Medical Migrants Head to Mexico

There’s hope for price competition in healthcare, but so far only with companies that self–insure and pay for all employee’s medical costs. I do my part by advocating price transparency for hospitals to create competition and put downward pressure on insurance rates.

Bob Englehart Political Cartoons.com

Simply require hospitals that accept federal money to post binding prices for the 25 most common in–patient surgeries; the 25 most common outpatient procedures and the 25 most common tests. These turnkey charges must also match the best price offered insurance companies.

Getting patients to act on the information is the problem. This is difficult because surgery candidates – like Instagram followers – tend to believe high prices indicate high quality. This is not necessarily so. Hospitals with high prices may only indicate a large number of Ferraris in the executive parking lot.

The Maryland Health Care Commission posts prices for a handful medical procedures along with associated readmission rates. A surgical readmission is when a patient goes back a second time and is charged more to remove the sponge left inside their body — something hospital executives would never tolerate if the mechanic left a loose wrench under the hood of their Ferrari.

A knee replacement at the brand name Sinai Hospital in Baltimore costs $32,000 and risks an 18 percent readmission rate. Or you can pay $23,000 at the generically named Suburban Hospital, off in a parking lot somewhere, and only worry about a 0.6 percent readmission rate.

Unfortunately, health insurance companies are basically utilities run by bureaucrats who move blood instead of water. A creative solution from insurance companies to motivate patients to comparison shop was going to be difficult. That’s why I cautiously suggested the company apply a portion of the discount to the patient’s deductible in that year and the next.

I am indebted to Phil Galewitz, of Kaiser Health News, for reporting successful, effective incentives for patients do exist, but only for those fortunate enough to work for an enlightened company that self–insures.

Galewitz introduces Donna Ferguson of self–insuring Ashley Furniture in Mississippi who needed a knee replacement. Ashley’s own business is fiercely competitive and it evidently sees no reason why competition won’t work in health care.

That’s why Ashley is a client of North American Specialty Hospital. NASH currently works with 1,200 companies and some 3 million employees. Hospitals aren’t required to post prices in Jefferson Davis’ home state, but we do know in Maryland the low–price, high–quality knee replacement runs $23,000.

Even that lower price is almost twice the $12,000 knee replacement NASH offers in Cancun, Mexico.

The location may give you some pause now that Cancun is mostly famous for decapitated heads that occasionally wash ashore. Unpleasant sure, but none of the deaths were caused by hospital error. NASH makes all the arrangements for employees who opt for south of the border surgery. Travel, hospital, pre– and post–operative care, physical therapy and accommodations at a Sheraton attached to the NASH hospital are included. All the patient has to do is supply the problem.

Donna’s surgeon was a Mayo Clinic trained US doctor flown in for the procedure. All local hospital personnel are US–trained medical professionals. The NASH package even includes travel for one companion. In this instance mom got a knee replacement and dad got a vacation.

Some of you are no doubt thinking, yeah Mexico this year but it’ll be Somalia in 2020 if these greedy capitalists can save a dime. I’m suspicious of corporations, too, but in this case, it’s misplaced. Donna had the option of staying in Mississippi for her surgery. What made the difference was the $5,000 check she received from Ashley for agreeing to the lower–priced NASH package.

Plus, by using a US doctor Donna said, “she could file a malpractice suit in the US” if something went wrong. An option everyone who has ever watched a ‘Call 1­–800–SUE–PAIN’ commercial wants to retain.

Patients, companies, hospitals and insurance companies are the four variables in adding competition to healthcare. Hospitals, if they are required to post the turnkey, will lower costs on their own or suffer revenue shortfalls. The 1,200 companies NASH serves have already adopted a competitive shopping outlook. And Donna Ferguson and the other 140 Ashley employees who have agreed to travel for a medical procedure show that patients will respond to incentives.

The last and most difficult target are the insurance companies who are currently content as Obamacare wards of the federal government. Convincing these competitively inert organizations to share savings with patients or adopt other incentives is going to be tough.

Maybe the threat of ‘Medicare for All’ and the potential end of insurance companies will provide motivation before November 2020.

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Female Soccer Players Unite With Hollywood to Demand Pay Cut!

The world champion US Women’s Soccer team traveled to California to combine their misplaced outrage with that of Hollywood actresses. The goal is for both groups to combine intangible athletic and showbiz popularity and demand corporate America solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

If they get their wish, it should result in a major pay cut for the women’s team,

WoePost columnist Sally Jenkins has been drum–beating for female soccer pay equity in a series of increasingly strident columns. If you can get past the slightly creepy gushing over the women’s physique (imagine if Curt Schilling had written this) “Alyssa Naeher, tautly muscled and flying through the air…”

True–believer Jenkins rails, “So I don’t give a rip about FIFA revenue generated by men’s teams in Germany or Brazil. American soccer officials answer to American laws on equal pay for equal work…I also don’t want to hear another word about the bigger size of revenue in the men’s World Cup.”

In spite of Sally’s insistence we not confuse her with the facts there is no way to get to the bottom of the equal–pay–for–equal–work issue without the use of numbers.

In the corporate arena — where Jenkins appears to think Titans of Industry are cowering with their hands crossed over the family jewels hoping Ms. Purple Hair won’t send a penalty kick screaming toward their groin — there is no pay gap.

I’ll take the risk of incurring Sally’s wrath by using an analysis from the Heritage Foundation. The so–called “pay gap” is based on a comparison of the median earnings of every woman compared to every man. It’s not a valid comparison because it ignores variables like “education, occupation, experience and hours, which account for nearly all of the differential in earnings between men and women.”

Once those factors are added it “eliminates all but an estimated 3 to 5 cents of the gender pay gap.” Ah ha! A nickel is still a nickel! Turns out that’s illusory, too. That differential is explained by “women’s preference for greater flexibility” in their occupations that “accounts for some — if not all — of the remaining pay gap.”

Okay. Angry female ballerina ball players bringing corporate America to its knees was a stretch anyway, but what about those fat, greasy chauvinists at US Soccer who really make Sally’s blood boil? They pay the women like sharecroppers on a plantation!

Frankly, I’d be in favor of paying the women the same as the men when they can beat the men on the soccer field. Biology is a harsh mistress and so is ticket and television revenue. This is why even the most talented player in the Lingerie Football League makes a fraction of the salary of a player on the NFL’s worst Arizona Cardinals.

Only that’s not the case here. US women’s soccer team players are paid MORE than male players!

US Soccer, the cruel corporate overlords of our feminine heroes, released an independently audited ten years of internal financials. Let the petard hoisting begin. “From 2010 through 2018, U.S. Soccer paid our women $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses and we paid our men $26.4 million — not counting the significant additional value of various benefits that our women’s players receive but which our men do not.”

This means that for the Purple–Haired Norma Rae to be paid on an equal basis with the men, she would need to accept a 23 percent pay CUT. Something tells me this isn’t what the Trump and flag hater has in mind.

The Team Estrogen has also been peddling a hypothetical 20–friendly season where they earn 38 cents for every dollar the losers on the men’s team grab. A conjecture Jenkins fell for hook, line and sinker.

Using the women’s own Uncle Tom’s Cabin catalog of injustice the governing body found, “…if the men and women ever did play in and win 20 friendlies in a year and were paid the average bonus amount, a women’s player would earn more from U.S. Soccer than the men’s player — the women’s player would earn at least $307,500 (WNT and NWSL salaries, plus game bonuses) and the men’s player would earn $263,333 (game bonuses only).”

This is what happens when you let jocks loose in the economics department. Women soccer players in the US make more than the men. It’s part of the contract they negotiated with US Soccer and they approved. The only reason they are griping now is because they fell for leftist fantasies of injustice, victimhood for alphabet crusaders and a general distaste for capitalism while ignoring the specifics of their own situation.

I eagerly await Sally’s next update on the situation.

A Wake–up Call for Snooze Alarm Conservatives

‘The Hunt’ has hit a shunt and count me among the deeply disappointed. The Hollywood Reporter informs us, “Universal has decided to scrap the release of ‘The Hunt’ — an R-rated satire in which elites hunt “deplorables” for sport — following a series of mass shootings across the country.”

Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

Many conservative commentators hail this as a victory. Take that, Hollywood degenerates!

Only they’re wrong. Any time conservatives are celebrating censorship we’re both losing and hypocritical. Second, the more conservatives who see this movie the better. Banning it only helps the left.

‘The Hunt’ is a visual demonstration of just what Hollywood, Ivy League elitists and the Twitterati really think of Trump voters. The Sonderkonservatives who believe their Never–Trumpism or I–only–voted–for–him–because–of–trade–policy disdain will save them from being lumped in with MAGA–hat wearers are in for a shock. Paying the illegal mowing their lawn more than the minimal wage won’t erase the stain.

In culture wars anyone who’s not a leftist is the enemy. One of the victims in the movie is targeted because he’s not blood thirsty enough.

His mistake was being Pro–Life.

The movie would’ve proved to be Jolt Cola for the country’s complacent conservatives who sleep placidly, safe in the mistaken belief the left’s animosity doesn’t involve them. When some washed up female ‘comedian’ poses with a picture of Trump’s decapitated head, they’re briefly aroused and paying attention. Then they hit the snooze button again.

It’s not their concern. They don’t own a MAGA hat. They aren’t a baker or a florist. They don’t make political contributions. And Roscoe will be sick the day gender–benders come to Show & Tell.

Besides, Trump has Secret Service protection.

Only the people being hunted in this movie aren’t White House staffers, political appointees or activists with a Trump bumper sticker on the pickup. They are rank–and–file Deplorables. Sitting in a darkened theatre listening to the audience laugh when people like you die in a ‘satire’ would have proven to be an enlightening experience.

Prey people in this movie can be found at any gas station, Walmart or football stadium. They wear caps, cowboy shirts and own guns.

Fox News reported, “The violent, R-rated film from producer Jason Blum’s Blumhouse follows a dozen MAGA types who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals.”

THR shares this bit of dialogue from one of our unhappy betters, “At least The Hunt’s coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen Deplorables.” The action that follows ‘features guns blazing along with other ultra-violent killings as the elites pick off their prey.’”

The El Paso shooter had his manifesto. This is the Hollywood manifesto.

In a nice bit of symmetry Hillary Swank stars as a hunter. She’s killing the voters her candidate Hillary Clinton first called ‘Deplorables.” Swank’s murder of people just like you and me is described as “deeply rewarding.”

We know ‘The Hunt’ is a fantasy because rich leftists know how to use a gun. An accurate movie would have had the One Percenter’s security team – people a notch above Deplorables and willing to take orders – do the killing while ‘asylum seekers’ acted as beaters and drove the victims toward their death.

The One Percent would watch via drone on a Jumbotron.

Regardless of its rich Democrat portrayal, finally this movie should make you snooze alarm conservatives start thinking.

Swank takes the role of conservative killer convinced she will suffer no damage to her career. Jason Blum knows the movie won’t hamper his next effort to produce a picture. Universal knows approving the movie won’t harm its stock. And theatre chains know showing the movie won’t cause a riot.

This is an entire chain of individuals and companies that know with certainty they are immune to any repercussion.

That alone should begin to worry you. Where else do the losers of an election freely discuss killing government supporters? Certainly not in a genuine fascist state. When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, with only 37 percent of the vote, Fritz Lang wasn’t making movies about hunting Brown Shirts.

Hollywood feels free to do it here because they know Trump isn’t really a fascist and there is no danger. The left controls the culture, college, government education, corporate boardrooms, the media and the permanent government bureaucracy.

All the Deplorables had was their vote and that has condemned them in the eyes of the left.

There are no neutrality agreements or conscientious objectors in this culture war. It’s binary. You are with the left or you are the enemy. It’s high time snooze alarm conservatives woke up and smelled the culture burning. Seeing ‘The Hunt’ would have helped.

Federal Employees Want Taxpayers to Keep Their Distance

The Washington Post (WoePost to regular readers) recently had a very ominous quote. Sandra Salstrom, a lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, told an eager stenographer, “It seems like if they are successful here, this could just be the tip of the iceberg. We don’t know who’s next.”

Rick McKee – Augusta Chronicle, GA

What inhumane, outrageous and bigoted Trump administration policy has attracted the attention of Ms. Salstrom? Has someone purchased a one–way ticket to Somalia for Rep. Ilhan Omar?

Not exactly, but the outrage does involve travel. The Trump administration is planning to move portions of the Dept. of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management closer to where agriculture happens and land is managed.

Placing swamp bureaucrats closer to the people over which they rule is evidently inherently offensive. Cong. Steny Hoyer (D–Barnacle) warned, “In the White House, there is, among some people, a real disrespect for federal employees, animated by their disrespect for the government generally. So if you’re hostile to government, you’re then . . . hostile to those who work in government.”

For the USDA this means part of that behemoth will be moving to the Kansas City area. And if I lived in either Kansas or Missouri, I’d be offended. They got some crazy little women there, but I don’t think they hurt no one.

The left is acting like the destination really is Somalia — not that there’s anything wrong with that!

The WoePost, which slavishly covers the federal workforce, even has a swamp columnist. Joe Davidson writes the impending move of the Economic Research Service portion of the USDA has caused employees to “quit in droves.”

Which only proves the “drove” isn’t what it was formerly cracked up to be. The total headcount of this “drove” was six employees. That doesn’t even qualify as a crowded elevator, but it’s typical of the sky–is–falling response to any change in the bureaucracy.

The average employee attrition at ERS had been about one–per–month. After Sec. Sonny Perdue heralded the crack of doom and the arrival of Mayflower, the attrition rate doubled to two–per–month. For a 300–person agency the former rate was 4 percent and the doom–laden rate was 8 percent, which is still much less than the nationwide attrition rate for “government, education & non–profit employment sector” of 11.2 percent.

Even the relatively humane approach of the Trump administration is twisted into a choice between life among the wretches who pay their salary and professional suicide: “The Agriculture Department is offering employees a rare choice: accept a forced transfer to a post 1,000 miles away or be fired.” Having a choice certainly beats the George Clooney treatment where an employee is escorted to a conference room while his office is packed up in his absence. But that’s the savage private sector, not the humane, understanding federal government.

We’re also supposed to be concerned about the priceless “scientific talent” the nation will be using, but when you remember it was USDA “scientists” that foisted the high carb – low fat diet on the nation that resulted in an obesity epidemic, I think we can get along just fine without them.

And they can take their BMI index, too.

The Bureau of Land Management is also pulling up stakes. The plan is to move “84 percent of the agency’s headquarters staff west of the Rockies.” Coverage there was equally grim. “This announcement is deeply unsettling, and has created a lot of uncertainty for us,” the participant said. “The best part of my job is my co-workers, and they are working to tear us apart for purely political reasons. I’m sick to my stomach.”

I’m wondering when we’ll start seeing photos of former USDA employees sitting on the top of railroad cars heading to Canada for asylum when this item caught my eye, “Other employees embraced the reorganization, according to the meeting participant, asking how early they can leave Washington.

Yet, strangely enough, there were no quotes or additional information from employees happy with the impending move.

It’s tough to take this wailing and gnashing of teeth seriously when it’s accepted government practice to shuffle military families like balls in a bingo drum, but somehow moving a bureaucrat is cruel and unusual punishment.

Conservatives should cheer this Trump initiative. It’s not shrinking the size of government, but it is breaking up the concentration of bureaucratic empire–building in the metro DC area. Why shouldn’t the entire USDA be moved to the Midwest where it’s closer to the farming heartland? Why shouldn’t the Dept. of Energy be moved to an area where energy production is supported and not condemned?

Best of all, maybe the work habits of average citizens will rub off on the newly–arrived swamp denizens.

Evidently Ahab Mueller Wasn’t the Captain of the Pequod

There are some questions that just aren’t asked at a hearing because the questions are superfluous. The answers are part of everyone’s database. At least everyone who counts.

Adam Zyglis: The Buffalo News

When Special Prosecutor Robert ‘Ahab’ Mueller testified before the House I would’ve asked about FISA warrant applications. Why Sen. Diane Feinstein was warned about a Chinese spy in her office but Trump was put under surveillance. And why Republicans were indicted and Democrats weren’t.

It never would have occurred to me to ask Mueller if he was familiar with the Steele Dossier and Fusion GPS. Knowledge of those two entities was taken as a given.

Only everybody didn’t know.

As the rabidly anti–Trump, pro–Russia–Collusion Politico reported, when Mueller was asked about the Steele Dossier and Fusion GPS, “He said he was unfamiliar with the so-called ‘Steele dossier’” and he was equally “unfamiliar” with Fusion GPS.

This is the equivalent of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer — the director of the Manhattan Project — being “unfamiliar” with uranium and Albert Einstein. The Pope being “unfamiliar” with the New Testament. Or Abbott being “unfamiliar” with Costello.

The Steele Dossier was the basis of Russia Collusion Delusion. It was used to get a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. It is the genesis of the entire investigation.

Fusion GPS is the band of sleazes who tried to peddle the lies contained in the Steele Dossier to law enforcement and the media. One of the Fusion staff is married to a top FBI official who influenced the investigation.

Without Fusion GPS there is no Steele Dossier and without the Steele Dossier there is no special prosecutor. This entire investigation and its corruption of the FBI and Justice Department was like Watergate if Woodward and Bernstein were the burglars and then tried to pin the job on Nixon.

How could Mueller not be aware of both?

A brief Google search on Fusion GPS produces almost 92 million hits. A news search has 836,000 references. A similar search on Steele Dossier has 2.3 million general hits and 75,000 news mentions. Federal retirees are always griping about their pension, but surely Mueller can afford an iPad and a Panera gift card.

The Opposition Media made Ahab Mueller into an icon of integrity and gravitas. That lasted until he opened his mouth. Mueller sounded like the confused, out–of–touch senior citizen the left claims Donald Trump is when they have dreams of invoking the 25th Amendment.

Mueller was only there to give the investigation a patina of probity while the 19 Angry Democrats went to work. Evidently, Mueller showed up at the office looking iconish, played some computer solitaire, went home to watch Walter Cronkite and then to bed.

This explains why the investigation went so far outside the parameters of the Dept. of Justice brief. Mueller couldn’t run a canasta game at an assisted living center. The 19 Angry Democrats kept him topped up on Ensure and out of the way.

It was like Howie Carr said on the radio, “I asked why [Mueller] was bringing a lawyer with him, when it was clear from his earlier press conference at the Justice Department that what he really needed was a nurse.”

Even if the Justice Dept. figured out something was amiss they lacked the courage to rein in the investigation. Trying to supervise what was going on in the Special Prosecutor’s Office would likely result in leaks to the OpMedia’s Hallelujah Chorus claiming “interference.” Then the predicate is set for “obstruction charges” thrown back at the Dept. of Justice. The Special Prosecutor’s Office was an iron triangle.

Mueller’s abysmal performance did prove me wrong. Ahab Mueller wasn’t the captain of the Pequod. He’s the figurehead. His testimony was like watching the movie ‘Cocoon’ only Mueller was still at the bottom of the pool.

Former Cong. Trey Gowdy summed the performance up best when he said, “The person that learned the most about the Mueller Report today was Bob Mueller.”

Rachel Maddow wants Democrats to dig a deeper hole. She’s says Mueller’s performance, “lights a fire under the need to speak to the people on his team who actually did the work.” Mark Levin is good with that, “Andrew Weissmann should have been testifying today…But they’re protecting Weissmann because he is the Svengali behind all of this in my humble opinion.”

One thing is certain. After his performance this week, Ahab Mueller is one of the few Trump haters who won’t be cashing in on the lecture circuit.

Trump Endorsed by a Turk

(The Census marks yet another cut–and–run by Trump, but I hate to waste a column.)

The Associated Press Gotcha Patrol has discovered President Trump’s Facebook man–in–the–street campaign videos are using actors instead of supporters. Even worse many of the streets are in Turkey or Paris.

Take the bearded “Thomas from Washington,” who is more likely Mohammed from Izmir. Thats a city in Turkey, a country that’s barely an ally, much less a supplier of hipster endorsers of Trump.

Mohammed says, Trump is “in our prayers for strength and wisdom from God almighty.” Substitute Erdogan for Trump and Allah for God and the ad’s veracity is absolute.

Reporter Bernard Condon has a valid point when he writes, “[Using actors] raises the question why a campaign that can fill arenas with supporters would have to buy stock footage of models.”

The use of models is a shortcut. A shortcut any experienced political ad maker would not take because of the potential for stories like this. As GOP media consultant Fred Davis remarked, “Whoever did this is probably 22 years old, and they’re going through pictures and thought, ‘This is a great picture.’”

Using normal people for commercials means finding someone who is camera–worthy, articulate and will pass a background check. The process involves travel, recruitment and hours in the edit bay taking snippets of the interview and building an ad. And that’s just before the commercial airs.

After the broadcast the campaign ad team has to hope the supporter isn’t arrested, hit with a restraining order or changes sides and endorses the opponent.

The use of overseas models eliminates all those variables, besides I thought the Opposition Media was in favor of global free trade.

Realistically, Trump’s use of paid models is just as authentic as his promise to build a wall, stop illegals crossing the border and deport the illegals already in the USA.

Which brings us to the latest adventure of the Gang That Couldn’t Administer Straight.

Since the Dept. of Commerce is part of the executive branch and is in charge of the census, determining what questions are asked should be a routine executive function.

Unfortunately for the slapstick Trump he’s in a governmental civil war and as Carl von Clausewitz posited, “War is very simple, but in War the simplest things become very difficult.” Adding a citizenship question that asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” in this environment is the very definition of simple but difficult.

The census is crucial because it determines the number of congressmen each state has and it’s used as part of the formula for federal handouts. Counting illegals and other aliens gives political power to leftist sanctuary states at the expense of states that don’t go out of their way to welcome a criminal class.

It stands to reason that a census of the United States should be a census of citizens of the US and not citizens of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and points south.

The administration should’ve been prepared for a court challenge. Commerce either was not prepared or — in keeping with usual Trump personnel office policies — it picked a team of Resistance collaborators to defend the question.

The Supreme Court upheld previous rulings deporting the citizenship question, although Chief Justice John ‘The Weathervane’ Roberts gave Trump an out when he said the administration could resubmit the question with a justification that made sense.

Naturally Trump’s legal team enthusiastically embraced surrender. Team leader Joshua Gardner evidently learned the lesson of Sally Yates. Instead of refusing to defend administration policy you personally dislike, just do a lousy job and celebrate your defeat.

The Tweeter–in–Chief may have realized that voters might cut you some slack on building a giant border wall. They could understand how deporting 29 million illegals would require some preparation time. But dropping the ball on a nine–word question was something else again.

Trump tweeted he was “absolutely moving forward” with the question.

Currently in–house Resistance is telling Trump no can do. It’s ¡imposible! The administration must move muy pronto to make the deadline. This is correct only if lawyers move at their usual foot–dragging, government worker speed.

Hugh Hewitt, a lawyer in the Reagan administration, suggested Trump bypass court altogether, issue a “new executive order” directing Commerce to “add such questions for particular reasons” and conduct the census.

Trump and his micro attention span are in the driver’s seat. The Resistance has thwarted Trump when he wanted to take an action, they don’t have a response to inaction. Trump can simply sit on the census until he gets a questionnaire that’s best for citizens and not criminals nervous about being caught.

When you get right down to it, delaying the census beats accelerating the takeover by illegals.

Virginia’s Blackface Governor Left Red-faced

Democrats and gun control are a case of Lucy holding and simultaneously trying to kick her own football. For the true believers in Virginia, the next off–year election is always going to be the one that hinges on gun control and returns Democrats to a level of power they haven’t enjoyed since the issue of the day was finally allowing blacks to vote.

Steve Sack Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Democrat’s last attempt to exploit tragedy and make gun control relevant was in 2015 and the results were dismal. Now in 2019 Democrats are going to try again as Gov. Ralph “Blackface” Northam (D–Shinola) tries to get out from under his personal cloud of scandal and become relevant again.

Northam’s political credibility was destroyed when a college yearbook photo of him either covered in blackface or dressed in Klan robes surfaced. Northam has never been viewed as a smooth political operator and his Responsibility Hokey–Pokey in the aftermath didn’t help matters.

First, he was in the picture. Then he was out. Then Northam shook it all about and admitted he had worn blackface when he entered a Michael Jackson contest. How denying he wore blackface in a yearbook photo, but admitting he did so later made a difference remains a mystery to me.

Northam refused demands from his own party to resign and instead resorted to the first refuge of a scoundrel – race baiting.

He pledged to devote the remainder of his single term in office to ‘racial reconciliation.’ One would think in a state that elected a black governor in 1990 and twice voted for Obama the races were pretty much reconciled, but ginning up imaginary racial grievances was Northam’s only hope for survival.

Then in an irony of ironies it looked like Northam’s career was saved by a black man!

A disgruntled city engineer on the verge of being fired or a model employee known for his sunny disposition — accounts differ according whether you plan to sue the city or you’re a city bureaucrat trying to avoid a lawsuit — killed 12 people in a Virginia Beach shooting inside a municipal building.

Northam pounced. He called a special session of the legislature and threw his support behind a laundry list of gun control measures:

“Universal” background checks; “assault rifle” bans, scary accessory bans; requiring gun owners to report theft or loss within 24 hours; “Red–flag” law; Prohibiting guns for individuals subject to a final protective order; reviving an ineffective law that limited handgun purchases to one–per–month; and allowing cities and counties to create a confusing patchwork of gun hysteria laws the legislature refused to pass.

It was the usual collection of don’t work and won’t work. Even our Kloset Klansman governor admitted this gun–grabbing dog’s breakfast wouldn’t have prevented the Virginia Beach shooting. That attack occurred in a building that was already a “Gun–Free Zone.”

Democrats conducted a series of carefully controlled show trials, excuse me, town hall meetings leading up to the session to generate favorable Opposition Media news coverage and raise public awareness. They were looking forward to a special session of fiery speeches and showboating politicians.

Northam could hardly wait for news conferences that would not include any questions about how to remove shoe polish and what thread–count sheet makes the best hood.

Anti–gun advocates even invited Andy Parker the out–of–control gun control advocate. Parker is the father of a TV reporter who was gunned down by a disgruntled homosexual black former co–worker in a high–profile shooting in 2015. Parker made gun control commercials for Democrats and afterwards threatened to assault a legislator who failed to send a condolence note and called other members “cowards.”

That resulted in the discussion going from ‘Do we need more gun–buyer background checks’, to ‘do we need more gun control spokesman background checks?’

On July 9th the special session convened and 90 minutes later the General Assembly voted to adjourn until after the November election. A shocked Northam — seeing his chance for relevance leaving town with the delegates — told the Washington Post, “I expected them to do what their constituents elected them to do — discuss issues and take votes.”

The WoePost immediately teed up the football. “The gun issue is likely to supercharge what is already shaping up to be a pivotal election year in Virginia…Democrats, who are hoping to take control of both chambers for the first time in more than 20 years, wasted no time Tuesday in embracing gun control as a rallying cry for their base.”

It’s hard not to gloat, but my favorite part of the coverage came when the House of Delegates voted to adjourn. In the gallery an angry male shouted, “Gutless bastards!” The Post had it as an anonymous, anguished cry, but my money is on Andy Parker.

*****************************

CLARIFICATION:

I’m glad I didn’t bet on Andy Parker being the individual who shouted from the House of Delegates Gallery. After this was written, I received an email from Parker that made a very convincing case on why it wasn’t him: “That wasn’t me shouting from the gallery.  Like everything I’ve done, I own up to it.”

Therefore, unless someone contacts me taking credit for the outburst, the perpetrator will remain anonymous.

Trump’s Healthcare Transparency Round 2

President Trump’s second go–round with healthcare pricing marks the first time I can recall a consistent effort on his part to achieve a goal in the face of opposition. Something sadly lacking in the immigration fight.

Daryl Cagle, caglecartoons.com

January was his first attempt. The Department of Health and Human Services required hospitals to begin posting ‘Chargemaster’ rates for medical procedures on their websites. The goal was to give consumers access to price information on medical procedures that had been negotiated with the government.

The Chargemaster is a typical government conspiracy against the taxpayer. It’s so complicated only industry insiders and federal employees have even a remote chance of grasping any useful information. It lists every possible treatment a customer can be subjected to, broken down into individual components.

Trying to estimate what it would cost to deliver a baby is like determining the cost of a new car by adding up the price of every individual part contained in the car. Even worse, those prices don’t reflect lower negotiated prices. That level of complexity and irrelevance still wasn’t good enough for the Uriah Heeps inhabiting hospital executive suites.

The regulation specified Chargemaster prices had to be published in a “computer friendly” format, so some of these parasites published the data in a format only a computer could understand. NBC found,”…[hospitals] made their prices available as JSON or XML documents, file formats more often used by programmers and data analysts than consumers.”

Back to the drawing board.

This time Trump signed an executive order directing bureaucrats to write a regulation requiring hospitals to post prices including “standard charge information, including charges and information based on negotiated rates and for common or shoppable items.”

That vagueness is what bothers me. What qualifies as a “shoppable item.” Is a bandaid shoppable, while a tonsillectomy isn’t? Knowing the price difference between a bandaid at MegaCare and CVS is not going to be useful, while knowing the difference between the cost of hysterectomy (I’m trying to be inclusive) at Catholic Charity Hospital and Pagan Price–Fixer Hospital is.

How much usable information consumers gain from Trump’s executive order really depends on whether or not the bureaucrat writing the regulation plans to go to work for a hospital or insurance company after he leaves government ‘service.’

Even that ominous prospect for consumers is too uncertain a variable for the Healthcare Industrial Complex. According to them any knowledge is a dangerous thing in the hands of a civilian. Rick Pollack, a professional liar for the American Hospital Association, claimed during an interview with Modern Health Care, “Publicly posting privately negotiated rates could, in fact, undermine the competitive forces of private market dynamics, and result in increased prices.”

My challenge to readers is to add the word ‘cars’ or ‘new homes’ to that sentence and try not to laugh.

The other disquieting news is that price disclosure could be interpreted to mean out–of–pocket cost for the patient. High health insurance deductibles sometimes provide a perverse incentive. Some potential patients may choose the highest out–of–pocket expense to satisfy all his  deductible and make the rest of that year’s care “free.”

Making a dent in healthcare costs requires a two–pronged approach that provides information to consumers and an incentive to price compare.

Simply require hospitals to post the lowest turnkey prices for the 25 most common surgical procedures; the 25 most common outpatient procedures and the 25 most common tests. The government should know what it’s paying for, so generating this list is easy.

Second, give consumers an incentive to choose a lower price by sharing the saving with him. For instance, charges for a knee replacement vary from $32,500 to $22,700.

Instead of pocketing the $9,800 saved by choosing the lower cost option, encourage insurance companies to share by applying ten percent of the savings to the patient’s deductible for that year. The patient would pay ten percent of the procedure ($2,270) and the insurance company would apply ten percent of the savings ($980) and their deductible for the year would be satisfied.

To ensure this wasn’t a one–time–only cost–conscious decision by the consumer, the insurer could continue to apply ten percent of procedure savings to future deductibles.

My proposal is simple, clean and understandable and it will work to lower healthcare costs. This is why there is no chance swamp bureaucrats will follow my advice.

Instead I fear we will still be stuck in a situation Sen. Angus King (I–ME) aptly described to the Wall Street Journal, “I know of no other business [healthcare] where you have no idea what something’s going to cost, and you can’t find out even if you ask.”

Food Expiration Dates Are a Conspiracy

Scott Nash is my hero this week. I’m so proud of him I might even spend some money in his out–of–the–way and somewhat expensive grocery store. Nash is the founder and CEO of Mom’s Organic Market and the Washington Post featured him this week.

(That’s another breakthrough. Normally the WoePost only features victims – real or imagined – and their downer stories. The story with Nash, on the other hand, was happy, upbeat, positive and scientific!)

For the past year, Nash has been eating food that is past its “expiration date.” The story explains, “He ate a cup of yogurt months after its expiration date. Then tortillas a year past their expiration date. ‘I mean, I ate heavy cream I think 10 weeks past date,’ Nash said, ‘and then meat sometimes a good month past its date. It didn’t smell bad. Rinse it off, good to go.’ It was all part of his year-long experiment to test the limits of food that had passed its expiration date.”

The heavy cream is no big deal. That ultra–pasteurized sugar suspension has the shelf life of Uranium–238. The meat is another story. That’s putting your theory where your mouth is. It’s the grocery–shopping equivalent of Dr. Barry Marshall who drank a glass of Helicobacter pylori to prove bacteria causes ulcers.

I’ve told my anti–science family for years that ‘expiration dates’ are a manufacturer’s scam to convince consumers to throw out perfectly good products and buy unnecessary replacements. The key word in the conspiracy being “buy.”

They moan “it’s expired” and I reply the product is only gaining momentum.

This is one of the rare times when the government and I agree, except maybe for the conspiracy part.

Even the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute has admitted, “‘Best if used by’ describes product quality, meaning the product might not taste as good past the date but is safe to eat. ‘Use by’ is for products that are highly perishable and should be used or tossed by that date.”

The jig should have been up even for the most gullible shopper when they started putting expiration dates on WATER! But sheeplike consumers just nodded and thought, “Gee, I didn’t know that. How old the water in our pool?”

Enviros should be on this like methane on cows, but they are noticeable for their absence. Tossing perfectly good food is wasteful and as the WoePost advises, “And you are not just wasting calories and money. You are wasting all the resources that went into growing, packaging and transporting that food.”

Here’s my handy guide to food longevity. Produce and fruit take care of themselves without government intervention. Canned meat is fine years after the ‘expiration date’ unless the can is bulging. The same goes for soup and canned vegetables. Candy and other bars are best judged individually. Cliff bars and protein bars just become more chewy, helping to cancel out some of the calories. Hard candy is good until Jesus returns. Snickers are fine, but the peanut butter in Reese’s Cups will become hard and develop a clay-like . It’s edible but not pleasurable.

Soft drinks will become flat in a few years, but remain drinkable. Snapple on the other hand won’t. I had a bottle of Diet Peach Tea this week that was of the 2016 vintage and it was awful.

With dairy products let your nose be your guide.

Currently, the feds only require expiration notices on infant formula. The other dates are part of the conspiracy. That may be changing. Emily Broad Leib a nanny affiliated with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic has plans. “We’re going to need the main government agencies that regulate food to be able to say: These are what these labels mean. When you see these on products, here’s what you should do, here’s how you should interpret them.”

She also wants to bring back criminal penalties for those who wantonly tear the tags off of mattresses.

Scott, for his part, maintains, “Some things just shouldn’t be dated.”

I agree. My list of undated items would include water, ‘cheese food’, Twinkies and buttermilk, which is immortal. Buttermilk’s enemy isn’t time, it’s evaporation.

How Costco Ruined Buying a New Car

And it’s not just Costco. There’s plenty of blame to share. Consumer Reports, Sam’s Club, BJ’s and every other organization that promises to guarantee participants the lowest price possible on a new car are all co–conspirators.

This may seem hard to believe but until the ‘90s it was almost impossible for consumers to find accurate car price information. A sheep, excuse me, customer entering a car dealership was presented with a situation where the dealer had all the cars and all the price information.

Even worse, dealers would not discuss price over the phone. Buyers had to go to each individual dealership and be waterboarded by a different ‘sales team.’

The sales process was akin to the procedure the KGB used to force the condemned to sign confessions. The customer sat in an uncomfortable chair while a team of ‘good salesman’ and ‘bad salesman’ badgered you with false promises and assurances that if you’d just sign the sales agreement they’d let you go to the bathroom.

Asking to see the invoice on a car was greeted with laughter or outright hostility, much like the response one gets today after asking a hospital administrator what a hernia operation will cost.

If a customer had a couple of weeks to visit every dealer within a reasonable radius of home and a high tolerance for psychological pressure, there was a chance he could negotiate an excellent price.

Consumer Reports ended that agonizing process by first providing accurate cost information and second, by urging customers to negotiate over the phone instead of submitting to the time–consuming process of in–person visits for every dealer.

That put customers and dealers on a level playing field. Even with information, many car buyers still hated the negotiation process. Edmunds found 33 percent of the car–buying population would rather do taxes, go to the DMV, sit in the middle seat of an airplane or watch Beto live–stream a root canal than negotiate car prices.

Costco, CR and other like–minded marketers responded with a car–buying service for their customers. Some charge for the service and others just direct you to a dealership where the price has already been negotiated. All of the services promise to eliminate negotiation.

Which is the problem. Today’s consumer can’t seem to figure out the “No Haggle — No Hassel” pricing has a flip side, which is “Take It or Leave It.”

As dealer Brent Emon commented on the Three Thrifty Guys site, “I can say that there is ALWAYS someone who will buy our car at our price. It’s not like that poor Corolla is going to rot away on the lot because you walked away, it just means we sell it tomorrow instead of today.”

So Costco et al did eliminate negotiation, most because the dealers stopped.

I have yet to buy or lease a car from a Costco dealer, even after getting the Costco price, because they won’t budge from that number. And many other CR or TrueCar dealers are doing the same.

I blame the buying and price quote services. Consumers are so sheep–like they would rather take a price set by a third party — secure in the knowledge if the price is high they aren’t the only people paying it — than use that price as a starting point to negotiate their own deal.

Dealers like Emon conclude if cars are going off the lot at the “No Haggle – No Hassel” then why waste time trying to seal the deal with a penny–pincher like me? There’s always some relieved Millennial to take my place.

The last two times I’ve leased a car only one dealer of the five or six I contacted had a salesman ready to negotiate a deal, instead of order–takers who wait for a customer to buy at the set price.

I once had a Mercedes finance manager tell me that on some days a customer would come into the dealership, see the list price of a car on the window sticker and write him a check for the full amount. And he didn’t feel the least bit guilty for making a premium on that car, because on other days people like me would come into the dealership.

Don’t passively put dealers that won’t negotiate in the driver’s seat again. Make them talk or take a walk.