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Views from across Iowa

Nov 01, 2013

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Oct. 27

Issues with website represent least of Obamacare’s flaws


Talk lately about Obamacare focuses primarily on what can only be described as the disastrous rollout of the government’s website to sign people up. Tales of frustration dominated recent headlines to the point President Barack Obama was compelled to call a press conference to address the issue.

The president in that appearance offered plenty of statements worthy of review, like his suggestion one way around the flawed website is to file a paper application or provide information over the telephone. Really? As one pundit countered, why not dust off the telegraph?

Another excuse for the website’s poor performance is overwhelming demand swamping servers. Again, this is laughable. The health care site struggled to handle about 8 million hits in its first week. Well guess what? According to eBizMBA, top websites handle far more per week without the headaches: Google, 225 million; Facebook, 175 million; Yahoo, 125 million; YouTube, 122 million.

As troubling as the Obamacare website may be, a year or two out we may yearn for such a problem. That’s because an increasing number of commentators and news outlets point out much larger issues lie ahead with the so-called “Affordable” Care Act.

Here are a couple.

Less expensive health insurance plans are disappearing, putting the lie to the idea that “if you like your policy, you can keep it.”

According to Anna Gorman and Julie Appleby, writing in Kaiser Health News: “Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people — about half of its individual business in the state. Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.

“Blue Shield of California sent roughly 119,000 cancellation notices out in mid-September, about 60 percent of its individual business. About two-thirds of those policyholders will see rate increases in their new policies,” the article adds.

Then there is the effect of the health care law on employment. Companies now have incentive to keep their workforce below 50 employees and to allow less than 30 hours of work per week.

“The evidence that ObamaCare is having a negative impact on hiring is unequivocal, abundant and consistent with common sense,” Andrew Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, wrote earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal.

Simple logic, Puzder reasons.

“If you have three employees working 40 hours per week they will produce 120 labor hours. Five employees working 24 hours per week also produce 120 labor hours. Employers must offer the three full-time employees health insurance or pay a penalty. They have no such obligation to the five part-time employees, making part-time employment less costly,” Puzder wrote.

Critics have tried to discredit Puzder, but recent events in Cedar Falls provide a clear illustration. In November, the city reduced 59 part-time employees’ hours to 29 per week. On the downside, those employees lose three hours of pay. On the upside, the city avoids laying off up to 30 workers to fill the $855,000 hole in its budget created by providing health insurance.

If only the website was the biggest problem with Obamacare. If only.

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The Des Moines Register, Oct. 27

More hot water for law academy


The Iowa Law Enforcement Academy trains peace officers, jailers and dispatchers from across the state. The school has been in the spotlight for hiring, and retaining, employees who made inappropriate sexual or violent remarks to female recruits and co-workers.

Before that controversy was laid to rest, a new controversy bubbled to the surface, with the academy’s governing council telling law enforcement agencies that they cannot send their new officers to other state-approved police training academies.

What the academy council is not telling those law enforcement agencies is that the Iowa attorney general’s office says there is nothing in state law or administrative rules that requires agencies to get the academy’s permission to train their officers at another state-certified law enforcement training academy.

Arlen Ciechanowski, the director of the state academy, wants new police officers and sheriff’s deputies to attend the academy at Camp Dodge, located north of Des Moines. Ciechanowski has urged council members to deny requests from police agencies wanting to train their new officers at the Cedar Rapids Regional Police Academy and at the Des Moines Police Department’s regional training academy.

That was bad news for Lisbon Police Chief Rick Scott. At a June meeting of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy council, he explained he was planning to hire a third full-time officer for the town of 2,000 people and send that officer to the Cedar Rapids academy, about 20 miles away. That is where Scott was trained, and he could save Lisbon about $4,000 by sending a new officer to Cedar Rapids instead of Camp Dodge.

“We work together and train together and it’s a short distance,” Scott told The Des Moines Register. “They run a tip-top police academy. I want my officers to go there.”

The law enforcement academy council’s response: Denied.

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