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Monday, November 25, 2013

Obama-care 'customer experience' onerous as IRS tax forms

Here is my latest letter concerning the health insurance political debacle (Note: I used the word sound-bite in my letter, as submitted, but an editorial mistake changed it to sound-byte, which is ironic, given the topic, but not a joke I intended to make!)

President Obama's recent apologies for cancelling rip-off health insurance, laudably in order to benefit everyone, didn't acknowledge or explain why so many peoples' favorite healthcare plans, which fully meet the Affordable Care Act standards, are also being cancelled only because the individuals unwittingly requested a change during the last three years, including minor changes that provided better coverage, such as requesting a lower deductible within the same plan.

I was unable to confirm this reason for cancellation, despite having spent hours over the last three years asking insurance providers and reading mainstream newspaper stories, until after insurance companies recently mailed out legal notices citing specific paragraphs in Federal regulations, comprising thousands of pages, which even the mighty Google search engine can't find with plain-English explanations on any official government Website.

I credit Obama for acknowledging during his recent press conference that these types of "legal complexities" will still be a problem, even if the Website is fixed, however, sound-bite journalists are not reporting it.

Sadly, I now expect the "shopping experience" for health insurance under Obama-care will be literally onerous as filling out IRS tax forms online!

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Even if ACA website fixed, issues with health insurance won't be," posted Nov. 25, 2013, p. A7)

UPDATE Nov. 29, 2013: The editor also ran the following correction and an apology for the newspaper's change of a word in my letter from as I submitted it. Apology accepted, especially because one of my three spell checkers tried to automatically correct the spelling of "sound-bite" to "sound-byte." The newspaper's spelling change caused my friends to check on me and joke that I would be thrown out of the professional engineering and computer society I have been a member of for over five decades and disowned by the Stanford University, Oregon State University and Hewlett-Packard organizations I have worked with to design the first personal computers and printers.

The Gazette-Times changed the spelling of a word in my letter ("Even if ACA website fixed, issues with health insurance won't be," Nov. 25, p. A7) from as I submitted it, "sound-bite journalists," to "sound-byte journalists." This is ironic, given the subject and a byte is eight bits in computer lingo, but I did not write this joke. Editor's note: We do apologize (Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Spelling change gave letter unintended irony," Gazette-Times, Nov. 29, 3023, p. A7)

UPDATE: 12/1/2013 - confirmation of my letter appeared in the local newspaper, but it was buried on the continuation page: Ryan Kost, Politifact Check Oregon, "Health care promise had expiration date," Sunday Oregonian, Dec. 1, 2013, p. B1, B2, posted online as "Did Rep. Kurt Schrader flip flop on whether folks could keep their insurance under Obamacare?" at

Some other random thoughts I had that I didn't include in the letter: This situation makes Obama look either clueless, like the "Dilbert" cartoon boss, or deceptive, like the stereotypical used car salesman, only intent on trying to further Obama's otherwise praiseworthy political agenda of healthcare for all.

A former U.S. Senator, who was the ranking Republican on the committee responsible for the Affordable Care Act, on CNBC accused U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy's Democratic staff members of writing the bill and regulation to intentionally eliminate grandfathered health plans as quickly as possible in order to get everyone covered by Obama-care, and also he accused them of intentionally designing it without any cost-containment so that it would fail in the direction of the single-payer model that they really wanted in the first place. (See CNBC Squawk Box Nov. 11, 2013, 5:30 AM PT)

Another clue of the politics involved were revealed in the article by Joshua Green, "Marco Rubio's New Plan to Unravel Obamacare," BusinessWeek, Nov. 25 - Dec. 1, 2013, p. 27-28 posted online Nov. 21, 2013. This article finally explained why the Obama administration keeps mentioning the need to sign up more young people. Although I don't generally agree with the political methods of Senator Marco Rubio, his Senate Bill, to abolish the "risk corridors" in Obama-care, directly addresses the reason Obama-care needs to sign up young people -- if they don't, Federal tax payers are on the hook for bailing out the health insurance industry, just like taxpayers did for the banks under President Bush's misguided policies of letting free market competition self-regulate the banks.

Of course, if Rubio was truly sincere about helping out, the article also points out that he could more easily "write a bill stipulating that risk corridors must be budget-neutral." This is another tragic example of letting private businesses keeping all of the profits and leaveing taxpayers responsible for all of the risk.

Also, on CNBC Nov. 25, 2013, an insurance company actuarial expert claimed that Obama-care changed the pool ratio of young to old in a way that would raised average premiums for young people, with the assumption they would get tax breaks, and lower premiums for older people. Once again, if not enough young people sign up, then the insurance companies -- actually taxpayers -- would be stuck paying for it. Likewise, this is another reason the law was written to eliminate as many grandfathered health insurance policies as possible.

See my previous posts Oregon Obama-Care health insurance rates are designed-by-committee Dilbert cartoon (5/22/13) and Medicare Part B premium mysteriously still undisclosed - smells like dirty politics (10/24/13) for my earlier thoughts on health insurance politics.

Perhaps not coincidentally to Sen. Kennedy's desire for single payer, many of the other articles, opinion pieces and letters to the editor in my liberal college town are pitching a single payer model for health care, which I to me seems just like a polite way to avoid talking about how we ration health care, in the most fair way possible, to meet the infinite demand for healthcare:

Finally, and totally off the subject, the article by James Day, "Neighbors, preservationists save 1912 Corvallis schoolhouse," Gazette-Times, Nov. 21, 2013, p. A1, A5 said, "In the 1910 Census, the Corvallis population was listed at 4,552, up 150 percent from 1900. Just 10,663 people lived in Benton County. The 1912 bond election for the Van Buren Street bridge was the first in which women could vote after statewide suffrage. Mrs. Gun Hodes cast the first ballot. Oregon Agricultural College had approximately 2,800 students enrolled in all programs in 1912. Source: Benton County Historical Society"