I may bust your New York Times paywall limit with a couple of stories I’m going to recommend you read. I’m also recommending one from the Washington Post.
The first story deals with health care reform. If you are skeptical that any government involvement in an industry could be beneficial, I would not try to dissuade from your skepticism. The news that follows was announced by supporters of the legislation, after all. Still, could this be good news? The Times reports Health Plan Cost for New Yorkers Set to Fall 50%.
State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.
Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman in the office of Mike Kreidler, state insurance commissioner, said state officials here are encouraged by what they’re seeing from insurers, but rates would be unlikely to drop as much here as they appear to have in New York. Different states have different rules for what gets covered under health insurance programs, and Washington has about 15 times the number of people buying insurance on their own. That might be one reason. Still, state officials are encouraged. Here’s Kreidler’s statement on the subject:
“When the rate filings started coming in, we were pleasantly surprised,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “We’re not seeing the double-digit rate increases some of the insurers predicted. In some cases, people will pay the same or slightly lower for much better benefits. How much you pay will largely depend on the plan you select, your age, whether or not you smoke and where you live. People should have plenty of plans to choose from both inside the new WashingtonHealthplanfinder, Washington’s exchange, and in the regular insurance market. Premium subsidies also may be available for people buying coverage inside the exchange, depending on their income.”
Washington insurance officials will be able to comment more specifically after July 31, Marquis said.
The second NYT story is an inside-baseball story about D.C. politics, but the players’ own admissions are stunning, if not refreshing. The U.S. Senate reached a deal that would stop Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from blowing up the chamber’s filibuster rules. The entire story is worth reading, but these three paragraphs floored me, in a good way.
The agreement came after a meeting on Monday night where 98 Senators vented for over three hours. Members of both parties admitted some culpability in the political fighting, with Democrats conceding that their headlong drive to alter the rules may have been overly aggressive.
“We’re not without sin,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri.
Many Republicans admitted their efforts to hobble executive agencies by denying confirmation of their leadership was wrongheaded. “Cordray was being filibustered because we don’t like the law” that created the consumer agency, said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “That’s not a reason to deny someone their appointment. We were wrong.”
The final story comes Al Kamen’s “In the Loop” column at the Washington Post. In case you hadn’t heard, someone pulled a prank worthy of a Porky’s (I’m dating myself here. I never saw the movie, but heard of the name gag.) movie and convinced a Bay Area TV channel of the names of the Asiana Airlines pilots involved in the crash were Asian names that when spoken should have been obvious to anyone were a joke. (I won’t put the names here. It shouldn’t be too hard to find out if you’re that curious.)
The one saving factor for the TV station was they went to the trouble of confirming the names with the National Transportation Safety Board, and someone from the NTSB did confirm it. The agency said it was an intern, one who no longer has an internship with the NTSB. Kamen writes:
Good strategy! Blaming the intern for cringe-inducing faux pas is a time-honored tradition. Interns, after all, make the perfect fall guys, with their not-always-fair reputation for cluelessness and laziness, and their status somewhere underneath the lowest rung on the Washington ladder. It’s not easy to earn respect when the most infamous alum is Monica Lewinsky.
But is it fair to turn eager young public servants into the equivalent of the dog who ate Washington’s homework? Joe Starrs, director of U.S. Summer Programs at the Fund for American Studies, which places Washington interns, said it’s an employer’s job to provide those young, inexperienced (and often unpaid) workers with guidance and a supervisor. “To throw the intern under the bus is the ultimate in abdicating responsibility,” he says.