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“More People Have Health Insurance”: Another Day, Another Sign That Obamacare Is Working

Gallup on the Uninsured, April 7 update

It’s impossible to say how big an impact the Affordable Care Act is having on the uninsured. But it’s getting impossible to deny that it’s having an impact at all.

The latest evidence comes from the Gallup organization, which surveys respondents about insurance status. According to Gallup, the percentage of adults without health insurance has been falling since the middle of last year. Now, Gallup says, it’s down to 15.6 percent. That’s the lowest rate that Gallup has recorded since late 2008.

These tracking surveys on the uninsured are far from precise. Among other things, people answering these surveys aren’t always sure of their own insurance status. Nobody should treat them as gospel.

But Gallup also found the most dramatic change in insurance status among low-income and minority populations, which would be consistent with implementation of a law that has its most dramatic impact on people with the least money. It’s also consistent with three other pieces of information

  • Health Reform Monitoring Survey. In this survey, conducted by the Urban Institute and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the rate of uninsurance among non-elderly adults fell from 17.6 percent in the first quarter of 2013 to 15.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014.
  • The Rand Corporation. According to reporting by Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times, unpublished research from Rand suggests that the percentage of uninsured Americans fell from 20.9 in late 2013 to 16.6 percent in early 2014.

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that 13 million Americans will get health insurance because of Obamacare. Gallup’s numbers would correspond to a significantly smaller decline, although the numbers depend on what you choose as a starting point. Then again, Gallup’s numbers don’t account for the end of open enrollment—when, by all accounts, large numbers of people rushed to sign up for coverage. They also don’t account for a full year of enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, since people can sign up for those programs all year long.

In short, it seems pretty clear that, because of Obamacare, more people have health insurance. And, yes, that accounts for people who lost existing coverage because insurers cancelled old policies. The question is how big a difference the law is making. And it’s going to be a while before anybody knows.


By: Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic, April, 7, 2014

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Accountability In The GOP”: A Dejecting Pattern Of Behavior In Wisconsin

Up until fairly recently, Wisconsin’s Bill Kramer was the Republican Majority Leader in the state Assembly. As Rachel noted on the show on Friday, that changed when the state lawmaker was charged with two counts of felony second-degree sexual assault – charges that cost Kramer his GOP leadership post

The charges were not, however, enough to compel Wisconsin lawmakers to throw Kramer out of the state Assembly all together. He’s no longer the Republican Majority Leader, but he’s still a voting member of the legislative body. Some in the party have called on Kramer to quit, but for now, he seems to be determined to stay in office, and his colleagues aren’t prepared to force the issue, at least not yet.

Perhaps they’ll be interested to know that the recent sexual-assault allegations are not the first time Kramer has been accused.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, his chief of staff and a Waukesha County GOP official were all told three years ago of allegations that a then-aide to the senator had been sexually assaulted by state Rep. Bill Kramer, but none of them took the matter to the police or Assembly leaders.

The woman told her supervisor in Johnson’s office and a number of other people, but decided at the time to have her attorney send a letter to Kramer rather than go to the police, records show. Last month – nearly three years after the alleged assault outside a Muskego bar – the woman learned of Kramer’s alleged mistreatment of other women and filed a complaint with Muskego police that has resulted in two felony charges of second-degree sexual assault.

According to the weekend report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a woman who worked for Ron Johnson was allegedly assaulted by Bill Kramer in 2011, who then quickly informed several people, including her supervisor in Johnson’s office, Tony Blando, the senator’s chief of staff, who informed the senator himself.

But they didn’t tell anyone and remained silent when Republican state lawmakers elevated Kramer to the Majority Leader’s office. The aide in the 2011 incident only came forward after the 2014 allegations against Kramer came to public light.

So why didn’t the senator say something at the time? Initially, Johnson and his office didn’t want to comment, but after the Journal Sentinel was published online, the senator’s office changed its mind

…Johnson’s office issued a statement saying that when the woman spoke with Johnson and his chief of staff, Tony Blando, she already had an attorney. “Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando conveyed their commitment to be 100% supportive of any actions she chose to pursue on the advice of her legal counsel – up to and including the filing of criminal charges,” the statement said. “She requested that Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando keep the matter confidential and take no further action. Senator Johnson and Mr. Blando fully honored her request.”

 U.S. Senate policies do not appear to directly address cases in which employees are assaulted by individuals from outside the Senate but do require internal reporting of sexual harassment. Each senator establishes his or her own employee policies. […]

 According to the criminal complaint, the woman decided not to go to police at the time of the incident because she didn’t want to embarrass her family, the Republican Party, Kramer and Johnson as her employer. Instead, she had her lawyer send Kramer a letter saying she had been assaulted, that Kramer needed to seek treatment for drinking and that she would reconsider her decision not to report the incident to law enforcement if she learned of him acting inappropriately toward others in the future.

In other words, based on this reporting, Johnson and his team kept quiet because the alleged victim asked them to.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 7, 2014

April 8, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Sexual Asault, Wisconsin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Wink, A Smile And A Voice Vote”: The House GOP’s Down-Low, Backhanded Endorsement Of Obamacare

It’s not all that often that the lead piece on the Drudge Report attacks Republicans, so it’s worth a little savoring when it happens, and this one is especially delectable. The link was to an AP story reporting that two weeks ago, House Republicans stealthily voted for a measure that changed an aspect of the Affordable Care Act.

What? I know. In other words, Congress amends bill it passed a few years ago. In a normal moral universe, this would scarcely qualify as news. But when we speak of the House of Representatives, we are in the modern Republican Party’s moral universe, and there, the rules are different.

You see, by agreeing to amend Obamacare, Republicans are acknowledging the law’s existence and legitimacy. The only things they’re supposed to be doing with Obamacare are burning copies of it on the Capitol steps and voting to repeal it. But here they’ve done the exact opposite. And what made it even worse was the way they did it. The change was very quietly tucked into a larger bill, the Medicare “doc fix,” which helps payments to doctors who serve Medicare patients keep pace with inflation. Only House majority leadership—the Republicans—can do that. And then, to make matters still worse, the yellow-bellied quislings passed the thing by voice vote, so no one had to be on the record.

The change, by the way, removes deductible caps from certain plans small businesses can offer their employees. This allows the employers, according to the AP, to offer cheaper plans to individuals who also have health savings accounts, which conservatives have been pushing for 15 or 20 years. Only around 30 percent of American businesses offer HSAs, and large employers are more likely to include them than small ones. Hence, the target of opportunity for HSA partisans. So the change accomplished a GOP policy goal. But funny thing: apparently not a single Republican member of the House trumpeted the change or even said a word about it when the vote took place March 27.

It hardly matters what the change was. It could have been that the purchase of armor-piercing bullets was now covered under Obamacare and it wouldn’t help: The fact that Republicans used the ACA as the vehicle with which to make this change was the crime. Oh, did I have a jolly afternoon reading through the comment thread at Free Republic:

“The uniparty at work!”

“Appeasement Weasels.”

“Voice vote.”

“And I’ll say it right now: The Republican Party does not want Obamacare to be repealed and will not support candidates who do. I’d love to have someone come back around November 1, 2016 and show me that this prediction was wrong.”

“The G.O.P. (GAVE OBAMA POWER) is the party that created RomneyCARE/ObamaCARE
and imposed it FOR ALL, FOR ROMNEY, FOREVER.”


You get the picture. So what do we take away from this?

I think we take away from it that some of these “Freepers,” as they’re called on that site, are on to something. Republicans don’t really want to repeal Obamacare. Or no: they almost certainly want to, but they know they probably can’t. So even while they froth away for the cameras and town-hall meetings, there’s another, smaller, darker part of them that knows the truth, or the likely truth, which is that Hillary Clinton appears likely to be the next president, the Democrats will recapture the Senate in 2016 or vastly increase their majority if they didn’t lose it in 2014, and by the end of the next President Clinton’s first term, Obamacare will be nailed to the floor.

Remember, this happened on March 27: four days before the ACA’s enrollment deadline arrived, and therefore well before anyone knew the number would hit the target of seven million. So they were out there, on Fox and on all those acidic radio shows they do, talking about what a world-historical failure Obamacare was going to prove to be in just a matter of days, while meanwhile, with no one recording the roll call, they were buying shares of it.

This brings to mind some things I’ve read about civil rights and the Dixiecrats. The liberal Northern senators used to chat among themselves in the early and mid-1960s, wondering which of their Southern colleagues really and truly believed the racist pollution that poured out of their mouths. The consensus at the time was that Strom Thurmond really did. Richard Russell. Most of them, however, sorta-kinda believed it but just said it, because they knew that as long as they were 110 percenters on what they called “the n——-r question,” they could get reelected ‘til the end of time provided they weren’t caught with the proverbial live boy or dead girl.

There’s a story in Phil Hart’s biography—Hart, of Michigan, was one of the Senate’s most liberal members, and one of the key movers of the Voting Rights Act—about an encounter he had with Mississippi’s James Eastland. Eastland was as hard-shell as they came. But somehow, he and Hart became friends anyway. And so one day on the Senate floor, after delivering himself of a hideous racial tirade, as he walked back toward his desk, Eastland caught his friend Hart’s eye and winked.

Who knows how much of that kind of winking is taking place on the House floor now? “Hey, Steny, I don’t really mean everything I say ’bout y’all, but old so-and-so from the next district over just gave one helluva stemwinder about health care the other day, and I can’t let myself be out-Obamacared, know’ut I mean?” Oh, of course some Republicans are fire-breathers and diehards. But others seem to understand that if you’re going to try to have actual policy impact in the real world, you have to play ball in the real world. And the real world is Obamacare.

The latter group is probably a minority now. But I’m betting that one day they’ll be the majority, and that that day is going to come sooner than most people think. Maybe even—although they sure won’t admit it—before November.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 7, 2014

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, House Republicans, Obamacare | , , , | Leave a comment

“The ‘Toil And Trouble’ Of The Bush Dynasty”: The Resurrection Of A Dangerous Political Family

Here’s how I picture Jeb Bush, with his father George and his big brother George, huddled around a boiling cauldron: “When shall we three meet again?/in Florida, Texas or in Maine?”

Any resemblance to the Macbeth witches in thunder, lightning or rain is, of course, intentional. The Washington buzz that Jeb Bush will follow in his brother’s and his father’s footsteps in running for president is a bit scary for democracy. They are not done with us yet. Good and bad things come in threes.

Beware the current wave of nostalgia for Bush rule. They are not the brightest dynasty under the sun, but the House of Bush has staying power. If genial Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida runs, then we the people will be in for another pounding by an Eastern elitist family. They masquerade their cultural origins as south by southwest. But it all started with Prescott Bush, a Connecticut senator.

As the faithful gathered this past weekend in Texas to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Bush presidency, the Bush men are also re-engineering the family story with help from friends like Jim Baker and conservative cheerleaders in the national media. Even columnist George Will, who scorned the elder Bush, is on-message for Jeb as a moderate man of substance. He practically invented school choice. The rest of the story line goes something like this.

Apparently, the one-term president George H.W. Bush, aka “Poppy,” was a seasoned foreign policy hand who conducted the end of the Cold War with magisterial ease. Skeptics like me think it just happened to happen on his watch. His son, George W. Bush, upset a lot of China with wars of choice that proved feckless. But wait, we now know he has the perceptive sensibility of an artist. We know he could see into the soul of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, after Putin “dissed” Bush’s dog Barney. The 43rd president told this tale as he explained his portrait of Putin – which is rather good, actually.

A pity that W. missed his calling. He never should have been president of the United States, and not only for his military misadventures. He never lost sleep over commandeering civil liberties. The “war president” did not write home much to a beleaguered, rattled public in the years after 9/11, though his visit to the site of the fallen towers is seen as a high point. While Washington slept, New Orleans wept as Hurricane Katrina raged past the broken levees of the beguiling city. The lame presidential response was the domestic analogue of the haphazard way the wars were being waged abroad. And then came the economy’s pitch downward.

The Bushes set great store by winning, any which way. The fury of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearing back in 1991 went down the way it did because H.W. Bush would not back down on a divisive nominee who made many women’s blood boil. If you remember the Willie Horton political ads against Michael Dukakis in 1988, that was also Poppy’s way of doing business. He has said he’ll do whatever it takes to win, though vision was never his thing.

The family penchant for winning at all costs came to a head in Florida in the Bush v. Gore showdown in 2000. Shakespeare could not have set the scene or the stakes better, with the fate of the nation hanging on a state governed by a brother Bush. All family human resources rushed down there, with Baker leading the way and strategy. If the fight seemed fierce, the outcome felt preordained. The Supreme Court stopped the vote count cold. It was all over, by a 5-4 vote. Indeed Thomas was “the best man for the job,” as Poppy put it in 1991.

Let it not be forgot, this is how the Bush dynasty defines “one man, one vote.”


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, April 7, 2014

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Bush Family, Democracy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Deepening Criminal Probe”: Christie’s Simmering Scandals Grow More Serious In NJ

Two weeks ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) handpicked legal team issued a report – it was more taxpayer-financed propaganda than legal analysis – clearing their client of wrongdoing. As part of the public-relations push surrounding the stunt, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked the governor, “So this report has just come out, it exonerates you completely. Do you feel exonerated?”

Christie responded, “Yes, I do. But I also always knew that this is where it would end.”

Except, literally nothing about the governor’s ongoing scandals has “ended.” On the contrary, as Rachel noted on the show on Friday night, the probe is growing more serious, not less.

A federal grand jury has begun hearing testimony in the criminal investigation of the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal, and Gov. Chris Christie’s chief spokesman is among those who have testified, his lawyer said Friday.

The grand jury action is considered a major development in the ongoing controversy that has enveloped the Christie administration for months. What began as a preliminary inquiry into whether federal laws might have been “implicated” has morphed into a deepening criminal probe to determine whether federal laws have actually been broken.

And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Since these revelations on Friday, the developments have grown even more alarming.

David Wildstein, the former Port Authority official at the center of the George Washington Bridge lane-closings scandal, spent several days meeting with federal prosecutors in Newark last week, according to a report posted online by a Washington-based publication that says it covers “insider news” about the U.S. Department of Justice.

The publication, called “Main Justice,” is also reporting that Charlie McKenna, former chief legal counsel to Gov. Chris Christie, met secretly in mid-January with investigators in the office of New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

 Esquire’s Scott Raab had a related report on Wildstein cooperating with federal prosecutor’s office, which has reportedly added to the number of attorneys working on this case.

If Christie thinks his own lawyers freeing him of responsibility “ended” the scandal, he’s going to be awfully disappointed. Look for more on this on tonight’s show.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 7, 2014

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , | Leave a comment

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