“24 Health-Care Scandals”: Legislators Who Block Medicaid Expansion Are Stiffing Veterans Out Of Health Care, And Stiffing Workers Out Of Jobs
The scandal over long wait times for veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system has grabbed a lot of headlines and elicited a lot of righteous anger — as it should. America’s veterans deserve so much better.
But as Ezra Klein pointed out in a piece in Vox, there’s another health care scandal that also deserves its share of righteous anger, and it also has a big impact on veterans with health care needs: the self-destructive refusal of lawmakers in 20-plus states to accept federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs.
Klein cataloged “24 health-care scandals that critics of the VA should also be furious about” (that is, the 24 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion). Thanks to lawmakers’ knee-jerk opposition to expanding health coverage in those states, there are huge numbers of uninsured veterans who should be eligible for coverage, but aren’t: 41,200 veterans in Florida, 24,900 in Georgia, 48,900 in Texas… and the list goes on.
All in all, about 250,000 uninsured veterans are getting stiffed out of eligibility for health coverage by lawmakers who have blocked Medicaid expansion, according to Pew’s Stateline. As it turns out, those lawmakers are also stiffing their own states out of economy-boosting jobs — health care jobs that are overwhelmingly good-paying jobs. Medicaid expansion would create thousands more of these jobs.
Virginia, where Medicaid expansion still hangs in limbo, is a perfect example. According to a report from Chmura Economics & Analytics, Medicaid expansion would create an average of over 30,000 jobs annually in Virginia, including more than 15,000 jobs in the state’s health care sector. An analysis of data on projected job openings and wage levels underscores that these will be good-paying, economy-boosting jobs.
For a single adult in Virginia, less than half of all projected job openings statewide pay above a living wage ($18.59/hour, according to the 2013 Virginia Job Gap Study). However, three out of five health care job openings and close to nine out of 10 health practitioner and technical job openings do.
For a household with two working adults and two children, while less than two out of five projected job openings in Virginia pay median wages above a living wage ($21.99/hour per worker), half of health care job openings and more than seven out of 10 health practitioner and technical job openings do.
Or look at Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan passed by the Maine Legislature earlier this year, and too few Republican legislators were willing to break ranks with the Governor to override his veto. There, Medicaid expansion would create over 4,000 jobs by 2016, including more than 2,000 jobs in Maine’s health care sector. As with Virginia, health care jobs beat statewide wage levels in Maine by wide margins.
For a single adult, less than half of all projected job openings in Maine pay above a living wage ($15.18/hour, according to the 2013 Maine Job Gap Study). But two-thirds of health care job openings and almost nine out of 10 health practitioner and technical job openings do. For a household with two working adults and two children, while barely one-third of projected job openings in Maine pay above a living wage ($18.87/hour per worker), almost three-fifths of health care job openings and more than four out of five health practitioner and technical job openings do.
Health care jobs are also overwhelmingly higher-wage jobs in states like Montana and Idaho. But all these states, along with 20 others, have been missing out on these economy-boosting jobs because their legislatures or governors have rejected Medicaid expansion.
State lawmakers who continue to block Medicaid expansion do so at their own peril — both morally and electorally. Because you can only stiff your own constituents — including low-income, uninsured veterans — out of both access to health care and good-paying, economy-boosting jobs for so long before it catches up with you.
Want to really do something to help veterans get access to the health care they need and create good-paying jobs for your constituents at the same time? Two words: expand Medicaid.
By: LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director, The Alliance For A Just Society; The Huffington Post Blog, August 6, 2014
“Chris Christie Is Once Again The Last To Know”: Building His Brand As The Last Guy On The Block To Know What’s Going On
Chris Christie is in the news again, this time for calling the ACA a “failure”:
In what could be the latest move toward a 2016 presidential bid, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) offered a wide-ranging critique of President Obama’s domestic and foreign policies. Speaking to reporters at the National Governors Association on Saturday, Christie labeled Obamacare, the administration’s signature legislation, a “failure on a whole number of levels” and said it should be repealed.
“But has to be repeal and replace with what. It can’t just be about repeal,” Christie told the audience. “What I’ve said before is, what Republicans need to be doing is putting forth alternatives for what should be a better healthcare system.”
This, of course, in spite of a number of news stories that have put Republicans on the defensive about Obamacare, including the fact that the percentage of Americans who are uninsured has dropped to an all-time low.
And at a time when many Republican governors like Scott Walker are dialing back on their overt opposition to marriage equality, Christie is doubling down:
He also urged his GOP colleagues to keep bringing up their opposition to same-sex marriage, even though a series of court decisions have overturned many statewide gay marriage bans. “I don’t think there’s some referee who stands up and says, ‘OK, now it’s time for you to change your opinion,’” according to Christie.
As with the bridge scandal, Chris Christie increasingly seems to be building his brand as the last guy on the block to know what’s going on. But the Republican base has shown that it most appreciates candidates who most infuriate the left, not the ones who best understand the changing electorate. So it may just redound to Christie’s benefit.
By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 13, 2014
When George W. Bush was inaugurated president of the United States on January 20, 2001, the unemployment rate stood at 2.4 percent. By the time Dubya completed his second term in office on January 19, 2009, the unemployment rate at risen to 7 percent. When Dubya took office in 2001, he was left with a budget surplus of $127.3 billion. When he completed his second term, he left a budget deficit of $1.4 trillion. The US national debt was $5.7 trillion on January 19, 2001. After eight years of Dubya, the debt was $10.6 trillion.
The US was at peace on January 20, 2001. After eight years of Dubya, the US was involved in two overseas wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that had cost US taxpayers nearly $1 trillion. The bigger of the two — Iraq — was launched based on mistaken, manipulated, or concocted information (or some combination of the three), and had resulted in the deaths of approximately 4,200 US military personnel and somewhere between 100,000 to 500,000 Iraqi civilians.
America’s image abroad took a serious plunge under Dubya, primarily because of Iraq. International surveys of tens of thousands of people taken by the Pew Research Center’s Pew Global Attitudes Project during those years consistently found extremely low opinions of Dubya and the US due to the war in Iraq, particularly among Muslims. The revelations of atrocities committed by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison and abuses by contracted security firms like Blackwater certainly didn’t help. Oh, and the little matter of holding prisoners at Guantanamo and… more torture.
Both wars were carried out in retaliation for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The attacks, which took place during Dubya’s first year, resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and at least $10 billion in material damage.
A muscular foreign policy? Well, yeah… if you consider taking on third-rate powers like Iraq and Afghanistan “muscular.” Dubya couldn’t do much against Russia when it invaded Georgia in 2008, nor against Iran’s nuclear program. Also impotent to prevent the military rise of China. Some things just can’t be helped — not even if you’re a superpower.
The stock market? When Dubya took office in 2001, the Dow Jones stood at $10,587.59, the S&P 500 at $1,342.54, the NASDAQ at $2,770.38. Eight years later, the Dow was at $7,949.09, the S&P at $805.22, and the NASDAQ at $1,440.86. Those represented drops of 25 percent, 40 percent, and 48 percent, respectively.
The Great Recession in the US, which occurred during Dubya’s seventh and eighth years (2007-2008) in office, triggered a worldwide financial crisis — the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and resulted in the collapse of numerous large financial firms in the US and around the world. It threatened the very viability of the international financial system.
During Dubya’s seventh and eighth years, Americans lost a total of $16.4 trillion in household wealth. In 2008 alone — Dubya’s last year — more than 1 million Americans lost their homes, and the foreclosure process had begun on another 2 million Americans.
Health care costs? Under the Dubya years, health insurance premiums doubled. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average cost of employer-sponsored premiums for a family of four was $6,000 per year in January 2001. Eight years later, the average cost had risen to $12,680. It’s no wonder that the number of Americans with healthcare insurance dropped by 7.9 million under Dubya. Some 13.7 percent of Americans were uninsured in January 2001. Eight years later, the figure had risen to 15.4 percent.
Oh, Americans have such short memories — made only worse by how pathetically poor many choose to be informed. This is perhaps best reflected in the immensely entertaining poll recently taken by Quinnipiac University on June 24-30. The poll surveyed 1,446 people and asked them to rate US presidents since World War II. The result? Barack Obama was found to be the worst president since WWII. Right.
It brings to mind a gag quote I found online a couple of years ago. It was accompanied by a photo of Dubya. Went like this: “I screwed you all. But thanks for blaming it on the black guy.”
Bill Clinton perhaps put it best when he described the Republican Party’s position toward Obama: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”
By: Marco Caceres, The Huffington Post Blog, July 8, 2014
House Republicans held a press conference on Capitol Hill this week, at which the New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman tweeted a fascinating image – of the podium.
If you look closely, you’ll notice the sign on the podium not only refers people to a website run by the House Republican Conference, but also to a specific part of the site – gop.gov/yourstory – followed by a tagline that reads in all caps, “Our veterans deserve better.”
At first blush, that wouldn’t seem especially noteworthy, except up until very recently the gop.gov/yourstory website served a very different purpose: it was set up to collect scary stories from people who didn’t like the Affordable Care Act. Republicans launched a months-long campaign to collect anecdotal evidence from “Obamacare victims” and this website was intended to be the go-to destination for those adversely affected by the health care reform law.
But the political winds have changed direction. The crusade to find “Obamacare victims” has run its course – the evidence never materialized – and House Republicans are ready to give up on the campaign and start collecting other horror stories the party can try to exploit for partisan gain.
The repurposing of a failed website is, however, just a piece of a larger puzzle. As Juliet Eilperin and Robert Costa reported this morning, Republicans suddenly find themselves in “retreat” on health care.
Republican candidates have begun to retreat in recent weeks from their all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act in favor of a more piecemeal approach, suggesting they would preserve some aspects of the law while jettisoning others.
The changing tactics signal that the health-care law – while still unpopular with voters overall – may no longer be the lone rallying cry for Republicans seeking to defeat Democrats in this year’s midterm elections…. On the campaign trail, some Republicans and their outside allies have started talking about the health-care law in more nuanced terms than they have in the past.
Imagine that. Running on a platform of taking health care benefits from millions of people isn’t the winning strategy far-right lawmakers thought it’d be.
“The sentiment toward the Affordable Care Act is still strongly negative, but people are saying, ‘Don’t throw the baby out” with the bathwater, Glen Bolger, a partner with the GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, told the Washington Post.
Remember when Republicans assumed they could simply ride a “Repeal Obamacare!” wave to electoral fortunes? That plan has been thrown out the window.
And what about the House GOP’s vaunted alternative, years in the making?
[S]enior House Republicans have decided to postpone a floor vote on their own health-reform proposal – making it less likely that a GOP alternative will be on offer before the November elections, according to lawmakers familiar with the deliberations. The delay will give them more time to work on the bill and weigh the consequences of putting a detailed policy before the voters in the fall, lawmakers said.
I suspect this isn’t more widely considered a humiliating fiasco for Republicans because most political observers simply assumed they’d fail to present their own plan, but this new “postponement” only makes the GOP’s debacle look worse.
Remember, it was exactly four months ago today that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA.) publicly vowed, “This year, we will rally around an alternative to Obamacare and pass it on the floor of the House.”
That was Jan. 30. On May 30, Cantor’s new message is apparently, “Check back after the elections.”
Americans have only been waiting five years for the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. What’s another seven months?
We know, of course, why GOP officials are struggling. As we talked about in February, Republicans could present an alternative policy that they love, but it’ll quickly be torn to shreds, make the party look foolish, and make clear that the GOP is not to be trusted with health care policy. Indeed, it would very likely scare the American mainstream to be reminded what Republicans would do if the power over the system were in their hands.
On other hand, Republicans could present a half-way credible policy, but it would have to require some regulations and public investments, which necessarily means the party’s base would find it abhorrent.
As a Republican Hill staffer recently told Sahil Kapur, every attempt to come up with a serious proposal leads to a plan that “looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act.” And so we get … nothing.
Nothing, that is, except the Democratic law, which is working quite well, Republican assurances to the contrary and repeated attempts at sabotage notwithstanding.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 30, 2014
In her party’s official response to the State of the Union a few weeks ago, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the House Republican Conference chair, shared an anecdote about “Bette in Spokane,” the latest in a series of “Obamacare victims.” As is usually the case, within a day or two, the story was debunked.
Once McMorris Rodgers realized her story was wrong, the congresswoman, instead of apologizing, tried to go on the offensive. “It’s sad partisan politicians are attacking Bette,” she argued.
In reality, no one had “attacked” the woman in the story. Rather, McMorris Rodgers’ anecdote was fact checked and proven to be wrong. To suggest that scrutinizing suspect claims is somehow improper is absurd, but that was nevertheless the congresswoman’s reaction.
It was apparently a sign of things to come.
Last week, the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity launched a new attack ad targeting Rep. Gary Peters, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan. The spot features Julie Boonstra, a Michigan woman who’s paying less money for better insurance without having to change doctors, but who was nevertheless presented in the ad as yet another ACA victim.
Peters, not surprisingly, believes AFP should provide more information to bolster the claims in its ad. The right, no longer willing to defend the deceptive commercial, has decided to attack Peters.
U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., wants to be a United States senator, but he has a problem. He’s engaged in a “war on women” – make that a single woman – whom he’s trying to silence because he doesn’t like the story she has to tell. […]
Julie Boonstra deserves a medal for what she is doing. Peters should hang his head in shame.
It’s a fascinating rhetorical gambit, worth appreciating for its rare combination of audacity and mendacity. What’s more, it’s increasingly becoming the standard response to one of the right’s more glaring problems in the health care debate: all of the conservatives’ evidence keeps falling apart.
Let’s say you have a movement of sorts and your goal is to deliberately tear down the nation’s health care system, no matter the consequences. Let’s also say you have the bright idea of using anecdotal evidence to highlight “victims” in order to prove how awful the system is, only to have pesky reporters discover that all of your evidence is bogus and the victims haven’t really been victimized at all.
At this point, you have a few choices. You could, for example, find a new hobby and stop trying to prevent Americans from having access to affordable health care. Or you could cast a new line, hoping to find some elusive, legitimate horror stories that won’t be debunked a day or so later.
But these are strategies based on conventional thinking. What you really need is a very different kind of plan: one in which you keep presenting bogus anecdotes, but discourage those who know what they’re talking about from pointing out your errors. What you want is to promote misleading propaganda with impunity – more mendacity, less scrutiny.
And how do you do that? By lashing out angrily against those noting the facts. Those who recognize the AFP’s Boonstra ad as misleading are obviously attacking a woman with cancer and should be ashamed of themselves – or so the story goes.
I suppose it’s clever, in an Alice in Wonderland sort of way, but it’s no way to have a credible policy debate. Indeed, it seems some of these conservatives are effectively giving up on the very idea of a serious discourse – they not only want to present misleading anecdotes, they also want to intimidate those who might dare to note reality by accusing them of being heartless bullies.
As Greg Sargent put it the other day, many on the right have essentially declared “that the emotional content of these victims’ stories should shield such ads from scrutiny.” Fact-checking suspect claims “will be met with charges of insensitivity to the victims.”
I guess it’s easier than honesty.
Postscript: The Wall Street Journal ran a piece yesterday arguing that the Affordable Care Act cost a woman her cancer medication. The piece was quickly embraced by the right, but it was debunked by Michael Hiltzik a few hours later.
If recent history is any guide, this means Hiltzik should expect to be accused of not caring about people with cancer. Sorry, Mike.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 25, 2014