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“An Unlikely Opportunity?”: It Could Come Down To Kansas, Where GOP Trails Badly

The news for Democrats in the latest round of Senate polling is sobering: Republicans have +4 point leads in enough states to give them a 50 Senate seats. That’s just one short of what they need to win control of the Senate.

Four other seats are also up for grabs, placing Democrats in danger of losing the majority in Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado and Kansas. Even so, while polling shows the first three of these races as tossups, Democrats have been showing remarkable resilience maintaining slim edges or even odds.

If Democrats do hold their ground in Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado, control of the Senate would come down to Kansas. Not exactly fertile ground for Democrats under normal circumstances, but the rank incompetence of the GOP combined with the distant hubris of Senator Roberts has allowed independent Greg Orman to open up a blistering 10-point lead.

That’s a big deficit to make up before the first mail-in voters get their ballots less than two weeks from today, and there’s little indication that Greg Orman would caucus with the Republicans should he be elected.

Kansas is a strange place for Democrats to pin their hopes, but it does provide hope that even in the reddest of red states, Republican overreach and self-destructive policies may open up unlikely opportunities for unexpected gains.

 

By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 5, 2014

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Kansas, Pat Roberts, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If You Vote For A Republican…Beware”: Republican Governors Show Their True Colors Turning Down Billions In Medicaid Expansion

In a 2012 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that states could decide to take the Medicaid expansion or not. In a purely political, but predictable move, Republican governor after Republican governor chose to say no to Medicaid expansion for their states even though their community hospitals are bursting at the seams.

Why would any elected official turn down free health care dollars for its citizens? These 24 Republican governors would prefer to say no to billions of federal dollars that would provide healthcare coverage for millions of destitute folks, than take funds from the Obama administration. They claim their states could not afford the expansions. The truth is that the federal government pays 100 percent of the cost the first three years and then at least 90 percent thereafter. Hate truly is stronger than compassion in the GOP and it is costing the party their logic, reason and good business sense. When you turn down health care for millions of citizens, billions of dollars and job creation out of spite, you are not representing the best interests of your constituents.

Many Republicans say they don’t think the government should be involved in keeping its citizens healthy through a government-provided healthcare system. My question is why is it OK for great government health care to be provided to these elected Republicans but it’s not OK to provide for our American people?

Rick Perry, governor of Texas, turned down the Medicaid expansion that would have created 200,000 new jobs in addition to insuring millions of people. As a result of his selfish ideology, Texas will lose more than $9 billion.

In Florida, the healthcare company Columbia/HCA, was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud while Rick Scott, prior to being governor, was CEO. Now Scott doesn’t want to let Florida’s citizens receive the benefits from the Medicaid expansion. Florida will lose $5 billion.

If Louisiana accepted the ACA provisions and expanded Medicaid, 240,000 people would be eligible for affordable care, yet Governor Bobby Jindal refused.

Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders also rejected the expansion of Medicaid coverage for approximately 175,000 uninsured Oklahomans leaving the state with no viable overall healthcare plan.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Corbett’s decision not to accept the expansion will leave $500 million in federal funds on the table in 2014. These funds could provide health care for 500,000 people, a financial boost to hospitals and local healthcare providers, and create upwards of 35,000 jobs.

Likewise, Governor Christi of New Jersey vetoed a bill that would permanently establish the Medicaid expansion.

By 2022, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia will all lose more than $2 billion each.

Expanding Medicaid coverage costs less than 1 percent of the state budgets on average, while not accepting the funds are leading to state budget shortfalls and health facilities closures.

While the Republicans are quick to send our military into harm’s way, they are less eager to take care of them when they return home.

About 1.3 million veterans are uninsured nationwide. According to a report by Pew, approximately 258,600 of these veterans are living below the poverty line in states refusing to expand Medicaid. Without veteran’s benefits and with incomes too low to qualify for subsidies to use state exchanges, these veterans are left without affordable coverage options.

State governors owe the best health care available to their citizens whether veterans, indigent or just the sick. But, that isn’t what these Republican governors are doing. They are placing their political ideology over their citizens’ health.

The states with the most uninsured and the poorest people are the same states refusing to take federal funds to help their people. Instead of embracing the Medicaid expansion, they are shunning it as if it was a plague. While taxpayers in all states fund the Medicaid expansion, only people in half the states are reaping the advantages of those tax dollars, jobs and medical benefits — the states with Democratic governors.

Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, on the day after the Affordable Care Act of 2010 was signed into law, appointed a task force to prepare his state to accept more Medicaid money and establish rules on how it would be spent. Its program will offer 300 insurance options provided by 12 private insurance companies and nine managed-care systems. These aren’t government programs but private ones — just like the coverage carried today by millions of Americans.

Governor Beshear (D) of Kentucky has made the Medicaid expansion a key component of his administration. He quickly accepted ACA realizing that the 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians would be able to get insurance through Medicaid expansion and coverage through the health benefit exchanges.

Every American citizen over the voting age of 18 has the right to vote for a Democrat, a Republican or someone from one of the smaller parties. But, if you vote for a Republican… beware of what you might lose as a result.

 

By: Gerry Myers, CEO, President and Co-founder of Advisory Link; The Huffington Post Blog, May 26, 2014

 

May 27, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicaid Expansion, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Human Consequences”: Cost Of The Medicaid Expansion Rejection In Lives As Well As Dollars

The more research that is done on the human toll of denying people health insurance, the easier it is to place a price in lives as well as dollars of decisions like that made by nearly half the states to reject the Medicaid expansion provided for in the Affordable Care Act. At Politico Magazine (in a piece given the wonderful, Celine-esque title, “Death on the Installment Plan”) Harold Pollack of the University of Chicago utilizes the findings of last week’s study on the lives saved by RomneyCare in Massachusetts to make some suggestions for those that might be saved by making Medicaid available to more non-elderly adults:

As a matter of fiscal policy, [rejecting the Medicaid expansion] makes little sense. The federal government would initially cover 100 percent of the costs. Its share will gradually drop to 90 percent over the coming years. Over the next decade, the federal government will cover more than 95 percent of the Medicaid expansion’s total cost. Edwin Park of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the ACA raises state expenditures on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by only 1.6 percent, when compared with what expenditures would have been in the absence of health reform.

Even the above figures overstate states’ true fiscal burden, since these federal dollars would cover many services such as mental health care, public hospital services and services to the correctional population that would otherwise be supported by states and localities. Medicaid expansion is a significant economic stimulus to the states that have adopted it. Even in deeply conservative states such as Texas, the expansion is strongly supported by the medical community, hospitals, cities and localities and other key constituencies.

Texas and other huge states like Florida are leaving tens of billions of dollars on the table. When asked to give an accounting of themselves, officials offer flimsy justifications to evade two obvious realities: First, Republican politicians do not want to embrace the centerpiece domestic policy achievement of the Obama presidency. Second, many of these same politicians display conspicuously tepid concern for the wellbeing of the expansion’s most obvious beneficiaries: poor, nonwhite, politically marginal residents of their own states….

Nearly 5 million low-income Americans are income-eligible for Medicaid under the ACA, yet live in states that now reject the Medicaid expansion. Within this rather small but critical low-income population, that same one-per-830 estimate [made in the Massachusetts study] implies that almost 5,800 people will die every year as a result of being left uninsured. That’s only an estimate. It may overestimate—or underestimate—the true human consequences. In my view, there’s no escaping the fact that partisan opposition to the ACA is costing thousands of actual human lives every year.

That’s a hell of a toll for scoring an ideological point.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 12, 2014

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Health Insurance, Medicaid Expansion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obamascare Tactics In Red State Races”: Passing Laws That Prevent Any Future Governor From Accepting Medicaid Money

If I asked you to name two states where the incumbent Republican governors might lose reelection this fall, you would likely, I expect, say Florida and Pennsylvania. I doubt very much you’d offer up Georgia and Kansas.

But lo and behold—the contests in both of those states are right now a little closer than you’d expect. In Kansas, Sam Brownback is the governor. You remember Brownback—he was a senator for a spell, best remembered (by me anyway) for his prominent role in that hideous Republican appropriation of poor Terry Schiavo in their zealotry to “promote life.” In Georgia, the bossman is Nathan Deal, also a former Congressman, whose term is best remembered for the way he announced a departure date for his gubernatorial run. (He realized that the House would be voting on Obamacare shortly thereafter, and delayed his departure so he could vote against it.)

It ought to be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy for right-wing Republicans to get reelected in those states, but recent polls have shown them dangling along the margin-of-error cliff. Deal leads Jason Carter (yep, Jimmy’s grandson) by just 3.4 percent in the realclearpolitics average, and Brownback actually trailed Democrat Paul Davis 42-40 in one February poll. Brownback’s approval rating is also deeply underwater. So it’s conceivable—that’s as far as we should prudently go—that both could lose.

Now, here’s the rub. Both, naturally, oppose the expansion of Obamacare into their states. They say no force on earth or in heaven will make them take that Medicaid money. It’s estimated that 600,000 Georgians and 78,000 Kansans would benefit. But they’re having none of it. And that’s their right. But what they’re doing now, in cahoots with friendly legislators, is a step beyond: In both states, they’re passing laws that would prevent any future governor from accepting the Medicaid money.

It works like this. Under the Affordable Care Act, the process by which states decide to accept the money is entirely up to them. Some states determined that legislative action should be required. You may have read about the Republicans in the Florida legislature rebuffing GOP Governor Rick Scott for the five minutes he was toying with taking the money. New Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe wants the money badly, and his Democratic State Senate is with him, but they’re hamstrung by the GOP-controlled House of Delegates, which is against.

Initially, Georgia and Kansas were states where it was just the governor’s call. Which was fine as long as the Republicans looked like sure things. But the polls tightened up, and people started getting a little antsy. Hey, what if a Democratic governor got elected and said, ‘Okay, Barack, write me that check?’

And so Brownback signed his state’s law last Friday. His office just announced it this week. Why the delay? Shouldn’t one such as Sam Brownback be proud of signing this socialism-blocking law? Well, it turns out that it was originally a law about something else, requiring the state to provide quick payment to certain in-state Medicaid care providers. This provision was tacked on late. A Wichita Democrat, Jim Ward, said: “That bill is what I think is endemic with this legislative process under this governor and this speaker and Senate president. There was no hearing. There were no opportunities for people who have a stake in Medicaid expansion to come in and talk about it.”

In Georgia, it’s easier. The legislation was passed about a month ago. If Deal doesn’t veto it, it becomes law. And since he supports it—indeed, since his staff helped write this law that willingly hands gubernatorial power over to the legislature—it will. And into the bargain, the Georgia legislature also passed—on the next-to-last day of the session—a bill that blocks state employees from helping Georgians sign up for care under the ACA.

So stop and think about this. Kansas and Georgia have just taken what was a gubernatorial decision out of the hands of not only current but future governors. You can argue plausibly that the people’s representatives should have a say in such a decision, on principle. But principle wasn’t at work here. Political expediency was. Legislators in the two states know that Republicans are likely to have control as far as the eye can see. And they’ll never say yes. And they’re doing all this in the name of what? In the name of denying 678,000 people a chance at health-insurance coverage.

It gets worse. The ACA makes cuts to certain current Medicaid programs on the assumption that states would take this new Medicaid money. It cut funding for hospitals that serve the poor, cuts intended to be mitigated by the fact that a large number of poor would now be insured once the states they live in accepted the new money. But in states that did not, those people are suffering even more. Several rural hospitals in Georgia have closed. They could be saved if the state took the Medicaid money.

Carter vows he’s going to make this skeezy law, and the Medicaid question generally, an issue. The Georgia law has sparked large protests and arrests and might end up being the most important issue in the campaign. In Kansas, Davis supports Medicaid expansion—and according to a recent poll so do 55 percent of Kansans, against just 39 percent who oppose taking the money. So maybe there’s not as much the matter with Kansas as we thought. With the people, anyway. The governor and the legislators are another matter.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 23, 2014

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicaid Expansion, Obamacare | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Vampire Slayer Election”: Democrats’ Best Weapon For Midterms, Fear Of A Red Senate

We’ve known for a long time now that the Democrats have a lot of Senate seats to defend in red states where Barack Obama’s approval numbers aren’t much higher than George Zimmerman’s—indeed, in these states, surely lower.

But I feel like the fear has just set in here in the last couple of weeks; that is, Democrats coming to terms with the possibility-to-likelihood that they might lose the Senate this November, and after that, the utter bleakness of a final Obama two years with both House and Senate in GOP hands, saying no to anything and everything except, of course, any remote whiff of an opportunity to bring impeachment charges over something.

Republicans need a net pickup of six seats. Democrats are trying to defend incumbent status in six red states (North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Alaska); also in two blue ones (Michigan and Iowa). They’re hoping for upsets in two red states (Georgia and Kentucky).

You’ll read a lot about Obamacare and the minimum wage and the War on Women and everything else, and all those things will matter. But only one thing really, really, really matters: turnout. You know the lament: The most loyal Democratic groups—young people, black people, single women, etc.—don’t come out to vote in midterms in big numbers. You may dismiss this as lazy stereotyping, but sometimes lazy stereotyping is true, and this is one of those times.

So how to get these groups energized? Because if core Democratic voting groups turn out to vote in decent numbers, the Democrats will hold the Senate. Two or three of the six will hold on, the Democrats will prevail in the end in Michigan and Iowa, and either Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky or Michelle Nunn in Georgia will eke out a win. Or maybe both—if Democratic voters vote. And if not? Republicans could net seven, eight.

The other side will be motivated: They’re older, white, angry that Obama continues to have the temerity to stand up there and be president, as if somebody elected him. This will be their last chance to push the rage button (well, the Obama-rage button; soon they’ll just start pushing the Hillary-rage button). But what will motivate the liberal side?

I call this the vampire-slayer election. I’ll explain that farther down. But first, let’s hear from Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, making his team’s most plausible case for why 2014 isn’t destined to be a repeat of 2010.

Canter acknowledges that the Democrats talk about “field” in every off-year election. But now, he vows, “This is the year we’re going to say it and mean it.” In the 10 states I mention above, Canter says, the goal is to spend $60 million on field operations alone, with an aggregate 4,000 paid staff in those states. It’s called the Bannock Street Project, after the street that housed the campaign HQ of Michael Bennet, the successful Democratic Senate candidate in that state in 2010. Bennet, you might recall, was one of the few Democrats not running against witches who held on to beat a Tea Party GOPer. The effort will be to quasi-nationalize what happened in Colorado then.

Look also, Canter says, at what happened in Montana and North Dakota in 2012. In both of those states, Obama was getting walloped by Mitt Romney—by 14 and 20 points, respectively. And yet, Democratic Senate candidates won in both states. Turnout was much higher in these two states: It was 53.4 percent nationally, but 59.4 in North Dakota and 61.5 in Montana. In both cases, Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp ran well ahead of Obama and are senators today.

Canter says the operations in those 10 states will look like this. Every voter in those states—yes, every single voter in those 10 states, he says—will be given two scores on a scale of 1 to 100: a support score and a turnout score. So if Molly Jones in Paducah is a 58 likely to support the Democrat and 38 likely to turnout, she can expect a lot of contacts from field operatives this fall.

But… contact her saying what? This is where I was a little less impressed by the things Canter had to say. I think he makes a plausible logistical argument. The Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota examples are real things. So are 60 million simoleons and 4,000 operatives. But they still need a compelling, unifying message. This is where we get to Buffy.

One of the all-time great Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes was Season 3’s “The Wish,” when a female demon grants Cordelia, the classic senior-class Queen Bee-beeyatch, one wish. Cordelia wishes instantly that Buffy Summers—who makes her life far more complicated than she wishes it to be—had never come to Sunnydale. The wish is granted. The next thing you see is, indeed, what would have happened to Sunnydale if Buffy, the vampire slayer, had never hit town. The high-school population is reduced by more than half. There’s a 6 p.m. curfew. Those who remain live in fear. The vamps have taken over. It’s a death town.

See where I’m going here? That’s Washington if the Republicans get the Senate. Vamp town. Imagine if Ruth Bader Ginsberg retires. If the Republicans control the Senate, will they even give a mildly left-of-center Supreme Court nominee a hearing? What about less high-profile federal judgeships across the country? How many of those are going to go vacant? If a Cabinet official or high-ranking sub-Cabinet member resigns, will they even permit the position being re-filled? Remember—41 of the 45 current GOP senators voted against confirming Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. And he was a former senator. And a Republican one at that!

Picture the mad Darrell Issa having a counterpart in the Senate to launch baseless investigations. It’s one thing for the House to be banging on about phony IRS and Benghazi scandals, but the Senate doing it is another matter entirely—far more serious. You really think a Republican Senate won’t? And I haven’t even gotten to regular policy. You think a GOP House and Senate combined won’t try every trick in the book to pressure Obama to fold on Social Security and Medicare?

The unique 2008 election aside, fear is a much better motivator in politics than hope. Democrats need to make their base voters see vividly the potential consequences of a GOP Senate majority and live in mortal fear of it. That and $60 million just may stem the tide.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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