Category Archives: Congress

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.

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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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Politics 101: Don’t physically assault a reporter

There is a special election today in the state of Montana to fill the congressional seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, the former Montana Republican now running the Interior Department.

Montana is a very “red” state. But surprisingly, the Montana special election is ‘closer than it should be’:

Democrat Rob Quist (right), a folk singer and first-time candidate, has raised more than $6 million for his campaign, including $1 million in the past week alone as energized Democratic donors pour online cash into political causes this year. Quist hopes that enthusiasm also contributes to an outsize turnout — as it did in special elections in Kansas and Georgia earlier this year — for the oddly scheduled Thursday election, happening just before a holiday weekend.

“I remember talking to people when it first started who said this was a slam dunk, Greg Gianforte’s it. And it’s not there anymore,” said Jim Larson, the Montana Democratic Party chairman. “It is a lot closer than people ever thought it would be.”

Then on the eve of the special election, Quist’s GOP opponent, Greg Gianforte, self-imploded. GOP candidate cited for assault as newspapers pull endorsements:

Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte was charged late Wednesday with misdemeanor assault after witnesses said he “body-slammed” a reporter for the Guardian who had been trying to ask him about the GOP’s health care bill.

Hours before polls close Thursday after nearly four weeks of voting, three of Montana’s largest newspapers rescinded their endorsements of the Republican. Democrats called on him to quit the race.

“Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation,” said Sheriff Brian Gootkin in a statement. “Greg Gianforte received a citation on Wednesday night and is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7, 2017.”

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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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‘Follow the (Russian) money’ – it’s always about the money

There were two key paragraphs in the Washington Post’s report from last Friday. Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say:

Although the case began quietly last July as an effort to determine whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian operatives to meddle in the presidential election campaign, the investigative work now being done by the FBI also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president. The people familiar with the matter said the probe has sharpened into something more fraught for the White House, the FBI and the Justice Department — particularly because of the public steps investigators know they now need to take, the people said.

And:

While there has been a loud public debate in recent days over the question of whether the president might have attempted to obstruct justice in his private dealings with Comey, whom Trump fired last week, people familiar with the matter said investigators on the case are more focused on Russian influence operations and possible financial crimes.

As I said, “This would explain passing references to the Treasury Department in recent reporting. This likely involves the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN.”

The Treasury Department and FinCEN are now in the news this week. CNN reports, Warner: Treasury has not fully responded to Senate Intel requests:

Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said Tuesday that the Treasury Department has not fully complied with his committee’s requests for documents relevant to its probe into Russian meddling in the US election.

Likewise, Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter on Tuesday to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting records of Trump businesses and any connections to Russia by June 2.

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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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Rep. Martha McSally ‘chicken bunker’ tele-town hall tonight (Updated)

UPDATE:  Rep. Martha McSally on Wednesday morning announced she has canceled a telephone town hall later today that was set to give constituents a chance to talk to her directly about health-care legislation. Rep. Martha McSally cancels today’s phone-in town hall due to emergency trip:

In a brief statement, McSally’s office said the congresswoman was traveling to Tucson because a man described as a father figure is gravely ill.

“The man who has been a father figure in Rep. McSally’s life for the last twenty (years) took a turn for the worse this morning in his battle against cancer and his health is rapidly deteriorating,” read the statement from her spokeswoman, Kelly Schibi.

“Rep. McSally has to urgently fly back to Tucson this afternoon. She regretfully will have to reschedule the health care telephone town hall for the next available date. Due to this emergency, the Congresswoman will also miss votes on Wednesday and Thursday. Rep. McSally has already informed the Speaker of this unfortunate circumstance. She appreciates her constituents’ understanding during this difficult time.”

The Arizona Daily Star reports, McSally to hold phone-in town hall Wednesday evening:

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally announced she will hold a telephone town hall at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, giving constituents a chance to talk to her directly about health-care legislation.

To participate in the call, dial 877-229-8493 and enter the code 114341.

Our “cowardly lion“ congresswoman Martha McSally is too afraid to meet her constituents face-to-face to explain her votes in a public forum.

The tele-town hall comes nearly three weeks after McSally rallied the GOP troops to “Let’s get this fucking thing done!” in voting in favor of the “Zombie Trumpcare” American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed on a party-line vote.

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According to FiveThirtyEight’s Congressional Tracker (last updated May 18), Rep. McSally stands by her man Donald Trump 100% of the time.

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