During the Tuesday night broadcast of The Rachel Maddow Show, host Rachel Maddow ended the show by discussing Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and his recent comments regarding his state’s high uninsured rate. A recent survey revealed that Mississippi is the only state to have seen its uninsured rate increase since the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Overall, the country has seen a significant decrease in the number of uninsured people. However, Mississippi’s uninsured rate has climbed to 21.46%. Only Texas currently has a higher uninsured rate than Mississippi.
When presented with these results, Bryant decided that President Barack Obama and the ACA were to blame.
“If statistics show that the ill-conceived and so-called Affordable Care Act is resulting in higher rates of uninsured people in Mississippi, I’d say that’s yet another example of a broken promise from Barack Obama.”
Maddow highlighted Bryant’s refusal to work with any of the provisions of the ACA that would have helped bring health coverage to more Mississippians. The governor refused to assist in creating a state exchange even though his own state’s health commissioner, a Republican, had a well-designed exchange ready to be put in place. Due to Bryant’s intransigence, the HHS and other federal agencies were unable to work with the state exchange, and only two health insurance companies were willing to be placed on it. The governor also refused to expand Medicaid, which would have provided coverage to over 300,000 residents of his state. Instead, Bryant said that people have free coverage — the emergency room.
Rachel decided to use a visual metaphor to illustrate the effects of Bryant’s obstruction when it comes to Obamacare. The host brought out a model of a Lamborghini. The remote control car worked perfectly and she was able to drive it around the studio. After driving it around, she bashed it several times with a hammer. After causing severe damage to the car, she tried to drive it around again. Of course, it went nowhere. In mock outrage, Maddow kicked the car, called it a piece of junk and said nobody should get this car because it doesn’t work.
Below is video of the segment, courtesy of MSNBC:
In a short four-minute segment, Rachel Maddow destroyed Bryant’s declaration that the ACA is to blame for Mississippi’s high uninsured rate. The fact remains that red state Republican governors like Bryant and Texas’ Rick Perry have done everything in their power to ensure that the health care law is a failure in their state. However, when presented with the aftereffects of their obstruction, they turn tail and blame Obama or Democrats for the negative impact of their actions. Republicans take a jackhammer to Obamacare in their states and then call it a piece of junk when it doesn’t work as promised.
From the day the justices agreed to decide whether employers with religious objections to birth control can refuse to follow a federal rule requiring employer-provided health plans to cover contraception, a broad array of Court watchers have treated the Hobby Lobby litigation as the single most important issue facing the justices this term. Indeed, based on the sheer volume of pieces ThinkProgress has published discussing Hobby Lobby, this site has probably given this impression as well.
Hobby Lobby is a major case, with tremendous implications for whether religious conservatives must obey the same rules that apply to the rest of society, but there is another case pending before the Court that has even greater implications for what kind of nation America will become. On Monday, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down two cases, Hobby Lobby and a lesser-known case called Harris v. Quinn. Of the two, more is actually at stake in Harris than in Hobby Lobby.
Harris arises from a group of home-based aides for Medicaid patients in Illinois, a majority of whom voted to unionize. When a majority of a workforce, but not every single worker, votes to be represented by a union, the union is still required to represent the interests of the non-union workers. That means all workers must be treated equally at the bargaining table — a union cannot entice workers into joining the union by bargaining for one set of wages for union members and another, lower set of wages for non-members.
By any reasonable objective measure, the union struck a very good deal for Illinois’ home health aides. Before the union negotiated a collective bargaining agreement, the aides’ wages were just $7.00 an hour. Now they are $11.65 an hour, and they are scheduled to increase to $13.00 per hour in December. Nevertheless, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRWLDF), an anti-union litigation shop, found a handful of home health aides who object to this arrangement. Those objectors are now the plaintiffs in Harris.
Specifically, these plaintiffs object to a provision in the collective bargaining agreement requiring non-members to pay what is known as “agency fees” or “fair-share payments” in order to reimburse the union for the costs of bargaining on their behalf. Bargaining on behalf of hundreds or thousands of workers can be an expensive task. It often requires bargaining agents with a sophisticated understanding of an employer’s finances, and lawyers who can trace out the full consequences of every contract provision under discussion. If non-union members can enjoy the benefits of belonging to a unionized workplace — according to one study, unionization raises wages by about 12 percent on average — then they will get something for nothing while their co-workers who join the union will bear the costs.
If the Supreme Court complies with NRWLDF’s request to halt the non-union members’ fair-share payments, there will be little incentive for most workers to reimburse the union for the costs of collective bargaining — after all, why pay for higher wages when you can get them for free? Indeed, such a decision could set off a death spiral endangering the unions themselves. If non-members can suddenly stop paying agency fees, then unions will have to raise dues on their members in order to cover these losses. But, if unions raise their dues, more members will decide to drop out rather than pay the increased fees. Which will force even higher dues. Which will cause more members to drop out. Which will force even higher dues. The loss of agency fees potentially presents an existential threat to the union in Harris and to public sector unions across the country.
A Rule Without Limit
NRWLDF’s legal argument is, to put it kindly, not a model of clarity. But understanding three concepts can help make it clearer.
First, the First Amendment’s free speech protections are generally understood to be a two-sided coin. Government can neither prohibit someone from speaking their mind nor force someone to say something they disagree with. This is why, for example, public school students cannot be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance if they object to doing so.
Second, the First Amendment also protects the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” NRWLDF argues that this right is also a two-sided coin, that it also prohibits arrangements that lead to someone petitioning the government on their behalf if they object to this petition. Alternatively, they also claim that the agency fees create a kind of “mandatory association” that also violates the First Amendment.
Third, NRWLDF claims that, because the union in Harris is bargaining with a government agency regarding what sort of wages will be paid out by a government program, the union is effectively petitioning the government for a redress of grievances on behalf of the home health aides in Illinois. Requiring non-union members to pay agency fees, according to NRWLDF, is the same thing as requiring them to sign onto a petition that they disagree with — even if the costs of those agency fees comes out of higher wages that the plaintiffs never would have received in the first place if it wasn’t for the union.If you are confused by this argument, don’t worry. So was Justice Antonin Scalia.
If you are confused by this argument, don’t worry. So was Justice Antonin Scalia. As Scalia pointed out at oral arguments, there are few logical limits on the NRWLDF’s argument if the Court decides to go down this rabbit hole.
“Suppose you have a policeman,” Scalia asked the attorney from NRWLDF, “who is dissatisfied with his wages. So he makes an appointment with the  police commissioner, and he goes in and grouses about his wages. He does this, you know, 10 or 11 times. And the commissioner finally is fed up and tells his secretary  I don’t want to see this man again. Has he violated the Constitution?”
The anti-union attorney responded, “no,” but under the logic of his legal argument, the correct answer is “yes.” As Scalia went on to explain, a police commissioner who slams his door on a cop seeking higher wages has “prevented a petition for a redress of grievances” no less than if he had slammed the door on a group of 10 policemen seeking higher wages, or, for that matter, on a union of policemen seeking a wage increase. If a government employee asking for higher wages constitutes a petition for redress of grievances under the First Amendment, then there is no principled distinction between a union collectively making a request from a government employer and an individual making the exact same request. Every single time a supervisor tells a government worker that she does not have time to talk about the worker’s grievances, she risks violating the First Amendment.
Later in the oral argument, Scalia raised another problem with NRWLDF’s argument. Though the anti-union attorneys dressed this case up as a violation of the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” Scalia said that Harris is really just a run-of-the-mill free speech case — the anti-union employees “are being required to support speech that they don’t agree with.”
A Return To The Dark Ages
If the Court ultimately embraces Scalia’s suggestion that bargaining over wages or working conditions is a form of First Amendment-protected free speech, then this has stunning implications for nearly every single worker in the country. When a worker is hired to do a job, they typically have a conversation with their boss about the terms of the employment. The two individuals bargain over wages, benefits, job expectations and similar arrangements.
Yet, the law also places important limits on this negotiation. Because the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, an employer is not allowed to negotiate with most employees to pay them only $5 per hour. A federal law known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) places similar limits on what kind of employee benefits an employer can offer to their employees. The birth control rules at issue in Hobby Lobby also place limits on what kind of bargaining may take place between an employer and an employee. An employer may wish to offer their employee a health plan that does not cover birth control, but under these rules they cannot.
Indeed, all of these laws can be framed as a form of compelled speech. The minimum wage compels an employer who wants to say “I will pay you $5 an hour” to instead say “I will pay you $7.25 an hour.” ERISA and the federal birth control rules prevent an employer from saying that they will provide their employees with a certain kinds of employee benefit packages. Speech is an essential element of any contract negotiation — as every first-year law student learns early in their legal education, a contract requires an offer and an acceptance. But if every single contract negotiation becomes a First Amendment-protected activity, then government regulation of the workplace becomes virtually impossible.
This danger was not lost on Justice Stephen Breyer, who noted near the end of oral argument in Harris that “we have some experience” with the Court trying to limit the scope of federal labor law “in the 1930s.”
Breyer’s reference to this decade was almost certainly an allusion to the Lochner Era, when the Supreme Court struck down minimum wage laws, laws protecting union rights, and laws preventing employers from overworking their employees. The case that set these events in motion, the Court’s 1905 decision in Lochner v. New York held that a so-called “liberty of contract” placed strict limits on the government’s ability to regulate the workplace. Lochner was overruled in 1937.As the Court recently reminded us in Citizens United v. FEC … corporations are people, my friend.
There are some academic distinctions between Lochner and the kind of regime that could emerge from an expansive decision in Harris. Lochner relied on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, while Harris is a First Amendment case. But it’s not clear that these distinctions matter. If the Court actually holds that contract negotiations are governed by the First Amendment, then Breyer is right to fear a return to something much like the early 1930s.
Hobby Lobby v. Harris
This brings us back to Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby’s brief asks the Court for a truly expansive religious liberty regime — all laws that a religious person objects to, according to Hobby Lobby, must survive “the most demanding test known to constitutional law,” before they can be enforced against that person. If the Supreme Court goes this far, it is likely that a religious business owner will step forward claiming that they object to following federal labor law on religious grounds. Indeed, several lawsuits have made similar claims in the past.
But there is a logical limit on how far employers could push Hobby Lobby to undermine workers’ rights in the workplace, even if the Court does issue a sweeping decision on Monday. As the federal appeals court that heard Hobby Lobby explained, an employer may only make a religious liberty claim if it is rooted in a “sincere” religious belief. It’s hard to imagine how, say, Walmart would convince a court that it had suddenly converted to a faith that objects to paying the minimum wage.
The First Amendment’s free speech protections, by contrast, apply to religious and non-religious alike. And, as the Court recently reminded us in Citizens United v. FEC, for First Amendment purposes, corporations are people.
There is reason to believe that unions will have a very bad day on Monday once the Court hands down itsHarris decision. As a general rule, the justices try to spread work evenly among themselves and, because of this, SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein has pioneered the art of predicting which justice will author a particular decision by examining who has not yet written a case that was argued in a particular month. Harris was argued in January:
If Justice Samuel Alito — the hole in this chart — does indeed have the writing assignment in Harris, then that is almost certainly a bad thing for unions. Alito authored an opinion in 2012 that strongly suggests that agency fees paid to public sector unions are unconstitutional. An even more important question, however, is whether the Court will rally behind Justice Scalia’s suggestion that contract negotiations may be a form of First Amendment-protected speech. Should they do so, then Justice Breyer’s allusion to the 1930s could prove prescient.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) plans to move forward with Medicaid expansion even without lawmakers’ support, the governor announced on Friday. The battle over Medicaid expansion has been particularly contentious in Virginia over the past several months, as McAuliffe been unable to convince the GOP-controlled legislature to move forward with implementing the policy even though it has bipartisan support in the state.
The governor announced his decision to expand Medicaid unilaterally during a press conference on Friday. He said he will use his executive power to expand Medicaid administratively, and asked the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to draw up plans for that project by the beginning of September. “I am moving forward,” he said, noting that lawmakers’ continued refusal to extend health care to an estimated 400,000 of the state’s poorest residents sends him “to bed every night with a pit in my stomach.” He called the GOP’s decision to block Medicaid expansion “unconscionable.”
Earlier this week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Jeff Schapiro laid out what an administrative expansion might look like. Essentially, McAuliffe could enlist private businesses to execute the public program, a so-called “public-private partnership.” It’s a method the state has used before to finance a highway.
Although the governor wasn’t explicit about the specifics of his plan, he did say that he’s been consulting with the attorney general every step of the way, and “whatever we do will be in full compliance with the attorney general’s office.”
After the GOP took control of the state Senate earlier this month — in a dramatic turn of events that may have involved an illegal bribe to get a Democrat to step down — Virginia lawmakers rushed to pass a budget that explicitly bans the state from expanding Medicaid. Republicans say that the expansion is too expensive and that it’s irresponsible to pour more money into a broken government program.
But McAuliffe announced on Friday that he plans to veto that provision, along with several other line items in the budget that he doesn’t want to approve. The political fight over the state’s budget has been threatening a government shutdown, so McAuliffe opted for line vetoes rather than rejecting the entire proposal outright.
Across the country, GOP-led resistance to Medicaid expansion is leaving an estimated 5.8 million impoverished Americans without any access to affordable health care whatsoever. Meanwhile, the states that have agreed to expand the public program are seeing dramatic drops in their uninsurance rates and significant boosts to their budgets.
In this clip Tillis is seen speaking to a group of Republicans on the need to get those with a physical disability, such as a woman with cerebral palsy, to turn on and look down at those who “choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government.”
"At some point, you’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you."
Naturally, Tillis doesn’t just talk this talk, but actively pursues these type of policies, as he brags in a campaign ad of personally “stopping cold” Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. Or in another for dramatically scaling back unemployment insurance in that state when Pat McCrory was elected Governor.
As Ed Gilgore at Washington Monthly notes:
What a nasty, nasty piece of work. And this is the “Republican Establishment” candidate for the Senate. Tells you a lot about them, eh?
More than 100 protesters and clergy members were removed from the Missouri Senate galleries on Tuesday, after they burst out into chants demanding the state accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Missouri is one of 24 states that has not yet accepted the more than $2 billion in federal funds available to the Show-Me state.
The Springfield News-Leader reported that the protesters shouted, “Medicaid Expansion! Do it now!” and “Missouri Senate expand Medicaid, bring dignity, do your jobs!” Capitol police reportedly removed more than 100 people and arrested 23 clergy, delaying the Senate’s session by nearly an hour.
Gov. Jay Nixon (D) supports the expansion, which would provide insurance for tens of thousands of additional Missourians. But despite estimates that refusal to accept the funds would cost state hospitals hundreds of millions of dollars, the Republican-controlled legislature has not passed expansion legislation.
Watch it, courtesy of Progress Missouri:
Protesters in states across the country — including Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina — have been similarly making their voices heard to legislators who continue to block Medicaid expansion. Last month, a Virginia town hall forum with several Republican state legislators, organized by the anti-Obamacare Americans for Prosperity, was dominated by angry voters demanding the General Assembly accept the funds.
(HT: Kansas & Missouri Kossacks/DailyKos)
This story has been updated to include the fact that 23 clergy members were arrested.
Reasonable people who don’t follow politics closely can be forgiven for dismissing Democrats’ focus on the Koch brothers as just a political tactic– not unlike the Republicans’ attacks on George Soros. They’re all rich and politically active. So what?
Senator Bernie Sanders begs to differ–and so should we. Sanders points out that the brothers are worth 80 billion dollars (including an increase of 12 billion in the last year alone), and he points to the extent of their involvement in the political process–and the degree to which they have used their enormous resources to misinform and confuse, most recently funding political spots that flat-out lie about the Affordable Care Act, which–along with Medicare and Medicaid– they are intent upon repealing. (I guess when poor people get health care, it offends their peculiar version of justice.)
David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980. And Sanders suggests we take a look at the platform on which he ran:
- “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
- “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
- “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
- “We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
- “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
- “We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
- “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
- “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
- “As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
- “We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
- “We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
- “We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
- “We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
- “We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
- “We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
- “We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
- “We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
- “We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
- “We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
- “We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
- “We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
- “We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
- “We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
- “We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
- “We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
- “We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”
The Koch brothers want to repeal every major piece of legislation that levels the playing field or protects the middle class, the elderly, children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country, and thanks to Citizens United and McCutcheon, they can spend unlimited amounts of money to buy the American government they want.
They’ve realized that the Libertarian party can’t deliver their particular version of “liberty”–but properly funded, they hope the GOP can.
They may be right.
Ted Cruz, Who Said Uninsured Should Just Get Health Care From ERs, Backs Group That Wants ERs To Turn Away Uninsured People
When he was running for office two years ago, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas insisted that rather than expanding Medicaid, Texas should just let the uninsured get all their health care from emergency rooms. The argument that emergency rooms are an acceptable backup for the uninsured has also been used by Mitt Romney, Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint and many other prominent Republicans.
But now, some members of the GOP are trying to keep the uninsured from using emergency rooms at all. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is pushing Congress to allow hospitals to turn people away from emergency rooms, and Georgia congressman and US Senate candidate Paul Broun – who previously cited ERs to claim that “everyone has access” to health care – has introduced a bill that would allow ERs to treat only patients who they determine have an “emergency medical condition.”
Now, the Madison Project, a Tea Party group that has earned the high-profile backing of Sen. Cruz in its effort to defeat three sitting GOP senators in primaries this year, is also advocating for allowing emergency rooms to turn away anybody not deemed to need immediate emergency care.
In a blog post on the group’s website yesterday, Madison Project policy director Daniel Horowitz writes of taking his son to the emergency room only to encounter a waiting room “full of illegals” (although he doesn’t specify how he knew the citizenship status of his fellow patients), including “adults who, let’s just say, did not look like they were about to keel over.”
My wife and I were entreated to the chaos of emergency room care last night after our two-year-old son slipped while climbing onto a high kitchen counter and banged his head on the floor. He had a massive lump on his forehead and we were concerned about internal bleeding. When we drove to the closest hospital, the waiting room was full of illegals. Most of them were adults who, let’s just say, did not look like they were about to keel over. Opting not to wait all night simply for a decision whether to put our son through a CT scan, we drove for a half hour in the rain to a hospital that was less likely to be full of those who use ERs for regular care.
Thank God our son recovered and there was no internal bleeding, but in a different situation that extra time could have been critical. Also, if you ever wonder why you get hosed with outrageous bills simply for stepping foot in a hospital, look no farther than the “undocumented” costs of illegal aliens.
The solution for this, Horowitz concludes, is to allow hospitals “to turn away people from ERs if they do not have an immediate need for emergency care” thereby “solv[ing] the problem of illegal immigrants using ERs for primary care.”
The problems with illegal immigrants and emergency hospital care also provide us with an opportunity to examine true free market healthcare reform. Any GOP healthcare proposal must be predicated not on “replacing” Obamacare, but on fixing even some of the anti-market federal policies that existed before passage of the monstrosity.
One of those policies is the mandate on hospitals to treat everyone who comes to an ER – including illegal immigrants – irrespective of whether they are suffering from a real emergency. In 1986, Congress passed The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which was ostensibly the first act in universal healthcare mandates.
If we ever plan to curb skyrocketing hospital costs and improve access to emergency care, we must address this massive unfunded federal mandate of EMTALA. Among the provisions of Rep. Paul Broun’s Patient Option Act, which is one of the best healthcare reform proposals, are some good reforms of emergency and indigent care. Under Broun’s proposal, hospitals would be allowed to turn away people from ERs if they do not have an immediate need for emergency care. This would solve the problem of illegal immigrants using ERs for primary care.
Could it be that Tea Party leaders like Sen. Cruz never actually thought that emergency rooms were suitable alternatives for the uninsured and were instead just looking for any excuse not to expand insurance coverage?
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
MoveOn’s Billboard Lampooning Gov. Jindal for Denying Health Care to 242,000 Will Stay Up After Court Rejects Louisiana’s Bid for Preliminary Injunction
Moments ago, Judge Shelly D. Dick of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana issued a ruling in Dardenne v MoveOn rejecting the state of Louisiana’s attempt to force MoveOn.org to take down a billboardcriticizing Gov. Bobby Jindal for denying health care to 242,000 Louisianians.
In her ruling, Judge Dick concluded, “the Lieutenant Governor underestimates the intelligence and reasonableness of people viewing the billboard.”
Judge Dick held that:
“The State has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of prevailing on its burden of proving confusion by viewers of the billboard. Furthermore, the State has failed to demonstrate a compelling reason to curtail MoveOn.org.’s political speech in favor of protecting of the State’s service mark. Finally, the State failed to demonstrate that injunctive relief is required to ameliorate irreparable injury. There has been no showing of irreparable injury to the State.”
Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, had the following response to the judge’s ruling:
“This decision is a victory for common sense, freedom of speech, and the 242,000 Louisianians being denied health care because of Governor Jindal and Louisiana Republicans’ outrageous refusal to let them access Medicaid. What it means is, our billboard is staying up.
“While we are pleased with today’s outcome, it’s a shame that the state filed this baseless lawsuit in the first place — which nearly every lawyer with basic knowledge of the First Amendment said they’d lose. Lt. Gov. Dardenne should apologize to the taxpayers for this waste of time and money — time and money that could have been better spent finding ways to get Louisianians access to health care.
“For us, this campaign has never been primarily about a billboard, or freedom of speech. It is about expanding access to health care and exposing the fact that Governor Jindal, in an effort to appease the far right-wing element of his party in advance of a likely 2016 run for the White House, has denied 242,000 Louisianians health care coverage. That decision shows that Governor Jindal cares more about politics than people.
“We will not be intimidated or silenced in our campaign to bring health care to Americans who need it. The truth is that denying health care to 242,000 Louisianians and 5 million Americans is a choice that Governor Jindal and Republican governors and legislators across the country are making – and for no good reason.
“Medicaid expansion would be fully funded by the federal government for three years, and then at least 90 percent of the funding would be guaranteed to come from the federal government forever. By saying no to this money, what Governor Jindal is doing is essentially taxing the people of Louisiana to pay for Medicaid for people in other states, but refusing to allow Louisianians to reap the benefits.
“242,000 isn’t just a statistic. It’s a number that represents the real stories of real people, like MoveOn member Veronica Russell, who lives in New Orleans, and earns just above the threshold to be eligible for traditional Medicaid, yet falls into the gap where she earns too little to receive subsidies for health care on the marketplace. So now she’s stuck without health care.
“That’s outrageous. If you work hard, if you contribute to society in the richest country on earth, you ought to be able to access health care. And one of the great things about the Affordable Care Act was that it finally gave people like Veronica an opportunity to get covered. But state officials like Governor Jindal continue to stand in the way.
“We are doubling down on our campaign to ensure every American has access to health care. We are expanding our billboard campaign in Louisiana. And we will will not rest until Governor Jindal and all of the other Republicans blocking access to Medicaid get out of the way.”
Married same-sex couples will now have full access to Medicare benefits, regardless of which state they live in.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that same-sex spouses will be recognized in administering several aspects of the Medicare program, regardless of where the couple lives. CMS works with the Social Security Administration to conduct eligibility determinations and to enroll seniors and individuals with certain disabilities in the program. Social Security updated their own marriage recognition policies earlier this week to streamline the handling of marriage-based claims involving transgender people. The announcement is the latest step implementing the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Social Security will now begin processing Medicare enrollment, requests for Special Enrollment Periods, and requests for reductions in late-enrollment penalties for many same-sex spouses. Eligibility for Medicare Part A and Part B coverage is particularly important for these families, who are disproportionately likely to be uninsured. Medicare Part A coverage is often available without paying a monthly premium, making it important for the many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who struggle to afford coverage.
CMS’s decision also impacts some people who previously applied for a Special Enrollment Period but were denied eligibility because of DOMA. For some of these couples, Social Security will be able to approve a second request for a Special Enrollment Period, giving more immediate access to Medicare coverage.
For couples in domestic partnerships or civil unions this announcement offers some, but not all of the same opportunities for enrolling in Medicare coverage. Domestic partnerships and civil unions are not recognized for the purposes of Special Enrollment Periods for applicants 65 or older, but for those applicants with disabilities who are under 65, Special Enrollment Periods are available as long as the applicant has coverage through their partner’s current employer.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS have been acting to implement the Windsor decision since last year, expanding coverage for many same-sex couples. HHS announced last month that plans sold through Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act must offer coverage to all same-sex spouses starting in 2015. In September of last year, CMS sent a letter to state Medicaid directors granting discretion to recognize same-sex marriages according to the laws of their state.
Read the full Medicare announcement here.
If you’re an elderly citizen concerned about your healthcare and you don’t understand why your own state legislatures refuse to expand Medicaid because of a Conservative ideological hatred of the government, then be careful when you question or email that representative.
Tea Party Virginia Delegate Tag Greason cares about his constituents. In fact, when they say something with which he disagrees, like ‘As an elderly woman, I think you should support Medicaid expansion,’ he cares so much he feels the need to set them straight–as Loudoun County resident Susan Merk discovered when she e-mailed him on March 28 when he told her she is ‘the problem’ and called her ‘intellectually lazy’ for supporting something that would greatly benefit her.
Merk voiced her support for the Medicaid Expansion. “It’s imperative that federal Medicaid aid is passing the [Virginia] budget,” Merk wrote. Greason respectfully disagreed…well, maybe not respectfully, but he did disagree. Her elected official mansplained to her that, “ObamaCare has already proven to be inefficient, costly, and an utter disaster,” and that “Medicaid is one of the largest and fastest-growing parts” of the budget even without expansion.
Republicans are showing no signs of abandoning their anti-Obamacare crusade any time soon.
On this anniversary, ThinkProgress takes a look back at all of the milestones in the GOP’s ongoing campaign to undermine a law that has defined national politics for half a decade:
MARCH 23, 2010: An immediate push to repeal.
- Immediately after President Obama signed the Senate health care bill into law, 13 Republican state attorneys general file a federal lawsuit against the overhaul and Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduce legislation to repeal the law. King even offers a discharge petition. “If we can get to 218, we can force Nancy Pelosi to bring a repeal to the floor for a vote. If the Senate can do that…we have a chance to put a repeal on President Obama’s desk and make him veto that bill,” King explained. “Repeal and replace will be the slogan for the fall,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) predicts. Watch a compilation:
- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli files a separate lawsuit in Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the law.
- John Boehner (R-OH) — then the House Minority Leader — promises that Republicans will seek to defund the measure. “You just gotta take appropriated funds to actually come through the process to fund the hiring of new employees, to create these new bureaucracies. I can’t imagine a Republican Congress is going to give this President the money to begin this process,” he tells Fox News.
- Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers who voted for the bill are receiving death threats and experiencing vandalism. Vandals struck the Tuscon office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the Monroe County Democratic Committee headquarters in upstate New York, Rep. Louise Slaughter’s (D-NY) Niagara Falls office, the Knox County Democratic headquarters in Ohio, and the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita, KS. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), the highest-ranking black lawmaker in the House, has said “he received an anonymous fax showing the image of a noose” and authorities in Virginia are investigating “a cut propane line” at the home of a brother of Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA).
- Sarah Palin labels a map of vulnerable lawmakers’ districts with crosshairs on her Facebook page and tweeting, “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”
- The ACA prohibits women from using premium affordability tax credits or cost-sharing payments to pay for abortions but also reinforces states’ ability to prohibit insurers from providing any form of abortion coverage within the exchange. The day before Obama sings the Affordable Care Act into law, a Missouri Senate committee votes 5-1 to advance a bill that would deny insurers the right to offer abortion coverage in any government exchange. A total of 23 states now prohibit abortion coverage in their marketplaces.
- Some Republicans are initially wary about repealing the law in its entirety. For instance, in January, Eric Cantor told Politico’s Mike Allen that Republicans “WILL NOT campaign for full health care repeal, but will demand partial repeal, including mandates for health coverage.”
- Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) admits there are portions of the legislation he likes – including the provision that would allow parents to carry their offspring on their insurance until age 26. “When we say start over, we don’t mean throw everything out – throw out the baby with the bath water. We mean, take the best of this bill and combine it with our ideas like buying insurance across state lines and equalizing the tax treatment and creating high-risk pools.” “Of course, all of the language regarding electronic medical records I’m in favor of. So I might not fully agree with completely repealing and starting over.”
APRIL 2010: Republicans actually take credit for parts of Obamacare.
- Republicans admit that repeal is unrealistic. “The fact is that’s not going to happen, OK?” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) tells an audience at Vanderbilt University. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) agrees: “It may not be total repeal at the end of the day. It may be a series of fixes over the course of this bill getting enacted that allow us to change and possibly bend that cost curve down.”
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) tells a town hall meeting, “There are a lot of things in this bill I think you and I certainly like.” “I think as a practicality you’re going to have trouble repealing the whole deal… there ought to be areas where Democrats and Republicans can come together.”
- John Boehner tries to take credit for some provisions included in the bill and promised to keep them in place.
His refusal to call for a full repeal betrays a growing rift between leadership and the more conservative members of the Republican party. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) —has repeatedly warned Republicans that “if we leave any component of it in there, it has, it’s just become a malignant tumor that’s attacking our liberty and our freedom and it’s diminishing our aspirations and it saps our overall productivity as a nation,” King says. “If we can’t come to that conclusion, then I want some new people to come help me.” In April, repeal legislation had no more than 62 co-sponsors in the House and 20 in the Senate.
- States like Ohio and Alabama approve petitions to remove their residents from requirements to purchase health insurance and to participate in the law’s health plans. The effort was being orchestrated and organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], a “business-friendly conservative group that coordinates activity among statehouses.” The Council is pushing model legislation to protect “the rights of patients to pay directly for medical services” and prohibit the individual mandate. Multiple states pass similar measures, though the effort never proves popular.
MAY 2010: Republicans offer a 9-page alternative.
- Republicans prepare to re-litigate the health care reform debate by blocking the nomination of Donald Berwick, a Harvard University professor, to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The Republican Policy Committee preparesa memo linking Berwick to the British health care system and presents him as someone who supports rationing and a government takeover of health care. Obama recess appoints Berwick in July of 2010.
Watch Republicans go at it:
- Republicans object to government-printed mailers informing Medicare beneficiaries about how the new health care law will improve the program. “This goes beyond propaganda and is blatantly political. If this document is really about Medicare, then why is there information in there about 26-year-olds being able to stay on their parents’ policies?” Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) asks. “The brochure fails to inform seniors that the president’s new law cuts $550 billion from their Medicare,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) adds.
- Republican leadership in the House introduces a 9-page “bill” to repeal the health care law and replace it with the Republican alternative already defeated on the House floor in November 2009. This is the third repeal bill introduced by the GOP, but the first to replace the law with different legislation. The Congressional Budget Office found that under the GOP alternative, the number of uninsured Americans would increase to 52 million by 2019. The bill could slightly reduce premiums for Americans who purchase coverage independently.
JUNE 2010: Republicans make first effort to repeal the individual mandate, while arguing parts of reform should be better funded.
- Congress rejects a Republican effort to strip the individual health insurance mandate from the new health care law. Twenty-one Democrats cross party lines to vote in favor of the measure, while one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA), votes against it. The effort is led by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), who attempts to attach the measure to a motion that would have sent a small business tax credit bill back to committee with instructions to insert language invalidating the measure.
Camp claims that the mandate violated “the basic principle of freedom and individual choice.” “No American should be forced to buy or purchase health insurance they don’t want or can’t afford,” Camp says, arguing that the measure would “uphold the freedom upon which this nation was founded” and obfuscate the need for more IRS agents. Highlights from the debate:
- Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio — who had signed a pledge to fully repeal the law — tells reports that he would maintain the law’s pre-existing conditions exclusions and the provisions that allow children to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26. “A small group of reporters in a D.C. coffee shop, chatting with Florida Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio. He just mentioned that there are two parts within the Obamacare legislation that he doesn’t want repealed. The first is the ban on insurance companies denying coverage based on preexisting conditions and the second is that he thinks that children up to age 26 should be allowed to “buy into” their parents’ coverage,” National Review’s Jim Geraghty reported. Rubio later backs away from those comments.
- John Boehner and Eric Cantor sign onto two discharge petitions offered by Steve Kin and Wally Herger (R-CA). The petitions will need to attract 218 members to force the House to take up repeal legislation that would eliminate the entirety of the health law. Herger’s measure would also replace the law with “common-sense reforms.” The move was a significant departure for the Republican leaders who have previously claimed that they would like to preserve the more popular elements of health care reform and repeal “the other” mandates.
- 28 Senate Republicans write to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius arguing that the law’s high-risk insurance pools “will fail to provide the assistance promised by supporters of the new law.” The office of Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) put out an entire release complaining about the lack of funds.
AUGUST 2010: Republicans continue to attack HHS education campaigns.
- GOP Senators write a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing their “profound concern” about a television campaign featuring Andy Griffith promoting the health care law. “The Administration’s clam to “correct the record” is misleading and offensive. We can debate the relative merits of the new law, but co-opting public funds during a recession, to make a political, poll tested argument about the new law, is wrong,” the write. Watch the ad:
SEPTEMBER 2010: Republicans go after reform’s regulations.
- Speaking at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., Newt Gingrich likened Kathleen Sebelius’ warning to insurers against increasing health care premiums exponentially to “Soviet tyranny” and said that a Republican-controlled House should ask for her resignation and defund her office in the Department of Health and Human Services. Watch it:
- Republicans unveil a ‘Pledge To America,’ an agenda which promises to “repeal” all of these benefits — as well as the entire health care law — and replace it with “reforms that lower costs for families and small businesses, increase access to affordable, high-‐quality care and strengthen the doctor-‐patient relationship.” The document provides almost no specifics about what the party would do to control health care spending, improve quality, or pay for its reforms. And at least 7 of the GOP’s ideas on health care are already included in the health care law.
- Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) offers a resolution to weaken the law’s “grandfathering” rule, which allows plans that existed before March 23, 2010 — the date the healthcare law was signed — to be exempt from certain consumer protections enacted in the law. Republicans argue that they need to enact the change in order to realize Obama’s promise of “if you like your coverage, you can keep it.”
- GOP Senators began to speak out against regulations on the Senate floor, claiming that “there will be 100 pages of regulation for each page of that bill.” “There are 2,700 pages in that bill. That means there are going to be 270,000 pages of regulation,” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WI) said. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) came up with a different estimate, projecting that there would be 121 pages of regulation for every 2 pages in the bill.
OCTOBER 2010: “There will be no insurance industry left in three years.”
- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) predicts that reform would end the health insurance industry. “There will be no insurance industry left in three years,” Coburn tells the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County. “That is by design. You’re going to make insurance unaffordable for everyone — which is what they want. Because if there’s no private insurance left, what’s left? Government-centered, government-run, single-payer health care.”
- Many Republican governors are slow to accept federal grants to help implement the health care law. They turn down funds to establish high-risk insurance pools or other programs, arguing that they’d prefer to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on its constitutionality. “Let’s finish this lawsuit and see if the individual mandate gets overturned,” Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) says. “That will directly bare on the health insurance exchanges and we got three years more, four years more until we’ve got to buy into a system that right now, I don’t buy.” However, almost all of the states that sued the federal government over the constitutionality of the law accept some of the early benefits of reform.
NOVEMBER 2010: Republicans re-take House in midterm elections.
- GOP pledge to use committee hearings and “oversight” investigations to build public support for repealing the law. Appearing on Meet the Press Gov. Haley Barbour — then chairman of the Republican Governors Association — predicts that if Republicans aren’t successful in repealing the health care law outright, “they will make such big changes in it over the next three years that you won’t recognize it.”
- Voters in the 2010 midterm elections are bombarded with anti-reform advertising:
<href=”http: www.politico.com=”” static=”” ppm110_101103_health_care_post_elect.html”=”” style=”box-sizing: border-box;”>70% of voters who saw an Obamacare ad say the ad was in opposition to the Obama plan, 8% in support, with another 20% of voters saying they recall advertising on both sides of the issue.”
- “Opponents of the legislation, including independent groups, have spent $108 million since March to advertise against it” — “six times more than supporters have spent, including $5.1 million by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the new law.” That $108 million went to finance the claims that individuals who don’t purchase coverage will go to jail, or sex offenders will have access to government subsidized Viagara and seniors will lose all their Medicare benefits.
- After reclaiming the House, Republicans pledge not to fund the health care law. “We don’t have to defund it, we just don’t have to pass the funding for it,” then Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) says. “The majority in the House can control the appropriation bills and we can just not include in those appropriation bills the funding for the implementation of ObamaCare. The president may fight us on it and it could be a very intense show down. But Republicans are in a position now to make sure no funding goes forward for Obamacare.” Watch it:
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promises that Republicans don’t plan to shutdown the government over reform. “We’re not talking about shutting down the government. What we’re doing here is talking about responding to the American people’s desire that this bill not become law.” Watch it:
JANUARY 2011: The first vote to repeal Obamacare.
- Republicans in the House vote to repeal the health care law, while dismissing a Congressional Budget Office report showing that it would increase the deficit by $230 billion. “I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit,” Boehner said of the score. “CBO is entitled to their opinion, but they’re locked within constrains of the 1974 Budget Act.” Watch it:
Republicans prohibited Democrats from offering any significant amendments to H.R. 2, the GOP’s Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act and allowed just seven hours of debate on the floor. The measure passed 245 to 189. ‘
FEBRUARY 2011: Governors seize on court ruling to abandon implementation.
- After a federal judge rules that it was unconstitutional for Congress to enact a health care law that required Americans to obtain commercial insurance, a handful of conservative leaders announce that they will stop implementing the measure in their states.
MARCH 2011: Republicans discover Obamacare bombshells.
- Michele Bachmann discovers a “bombshell” of $105 billion in mandatory spending included in the health care law. “This is something that wasn’t known,” Bachmann said on Meet The Press. “This money was broken up, hidden in various parts of the bill.” Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf later told Congress the funding was, in fact, widely publicized.
- Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) pens an op-ed suggesting that his daughter Carey may have died from a heart condition were she treated under the Affordable Care Act.
- The Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee issue a press release in which they claim to have discovered “a $5 billion bailout fund for state governments, Fortune 500 companies, and Hollywood unions.” The program was so secretive that it was extensively covered by the press and regularly touted by Democrats as an example of how the Affordable Care Act would help businesses struggling with growing health care spending and prevent companies from dropping early retiree coverage (seniors 55-64 years old who are not yet eligible for Medicare) before the exchanges begin in 2014.
APRIL 2011: Vulnerable Americans “wouldn’t survive” with “socialized medicine.”
- Republicans seize on President Barack Obama’s proposal to expand the cost-cutting authority of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) — a commission created by the Affordable Care Act to help reduce health care costs in Medicare. “His plan for changing Medicare is to increase the authority and the ability for price controls from the Individual Payment Advisory Board, which is nothing but say we are going to ration care,” Tom Coburn says. “He wants to delegate more power to this IPAB, it’s like 12 people who can’t be controlled by Congress who can just unilaterally ration and price control health care through Medicare,” Paul Ryan adds.
- Sarah Palin may have been the first Republican to argue that her son Trig would be harmed by the Affordable Care Act, but Rick Santorum (R-PA) is not far behind, telling reporters in Iowa that his daughter Bella — who was born with a genetic abnormality — wouldn’t survive in a country with “socialized medicine.”
MAY 2011: Republicans link Obamacare to Romneycare.
- With the 2012 election heating up, Republican presidential hopefuls begin attacking Obamacare for its similarity to the reform Gov. Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts. Consider this graphic in Rick Santorum’s fund-raising email:
- “The reality is that Obamacare and Romneycare are almost exactly the same,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani would say during an appearance in New Hampshire later that summer. “It’s not very helpful trying to distinguish them. I would think the best way to handle it is to say, it was a terrible mistake and if I could do it over again, I wouldn’t do it.”
- After the administration granted waivers to businesses and policyholders from the Affordable Care Act, excluding those entities from having to offer a minimum amount of coverage annually, Republicans attack Democrats for helping their campaign contributors. “Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama’s administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Northern California district,” the Daily Caller wrote. Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty jump on the story, thought it was later reported that Pelosi had nothing to do with securing the waivers and a government report would later clear the administration of any wrongdoing. Republicans continue to portray the nearly 1,400 waivers distributed by HHS as evidence that the law isn’t working or that the administration is using the process to grant exemptions to and reward its political allies.
JUNE 2011: Obamacare “ends Medicare as we know it.”
- WIth his Medicare “premium support” reforms under attack, Paul Ryan appears on Fox News to argue that it’s actually the Affordable Care Act that “ends Medicare as we know it.” “Millions of dollars of negative ads are being run to try and scare seniors and trying to confuse seniors. You know, the irony of this Bill, is with all this Mediscare that the Democrats are running, it’s Obamacare itself that ends Medicare as we know it.” Watch it:
- Michele Bachmann attacks Tim Pawlenty for endorsing the goal of universal coverage in 2006. “I think it will concern the voters,” she tells conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham. Bachmann adds that it’s important to have candidates who have been consistent on issues like healthcare reform, saying she has been consistent in opposing President Obama’s healthcare law. “We need to have people who have enough foresight and common sense to know these programs aren’t going to work. I’m that kind of person,” she says.
- During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Pawlenty comes out swinging against Romney’s law. “President Obama designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare,” he says. “We now have the same features, essentially the same features. The President’s own words is that he patterned Obamacare in large measure after what happened in Massachusetts.” Watch it:
- During a primary debate, Pawlenty fails to confront Romney over the similarities of the two plans, effectively ending his campaign:
- The Commonwealth Fund publishes a report examining why enrollment trends in the Affordable Care Act’s high risk insurance pools — temporary coverage programs for uninsured people who can’t find coverage in the individual market — have generally fallen below expectations. Besides the structural challenges, Jean P. Hall and Janice Moore also suggest that the GOP’s efforts to repeal the law may already be undermining the high risk insurance program.
AUGUST 2011: Obamacare’s birth control coverage will result in “dying civilization.”
- Conservatives lash out at the Obama administration’s decision to accept the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and require new health insurance plans to cover birth control with no co-pays. During a floor speech, Steve King adds his voice to the conservative chorus denouncing the very idea of birth control. In apocalyptic tones, King warned that free birth control would “prevent a generation” from being born and make America a “dying civilization.” Watch it:
SEPTEMBER 2011: Lindsey Graham tries to block implementation of reform.
- Republicans introduce legislation prohibiting the enforcement of any requirement or regulation related to existing health policies, effectively gutting consumer protections for millions of Americans with private coverage. The GOP also offered bill to repeal medical loss ratio (MLR) regulations that require plans that don’t spend 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on health care costs to issue rebates to their enrollees. Forty-eight national and state consumer advocacy organizations would later release a letter condemning the measures.
- Senate Democrats rebuff “a GOP attempt to attach language to the annual financial services spending bill that would block implementation of a portion of the 2010 health care law.” The Senate Committee on Appropriations “rejected, 14-16, an amendment by Lindsey Graham, R-SC, that would prohibit funds in the bill allocated for the IRS from being used to implement part of the health care law, including the mandate that individuals have health insurance starting in 2014.”
OCTOBER 2011: Obamacare will force the nation to “go to a single-payer system.”
- A group of Republican senators and representatives convene a Senate Swamp to present 1.6 million petition signatures “from American citizens who are urging Congress to immediately repeal Obamacare.” The lawmakers argu that health care reform has undermined job creation and pledged to repeal the law before the Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality in the summer of 2012. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) went a step further, suggesting that the justices should find the law unconstitutional in order to protect their own medical privacy. “Any president they don’t like will have access to any Justice’s health care records and as I understand — I haven’t read the agreement between the administration and GE — GE will have access to their health care records,” he said.
- “If president Obama is reelected within a year or two he’ll throw his hands in the air and say, ‘it’s not working we have to go to a single payer system,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) predicts during a speech at the Heritage Foundation.
- The House Oversight and Government Reform committee publishes a new report arguing that the health care law implements a “marriage penalty tax” that will over time “directly cause fewer individuals to marry.”
FEBRUARY 2012: The contraception wars begin.
- Republicans attack the Obama administration’s regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide reproductive health care services — including contraception — by arguing that the rule is undermining the religious liberties of Catholics and imposing “a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.” The administration eventually announces an accommodation for religious liberties that allows religious nonprofits to avoid providing contraception. The GOP still attacks the new rule as inadequate, suggesting that it is even worse than the original guidelines.
- Democrats tear into House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) for preventing women from testifying before a hearing examining the Obama administration’s regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage to their employees. Ranking committee member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) had asked Issa to include a female witness at the hearing, but the Chairman refused, arguing that “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. [Sandra] Fluke is not an appropriate witness.” Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of his decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Issa also dismisses Fluke as a “college student’ who does not “have the appropriate credentials” to testify before his committee.
A picture of the witness table:
- Obama will later poke fun at the hearing during White House Correspondents’ Dinner, joking, “Jimmy [Kimmel] got his start years ago on the Man Show. In Washington, that’s what we call a Congressional hearing on contraception.” Watch it:
MARCH 2012: McConnell says he no longer wants to vote on repeal.
- By a vote of 51-48, the Senate agrees to table a Republican amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that would have empowered employers to deny coverage of health services to their employees on the basis of personal moral objections.
- Mitch McConnell tells his conference that he does not want to vote again on repealing the law until after the November elections. In response, the conservative Restore America’s Voice Foundation said it would “unleash” its 2.3 million activists to call for McConnell’s resignation if he didn’t retract his comments. McConnell quickly changes his mind.
- A second House committee — The Ways and Means Committee — agrees to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a 15-member panel tasked with cutting Medicare payments. The Energy and Commerce Committee passed the same repeal bill earlier. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds that repealing the board would increase the national deficit by $3.1 billion and grow health care expenditures.
- The House of Representatives votes to repeal the IPAB by a vote of 223-181. Seven Democrats voted to repeal the board, while 10 Republicans opposed the effort.
- Mitt Romney celebrates the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act by misrepresenting it, claiming that the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the costs of the law have doubled, cited a discredited study claiming that 30 percent of employers will stop offering insurance as a result of the law, and insisted that the Catholic Church would be required to offer birth control to its employees. All three claims are false.
- The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Outside of the Court steps, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) says that Americans will “die early” if the law remains in place and the Court finds it constitutional. Watch it:
APRIL 2012: Republicans go after prevention.
- House Republicans pass legislation that would require families who qualify for subsidies in the health care exchanges to pay higher taxes if their incomes change mid-year. The change could dissuade people from purchasing insurance, disproportionately impact women (who are more likely to experience income fluctuations), and could increase costs for the entire population.
- House Republicans pass a bill preserving lower interest rates on student loans by gutting the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. The GOP measure — which passed in a vote of 215-195, with the support of 13 Democrats — finances the $5.9 billion cost of maintaining the 3.4 percent interest rate on Stafford loans for one year by repealing the Fund in its entirety and rescinding all unobligated balances, including money being spent in 2012.
MAY 2012: Catholic groups sue over contraception requirement.
- The University of Notre Dame, Catholic University of America, the Archdiocese of Michigan, and the Archdiocese of New York have file a lawsuit against an Obama administration regulation requiring employers and insurers to offer preventing health services — including contraception — without additional cost sharing. The suit, one of 12 filed, argues that the requirement violates the Catholic institutions’ religious freedom — even though regulators have included an accommodation for religious organizations.
- Republicans criticize the Department of Health and Human Services for signing a $20 million contract with a public relations firm to educate Americans about the preventive health benefits included in the Affordable Care Act. The campaign — mandated by the law — “must describe the importance of prevention while also explaining preventive benefits provided by the healthcare law,” essentially informing the public about the availability of preventive services without additional co-pays.
JUNE 2012: Supreme Court upholds Obamacare, Republicans turn back to repeal.
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had promised in January that he would not implement a state exchange program until after the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act, but now says he won’t act on the law no matter what the ruling is. Walker says he won’t do anything until after the election in November in the hopes that Romney wins. At least eight governors continue to hold out hope — and postpone implementation — even after the Supreme Court upholds the law.
- The Supreme Court upholds the individual mandate as a tax. The Medicaid expansion is limited, but not invalidated, the court found. In short, it decided that if a state does not expand the Medicaid program, as required by the law, the federal government cannot withhold Medicaid funds. With some news networks erroneously reporting that the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act’s individual health care mandate just moments after the justices released their opinion, outgoing Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) screamed with joy at the false news that the Court invalidated the requirement. Watch it:
- Republicans immediately announce that they will take another vote on repealing the law the week of July 9th.
JULY 2012: More than a dozen governors refuse Medicaid funds following Supreme Court ruling.
- Fox News’s Chris Wallace asks Mitch McConnell how he would provide coverage to the uninsured should they repeal the health care law. After McConnell meandered through the typical GOP talking points that they plan to allow the sale of health insurance across state lines and that they will institute medical malpractice reform, he finally settled on an answer: Insuring Americans “is not the issue.”
- Tom Coburn claims that the Affordable Care Act will “Sovietize the American health care system” because “it means the bureaucrats and politicians are in charge of your health care.” Watch it:
- Following the Supreme Court ruling, Republican governors begin considering refusing billions in Medicaid funds. A ThinkProgress survey finds that ten GOP governors have said definitively that they will not accept the funds, while 19 are still considering other options. Sixteen states, all with Democratic governors, have committed to expanding their programs
- Gov. Rick Perry (R) announces that Texas won’t create a state insurance exchange nor accept expanded Medicaid funds outlined in the Affordable Care Act. In a statement, Perry said, “Neither a ‘state’ exchange nor the expansion of Medicaid under this program would result in better ‘patient protection’ or in more ‘affordable care.’”
- Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) defends the GOP’s 31st vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, arguing that it is more than “political theater,” and that she wishes they could vote to get rid of Obamacare “every single day.” Watch it:
- Republicans continue to insist that they will unveil their health care reform plan as soon as they repeal Obama’s law. Watch it:
- Republican governors submit a list of questions to President Obama, claiming that they need answers before they’ll consider implementing the law.
- Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) releases a labor, health, and education spending bill to allow employers to deny contraception coverage for “moral reasons.” The measure also stops Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving federal funding until the health organization certifies that it no longer offers abortions, even though Planned Parenthood does not use federal funds on abortion services.
- More than 100 GOP lawmakers ask John Boehner and Eric Cantor to stop “any legislation” from coming to the floor that would fund the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — potentially leading to a government shutdown. Boehner rejects the proposal.
- A Nebraska federal judge dismisses a lawsuit in which Republican attorneys general in seven states tried to block the Affordable Care Act provision requiring contraceptive coverage in employer-provided insurance plans. The seven state officials, along with three Nebraska-based Catholic institutions, filed their lawsuit on grounds that the ACA’s contraceptive provision violates the Constitution’s guarantee of religious liberty by forcing Catholics to pay for contraception against their beliefs.
AUGUST 2012: Romney/Ryan hit Obama for cutting Medicare funding.
- Romney selects Paul Ryan as his running mate and begins attacking the Medicare reductions included in the Affordable Care Act. The law reduces future Medicare spending by $716 between 2013 and 2022 and Ryan maintains the savings in his own Medicare proposal. The Romney campaign, however, tries to gloss over the similarity and attack the president for approving reductions that the Republican runningmate also supports. In the days that follow the Romney/Ryan campaign twists itself into a pretzel attacking President Obama for “stealing” $716 billion from Medicare, while trying to explain why Paul Ryan included the savings in his FY 2013 budget:
- Romney even offers a white board presentation during a news briefing in South Carolina that tries to untangle the campaign’s contradictory message about Medicare.
- Between September 1 and October 1, an array of conservative outside groups will spend about $8 million in attack ads, repeating the false claim about Medicare cuts against House and Senate candidates across the country.
SEPTEMBER 2012: Hobby Lobby files suit to deny contraception coverage to its employees.
- Crafts store Hobby Lobby sues the federal government claiming it should not be forced to provide workers with health insurance that covers the morning-after and week-after pills. The Christian-owned store operates 500 arts and crafts stores in 41 states.
NOVEMBER 2012: “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
- On election day, five states tack on symbolic measures onto their ballots purely to oppose the Affordable Care Act. Wyoming’s Amendment A, Florida’s Amendment 1, Alabama’s Amendment 6, and Montana’s Measure LR-122 would all prohibit state residents and employers from being forced to purchase insurance or participate in any externally-imposed health care system. In Missouri, Proposition E seeks to prevent the state from instituting its own health insurance exchange.
- Following President Obama’s re-election, Eric Cantor predicts that House Republicans will continue to resist any revenue increases in favor of deep cuts to the social programs during negotiations to resolve the so-called fiscal cliff. Cantor makes it it clear that that this includes slashing funding for health care programs like Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid.
- John Boehner confirms that the House GOP will no longer attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Asked about the future of the health care reform law, Boehner says “the election changes that” and “Obamacare is the law of the land.” Boehner does suggest that some parts of the law could “be on the table as lawmakers work toward a balanced budget. However, just moments after making comments, Boehner backpedals, saying that he remains committed to repealing Obamacare. He plater pledges “[v]igorous oversight of the health care law by the House.”
FEBRUARY 2013: Jindal suggests delaying Obamacare to avoid sequestration.
- Though a growing number of Republican governors are implementing parts of the law — including Medicaid expansion — Republicans in Congress are still holding firm. During a Budget Committee Hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) announced that the Affordable Care Act — which had been projected to reduce the deficit by billions over 10 years — would actually increase long-term debt by $6.2 trillion. Sessions was citing a government report that estimated what would would happen if the cost containment provisions in the law — the Independent Payment Advisory Board, excise tax on high-cost plans, and reductions in Medicare payments to providers — are “phased out over time” while the coverage provisions remain.
- Appearing on Meet The Press, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) advises Obama to put off implementing the Affordable Care Act’s health care exchanges that are due to go online in 2014 and the expansion of the Medicaid program to offset the looming sequester cuts.
MARCH 2013: Headed towards a government shutdown.
- Marco Rubio joins fellow Tea Party favorites Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) in demanding that a continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year include provisions to defund Obamacare in its entirety. ” I don’t think anyone is in favor of shutting down the government, but I think that’s where we’re headed ultimately here,” Rubio told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.
- A group of top House Republicans write a letter to President Obama asking him to preserve a temporary program included in the law that provides health care coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The so-called Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) was designed as a bridge to the exchanges for families and individuals who don’t have an offer of coverage from an employer and cannot find insurance in the individual market. The $5 billion program, which covers only sick people is incredibly costly, and will soon stop processing new applicants. “Your administration’s action will leave thousands of Americans with pre-existing conditions without access to health care,” the group of House Republicans write. The letter reiterates the GOP’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act as a whole but notes, “to allow PCIP to continue to accept new enrollees, we urge you to support efforts to transfer the funds necessary from other PPACA programs, such as the Prevention and Public Health Fund, the Secretary’s transfer authority to assist with state based exchanges, comparative effectiveness, planning, or another similar program to PCIP.” The GOP would later schedule a vote to shift money from the portion of Obamacare that invests in prevention and use it to expand the temporary initiative, only to pull it at the last minute.
APRIL 2013: House freshman ask for an opportunity to vote on repeal.
- Freshman House Republicans push for another vote on repealing the health care law, even though they acknowledge the effort is “just symbolic,” so they can tell their constituents they tried to get rid of the law. “The guys who have been up here the last two years, we can go home and say, ‘Listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace ObamaCare.’ Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say?” one member said Wednesday at a forum sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. They will get the opportunity later in the year.
MAY 2013: Republicans seize on IRS targeting scandal to undermine reform.
- Four days after news broke that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had improperly targeted conservative political groups for scrutiny, GOP Sen. Dean Heller (NV) threatens legislation to “deny the IRS funds to hire new agents to implement Obamacare.” The bill would effectively make it impossible for the agency to provide millions of Americans with federal subsidies to buy the very health coverage they are required to have under the law. Should Heller’s bill become law, the government wouldn’t be able to collect the penalties or pay out subsidies. It would also struggle to capture revenues from fees on medical devises, health care insurers and high-cost plans.
- Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) criticizes Sebelius for asking businesses and other community organizations to support an enrollment campaign spearheaded by Enroll America, a nonprofit organization working to convince people to sigh up for health care coverage. Alexander said Sebelius’ actions should “cease immediately and should be fully investigated by Congress.”
JUNE 2013: Critics outspend supports of the law 5:1.
- Marco Rubio proposes a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would nullify Obamacare’s individual mandate. The “Right to Refuse” amendment would make any laws that tax Americans who fail to purchase goods or services unconstitutional, targeting the Affordable Care Act’s stipulation that nearly all Americans must purchase health insurance.
- A new analysis of advertisements about Obamacare aired since 2010 finds that the health law’s critics have spent a whopping $400 million on television spots criticizing the law. That’s over five times the $75 million that the law’s supporters have spent on ads promoting Obamacare and outreach efforts meant to educate Americans about reform.
- Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) sends a letter to NBA and NFL league commissioners, probing them about recent talks between the organizations and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on a potential deal to promote enrollment into Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces. “I contend that the effects of this [Obamacare] train wreck will have a devastating impact on your fans and business partners across the country… I would caution you against being coerced into doing [the Obama administration’s] dirty work for them,” writes Scalise.
- Mitch McConnell also urges 6 professional sports leagues not to support the law. In letters to the leagues, McConnell and Cornyn cited an announcement by federal Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that she is in talks with the NFL, the NBA and others about campaigns to educate the public about healthcare reform.”
JULY 2013: Republicans threaten to block government funding bill.
- 15 Republicans sign-on to a letter pledging to block a bill to fund government operations unless Obamacare is defunded.
AUGUST 2013: States refuse to enforce Obamacare provisions.
- Officials in Texas and five other GOP-led states are refusing to oversee even Obamacare’s most basic — and popular — consumer protections and insurance market reforms. That includes the law’s ban on denying coverage or charging more because of a pre-existing condition and discriminating against women on the basis of gender. The decision could present major hurdles to Americans who buy health insurance through federally-run marketplaces in the Lone Star State, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Below is a chart of efforts to sabotage Obamacare on the state level by undermining education campaigns, hampering enrollment efforts, and even outright blocking some of Obamacare’s provisions:
SEPTEMBER 2013: “I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am no longer able to stand.”
- Republican kick off an investigation into community-based groups who received Navigator grants to help uninsured people enroll in the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, demanding that the organizations answer detailed questions and produce thousands of reams of documents. Fifteen Republican members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, including Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), are requesting detailed responses and thousands of pages of documents from approximately 60 percent of Navigator-recipients across the country by Sep. 13. Numerous states have also passed laws regulating navigators.
- Eric Cantor announces that the party won’t support raising the nation’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit unless President Obama agrees to a one-year delay of the health care law.
- Ted Cruz announces that he will launch a “speaking filibuster” in favor of defunding the Affordable Care Act until he is physically unable to stand. Cruz’s speech is not technically a filibuster, as either way the Senate will vote on the continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down. Even though the vote will happen regardless of the length of his speech, Cruz vowed when he took the Senate floor, “I intend to speak in opposition to Obamacare, I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am no longer able to stand.” Watch it:
OCTOBER 2013: Republicans seize on the Obamacare rollout debacle.
- Unable to reach agreement over Obamacare funding, Republicans shutdown the government while HealthCare.gov opens for business. Users immediately begin reporting long delays, problems creating online account, the website freezing and numerous other glitches.
- Meanwhile, Republicans unsuccessfully try to add the so-called Vitter amendment, a proposal that removes the employer contributions for the insurance plans offered to Congress members and their staff. Without that employer contribution — which currently covers about 75 percent of Congressional staffers’ health costs — the lower-paid staffers on Capitol Hill will ultimately need to seek out government subsidies to purchase plans on the Obamacare exchanges. The measure will essentially amount to a big pay cut, since it will end up significantly hiking their premium costs. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) will later file a lawsuit to prevent Congressional staffers and lawmakers from receiving subsidies.
- With the government re-opens, Republicans turn their political attention to Obamacare and begin holding a series of hearings examining the law’s rocky implementation. Marco Rubio introduces legislation to delay the individual mandate by six months, arguing that Americans should not be penalized for failing to buy coverage they cannot easily access through HealthCare.gov.
- House Republicans portray the website as an insecure portal that will endanger the privacy of American’s medical information during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing focusing on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The accusations led one Democratic lawmaker to label the hearing “a monkey court.” Watch it:
- Policyholders across the country begin receiving cancellation letters from insurers, undermining President Obama’s promise that you can keep the coverage you have and save thousands of dollars doing so. Next, the NBC News investigations unit reports that “50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a ‘cancellation’ letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law” — a fact administration officials knew but kept from the public. Republicans immediately seize on the story and accuse Obama of lying to the American people in order to pass health care reform.
- Lawmakers and the media begin profiling countless middle class Americans who claim that the new health care law will force them to pay more for coverage. The stories are not always accurate, though conservative advocacy organizations will repeatedly try to inflate and in some cases invent victims of the law.
- Obama apologizes to the millions of Americans in the individual health care market who are seeing their policies cancelled, during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, promising to “do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”
- Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle soon introduce different proposals to allow Americans to keep their existing health care plans. Republicans prevent the House of Representatives from considering a measure that would have extended additional consumer protections to beneficiaries who remain in their existing individual health care plans.
- As lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are endorse legislation to allow Americans purchasing health care coverage in the individual market to stay in their existing insurance plans, they ignore a far more pressing coverage problem in the 26 states that have yet to expand their Medicaid programs. There, five million working poor Americans could be denied access to affordable insurance altogether. The failure of some states to expand Medicaid coverage to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, as envisioned by reform, is actually far more disastrous and undermines the promise of health care for the millions who earn “too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for Marketplace premium tax credits.”
DECEMBER 2013: Republicans agree to 2-year funding deal to focus on Obamacare repeal.
- Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) extolled their bipartisan budget deal, which will spare the nation from more government shutdowns over the next two years. But Ryan also suggested that it will help the House GOP’s never-ending attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “We also don’t want to have shutdown drama so we can focus on replacing Obamacare, so we can focus on showing better ideas and what this is coming in. Cause we don’t think people like this law and we don’t think it’s gonna get any more popular,” he says. Watch it:
2014: The 51st vote to repeal Obamacare.
- House Republicans float a strategy to raise the nation’s debt ceiling for one year in exchange for a repeal of Obamacare’s so-called “risk corridors” — a temporary financial shock absorber that the GOP is misleadingly castigating as an “insurance company bailout.”
- House Republicans are planning to unveil a unified alternative to the Affordable Care Act this spring. Though details of the plan remain sketchy, the measure is “hardly intended as a full replacement of the federal health-care law” and will focus on filling gaps in the health care system. Lawmakers will road test the ideas at town halls, but have no timeline for releasing the alternative.
- House Republicans vote to repeal a part of the health care law for the 51st time.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Barack Obama’s upcoming budget proposal will not include his past offer to accept lowered cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs. Those had been a central component of his long-term debt-reduction strategy.
Officials said Thursday that those potential reductions in spending, included in last year’s Obama budget, had been designed to initiate negotiations with Republicans over how to reduce future deficits and the nation’s debt. But Republicans never accepted Obama’s calls for higher tax revenue to go along with the cuts.
One official said the offer would remain on the table in the event of new budget talks but that it would not be part of the president’s formal spending blueprint for fiscal 2015.
The official was not authorized to comment by name on the budget plan before its March 4 release and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
The decision to drop the cost-of-living proposal was essentially an acknowledgement that Obama has been unable to conclude a “grand budget bargain” with Republican leaders, even by including in his previous budget plan a benefit reduction opposed by many Democrats.
While Democrats will cheer the new decision, Republicans are sure to portray the White House move as abandoning any commitment to fiscal discipline.
The new Obama proposal would eliminate congressionally mandated automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to continue kicking in through 2015 by adding $56 billion to the budget, evenly divided between military and domestic spending. That increase would include money for what the White House calls an “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.”
H/T: Huffington Post
Source: The Huffington Post
On his radio show yesterday, Bryan Fischer called for ending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, as well as the elimination of the minimum wage … all in order to help the poor and those struggling to make ends meet, of course.
So logically this discussion resulted in Fischer eventually calling for a return to an electoral system in which only people who own property can vote.
"You know, back in the day, in the colonial period," Fischer said, "you have to be a landowner, a property owner to be eligible to vote and I don’t think that’s a bad idea. And the is very simple: if somebody owns property in a community, they’re invested in the community. If they’re renters, they’re going to be up and gone; they could leave the next day … [P]eople that are not property owners - it’s like people that pay no taxes, they have no skin in the game. They don’t care about the same things that somebody does who is rooted in the community."
From the 01.14.2014 edition of AFR’s Focal Point:
More delusional advice from Bryan Fischer.
h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW
Two million people visited HealthCare.gov on Monday, the ostensible deadline to sign up through Obamacare for health coverage that starts in January, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The administration announced Monday, though, that anyone who enrolled in coverage by the end of the day Tuesday would still be covered on Jan. 1. After Tuesday, the earliest that one’s coverage would start would be Feb. 1.
The high volume forced CMS to deploy the website’s queueing system, which asked a total of 129,000 people to come back later to complete their application.
CMS said that traffic remained high Tuesday, though not as high as Monday, and the queueing system had not been activated.