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“Under Obamacare, Millions Will Die”: The Coming Campaign Against The Affordable Care Act

I have questions. For instance, are Charles and David Koch aliens from the planet Fnerzblax 6, come here to feast on the entrails of Earth humans to give them strength for their coming war with the barbarians of Fnerzblax 4? We don’t know, and that’s what has me so concerned.

I ask because Americans for Prosperity, the group through which the Kochs channel much of their political activism, is initiating a new television campaign to get people afraid of and angry about Obamacare, and this seems to be the method of the campaign. The first ad, called “Questions,” asks whether Obamacare is going to take money from a worried-looking young mother and deprive her sick child of the care he needs to survive. Not that it would truly do these things, but hey, she’s just asking:

Beyond the just-asking format, there’s a preview here of something else we’ll be seeing as Obamacare gets implemented over the next couple of years. Every problem that anyone has with anything related to health care will be characterized as a consequence of Obamacare, which in some tortured sense might be almost true. The ad mentions not being able to choose your doctor, which would be bad. If you chose an insurance plan in an exchange established by Obamacare, that plan will probably have a network of doctors from which you have to choose if you want your care paid for, and if your doctor isn’t on it, then you’ve been prevented from choosing your own doctor.

Of course, that isn’t because of Obamacare, it’s because of the way insurance works in America; it’s how it worked before Obamacare, and it’s how it’ll work after Obamacare. But it’s a lot simpler to say, “Now that we’re under Obamacare, I didn’t get to choose my doctor!” And did you know that under Obamacare, medications could come with dangerous side effects? Or that under Obamacare, kids who get shots will cry? Not only that, under Obamacare, you could get cancer and die—even if your doctor wanted to save you. In fact, under Obamacare, we’re all going to die one day. Thanks for all the misery, pain, and death, Obama.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 8, 2013

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Reverse Sticker Shock”: Reality-Based Evidence On Obamacare In California Amidst All The GOP Hysteria

For months now we’ve been told that the Affordable Care Act would produce a cataclysm of skyrocketing health insurance premiums, particularly in the individual insurance markets that the law most affects. Earlier this week alarms were raised particularly in California with the news that three major insurance companies had decided against participating in the health care exchanges that would offer Obamacare coverage.

So it’s a bit of a shock–sort of a reverse sticker shock–today to learn that preliminary assessments of the cost of the new, improved (because subject to new minimum coverage requirements) policies in California once the exchanges are up and running will in most cases be lower than what citizens of this high-cost state are accustomed to paying. TNR’s Jonathan Cohn summarizes the news:

Based on the premiums that insurers have submitted for final regulatory approval, the majority of Californians buying coverage on the state’s new insurance exchange will be paying less—in many cases, far less—than they would pay for equivalent coverage today. And while a minority will still end up writing bigger premium checks than they do now, even they won’t be paying outrageous amounts. Meanwhile, all of these consumers will have access to the kind of comprehensive benefits that are frequently unavailable today, at any price, because of the way insurers try to avoid the old and the sick.

Sarah Kliff of Wonkblog has more details:

Health insurers will charge 25-year-olds between $142 and $190 per month for a bare-bones health plan in Los Angeles.

A 40-year-old in San Francisco who wants a top-of-the-line plan would receive a bill between $451 and $525. Downgrade to a less robust option, and premiums fall as low as $221.

These premium rates, released Thursday, help answer one of the biggest questions about Obamacare: How much health insurance will cost. They do so in California, the state with 7.1 million uninsured residents, more than any other place in the country.

Multiple projections expected premiums to be relatively high.

The Congressional Budget Office predicted back in November 2009 that a medium-cost plan on the health exchange – known as a “silver plan” – would have an annual premium of $5,200. A separate report from actuarial firm Milliman projected that, in California, the average silver plan would have a $450 monthly premium.

Now we have California’s rates, and they appear to be significantly less expensive than what forecasters expected.

On average, the most affordable “silver plan” – which covers 70 percent of the average subscriber’s medical costs – comes with a $276 monthly premium.

Such numbers, it is important to note, do not reflect the actual cost to the estimated 2.6 million Californians who will qualify for Obamacare tax subsidies (available to those with incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty rate).

One of the “horror stories” we’ve been hearing from Obamacare opponents for years now is that the whole scheme will collapse once healthy, low-income young people realize they’ll face large news costs for the kind of minimum high-deductible catastrophic coverage they actually need. They’ll bail, it has been suggested, not only from Obamacare (screwing up the broad-based risk pools that make affordable coverage for older and sicker people possible), but from Obama’s political coalition as well. So this comment from Kliff about the California numbers is worth noting:

For a less robust “bronze” plan, which covers 60 percent of the average beneficiary’s costs, the tax credit could actually cover the entire premium for low-income twenty-somethings.

None of this should really be that surprising; the idea that a broader pool plus competition and guaranteed benefits would provide a better bargain (plus vastly greater security) for consumers in the individual market was central to the entire Affordable Care Act architecture. But it’s taken a while for facts to catch up with all the negative agitprop. It won’t keep House Republicans from voting to repeal the entire law a 38th or 39th or 40th time before the bulk of the Affordable Care Act becomes effective next year. Still, it’s nice to see some reality-based evidence amidst all the hysteria.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 24, 2013

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Corporate Predator State”: This Isn’t The Free Market, It’s A Rigged Market

Bipartisan agreement in Washington usually means citizens should hold on to their wallets or get ready for another threat to peace. In today’s politics, the bipartisan center usually applauds when entrenched interests and big money speak. Beneath all the partisan bickering, bipartisan majorities are solid for a trade policy run by and for multinationals, a health-care system serving insurance and drug companies, an energy policy for Big Oil and King Coal, and finance favoring banks that are too big to fail.

Economist James Galbraith calls this the “predator state,” one in which large corporate interests rig the rules to protect their subsidies, tax dodges and monopolies. This isn’t the free market; it’s a rigged market.

Wall Street is a classic example. The attorney general announces that some banks are too big to prosecute. Despite what the FBI called an “epidemic of fraud,” not one head of a big bank has gone to jail or paid a major personal fine. Bloomberg News estimated that the subsidy they are provided by being too big to fail adds up to an estimated $83 billion a year.

Corporate welfare is, of course, offensive to progressives. The Nation and other media expose the endless outrages — drug companies getting Congress to ban Medicare negotiating bulk discounts on prices, Big Oil protecting billions in subsidies, multinationals hoarding a couple of trillion dollars abroad to avoid paying taxes, and much more.

But true conservatives are — or should be — offended by corporate welfare as well. Conservative economists Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales argue that it is time to “save capitalism from the capitalists,” urging conservatives to support strong measures to break up monopolies, cartels and the predatory use of political power to distort competition.

Here is where left and right meet, not in a bipartisan big-money fix, but in an odd bedfellows campaign to clean out Washington.

For that to happen, small businesses and community banks will have to develop an independent voice in our politics. Today, they are too often abused as cover for multinational corporations and banks. The Chamber of Commerce exemplifies the scam. It pretends to represent the interests of millions of small businesses, but its issue and electoral campaigns are defined and paid for by big-money interests working to keep the game rigged.

An authentic small-business lobby has finally started to emerge, as William Greider reports in the most recent issue of the Nation. The American Sustainable Business Council, along with the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority, are enlisting small business owners to speak for themselves — and challenging the corporate financed propaganda groups such as the Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Business. Their positions often align with those of progressives. They loathe the big banks and multinationals that work to undermine competition.

Greider reports on the antipathy these small business owners have for the big guys. Camille Moran, president and chief executive of Caramor Industries and Four Seasons Christmas Tree Farm in Natchitoches, La., rails against the “Wall Street wheelers and dealers.” They knew, she argues, that they “ would get no sympathy saying that ending the high-income Bush tax cuts would hurt them, so instead they pretend it would hurt Main Street small business and employment. Don’t fall for it. . . . That’s a trillion dollars less we would have for education, roads, security, small business assistance and all of the other things that actually help our communities.”

ReShonda Young, operations manager of Alpha Express, a family-owned delivery service in Waterloo, Iowa: “We’re not afraid to compete with the biggest delivery companies out here, but it needs to be a fair fight, not one in which big corporations use loopholes to avoid their taxes, stick our business with the tab.”

Polls show these aren’t isolated views. The ASBC, the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority sponsored a poll by Lake Research of small business owners. Ninety percent believe “big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes that small businesses have to pay,” and three-fourths said their own businesses suffer because of it.

The ASBC and its allies have the potential to become what Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator, dubbed a “Chamber of Progress,” a small-business voice that is willing to take on the big guys that tilt the playing field.

The possibilities are endless. Wall Street argues for rolling back financial regulation on the grounds that it hurts community and small banks. What if community and small bankers joined the call of conservative Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher to break up the big banks?

Multinational executives have just launched the “LIFT America” Coalition to push for a territorial tax system that would exempt from U.S. taxes all profits reported abroad. ASBC and its allies could rally small businesses to demand closing down overseas tax havens and imposing a minimum tax on profits sitting abroad, so that they didn’t face a higher tax burden that their global competitors.

In today’s Washington, powerful corporate interests stymie progress on areas vital to our future. Can a right/left, small-business/worker odd bedfellows alliance emerge to counter the predatory interests? We can only hope so.


By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 26, 2013

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Corporations, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Romney And His Fictional Obama”: A Man Who Exists Only In The Imagination Of Mitt’s Ad Makers

Here’s a chance for all who think Obamacare is a socialist Big Government scheme to put their money where their ideology is: If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law.

This is just common sense. If you think free enterprise should be liberated from Washington’s interference, what right does Uncle Sam have to tell the insurers they owe you a better deal? Keeping those refunds will make you complicit with Leviathan.

And here’s a challenge to Mitt Romney: You are running a deceitful ad about waivers the Obama administration has yet to issue based on rules allowing governors to operate their welfare-to-work programs more effectively. Will you please stop talking about your devotion to states’ rights?

Up until now, you were the guy who said that wisdom on matters related to social programming (including health insurance) lies with state governments. Five governors, including two of your fellow Republicans, thought they had a better way to make welfare reform work. The Department of Health and Human Services responded by proposing to give states more latitude. Isn’t that what honoring the good judgment of state governments is all about?

Oh, yes, and if Romney thinks President Obama is gutting welfare reform, I anxiously await his criticism of Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Gary R. Herbert of Utah, GOP governors who requested waivers. If Romney means what he says, doesn’t he have to condemn those who asked Obama to do what Obama did?

Political commentary these days is obsessed with the triviality of this campaign. Most of it is rooted in the refusal of conservatives to be candid about the implications of how their beliefs and commitments would affect the choices they would have government make — and how they differ from the president’s.

In Romney’s case, this often requires him to invent an Obama who exists only in the imagination of his ad makers. So they take Obama’s statements, clip out relevant sentences and run ads attacking some strung-together words that have a limited connection to what the president said. In the welfare ad, Romney lies outright.

But this is part of a larger pattern on the right, illustrated most tellingly by conservative rhetoric around the Affordable Care Act. In going after Obamacare, conservatives almost never talk about the specific provisions of the law. They try to drown it in anti-government rhetoric. “Help us defeat Obamacare,” Romney said after the Supreme Court declared the law constitutional. “Help us defeat the liberal agenda that makes government too big, too intrusive, and is killing jobs across this great country.”

Well, the new law does intrude directly in the insurance market. It requires that at least 85 percent of large-group premiums and 80 percent of small-group and individual premiums be spent directly on clinical services and improving the quality of health care. Imagine the radicalism: The government is telling insurance companies that they must spend most of the money they take in on actual health care for the people and businesses paying the premiums.

If the insurers spend below those levels, they have to refund the difference. According to Health and Human Services, 12.8 million Americans will get $1.1 billion in rebates. That comes to an average rebate of $151 per household. In 12 states, the rebates will average $300 or more.

Here’s your chance, conservatives. Big, bad government is forcing those nice insurance companies to give people a break. From what you say, you see this as socialism, a case of the heavy hand of Washington meddling with the right of contract. You cannot possibly keep this money. So stand up for those oppressed insurers and give them their rebates back!

As for the waivers on welfare, Romney’s position is dispiriting. Here’s a former governor whose Massachusetts health-care plan — the one that resembles Obamacare — was made possible by federal waivers; who, like other governors, wanted flexibility to do welfare reform his way; and who has said he would roll back Obamacare through the waiver process he now assails. He’s turning away from what he claims to believe about state-level innovation for the sake of a cheap and misleading campaign point.

I’d also be curious to know whether Romney got a rebate on his health insurance premiums courtesy of Obamacare and whether he plans to return it. But given his attitude toward disclosure, we’ll probably never find out.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 8, 2012

August 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“National Solutions To National Problems”: The Affordable Care Act Is Much More Than Politics

The law is a commonsense solution to our country’s broken healthcare system and is clearly constitutional. It eliminates insurance company abuses, makes coverage more affordable for seniors, families, and small businesses, and creates rules that stop insurers from denying care to the sick and jacking up premiums anytime they please.

The logic of the law is that we can make coverage more affordable and fair if everyone has insurance, including the young and healthy and those who don’t expect to get sick. That lowers costs by spreading the risk more broadly.

Our system is fundamentally out of balance. Many people don’t get the care they need, and others only get care at everyone else’s expense—and usually at an emergency room where services are far more expensive than at a doctor’s office. As a result, at least $43 billion in uncompensated care is provided every year, paid for by a $1,000 “hidden tax” in the premiums of every insured person in the country.

Today most people have insurance. Most of the 50 million uninsured want coverage but either can’t afford it or are excluded by insurers because of pre-existing conditions. When the law is fully implemented, families unable to afford coverage will get tax credits to put it within reach. The truth is that the individual responsibility provision, also known as the mandate, will affect only the 2 percent of Americans who have access to affordable coverage but refuse it. That’s what this fight is about: the 2 percent who reject rules that will allow the rest of us to get better, more affordable coverage.

The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the Constitution gives Congress the ability to develop national solutions to national problems. If the court were to bow to political pressures to strike down the law, it would essentially put regulation of healthcare, which accounts for nearly 18 percent of our economy, beyond the reach of Congress. That is plainly absurd.

The case against the health law is an extension of a transparently partisan political mission to tear down this milestone law as a way to turn President Obama out of office in November. What the partisans selfishly refuse to acknowledge is that there is so much more than politics at stake.


By: Ethan Rome, U. S. News and World Report, March 26, 2012

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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