By Doug Porter
This morning Democratic party leaders from the House and Senate, along with representatives from seniors and activist organizations, delivered more than one million petition signatures demanding that President Elect Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) keep their hands off the American people’s earned Medicare benefits.
Medicare and Medicaid provide health insurance to one-third of all Americans.
Although Donald Trump ran on a pledge not to touch Medicare, House Speaker Ryan has already announced plans to abolish the program through privatization. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), one of Ryan’s closest allies and an ardent foe of Medicare, has been nominated to be Health and Human Services Secretary.
Rep. Price—who currently chairs the House Budget Committee— has released an agenda enabling automatic across-the-board cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs for low- and middle-income Americans.
From the Center for American Progress:
If Congress enacts President-elect Trump’s proposed tax plan—which mostly benefits the wealthiest Americans—then Rep. Price’s automatic cuts would slash Social Security by $1.7 trillion and Medicare by $1.1 trillion over 10 years.
Rep. Price proposes “long-term debt limits” that would trigger automatic cuts to almost all federal programs—including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—if the debt is not on track to meet the required levels in a given year. The president and Congress would not have to agree to a plan for achieving these fiscal goals when they establish a debt limit. Lawmakers would only have to vote in favor of reducing the national debt.
Rep. Price’s automatic cuts provide a way for members of Congress to vote for both tax cuts and debt reduction—and for President-elect Trump to sign these measures into law—while falsely claiming to uphold campaign pledges to protect Social Security and Medicare. Despite evidence to the contrary, President-elect Trump will likely continue to claim that massive economic growth will keep the national debt under the limits set by Congress without the need for automatic cuts. But history has shown that trickle-down tax cuts do not grow the economy, with careful studies finding no evidence that tax cuts by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush boosted long-term economic growth.
— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) December 7, 2016
Repeal Obamacare, Then Screw Medicare
The seeds of the economic justification for Rep. Ryan’s plans are to be found in the GOP’s grand plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
As John Wasik points out in Forbes, the end/Republican reform of Obamacare undermines Medicare.
Although Trump said during the campaign that he wouldn’t touch Medicare or Social Security — he wouldn’t have secured enough Electoral College votes if he had — tearing apart Obamacare will almost certainly raise costs for Medicare beneficiaries and hasten its decline as a guaranteed, fee-for-service system….
…How would these so-called “reforms” impact Medicare? They wouldn’t, at least not immediately. But the same model would be employed in hacking up Medicare, handing retirees a lump sum or “voucher” to buy private insurance policies.
Would the voucher be enough to cover a year’s worth of medical expenses? Probably not if you have a range of expensive or chronic medical issues, as most older people do.
A New York Times report on a meeting between Senate Republican leaders and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence makes it clear Congress will move quickly come January to dismantle Obamacare.
Insurance Companies Will Bail Out
The closest thing the GOP has been able to come with as a replacement program has been dubbed “repeal and repair.” And they are a long way from achieving a consensus, with members of the teahadist ‘Freedom Caucus’ indicating they’re unwilling to enact much in the way of reforms.
A report from the Urban Institute predicts state insurance markets will start to unravel almost immediately, with the number of uninsured Americans rising by as much as 30 million.
From the Huffington Post:
Republicans have vowed that the new effort at repeal would contain a similar continuation of coverage assistance, although now the extension would go through 2019 or even 2020. That extension is supposed to guarantee coverage for the more than 20 million people who now depend on Obamacare for insurance while giving Republicans time to craft a replacement. And this replacement, Republican leaders frequently say, will provide comparable or even better coverage for lower costs.
The report from the Urban Institute basically calls those promises worthless.
A big problem for the short term, the researchers warn, is that insurers aren’t likely to keep offering coverage for a market that’s going to vanish in two or three years. Many insurers have been losing money, sometimes big money, on their Obamacare plans. But some were making money and most had decided it was worth sticking around for the possibility of future profits. If the markets won’t exist past 2018 or 2019, then those profits will never materialize.
A Washington Post story, quoting Linda Blumberg, an economist and one of the authors of the report, suggests the number of uninsured might actually increase over pre-Obamacare levels:
In 2009, when Obama took office, about 50 million people were uninsured. The report projects that after repeal, 59 million people will lack coverage by 2019, compared to 29 million if the ACA remains in place.
“We’re not talking about setting ourselves back to where we were, say, in 2009,” Blumberg said. “We’re talking about putting ourselves in a situation where the number of uninsured is actually higher than it was then.”
Hospital Groups Warn of Disaster
Yesterday two major hospital groups released a joint report warning Republicans about repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. Based on the model of the GOP’s 2015 repeal legislation, it would have a negative financial impact on hospitals amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years.
Probable losses include losses in revenue from those recently covered by the ACA—both on the insurance exchanges and through Medicaid, amounting to $165.8 billion over the next eight fiscal years.
The hospital groups warned they would see an additional $289.5 billion in losses if Obamacare was repealed but the cuts that the Affordable Care Act imposed on Medicare and Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments remained.
These warnings were conveyed in letters sent to President-elect Donald Trump and congressional leaders.
From Talking Points Memo:
“Losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained and will adversely impact patients’ access to care, decimate hospitals’ and health systems’ ability to provide services, weaken local economies that hospitals help sustain and grow, and result in massive job losses,” said the letter, which was signed by American Hospital Association President Richard J. Pollack and Federation of American Hospitals President Charles N. Kahn.
“As you know, hospitals are often the largest employer in many communities, and more than half of a hospital’s budget is devoted to supporting the salaries and benefits of caregivers who provide 24/7 coverage, which cannot be replaced,” the letter added.
Whatever the Republicans do, they’ll likely be on their own, as Democrats, still smarting from years of partisan obstructionism see no advantage in playing nice.
Incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer taunted Republicans Tuesday over their plans to replace Obamacare, insisting they have no solution and vowing that his party won’t go along with their attempts to unravel the law.
“Bring it on,” the New York Democrat said. “They don’t know what to do. They’re like the dog that caught the bus.”
Republicans say they intend to advance plans to undo President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement early next year. But they lack consensus on what to replace it with and how to go about it, even as they’re asking Democrats to work with them.
Trump Advisor: Saying ‘Happy Holidays’ is Now Illegal
Hopefully, you’re smart enough to know the above headline is bs. But I thought it would be fun to turn the truthiness tables around on Trump’s flying monkeys if just for a second. Here’s what was actually said:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 7, 2016
“The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison channels of public information.”
— VP Henry Wallace, 1944
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) December 6, 2016
On This Day: 1925 – Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller set a world record in the 150-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 25 and 2/5 seconds. He went on to play “Tarzan” in several movies. 1941 – Pearl Harbor, located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu was attacked by nearly 200 Japanese warplanes. The attack resulted in the U.S. entering into World War II. 2009 – Delegates to the founding convention of the National Nurses United (NNU) in Phoenix, Ariz., unanimously endorsed the creation of the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in U.S. history. The 150,000-member union is the product of a merger of three groups.
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