Category Archives: Facts

Full text of the comment that was shadow banned by @Oregonian newspaper

The next morning, my comment remains shadow banned by the Oregonian.

Here is the description of the shadow ban, from last night with a screen capture of how the ban appears.

Here, I present the full text of the shadow banned comment plus the supplementary information for how I obtained the facts presented in the comment.

Here are actual price quotes from HealthCare.gov.

The first quotes are for a 64 year old married couple earning pre-tax income of $65,000 per year, which is above the subsidy cut off level, hence, no subsidies. These quotes are for the least cost benchmark Silver plan.

Asheville, NC – $34,344 per year + $14,000 deductible
Baker City, OR and Burns, OR – $28,344 + $5,000 deductible
Birmingham, AL – $30,732 + $10,000 deductible
Bozeman, MT – $38,956 + $11,400 deductible
Breckenridge, CO – $29,099 + $9,000 deductible
Charlottesville, VA – $56,998 + $9,000 deductible
Flagstaff, AZ – Flagstaff, AZ – $34,824 + $8,000 deductible (this is LESS than last year’s $36,000)
Homer, AK – $40,320 + $9,000 deductible (LESS than last year’s $48,000)
Laramie, WY – $49,164 + $5,000 deductible
Medway, ME – $$34,571 + $6,7000 deductible

Here are some quotes for a family of 5, a married 53 year old couple with 3 dependents age 21, 18 and 15.

Charlottesville, VA – $64,836 + $9,200 deductible
Laramie, WY – $55,943 + $5,000 deductible
Winnemucca, NV – $34,903 + $13,600 deductible

Some may be surprised that a person earning $65,000 per year may have $30,000 to $55,000 per year in insurance premiums – and not receive a subsidy. This occurs because the ACA determines the subsidy cut off level by the regional poverty income level – it has nothing to do with the insurance premiums actually paid in the market. Consequently, the married couples in Charlottesville VA and Laramie WY are told to spend more than their after tax income on health insurance + deductible.

Note – rates are nearly flat from age 21 to age 40. At age 43, rate curves turn sharply upward and rise extremely rapidly.

The ACA and the IRS define “Coverage considered unaffordable” as the least cost Bronze plan costing more than 8.13% of your modified adjusted gross income. To illustrate, if your family’s least cost bronze premium were $8,130 per year, if you earn less than $100,000 you are exempt from the individual mandate.

Using a real example, the married 64 year old couple in Baker City or Burns OR is exempt if they earn less than $348,634 per year in income.

Actual rate quotes from across the country show that by the ACA’s own definitions, many families in their 30s, most families in their 40s, and essentially everyone over 50 is exempt from the individual mandate at this time rendering political arguments over the mandate as entirely moot. The ACA itself has already repealed the mandate. (And it doesn’t matter, as the Frean/Gruber paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in October 2016, found that the individual mandate has had no discernible impact on sign ups. For those that don’t know, Jonathan Gruber was considered the co-architect of the ACA as its design is based on his 20+ years of health policy research.)

Sadly, we have not seen the above information in many news articles as coverage has been woefully inadequate, primarily covering benefits and rarely to never discussing actual problems and how they might realistically be resolved.

Supplementary Information

All price quotes are from the U.S. government run web site healthcare.gov.

The following information was used in obtaining the price quotes.

  • Family 1 – a 64 year old married couple
  • Family 2 – a 53 year old married couple with 3 dependents, age 21, 18, 15.

Zip Codes Used at HealthCare.gov

(Copy of the notes file I maintained while looking up this information in November 2017).

Asheboro, NC 27203 (note png says Asheville due to typo)
Baker City, OR 97814
Burns OR 97720
Bozeman MT 59715
Flagstaff AZ 86001
Hillsboro 97124
Homer AK 99603
Klamath Falls OR 97601, 52, 52, 21, 18, 15 age of dependents, income $116,000/year
Laramie WY 8207
Cheyenne, WY 82007
Reno 89502
Grand Junction CO 81506, http://connectforhealthco.com/
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Woodinville WA 98072, https://www.wahealthplanfinder.org/
Winnemucca NV 89445
Bandon OR 97411
Boise, 83704, Birthdate 03/01/1954, https://www.yourhealthidaho.org/

https://www.healthcare.gov/see-plans/#/

2018 Data from healthcare.gov or state web sites
Boise, 83704, Birthdate 03/01/1954
https://www.yourhealthidaho.org/

Additional Reference Information

Yes, I really do log what I do, in great detail.

Frean, B., Gruber, J., Sommers, B. (2016). “Disentangling the ACA’s coverage effects – lessons for policymakers”.  N Engl J Med 2016; 375:1605-1608 October 27, 2016 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1609016 Retrieved from: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1609016#t=article

IRS. (2017). IRS Form 8965 Instructions. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i8965.pdf. See page 3 (Coverage considered unaffordable) and page 9 (Determining an individuals’ required contribution – individuals not eligible for coverage under an employer)

eHealth. (2017). “Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Will be Unaffordable in 2018 for Many Middle-income American families, eHealth Analysis Shows”. Retrieved from https://news.ehealthinsurance.com/news/affordable-care-act-health-insurance-will-be-unaffordable-in-2018-for-many-middle-income-american-families-ehealth-analysis-shows

Additional Information

I also saved complete copies of the downloaded HTML pages from the logged in state and the not logged in state, plus screen captures.

The Oregonian did publish my follow up question, in the comments, asking why my earlier comment was shadow banned. However, there is no answer.

As of today, we will no longer be reading the Oregonian newspaper due to their heavy handed censorship of factual speech. In actual fact I had already limited myself to reading just one article per day due to issues I had already spotted in their content.

I anticipate taking a far harsher tone towards the creation of fictional news by the sanctimonious press. Remember, the definition of “fake news” is the use of a variety of methods, including exaggeration, distortion, emotional hooks and falsehoods to sell eyeballs to advertisers. Many “fake news” services are social media based, online, for profit businesses. Which describes most so-called mainstream media today.

Social media companies really do read your posts, emails and documents

Google’s GMail service “scans” your emails and Google Docs to serve you ads. The word “scans” implies scanning for keywords but that is a false assumption about what is actually being done.

Natural language processing technology has advanced to where these algorithms are the equivalent of someone reading all of your emails and taking notes. Literally, online services are reading all of your email and building dossiers on what they think they know about you, ostensibly to better target advertising to you.

Facebook is taking this to extremes, having announced this week that Facebook’s algorithms are analyzing all of your online posts to determine if you suffer from depression and may be suicidal. In the event their algorithm decides you may be showing suicidal tendencies, Facebook alerts the authorities who send first responders to your home.

In other words, Facebook is now operating as an unlicensed health care practitioner and diagnosing your health based on your writings, and without ever having met you or spoken with you.

Facebook uses this information for marketing purposes too – imagine conducting this analysis and then showing you ads for anti-depressants and “talk to your doctor”. Also consider,

“An egregious example of the kind of behavior these companies’ business models encourage surfaced this summer when an internal Facebook sales pitch to advertisers was leaked to an Australian newspaper. Facebook stated it had pinpointed an audience of thousands of young teenagers who felt “insecure,” “defeated,” “nervous,” “failures,” “worthless,” and “needed a confidence boost.” These diagnoses were based on a psychoanalysis of private Facebook information: what users posted, what they liked, how they appeared in photos, who their friends and how depressed were they as well as their search and shopping histories, visits to mental illness sites or hotlines and so forth.” (source)

Twitter analyzes your Tweets, “Likes” and who you follow, plus combines this information with 3rd party advertising networks to create a profile of attributes. You can see this by going to Settings and Privacy and then selecting Your Twitter Data, page down and look at Interests from Twitter and Interests from Partners.

I discovered that almost everything they deduced about me in the Interests from Partners was wrong – seriously wrong. About the only correct items are that I have a cat and a graduate degree (2 actually, but do not tell them!)

All of this collected data is used to fine tune propaganda messaging directed at you. Of course, much of this is advertising; however, ads are also run for political purposes too. In effect, online services are proving our hypothesis – that social media has become the most advanced, friction-less propaganda platform in human history.

Silicon Valley “tech” firms have morphed into the most advanced propaganda operations in human history. Their actions are conducted in secret, they are unbounded, and they are unregulated. Their technology is now used to directly influence you and public policy.

To illustrate, this week, the head of the FCC commented on “net neutrality” and noted that Silicon Valley tech firms promote neutrality of the broadband pipe – while simultaneously censoring discussions conducted on their platform (Twitter and Youtube both do this). As if on cue, almost immediately thereafter, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet (parent of Google) announced they will now censor news.google.com to remove stories from Russian media outlets such as RT.

In that instant, Google showed its defense of net neutrality is shallow if not completely hollow. Google wants other people to be forced to be neutral while preserving a right to censorship (including news and political speech, among the most protected of speech in the United States) for itself.

Google, Facebook and Twitter are not merely platforms for the dissemination of propaganda – they are themselves major propagandists seeking to have others adopt their agendas for their benefit.

Google is not just evil (to re-arrange their motto of “Don’t be evil”) but is acting as a menace to democracy itself.

And what could possibly go wrong with Facebook’s surveillance and analyzing our posts and perhaps discovering that we hold views contrary to the power structure?

Someone should write a book about this – I know, they could title it “1984”!

Bottom Line

Online services including Google (Gmail, Docs), Facebook and Twitter and undoubtedly others are doing the machine equivalent of reading your email and documents, taking notes, and analyzing what you are writing to draw conclusions about you.

What could possibly go wrong?

Another social media propaganda poster today

This came through my social media feed earlier today. Another example of a simple, well crafted social media propaganda posters that elicits a quick response and a click on the Like and Share buttons.

The quote at top is accurate, so what could be wrong?

Per Snopes, the quote is in reference to before these 4 people were killed at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya and was not in reference to events in Benghazi.

As a propaganda poster, it is effective. A short simple quote with a photograph of Hillary Clinton, followed by photos of 4 people that the target knows were, in fact, killed in Libya.

Very compelling when all we do is apply our fast acting System 1 emotional style thinking.

That makes this a very effective social media propaganda poster even though the conclusion is wrong. No one will bother to research the quote when they see this – instead, they will click on Like and perhaps Share, spreading the false propaganda on to others.

Measuring effectiveness of propaganda campaigns: How unpopular is the Obamacare individual mandate?

Previously, this blog pointed out that public opinion polls are primarily a measure of the effectiveness of propaganda. Routinely, members of the public are asked to have an opinion on subjects about which they likely know little and what they do know was disseminated to them through a variety of propaganda methods and channels.

The following item illustrates this well.

Trump said the individual mandate is “highly unpopular.” As recently as February 2017, a YouGov poll found that 65 percent of people opposed it, a finding that is consistent with earlier polls from other organizations. That’s a fair sign of the provision’s unpopularity.

On the other hand, when people were given more details about the mandate, they had a more favorable view, as high as about 60 percent.

Source: How unpopular is the Obamacare individual mandate?

The second paragraph confirms the thesis – a public opinion poll is measuring the effectiveness of the propaganda campaign and little else.

To illustrate, here is additional propaganda on this subject. There is much discussion of whether or not there must be an individual mandate. What if the individual mandate is a moot issue due to how the ACA itself is written?

The authors of the ACA defined what was meant by “affordable” – if the price of insurance is too high, the government cannot force someone to purchase insurance. Here is an example – a 64 year old married couple living in Laramie, WY with an income of $65,000 per year is above the subsidy cut off level – that means there is no subsidy assistance to them.

The lowest cost Silver plan available to them is (quoted screen capture from HealthCare.gov for 2018) a staggering $49,000 per year:

First, you may be surprised that ACA insurance premiums can cost near $50,000 per year. Second, you may surprised that a person with a $65,000 pre-tax income has an ACA insurance bill of $49,000 per year with a $5,000 deductible – and no subsidy. This means their costs are $54,000 per year … or about 100% of their after tax income.

Clearly, this couple cannot afford ACA insurance. The ACA recognized this and this can be seen in IRS Form 8965. For 2016, if the least cost Bronze plan exceeds 8.13% of your income (modified adjusted gross income or MAGI), then you are exempt from the mandate. The least cost Bronze plan for this couple is $2,750 per month or $33,000 per year.

If this couple’s income is LESS than $405,904 per year, then they are exempt from the ACA individual mandate to purchase this insurance per IRS Form 8965.

For couples or families over age 45-50, the ACA rates have risen so high, so rapidly, that  s likely a majority, and nearly everyone over age 55, are exempt from the individual mandate, by law.

If your insurance costs are $750/month, then you are exempt if your income is less than $110,000 per year. Surprised?

In effect, the individual mandate is a moot issue for perhaps most of the unsubsidized market.

When you see actual ACA price quotes like the above, what do you think of the individual mandate?

Does this illustrate how a public opinion polls merely measure the effectiveness of propaganda campaigns?

Notes

In Laramie, WY, there is a Gold plan that costs less than the cheapest Silver plan – for a mere $40,000 per year. Why is the Silver plan used in this example? Because the US Department of Health and Human Services uses the Silver plans as the “benchmark” and subsidies are given out based on the pricing of the lowest cost Silver plan in each market.

Is Laramie just an outlier? Perhaps, we have not looked at all markets. It is common, however, for the ACA rates to run $25,000 to $35,000 for families in different locations in the U.S. The NY Times just noticed this for the first time in November of 2017 – check it out. (The NY Times diagnoses the wrong root cause, however – to learn about the actual root cause and possible solutions see my paper.)

Why is there no subsidy for this couple? Because the subsidy cut off level has nothing to do with the cost of insurance. The cut off level is set to 400% of the regional poverty level. There is no connection what so ever to insurance costs. Thus, a couple earning $65,000 per year has an insurance premium of $49,000 per year and is ineligible for a subsidy. If they made just $1,000 less per year, they then qualify for a $43,316 per year subsidy from the taxpayers. (Of interest, the out of pocket payment by the subsidy recipient works out to about the 8.13% value – as insurance rates rise, the subsidy payment increases to keep the consumer’s costs at the ACA defined affordability level. Of interest, in another year or two, the costs of insurance for some will exceed their annual income – and the subsidy value will also exceed their annual income too).

Is the 8.13% value set by the ACA and the IRS too low? The government’s data indicates we spend about 18+% of national GDP on health care. By their reckoning, insurance plus out of pocket costs and miscellaneous expenses are going to result in an average family spending of perhaps 18% on health (this is a simplified explanation). Thus, 8.13% for insurance is the component of this spending that is used as the ACA “affordability” criteria. Higher than this, and the government says it is not affordable. The government had to pick some level and chose this one based on data. The government might have selected a different dollar value – for example, should the government mandate that you spend 120% of your income on health insurance?

The bottom line is that ACA health insurance is not affordable according to the ACA itself.