Editorial May 5, 2017

 

TheWeekinCongress.com

Publisher’s Letter

Politics Trumps Reason

In a fit of madness driven purely by political concerns the House passed The American Healthcare Act after seven years of complaining about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). House Republicans passed HR 1648 in the only form possible; paying less to get less.

The bill aims to replace the $1 trillion Affordable Care Act that was designed to pay for itself with a bill that offers less coverage at a higher cost to taxpayers and that will deliver less health insurance coverage while freeing those high income individuals and medical-related entities from paying a tax and an excise tax on their incomes and goods, respectively.

CBO explains it – “…$323 billion in on-budget savings and $13 billion in off-budget savings. Outlays would be reduced by $1.2 trillion over the period, and revenues would be reduced by $0.9 trillion.”

Sounds good but here’s the kicker;  “The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) subsidies for nongroup health insurance. The largest costs would come from repealing many of the changes the ACA made to the Internal Revenue Code—including an increase in the Hospital Insurance payroll tax rate for high-income taxpayers, a surtax on those taxpayers’ net investment income, and annual fees imposed on health insurers—and from the establishment of a new tax credit for health insurance.”

CBO continued; “following additional changes to subsidies for insurance purchased in the nongroup market and to the Medicaid program, the increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026.” To be fair the 21 and 24 million would contain around 6 million who were mandated to buy insurance or pay a penalty leaving us with 18 million uninsured by 2026.

Over 7 years we have heard all sorts of unsubstantiated complaints about Obamacare none, I repeat, none of which are true. Was is true about the law is that those who receive subsidies and whose premiums the insurance companies wanted to raise would see their subsidies increase to cover the premium increase. The hyperbolic response to those whose premiums increased astronomically are about those whose incomes did not qualify for a subsidy and so were subject to the whim and will of the insurers. Congress at any time could have provided subsidies for those individuals through direct payment to the insurers or through a tax break allowing them to recoup the increases at tax time but it was more easy to blame the problem on Obamacare.

Unfortunately the political position opponents put themselves in and the fact that the law bore the name of a president not favored by the Republicans would not allow a fix of the current law but aimed to wipe the slate clean of it and remove Obama’s legacy legislation from US history. The arguments were never about improving access to or affordability of health insurance.

They soon found out that the current law is better than anything they offered to replace it not only in the availability of insurance coverage to most Americans but in the cost to the taxpayers.

Well, the bill didn’t have the votes to pass not because it was simply stupid but because it still offered some Medicaid increases to states and still allowed for the popular prohibition on lifetime caps and rejection of coverage to those with preexisting conditions. And then one day another provision was to be added to the bill that would not remove those protections but allow states to opt out of those protections for their citizens. That got a few more votes but still not enough to pass the bill.

Finally Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI-6) came up with the idea that Congress could provide $8 billion in taxpayer funds to states to cover the likely high increase in premiums for those with preexisting conditions. That apparently cleared the conscious of even those supporters who held that under the original bill those with preexisting conditions would be covered, including the White House. That denial did not set with Upton who realized too many people would face unaffordable premium increases and, as the most vulnerable, would be turned away from having any insurance at the time they needed it the most.

We were not told if the $8 billion will do the trick because the bill was passed before the CBO made its calculations. The question to be asked is how long that $8 billion will be provided ($80 billion over ten years?) and more important if it will be sufficient to cover its purpose; protecting those with preexistings from being priced out of the market. Consider this – This bill allows insurers to go back to the old days before Obamacare when they could raise premiums and deny claims based on their own desire for profits and that is what they will do along with again installing lifetime caps. And the $8 billion will not be enough and will have to increase. Difference is that the tax provisions in Obamacare could handle increases, but under the American Healthcare Act you will pay for the increases.

This bill and all the promises made by those who support it is nonsense.


Foreign Affairs

N. Korea Steps Up Nuke Program

“North Korea pledged Monday to bolster its nuclear weapons program at maximum speed, issuing the country’s first official response to the recently released North Korea policy by the U.S. administration, which focuses on “maximum pressure and engagement.”

“Now that the U.S. is kicking up the overall racket for sanctions and pressure against the DPRK, pursuant to its new DPRK policy called ‘maximum pressure and engagement’, the DPRK will speed up at the maximum pace the measure for bolstering its nuclear deterrence,” a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.” Yonhap News Agency

Global Cyber War Real: Experts Say

“Russia used “useful idiots” to meddle in the U.S. presidential election and “fellow travelers” opposed to European Union and NATO to influence elections in France and Germany, while Islamic terrorists used “agent provocateurs” to topple Spain’s government in 2004 and cast another pall over French voting, a cyber security expert told a congressional subcommittee Thursday.

That, in capsule form, is how cyber is changing how the public views elections, Clint Watts, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said at the Senate Armed Services cybersecurity subcommittee hearing.” US Naval Institute / John Grady

US to Push ISIS from Afghanistan

“After dropping a monster bomb on its fighters, then targeting its leader, the US military is looking to destroy the Islamic State group’s Afghan branch before battle-hardened reinforcements arrive from Syria and Iraq.

While US and Kabul government forces have mainly been combating Taliban fighters since 2001, IS’s local offshoot…has a stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.

First emerging in 2015, ISIS-K overran large parts of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.., Times of India


Magic Mondays

Political Education

n