Sunday, January 30, 2011

More consequences of the New Health Care laws

Health insurers in 34 states have stopped selling child-only insurance policies as a result of the health reform law, and the market continues to destablize.

According to a survey of state insurance departments by Republican Senate committee staff and obtained by POLITICO, states that have seen carriers exit the market include those that have been ardent supporters of the health reform law, like California and Oregon. Twenty states now have no insurers offering child-only policies.

Since September, the health reform law has barred insurers from withholding policies to children under 19 who have a pre-existing condition. Rather than take on the burdensome cost of writing policies for potentially-pricey medical conditions, many carriers decided to leave the market altogether.

The Department of Health and Human Services responded by changing the rule to allow states to institute an open enrollment period for child-only health insurance plans. The move was meant to stop subscribers from jumping on plans only when they were diagnosed with a medical condition.

But the regulation seems to have done little to stop carriers from leaving the market.

“We only know of one company [a local affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield] offering child-only health insurance,” Dan Honey, Deputy Commissioner for Life and Health in the Arkansas Department of Insurance, said Thursday. “The actual law federal law requires no underwriting for pre-existing conditions, which means guaranteed issue. Of course once HHS came out with that directive, that’s when a lot of companies started balking.”

One of the largest insurance markets in the country, Texas, has seen all their carriers drop child-only health insurance, as have other large states including Florida and Illinois.

Other states that no longer have carriers selling child-only plans include Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, according to the investigation by GOP staff on the Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the issue at a Thursday morning hearing.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” Enzi said. “The outcome is predictable as a result of the drafting that would allow people to buy a policy on the way to the emergency room.”

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Please! Put a sock in it for a bit, Sarah!

Why America is growing tired of Palin


January 20, 2011|By Gloria Borger, CNN Senior Political Analyst

OK, you've got Palin fatigue. Not to worry. So does much of the country: The latest CNN poll shows that 56 percent of Americans view her unfavorably.

More damaging, though, is this: Sarah Palin's unfavorable rating among women has gone up 10 points. And 59 percent of those all-important independent voters don't like her -- and that's up a stunning 14 points in just a few months.

You might argue it's because of the debate surrounding the Tucson shootings -- specifically, Palin's tone-deaf response to the unfair charges that she was somehow responsible for a deranged shooter's state of mind. And that could well be part of it. But there's more: She's completely overstayed her welcome.

We've watched her morph from the hockey mom into a multi-media extravaganza that knocks on our door every day to sell something, without any invitation.

When Sarah Palin was air-dropped onto the national scene, she was just what the GOP ordered. Republicans were looking for something new to cheer about. In Palin, they found it -- along with a reason to support John McCain. McCain's views on certain issues were, well, complex. Palin's were not. She was a burst of energy, a breath of fresh air, a new flame (pick your cliché) that attracted new supporters for a troubled campaign.

McCain lost, but Palin won.

Now, something is changing. Her staunch supporters are still there, to be sure, but Republicans are getting antsy, even nervous. In GOP circles, she's beginning to be seen as toxic in any presidential race. The whispers (which have always been there among the establishment) are starting to become public.

The editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner -- which defended Palin in the 2008 campaign -- opines about the "public exhaustion" with Palin. Mark Tapscott notes how Palin "has been here, there and everywhere for several months" and how "too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing when there is no escaping the good thing." Exactly.

Even the politicians, ever the lagging indicator, are starting see some benefit in chipping away at the Palin veneer. After all, there's now a sense that she's maxed out. There's nothing she can say anymore to woo new people who are not already in her corner.

So why not try and get the rest? How else to explain presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich's admonition the other day that Palin "should be more careful and think through what she's saying and how she's saying it?" This coming, of course, from a man who once compared himself to Napoleon. Or likely GOP contender Tim Pawlenty's admission that Palin's move to put cross hairs on a map of the districts of vulnerable Democrats "wouldn't have been my style"?

These men read the polls. They understand that any unfavorable rating above 50 percent is almost impossible to undo. And while they don't want to alienate Palin's supporters -- they have to win in GOP primaries, after all -- they clearly believe that criticizing Palin, even meekly, is no longer a fool's errand. "She's an enormous problem for us," says one GOP strategist. "She has a loyal following, and any time you criticize her, it convinces her followers she is more right. And you get demonized."

All of which explains the GOP tiptoeing. GOP presidential contenders may be trying to wait and see if she runs. (Why alienate her followers for no reason?) Or, they would love to see someone take her on -- like a Mike Huckabee, for instance -- with the understanding that the candidacy could become sacrificial. So who is going to sign up for that?

Not many. The hope for some Republicans is that Palin will literally tweet her way out of our hearts. The books, the reality TV, the family psycho-dramas, the never-ending internet "thought bubbles" could just be enough to drive even those who like her over the edge. And, sure, we in the press are part of this uber-coverage, behaving as if every 140-character thought is worth some conversation. It isn't. As Erick Erickson, the editor of the conservative and a CNN contributor, told me, it's not really about what Palin has achieved. "By 2012," he says, "people are going to be so tired of her they're going to want to avoid eye contact. It's not fair, but it's reality."

And there's one more thing we can't forget: Voters actually like positive leaders who inspire them. Relentless negativity can work, to be sure. Yet in the end, Americans gravitate to those who make us feel good about who we are capable of becoming.

Successful candidacies and presidencies are not just about the foibles of the opposition. They're about our own ability -- as John McCain was fond of saying -- to become a part of something greater than ourselves. Palin, alas, is still stuck on the "me" part.

Today is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address. Its idealistic calls for national service and civility -- combined with a dedication to human rights and commitment to the control of arms -- remain an eloquent definition of our national aspirations.

It was short, but no tweet.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.