Sunday, July 26, 2009

What's Texas Doing Right?

Is Texas doing something right that California and other states aren't?

I was sent an article from the national review but as I haven't figured out how to upload I file for you and the National Review requires you to pay to be a subscriber to their magazine, I went searching and found the article reprinted with permission on Rick Perry's website. I encourage you to read it.

It points out that while Texas is feeling the effects of the recession or the slow down of the economy, it's effects are minimal compared to the states that have been hit hardest. It points out that we still have manufacturing thriving while Detroit has been hit hard. It points out that there is a mass migration from California while their government workers are taking IOUs as they attempt to balance the budget. Texas went into this recession with a surplus to the budget which will help ease the pain of the recession.

Texas has no state income tax. We have sales tax. Texas essentially operates as an example of the way the fair tax is meant to, by taxing everyone that makes purchases here. Legal or illegal, resident or visiting. So these people using our programs, whether they should or shouldn't be, are still paying into our system some way shape or form even if they aren't paying their emergency room bills.

This article makes the much hated Rick Perry look like a genius. He's running for reelection in 2010 and if he wins will be the longest serving governor in Texas history. While he is despised, the much despised and loved (depending on who you talk to) Kay Bailey Hutchinson will be challenging him. I'm on the despising side since she voted for the first bailout before Bush left office. I wrote her and told her not to. She won't be getting my vote for governor. I'll likely vote for the libertarian running, though I've heard a 3rd republican has thrown her hat in the race that is supposedly endorsed by Ron Paul. I have yet to check her out. Maybe she will prove worthy of my vote. Rick Perry and Texas is your classic nanny state. They passed a steroid testing bill in 2007 for Texas high schools that cost several million dollars a year or so that has turned up few positive tests. Aren't there physical signs to steroid abuse that could be the trigger to test someone rather than random testing? Anyways there are many other nanny state bills that he hasn't vetoed that make him unpopular. The term country club republican applies to him and Kay Bailey.

That said while there are a economic positives, Texas has a high uninsured rate. Page 5 of this report shows the stats by poverty rate and by citizenship status. One thing that pops out to me is that 60% of non citizens are uninsured compared to 20.4% of natives and 32.9% of naturalized. You can see that 20% of natives is still a larger number than the other two groups. This is obviously a problem. But we have to start some where. I'm guessing there are laws that could be enforced for the 60% of non-citizens if they don't pay their bills when they go to the doctor or emergency room. They should be deported immediately. Maybe an expert out there knows if this is a currently enforceable law or not. If it's not, then this is one place to start.

What those stats don't address is the rates of delinquent health related bills by poverty group or citizenship status. Is one group offending more than another. It's one thing to be uninsured and not utilizing or paying cash for your health care, but it's quite another to be going to the ER once a week with no intention of ever paying your bill. What I do see is a lot of people choosing not to purchase health insurance 2.5 million people are making 200%+ of the poverty level and yet they are still uninsured. "More than 1.7 million uninsured Texans live in families with incomes above $50,000." I've stated before on here, from experience these people have cable or satellite and cell phones among other luxuries.

Some possible solutions to this problem:
-Debtors prison (work your debt off)
-Revoke visas or citizenship to non natives who allow a bill to become delinquent and deport them immediately
-See my previous post from July 12 for a move in the right direction
-Fair Tax - collects taxes from all offenders that spend any money - perhaps states could set up free clinics as a result and attract doctors by paying their medical school bills in exchange for lower salary and a 4 year commitment. That way people have a choice in free health care if they really want it. Or they can pay for it themselves.

Why can't we start with some of these ideas before allowing the government to take more and more of our hard earned money?

So is Texas an example for the rest of the country? Yes but it's not the only state. We just happen to be the 15th largest economy in the world (from the above referenced article from NR). So it stands out more than others. We have 6 of the 25 largest cities in this country, which is more than any other state has. Texas is growing while other states are shrinking. So while our unemployment rate may be increasing as a result of the recession, it's still one of the lowest in the country all while working with a migration from other states.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Do You Agree With the Polls?

Poll information from
Which I also found on Real Clear Politics Website which averages the various poll results.

RCP Poll
President Obama Job Approval
RCP Average: +18.2% Details
Approve 56.2%
Disapprove 38.0%

Congressional Job Approval
RCP Average: -25.3% Details
Approve 32.0%
Disapprove 57.3%

Direction of Country
RCP Average: -19.4% Details
Right Direction 36.2%
Wrong Track 55.6%

I can tell you where I stand on each of these. I highly disapprove of the congress job approval and direction of the country, which have been clearly directed and supported by the President.

Here's the problem, when anyone is in office, be it congress or the president, they feel they have the right and duty based on the fact that they won an election to make decisions they think are best for us and this country, even if it's not what we the people want. We do have an opportunity here people to judge their work. It's called voting them out of office at all cost. Listen. Not every democrat is bad and not every republican is bad, just like they aren't all good on either side. Perhaps another party will emerge, or perhaps "decent" politicians will continue to choose the existing two parties. But in order for "decent" candidates to be considered, we have to get out of our mindset of only supporting Democrats or Republicans and get into the mindset of supporting those candidates who will listen to us even if they don't always agree with us. Even if that decent candidate isn't backed by the 2 major parties.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Move in the Right Direction for Health Care

Health care is the big item on the White House agenda as of late. It's the hot topic we knew they were going to tackle ASAP and if they get their way, increases the power and influence of government in all of our lives. In my March 31, 2009 post I discussed a need for health care to move away from the current insurance system. This would take providers developing and alternative to working with insurance companies in much the same way Walmart has lead the way for low prices on generic drugs.

On Tuesday July 7, I found this article on Take some time to read it as it is a great example of where I think health care should go.

Basically it discusses a Seattle Clinic that was started by doctors tired of dealing with insurance companies. The attract new doctors by offering stock options. They offer care to patients from $39-$119 a month depending on age and level of insurance. No one is rejected for preexisting conditions. It also covers round the clock unrestricted care and 30-minute appointments

It doesn't cover catastrophic care, but the article reports that a 30 year old person could expect to pay $133 per month for such coverage. Obviously that goes up with age.

Here's the thing, my employer sponsored premium is $350/month. They cover that but I have to pay deductibles, co-insurance, and co-pays. Every time I go to the doctor I pay $20 or $30 for a specialist. Just think, if my employer didn't have to pay $350 for my insurance and instead gave me a $350 raise to go out and buy my own insurance, the least I could pay anywhere from $172 - $252 a month for coverage. This leaves me an extra $100/month plus any of my copays and coinsurance to cover any medication I might need on occasion, or lab work that I usually have only once a year, or anything else that might not be covered in the services offered by their clinic.

This is a link to the clinic's services that they offer.
And while they don't offer all specialty services, they do offer the basic preventative care and disease management which is what most people are needing. They are an example of how specialty care providers could get together and offer their specialty services refusing to work with insurance. Prenatal and maternity care come to mind. Although I know from a previous job that many doctors and providers already have reduced rates for those paying cash for these services. But people always think they need insurance. Radiology groups could refuse to deal with insurance which greatly reduces the staff they need to run the business office, which reduces the costs to you the patient. I'm sure if they put their heads together they could come up with even more ways to reduce your costs, and to encourage people to use their services every once in awhile to help reduce costs over time.

In reality, insurance is just a method of prepaying for services you will use. But we have become so accustomed to our employers providing us insurance or the government doing these things for us that we don't want the responsibility of saving that $200-$300/month just for health care expenses. Trust me people you don't want the government in charge of your health care. If you want health care bad enough, if it becomes a priority to you, you will pay for it. And if you will pay for it, a doctor will see you and treat you. It just hasn't become a priority for most people and they are spending the money elsewhere and are under the impression that they can't afford quality coverage. The reality is they don't want to pay for it so the next step is to demand the government find a solution so they don't have to pay for it. They are just going to take it out of your check each month before you get paid.

What do you all think of what this clinic is doing? They are saving money on the office staff it would required to bill insurance companies, that also have to employ people to process your claims. The providers and the insurance companies are in the business of making money so who do you think ultimately pays for these 2 sets of people to process your claims? They go into the cost of health care provided to you. You pay for it. Don't kid yourself and say your company pays for it or the government pays for it. You're salary is probably a lot less over time because your benefits fall into your compensation package, and you pay taxes to the government to pay for everyone on government insurance. Unless the government is supporting you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How's That Stimulus Working Out For You?

In case you haven't been paying attention to anything outside of Michael Jackson, USA Today reported yesterday that states aren't using funds as intended. Here's the link to the article.

"The report says that as of mid-June, states had received about $29 billion of the estimated $49 billion in stimulus funding they are scheduled to get before the federal budget year ends Sept. 30. More than 90% of the money given to the states so far is for Medicaid and a fund meant to prop up states' budgets for schools and other basic services such as public safety."

The report they are referring to is from the Government Accountability Office which has been tasked with tracking and monitoring the funds. Their report came out today according to the link I was sent. (I'm a nerd and am signed up on their e-mail list for updates). Here's the link if you're interested in the report.

And for the appendices or appendixes as they put it. Any grammar experts out there? Is the dog or the government correct?

For the purposes of this report 16 states and the District of Columbia are being required to report their spending of the stimulus money they receive. My state Texas is one of them. You can find the rest in one of those links if you care.

From the report link above page 3 of the pdf. "Overall, states reported using Recovery Act funds to stabilize state budgets and to cope with fiscal stresses. The funds helped them maintain staffing for existing programs and minimize or avoid tax increases as well as reductions in services."

p. 14 or 8 if you look on the numbering on the report;"From October 2007 to May 2009, overall Medicaid enrollment in the 16 states and the District increased by 7 percent. In addition, each of the states and the District experienced an enrollment increase during this period, with the highest number of programs experiencing an increase of 5 percent to 10 percent. However, the percentage increase in enrollment varied widely ranging from just under 3 percent in California to nearly 20 percent in Colorado." Figure 3 on the next page shows the increases state by state.

Are the increased Medicaid rolls really all that surprising with the unemployment rate rising and standing nationally at just shy of 10%?

Is it at all possible that those of us that wanted the government to do nothing and let the recession take its course were right? Doing something seems to have increased and perhaps prolonged the recession. This was a bipartisan effort to screw us all over. Do you still think it was a good idea? Do you think the government should do more?

This is not an original idea, Neal Boortz poses these questions all of the time on his radio show, but what would happen if instead of the government spending on programs and "federal aid," they declared some sort of tax holiday for the masses for several months? Meaning everyone of us would take home our full paycheck (minus our contributions to retirement and/or 401ks). That's several hundred dollars a month extra that people would take home and have to spend, pay of debt, and save. What if instead of trying to hunt and search American money in Swiss bank accounts or other foreign countries in an effort to penalize the American owners of this money, they declared amnesty for all Americans to bring their money back penalty and tax free? They could then start investing that money in their local communities in the form of new businesses, spending, donations, or sitting in American banks rather than sitting in foreign banks.

Do any of these things make any kind of sense to anyone? Or are we as a society trying to legislate "fairness" by taking from those who work hard for their money and giving to those who may not work as hard. Is that really fair? What happened to fair meaning everyone having the same opportunity to work hard and succeed in this country?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Don't Take Freedom for Granted

The 4th of July is the day we supposedly celebrate our freedom in this country. But do we ever stop to really think about what that means? Year after year our state and national representatives pass laws that are continually encroaching on our freedom and independence. And how to we repay them? We re-elect them to continue passing more and more laws that take away our freedoms. Some in ways that are so minor that we don't even notice or bother to care. But one day you wake up and you find yourself taking for granted that you are relying on the government for something.

Take Social Security for example. Look how many people rely on it for their retirement. Look how many people don't want to give it up because of how much they've already paid into it or because they are a few years away from getting it. I'd give it up right now if they'd quit taking it out of my check, but they won't do that because they have to take from me to give to those that aren't working anymore. Ponzi Scheme. And as a nation we seem to be ok with the government run ponzi scheme. We depend on it. We look forward to our return, even though they keep pushing back our eligibility for it, and cutting the benefit.

When is enough going to be enough? When are we going to take back our independence from our own government?

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

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