Like others, we’ve noted that Obamacare’s insurance mandates, which kick in for employees working 30 hours or more per week, actually encourage businesses to reduce workers’ hours, making it harder for people to get ahead financially.
It turns out government workers aren’t immune from this fiscal reality.
The Wall Street Journal reports the city of Brunswick, Ohio, has instituted a 28 hours-per-week maximum for about 100 employees. The state of Virginia has started implementing a 29-hour cap for about 37,000 employees, including college adjunct faculty. And the Iowa Association of School Boards reports that some schools even considered a 29-hour weekly max for bus drivers, cooks and student learning aids.
Although Sara Redding Wilson, director of the Virginian Department of Human Resource Management, explains this trend succinctly, we suspect many liberals will still be baffled: “Some people don’t like it, and I get that, but we couldn’t afford it.”
President Barack Obama promised that under the Affordable Care Act, “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.” But that promise isn’t true even for government workers.
Washington state officials are considering a proposal to shift state workers out of their current health plans and into those offered through Obamacare exchanges.
Because pay for many of those employees is low enough to qualify for federal subsidies, the shift would “save” Washington state government $120 million over two years, shifting costs to federal taxpayers instead. Other states are expected to do the same.
The plans offered through exchanges are expected to have more limited provider networks than traditional insurance, so this is hardly a boon to state workers. It’s just one more instance where Obamacare is exacerbating problems in health insurance instead of solving them, and shifting costs instead of lowering them.
The state of Oklahoma received a $64.8 million payment this week from U.S. tobacco companies, which have been writing similar checks to Oklahoma since 1999.
In fact the latest payment put Oklahoma over the $1 billion mark in money received as part of an agreement settling a lawsuit filed by 46 states over costs tied to tobacco-related illnesses. The payments will continue as long as tobacco products are sold.
In 2000, Oklahoma voters wisely approved the creation of a trust fund to hold onto the bulk of the settlement money and use the fund’s earnings for health-related purposes. The fund’s balance stands at $797 million, and since 2001, more than $151 million in earnings have been realized.
No other state protected its money; as a result, their tobacco payments go out as quickly as they come in, used for any number of nonhealth-related reasons.
Let’s hear it for Milton Tingling.
Tingling, a justice on the New York Supreme Court, struck down New York City’s proposed ban on large soft drinks. The idea was proposed last year by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved by the city’s health board. It was to take effect this week, but Tingling said uh-uh.
Among other things, he said in his ruling Monday that the ban on drinks larger than 16 ounces was arbitrary in that it only applied to some sugary drinks and some places that sell them. “The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of this rule,” said Tingling, a Democrat elected to his post in 2001.
Bloomberg proposed the ban as a way to cut down on obesity, and he vows to appeal. “One of the cases we will make,” he declared, “is that people are dying every day.” And only an expansion of the nanny state can prevent that, it seems.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute, which advocates for government programs and increased taxpayer funding, includes a lot of useful data and detailed analysis in its communications outreach. This doesn’t, however, mean that OK Policy always has the right message.
Its officials argue that Medicaid expansion is worthwhile because they find the current system relatively inexpensive. But Oklahoma’s Medicaid program currently covers low-income children and pregnant women, seniors and persons with disabilities. The proposed expansion would add about 180,000 people, potentially including many with serious, long-term health problems. You can’t extrapolate the cost of covering a demographically broader (and potentially sicker) population by examining the costs of covering a dissimilar and narrowly tailored group.
Furthermore, in an issue briefing, OK Policy notes that Medicaid costs “have risen at a more modest pace than total health expenditures or premiums for employer-sponsored coverage” and that per capita costs for Medicaid patients “are significantly below” those for patients covered by private insurance.
But a significant reason for the difference in growth rates is that private insurance absorbs cost-shifting created by Medicaid. The market rate paid by private insurers is often up to 140 percent of Medicare rates, which means Medicare rates are unrealistically low. And Medicaid rates are even lower. In Oklahoma, OK Policy notes, Medicaid rates are 96.5 percent of Medicare rates. This points to significant cost-shifting to those with private insurance or paying out of pocket.
Trumpeting the fact that Medicaid’s costs are rising more slowly than private insurance is like bragging that your electric bill is lower when you’ve got an extension cord plugged into your neighbor’s outlet.
As chairman of the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Brian Crain refused to hear a bill allowing local control of smoking regulations. Crain, R-Tulsa, has argued lawmakers should either debate a comprehensive statewide ban on smoking or nothing, decrying a piecemeal approach.
Yet he then granted a hearing to a bill to legalize the “medical” use of marijuana. That measure failed, with Crain among the opponents.
Crain said he allowed the vote because of the persistence of the bill’s author, Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City.
But advocates of local control of smoking regulations have been pushing the issue for years; supporters include everyone from the governor to health officials to local mayors. In comparison, Johnson is a legislative gadfly. It’s disturbing that a committee chair appears more receptive to the fringes than to than state leaders and the broad Oklahoma electorate.
The state won a rare legal victory in the area of reproductive services when a federal judge nixed Planned Parenthood’s attempt to keep its northeastern Oklahoma WIC contract in place.
The state Health Department had pulled the contract, citing legitimate concerns over cost and efficiency. Planned Parenthood said the whole thing was political — aimed at punishing an organization for its association with abortion.
Planned Parenthood doesn’t have an automatic right to contract for services under the Women, Infants and Children program. The state has an obligation to scrutinize groups with which it enters contracts. If anything, political correctness would dictate that the state not target Planned Parenthood because of national repercussions.
Case after case of the state defending laws restricting abortion has been lost. In this case, the state prevailed in preventing Planned Parenthood’s request to block the contract termination. If politics were involved in this case, it was more on the side of Planned Parenthood’s highly politicized agenda.
Critics have warned Oklahoma officials who are considering expansion of the Medicaid program in order to obtain Obamacare subsidies that the cost of the program is already unsustainable and will only get worse if more people are added to the rolls. Evidence for that argument can be seen in neighboring Arkansas, where that state’s Medicaid program has a shortfall of $358 million.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is proposing a combination of new spending (including one-time funds) and budget cuts to address the problem. And that’s the situation without an expansion of the program.
In Oklahoma, lawmakers in recent years have raided the Insure Oklahoma fund, which is meant to help citizens obtain private insurance, in order to prop up Medicaid. Medicaid’s Oklahoma costs continue to escalate even without the Obamacare expansion.
In both Oklahoma and Arkansas, an expansion of Medicaid could be the triumph of hope over budget experience.
Syndicated columnist Rich Lowry wrote this week of the Obama campaign’s condescension toward women. He cited the views of early feminists that women are “just as capable of rational deliberation as men.”
He didn’t mention how out of sync Obama’s views on reproduction are with those of some pioneers of women’s rights.
More than 100 years after her death, Susan B. Anthony remains the subject of scholarly debate about her views on abortion. Anti-abortion groups believe Anthony actively opposed the practice; abortion-rights groups claims she had no strong feelings on the subject.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton once wrote of the “murder of children, either before or after birth.” Victoria Woodhall, the first female candidate for president (1872), said, “Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.”
The point of this is that women — including some modern feminists — don’t have a unified view supporting abortion at any stage of a pregnancy or government-mandated contraception. Obama’s one-womb-fits-all philosophy is patronizing and an insult to many American women.
When he ran for president, Barack Obama promised to reduce health insurance premiums by $2,500 for the typical family. Instead, costs have increased more than $3,000. The impact of that broken promise is felt not only by families, but also local governments.
Workers’ compensation costs for the city of Tulsa have reversed a two-year downward trend even though the number of claims requiring payment has dropped sharply. The increase is due to rising medical costs.
The result of that jump in workers’ comp payments can be seen in reduced general appropriations for other needs, higher property taxes, or both. What’s true of Tulsa is true of other cities across Oklahoma and state government as well. All could face higher workers’ compensation costs.
Obama’s broken promise means areas like education, transportation or public safety may get shorted, and taxpayers may otherwise make up the difference — while also paying more for their own health care.