Showing posts with label Health Care. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health Care. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Trump can't hold President Obama's jock strap

Trump, Chieftain of Spite

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bill Cassidy just won't stop lying about his healthcare bill

By Laura Clawson


THIBODAUX, LA - FEBRUARY 23:  Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) speaks during a town hall meeting on February 23, 2017 in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Cassidy spoke on a wide range of issues including healthcare, jobs and government spending.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Bill Cassidy
“This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face,” Jimmy Kimmel said on Tuesday night. And on Wednesday morning, Cassidy did a lot more lying about his healthcare plan. He lied on CNN:
“I’m sorry he does not understand,” Cassidy said of Kimmel. “Under Graham Cassidy Heller Johnson, more people will have coverage, and we protect those with preexisting conditions. States like Maine, Virginia, Florida, Missouri — there will be billions more dollars to provide health insurance coverage for those in those states who have been passed by by Obamacare, and we protect those with preexisting conditions.”
He lied on MSNBC:
“There will be more people covered under the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment than are under status quo and we protect those with pre-existing conditions,” Cassidy said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
And the reality that Kimmel laid out so clearly—that Cassidy’s bill simply does not live up to the tests he set himself and will hurt a lot of people—remains:
That statement, similar to one Cassidy also made on CNN, is virtually impossible to defend. The Graham-Cassidy proposal, which Republicans are rushing to take up for a floor vote next week, calls for reducing federal spending on health care through two sets of changes. [...]
As for Cassidy’s other claim, that his bill would protect people with pre-existing conditions, that’s not true, at least in the sense most people would understand it. The bill would very explicitly allow states to waive existing rules, which the Affordable Care Act put in place, prohibiting insurers from charging higher premiums to people based on their medical status. With that flexibility, insurers could make coverage prohibitively expensive for people with a variety of medical conditions, from diabetes to cancer.
Cassidy wants to make his bill seem different from the wildly unpopular Republican bills that failed, but the only thing that’s really different is that this time, Republicans are up against a Sept. 30 deadline for repealing Obamacare and the pressure to get on board will be that much more intense. This bill will still gut the Medicaid expansion that’s gotten so many people the health coverage they need and it will still weaken protections for pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits and much more. He lies, he lies, he lies—and he lies in the service of harming millions of Americans.

Another Obamacare repeal bill?! It’s time to jam the congressional phone lines again. Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on any repeal bill.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fresh Health Care Fuckery: Your McCain Praise Was Probably Wasted

Posted by Rude One

Ah, remember when Mighty Maverick John McCain was the mighty maverick hero last time there was a vote on a bullshit health care "reform" bill with his mighty mavericky thumbs-down?

Remember the ejaculations of praise for this irascible cockhead doing something decent just to fuck with Donald Trump? Remember his slobber-coated speech where he said of the Senate, "Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order"? Remember how he insisted, "Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate"?

Yeah, fuck all that noise. Now that the new spiked dildo of health care, the Graham-Cassidy-etc bill, is threatening to be rammed up the hemorrhoidal anus of the American people, with just about every fucking terrible thing as the last attempt intact, McCain said that he wanted to hear from Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona. Ducey had opposed the previous Trumpcare bill because it dicked over Arizonans on expanded Medicaid. Now Ducey has said he supports Graham-Cassidy-who-the-fuck-cares, even though the aforementioned dicking remains, and McCain has tweeted that he's still feeling cranky about the process but is "inclined" to support the bill.

And even if McCain ends up going thumbs-down again, fuck him for even contemplating an upraised thumb. Either you've got principles or you don't, motherfucker.

In all the time the GOP has had, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, since the election, since the failure of the "Fuck You, We Don't Care If You Die Bankrupt" bill in July, they have not made a case for repeal except "We said we'd do it." It's like a bunch of morons promising to light their farts if their favorite team wins a championship. The only people who wanna see that are other morons. Right now, we're down to 8.8% of Americans without health insurance, and a good number of those are because of the assholes in Republican states not expanding Medicaid.

Who does this bill help? It's faith-based legislation. Republicans say that Obamacare is making you suffer, so, if you're GOP-inclined, you believe it's making you suffer (even if it's paying for your chemo or psoriasis medication). And you have staked your entire political belief system on your investment in this bullshit. You'd rather die a miserable death than admit that you were always the mark for a bunch of low-rent Barnums. This way to the amazing egress, idiots. Grab a snipe on your way.

I wrote last week about the remarkable care I received in the UK for free. I was in the middle of the fourth largest city in the country, and every complaint I've heard about single-payer was rendered utterly and completely false.

Yet here we are, unable to even agree that tens of millions of people, including those with pre-existing conditions, who are now covered by the Affordable Care Act, deserve to be treated as human beings. What a stupid goddamned society we've built. It's repulsive. It's disgusting. It's immoral. And yet so many of our dumb fellow citizens think this is the way things ought to be.

The cruelest trick that capitalists ever played on Americans was making them believe they didn't need everyone else. Our fake rugged individualism will be our undoing.

And for those of us who do give a shit about our fellow Americans, it's once more to the phones to make Senators fear for their careers.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

White House anti-drug office asks Mass. for medical Marijuana data

An arm of the White House’s anti-drug office has asked Massachusetts and several other states where medical marijuana is legal to turn over information about registered patients, triggering a debate over privacy rights and whether state officials should cooperate with a federal administration that appears hostile to the drug.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2017/08/25/white-house-anti-drug-office-asks-massachusetts-for-medical-marijuana-data/FIiAccGpbD7az3wfUyoMbK/story.html

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cartoon Roundup





























'Skinny Repeal' Defeated, Thanks To Democrats And Senators McCain, Murkowski And Collins

By Karoli Kuns





























Tonight, Senator John McCain just paid red don back for his 'I like people who weren't captured' shit.

He was the third vote, with Senators Collins and Murkowski to kill the skinny bill.
I don't know what happens next.
---
All eight pages of the Trojan Horse "Health Care Freedom Act" have been published.

I could tell you what's in them, but the thing is, Senators don't want this to become law. They don't want the House to rubber-stamp this. This is just a placeholder to send over to the House so they can convene a conference committee, which will surely fail.

And when it fails, this will pass. So I guess that means you should know what's in it.
  • Repeals individual mandate, effective January 1, 2017.
  • Allows some tinkering by states to Essential Health Benefits
  • Repeals device tax
  • Defunds Planned Parenthood
  • Raises limits to Health Savings Accounts
This bill will immediately increase premiums by 20 percent across the whole marketplace -- not just individual but also employer markets. It will also take away access for 16-17 million people.

I'm afraid (as are many of the health care experts I follow) that this will pass. I will update this post with more as it's available.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

John McCain Is The Perfect American Lie

John McCain Is Neither A Maverick Nor A Hero - He's A Coward


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Another Big Republican Lie On The ACA: They Can Give You Something Better

Posted by Rude One

We know that Republicans have lied nonstop about the Affordable Care Act ever since it was passed into law by a Democratic-led Congress and signed by the Negro President.

We know that Republicans are stuck because the ACA is mostly based on Massachusetts's Romneycare and both come from plans from the conservative Heritage Foundation.

We know that Republicans lied and continue to lie about the effects of the AHCA and then the BCRA, the House and Senate versions of their "repeal and replace" bills.

But there is one more thing, one more set of lies, that is responsible for sticking a shiv into the GOP's dream of murdering a bunch of poor people so rich people can be richer.

See, Republicans keep trying to put the blame for the fix they're in on American voters. "We have to keep our promises to the American people," Republicans say. "We won the last three elections by promising to repeal and replace Obamacare," they whine like a dog that caught a cat only to realize it was a fucking mountain lion. Yeah, they're right. Voters did put Republicans in power over the promise of getting rid of the Obamacare horror and torture or whatever drama queen word you wanna use. But, and this is important, they only wanted to get rid of it because Republicans said they'd do better. Or, to put it another way, they lied about what they could do for people if the Affordable Care Act was overturned.

Senator after senator told you how you were enslaved by Obamacare and that the GOP would set you free. John McCain proclaimed, "Families in Arizona and across the country should have the power to make their own medical decisions – not Washington bureaucrats. This bill puts patients and doctors back in charge of their health care by fully repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a free-market approach that strengthens the quality and accessibility of care." John Thune promised, "It’s time to repeal this law and replace it with something that works. And that’s precisely what we’re going to do."

Others got even more explicit. For instance, here's Wyoming Senator John Barrasso (campaign slogan: "If you can't trust a man whose name includes the phrase 'bare ass,' who can you trust?"), from a speech he gave on the floor of the Senate in November, shortly after the election: "First of all, nobody is talking about taking people off of insurance without a replacement plan in place." Except that's exactly what they talked about. While Republicans will constantly mention how President Obama said, "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" (which, to be fair, was an absurd promise), they simply aren't owning that they got voters all excited about this new fantasy health care plan where they wouldn't lose coverage despite repealing the very law that gave them coverage.

In fact, when you get to what President Donald Trump said, Republicans were promising something amazing. Put aside that Trump repeatedly said he wouldn't cut Medicaid and then, immediately after inauguration, put out a plan to cut Medicaid. Trump and his people consistently promised that Americans would have better health insurance coverage, that all Americans would be covered, and that it would cost them less in premiums and deductibles. He literally said this: "You will end up with great health care for a fraction of the price." And he told Americans that we would have a "beautiful picture" in the future of health care.

Republicans like to say that Democrats promise that they'll give people "free stuff" and that people on government programs like Medicaid are "moochers." But Republicans didn't win on the Obamacare issue because people didn't want free stuff. They didn't win because they said they would take away their health insurance. They won because they promised people more free stuff and better free stuff.

In other words, they lied. But voters believed them. They wanted to mooch more.

And the vast majority of Americans realize now that it was a lie because the Trumpcare plan that the Senate may vote to move forward tomorrow does none of the things they promised other than get rid of the health insurance they have now or make it worse and more expensive. So, of course, now we get articles like "These Americans Hated the Health Law. Until the Idea of Repeal Sank In." In that New York Times piece, Pennsylvania dumb shits who once thought Obamacare was the worst thing since the theory of evolution say things like "I can’t even remember why I opposed it" and "Everybody needs some sort of health insurance." One stupid fuck went from opposing the law to "Now that you’ve insured an additional 20 million people, you can’t just take the insurance away from these people. It’s just not the right thing to do."

But we knew all along that people liked the Affordable Care Act. They liked the elimination of spending caps and of pre-existing conditions determining premiums. They liked keeping their kids on insurance until age 26. And a shit-ton of people got to live because of the Medicaid expansion. Yeah, the ACA was fine. What they hated was Obamacare, which is exactly what Republicans wanted people to think of for a very simple reason:

Most Republican voters don't hate the ACA. They hate that their white asses were saved by a black man.

They resented the shit out of that fact. It put a lie to all the racism they've clung to for generations. The GOP used that racism for years. Now that the black man is gone, though, they're totally fine with the law and its benefits. They gave Republicans a chance to give them more stuff, but they don't want their stuff taken away. Especially when that "stuff" is the right to live a healthy life.

Be careful this week, dear dumb shits and dearer smart asses. Republicans are going to keep coming after the Affordable Care Act, no matter how many shivs you stick in it. Stay on the phones. Keep the pressure up on the few Republican senators who can make the difference. Don't let the liars win. It's life and death, motherfuckers, life and death.

And once we finally put this beast down, let's turn our attention to single payer.

(Fun extra part of Barrasso's speech: "Democrats promised that they would listen to other people’s ideas, and then they went behind a closed door in an office back there, and they wrote the law ignoring all of the suggestions by Republicans, and without any Republican support at all. We’re not going to make that same mistake. We will be looking for Democrats’ help, we will be looking for Democrats to work with. We will be listening to Democrats’ ideas, and we will be working very hard to win Democrat votes for any new law." Insert your own rolling-with-laughter emoji here.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trump Whines On Twitter About Healthcare Bill Failure, Vows “We Will Return!”

Donald Trump took to Twitter to blame Democrats and “a few Republicans” for the failure of the GOP healthcare bill in the Senate.  He then ended his infantile rant with an ominous threat that “we will return.”  Does he not understand that people don’t want the GOP’s healthcare “fix” and that the entire Republican Party needs to simply move on? Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.



Link – http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/342465-trump-blames-dems-few-republicans-for-collapse-of-healthcare-bill

The Republican Party Is Hilariously Incompetent

With the recent collapse of their healthcare bill in the Senate, the Republican Party has shown us that they are incapable of leading this country.  Obviously, the death of their healthcare bill is a good thing, but you have to wonder how these people can control so much of this country without any clue how to lead. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.



Link – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-republican-party-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place_us_596c2c1be4b09e26b6d7693b?section=us_politics

Friday, July 14, 2017

Unlike Most of the GOP, the Trumps Are Shitty Liars

Posted by Rude One

Let's be clear here: The Republican Party holds the power it does because it is unafraid to lie. From the overhyped fear of Communism to the overhyped fear of crime to the overhyped fear of terrorism, the GOP has jumped from lie to lie to lie in order to maintain power, often pivoting back to ones that work so well, like welfare fraud and, time and again, crime. They recovered from their near dismantling in 2006 and 2008, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 washed away the Bush bullshit, by going big with the lies about Barack Obama and, especially, about the Affordable Care Act. And as Republican leaders in the Senate desperately try to come up with a way to squeeze out one more turd of a Trumpcare bill, they are lying with abandon, and not just about what's in the aforementioned turd.

Obamacare markets aren't "collapsing." They're stabilizing. People on the Medicaid expansion aren't desperate to get rid of it. They are satisfied with the care they are getting. Over two-thirds of the country, including a majority of Republicans, support the birth control mandate in Obamacare, the subject of another fake controversy just to appeal to yahoo religious nutzoids.

And the reason that they've gotten away with lying is that they are so fucking good at it. They are so fucking good at playing the media, playing their constituents, playing the Democrats, playing everyone. They are master bullshitters. They get away with it because conservative ideas in a political context are so fucking simple to understand. What's easier on the brain? "We should provide decent education, housing, job-training, and anti-poverty programs to help combat crime"? Or "Lock 'em up"? Democrats can't compete until they come up with a better story than the lies that have worked so well for so long.

It was going along so well for the GOP until the Trumps, this family of outsiders, came along and fucked it all up. Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and Junior have lived on a privileged plane of existence, where having a cadre of brutish dickhead attorneys on retainer is enough of a deterrent for anyone who would dare question them or try to get paid fairly. They could intimidate people into silence or, if that fails, settle any lawsuits with the handy provisions that they admit no guilt and the plaintiffs can't talk about it. They could be bumblefuck corrupt business shitheels and get away with it.

The biggest problem in getting into the public arena is that, all of a sudden, the Trumps have to deal with the federal government, an entity that doesn't just have lawyers but entire goddamned bureaus devoted to investigating just the kind of fuckery that the Trumps have regularly been involved in. Throw in a media that realizes it had better make itself relevant again or just fucking give up, and a group of people as boisterously, unashamedly moronic as the Trumps don't stand a chance. You don't want to be probed and pilloried? Then either don't be corrupt (except in the usual way of sucking up to Wall Street and other rich fucks - that's just sadly acceptable now), like Obama, who could take all the shit and toss it back, or don't fucking run for office.

We'll never know what toxic combination of hubris, narcissism, and lickspittlism got Donald Trump to run for president to win. But we do know that another toxic combination got him elected, and one of the primary ingredients in that poison was the interference of the Russian government. We also know that we are learning all this because the Trump family was too fucking dumb to cover it up well. They're shitty liars as well as being shitty human beings.

You can imagine Karl Rove slapping his bloated forehead when he saw the emails between cartoon louche Richie Gallstone or whatever the fuck that guy's name is and Donald Trump, Jr. You can imagine Rove getting on the phone with John Boehner and the two of them, liars of the first order, screaming with laughter, "The subject line...the subject line is 'Russia-Clinton.'" You can imagine them both calling Mitch McConnell and taunting him about having to deal with this shit. You can imagine McConnell slowly cursing the fact that he worked so hard to get all these lies working, all the cocksucking and ratfucking that went into them, and now they're being brought down by these Trump assholes.

You can be corrupt. You can be stupid. You can't be stupid and corrupt. Otherwise, you don't know when to shut the fuck up. You don't know when to keep your head down. You don't know when to not fucking tweet out the evidence that, at the very least, reveals the very thing everyone has been trying to pin on you.

So now it falls to the professional liars, the liars with experience, to try to unfuck this fucked up situation. You are going to see a hard-press from the right-wing attack dogs about how this is nothing, how the Democrats are more corrupt and destructive, how it was just a Washington naif's error. It's happening already, and they're saying that it's essentially treasonous to not support the president, a hypocrisy that they have no problem with. They'll say it's about bringing down the great man Trump, it's about sour grapes over the failure in the election, and it's about the mighty flag-waving patriots who don't want to see the country dragged down by what they don't even see as a scandal.

Which brings us back to the top of this here post. The Trump lies and power-at-any-cost actions are part and parcel of what the Republican Party does. The GOP is filthy with masterful sleaze merchants. They can fuck your ears and tell you it was God's blessing. It's going to be up to the Democrats to come up with a simple, straightforward narrative here that can slap the Republicans down until they scurry back to the gutter.

How this turns out will reveal who gives a shit about the nation. Who is enraged that this has happened. Who the real patriots are.

(Note: Sure, Democrats went along some of the time with GOP lies because they can get swept up in a lie as much as anyone, but they rarely have been the originators of a big lie in the last 50 years. And, yeah, the country ain't perfect. No shit. Patriots work to make it better.)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

New poll shows majority of Americans are unaware Trumpcare slashes Medicaid

Just 38 percent of people polled knew the Republican health care bill makes major cuts to Medicaid.


As Senate Republicans aim to force a vote on their version of Trumpcare — a bill that was written in secret, without public hearings, despite the fact that it will reshape one-sixth of the U.S. economy and impact the lives of millions of Americans — most people have been left in the dark.

Last month, the House passed their version of the bill, which would strip health care from 24 million people, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The bill also makes major cuts and structural changes to Medicaid, a health insurance program relied upon by nearly 75 million Americans — primarily low-income, disabled, and elderly.

The Senate version of Trumpcare goes even further, according to the draft released by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday, effectively phasing out Medicaid entirely.

But according to a new poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Friday, only 38 percent of Americans are aware of the significant cuts to Medicaid that would be delivered by the House-passed bill (the poll was conducted before the details of the Senate bill were made public). Seventy-four percent of those polled, meanwhile, said they have a favorable opinion of Medicaid.

 
The KFF poll notes that “proposed Medicaid changes were not initially a major point of discussion surrounding consideration of the House bill… which may partly explain why many respondents were unaware of its effect.”

The Senate’s harsher Medicaid cuts were immediately met with fierce objections, however. Roughly 60 members of ADAPT, a U.S. disability rights organization that strongly opposes the Republican health care bill, staged a die-in outside of McConnell’s office on Thursday. Wheelchair users were arrested and dragged from the Capitol by police.

Moderate Republicans have also expressed their discomfort with the severe cuts to Medicaid, with the strongest objection thus far coming from Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) on Friday. “I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans,” the senator said at a press conference in Las Vegas.

 
Hours later, America First Policies — a pro-Trump group run by several of the president’s top campaign advisers — announced it was launching a seven-figure advertising campaign against Heller, Politico reported. Heller is widely viewed as one of the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection in 2018.

Ironically, President Donald Trump made protecting Medicaid a key component of his campaign, vowing to “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts” in the speech announcing his candidacy.

Trump told the Washington Post’s Abby Phillip that the Senate version of Trumpcare needed “a little negotiation, but it’s going to be very good.” The president reportedly made calls to Senate Republicans on Friday to try to gin up support for the measure. Trump acknowledged there is a “very, very narrow path” to passage, but that “I think we’re going to get there,” Reuters reported.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10 Ways Mitch McConnell's Secret, Evil Senate Operation To Destroy The Affordable Health Care Act Will Make Life Hell For Many Americans

Mitch McConnell's politics have always been abysmal. But now he's playing with people's lives.

Photo Credit: cspan.org

As details emerge from Senate Republicans’ backroom deliberations to write a single bill repealing Obamacare, defunding Medicaid and deregulating health insurance, it's clear that virtually no American household—apart from the very rich—would be immune from fiscally painful and medically harsh consequences if the GOP gets a bill to the president’s desk.

For the past month, an 11 man committee appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has been meeting in secret to fine-tune the House-passed Obamacare repeal legislation. They are not starting anew, but are polishing a bill that will leave 15-20 million people without health care, prompt higher insurance and medical costs for all but the youngest adults, freeze and shrink state-run Medicaid (which now covers 45 percent of the children in rural America), and defund Planned Parenthood. This is according to analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, Kaiser Family Foundation and others.

Even the pro-corporate Washington Post editorial board has called out the GOP for its chaos-creating prescriptions, writing that they are “motivated to solve a problem that does not exist—saving a health-care system supposedly on the path to inevitable collapse by repealing and replacing Obamacare.” None of that seems to matter to McConnell, who wants to pass the as-yet-unreleased bill before the Senate’s July 4 recess. While defections from the GOP’s far right or few moderates could thwart any Senate bill’s passage, the White House has made it clear it wants McConnell to pass something the president can sign.

What’s unfolding in Washington right now is appalling. Beyond the cowardly political tactics, the GOP is literally playing with the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Everyone ages, and many will get sick and develop chronic illness and disease. The consequences can be devastating if the GOP shreds medical safety nets for the poor and allows the insurance industry to charge more yet deliver less health security in myriad ways.

What follows are 10 takeaways from the Senate’s Obamacare repeal process.

1. McConnell’s skullduggery is back. As Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 to 2017, wrote in a Washington Post column Saturday, only 8 percent of the public supported passage of the House’s Obamacare repeal bill (which also slashed Medicaid and included major tax cuts for the rich). He could have told senators to fix Obamacare’s problems, such as allowing small states to form insurance pools.

“Instead, McConnell put a plan in place to pass something close to the House bill using three simple tools: sabotage, speed and secrecy,” Slavitt wrote. “He formed a committee to meet secretly, hold no hearings, create a fast-track process and pressure Senate skeptics with backroom deals.” Trump just wants it done, Politico.com reported. “He’s definitely leaving it to Mitch to lead. But he very much wants it to happen,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, told Politico.

2. Congressional chaos is having its desired effect—2018 premiums to rise. The GOP is not just sending mixed signals about what they may do to one-sixth of the U.S. economy. They are intentionally provoking insurers to raise their prices for 2018 as a pretext to pass their legislation.

This was cited in a Washington Post editorial, “The GOP’s Obamacare Sabotage Continues,” in which the editorial board was unusually clear-eyed. “‘Insurers have made clear the lack of certainty is causing 2018 proposed premiums to rise significantly,’ House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said Thursday, arguing that Congress should step in.” That’s creating a problem to fit a solution.

3. Meanwhile Trump’s team is also embracing more chaos. The Trump team is doing everything it can not to enforce Obamacare, such as “lax enforcement of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, inadequate efforts to enroll more people in coverage and other gratuitous subversions of the finely tuned system Obamacare sought to create,” the same Post editorial said. As significant, the White House is refusing to commit to paying 2018 Obamacare subsidies for millions, according to Vox.com, which reported that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price wouldn’t even tell a U.S. Senate committee what the administration’s plans were.

4. Against this backdrop, the Senate is 'making progress.' That’s the word from a handful of center-right Republicans who have been shown glimpses of what’s going on behind closed doors—as if reversing one or two planks of the House bill is supposed to be a sign of moderation. That is absurd. Moreover, what the Senate is said to be doing is terrible.

For example, restoring Obamacare’s pre-existing condition rule—which requires insurers to sell people policies—but without cost controls or coverage requirements. Last month’s Congressional Budget Office analysis of the House-passed bill said a wide swath of the public “would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all.” Moreover, many policies are likely to cover less once minimum coverage standards are deregulated.

5. The young will pay less, but everyone else won’t. The only people who stand to benefit, the New York Times reported, are those least likely to get sick. “The budget office [CBO] did note that the House bill would potentially lead to lower prices, especially for younger and healthier people,” it said. “But the budget office also warned that markets in states that allowed insurers to charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions—whether high blood pressure, a one-time visit to a specialist or cancer.” This is what deregulation of the insurance industry will bring. The industry will go back to creating more barriers between patients and doctors.

6. Many policies will only be used for hospitalization. Other analyses include scenarios where people will see deductibles rise to levels where they will pay for most care until a serious emergency requiring hospital care arises. As the Times wrote, that can amount to a major fiscal burden.

“Millions of people could also wind up with little choice but to buy cheap plans that provided minimal coverage in states that opted out of requiring insurers to cover maternity care, mental health and addiction treatment or rehabilitation services, among other services required under the Affordable Care Act. Consumers who could not afford high premiums would wind up with enormous out-of-pocket medical expenses.”

7. Medicaid is going to be frozen, justified by big lies. Another detail that’s leaked out of the Senate drafting sessions is that it’s not a question whether Medicaid will see $800 billion in reduced spending and 14 million fewer recipients during the next decade, as the House bill laid out. Rather it is a question of how fast the Medicaid rollback will be. The Hill reports there’s been debate whether it will be three years or seven years. Vox.com also reports that the Senate wants to institute an approach that could lead to sharper funding cuts than the House: more frequent revisions to Medicaid reimbursement rates.

The White House and GOP talking points on this are a series of lies. HHS Secretary Price told a Senate committee, “We are trying to decrease the number of uninsured,” after the CBO estimated that 23 million people would lose insurance. Trump has said he will not touch Medicare—even though Medicaid pays for nursing home care in that program. And Republicans keep saying this is not spending cuts, but slower spending increases. “What the defenders of this claim—ranging from Karl Rove to Sally Pipes—have insisted is that this is a cut to the growth rate, not cuts to the existing program,” wrote health policy blogger Emma Sandoe. “The reality is that states will have to reduce the number of services they provide or reduce the types of people that can enroll as inflation and increased costs in medical services rise.”

8. This is a war on government and on the poor. What the GOP is trying to do is not just go after Obamacare, but dismantle safety nets dating back to the 1960s. As Sandoe noted, “The GOP has campaigned for decades on the idea that the social welfare state is bloated and that the oversized growth of the welfare state needs to be trimmed. The GOP should embrace the idea of calling per-capita caps and block grants cuts. From a policy perspective, the goal of the per-capita caps and block grants is to reduce the size and scope of the program.”

9. Republicans are pursuing this despite vast opposition. Recent polls show safety nets are incredibly popular while the GOP’s American Health Care Act is not. On Medicaid alone, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll by Democrats and Republicans opposed cutting its expansion and changing its financing structure. “Many other polls show that the majority of voters have favorable views of Medicaid, coming close to the level of support for Medicare,” Sandoe wrote. “Telling is that a Quinnipiac poll found that Republicans oppose cuts to Medicaid. This is one possible reason that the latest [GOP] messaging appears to be focused on reframing the cuts as minimal. Meanwhile, the AHCA has polled from 1721 percent by Quinnipiac and only 8 percent think that the Senate should pass these reforms without changes.”

10. If this passes, a colossal downward spiral will ensue. The impact of the AHCA, if passed, is not just going to be fiscal—in terms of increased out-of-pocket costs for those with insurance policies. As the Times reported, people age 50 and older, and “millions of middle- and working-class Americans” will once again be trapped in their jobs because they will be unable to pay for coverage. “The Affordable Care Act has enabled many of those workers to get transitional coverage that provides a bridge to the next phase of their lives—a stopgap to get health insurance if they leave a job, are laid off, start a business or retire early.”

For those too poor to buy insurance, Medicaid will contract and likely be forced to focus on emergency and crisis care, rather than prevention. Rationing care will likely ensue, unless states step in with raising revenues to offset federal cutbacks. Safety nets are likely to roll backwards, landing somewhere between where they are now and where they were before Obamacare’s reforms took effect.

McConnell’s Fast Track
As Axios.com reported, McConnell is hoping to finalize the Senate’s legislation this week, because the Congressional Budget Office will need two weeks to “score” it—the Washington term for assessing its financial and programmatic impacts—if it is to come up for a Senate floor vote before the July 4 break. While it's possible that McConnell could present a bill without that analysis, it is likely that more details will emerge in coming days.

At that point, Republicans will surely feel the full wrath of voters who aren’t going to have anything positive to say if their health care is trashed, or if the GOP tries to blame Obama and the Democrats for market chaos they have worsened, not diminished.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Monday, May 15, 2017

Republicans plan massive cuts to programs for the poor

Under pressure to balance the budget and align with Trump, the House GOP has its eye on food stamps, welfare and perhaps even veterans’ benefits.
House Republicans just voted to slash hundreds of billions of dollars in health care for the poor as part of their Obamacare replacement. Now, they’re weighing a plan to take the scalpel to programs that provide meals to needy kids and housing and education assistance for low-income families.

Donald Trump’s refusal to overhaul Social Security and Medicare — and his pricey wish-list for infrastructure, a border wall and tax cuts — is sending House budget writers scouring for pennies in politically sensitive places: safety-net programs for the most vulnerable.

Under enormous internal pressure to quickly balance the budget, Republicans are considering slashing more than $400 billion in spending through a process to evade Democratic filibusters in the Senate, multiple sources told POLITICO.

The proposal, which would be part of the House Budget Committee's fiscal 2018 budget, won't specify which programs would get the ax; instead it will instruct committees to figure out what to cut to reach the savings. But among the programs most likely on the chopping block, the sources say, are food stamps, welfare, income assistance for the disabled and perhaps even veterans benefits.

If enacted, such a plan to curb safety-net programs — all while juicing the Pentagon’s budget and slicing corporate tax rates — would amount to the biggest shift in federal spending priorities in decades.

Atop that, GOP budget writers will also likely include Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) proposal to essentially privatize Medicare in their fiscal 2018 budget, despite Trump’s unwavering rejection of the idea. While that proposal is more symbolic and won’t become law under this budget, it’s just another thorny issue that will have Democrats again accusing Republicans of “pushing Granny off the cliff.”
“The Budget Committee is trying to force the entire conference and committees of jurisdiction to focus on ways to bring down this deficit,” said senior budget panel member Rep. Tom Cole.

Republicans have long sought to tackle the nearly $20 trillion debt, but Trump has tied their hands by ruling out cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The Oklahoma Republican, however, acknowledged that mandatory spending reductions could become “very tough issues” — though he declined to name which programs would see major cuts:

“These are hard for anybody, no matter where you’re at on the political spectrum.”

While budget writers are well aware of the sensitive nature of their proposal, they feel they have no choice if they want to balance the budget in a decade, which they’ve proposed for years, and give Trump what he wants.

Enraged by Democrats claiming victory after last month’s government funding agreement, White House officials in recent weeks have pressed Hill Republicans to include more Trump priorities in the fiscal 2018 blueprint.

House Budget Republicans hope to incorporate those wishes and are expected, for example, to budget for Trump’s infrastructure plan. Tax reform instructions will also be included in the budget, paving the way for both chambers to use the powerful budget reconciliation process to push a partisan tax bill through Congress on simple majority votes, as well as the $400 billion in mandatory cuts.
“The critique last time was that we didn’t embed enough Trump agenda items into our budget,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a budget panel member. Trump has "made it clear it will be embedded in this budget. … And so people will see a process much more aligned with President Trump’s agenda in this forthcoming budget.”

New spending, however, makes already tough math even trickier for a party whose mantra is “balance the budget in 10 years.” Lawmakers need to cut roughly $8 trillion to meet that goal, budget experts say. And while a quarter of their savings in previous budgets came from repealing Obamacare and slicing $1 trillion from Medicaid, Republicans cannot count on those savings anymore because their health care bill sucked up all but $150 billion of that stash — relatively speaking, mere pocket change to play with.

Republicans’ first reflex would be to turn to entitlement reform to find savings. Medicare and Social Security, after all, account for the lion’s share of government spending and more than 70 percent of all mandatory spending.
But while former Freedom Caucus conservative-turned-White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has tried to convince the president of the merits of such reforms, Trump has refused to back down on his campaign pledge to leave Medicare and Social Security alone. (He’s reversed himself on a vow not to touch Medicaid, which would see $880 billion in cuts under the Obamacare repeal bill passed by the House.)

Mulvaney, sources say, has been huddling on a weekly basis with House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to plot a path forward. There appears to be some common ground to consider cuts to other smaller entitlement programs: While the Office of Management and Budget would not respond to a request for comment, CQ reported Tuesday that the White House was also considering hundreds of billions in cuts to the same programs being eyed by House budget writers.

“I’ve already started to socialize the discussion around here in the West Wing about how important the mandatory spending is to the drivers of our debt,” Mulvaney told radio host Hugh Hewitt in March. “There are ways that we cannot only allow the president to keep his promise, but to help him keep his promise by fixing some of these mandatory programs.”

Final details of the GOP’s budget plan aren’t expected until June, and specific language mandating the mandatory cuts still hasn’t been written, according to one aide familiar with the process.

Committees would then have several months to put together the department-by-department details on what exactly to cut, proposals that probably won’t land until the fall at the earliest, given the legislative calendar.

The idea could run into problems: It is unclear whether such cuts would be acceptable in the more moderate Senate. In order for the proposal to actually move, Senate Republicans would need to include the same instructions in their own budget.

In the House, Republican leaders hope the moves toward deficit reduction will buy them some good will with conservatives going into September, when the party’s right flank will have to swallow difficult votes to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government.

Cole argued the deficit-trimming push will appeal to the House Freedom Caucus, which blocked the House GOP’s budget on the floor last year in protest of spending levels its members considered too high.

But pleasing conservatives this time around will fuel anxiety on the other end of the conference. Endorsing cuts to programs for the poor will certainly make centrist House Republicans — many of whom were uncomfortable voting to slice Medicaid just weeks ago in the Obamacare repeal bill — very uncomfortable.

Rep. Charlie Dent, a centrist and senior Appropriations Committee member, said budget reconciliation instructions should center solely on tax reform, which “is complex enough on its own,” he said.

“All I can say is: Tax reform by itself is very complex and controversial,” Dent (R-Pa.) said. “Adding some of these other changes will only make the tax reform more difficult.”

Asked about mandatory programs that might be cut, he added: “This will create challenges, no question about it. When so many of the entitlement programs are taken off the table for discussion … that limits our ability to fund the non-defense discretionary programs and other mandatory programs that affect a lot of people.”

GOP backers of the idea will argue in the coming weeks and months that moderates have voted for GOP budgets that included similar cuts in the past — so they should be able to support them again.

But if House GOP leadership has learned anything from the Obamacare repeal debacle, it should be that voting for something that has no chance of becoming law and makes for great campaign fodder is much easier than backing a bill that could be enacted.