Uncovering Cover Oregon

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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124 Responses

  1. Avatar wardsmith
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    says:

    Dude you are GOOD! Didn’t take you long at all to put this together. You shouldn’t have admitted to thinking about it previously, just pretend you dashed it off in response to my request. 🙂

    BTW a typo occurred here they didn’t take about health insurance. I believe you meant talk. Otherwise an A+ OP in record time no less!Report

  2. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    So that was what the Oliver stuff was about…amazing. At least next time others can learn that private businesses and state governments are THE solution.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to greginak
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      says:

      You’re missing the point if you think that a state government/private business partnership screwing up is an argument against federalism and privatization. The point is that organizations of all kinds screw things up on a regular basis, so you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket by giving the federal government a monopoly.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        ummm yeah Brandon…i completely agree that orgs of any kind, fed, state, local, church, business, can commit serious fusterclucks. That is why i think it is unwise to reflexively push any of them as a solution. If you think not giving the Feds a monopoly is somehow not pushing one solution then you are missing not only my point, but your own. The feds may be the best solution in some cases, the states in others, etc.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        If you think not giving the Feds a monopoly is somehow not pushing one solution then you are missing not only my point, but your own.

        I’m pretty sure I know what my point is. When something is done at the Federal level, there will be one implementation. Unless the first attempt fails so miserably that no one can deny that it needs to be scrapped and replaced, that’s all there will be. When something is implemented privately or at the state level, there will be multiple implementations. Having multiple states or firms try multiple things is definitionally not pushing one solution.

        Some will be better or worse than others. This is not a failure of federalism or privatization—it’s the entire point. Over time the good solutions can replace the bad ones, since the states or firms that did it wrong will have a model to emulate.

        It makes sense to do things at the federal level when there are major collective action problems that negate the benefits of market or federalist experimentation. That isn’t true for many or most things the federal government does.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        If you think not giving the Feds a monopoly is somehow not pushing one solution

        By definition, not giving anyone a monopoly is pushing for multiple solutions.

        You can superficially skim over this by verbally reducing it to “the market” or “federalism,” but “the market” contains multiple competing actors (or if not, then we’re back to the monopoly problem and look for other solutions), and federalism involves 50 states, so potentially as many different solutions (althougj generally fewer in practice).

        The only approach that with certainty pushes a single solution is the national one. It’s not theoretically impossible for the federal government to latch onto the best solution, but there’s a lot of theory to suggest why it’s highly unlikely they will, and to suggest why they’re unlikely to improve if they don’t, or if they do but circumstances change or if they begin to stagnate.

        This is a general truth, not just related to health care.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        James,
        Darpa routinely runs competitions, getting the “best of breed” for tons of different research ideas.
        So even federal stuff can be run competitively.Report

  3. Avatar North
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    says:

    As an added bonus the League comes with it’s own North and he’ll be perfectly happy to make some lame ads in any flavor you want (cloying, sappy, smug etc) for only one or two million. Hell, throw in some Seahawks season tickets and I’ll drop it lower.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Do we know how successful this website would have been if Republicans had supported it rather than hamstrung Democrats every step of the way?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Even though the question was sarcastic, we do indeed: Exactly as successful as it was now.

      The Oregon GOP don’t have the juice to clog things up the way the national guys do, and even if they did they don’t really do the obstructionist thang here the way they do in DC.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I think i can find estimates of how many people would have medicare if the R governed states would except the funds. Would that help?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Dude, you could totally put together an actuarial table and talk about how many people the Republicans have killed (“murdered”?) by not accepting this money *AND*, better yet, you can talk about how many people’s lives have been saved by Obamacare coming in and filling in the gap!

        You can even put a pricetag on each individual life!

        Then we might be able to compare to the market rate and ask ourselves if we really should be doing X at the cost of Y and that sort of thing.

        So, yeah, if you could throw that together, that’d be the bomb diggity.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Sometimes it hard to remember you aren’t a republican Jay.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Did conservatism fail him, or has he failed conservatism?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Because I’m spending more time fighting against the people in power than against the people who aren’t?

        It’s so weird what “progressivism” turns into when “progressives” hold the reigns.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Fighting the people in power???? I thought this was a place for conversation. If we are fighting or supporting those in power by talking here shouldn’t we get t-shirts or something?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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        says:

        “Mocking”, then.

        It’s one of those weird things where I was, like, seriously *BANNED* from Redstate (right after Obama’s election, no less!) for being a libertine who only cared about marijuana and sodomy and now I get to watch “progressives” insinuate about how I’m a Republican.

        Hey Greg: Check Your Privilege.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak
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        says:

        I know you were banned from Redstate jay…its your badge of honor. If you use rushbo/fox news lines to mock liberals don’t be surprised where that gets you. Hell jay, your good enough to come up with your own mocking instead of right wing stuff. Why be lazy.

        Its almost like the idea of privilege of is just a joke to you. Just like rushbo.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Dude, you are deliberately attempting to “other” me in this conversation.

        I have argued against enough “real” Republicans to know that, yep, I ain’t one of them. Rather than just assuming that I was because, you know, I disagreed with Democrats.

        You should get out more. You might learn that there are more positions than “Mine” and “Republicans'”.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to greginak
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        says:

        “It’s one of those weird things where I was, like, seriously *BANNED* from Redstate (right after Obama’s election, no less!) for being a libertine who only cared about marijuana and sodomy and now I get to watch “progressives” insinuate about how I’m a Republican.”

        Yeah! Like that one guy who criticized the OP for blaming what had happened in Oregon on Republicans!

        Oh, wait…Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak
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        says:

        I guess it must be me then. My little red state world, because literately the only people ever heard use the line about R’s sabotaging OCare to attack D’s are rushbo conservatives. Just talk radio fodder w/o actually discussing the actual things R’s have done. So its clearly my lack of experience with free range R’s living in hippie dippie peoples republic of alaska.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Oh, Tod. Did you see my comment as a criticism of you?

        I would like to apologize if that’s how it came across.

        One of the big things I’ve noticed with many of the failures of the Democrats in the last six years or so is how “this would have worked if it weren’t for those meddling kids”. (Compare, of course, to the failures that happened under the Bush years.)

        “This would have worked if the other side would have worked with us rather than against us!” is one of those counterfactuals that gets really irritating when arguing against how maybe this isn’t something that government should be in charge of doing in the first place.

        Perhaps it’s tacky to spike the football on one of those things but, hey. I’m tacky.

        But the government shouldn’t be in charge of doing this sort of thing. Even if the democrats are in charge of it. Even if the republicans aren’t obstructing them.Report

      • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Of course nevermind that this is an area where there are plenty of counterfactual examples of government doing a good job with their exchange websites. Kentucky, or Connecticut, or New York, or California….just easier to hold up the one spectacular failure as though it means everything is a failure.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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        says:

        It certainly seems like we should put it in the “costs of what was attempted” pan to weigh it against the “look at Kentucky! They’ve achieved competence!” pan on the scales.

        “We spent this much money and ended up with 4 states that had decent websites.”

        Perhaps we could look at it as a “jobs program”.Report

      • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Given that each state had substantial leeway in deciding how to go about their exchange website, the idea that Oregon’s failure is somehow an indictment of everyone else is…well bizarre.

        Also, given that the enrollment numbers total for the country well exceeded estimates by CBO, I don’t think simply disparaging the whole thing as a “jobs program” is really all that helpful.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to greginak
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        says:

        @nobakimoto

        Stop bringing logic and facts into this conversation, Jaybird is trying to score points for libertarianism.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Yeah, @jaybird , I think we all pretty much get where you’re coming from. Something something jurisdiction blah blah. You don’t think the government should have anything to do with… well, much of anything, really. Except you’re not actually an anarchist, so you have this really short list of stuff that you’re maybe okay with government doing.

        So… basically you want government to do some stuff and not do some other stuff and maybe you’re even undecided on still other stuff. Maybe you even make lists if you’re so inclined. And that’s oh so incredibly special because that’s what freakin’ everybody does. We just have different lists is all.

        None of which has a blessed thing to do with the whats and whyfors of Oregon’s fished up website, now does it?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to greginak
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        says:

        First, that research is out there:

        http://annals.org/mobile/article.aspx?articleid=1867050

        Second, these conversations would go better if we weren’t swinging at invisible liberals or conservatives, and just talked about the facts and what people here are thinking about them.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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        says:

        None of which has a blessed thing to do with the whats and whyfors of Oregon’s fished up website, now does it?

        I guess it would depend on how much you see the government had to do with the program.

        Did we get into how Oregon’s exchange website “might have been the White House’s favorite exchange”?

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/05/20/oregon-may-be-the-white-houses-favorite-health-exchange/?tid=pm_business_pop

        Because, honestly, I find that pretty interesting in and of itself too.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Second, these conversations would go better if we weren’t swinging at invisible liberals or conservatives, and just talked about the facts and what people here are thinking about them.

        Fair enough and I take your point.

        One thing I kinda notice when I look at this is why there weren’t a number of points in the process where people said something to the effect of “hey, we’ve failed to hit a particular target… we need to stop and assess what it is that we’re doing”.

        Or one, even.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to greginak
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        says:

        I actually think that’s pretty common, in government and in business. And actually, come to think of it, even outside of both of those spheres. I think quite a lot of destructive family dynamics is perpetuated by the fact that we have so much invested in our point of view not being proven wring.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Just to be clear, the conservatives that are swung at are very visible:

        Limbaugh, Palin, Coulter, Gingrich, Levin, Bachman, Cruz, LaPierre, Hannity, Drudge, Rick Perry, George Will, etc., etc., etc.

        Basically every influential conservative writer or politician is deeply awful. The more conservative, the more awful.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to greginak
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        says:

        I don’t see any of those people you list here, but if you want to talk to about them, or talk to the people here who disagree with you as though they’re no different from those folks, I’m sure that will result in a conversation worth having.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Chris,
        I don’t see anyone currently around here doing much of anything, so pardon me if I occasionally talk about the people starting or worth an FBI investigation (or creating systems to eliminate FBI investigations).

        Talking about people with millions of dollars to throw around — yeah, there’s a reason they come up.

        That said, very few (if any) folks around here actually think like the Kochs. Hallelujah for that!Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to greginak
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        says:

        I think we are all missing the larger point, which is that Oregon just pissed away $250M and got nothing for it.

        Literally, nothing.

        That is money that could have fixed some roads or bridges (isn’t there a city in Oregon with a whole buttload of bridges that are getting old, I forget), or built some low-income housing, or financed some pee-shields for open freshwater reservoirs.

        Instead, pockets got lined, nothing useful was done, and worst of all, absolutely NO ONE will be held to account for this.

        I swear, the utter lack of accountability in our government, at all levels, is a big reason I just can not support our government in all but the most basic way.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak
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        says:

        MRS,
        I would be sincerely surprised if at least a few people weren’t resigned/fired for this one.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to greginak
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        says:

        @kim

        Perhaps, but it should be an HMFIC or three, not some poor schmuck one paygrade up from an intern who had his name somewhere on the contract who will be presented to the public as a key architect of the whole mess.

        Sorry, I just don’t trust our government, at any level, to take proper responsibility for this.

        I think about the Korean ferry sinking, and how the Prime Minister of SK resigned over it. He was (AFAIK) in no way directly responsible for the tragedy, and only in a very limited way indirectly responsible, yet he chose to accept responsibility & resign very soon after.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak
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        says:

        MRS,
        yeah, I hope that happens. I will be surprised if it doesn’t, actually. (or if the govnor doesn’t face some sort of electoral challenge because of this debacle. He ought to be questioned about it, as apparently it went past his desk).Report

  5. Avatar North
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    says:

    On a slightly more serious note, as long as the liberal culture wings can be relied on to relentlessly skewer our own partisans when they do something idiotic the danger of a solid ideological bubble forming will hopefully remain distant.Report

  6. Avatar veronica dire
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    says:

    A programmer had a problem; he hired Oracle — which at that point, I mean, just fuckit, no joke could be enough.

    AND THAT VIDEO!

    OMG thank the dead light of the stars for punk rock. If I had to listen to ten minutes of that I would jab a fork into my leg just to distract myself with pain.

    Anyway, sorry about the crappy website.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Confession: I’ve been secretly signing up Oregonians for health insurance since 1994.Report

  8. NobAkimoto NobAkimoto
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    says:

    One of the more interesting things about having public sector consultants as friends is that they did a fair amount of work on state exchange setup. Think I’ll ask if they have any good stories.Report

  9. Avatar ScarletNumbers
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    says:

    At least we don’t pump our own gasoline.Report

  10. Avatar Saul DeGraw
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    says:

    That video might be the most Portland/Hipster/Twee thing I have ever heard and I listen to Belle and Sebastian frequently.

    Covered CA worked very well for me despite some early fails because of overload. All the information was easy to get. In my experience most of the SNAFUs are with my insurance carrier. First they billed me for two months, then inexplicably I got a month or two free, then I received a bill for one month. I don’t get it.Report

  11. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
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    says:

    Tod, I rarely comment from my phone, but this was space awesome, so I’m making an exception.

    Bravo sir! Bravo!Report

  12. Avatar aaron david
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    says:

    Maybe Oregon forgot how to check its blind spot.Report

  13. Avatar zic
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    says:

    Oregon hired Oracle to create the site, and after that exactly what happened gets a little murky.

    When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn.

    Report

    • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto in reply to zic
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      says:

      Given the amount of money sloshing around projects like this one, you can see why everyone from IBM to Dell wants to remake themselves as an IT services company.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to NobAkimoto
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        says:

        I’m amazed that they got the federal site up and working. It was actually incredible how how it changed over time.

        From what I saw going through the process, they were pulling in SSA verification procedures, electronic medical records, tax records, and some amount of insurance history. (It is unclear to me if the medical-records came from some central data repository or from insurance files; I’m presuming the later, because it took some time for me to convince the system I no longer smoke.)

        So I don’t mean to be minimizing the problems Oracle faced, but that’s a lot of information to be pulled in and verified, and then used to set up a new account. And that was the other interesting thing that changed over the months from Dec. when enrollment began to March, when it ended. The federal system, on almost a daily basis, improved; it became clearer, the questions better focused, and simpler.

        Oracle may be really good at ‘enterprise’ solutions; which is really computer-speak for changing the headings on canned software reports and screens. But without some of the open-source talent they’ve managed to not pay salaries too, I seriously doubt they could program their asses out of a bathroom.

        I am not a fan of the company; I tried, I liked former President Chuck Phillips; I think he’s got potential to be a visionary. But he did not get the problems he was creating with the real programming talent in the world, and he (and probably most other big companies) let HR filter out talented folk because they don’t look pretty on paper.Report

  14. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    So all of us in the biz heard “Oracle” and immediately rolled our eyes, and Tod even had lots of facts about the crappiness of their effort. Yes they’re an extraordinarily wealthy corporation and their CEO is a freaking billionaire.

    Yup, the free market works.Report

  15. Avatar Shazbot3
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    says:

    Yeah the relatively small amount of money wasted by the government on the new healthcare bureacracy is much worse than the money wasted by private insurance company bureaucracies (15 cents of every dollar paid on healthcare) in the old system. Somehow.

    Yay private. Boo public.

    Such an informative debate. Maybe it will appear on Fox news.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Shazbot3
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      says:

      “the money wasted by private insurance company bureaucracies (15 cents of every dollar paid on healthcare) in the old system”

      Huh? How are you defining waste by insurers? Insurers usually do everything — claims, marketing, profit — with less than 5% of a premium dollar. How are they wasting more than 300% of all the money they don’t forward to taxes and providers?Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Huh? back at you, @tod-kelly . During the debates leading to ACA they were talking about profit and overhead being 10-30%, depending on the insurer. That’s why ACA has a provision mandating that 85% (IIRC) of premium dollars has to go to providers. Some people actually got rebate checks from their insurers.

        Five percent sounds more like a normal profit margin to me.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Profit != waste.

        In fact even if it’s rent it != waste; it’s just a transfer.

        You may not like the profit, and the dislike may be justified, but calling it waste is logically incoherent.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Seconding Road Scholar – Tod, where did you get those figures?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @road-scholar “During the debates leading to ACA they were talking about profit and overhead being 10-30%, depending on the insurer… Five percent sounds more like a normal profit margin to me.”

        That is correct, I was confusing profit margins and medical loss rations. Apologies.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        15 cents on the dollar, but that’s not all on the part of insurance companies.
        A lot of it is full time staffing for billing folks.
        Which Obamacare is fixing with EHRs that automate billing, so you don’t need people to actually know the codes and enter them properly.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Shazbot3
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      says:

      I’ll let Tod handle the statistics, but I want to point out that comparisons between government and private insurer overhead generally do not take into account the deadweight loss from taxation.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Huh? I’m still working on my first cup of coffee, but that doesn’t compute for me. I’ve heard complaints, which seem valid, that the overhead comparisons don’t take into account the way Medicaid/Medicare offloads certain costs to other agencies, primarily premium collection to the IRS and fraud detection to Justice.

        I’ve always associated deadweight losses primarily with sales taxes since corporate income taxes are paid on profits and are therefore a relatively minor component of the overall cost structure. Could you flesh out your thinking for me?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        I was thinking mainly of personal income and payroll taxes, since that’s where goverment gets most of its money. If the government raises taxes to pay for single-payer health care, that means more deadweight loss.

        That said, isn’t the corporate income tax the most distortionary tax? Corporate income taxes reduce expected returns, and investors can and do choose to invest in different countries based on expected returns.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        @brandon-berg

        There’s been a long-term downward trend in business formation.

        Interestingly, this trend walks correlates with the growing problems of health insurance cost. The linked study doesn’t investigate this; but I suspect the cost of health insurance may be one of the causes behind the trend — it always risky to launch a business; access to affordable health insurance is certainly a piece of that puzzle.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Unfortunately, the ACA not only fails to solve this problem, it doubles down on it.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        @mark-thompson

        I’m not sure I agree with that. It does double down on it for small businesses that grow to over 50/100 employees; before that, it creates room for companies to not provide health insurance at all and let employees purchase in the individual markets. Pre-ACA, the individual market is where pre-existing conditions and covered services were erratic a left many uninsurable.

        And even for growing companies on a shoe-string budget, as we discussed in the HL case, it may be cheaper to pay the penalties than purchase insurance.

        This is also one of those places where the details of the policy can be easily tweaked, and I won’t be surprised to see programs evolve that work hand-in-hand with SBA/financing grants that many states offer.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Two indicators trending downwards over the period of a couple of decades doesn’t really tell us much. All kinds of things have trended downwards over the same period, and most of them aren’t related.

        The suggested causal mechanism is not particularly plausible, either. Generally a business will pay up to a worker’s marginal productivity in total compensation. That includes the cost of providing benefits. So if the cost of benefits goes up, wages have to go down to compensate. This isn’t true when you run up against the lower bound of the minimum wage, but minimum-wage workers at small firms generally don’t get employer-provided health insurance anyway, do they?

        This is pure speculation, but I suspect that a more likely explanation for the decline in firm formation is that information technology has increased economies of scale by making it easier to coordinate very large business operations, allowing national chains to more effectively outcompete small businesses.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        For example, many less developed countries have a very high rate of firm formation, because many people just go into business as street vendors rather than getting jobs. This isn’t really a good thing—just a symptom of the economy not being very well organized.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        it creates room for companies to not provide health insurance at all and let employees purchase in the individual markets.

        A tangential question: are the subsidies for purchasing insurance structured in a way that discourages employment, or getting a marginal wage increase? Or do they avoid that danger?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        Brandon,
        Go talk to any of a bazillion independent contractors. Or Authors. There are tons of ways to manage a business, and Obamacare favors little tiny ones.

        I’m not nearly as concerned about deadweight loss from taxation as I am about incentivizing slavery, but we’ve all got our own priorities, I suppose.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        @jm3z-aitch I don’t know the answer to that.

        I’ve been looking for good information on how the subsidies decline as wages increase; I do not think it’s progressive; thus far, it seems that the subsidies hold you above poverty level, and your income can increase from there until you are no longer eligible and shoulder the full cost; to see a wage increase in take-home pay, it would need to be an increase above poverty level + premium cost.

        I am just guessing on this, however. If I’m correct, any pay increase someone receives who eligible for a subsidy would go directly into the premium costs and the subsidy would decline. (But the taxpayers are also shouldering less of the burden, too.)Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg
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        says:

        A tangential question: are the subsidies for purchasing insurance structured in a way that discourages employment, or getting a marginal wage increase?

        Well, they increase implicit marginal tax rates. And there’s the income effect from providing subsidized health insurance to people who don’t work. There may be a cliff depending on the price of unsubsidized insurance (the subsidy caps prices at a certain percentage of income until your income reaches a certain level), but it’s fairly high, at a level where most people would be getting health insurance from work anyway.

        Recall that many people, including Erik Kain in a post here, were promoting the fact that this would allow people to quit their jobs and get subsidized health insurance as a positive feature of the bill. And there was that CBO report that predicted it would result in people voluntarily working about 2% fewer hours.Report

  16. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    “•Oregon apparently never specified in its contract with Oracle what the website had to do, which might make suing Oracle for damages difficult or even impossible.
    •Because of that contract snafu, Oracle is falling back on its enormous brass balls to make the excuse that no one ever said the website had to actually work. How could they have known that actually working was a desired deliverable?”

    You’d think Oregon has a Contracting officer that, you know, makes sure there are deliverables in the contract to measure performance and spells out the A-shalls and B-shalls of how the system will perform. The fact that they didn’t doesn’t mean Oracle is to blame, quite the opposite. It’s not the contractor’s job to write the contract specs. That’s all on Oregon. We I in the same situation I’d see the contract as a “best effort”. “Not in the contract, you pay extra. Here’s our hourly rates.”

    Ah, you can’t fix stupid, but you can exploit it!

    Todd, what Oregon needs is a nice investigation that results in firing and other things to Oregon ‘crats. This massive failure needs a few sacrificial cows. No ‘crat should be THIS incompetent.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      Yeah. um, bigtime. I think everyone can agree that the contracting office needs a giant “WTF” and fire someone, possibly half the office.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Damon
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      says:

      “Todd, what Oregon needs is a nice investigation that results in firing and other things to Oregon ‘crats. This massive failure needs a few sacrificial cows. No ‘crat should be THIS incompetent.”

      I tend to agree. There are other much-covered projects that seem to have been railroaded through with what ended up being outright lies about the scope of cost, such as a tram for our health university and a proposed bridge across the Columbia river to Washington. (And FTR, that’s not just political mudslinging. it’s been the liberal Willamette Week that’s uncovered most of this stuff.)

      It’s hard not to wonder if there is some degree of corruption moving wheels inside the state apparatus with these projects.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      Damon: “You’d think Oregon has a Contracting officer that, you know, makes sure there are deliverables in the contract to measure performance and spells out the A-shalls and B-shalls of how the system will perform. The fact that they didn’t doesn’t mean Oracle is to blame, quite the opposite. It’s not the contractor’s job to write the contract specs. That’s all on Oregon. We I in the same situation I’d see the contract as a “best effort”. “Not in the contract, you pay extra. Here’s our hourly rates.””

      If the contract was truly that badly written, I’d look for corruption, with the only question being in the contracting office or with the politicians.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Oregon apparently never specified in its contract with Oracle what the website had to do…

      Oregon is not alone. This is a disturbingly common occurrence in state government software procurement in general, under both Democrats and Republicans. I admit that writing a good functional spec is hard, and a bit of a black art, but that’s no excuse for not even trying.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Before greginak or anyone else jumps in, I’ll point out that contract language failures are not the domain of corrupt bureaucrats alone.

      When I worked for giant aerospace, it became a public secret that the vendor contracts were written by lawyers with either no input from engineering, or engineer input was ignored.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        Yep, that’s why you don’t throw something together and release it to vendors. You actually have to think about what you want and review the specs with relevant internal groups. Who’d a thunk?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        Yeah, I’m not in aerospace, but we got a peek once at the contract for one of our (huge company, critical-to-our-business-function) IT vendors and were *absolutely appalled*.

        There was nothing in there specifying that, you know, the fact that we had been unable to process work for DAYS ON END due to their system malfunction/non-function was an actionable breach of terms.

        Whether our lawyers were incompetent, theirs were good, or the management of both companies had proceeded on verbal/handshake trust basis (or some combo) I can’t say, but I’d bet this sort of thing happens all the time, and it’s not strictly a governmental failing.

        The only way in which it’s worse with government is that the “investors” (taxpayers) didn’t (directly) choose to invest in such incompetence, and they can theoretically be forced (at gunpoint if need be) to keep “investing”, instead of cutting their losses and divesting.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Damon
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s not the contractor’s job to write the contract specs.

      Well… silly as it sounds, sometimes it is, at least at any level of detail that can be checked. Imagine you’re the poor schmuck in Oregon on whom the job of “specifying” the system landed. Hundreds of pages of the PPACA; thousands of pages of regulations as of then unwritten; required but unspecified interfaces to the Social Security Administration, your own state’s Medicaid intake system, the insurance companies. An unknown number of dependencies that will emerge down the road: for example, since it touches Medicaid, are you bound by the nightmare that is HIPAA? But you have to have a signed contract in three months. And it’s just you, because the legislature authorized money but no new head count.

      What Oracle and EDS and Deloitte often sign on for is to do all of that research, then to specify the system, then to build it. With language in the contract so that if the money runs out (at $300/hr for people waiting for Health and Human Services to issue the requirements, then modify them, then throw them out after a lawsuit and rewrite them…) before the system is working, well, that’s just the way thing are.

      Three years as a member of the legislative budget stuff was amazingly educational: some of it good, some of it terrifying.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        Mike,
        I got no problem with paying outsiders to write the contract. So long as you specify some deliverables — “site works, signs up X number of people in Y time following XYZ laws”. (HIPAA isn’t that much of a nightmare, imnsho).Report

  17. Avatar J@m3z Aitch
    Ignored
    says:

    Oregon’s governor (an ex-emergency room surgeon)

    Good ol’ Kitz. He always struck me as the perfect Democrat: a sincerely decent person who cares deeply about others’ well-being, but mildly delusional about government’s capacities. I’m pretty sure I voted for him once upon a time. I probably wouldn’t now, but I still can’t help but like him.Report

  18. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    So you Oregonians blew through a quarter of $1 billion on a project that did no good, produced no tangible result, and rendered your state a laughingstock?

    Pikers! I think I’m due for another update on The California high-speed rail construction project.Report

  19. Avatar Lyle
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    says:

    More on the IT side: This is just one of a vast number of smash failures on the IT side. Here is a link to an IEEE spectrum article on software failures. http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/why-software-fails From the article here is a list of causes of the failures:

    Unrealistic or unarticulated project goals
    Inaccurate estimates of needed resources
    Badly defined system requirements
    Poor reporting of the project’s status
    Unmanaged risks
    Poor communication among customers, developers, and users
    Use of immature technology
    Inability to handle the project’s complexity
    Sloppy development practices
    Poor project management
    Stakeholder politics
    Commercial pressures

    Note that the governor started off at the top with what I call making best the enemy of good enough, by making the exchange the finest in the land he fell hook line and sinker for best ignoring the idea that the best is never realizable in IT. Clearly also the folks did not have much experience in contracting.
    The whole exchange situation nationwide suggests that we need to recall that good software is hard, very hard.
    Search for software failures on the web and not the number of failures for ERP systems as well as other failures such as the FBI. Or note the little issue last week where flights in the LA area were grounded because a U-2 flying at 60,000 feet was seen by the software as conflicting with lower flying planes.
    The problem has been known for a long time see the Mythical Man Month about problems in writing the operating system for the first IBM 360s in the 1960s. Or see heartbleed a couple of weeks ago.
    It seems that folks that don’t know much about software development are easily sold a bill of goods by the sales types for the development organizations.
    Or note that the IRS still uses old systems because they have not been able to implement a workable more modern system. This is why COBOL is still important.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Lyle
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      says:

      Ditto to all Lyle said, with the caveat that all of this is generalizable beyond IT.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Lyle
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      says:

      Hell, just look at the pentagon. Somehow the 3 major branches of the military all wound up with completely different ammunition inventory systems that can not talk to each other. As a result, they can not share inventories, so if the army has more bullets than it needs, instead of saving the Marine Corps some ammo budget, it has to destroy the ammunition.

      To the tune of ~$1.2BReport

  20. Avatar Barry
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    says:

    Zic: “From what I saw going through the process, they were pulling in SSA verification procedures, electronic medical records, tax records, and some amount of insurance history. (It is unclear to me if the medical-records came from some central data repository or from insurance files; I’m presuming the later, because it took some time for me to convince the system I no longer smoke.) ”

    One of the things that I heard cause a lot of problems with the federal exchange was that these systems were never intended to work with a web-based central system. That system hit them with a very large volume of individual requests for data on a single person, and they bogged down.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Barry
      Ignored
      says:

      Yes. My first career was doing this kind of work with a state gov. (I wrote some of the prototype welfare fraud detection systems in the early 1980’s). There are some significant problems of actually matching records across data source, combined with an onslaught of requests for data in a brief time period.

      Even having the necessary data available may be a problem; some places are still running batch record updates, I’m sure. I know COBOL code I wrote 25+ years ago is still being used today.

      I’m unclear how much of a state exchange is developed by the state and how much is backend run by the feds, too.Report

  21. Avatar Barry
    Ignored
    says:

    Brandon Berg

    “This is pure speculation, but I suspect that a more likely explanation for the decline in firm formation is that information technology has increased economies of scale by making it easier to coordinate very large business operations, allowing national chains to more effectively outcompete small businesses.”

    This has been suggested, along with the idea that there might be a mid-level effect: IT allows large firms to achieve more economies of scale + flexibility, while allowing smaller firms to do things once only doable by mid-size firms (as well as contract more easily).

    I have heard that a study comparing Canada and the US found that more people formed small businesses[1] in Canada, with the primary driver being healthcare. A couple with children in the USA would be severely penalized for dropping employer-provided healthcare.

    [1] And yes, they considered other factors, such as the size of the different markets in regions of Canada and the USA; they were quite aware that one national economy and population was much larger than the other.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Barry
      Ignored
      says:

      There are all kinds of weird dynamics to this, too. First, it would have varied by state because pre-ACA, state law spelled out insurance requirements.

      But even within that framework, most employer-provided insurance covered maternal care, for instance, while individual plans did not and riders to cover maternal care were cost prohibitive. Not to mention the whole pre-existing condition issues many people faced.Report

  22. Avatar wardsmith
    Ignored
    says:

    @zic Re your fine comment up there as a small business former and serial entrepreneur I feel somewhat qualified to address the point. Frankly it has become MUCH more difficult to form a small business in the past 20 years and in that time I’ve formed and/or invested in no less than a dozen. My current business and the one I’m playing hookey from to play on this site lost our best employee, a Phd in Chem E because we gave him a raise. Why is that you ask? Taxes, state and federal combined to give him $300/mo take home LESS than he was making before a $500/mo raise. More later have to runReport

    • Avatar Kim in reply to wardsmith
      Ignored
      says:

      What are the obstacles you see to forming a small business?
      (What firm, if you are at liberty to tell, did he go to?)

      [I am surprised you couldn’t find some way to compensate him without leaving that particular paper trail. Say, covering half/all his telephone expenses, with a paper tiger of a “you’re on call”.]Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to wardsmith
      Ignored
      says:

      ” Taxes, state and federal combined to give him $300/mo take home LESS than he was making before a $500/mo raise. More later have to run”

      How the heck did that happen?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Barry
        Ignored
        says:

        Breakpoints. Perhaps he passed the 0% tax threshhold.Report

      • Avatar Lyle in reply to Barry
        Ignored
        says:

        Although someone with a PhD in Chem E should not be there, what if the EITC phaseout hit them. That would be the big thing, and 6k per year could walk one off the top of that. It is clear that one would have to be on the lower end of the income scale for that to happen. (perhaps also falling off Medicaid). The marginal tax rates as one falls off programs at the lower end of the scale far exceed those at the top, which as a bit later suggests, run at most 43% federal, and 16% state (less 6.4 reduced federal taxes). Yes you do get a phase down of federal deductions but that is at most about 6% of deductions for 6k a year.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to wardsmith
      Ignored
      says:

      I normally ignore your comments, sort of an informal kill-file, but this time I have to call bullshit. It’s mathematically impossible. You would have to have a combined marginal rate structure north of 100%. With the top Federal bracket at something less than 40% and FICA/Medicare at a combined 7.62% that would imply a state marginal rate greater than 50%. The wiki machine tells me the top state marginal rate is 16%.

      Therefore, you are (pick one); a) lying through your teeth (or fingers, I guess), or b) too innumerate to correctly figure your employees’ paychecks, or c) utterly contemptuous of your audience here and assume none of us would catch your “error” (really a correlary to a.).Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to wardsmith
      Ignored
      says:

      That sounds a bit off, @wardsmith ; I’d have to wonder if something else was happening, like dependents growing old enough to no longer be a deduction, etc. There are things that will increase withholdings.

      I run my own business; my husband run our own sole-prop businesses for years, I’ve owned businesses with employees, and we have several investments in start-up companies both in the US and Europe. Last year, pre-ACA, our insurance expenses had gotten so out of control that my husband took a day job that provided insurance; we simply could not afford not to. Except for the company in Europe, health insurance has been the line of difficulty in all these endeavors. I also reported on small business both regionally and nationally, and for companies, young or old, with few employees (and so small risk pools), it’s a nightmare. I did a lot of exit interviews; telling the tales of people shuttering their businesses, sometimes after generations. What I heard was 1) health insurance and 2) Chinese competition; both, combined were the problem.

      I do think we have serious problems with how much it costs to hire employees; but that’s not just taxes, it’s unemployment insurance, workmen’s compensation insurance, the costs of payroll processing, etc. It’s a lot cheaper to have one person work 50 hours a week, even with overtime, than two or three people.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic
        Ignored
        says:

        I’ve seen it said many times that single payer would be a tremendous benefit to entrepreneurs.

        I have no idea if that is true, nor do I have the tools to figure it out myself. But it makes a certain basic sense.Report

      • Avatar Lyle in reply to zic
        Ignored
        says:

        Typically for many years the cost of an employee runs from 1.4 to 1.7 to possibly up to 2.0 times the wages paid, if you include all other costs. Note that an employee also incurs some percentage of the supervisors time as well.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-dire

        It sort of depends on the business and the founder’s goals. Part of this is what ‘entrepreneurial’ means; we tend to call all people who start businesses entrepreneurs, and that’s somewhat a misnomer. An entrepreneurial business — the kind that create jobs — will grow and grow quickly. These are the companies we need for job formation, and when people talk about company formation, that’s often what they’re getting at.

        So take two plumbers, Joe and Jane.

        Joe just wants a steady flow of jobs so that he can pay his mortgage, have a snowmobile or two, take a few weeks off each year to go hunting and fishing, and save a little for retirement and his kid’s college. He may start his own business, run it out of his garage, hire a journeyman plumber or two, purchase a truck or two. For his purposes, ACA and the exchanges will be a benefit.

        Now Betty, on the other hand, she wants big jobs doing plumbing for new hospitals, secure military installations, etc. She plans to start with a warehouse and a staff of 50 plumbers and other workers, and grow that business to 2,000 over ten years. That’s an entrepreneurial company; and one where the cost of health insurance, particularly while she’s only got a small number of employees and so a small risk pool, will be a significant issue. ACA will not be as much a benefit for Betty as it is for Joe, it will, to some small extent, increase her hiring costs.

        So when we talk about things like this, we tend to call anybody who starts a business an entrepreneur, but most businesses people start are not entrepreneurial. And @mark-thompson and @kim were both right up thread, ACA may hurt the growth of entrepreneurial businesses, but it will be a boon to the Joe the Plumbers of the world; for it will allow them to leave corporate employment to launch their own small business without fearing loss of health insurance.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic
        Ignored
        says:

        @zic — Makes sense. Thanks.Report

    • Avatar Wardsmith in reply to wardsmith
      Ignored
      says:

      This was on my mind because I just finished signing the IRS forms due the 30th and remember from that. I can get the paper file tomorrow but the particulars are he was making $7500 per month and we bumped him to $8000. The raise IIRC was back in November. The state taxes are Illinois. Fed taxes were about 1400 and state was about 375. I need the file to see last year’s numbers. State took the biggest jump as I recall.

      BTW this had nothing to do with ACA or health insurance. There also was an L&I issue because the state acted like he was mixing hazardous chemicals in a (non existent) lab. We got past that eventually but overpaid for several months while arguing with them and naturally the bankrupt state never reimbursed us.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Wardsmith
        Ignored
        says:

        naturally the bankrupt state never reimbursed us

        That being Illinois, I assume you’re meaning morally bankrupt. 😉Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Wardsmith
        Ignored
        says:

        There also was an L&I issue because the state acted like he was mixing hazardous chemicals in a (non existent) lab. We got past that eventually but overpaid for several months while arguing with them and naturally the bankrupt state never reimbursed us.

        Can you tell me more? What do you mean by ‘L&I?'(I loved writing stories about stuff like this, btw.)Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Wardsmith
        Ignored
        says:

        State withholding rules are weird, but there’s a difference between “what comes out of your paycheck” and “what you actually wind up paying in taxes”, which might explain some of this differential.Report

  23. Avatar Patrick
    Ignored
    says:

    Notice Forthwith!

    For all and sundry municipalities, communities, states, commonwealths, and other legal entities which are associated under the federal government the United States of America.

    If you’re thinking about signing an IT contract, I will arrange a consultant team that will show up and sit as an intermediary between you and your potential service provider. For a low, low price, we will make sure that you, the governmental entity that knows nothing about technology, will not become a national laughingstock and be out tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.Report

  24. Avatar Miss Mary
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    says:

    I haven’t had to withstand so much teasing for being a native Oregonian since I lived in Texas. 🙁Report

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