The chocolate ration is being increased to 25 grammes per week.

Monthly Archives: June 2012

What the Supreme Court ruling means for you (on health care)

Here are the points (summarized from this page):

  • You have to buy health insurance or be subject to a tax.
  • If you are under 26, you can get health insurance from the plan your parents use.
  • If you’re on Medicare, you can get free mammograms.
  • If you have what’s called a pre-existing condition, you can get health insurance.
  • Insurance companies can’t deny you coverage even if you get sick and make a mistake on your health insurance application.

Just for fun, a video of Romney saying the health care mandate is essential.  It’s from that way back time of 2006, when the world was a completely different place.  And he wasn’t running for President.


Why is the deficit so important to fix now?

You might have seen that Warren Buffet quote floating around:

I could end the deficit in 5 minute. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.

All this talk and hand wringing about the deficit.  I’ve never seen so much attention, in 30+ years, paid to the deficit.  Why now?  Why not in the early 80’s when Reagan was running up a huge deficit due to cold war military spending?  Why not when Bush was fighting the “war” on terror and spending like there was no tomorrow?

The answer is simple: fixing the deficit now means economic recovery will be slower and give the GOP a chance to defeat Obama in 2012.

To believe this you only have to believe two things:

  • Paying down on the deficit in the middle of a recession is bad economic advice.  I won’t argue with a Nobel winning economist on this one.
  • The Republicans in Congress want nothing more than to defeat Obama and have become the Opposite Party.  They oppose things they previously supported only because Obama is for them.  The law they refer to as “Obamacare” was proposed by Republicans in the 90’s, for example.
If you believe these two things, it follows that Republicans would choose harming the economy to win in 2012 over doing the right thing for their country and losing.

What’s in the Obama health care law?

A lot of words have been written about “Obamacare,” but remarkably little has been said about what it is.  Yes, we’ve all heard of the “mandate,” whereby people will be forced to buy health insurance (if they can afford it).  Also, it’s remarkably hard to find information about what the law, when you go looking for it.

Regarding the mandate, if insurance companies are required to provide insurance without regard for pre-existing conditions, if you do not have a mandate then many would just wait until they get sick before getting insurance.  This would defeat the purpose of insurance, obviously.  The mandate is only in effect for people that can afford it.  While it may see unique that the government will require people to buy insurance, there are already situations where this is the case.  Car insurance, for example.  You can’t drive a car without being forced to buy insurance (or suffer fines, same as the health care mandate).

Anyway, back to what’s in the law.  I happened to run across a post on Reddit that explains the new law in a very succinct and complete way.  Just in case that comment becomes unavailable, I have reproduce it below (as it was on 6/23/2012 at 7:00).  Everything below this sentence was written by CaspianX2 and not me, though I did format it for WordPress.

Okay, explained like you’re a five year-old (well, okay, maybe a bit older), without too much oversimplification, and (hopefully) without sounding too biased:

What people call “Obamacare” is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, people were calling it “Obamacare” before everyone even hammered out what it would be. It’s a term mostly used by people who don’t like the PPACA, and it’s become popularized in part because PPACA is a really long and awkward name, even when you turn it into an acronym like that.

Anyway, the PPACA made a bunch of new rules regarding health care, with the purpose of making health care more affordable for everyone. Opponents of the PPACA, on the other hand, feel that the rules it makes take away too many freedoms and force people (both individuals and businesses) to do things they shouldn’t have to.

So what does it do? Well, here is everything, in the order of when it goes into effect (because some of it happens later than other parts of it):

Already in effect:

  • It allows the Food and Drug Administration to approve more generic drugs (making for more competition in the market to drive down prices)
  • It increases the rebates on drugs people get through Medicare (so drugs cost less)
  • It establishes a non-profit group, that the government doesn’t directly control, PCORI, to study different kinds of treatments to see what works better and is the best use of money. (Citation: Page 665, sec. 1181[PDF])
  • It makes chain restaurants like McDonalds display how many calories are in all of their foods, so people can have an easier time making choices to eat healthy. (Citation: Page 499, sec. 4205)
  • It makes a “high-risk pool” for people with pre-existing conditions. Basically, this is a way to slowly ease into getting rid of “pre-existing conditions” altogether. For now, people who already have health issues that would be considered “pre-existing conditions” can still get insurance, but at different rates than people without them.
  • It renews some old policies, and calls for the appointment of various positions.
  • It creates a new 10% tax on indoor tanning booths. (Citation: Page 923, sec. 5000B [PDF])
  • It says that health insurance companies can no longer tell customers that they won’t get any more coverage because they have hit a “lifetime limit”. Basically, if someone has paid for health insurance, that company can’t tell that person that he’s used that insurance too much throughout his life so they won’t cover him any more. They can’t do this for lifetime spending, and they’re limited in how much they can do this for yearly spending. (Citation: Page 14, sec. 2711)
  • Kids can continue to be covered by their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26.
  • No more “pre-existing conditions” for kids under the age of 19.
  • Insurers have less ability to change the amount customers have to pay for their plans.
  • People in a “Medicare Gap” get a rebate to make up for the extra money they would otherwise have to spend.
  • Insurers can’t just drop customers once they get sick. (Citation: Page 14, sec. 2712 [PDF])
  • Insurers have to tell customers what they’re spending money on. (Instead of just “administrative fee”, they have to be more specific).
  • Insurers need to have an appeals process for when they turn down a claim, so customers have some manner of recourse other than a lawsuit when they’re turned down.
  • New ways to stop fraud are created.
  • Medicare extends to smaller hospitals.
  • Medicare patients with chronic illnesses must be monitored more thoroughly.
  • Reduces the costs for some companies that handle benefits for the elderly.
  • A new website is made to give people insurance and health information.
  • A credit program is made that will make it easier for business to invest in new ways to treat illness.
  • A limit is placed on just how much of a percentage of the money an insurer makes can be profit, to make sure they’re not price-gouging customers.
  • A limit is placed on what type of insurance accounts can be used to pay for over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. Basically, your insurer isn’t paying for the Aspirin you bought for that hangover.
  • Employers need to list the benefits they provided to employees on their tax forms.


  • Any health plans sold after this date must provide preventative care (mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.) without requiring any sort of co-pay or charge.


  • If you make over $200,000 a year, your taxes go up a tiny bit (0.9%). Edit: To address those who take issue with the word “tiny”, a change of 0.9% is relatively tiny. Any look at how taxes have fluctuated over the years will reveal that a change of less than one percent is miniscule, especially when we’re talking about people in the top 5% of earners.


This is when a lot of the really big changes happen.

  • No more “pre-existing conditions”. At all. People will be charged the same regardless of their medical history.
  • If you can afford insurance but do not get it, you will be charged a fee. This is the “mandate” that people are talking about. Basically, it’s a trade-off for the “pre-existing conditions” bit, saying that since insurers now have to cover you regardless of what you have, you can’t just wait to buy insurance until you get sick. Otherwise no one would buy insurance until they needed it. You can opt not to get insurance, but you’ll have to pay the fee instead, unless of course you’re not buying insurance because you just can’t afford it.
  • Insurers now can’t do annual spending caps. Their customers can get as much health care in a given year as they need. (Citation: Page 14, sec. 2711 [PDF])
  • Make it so more poor people can get Medicaid by making the low-income cut-off higher.
  • Small businesses get some tax credits for two years.
  • Businesses with over 50 employees must offer health insurance to full-time employees, or pay a penalty.
  • Limits how high of an annual deductible insurers can charge customers.
  • Cut some Medicare spending.
  • Place a $2500 limit on tax-free spending on FSAs (accounts for medical spending). Basically, people using these accounts now have to pay taxes on any money over $2500 they put into them.
  • Establish health insurance exchanges and rebates for the lower and middle-class, basically making it so they have an easier time getting affordable medical coverage.
  • Congress and Congressional staff will only be offered the same insurance offered to people in the insurance exchanges, rather than Federal Insurance. Basically, we won’t be footing their health care bills any more than any other American citizen.
  • A new tax on pharmaceutical companies.
  • A new tax on the purchase of medical devices.
  • A new tax on insurance companies based on their market share. Basically, the more of the market they control, the more they’ll get taxed.
  • The amount you can deduct from your taxes for medical expenses increases.


  • Doctors’ pay will be determined by the quality of their care, not how many people they treat. Edit: a_real_MD addresses questions regarding this one in far more detail and with far more expertise than I can offer in this post. If you’re looking for a more in-depth explanation of this one (as many of you are), I highly recommend you give his post a read.


  • If any state can come up with their own plan, one which gives citizens the same level of care at the same price as the PPACA, they can ask the Secretary of Health and Human Resources for permission to do their plan instead of the PPACA. So if they can get the same results without, say, the mandate, they can be allowed to do so. Vermont, for example, has expressed a desire to just go straight to single-payer (in simple terms, everyone is covered, and medical expenses are paid by taxpayers).


  • All health care plans must now cover preventative care (not just the new ones).
  • A new tax on “Cadillac” health care plans (more expensive plans for rich people who want fancier coverage).


  • The elimination of the “Medicare gap”

Aaaaand that’s it right there.

The biggest thing opponents of the bill have against it is the mandate. They claim that it forces people to buy insurance, and forcing people to buy something is unconstitutional. Personally, I take the opposite view, as it’s not telling people to buy a specific thing, just to have a specific type of thing, just like a part of the money we pay in taxes pays for the police and firemen who protect us, this would have us paying to ensure doctors can treat us for illness and injury.

Plus, as previously mentioned, it’s necessary if you’re doing away with “pre-existing conditions” because otherwise no one would get insurance until they needed to use it, which defeats the purpose of insurance.

Whew! Hope that answers the question!

Edits: Fixing typos.

Edit 2: Wow… people have a lot of questions. I’m afraid I can’t get to them now (got to go to work), but I’ll try to later.

Edit 3: Okay, I’m at work, so I can’t go really in-depth for some of the more complex questions just now, but I’ll try and address the simpler ones. Also, a few I’m seeing repeatedly:

  • For those looking for a source… well, here [PDF] is the text of the bill, all 974 pages of it (as it sits currently after being amended multiple times). I can’t point out page numbers just now, but they’re there if you want them.
  • The website that was to be established, I think, is http://www.healthcare.gov/](http://www.healthcare.gov/.
  • A lot of people are concerned about the 1/1/2015 bit that says that doctors’ pay will be tied to quality, not quantity. Because so many people want to know more about this, I’ve sought out what I believe to be the pertinent sections (From Page 307, section 3007). It looks like this part alters a part of another bill, the Social Security Act, passed a long while ago. That bill already regulates how doctors’ pay is determined. The PPACA just changes the criteria. Judging by how professionals are writing about it, it looks like this is just referring to Medicaid and Medicare. Basically, this is changing how much the government pays to doctors and medical groups, in situations where they are already responsible for pay.

Edit 4: Numerous people are pointing out I said “Medicare” when I meant “Medicaid”. Whoops. Fixed (I think).

Edit 5: Apparently I messed up the acronym (initialism?). Fixed.

Edit 6: Fixed a few more places where I mixed up terms (it was late, I was tired). Also, for everyone asking if they can post this elsewhere, feel free to.

Edit 7: Okay, I need to get to work. Thanks to everyone for the kind comments, and I hope I’ve addressed the questions most of you have (that I can actually answer). I just want to be sure to say, I’m just a guy. I’m no expert, and everything I posted here I attribute mostly to Wikipedia or the actual bill itself [PDF], with an occasional Google search to clarify stuff. I am absolutely not a difinitive source or expert. I was just trying to simplify things as best I can without dumbing them down. I’m glad that many of you found this helpful.

Edit 8: Wow, this has spread all over the internet… and I’m kinda’ embarrassed because what spread included all of my 2AM typos and mistakes. Well, it’s too late to undo my mistakes now that the floodgates have opened. I only hope that people aren’t too harsh on me for the stuff I’ve tried to go back and correct.

Edit 9: Added a few citations (easy-to-find stuff). But I gotta’ run, so the rest will have to wait.

90% of US eyeballs and ears controlled by 6 corporations

These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America.

Add to this the 24/7 news cycle and what you get is a monotone press that doesn’t do much to inform, unless the scandal of the moment is considered information.

It means you need to seek out your own news sources.  I use Memeorandum, Techmeme, Reddit, and Hacker News.  It also means  you need to take the latest controversy with a grain of salt and wait for the initial new stories to pass, waiting for more level heads to prevail in the 2nd or 3rd wave of stories.  Even on the sites above.

And, of late, I’ve used Memeorandum less and less.  It seems, because of the media consolidation, it too is becoming just a cacophony of rumors and scandals.  Yuck.


Romney “best” candidate because if elected the GOP won’t crash the economy

This is an amazing prediction, that Romney would be the best candidate because if he’s elected the Republicans won’t choose to crash the economy in 2013: The Keynesian case for Romney – The Washington Post.

Sadly, I agree with Klein on the predicted behavior of the Republicans in Congress.  For the last 3 years, they have done the opposite of what Obama has wanted, and have, at every turn, tried to make Obama fail to make the economy better.  It started with the stimulus (which was too small to have had much of an effect), and continued with every other single piece of legislation that Obama has put forth.  Last night, Jon Stewart had Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein on his show, and this is exactly what they talked about.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen discussions of it, and I’ve held the belief myself for at least 2 years.  All you need to do is witness the behavior of Republicans in Congress to believe it.  Mann and Ornstein have a new book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, which detail all the horrible mess we’re in.

Do a thought experiment: a Republican won in 2008.  She was faced with a Democratic congress that at every turn tried to sabotage her presidency.  What would the headlines in the papers across the US read?  What would the Republican PR machine at Fox News be saying?  What would the general mood of the country be toward the Democrats?

The headlines would label the Democrats as traitors.  Much like those who opposed the Iraq war (there were only a small handful of Democrats that opposed it).

Fox News would be running shows 24/7 denouncing the Democrats as un-American, as traitors, as sub-human.  They would have shown bulls-eyes over their pictures, much like they did with Gabby Giffords.

Americans, in general, would hate the Democrats.  The PR machine would be so overwhelming that it would take a huge effort to find anything redeemable in anything a Democrat did.  They would have faced a blood bath in 2010 and would be looking at another one in 2012.

Back in our timeline, I guess the liberal press just doesn’t have the guts to call the Republicans on their deeds.

Good Sky Crime

This cracks me up.  I think Chris Elliott has finally found his vehicle.