No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not “Discrimination.”

Here is a prime example of how the news media’s intentional or careless use of words warps public perception and policy.

Yesterday, the New York Times front page story about the GOP House’s health insurance bill noted in its second paragraph that the bill wouldn’t do enough to prevent “discrimination” by insurance companies against those with per-existing conditions. I have seen and heard that term, discrimination, used over and over again to describe the per-existing condition, and I apologize for not blowing the whistle on it long ago.

Using the term, which is usually used in other contexts to signal bigotry, bias and civil rights violations, is misleading and virtually defamatory. Insurance companies are businesses. They are not charities. They are not public resources. If an automobile company turns down an offer of half what a car costs it to make, it is not discriminating against that customer who made the offer. If a restaurant customer says to a waiter, “I have just four bucks, but I want you to bring me a dozen oysters, a steak, and a nice bottle of wine,” the establishment isn’t discriminating against the diner for sending him to McDonald’s.

Insureds with per-existing conditions want to pay premiums that are wildly inadequate for the coverage they know and the insurance company knows they are going to need. Insurance companies are portrayed as villains because they don’t eagerly accept customers who they know will cost them money, often a lot of money. That’s not discrimination. That’s common sense, basic business practice, fiscal reality,and responsible management. The news media and the under-cover socialists among us want to create the illusion that a company not wanting to accept customers who lose money rather than add to profits is a mark of corporate greed and cruelty, hence the use of “discrimination” as a falsely pejorative term, when the fair and honest word is “problem.” Continue reading

The False Lesson Of The GOP Failure To Replace Obamacare

They called off the Charge of the Light Brigade, the incompetent fools!”

Ethics Alarms feels obligated to state what should be obvious, but increasingly is not, as abuse is heaped on the Republican House and President Trump for failing to be able, for now at least, to agree on a replacement/repeal/fix for the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare” its close friends….enemies too, come to think of it.

The headlines on stories all over the web describe the lack of a GOP bill are brutal:The failure of the Republican health care bill reveals a party unready to govern (Vox)…Republicans Land a Punch on Health Care, to Their Own Face (New York Times)…Inside the GOP’s Health Care Debacle (Politico). Those are the nicest ones. The conservative media’s headlines are even more contemptuous. This only reflects how much the prevailing delusion on the Left and by extension the Left’s lapdog media and punditry, has infected political common sense, leaving a Bizarro World* sensibility about what ethical governing is about.

It may be futile to point this out from this obscure corner of the web, but hell, I’m a fan of quixotic endeavors: the House health care bill was a bad bill. Virtually everyone who examined it thought so. If the thing had somehow been passed by the Senate (it wouldn’t have been, so this meltdown just got all the abuse and gloating out of the way early) and signed by the President (who admits that he has no idea what a “good” health care system would be), it would have thrown millions of lives and the economy into chaos. It isn’t responsible governance to pass bad laws. (Why is it necessary to even say this?) It’s irresponsible. The Republicans wouldn’t show they were “ready to govern” by passing an anti-Obamacare bill that made a bad mess messier; they would have shown that they were fools, reckless and incompetent.

You know: like the Democrats when they passed the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

And The Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck Rolls On…

Barack Obama’s legacy is a series of ethics train wrecks of remarkable and depressing longevity. The oldest of them, the Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck. may never stop rolling, leaving destruction in its wake forever..

Observations:

1.   It is clear that the Republicans will not be able to repeal, undo, repair or reinvent Obamacare, aka The Affordable Care Act, consistently with their rhetoric and the wishes of the thoroughly messed-up law’s abundant critics. The many bills passed by the GOP-controlled House to that end during the Obama Administration were grandstanding only: they passed because there was 100% certainty they would be vetoed. Now that such bills actually risk becoming law, Republicans are, reasonably enough, not willing to take the leap into the void.

2. The President has told Congress that if they are not prepared to deal with the repeal and replacement of the ACA now, he will move on to other priorities.  This is entirely responsible, both politically and pragmatically. Passing a sweeping law in haste that will affect millions of Americans would be irresponsible.

3. This means, of course, that the President’s campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “great” “on Day One” was nonsense. On one hand, it was reasonable for him, or anyone, to assume that after seven years of complaining the party’s legislators had a viable plan ready to replace the affordable Care Act. On the other, it was dishonest to make such a pledge without ascertaining with certainty that what Candidate Trump was promising was within the realm of possibility. “Day One” is obvious hyperbole, but anyone making such a statement must assume that it will  be widely interpreted as “before the next Ice Age,” and thus should not be uttered unless the pledge can be fulfilled eventually. Continue reading

KABOOM! Unethical Quote Of The Month, And Maybe Hypocrisy Of The Century: Nancy Pelosi

I’m stunned. I honestly did not think it was possible for  Nancy Pelosi to surprise me any more, as my expectations for her utterances are so low as to be subterranean. I certainly didn’t think she could make my head explode again. Pelosi accomplished the impossible, however, by including this astounding line in a letter to Paul Ryan regarding a GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act. She actually wrote…

“The American people and Members have a right to know the full impact of this legislation before any vote in Committee or by the whole House.”

KABOOM!

1. This is the same woman whose most famous quote, regarding the ACA, is “We have to pass the  bill so that you can find out what’s in it….” 

2. The law the Republicans want to replace with something the “American people and Members have a right to know the full impact of … before any vote in Committee or by the whole House” was one that almost no Democrats read before voting for it, so even they didn’t understand its “full impact.”

3. The ACA passed in this manner included a mandate that Pelosi and her party swore was not a tax but a penalty, and then when the law was challenged argued to the Supreme Court that it wasn’t a penalty, but a tax.

4. The President of the United States who signed the ACA materially misrepresented the impact of the law repeatedly by stating that it allowed Americans who wanted to keep their current health plans to do so.

How dare Nancy Pelosi make that demand? How astoundingly hypocritical, overflowing with gall, and immune to self-awareness can any human being be? This is like Bill Clinton lecturing Donald Trump about avoiding intimate relations with subordinates, but worse.

Of course she’s right, but Pelosi is the last person on earth, literally the last person, entitled to demand transparency regarding health care bills. How can she say something like this? Is she senile? Is she trying to look ridiculous? Is she so completely devoid of integrity that she can advocate the exact opposite of her own conduct and that of her party without a twinge of irony or shame? Does she believe that her followers are so blind, stupid an unable to hold a memory in their heads that they won’t see how offensive this is, coming from her?

Are they that blind and stupid?

Why Health and Human Services Nominee Price’s Smoking Gun Ethics Breaches Won’t Disqualify Him

smoking-gun

There was good news on the Trump Administration Ethics Train Wreck, still just pulling out of the station. Despite the ethically-challenged reaction fro the Trump transition team when it was revealed that Monica Crowley had plagiarized in her latest book, somebody, somewhere, persuaded the conservative radio talk-show host to resign her new White House post. Good. But as many—most?—predicted, the muck is just beginning to bubble to the surface.

CNN reports that Rep. Tom Price,Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services who will have much of the responsibility for dismantling Obamacare  without triggering a health system crash, appears to have engaged in a flagrant instance of using his position for financial gain.  Last year, Price purchased shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer [Full disclosure: I have one of their artificial hip joints, setting off metal detectors at airports all over the world] right before he introduced  legislation that would have directly benefited the company.

Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares in the company last March, and then, less than a week after the transaction,  introduced the HIP Act (Clever!) to delay until 2018 a regulation that industry analysts believed  would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet, one of two companies most affected by a regulation that limits payments for joint implant procedures. Not only did Price have a financial stake in the regulation he tried to stall,but after Price introduced  his bill, Zimmer Biomet’s political action committee donated to the Georgia congressman’s reelection campaign.

Merely a coincidence, I’m sure.

Price is scheduled to appear before the Senate Health Committee this week, and the Senate Finance Committee later. He should withdraw, or failing that, Trump should pull the nomination. Price’s purchase of the Zimmer Biomet shares isn’t the first time he’s used inside information (the inside information being “I’m going to propose a bill”) to buy shares in a company. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health companies while pursuing legislation that could affect their bottom lines.

Yeccch. Continue reading

Obamacare’s Epitaph: “Live By The Rationalization, Die By The Rationalization”

obamacare-gravestoneRemember in 2010, when the Democrats ensured that the Affordable Care Act would clear its final hurdle to passage this way?

Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.The move would allow Democrats to essentially go it alone on health reform, especially after losing their fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate after Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts.

Republicans have protested the maneuver as a hyperpartisan tactic to ram through a health bill, and have said that plans to use the reconciliation process make moot a bipartisan summit at the White House this week, where both GOP and Democratic leaders are supposed to present their ideas on healthcare.

At the time, Republicans, as is their wont, over-stated their objections to the maneuver, calling it unconstitutional and a breach of rules. No, it wasn’t quite that, nor was it as unusual as the GOP claimed. It was within Senate rules, but still the first time it was ever used to amend a bill that had already passed the Senate via cloture, and under such contentious circumstances.  Reconciliation was legal, all right, but since the Affordable Care Act was so revolutionary and controversial, its passage needed to be seen as democratic, and it wasn’t. Democrats ignored the Golden Rule, and extended the acceptable use of reconciliation by using a number of rationalizations, as well as “the ends justify the means.”

Let’s see: “Everybody Does It” wouldn’t work, because the problem with using reconciliation was that everybody didn’t do it, at least not very often.  So Democrats opted for 13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”#24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now” 40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”…and perhaps a few other rationalizations on the list. Continue reading

“If That Was Transparency, Then I’m A Kumquat” And Other Reactions To Josh Earnest’s Multiple Unethical Christmas Quotes

This morning, Obama Administration paid liar Josh Earnest spoiled my Christmas mellow by telling CNN’s alleged news media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter that there’s really “no constituency in American politics for transparency in government beyond journalists,” as he deflected Stelter’s accounts of journalists complaining about administration foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests. Then he really curdled the ethicist’s eggnog by saying,

“If this constituency of journalists are gonna be effective advocates for the issue that they care about, they need to remember that they have a responsibility not just to criticize those who are not living up to their expectations. Any activist will tell you that the way that you get people to support you and to support your cause is to give them credit when the credit is due, to applaud them when they do the thing that you want them to be doing.”

Finally, Earnest molded my mistletoe by claiming,  “President Obama has been the most transparent president in American history.”

Stelter, of course, being an incompetent, biased and unethical news media ethics watchdog, did not interjection with the mandatory, “WHAT??? You’ve got to be kidding! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ACK! ACK! ARRRGH! and drop dead in shock.

That statement is fake news if anything is, rivaling the news media lie that that the Obama years were devoid of major scandals. Before we begin shooting fish in a barrel and deal with that brazen-beyond-belief spin, let’s pause to consider the other stunner in Earnest’s Christmas morning performance:

1. What does Earnest mean that journalists are the only constituency for transparency? Does the Obama administration, and by extension Democrats, really believe that the public doesn’t mind being lied to? If so, that explains a lot, including the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

2. Journalists are not supposed to advocates and activists at all. They are supposed to be devoted to communicating facts and the truth.

3. Is Earnest saying that when a President generally defies a pledge of ethical conduct, he should nonetheless be praised when he doesn’t defy that pledge, and that journalists should highlight the Administration’s rare examples of  transparency while ignoring the overwhelmingly more copious breaches? It sure sounded like it.

That brings us back to the mind-melting quote that this has been a transparent administration by any definition of the word other than “not transparent at all.”

This episode from 2011 nicely encapsulates the issue:

“President Obama was scheduled to receive an award from the organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference, to be presented at the White House by “five transparency advocates.” The White House postponed that meeting because of events in Libya and Japan, and it was rescheduled…That meeting did take place – behind closed doors. The press was not invited to the private transparency meeting, and no photos from or transcript of the meeting have been made available. The event was not listed on the president’s calendar…Nor is the award mentioned anywhere on the White House website, including on the page devoted to transparency and good government. Were it not for the testimony of the transparency advocates who met secretly with the president, there wouldn’t seem to be any evidence that the meeting actually took place.”

That’s right: Obama wasn’t transparent about a transparency meeting. That same day, Obama went on TV  and tried to explain why he hadn’t been transparent to the U.S. Congress about his military plans in Libya.  Shortly after that, news leaked that the Fed had secretly sent billions in loans to foreign banks during the financial crisis.

Ah, memories! On his second day on the job, January 21, 2009, that…President Obama famously pledged, in one of his first memos to federal agencies

“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

He may be right about that last part, or maybe he discovered that it was naive and impractical dream. Under no circumstances, however, can it be said that Obama’s administration was transparent. An exhaustive list is impossibly, long, but here is an incomplete  sample just from the posts in Ethics Alarms: Continue reading