Nevada co-op failure a sign of how the single-payer scheme is working?

Nevada Health Co-op office. (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)

Obamacare is a black hole into which taxpayer money is being poured.

It is bad enough that the union-backed Nevada Health Co-op has gone belly up with little chance of it ever repaying its $66 billion federal start-up loan, since it lost $42 million in the past year and a half, but it also managed to blow through $10 million in in taxpayer money in 2014 through the Transitional Reinsurance Program, which is supposed to pay 80 percent of claims excess of $45,000 up to $250,000. This amounted nationally to $7.9 billion in 2014, on top of the $2.4 billion in loans to start-up those 23 co-ops, like Nevada Health Co-op, several of which has already failed and all but one are losing money.

According to the Federalist, the administration arbitrarily decided to pay 100 percent of those high-cost claims, but it still wasn’t enough to cover the Nevada co-op’s expenses.

The morning newspaper reported that the Nevada co-op had administrative expense-to-premium ratio at 37 percent — almost double the 20 percent allowed — partly due to sky-high salaries paid to executives with ties to a union that represents casino workers. The co-op in 2013 paid more than $1 million to just three executives. That might be one place to start looking for a way to recoup taxpayer money.

The newspaper also quoted an insurance executive who explained that most insurers require a 90-day waiting period to discourage people from waiting to sign up until after they become ill, but the co-op started with no waiting period and later went to a 30-day window in 2014, creating a costlier clientele.

Noting the Nevada co-op failure, Rick Moran at The American Thinker predicts, “The failure of the Nevada co-op serves to highlight the booby traps that are still in Obamacare — too few healthy people paying for too many sick people. Eventually, the numbers won’t add up for anybody, and the system will be threatened with collapse. At that point, Democrats will claim that the only salvation for the program will be a single-payer system run entirely by the government.”

That’s been the plan along, as Nevada Sen. Harry Reid once admitted. Asked on public radio two years ago if the country will eventually work beyond private health insurance, Reid enthusiastically replied, “Yes. Absolutely, yes.”

Reid said the country has to “work our way past” private health insurance.

“What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever,” Reid was quoted as saying by the Las Vegas Sun. “We had a real good run at the public option … don’t think we didn’t have a tremendous number of people who wanted a single-payer system,” but he could not get enough votes then.

Perhaps Democrats will have a better shot once the system is totally broken.

Nevada ObamaCare co-op to close, as anticipated

You read it here first.

In July a Louisiana ObamaCare insurer closed, and I asked whether this could happen in Nevada next. Nevada Health Co-op got a $66 million federal loan to enter the market, but, according to The American Spectator, it lost $20 million this past year.

Today the R-J reports that Nevada Health Co-op will close on Dec. 31. Its customer will have to find another insurer by Jan. 1.

Here is a clip from that American Spectator article:

Nevada health co-op has another problem in addition to sky-high salaries, nepotism. Nevada Health CO-OP is top-heavy with members of the long-troubled UNITE HERE union, which represents casino workers in the state and has been accused of corruption by other union officials.

Tom Zumtobell, the co-op’s CEO, received $414,000 in 2013. He is a former UNITE Here vice president and lives in Reno, 450 miles from the co-op’s Las Vegas headquarters. Kathy Silver received $377,000 as the co-op’s treasurer. Silver is the former board president of the local UNITE HERE chapter.

Bobbette Bond, the co-op’s secretary, hauled in $222,000. She was UNITE HERE’s chief lobbyist. Her husband is Donald “D” Taylor, UNITE HERE’s national president and a director of the co-op.

The Co-op’s website today reports:

The Board of Directors of the Nevada Health CO-OP has voted to cease operations beginning January 1, 2016 due to market conditions. At the same time, the Board voted to continue serving members through the end of the year to protect the health insurance of its current membership. Since the closure is voluntary, it should have minimal impact to members and providers.

“It is with deep sadness that based on challenging market conditions, the Board made a painful decision to wind down operations of the Nevada co-op at the end of this year,” said CO-OP Member and Board Director Stacey Hatfield. “Rather than spending resources on next year’s uncertain market, we would rather make sure we protect our current members. This is all about providing the most affordable, effective health insurance and service possible.”

That was no mention of whether that federal loan would be repaid.

Obama preaches his clean energy heresy to the choir

Obama and Reid (AP photo by John Locher)

When Obama took the stage to close out Harry Reid’s traveling planet salvation show Monday at Mandalay Bay, he accused the opponents of his sweeping clean energy plan to prevent climate change of spreading misinformation.

“We refuse to surrender the hope of a clean energy future to those who fear it and fight it, and sometimes provide misinformation about it,” he charged, according to a White House transcript.

But it was Obama who was spreading the misinformation, including his constant drumbeat about the immediate and devastating threat of climate change. There has been no significant increase in global temperatures in 20 years, despite what the climate change models all predicted.

Earlier in the day John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, one of the sponsors of the National Clean Energy Summit 8.0, cited the claim that July was the hottest month on record. But satellite readings dispute this and the hundredths of a degree increase from land-based readings was well below the margin of error.

Obama also had the audacity on the same day his administration announced billions of dollars in new loan guarantees for renewable energy projects to claim renewables can compete in the free market against fossil fuel power generation.

“A lot of Americans are going solar and becoming more energy efficient not because they’re tree huggers — although trees, you know, are important — just want you to know — but because they’re cost-cutters.  They like saving money,” Obama said. ” And I’m all for a consumer saving money, because that means they can spend it on other stuff.  Solar isn’t just for the green crowd anymore — it’s for the green eyeshade crowd, too.”

This came days after NV Energy hit a cap on rooftop solar installations and stopped issuing permits until the PUC revamps the pricing structure for rooftop solar. The rooftop panel installers claim the proposal by NV Energy — to charge a connection fee and cut in half the per kilowatt-hour credit for uploading excess power to the grid — will put them out of business, because rooftop panel owners would be paying more for electricity than other power users.

Without tax breaks, tax credits, subsidies and high sell-back rates, solar does not yet pencil out.

Obama also lashed out at opponents he claimed were “trying to undermine competition in the marketplace, and choke off consumer choice, and threaten an industry that’s churning out new jobs at a fast pace.”

Study after study have shown that for every green energy job created by taxpayer subsidies and higher power cost at least two jobs in the rest of the private sector are lost.

Earlier this year Obama linked an increase in hurricanes to climate change, even though no major hurricane has hit the U.S. in nine years.

In introducing Obama, Reid also repeated the false hurricane narrative, “Protecting the earth’s climate is the greatest challenge of our time. Does everybody agree? (Applause) You see this climate change doesn’t affect a particular people or industry or region or country. Climate change affects everybody, every American, every human being on the face of the earth, no matter where they live. From record break droughts in the Southwest to coastal flooding in the East, we’re seeing the impacts of increasing temperatures and rising sea levels. Hurricanes are becoming more frequent and that’s an understatement. …”

He then claimed that rising temperatures are breeding ticks that have killed 30 percent of the moose population in the Northeast. The nexus is tenuous at best.

“Warm weather is preventing in some places bears from hibernating,” Reid said. FactCheck.org rated the hibernation claim false.

Obama and Reid never let the facts get in the way of their drive to dole out taxpayer money to their cronies and contributors in the green energy industry.

Obama even joined Reid in his attacks on the Koch brothers:

But while change this fast presents new opportunities, it is invariably going to create resistance from some fossil fuel interests who want to protect the old, outdated status quo.  And there are some legitimate issues around how does a new distributed system work, and folks have some costs and how do we deal with those things, and those are important for us to address.  But when you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding — that’s a problem.  That’s not the American way.  That’s not progress.  That’s not innovation.  That’s rent seeking and trying to protect old ways of doing business and standing in the way of the future.

I mean, think about this.  Ordinarily, these are groups that tout themselves as champions of the free market.  If you start talking to them about providing health care for folks who don’t have health insurance, they’re going crazy — “this is socialism, this is going to destroy America.”  But in this situation, they’re trying to undermine competition in the marketplace, and choke off consumer choice, and threaten an industry that’s churning out new jobs at a fast pace.  (Applause.)  And that has the potential to hurt a lot of communities — and set back America’s leadership in fighting climate change.  They’re even fighting to protect billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars in corporate welfare each year that’s going to fossil fuel companies.

In the same building where Reid held his clean energy show, a coalition of people countered with a group of speakers at what they called the Affordable Energy Summit 8.0 to point out the highly subsidized clear energy is prohibitively expensive and produces few environmental benefits.

“Forcing Americans to spend increasingly high amounts of money on energy deprives us of the means to purchase health care, education, better nutrition, and a wide array of goods and services that make life happier and healthier,” said Heartland Institute senior fellow for environment and energy policy James Taylor. “It also kills jobs throughout the entire economy when people have less money to spend on these desirable goods and services.”

 

Editorial: Innovation is better solution for energy supply than regulation

Couric and Fiorina on Yahoo! News

The left never lets the facts get in the way of a good harangue or the profits of their cronies in the renewable energy business. The well-being of the citizens and communities be damned.

For example, in 2009, after a three-year battle with Sen. Harry Reid, NV Energy acquiesced to the senator’s pressure and canceled plans to build a $5 billion coal-fired power plant near Ely that would have created 1,600 jobs during construction and 200 permanent jobs upon completion.

Instead, the Ely area got a wind project whose German-made turbines promptly killed a few golden eagles as well as other birds and bats. The wind farm created about a dozen permanent jobs and sells power to NV Energy at about twice the price that the coal plant would have. That is, when it produces electricity.

The latest Energy Information Administration report said the plant produced power only 18.8 percent of the time.

Another company, with Reid’s blessing still plans to put up wind turbines in Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, now that Reid has moved to Henderson. The company recently got a two-year extension on its application.

The major rationale for the tax breaks and subsidies and cheap public land for wind and solar projects is that it will save the planet from global warming because carbon is a greenhouse gas — even though satellites have detected no global warming for more than two decades.

One Republican presidential candidate provided a refreshing alternative to the constant drumbeat by Reid and Obama about climate change.

In an interview with Katie Couric on Yahoo! News earlier this summer, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said,“So every one of the scientists that tell us climate change is real and being caused by manmade activity, also tell us that a single nation acting alone can make no difference at all. So when I see a state like California destroy lives and livelihoods with environmental regulation that will make no difference at all to climate change, when I see the Obama administration take that same regulation and apply it nationally, it will make no difference at all. And yet we are destroying people’s lives and livelihoods. I wonder why are we doing this? Why are we doing this when it won’t have any impact. So I think the answer to this problem is innovation not regulation.”

She could as easily have singled out Nevada, because the Silver State, like the Golden State, is awash in deals for solar and wind projects, including a renewable portfolio standard that requires a quarter of all power in the state to come from renewables by 2025.

Nevada opts for regulation, not innovation in clean-coal technology, despite the fact the U.S. has enough cheap coal to last 300 years.

“But I must say it angers me when liberals say I’m prepared for you to lose your job in the name of sending a signal, to whom?” Fiorina continued. “In fact China could care less. In fact China is delighted that we are not spending any time or energy figuring out clean coal because they’re going to go do it.

“We have to focus on how to make coal cleaner. Look, coal provides half the energy in this nation still, not to mention around the world. So to say we’re going to basically outlaw coal, which is what this administration has done, is so self-defeating. It destroys jobs. It destroys communities. It’s not helping us and it’s not helping global warming.”

She went on to say there is no perfect solution, noting that turbines kill birds and solar plants require huge amounts of water.

“I think it is, frankly, ridiculous for the Obama administration to call ISIS a strategic distraction and then go to say that climate change is the single most pressing national security issue of our time. That’s hyperbole,” the candidate reasoned. “I think a far more serious issue right now is the fact that our government is a vast, bloated, unaccountable, corrupt bureaucracy.”

Nevada is an early caucus state and there are a lot of candidates in both parties to evaluate.

We recommend you keep an eye on Fiorina, who everyone said won the so-called Happy Hour debate, because her energy policy is the polar opposite of Reid’s, which makes it right for Nevada.

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

Reid’s clean energy paean omits a number of facts

In a run-up to Monday’s National Clean Energy Summit 8.0 at the Mandalay Bay, Sen. Harry Reid has released a slick 20-page report boasting about Nevada’s clean energy “success” stories.

Reid claims that Nevada has 21,800 clean energy jobs as a result of $6 billion in “investments” in clean energy — more than a quarter of a million dollars per job, by the way. Those investments include millions in grants, loan guarantees and cheap federal public land, as well as a state law that mandates public utilities purchase wind, solar and geothermal power no matter what the cost.

As for those jobs, Reid’s report has a footnote showing the source for that figure comes from a January report by the Wind Energy Foundation, which has footnote linking to a Bureau of Labor Statistics website has stats for “Green Goods and Services” jobs in 2010. That Nevada jobs number is from 2011.

But the green jobs listed include: farming, ranching, mining, logging, electricity generation (no breakdown for renewables), water and sewage, construction, manufacturing, trade, publishing, financial services, garbage collecting, education, museums and zoos, auto repair, transportation and warehousing.

During a congressional committee hearing a congressman managed to get a BLS official to admit that green jobs include: Floor sweeper at a solar panel factory, professor teaching environmental studies, anyone who collects, reuses, remanufactures, recycles, or composts waste materials, an antique dealer, clerk at a bicycle repair shop, any bus driver, employee at a used record shop, railroad workers, and even oil lobbyists.

 

Reid specifically mentions the soon-to-be-operational Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant near Tonopah, which got a $737 million federal loan guarantee. Reid neglected to mention the plant has a contract with NV Energy to sell its wholesale power at 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, though current residential retail power is 11.6 cents per kWh.

Reid singles out Spring Valley wind and mentions it has a capacity of 520 megawatts, without mentioning in has been producing at less than 20 percent of that capacity at a cost of nearly 10 cents per kWh.

Nor does he note that Silver State North Solar, which got a federal grant, is charging NV Energy 13.2 cents a kWh.

Editing of the report was a bit shoddy, too. At one point the report says the One Nevada transmission from Las Vegas to Ely “is estimated to become operational in 2013,”  but a couple of graphs later states the “project was energized in 2014.”

Obama will be the keynote speaker at Monday’s confab. Like Reid, he also tends to omit a few facts when he tries to foment fervor for green energy.

Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant.

Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant.

 

Newspaper column: Tax hike battle should prove to be a bruiser

This should get interesting.

A group of people calling themselves the We Decide Coalition has filed an initiative petition with the Nevada Secretary of State that would give voters a chance to repeal the $1.4 billion in tax hikes passed by the 2015 Legislature at the behest of Gov. Brian Sandoval — Senate Bill 483.

The political and legal wrangling promise to get down in the mud.

Politically, the filing struck a raw nerve with our Republican governor, who unleashed a withering diatribe, calling the petition “a wrongheaded attack on the children and families of Nevada. Supported by more than seventy percent of legislators, the revenue the petition seeks to eliminate will go directly to the classroom and give teachers the resources to deliver a quality education. Most Nevadans understand that more investment in our schools, with proper accountability and reform, will improve graduation rates and student performance. It is also clear that if our schools don’t improve, businesses won’t come here. The time is now to build the workforce of the future.”

Brian Sandoval

Never mind that the state has increased education spending 80 percent per pupil, adjusted for inflation, during the past 40 years with no detectible effect on test scores.

Unfazed by the historic record of failure for his proposed education spending, Sandoval attacked the petitioners by demanding: “Those responsible for promoting this petition must answer a simple question to the parents of Nevada: What will you cut?”

Among possible cuts, Sandoval helpfully listed class-size reduction, which has a 25-year track record of failure to produce. He mentioned anti-bullying programs, which have little to do with actual education. He singled out all-day kindergarten, which even the U.S. Department of Education admits has not improved outcomes.

He also listed the Read by Three program, which would require that children who are not proficient in reading by the end of the third grade would not be promoted to the fourth grade. How much does that cost? Besides it is not scheduled to go into effect until the 2019-20 school year, after Sandoval leaves office.

“I strongly oppose the petition,” Sandoval concluded. “Its passage will destroy a generational opportunity to finally modernize and improve an under-performing education system.”

Where and when have we heard that before?

For their part the petitioners point out that SB483 is the largest tax hike in Nevada history and includes a gross receipts tax — under the rubric of a commerce tax — that is similar to the teachers union tax that 80 percent of Nevada voters rejected at the ballot box just this past November. At that same election the voters also rejected a mining tax hike.

Doesn’t appear the voters have much of an appetite for tax increases, even if their elected lawmakers do.

But the real fight over this initiative petition is likely to take place in the courts. In fact, the petitioners themselves do not seem overly anxious to begin the arduous task of gathering the 55,000 signatures by June 2016 to qualify the referendum for the ballot. They think a court challenge is inevitable.

They say there will undoubtedly be a legal challenge and, therefore, “there isn’t much sense in potentially wasting a lot of time, effort and money actually circulating this petition until the inevitable court challenges are resolved.”

The legal hurdle is likely to be the single-subject rule, which has tripped many petitioners. This law was passed in 2005 and says any initiative petition must contain “but one subject and matters necessarily connected therewith and pertaining thereto.”

Chuck Muth

SB483 contains a half dozen taxes, which arguably violates the state constitution, which reads: “Each law enacted by the Legislature shall embrace but one subject …”

Petition proponents argue SB483 passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor as one subject; therefore, repeal would be one subject.

“In the past, courts have defined the meaning of ‘single subject’ very broadly for legislation but very narrowly for citizen ballot initiatives,” writes Chuck Muth, president of Citizen Outreach and one the petition instigators. “The only way for the courts to reject this particular word-for-word referendum as a violation of the single subject rule is to tell the people of Nevada that they are held to a completely different, thoroughly discriminatory definition of ‘single subject’ than the people we the people elect.”

Let the battle begin and when the dust clears, we’ll see if the taxpayers come out the winners or losers.

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

Update: AP reports that Sen. Harry Reid says he is willing to do everything he can to help Sandoval’s tax package survive a ballot initiative seeking its repeal, though he is not actively involved now.

“Sandoval and I don’t agree on stuff, but we agree on a lot, and I think what he was able to do with that Legislature was masterful,” Reid said. “I think it would be a real disservice to our state if the crazies were able to prevail.”

 

Editorial: EPA’s and Nevada’s clean power efforts cost much, fix nothing

Obama is trying to kill a gnat with an anvil.

He rhapsodized recently about his administration’s Clean Power Plan from the EPA, and preached about the urgency to curb global warming now because 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record and ice caps are shrinking.

“Climate change is no longer just about the future that we’re predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it’s about the reality that we’re living with every day, right now,” he said.

Of course, Sen. Harry Reid shouted amen and used the plan to bash Republicans and the Koch brothers, per usual.

Reid Gardner power plant (Sun photo)

“It has been disappointing, but not surprising, to see Republicans’ knee-jerk opposition to addressing climate change,” Reid said in a statement. “It is all-the-more frustrating because they have no plan of their own. Instead, Republicans are clamoring to show special interests like the oil baron Koch brothers how far they’re willing to go to kill commonsense protections for our air and public health. … Republicans would leave our children and grandchildren to pay the devastating costs of climate change.

“Republicans have no solutions. They are afraid to acknowledge that climate change is a problem. It is a problem.”

Obama’s big solution is an executive fiat ordering states to cut carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030, compared to 2005.

Pay no heed to the fact that 2014 was warmer than 2010 by just two-hundredths of a degree – or 0.02C — or that the margin of error means there is only a 38 percent chance that this is true.

But he assured us his plan will curb global warming — that’s 0.018°C by 2100, using the global alarmists own model.

According to a Heritage Foundation analysis, Obama’s plan will result in a few costs by 2030:

— An average annual employment shortfall of nearly 300,000 jobs.
— A peak employment shortfall of more than 1 million jobs.
— A loss of more than $2.5 trillion (inflation-adjusted) in aggregate gross domestic product (GDP).
—A total income loss of more than $7,000 (inflation-adjusted) per person.

By the way, someone should tell the president polar ice has been growing since 2012.

Then there is the possibility that a little man-made warming might not be so bad since some scientists are predicting a subsidence of solar activity that could result in global cooling, even a mini-ice age.

But never let the facts get in the way of Obama’s mission to order the oceans to stop rising — just like King Canute, only Obama actually believes he can.

“And it’s easy to be cynical and to say climate change is the kind of challenge that’s just too big for humanity to solve. I am absolutely convinced that’s wrong,” said a self-assured Obama. “We can solve this thing.”

Do the math. U.S. fossil-fueled power plants account for only 6 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Cutting 32 percent would reduce global output by only 2 percent. In 2012 global carbon emissions increased 2.1 percent. The U.S. decreased its emissions 3.7 percent, while China increased by 5.9 percent and India by 7.7 percent.

Obama has an expensive solution in search of a problem.

Fortunately, we suppose, Nevada has already jumped off this cliff. The state is closing down all of its coal-fired power plants.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA), between 2005 and 2011 Nevada electric power plants cut carbon output by 33 percent. That was the most by any state and already exceeds the 32 percent criteria in Obama’s plan, though much of the credit for the cut was probably due to the recession.

By state law 25 percent of Nevada’s power must come from “clean” renewables by 2025. But like the EPA proposal, there is a price tag. One study estimates this renewable portfolio law will cost residential power users up to $130 a year and industrial power users up to $47,000 a year and cost up to 3,000 jobs.

Like we said, killing a gnat with an anvil. One that lands on us instead of the gnat.

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in some 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.