Manhattan Contrarian Public Service: The Easy Solution To "Surprise" Medical Bills

In the long list of unintended consequences of Obamacare, the latest one to attract attention is the so-called “surprise medical bill.” They have given you to think that your all-beneficent government has bestowed upon you that holy grail of healthcare “coverage.” Then you have to go to the hospital. No problem — you have “coverage.” But upon getting home you suddenly get hit with a completely unexpected bill for $2000 or $5000, or even $10,000 or more, and you are told that it is not covered by the “coverage.” What the hell is going on here?

I guess you didn’t read the fine print. The geniuses behind the design of Obamacare insisted that they could mandate both “affordable” premiums, and simultaneously third-party payment for every conceivable health issue (e.g., free birth control for eighty-year-olds). But something had to give. The remaining escape valves have turned out to be high deductibles and narrow networks in the healthcare policies. Thus, for your hospital visit, you may find that your deductible makes you responsible for the first $3000, or even $5000, of the bills. Or, even worse, you may find that even though you carefully selected a hospital that was “in network,” the doctor who treated you was “out of network,” and sends you a bill for $6000 that your “coverage” won’t pay.

This “surprise medical bill” issue has recently attracted enough attention that the Congress has swung into action. When Congress swings into action, it follows the fundamental principal that all human problems are to be solved by some kind of program, regulation, or mandate emanating from the federal government. This principal applies most particularly to solutions to those human problems that were caused by the last round of programs, regulations and mandates emanating from the federal government. And thus we have something called the Lower Health Care Costs Act, recently introduced in the Senate by Lamar Alexander (Republican of Tennessee) and Patty Murray (Democrat of Washington). Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, in a piece titled “Get Rid of Surprise Medical Bills” (probably behind pay wall), Benedic Ippolito of the American Enterprise Institute calls the proposed LHCCA the “most consequential bipartisan health-care reform of the ObamaCare era.” . . .

As a public service to our readers and to the Congress, the Manhattan Contrarian wishes to state that there is a far, far better and easier solution to this “surprise medical bills” thing than any of the three proposals in the LHCCA. And it is a solution that is already present in existing law. The solution is, . . .

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On The Promise Of "Green Jobs"

Sometimes it seems like the biggest selling point advanced in favor of “renewable energy” is the promise of what are called “green jobs.” What are those? Proponents are often vague, but I suppose that the green jobs largely consist of the work of building, installing, and maintaining the vast future farms of windmills and solar panels, and related infrastructure like transmission lines. Since most of these jobs involve some combination of strenuous labor in remote areas and/or a high level of skill, of course they will be very high-paying jobs. Millions of them. What’s not to like about that?

President Obama was an early arrival at the “green jobs” party, tossing out a “plan to create 5 million new green jobs” as part of his 2008 presidential campaign. (Politifact in November 2016 struggles to figure out how many of those jobs ever got created, and if so, where they may be.) You won’t be surprised to learn that Obama’s ideas pretty much all consisted of some variety of government subsidies, programs, mandates, tax credits, “investments,” expenditures, and the like, e.g., a new “job training program for clean technologies,” a new federal “renewable portfolio standard” to force utilities to switch to wind and/or solar generation, extension of the “production tax credit” for wind and solar, and so on and on.

More recently “green jobs” promoters have further upped the ante. In January of this year, Francie Diep of Pacific Standard quoted the Center for American Progress as predicting that a federal “investment” of just $800 billion per year (!) toward cutting carbon emissions to zero would create 6.8 million net new jobs. Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization (part of the UN) put out a study in 2018 predicting that implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement would create some 24 million “net” green new jobs worldwide by 2030. It all sounds like a near-infinite bounty of new wealth.

Do you spot the fallacy here? . . .

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The Best Part Of Not Being A Progressive Is Not Having To Feel Guilty All The Time

I often tell my kids that the most important thing you can do with your life is enjoy it. Life is way shorter than you think, and if you blow your precious days coming up with fake reasons to feel anxious or guilty, you have no one to blame but yourself. Instead, count your blessings and seize every minute.

Then there is the progressive approach to life. I think that the whole progressive philosophy boils down to coming up with fake reasons to feel anxious and/or guilty in order to prevent any and all enjoyment of life. You worked hard and made some money? Then you have caused income inequality! You had a delicious steak for dinner? Then you have caused the degradation of the environment and you are ruining your own health! I’m sure that readers can come up with dozens more such examples.

How to explain this phenomenon? Could it be that there is some dark, twisted pleasure in creating fake guilt for yourself so that you can wallow in it and feel miserable? It doesn’t make any sense to me, but that’s the best hypothesis I’ve got. However, this I do know: There is definitely much pleasure to be had in watching progressives wallowing in their guilt and sapping all the joy out of their lives. This can be quite entertaining.

A great example of the genre is an article that appeared in the Travel section of the New York Times over the weekend. The headline (in the online version) is “If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?”, and the author is Andy Newman. This was not just any old article, but the lead article, occupying the entire front page and the entire back page of the section. It had the official New York Times imprimatur as the most important thing happening in the world of travel right now. So what is the official word? . . .

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On The Prevalence Of "Extreme Poverty" In The United States

The World Bank has a definition of “extreme poverty,” which, in their formulation, means “living on less than $1.90 per day.” I have no idea how they picked the figure of $1.90 for the cutoff, but that certainly is a very low figure. Parsing the definition a little, notice that they use the term “living on” as the standard, rather than saying, for example, that a person has less than $1.90 per day in “income.” As you will see, the difference is significant. Anyway, the WB in its most recent (April 2019) report on this subject gives a figure of about 10% of the world’s population, or 736 million people, as “living on” resources below that very low $1.90 per day level per capita. That actually represents a large decline in the percent of people in this “extreme poverty” condition over the past couple of decades; but it still comes to a very large number of people. Whether that 10% figure is accurate or even substantially exaggerated, I have no doubt that there are still many, many people in the world who have less than $1.90 per day in resources to “live on,” and who therefore live in what could only be called deep, grinding poverty.

But the question for today is, is there any substantial number of people in the United States who live in conditions meeting this World Bank test of “extreme poverty”? And if so, how could that be, and how could such a thing be allowed to persist? Some call this the most important question out there in the field of poverty studies.

Driving this debate has been a pair of well-known researchers who have for many years been making a career pushing large numbers as being the supposed count of those in the U.S. in this “deep poverty” condition. The researchers are sociologist Kathryn Edin of Princeton and social policy guru Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan. In 2015, Edin and Shaefer published a book titled “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.” The $2.00 per day was an arbitrary rounding up of the World Bank’s equally arbitrary $1.90 per day “extreme poverty” cutoff, although besides doing that rounding the authors also switched the definition of the measurement metric from “living on” that amount or less, to having “cash income” of that amount or less. The book famously came up with a figure of some 1.2 million households with children in the United States, and 3.6 million households total, supposedly meeting the test of having cash income less than the $2 per day per capita figure.

You will not be surprised that Edin and Shaefer’s 2015 book drew excited praise — and a notable dearth of skepticism — from the usual progressive suspects. (Example — William Junius Wilson in the New York Times: “This essential book is a call to action, and one hopes it will accomplish what Michael Harrington’s “The Other America” achieved in the 1960s — arousing both the nation’s consciousness and conscience about the plight of a growing number of invisible citizens.”) Less excited was the Manhattan Contrarian, who, in a post on May 26, 2016, had this to say:

This book is completely preposterous. . . .

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Will The Democratic Candidates Ever Notice That The Climate Change Thing Is Over?

Maybe the impetus was the California Democratic Convention that took place this past weekend, or maybe it is the upcoming first presidential debate later this month, but it certainly seems that the score-plus of Democratic presidential candidates have entered a bidding war of ever-more-extravagant campaign proposals. And in no field is this more true than in the field of what they call “climate change,” aka spending vast sums of taxpayer and ratepayer money in the futile effort to restrict fossil fuels and promote alternative and useless methods of energy production like wind and solar.

As noted here just last week, minor candidate Governor Jay Inslee of the state of Washington got the ball rolling, trying to grab this issue as his own by “making climate change the center of his campaign” and declaring a series of pie-in-the-sky goals like: “Reach 100% zero emissions in new light- and medium-duty vehicles and all buses, achieve 100% zero-carbon pollution from all new commercial and residential buildings; and set a national 100% Clean Electricity Standard, requiring 100% carbon-neutral power by 2030 .” Well, you can’t expect the other candidates just to take that kind of thing lying down. Here are some of the bids from competing candidates:

  • At, the program to “combat climate change” includes such things as “[p]ass a Green New Deal,” “[b]an fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure and keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground . . . .,” and “[e]nd exports of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.” . . .

Meanwhile, out in the rest of the world, they continue to laugh at this spectacle. Just last week, Bloomberg reported on efforts by the Chinese government to get their miners to reduce the price of coal so that the price of electricity can drop and more coal-based electricity can be consumed: . . .

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Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can't Do?

Global Warming:  Is There Anything It Can't Do?

The general interest newsmagazines of the world have been in serious decline for years. Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report — what ever happened to them? Although all of them still exist in some form, they are all shadows of their former selves.

But then there is The Economist of London. These people put out what at least looks on the surface to be a serious print edition every week. They devote real resources to gathering news from around the world. If you want to find out what’s going on in, say, Argentina or the Congo or Uganda, this is one of the few places that you can find it. But can you trust anything they say?

I’ve been a long-time subscriber to The Economist, and had long regarded them as relatively sensible, generally less infected by leftist groupthink than most mainstream sources. But then, a few years ago — I can’t pinpoint the exact date — they made what appears to be a corporate-level decision to go all in for global warming alarm. Henceforth, every issue would contain one or several global warming stories, always with the slant of trying to scare the readership about the allegedly terrible crisis at hand.

Since then, it’s been a steady downhill slide. But how low can this go? In the issue of May 25-31, 2019, we seem to have hit bottom, with an editorial headlined “How to think about global warming and war.” Yes, they have now descended to attempting to blame all world warfare and strife on the universal bogeyman of “global warming.” . . .

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