Wednesday, July 26, 2017

First Trial Balloon Turns To Lead

The first attempt to replace Obamacare went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

After pushing through—on a narrow, party-line vote—a motion to proceed to debating various plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday afternoon, Republicans brought their first plan up for a vote late Tuesday night, only to watch it fail 43 to 57 in a procedural vote.

[…]

Scathingly dubbed “Trumpcare 3.0” by Democrats, the bill was the Senate’s stab at crafting a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It would have gutted more than $700 billion from Medicaid and sharply cut the tax credits available for low income people to buy health insurance.

The bill included a controversial provision drafted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would allow insurers to offer plans off of Obamacare’s exchanges that don’t cover basic care like doctor’s visits and prescription drugs. The provision was never scored by the non-partisan CBO, and a glowing analysis of it by the Department of Health and Human Services was found to be seriously flawed. The policy was originally drafted to keep the skimpy plans and comprehensive plans in a single risk pool, but Cruz told reporters Tuesday that he was tweaking it to have two separate risk pools to win over Lee’s vote. Lee voted against the bill anyway.

Keep the pressure up.  That’s the way to stop the madness now.

Let This Be His Legacy

Charles P. Pierce on what’s left of John McCain’s record.

… But the ugliest thing to witness on a very ugly day in the United States Senate was what John McCain did to what was left of his legacy as a national figure. He flew all the way across the country, leaving his high-end government healthcare behind in Arizona, in order to cast the deciding vote to allow debate on whatever ghastly critter emerges from what has been an utterly undemocratic process. He flew all the way across the country in order to facilitate the process of denying to millions of Americans the kind of medical treatment that is keeping him alive, and to do so at the behest of a president* who mocked McCain’s undeniable military heroism.

For longtime McCain watchers, and I count myself as one of them, this is something of a pattern. In 2000, George W. Bush’s campaign slandered him and his young daughter, and radical fundamentalist Christians joined in so eagerly that McCain delivered the best speech of his career, calling those people “agents of intolerance.” By 2006, he was on Meet The Press, which ultimately always was the constituency he cared most about, saying that the late Jerry Falwell was no longer an agent of intolerance. He was hugging Bush, and he was speaking at Liberty University. All of this seems to support the theory that the best way to win over John McCain is to treat him as badly as possible.

So he got a standing ovation when he walked into the chamber, and that was all right, and then he cast the vote to proceed. And then, having done so, he climbed onto his high horse and delivered an address every word of which was belied by the simple “yes” he had traveled so far to cast.

[…]

I wanted this to be different. In 2000, I thought McCain might be the person to lead his party back to marginal sanity at least. But he wanted to be president, so he became like all the rest of them. Yes, he scolded that person who said Barack Obama was a Muslim, but he chose as his running mate a nutty person who still may believe he is. Yes, he put his name on a campaign finance reform bill, but he also voted for every member of the Supreme Court who subsequently eviscerated that law, and others like it, and he’s been absent from that fight ever since. There have been very few senators as loyal to the party line as John McCain. He has been a great lost opportunity to the country. Now, he will end his career as the face of whatever wretchedness is brought on the country by whatever the bill finally is.

The comparisons to Jefferson Smith end now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Desperate Times

The Republicans are so desperate to do something, anything, labeled “healthcare” that they are dragging Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who a week ago had brain surgery, back to Washington to vote on some version — no one knows quite yet which one — of their attempt to kill Obamacare.

Scott Lemieux at LGM is not impressed with McCain being so “mavericky.”

John McCain is the ultimate example of the worthlessness of the theater critic school of political punditry.  McCain has been a party-line hack for virtually his entire political career.  And the two significant exceptions weren’t about principle. He supported campaign finance reform to deflect from his role in the Savings and Loan crisis. And he cast some meaningless votes against Bush’s early agenda out of personal pique from the campaign. That’s it. His reputation for being a “maverick” comes entirely from making noises about being independent before voting the party line. Flying in to vote to deny more than 20 million people the healthcare he’s currently benefiting from to pay for an upper-class tax cut will be the ultimate culmination of a disgraceful political career, and the countless pundits and reporters who bought his act feel for a ludicrously obvious con.

Of course, there’s a chance that he could do the right th…Christ, I can’t even finish typing this.

This little flurry of drama reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is bringing attention back to the GOP attempt to undermine healthcare for 23 million people.  As Paul Krugman notes, they’ve allowed the distractions of Russian meddling, Jared Kushner’s faux innocence, and Anthony Scaramucci’s beauty tips to the new press secretary to take the spotlight off what Mitch McConnell and his minions are trying to pull off.

I’m not saying that everyone should ignore Trump-Putin-treason and all its ramifications: Clearly, the fate of our democracy is on the line. But we mustn’t let this mother of all scandals take up all our mental bandwidth: Health care for millions is also on the line.

And while ordinary citizens can’t yet do much about the looming constitutional crisis, their calls, letters, and protests can still make all the difference on health care. Don’t let the bad guys in the Senate do terrible things because you weren’t paying attention!

So pick up the phone, call your senators, and do your civic duty.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

32 Million

That’s the new number, according to the CBO, of how many more people would lose health insurance if Congress just plain repealed Obamacare.

The legislation, which was posted shortly before the CBO released its score, tracks closely with a bill that Congress passed and then-President Barack Obama vetoed in early 2016.

The CBO report also said that premiums would double by 2026 under the Senate legislation, which eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s taxes, insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion, but keeps its regulatory regime in place.

The repeal of the subsidies and expansion would go into effect in 2020, while the elimination of individual mandate would take place right away.

That is roughly 10% of the U.S. population, and that’s 32 million on top of the current number of how many people are going without it now, which is about 11%.  So if that bill were to pass, we’d have somewhere around 20% of the nation uninsured.

What’s worse is the instability in the market; all this dithering by Congress and the right-wing nutsery to get rid of anything to do with Obamacare is driving insurers out of the health coverage business.  The CBO predicts that by 2026, three out of four Americans will be living in an area with no insurers.

In other words, you’d get better health coverage in Bangladesh than here.  Not to pick on Bangladesh, but if that poor country can provide better care for its citizens, why can’t we?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tantrum

Trump after the healthcare bill went out with a popcorn fart:

“It will be a lot easier and I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you Republicans are not going to own it,” Trump said.

That’s not leadership, that’s a tantrum.  It’s also the mindset of someone who doesn’t care that upwards of 22 million people would have lost insurance if that turd of a bill had passed: “Not my fault!”

Even the worst president we’ve had so far — take your pick — would not have literally stood by while one of his chief campaign issues died aborning.  He’s letting Mitch McConnell and the rest of that crowd take the heat, not even lifting a finger to get it passed.  So I suppose you can say there’s an upside to Trump’s fundamental ignorance about what his job is.

But I can’t get past the level of cynicism and cruelty that must be embodied in someone who can so cavalierly toss off the idea of people struggling and dying for what should be a fundamental element of life in America — as essential as safe drinking water and police protection — and treat it as a campaign talking point.  And the vindictiveness of wanting something to fail just to get back at Barack Obama for being Barack Obama is a level of cruelty and callousness that belongs on HBO on Sunday nights.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dead Again, For Now

The current attempt by the GOP to repeal Obamacare appears to be heading to oblivion.  Via the Washington Post:

Two more Senate Republicans have declared their opposition to the latest plan to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, potentially ending a months-long effort to make good on a GOP promise that has defined the party for nearly a decade and been a top priority for President Trump.

Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) issued statements declaring that they would not vote for the revamped measure. The sudden breaks by Lee, a staunch conservative, and Moran, an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), rocked the GOP leadership and effectively closed what already had been an increasingly narrow path to passage for the bill.

They joined Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Susan Collins (Maine), who also oppose it. With just 52 seats, Republicans can afford to lose only two votes to pass their proposed rewrite of the Affordable Care Act. All 46 Democrats and two independents are expected to vote against it.

Republicans, who have made rallying cries against President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law a pillar of the party’s identity, may be forced to grapple with the law’s shift from a perennial GOP target to an accepted, even popular, provider of services and funding in many states, which could make further repeal revivals difficult.

Meanwhile, Trump and other Republicans will confront a Republican base that, despite fervent support for the president, still seeks a smaller federal government and fewer regulations.

I wouldn’t break out the champagne just yet.  We’ve heard this death knell before.  Back in March Speaker Paul Ryan woefully predicted that Obamacare was here to stay “for the foreseeable future” only to have it rise zombie-like in May.  But at least now the majority of Americans who care about such things as insurance that covers pre-existing conditions and being able to live without bankrupting their future have seen what the Republicans want to do: give the rich people an enormous tax break and let the poor fend for themselves.

Three of the four senators who have announced their opposition to the bill said they were against it because it didn’t go far enough in repealing Obamacare; they’d like to get back to the old way of doing healthcare, which was somewhere between the Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens view of the world.  At least Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) brought up the fact that it caused harm to poor people, so I guess she’s the lone voice out there for sanity, sparing the quavering and wavering from “moderates” in the party such as Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), who faces both real and imagined threats to his job and future, from having to take a stand this time.

So for now we can enjoy a little schadenfreude over Mitch McConnell’s much-vaunted ability to get things done and wait to see what they come up with next to try, for real this time, to knock millions of Americans off health insurance, close rural hospitals, deny coverage for pregnancy complications because having a baby is preventable (unless, of course, you get treated by Planned Parenthood), and let insurance companies deny claims because anything beyond leeches and chicken bones is experimental.

But keep those phone numbers handy.  It will be back.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Another Delay

Via the New York Times:

A top Senate Republican vowed on Sunday to bring the party’s health care bill to a vote as soon as possible, even as detractors said they would use a delay caused by the absence of Senator John McCain to mobilize further opposition to the measure.

“I believe as soon as we have a full contingent of senators, that we’ll have that vote,” the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

But questions emerged Sunday over when that might be. Mr. McCain, 80, had a craniotomy — a procedure in which doctors create an opening in the skull — on Friday to remove a blood clot above his left eye, and he is recovering at home in Arizona. A statement from his office had indicated that he would be out this week, but neurosurgeons not involved with Mr. McCain’s surgery said the recovery period for such a procedure was often longer.

“For most patients, the time to recover from a craniotomy is usually a few weeks,” said Dr. Nrupen Baxi, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Mr. McCain’s surgeons are not giving interviews. His communications director, Julie Tarallo, said more information would be released when it became available.

Aides to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said it was unclear how long the delay would last.

There’s a certain level of irony here in that a medical procedure for a senator — who has a really good healthcare plan — is holding up a vote on a healthcare bill that would screw millions of people and more than likely deny them coverage for the emergency that Sen. McCain underwent because it was a pre-existing condition.

In the meantime, you can call your senators and tell them to vote against it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Second Verse, Same As The First

David Anderson at Balloon Juice reviews the GOP’s latest version of their attempt to kill off the poor people.

The biggest and only important news is that there is fundamentally nothing different with Medicaid. It is still being destroyed. It won’t be destroyed as quickly in Louisiana in this version as it would have in the previous versions, but Medicaid will see a 25% reduction in federal funding by 2025 and 35% reduction in annual federal funding by 2036.

Everything else is a detail. There is an Alaska pay-off for more state stabilization funds. There is a provision for Florida.

There is the Cruz amendment.

Regarding the Cruz amendment, I just can’t deal with it. It is not exasperation, it is an incomprehension as to how this amendment actually works on any level without a fractured market. Maybe that is the entire point of the amendment.

The Cruz amendment would offer a bare-bones insurance plan with basically nothing to it as long as their was a plan available that had all the provisions of Obamacare: your choice.  It’s like going in to buy a car and being given the choice of a new convertible or a pair of roller skates.  Hey, they both have wheels and you’ll feel the wind in your hair, but best of all, freedom to choose!

This bill has as much chance of passing as the last one, so the only reason they’re trotting it out is so they can say they did and blame the Democrats for obstruction.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Getting An Earful

Via the Washington Post, GOP senators heard from the folks back home about one issue over the break.

For the 15th year, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) spent July 4 marching through this town of 1,331, a short boat ride away from Canada. She walked and waved, next to marching bands and Shriner-driven lobster boats. Her constituents cheered — and then asked whether she would vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“There was only one issue. That’s unusual. It’s usually a wide range of issues,” Collins said in an interview after the parade. “I heard, over and over again, encouragement for my stand against the current version of the Senate and House health-care bills. People were thanking me, over and over again. ‘Thank you, Susan!’ ‘Stay strong, Susan!’ ”

Collins, whose opposition to the Better Care Reconciliation Act helped derail last week’s plans for a quick vote, is being lobbied to smother it and make Congress start over. Republicans, who skipped the usual committee process in the hopes of passing a bill quickly, are spending the Fourth of July recess fending off protesters, low poll numbers and newspaper front pages that warn of shuttered hospitals and 22 million people being shunted off their insurance. It was a bill, Collins said, that she just couldn’t vote for.

“If you took a blank sheet of paper and said, ‘How could we get a bill that would really hammer Maine,’ this would be it,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who walked ahead of Collins in the parade.

Few Republicans have responded like Collins, who let voters know where to find her. Last month, when Congress broke for the long holiday, just four of the Senate’s 52 Republicans — Collins, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — announced appearances at Fourth of July parades. Just three — Cruz, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) — said they would hold public town hall meetings. All have criticized the bill; three “no” votes would sink it.

Gee, I wonder why they’re holding so few town hall meetings?

Cruz faced something else in McAllen, Tex., a city on the Mexican border that had voted heavily for Hillary Clinton last year. Early Tuesday morning, as Cruz grabbed a microphone, protesters behind a short fence waved signs reading “No Transfer of Wealth 4 Our Health” and “No Repeal, No Medicaid Cuts.” Supporters with Cruz gear tried, in vain, to drown them out.

What’s ironic about this is that most of the Republicans who are making themselves available are facing crowds who are echoing the sentiments and questions that these very Republicans whipped up back in 2009 and 2010 against Obamacare and President Obama.  Then it was “democracy in action”; now it’s just a bunch of “left-wing activists and media.”

As for the bill itself, never underestimate the ability of the GOP leadership to come up with something truly awful that is meant to only attract the “moderates.”

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Keep It Up

Apparently the word is getting out that Trumpcare sucks.

Just 12% of Americans support the Senate Republican health care plan, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, amid a roiling debate over whether the GOP will deliver on its signature promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In the survey, taken Saturday through Tuesday, a 53% majority say Congress should either leave the law known as Obamacare alone or work to fix its problems while keeping its framework intact.

The Senate is getting the word from constituents and will hear a lot more this holiday weekend when they go to the 4th of July picnics and parades and are greeted by people like you who will make their feelings known.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Going After Their Own

Politico reports that Trumpists have formed a group to attack Republicans who don’t fall in line with the White House policies.

A new campaign by top White House allies targeting the GOP’s most vulnerable senator over health care sends a loud message to those resistant to the Trump agenda: We’re coming after you.

America First Policies, a White House-backed outside group led by the president’s top campaign advisers, has launched a $1 million attack against Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who on Friday announced that he opposed the Senate’s recently unveiled Obamacare repeal plan.

That included a Twitter and digital ad campaign targeting the senator, including a video that accuses him of “standing with” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a reviled figure in conservative circles.

“Unacceptable,” the video says. “If you’re opposed to this bill, we’re opposed to you.”

America First Policies is set to expand its campaign early this week with TV ads that will go after the Nevada senator.

Oh, goodie.  In-fighting among factions in a political party always works well.  Just ask the Democrats.  Or Leon Trotsky.

The problem is that so far Sen. Heller is disinclined to punch back, which indicates that he’s either afraid of further alienating the White House or he somehow thinks there are more like him who will oppose stupid and evil bills because they’re stupid and evil instead of supporting them so his party can win.  That indicates evidence of conscience, and that’s not allowed in the GOP.

For what it’s worth, my guess is the former rather than the latter.

It’s Worse

It’s even worse than you thought it would be.

Senate Republicans’ bill to erase major parts of the Affordable Care Act would cause an estimated 22 million more Americans to be uninsured by the end of the coming decade — only about a million fewer than similar legislation recently passed by the House, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The forecast issued Monday by Congress’s nonpartisan budget scorekeepers also estimates that the Senate measure, drafted in secret mainly by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and aides, would reduce federal spending by $321 billion by 2026 — compared with $119 billion for the House’s version.

The CBO estimates that two-thirds of the drop in health coverage a decade from now would fall on low-income people who rely on Medicaid. And among the millions now buying private health plans through ACA marketplaces, the biggest losers would roughly parallel the ones under the House’s legislation: The sharpest spike in insurance premiums would fall on middle-aged and somewhat older Americans.

In short: You’re screwed unless you can pay for your health care without insurance thanks to the huge tax cut you’re going to get.  And if you think that’s a great idea, you’re an idiot.

Over to you, Charlie Pierce.

Here’s how to know how much of a sucker you are. If you believe anyone on TV who says this bill is an “improvement” over the House bill, sign over all your property to your nearest sane relative.

If you put credence into the notion that the Senate bill has an upside because of its effect on The Deficit, hire someone to cut your meat for you for the rest of your life. Try to keep in mind the Blog’s First Law of Economics: Fck the deficit. People got no jobs, people got no money.

The only lightheartedness that I’ve gotten out of this is watching Republicans try to explain this clusterfuck on TV.  It’s like they know they’ve strapped a cancer on their genitals and trying to explain that it’s just awesome.  I’m also looking forward to seeing how they get by when they’re voted out of office, lose their employer-paid insurance, and have to find it on their own.  Good luck, sucker.

Monday, June 26, 2017

People Will Die From It

The Republican attempt at a healthcare bill, which is basically a transfer of wealth and service from the poor and sick to the rich will kill people.  That’s not just me saying that.  That’s people who actually study that sort of thing.

The Republican healthcare bill announced on Thursday would cause thousands of Americans to die each year, according to physicians who study government data.

Using national health surveys, doctors and academics have tested whether a lack of health insurance increases the probability of death. Most have concluded that it does.

Of course the Republicans are outraged that they’re being called out on this and are pearl-clutching at the meanness of the people who are speaking the truth. But then you have to remember that these were the people who were silent when their supporters were calling Barack Obama all sorts of things that I won’t repeat because you can Google it.  It’s also nothing new that the Republican hypocrisy and lying is in full flower; it would be a huge event if it wasn’t.

Ironically, the people most likely to be harmed by this bill are the ones who voted for the Republicans, who chanted “Repeal!” at all those rallies, and who got their Rascal scooter for free because of Medicare.  I don’t wish anyone ill or harm, but like the old joke goes, if you mow the lawn in your bare feet and cut off your foot in the lawn mower, don’t come running to me.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

They Don’t Know, Either

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he will release a “discussion draft” of the GOP “healthcare” bill today.  So far not even people in his party and who were helping write it don’t know what’s in it.

Via Bloomberg:

One of the Senate Republicans charged with negotiating an Obamacare replacement expressed frustration Tuesday with the secret process, saying that even he hasn’t seen the proposal set to be released in two days for a possible floor vote next week.

“I haven’t seen it yet, either,” said Senator Mike Lee of Utah amid complaints by other Republicans that they don’t know what’s in the health-care measure being drafted by their own party’s leaders.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to release a “discussion draft” Thursday and that it will go to the Senate floor for a vote “likely next week.”

A week or so to examine the bill isn’t enough, said Lee in a video posted on his Facebook page. As one of about a dozen members of a health-care working group, he criticized the closely held process of drafting the measure.

“Even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it’s not being written by us,” Lee said. “It’s apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate. So if you’re frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration. I share it wholeheartedly.”

Mr. Lee isn’t the only one.  At least six other Republicans have publicly stated they have issues with both the bill and the methodology of its creation.  Of course that never stopped them from voting in lockstep.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017