Tuesday assorted links


6. Why can't we take Obama on his word about Obamacare? He told us it would be wonderful.

I'd love to see an accounting of costs per person.

1. Website:$250.00

2. .....

But, don't forget all the savings we gathered by our premiums falling $2k per person! ...oh, wait...

LOL, for the sake of accuracy, Obama never said that. To quote: "I want to lower premiums by about an average of $2,500 per family, per year, because people right now cannot afford it."

So, it's $2,500 per family. And Politifact rates it as a Promise Broken.

It is, if you're a person who cares about poor people having access to insurance, fostering transparent competition and making Medicare more sustainable. If you don't care about those things and you were already had good insurance, then maybe you don't like Obamacare. But then again, you may be conflating that with your prior dislike of Obama. Mood affiliation or whatever it is called.

"... and making Medicare more sustainable..."

Yeah, sure.

From the Medicare Trustees report:

"The Trustees project that the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund will be depleted in 2030, the same year projected in last year’s report. At that time dedicated revenues will be sufficient to pay 86 percent of HI costs. .... The HI fund again fails the test of short-range financial adequacy, as its trust fund ratio is already below 100 percent and is expected to decline in a near continuous fashion until reserve depletion in 2030."



Did you read the article? I thought it was pretty fair and had nothing to do with whether a person cares about poor people or dislikes Obama.

Sorry, I meant this article (scroll down from #6)


At least half the fun I derive from visiting MR is in guessing which topic will receive the first comment and then the most comments. I had #6 as first comment. MR never dissapoints!

Don't get me wrong, the site is one of the best. But sometimes (today e.g.) it's quantity over quality, in terms of the links.

I thought (6) was a pretty fair assessment of the situation. He's simply stating we need more information to guess the true nature of the program--especially before we get overly optimistic about it. Hard to argue with that.

What I'd like to hear more about is how the gains in employer-based coverage squared with predictions. I seem to recall a lot of dire, breathless statements that this was going to massively disrupt the system, and this doesn't look to be the case.

From the article: "You will recall that the Obamacare employer mandate was delayed during 2014..."

So, we don't know.

Surely what affects employer-based coverage goes beyond that.

You don't think that most employers that were captured by this law were already ready to comply? Most of them likely already budgeted for it and know it is going to happen at some point, so they went ahead and expanded insurance even with the delay.

Jan, that could be the case, but it might not be the whole story. Plus, I was focusing more on the predictions that this would lead to fewer people getting health insurance through their employers, not more.

Sure they were ready. Everyone working 29.5 hours, which or fearless leaders insisted would allow them time to write poetry.

Sure they were ready. Everyone working 29.5 hours, which our fearless leaders insisted would allow them time to write poetry.

Not just that, but we need some comparison versus other, more stable metrics. If there has been growth in the # of folks w/ insurance through employment, surely we can back-calculate how much of that came from people moving back to work utilizing employment/unemployment numbers. Surely that would help us assign the gains to either the healthcare law vs generalized economic growth.

Metrics for judging Obamacare should include stuff like -- impact on part-time jobs, size of damage to the economy, impact on quality of care (many newly insured complain they can't find a doctor), increase in costs as many had to buy more expensive coverage they didn't want (e.g. 60 yr old woman required to add maternity coverage), etc. Although without a metric, how much innovation is eventually lost down the road.

In the end, compare to cost of simply expanding medicaid to those newly covered by Obamacare. But of course, the goal wasn't really to give poor people medical care. It was to radically re-make healthcare, force providers to merge, and turn insurance companies into big government cronies.

Yes, employer coverage now surpasses what it was before the 2008 crash, but I'm pretty sure the trend was actually going down then. So hard to make an argument that the recovery is the driving force behind all these newly covered folks.

@Stan, comment about turning insurers into gov cronies is off. It was the demand for "private sector" and "competition" to be big piece of the transformation that led to private insurers being a major component--it sure beats a public option, amirite. Also, the insurers hate the new requirement that they now have to spend 85% of premiums on medical care, rather than administration and profits. This is a good thing for consumers.

In theory a PH.D requires original research but universities are factories which make money from handing out qualifications. If you can get into a PH.D program your hand will be held until you have completed the course.

I know many PH.D students here in the UK who can barely speak English and they are sailing along just fine.

Good point ... but I also think that Universities realize that each year they are accepting a small group of gifted students/researchers who will join their ranks, and a larger group of somehow flawed candidates who pay the bills.

Not all PhDs may actually do meaningful and significant original research, but the percentage of people who begin graduate work towards a PhD who complete it is quite low (certainly much, much lower than med school, business school, or law school) and the average time from start to finish outside the physical sciences averages about 7 years for what is officially 3 years of graduate credit. The ranks of A.B.D.'s (all but dissertation) students is great.

5. That has to be fake. How many people would "bequeath" their skin to a handbag company prior to their death? That has to be single digits. Why even bother having a web page? You're only going to be selling this stuff to evil billionaires and their evil wives. This would be an exclusive appointment-only type niche market.

Yeah, it's got my fake-radar (fakar?) going off like crazy. There's no point in a website for a product like this, and in fact it looks so cheap and cruddy it would work against the brand anyway. Also there seem to be some rather obvious points of satire about their clientele.

"What to get for your wife, when she's a closet neo-nazi"

"The perfect gift for your very special bride from Papau, New Guinea"

I DID get my wife from Papua New Guinea, and she's a neo-nazi. But she's pretty open about it.

How much did you pay? Must be quite a sum for such a rarified specimen.

Also, and I think this is probably the biggest giveaway, you wouldn't call it "Human Leather". You'd use a euphamism.

Nothing screams euphemism more than the expression "human leather".

People whose families get paid would offer their skin to a human leather company. If there is a market for it--and I believe there is--then this niche will be filled by a smart, job creating, entrepreneur.

#6 was a solid read from a knowledgable writer, but the following article was more interesting: Kuwait Airlines may deny seats on JFK-Heathrow flights to anyone with an Israeli passport, so says our own DOT. Access to Public Accommodation is not protected for them, I guess.

I disagree with the underlying premise of #6. There's no doubt in my mind that Obamacare has dropped the number of uninsured. It's thrown hundred's of billions of dollars of additional money at health care insurance and fined people for not having insurance. It's using both a very large carrot and a very large stick to coerce peoples behavior. It's IMO a very small possibility that Obamacare won't reduce the number of uninsured.

However, there are a slew of other better questions. Like, How much Obamacare is going to add to the debt (due to massive subsidies), how many Medicare patients are going to get worse service (due to cuts to reimbursements), how many rural hospitals will go out of business (due to favoring larger businesses) and how much health insurance rates will go up (to cover the additional mandatory services and patients)?

The premise is that we have spent those untold billions and the increase in insureds is mostly due to expanding enrollment of a pre-ACA program (Medicare) and improving economy (employer provided, despite no emp mandate). The individual market, the only part of ACA that is fully implemented, is a small part of the increase in insureds.

Another premise is that we're left guessing bc the Administration only releases positive numbers, but not data that reflects poorly. The absence of data, the deliberate absence, encourages everyone to rely on suppositions.

PS- the Kuwati thing is particularly interesting because its sovereign wealth fund owns so much Western businesses. But maybe it's just me...


Oh, this is hilarious. You go all conspiratorial here. That "the Administration" has not been releasing data that "reflects poorly," oh this must be a propagandistic scam as all agencies of the federal government are under the thumb of rotten socialist dictator Obama and obey his every demand, not that in fact there so far has not been any (or very little) of this data that "reflects poorly." Surely it cannot be that Obamacare is actually performing better than was forecast even by its supporters. It cannot be that. Somebody in the government is actively hiding all that evidence of all those bad things.


Um, Obamacare will probably not add to the debt (certainly not significantly) as the COB has forecast that in fact it should lower budget deficits compared to the alternative baseline, although opponents may well succeed in getting it to cost more by their various attacks and interventions; no evidence so far of Medicare patients suffering from cuts to reimbursements (although probably some evil government agency is hiding this data, ooh ooh), rural hospitals are going out of business, but that is in states that have refused to accept the expansion of Medicaid, which provides funds for hospitals, and in the states that have not accepted Medicaid expansion it has been the hospitals who have been most fervently for it, and as for health insurance rates, it is well established that they have been rising at a slower rate than previously, although, who knows, any minute they might start shooting through the roof (maybe when gold goes to 5000 and Japanese interest rates hit double digits), and we hear all those reports on the front page of the NYT that some companies have demanded double digit increases (just as some did last year), although the latest reports from Kaiser say the average rate of increase wil probably end up this year being even lower than it was last year. But, hey, the criitics can only hope that something bad will actually show up that "reflects poorly."

Good heavens, man, before I scale that wall of text may I ask: does your blast comprehend that all I did was summarize the "premises" of the article?

My only opinion was that it was solid read from a knowledgable guy.


"Um, Obamacare will probably not add to the debt (certainly not significantly) as the COB has forecast that in fact it should lower budget deficits"

I'm flabbergasted at how out of touch that comment is.

From the March 2015 CBO forecast:
"In preparing the March 2015 baseline projections, the Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have updated their estimates of the budgetary effects of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that concern health insurance coverage.1 CBO and JCT currently project that those provisions will result in a net cost to the federal government of $1,207 billion over the 2016–2025 period"


"no evidence so far of Medicare patients suffering from cuts to reimbursements "

Yes, I had forgotten the reimbursements were delayed by the administration until April 2015 and then the "cuts" were legislated away. So effectively the cost of Obamacare went up again.

"The Senate passed and sent to President Barack Obama legislation to avert a pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients, just hours before reductions would start affecting physicians."


"(although probably some evil government agency is hiding this data, ooh ooh)," That's a typically immature comment by you.

" and as for health insurance rates, it is well established that they have been rising at a slower rate than previously"

Have you been paying attention to the news? "Health Insurance Companies Seek Big Rate Increases for 2016"


First let me make it clear that I have been unable to link to the linked article. So, I do not know what it says. If somehow it makes this claim that you state that the administration is actvely not reporting data that "reflects poorly," then you are off the hook, and it is the author of the article who is a conspiratorial paranoid. I am unaware of any such evidence, and there has been a cottage industry of loonies out there claiming that cost of living data is being manipulated for political reasons and so on and so forth, all of this just worthless phoney hysterical dreck.

So, if it is not you handing out this junk, but the author of the article, I apologize.


Oh dear, but sorry, you are the one out of date, JWatts, just struggling so hard to find something that fits your story.

Try https://www.cbo.gov/taxonomy/term/45/featured, which has a report from June 19, 2015 entitled "Budgetary and Economic Effects of Repealing the Affordable Care Act." Right up front is this: "...a repeal of the [ACA] would probably increase budget deficits..." with this being stated to hold no matter what the macroeconomic feedback would be. Sorry, you are just wrong and out to lunch, pathetically deluded.

Regarding projected health insurance premia, I already dealt with this and we have been through this before. News media has printed these silly hysterical stories cherry picking a handful of companies making big requests. Media did same thing last year. Most of these were not granted and average rate of increase last year was 5.5%. Kaiser says this year it may come in at more like 4.4%, although we do not have the final numbers. Certain states have larger increases, with Oregon in double digits, but then some other states have actual declines, with Michigan possibly coming in at aroun -8%. Sorry, JWatts, you are simply deluded (and the rest of your stuff is just a big zero, or at most, epsilon).

Barkley you make a good point and have a good source in the latest CBO scoring on the "“Budgetary and Economic Effects of Repealing the Affordable Care Act". And I'm a mature enough individual to admit when someone else makes a good point.

However, did you bother to look at why the CBO scores a repeal as being a drain on the Deficit. Here's the particular part that makes it such a negative (from page 4):

"The ACA also includes many other provisions related to health care that are estimated to reduce net federal outlays, primarily for Medicare. The provisions with the largest effects reduced payments to hospitals, to other providers of care, and to private insurance plans delivering Medicare’s benefits, relative to what they would have been under prior law. Repealing all of those provisions would increase direct spending in the next decade by $879 billion, CBO estimates.

Apparently Congress removed the Medicare reductions to Doctors (which wasn't actually part of Obamacare) back in April. But they didn't touch the massive $879 billion cuts that are part of Obamacare.

So as has been said previously, Obamacare relies on a massive accounting gimmick to balance it's budget numbers. There's no realistic scenario where Medicare reductions this massive are passed through the system and quality isn't effected.

Also, I'd like to note, Barkley, you are one of the most immature posters on the entire blog. It's pathetic that you have to resort to juvenile name calling at every opportunity.


The article not only does say the administration is not releasing negative data, it actually produces the negative data that was not released. So you are wrong every which way.

Sorry, Cliff, you are full of it. Finally got the link.

There are no claims that US government agencies are withholding data. There is a single report by Stephanie Armour in WSJ that claims since March 31 there has been a decline in enrollments, but the link to her story does not work. Maybe she wrote such a story, but I see no sources for it, and have dug into this on the internet and see no sources supporting this. This is more half-baked reporting making unsubstantiated claims.

You and Gopchik can both go and officially join the paranoid loonie bin gang.

Pay close attention to the people who enroll outside the regular times due to special circumstances.

The requirements to do this are not very hard to game, and if that number gets larger and larger or those are more often very sick people, you will know people have figured out how to do game the system.

Tim Lee on Bitcoin:

Ultimately, how the dispute is resolved may matter more than the specific decision that's reached. If the community is ultimately able to reach a consensus, the process could become a template for resolving future disagreements.

The same is true if they can't reach consensus. Open Source projects sometimes fork. It's not pleasant, but the possibilty of forking is one of the "constiutional" checks that these systems rely on.

I kinda hope that Bitcoin does fork, so that we can see how the results play out.

The problem is Bitcoin relies on distributed consensus. If the protocol forks too much the block chains will also fork. Best case scenario of what would happen is if you had 100 bitcoins, you now have 100 bitcoins-XL and 100 bitcoins-core. The relative value of each currency would of course be market determined. But probably the aggregate value would fall much more than in a-non split bitcoin world. Plus the split block chains would be more vulnerable to a take over, as the processing power needed would be at most 50% of what it was before.

I don't know why the Bitcoin community doesn't use the distributed consensus method to vote on these of issues...

Either way bitcoins are heading to their intrinsic value of $0 within 10 years, so it doesn't really matter what happens.

You are right that the blockchains would split. And you are that resulting loss of CPU power is a bad thing. Re price, I don't think it's obvious that the total value of the post-fork bitcoins will be below their previous value. That's one of the things I want to find out.

Why not use distributed voting? Maybe some cryptocurrency will try it. I someone does. But for Bitcoin I think it makes sense that the effective constitution is hard (not impossible) to change. Countries where the constitution changes a lot don't have a great historical record.


I don't know why was freaking about the "escaped" tiger. He just wanted to chill on the stairs for a bit before going home. Until that stupid blue monster came along...

#6 has many problems, e.g. it makes a big deal about gains in coverage coming through employer-sponsored insurance (apparently not due to obamacare but rather to the improving economy), but then faults healthcare.gov for falling enrolling, without mentioning that people leaving exchange plans could be going to employer-sponsored plans. Even setting aside the employer-sponsored plans, coverage gains of more than 10 million through Obamacare's medicare and exchange provisions seems pretty significant.

"coverage gains of more than 10 million through Obamacare’s medicare and exchange provisions seems pretty significant."

They are, but it's legitimate to ask, if most of the gains were going to accrue to an expanded Medicaid, why we didn't just expand Medicaid and leave the rest of the market alone. Another question is what will be the effect of the drastic cuts to Medicaid reimbursement required to pay for the expansion?

If you separate out the Medicare/Medicaid expansion the rest of Obamacare has a much less appealing record.

Because you would have left out highly popular provisions such as forbidding companies from excluding coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, one of the most important provisions in the whole thing.

And, it was always the case that expanding Medicaid coverage was a major part of the package, even though about half the states have cut the noses off to spite their faces by refusing to accept that expansion, thereby not only leaving many more of their citizens uncovered, but exacerbating the financial crisis of their hospitals, especially the rural ones in poorer parts of their states.

I don't get it. Each of us, as individuals, is surrounded by mal hechors that want to break into our houses, steal our cars, hack into our bank accounts, sell us fraudulent junk, pick our pockets and worse. That's why we have locks, security systems, CCTV surveillance cameras, huge uniformed and secret police agencies, TSA frotteurs and DNA testing. I want those people to be sick, sick unto death and unable to reproduce. Why are we so intent on making life inexpensively healthy for these parasites and predators?



Guess you are addressing Medicaid expansion, c-m, but what about preexistign conditions? So, your mother or wife or daughter ges some kind of cancer, loses her job, and wants to get coverage. Prior to ACA, oops, no way. Now, yes. And, of course, one of them could end up on Medicaid with bad circumstances, although maybe your family is a bunch of billionnaires who do not have to worry about such matters.

So the ACA is all about my female relatives with pre-existing conditions? There's probably more people involved than them. And the coverage thing. The ACA isn't making health care cheaper and more easily available, it's changing the parameters of the insurance business,another thing altogether.

But that's not the issue. "Security" in one form or another is almost as big an obsession in the US as health care. This isn't to prevent a tiny minority of the population from engaging in theft, it's presuming that we're surrounded by thieves and other practitioners of evil. Why should massive programs be set up that of necessity include them as well as the virtuous, if, indeed, there are any virtuous among us? Let the virtuous band together for their own maintenance and the evil pass away from new varieties of influenza.

Congratulations, chuck, on yet another victory over invading Muslim hordes at Poitiers/Tours, not to mention pointing out that rich white men are people also whose lives and health care, not just all those whiney women with their extra body parts and annoying PMS outbursts.

And, also, while every other OECD nation, even Mexico now, has universal health insurance coverage, something supported by F.A. Hayek in The Road to Serfdom, you are obviously correct that the proper way to go is to exclude bad people from health care. I suggest we set up a system whereby all ERs and ambulance services are connected to Santa Claus's current list of who is naiughty or nice. Anybody without paid insurance showing up who is naughty should be thrown into the street, where, preferably, some police will just randomly show up and shoot them full of holes to death. That should really help our health care system, and make it the widely desired wonder of the world. You must be thoroughly congratulated.

6--Skip Laszewski's bias tripe and go directly to the RAND site; http://www.rand.org/news/press/2015/05/06.html ..
Among Laszweski's distortions are not counting 1.2 million people newly insured by non-marketplace individual plans which are also subject to Obamacare rules. Also the claim that 9.6 million added to employer rolls is just a result of the growth of the economy is strange, given that in 2014 only about 3 million new jobs were created.

Jan: Among Laszweski’s distortions are not counting 1.2 million people newly insured by non-marketplace individual plans which are also subject to Obamacare rules

Laszweski's article;Among those newly gaining coverage….non marketplace individual plans (1.2 million) …

Your sentence is from his quote of the Rand summary. In the body of his article and discussion he conveniently neglects this.

How many are on those new Christian plans...they advertise so they must be doing okay.

As much as I think the ACA is wrongheaded and wrong on the economic incentives, discounting employer issued health insurance policies is also wrong. Even though the employer mandate was delayed, it takes too much time for businesses to make changes like that, so there will be a significant number offering coverage to employees regardless of the timing of the actual mandate.

In fact, shouldn't roughly _all_ of the ACA related coverage changes happen _before_ the mandate goes into effect?

It's the same principal governing any policy change, like minimum wages or workplace safety requirements: Businesses begin adjusting immediately, they don't wait until the deadline to start making changes because changes take time to implement.

Re @2.

I was even more struck by the subsequent story, the recent death of Israeli physicist Jacob Bekenstein, arguably the greatest living black hole physicist alive until then, at age 68, predeceasing many of mentors including Steven Hawking and Mordecci Milgrom. Sad indeed.

#6. "By how many has Obamacare reduced the number of uninsured?" One of those nebulous questions that can only be answered with a lot of arbitrary assumptions and tells you nothing useful in the end. GOP missing the point on this as well. Instead of eliminating Obamacare exchanges, a great way to simplify the federal government, save money, and achieve efficiencies would be eliminate all the other wasteful federal health programs (VA, TRICARE, FEHB, Indian Health, Medicare, Medicaid) and just give uniform cash subsidies to beneficiaries instead. You could even replace the income tax health benefits exemption and replace it with an employer exchange subsidy exemption and just move everyone onto the exchanges and put an end to the whole malignant rococo "system" that hasn't been fixed anyway.

About #2, it's always shocking to see how cringeworthy Scott Aaronson can be, for such a smart guy.

Isn't he fucking 35? When is he going to get over this "nerd" business?

What do you mean by "nerd business" exactly?

Aaronson brings up “nerdiness” and “nerd culture” every other time he speaks in a public forum. It seems to me that a man 20 years out of high school should have moved on from the preoccupations of his teenage years.

He doesn't even seem to realize that nerdiness isn't a universal human experience. I grew up in a Latin American country and went to school in the 80s and 90s, and have younger sisters who went to school in the 90s and 00s. Although some people were more studious and did better in school than others (I was one of them), we had nothing like the American notion of "nerd", which apparently involves being some kind of social idiot. None of my college friends, who went to schools all over the same country, ever talked about anything like it.

Indeed, the whole "high school is a terrible time" experience depicted and talked about is most American movies is a totally foreign concept to anyone from my country that I ever talked to.

Considering his audience was high schoolers at an "applied rationality" camp, I'd say his comments on nerdiness were well tuned to the audience.

That could have been true if his comments hadn't been completely unfounded, speculative nonsense on the causes of "nerdiness".

Also, your defense of Aaronson would have been more relevant if he didn't bring up "nerdiness" and "nerd culture" every other time he speaks in a public forum, regardless of audience.

About 4: What is so unique or particularly profound about this research advice.? i am not an academic but I have many friends who work in universities and colleges . They also teach the same stuff

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