Nevada ObamaCare 2017 premium increase less than half of national average

Perhaps you’ve heard, ObamaCare premiums are going up 25 percent on average next year for the most common coverage. It was in all the papers.

But in Nevada the rates are only going up 8 percent — which was not in all the papers. That’s good news, better news and bad news. It is good for those purchasing insurance on Nevada’s health insurance exchange that the rates aren’t up as much as the national average and nowhere close to Arizona’s skyrocketing 145 percent. The better news for the vast majority of ObamaCare customers is that the out-of-pocket expense is increasing by zero percent. The bad news is that the taxpayer is picking up the increase.

The Kaiser Family Foundation used the second-lowest silver premium for a 40-year-old non-smoker to analyze the changes state by state. Here is the chart:


Actually, the Nevada health insurance exchange reported the likely insurance rate changes back in August.

Health Plan of Nevada (UnitedHealthcare’s HMO) is increasing rates in 2017 by 10.4 percent increase for its 50,000 members. Prominence (formerly Saint Mary’s HealthFirst) is going up 17.51 percent increase for its 11,000 members. Anthem (HMO Colorado/HMO Nevada), which is the only plan available in 10 rural Nevada counties is going up 8.58 percent for its nearly 10,000 members. Anthem (PPO, also called Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service) is increasing 13.8 percent for 19,000 members.

The overall weighted average proposed rate increase for the entire individual market in Nevada (including the exchange carriers) works out to 15.02 percent for 2017, which is higher than the 9.58 percent hike in 2016.


No one is yet reporting, so far as I can find, the total hit the taxpayers will be absorbing for the premium increases.

AP noted that the spike in premiums generally does not affect the employer-provided plans that cover most workers and their families.

According to a recent editorial, ObamaCare is particularly affecting rural Nevadans.

(AP photo via WSJ)

(AP photo via WSJ)

Editorial: Voters should decriminalize possession and use of marijuana for adults

Just as the Volstead Act did by creating Prohibition, the laws criminalizing the use and possession of marijuana have spawned a criminal industry and ruined lives without accomplishing the objective of legally imposed universal abstinence.

While we do not advocate nor even condone the use of either alcohol or marijuana, we find it contrary to the principles of a free society to punish individuals who do partake so long as they pose no threat to others — such as driving while under the influence.

Question 2 on the statewide November ballot, if approved by the voters, would amend state statutes to make it lawful for a person 21 or older to purchase and consume an ounce or less of marijuana. It also would allow those of the age of majority to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use.

The measure also would allow the creation of taxed marijuana shops under the same precepts as liquor stores and tax such sales.

While proponents of the measure tend to harp on how much tax revenue might be generated by taxes on marijuana sales that would go to fund education, we prefer to highlight the individual liberty and the relief on law enforcement and the courts by not having to bother with enforcement of pot prohibition.

The argument for passage, as stated in the official explanation by the state secretary of state’s office, notes, “Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy in every sense of the word. Our government took a substance less harmful than alcohol and made it completely illegal. This resulted in the growth of a multi-billion-dollar underground market driven by drug cartels and criminals operating in our communities. We have forced law enforcement to focus on the sale and use of marijuana instead of on serious, violent, and unsolved crimes.”

It goes on to argue that shifting the production and sale of marijuana into the hands of tightly regulated Nevada businesses will result in safer and cleaner marijuana and possibly reduce the sale of pot to minors. Studies have found that teen marijuana use has fallen in recent years, even at a time when four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana and 23 others, like Nevada, allow it for medicinal purposes.

The arguments against Question 2 have all the subtlety and persuasiveness of that old scare film “Reefer Madness.”

It makes no sense to continue to jeopardize the lives and livelihoods of those who deign to experiment with marijuana at some point in their lives, especially since the outcome is dictated by the near-random chance that some are arrested while others are not.

As we said, we do not advocate marijuana use any more than we advocate prostitution, which is legal in many rural Nevada counties, but rather come down on the side of decriminalization for consenting adults in a properly regulated setting.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Lawmakers hand out unconstitutional corporate gift to another billionaire

Gov. Brian Sandoval signs a bill giving public tax money to build a football stadium. (AP photo by John Locher)

Gov. Brian Sandoval signs a bill giving public tax money to build a football stadium. (AP photo by John Locher)

Meeting in special session in Carson City this past week Nevada lawmakers opened the windows and threw caution and tax money to the wind, voting to raise the room tax rate in much of Clark County by 0.88 of a percentage point in order to contribute $750 million toward construction of a 65,000-seat domed football stadium estimated to cost $1.9 billion.

The measure, Senate Bill 1, passed by the constitutionally mandated two-thirds majority in both the Senate and Assembly – 16-5 in the Senate and 28-13 in the Assembly.

The stadium is being pushed by billionaire casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson who promises to shell out $650 million from his rather deep pockets to pay for construction. The National Football League and the Oakland Raiders are supposed to contribute $500 million toward construction. The $750 million public sop is the largest ever by any public entity for a sports facility in this country.

All profits from stadium operations accrue strictly to the private investors.

At one point during the Assembly hearings, Assemblyman Ira Hansen of Sparks asked what happens if the stadium comes in under the $1.9 billion estimate. Would the taxpayers still be on the hook for the full $750 million?

Steve Hill of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which had touted the project, replied: “Technically that’s correct.”

Before Hill could elaborate, Hansen cut him off with a terse: “Thank you.”

So, if the project comes in closer to the original estimate of $1 billion, the taxpayers will pick up 75 percent of the cost and the billionaires keep their money.

One of those testifying against the public spending for a football stadium for the Raiders was former Las Vegas City Councilman Frank Hawkins, who noted that he played seven seasons for the Raiders, including winning a Super Bowl. Hawkins said billionaires don’t need the public tax money to fund 40 percent of their stadium. He also noted that Raiders owner Mark Davis had called to try to change his mind by agreeing to no television blackouts locally for games that are not sellouts.

SB1 creates a stadium authority to build and operate the stadium, exempts the authority from any legal requirements for competitive bidding and makes just about every financial deal cut by the authority exempt from public records laws.

The bill says “the Stadium Authority shall keep confidential any record or other document provided to the Stadium Authority by a developer partner, the National Football League team or the Stadium Events Company,” if asked to do so. The public will be kept in the dark about whether their “public” stadium is providing valuable public assets to a favored few at below market value.

The Legislature certainly has the power to create exemptions to existing laws.

What it does not have is the power to create exemptions to the state Constitution. That document has a Gift Clause, which states, “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.”

Self-styled economic development advocates have tried three times to amend the Constitution and remove the Gift Clause. The voters rejected those attempts all three times — in 1992, 1996 and again in 2000 by wide majorities.

The state Supreme Court has said that when the state provides something to a private entity without getting adequate compensation for the value, that is a gift and thus a violation of the Constitution.

Nevada’s high court has cited an Arizona Supreme Court ruling on that state’s nearly identical Gift Clause. The Arizona court said its Gift Clause “represents the reaction of public opinion to the orgies of extravagant dissipation of public funds by counties, townships, cities, and towns in aid of the construction of railways, canals, and other like undertakings during the half century preceding 1880, and it was designed primarily to prevent the use of public funds raised by general taxation in aid of enterprises apparently devoted to quasi public purposes, but actually engaged in private business.”

Professional football hardly qualifies as even a quasi public purpose unless you include “bread and circuses.”

This was the third special session in as many years. The previous two handed out billions in tax breaks and abatements to the billionaire owners of electric car companies Tesla and Faraday Future.

Perhaps some public spirited group will ask the courts to take a look at this latest generous gift and determine whether it truly is for a public purpose.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Update: Space was insufficient to provide this quote from a Nebraska court ruling:

“Every new business, manufacturing plant, or industrial plant which may be established in a municipality will be of some benefit to the municipality. A new super market, a new department store, a new meat market, a steel mill, a crate manufacturing plant, a pulp mill, or other establishments which could be named without end, may be of material benefit to the growth, progress, development and prosperity of a municipality. But these considerations do not make the acquisition of land and the erection of buildings, for such purposes, a municipal purpose. Our organic law prohibits the expenditure of public money for a private purpose. It does not matter whether the money is derived by ad valorem taxes, by gift, or otherwise. It is public money and under our organic law public money cannot be appropriated for a private purpose or used for the purpose of acquiring property for the benefit of a private concern. It does not matter what such undertakings may be called or how worthwhile they may appear to be at the passing moment. The financing of private enterprises by means of public funds is entirely foreign to a proper concept of our constitutional system. Experience has shown that such encroachments will lead inevitably to the ultimate destruction of the private enterprise system.”

This and the Arizona court ruling were cited by the the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation in its case against the Governor’s Office of Economic Development for handing out state gifts to companies such as SolarCity.


Instead of addressing state’s problems lawmakers give us diversion

Football is, appropriately enough, a gladiatorial sport.

Nevada public school graduates scored worst in the nation on ACT tests, which measure college preparedness.

The state Supreme Court ruled the education savings accounts law, which would help students escape failing public schools, funding method was unconstitutional, but it was not urgent enough to consider in a special session of the Legislature.

Wild horses overpopulate the range and are running ranchers out of business.

Federal public land restrictions are hampering mining, ranching, oil and gas exploration and other economic uses.

Ten counties face monopolies and higher premiums and deductibles when it comes to access to ObamaCare.

Nevada needs to improve its transportation infrastructure and is asking voters in each county to allow fuel taxes to be indexed to inflation.

Nevada faces more than $40 billion in unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions.

The next biennium budget faces a $400 million shortfall in revenue even though lawmakers in 2015 raised taxes $1.5 billion, the highest increase ever.

So what do the governor and the state lawmakers do during this past week’s special session? They agree to spend $750 million in tax money to help build a football stadium for a billionaire casino owner and a billionaire NFL team owner.

On top of that the Nevada Department of Transportation says $900 million in road projects will be needed to be accelerated to accommodate the stadium traffic, which means $900 million in roadwork elsewhere will be delayed.

Instead of addressing the public service needs, they give us bread and circuses — without the bread.

Editorial: Voters should reject gun background check initiative


One of the most harebrained, fetid proposals ever to waft out of the cesspool of New York City has landed with a sickening splat on Nevada’s November ballot and it just might become law — jeopardizing our freedoms and constitutional rights without accomplishing so much as a scintilla of its intended purpose.

Question 1 would require “universal” background checks on all gun purchases. It is being pushed by Nevadans for Background Checks, which is funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.

A summary of the measure reads in part: “This initiative requires that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check on the potential buyer or transferee. A licensed dealer may charge a reasonable fee for this service.”

Failure to comply is punishable by up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

A recent statewide survey conducted on behalf of the Las Vegas newspaper found that 58 percent favor passage of Question 1 compared to only 32 percent opposed.

So far, a majority of Nevada sheriffs have come out against the background check initiative, as well as the governor and the attorney general. The consensus is that the measure will do nothing to stop criminals from getting their hands on guns — well, they are criminals after all — but the complexity of the law will doubtless ensnare innocent gun owners and waste the time of gun owners and those in law enforcement, as well as the taxpayers’ money.

The National Rifle Association, which obviously opposes Question 1, points out that the assumption that background checks will keep guns out of the hands of criminals is a total hallucination. Criminals get firearms on the black market, street purchases and theft. A Department of Justice analysis found 77 percent of criminals in state prison for firearm crimes got their guns in one of those ways or from friends or family. Less than 1 percent got firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.

The law is so strict that a gun seller whose purchase fails to go through for some reason will have to pay for and undergo a background check to get his own weapon back from the licensed federal firearm dealer.

Opponents note that if passed Question 1 would not allow a person to lend a weapon for hunting or target shooting until both parties appear before a licensed firearms dealer, pay a fee and relinquish the weapon until the background check is completed.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a statement: “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I take seriously my duty to ensure that my fellow Nevadans are safe. I have carefully reviewed the Question 1 initiative and have concluded that it would not prevent criminals from obtaining firearms and would instead cost Nevadans time, money, and freedom.”

A spokesman for Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement saying: “The governor does not support Question 1. He has concerns that this measure would dilute the legitimate rights of law-abiding Nevadans and that it does not actually address the complex issue of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals.”

Typical of the views of most sheriffs was a comment to the press by Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts: “Only the citizens who follow the law are going to be the ones who follow it, and the ones that are the criminals aren’t going to follow it anyway. … This comes back again to unfunded mandates that they’re passing on to the local law enforcement that we just don’t have the manpower or the money to do this.”

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said: “It merely places more restrictions on good people, will make it more difficult, and incur unnecessary costs for law-abiding citizens to manage their personal property.”

This newspaper urges Nevada voters to soundly reject Question 1.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Nevada taking lead in challenging new overtime rule

New labor rules being arbitrarily foisted on the private and public sectors by the Obama administration in his final year in office will cost the economy $80 billion — nearly half of that, $33 billion, due to a new rule raising the number of workers who must be paid overtime by 12.5 million — and eliminate 150,000 jobs over the next decade, according to the the National Association of Manufacturers.

Nevada is leading the way in challenging the overtime change that increases the wage floor for executive, administrative and professional (EAP) workers who must be paid time and half for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours from $455 per week to $913 per week, starting on Dec. 1.

Recently Nevada’s three Republican Congressmen Joe Heck, Cresent Hardy and Mark Amodei joined in a near-party-line vote in the House to delay the overtime rule change for six months. Democrat Dina Titus, of course, opposed it. On to the Senate.

But the challenge most likely to be effective is a legal challenge by 21 states in which Nevada is taking the lead — Nevada v. U.S. Department of Labor — which was filed recently in the Eastern District of Texas. In addition to Nevada and Texas, the challenging states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

The suit challenges the new overtime rule as a usurpation of the powers granted Congress by the Constitution and a violation of the Federalism principle embodied in the Tenth Amendment.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a press release announcing the litigation, “Longstanding federal law requires an overtime exemption for ‘bona fide executive, administrative, or professional’ employees. Ignoring this federal law, the Department of Labor by executive fiat is forcing state, local and private employers to pay overtime to any employee who earns under a certain amount, regardless of whether that employee is actually performing ‘executive, administrative, or professional’ duties.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938 and required that workers engaged in interstate commerce be paid a federal minimum wage and overtime for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week. It included an exception for “any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity …”

Later amendments applied the law to all state and local government employees, but in 1976, according to the lawsuit, the Supreme Court ruled the Tenth Amendment limited Congress’s power to impose such rules on the states.

The court backed off that finding a decade later and said, “The political process ensures that laws that unduly burden the States will not be promulgated.”

Au contraire, says the lawsuit, “Subsequent Commerce Clause, Tenth Amendment, and Eleventh Amendment decisions call the continuing validity” of that decision into question.

In March Obama ordered the labor department to change the overtime rule. “Because these regulations are outdated, millions of Americans lack the protections of overtime and even the right to the minimum wage,” his memo said.

Nevada v. Labor spells out the especially onerous burden the overtime rule places on state and local governments, “Because the Plaintiff States cannot reasonably rely upon a corresponding increase in revenue, they will have to reduce or eliminate some essential government services and functions. For example, certain infrastructure and social programs may be reduced or cut. The Plaintiff States’ budgets will have less discretionary funds available because, as result of the new federal overtime rule, a greater percentage of their funds will be devoted to employment costs against the States’ will. These changes will have a substantial impact on the lives and well-being of the Citizens of the Plaintiff States,” adding that private employers will suffer the same ill effects.

The plaintiffs note that the Supreme Court tossed out as unconstitutional a provision in ObamaCare that required states to expand Medicaid coverage, calling that “economic dragooning” — an apt comparison.

The press release accompanying the lawsuit quoted the Nevada Resort Association, whose members employ nearly a third of Nevada workers and provide almost half the state’s tax revenue, as saying, “By nearly doubling the threshold amount for exempt employees, the regulation results in abrupt increases in taxes and labor costs. Such dramatic increases are particularly difficult to manage in an industry with tens of thousands of employees and in which labor costs are a significant percentage of total expenses.”

The courts and Congress can’t act quickly enough to fend off this job and economy killing move by Obama.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

What if the public tax money were building something other than a stadium?

Imagine an alternative universe in which today’s banner newspaper story reads something like this:

CARSON CITY — The Nevada state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill raising the hotel room taxes in Nye County to fund a 65-bed brothel to spur economic activity in the county and create jobs.

Next the Assembly will take up the measure.

Proponents say the $1 million construction project will create temporary construction jobs and then create permanent part-time jobs for the brothel employees, as well as ancillary jobs in linen and limo services.

Backers said it matters not that the state budget is already reeling from a $400 million shortfall due to underperforming taxes because of overly optimistic projections. They say the bonds to build the brothel will be repaid by the room tax, even though it could have been used to build schools, roads, parks or libraries.

What’s good for the brothel industry is good for the state, industry leaders assured the lawmakers. They also told lawmakers to ignore the fact that every other such publicly financed project in the country has failed to live up to projections.