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“Gun Debate Reclaims Center Stage In Democratic Race”: Granting Gun Manufacturers Immunity From Lawsuits

The bulk of the attention surrounding Bernie Sanders’ interview with the New York Daily News this week focused on the senator struggling at times with policy details. In response to a variety of questions, the Vermont independent gave responses such as, “It’s something I have not studied”; “I don’t know the answer to that”; and “I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.”

But another area of contention surrounds a subject Sanders understands perfectly well.

Towards the end of the interview, the Daily News editors noted, “There’s a case currently waiting to be ruled on in Connecticut. The victims of the Sandy Hook massacre are looking to have the right to sue for damages the manufacturers of the weapons. Do you think that that is something that should be expanded?” Sanders, seeking clarification, said, “Do I think the victims of a crime with a gun should be able to sue the manufacturer, is that your question?”

Told that it was the question, he replied, “No, I don’t.”

As Politico reported, this isn’t sitting well with some of the lawsuit’s Democratic supporters.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy and Gov. Dannel Malloy attacked Bernie Sanders on Tuesday for stating that shooting victims should not be able to sue gun manufacturers, an issue that has dogged the Vermont senator throughout his presidential run.

“I don’t know why our party would nominate someone that’s squishy on the issue of guns, this is a very personal issue for those of us that represent Sandy Hook,” Murphy, who is a supporter of Hillary Clinton, said in an interview with POLITICO. “The idea that Sandy Hook families should be completely barred from court is really backwards and unfair.”

Keep in mind that Connecticut’s Democratic presidential primary is April 26, just a week after New York’s. The state’s governor and both of its U.S. senators have already formally endorsed Clinton.

It’s important to note that, in Monday’s interview, Sanders elaborated on his perspective on this issue. After expressing his opposition to lawsuits targeting gun manufacturers, the senator circled back to add some specificity to his position: “In the same sense that if you’re a gun dealer and you sell me a gun and I go out and I kill him [gestures to someone in room]…. Do I think that that gun dealer should be sued for selling me a legal product that he misused? [Shakes head no.] But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people. So if somebody walks in and says, ‘I’d like 10,000 rounds of ammunition,’ you know, well, you might be suspicious about that. So I think there are grounds for those suits, but not if you sell me a legal product.”

In other words, the senator’s position has some nuance, even if it’s one of the few issues in which Sanders faces criticism from the left.

Complicating matters further, Paul Waldman explained yesterday that Sanders’ previous approach to the issue points to some relevant shifts.

It gets complicated because of Sanders’ past opposition to gun laws. He opposed the Brady Law, and supported the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a 2005 law that granted gun manufacturers and sellers sweeping immunity from all kinds of lawsuits (Clinton voted against it). He has justified that vote by saying that he wouldn’t want to see “mom and pop” gun stores sued when a gun they sell gets used in a crime, but the truth is that the bill went way beyond that. […]

And here’s what’s really strange: Sanders continues to defend his vote for the PLCAA, even though he recently signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill that would repeal it.

The result is a picture that’s a little murky. As the Democratic race continues, it’s an issue that appears ripe for a real, substantive debate.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 7, 2016

April 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Gun Manufacturers, Mass Shootings, Sandy Hook | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When In Doubt, Go Shopping”: The Affordable Care Act Puts People, Not Insurers, First

It’s pretty straightforward: A major reason we have 50 million uninsured people in the United States is that insurance companies do not see individuals as a profitable market.

The recent uproar over canceled health insurance plans not only highlights the insurance industry’s out-of-hand dismissal of this market, but also reinforces why there is a need for the new health reforms under the Affordable Care Act .

Consumers have reason to be angry but they should be angry at the insurers, not the health care law. Connecticut’s Insurance Commissioner, Thomas B. Leonardi, announced Monday that of the approximate 27,000 insurance policy cancellation notices which have gone out only 9,000 of them were because plans were not in compliance with the health care law. The new law forbids insurers to deny or drop coverage when people get sick or have a pre-existing condition such as hypertension, diabetes or obesity. Consumers will gain those protections in 2014 whether they buy through the insurance exchange called Access Health CT or on their own.

Mr. Leonardi’s comments highlight the fact that it has been a customary practice of insurers to send their policyholders notifications that a particular plan will no longer be available or there’s been a change in benefits. Only one-third of the policies being canceled in Connecticut were plans that did not have protection under the law’s grandfather clause and did not meet the benefit standards or the consumer protections required by the law. The other two-thirds were discontinued as part of the insurance companies’ business-as-usual practices.

Historically, the health insurance industry has made its fortune by denying coverage to sick people, decreasing benefits and jacking up prices. Insurers do not see the individual market as profitable unless they continue to shift risk onto consumers through high deductible plans and unless they can raise rates on their customers as they age and develop health problems to the point they can no longer afford health insurance. That’s why they’re getting out. The Affordable Care Act is stopping this bait and switch approach.

Understandably, the cancellation notices came as a jolt for policyholders, especially because the reasons behind them were not made clear. Furthermore, insurers failed to do the right thing and inform their policyholders that other coverage options are now available to them under the new health care law.

Fortunately for consumers though, President Barack Obama‘s decision to give insurance companies another year to continue their substandard health plans carried the proviso that they must inform their customers of the new coverage opportunities under the health care law.

It’s too bad the commotion over the cancellations happened to coincide with the rocky rollout of the new health insurance exchange website. But consumers would do well to keep their eyes on the big picture, beyond the political grandstanding and partisan bickering. Websites can be fixed. Health care reform is about improving the quality of coverage benefits and offering more choice and affordability through the health insurance exchanges. That’s what Connecticut is trying to do.

Friday’s announcement by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that the state would not extend poor quality policies through 2014 re-emphasizes Connecticut’s commitment to making sure its residents have access to plans that will provide quality comprehensive care. The state also announced that it was pushing back the date people had to sign up by for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Now residents have until Dec. 22, giving them an additional week to weigh the options on Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, and to find a plan that fits their families’ needs.

According to Access Health CT, in the first month, more than 300,000 Connecticut consumers checked out their options on the Website, almost 40,000 calls have been answered through the call center and more than 13,000 Connecticut residents are now enrolled.

Clearly, consumers here are getting the message: When in doubt, go shopping.

 

By: Frances G. Padilla, President of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, Op-Ed Columnist, The Hartford Courant, November 22, 2013

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance Companies | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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