An Illustration

…of why government is unsuited to run what are essentially business operations.

Not to keep picking on Obamacare, but this program really is a poster child for why government can’t do this sort of thing. All year long, the Federal government has been trying to revamp its failed ObamaMart, euphemistically known as Healthcare.gov. Here’s the status of that effort.

  • ObamaMart still is transitioning to new government contractors to manage basic functions. This transition has been going on since the first of the year. They’re not even stable yet on what companies have been hired to do the work.

And This Tidbit Re Obamacare—Finding Out More of What Is In It

Even The New York Times is starting to figure it out.

Many employers had thought they could shift health costs to the government by sending their employees to a health insurance exchange with a tax-free contribution of cash to help pay premiums, but the Obama administration has squelched the idea in a new ruling. Such arrangements do not satisfy the health care law, the administration said, and employers may be subject to a tax penalty of $100 a day—or $36,500 a year—for each employee who goes into the individual marketplace.

The ruling…by the Internal Revenue Service…blocks any wholesale move by employers to dump employees into the exchanges.

Obamacare—Finding Out More of What Is In It

Labor is discovering more about Obamacare that isn’t all that.

the law doesn’t take into account that health benefits have been negotiated by employers and unions over decades, and that rewriting plans to meet new requirements can affect wages and other labor terms.

And

Uncertainty about future costs is also hampering negotiations. One of the biggest looming unknowns is the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans scheduled to take effect in 2018. The provision imposes a 40% tax on the annual cost of health care above $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage.

The State of the Obama Recovery

…now that we’re in the fifth year of it.

Real gross domestic product—the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States—decreased at an annual rate of 1.0% in the first quarter according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 2.6%.

It might not get better soon:

Personal consumption—which captures spending on goods and services—fell a seasonally adjusted 0.1% from March[.]

The SEC’s Nanny State

The excuse here is the existence of so-called dark pools, or off-exchange stock trading in private venues like “banks or other firms.” It’s certainly true that the information exchange concerning companies whose stocks trade in the dark pools is less—often quite a bit less—than that available for exchange-traded stocks.

ER Visits Up with the Advent of Obamacare

Stephanie Armour and Louise Radnofsky pointed this out earlier in the week in The Wall Street Journal.

Among other things, they mentioned

The median ER charge was more than $1,200 for the most frequent outpatient diagnoses in a study of over 8,000 ER visits in 2006-08….

This is right before Obamacare was enacted.

Notice that ER charge. A significant fraction of the deductibles on Obamacare health coverage plans is larger than that—ranging from $2,000 to above $10,000, depending on family size, the specific plan selected, and so on.

Not the Best Move

According to Spiegel Online International, the European Central Bank intends to introduce a negative rate on cash deposits member banks make into their ECB accounts—a rate of -0.1%. This means that banks would be paying the ECB to deposit their money with the central bank: if a member deposited €100 million with the ECB, the latter would take a €100,000 fee.

The central bank’s motive is to stimulate more lending by those private and commercial banks, to get more money flowing in the EU’s economy. But with loan rates already at historic lows (the ECB itself is only charging 0.25% and intends to reduce that to 0.15%), it hardly seems likely that loan demand is the only impediment to lending—loan quality, borrower quality also are major factors.

Rule of Law

Earlier I wrote about government and free speech regarding a Wall Street Journal op-ed about the FCC’s proposed interference with the business of the Internet.

Buried near the end of the op-ed, though, was a remark that needs greater notice than was present in the piece.

Mr Wheeler’s FCC claims “there are no rules on the books to prevent broadband providers from limiting Internet openness by blocking content or discriminating against consumers and entrepreneurs online.”

The WSJ denied the charge,

But this is false. …the Federal Trade Commission already has ample authority to go after businesses that mistreat customers, online or off[]

Ukraine and Energy

America’s booming natural gas production could help Ukraine keep the heat and lights on amid Russia’s latest threat to cut off supplies, if the US cuts through troublesome red tape, lawmakers said. … The U.S. has port facilities that turn natural gas into liquid for export and more are under construction, but shipping to any country not bound by a free trade agreement with the US requires a federal permit. Since 2011, DOE has approved six [count 'em] applications for permits to export natural gas to non-free trade agreement nations, but Ukraine is not one of them. … [The] “Domestic Freedom and Global Prosperity Act”…would grant immediate approval of the 24 pending applications currently filed with the Department of Energy…. “This would send the clear signal that we are serious about enlarging the scope of natural gas exports, and immediately undercut Russia’s dominance,” [Congressman Fred (R, MI)] Upton said. “Russia has chosen to wield its energy resources as a geopolitical weapon to inflict harm on others. As the world’s emerging energy superpower, America has a newfound responsibility to help our allies.”

Government and Free Speech

This time in the milieu of the Internet. And it’s not good, if the FCC’s latest “rule” proposal is allowed to stand.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler went ahead with his proposal on Thursday to give his agency the power to decide whether the terms and prices of broadband Internet services are “reasonable.” That’s bad enough as political discretion, but according to dissenting Commissioner Ajit Pai, regulators from every state will also be able to get into the act.