More Than 80% of Enrollees Are Satisfied With Obamacare Plans

The Hill: “A new survey finds that 81 percent those enrolled in ObamaCare plans are satisfied with their health insurance.”

“The survey from the Commonwealth Fund, a health research group, found that 45 percent of people enrolled through ObamaCare’s marketplaces are “somewhat satisfied,” and 36 percent are “very satisfied.” Fifteen percent are not satisfied. ObamaCare also expanded Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, in states that agreed to accept the expansion — 29 so far. The survey finds that 93 percent of people enrolled in Medicaid are satisfied with their plans.”

Exhibit 10

“A major question around the law has been how many people who have signed up were previously uninsured. The survey finds that more than half — 53 percent — of people enrolled through ObamaCare’s marketplaces were previously uninsured.”

From Energy Crisis to Leader in Clean Energy

Huffington Post: “Solar farms are blooming across California’s deserts, wind turbines are climbing the Sierra, photovoltaic roofs are shimmering over suburbs, and Teslas are the Silicon Valley elite’s new ride. A clean energy rush is transforming the Golden State so quickly that nearly a quarter of its electricity now comes from renewable sources, and new facilities, especially solar, are coming online at a rapid rate. Last year, California became the first state to get more than 5 percent of its electricity from the sun.”

“With its goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020 now within reach, Governor Jerry Brown recently raised California’s bar, ordering the state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below the 1990 level within the next 15 years — the most ambitious target in North America. To meet the new directive, planners say Californians will need to step up their energy transition even more: doubling energy efficiency, boosting electric transportation, and getting at least twice as much of their electricity from renewables. Energy experts caution that it will take effort, but they say it’s doable.”

“It’s difficult to remember that just 15 years earlier the state was experiencing an energy meltdown. Electricity prices skyrocketed, supply crashed and blackouts rolled, due mainly to a disastrous deregulation attempt and unscrupulous market manipulation. Fast-forward to 2014, and the state’s renewable capacity grew to an estimated 21,000 megawatts, including more utility-scale solar than all the rest of the states combined.”

Most Aren’t Paying Attention to Big Obamacare Case

obamacare lawsuit poll

Huffington Post: “More than seven in 10 people have heard “nothing at all” or “only a little” about King v. Burwell, a lawsuit brought by conservative and libertarian activists that seeks to eliminate Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies for 6.4 million people in 34 states, according to survey results published Tuesday by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The share of Americans saying they’d heard nothing — 44 percent — about this latest challenge to Obamacare’s survival outnumber those who have heard “a lot” or at least “something” by almost two to one.

GOP Lawmakers Push Online Sales Tax Reform

“GOP lawmakers reignited the online sales tax debate,” according to The Hill, “rolling out a new bill that they said could assuage previous Republican concerns about the issue.”

“The bill, from House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and a group of 15 other House members, would give states greater latitude to charge sales taxes on online purchases from out-of-state customers… Chaffetz and Womack both stressed that their bill would finally bring parity to the issue of taxing online sales. The Supreme Court has said that states can only collect sales taxes from companies that have a physical location within their borders.”

“Both Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have shown little interest in the issue, which divides Republicans far more than it does Democrats. Most Democrats back online sales tax legislation, while some of the Marketplace Fairness Act’s loudest critics were GOP presidential contenders like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY).”

Study Shows How Government Funding Boosts Innovation

Stephen Dewhurst highlights a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research showing that “each $10 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) results in 3.1 new private sector patents in the area of research that received funding – or about 1 patent for every 2 NIH grants.”

“This is largely because R&D at companies depends on prior knowledge created by publicly funded science.  Interestingly, the report also notes that about half of these patents are targeted to a different disease than the one addressed by the NIH research –  underscoring the fact that innovation depends on generalizable, fundamental scientific insights.”

“These new findings highlight the enormous importance of government funded science as a driver of private sector innovation and patenting, and underscore the need to grow the NIH budget after over a decade of stagnation.”

Hackers Got Security Clearance Forms

“Hackers who raided the U.S. government’s personnel office gained access to secret background investigations conducted on current and former employees,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The hackers had access to at least two separate background-investigation forms that must be completed for many U.S. officials to work in select national-security and other government jobs, and these forms are often necessary for someone to obtain security clearance. The two forms—known as Standard Form 85 and 86—contain extensive information about family members, mental health, and credit history. They also include records of ‘foreign contacts’—lists of non-U.S. officials that a person might know or have relationships with.”

“Such information could be considered a treasure trove of information for foreign intelligence agencies, as the records would provide access to the personal lives and relationship networks of some of the U.S. government’s most carefully screened and vetted officials, and could expose them to blackmail.”

Whatever Happened to Obamacare ‘Sticker Shock?’

L.A. Times: “The depiction of the Affordable Care Act as a driver of huge increases in health insurance rates refuses to die, even though the record thus far shows that premium rate increases have shrunk since open enrollment for individual plans began in 2014.”

“The drumbeat is sounding again, based on early and incomplete filings by insurers. The drum majors typically are conservative news sources anxious to show that sticker shock hasn’t been eliminated, just deferred. But numerous general news agencies fomented the panic as well.”

“A new data point arrived Thursday from the healthcare consultancy Avalere Health, which found that rate requests for 2016 in seven states and the District of Columbia are about 5.8% higher than 2015.”

“It continues the pattern of post-ACA increases moderating from those in the individual market before the 2010 law kicked in: As the Commonwealth Fund reported in 2014, premiums in the individual market rose an average of 9.9% in 2008, 10.8% in 2009 and 11.7% in 2010.”

“Perhaps most important, the raw numbers don’t reflect patterns of plan-switching, which for 2016 are as yet unknowable. This is the degree to which 2015 enrollees will choose a different plan for 2016, often for a lower price.”

Is Health Care Spending Growing Again?

Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. Census Bureau has published new estimates of health spending based on their somewhat obscure but important Quarterly Services Survey. Analysis of the survey data shows that health spending was 7.3% higher in the first quarter of 2015 than in the first quarter of last year. Hospital spending increased 9.2%. Greater use of health services as well as more people covered by the ACA appear to be responsible for most of the increase. People are beginning to use more physician and outpatient services again as the economy improves. The number of days people spent in hospitals also rose.”

Kansas Avoids Massive Budget Cuts

“Kansas will avoid massive budget cuts after a tax plan crawled to passage in the Legislature on Friday, but some lawmakers who voted for the plan say the state has failed to right its financial ship,” according to The Kansas City Star.

“Republicans, who hold supermajorities in the Kansas House and Senate, found themselves bitterly divided on taxes for weeks in the face of a $400 million budget hole as the legislative session stretched to 113 days, the longest in state history. The House scraped together the 63 votes needed for passage at 4 a.m. Friday, passing a plan that raises $384.4 million in tax revenue, after working around the clock since Wednesday night.”

“Little more than 12 hours later, the Senate approved the plan with 21 votes, again the bare minimum for passage… Brownback had warned that if lawmakers did not pass a tax plan before Monday, then he would make massive budget cuts — either issuing a 6.2 percent across-the-board cut costing schools nearly $200 million, or line-item vetoes of budgets for the state’s regents universities.”

Washington Post: How Kansas keeps making life harder for the poor

Patent Troll Bills Split Innovation Community

“‘Innovation’ is among the most highly prized civic and commercial virtues today. So much so that opposing sides in policy contests each claim its mantle,” writes Drew Clark. “Nowhere is this truer than in now-bubbling debate on Capitol Hill in Washington over patent reform.”

“And the divisions aren’t based on political party. In the Senate, the co-sponsors of the bipartisan PATENT Act are deep-red Republicans Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and dark-blue Democrats Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Chuck Schumer of New York… The bills’ target is that frequently derided species known as the ‘patent troll’: those who use a bogus claim and impose a litigation toll on an innocent entrepreneur going about creating jobs and driving economic prosperity.”

“Instead of being divided by party, or even squarely by industry, supporters of these two measures, and their opponents, pit one view of ‘innovation’ against another. On the one hand are those Silicon Valley companies constantly making and remaking the tools of the digital economy. On the other hand are inventors who use intellectual property as an asset and license the manufacture of their patented devices to others.”

Is the Nation’s Uninsured Rate the Lowest Ever?

NPR: “‘Nearly 1 in 3 uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever,’ [President Obama] told a cheering crowd at the Catholic Health Association’s annual conference Tuesday. ‘Ever,’ he added for emphasis.”

But is the uninsured rate really the lowest ever? Maybe, say experts. But you can’t really tell.

“‘I would say that we have definitive evidence that the uninsured rate for the nonelderly is the lowest it has been since 1997,’ said Genevieve Kenney, a policy researcher at the Urban Institute and co-director of its Health Policy Center. (Most surveys only measure the nonelderly because nearly everyone over age 65 has Medicare.) ‘Before that we are on less solid ground because of data limitations.'”

Climate Deniers Will be the Big Money Losers

Think Progress: A major new global financial report finds that investors who remain ignorant of or deny climate science will be big money losers compared to those who are climate-savvy.

The report has several key findings. Clearly, “climate change will give rise to investment winners and losers.” Some industries, like coal, will likely see average annual returns over the next decade “eroding between 26% and 138%,” depending on how aggressively the world attempts to fight climate change. Other industries, like renewables, could see average annual returns increase by up to 97 percent over the 10-year period — if the world does seriously move toward a 2°C pathway coming out of the Paris climate talks this December.

The report identifies three phases investors may go through — “Climate-Unaware Future Takers,” “Climate-Aware Future Takers,” and finally “Climate-Aware Future Makers”:

Takes To Makers

A key goal of the report is to get investors to “progress along these phases to the extent they can.”

Barry Ritholz: “In the real world, climate-change deniers are and will be giant money losers.”