House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today their picks for the fiscal super committee created by the debt ceiling deal, naming Sens. Jon Kyl (AZ), Pat Toomey (PA), Rob Portman (OH), and Reps. Jeb Hensarling (TX), Dave Camp (MI), and Fred Upton (MI) to the body. The committee is tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by November, and one of the key issues will be whether revenue increases are included. Basic economics and the American people call for increasing revenues, with a new CNN poll showing 63 percent of Americans want the committee to raise taxes on the wealthy, but several of the GOP picks are hard-right conservatives who likely oppose such a “balanced approach.” Other critical issue will be entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, and whether the committee makes cuts to military spending.
Here’s what you need to know about each of the GOP super committee members: Read more
After relentlessly campaigning to abolish health care reform, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has taken every opportunity to slash health care coverage for the poor, elderly, and disabled. Since taking office in January, Scott has enacted a landmark Medicaid privatization scheme, rejected millions in federal health aid for seniors, children, and the disabled, and even turned down $52 million in federal funding to fight child abuse.
Scott is a former private health industry executive who made his fortune downsizing hospitals for profit. He clearly has no problem making low-income Floridians pay more for basic health services. Yet when it comes to his own health insurance, Scott is only too happy to take advantage of a plan that lets him pay less than $400 a year — courtesy of taxpayers:
Gov. Rick Scott, a critic of the federal health care overhaul, is paying less than $400 a year for health insurance for himself and his wife.
While Scott is accepting no salary for his job as governor, the multimillionaire and former hospital chain executive chose to enroll in the taxpayer-subsidized health insurance plan offered by the state of Florida.
Scott is among nearly 32,000 people in state government who pay relatively low health insurance premiums. It’s a perk that is available to high-ranking state officials, including those in top management at all state agencies.
Nearly all 160 state legislators are also enrolled in the program that costs just $8.34 a month for individual coverage and $30 a month for family coverage.
In contrast, rank-and-file state workers pay $50 a month for individual coverage and $180 a month for family coverage. In 2010, the average American family with employer coverage paid $13,770 for health insurance. Florida also has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation.
A Scott spokesman refused to comment on the governor’s exclusive, taxpayer-funded health care plan, calling it a “private matter.”
State Sen. Nan Rich (D) says it’s unfortunate that the governor is taking advantage of this plan while fighting to keep other Floridians from getting access to health insurance coverage. “I wish every Floridian had the same opportunity,” she said.
Study: High Deductible Health Care Plans Don’t Save Money |
Yet another study has tested the GOP’s argument that we can reduce health care spending by giving people more “skin in the game” and giving everyone the option of a high deductible health care plan. Turns out that doesn’t actually save any money. “Overall, introduction of HDHP had no impact on health-care costs, positive impact on the number of outpatient visits and mixed impacts on the inpatient and emergency room visit counts.” [HT: Austin Frakt]
Demonstrating yet again her ability to fabricate information on a whim, presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly Monday that President Obama personally told her that “Obamacare” will end Medicare and force seniors “onto Obamacare”:
BACHMANN: A couple of months ago I was in the White House with President Obama. We asked him three times, ‘what’s your plan to make Medicare solvent.’ He mumbled around and didn’t give answer…he said, ‘Obamacare.’ And so what senior citizens don’t realize is that President Obama’s plan for Medicare is they will all go into Obamacare. There won’t be a Medicare going forward under President Obama.
Senior citizens probably don’t realize they’re about to be forced off Medicare and onto the Affordable Care because it’s patently not true. The health reform law doesn’t eliminate Medicare, not by a long shot, as Bachmann should know since she voted for the House Republican budget, which makes fundamental changes to Medicare decades from now — long after Obama would have supposedly ended it.
The Affordable Care Act did find $500 billion in savings in the future growth of spending over 10 years — which happens to put Medicare on much better financial footing — which conservatives have unfairly conflated with benefit cuts, but saying that this equates to eliminating the program is bold new heights of mendacity, even for Bachmann.
Moreover, Bachmann’s dishonest fear mongering is eminently ironic considering she was up in arms about “liberals…trying to scare Americans about Medicare, and especially senior citizens” during the debate over the House GOP budget.
And finally, Bachmann’s comments lose all credibility, if they had any left, considering that she herself admitted that her claim that the Affordable Care Act would force seniors off Medicare was pure “speculat[ion].” In a speech at the Republican Leadership conference in June, she said:
And do you know what the president’s plan [for Medicare] is? This hasn’t been talked about very much. The president’s plan for senior citizens is Obamacare. We all think for our senior citizens that somehow Medicare is going to go on. And I think very likely — and I’m speculating — I think very likely what the president intends is that Medicare will go broke, and then ultimately that answer will be Obamacare for senior citizens.
That claim, while much weaker, is already extremely disingenuous. At the time, the Washington Post’s fact checker gave the assertion four pinocchios, its highest rating, explaining, “There is no evidence for this and it is completely nonsensical. For a member of Congress, she really should know the basics of government-funded health care programs.”
Bachmann’s comments on O’Reilly Monday go several steps further than the June comment and are beyond nonsensical — they’re intentionally dishonest
Mitt Romney’s De-Evolution On Abortion Rights |
Salon’s Steve Kornacki provides the definitive timeline for how Mitt Romney went from establishing his “pro-choice bona fides by solemnly invoking the pre-Roe v. Wade story of a “dear, close family relative who was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion” to adamantly demanding a return to the legal conditions that contributed to that relative’s tragic death.”
Ever since the credit rating agency S&P downgraded U.S. credit to AA+ on Friday night, Republicans have desperately trying to pin the blame on President Obama, even though, as National Journal put it, “it’s hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans.” S&P called out the GOP for using the debt ceiling as a political football and for its flat refusal to consider new revenue as part of any plan to reduce long-term deficits.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blamed President Obama and the Democrats Tuesday for the recent downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, saying that if Democrats had joined with Republicans in passing the GOP budget, which the House passed in April, “it’s unlikely anyone would be talking about the United States being downgraded today.” [...]
“S&P said in its own report Friday that entitlement reform is the key to long-term financial stability. We passed a budget through the House in April that includes entitlement reform, and cuts more than $6 trillion. The Democrat-controlled Senate and President Obama have prevented most of those reforms from happening. And that’s why we have a downgrade,” Boehner said in an excerpt of his prepared remarks obtained by The Hill. [...]
“The President and the Democratic leadership in Washington are trying to blame the tea party, because they know this downgrade is on [the Democrats]. When we took the bold step of proposing entitlement reforms, they reacted not by embracing them and joining us, but by demonizing those proposals for political gain,” Boehner said.
S&P also noted that “compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.” But for Boehner, the downgrade is not reason for reexamining the GOP’s intransigence on taxes, but occasion for doubling down on its plan to end Medicare and throw seniors into the individual health insurance market.
Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) has appointed a nine-member committee to advise the state on how to develop Maine’s health insurance exchange, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network is reporting. But, “nearly all of the committee members have professional ties to the health care industry,” and LePage specifically excluded consumer advocates from the board:
Earlier this year, the health care advocacy group known as Consumers for Affordable Health Care approached members of Gov. Paul LePage’s staff about being included on a nine-member advisory panel that will make recommendations to the Legislature for the establishment of Maine’s Health Insurance Exchange.
“They were very cordial, and I want to be very clear–they were very up-front and they let us know in advance before the appointments were made public that there was not a slot available for us to fill,” says Mitchell Stein of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. “They listened, but, unfortunately, their answer was no.”
Stein says his agency had hoped there would be at least one consumer member on the committee to represent the health care concerns of average Mainers as the state prepares to meet a 2014 deadline for getting the exchanges up and running….The committee is chaired by former House Republican Leader Joe Bruno, who operates a chain of Maine pharmacies, and consists almost exclusively of health insurance and business lobbyists and executives in the health care industry.
LePage’s tilt towards industry is not surprising. Since taking office, LePage has repeatedly attempted to cut the state’s Medicaid program by reducing eligibility to the level in place in most states, thereby throwing off some 30,000 Mainers off the rolls. Under his new “market based” health law, those beneficiaries would have to go out and purchase coverage from private insurers.
A lot of liberals don’t love Max Baucus. And, in fact, I don’t love Max Baucus. But I think liberals who are concerned about Baucus’ appointment to the “super committee” are barking up the wrong tree. After all, as Brian Beutler notes, Baucus served on the Simpson-Bowles Committee and ultimately voted against its recommendations on the grounds that they weren’t left-wing enough. Super committee Republicans, meanwhile, would regard Simpson-Bowles as outrageously socialistic. That means Baucus should be a reliable progressive vote for deadlock, as should Patty Murray (who’s chairing the DSCC) and John Kerry.
In general, people should remember that while an important cleavage exists between moderate and liberal Democrats about the desirability of cutting Social Security spending, there’s really very little disagreement about the core issue facing the super committee, which is whether Democrats should agree to far-reaching domestic cuts without any offsetting tax hikes. Baucus is firmly within the party mainstream in demanding balance.
Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) is predicting that the American people will pressure the super committee into reducing the growing costs of entitlement programs, which, Frist says, may finally have a real “shot” at tackling the nation’s health care spending. But during the interview with Kaiser Health News, the former Senate leader also put a dent in the Republican criticism of the Affordable Care Act: he likened the final debt ceiling deal — the triggers that would go into effect if Congress fails to adopt the committee’s recommendations and the committee itself — to the ACA’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which congressional Republicans have condemned as rationing. “I think the IPAB may or may not be successful,” he said:
MARY AGNES CAREY: What about this automatic trigger that kicks in if they don’t get an agreement? Does that create additional pressure for this committee to act?
BILL FRIST: It does, it does. And I think there have been several efforts. The administration made one through the IPAB, Independent Payment Advisory Board. Somebody besides the 535 people — 435 in Congress and 100 Senators — somebody has to take a leadership position on making recommendations — take some of the political heat — make the recommendations and have them support it. So, I think the IPAB may or may not be successful. I think 535 people all throwing in their favorite programs and how to cut and how to restrain is not going to be effective. So this intermediate ground this time around has a shot. We saw it work very well with the base realignment closing after the Cold War, closing down the bases. Up or down vote. Can’t amend. Can’t play politics with it. That’s the model we’re following. We don’t know if it’s going to be successful, but I think this time around, it does have a shot.
But the triggers and the super committee may make far deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid than the IPAB, which — despite Frist’s assumptions — the majority of Americans actually oppose. Still, his admission that most Republicans ended up voting in favor of the very same kind of mechanism that they have spent months decrying because it was signed into law by a Democratic president, presents an unflattering comparison to conservatives who are looking to repeal the health care law.
Poll: 63 Percent Want Super Committee To Raise Taxes On Wealthy |
A new CNN poll finds that 63 percent of Americans want the fiscal super committee to raise the taxes on wealthy individuals and business “so the government can use the money for programs to help lower-income Americans.” According to the poll research, “that sentiment has changed little since the 1990s.” Nearly two-thirds of those polled want no major changes to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, and “nearly nine in ten don’t want any increase in taxes on middle class and lower income Americans.” Republican lawmakers, however, are taking the opposite approach by continuing their refusal to raise taxes on the wealthy and by insisting on cuts to entitlement programs instead.
Inside Health Policy’s Amy Lotven, Sahil Kapur, and Ben Moscovitch offer the best analysis for what the appointments of Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT) and John Kerry (D-MA) to the super committee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction measures could mean for Medicare, Medicaid, and the health care law. The trio suggest that the senators’ close relationships with the pharmaceutical and medical devise industries and teaching hospitals could help shield those groups from additional cuts, while Baucus’ chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee could protect Medicare and Medicaid from steep reductions. His authorship of the health reform law — Baucus spent months negotiating with Republicans in hopes of producing a bipartisan measure — may also make him far less willing to significantly alter the measure.
Murray is also positioned to steer clear of significant entitlement changes. In her role as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in charge of electing Democrats, she is unlikely to support cuts to programs a majority of Americans overwhelmingly support. In fact, Murray recently attacked Republicans for turning Medicare “into a voucher program run by for-profit insurance companies in order to pay for more giveaways to oil companies and the very rich.” Those sound like fighting words.
– BAUCUS: Protect PhRMA, goodbye CLASS: He crafted large section of the health care law, but did vote to repeal the measure’s long-term care program or CLASS ACT. “Baucus also played a key role in negotiating the White House-backed deals with the health care industry — including PhRMA, hospitals, nursing homes and imaging — in which the sectors agreed to accept certain cuts up front with the expectation they would be shielded from further reductions.” Sources also tell Inside Health Policy that Baucus is opposed to a proposal that would extend Medicaid rebates into Medicare Part D.
– KERRY: Teaching hospitals, medical devise companies shielded: He has advocated to soften cuts to the home health industry and has opposed the tax on the medical device industry, “which is strong in his state, ultimately helping to get the assessment cut in half.” “Kerry has also been a key advocate for teaching hospitals that rely on Medicare direct and indirect graduate medical education funding. The debt limit negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden included consideration of reducing such payments by $14 billion, and the president’s fiscal commission had eyed a policy that would reduce the payments by $5.8 trillion. On July 15, Kerry and his GOP colleague Sen. Scott Brown (MA) wrote a letter to the White House urging the president to protect teaching hospitals.”
– MURRAY: Drug reimportation considered She has backed drug reimportation. “Murray voted for a health reform amendment introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) that would have mandated HHS certify that reimported drugs are safe before they are reimported, although the provision — considered a compromise measure to give Democrats cover from pharmaceutical industry opposition — also failed.”
The other panel members will be appointed by Boehner, McConnell, and Pelosi. The super committee is scheduled to vote on recommendations by Nov. 23, which will receive an up-or-down vote in the House and the Senate by Dec. 23. If Congress does not enact the proposal, a set of spending cuts are triggered that would affect both discretionary and mandatory spending.
What the super committee appointments mean for health care: “Baucus’ unexpected appointment viewed as good news for Medicare and Medicaid advocates, Kerry bringing with him years of support for teaching hospitals, home health and medical devices, and Murray entering as a strong reproductive rights and drug reimportation supporter.” [Inside Health Policy]
Health premiums vary across the country: “Average costs ranged widely, from about $136 a month in Alabama to more than $400 in Vermont and Massachusetts, according to the report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The national average was $215.” [Kaiser Health News]
$28.8 million for community health centers: “The Obama administration said it will spend $28.8 million on grants to create new community health center sites in 23 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. The grants, announced on Tuesday, are part of $11 billion promised for new and existing health care centers over the next five years.” [Reuters]
The success of Medicare Part D: “While Medicare Part D has served its target population well – much better than Democrats initially projected – it does not necessarily lay the groundwork for private insurance in the rest of Medicare.” [Sarah Kliff]
S&P warns of Medicare cuts: “Standard & Poor’s said home-care providers Gentiva Health Services and Advanced Homecare Holdings, long-term acute-care hospital operator LifeCare Holdings and hospital company Prospect Medical Holdings would be most vulnerable should Congress help to reduce the deficit with Medicare cuts.” [Modern Healthcare]
Pawlenty teams up with anti-abortion groups: “Anti-abortion activists were joined by Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty as they launched a bus tour promoting their conservative agenda. Speaking Tuesday morning outside the Iowa Capitol, Pawlenty touted his record in support of abortion restrictions while governor of Minnesota. He told a small knot of people watching the launch of the tour that anti-abortion forces will eventually win the debate by being persistent.” [AP]
Kansas appeals Planned Parenthood case: “The state of Kansas on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to overturn a judge’s order and allow it to cut off federal family planning funding for Planned Parenthood.” [AP]