Category Archives: Health

CBO: High costs if Trump follows through on ACA sabotage threats | MSNBC

For health care advocates, congressional Republicans’ difficulties in passing regressive health care legislation have brought some comfort, but the threats haven’t gone away. Not only are many GOP lawmakers committed to returning to the issue, but systemic sabotage from Donald Trump remains a real possibility.

Indeed, as we’ve discussed many times, the president has made repeated threats to cut off cost-sharing reductions (or CSRs) – a component of the Affordable Care Act that helps cover working families’ out-of-pocket costs – which Trump has effectively turned into a political weapon. The mere threat has already pushed consumers’ costs higher.

But what if the president followed through on the threat and decide to use this weapon? NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin noted the latest findings from the Congressional Budget Office.

Health care premiums will spike, insurers will exit the market, and deficits will increase if President Donald Trump follows through on his threats to cut off government payments to insurance companies, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report.

The cost of a “silver” insurance plan under Obamacare would be 20 percent higher in 2018 and 25 percent higher by 2020 compared to current law, according to the report. About five percent of the population would not be able to buy insurance through Obamacare at all next year, the CBO predicted, because companies would withdraw plans in response to the “substantial uncertainty” created by the move.

More from MSNBC

Posted by Libergirl

Republicans are targeting California Democrats over single-payer healthcare

Democrats are widely expected to make Republican incumbents’ efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act a major issue in the 2018. Now Republicans are going after challengers for some Democrats’ support of a single-payer healthcare system.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is launching a digital ad Thursday morning targeting Democratic challengers on the issue.

Image result for Caforio bryan single payer

The ad will run for two weeks and is specifically targeting Democratic candidates Bryan Caforio in the 25th District and Josh Harder in the 10th District, according to NRCC spokesman Jack Pandol.

The ad doesn’t mention either of them by name, though it prominently features Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi throughout.

More from LA Times

Posted by Libergirl…Will Dems get a backbone and stand for single-payer?

Is this Trump’s worst-ever Twitter move? Threatening Congress could become an epic disaster

In a new tweet-burst, Trump threatens to cut off health care for Congress and staffers. Let’s see how that works!

President Donald Trump declared war on Congress this past weekend: both parties and both chambers, and including modestly paid Capitol Hill staffers. Not only that, he threatened to unilaterally rescind subsidies to help low-income Americans pay their health insurance premiums, potentially stripping millions of Americans of their coverage. In a Saturday tweetgasm, the Mad King blurted from his porcelain throne:

Trump tweet

If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!

The “bailout for Insurance Companies” is Trump’s obnoxious shorthand for what Reuters described as “$8 billion in cost-sharing reduction subsidies paid by the federal government to insurers to lower the price of health coverage for low-income individuals.” In other words, if you and your family earn less than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the government helps you pay your premiums. Given that health insurance coverage is now mandated by the government and given that uninsured Americans tend to drive up health care costs, premium subsidies are both fair and fiscally responsible.

The “bailout for Congress” is more complicated, but the fact that Trump threatened to kill it with fire ought to both infuriate and ostracize members from both sides of the aisle (more about this presently). Trump is engaging in clear extortion in order to further pursue his maniacal obsession with repealing the ACA, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that it’s “time to move on.”

Let’s review. Several years ago, former House Speaker John Boehner and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers to the White House in order to convince President Obama to continue providing a salary benefit for members of Congress and their staffers. Obama acquiesced to their request for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to continue its decades-long practice of providing health insurance premium-sharing as a benefit for any members who choose to have employer-based insurance coverage.

Until 2013, members were covered under the same government employee health plan as all other federal workers: the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. Briefly put, it’s the public-sector equivalent to the employer-based health coverage most Americans receive through their private sector full-time jobs. As of 2013, though, a seldom-discussed amendment to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), proposed by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, went into effect, requiring that all members of Congress and staffers who wanted to continue their employer-based health coverage purchase their plans through the District of Columbia’s marketplace, established through the ACA. However, the Grassley amendment didn’t include any provisions for continuing FEHB’s premium-sharing, under which the government pays 72 percent of the health premiums for members and staff. Again, that isn’t out of the norm given that most full-time workers in America receive a similar benefit through their jobs.

This brings us back to Boehner, Reid, Obama and the OPM. Per the request of Congress, Obama ordered OPM to write a new rule allowing members and staff to continue receiving the premium-sharing salary benefit, ported to the D.C. exchange. Without the rule, Hill employees and their bosses would face a massive pay cut. Obama’s rule solved that problem, but no good deed goes unpunished: Republicans almost immediately began framing the benefit as an “exemption from Obamacare,” making it appear as if Congress was exempt from the entire law.

This, of course, was a whopper lie given that Congress was mandated by law to buy insurance through the Obamacare exchange if its members and their employees wanted employer coverage. Members and staffers can buy insurance through whatever means they choose, but premium-sharing is only provided if employer coverage is chosen. According to a 2013 tally by the Washington Post, libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a longtime advocate of Obamacare repeal, purchased his insurance through the D.C. exchange while receiving the premium-sharing benefit.

Trump, whose White House staffers are likely covered through FEHB, complete with premium-sharing benefits paid by taxpayers, is directly and explicitly blackmailing Congress. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted in response: “This is a clear threat to Congress: pass my health bill or as punishment I will end health care for you, your staff, & your constituents.” It’s difficult to fully illustrate how dumb and terrible this is — not like that’s something brand new. The “terrible” part is self explanatory: Trump is using the lives and livelihoods of millions of American citizens, including members of Congress, as a cudgel to get what he wants. And we shouldn’t be particularly shocked when he follows through.

Trump continues to make confoundingly stupid decisions: The executive branch has become a kakistocracy — government run by its most unqualified and corrupt occupants. See also “Idiocracy.” By threatening Congress from a position of utter weakness (38 percent approval rating, via Gallup), the president is not only crippling his own legislative agenda, he’s making enemies out of allies. At some point, and hopefully it’s soon, his entire presidency could come down to a congressional vote. In the near term, he needs all the friends he can muster without anything to offer in return.

Worse yet, former intelligence officer and MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance reported on the syndicated Stephanie Miller Show last week that most of the leaks that so enrage the president are coming from Capitol Hill, not the intelligence community. Either way, Trump’s berserker lack of discipline, his uncensored blurts and “Fox & Friends”-inspired tantrums will only serve to accelerate the flow of damaging anti-Trump leaks, while augmenting the ranks of his enemies at the southeastern end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump thinks that Congress, and indeed, the entire federal government, works for him. In the real world, every new day and every fresh bout of explosive social-media diarrhea further isolates him. He thinks his chaotic flailing makes him more popular, but the exact opposite is true. He still hasn’t learned that he’s not the boss of the nation, no matter how loudly he stomps and screams. If this latest episode ends up being the tipping point, he only has himself to blame.

By Bob Cesca/Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Senate will vote to start their repeal of Obamacare in a few hours — and the process is still in total chaos

On Monday night, Sen. John McCain said he would return to Washington to vote on key issues — most notably, on the Senate’s push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The dramatic return of McCain, just a week after announcing that he is battling brain cancer, seems to indicate that Tuesday’s vote on the Senate healthcare push is extremely close for Republican leaders.

At the same time, though, no one is quite sure of the exact push they’re making.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday that there would be a vote on a motion to proceed for the House healthcare bill, the first step in a likely multi-day process of debate and dealmaking in an attempt to come through on the long-held Republican promise of repeal.

The question is whether McConnell’s plan is to bring up the repeal and replace bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA); the repeal-now-and-replace-later bill, known as the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA); or some other modified version of either.

(If you want a full breakdown of the three major pathways and their potential effects, Business Insider’s Lydia Ramsey has everything you need to know here.)

It’s likely that each of these plans gets brought up at some point, but which one will be pushed by McConnell is anyone’s guess — even for Republican senators.

“If we don’t know those things when you go in, you’re sort of voting in a blind fashion,” Sen Rand Paul, a conservative-leaning member of the conference, said on Monday. “I think we need more information. CBO needs to have scored the whole bill.”

“I don’t have a clue what we’re gonna be voting on,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin. “I just need to know what I’m going to vote on. I’m not real happy with the process.”

Despite the confusion, McConnell is set on pushing forward with a vote on Tuesday — at the very least, to get it out of the way.

It appears that McConnell has backing from President Donald Trump. Trump met with a moderate skeptic of the BCRA, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, in her home state of West Virginia on Monday. On Tuesday, he launched into an early morning tweetstorm urging senators to move forward with the process.

“Big day for HealthCare,” Trump tweeted. “After 7 years of talking, we will soon see whether or not Republicans are willing to step up to the plate!”

When the Senate does “step up to the plate” Tuesday, here’s a rough outline of how the process will go down:

  • McConnell calls for a motion to proceed on the House’s American Health Care Act. Since every Democrat is nearly guaranteed to vote no on this motion, no more than two GOP senators can vote against it. Sen. Susan Collins has said she will vote no, leaving McConnell little room for error.
  • If the motion succeeds, that begins 20 hours of debate — in legislative time — split equally between Democrats and Republicans.
  • The first amendment to be voted on will likely to be the ORRA, to satisfy Paul and other conservatives. This plan is likely to be shot down by moderates.
  • The first amendment to be offered procedurally — but second to be voted on, Axios reported — would be the BCRA, which was last updated on July 20. Again, Republicans can only afford two defections.
  • According to reports, there is an agreement between more moderate holdout Sen. Rob Portman and conservative Sen. Ted Cruz to add an amendment that would keep the bone structure of the BCRA but add in Cruz’s amendment. His amendment would allow insurers to sell non-Obamacare-compliant policies, and the deal would throw in another $100 billion to the state stability fund, a move Portman would support. But that would require 60 votes to pass it has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, almost certainly dooming it since there are only 52 Republicans.
  • From there, a series of amendments could be added to the House bill, including from Democrats. Additionally, other healthcare legislation could be slotted in for a vote.
  • Anonther options, according to NBC News, is for the Senate to pass a bundle of smaller amendments focused on repealing aspects of Obamacare like the individual mandate and medical device tax. After this, the House and the Senate would flesh out a full replacement in a conference committee.

In essence: No one knows what the final bill will be, it’s unlikely that it will be fully analyzed when it’s voted on, and no one known whether it will pass.

Based on reports, the whirlwind session will kick off around 2:30 p.m. ET.

By Bob Bryan/Business

Posted by The NON-Confomist

Skipping Doses: Why We Need a Single-Payer Health Care System

This piece is part of Fighting for Our Lives: The Movement for Medicare for All, a Truthout original series.

This summer marks the 17-year anniversary of my Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. This disease often strikes the healthiest people and so far, no preventative methods are known. Escalating drug prices and high deductible health care plans have made it increasingly difficult for my husband and I to own a home, have children or control debt, despite both having decently paying jobs.

Over the years I’ve discovered — sometimes dangerous — ways to cut corners. Primarily, skipping insulin doses has proven to be the most effective way to save a huge chunk of change. Type 1 diabetics take two varieties of insulin; one short acting and one long acting. My short-acting insulin comes with a $500 price tag until I meet my high deductible. Although I skip meals to account for the bypassed doses, my blood sugar still rises as my liver continues producing sugar.

You may see this as reckless behavior, but what choice do I have? Diabetics all around the world are dying because they can’t afford insulin. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford enough to scrape by, for now, but complications down the road will almost be a certainty.

My Current Health Care Plan

I’m on a high-deductible plan, and pay largely out of pocket for vital medications. This year, I may not even reach my deductible. My mind rationalizes, “I can skimp on insulin and I can sometimes do without my continuous glucose monitor, but the money is just not there to pay an even higher monthly premium to reduce my deductible.” Compromising my care is a dangerous practice, but I’m left with no choice. To cast further light on the expenses of my disease, my glucose monitor sensors come in at $400 a month, the $600 transmitter must be replaced every six months and a recently prescribed oral medication will set me back $223.95 monthly.

Basically, good jobs mean nothing for my husband and I, and I swear our health care plan is designed to be unnecessarily confusing.

What Is a Single-Payer Plan?

Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia are countries that already have successful, tax-funded, health care for all. The United States has developed a similar, not-for-profit health care proposal: H.R. 676, also known as “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All.” Existing federal health care funds, payroll taxes and income taxes based on ability to pay would largely cover the costs; very high income groups would contribute an additional sur tax. Lastly, profit-driven insurance companies would be taken out of the picture, meaning astronomical savings for the country: The savings on paperwork alone could amount to $400 billion per year.

Why I’m for It

When you remove greed from the picture, motivation shifts in the right directions. You’ll have a health care system that truly aims to fix people and prevent catastrophic illness, thus increasing everyone’s quality of life. Rather than throwing money to the wind via advertisement and ridiculous salaries, these funds would supply people like me with medications that are vital to life.

Some critics have expressed concerns of “overconsumption” of health care. These are laughable. No one is yearning to go on a health-care-consuming rampage for fun. Will people really be chomping at the bit to get an extra prostate exam or allergy test or MRI? Doubt it.

Not everything single-payer’s opponents are saying is untrue. To be sure, with the disassembly of insurance companies, people will lose jobs. However, there are times where decisions have to be made for the greater good. As a Type 1 diabetic who has been unjustly placed under immense financial strain, a single-payer plan would give me hope. According to the JDRF, 1.25 million individuals in the US are living with Type 1 diabetes; that’s a lot of changed lives, and we are only talking about one disease.

Several companies that supply insulin in the US — including Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk — are under severe scrutiny for drastic price increases. CBS reported a 700 percent increase in insulin prices over the past two decades. There are “an estimated 50 million people worldwide who cannot afford insulin,” says Diabetes.co.uk, adding that, globally, the most common cause of diabetes deaths among children is lack of access to insulin. This is happening right here in the US. By shifting health care costs to one governmental pot, a fire would be lit under our society to combat drug price gouging. And every American Type 1 diabetic would have access to this essential medication.

As an advocate for T1International, an organization working to make diabetes supplies available worldwide, I’ve made it one of my life goals to raise awareness of diabetic health care injustices and, by extension, what health justice would mean. I love sharing this bit from the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Take a look at that first part: “the right to life.” When we deny someone a vital medication, such as insulin, we have stripped them of their right to live. We must grant that right to all people, and the first step is convincing society that a health care plan that cares for all citizens is attainable.

By Karyn Wofford/Truthout

Posted by The NON-Conformist

New GOP Health Care Bill Expected to Allow Low-Cost, Skimpy Plans

(WASHINGTON) — In a high-stakes bid for conservative support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to demands from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to allow insurers to sell low-cost, skimpier plans as part of a new but still-reeling health care bill being released Thursday, two GOP aides said. However, including that provision seems…

via New GOP Health Care Bill Expected to Allow Low-Cost, Skimpy Plans — TIME

Posted by Libergirl

Botched nuclear shipment puts pressure on Los Alamos to make changes

Small amounts of radioactive material being transported incorrectly has led to the firing of several employees after an incident at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the prominent facility that specializes in nuclear weapons.

Last month, federal regulators launched an investigation into the lab after small amounts of nuclear materials were shipped by air, instead of by ground, as they were intended to be. They were supposed to be sent to facilities in California and South Carolina aboard a commercial cargo plane. Air transport of these materials is not allowed due to US regulations, according to a press release by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The laboratory has said it will not comply with requests to provide any details about the mistakes of its employees in connection to last month’s error and have said that everyone involved in the mishap has been held to account for their actions, according to the Associated Press.

The lab has transferred the duties related to certain nuclear shipments to another division in the wake of the accident. They have also created more controls for the making of shipment labels.

A spokesman for Los Alamos said “the lab is putting into place laboratory-wide measures to significantly reduce the likelihood of similar events occurring,” the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The lab also said in a statement that “although these shipments arrived safely at their destinations and no one was hurt, this mistake, taken together with other mistakes in recent years, is unacceptable and is in the process of being addressed promptly and thoroughly.” They went on to say “our response to this incident is not business as usual,” the AP reported.

Nuclear watchdog groups spoke out following the incident and said that the lab was lucky to avoid a disaster because its packaging of materials allowed for possible rapid pressure changes.

No contamination or loss of radioactive material was found after tests were done on the shipments when they arrived at their destination.

Los Alamos is currently preparing to ramp up production of a key plutonium component for the US cache of nuclear weapons. Federal regulators, which are composed of an independent panel, have opened up a review of the lab’s track record and its ability to work safely with plutonium, the AP reported.

The lab is operated by Los Alamos National Security LLC, which is a private consortium, which includes the University of Southern California and Bechtel. Following performance reviews that were deemed unsatisfactory, the federal government made the decision to not extend the consortium’s more than $2 billion annual operating contract past 2018. The feds have also started to compose and rebid the contract. There has been increased criticism of Los Alamos after many articles were written by the Center for Public Integrity about federal regulators’ interest in safety lapses at the lab, according to the Journal.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist