Nel's New Day

September 20, 2017

GOP Desperate to Pass Bad Bill to Get Re-elected

“We need to pass something–anything. We promised.” That’s the excuse behind the most recent care bill, the fourth one this year, that is the worst one thus far. And GOP senators admit that their bill is worse than the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Asked why the GOP bill is better, John Barrasso (R-WY) said that there “shouldn’t be” essential health care benefits in a health care bill.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that some “big blue states” would be hit with huge cuts. “The CBO scoring is just a detail,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). “[States] can do it with less money,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), but he didn’t explain how—probably by not providing health care to as many people.

The bill, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) myopically said, “wouldn’t cut Alabama.” (Not everyone is that lucky: Louisiana, co-author Sen. Bill Cassidy’s state, will lose health insurance for 433,000 people.) Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said “it’s an improvement over Obamacare” because he will “get to vote for repeal it.” Kennedy has one concern about states’ rights in health care: he’s afraid that they may decide to have single-payer plans. He doesn’t want money from the “American taxpayer” to go toward single-payer plans despite the fact that “blue” states pay more to the federal government than they get back. When Kennedy asked for an amendment to stop these states’ rights, Lindsey Graham assured him it was in the bill. Republicans want state innovation but only by their rules.

But Graham may not know what’s in the bill. A senior GOP aide commented, “If there was an oral exam on the contents of the proposal, graded on a generous curve, only two Republicans could pass it. And one of them isn’t Lindsey Graham.” It was obvious he knew nothing about the bill that he “co-authored” during questions from a reporter. The aide added, “You could do a post office renaming and call it ‘repeal-replace’ and 48 Republican senators would vote for it sight unseen.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy, co-author of the bill, has this reason for justifying a bad bill.

“We must [pass the bill by September 30] because there is a mother and father whose child will have insurance because of Graham Cassidy Heller Johnson.”

Otherwise Cassidy flat-out lied in defense of his bill by claiming that it gives more coverage to people and protects people with preexisting conditions. His office claims that the bill, which slashes funding, will provide more funding to every state. Only 15 states will benefit financially. The plan carries the nickname “Screw Blue Bill” because it removes $57,547 per Californian and $33,058 per New Yorker. But states that hurt the most are the ones in poverty that supported Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and expanded Medicaid under the ACA—Louisiana, Arkansas, Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Maine, Iowa, Alaska, New Mexico, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana. And it hurt seniors, disabled, and the poor everywhere. They all have GOP Senators who will vote to take health insurance from their constituents. (More about these states here.) These are the winners and losers in the next decade.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who will push the bill through the House if the Senate passes it, tweeted in favor of the bill:

“I’ll take federalism over Obamacare any day.”

It’s not “federal”: the bill turns money over to states, some of which will feed the funding into balancing their budgets instead of health care. This message comes from the man who has lived off federal money since he was 16 and got Social Security.

The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t have time to score the bill, but experts believe it will throw the same tens of millions of people off health care insurance as earlier GOP bills or be worse. A CBO scoring is mandated for Senate bills, but they plan to vote without “point estimates of the effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage, or premiums for at least several weeks.” Without this knowledge and without reading the bill, senators will be blindly voting on the bill using their personal assumptions.

Cassidy-Graham health care bill would have these impacts:

  • Proposed block grants for states that are below current funding will eliminate marketplace subsidies and enhanced matching rate for the Medicaid expansion and disappear in 2026. States have no requirement to provide coverage or financial assistance to low- and moderate-income people.
  • A per capita cap will replace Medicaid’s federal-state financial partnership that cuts funding for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children.
  • People with preexisting conditions will lose coverage because the only stipulation for premiums is “affordable” with no consideration for a person’s income.
  • Withdrawal of mandated coverage for essential health benefits means people can purchase health insurance without provisions for mental health, substance abuse treatment, maternity care, and hospitalization.
  • People with preexisting conditions will lose coverage because the only stipulation for premiums is “affordable” with no consideration for a person’s income.
  • States can waive age rating rules, essential health benefits, the prohibition on medical underwriting, prohibition on annual and lifetime limits, and the required medical loss ratio for plans and enrollees who receive some benefit from the state’s block grant funding.
  • The loss of subsidies and insurance mandate destabilize the individual insurance market, risking its collapse.
  • The bill prevents any impetus to fix the ACA, proposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) that had a September 27 deadline to stabilize health care for the coming year.

States that created fewer uninsured under the ACA will lose their money to states that were failures. (Another version of winners and losers)

 

Just ignore protesters. That’s the position of GOP senators and DDT who are committed to passing this bill. DDT blocked a 41-year-old woman with State 4 cancer on his Twitter feed because of her appeals to him. The Cassidy-Graham bill would place a $140,510 surcharge on an annual health premium for a 40-year-old woman with metastatic cancer.

Half the governors signing a letter opposing the Cassidy-Graham bill to decimate health care are not Democrats. They were joined in opposition by GOP Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland. Sixteen patient and provider groups, from the American Heart Association to the March of Dimes, criticized the bill for destroying Medicaid and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Other medical groups urged Republicans to fix the Affordable Care Act instead of the repeal and were joined by hospitals and insurers, appalled by the unworkable and irresponsible concept of 50 insanely different state health care systems.

Senators supporting the Cassidy-Graham bill are pushing hard because September 30 is the deadline to pass any bill with a simple majority. After that the filibuster goes into effect.

Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ)  governor, Doug Ducey, asked him to vote for the bill despite Ducey’s not knowing how much money his state will lose. (Governor Ducey, you’ll lose over $1 million a year until 2026 when you’ll start losing lots more. Does that make a difference?) Twelve days ago, McCain said that health care reform “must” follow regular order. He may rationalize a couple of hearings, on before the Senate Homeland Security Committee with no jurisdiction over the issue, as “regular.” The bill has two witnesses—co-author Cassidy and Graham. GOP Senators plan to change almost 20 percent of the world’s largest economy and endanger the health security of tens of millions of people without minimal committee hearings and no testimony from experts, debates, or public input—all for a partisan win.

A reporter who interviewed nine GOP senators found these five lies, according to Forbes: (1) States will be more “efficient”; (2) It’s the last chance to do anything; (3) The ACA is responsible for rising healthcare premiums; (4) The decrease in future rates of growth is not a cut; (5) States need to be the innovators; and (6) The problem is some states get the lion’s share of the federal money. As the conservative magazine pointed out, the one truth is that the entire issue with the Republicans is “about politics and not public policy.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the Nation wrote:

“GOP legislators … assume low-wage and moderate-income families should have less health-care protection than the wealthy…. Republicans want to strip millions of health insurance, including seniors in the last days of life, the disabled and women with infants. Democrats want everyone to have the right to affordable health care. There is a choice.”

Passing the Cassidy-Graham bill destroys both health care and the democratic process.

August 17, 2014

Paul Ryan v. the Pope

The summer has brought struggles in Iraq, Israel/Gaza, and closer to home in Ferguson (MO) to the media, and Congress has gone into full-time fundraising. When they return, the budget will again hit the news media. As chair of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be front and center of the discussion. While fundamentalist Christians use their religion as the main reason for their votes, Ryan, a Catholic, opposes the values that Pope Francis espouses when addressing the nation’s priorities in spending.

His favorite spin on removing the safety net for the poor in the past was that “the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life.” Two years ago, 60 theologians, priests, nuns, and social justice leaders protested the claim that his budget represented Catholic values.  They and many other Catholics feel that Ryan has betrayed his religious positions of helping vulnerable people, just taxation, and using the government for the common good. As Father Thomas J. Reese explained, “Our problem with Representative Ryan is that he claims his budget is based on Catholic social teaching. This is nonsense.”

Failing to persuade people that giving to the rich and abandoning the poor is a basic tenet of the Catholic church, Ryan decided to drop the religious approach in his more recent plan, “Expanding Opportunity in America.” He proposes “block grants,” although he doesn’t call them this, to states to replace the federal safety net. In addition, the program would be far more structured, forcing aid recipients to meet with case managers and sign contracts for short- and long-term goal. Paying for this new administrative bureaucracy will take benefits away from those who need them.

States wouldn’t do a better job of helping the poor. Politicians know that the federal government is vital in solving problems as indicated by the demand for federal aid to disasters such as super storms or tornadoes or chemical plant explosions. Congress created federal safety net programs because states were unable to solve these social problems. If Ryan succeeded in moving money to the states, the most conservative and anti-Washington ones would get more federal funding than the others. Of the 20 states with the highest levels of food stamp costs, 16 voted for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.

In fact, states have a history of funneling federal monies for specific purposes into their general coffers. For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry used $17.4 billion of the stimulus bill he hated so much to solve his deficit problems. Minnesota and Wisconsin were among states using the same tactic.

According to Pope Francis, “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.” His proposal is to dismantle unjust economic and social systems, doing away with an unfettered capitalist market and any other system that uses people rather than serves them. He has prayed for “more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.” Ryan doesn’t fit into this category.

As a PR move, Ryan toured schools, churches, and other groups to determine how they are trying to solve the problem of poverty. After this experience, he talked about stereotypic causes of poverty—drug abuse, teen parents, single mothers, absentee fathers, prison time, no higher education—in short, “a lack of productive habits.” Missing from his picture of poverty are college graduates unable to find work, longer-term unemployed without unemployment insurance, older people unable to get jobs because of their age, and people unable to support themselves and their children because of low minimum wages.

Ryan’s conclusion is still that people are poor because they made bad personal choices. He fails to understand that poverty in the United States today comes from a huge inequality in income. Ryan used social security benefits after his father died so that he could go to school; he should understand its importance.

As Bill Moyers pointed out, “Claiming you can solve poverty without money is like claiming you can solve drought without water.” Conservatives believe that the only way to have a strong national defense is to give vast amounts of money to defense contractors, but they think they can solve the problem of poverty by giving low-income people less funding. Low-income people spend most of the money on basic necessities like housing, food, fuel, health care and education; wealthy people take a large percentage of their money out of the country.

Ryan wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The best anti-poverty program is economic growth.” Yet while the economy has grown 147 percent per capita since the 1970s, the average U.S. worker earns about exactly the same as 30 years ago when wages are adjusted for inflation. The 15-percent share of people in poverty is higher than in the early 1970s. Almost all the gains since that time went to the top: the richest 1 percent went from 9 percent of total income 40 years ago to over 20 percent now.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has joined Ryan in lying about poverty. He denies that raising the minimum wage or giving the poor more assistance would address poverty. Instead he wants “reforms that encourage and reward work.” That follows Ronald Reagan’s line that the best social program is a job, a theory that has contributed to the nation’s downfall. Jobs are important, both to economic well-being and self-esteem, but the number of working poor in the United States has steadily been growing. For almost 20 years, people on government assistance have been required to have jobs, meaning that more poor people have jobs. Approximately one-fourth of all American workers have jobs paying below what a full-time, full-year worker needs in order to live above the federally defined poverty line for a family of four.

A favorite mantra of conservatives is that poor people have no ambition. Yet many people work long hours at backbreaking jobs and still need a safety net. Poor people actually lack opportunity, beginning with good schools. The United States is one of three advanced countries that spend less on educating poor children and rich ones. Israel and Turkey are the only other two countries that have more teachers and less crowded classrooms in schools with more privileged students. The other countries have exactly the reverse.

Ryan’s budget would slash food stamp programs, leaving people hungry. It would cut scholarships, keeping poor youth out of higher education. It would only make life easier for the wealthy. It would reverse the Affordable Care Act, leaving people without any health care. It would eliminate low-income programs that work, including the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program that helps low-income pregnant women and children obtain fresh produce at farmers’ markets.

Ryan’s religion is the Republican party.

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