Tag Archives: Health Care

ACA-Lite

Update below.

There’s no graceful way to ease into this, so I’ll just dig right in.

  1. Paul Ryan

    That face you make when your eight-year plan is found wanting.

    The mandate and it’s odious and dubious ‘tax,’ have been renamed the “Continuous Health Insurance Coverage Incentive” and the payee changed from the federal government to insurance companies(!). It’s a misnomer to call it an incentive as it’s actually a disincentive for people to allow their coverage to lapse. Those who do so for a period of greater than 63 days are subject to a 30% premium penalty for the following year.* And it’s not an option for the insurance companies; they “shall” charge the penalty.

  2. The plan keeps the so-called Cadillac tax on premium insurance plans. Sure, you can have really excellent coverage, but in addition to higher premiums, you’re going to be paying the government for the privilege.
  3. Subsidies have been reinvented as refundable tax credits for low and middle income families. Leaving aside the obvious point that unless everyone receiving them is actually paying taxes (think Earned Income Credit), the need for this alone is an admission by the House GOP that under their plan, premiums are still going to be unaffordable, even for middle income families.
  4. The bill “dismantles” all of the ACA’s taxes including those on on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, health-insurance premiums (unless, of course, you want a plan that’s better than they think you really need), and medical devices. Here’s the “but”…it includes a 1.45% income tax increase to make up for them. This may seem like a net win to some people, but for healthy individuals whose employers pay their insurance premiums (and they are out there), this will be a tax increase.
  5. The plan does defund Planned Parenthood, but if they thought this bone would be enough to satisfy their traditional base, they are sadly mistaken. And here’s another thing: nothing under the plan would prevent insurance companies from offering abortion coverage, “…so long as premiums for such separate coverage or plan are not paid for with any amount attributable to the credit allowed under this section…” Paul Ryan has been telling us for years with regard to government funding of Planned Parenthood that money is fungible. Except for when it’s not, apparently.
  6. Under the plan, Health Savings Accounts come roaring back. Unfortunately, that’s the only nod to market-based solutions included. HSAs are great, but they aren’t for everyone and I’m left with the impression that the authors of the legislation offer them as the one-size-fits-all solution to all our problems.

Those are my specific concerns, but there are some undercurrents that I also find troubling, such as having to report my health insurance information to the IRS (disclaimer: I want the IRS abolished, not given more power over my life) and language that implies that the federal government will still be deciding what kinds of plans and coverage should or must be offered.

When the plan first became available yesterday afternoon, I was nearly apoplectic over it. Right or wrong, I expected more from House Republicans. I was especially disappointed to see my Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, defending this stinking pile like she was offering up filet mignon. It’s rather depressing that after eight years of talking about it, this is the best plan they could offer.

This isn’t a repeal in any meaningful sense of the word and I find it rather insulting that House Republicans would try to pass it off that way. We are not so stupid that we can’t see what’s right before our eyes and the GOP shouldn’t think for a second that the passion that inspired the Tea Party can’t be turned against them.

Update: Now we’re hearing about phases 2 and 3, which will supposedly remove state line restrictions and promote competition. You know what, GOP? I’m not buying it. You wasted your last bit of credibility with phase 1.


*I’m not an insurance expert and I’m sure as heck not a legal expert, so the language surrounding the duration of the premium penalty is confusing to me. That’s the long way of saying that I just guessed that the penalty was to be assessed for 12 months. Here’s the actual language so you can see for yourself. If you’re crazy enough to want to read it for yourself, it’s on page 62.

2017-03-07 (2)

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So Much More Than A Uterus

The Democrats continue to yammer on about the so-called Republican War on Women. In the meantime GOP women in the House of Representatives are leading the way on issues women care about, like jobs and the economy…because they understand that women aren’t defined solely by their vaginas any more than they’re helpless wards of the Nanny State.

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A Staggering Ignorance

I guess I should have expected this from the Los Angeles Times, but I’ll admit to being just a bit shocked all the same.

Reporting on the GOP alternative health care proposal, Janet Hook writes:

Unlike the Democrats’ strategy of trying to provide near-universal coverage and force other major changes to the insurance system, the Republican approach is an incremental one that would do far less to reduce the ranks of the uninsured. It would instead give priority to controlling healthcare costs.

Snip…

The GOP bill is an amalgam of market-oriented measures that would limit medical malpractice lawsuits, expand the use of tax-sheltered medical savings accounts, let people shop for insurance outside of their own states, and make it easier for small businesses and hard-to-insure people to get coverage. The ideas reflect conservatives’ suspicion of sweeping new programs, federal spending and additional regulation.

Unlike the Democratic plan, it does not include subsidies or other provisions that would make coverage more affordable to people of modest means.

(Emphasis added)

Do you see that? Ms. Hook acknowledges that the GOP plan gives priority to controlling health care costs, she mentions some of the measures that would help control costs, then reaches the completely incomprehensible conclusion that the plan contains no provisions that would make coverage more affordable. Because apparently the only way to make things affordable for people is to “include subsidies.”

Ms. Hook demonstrates either a staggering ignorance of free market principles or an unreserved willingness to pimp the entitlement mentality. But I’m not ruling out the possibility that she’s very, very stupid.

Simple things like “when it costs less to provide goods or services, they can be offered at lower prices,” and “healthy competition drives prices down.” Really, these are things I learned in junior high school. For the presumably college-educated Ms. Hook to exhibit such abysmal ignorance is yet another sad testament to the state of our educational system.

Unfortunately it doesn’t end with Ms. Hook and her ill-informed readers. Watching the debate on H.R. 3962, I was struck by the number of Democrats who were willing to stand up and demonstrate the same ignorance of fundamental economic principles in a public forum as they variously described the GOP amendmendment as “adding more to the deficit” than their own proposal or “not doing anything” to bring down costs.

Of course, I’m being charitable when I call House Democrats ignorant; the other option would be to call them out as liars.

P.S. Wouldn’t reducing the cost of health care coverage “reduce the ranks of the uninsured?” Just askin’.

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So Much For Contacting My Congressman

Here’s a comment from Jay Inslee’s health care townhall meeting in Edmonds, Washington, that doesn’t really have anything to do with health care.

Um, so, first of all, I wanted to say thank you to Jay Inslee personally because I always appreciate that you always write people back when they email you.

I’m just going to say that this woman has very low standards for what constitutes “writing back.” I’ve contacted Congressman Inslee on numerous occasions and, as I mentioned here, his responses bear more resemblance to self-serving campaign literature than any sincere attempt to engage in debate with his constituents.

Even taking this into consideration, the e-mail I received from the good Congressman yesterday is definitely a prize-winner for out-of-touch communications. I few weeks ago, I contacted Congressman Inslee via e-mail to voice my opposition to H.R. 3200.

The Honorable Jay Inslee
United States Representative
403 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative Inslee:

I’m contacting you today to voice my strong opposition to H.R 3200. My research leads me to believe that this legislation would accomplish very little of what it claims to do in terms of controlling costs and making affordable, quality care available to more people.

Additionally, it appears to be likely that provisions of the bill would lead to many companies choosing to discontinue offering health care coverage, forcing many people into the government option, despite claims to the contrary.

I’m asking that you oppose H.R. 3200.

Sincerely,
It’s Only Words
##### ##th Ave SE
Snohomish, WA  98296

Inslee’s response:

Ms. It’s Only Words
##### ##th Avenue SE
Snohomish, Washington 98296

Dear Ms. Words:

Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, and to express your support for health care reform.  I appreciate hearing from you.

I would like you to know that I have been strongly supportive of President Obama’s public health insurance option throughout the health care reform process, and I also concur with our President that we have a unique opportunity to bring real reform….

Please continue to contact me about the issues that concern you, as I both need and welcome your thoughts and ideas. I encourage you to contact me via email, telephone, or fax, because security measures in the House cause delays in receiving postal mail. For more information on my activities in Congress, and for information on services that my office can provide, please visit my website at http://www.house.gov/inslee. If you would like to subscribe to my email updates, please visit http://www.house.gov/inslee/signup.htm.

Very Truly Yours,

JAY INSLEE

Member of Congress

Even though I do favor some sort of health care reform, I explicitly did not mention that in my e-mail to Inslee because I wanted to be very clear in my total opposition to H.R. 3200. It appears that was a wise move. If even my short e-mail could be construed by Inslee (or his staff) as supporting health care reform, one can only wonder what they might have deduced if I’d said anything even slightly in favor. Check out that first paragraph; he appreciates “hearing” from me but I have to wonder if anyone actually read my e-mail.  I’m guessing that by Inslee’s reckoning, 99% of his constituents favor reform, with 90% backing. H.R. 3200.

The tone deaf opening paragraph was followed up with a lengthy description of Inslee’s valiant efforts to enact a public option; rectify some Medicare pay inequities; establish Accountable Care Organizations; eliminate co-pays for preventive care; enact a variety of other measures; and bind Jay Inslee as tightly as possible to Barack Obama, but nothing which addressed my concerns in a substantive way.

Then, to conclude, he invites me to contact him any time! Yes, I’ll get on that because I’m sure not feeling like every minute I spend writing to to you is a complete and total waste of my time, Jay.

I understand that Congressman Inslee is very busy and his staff is very busy but let’s be honest…these are all boilerplate responses. The fact that the “response” I received doesn’t seem to be appropriate makes it appear as though no one is even giving their correspondence a cursory review. If they were, why wouldn’t my opposition to H.R. 3200 have been acknowledged?

Congressman Inslee needs to remember who pays his salary and provides him with an office and a staff and the next time his employer calls, faxes or e-mails, he needs to actually know why they are contacting him before he responds. Otherwise, why should we bother?

Update, 11/23/09: My Twitter friend, @chuck_dizzle, is having the same problem with his Congressman, Earl Pomeroy. He also pointed me in the direction of this video from last September. I completely understand how this woman feels.

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Sanity – Not Marxism – In Short Supply In Seattle

Posted by Guest Blogger, Zach

Apparently the cause of freedom and personal liberty is—get this—idealistic.

Or so I was told by socialized health care supporters at an Obama-sponsored rally Thursday in Downtown Seattle’s Westlake Park. This of course was in addition to being called an ignorant privileged white male. And being smacked on the head (twice) by an Obamacare supporter frustrated that I called out his inability to provide rationale to back up his claim that “our side” was spreading misinformation.

At least he didn’t bite off my finger.

President Obama’s Organizing for America and SEIU drew a crowd of 1,500-2,000 supporters of socialized health care, waving curiously-identical signs adorned with Obama and Planned Parenthood logos and chanting such catchy and original slogans as “yes we can!” Across the street stood 75-100 counter-protesters armed with Gadsden flags, homemade signs and a megaphone. Clearly an Astroturf mob funded by the insurance lobby.

While the emotion-fueled mindlessness occurring at the main rally was to be expected, being called idealistic by a Marxist, however, was quite a shock. Typically it’s the government-is-capable-of-anything crowd who is most deserving of the title of “idealist.” But no. A laundry list of hypotheticals in which too many people simply “fall through the cracks” was the foundation for an older woman’s assertion that my free-market approach to health insurance reform was idealistic. The mere suggestion of the involvement of private enterprise appeared to disgust those with whom I spoke.

How far our great nation has fallen when paying your own way in life is considered idealistic.

So what’s a better way? Well, shifting the financial burden to the greedy rich of course.

“It should be a sliding scale,” the woman explained.

Kind of like the sliding scale that already exists in which you can choose to purchase either lower cost no-frills insurance plans or plans of a more comprehensive nature which offer lower deductables yet higher premiums? Well… no. That sliding scale doesn’t force anyone else to subsidize your existence to the point where you are no longer faced with the awful decision which to pay for: health insurance or the unlimited Internet and texting package on your iPhone.

“So you think it should be more along the lines of, ‘from each according to their income, to each according to their need’?” I asked her.

“Yes!” Her eyes glowed. Her scowl turned to a smile. This ignorant conservative standing before her holding a sign reading “Obamacare: Finger-biting good!” finally understood the fundamental change we needed to bring to America!

But wait, isn’t that Marxism? No! Well… You can call it whatever you want. It’s compassion.”

And all this time I thought compassion was giving people the tools to help themselves, not help themselves to the earnings of hard-working taxpayers.

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Lies, Half-Truths And Talking Points, Part III

More about the Jay Inslee health care townhall meeting.

The most enthusiastically received question of the afternoon, “…in this atmosphere, in this climate of financial crisis with trillions of dollars of deficit we, we have, what is our confidence in the government estimates of both savings and spending?  They’ve been wrong over and over and over and over [inaudible due to applause and cheers].”

What’s this? An opportunity to get in a dig at George W. Bush? As I said in my previous post, Inslee is not ashamed to pander to his base.

“You know, uh, you are, you are totally, totally accurate.  Uh, I, for one, who has been concerned about the federal deficit for a long time, and I can tell you that you are totally accurate that the U.S. government has been wrong on its predictions of costs.  When Paul Wolfowitz and George Bush told us [inaudible]…”

I’m assuming he went on to say something about the cost estimates for the Iraq war. It was hard to hear the specifics over the (roughly equal) cheers and jeers from the crowd. Frankly, I’m not sure why the there was any booing; while I was annoyed that Inslee felt the need to bring up Bush, he was also making the point rather nicely: the government does indeed have a dismal track record when it comes to cost projections.

When the noise died down, he continued:

“Those who are trying to shout me down on this subject, I want you to know, I’m not in-, intimidated by your shouting.”

I almost felt sorry for Inslee at this point. I’m sure he was hoping someone would show up packing a 54 caliber automatic or, at the very least, a really big finger so he’d have an exciting townhall story or two to share around the water cooler. Instead, he’s reduced to claiming that he’s not intimidated by shouting. How manly.

If you were interested in Inslee’s answer to the question that was asked, why the government should be trusted to estimate the cost of this program – sorry, he never answered it. How could he? There is no logical reason we should expect government cost projections to be even in the ballpark. Leaving aside the fact that we’re talking about a group of individuals who can’t even make a guess as to how many people will take advantage of rather generous rebates on new cars, this is an enormous program that’s being proposed. I’m not sure anyone could make accurate projections.

So in place of a real answer, Inslee gave a rambling discourse on the deficit and, well, just how great Jay Inslee really is; how concerned he is about the deficit; how much stuff he knows that you don’t know: how bold he was to defy his own party and vote against TARP (okay, I’ll give him that one…but he did vote for ARRA). It was really quite self-serving, even for a politician.

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Lies, Half-Truths And Talking Points, Part II

More about the Jay Inslee health care townhall meeting.

As was to be expected, one of the questions was, “…if this is such a good program, if you’re going to be on it.” Inslee’s response:

“[You] will be pleased to know that members of the US Congress will be subject to all of the rights and liabilities of this bill, every jot and tittle.”

This goes beyond disingenuousness and right into the realm of deliberate deception. I’ve already covered this bit of double-talk at The Sundries Shack.

“The problem lies not in Inslee’s answer, but in the question itself. Asking the question in such general terms allows him to skirt the issue, and do so with a clear conscience. “Yes, we’ll be subject to the same conditions as everyone else…” and then the unspoken caveat, “which will allow us to keep our current plan as long as our employer continues to offer it.”

It occurs to me that the real question is this: With a “perfectly good” public option in place, is Congress willing to abandon their current, privately underwritten plan and participate in the public option? Furthermore, are they willing to put it on the table during negotiations with SEIU?”

Unlike most of the rest of us, Congress is in the enviable position of setting their own salaries and benefits. Does anyone believe they’ll vote to discontinue their privately underwritten plan?

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