Thanks To Obamacare, Employer-Based Health Insurance Is Becoming An Endangered Species

Obamacare 2013Barack Obama promised to fundamentally transform America, and when it comes to health care he has definitely kept his promise.  Thanks to Obamacare, health care spending is up, health insurance premiums are up, the number of hours Americans are working is down and employer-based health insurance is becoming an endangered species.  Of course employer-based health insurance will not disappear completely any time soon, but it has been steadily shrinking for over a decade, and Obamacare will greatly accelerate that decline.  If you go back to 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  That was pretty good.  Today, only 54.9 percent of all Americans are covered by employment-based health insurance, and now thousands upon thousands of U.S. employers are considering reducing the scope of the health plans they offer to employees or eliminating them altogether due to Obamacare.  If you are thinking that this sounds like a potential nightmare for millions of Americans families, you would be exactly right.

There have already been widespread reports of companies dropping health insurance, but nobody knows for sure how widespread the carnage will be.  According to Businessweek, the surveys that have been done up to this point have come up with widely varying results…

A Deloitte study last year suggested 10 percent of employers would stop offering group health plans. A widely criticized McKinsey report from 2011 put the number as high as one-third. The Congressional Budget Office’s latest projections suggest 8 million fewer people will be covered by employer plans five years from now under the ACA than without it. Many of them will get policies through health insurance exchanges instead.

But what everyone does agree on is that employer-based health coverage will continue to diminish.

And we are already watching this happen right in front of our eyes.  Just this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the largest security guard firm in the United States is dropping health coverage for 55,000 employees…

The nation’s largest provider of security guards plans to discontinue its lowest-cost health plans and steer roughly 55,000 workers to new government-sponsored insurance exchanges for coverage next year, in the latest sign of the fraying ties between employment and health care.

The U.S. arm of Sweden’s Securitas AB is among more than 1,200 employers that offer the kind of bare-bones health plans that must be phased out beginning Jan. 1 under the health-care law. Nearly four million people are enrolled in these so-called mini-med plans, which cap benefits to participants, sometimes at as little as $3,000 a year.

“The mini-meds go away and we’re not replacing them,” said Jim McNulty, a spokesman for Securitas’s U.S. operation. “Their option is to go to the exchanges.”

Other big employers, including Darden Restaurants Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Trader Joe’s Co., say they will stop offering health insurance to part-time workers, and will direct those employees to the state exchanges. Darden, Home Depot and Trader Joe’s previously offered mini-meds to their part timers.

Speaking of Trader Joe’s, I wrote about how they are eliminating health coverage for part-time workers the other day.  Instead of providing health insurance for their part-time workers, Trader Joe’s will be writing them a check and pushing them on to the Obamacare exchanges

Trader Joe’s, the grocer once lauded for providing health care coverage to its part-time workers, is about to push those employees off its plan.

According to a memo obtained by the Huffington Post, the company will stop covering employees who work less than 30 hours per week.

The change is set for the start of 2014. Instead of insurance, workers instead will get a check for $500 in January.

“Depending on income you may earn outside of Trader Joe’s, we believe that with the $500 from Trader Joe’s and the tax credits available under the [Affordable Care Act (ACA)], many of you should be able to obtain health care coverage at very little if any net cost to you,” said Trader Joe CEO Dan Bane in the memo.

And this is a huge reason why the shift from full-time work to part-time work in America has accelerated this year.  Obamacare creates an incentive for companies to have more part-time workers and less full-time workers.  In fact, almost all of the jobs that have been “created” by the U.S. economy in 2013 have been part-time jobs.

But it is incredibly difficult to try to support a family on a part-time job.  Sadly, the quality of our jobs continues to decline rapidly and only 47 percent of all adults have a full-time job in America today.  This is only going to continue to get even worse under Obamacare.

As a result of these trends, more Americans are going to be forced to go out and buy health insurance “on the individual market”.  When they do, they are likely to be in for a really nasty surprise

Andy and Amy Mangione of Louisville, Ky. and their two boys are just the kind of people who should be helped by ObamaCare. But they recently got a nasty surprise in the mail.

“When I saw the letter when I came home from work,” Andy said, describing the large red wording on the envelope from his insurance carrier, “(it said) ‘your action required, benefit changes, act now.’ Of course I opened it immediately.”

It had stunning news. Insurance for the Mangiones and their two boys,which they bought on the individual market, was going to almost triple in 2014 — from $333 a month to $965.

The insurance carrier made it clear the increase was in order to be compliant with the new health care law.

Are you ready to have your health insurance premiums potentially double or triple?

In other cases, families are discovering that health insurance companies are simply cancelling their health insurance plans

Across the country, insurers are sending out ObamaCare-induced health plan death notices to untold tens of thousands of other customers in the individual market. Twitter users are posting their ObamaCare cancellation notices and accompanying rate increases:

Linda Deright posted her letter from Regency of Washington state: “63 percent jump, old policy of 15 yrs. cancelled.” Karen J. Dugan wrote: “Received same notice from Blue Shield CA for our small business. Driving into exchange and no info since online site is down.” Chris Birk wrote: “Got notice from BCBS that my current health plan is not ACA compliant. New plan 2x as costly for worse coverage.” Small-business owner Villi Wilson posted his letter from HMSA Blue Cross Blue Shield canceling his individual plan and added: “I thought Obama said if I like my health care plan I can keep my health care plan.”

In fact, this even happened to one member of Congress.  U.S. Representative Cory Gardner had purchased health insurance on his own because he wanted to experience what his constituents were going through, and he recently got a letter informing him that his old plan had been “discontinued”…

“After my current plan is discontinued,” he wrote last week, “the closest comparable plan through our current provider will cost over 100 percent more, going from roughly $650 a month to $1,480 per month.” He now carries his ObamaCare cancellation notice with him as hardcore proof of the Democrats’ ultimate deception.

Is this what Obama was talking about when he promised that we could keep our old health insurance plans if we were happy with them?

In the end, millions upon millions of us are going to get pushed on to the Obamacare health insurance exchanges.

We were promised that there would be lots of competition and that prices would be reasonable.

Unfortunately, in some areas of the country it turns out that the “exchanges” are turning out to be “monopolies” where consumers will only have one company to choose from

“Although seven insurance companies currently operate in North Carolina, under the new Obamacare exchanges, those options will dwindle down to one in the majority of counties,” Ellmers said Thursday following the disclosure of figures by federal health officials showing that more than 60 percent of North Carolina counties will have only one insurance provider option under Obamacare: Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“The whole point of an online marketplace was to provide options, so North Carolinians could go online, compare prices, and choose plans from different companies. That is how competition is supposed to work!,” Ellmers said.

Beginning October 1 under Obamacare, Blue Cross Blue Shield will be the only health insurance provider serving the entire state of North Carolina in the new Obamacare exchanges, serving all 100 of the state’s counties. Its competitor Coventry Health Care, which is owned by Aetna, will only reach 39 counties.

That leaves 61 counties, or 61 percent of all the state’s counties, in a Blue Cross Blue Shield-only zone.

Not only that, but a lot of these exchanges are not even going to be ready to function properly on October 1st.  For example, according to the Washington Post, the D.C. “health marketplace” is a complete and total mess at this point…

Just days away from launch, the District of Columbia’s health marketplace is announcing a pretty significant delay.

While the D.C. Health Link will launch a Web site on October 1, shoppers will not have access to the their premium prices until mid-November. The delay comes after the District marketplace discovered “a high error rate” in calculating the tax credits that low- and middle-income people will use to purchase insurance on the marketplace.

The insurance marketplaces, if working as plan, are supposed to spit out an estimate for a tax credit after a shopper enters in some basic information about where she lives and how much she earns. In the District, that won’t happen next month. Instead, the eligibility determination will be made “off-line by experts” by early November.

So who is going to benefit from this new system?

Well, it turns out that the health insurance companies will greatly benefit.  Health insurance companies helped write Obamacare, and their stock prices have absolutely soared since Obamacare was signed into law.  If you doubt this, just check out the amazing charts in this article.

Not that they were hurting under the old system either.  They have been raking in gigantic mountains of cash for years while trying to provide as little health care as possible.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “50 Signs That The U.S. Health Care System Is A Gigantic Money Making Scam“.

For the rest of us, Obamacare is going to be even worse than the old system.  A 2013 Health Care Survey that polled 200 top health care professionals discovered the following about what they believe Obamacare will bring…

— 53 percent, “Quality of health insurance policies will suffer.”

— 51 percent, “Quality of care will go down.”

— 49 percent, “The law is overly complicated.”

— 42 percent, “Insurance exchanges will be poorly managed.”

— 37 percent, “The law still allows insurance companies to be the middleman.”

— 32 percent, “Too complex for businesses.”

— 19 percent, “Americans will die earlier.”

So Americans are going to pay more, get worse care, have more paperwork and a more complicated system, and they are likely to die younger too?

Wow, that sounds like a great deal.

Where do we sign up?

America: Where Hard Working, Productive Members Of Society Pay For The Health Care Of Everyone Else

ObamacareEverybody in America wants health care – but most Americans seem to want someone else to pay for it.  In the United States today, the way that our system works is that the hard working, productive members of society pay for the health care of everyone else.  At least under socialism everyone gets the same benefits.  Our system of health care is a very twisted version of socialism where millions upon millions of very hard working people are forced to pay for the health care of others, but often can’t afford to purchase decent health insurance for themselves.  Personally, I don’t have a big employer paying for my health care so I have to buy it myself, and I just got a letter from my health insurance company telling me that I have another massive rate increase coming up.  Have you gotten a similar letter?  Health insurance premiums are going up all over America, and this is just the beginning.  In fact, the CEO of Aetna says that health insurance rates for many Americans will double when the major provisions of Obamacare kick in next year.

It would be bad enough if hard working Americans just had to pay for their own health insurance.  But no, they are also expected to pay for the health care of members of Congress, employees of the IRS and other federal agencies, state and local government employees, their adult kids (because they can’t afford health insurance), the elderly, the poor, and now under Obamacare they will also be expected to subsidize the health plans of tens of millions of other Americans that are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

When you add it all up, the hard working, productive members of society are at least partially subsidizing the health care of well over half of all Americans while having to pay for their own health care at the same time.

Needless to say, it isn’t too hard to see who is getting the raw end of the deal.

Members of Congress certainly don’t want to pay for their own health care.  There was panic in the halls of Congress recently when they started realizing that due to certain provisions in Obamacare they may soon be forced to pay for their own health insurance plans.  There was widespread moaning and complaining about how they would be facing “thousands of dollars in additional premium payments” every year.

Things got so bad that Barack Obama got personally involved in the effort to find a solution.  Thankfully, members of Congress can relax because a ruling is being issued that will allow the federal government to continue to subsidize 75 percent of the cost of their health plans…

Lawmakers and staff can breathe easy — their health care tab is not going to soar next year.

The Office of Personnel Management, under heavy pressure from Capitol Hill, will issue a ruling that says the government can continue to make a contribution to the health care premiums of members of Congress and their aides, according to several Hill sources.

A White House official confirmed the deal and said the proposed regulations will be issued next week.

And the IRS, which has been put in charge of imposing the rules of Obamacare on all the rest of us, is freaking out about the fact that some members of Congress would like to force them to personally participate in Obamacare

The union that represents IRS employees is urging its members to write to their congressmen to help get the union out of Obamacare.

The following are some excerpts from a letter that the union that represents IRS employees sent to members of Congress…

“H.R. 1780 would put federal employees in a special class where they would be prohibited from receiving health insurance through their employer. It would treat federal employees differently from state and local government employees and most employees of large private sector companies who receive health insurance benefits through their employer. The primary purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to provide a marketplace for the sale and purchase of health insurance for those who do not have such coverage – not to take coverage away from employees who already receive it through their employers,” the letter reads.

“I work hard and am proud of the services that I provide to your constituents every day. One of the main benefits I receive as a federal employee is the ability to purchase health insurance coverage through the FEHBP with an employer contribution towards those benefits. Please let me know your views on this legislation. I look forward to hearing back from you,” the letter concludes.

This is just shameful.  If the IRS is going to impose Obamacare on the rest of America, then it should be good enough for them too.

Just check out acting IRS chief Danny Werfel begging for employees of his agency not to have to go on Obamacare…

But we have always had to at least partially subsidize the health plans of federal, state and local government workers.

The big change under Obamacare is that we will soon be subsidizing the health plans of tens of millions of our fellow Americans.

CNN says that 26 million Americans will be eligible for health insurance subsidies, but others believe that the true number is far, far higher than that.

For example, according to CNBC, a family of three in New York that earns $78,120 a year would be eligible for a subsidy of more than five thousand dollars…

In New York, a family of three whose annual income totals $78,120, would pay $12,784 for the second-lower-priced silver plan on that state’s insurance exchange. After getting a $5,363 tax credit, the family’s net cost for the insurance would be $7,421.

So who pays for that?

You and I do through our tax dollars.

And if you can believe it, Obamacare actually provides an incentive to not work too hard, because if you make too much money you could lose your health insurance subsidy…

Working more could ultimately mean thousands of dollars less for you under a quirk in the new health-care law going into effect this fall. This could prompt some people to cut back on their hours to avoid losing money.

“Working more can actually leave you worse off,” the price-comparison site ValuePenguin.com notes in a new analysis.

“It’s sort of an absurd scenario,” said Jonathan Wu, ValuePenguin.com’s co-founder. “It’s something for people to be aware of.”

In that scenario, an individual or family whose annual income surpasses maximums set by the federal government—if only by $1—will totally lose subsidies available to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

What a perverse system.

And of course Obamacare will allow young adults to stay on the health insurance policies of their parents until they reach 26 years of age.  As I mentioned the other day, 36 percent of all young adults in the 18 to 31 age bracket are currently living with their folks.  In most of those cases, the parents have to end up footing the bill for health care because the kids simply cannot afford it.

Medicaid continues to expand as well.  Certainly helping the poor is a very good thing, but unfortunately the number of poor just continues to explode.

Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.

Right now, there are more than 56 million Americans on Medicaid, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

It is going to take a whole lot of money to support 72 million Medicaid patients.

And then of course there is Medicare.

When Medicare was first established, we were told that it would cost about $12 billion a year by the time 1990 rolled around.

Instead, it actually cost the federal government $110 billion in 1990, and it will cost the federal government close to $600 billion this year.

But if you think this is bad, just wait until all of the Baby Boomers retire.  It is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from a little bit more than 50 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.  By then, we would be spending well over a trillion dollars a year on Medicare.

As you can see, under Obamacare the vast majority of all Americans will have their health care at least partially subsidized.

And it expected that our tax dollars will somehow be enough to pay for all of this.

The truth is that we have a deeply broken system.  Costs are spiraling out of control and nobody is quite sure how to fix things.  The following statistics come from one of my previous articles entitled “50 Signs That The U.S. Health Care System Is A Gigantic Money Making Scam“…

This year the American people will spend approximately 2.8 trillion dollars on health care, and it is being projected that Americans will spend 4.5 trillion dollars on health care in 2019.

The United States spends more on health care than Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia combined.

If the U.S. health care system was a country, it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.

Back in 1960, an average of $147 was spent per person on health care in the United States. By 2009, that number had skyrocketed to $8,086.

The sad thing is that many hard working Americans in the private sector are being forced to subsidize the health care of others, but they can’t even afford decent health care for themselves.

For example, I know of one hard working couple that has a health plan that has a $1,000 deductible.  Even with that deductible, their health insurance premiums are absolutely ridiculous.  Their health care strategy is simply to avoid going to the hospital or visiting a doctor as much as possible.

And of course health insurance companies make money by providing as little health care as possible.  Many Americans have discovered that when you need them the most, some health insurance companies will try to get out of covering you any way that they possibly can.

The reality is that just because you have health insurance that does not mean that you are “covered”.

According to a study that was published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the United States.  Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved people that actually did have health insurance.

So what is the bottom line?

The bottom line is the system stinks, and Obamacare is going to make things a whole lot worse.

Two Americas: 12 Facts That Show That Those Who Are Too Big To Fail Are Thriving On The Bailout Money That Our Politicians Gave Them Even As The Economic Suffering Of Ordinary Americans Continues To Deepen

Most Americans have a deep aversion to the phrase “redistribution of wealth”, and rightly so.  On a fundamental level, it is just not right to take the money that one man has worked so hard to earn and “redistribute” it to someone else.  In the political realm, the phrase “a redistribution of wealth” is usually a reference to our ballooning social programs, but what most Americans don’t realize is that one of the biggest redistributions of wealth in world history took place during the Wall Street bailouts of a couple years ago.  Trillions of dollars of our money and of money that belongs to future generations was redistributed to the Wall Street bankers.  The Wall Street bankers did not earn this money and they did not deserve this money.  We were told that if Wall Street did not get this money that the global economy would collapse and that there would be martial law in the streets.  We were promised that this money would “fix” Wall Street and then the prosperity would “trickle down” to Main Street.  So did this happen?  Of course not.

What ended up happening is that Wall Street hoarded all of this cash.  Lending to individuals and small businesses actually decreased.  The Federal Reserve started handing out gigantic piles of nearly interest-free money which many of these big Wall Street banks immediately loaned back to the U.S. government at a significantly higher rate of interest.

Talk about easy money.

Now the big Wall Street banks and the ultra-wealthy are swimming in cash and sales of luxury goods in the United States are absolutely skyrocketing.  Meanwhile, millions of “ordinary” Americans continue to slip into poverty.

So is the answer to all of this just to “tax the rich” and redistribute the wealth again by giving more handouts to the poor?

Of course not.

The American people don’t need more handouts.

What the American people desperately need are some good jobs.

But Wall Street is hoarding the cash they got during the bailouts.

It would be one thing if these big Wall Street banks had made a ton of money based on their own efforts.  It is a very American thing to be able to enjoy the fruits of hard work.

However, the truth is that many big Wall Street banks and financial institutions may have completely imploded if not for the bailouts.

They were “too big to fail” and our politicians jumped to their service.

Our politicians redistributed wealth by taking trillions of dollars that belonged to us and to future generations and handed it to the folks on Wall Street.

So now the boys and girls over on Wall Street are thriving while tens of millions of “average” Americans are desperately suffering.

Does that seem right to you?

Isn’t it about time that the U.S. government gets out of the “redistribution of wealth” business altogether?

Just consider the following statistics.  Even as the economic suffering of ordinary Americans continues to deepen, those who got big piles of bailout money are living the high life….

#1 According to Stephen Lewis of Monument Securities, luxury retailers in the United States have seen an 8.1 percent increase in sales compared to a year ago, while “discount stores” that cater to the poor and the middle class have only seen a 1.2 percent increase in sales compared to a year ago.

#2 The sad truth is that just about every company that deals in luxury goods is booming, while those that primarily serve ordinary Americans are not doing nearly as well.  Just consider the following quote from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph….

Tiffany’s, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue are booming. Sales of Cadillac cars have jumped 35pc, while Porsche’s US sales are up 29pc.

Cartier and Louis Vuitton have helped boost the luxury goods stock index by almost 50pc since October. Yet Best Buy, Target, and Walmart have languished.

#3 Elderly Americans in particular are really having a hard time of it right now.  A recent study by a law professor from the University of Michigan found that Americans that are 55 years of age or older now account for 20 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States.  Back in 2001, they only accounted for 12 percent of all bankruptcies.

#4 The number of Americans on food stamps has hit another all-time record.  There are now 43.2 million Americans enrolled in the food stamp program.

#5 According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, visits to soup kitchens are up 24 percent over the past year.

#6 Meanwhile, the price of food continues to go up.  This hits poor and middle class Americans much harder than it hits the wealthy.  According to a report on 55 top food commodities by the Food and Agriculture Organization, global food prices reached a new record high during December.

#7 Lester Brown, the president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, is publicly declaring that the world is just “one poor harvest” away from total chaos….

“The reality is that the world is only one poor harvest away from chaos. We are so close to the edge that politically destabilizing food prices could come at any time.”

#8 The price of clothes is also increasing dramatically.  It turns out that cotton is 80% more expensive now than it was back at the beginning of 2010.

#9 Americans will also be paying more at the gas pump this upcoming year.  In fact, former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister recently stated that Americans could be paying 5 dollars for a gallon of gasoline by the end of this upcoming year.

#10 Health insurance rates are also skyrocketing.  Blue Shield of California recently announced plans to raise health insurance rates by an average of 30% to 35% this year, and some individual policy holders could actually see their health insurance premiums rise by a whopping 59 percent.

#11 On top of everything else, the U.S. Census is now telling us that there are millions more poor people in America than they had previously calculated.  The U.S. Census Bureau recently revealed that the figure of 43.6 million Americans living in poverty that they announced last September was way too low and that actually 47.8 million Americans are now living in poverty.

#12 If all of these economic problems were not bad enough, now many state and local governments are seriously considering raising taxes.  In Illinois, there is now a proposal to raise state income tax rates by 75 percent.  A recent article that appeared on the CNBC website explained why Illinois is so desperate for cash….

In a moment when states around the country are wrestling with withered revenues, Illinois faces a deficit of at least $13 billion; more than $6 billion in unpaid bills to social service agencies, schools and funeral homes; the most underfinanced state pension system; and growing signs of concern from bond investors.

So won’t the big Wall Street banks and the ultra-wealthy get hit by these tax increases too?

Some of them will, but many of them have learned to “play the game” so well that they barely pay any taxes at all.

As I have written about previously, a third of all the wealth in the world is now held in offshore banks.  When taxes go up, the ultra-wealthy are not the ones that have their wealth “redistributed”.  Instead, it is poor saps like you and I that have our wealth “redistributed”.

In fact, the next time another “financial crisis” comes along, the financial “powers that be” will once again come running to Congress and come running to the Federal Reserve begging for more bailouts.

Now that the precedent has been set, it will only seem natural to redistribute even more of our wealth to the folks over on Wall Street so that we can “save” the financial system.

But the truth is that our financial system is completely doomed to fail in the long run and throwing our money into the financial system is like throwing our money into a black hole.

In the end, all of us are going to greatly suffer when the financial system finally crashes.  But for the moment the wealthy are partying with all of the money that they have looted from the rest of America, and the rest of us which were “small enough to fail” have been left to scratch and claw and fight with each other as we desperately try to survive in this horrible economy.

In The Future You May Not Be Able To Provide The Basics For Your Family Even If Everyone In Your Family Has A Job

Today, millions of American families are extremely stressed out because they are working as hard as they can and yet they find at the end of the month they still haven’t been able to pay all of the bills.  Unfortunately, things are only going to get rougher in the years ahead.  The U.S. government has reached a terminal phase of the debt spiral that it is trapped in, and the only way to keep the system going is to print more money, borrow more money and spend more money.  But won’t this cause horrible inflation eventually?  Of course it will.  That is why so many people around the world have so loudly denounced “quantitative easing 2”.  The Federal Reserve is just creating hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air and is chucking all of this money into the system in a desperate attempt to get it moving again.  This is also why the Tea Party movement is so angry about the record amounts of government debt that are being piled up.  When the U.S. government goes into more debt, it creates more dollars.  As the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government flood the system with new dollars, it means that there are now more dollars chasing roughly the same number of goods and services, and that is a recipe for inflation.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, however you want to look at it), most of this new money is trapped in the financial markets right now.  The first people that get their hands on all of this new money are banks, financial institutions and the folks down on Wall Street and right now they are hoarding much of it and much of it is going to pump up the stock market.

That is one reason why we saw such a tremendous bubble in commodities in 2010.  It is also a key reason why we have seen such a stock market “recovery”.

But eventually all of this new money is going to get into the hands of average U.S. consumers and it is going to start pushing the price of everything up.

Ronald Reagan once said that inflation is “as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber, and as deadly as a hit man.”  Ron Paul has called inflation a “hidden tax” on all of us, and that is exactly what it is.  All of the paper money that we are storing in the banks is losing a little bit of value every single day.  Over long periods of time, this loss of value becomes absolutely massive.  For example, did you know that the U.S. dollar has lost over 95 percent of its purchasing power since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913?

Unfortunately, as the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government continue to flood the system with new dollars in a desperate attempt to stimulate the economy, inflation is only going to get worse and worse and worse.

So enjoy the relatively tame inflation that we are enjoying for now.  The official U.S. government inflation rate has been hovering around 1 percent or so, but everyone knows that the official inflation rate is an absolute joke.  The government pulls different categories in and out of the inflation rate almost at will in an attempt to keep the numbers low.

One recent study that analyzed price movement of 86 products in Wal-Mart stores found that the “real” rate of inflation was approximately twice the “official” rate reported by the U.S. government.

Others are convinced that the official rate of inflation is even higher than that.  For example, John Williams of ShadowStats.com has closely studied inflation in the U.S. and he believes that it is currently hovering somewhere around 5 percent.

However, John Williams does not believe that inflation is going to stay at 5 percent for much longer.  He recently released a “Hyperinflation Special Report” for 2010 that everyone needs to read.  Personally, I do not agree with all of his conclusions and I do not believe that things are going to happen quite as quickly as he is projecting, but his overall analysis is sound.

The truth is that our financial system has now reached a terminal phase.  Just look at the chart below.  Really look at it.  How can any financial system survive debt that is rising this fast?  The printing and borrowing of money continues to spiral out of control with no end in sight.  It is hard to imagine any scenario in which we can even achieve a “soft landing”.  One way or another, this exploding debt is going to take us down…..

So are the politicians sorry that they have saddled us with all of this debt?

Well, just the other day Nancy Pelosi was directly asked this question and the following was her response….

“No, we have no regrets.”

In fact there are quite a few politicians running around in Washington D.C. that are still convinced “that deficits don’t matter” and that all this debt will never catch up with us.

Well, hold on to your hats, because this is going to be the decade when all of this debt really does start to catch up with us.

One of the ways that we are going to feel the pain is through inflation.

In the months and years ahead, wages will remain relatively stable and government entitlement payments will not increase much while prices for the basic things that American families need go through the roof.

Already we are starting to see some troubling signs of inflation.  In 2010, the price of almost every major agricultural commodity you can name shot up dramatically.  We are starting to see these price increases filter into the supermarket.  Some companies are trying to hide these price increases by shrinking package sizes.

Have you noticed this yet?  Have any of the packages that you buy regularly seemed to shrink in recent months?

Sadly, it looks like food prices are headed even higher.  According to a recent report by Reuters, world food prices hit an all-time record high in December….

World food prices rose to a record in December on higher sugar, grain and oilseed costs, the United Nations said, exceeding levels reached in 2008 that sparked deadly riots from Haiti to Egypt.

So what are you and your family going to do if a worldwide food shortage pushes food prices up significantly?

Another place where American families are really going to start feeling the pain is at the gas pump.

Do you remember back in October when I warned you that 100 dollar oil is coming?

Well, the price of Brent crude reached 95 dollars a barrel for the first time in almost two years on Monday.

Unfortunately, there are many who now believe that the price of oil is going to go a lot higher than that.

John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, believes that American consumers will likely be paying 5 dollars for a gallon of gas by the time 2012 rolls around.

So is your employer going to be paying you much more to keep up with rising gas prices?

Of course not.

And you know what?

When the price of oil rises, it affects the price of almost everything else in the stores, because nearly everything has to be transported in one way or another.

So why is the price of oil going up so much?  Well, of course there are speculators and of course the price of oil is highly manipulated, but one of the big reasons why oil is going up is because the U.S. dollar is losing value.

The cost of other basics is going up as well.  Have your health insurance premiums gone up lately?  All over the country, horrific health insurance premium increases are being reported.

Quite a few of the readers of this column have stated that they simply cannot afford health insurance anymore and so they are now doing without it.  There are millions of Americans that refuse to go to a hospital because there is no way they can pay for health insurance and there is no way they can pay the ridiculous fees charged by our hospitals today.

Sadly, in the months and years to come millions more working American families will be pushed into poverty-like conditions by rising inflation.

Already we are seeing huge numbers of American families that are working as hard as they can not being able to afford the basics.

A year-end survey conducted by Pew Research found the following….

*51% of Americans say that it is difficult to afford health care.

*48% of Americans say that it is difficult to pay their home heating and electric bills.

*29% of Americans say that it is difficult to afford food.

Those numbers should be quite sobering for us all – especially considering the fact that jobs are becoming very difficult to get.

According to the same Pew Research study, a staggering 46 percent of all Americans say that someone in their household has been without a job and looking for work at some point during the past year.

It can be really depressing to search for a decent job month after month after month when there doesn’t seem to be any out there.

The truth is that there are 7 million less middle class jobs in America today than there were just a decade ago.

So if even one person if your family has a decent job you should consider yourself to be very fortunate.

But sadly even families where everyone is working are going to continue to be stretched further and further financially as rapidly increasing inflation steals our purchasing power a little bit more every single day.

The “good times” are rapidly coming to an end.  The greatest debt-fueled party in the history of the world is wrapping up and you should enjoy it while you still can, because the years ahead are just going to be brutal.

20 Signs That The Health Care Industry Has Become All About Making As Much Money As Possible

Once upon a time in America, people became doctors and nurses because they wanted to help people, building hospitals was a labor of love, lawyers didn’t chase ambulances, health insurance companies did not openly abuse their customers and greedy pharmaceutical companies did not dominate the entire health care industry.  But today all of that has changed.  Why do most people choose a career in the health care industry today?  It is because they want to make a lot of money and live a comfortable lifestyle.  Why do most health facilities get built today?  They get built because someone is hoping to make a huge profit.  Why do so many lawyers specialize in medical malpractice?  Here’s a hint – it is not because they want to make life better for people.  Why do health insurance companies keep raising premiums even while they are making record profits?  It is because they can and because they are greedy.  Why are pharmaceutical corporations some of the most profitable companies on the face of the earth even though their products are harming tens of millions of people?  It is because our health care system has become wildly corrupt and is now about making as much money as possible.

Not that everyone in the health care industry is motivated by greed.  Some doctors and nurses volunteer a ton of their time to assist the poor and the needy.  Others use their vacation time to go overseas and provide free medical care in third world nations.  Many religious groups and non-profit organizations build hospitals and clinics because they are truly trying to help people.  And there are a few health insurance companies that are trying to play the game honestly.

But unfortunately, those with noble intentions in the health care industry are the exception rather than the rule.  Overall, the health care industry in America is all about the money, and it is about time that we quit pretending otherwise.

The following are 20 signs that the health care industry in the United States has become all about making as much money as possible….  

1 – Even as the rest of the U.S. economy deeply struggles, America’s health insurance companies increased their profits by 56 percent in 2009.

2 – According to a report by Health Care for America Now, America’s five biggest for-profit health insurers ended 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion.

3 – The top executives at the five largest for-profit health insurance companies in the United States received nearly $200 million in total compensation in 2009.

4 – According to an article on the Mother Jones website, health insurance premiums for small employers in the United States increased 180% between 1999 and 2009.

5 – Health insurance premium increases are getting totally out of control.  For example, the 39% increase in health insurance premiums that Anthem Blue Cross imposed on some California customers last year was so obscene that it made national headlines.

6 – Since 2003, health insurance companies have shelled out more than $42 million in state-level campaign contributions.

7 – There were more than two dozen pharmaceutical companies that made over a billion dollars in profits in 2008.

8 – Each year, tens of billions of dollars is spent on pharmaceutical marketing in the United States alone.

9Nearly half of all Americans now use prescription drugs on a regular basis according to a CDC report that was just released. According to the report, approximately one-third of all Americans use two or more pharmaceutical drugs, and more than ten percent of all Americans use five or more prescription drugs on a regular basis.

10 – According to the CDC, approximately three quarters of a million people a year are rushed to emergency rooms in the United States because of adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs.

11According to a very surprising new study, 85 percent of new pharmaceutical drugs are “lemons” and pose serious health risks to their users.

12 – The Food and Drug Administration reported 1,742 prescription drug recalls in 2009, which was a gigantic increase from 426 drug recalls in 2008.

13 – Shocking new research has found that expectant mothers taking antidepressants have an astounding 68 percent increase in the overall risk of miscarriage.  Yet the pharmaceutical companies are essentially doing nothing to stop this.

14 – The use of psychiatric medications among 18 to 34 year old members of the U.S. military and their wives increased by 42 percent between 2005 and 2009.

15 – There are some disturbing new medical studies that suggest that many of the most popular anti-depressant drugs are no more effective than a placebo.

16 – Pharmaceutical companies continue to rake in billions of dollars from selling vaccines and are encouraging even pregnant women to take them, even though there is mounting evidence that taking vaccines while pregnant dramatically increases the rate of miscarriage.

17 – One woman in New Hampshire is seeking more than $24 million in damages from the manufacturer of a prescription drug that she took for shoulder pain.  It turns out that as a result of taking the drug, she is now blind and has been left scarred by internal and external burns.

18According to one stunning new study, the medical liability system in the United States added approximately $55.6 billion to the cost of health care in 2008.

19 – Pharmaceutical companies have become so greedy that now they are even attempting to patent our genes.  It is being reported that over three million gene patent applications have been filed with the U.S. government so far.  Tens of thousands of gene patents have already been granted at this point.  It is estimated that companies hold approximately 40,000 patents on sections of the human genome right now.  Those patents cover approximately 20% of our genes. 

20 – According to a recent report, Americans spend about twice as much as residents of other developed countries on health care, but get much lower quality and far less efficiency in return.

Kicked In The Groin: Health Insurance Companies Are Dramatically Increasing Premiums Due To The New Health Care Law And There Is Not Much We Can Do About It

Wasn’t the new health care reform law supposed to make health care more affordable for everyone?  Well, imagine my surprise when I opened up a letter from my health insurance company recently and found out that my health insurance premiums were going up by nearly 50 percent.  I am in perfect health and I have never had a single health insurance claim with this company.  Unfortunately, after doing a little research, I discovered that I am far from alone.  All over the United States, people are being hit with double-digit percentage increases in their health insurance premiums even as the health insurance predators continue to rake in record profits.  At a time when millions of American families are barely making it from month to month, the last thing they need is to be figuratively kicked in the groin by the health insurance companies.  But that is exactly what is happening. 

Not that health insurance companies ever needed an excuse to raise rates, but in 2010 many of them are blaming changes in health care law for the dramatic rise in premiums. 

Of course it is true that there are over a dozen new taxes on the health care industry in the “health care reform” law that Barack Obama and the Democrats rammed down the throats of the American people, and everyone should have realized that those taxes would ultimately be passed on to the consumer.

But what is also true is that the health insurance companies basically wrote large sections of the health care reform law and health insurance company stocks rose when this new law was passed.

So why is this new law so good for health insurance companies?

Well, the new health care law requires all of us to purchase health insurance from them.

We are no longer going to have the choice of opting out of their system.

We are going to be forced to buy health insurance.

And since they are all raising rates, there is no escape from the pillaging.

As the new health care bill was being debated, Obama promised that the average American family would save $2,500 in yearly premiums under the new law.

If any of you still believe that claim I have got a bridge to sell you.

The Congressional Budget office says that yearly health insurance premiums are actually going to increase by about $2,300 each year as a result of the new law, but that estimate is probably far, far too low.

The truth is that rates are already shooting through the roof.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article on Fox News….

Here is the terse reason CareFirst/Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Washington gave its subscribers for raising a monthly premium from $333 to $512 on a middle aged man who is healthy, is not a smoker and is not obese: “Your new rate reflects the overall rise in health care costs and we regret having to pass these additional costs on to you.”

Could you afford to pay $512 a month for health insurance just for yourself?

Unfortunately, the truth is that this is nothing new.  Many health insurance companies have been increasing health insurance premiums by double-digit percentages year after year after year even as they continue to reel in record profits.

In particular, health insurance companies seem to love to stick it to small businesses and the self-employed.

According to an article on the Mother Jones website, health insurance premiums for small employers increased 180% between 1999 and 2009.

The greed of the health insurance companies seems to know no bounds.  For example, the 39% hike that Anthem Blue Cross sent some California customers last year made headlines across the nation.  But executives defended the dramatic premium hikes as perfectly justifiable.

The reality is that health insurance is becoming so insanely expensive that millions of Americans can’t even afford it anymore.

But thanks to the new health care law they are being forced to keep shelling out their hard-earned money for it.

It is getting really hard for anyone to deny that the health care system in the United States is deeply, deeply broken.  The new health care law is not going to reduce costs.  It is only going to help the health insurance companies continue to rake in obscene profits.

But wasn’t the new health care law supposed to prevent the health insurance companies from abusing all of us?

Well, as it turns out, the new health care law does not give the federal government much regulatory power at all to prevent premium increases.

But what about the states?

Can’t they do something?

Well, yes they can, but unfortunately most state legislatures have been bought off by the health insurance industry.

Since 2003, health insurance companies have shelled out more than $42 million in state-level campaign contributions.

That is a lot of money, and they wouldn’t be spending that kind of money if they did not expect a return for it.

“The pressure that the industry can bring to bear in state legislatures is unbelievable,” J. Robert Hunter, a former insurance commissioner in the state of Texas recently told the Los Angeles Times. “They pretty much get what they want.”

The cold, hard reality is that health insurance companies are not in business to help people and provide affordable health care.  They are in business to make money and they are very good at it.

But there are a few states that have stood up to the health insurance companies.  States that have “prior approval” laws have been able to successfully fend off some of the over-the-top rate increases that health insurance companies have been trying to ram down the throats of consumers.  For example, the Los Angeles Times recently reported on what has been happening in the state of Oregon….

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon was forced to cut back a proposed 26.4% increase in one of its individual plans to 17.3%. Other carriers were ordered to scrap altogether hikes as high as 20%.

Unfortunately, a number of these states that have these “prior approval” laws are now being sued by insurance companies.

That is how these folks work – they will either try to buy off politicians or they will keep filing lawsuits until they get what they want.

Meanwhile, the top executives at the five largest for-profit health insurance companies in the United States received nearly $200 million in total compensation in 2009.

Are you upset yet?

You should be.

And you know what?

When it finally comes time to actually use your health insurance, these predators will do anything they can to get out of paying up.

In fact, it has been documented that some of the largest health insurance companies actually pay their employees large bonuses for denying claims.  The employees who deny the most claims are the ones that get the largest bonuses.

The health care system in the United States is messed up beyond all recognition, and the new health care law has made things worse than ever.  Americans pay more than anyone else in the world for health care, and all that we get in return is a system that is deeply, deeply broken.

If you have a health insurance horror story of your own, please feel free to share it in the comments section below….

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