Nel's New Day

July 12, 2012

House Votes against Health Care, Senate against Jobs

Next time any Republican claims that they are trying to get jobs while President Obama is destroying the economy, mention today’s vote that would have given small businesses a tax cut and create almost 1 million jobs. The vote against limited debate, better known as the filibuster, was 53-44. In the past, the Senate needed only 51 votes to pass a bill. Now they need 60 votes. It was a bill to cut taxes—the GOP’s favorite kind of bill. But they whined about not being able to water down the bill with nonsensical amendments so they defeated it. Their real reason was to try to make the president look bad. The conservatives, as usual, are willing to keep people from getting jobs in order to take over the government and give the wealthy all the resources in the United States.

Yesterday the House voted—for either the 31st or 33rd time depending on who’s keeping the count—to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The final vote was 244-185 for repeal, with 5 Democrats joining the majority. Republicans are becoming more and more blatant about their refusal to “promote the general welfare” as shown by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s statement, “That is not the issue,” when Chris Matthews asked him about coverage for 30 million uninsured people. Some Republicans have openly said that people must accept the fact that the poor will die because they are poor.

After the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on advertisements that health care for all removes freedom from some people, only 31 percent of the population want to entirely repeal the law. Massachusetts is an example of how people approve of “Romneycare,” the basis for the current health care act. In that state, 98 percent of the population have health insurance, and 60 percent want to keep the program. A national poll shows that only six percent consider repealing the ACA a “top priority,” and 56 percent want the regressives to stop trying to block implementation and move on to real problems. That’s the majority who want to pass bills like the one in the Senate today that would get jobs for people.

Republicans know that yesterday’s House vote was a waste of time because they cannot get it through the Senate. “Obviously we all understand that it’s a statement of principle and it doesn’t have any chance in the Senate, but I think it’s appropriate,” said Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH). The House has fewer than 141 days left in the year to create jobs and support the economy. Even some Republicans understand this. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said, “We’ve already passed repeal 16 ways to Sunday,” while a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the House has voted to dismantle, defund, or repeal the healthcare law 30 times in the 112th Congress.

The waste is not just of time. The so-called fiscally-responsible party has spent at least 80 hours of floor time on repeals; that’s two full weeks. Each week of floor time costs $24 million; two weeks is $48 million. With committee and staff time, the tab for the taxpayers for this foolishness comes to more than $50 million.

Republican lawmakers are willing to leave millions of people without coverage, up to 54 million in 2019. Conservative legislators don’t care that without ACA, health care costs will increase, people with pre-existing conditions will lose coverage, and the Medicare disarray for the 100 million claims monthly will result in doctors not being paid for a up to a half year.

The so-called fiscally-responsible Republicans also don’t care that repealing ACA costs the government money. The CBO predicts that the government will get at least an additional $230 billion “as a result of changes and revenue.” Repeal would “increase federal deficits in the decade after 2019 by an amount that is in a broad range around one-half percent of GDP.”

People tend to disapprove of ACA because they don’t know many of them can save money through lower insurance costs, government subsidies, and fuller health coverage. The wealthiest people in the country will pay more taxes, increasing the percentage toward that of the middle class. In January anyone with an adjusted gross income of over $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers)–only 2.1 percent of households–will pay a 3.8% surcharge on investment income, dividends and capital gains.

People will get money back from their insurers if the companies spend too little money on actual health care for those that they insure. For the past 18 months, insurers have been required to use 85 percent of the premiums (80 percent for individual and small-group plans) on healthcare, allowing only the remainder on general overhead and CEO bonuses. Any expenditures not specifically on health care that are more than that 80 or 85 percent has to be rebated to customers.

People who oppose the ACA believe that they appear to think that they will never lose their jobs or be short of money for health insurance. They fail to understand that they can lose their job at any time, or their employers may decide not to provide health insurance. Without the ACA, there is no law requiring small businesses to provide employee health insurance.

Better health for everyone saves money for all because the poor won’t have to go to the emergency room, causing charges that are passed along to insured people. One program discovered that better care stopped over half the emergency room visits by the poor, reducing costs by 62 percent. A $235 million expenditure in free contraception can lower costs of $1.32 billion by preventing unintended pregnancies. A study of 703 Oregon Health Plan patients who received one year of drug treatment saved $2.5 million, not counting the decrease in costs in crime, jail, child protective services, 9-1-1 calls, and lawsuits resulting from police shootings.

Regressive governors are deciding whether to refuse federal Medicaid money. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the first to take this approach, and his people are in the worst condition. Over 6 million Texans—25 percent and the highest percentage in the nation—are now uninsured. The level for receiving Medicaid in that state is an income less than one-fourth of the poverty level. For a single person, that level is $2,944—per year. Any single person making $3,000 or more annually cannot receive public health care because of Texas guidelines for Medicaid. Initially, the federal government would pick up the tab for all people with incomes of 133 percent of the poverty level. After five years of health reform, Texas could insure 1,798,314 more Americans under the Medicaid expansion alone, more than any state in the nation. But Perry wants to keep one in four people in his states without health insurance.

Setting up a state health insurance exchange would enable the remaining millions of uninsured Texans to purchase affordable health insurance. Perry also refuses the exchanges. The federal government will create exchanges if the state won’t, but people between 25 percent and 133 percent of the poverty level won’t get any health insurance, leaving 1.8 million people in Texas without health care.

Mitt Romney has spent part of his campaign lying about the high cost of the ACA. When CBO points out that Medicare will cost $500 billion less, he tried to convince people that ACA will shortchange them. The savings comes from getting rid of fraud and ending overpayments to private insurance companies, but Romney claims otherwise.

Romney has a serious problem during his campaign in trying to skirt the whole “Obamacare” and “Romneycare” issue. First, his campaign said that neither one was a tax; then he switched to saying that the federal ACA is a tax. He still claims that he didn’t raise taxes in Massachusetts with his personal health care mandate. “At the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates. They don’t need to require them to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional,” Romney said. “And as a result, Massachusetts’ mandate was a mandate, was a penalty, was described that way by the Legislature and by me, and so it stays as it was.”

Here are the similarities between the Massachusetts and the federal plans. Both measures require individuals to have health insurance, require that businesses offer health care to their employees and provide subsidies or exemptions for people who can’t afford it. Both also impose penalties on people who can afford health insurance but don’t pay for it.

Sarah Palin brought up the topic of “Death Panels” when the ACA was first being debated, and the right wingnuts are still passing this around the Internet. It is the conservatives in the House of Representatives that want a death panel through their rabid attempts to kill health care for the people of the United States. One of them, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) actually said during House debate that insurance companies should be allowed to discriminate against people with brain tumors: “I don’t that think someone who is diagnosed with a massive tumor should the next day be able to have millions and millions and millions of dollars in health care provided.”

Without ACA, 20,350 people between the ages of 25 and 64 prematurely died in 2005 because they lacked health coverage. That number rose to 26,100 people in 2010—2,175 people every month. In those years, 134,120 people without health coverage died.

The Republicans will keep trying to kill more people, but for now we can celebrate. The Supreme Court ruling, for whatever reason, was a victory for due process, decency, and the people of the United States.


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