Does the health care law work? Who knows? (5×8 – 2/11/14)

Will the new health care law ever get around to covering people who work in medium to large businesses? Caving to unending criticism, and probably the fact Democrat lawmakers will have a difficult time winning re-election this fall, the Obama administration announced yesterday it will give medium-sized employers an extra year, until 2016, before requiring them to offer health. insurance to their full-time workers. That’s six years after the bill was signed into law, and the second time the employers got a delay in the law.

The delay comes a week after a Congressional Budget Office review noted a few million Americans would stop working if the job isn’t necessary to receiving health care. Those people, presumably, will now have to keep working, even though they don’t want to. Too bad, say the politicians who otherwise think government shouldn’t interfere with their choices, work is a virtue and you should want to. So, you’ll have to.

Yesterday’s announcement also gives us another year of uncertainty, when we don’t know which side is “right” on what the health care law is going to mean, as Slate’s John Dickerson pointed out just last week.

It’s clear that health care expenditures have slowed, but a 2013 Kaiser study said the majority of the reduction in health spending came from the recession, not the ACA. Medicare actuaries reached the same conclusion: “There is no discernible impact of the [ACA] legislation on aggregate health spending trends.” The administration’s case, which can be found here, relies on a different way of measuring health care costs.

If the administration is going to make a case about the future of health care costs based on evanescent evidence, then it can’t complain about people who see doom in these new CBO numbers. The best the administration can argue is that we don’t know what the future holds, but that’s not likely to calm people’s jitters about what might appear in tomorrow’s envelope.

Politico says the move will also fuel more ammunition over criticism that businesses keep getting a break on the law that working people aren’t getting.

Republicans, of course, have been trying to kill the law and its implementation for four years. So, of course, when the administration caved to the law’s detractors, they were vehemently opposed.

Meanwhile, as politics dominates a public health debate, people are stuck without health care coverage. The Wall St. Journal reports millions of Americans are trapped without insurance in states that refused to expand Medicaid.People earning as much as four times the poverty line—$46,680 for a single person—can receive federal subsidies. But those on the lowest run of poverty are being shut out. It documents the case of a woman with a 7-year-old son who earned only $7,000 last year as a cleaner. She makes too little to get any help with health care.

And not all of the states with situations like this are in the South, according to the Journal. South Dakota is one of the worst.

Even in Minnesota, there’s no way to judge whether the health care law is working. The Star Tribune reports MNsure officials can’t determine whether people buying insurance are people who didn’t have insurance.

Related: In Kentucky, voters complain about Obama, but take his care.

Hudson, Wisconsin has become the poster child for the growing heroin problem in the country. The New York Times today says heroin, much of it from Mexico, has found its way from the southwest to America’s small towns. In Hudson, there were seven fatal overdoses in eight months.

Eighty-eight percent of those who died from heroin were white, half were younger than 34, and almost a fifth were ages 15 to 24. Heroin deaths of teenagers and young adults tripled in the first decade of this century, the Times says.

Related: “To everybody, she was just a junkie. There was no investigation, no attempt to find out who sold her the heroin, whether what was being sold posed a threat to any other addict. Maybe if she was a big movie star, something might have happened. But she wasn’t. She was just my daughter.” (Boston Globe)

World's First Crack Pipe Vending Machine (Neatorama).

The biggest winner of the Olympic games so far is Chad Salmela, who isn’t even an athlete. He’s the NBC announcer for its skiathalon coverage who shows an unusual excitement for a sport most people have rarely seen.

He’s one of us. Salmela, of Duluth, is head ski coach at St. Scholastica., saying he adds an “exploding-brain-matter level of enthusiasm” to the Olympics, calls him the “breakout star” so far.

Meanwhile, how do you root against this?

Alex Bilodeau of Canada won his second Olympic gold medal yesterday.

“My brother is my inspiration,” Bilodeau said after his run. “Growing up with handicapped people puts everything back in perspective and he taught me so many things in life. My parents did, too.”

“Out of respect for my brother I have to go after these dreams and to do all within my power to try to make it happen,” he said.

He’s retiring now to chase another dream — his accounting career.

Red Wing may soon replace Columbus Day with First Peoples Day, thanks to the work of Scott Bender, a social studies teacher.

“Through the course of several years of doing research and thinking it through, it was more and more clear that society has got to the point where Columbus Day is almost an embarrassment,” Bender tells the Rochester Post Bulletin. “It’s pretty obviously not a guy we should be celebrating.”

How is it we came to celebrate a holiday that really has nothing to do with our country? By an assault on people Americans thought racially inferior, primitive, violent, and unassimilable. Italians.


You can race bar stools…

Dance on the ice…

Or get involved with a spirited game of rock, paper, scissors, like these University of Minnesota kids.

Or stomp inspirational messages in the snow outside a hospital.

Bonus I: How Obama Officials Cried 'Terrorism' to Cover Up a Paperwork Error. Because it takes actual courage for politicians to admit to making mistakes. (Wired)

Bonus II: We all want to be younger than we are, so yesterday on the drive home, I was making a list in my head of all of the things I would’ve missed if I were younger — the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, man landing on the moon, the Vietnam War and a time when the country concerned itself with the wars it was fighting. And this morning I added one more.


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Each week meteorologist Paul Huttner stops by The Daily Circuit to talk with Kerri Miller and keep us all up to date on one of the climate change. Today, Paul and Kerri are taking a deep dive into the issue with a full hour on what is one of the world’s biggest concerns. (Rebroadcast)

Second hour: Clive Thompson, author of “Smarter Than you Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better.” (Rebroadcast)

Third hour: Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has penned the first volume of his projected two-part memoir about his life in science. The first book, “An Appetite for Wonder,” chronicles the scientist’s life until 1976 and the publication of his wildly influential book “The Selfish Gene.” He joins The Daily Circuit while on the US-leg of his book tour. (Rebroadcast)

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – “Environmental Debt.” From the Commonwealth Club’s “Climate One” series.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – The case of an American citizen affiliated with al-Qaeda is testing the limits of President Obama’s new drone restrictions. When, if ever, should drones be used against Americans abroad?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The state is urging Minnesota doctors to strongly recommend a vaccine for their adolescent patients that protects against one of the leading causes of genital cancers. Physician reticence is thought to be one reason why vaccination rates for human papillomavirus, also called HPV, have stalled. In a 2012 survey, only 33 percent of young Minnesota women said they had received the full three doses of the vaccine. Among boys the rate is just over 20 percent. MPR’s Lorna Benson will have the story.

NPR will compare NHL hockey with Olympic hockey.