Thursday Reads: “Health Care” and “Religious Liberty” According to the GOPPosted: May 4, 2017
Before I get started on my post, I want to share a bit of personal news. You all know how proud I am of my brother John the filmmaker and five-time Emmy award winner. Nearly a year ago I wrote about the brutal and senseless murder of my sister-in-law Kristine’s mother in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Tomorrow is the anniversary of her death.
My brother and sister-in-law have spent the past year turning their pain and loss into a film about what happened. I have seen parts of it, and I think it’s impressive. It’s a multidimensional story–the life of a truly special woman and the impact of her death as well as an exploration of the background and possible motives of the man who murdered her, including ways in which the mental health and justice systems likely failed him.
John and Kristine have set up fundraising page with a goal of raising $50,000 in two weeks to enable them finish the film. There is more information about the film and about John and Kristine’s family at that link. I’m not asking you to contribute; I just wanted to share this and provide a link to a brief preview of the film. John has posted a longer piece at Vimeo.
Now to the news of the day.
House Republicans have scheduled a vote on their disastrous “health care” bill today. I have to wonder if Trump’s presidency has driven them to commit ritual suicide. This monstrosity probably can’t pass the Senate, and many of those who vote for it are likely to lose their seats in the House.
Some reactions from journalists who cover health care regularly:
The heart of the bill is the same one that was polling at under 20 percent and failed two months ago: a near-trillion dollar tax cut for wealthy investors, financed by cuts to insurance subsidies for the poor and middle class. They have added a series of hazily defined changes: waivers for states to allow insurers to charge higher rates to people with preexisting conditions and to avoid covering essential health benefits, and a pitifully small amount of money to finance high-risk pools for sick patients.
The implications of these changes are vast. The Brookings Institution notes that if a single state eliminated the cap on lifetime benefits for a single employee, then employers in every state could actually follow suit, thus bringing back a horrid feature of the pre-Obamacare system, in which people who get hit with expensive treatment suddenly discover that their insurer will no longer pay for their care. This would affect not only those getting insurance through Medicaid or the state exchanges, but also through their job.
The ambiguity of the details is the strategy. Republican leaders have been “assuring centrists that the Senate would make changes to allay their concerns and insisting that few states would actually use the waivers allowing higher premiums for pre-existing conditions,” reportsTheWallStreet Journal. Sean Spicer says it would be “literally impossible … to do an analysis of any level of factual basis.” Representative Fred Upton told reporters that if the Congressional Budget Office says the bill is underfunded he will push for more money — after it passes his chamber.
They are rushing through a chamber of Congress a bill reorganizing one-fifth of the economy, without even cursory attempts to gauge its impact.
Republicans are trying very hard to disguise what the American Health Care Act would actually do.
They keep insisting their bill, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act, would “lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care,” as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) put it last month.
Any time analysts point out the ways in which those promises are misleading or false ― or cite the Congressional Budget Officeprediction that the AHCA would leave about 24 million peoplewithout health insurance ― Republicans insist that a combination of new tax credits, state innovation, and so-called high-risk pools will take care of people better than the current system does.
This is not true. And perhaps the clearest evidence is in those CBO numbers.
Much more at the link.
The House of Representatives will vote on the American Health Care Act, the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, on Thursday in the early afternoon. House Republicans are hurtling toward a vote on a bill that is disliked by most Americans, opposed by nearly every major health care group, and not yet scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
This is an unusual situation, and a puzzling one. Republicans will vote tomorrow for a health care bill without knowing how many people it covers or how much it would cost. They risk setting themselves up for embarrassment when the numbers actually do come out and don’t look good.
As leadership scrambles to whip the votes for the American Health Care Act, it’s worth stepping back to ask: What the heck is the rush?
The best explanation I’ve found comes from my colleague Andrew Prokop. When Republicans started this year, they had a strategy to move two big policy packages, one on health care and another on tax reform. There would only be two chances to use the budget reconciliation process that allows a bill to pass with only 51 Senate votes (for complex procedural reasons explained here), so each would get one shot.
Health reform would go first, they thought, because it would be simpler. It was a legislative strategy built when the Republican health care plan looked markedly different:
They thought it would be legislatively easier to write an Obamacare repeal bill than tax reform, because they intended to put off the hard work of creating an actual replacement for Obamacare until later. This was the “repeal and delay” strategy — pass a quick repeal, set it to go into effect in a few years, and write the replacement in the meantime.
But then GOP leaders encountered a problem. Their members, in both the House and the Senate, turned out to really hate the “repeal and delay” strategy, because it meant getting rid of Obamacare and its benefits without the “replacement” the party had long promised they’d offer being ready.Republicans want to move quickly on health care so they can fit in tax reform too, another immense and complex policy lift.
David Leonhardt: The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage.
When Massachusetts expanded health insurance a decade ago, state officials unknowingly created an experiment. It’s turned out to be an experiment that offers real-world evidence of what would happen if the House Republicans’ health bill were to become law.
The findings from Massachusetts come from an academic paper being released Thursday, and the timing is good. Until now, the main analysis of the Republican health bill has come from the Congressional Budget Office, and some Republicans have criticized that analysis as speculative. The Massachusetts data is more concrete.
Unfortunately for those Republicans, the new data makes their health care bill look even worse than the C.B.O. report did. The bill could cause more people to lose insurance than previously predicted and do more damage to insurance markets. The $8 billion sweetener that Republicans added to the bill on Wednesday would do nothing to change this reality. President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan are continuing to push a policy that would harm millions of Americans.
Read about the study at the NYT link above.
One more from Erica Green at the NYT: A Little-Noticed Target in the House Health Bill: Special Education. Green explains how the effects the gutting of Medicaid will have on the education system. Read it at the link.
As I write this, Trump is announcing his big new unconstitutional executive order, making the dreams of Mike Pence and the evangelical community come true by repealing the so-called “Johnson amendment.”
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is seeking to further weaken enforcement of an IRS rule barring churches and tax-exempt groups from endorsing political candidates, in a long-anticipated executive order on religious freedom that has disappointed some of his supporters.
As he marks the National Day of Prayer at the White House Thursday, Trump is planning to sign an executive order asking the IRS to use “maximum enforcement discretion” over the regulation, known as Johnson Amendment, which applies to churches and nonprofits.
The order also promises “regulatory relief” for groups with religious objections to the preventive services requirement in the Affordable Care Act, according to a White House official. Those requirements include covering birth control and could apply to religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have moral objections to paying for contraception.
The White House did not release the full text of the order, and it was not clear just how the pledges would be carried out. The order, which essentially would make it even less likely that a religious organization would lose its tax-exempt status because of a political endorsement, falls short of what religious conservatives expected from Trump, who won overwhelming support from evangelicals by promising to “protect Christianity” and religious freedom.
One more read from HuffPo: Pence: Trump ‘Has Literally Filled This White House’ With Anti-Abortion Leaders.
NEW YORK― Vice President Mike Pence declared victory for the anti-abortion movement Wednesday night, boasting that President Donald Trump has “literally filled” his administration with politicians who oppose reproductive rights.
“Life is winning in America,” Pence said at a gala for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List. “President Trump has been keeping his promises to stand for life. He’s literally filled this White House and agencies with pro-life leaders.”
Pence, who led the fight against reproductive rights as a congressman and governor of Indiana, went on to list the members of what he called the anti-abortion “A-team”― Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Housing Secretary Ben Carson, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway, who spoke at the gala before Pence.
Also listed on his “A-team” was Charmaine Yoest, the former CEO of Americans United for Life, who is assistant secretary of health and human services, and Teresa Manning, a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee who is expected to be appointed to oversee the nation’s family planning program at HHS.
“For the first time in a long time, America has an administration that’s filled top to bottom with people who stand without apology for life,” Pence said.
Except if you’re a woman, a black person, member of the LGBT community, a muslim, and on and on. Let’s face it, unless you’re an evangelical man or a male white supremacist, your life has no value, according to Trump and Pence.
It should be an interesting day ahead. What stories have you been following?