Editorial September 27, 2013

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

Ask yourself if you want a critical decision about your life to be made by an individual with wisdom, courage, and fairness, one with a surreptitious agenda not in your interest, or someone who is clearly lacking courage?

 As we know there has been an endless effort from the Right to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or make it more difficult to implement. Those efforts include out-and-out lies about the law, efforts to dissuade younger purchasers from buying in and, perhaps, the most telling efforts by some States such as Florida to, essentially, pretend it doesn’t exist.

 The New York Times reported that, In Florida, the 100% coverage from federal money to fund an expansion of Medicaid ($50 billion) was rejected by Florida’s Governor Lynn ‘Rick’ Scott (R) who later accepted the money but let the Florida Legislature reject it. Out of Scott’s office came the direction to county health agencies not to let the Navigators operate from county offices. Navigators are individuals trained to help people make the right choice of a health care plan for themselves. Also from Scott’s office was the two-year prohibition placed on the State Insurance Commissioner’s Office not to oppose increases in health insurance premiums. And finally the Governor’s refusal to build a website to be used as an insurance exchange market where individuals can pick their policies. This from a Governor who once built the largest hospital organization in the world and left as the company was under investigation for the largest Medicare fraud on record. He appears to be well invested in healthcare stocks and ran his hospital programs in a fashion the Affordable Care Act would not allow and then walked away with multiple millions and even more in company stock.

 Republicans and their state-side minions such as Florida’s Governor Scott have been at this law for three years, attacking it constitutionally and every other way they could, yet the law stands. It has been said that the passion for this resistance is based not on saving the country from the ‘fiscal train wreck’ as the ACA is frequently referred to but on the fear that it will succeed, will become popular as did the same law in Massachusetts. We know that those who stick their heads in the sand are lacking in courage. The courage to face a reality they don’t like.

 Well, not everyone can have the same amount of courage but we do expect some amount of that from elected officials. We expect them to make the hard decisions and do the right thing. So the uninsured in Florida are subject to, essentially, the doings of a Governor and Legislature that have no courage.

 Courage from those who oppose this law would take the form of accepting the law as created by a majority and then attempt to change it or modify it to something more palatable; not totally destroy it. But they will not show that courage because they are too vested in the old system that benefits them or their base while making life miserable for those needing help who cannot afford it. If you’re looking for courage look to those who have been victimized by the current healthcare system yet continue with hope…and courage…to a better deal and better health under the ACA.

 

Publisher’s Letter

About That Budget Deficit

With this week’s activities regarding HJR 59, the Continuing Resolution to further fund the government through December 15, 2013, we hear the constant mantra about cutting spending and the results of that argument, HJR 59. While apparently satisfying to the Republicans and a some Democrats it is an extreme example when it has no revenue increases to help offset the debt but continues to insist on setting spending limits on the house’s budget resolution around $977 billion rather than the Budget Act of 2011 which set the caps at $1.058 trillion and was agreed to and put into law by both bodies.

Basing caps on a budget resolution that was only agreed to in the House rather than a bill that both bodies agreed to is the height of damaging and foolish political stubbornness and urges the question, how much in debt are we to bring forth such a response?

The Congressional Budget Office publishes a monthly review of the budget. Here is what has been going on with the deficit over the past few months;

 January 2013– The federal budget deficit was $293 billion for the first three months of fiscal year 2013 (that is, October through December 2012), $29 billion less than the shortfall recorded in the first quarter of last fiscal year, CBO estimates.

February 2013– The federal budget deficit was $295 billion for the first four months of fiscal year 2013, $54 billion less than the shortfall recorded for the same period last year, CBO estimates

March 2013— The federal budget deficit was $495 billion for the first five months of fiscal year 2013, $86 billion less than the shortfall recorded for the same period last year, CBO estimates.

April 2013— The federal government ran a budget deficit of $601 billion in the first half of fiscal year 2013, CBO estimates, $178 billion less than the shortfall recorded for the same period last year.

May 2013— The federal government ran a budget deficit of $489 billion in the first seven months of fiscal year 2013 (that is, from October 2012 through April 2013), according to CBO’s estimates. That amount is $231 billion less than the shortfall recorded during the same period last year, primarily because revenue collections have been much greater than they were at this point in 2012.

June 2013— The federal government ran a budget deficit of $627 billion from October 2012 through May 2013 (the first eight months of fiscal year 2013), according to CBO’s estimates. That amount is almost $220 billion less than the shortfall recorded during the same period last year, primarily because federal revenues have risen by 15 percent, while the government’s spending has risen by less than 1 percent.

July 2013— The federal government ran a budget deficit of $512 billion from October 2012 through June 2013 (the first nine months of fiscal year 2013), according to CBO’s estimates. That amount is almost $400 billion less than the shortfall recorded during the same period last year because revenues have risen significantly, while the government’s spending has declined.

August 2013— The federal government ran a budget deficit of roughly $750 billion for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2013, CBO estimates—a reduction of more than $400 billion from the shortfall recorded for the same period last year. Revenues have risen significantly, accounting for more than two-thirds of the decline in the deficit. If lawmakers enacted no further legislation affecting spending or revenues, the federal government would end fiscal year 2013 with a deficit of $845 billion, by CBO’s estimate, compared with $1.1 trillion in 2012.

The only reasonable explanations for this Continuing Resolution are political and they are politics that are stubborn, mean-spirited, and most certainly misguided. There is everything in the Constitution that authorizes Congress to treat Americans well, there is nothing that says let the most vulnerable citizen pay a debt the Congress ran up in the interest of the least vulnerable.

R. McElroy


How Has It Gone for Healthcare Reform in the Nation’s History?

Medicare Signed into Law

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, to sign Medicare into law. His gesture drew attention to the 20 years it had taken Congress to enact government health insurance for senior citizens after Harry Truman had proposed it. In fact, Medicare’s history dated back even further.

 Congress held its first hearings on government health insurance in 1916 during the Progressive Era. During the New Deal, health coverage became part of the deliberations over the Social Security program, but President Franklin Roosevelt decided it was better strategy to pass the old-age pension provisions first. In 1939 Senator Robert Wagner introduced national health legislation and held hearings, but the outbreak of World War II caused his bill to be shelved. It was not until after the war, in November 1945, that Harry Truman sent Congress the first comprehensive federal health insurance proposal. That bill went nowhere.

 During Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency Congress enacted the Kerr-Mills bill for cases of “medical indigency,” to cover elderly individuals who needed help with their medical bills but who failed to qualify for welfare in their states. But reformers regarded Kerr-Mills as inadequate, given the rising number of elderly and rising cost of hospital care.

 President John F. Kennedy identified Medicare as a top priority, sending a message to Congress soon after his inauguration. His Medicare plan was sponsored by New Mexico senator Clinton Anderson. Although polls showed widespread public support for Medicare, the American Medical Association launched a national campaign against it, running radio and television ads and sending speakers out to generate constituent mail against the bill. In July 1962 the Anderson bill lost by two votes in the Senate. President Kennedy vowed to carry on the fight, but Medicare hearings in the next Congress were interrupted by news of his assassination.

 President Lyndon Johnson continued the effort to enact Medicare. In 1964 the House and Senate passed alternate versions of the bill, but a conference committee failed to resolve those differences. That fall, President Johnson won election with 60 percent of the vote and his coattails considerably enlarged the Democratic majorities in Congress. His chief congressional liaison, Lawrence O’Brien, believed that “for all practical purposes” Medicare was passed on election night because so many of its supporters were swept into office. This time, Congress reconciled its differences and on July 27 and 28, 1965, the House and the Senate agreed to the conference report on the bill. President Johnson then flew to Independence to sign Medicare into law in the company of the president who first proposed it.

(Courtesy Senate Clerk)