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“What A Terrible Thing To Do To People”: Republican Attacks On Obamacare Are Turning Into An Argument Against Repeal

If health insurance isn’t important, why would receiving a letter telling you that you need to change your plan be a tragedy that can get you on Fox News nearly immediately?

Republicans have seized on the millions of cancellations of current plans happening as a result of the Affordable Care Act remaking the individual insurance market, which currently offers the worst customer satisfaction of any type of health coverage.

By glorifying these “horror” stories, which have often turned out to be overinflated at worst and actual Affordable Care Act (ACA) success stories at best, Republicans are sending a clear message to Americans: We must defend the sanctity of health insurance.

This powerful theme is extremely opportune, as long as cancellation notices are contradicting a promise the president made, is flagging and the ACA’s paid enrollment numbers are low. However, it becomes much more complicated as the site starts working and 2014 begins with millions of people enjoying health care coverage and subsidies that the GOP would be voting to take away.

This would effectively doom the “repeal” strategy Republicans have fixated on for years, argues Salon’s Brian Beutler:

Obamacare is driving policy cancellations right now, but it at least creates a coverage guarantee for those affected. Repeal without replace would impose a greater burden without providing any counterweight.

If they pass the Keep Your Health Plan Act this week, House Republicans will see their stylized sympathy for people whose policies have been canceled come into tension with their explicit desire to take Obamacare benefits away from many of the same people, and millions more.

Becoming the party that opposes all cancellations of insurance policies also completely undermines any Republican “plan” that might be an alternative to the ACA. “Such a starting position would make true market-oriented reform impossible,” explains The Washington Examiner‘s Philip Klein.

John McCain’s health care plan, one part of his platform conservatives love, would have ended health care tax exemptions for employers and employees. This would have likely resulted in millions and millions of Americans ending up in new plans. The Republican Study Committee has offered a “serious” Obamacare alternative that would try to end the system of employer-based health care, disrupting the current health care system far more than the ACA does.

Even as Republicans are vindictively leaping on any cancellation story, other right-wing groups are trying to spread the idea to people in their 20s to optout of the ACA, even though millions of younger Americans can get coverage for free. One Koch-funded group, Generation Opportunity, brought its scary Uncle Sam and some models to tailgate before the University of Miami-Virginia Tech football game to let the students know that opting out of health insurance is, as the kids say, cool.

So health insurance is lame and having it changed in any way whatsoever is the greatest atrocity an American can be expected to suffer.

Republicans have been fine with these kinds of contradictions throughout President Obama’s time in office. The deficit suddenly became a problem on January 21, 2009. Tea Partiers demanded that we get our gubmint hands off their Medicare. The GOP won the House by campaigning against cuts to Medicare that they then included in Paul Ryan’s budget.

But there is evidence that efforts to actually take something away from Americans results in a substantial backlash.

The wave of voting restrictions across the South after the 2010 election was mostly blocked by the federal courts empowered by a Voting Rights Act that had not yet been gutted. But Republicans did successfully restrict early voting in the crucial swing states of Ohio and Florida. Despite this, or as a result of it, African-American turnout hit an all-time high in the 2012 election.

North Carolina passed some of the most radical voting restrictions on students in the nation and local Republicans specifically attempted to block Elizabeth City State University senior Montravias King from running for city council where he was attending college. Their efforts backfired.

“On October 9, King was elected to the Elizabeth City city council, winning the most votes of any candidate,” The Nation‘s Ari Berman reported. “He’s now the youngest elected official in the state.”

Students must have figured: If voting weren’t important, why would Republicans be doing everything they can to stop me from doing it?

In only 10 states, 444,000 people have already signed up for Medicaid. The fact that the GOP would deny them and about five million more poor people health insurance isn’t big news for a couple of reasons.

First, they’re poor. Second, these people haven’t had anything taken away from them — yet.

But on January 1, the story changes. Suddenly Republicans will be trying to do exactly what they’re accusing President Obama of: taking away health insurance with nothing to replace it. And thanks to the GOP, now it’s clear what a terrible thing that is to do to a person.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, November 12, 2013

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Medicaid Matters”: Where Is The Outrage Over GOP Governors Cutting Off Lower-Income Americans From Access To Medicaid

E.J. Dionne Jr. raises an argument in his column this morning that’s been getting short shrift by too much of the political world lately: Medicaid expansion matters, and far too many state Republican policymakers are blocking it for no reason.

“President Obama apologized last week after all the criticisms of what’s happening in the individual insurance market,” Dionne explained. “But where is the outrage over governors and legislators flatly cutting off so many lower-income Americans from access to Medicaid? The Urban Institute estimates that 6 million to 7 million people will be deprived of coverage in states that are refusing to accept the expansion.”

The recent disruption in the health care marketplace certainly matters, and the Obama administration has a lot of work to do to put things right. But if we’re going to talk about policymakers who need to apologize and show some semblance of regret, can we at least start to have a conversation about those keeping millions of struggling Americans from having access to coverage, largely out of partisan spite?

Jonathan Cohn published a good piece on this earlier:

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.

There’s been an obvious preoccupation – on Capitol Hill, with Beltway media, etc. – with website dysfunction and cancelation notices, while Medicaid expansion, which arguably affects a larger group of people, has been routinely overlooked.

Maybe it’s because Washington is “wired” for Republicans and it’s the right’s complaints that have been driving the recent conversation. Perhaps it’s the result of Medicaid beneficiaries lacking the kind of political capital that keeps their plight on the political world’s front-burner. Maybe it’s a matter of timeliness, with implementation disruption seeming “new” in ways Medicaid is not. Perhaps it’s a combination of things.

Regardless, by my standards, this is a genuine scandal. The administration’s missteps are real, but they’re not deliberate. “Red” states rejecting Medicaid expansion because of some misguided contempt for “Obamacare” are leaving struggling families behind on purpose. The callousness is outrageous.

Cohn concluded, “”Should the president have been more candid about the impact his plan would have on people buying their own coverage? Yes. Should we pay attention to those people, particularly when they must now pay more for equivalent coverage? Definitely. Should this put extra pressure on the administration and some states to fix their websites? You bet. But that’s not the only Obamacare news right now. The law is making life better for a great many people – and would help even more if only Republican lawmakers would relent.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 11, 2013

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bringing His Own Bile To The Party”: Backwards Moron Richard Cohen Is Not Fooling Anybody

Before we proceed to today in the continuing saga of “What in God’s Name Are You Talking About, Richard Cohen?” here’s a warning — get your gag reflex ready.

In a typically rambling screed about… something, Cohen, who recently became the first man to connect the dots between Miley Cyrus’ MTV Video Music Awards performance and what he likes to call “the so-called Steubenville rape” that happened one full year earlier, Cohen unleashes some choice nonsense thoughts on “Chris Christie’s Tea Party Problem.” In it, he ostensibly looks at the New Jersey’s governor’s political future and declares that “At the moment, it is Cruz, not Christie, who has seized the imagination of Iowa Republicans.” He also lets loose a truly outstanding array of bizarre assessments of prominent political figures, calling Sarah Palin “the Alaska quitter who, I think, actually now lives in Arizona,” Rick Santorum a man who’s “neither cuddly nor moderate” and Christie “too Joisey for the tea party — too brash, as well.”

But the true kicker of the piece comes near the end, when he swerves away from concern trolling Chris Christie to laughably state “Today’s GOP is not racist” — a declaration that the antics of party members would seem to contradict –and to consider what must be “troubling” the Tea Party right now. “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York,” he writes, “a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.”

Cohen would likely argue he’s just calling it like he sees it – reporting on incredibly offensive ideologies but not engaging in them himself. And hey, you want to suggest that political extremists might have a problem with a high profile mixed family? You might be right. Look how berserkers they went over that Cheerios commercial. 

But we all know this isn’t Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” brightly announcing that “I think New York City might be ready for a charismatic biracial family with their own signature, synchronized dance moves.” This is Richard Cohen — a guy who thinks that “conventional” people would have a vomit response to a mixed marriage – and who then parenthetically throws in a little gay panic to boot. Because in his mind, being a backward moron is “conventional.”

This is a man who, let us never forget, has written creepily of the “sexual meritocracy” of older men and declared Clarence Thomas “condemned of being a man.” This is Richard Cohen, the writer who applauded Switzerland for it leniency toward Roman Polanski, who admitted, “There is no doubt that Polanski did what he did, which is have sex with a 13-year-old after plying her with booze” and then proceeded to dismissively refer to that girl as a “victim” in scare quotes. (Note to Cohen: Just like with the Steubenville case, this behavior is called rape.) The same man who, fascinatingly enough, has reportedly been reprimanded for “inappropriate behavior” toward a much younger colleague. This is a man who in July explained that he could “understand why [George] Zimmerman was suspicious” of Trayvon Martin, because the young man was “wearing a uniform we all recognize” and who lamented, “Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males?” A man who thinks maybe there’s something to this whole torture thing. One who hasn’t quite worked it out about homosexuals either, who’s decided that prejudice is bad but thinks “Gays don’t get some sort of pass just because they’re gay.”

You can almost understand how a guy like Cohen, who was spent his entire career amply demonstrating that he has a boatload of issues around women, sex and race, really hit the jackpot with Chirlane McCray. My God, look at her, all seemingly normal and living under the same room as a white man. Did I mention she used to be lesbian? Because she totally was. Surely, Cohen wants the world to understand, some people might have a problem with this. Not him, no, he’s just observing. Maybe asking for a friend.

It’s almost sad – almost – to watch a bigot try to cloak himself in the guise of concerned citizen. But rest assured, nobody with a track record like Cohen can use the phrase “gag reflex” without bringing plenty of his own bile to the party. And his transparently ugly shtick is fooling no one.


By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, November 12, 2013

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Bigotry, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Separating Myth From Reality On Obamacare”: The Greatest Good For The Greatest Number, More People Are Better Off In The End

My heart sank when I got an email late last month from my friend Robert, who has been battling multiple sclerosis for the past decade. He wrote to tell me that he was among the many Americans who in recent weeks received letters from their insurance companies saying that their policies won’t be available next year.

Insurance companies are sending those letters primarily because the policies they will no longer offer don’t provide enough coverage — or have deductibles that are too high — to comply with the Affordable Care Act. In many cases, however, the policyholders getting those letters are simply victims of a business practice insurers have engaged in for years: discontinuing policies because they’re no longer sufficiently profitable.

Robert understandably was worried. Like most of us, he’d been seeing the news stories about people who had received similar letters and seemed to be resigned to having to pay more in premiums next year for comparable or even less coverage, thanks to Obamacare.

Considering his very serious and costly preexisting condition — his medications alone cost more than $5,000 a month — Robert was nervous as he started looking for a replacement policy. How much more would he have to pay to stay insured?

A couple of weeks went by. I assumed Robert, like many others, was still waiting for the Obama administration to fix so he could shop online for coverage. It turns out Robert wasn’t willing to just wait. He decided to call an insurance agent and talk to a real live human being about his options for next year.

He could barely believe what he heard: he could get better coverage than the policy being discontinued — and pay less — thanks to Obamacare.

“The overall cost of the plans I’m considering is cheaper than the plan I am currently paying for,” he wrote me this week. “My total cost for coverage now, including premiums and out of pocket costs, is about $9,800. Two of the plans I’m seriously considering for next year have total costs of $8,400. I’m shocked, but in a good way.”

So not only did Robert not experience the sticker shock he had been expecting, he will save $1,400 next year on health insurance.

The plan he is leaning toward — a top-of-the line “platinum” plan — will have a higher monthly premium, but he will still save on average about $117 a month because of the way his out-of-pocket costs will be calculated.

Robert is among many who are losing their current coverage but in the end will be better off. In fact, considering that many folks buying coverage on the individual market have at least one pre-existing condition — which insurers can no longer take into consideration when pricing their policies — it’s likely that more people will get more for their insurance buck next year than less.

In addition, most of the people who buy coverage through the new insurance marketplaces (as Robert will when the balky website is working more smoothly) will be eligible for tax credits and subsidies from the federal government that will lower their monthly and overall costs even more.

Robert knows that you can’t determine how much you’ll spend on coverage during a given year just by multiplying the monthly premium by 12. If you don’t take into consideration out-of-pocket costs and just pick the policy with the cheapest premium, you could wind up paying more overall than if you picked a plan with a slightly higher monthly premium.

Robert also will be able to spread the cost of his coverage more evenly over the year. Under his current plan, he had to have at least $5,000 in the bank at the beginning of every year when his policy renewed to cover the cost of his medications for just one month. Under the new plans he is considering for next year, his monthly out-of-pocket costs will range from $80 to $120 a month.

“It will be easier to manage paying for my drugs spread out over a period of 12 months instead of in one lump sum at the beginning of the year,” Robert told me.

Robert said the insurance agent told him his case is not unique, that a lot of the people she talks to who have been frightened by the media coverage are pleasantly surprised to learn that they will get better coverage for less money next year. Once the website is fixed, more people who have received letters from their insurance companies will get a similar pleasant surprise.


By: Wendell Potter, The Center for Public Integrity, November 12, 2013

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Outside Commission Here”: Lara Logan Won’t Lose Her Job Because CBS Doesn’t Fear Liberals The Way It Fears Conservatives

In case you haven’t heard, CBS News is in a bit (but only a bit) of hot water over a story 60 Minutes recently aired about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. It centered on a breathless account from a security contractor, who just happened to have written a book about it being published by a conservative imprint of a publishing house owned by CBS (that’s synergy, baby). He told of the harrowing events of that night, including his own heroism and the spinelessness of the big shots who sit in their cushy offices while men of action like him do what must be done and get hung out to dry. The only problem was, he appears to be a liar who fabricated much of what 60 Minutes relayed in the story, which was reported by Lara Logan.

After insisting for weeks that everything in its story checked out, CBS finally conceded that the contractor, one Dylan Davies, was lying to them and through them to their audience. On Sunday night, Logan delivered an extraordinarily half-assed on-air apology, full of passive verbs and obfuscations plainly intended to minimize the whole thing; most critically, it gave no indication that CBS is going to make any effort to figure out why it happened. So who’s going to be punished for this enormous screw-up? I’ll tell you who: Nobody.

We’ll get to why in a moment. This incident has been compared to the one that occurred back in 2004, when Dan Rather aired a report on 60 Minutes II relying on documents purporting to show the steps taken by George W. Bush and his family to get him into the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas Air Guard so that he wouldn’t have to go to Vietnam, and documenting what he did and didn’t do once he got in. The documents proved to be forgeries (essentially an effort to frame a guilty man, but that’s a topic for another day), and the fallout was severe. 60 Minutes II was canceled, four producers were fired, and Rather himself, despite a storied decades-long career at CBS, was pushed out as well; he gave his last broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News in the spring of 2005 (here’s the whole story).

A lot of people thought it happened because Dan Rather was a liberal who was out to get Bush. There’s no doubt where Lara Logan stood on Benghazi; here’s a speech she gave in 2012, making clear her belief that investigations are for pussies and what the U.S. needed to do was start killing some people posthaste: “The last time we were attacked like this was the USS Cole, which was a prelude to the 1998 embassy bombings, which was a prelude to 9/11,” she said. “And you’re sending in FBI to investigate? I hope to God that you’re sending in your best clandestine warriors who are going to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, that its ambassadors will not be murdered, and the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.” With the talk of “exact[ing] revenge,” Logan sounded less like a journalist who values the perception of fairness and objectivity and more like a right-wing radio host. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she was incapable of subsequently producing careful, accurate reporting on the topic. The problem is, she didn’t.

But Logan won’t get pushed out like Rather did. The first reason is that Rather was heading toward the end of his career; folks at CBS were already looking past him. Logan, on the other hand, is young, beautiful (this is television we’re talking about, after all), and perceived as a rising star. But much more important is that there was an organized campaign to get Rather, and there isn’t an organized campaign to get Logan, at least not one that CBS fears.

It’s true that Media Matters has been criticizing this story from the beginning, though it hasn’t actually called for Logan or anyone else to get fired (full disclosure: I worked at Media Matters from 2005 to 2009). But it’s basically alone. There aren’t Democratic senators holding hearings, there aren’t a hundred left-wing radio hosts drumming up outrage, and there’s little visible pressure coming from the White House to encourage heads to roll. In the case of the National Guard report, the conservative movement put on a top-to-bottom, full-court press to make sure Dan Rather was punished. They had hated him for years, and when they got their chance they did everything in their power to crush him.

The plain fact of it is that news organizations like CBS are afraid of the right, but they aren’t afraid of the left. Big media outlets like CBS are terrified of right-wing pressure campaigns, precisely because most journalists are, in fact, liberals. That doesn’t mean the news has a liberal bias (there are lots of biases in the news, and reporters injecting their ideological beliefs about policy into their stories is about the 20th most consequential), but it does mean that they’re overly sensitive about being called liberal. The way they usually handle that fear is to bend over backward to be contemptuous of Democrats and to take every opportunity they can to prove that they aren’t what conservatives say they are.

If Logan got fired for this—or if anybody got fired for this—well that would only be taken by the right as evidence that those liberals at CBS will do Barack Obama’s bidding. And that’s the last thing they want to be seen as doing. After the National Guard story, CBS went so far as to hire an outside commission to investigate; it produced a 224-page report on the matter, and all those people got fired, including the news division’s biggest star. Is it going to do anything similar with the Benghazi story debacle? I wouldn’t bet on it. More likely CBS is just going to say, we made some mistakes but it’s all in the past now, and we have full confidence in Lara Logan’s journalistic integrity and professionalism. Move along, nothing to see here.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 12, 2013

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Journalism, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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