Nel's New Day

April 25, 2017

Zombie Health Care Bill Returns

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 9:40 PM
Tags: , , , ,

After petulantly demanding his “beautiful wall” for the past week, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) blinked and withdrew his demand last night. That leaves the specter of his health care—if at first you don’t succeed, try try again—and make it worse. That’s the case with DDT’s latest incarnation he wants for at least one legislative notch on his first 100 days.

The deal tries to bring in the ultra-right wing of the House by allowing waivers for states that want to charge higher—far higher—premiums to the 52 million people with pre-existing conditions that can include depression, obesity—even pregnancy. This is a partial list of how much could be added to regular health insurance premiums for different conditions. [Note: These costs aren’t the premiums; they’re the extra!]

  • Breast Cancer: $28,660
  • Pregnancy: $17,060
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: $26,180
  • Lung cancer: $71,880
  • Diabetes: $5,510
  • Drug dependence: $20,140
  • Asthma: $4,270
  • Metastatic cancer : $142,650

With the new bill, states could also exempt the Essential Health Benefits from insurance if they could show that it would lower premiums, increase the number of people insured, or “advance another benefit to the public interest in the state.” Essential Health Benefits: care outside the hospital, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehab services, lab services, preventive care and chronic disease management, and pediatric services. These covers almost all health care needs, meaning that insurers can disallow all health care in health insurance or make it so expensive that people would choose to go without the insurance.

Another waiver available to the states under the proposed law would loosen restrictions on higher premium charges for older people over those for younger people. In addition, the bill would provide high-risk pools for people who couldn’t afford insurance, but these have been proved failures, underfunded by government with poor coverage and high costs.

DDT has promised everyone that “Obamacare” is a disaster, and he has plans to make sure that he’s right. Instead of leaving it alone, he is working on regulations that help the insurance companies and hurt the consumers.

  • The sign-up period is cut in half, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017 instead of lasting until Jan. 31, 2018.
  • Insurance companies can refuse to sell policies to consumers who fail to make all their premium payments this year instead of a 90-day grace period before losing their insurance.
  • People who need to obtain coverage after the open enrollment must provide documentation that they have had such life changes as marriage, having a child, or moving.
  • The IRS stopped its plans rejecting tax returns if people did not say whether they had coverage.
  • Advertising for the Affordable Care Act, available until January 31, 2017, was pulled immediately after DDT’s inauguration: although enrollment was ahead of the previous year through mid-January, the final 2017 enrollment was down four percent.
  • Coverage may be less comprehensive with less coverage, lowering the value of tax credit subsidies for premiums.
  • Tax subsidies may be reduced so that premiums won’t be affordable for low- and middle-income people.

DDT has also threatened to cut off cost-sharing reductions paid to insurers covering the poorest enrollees. In addition to great instability, DDT’s “plan” will cause premium costs to skyrocket in addition to increased costs for taxpayers.

And DDT can do worse:

  • Broaden or narrow the definitions of some of the 10 broad benefit categories  which de facto eliminates them.
  • Depress enrollment by drastically expanding the definition of “hardship” which exempts people from the individual mandate.
  • Drop the former administration’s legal defense of an ACA rule mandating contraception coverage.
  • Impose work requirements on low-income people on Medicaid expansion.
  • Carry through with the promised 17.9 percent cut in the HHS budget.
  • Let the software and personnel architecture crumble.
  • Allow disastrous waivers to states for “experiments.”

An example of the last problem could happen in Kentucky. The state developed an exemplary health care system, but it lost many of its gains with a GOP governor, Matt Bevin, who wants to administer vision and dental Medicaid through punishment. Desperate to gain back the bad publicity he received with his threat to take health care from 18 percent of his residents, he set up “MyRewards Accounts” in which poor people will be required to meet a list of prorated behavioral requirements for their health care. People on Medicaid will lose their vision and dental care with paying premiums and a $1,000 deductible. Bevin says that they can earn back these costs with such good behavior as job training, health screening, smoking cessation, volunteering, and educational programs.

Linking accounts to work comes from a misconception about people who need Medicaid that Bevin and millions of others hold. In Kentucky, only 15 percent of people on Medicaid are abled adults—in fact, almost 50 percent are children—and most of these adults are already working, looking for work, or in school. Of the others, three-fourths are caretakers for a family member. That’s a small number of people for a massive expensive and invasive database which will be privatized.

Bevin’s plan would give negative “MyRewards” chits, actually fines, for going to the emergency room too often. For example, the first visit would cost $20 and would go up to $75 by the third visit. The ER can be the only health care for a person who cannot find a provider who accepts Medicaid. The plan also fails to understand the loop of how less-covered people are sicker and sicker people are less able to work.

The cockamamie idea comes from Medicaid restrictions by Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana. Pence got his idea from Seema Verma, the current administrator of Medicare and Medicaid Services. Although some employers use wellness incentive programs, they are positive and not punitive like Pence’s and Verma’s plan that keeps people from any health care if they don’t accomplish the goals.

Insurers must set their premiums in the market exchanges for 2018 by June 21, 2017. Dana Milbank wrote:

“’The evidence is strong that the ACA is not dying of natural causes, but with the president’s recent comments it’s clear that it could die of suspicious causes,’ says Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan outfit that studies health care. In the current environment, insurers ‘are just not going to stick around and take big risks,’ Levitt tells me. ‘They’ll just take their marbles and invest elsewhere. It would be a very rational decision.’”

Before DDT put his little hands on the health care system, it was healthy. The credit-rating agency Standard & Poor found “marked improvement” in the individual market for most Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers that were forecast to be “close to break-even margins” in 2017. Disruptive actions, however, block the market’s stability and cause insurers to either raise their prices or just leave it.

DDT may be playing a dangerous game. A Kaiser poll revealed that 61 percent would blame DDT and the GOP for any upcoming problems with the Affordable Care Act, compared with 31 percent who would blame President Obama and the Democrats. DDT’s new regulations make it “Trumpcare.”

The end result of DDT’s new regulations is like a teacher telling students that they will fail a class and then changing their answers to make sure it happens. And a majority of people in the U.S. disagree with destroying “Obamacare”: 61 percent want “Obamacare” kept and fixed, and a larger number—79 percent–want DDT to make the current law work and not fail. In addition, 62 percent want nationwide minimum insurance coverage standards, and 70 percent want mandatory protection for pre-existing conditions. These figures show a marked increase after the GOP’s pitch for “Trumpcare” since DDT’s inauguration.

The conservative Freedom Caucus may be on board with DDT’s new plan. Tomorrow we may find out what the other Republicans in the House think of taking health care away from their constituents.

March 25, 2017

Health Care Won—At Least for Now

Eighteen days ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) talked to reporters about the newly introduced health plan written behind closed doors, probably by aides:

 “We will have 218 votes. This is the beginning of the legislative process. We’ll have 218 when this thing comes to the floor. I can guarantee you that.”

Yesterday, just seven years and one day after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the GOP plan, distorted during the past few days by providing even fewer services than the original, died. House Republicans had entered over 50 bills to kill the ACA, many of them passing after the GOP gained a majority in the chamber, but Ryan was positive that the GOP takeover of both Congress and the executive branch would guarantee his success. Yet the Party of No is helpless in the face of Yes. Their work involved no stakeholders, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) followed his usual pattern of bullying threats instead of actually selling the bill.

Massive loud protests against the repeal of the health plan, steadily growing in popularity, pushed more moderate representatives to vote against the bill for fear of retaliation in their own district from people who would lose coverage. The Koch brothers’ promised to defend anyone voting no when they ran for re-election after DDT said that no voters would lose the next election. By the end of the debacle, only 17 percent of voters supported Ryan’s plan.

DDT blinked and lost the game of chicken. He canceled the vote rather than suffer the embarrassment of losing, but it’s obvious that he lost. With no experience or clout to lead his party, DDT lobbied 120 congressional members, “left everything on the field” in negotiations, and lost. In his ghost-written book The Art of the Deal, DDT claimed, “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off you’re back.” He repeats that the negotiator needs “to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are.” DDT didn’t realize that legislators aren’t contractors. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) did a training session for the House Freedom Caucus on DDT’s book, complete with poster.

During his campaign, DDT managed to con voters into believing that he knows “the art of the deal,” that he can be the closer. Ezra Klein explains why DDT as president is a loser:

“Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products…. He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.”

DDT wasn’t alone in the Trumpcare con; he had company from Ryan, who Paul Krugman called “The Flimflam Man.” Ryan lied when he said that Trumpcare would lower premiums, end the “death spiral,” and increase choice. Premiums would have skyrocketed unless people chose junk insurance plans with no coverage, and the extra 24 million people without insurance, along with people who couldn’t afford full coverage, would cause a death spiral. Ryan proposed a tax plan for the rich under the name of health care and failed.

The bill began with a high “age tax”—raising premiums and expenses for older, working adults—and added the “mommy tax” that greatly added expenditures for maternity coverage while diminishing its availability. Asked about people living in a state that doesn’t require maternity coverage in insurance, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in.” He clarified his statement by saying he didn’t mean move out of the state but to change the law. Republicans also ridiculed other insurance benefits for over half the nation’s population. For example, Alice Ollstein tweeted about her Kansas senator:

“I asked Sen. Roberts if he supports scrapping Essential Health Benefits. “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms,” he snarked.”

Ollstein survived breast cancer discovered during a mammogram for preventative care. These are the people–no estrogen and largely white–who met to decide what services should be cut for women.

[A bit of humor….]

Trumpcare was so bad that Ryan’s only solution in getting it passed was speed. The cruel additions to woo ultra-conservatives by eliminating Essential Health Benefits was added only the day before Ryan hoped to call a vote. Among the items as unnecessary health care are maternity and newborn care, emergency room services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental illness care, laboratory services and pediatric services.

DDT’s “skill” is to always blame someone else. Finger-pointing shifted so fast that digits blurred. DDT with DDT’s his chief of staff Reince Priebus and Ryan, accusing them of faulty content and bad timing. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price also got blamed because he was put in the job to pass Trumpcare—although DDT assigned that job to Mulvaney. DDT claimed he wanted to start with tax reform that would have been “far less controversial.” (We’ll see!) Ryan was a popular scapegoat on the Fox network. The Wall Street Journal blamed the House Freedom Caucus for their “insisting on the impossible over the achievable,” and DDT took after this group too, telling them that he would tell their constituents that they were voting in favor of Planned Parenthood.

Despite 34 no votes from Republican representatives, DDT ultimately settled on the Democrats publicly when he whined that not one of them voted for Trumpcare, despite his failure to ask them for support. DDT and the GOP will continue to exaggerate any problems of the ACA, and the media will most likely focus on problems rather than the successes because a train-wreck films better than a satisfied person.  The GOP may also try to sabotage efforts to improve the ACA.

DDT is failing in office for the same reason that he succeeded in his campaign—weak party leadership. In a little over a day, he took a bill that no one likes and made it worse while alienating more members of his own party. In addition, he may have broken the law in his last-ditch try to save it. Tweets asking DDT supporters to call their representatives to save Trumpcare were sent by White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr, the official @POTUS account, and DDT’s personal account. The use of federal dollars, including paid White House Staff, in directly lobbying Congress to support or oppose a bill is against federal law. Press Secretary Sean Spicer used the Nixonian approach toward law by saying that the law is “not applicable to the president.” Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, disagrees because of the direct appeal to contact representatives in support of Trumpcare.

Hillary Clinton had a grand time tweeting the victories of people who need and like the “Obamacare” that DDT has daily excoriated in his daily message. Watching her is a reminder of how close the United State was to having a president who could “keep America great.”

DDT, Ryan, and the far-right Republicans aren’t the only losers with the downfall of Trumpcare. The wealthy won’t get their billions in tax cuts, and Wall Street won’t get the wealthy’s extra money. Insurance companies are also the losers, outside keeping funding for Medicaid. Big corporations would rejoice over getting rid of consumer protection rules that would have allowed them to vastly increase sales, marketing, and IRS deductions while selling junk insurance that wouldn’t have those “essential benefits”—like hospitalization.

One winner is DDT because Trumpcare would have lost over 1.2 million jobs—some people say as many as two million—that would have hurt his desire to be seen as the “jobs president.” GOP senators are winners because they don’t have to cast any votes on health care, at least in the immediate future. And constituents of Rep. Greg Walden, leader of the committee trying to destroy health care, are winners. In his rural district comprising two-thirds of Oregon, Trumpcare would have taken health insurance from 64,300 of his 684,200 constituents, almost ten percent of the people he represents. The remaining residents would have had far less access to the rural hospitals that need ACA money to stay open.

The next step is for Democrats to fight DDT’s “tax reform” shifting millions to himself and his wealthy friends. Meanwhile Democrats can introduce bills for improving ACA. The GOP won’t vote for them, but people will see that it can be fixed—and maybe vote blue in the next election.

February 28, 2017

Whither Health Care?

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 8:29 PM
Tags: , , ,

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) swears that he has unity among the GOP Congress and executive branch for the proposed health care plan, but reality shows a different picture. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said that he will have his own plan in two weeks although tonight’s speech gave the feeling that he agreed in someways with the GOP program. GOP Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), and Mike Lee (UT) want only a full repeal of Obamacare, and Paul called GOP plans “Obamacare lite.” The three senators met with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-NC) who also vigorously opposed colleagues’ plans, especially on the tax credits. Members of Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee had met with the far-right Heritage Foundation in early February and agreed that the solution was the 2015 repeal bill without any replacement plans. Meadows and Walker announced that they could not recommend votes for the proposed bill without “substantial changes.”

Republicans from the DDT on down have consistently promised the people of the United States a better deal for health care than the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and after years of meaningless repeals, the rubber is hitting the road. What are their plans? Drop coverage, raise prices, and take out every advantage of the health insurance now on the books. And drop all the taxes the raise funds for the ACA.

The replacement as of late February:

Replace subsidies with tax credits based on age instead of income. Under age 30, the credit would be $2,000 and double for those over 60. Wealthy elders, such as Bill Gates worth $83 billion, would get twice as much as poor young people. The ACA tax credit was adjusted by income, age, and the average price of insurance in a person’s market. An example of the importance of the ACA system is Alaska, where people receive double the tax credits as those in the rest of the country because of its scarcity of coverage in a frontier population. Other problematic areas are the rural counties and states in the interior and western frontier, DDT land.

Replace the existing Medicaid expansion in 2020 with capped state payments based on the number of Medicaid enrollees. The current plan provides for eligibility expansion for people who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The elimination of federal funds would damage the abilities of states to cope with populations in health crises, such as coal miners in Kentucky and West Virginia; deal with natural catastrophes and outbreaks such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; and combat human-caused disasters such as the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana after Republicans, including then Gov. Mike Pence refused a clean needle exchange. The GOP plan would also jeopardize coverage for 11 million people who have gained it under the ACA.

Democratic governors and the GOP governors who accepted the expansion are opposed to this measure. The Republican governors who didn’t take the expansion are afraid they’ll get less under the plan than the states that did—and they may be right. At any rate, the plan will cost states billions of dollars that they don’t have.

Provide $100 billion in “state innovation grants” for extremely expensive enrollees. The intent is to cover some of the “pre-existing condition” population without the protections as in the Affordable Care Act.

Leave decisions about mandatory or essential benefits to the states. They could eliminate insurance for such health needs as mental health services, annual exams, prenatal and maternity care, pediatric care, and birth control.

Cap the tax exemption for employer sponsored insurance at the 90th percentile of current premiums and tax amounts above that benefit. This sounds like a good idea until you figure that employees will just pass their costs on to their employees without giving them a wage increase.

Allow insurers to charge older customers up to five times as much as their younger counterparts, an increase from the existing three times as much in premiums.

Assess penalties for people who let their coverage lapse and then decide to enroll with a 30-percent boost in premiums for a year. People who cannot afford to keep paying premiums if they suffer sudden hardship would be punished by this part of the bill. This would also allow people to not buy health insurance and then have no money for health care no matter what happens.

Defund Planned Parenthood to make more women get pregnant.

Allow people to decide if they want health insurance.

On Last Week Tonight, comedian John Oliver broke down an explanation of the GOP plan into four categories: refundable tax credits, high risk pools, block grants, and health savings accounts. None of these ideas will actually work, Oliver argues, breaking them down in financial terms—they all share the same “thong problem.” His view of the GOP’s plan—and pitfalls—is well worth watching.

Missing from the Republican plan is the provision that health care insurance remain “affordable.” The plan benefits people with good health and wealth as well as penalizing areas with disasters or emerging health problems. Rural areas would suffer more because this population relies more heavily on public insurance than people in cities.

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doubts that the GOP can manage a full repeal and replace of Obamacare. He predicts a few fixes to the existing ACA, not a bad idea if the fixes help people:

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once. And all this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal—yeah, we’ll do replace, replace—I started laughing, because if you pass repeal without replace, first, anything that happens is your fault. You broke it.”

Basically, “GOPcare” supports the “coastal elites” over Middle America that voted for Dictator Donald Trump. Until faced with reality, DDT claimed that his health care would be far better than the existing program. His meeting with governors and insurance CEOs provided insight into his confusion. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Actually almost everyone except the current president understood the complexity of health care.

DDT’s current solution is to allow Obamacare to “implode” and then blame the Democrats and President Obama. As DDT continues to declare the ACA a “failed disaster,” popularity for the program is steadily increasing. A poll in mid-February shows that 54 percent of people surveyed approve of the law while only 43 percent disapprove. And of those who disapprove of the ACA, one-fourth of them want the current law to be changed while only 17 percent want to completely get rid of ACA.

A common Republican claim is that “Obamacare” shackles people to government, and repeal of the health care plan will make them free. Almost 242 years ago, Patrick Henry said some version of “Give me liberty or give me death.” That is the choice that Republicans are pushing onto many people into the United States. The “freedom” of no health care will definitely give many of them death—but legislators aren’t talking about their own death. They’re the ones who already have health care and are wealthy enough that they always have. Almost 30 million people count on the ACA, and that doesn’t include the young people under 26 on their parents’ policies and the people on Medicare who have some benefits from the ACA. These are the people who will suffer from the congressional decision to give them “freedom.”

February 25, 2017

DDT: Lies, Lies, Lies

cpac-ballroomConservatives celebrated at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his minions this year—a change from last year when he wasn’t even wanted at the conference. DDT’s speech could have been the one he wanted to give last year as he quoted Hillary Clinton’s term “deplorable” and encouraged the crowd to shout “Lock her up!” Another last election message was the conspiracy against Bernie Sanders with “super-delegates.” Numbers also plagued him when he claimed that they would not read about CPAC “lines that go back six blocks.” The speech is probably for his 2020 run, but the lies are the same. Even the ballroom at CPAC was not full for DDT’s speech.

Other false claims from DDT: “Obamacare covers very few people,” and “[the wall is] way, way, way ahead of schedule.” The Affordable Care Act reduced the number of uninsured by 20 million people, and there is no schedule for the wall that may never be built.” The rate of people in the United States who lack health insurance has hit a record low with only 8.6 percent of people, about 27.3 million, being uninsured. That’s 20.4 million fewer people than when the program started in 2010, and the number would be lower if the Supreme Court had maintained the states’ mandatory Medicaid expansion. Red states showed the greatest decline in the number of uninsured, and those without Medicaid expansion had the highest percentage of uninsured with Texas and Mississippi at the top.

Throwing red meat to his CPAC base, DDT defined his enemies: “radical Islamic terrorists”; immigrants who he described as “the gang members, the drug dealers, and the criminal aliens”; and, of course, the “dishonest media.” Also the Constitution as he whined about the “Fiii-rrrst Amendment!” After he talked about keeping “the bad ones” out, he excluded several media outlets from his Friday briefing session.

DDT’s new National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, negated the use of the term “racial Islamic terrorists.” Speaking to his staff, he said that the label was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic.”

 With so much news flooding the air waves about DDT, this one may have slipped through the cracks. One week before Michael Flynn left his position as National Security Advisor on February 13, 2017, he received a proposal for the way that DDT could lift sanctions against Russia. DDT’s personal Mafia-linked lawyer Michael D. Cohen, business associate plus convicted felon and government informant Felix Salter who helped DDT scout deals in Russia, and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko are pushing the plan of releasing evidence of corruption to allow Artemenko to take over the government and negotiate a long term Russian “lease” of Crimea.

The goal is to replace the current Ukrainian government with the Russia-tolerant faction allowing DDT to lift the sanctions against Russia’s military invasion and capture of Russia and give Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the $500 billion deal for Exxon Mobil. Flynn has disappeared, but the plan surely remains, most likely with a payoff for DDT. And it’s on paper. Artemenko is currently under treason investigation, and Cohen denied delivering any plan.

DDT’s assertion that his Muslim ban is to protect the country was soundly debunked by a report from his own Department of Homeland Security that concluded citizenship is an “unreliable” threat indicator and that people from the seven countries have rarely been implicated in U.S.-based terrorism. People from the dangerous seven countries identified by DDT, the same ones where he doesn’t do personal profit-making business—Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Libya—are “rarely implicated in U.S.-based terrorism,” according to the report.

Although terror groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen pose a threat of attacks in the United States, the other four countries are “regionally focused.” Of the 82 people “who died in the pursuit of or were convicted of any terrorism-related federal offense,” over half were U.S.-born citizens. Eight of them convicted or died in pursuit of terrorism were from Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen. People are more likely to be killed by guns, trains, a railway vehicle, their own clothes melting or lighting on fire, lightning, falling furniture–the list goes on and on about the dangers of life outside terrorism. Of the 3,252,493 refugees admitted to the United States from 1975 to the end of 2015, 20 were terrorists, 0.00062 percent of the total.  Only three of them were successful in their attacks, killing a total of three people.

At the same time DHS released its report refuting DDT’s claim about Muslims and terrorism, Secretary John Kelly released a memo creating a new DDT-ordered federal office to work with victims of undocumented immigrants. He wrote that “criminal aliens routinely victimize Americans and other legal residents.” Once again, the government is “misrepresenting,” a polite word for lying. Undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes and U.S. citizens and are less likely to be criminals in some cases.

The Secure Communities (S-COMM) immigration enforcement program failed to reduce crime. A study of 159 cities shows no correlation between crime rates and levels of immigration, and other research showed that levels of recent immigration had a negative affect on homicide rates and no affect on property crime rates. Another study found that immigrant influx was correlated with decreases in homicide and robbery rates.

The only people who need to be afraid are those with brown skin who might be accused of being Hispanic or Muslim. For example, Muhammad Ali Jr., son of one of the greatest boxers and civil rights activists in the nation, was detained two hours on February 7 at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FL) airport on his return from Jamaica. He had gone there with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, who gave a speech about black history. He was asked twice about his religion and “where he got his name,” a common question for Muslims. Agents released Ali’s mother when she showed him a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but Ali had no picture of himself and his father who died last year. DDT’s Muslim ban was overturned three days prior to Ali’s detention, but agents reportedly did not respect the court’s judgment.

NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre is using the DDT system of lying. Before Election Day, he told gun lovers that they had to vote for NRA Republicans because every one of his predictions about Obama taking guns and sabotaging the Second Amendment had come true. The reverse was actually true as federal gun safety laws and those in most states were weakened. At CPAC, LaPierre ranted about how the “Anarchists, Marxists, communists, and the left of—the rest of the left-wing socialist parade” are coming for the guns.

Anti-Trump protesters “spit in the face of Gold Star families,” a revision of history when progressives defended these families and DDT excoriated them unless they were white. LaPierre said these leftists want “to tear down our system.” At the same time, White House and white supremacist Steve Bannon declared that “deconstruction [aka destruction] of the administration” is its goal. The crowning claim from LaPierre was that progressive activists get paid $1,500 a week, $78,000 a year. Watch for the letters of your newspaper because these lies are sure to appear there.

“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning, my offices were open to the public. Ron Barber—at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead—held town halls. It’s what the people deserve in a representative.”

gabby-giffordsThat was the response from Gabby Giffords to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) who used her as an excuse for not facing his constituents. Gohmert won his last election by more than 49 points, and his district is one of the reddest in the country—but he’s afraid of “the threat of violence at town hall meetings.” And he used the 2011 shooting at former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) where she was severely injured and six people were killed. With her customary bravery, Giffords responded:

“To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls. [During my congressional career] listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do.”

Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly said that Gohmert shouldn’t “hide behind” his wife to avoid town halls:

“If he doesn’t want to do town halls, he should just say he doesn’t want to face his constituents. He shouldn’t hide behind Gabby.”

Town hall complaints from tens of thousands of people included the repeal of health care, Scott Pruitt’s confirmation to head the EPA, and legislators refusal to investigate DDT’s links to Russia. Many crowds chanted, “Do your job!” Terrified of this response, a vast majority of GOP legislators simply avoided their constituents in any way they could.

Gohmert also repeated lies that “paid” groups were disrupting the Republican town halls. No town hall meetings this year have been violent, even if some members of Congress have called the police instead of facing a group of people. There’s no evidence of paid protesters, and progressive activists haven’t “threatened public safety.” It was the violent Tea Party members who protested Barack Obama’s election and gathered with their guns to threaten and spit on legislators who supported the ACA.

If Gohmert—and his GOP colleagues—are so terrified of vilence from guns, it’s time for them to enact gun safety laws. And it’s time for “these people” to stop lying.

 

 

January 14, 2017

GOP Health Care Plan: Take from the Poor, Give to the Rich

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 10:17 PM
Tags: , ,

Without a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 24 million people who gained health insurance under the law may lose it. Donald Trump (DT) has promised that no one will lose any health insurance, but GOP members of the Congress aren’t backing up his guarantee.

While the Republicans plan to take health care from the poor, they give tax cuts to the rich. The top 1 percent of earners would get an average tax cut of $33,000 if the ACA is repealed, and those in the top 0.1 percent would get an average cut of $197,000. Repealing ACA’s taxes removes the 0.9 percent Medicare payroll surtax on wages above $200,000 ($150 billion) and the 3.8 percent surtax on investment income above the same threshold ($250 billion). That $800 billion increase in the deficit is about half the loss.

Another quarter of the revenue loss comes from repealing various fees on insurance companies, medical device companies, and drug manufacturers. About $450 billion of the $1.10 trillion of costs in repealing the ACA’s Medicare comes from reversing Medicare Advantage cuts. Another $500 billion would come from ending reductions in the growth of provider payments in fee-for-service Medicare. This is just for future cuts. If past cuts are reversed, about $200 billion to $250 billion more would be lost. In addition, Paul Ryan is struggling to pay for his planned $6 trillion tax cut for the wealthy.

Major losers from an ACA repeal are small business owners. With self-employed people, they represent 50 percent out of ACA customers.

While the GOP wants to repeal the ACA within a month, DT said at a news conference Wednesday in New York City that a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would wait until after Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price of Georgia wins confirmation.

But the chairman of a key committee involved in both repeal-replace and confirming Price said his confirmation may not take place until around the President’s Day recess in February. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also doesn’t want to make decisions until he consults with governors who will be in town around Presidents’ Day. Several GOP governors are joining Democrats to oppose the repeal.

health-chart

As Republicans blithely refer to Obamacare repeal, they probably don’t know how many people are covered by the ACA. The above chart shows the health status of people in the U.S. a year ago. Since then, Medicaid has increased from 71 million to about 74.4 million, largely from Louisiana expanding the program.

  • Green sections covering 46 percent of the nation are for government employees, including the military.
  • Orange sections are for Medicare—also threatened—plus Medicaid Advantage and Disability (under 65 years old).
  • Burgundy sections are NON-ACA Medicaid: Adults, Children and CHIP.
  • Blue sections are the greatest areas impacted by the ACA: Medicaid/CHIP expansion, the subsidized individual market exchange enrollees, and BHP enrollees in New York & Minnesota.
  • Yellow sections are the unsubsidized individual market. These people are enrolled in the ACA exchange but paying full price and off-exchange.
  • Gray/silver section is miscellaneous: the Indian Health Service, Student plans, NY’s ‘Child Health Plus’ program, etc.
  • Red sections are those still uninsured, down to about  27 million people. It includes people ineligible for either Medicaid or the exchange in 19 GOP states and undocumented immigrants. Others earn too much for ACA subsidies or cannot get them because of their employers.

In December House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, “We will give everyone access to affordable health-care coverage.” He added that pre-existing conditions are “a very important feature of any health-care system.” DT’s counselor Kellyanne Conway promised that DT will keep the pre-existing conditions. That, of course, was before the GOP senators voted against it along with other health care provisions to help people. Ryan also promised that the GOP will ensure that “no one is worse off.”

At his press conference this week, DT described his replacement model:

“They can say what they want, they can guide you anyway they wanna guide you. In some cases, they guide you incorrectly. In most cases, you realize what’s happened, it’s imploding as we sit.”

He also made the promise that “we’re going to have a health care that is far less expensive and far better.” He didn’t answer the question about whether everyone covered now will continue to have coverage.

In a letter to the Oregonian (January 14, 2017), Terry Weiss of Philomath superbly explained the idiocy of the proposed health care repeal:

“If a little old lady in Oregon can figure this out, why can’t someone in Washington? Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare account for thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to healthcare providers and suppliers. If any or all are removed, many thousands of living wage jobs will be lost and millions of dollars in income will vanish. Tax losses will be huge to federal and state budgets. If you can’t wrap your mind around the human aspect—letting people die or go untreated for illnesses and injuries—surely the enormous negative effect on the economy should make you pause.

“Spend billions of dollars dismantling a functional and economical system with only three percent overhead to administer Medicaid and medicare. Then spend more billions putting together another system that is untested and unknown and will take place to put in place. This is efficient government spending?

“I can’t figure out why the first order of business for this Congress and president is to tank the economy and take aay living-wage jobs. The opposite of the promises made by one and all. I known campaign promises tend to be less than truthful, but this is unbelievable. Where are the political commentators, representatives of the medical industrial complex, DEOs, and decent human beings?”

As another “little old lady” in Oregon, I worry about the IQ and common sense of the people who are leading our government. For example, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) suggested that people shouldn’t go to the doctor immediately with an illness or injury. He proudly cited his own experience by making his son wait a day to go to the emergency room for an arm injury. He saved money, but the arm was broken. According to Huizenga, that’s the reason that people shouldn’t get money for health care. Without necessary insurance, they could just wait until the next day—or perhaps longer.

This level of stupidity is not new. Former House Majority Leader dick Armey (R-TX), leader and instigator of the Tea Party, said, “The largest empirical problem we have in health care today is too many people are too over-insured.” That was when almost 40 million people lacked health insurance.

People who complain about the high cost of insurance refuse to accept the fact that the private market is driving up costs. Medicare, a government program, saw its costs rise by an average of 1.4 percent from 2010 to 2015, less than half the cost increase for private insurers even after the ACA forced them to charge less for “administrative costs.” As the above letter stated, these costs are three percent while the ACA allows private insurers to spend up to 20 percent–and that’s less than in the past.

A year ago Paul Ryan signed legislation to repeal the ACA and cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The bill didn’t succeed, but Ryan and his colleagues had a good time taking away health care for 24 million people. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images [visual]

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07:  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (3rd L) shares a laugh with Republican members of Congress after signing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and to cut off federal funding of Planned Parenthood during an enrollment ceremony in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol January 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama has promised to veto the bill.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

Obamacare has been a success: fewer people are uninsured; hospitals’ uncompensated care costs have fallen by over 50 percent;  overall national health spending as a share of GDP has dropped faster than predicted; the growth in spending on health needs has slowed to one-third of the average in the early 2000s; the increase in premiums is only 60 percent of the average during the ten years before the ACA; and “Obamacare” is more popular. Even little old ladies know that.

January 13, 2017

So How’s That Obamacare Repeal Going?

Why did people hate the Affordable Care Act, a law that helped people have better health care and live longer? Conservative leadership fed lies to their constituents—like this one from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) at a town-hall event this week–because they feared a Democratic plan would be popular. Ryan’s mistake was taking a question from a man who owns a small business in a red state, worked for the Reagan and Bush campaigns, and opposed the ACA. That was before the ACA saved his life after his life-threatening cancer was treated, thanks to “Obamacare.” Jeff Jeans said, “I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.”

Ryan’s response? The flat-out lie that the ACA is a “death spiral” because people won’t buy insurance when it gets too expensive.  If Ryan were right, enrollment numbers would be dropping. But instead they’re skyrocketing. The proportion of young adults is steady, proving that the mix of people enrolling this year is less likely to be sicker and more expensive. And this is happening despite the uncertainty about the future of health care for the people in the United States, thanks to the unhealthy obsession in the GOP Congress about a repeal.  Lies are failing with the public, however, because 75 percent object to repealing if there isn’t even a replacement.

Today, the U.S. House began their process of destroying health care for the millions and millions of people in the United States. A vote of 227-198 with only nine GOP defectors approved the budget resolution that the Senate passed in the dark of night earlier this week. The bill doesn’t specifically address the ACA, but the passed “budget reconciliation” is needed to kill off the ACA because of the danger from a Senate filibuster.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) warned that their action could send insurance markets into a collapse. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) tweeted, “Most massive budget in U.S. history passed 227-198. It adds more than $9 TRILLION to the debt over the next decade.” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) argued that the House had to pass the bill because they had campaigned on it.

The Senate vote allowed non-binding amendments showing the chamber’s position. These are positions that the GOP Senate oppose:

Protect people with pre-existing conditions: 52 million people in the U.S.—25 percent of non-elderly people—have pre-existing conditions. Before ACA, they were frequently denied any coverage. Only two Republicans voted in support of keeping these conditions in a health care plan.

Let young adults stay on their parents’ plan: Over six million young people 26 years old and younger have gained health insurance since this plan went into effect in 2010. Surveys show 85-percent approval of this provision. Again only two Republicans support this condition.

Maintain access to contraceptive coverage: The ACA has caused spending on contraceptive health care to drop 20 percent. Only two Republicans vote in favor of this amendment.

Ensure Medicaid expansion stays in place: 11 million low-income people benefited from this provision in 2015, and thousands of jobs were created for direct care workers.  Republicans unanimously defeated this amendment.

Protect children on Medicaid or CHIP: GOP Senators blocked this amendment.

Protect veterans’ health care: Republicans blocked an amendment to make it harder to restrict veterans’ access to VA health care.

Republicans demonstrated that they oppose insurance that requires pre-existing conditions, puts children up through age 26 on the parents’ policy, provides free contraceptive care, helps low-income people and children, and protects veterans. These are the leaders who want to take people’s health care: Vice President-elect Mike Pence with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Barrasso (AP Photo/Cliff Owen).

health-care-killers

The public opposition to ACA repeal began when more and more people understood that the congressional goal was to take away health care without any new plan. Sen Bob Corker warned that repeal without replacement would be “not very appealing.” Even ultra-conservative Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked for a replacement “game plan.” Passing the repeal/replacement also requires 60 votes in the Senate because of the filibuster.

The derailing of the grand repeal plan began just four days after the GOP Congress took over the country. That’s when Republicans determined that the GOP project to Make America Sick Again would cost more than four times than the extremely expensive Iraq War while it kills millions of private sector jobs. Republicans had a solution: hide the cost of their repeal. Page 25 of the new rules package passed by GOP House members stated that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) should estimate the cost over $5 trillion—except Obamacare. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work either: the word got out that what the GOP calls an “appropriate” level of public debt is actually an unnecessary anti-job debt spike.

Add to that problem Ryan’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood through a bill to repeal Obamacare, and the bill riled more conservatives. Two moderate female GOP senators opposed this suggestion, and the program is highly popular throughout the nation.

Some of the most conservative senators—Rand Paul (R-KY), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) for example—are reluctant to vote for the repeal because of the increasing deficit. Paul wants an immediate repeal but isn’t happy about the $10 trillion dollars added to the deficit. Even ultra-conservative Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Health Committee, declared that it’s not smart to repeal without a replacement.  Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) don’t like Repeal without Replace. Six dubious senators will put the 48 Democrats opposing the repeal to a majority of the chamber. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) might join them because she, like Collins, doesn’t like the idea of defunding Planned Parenthood.

The repeal is rapidly coming to a head because GOP leadership wants to force the development of legislation by January 27. Wanting to postpone the deadline until March 3 are at least five GOP senators: Bill Cassidy (LA ), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH).

Congressional Republicans are also facing opposition from GOP governors. John Kasich (OH) and Rick Snyder (MI) have already complained about the loss of Medicaid. Kasich said the hospitals need Medicaid that “has worked very well in this state.” He said that the program covers 700,000 of his residents; Snyder agreed when talking about his 642,000 people in Michigan. Other GOP governors opposing the repeal thus far are Charlie Baker (MA),  Asa Hutchinson (AR), and Brian Sandoval (NV).

Kasich eloquently expressed his concern:

“Let’s just say they just got rid of it, didn’t replace it with anything.” What happens to the 700,000 people [in Ohio]? What happens to drug treatment? What happens to mental health counseling? What happens to these people who have very high cholesterol and are victims from a heart attack? What happens to them?”

The GOP desire to balance the federal budget occurs only with Democratic presidents. Republican legislators showed no longing for “fiscal responsibility” during the Reagan/Bush years. Under Clinton, their need for zero deficit returned, but unfortunately for them, Clinton showed a surplus by the end of his two terms. In the two following Bush/Cheney terms, Republicans asserted that “deficits don’t matter.” They ran up trillions of costs for two wars, two tax-cut packages, Medicare expansion, and the Wall Street bailout.

During the two terms of Democratic President Obama, conservatives screamed about the ballooning deficit set in place by his predecessor. The GOP even lowered the credit rating of the United States and then closed down the country because of their demand for a balanced budget. With a prospective GOP president, the majority of GOP Congressional legislators started to repeal a law vastly increasing the deficit, a law that keeps people alive. Their plans would put the public debt to at least $29.1 trillion by 2016, according to the budget resolution they passed.

People are already losing jobs because of the GOP’s declaration that they will “repeal Obamacare.” The loss of health care for millions of people is already sending shock waves throughout the $3 trillion-a-year health system. Hospitals estimate that the repeal will cost them $165 billion within five years and trigger “an unprecedented public health crisis” if sick people can’t get care. The Advisory Board Company, providing services to health care firms, has already laid off 200 people partly because hospitals vastly decreased spending after the election.

With much lower health coverage, hospitals and health providers could find themselves on the hook for up to $1.1 trillion for uncompensated care in the next decade, causing the collapse of finances in hospitals serving needy populations. Their only solution would be to curtail services and reduce workforce, impacting health care access even for the insured. Illinois alone would suffer a loss of 95,000 jobs and $13.1 billion. Forty percent of the state’s hospitals are already in the red or close to it.

The question is whether the GOP can get over its gridlock and lack of bipartisanship to pass a “repeal and replace” law. I wouldn’t bet on it.

January 7, 2017

115th Congress: First Four Days toward Erasing Democracy

Hard to believe that the new GOP Congress has been passing bills for only four days! At least they leave town at the end of next week.

GOP members of Congress are growing insecure about their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) despite a poll that indicates 75 percent of the people in the United States oppose getting rid of the ACA without a viable replacement. In an effort to prove that constituents want a repeal, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is conducting a phone poll at 1-202-225-0600. The instructions explain that the caller should press 2 for a recording; if you support continuing the ACA, press 1. I tried it tonight—Saturday night—and received a busy signal for almost an hour with about 30 attempts. I’ll try tomorrow!

Ryan has already called security to remove people who tried to deliver 87,000 petitions to continue Planned Parenthood. When Planned Parenthood volunteers lined up at Ryan’s office to deliver these signatures, he sent out security to protect him. You can try to call him at 1-202-225-0600.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the witch hunt against Planned Parenthood, asked her constituents if they wanted to repeal Obamacare. Sixteen percent said yes; the remaining 84 percent said no. She claimed ACA was a failure because it didn’t insure the poor—after her state blocked Medicaid.

GOP legislators have passed a “rule” that their staffers can question subjects of GOP inquiries under oath without any congressional member being present. These staffers can “compel any American to appear, sit in a room, and answer staff’s invasive questions on the record,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Drew Hammill, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pointed out, “This rules change represents a shocking continuation and expansion of House Republicans’ abusing of congressional processes to intimidate private citizens just as they did with the Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health.” It feels like a return of the Sen. Joe McCarthy days of the 1950s only on steroids.

GOP House members claim they want transparency—think about the 11 committee hearings investigating Hillary Clinton’s non-existent Benghazi involvement—but they’d prefer that the sunlight doesn’t strike their own problems. Concealing their ethics violations didn’t work, but they thought they succeeded in a Russian-style ban on lawmakers’ use of video and camera in the House. TV producer and self-described “newbie activist,” Blaine (no last name), has set up an online crowdfunding page to pay all the fines that Republican House members plan to charge Democrats if they film the GOP behavior. His goal is $25,000; any money not used for fines goes to the nonprofits Public Citizen and the Dow Jones News Fund. Although the building housing Congress technically belongs to the people of the U.S., the C-SPAN cameras supposed to be operating during all legislation are owned by the House and Senate, giving the GOP total control of information coming from Congress.

The House plans to help DT deregulate everything so that he can make more money. The Koch-provided REINS Act (HR 26 – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017) dictates that a “major rule shall not take effect unless the Congress enacts a joint resolution of approval” and won’t become law if Congress does not pass that resolution by “70 session days or legislative days, as applicable.” In other words, agencies can set any rule that they want, but Congress has to pass the rules for them to be enacted. Specific targets of the bill are net neutrality, the Clean Power Plan, and voting rights. The mission is to keep people from an awareness of what’s happening, pollute the planet, and then prevent people from voting. The bill has passed the House by 237 to 187 and now goes to the Senate.

Another bill, this one passing the House by 238-184, is “the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017” which allows Congress to repeal every rule passed in the last 60 legislative days of a final year of a president’s term. If it passes the Senate and is signed by DT, it deletes all rules passed since May 26, 2016.

One of DT’s popular promises was to “build the wall.” Mexico has always said that it won’t pay for it, but Republicans have a new plan. They will build the wall—costing $12 billion to $38 billion—and then charge Mexico for it. Unlike some of the other bills in Senate, however, Democrats can filibuster the funding for the wall. Ten red-state Democrats are up for reelection in 2018, and the GOP Senate needs only eight Democratic defectors to break a filibuster. Of these eight, four will probably not play nicely with the GOP to pay for a wall that hurts employers in their states.

The House isn’t the only chamber that’s busily tearing down the country. Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Ted Cruz (R-TX, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have introduced legislation to remove security at U.S. diplomatic sites. Gone is the horror about deaths at Benghazi and the call for the U.S. to protect its ambassadors. The bill restricts funding for “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance”—except for the embassy in Tel Aviv until its hoped-for GOP relocation to Jerusalem. In essence, half the funding for embassy security will be removed until the new secretary of state reports to Congress that the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has “officially opened.”

The international community does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the city hosts no foreign embassies. Relocating the U.S. embassy to a city that doesn’t belong to Israel would totally destroy a two-state peace solution between Palestine and Israel as well as causing massive unrest among other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan. And embassy security is sadly underfunded as shown by the problems at Benghazi.

In order to persuade the slave-owning states to join the United States in the 18th century, the U.S. Constitution gave each state two senators no matter their size. Those states are still controlling the majority of people in the United States. In the recent election, DT lost the popular vote by almost three million, but the electoral vote—giving each state two electoral college votes no matter what its size—came in on the side of DT. For example, California is 66 times larger in population than Wyoming but each state got two electoral votes for the number of senators.

This disparity is made obvious by the overwhelming majority of votes for the minority of Democrats in the Senate. Those 48 members of the chamber collectively earned 78.4 million votes; the 52 Republicans got 54.8 million votes. Therefore Democrats, in the Senate minority, received 23.5 million more votes than the majority determined to give the country to the top 0.1 percent and destroy the country for the rest of us. If the Senate operated on the popular vote, it would have 59 Democrats and 41 Republicans. But of course if the country operated on a popular vote, Hillary Clinton would be president instead of a crazy TV personality. At least DT goes bonkers every time that he hears about what a loser he is. So sad!

When the GOP took control of Congress two years ago, a Republican friend told me that a GOP Congress would remove gridlock. At that time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised that a Republican Congress would get things done. The last two years have been such a disaster for Congress that its approval rating is at 17 percent—16 percent approval among Republicans. Now the GOP is in control of the country. Republican voters: be careful what you wish for!

August 12, 2016

Equal Pay for Women’s Soccer Team; ACA Makes People Healthier

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has won three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, but they are still get paid just 72 percent per game as the U.S. men’s team—that didn’t even qualify for the current Olympics. The women’s team generated almost $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team, and their World Cup final last year was the most watched soccer game in history. Liza Bayless wrote:

“The US women’s national team collectively earned $2 million for their 2015 World Cup win. The US men’s national team — who has not made it past the quarterfinals of a World Cup in more than eight decades, and has never won — earned $9 million for their loss in the round of 16 at the 2014 Men’s World Cup in Brazil. Germany, the winning team, collected $35 million….

“The women’s team brought in more revenue in the 2016 fiscal year (granted, a World Cup year) and is also projected to outperform the men in revenue and profit in 2017, when neither team is playing a World Cup. US Soccer expects they will bring in almost twice as much as the men–$17.6 million versus $9 million. And yet the federation pays its female players $1,350 for winning an exhibition match while the men receive up to $17,625 for doing the same. For a loss, men receive $5,000. Women receive nothing. For making the World Cup roster, a male player makes $68,750 while a woman makes $15,000.

“The women do receive a base salary of $72,000 for playing on the national team and some benefits that the men do not. However, if both teams were to win all 20 exhibition games–the matches they play outside of tournaments–in a year, a female player would be paid $99,000 total (including base salary) while a male player would be paid $263,320. Additionally, sponsors compensate men hundreds of dollars more per game appearance.”

If you think that the women deserve equal pay for their winning as the men do for their losing, please sign this petition.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

While Republican candidates march around claiming that they will do away with the Affordable Care Act, ACA has provided health insurance to about 20 million people and made people healthier.

  • People are less likely to have medical debt or postpone care because of care.
  • People are more likely to have a regular doctor and get preventative health services.
  • Low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid insurance to everyone below a certain income threshold, are healthier than peers in Texas, which did not expand.

These are the findings from a study during the last two years. A 2015 survey found that the people in Arkansas and Kentucky, states with Medicaid expansion, are almost five percent more likely than peers in Texas, a state without Medicaid expansion, to say they are in excellent health, a bigger difference than the 2014 survey. Another study in Oregon tracked people for two years who received Medicaid insurance and those who remained uninsured. People with insurance were much more likely to be in good or excellent health as well as more financially secure. The most recent state to expand its health care program, Louisiana, became the 31st in the nation.

Trump - New Yorker - leftTrump Watch: Two covers reflect Trump’s downward trajectory since the GOP convention only three weeks ago. The New Yorker shows rain falling on Trump to indicate the increasing disaster of his campaign. Time is considering Trump as “person of the year,” defined as a person, group, idea or object that “for better or for worse…has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

 

Trump - Time cover

 

Message to Republicans and Bernie supporters who plan to vote for Trump: The risk of having Donald Trump for president is far worse than Hillary Clinton’s nominating liberals to the Supreme Court. That message comes from conservative legal scholars. They claim that Trump is totally unfit to deal with “foreign affairs and domestic crises”—much of a president’s job—and that it’s doubtful that he’ll keep his word about his justice nominees.

According to Ilya Somin, Trump’s picks could undermine the constitution and turn the country into “a big-government xenophobic party hostile to civil liberties and opposed to most constitutional constraints on government power–much like the far-right nationalist parties of Western Europe, whose platforms are very similar to his.”

Republicans who defiantly defended Donald Trump’s statement that President Obama is the “founder of ISIS” found themselves thrown under the bus after Trump said that he was just joking—two days after he repeated the statement over and over. It the same thing that he says after many of  his statements bringing negative publicity–yelling at a baby to leave his rally, calling violence on Hillary Clinton and her supporters, etc.

Trump may have listened to Clinton’s criticism that his entire economic team is male; he has added nine names to the group, eight of them female. Still no people of color, however. And still as conservative.

People who listen to Trump touting his program for child care need to realize that this is only for guests at his resorts. Although he said that he provides on-site child-care service for employees, called Trump Kids, no one can find evidence of such programs. Yet this service, also called Trumpeteers, caters to his hotel and gold club patrons.

For the people who believe that Trump will stop outsourcing, here’s a list of countries where Trump product are manufactured: furniture – Turkey; shirts – Bangladesh and other Asian countries; vodka – Netherlands; suits – Mexico; tie clips – china; barware – Slovenia; glass and building materials – China; elevator parts – Japan; shampoo – Hong Kong; beach furniture – China; artificial turf – United Kingdom; marble – Italy; pens – Norway; slippers and cutlery – China. Trump could make all these things in the U.S., as this website shows. Yet Trump swore he would never eat Oreo cookies again after Nabisco moved to Mexico and said, “Our people should have more pride in buying made in the USA.”

Repeating his accusation that he might lose Pennsylvania because the voting is rigged, Trump told his audience that the people need to “go down to certain areas … and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.” Donald Trump declared today that there’s only one way he could lose the state of Pennsylvania: if he’s cheated out of it. At this time, Clinton is ahead of Trump in Pennsylvania polls by ten points.

A team at the conservative Washington Post will publish Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power on August 23. Amazon is offering pre-orders, and it’s sure to instantly hit the best-seller list! An excerpt is available on-line for impatient readers.

What makes Trump the angriest? The media repeating his words. His description for journalists doing their job makes them “the lowest form of life.” He said, “I tell you, the lowest.”They are the lowest form of humanity.”

May 18, 2016

‘Religion’ Allows Escape from Contracts

Groups continue to use ‘religious liberty’ in an escape from legal obligations through denying women cost-free contraception and expelling a student from school. 

The fight over women’s contraception isn’t over, but it’s been postponed because of Antonin Scalia’s death. In their continued manic desire for power, traditional religious institutions pursued the issue of cost-free contraception for women to the Supreme Court where a non-decision was issued earlier this week. In Zubik v. Burwell the eight justices recently sent back seven cases they heard collectively in March plus another six cases that the court had not agreed to hear. Six lower courts were ordered to issue new rulings based on questions that the court left undecided.

The question in the lawsuit was whether non-church organizations have the right to be exempt from contraceptive mandates in the Affordable Care Act, as Hobby Lobby claimed—and won—in 2014.  The case wasn’t even about whether these protesting religious corporations should have to provide any contraception; they all opposed just filling out a form saying that they wouldn’t provide the contraception in order for the government to cover the cost of women’s contraception. A court suggestion for compromise is that the non-church groups’ insurance companies provide insurance without contraception and notify that employees that they will provide free contraception not subsidized by the non-church groups.

Even worse, the denial of providing contraceptives uses lay opinion rather than scientific fact because of Hobby Lobby. Among denied contraceptives are intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptive medication which simply impedes ovulation or fertilization of the egg. Basically, the groups are doing whatever they can to block women getting contraception.

With its opinion, the court let government pay for contraception and exonerate non-profits from the risk of penalties until the lower courts rule in a way that satisfies the Supreme Court. Not determined by the court’s opinion, however, are whether the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, whether the government had a “compelling interesting” in mandating free contraceptives, and whether the method they used with the religious groups to provide cost-free contraceptives was the “least restrictive means.” In taking this inaction, the court hoped that the parties could “resolve any outstanding issues between them” but admitted that “areas of disagreement” between the two sides may continue to exist.

Five of the six lower courts had ruled in favor of the ACA mandate. A deadlock of 4-4 would have ruled that the law be interpreted differently according to the regions of these courts. Gretchen Borchelt, vice president of the National Women’s Law Center, expressed disappointment with the court’s indecision. She said, “Eight of nine circuit courts of appeals have already upheld women’s access to birth control no matter where they work.” The 8th Circuit court is the only one ruling against the accommodation that the government made to religious groups. A three-judge panel ruled  that the ACA mandate “substantially burdened” Dordt College’s free exercise of religion. In addition to Iowa, the decision covers Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and both Dakotas.

Fortunately, the high court’s opinion does not set precedent, and lower courts may not solve the problem for the high court. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a separate but concurring opinion telling lower courts that the action does not endorse a proposal put forward by the protesting groups that women must have separate policies for contraceptive coverage. ACA protesters to the ACA are viewing the court’s opinion as a victory for their side, but the opinion seems to tell lower courts not to block the government from implementing its regulations to “ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives,'” during the pendency of the litigation:

“Nothing in this opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, is to affect the ability of the Government to ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives.'”

At this time, almost all the cases have injunctions to keep federal agencies from enforcing their regulations. The question is whether these injunctions will be lifted in light of the court’s opinion. Groups refusing to provide contraception can also find insurance plans that also refuse to provide contraception, based on that company’s “religious beliefs.”  Yet organizations may not notify the government of its insurance company, which leaves female employees without cost-free contraception. Self-insured plans also cause difficulty for women who want contraceptives because the federal government won’t know which groups insure their employees in this way. Basically, the groups want to not only refuse women contraception but also hide whether they can get this right that a federal law provides.

In another case of “religious liberty,” an appeals judge ruled that St. Thomas High School doesn’t have to obey its own contracts because it is a “religious institution. The altercation started when a teacher failed to call the parents in the evening about a grade dispute because, as he told the student, he was preparing a “romantic” night for his wedding anniversary. The parents called the teacher’s explanation sexual harassment—“inadequate, irrelevant, [and] sexually demeaning.”

The Texas school expelled the student because of its policy permitting expulsion from “actions by a parent/guardian or other person responsible for the student which upbraids, insults, threatens or abuses any teacher, administrator, coach or staff member of the school.” Parents claimed a breach of contract because the student wouldn’t educate their son, and the school claimed that the student handbook is a part of the contract allowing them to expel the student.

The case could have been a simple contract dispute, but St. Thomas argued their action came from “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” a First Amendment doctrine limiting the courts’ ability to decide cases involving a religious body’s “doctrines, membership, discipline, and internal affairs. The doctrine prevents the courts from even hearing a dispute in the first place, and the appeals court agreed. The court did admit that “churches, their congregations, and their hierarchies exist and function within the civil community … are amenable to rules governing civil, contract, and property rights in appropriate circumstances.”

At least one other Texas case allowed parents to use the doctrine in refusing a student because the education has a “spiritual” element, similar to accepting a church member. The difference in this case is that the dispute was a secular contract dispute, not a federal agency forcing a Catholic school to admit an unwanted student.

If religious schools are permitted to violate all their contracts because of the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” they may lose credibility in their agreements with everyone. People and companies are willing to perform services and sell products to others because breaching the contracts leads to satisfaction in the courts. If, however, St. Thomas shows that religious groups do not need to fulfill any contracts, including educating students, their action may lead to lack of confidence in their institutions, reduced student membership in schools, and inability to work with vendors.

St. Thomas could probably have won their case if they had stuck to the contractual issue. Instead the school chose to use its religious status to show that they are above the law—just as the religious groups have done in Zubik v. Burwell. The question is how far religions will go—not hire women, not pay minimum wage, not fulfilling any obligations that secular groups must—before the country decides that religious groups are not totally above the law.

August 11, 2015

‘Obamacare’ Good for the Country

Another federal ruling has come down on the Affordable Care Act, and we can only hope that this one is the last. After the Supreme Court once again decided in favor of the ACA, the entire Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. refused to rehear Sissel v. Department of Health and Human Services. Over a year ago, a three-judge panel had turned down a lawsuit that attempt to strike down the ACA based on a procedural issue that the law should have originated in the House rather than the Senate. Judge Brett Kavanaugh disagreed. That loss led Sissel to ask for the entire court to hear the case. He lost in a unanimous decision.

The D.C. circuit court is split between seven Democrat-appointed judges and four of the most conservative judges nominated by Republican presidents. Sissel might have expected to get a ruling in his favor at least from the conservative judges because the release of a decision took a long time. Instead, the lengthy time before a ruling came from a disagreement about why the court wouldn’t hear the case. Judges disagreed only on academic grounds.

It is unlikely that the Supreme Court will take up Sissel’s case, and the conservative nature of the judges ruling in favor of the ACA may discourage other people from going to court. For example, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who ruled against Sissel, called the New Deal a “socialist revolution” and claimed that Social Security is a kind of intergenerational cannibalism because of all the “free stuff” that “the political system will permit [Social Security recipients] to extract.”

As time goes one, the ACA continues to get stronger.

A Forbes report by Bruce Japsen, who has covered healthcare and healthcare policies for over 20 years, indicates that unpaid hospital bills drastically declined, both in number and cost, after ACA went completely into effect. Steve Filton, CEO of Universal Health Services (UHS), said that uncompensated care in the company’s hospitals has been on the decline for six quarters. The company’s cost for “doubtful accounts” declined some 17 percent over the first six months of 2015, compared to the same time period in 2014. In 2015, UHS acute care hospitals have seen a “decrease in the aggregate of charity care, uninsured discounts and provision of doubtful accounts as a percentage of gross charges.”

Filton reported something that is obvious to everyone except Republicans. Of the six states with UHC acute care hospitals, two of them—California and Nevada—show a greater participation in Medicaid expansion. The other four states are Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. A bonus of the ACA is that healthcare stocks are going up, with a surge after the Supreme Court issued its positive ruling in June.

Florida, one of the states that refused Medicaid expansion, denies health insurance to almost one million working poor people. Senate Republicans were in favor of accepting the expansion because the funding would come from the federal government, but Gov. Rick Scott persuaded the House to vote against the working poor. Legislators do understand, however, how important health insurance is: they also voted to keep their own low-cost health insurance. Almost 30,000 state workers, including Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi (who sued the government over the Affordable Care Act), each pay just $8.34 a month for individual coverage or $30 a month for family coverage. Members of the House, Senate and rank-and-file state employees pay $50 a month for themselves or $180 for family coverage. Their insurance rates are frozen through 2016.

Another Forbes report shows that the ACA has added almost one million jobs in health-related fields through June 2014. The first of over 67 attempts to repeal ACA was called “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”

A new report in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the ACA is a great success especially for minorities previously without healthcare. Over the first two enrollment periods, 10.2 million Americans have received private coverage through Obamacare, and another 12.2 million have been covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Program. Costs for Medicaid have dramatically dropped, and the program is fully funded for the next thirty years.

Six measures were used in the survey: self-reported rates of being uninsured, no personal physician, difficult access to medications, inability to afford needed care, overall health status, and health-related activity limitations. Five of these measures improved after people were able to purchase insurance on ACA exchanges; only days limited by poor health didn’t improve.

The study concluded:

“As states continue to debate whether to expand Medicaid under the ACA, these results add to the growing body of research indicating that such expansions are associated with significant benefits for low-income populations.”

An ACA provision mandating that insurers must pay 80 percent of the premiums on health care saved individuals or their employers $5 billion in rebates or premium adjustments for 2011 and 2012. Unlike dire predictions, few—if any—insurers went out of business.

Despite the overwhelmingly positive news about the ACA, the GOP continues to waste its time trying to repeal the law—the last time at the end of July. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that he is prepared to hold another vote “to bring an end to the nightmare of Obamacare.” This is a dream that patients, investors, and healthcare companies want to preserve.

In mid-June, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that a ACA repeal would “probably increase budget deficits with or without considering the effects of macroeconomic feedback.” The deficit could increase up to $353 billion over a decade. The repeal would also add 19 million people to those uninsured by 2016 and grow by several million in the following years.

Media and candidates are constantly criticizing Donald Trump for not having specifics in carrying out his ideas, but Republicans have the same problem with healthcare reform. After five years of claiming that they will have a plan, it still doesn’t exist. At this time, their only plan is to add billions to the deficit while denying health care to millions of people.

Each state is allowed to set the income level at which people can no longer get Medicaid. In Texas, for example, a family of four must make less than 20 percent of the poverty level to qualify. That’s $4,531 in total annual income. If the family makes $4,532, then they can’t get Medicaid. In Alabama, the cutoff is $4,293. In a Catch-22 a family of four that makes over one-fourth the poverty level in Texas can’t get subsidies for health insurance until it hits 100 percent of the poverty level–$18,128 a year. In addition, childless adults cannot get any Medicaid in all the 19 states without expansion except for Wisconsin.

Two years after ACA became the law of the land, only one state has a rate of uninsured citizens over 20 percent—Texas with 21 percent of its residents lacking health insurance. Before ACA, 14 states were 20 percent or above. California halved its uninsured rate, and both Arkansas and Kentucky dropped their rates from 20 percent to 9 percent in these two years. The national average went from 20 percent uninsured to 13.2 percent with the highest rates for states with Republican governors. New England has insured 95 percent of its population; Rhode Island has only 2.7 percent uninsured.

As of now, 31 states have accepted the Medicaid expansion and its accompanying federal funding, an increase from 26 states a year ago. Time is gradually changing perspectives as more people demand health care and people continue to die without health insurance. In the same year, approval of the ACA has gone up 10 points while disapproval has gone down 12 points. The 47-percent approval is almost triple the 17-percent approval rate of Congress.

approval

During the first GOP presidential candidate debate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said that the state’s Medicaid expansion cut down the prison population. He said, “Eighty percent of the people in our prisons have addictions or problems,” Kasich added. “We now treat them in the prisons, release them in the community and the recidivism rate is 10 percent….” The average rate in the United State is 52 percent. Ohio is one of 31 states saving money and keeping people alive with Medicaid expansion.

« Previous PageNext Page »

Mind-Cast

Rethinking Before Restarting

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

© blogfactory

Genuine news

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: