Five possible outcomes for health insurance under Trump and the Republicans

1) Republicans repeal ACA and replace it with something that sucks.  The rich get richer.  “Real Americans” lose their health coverage, get sick, go bankrupt, and die happy because they defeated the liberal agenda.

2) Republicans do nothing to the ACA.  People stay home and watch the next hit series on HBO.  Republicans stay in control and their supporters blame big government for all of their problems.

 

3) Republicans give the ACA a minor tweak.  They rename it “The America First Health Care Act” and declare victory.
4) Trump gets us all killed.
5) Republicans come up with something good and everyone is happy, but it’s still no better than anything we could have had years ago if Republicans had worked with Obama instead of obstructing him.

Turning our Backs on a Traitor

On Bearing Drift, Brian Kirwin wrote about how Democrats turn their backs on independent decision makers like Phil Puckett:

corrupt
traitorous
Benedict Puckett
bribed to resign
an a$$hole complicit Democrat
send hate mail to Puckett
If you haven’t been following the news and the name “Puckett” doesn’t yet make you want to puke
fanatic..horrible…corporate shill

[…]

Democrats, THIS is what other Democrats do to you if you dare to think for yourself.

But, only last year, on the same blog, a different author lamented the ill treatment of Bill Bolling by his fellow Republicans:

He’s been called every name in the book, from traitor and backstabber to RINO moderate and everything in between. He’s been accused of not doing enough to support the ticket in November. He’s endured a level of vitriol we usually reserve for Democrats or people who have actually switched parties. He’s been accused (falsely) of even endorsing the Democratic candidate for Governor and cutting commercials for him. People have written his political epitaph and the eulogies have been gleeful.

So turning our backs on people who screw us isn’t just a Democratic principle.

Even more significant: It’s a hell of a stretch to suggest that Phil Puckett is some kind of free thinker because he ducked out of one of the most important battles in his career in return for favors.

Also, unlike what was suggested on Bearing Drift, Medicaid expansion is not about sitting on your couch “sipping Starbucks collecting unemployment and getting free healthcare from the government”. It’s about providing access to health care for people who are earning an income but still can’t afford healthcare on the market.

When my wife was working at the Free Clinic they turned away dozens of patients for various reasons including not having an address inside of the Clinic’s coverage area or having too much income. Many of those people have jobs but don’t have any healthcare options. The emergency room won’t always save someone who collapses on the job because he couldn’t afford his medication.

I don’t know much about Phil Puckett. He might be a great guy most of the time. But for now, I stand behind what I said: Puckett’s treachery makes me sick and people will die because of it.

People will Die thanks to Bribe Taker Phillip P. Puckett & Republicans.

If you haven’t been following the news and the name “Puckett” doesn’t yet make you want to puke, or even if you have been following the news and you’re already puking, check out Waldo Jaquith’s coherent explanation of the whole stinking Pucket mess which isn’t about Phillip P. Puckett as it is about the way we do things in Virginia.

Apparently that moral calculus—he gets a job, 400,000 people don’t get health care—makes sense to him.

This entire sad show—bound to make Virginia a national laughingstock yet again—is the cherry on top of the General Assembly’s completely useless ethics reform bill which, of course, does absolutely nothing to prohibit this.

Republicans Mislead about Medicaid Negotiations

I got this by email from my delegate, Rick Morris:

Governor Terry McAuliffe and General Assembly Democrats are demanding that we expand ObamaCare in Virginia before they will agree to pass a budget.

This is wrong. Virginia’s budget is not a bargaining chip. Regardless of how you feel about ObamaCare, holding hostage funding for our schools, teachers, police officers, firefighters and local governments is wrong.

It’s similar to emails that other Republican delegates have been sending to their constituents throughout Virginia.

It’s hard for me to take it seriously when Republicans complain about brinkmanship over budget impasses. They don’t have the right. The emails also say that Democrats won’t compromise. But it’s Republicans in the House of Delegates, like Rick Morris, who won’t compromise. House Republicans even rejected the Virginia Senate compromise, “Marketplace Virginia”, which had bi-partisan support. When House Republicans complain that Democrats won’t compromise, what they mean is, “Democrats won’t cave”. And Democrats should not cave on Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid expansion will help 400,000 people who are too poor to qualify for the provisions of the Affordable Care Act but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid under current limits. Those are working people, not the right wing’s exaggerated numbers of “welfare queens”. Expanding Medicaid will even help keep some of them keep working after a medical crisis. And Medicaid expansion will create jobs.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association spells out:

  • Implementing the Medicaid expansion in Virginia would provide a $3.9 billion boost to the Virginia economy annually;
  • The related federal funds could support more than 30,000 jobs; and
  • While most of the direct benefits accrue to the health care sector, significant benefits would also be enjoyed by businesses and households.

Medicaid expansion is also supported by the Chamber of Commerce, because it’s good for Virginia’s economy. The people that Medicaid expansion is bad for are the politicians who want to see the Affordable Care Act fail, and health care providers who have benefited from the skyrocketing health care costs which are finally getting under control.

If you’re in Virginia, call your State Delegate today and tell him or her that you support Medicaid expansion, and that you don’t want House Republicans to hold up the budget trying to block it.

Executive Delay

obama

In both number and significance, Obama’s use of executive orders pales against some of his predecessors. A simple search of “executive order” at history.com lists far greater exercises of executive power than President Obama has used. Even eliminating such egregious abuses as the internment of Japanese Americans, the list of executive orders includes such sweeping acts as the establishment of the Peace Corps, creation of military bases on foreign soil, integrating the armed forces, and ending discrimination in housing. Wars were entered and exited by executive order, and more recently, we have George Bush’s warrantless wiretapping and enhanced interrogation techniques.

Today, President Obama has been accused of unprecedented abuse of his executive authority, largely stemming from his order to delay implementation of the employer mandate, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. By delaying the order, Obama is accused of violating Article Two of the United States Constitution, which commands the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”.

But delays of implementation have been used frequently in the past. In the early 90’s several laws passed by Congress were delayed, with Bush (Sr.) administration officials blaming Congress for writing laws that were too complex to enforce, according to an article in the New York Times by Robert Pear dated March 31, 1991. According to that same article, the Reagan administration also used delays to “enforce its philosophy of less government and to save money”.

It might be a constitutional violation if Obama used executive orders to thwart duly passed legislation, but Obama delayed the employer mandate to ensure the Affordable Care Act could be properly enacted despite initial problems. He did so to address complaints from conservative organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – complaints about difficulty in compliance which in turn would mean difficulty in enforcement. Some of those difficulties stem from Obama’s opponents’ efforts to make the Affordable Care Act as difficult to implement as possible.

Any doubt that the delay in implementing the employer mandate was an effort to ensure the law was properly executed should be alleviated by the realization that those who are most bitterly speaking out against the delay are those who want to kill the act. Surely it is those people, not the President, who are working against the faithful execution of federal law.

Blogging Again

After a very long break due to such real-life distractions as a difficult computational mathematics class and duties as the Suffolk Democratic Committee chairman, I’m going try this again.

Anyway, to start off with, I just sent an email to my delegate Rick Morris, in response to an email from him about his recent town hall meeting and a poll he conducted prior to the meeting. In that email, he wrote

71% of those polled agreed that Obamacare should be repealed and 68% agreed that Medicaid Expansion is not for Virginia.

75% of those polled did not want to repeal the Virginia Marriage Amendment which is an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman and bans recognition of any legal status of gay marriage.

I wrote,

If most of those who took your recent poll were on your mailing list, then that fact would skew the results away from an honest sample. Also, I’m sure you know that questions phrased like …

“Do you support or oppose ObamaCare’s Medicaid Expansion in Virginia? While expansion could provide coverage for 400,000 currently uninsured Virginians, it could cost the Commonwealth of Virginia over $1 billion per year, forcing cuts to other key services like education, mental health and public safety.”

… don’t yield honest results. An honest sampling of your constituents would certainly yield different results.

As disappointed as I am with the push-poll, I do applaud you for hosting town hall meetings. I hope you will continue to increase your efforts to honestly represent your constituents.

I don’t blame Mr. Morris for conducting an email poll of those who are on his mailing list. I would only ask him to acknowledge that such a sampling is made up almost entirely of people who support him and not of the general population of his constituency. If he makes that acknowledgement, then the fault is on the part of his constituents who have chosen not to involve themselves in the political process simply because they don’t agree with the views of their representative.

I do blame Delegate Morris for his push poll questions. It is dishonest to tell people what to think and then brag about how they agree with you. This is common practice for the likes of Randy Forbes, and here Delegate Morris seems to be following Congressman Forbes’s lead.

On the other hand, Rick Morris seems to be making some effort to reach out and hear his constituents. For that Delegate Morris deserves some recognition.

Remember that your political leaders are your representatives, but it’s hard to hold them accountable for not representing views of those who don’t voice them.

Delegate Morris represents Virginia’s House District 64. His website includes not only a (somewhat confusing) contact form, but very clearly includes his email addresses and phone numbers.

Ella Ward Emphasises Jobs & Education (They Go Together), Women’s Rights, and Supporting our Military and Veterans

Dr. Ella Ward spoke in a crowded restaurant at her pancake breakfast this Saturday, and emphasized three reasons why “You need to pick Ella Ward for Congress”.

1) Jobs and Education – “They go together”. Dr. Ward believes that supporting education and allowing educators to teach critical thinking skills, rather than cutting education funding and vilifying teachers, is an integral part of the strategy to bring jobs to America.

2) Woman’s Rights. Ella Ward wants to ensure that equal work is rewarded with equal pay, and believes that women should be able make their own decisions about their own bodies.

3) Protecting the Military and Veterans. “When they come home we have to make sure they are equipped with what they need to transition to civilian life.”

A common aspect of the second and third items is the Affordable Care Act, which covers vital services for women and enhances coverage our nations veterans, while not taking away coverage that veterans already have.

The breakfast was held at the Gourmet Breakfast Place on Old George Washington Highway in Chesapeake. Ella graciously thanked her host and her campaign volunteers for what turned out to be a successful and upbeat event.

Ella Ward Addressing Attendees at Restaurant Event

A Convert Writes about Universal Health Care

Sasha had me read this post about a former American conservative’s experience with the Canadian health care sysem ..

… I had better prenatal care than I had ever had in the States … and I never had to worry about how much a test cost …. the percentage rates of abortion are far lower in Canada than they are in the USA … a mother pregnant unexpectedly would still have health care … even if she was unemployed, had to quit her job, or lost her job … lest you think that the Canada system is draining the government resources, their budget is very close to balanced every year. They’ve had these programs for decades.

We are in the process of overhauling our health system which, even with the best doctors in the world, fails to meet the needs of millions. Opponents are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying reverse this process because despite all the money that they’re spending, it’s in their financial interests to go back to the system of skyrocketing health care costs which an ever more exclusive percentage of Americans can afford. For the rest of us, it’s in our interest to keep the process on track.

I’m Still Thinking about Impeachment

I know how happy I’m supposed to be with the Supreme Court approval of the health care mandate but little has changed when it comes to talking about impeachment for Supreme Court Justices who act more like politicians than constitutional interpretors. Justice Scalia has provided more than enough examples of his willingness to alter his opinions to meet the Republican agenda, Justice Thomas weighed in on the health care mandate despite a strong and clear financial conflict of interest, and Justice Roberts produced a convoluted opinion based more on threading a political needle than on providing an honest interpretation.

I’m glad that ACA passed but it should have passed under the commerce clause just as the Obama administration argued. The U.S. government has the right to regulate commerce. Health care is a fifth of our economy, a vital service on which our very lives depend, and has costs which have been rising out of reach for an increasing number of Americans because the wealthiest are willing and able to pay so much for it. It’s clearly under the purview commerce, but after the Affordable Care Act passed in congress, an idea emerged, the explanation of which could easily be followed by the phrase, “yeah, that’s the ticket!”. The idea was that the mandate was unconstitutional because it tells us what to do, instead of telling us what not to do. It was dismissed as ridiculous at first, but not wanting to overlook any opportunity to cause the president to fail, conservatives eventually began to support the ridiculous challenge.

There were no honest grounds for the challenge, and conservatives knew it. As Brad Delong explains, referring to Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s health care plan on which the ACA was modeled, and a similar “mandate” proposed by Republican president George W Bush,

No office-holding Republican complained that RomneyCare was bad policy, or would destroy the economy, or would be unconstitutional, or whatnot–for it was the signature policy initiative of a Republican governor. The mandate that was at its core? That was the conservative Personal Responsibility principle. And remember the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s Social Security privatization proposals: it was an individual mandate to regulate “inactivity”: to require that people who had not established their own private individual retirement accounts do so.

Had the issue of “inactivity” reached the justices in the form of a challenge to a Republican mandate to purchase retirement accounts rather than a Democratic mandate to purchase health insurance, the Republican justices would have voted the other way.

But when the same Republican policy became the signature policy initiative of a Democratic president, every single Republican in office changed their mind.

But despite the lack of any legal basis, conservatives pushed the idea. The CATO institute, always ready with an argument to protect the secure from the needy, said, “It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause.”

But it isn’t a radical departure. Consider two of the important historical cases which considered during the deliberations: Wickard vs Filburn and Gonzolez vs Raich. In the first, Roscoe Filburn was told that he couldn’t grow his own wheat (beyond a certain acreage) to feed his own chickens, because doing so effected commerce in wheat, and in the second, Angel Raich was told she couldn’t grow marijuana for her own medical use, even though her doctor said it might save her life and it was legal under California law.

In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote:

The individual mandate forces individuals into commerce precisely because they elected to refrain from commercial activity. Such a law cannot be sus-tained under a clause authorizing Congress to “regulate Commerce.”

Conservatives contend that in earlier cases, the citizen’s activity was restricted, not mandated. But that argument isn’t completely true. The government didn’t expect Filburn to starve his chickens, they expected him to buy wheat. If he wasn’t expected to buy wheat when told he couldn’t grow his own, then growing his own would have had nothing to do with commerce. And Angel Raich, who can’t grow her own pot, is forced to purchase whatever medicine the marijuana would have replaced.

Technically, Filburn and Raich weren’t mandated into commerce, but realistically they were. So five Supreme Court justices made a falsely grounded interpretation based on a technicality in order to support a political attack on the president and on the millions of people who will be helped by affordable health care. Justice Roberts, of course, came halfway back and found a tricky way to support the ACA while apparently hoping to appease his conservative peers by upholding the silly technicality.

One crazy aspect about this situation is that right wingers are correct in saying that the commerce clause has been stretched beyond its written scope and used to justify actions that have nothing to do with commerce. But the decision of the Supreme Court, that the commerce clause can’t be used for a mandate, does nothing to reign in the abuses of federal power. A mandate to enter into commerce doesn’t effect my freedom nearly as much as a restriction on what I can grow on my own property; especially when the restriction prevents me from growing my own medicine to save my own life, and especially if I can opt out of the mandate for religious purposes.

If the conservatives on the Supreme Court wanted to reign in the overreach of the commerce clause, they would have to have chosen a case other than one which is clearly about commerce.

I’m not supposed to have a fit when the Supreme Court makes a decision that I don’t agree with, and in this case it made a decision that I do agree with. But the five justices who tried to strike down the ACA, including the one who changed his mind half-way, were motivated by politics rather than jurisprudence. And while there’s no chance of unseating any of those judges, the specter of impeachment might keep justices in line in the future.

The Mandate is No Big Deal. Defeating it Would Have Been

I keep reading that requiring us to do something, as opposed to requiring us to not do something, is a new step, and conservatives are sounding alarms all over the internet that freedom died as a result of the Supreme Court upholding the health care mandate, and that we’ve crossed a line into government mandated oblivion. But the health care mandate is not the first mandate. Several months ago the story of George Washington’s gun mandate was making the rounds. Other examples are in a discussion about the draft, posted by Greg Sargent, and in a post in Daily Kos about a railway case, which quotes NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel (1937):

The decree which we affirmed in that case required the railway company to treat with the representative chosen by the employees and also to refrain from entering into collective labor agreements with any one other than their true representative as ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the act.

In other words, the railway company was required to do something, and face penalties for not doing it.

With all of the power that the federal government already has, much gained with the support of right wing ideologues, the idea that this power to enforce a mandate represents a bold new step seems petty and hypocritical. The court didn’t grant any new power, it affirmed power that already exists and refused to carve out a special exception. It should have affirmed this power under the commerce clause, as argued by the administration. As a Kos commenter noted, referencing Gonzales v. Raich:

Growing pot on your patio to smoke yourself is clearly interstate commerce, but a central issue facing any effort to reform a sector that occupies 18% of our economy, well that’s just going too far.

But instead, the Supreme Court affirmed the power as falling under the power to tax. Either way, the power was there.

If freedom died, it died long before the Affordable Care Act. It was dead on or before 1942, when Roscoe Filburn was told that he couldn’t grow his own wheat for his own use because doing so interfered with interstate commerce. So don’t blame Obama.

Abuses of eminent domain and laws against personal use of home-grown medicine are examples of overreaching government that I’m all for rolling back, along with all of the Monsanto and factory-meat friendly laws which make it almost impossible for a small farmer to legally sell his product. But I don’t want to go back to the days before equal rights, national fire codes, child labor laws and environmental protection.

Unlike eminent domain abuses, invasive drug laws, and overregulation of home-made produce and meat, the Affordable Care Act won’t prevent us from doing things that we’re free to do. There are plenty of examples of over-regulation and abuses of federal power. But we didn’t suddenly become unfree last Thursday and we didn’t cross a line into new territory.

There are plenty of ways for Americans to become freer. Allowing health care companies to keep increasing the cost of health care isn’t one of them.