By Doug Porter
After two months of regularly hijacking the 24 hour news cycle with horror stories about the Affordable Healthcare Act, Republicans here in California reached a new low this week. They rolled out a fake Covered California website via mailings to constituents (apparently paid for by taxpayers) from GOP Assembly members. Taxpayers also paid for creation of the faux website, registered with GoDaddy.com
Rather than inform users about their healthcare options, clicking on highlighted topics like “Don’t Have Insurance” leads to negative news stories, filled with misinformation or out of date data. The idea, of course, is to discourage people from signing up; part of the GOP strategy to make Obamacare collapse due to lack of interest.
This is shameless and breathtaking in the scope of its misdirection and misinformation. If you had any doubts about the fact that these people care for nobody but the rich, visiting this bit of Astroturf on the web should put your concerns to rest.
A visit to the “Don’t Have Insurance” tab tells the user all about penalties and includes a penalty calculator. No mention is made of potential benefits and no access is provided towards determining the actual costs of health insurance. Visitors are also warned that, should they actually want insurance, they’ll just be subsidizing those shiftless lazy moochers known as “sick people”.
Young adults will end up paying for much of federal health care reform by subsidizing the cost of sicker people, or by paying a tax penalty if they do not obtain health insurance under the provisions of the individual mandate, which requires all Californians to have coverage beginning in 2014.
If you are a senior concerned about Medicare, they’ve got a spiel tailored to stimulate your fears about “rationing”:
Seniors on Medicare may not see changes immediately to their benefits or coverage. Down the line, however, the erosion and accessibility of care may become a problem.
To pay for other components of the Affordable Care Act such as expanding Medicaid and creating state health exchanges, Medicare providers will see rate cuts nearing $200 billion over the next decade. These cuts could potentially result in the exodus of doctors from the Medicare system and force Medicare recipients to find new providers, possibly facing longer wait times for care as that pool of doctors shrinks.
Note the use of “may”, “could” and “possibly” in the above paragraphs. Fact: The reductions in Medicare costs are brought about by increasing efficiencies.
The real topper is the complete and utter misrepresentation of what Covered California offers:
Covered California: Covered California offers four qualified health plans similar to those available on the private market today. These plans comply with the Affordable Care Act.
Actually there are numerous providers offering plans broken out into four tiers offering varying levels of coverage and cost.
If you are looking for truthful information about health insurance coverage under the Affordable Healthcare Act in California go to CoveredCa.com. Accept no substitutes. h/t: Karoli (at Crooks and Liars) and Hunter (at Daily Kos) for bringing this item to my attention.
An Obamacare Advent Calendar?
Now that the Heathcare.gov website is now mostly functional, the Obama administration is going on a public relations offensive. It’ll be like getting a little gift of health care deliciousness each day through December 23rd.
The White House on Tuesday – signaling its confidence that the worst of HealthCare.gov’s woes are in the past – is launching a coordinated campaign to highlight the Affordable Care Act’s benefits over the next three weeks after the health care law’s unfavorable ratings tumbled even further amid the disastrous rollout. The Obama administration and its allies plan to highlight an Obamacare benefit each day until the first enrollment deadline, Dec. 23. People have until the end of March to sign up, although that would mean they get covered later in the year.
As traffic mounted on Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services deployed a new virtual waiting room when it saw website performance slip with about 35,000 visitors at the same time. That forced many visitors to wait to enter the website, but it never crashed. It is supposed to be able to handle 50,000 people at a time.
The New York Times reports that Obamacare may have already given taxpayers one unexpected gift: lower costs for Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance. The article cites skeptics who think this unforeseen benefit is in part driven by the recession, but nobody doubts the savings are real.
The rollout of President Obama’s health care law may have deeply disappointed its supporters, but on at least one front, the Affordable Care Act is beating expectations: its cost.
Over the next few years, the government is expected to spend billions of dollars less than originally projected on the law, analysts said, with both the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies for private insurance plans ending up less expensive than anticipated.
Already, the Congressional Budget Office has quietly erased hundreds of billions of dollars from its projections. It now estimates that Medicare spending in 2020 will be $137 billion lower than it thought in 2010, a drop of 15 percent; Medicaid spending will be $85 billion, or 16 percent, lower; and private health insurance premiums are expected to be about 9 percent lower.
Jonathan Cohn at New Republic is already out of the gate with his first day of Christmas Obamacare gift:
Today it’s a few hundred thousand people. By next year, it will be at least a few million. Their health insurance status is changing dramatically: What they have in 2014 and beyond will look nothing like what they had in 2013 and before. For many of these people, the difference will be hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. In a few cases, it may be the difference between life and death.
You probably think I’m talking about the people getting cancellation notices about their private insurance policies. I’m not. I’m talking about the people getting Medicaid. Both stories are consequences of the Affordable Care Act. But one is getting way, way more attention than the other.
Fast Food Workers Call for Protests in 200 Cities
Labor unrest from those at the bottom of the wage scale continues. Last week it was Walmart. This Thursday it’s Fast Food joints.
You can grouse about these events being union publicity stunts all you want, but the underlying reality about economic inequality is the biggest issue facing this country. And these events keep that discussion alive.
From the New York Times:
Seeking to increase pressure on McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other fast-food restaurants, organizers of a movement demanding a $15-an-hour wage for fast-food workers say they will sponsor one-day strikes in 100 cities on Thursday and protest activities in 100 additional cities.
As the movement struggles to find pressure points in its quest for substantially higher wages for workers, organizers said strikes were planned for the first time in cities like Charleston, S.C.; Providence, R.I.; and Pittsburgh.
The protests have expanded greatly since November 2012, when 200 fast-food workers engaged in a one-day strike at more than 20 restaurants in New York City, the first such walkout in the history of the nation’s fast-food industry.
Speaking of Inequality in the Fast Food Industry…
Via Josh Eidelson at Salon.com we learn about $183 million in tax deductible “performance” pay that’s been handed out to executives at fast food companies over te past two years.
A 20-year-old tax loophole netted top fast food chains an extra $64 million over the past two years, according to a new study released days before fast food workers plan the largest U.S. strike in the industry’s history.
“This is a perverse loophole that encourages excessive executive compensation …” said SarahAnderson, who directs the Global Economy Project of the progressive Institute for Policy Studies. “Taxpayers absolutely should not be subsidizing runaway CEO pay.”
Anderson’s new IPS paper, “Fast Food CEOs Rake in Taxpayer-Subsidized Pay,” tallies the tax savings fast food corporations have reaped from “performance pay” language in federal law. Two decades ago, when Congress placed a $1 million cap on the amount of executive pay that could be tax-deductible, lawmakers created an exception for so-called performance pay. “This loophole quickly led to an explosion of ‘performance-based’ compensation, particularly stock options,” writes Anderson, which “encourages executives to carry out short-sighted, reckless actions aimed at boosting stock prices in order to inflate the value of their own options.” Rather than serving to “align the interests of executives and shareholders,” argues Anderson, instead “boards often respond to declining share prices by doling out huge new options grants with lower exercise prices” for undeserving execs. She notes that Goldman Sachs paid out 10 times as many stock options after the 2008 crash than it had the year before.
IPS contends that exception, while failing to actually promote “performance,” has helped already-flush fast food giants make a killing. Drawing on federal filings and proxy statements, Anderson tallied over $183 million in fully deductible “performance” compensation lavished on the CEOs of the six top publicly held fast food corporations in the previous two years. Had that cash been fully taxed, she estimates, another $64 million would have landed in government coffers rather than corporations’. The biggest winner was Yum! Brands — parent of name-brand chains including Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC – whose CEO netted $94 million in “performance pay” within 2011 and 2012. In second place: McDonald’s, whose two CEOs over that period received $31 million in fully deductible compensation. That makes $33 million in lost potential tax revenue from Yum!, and $14 million from McDonald’s. McDonald’s and Yum! did not respond to Monday afternoon inquiries.
The War on Christmas Comes to Orange County
A very snarky report via Wonkette.com keeps us up to date:
Rally the troops and calibrate your reindeer-seeking missiles — War On Christmas 2013 is well under way. First up, we have this panicked report from Todd “The Feds will outlaw the Bible as Hate Speech” Starnes, who wants us to know that a neighborhood in Orange County, California, has been ordered to take down every single one of their Christmas lights* and they have to bow down to a graven image of Obama, too. Starnes quotes one homeowner’s plaintive summary of the human rights atrocity unfolding on American soil:
“It’s horrible what they are doing to us and these poor kids,” one homeowner told television station KTLA.
The children! Won’t someone please think of the children?
Prominent in the KTLA report but barely mentioned in Starnes’ blog: The code violation is that the neighbors have strung lights from one house to another, and across the street, which, yes, would be a code violation. Because if one of the houses in the neighborhood catches fire or a toddler chokes on figgy pudding, it would be nice if emergency vehicles didn’t have to contend with low-hanging strings of electric lights, right? Stupid nanny state, thinking of the children that way. Thanks a lot, Obamacare.
On This Day: 1948 – The “Pumpkin Papers” came to public light. The House Un-American Activities Committee announced that former Communist spy Whittaker Chambers had produced microfilm of secret documents hidden inside a pumpkin on his Maryland farm. 1965 – In Sacramento, Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) was shocked and knocked unconscious during a concert when his guitar made contact with his microphone during a performance of “The Last Time.” His publicist declined to release a statement on whether he liked the buzz from the shock or not. 1967 – In Cape Town, South Africa, a team of surgeons headed by Dr. Christian Barnard, performed the first human heart transplant on Louis Washkansky. Washkansky only lived 18 days.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@