Exposed” on YouTube. Some other facts: · The wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population. · The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world. · In the US, the wealthiest 1% accounted for 95% of the post-financial crisis growth, while the bottom 90% became poorer. Read More...
Download: JimRonayne.pdf
How Tenn. politicians killed Volkswagen unionization
04/04/14 04:28 PM—Updated 04/04/14 06:30 PM By Ned Resnikoff Right-wing groups may have successfully defeated a unionization bid at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. manufacturing plant, but it wasn’t a clean victory. Read More...
Outlook in NH on Construction
Pending contracts show weakness in N.H. construction outlook Residential, nonresidential projects off to slow start in 2014 By Jeff Feingold Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on emailShare on gmailMore Sharing Services0 Published: 03.26. Read More...
Labor This is what it's all about
Ford: Labor unions saved us in darkest hour The United Auto Workers pitched in to get the entire industry back on its feet, Bill Ford says. Read More...
Minimum Wage in NH
Article for the Concord Monitor By KATHLEEN RONAYNE Monitor staff Tuesday, February 11, 2014 Email Print Comments (0) Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on gmailMore Sharing Services1 11:42 a.m. Read More...
Real NH Support for Minimum Wage
Article from Eagle Tribune February 12, 2014 People are showing support for N.H. minimum wage increase By John Toolejtoole@eagletribune.com Opposition to establishing New Hampshire’s minimum wage at $8.25 appeared minimal outside the Statehouse yesterday. New Hampshire now follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the lowest in New England. Read More...
Argument for Medicaid Expansion
Law’s Expanded Medicaid Coverage Brings a Surge in Sign-Ups Sharon Mills, of Welch, W.Va., has a list of ailments that require treatment that she cannot afford. She has been eagerly waiting on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.  Sam Dean for The New York Times WELCH, W.Va. Read More...
Walmart Hit by NLRB
U.S. accuses Wal-Mart of labor violations The National Labor Relations Board targets the retailer over alleged crackdown on its protesting workers. Read More...
Labor Leaders Push for Increase in Minimum Wage

State's labor leaders urge $9 hourly wage in NH

    ShareThis

CONCORD — New Hampshire labor leaders urged lawmakers to reestablish a minimum wage requirement and to raise it as they unveiled priorities for the coming year.

Increasing the minimum wage is one of a number of bills labor groups said they will support to improve the lives of workers and their families.

“This year we are calling on our Legislature to lift up working families and lift up New Hampshire,” said Mark MacKenzie, state AFL-CIO president.

He said increasing the minimum wage is the most important item as it sends a “strong message we are not going to allow people to live below the poverty level in this state.”

He said increasing the minimum wage is money that will go right back into the economy through rent, utilities, food and other essentials.

But opponents of the increase say it might be a short-term boost in the economy, but in the long-term will cost jobs and drive up inflation.

The bill backed by the labor groups would increase the minimum raise from $7.25 to $9 an hour.

Bruce Berke, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said raising the wage to $9 an hour is a 24 percent increase.

“Who is getting a 24 percent increase this year?” Berke asked. “Is a business going to charge 24 percent more for its widgets or for a meal?” 

The longer term impacts have negative repercussions on the economic climate, he said.

“Let the market decide. There are so many other pressures on businesses that are mandated,” Berke said. “If it’s this today, what will be tomorrow, longer family leave or larger sick leave policies? It just never ends.”

But national AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, said the plight of low-wage workers is in the spotlight like never before with walkouts at Wal-Mart and strikes by fast-food workers.

“Work in this country should be valued, rewarded and respected,” Shuler said. “It is not a question of whether we can afford to reward hard work — we can’t afford not to. Income inequality is greater today than it’s been since the Great Depression.”

Lawmakers abolished the state’s minimum wage law in 2011, but state law holds that no employee shall be paid at an hourly rate lower than the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour.

Last year, lawmakers attempted to reestablish the state minimum wage and to increase it, but those bills were either killed or sent back to committees. However, several similar bills will be introduced this session.

New Hampshire established a state minimum wage in 1949. In 2011, when the Republican-controlled Legislature removed the minimum wage from the books, then-Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, vetoed it. He said the repeal would “undermine our state’s economic strategy.”

The veto was overridden by the House and Senate, making New Hampshire one of 19 states where the “minimum wage” is the same as the federal rate.

MacKenzie said labor groups would also support a bill promoting equal pay and removing provisions forbidding employees from disclosing their wages, and another that better defines working conditions for temporary employees.

The groups will also back bills forbidding employers from basing hiring decisions on a person’s credit history or requiring employees to turn over passwords to their private social media sites.

Also on labor’s agenda are bills to limit fees charged to worker paid with payroll cards, to establish a state prevailing wage law for state-funded capital projects, and a bill requiring contractors on state projects to file certified payroll reports to include workers classifications and rates of pay.

From the Union Leader

911 National Day of Rememberance
  A Place of Remembrance The following excerpts are from A Place of Remembrance: Official Book of the National September 11 Memorial, with foreword by Michael R. Read More...
History of AFL-CIO Logo

Read More...
Download: History of AFL-CIO Logo.pdf
New Labor Secretary
WASHINGTON (AP) - With Thomas Perez now confirmed as head of the Labor Department, the agency is expected to unleash a flurry of new regulations that have been bottled up for months - a prospect that has business leaders worried and labor advocates cheering.
Read More...

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