Category Archives: Budgets

Raising the federal debt ceiling: the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time

The recurring obligation to raise the federal debt ceiling was scheduled to coincide with the end of the current fiscal year on September 30 to give GOP hostage takers some leverage with passing next year’s budget.

It does not appear remotely possible that a budget will be ready by the end of this fiscal year, so once again Congress will wind up approving another short-term continuing resolution (CR) when it returns from its August recess.

GOP leaders also may have lost any leverage they hoped to gain from holding the federal debt ceiling hostage for their budget. Congress may have to act before the August recess.  The Washington Post reports, Trump administration warns tax receipts are coming in slowly, government could run out of cash sooner than expected:

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday said that tax receipts were coming in “slower than expected” and that the federal government could run out of cash sooner than it had thought.

Mulvaney’s comments, which came during a House Budget Committee hearing, resurrected an issue that Congress has mostly ignored in recent months but that will soon force some tough political decisions.

A few hours later, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin echoed these concerns, telling another House committee, “I urge you raise the debt limit before you leave for the summer.”

“We can all discuss how we cut spending and how we deal with the budget going forward, but it is absolutely critical that where we’ve spent money, that we keep the credit of the United States as the most critical issue,” Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee. “It is the reserve currency of the world.”

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Quinnipiac University poll: the public is solidly opposed to Zombie ‘Trumpcare’

A new Quinnipiac University poll released May 25 finds that:

American voters disapprove of the [Zombie “Trumpcare” (AHCA) bill] 57 – 20 percent, compared to a 56 – 21 percent disapproval in a May 11 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University, shortly after the revised plan passed the House of Representatives. Republicans in the House cancelled a vote on the first attempt to “repeal and replace” Obamacare on March 23, the day a Quinnipiac University poll showed voters opposed the idea 56 – 17 percent.

Among independent voters, a key bloc, only 17 percent are more likely to support an elected official who backs the health care plan, while 41 percent are less likely. Republicans are the only listed party, gender, education, age or racial group to support the health care plan, by a lackluster 42 – 24 percent, and the only group where more voters say they would support a candidate for reelection who backs the latest health care plan.

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This is GOP tribalism reinforced by Epistemic closure and the ‘conservative misinformation feedback loop’ media bubble.

“Advisory to Republicans who support the replacement for Obamacare: Backing this bill could be very hazardous to your political health,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Only 20 percent of American voters say they are more likely to vote for a Senator or member of Congress who supports the revised Republican health care plan, while 44 percent say they are less likely and 31 percent say this issue won’t affect their vote, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

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GOP sabotage of ‘Obamacare’ in today’s opinions

Some good opinion pieces at the New York Times today on the Tea-Publican efforts to sabotage “Obamacare” and replace it with their own dystopian vision of “Trumpcare.”

David Leonhardt writes, C.B.O. Report Reveals Trumpcare’s Fatal Flaws:

The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the House health care bill is a devastating indictment.

The new report shows that millions of Americans would lose health insurance and the quality of insurance for millions more would deteriorate. The savings from that carnage — to borrow a favorite word of President Trump’s — would pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

And yet the immediate reaction to the C.B.O. report also shows why you should be worried that the Senate will nonetheless decide to pass a version of the House bill.

* * *

Distraction is a tactic of the politicians who are trying to take away health insurance from people. These politicians can’t sell their proposals on the merits. That’s why both the House and, thus far, the Senate have refused to hold any hearings. They know that virtually every expert across the ideological spectrum — including groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, patients and senior citizens — opposes the bill.

Unable to win a debate on its merits, Republican leaders need to change the subject. They can’t let their proposals be judged on whether they improve the American health care system, because they don’t. They need to create a lower standard by which the plan will be judged.

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CBO Report on Zombie ‘Trumpcare’ bill: increase of 23 million uninsured and premiums out of reach for those with pre-exisitng conditions

The Zombie Trumpcare bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) which narrowly passed the House this month, would increase the projected number of people without health insurance by 14 million next year, would reach 19 million by 2020,  and 23 million in 2026, according to a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report (.pdf) released on Wednesday.

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The CBO issued two reports on earlier versions of the House bill in March. Both said that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured by 14 million next year and by 24 million within a decade, compared with the current law.

The New York Times reports, G.O.P. Health Bill Would Leave 23 Million More Uninsured in a Decade, C.B.O. Says:

The AHCA would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over a decade, less than the $150 billion in savings projected in late March for an earlier version of the bill [Trumpcare 2.0]. And in states that seek waivers from rules mandating essential health coverage, the new law could make insurance economically out of reach for some sick consumers.

CBO projects premiums would increase by an average of about 20 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019. “Starting in 2020, however, average premiums would depend in part on any waivers granted to states and on how those waivers were implemented and in part on what share of the funding available from the Patient and Stte Stability Fund was applied to premium rediction.”

“People living in states modifying the essential health benefits (EHBs) who used services or benefits no longer included in the EHBs woud experience substantial increases in out-of-pocket spending on health care or would choose to forgo the services.”

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Source: The three numbers you need to understand the CBO report on Republicans’ health-care bill.

Premiums would vary significantly according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums,” the budget office concluded.

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Save Clean Elections: Let Your Voice Be Heard (video)

Clean ElectionsProgressives, we have a situation…

If you want to get big money out of politics and you like Arizona’s Clean Elections system, it’s time to speak up to save it. Irregularities in the 2016 election prompted proposed rule changes by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. (There are three versions of R2-20-702 and a new rule R2-20-703.01 – here. You can send your comments to ccec@azcleanelections.gov or go to this link and submit comments by June 19, before the commission votes at its next meeting on June 22, 2017.)

Below is the back story and a detailed explanation of the proposed rule changes.

After collecting the requisite number of petition signatures and $5 qualifying donations from people who can vote for them, Clean Elections candidates (like me) receive lump sums of $16,000 for the primary and $24,000 for the general election– in exchange for vowing not to take big money donations. With seed money and family money, the total for a Clean Elections candidate is roughly $45,000 for a Legislative campaign. All unspent CE funds must be returned to the CE commission, and all unspent seed money or seed money overage must be returned to the individual donors.

During the 2016 election, two Democratic Party Clean Elections candidates turned over all or most of their CE funds in a lump sum to the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC) of the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) to run their campaigns, provide paid staff, and purchase/design/mail their printed materials. ADLCC provides these services to many traditionally funded candidates and offered them to CE candidates as well in 2016. A problem arose with at least two CE candidates because the party didn’t provide individual invoices for specific services rendered.

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Questions for Martha McSally re: health care

Below is some recent reporting on health care to help you formulate your questions for Rep. Martha McSally for her “chicken bunker” tele-town hall tonight.

The largest health insurance companies in the United States reaped historically large profits in the first quarter of this year, despite all the noise you hear surrounding the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces. Profits are booming at health insurance companies:

Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group — the big five for-profit insurers — cumulatively collected $4.5 billion in net earnings in the first three months of 2017. That was by far the biggest first-quarter haul for the group since the ACA exchanges went live in 2014. Other major insurers, such as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield company Health Care Service Corp., also are improving their ACA operations.

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Aetna lost money only because it had to pay Humana a $1 billion break-up fee after their merger failed; otherwise it would have been in the black. Some other things to keep in mind:

  • The ACA exchanges represent a small amount of the insurance market, and most of the for-profit carriers have bailed on those plans.
  • Employer-based coverage is a profit center, but insurers continue to invest more in Medicare Advantage and Medicaid.
  • Congress suspended the ACA’s health insurance industry fee for 2017, which is creating a temporary windfall.
  • The first quarter of the year is usually good for health insurers. Deductibles are reset, leaving people on the hook for a lot of their out-of-pocket medical expenses. The fourth quarter usually is the worst, since people often reach their deductibles by the end of the year.

Uncertainty over the future of health care for millions of Americans grew deeper Monday after the administration and House Republicans asked an appeals court for a 90-day extension in a case that involves federal payments to reduce deductibles and copayments for people with modest incomes who buy their own policies. Insurers seek stability as Trump delays health care decision:

The fate of $7 billion in “cost-sharing subsidies” remains under a cloud as insurers finalize their premium requests for next year.

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