Tag Archives: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Jane Corwin and the Republican Budget

16 Apr

The Friday night news dump is especially reserved for embarrassing or harmful information. And for five solid days, Democratic candidate for NY-26 had been hectoring her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, to reveal her stand regarding the Republicans’ 2012 budget proposal. Known widely for its chief proponent, Wisconsin Republican representative Paul Ryan, who is its chief proponent and chairman of congress’ budget committee, the Republican plan would further cut taxes on the wealthy, transform America’s popular and efficient Medicare single-payer plan for seniors and turn it into an insurance voucher program, and do other things that greatly benefit the wealthy and large corporate campaign donors so that the deficit might be eliminated by 2040.

Congress passed the Ryan budget with only 6 Republican defections or abstentions.  No Democrat voted for it.  The most repellent part of that legislation is the privatization of Medicare.  The entire reason why Medicare exists is that older people become less and less able to arrange their own affairs, need more medical attention more often, and are, frankly, a poor insurance risk. Indeed, private health insurers aren’t exactly happily anticipating an influx of millions of post-boomer seniors buying insurance with vouchers, the value of which will rise slower than the rate of health care itself.  Suddenly, older Americans, who are now largely free from concerns about who will pay for their health care costs, will have to start worrying about it again for the first time since 1964.  The CBO projects that seniors would be on the hook for 2/3 of their medical costs within 10 years of the plan’s implementation. Unless you’re a baby boomer. Then you can still keep the single-payer Medicare everyone loves.

And think of the mental gymnastics at issue here. What the Ryan budget actually does is replace a popular single-payer health care plan for seniors and replaces it with…Obamacare.

“It’s exactly like Obamacare,” said NRSC chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in the Capitol Thursday. “It is. It’s exactly like it. Which strikes me as bizarre that you’re seeing so much pushback [from Democrats].”

This is admirable candor — Cornyn was the only legislator I could find, Republican or Democrat, who would acknowledge this obvious truth. Indeed Cornyn didn’t even let me finish my question before excitedly volunteering that the House Republican budget would turn Medicare into a plan that mimics the key aspects of President Obama’s health care law.

What explains the irony? If you think of the health care system as a highway with unbridled free market private insurance on one end and universal single payer on the other end, then two parties are now approaching each other from opposite directions. Democrats pushed ObamaCare for working-aged people as a move away from unrestrained private insurance, toward a universal program. In trying to dismantle Medicare, Republicans are seeking to rollback a successful example of single payer toward freer market.

They’ve now awkwardly encountered each other in the middle. The similarities between the two policies creates a dilemma for Republicans who have smeared the health care law as an existential threat to the United States and for Democrats who’ve attacked the GOP plan as a corporate giveaway and dangerous for seniors.

So, WTF, right? “Obamacare” is socialism when proposed by the President, but great policy when proposed by the Republican House.

The GOP plan, as suggested above, would put future Medicare beneficiaries into an exchange — a pooled marketplace of private health insurance — and subsidize those policies with federal revenues. That’s the very same principle underlying “Obamacare.” But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Cornyn.

“Basically people who lose their employer-provided insurance, right, under Obamacare, go into the exchanges and then are provided with a taxpayer subsidy to help them buy private insurance,” he said. “That’s exactly what the premiums support plan that Paul Ryan is proposing.”

Correct! Yet Cornyn supports one and vilifies the other. “[ObamaCare] was 2,700 pages long, and I did oppose it for a multitude of reasons,” he said.

If you present members with the notion that the two plans are similar in anyway, you get obfuscation, or word salad, or both.

“I’m curious as to how,” said freshman Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI). “A lot of people believe that’s going to be a system that’s a little more similar to what we have as federal employees, too.”

“What we do, is what the President has called for and so many of our friends on the other side and that is, don’t you think that seniors ought to have the same kind of health coverage as Members of Congress?” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. “The program we would put in place is one that essentially mirrors the federal employee health benefits program and a series of premium assistance for seniors who are not able to have the financial wherewithal.”

This is a common refrain from Republicans. One problem with it, though is that Obama’s health care reform law also provided uninsured people with benefits similar to those members of Congress have.

Well, it’s all very easy to understand.

In a way it’s no surprise that Republicans and Democrats have such similar approaches. The health care law is based on an old Republican policy idea — one they quickly abandoned when Barack Obama adopted it.

Ezra Klein notes that the Ryan proposal takes the burden of insuring seniors off the government, and places it squarely on the backs of seniors themselves.

The proposal would shift risk from the federal government to seniors themselves. The money seniors would get to buy their own policies would grow more slowly than their health-care costs, and more slowly than their expected Medicare benefits, which means that they’d need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is or how much health-care they purchase. Exacerbating the situation — and this is important — Medicare currently pays providers less and works more efficiently than private insurers, so seniors trying to purchase a plan equivalent to Medicare would pay more for it on the private market.

It’s hard, given the constraints of our current debate, to call something “rationing” without being accused of slurring it. But this is rationing, and that’s not a slur. This is the government capping its payments and moderating their growth in such a way that many seniors will not get the care they need.

In an interesting twist, there was an even more radically Randian Republican budget being brought to a vote on the floor of the House before the Ryan budget.  It was so outrageous that even many Republicans thought it too draconian (read: politically harmful), so they figured the Democrats would defeat it for them. But instead, the Democrats all voted late, and then voted “present”, which doesn’t count as a vote.  Suddenly, the Republicans were scrambling as politically sensitive reps desperately tried to change their yeas to nays,

Republicans realized they were about to accidentally pass a plan that was too politically radioactive even to them. So they pressed several of their own members — including Reps. David Dreier (R-CA), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Buck McKeon (R-CA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) — to switch their votes from yes to no. Indeed, when they realized what the Dems were up to, Republicans managed to flip just as many votes as they’d need to kill the RSC plan, even if every Democrat voted “present.” Only 15 Democrats declined to switch their votes from “no” to “present.” The plan failed by 16 votes.

“We got a lot of them to change, not every one of them to change,” Hoyer said. Those who didn’t, including several Blue Dogs wouldn’t budge. “There were a variety of reasons. I think some have tough races. Some said they’d never voted present. I was disappointed that they did not follow what I think was a strategy to highlight the position of the Republican Party.”

Kathy Hochul, who is vying for the Congressional seat most recently vacated by Chris Lee (R-Shirtless) came out against the Ryan budget proposal days ago. Her most recent press release from Friday reads:

DAY FIVE: CORWIN REMAINS ONLY CANDIDATE WHO REFUSES TO JOIN HOCHUL IN REJECTING REPUBLICAN BUDGET

The following is a statement from Fabien Levy, Director of Communications for Kathy Hochul for Congress:

“In just a few hours the House will vote on the Republican budget proposal that would end Medicare as we know it.  For days, Kathy Hochul, candidate for New York’s 26th Congressional District, has called on her opponents to join her in rejecting any budget that would add burdensome costs onto the backs of America’s seniors.  Today, there is only one candidate whose silence signals her intentions to break the promises made to our elderly population.

“Jane Corwin remains the only candidate in this race who has refused to tell the voters of the 26th District where she stands on the current budget proposal.  As the only Republican in the country currently running for Congress, she has repeatedly dodged every opportunity to take a position on the Republican’s 2012 budget.

“While her silence signals apathy, the truth may be even worse.  The people of the 26th want to know, if Jane Corwin was currently a Member of the House of Representatives, would she vote to slash benefits, increase costs, and hold America’s elderly population responsible for fighting with insurance companies?  Kathy Hochul has firmly stated her opposition to this proposal and promised to reject any budget that fundamentally alters Medicare.

“Assemblymember Corwin, before the vote is cast, tell the voters of the 26th District how you would vote today – would you reject the current budget proposal before the House or would you vote to decimate Medicare?”

Well, we all got our answer late Friday evening. Corwin emailed this to “Capital Tonight’s” Liz Benjamin:

“As a member of Congress, I would have voted both for this week’s plan to cut $38 billion and for the 2012 House budget resolution passed today because these bills are good initial steps in addressing America’s crippling deficit.”

“Our country is on the verge of bankruptcy, and our economy, our children’s future, and the security of our seniors are in jeopardy if we choose not to act. Now, it’s time that my opponents say exactly what they would do to address our nation’s burgeoning deficit.”

Well, no, the country isn’t on the “verge of bankruptcy”. But more starkly, there is nothing more repulsive and abhorrent to me than to see a small-time Republican political automaton who is a million-heiress living in the region’s most exclusive and expensive little neighborhood essentially telling everyone under 55 that there will be no Medicare for them.  All done, all gone. Of course, there’s no fiscal pain in the Corwin household, where they could literally bathe in dollar bills, but for regular folks, average non-multi-millionaire households, future seniors (that’s me) would grow old in some idiot voucher system where we’d be on the hook for 66% of our health care costs.  The social contract altered by millionaires on the backs – and to the detriment – of the poor and middle class. In other countries, people riot over that sort of mind-boggling arrogance.

Jane Corwin would not, however, change the Medicare single-payer plan for people currently over 55. I don’t know how that plays with the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, and I thought the Congressional Republicans had decided that they’d include a statement of constitutionality with every bill.

In 2009, seniors came out in their thousands during the debate over Obama’s health care reform plan, and demandedloudly – and angrily that the government keep its socialist hands off their Medicare. One wonders how those same people will react to this Republican plan. Oh, they didn’t complain much at all? Because they’re exempt from it. But they were exempted from Obama’s plan, too.

The conversation we should be having in this country is how to make Medicare available to any American who wants to opt in. People could still by supplemental coverage on the open market, and others could choose to opt out. But the fact that we’re still having the same damned debate we had some 47 years ago about how – and whether – to provide universal health coverage is a massive and ongoing, embarrassing failure.

But we at least now know that Republican parrot Jane Corwin would like those of you without bread to go ahead and eat cake.

Buffalo News’ Glibertorial Can F Off

20 Nov
Presidential Arrival
Image by WNYMedia via Flickr

The Buffalo News’ weekly Saturday editorial glibfest:

IT’S THE PRODUCT: Perhaps the most ludicrous argument being advanced by the president and Democrats is that the country’s rejection of policies like Obamacare is due to his failure to properly describe the programs and their benefits. Well . . . no.

If ever there was a failed concept to try to sell to the American people, this was it. Obama is as skilled a communicator as any president we’ve had. His presentations, in content and delivery, are unsurpassed. The truth is that the policies themselves have backfired. It isn’t how he said it; it’s what he did.

First of all, if it is the product, that must explain the ongoing, precipitous decline of the daily broadsheet in a one-paper town.

Secondly, what policies have “backfired”, precisely? “Policies like Obamacare” is what’s cited, but there’s no specificity here. Are we suggesting that the stimulus didn’t work? Perhaps it wasn’t as effective as sold, but there’s no doubt that governmental pump-priming of the economy helped bring about the last several quarters’ worth of economic growth, thus de jure ending the recession, if not in spirit.

The stimulus which, among other things, subsidized COBRA so that the unemployed could at least make an attempt at affording to keep their health care coverage? The extension of unemployment benefits so that people looking for work can continue to feed, clothe, and house themselves and their families in a jobless recovery? And what of this jobless recovery, eh? By Republican arguments, it ought not exist, since the rich have their much-beloved Bush tax cuts. And as we all know, a reduction in the highest marginal tax rate from 39% to 35% is the difference between socialism and capitalism; it is the difference between Stalin and Reagan; it is the very mechanism by which all jobs are created by the superwealthy. Odd that this hasn’t materialized.

And “Obamacare” – perhaps the Buffalo News is so flush with cash that the medical insurance-middleman status quo was working alright for them, but the system is unnecessarily expensive, comparatively inefficient, produces poor statistical results, and involves the enrichment of completely unnecessary middlemen who add nothing to the health care equation whatsoever. So, what President Obama implemented didn’t go as far as Hillarycare would have in the 90s, instead opting for what is, in essence, a Republican plan initiated in Massachusetts under then-Governor Mitt Romney.

But because it was Obama pushing it, the Republicans derided everything as a communard takeover of the entire healthcare industry by the federal government – a damned and contemptible lie. They blocked it every step of the way in keeping with their “we hope Obama fails, and our singular purpose is to make it so” obstructionism.

In the meantime, rescission is illegal, lifetime maximums are abolished, copays for well visits will be nil, and mechanisms will be put in place to make health insurance more affordable.

Unfortunately for everyone, the United States remains alone in the industrialized world by not guaranteeing health care as a right for all its citizens. Every other country had this civic discussion, and formulated a wide variety of solutions to make sure that health care is provided well and affordably. They all do it better and more effectively than we. The product? The product is that we picked a half-assed semi-solution to the health care issue, avoiding bringing about real change. This is thanks to the reactionary right wing of the Republican Party, which more or less opted out of governmental participating altogether over the past couple of years and is quite satisfied with the status quo.

To me, national Republicans are embodied in, and reflected by, incoming Congressman Andy Harris from Maryland – a physician who ran on a “repeal Obamacare” platform.

He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. The benefits session, held behind closed doors, drew about 250 freshman members, staffers and family members to the Capitol Visitors Center auditorium late Monday morning,”.

“Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.

Harris, a Maryland state senator who works at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and several hospitals on the Eastern Shore, also told the audience, “This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed,” his spokeswoman Anna Nix told POLITICO.

Exactly. Have a great weekend.

Sharron Angle, Tea Party Hypocrite

28 Sep

Tea Party candidate for US Senate from Nevada, the detestable Sharron Angle, says this about Obama’s health care reform:

Angle’s prior aversion to government-run health care — at least for others — has been no secret. She openly touts her intent to “Repeal and replace Obamacare” on her website, and even claimed recently that such broad legislation was actually unnecessary because there was “nothing wrong with our health care system.”

“Our healthcare system is the best in the world,” said Angle of the American system, once rated37th-best in the world, in August. “Our doctors are the best…The access is not what is being denied.”

Despite Angle’s contention that access to health care is not an issue, more than 18 percent of Nevada’s population is currently uninsured, nearly 3 percent higher than the national rate.

And in 2009, Angle railed against mandated health care coverage even for autism treatment and maternity leave.

“You know what I’m talking about. You’re paying for things that you don’t even need. They just passed the latest one, is everything that they want to throw at us now is covered under ‘autism,'” Angle said, using air quotes for the neurological disorder. “So, that’s a mandate that you have to pay for. How about maternity leave? I’m not going to have anymore babies, but I sure get to pay for it on my insurance. Those are the kinds of things that we want to get rid of.

Anyway, Sharron Angle receives her health insurance through the federal civil service retirement program – that’s a federally-run single-payer program that you and I fund.

She’s one of those tea partiers who minds the “redistribution of wealth” only when she’s not the direct beneficiary.