The Government You Paid For

Number 5

The matter of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) has come up before:

A follow-up investigation by the PolitiFact.com brought the conclusion: this is a pants on fire not true. PolitiFact concludes:

Our ruling

The Facebook post tells the story of a man who says he opted out of Obamacare soon after the marketplace was launched on Oct. 1, 2013, and was informed that he owed a fine of more than $4,000.

The post includes many elements that make no sense or are flat-out wrong — and can be easily debunked by reading the law or reliable summaries of it. We rate it Pants on Fire.

That was nearly four years ago, and the tussle continues. Donald Trump has since been elected President on the promise of repealing and replacing the ACA. This scheme has not been working out. Republicans in  Congress submitted 60 pieces of legislation to this purpose while Mr. Obama was President. The President vetoed all of them, said vetoes being sustained, because Republicans in Congress did not have enough votes to  override the vetoes.

Now that Mr. Trump is President, and now that Republicans control both houses of Congress, there should be no problem repealing and/or replacing the ACA. Except, the Republicans all this time never had a plan for doing that exact thing. The ACA, which Donald Trump promised to dispose of his first day in office, is still on the books, and Republicans are making little progress toward achieving their previously-stated goal. The squabble continues.

All of this prompted me to contact a key senator from my home state. I found his Web page and filled out a message form. I essentially requested that he consider the wellbeing of all the people of Texas and not just the wishes of those who supported his re-election. After a few days I received a response by email:

Senator Cornyn <SenateWebmail@cornyn.senate.gov>

Aug 5 at 7:54 AM

To jf_blanton@yahoo.com

Dear John:

Thank you for contacting me with your suggestions regarding health care reform. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this matter.

The existing American health care system faces a myriad of complex challenges. The 2010 passage of sweeping health care reform continues to have dramatic implications for our health care system and for all 321 million Americans.

I often hear the frustration of Texans struggling to meet their health care needs in the existing system and understand the importance of implementing common-sense reforms that achieve results. Under the Affordable Care Act (P. L. 111-148), premiums have increased by more than 105 percent since 2013, and one-third of all counties in the United States have only one option on their exchange. Moreover, 6.5 million families preferred to pay a tax penalty in 2015 rather than purchase a government-approved health care plan, costing a combined total of $3 billion. Meaningful health care reform is necessary.

To this end, I have supported legislative proposals that place patients, their families, and their doctors at the center of health care decisions, rather than government bureaucrats. As the Senate continues to debate how we can improve upon our current system, I will keep your views in mind and support realistic reforms to lower health care costs, address entitlement spending, and increase access to affordable health coverage.

I appreciate the opportunity to represent Texas in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Sincerely,

JOHN CORNYN
United States Senator
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856
 And that was most gratifying. Of course, I do not think for a minute that a busy United States Senator takes time out to answer all his correspondence (maybe he does), but I am sure the above represents the thinking of Senator John Cornyn of Texas. To that end, I consider his closing statement most interesting:
To this end, I have supported legislative proposals that place patients, their families, and their doctors at the center of health care decisions, rather than government bureaucrats.

We have seen these past months how that is working out. This from Forbes:

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 24 million fewer people will have health insurance by 2026 under the House GOP plan to replace Obamacare. That projection is unsurprising, and quite likely overstated. But what is surprising about the CBO report is the ways in which it makes the GOP bill look better than expected, and how it points to how the bill can be improved.

There is more besides this, and you can read the linked page to get the rest. But that is the gist. The Republican-controlled House voted in place (not enacted) a plan to replace the ACA, said plan being predicted to put millions more people among the uninsured. Apparently somebody has missed  the point. The purpose of the ACA was to add more people to the ranks of those having health (medical) insurance.

Of course, Mr. Cornyn works for the Senate, which must also come up with a plan. It may be of interest how that’s working out. From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was edging toward collapse on Monday after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.

Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, said Monday that they would vote against even debating the health care bill, joining Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who made the same pledge on Friday. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted that he, too, would probably oppose taking up the bill on a procedural vote expected as early as Tuesday, meaning a collapse could be imminent.

Right! Not only has the Senate been able to come up with a bill to improve on the ACA, but key Republican senators have refused to vote for one that was submitted for vote. Since publication of the above item, Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, also declined to vote for the bill. Seeing as how the Republican Party has only a two-vote edge, Senator McCain’s vote killed the Republican proposal.

Despite Senator Cornyn’s best intentions, the United States Congress is not going to be able to improve on the ACA without discarding a half a basket full of outworn notions. They are going to need to get past objections against a bunch of people obtaining health insurance with premiums paid by others. They are also going to need to acknowledge universal medical care is a benefit to the American economy, those benefits including:

  • More people working productively rather than languishing at home, unable to work.
  • Reduced costs with people having debilitating illness going to their doctor rather than crowding hospital emergency rooms.
  • Reduced medical costs, as more people receive preventive care and do not develop serious medical issues.

And likely more.

Readers, it is to your benefit to contact your congressman and senator. These people depend on your vote to return to office next year in the case of your House representative and to the Senate in the case of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. If you don’t let them know, and in great numbers, they are going to think that next year’s election will be another walk-on part in the drama currently playing out in Washington.

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Buyer’s Remorse

Number 12 in a series

You know what I dislike? I’ll tell you what I dislike. I dislike it when I turn out to be so right that I get a cramp. Fortunately that’s not too often. But here is an instance that caused me considerable distress:

Expect President Trump to keep the Affordable Care Act until or unless a comparable replacement can be found. Raucous detractors of Obamacare will now face a unified Republican Party that will find affordable health care to be not so bad, now that they will be able to take credit for it.

Yes, that shoe has finally dropped:

‘Let Obamacare Fail,’ Trump Says as G.O.P. Health Bill Collapses

WASHINGTON — The seven-year Republican quest to undo the Affordable Care Act appeared to reach a dead end on Tuesday in the Senate, leaving President Trump vowing to let President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement collapse.

Mr. Trump declared that his plan was now to “let Obamacare fail,” and suggested that Democrats would then seek out Republicans to work together on a bill to bury the Affordable Care Act. If he is determined to make good on that pledge, he has plenty of levers to pull, from declining to reimburse insurance companies for reducing low-income customers’ out-of-pocket costs to failing to enforce the mandate that most Americans have health coverage.

What is happening is what was foreseen months ago, even as candidate Trump thumped his repeal and replace message to voters. Appeal for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is rooted in a considerable segment of voters for whom the main street path to health care is not working. Where these people were last November we may never know, but we know where they are today:

‘Don’t repeal Obamacare — improve it’: Republicans face wrath at town-hall events

After burning up seven years of congressional action and pushing forward 60 pieces of legislation to repeal the ACA, members of congress are coming to realize something. The primary job of an elected official is not to enact legislation, it’s to get re-elected. It’s been observed for 70 years in my memory that politicians acknowledge there is no point in having ideals if you are not in office to put them into action. Republicans in Congress are facing the reality they they can become ex politicians if they do not harken to the will of their constituents.

Currently the focus is on the Senate, this after the Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted in their own proposal last spring—a proposal which proved to be about as popular as the measles, for which there is also a cure. The Republican majority in the Senate is threadbare, and notable defections have defeated all attempts to pass repeal and replace legislation. As noted, there are not even enough votes to repeal the ACA, leading the President to his current stance—do nothing. We’ve seen a lot of that this year:

Counting the number of laws he’s signed, President Donald Trump has been more productive in his first 100 days than any president since Harry Truman, according to press secretary Sean Spicer.

“Despite the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats, he’s worked with Congress to pass more legislation in his first 100 days than any president since Truman, and these bills deliver on some of his most significant promises to the American people,” Spicer said at the White House daily press briefing April 25.

President Trump achieved this impressive record by shouldering the heavy load of his office and demonstrating impressive leadership. I’m joking, of course.

Winding down, I need to make yet another prediction. My prediction is that Republican lawmakers, who dominate both houses of Congress, will get an earful from the voters, and will get to work fixing well-known deficiencies in the Affordable Care Act—but not until next year. Check back with me later and see if I missed the mark, again.

Schlemiel-in-Chief

Number 14 in a series

politics-trumphealthcareeasy

A short history lesson:

At a rally in Sanford, Florida, Donald Trump railed against the Affordable Care Act. The GOP nominee called Obamacare a “disastrous law” and told supporters his first presidential act would be to repeal. “You’re going to have such great healthcare at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it is going to be so easy,” Trump said.

politics-trumphealthcarecomplicated

Right on! That was candidate Trump back in October explaining to fools like us. Fools like whom?

President Donald Trump said during remarks at the White House on Monday that “nobody knew” that health care “could be so complicated” as his party debates an alternative to Obamacare, which they have vowed to repeal.

What a difference a few days of on-the-job experience can make. There’s going to be lots more. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Don’t Bump The Trump

One of a series

politics-trumpsomanyplansobamacare

Eleven days before the election, and the Donald Trump story keeps rolling on—on toward a catastrophic conclusion. Previously I aimed this series of posts at the comedy surrounding a narcissistic businessman vying for a job requiring real character. Now I’m leaving the high road and will be calling things as they are.

As a reminder, self-obsessed billionaire Donald Trump earlier snatched the campaign torch from the Republican Party by scooping up conservative America’s low-hanging fruit. Full disclosure: it’s something I proclaimed over a year ago could not be done. I was wrong! Wrong I was, though it is becoming clear by the hour that justice is being served where it’s long overdue.

Bad news for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has Republicans rejoicing. Republicans have been attempting to repeal this act since it became law six years ago. In particular, candidate Trump is having a field day. The government announced this week a projected rise in premiums for patients enrolling in the government-sponsored exchange. 22% is touted as a conservative number.

Candidate Trump has seized this lifeline to his sinking campaign and is hoping to make the most of it:

Seizing on Rising Costs, Trump Says Health Law Is ‘Over’

Unfortunately this has not been the gift that keeps on giving. As mentioned yesterday, Donald Trump initially gave the impression he had no idea how the ACA works, and he further had no idea his own employees are not affected by it.

All the while, candidate Trump continues to promise to repeal the ACA ASAP once he takes office. Other Republicans have been promising the same thing for six years. Their aim, they say, is to replace the act with something more suitable, but they have yet to propose any such. The notion running wild in the upstairs computer room where I am composing this is the Republicans have never had any intention of coming up with a plan for universal health coverage, and they never will in the future. A promise is as good as fact if you can get people to believe it.

Meanwhile, right on schedule, Donald Trump’s journey to self destruction continues, much as I predicted over a year ago. I post here the signature banner for this series:

A warning for those who chance to meet a wild Trump coming home late at night, past a graveyard, all alone in a storm: Don’t bump the Trump. [With apologies to Shel Silverstein.]

Enjoying my excursion into schadenfreude,  I have this to say. Thank you, Mr. Trump. It’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me.Thank you very, very, very much!

Yeah, it’s game on. We are going to have more fun between now and November. We can be assured Donald Trump will never fail to entertain us.

Continue reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Politicians Unclear

One of a continuing series

MikeKennedyUtahObamacare

Naturally I thought this was some kind of joke. People post a lot of stuff on Facebook, and some of it is way around the bend. Some Skeptical Analysis is in order.

Holy shit! This guy is for real:

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s health care debate took an unexpected turn at the State Capitol, where a lawmaker who is also a doctor argued that access to health care can be a bad thing.

Representative Mike Kennedy, a Republican from Alpine, made the comments in a Health Reform Task Force meeting, in reaction to a story from another doctor.

Doctor Kyle Jones told the legislature’s Health Reform Task Force about a neighbor who was in a car crash. That neighbor suffered a rare response to pain medicine called toxic encephalopathy. The condition has caused memory loss, seizures and depression, according to Jones.

“Sometimes access actually can mean harm,” said Representative Mike Kennedy, a family physician.

To paraphrase the late actor Slim Pickens:

Well, I’ve been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the best explanation I have ever heard as to why we should not send ambulances to crash sites.

Yes, making sure citizens of this country receive prompt medical attention is a danger to their health.

Yes, enacting legislation that makes it possible for more citizens to have access to health insurance represents a danger to their health.

Bear with me. My head is somewhere lost in the desert, and I must pause till it come back to me.

It’s back.

As readers know, I often chide politicians, and even those aspiring to political office, for their brash inanity, assuming that is not a redundancy. My caution is the politicians are not the root problem. The problem is we. We are the ones voting for these people. We are the ones paying their salaries. If there really is a God in Heaven we can only hope this one sin, above all, will be forgiven.

Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.