Tag: Affordable Care Act

Republicans are making their atrocious health care bill even worse to appease the far-right

If you thought the Trumpcare bill in Congress was bad, well, Republicans are now trying to make Trumpcare, which is the proposed legal vehicle for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provided millions of Americans with health insurance, a lot worse in order to appease members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republicans have, since Monday, made two major amendments to the original Trumpcare bill.

The first is the so-called “manager’s amendment”. What the manager’s amendment, if enacted, would end the popular and effective Medicaid expansion a lot sooner than the original bill would have, allows states to raid federal Medicaid funds and use them for purposes other than Medicaid, and makes the Medicaid funding cuts from the original bill a lot more severe, giving state governments, particularly those controlled by Republicans, an opportunity to deprive large numbers of people of health insurance. ThinkProgress, a left-leaning website, gave a more detailed description of the manager’s amendment here.

The second is the Meadows Amendment, named after U.S. Representative and House Freedom Caucus member Mark Meadows (R-NC). Among other things, the Meadows Amendment would allow private-sector health insurers to:

  • deny health insurance to those with pre-existing medical conditions
  • force women to pay more money for the same exact health insurance that men receive
  • enact annual and/or lifetime limits on health care coverage
  • force people to pay money out-of-pocket for vital preventative care, such as mammograms and vaccinations

It’s not hard to understand why most Americans don’t like Trumpcare.

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Paul Ryan and John Shimkus don’t understand the concept of insurance

It has become inherently clear that the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have zero concept of how insurance is supposed to work. Broadly speaking, insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss, and insurance can be an individual policy (such as a car insurance policy through a private-sector entity like State Farm, GEICO, or one of their competitors), a group policy (such as group health insurance plans provided by employers through a private-sector health insurance firm to the employers’ employees), or a government policy (such as the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program commonly called Social Security). Likewise, health insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss associated with medical expenses, and can be an individual policy, a group policy, or a government policy. In order for insurance policies to be financially sustainable, those who do not need the benefits of the insurance policy in question must, by buying into the policy (which can be by paying premiums, taxes, and/or other means), effectively subsidize those who do need the benefits of the insurance policy in question.

The problem is, Republicans, who want to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), don’t understand how a financially-sustainable health insurance policy works.

At a recent press conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin bizarrely claimed that health insurance doesn’t work if healthy people have to effectively subsidize people people who are ill and/or injured:

…He even lost the suit coat and broke out the PowerPoint on Thursday. It was like watching something on cable access late at night, or a flop-sweaty rookie substitute teacher, and it was hilarious—except for the parts where people will lose their health insurance and die, of course. And this is what he said and, peace be unto Dave Barry, I am not making it up, either:

Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.

As if Ryan wasn’t far enough out of touch with reality, the person who legally represents me and several hundred thousand other people in downstate Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Shimkus, made the sexist motivation behind repealing the ACA publicly known in committee:

But Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois took the cake on Thursday night when he questioned why men aren’t exempt from paying into insurance plans that cover prenatal care. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” the congressman said. “Is that not correct? And should they?”

Let me ask a similar question: Why should women have to purchase health insurance for prostrate cancer treatments? Clearly, men never need prenatal care, and women never need prostate cancer treatments. However, if only women had to pay for health insurance covering prenatal care, such a system, regardless of whether the public sector or the private sector were to administer it, would be financially unsustainable. The same problem would be the result if only men had to pay for health insurance covering prostate cancer treatments. This is because a large percentage of women will need prenatal care for at least several months of their lives, so it would be only women who never get pregnant effectively subsidizing those who get pregnant any number of times in their lives. Health insurance covering gender-specific health illnesses/procedures can only be financially sustainable if both men and women pay into a health plan covering prenatal care, prostate cancer treatments, etc..

While I’d never run for public office myself, John Shimkus may legally represent all people in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, but a significant minority of voters in the 15th district, including me, understand that Shimkus doesn’t understand how health insurance works.

Obama’s legacy: a failed Democratic Party and President Donald Trump

With the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, leaving office in a little over a month, I’ll take this opportunity to talk about Obama’s legacy, which has become a major talking point among Democrats.

First off, I want to mention an op-ed that Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) wrote about her thoughts about Obama’s legacy for the Madison, Wisconsin-based The Cap Times earlier this month. Usually, I strongly agree with someone like Sargent, who is a staunch progressive who realizes that opposing Republicans and their destructive policies is only half the battle for progressives. In fact, Sargent is one of the few elected officials in the entire country that I have a strongly favorable opinion of, and one has to remember that I live in a different state than Sargent does. However, I have a much more negative view of Obama’s legacy than Representative Sargent does.

President Obama did not get a whole lot of domestic policy legislation enacted in his eight years in office, largely because Republicans controlled at least one house of Congress for six of Obama’s eight years in office. When Obama did have political allies in Congress who were in a position to enact legislation, much of it was legislation that was largely or effectively corporate welfare for private-sector businesses (such as the Affordable Care Act and the automobile industry bailout) that, despite being effectively government handouts to large corporations, did benefit many Americans. In fact, I have personally benefited from the Affordable Care Act. Obama’s attempts to work with Republicans typically failed miserably, because the Republican Party of today is completely unwilling to work with anyone who is a Democrat.

While President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize not long after being elected to the White House, Obama was no champion of peace in the White House. Obama’s only major foreign policy success as president was his ordering of SEAL Team 6 to take out Osama bin Laden (which succeeded). The rest of Obama’s foreign policy record was largely underwhelming and, in many ways, a continuation of the post-9/11 George W. Bush foreign policy in the Middle East.

One of President Obama’s biggest failures was his attempt to cut Social Security benefits, which was rejected, largely because progressives strongly opposed it. Another major Obama failure is the Democratic Party: Since Obama was sworn into office, Democrats have lost hundreds of state legislative seats, dozens of state executive offices, and dozens of seats in both houses of Congress. Yet another Obama failure was the FBI under Obama’s leadership: James Comey, who was appointed FBI director by Obama, used his office to influence people to vote for Donald Trump in this year’s presidential election.

In some cases, left-wing victories under President Obama’s leadership came from unexpected places. Many of the major LGBT rights victories, such as key provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) being struck down and marriage equality becoming law of the land, were because of rulings by a right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. The LGBT community used the justice system to win justice.

Now, America is probably a weaker country than it ever has been since the Declaration of Independence was signed, although it’s mostly not President Obama’s fault. However, Obama’s pursuit of free-trade deals and Social Security cuts opened the door for a far-right demagogue by the name of Donald Trump to win the White House. I strongly fear that Trump will, some way or another, undo pretty much all of the positive aspects of Obama’s legacy and destroy this country in so many ways. If the Democrats haven’t gone the way of the Whigs by 2020, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

PRE-ENDORSEMENT: Oren Jacobson for 3rd Congressional District of Illinois

Oren Jacobson, a tech entrepreneur, has formed an exploratory committee to look at a possible run for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois, which is currently held by conservative Democrat Dan Lipinski.

You can watch a video of Jacobson’s exploratory committee announcement here:

Jacobson would be a significant improvement over Lipinski, who is one of the worst Democrats to hold any kind of elected office in the entire country. When it comes to health care, Jacobson supports increasing federal funding for research in search of cures for the most devastating illnesses and diseases that affect Americans. While Jacobson hasn’t formally entered the race in the 3rd District, which includes parts of Chicago and numerous suburban communities between Chicago and Joliet, at this time, his campaign has already been endorsed by Blue America, a political action committee that supports progressive-minded Democrats for public office.

In the current Congress, Lipinski has voted more often with John Boehner’s Republicans than his own party, and, when it comes to women’s rights, Lipinski has stood with right-wing extremists who want to control women’s bodies and deny them the reproductive health care services they need or want. Lipinski is such an staunch opponent of women’s rights, he voted against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because he thinks that politicians like himself and his far-right Republican allies should control women’s bodies.

While I live in a different region of Illinois, I believe that Oren Jacobson would make a great representative of the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois, and I encourage Democrats and progressives in that part of our state to strongly support his candidacy.

Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae employed by firm founded by individual that provided money to Koch-funded organizations

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have made edits to the blog post and title to accurately reflect Nation Consulting founder Thad Nation’s use of a 501(c)(4) organization to give money to right-wing organizations and Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s employment by Nation Consulting.

I’ve found information that proves that Thad Nation, Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s boss at Nation Consulting, has provided money to at least seven right-wing organizations, including at least four that are funded either directly or indirectly by the Koch Brothers. Nation himself was listed in a 2012 IRS 990 filing as the principal officer of Coalition for the New Economy (CftNE), a 501(c)4 organization that opposes government-run broadband internet services in areas where private-sector firms currently provide broadband internet service. CftNE has also given money to at least several right-wing political groups that have actively opposed Democratic and liberal political candidates, have actively supported Republican and conservative political candidates, and/or have advocated for far-right policies that would have a negative impact on America. Here’s the organizations that CftNE has given money to, according to page 17 of the 2012 IRS filing by that organization:

  • $15,000 for “general support” to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a right-wing anti-tax organization that has, among other things, effectively supported allowing the U.S. federal government to default on the national debt. NTU has received a total of $32,500 from the Koch Family Foundations from 1998 to 2008, including $5,000 from Charles Koch’s own foundation in 2008.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF), a right-wing organization that spent $1.9 million in television advertising in an attempt to help Republicans win U.S. House races that were seriously contested by both major parties in the 2012 elections. CIF spent a slightly larger amount of money on a similar effort in the 2010 elections.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Americans for Prosperity (AfP), a far-right political organization founded by the Koch Brothers themselves. In Wisconsin, AfP spent $866,000 in ads designed to help Scott Walker win the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race and approximately $2.9 million in ads in opposition to the 2012 recall effort against Walker that was strongly supported by Wisconsin progressives.
  • $10,000 for “general support” to FreedomWorks, a far-right organization that has, among other things, ran several anti-union campaigns in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and supported far-right extremist Chris McDaniel, who, among other things, blamed rap music for many of our country’s problems, in his unsuccessful 2014 Republican primary challenge to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a right-wing organization that was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and, among other things, opposes taxation and supports privatizing Social Security. IPI has received $35,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is identified by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch as one of the four Koch Family Foundations. IPI is the only one of the organizations listed in the CftNE filing that is a 501(c)(3) organization; all of the others are listed as 501(c)(4) organizations.
  • $15,000 for “general support” to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a right-wing organization that has, among other things, attacked the federal government over the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two of the largest cable television providers in the country.
  • $14,740 for “general support” to the 60 Plus Association (60 Plus), a right-wing organization funded by Koch Brothers-funded organizations like Freedom Parners and American Encore as part of a complex web of Koch Brothers-funded organizations. In Wisconsin, 60 Plus ran this advertisement attacking now-Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin for supporting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal legislation that provided millions of Americans with health insurance.

That’s a total of $69,740 that Thad Nation has, through CftNE, provided to right-wing organizations that have supported Republicans like Scott Walker, ran smear campaigns against Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, and have supported far-right policies that would make America a much worse place to live. Thad Nation is also the same person who employs Jason Rae as a senior associate at Nation Consulting, and Rae is running for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. If Rae is elected DPW Chair, it would be at least an apparent conflict of interest for someone like Rae to be the head of a state-level Democratic organization if he were to remain employed at Nation Consulting, because the founder of that organization was the head of a 501(c)(4) organization that gave money to groups that support Republicans and their destructive far-right agenda.

Let me finish this post by saying two things about Rae and his supporters. One, Rae’s supporters are some of the most vile people I’ve ever interacted with online. Two, Rae completely lacks the temperament to be in a Democratic Party leadership position of any kind.

The Progressive Midwesterner’s 2014 Person of the Year: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I promised you that I would pick someone very notorious to be The Progressive Midwesterner’s 2014 Person of the Year.

Well, I’m proud to announce that my 2014 Person of the Year is…Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg, widely thought of as the most liberal of the nine justices on the conservative-controlled Supreme Court, has earned a loyal following among progressives, feminists, and reproductive rights supporters after the conservative majority on the court ruled that businesses owned by people who want to shove their religious beliefs down the throats of their employees, such as the arts and crafts store chain Hobby Lobby, could deny their employees health insurance coverage of contraception, even if they have a medical need for it. Ginsburg, in her dissenting opinion of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, blasted the court’s conservative majority for allowing employers to shove their religious beliefs down the throats of their employees:

The reason why is hardly obscure. Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community. Indeed, by law, no religion-based criterion can restrict the work force of for-profit corporations. […] The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.

Ginsburg earned such a loyal following among progressives, feminists, and reproductive rights supporters in this country after her blistering dissent of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, she became known as The Notorious RBG, and “join the dissent” became a rallying cry for supporters of women’s rights.

For bravely standing up to a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that has dismantled religious freedom and has tried to take reproductive rights away from women, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has earned my 2014 Person of the Year award.

U.S. Supreme Court is once again in a position to take health insurance away from millions of Americans

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which has a 5-4 conservative majority on most cases before it, has taken up a case that could effectively kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has provided me and millions of other Americans with health insurance, in most of the country.

The case involves four words in the law regarding federal subsides that help people like me afford health insurance off of the ACA exchanges:

The Supreme Court, moving back into the abiding controversy over the Affordable Care Act, agreed early Friday afternoon to decide how far the federal government can extend its program of subsidies to buyers of health insurance.  At issue is whether the program of tax credits applies only in the consumer marketplaces set up by sixteen states, and not at federally operated sites in thirty-four states.

Rather than waiting until Monday to announce its action, which would be the usual mode at this time in the Court year, the Justices released the order granting review of King v. Burwell not long after finishing their closed-door private Conference.

By adding the case to its decision docket at this point, without waiting for further action in lower federal courts, as the Obama administration had asked, the Court ensured that it would rule on the case during the current Term.  If it decides to limit the subsidies to the state-run “exchanges,” it is widely understood that that outcome would crash the ACA’s carefully balanced economic arrangements.

[…]

Since the health care exchanges have been in operation, nearly five million individuals have received federal subsidies to help them afford health insurance on an exchange run by the federal government. The average subsidy had been about $4,700 per person.   The fate of those subsidies apparently will now depend upon how the Court interprets four words in the Affordable Care Act.  In setting up the subsidy scheme, Congress said it would apply to exchanges “established by the State.”

(emphasis mine)

Should SCOTUS, using a narrow interpretation of the law, declare that those who receive health insurance off of the federal health care exchange, established by the ACA in states that don’t have their own health care exchanges, are ineligible for federal subsidies, this would render the ACA effectively dead in, at worst, the 37 states that have either a federal-run marketplace, a federal-supported marketplace, or a state-federal partnership marketplace, leaving millions of Americans in those states unable to afford health insurance and legally forced to repay any federal subsidies that they’ve received to pay for health insurance off of the ACA exchanges. More than likely, there are at least four justices (if I were to guess, it would be the four conservative associate justices, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy) who would vote to strike down health insurance subsidies for those who receive health insurance off of the federal exchanges and effectively take away health insurance from millions of Americans, since it takes at least four justices deciding to hear a case for SCOTUS to hear that case and those were the four justices who sided against the ACA in a 2012 constitutional challenge to the law.

Should SCOTUS, using a broad interpretation of the law, declare that federal health care exchanges established by the ACA in states that do have their own health care exchanges are eligible for federal subsidies, this would preserve the ACA in all states and allow millions of Americans to keep their health insurance. More than likely, there are at least four justices (if I were to guess, it would be the four liberal associate justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer) who would vote to preserve health insurance subsidies for those who receive health insurance off of the federal health care exchange.

If I were to guess, the swing vote on whether or not to save the ACA would be…you guessed it, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who was the swing vote on the 2012 constitutional challenge to the ACA.

Republican control of the U.S. Senate would be absolutely frightening

With the possibility of Republicans winning control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the first two years of George W. Bush’s second term in the White House looming over the November 4 elections, I want to remind everybody how frightening Republicans winning control of the U.S. Senate and retaining control of the U.S. House is.

Should Republicans win control of the Senate and retain control of the House, Republicans will probably pass a sweeping, Wisconsin-style far-right agenda, including legislation like:

  • Passing a nationwide right-to-work-for-less bill, allowing workers to benefit from collective bargaining agreements without paying union dues for collective bargaining (if not completely banning labor unions altogether)
  • Passing restrictions on abortion, contraception, and other women’s health procedures, up to and including attempting to propose a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion, contraception, and many other women’s health procedures
  • Repealing the federal Voting Rights Act, making it easier for states to implement voter suppression schemes
  • Repealing the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, allowing many forms of racial discrimination
  • Eliminating Pell grants and other programs that help people pay for college, making it harder for young people to go to college
  • Completely repealing the Affordable Care Act, taking away health insurance from millions of Americans who were recently uninsured
  • Eliminating regulations on banks and other financial institutions, making it easier for them to engage in risky practices that were the primary cause of the Great Recession
  • Allowing mining and drilling in National Parks and other federally-protected lands, destroying the value of our country’s natural wonders and hurting the tourism industry
  • Handing out tax cuts and other tax breaks to wealthy people, corporations, and other special interests, resulting in a bigger federal budget deficit and national debt (if not implementing a full-blown regressive taxation scheme by completely repealing the federal income tax and replacing it with a federal sales tax, shifting the tax burden to poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans)
  • Completely repealing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social safety net programs, leaving millions of seniors without a source of income and leaving millions of Americans without health insurance
  • Eliminating all federal campaign finance restrictions, making it even easier for wealthy people, corporations, and other special interests to buy federal elections and have an even bigger undue influence over federal politicians
  • Repealing the federal minimum wage, putting millions of working Americans into poverty and driving millions more into even deeper poverty
  • Eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and federal environmental regulations, allowing corporations to pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink
  • Repealing federal laws mandating equal pay for equal work, allowing employers to discriminate against women by paying men more than women

Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the right-wing legislation that a fully Republican-controlled Congress could pass. Don’t think for one second that people like Pat Toomey, Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and Susan Collins would oppose some or most of the far-right agenda just because they represent states/constituencies that usually vote for Democratic presidential candidates. The Ted Cruz-types in the Republican Party are going to demand that they pass as much far-right legislation as possible, and the so-called “moderates” in the GOP would go along with them every time and rubber stamp everything they do.

Should Republicans win control of the Senate, they will be hell bent on turning America into a third-world country. The only thing that would stop them from doing is President Barack Obama, who would likely veto nearly everything the Republicans pass. If you don’t want Republicans passing a destructive far-right agenda, go vote against the Republican bastards on November 4.

Michigan Republican Party sends out mailer asking people to call 91-year-old woman who is in hospice care

The Michigan Republican Party recently sent out a mailer, on behalf of Republican Michigan House candidate Brandt Iden (61st House District), criticizing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a federal law providing millions of previously uninsured Americans with health insurance. The Michigan GOP’s mailer asked people to call a phone number, which they claim is that of John Fisher, the Democratic challenger to Brandt, in order to complain about a law that has helped millions of Americans.

However, the phone number that the Michigan GOP provided is actually that of Fisher’s 91-year-old mother, Isabel Marie Kramb, who is in hospice care due to the fact that she suffers from congestive heart failure. I am not going to publish Kramb’s phone number for privacy reasons.

This is one of the worst examples of gutter politics that I’ve ever seen. I find it disgusting that Michigan Republicans would harass and intimidate an elderly woman, who is in hospice care due to heart problems, by having the far-right extremists who compromise the Michigan GOP’s base of support call her. This proves that Republicans have no respect whatsoever for the elderly and the ill.