Washington's big Obamacare reveal
Washington state has revealed its long-awaited online health insurance exchange and the prices at least are rather underwhelming. The online marketplace will include 31 health plans from four companies at a variety of price points (That's the good part), but most monthly premiums in the marketplace will actually be higher than existing plans. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler told the Seattle Times' Carol Ostrom that that's because they will cover much more — including prescription drugs, maternity and newborn care.
And, to buffer the blow of a mid-level $235/month plan for a healthy 21-year-old, the plans will be federally subsidized. At least for those individuals who make up to $45,960 annually or families of four making up to $94,200. The plans will go into effect in 2014.
Hempfest donations: Up in smoke
A more cynical Simpson visits Seattle
Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming), with his trademark humor and pointed directness, took biting aim today at the many ills he perceives as standing in the way of a fiscally responsible federal budget. This is only a partial list: the rising cost of health care caused by trial lawyers; doctors and hospitals; defense spending; the 10,000 people turning 65 each day in the U.S. and its impact on social security; the AARP (nothing but a marketing agency); and combative rather than collaborative politics. These issues are coming to roost, he argued, because social security checks will be 25 percent less by 2033 if changes aren’t made.
Simpson was in town to speak at the William D. Ruckelshaus Center's annual chairman's circle luncheon at the Washington Athletic Center. (Editor's note: Mr. Ruckelshaus is an emeritus member of Crosscut's board of directors.) His talk focused on the "myths and misunderstandings of America's fiscal situation." Simpson, retired from the Senate in 1997 but reappeared on the national stage when President Obama appointed him to co-chair a presidential commission on fiscal responsibility and reform with Erskine Bowles, President Clinton's chief of staff.
Simpson told the audience, which included former Congressional colleagues from Washington state and other friendly local leaders, that his political disposition has moved from skeptic to cynic. Simpson said he continues to travel the country talking straight to Americans about the nation's $17 trillion debt, which he advocates solving with a balanced approach that includes cuts in government spending, economic growth and smarter taxation.
His cynicism comes, in large part, from his observation that Americans' today focus very personal ire on individual politicians rather than being open to solutions and ideas. Simpson is from a not so distant era, as David Brooks writes today for The New York Times, “when conservatism was at its most politically and intellectually vibrant,” a time when dominant voices in the movement celebrated Lincoln, the Progressive Era and even the New Deal. (reported by Greg Shaw)
The National Oceanic and Atmpospheric Association announced this morning that the Northern Resident Orca population, which summers in the Puget Sound, will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act. The decision comes in response to a petition filed by Pacific Legal Foundation in August 2012, which argued that Pacific Northwest orcas were wrongly mandated as a subspecies, a designation that qualified them for special protection. The foundation was arguing on behalf of farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The farmers are restricted from using water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta because it provides habitat for one of the orcas' primary food sources — Chinook salmon.
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