Tag Archives: Congress

CHIP on their shoulders? Dysfunctional Congress puts children’s health insurance funding at risk

Republicans say they want to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program that insures roughly 9 million low-to-moderate income children nationwide as well as 370,000 pregnant women.

Image: Tatiana Flowers, Associated Press

Democrats insist they also want to retain CHIP – which covers kids whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but don’t have insurance through the Affordable Care Act or their employers.

But even renewal of this innocuous program has been bogged down by hyper-charged bickering in Congress over how to pay its $15 billion estimated yearly price tag.

While Congress quarreled, the CHIP program ran out of money in September and several states including Colorado began warning recipients the program will be discontinued unless Congress acts.

More from Cleveland.com

Posted by Libergirl

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Veterans Day Passes and Not a Peep From GOP Congress About Helping Low-Income Vets Raising the minimum wage would help one in five vets; instead, the GOP eyes Medicaid cuts affecting one in 10.

As Veterans Day recedes and Republicans in Congress take up tax reform purportedly to help everyday Americans, it is worth noting that one in five veterans would benefit by raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

While that is not on the table in Congress, the GOP’s bill-writing legislators envision funding their tax cuts by cutting $1 trillion from state-run Medicaid over the next decade. Medicaid is the public health program used by about 10 percent of the nation’s vets, helping those who are poor or don’t live near Veterans Administration facilities. The Republican-led Congress is yet again showing its preference to do little to help poor Americans, including former soldiers who served in the military and are at the low end of the income spectrum for veterans.

“Of the 9 million veterans in payroll jobs across the country, approximately 1.8 million would get a raise if Congress raised the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024, as was proposed earlier this year in the Raise the Wage Act of 2017,” wrote the Economic Policy Institute’s David Cooper and Dan Essrow. “This means that despite their service to the country, the intensive training that they have received, and the access to additional education provided to veterans through the GI Bill, 1 out of every 5 veterans is still being paid so little that they stand to benefit from raising the minimum wage.”

The veterans who would benefit from raising the minimum wage are in their 30s, approaching middle age, EPI’s experts noted.

“The stereotype that only middle-class teens working after school would benefit from raising the minimum wage is false. Yet this stereotype breaks down even more dramatically when considering the veterans who stand to benefit from a higher minimum wage,” they wrote. “Of the veterans who would get a raise, nearly two-thirds are age 40 or older, over 60 percent have some college experience, and nearly 70 percent work full time.”

Other studies of veterans’ post-service work have found women veterans tend to earn less than their male counterparts. The factors that account for these wage disparities include gender, educational attainment, work experience, length of military service, race, marital status, number of offspring, work history and region of the country where they live. Other studies, such as a VetVotes.org report on eroding prevailing wage standards in construction, have found changes in state law “disproportionately hurt veterans.”

These various studies suggest the federal government is not doing all it can to help ex-service members lead fiscally stable lives—even as one-third of veterans end up in government or public service jobs.

“The fact that so many former servicemen and women would benefit from raising the minimum wage is a reminder that labor standards like the minimum wage protect all workers—even those whose courage, training, and sacrifice should guarantee them a good job,” EPI’s experts said. “Unfortunately, Congress has let the federal minimum wage erode to the point where, adjusted for inflation, workers at the federal minimum wage are paid less today than during the Vietnam War. There is no reason why the federal minimum wage could not be significantly higher than it is today; Congress simply needs to act.”

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Children’s Health Insurance Program is set to go bust

If you’re waiting and wondering what the future holds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the answer most likely depends on where you live.

CHIP is a popular, bipartisan program that provides a safety net for nearly 9 million kids in low- and mid-income families. It’s the latest pawn in the Congressional wrangling over health care. Both the Senate and House are debating bills to reauthorize CHIP funding, and both are considering these bills after the Sept. 30 deadline for reauthorization has passed.

“CHIP has always had bipartisan support since it started 20 years ago,” said Jesse Cross-Call, senior policy analyst at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “So it has really been a surprise that it’s taking this long to get it funded. Congress has never blown past the deadline before, so we’re in uncharted territory.”

Missing the deadline means an estimated 11 states will run out of federal CHIP money by the end of this year, and 32 states are expected to run out of money by March 2018, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

More from CBS News

Posted by Libergirl

Senator McCain: “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal”

Image: Quartz

 

Once again, senator John McCain is thwarting the Republican party’s effort to repeal Obamacare. A new proposal was advanced this week by senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. While the bill hasn’t yet been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), preliminary studies estimate that it would cause 21 million Americans to lose insurance, and would cut funding (paywall) for 34 states. The bill would also allow insurers to hike premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, despite its sponsors’ repeated claims that it wouldn’t.

via Senator McCain: “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal” — Quartz

Posted by Libergirl

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

Here’s Who’s Getting Paid to Destroy the Endangered Species Act

A small yet vocal group of congressmen are gearing up this summer to dismantle the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Campaign finance records of these lawmakers reveal that they have all taken significant money from extractive industries frustrated by the law’s protection of critical habitat for endangered species.

The ESA has proven to be a powerful, effective conservation safeguard. More than 99 percent of species that have been designated for federal protection continue to exist in the wild today, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear, the leatherback sea turtle and the Florida manatee.

bald eagle
Image: Electric Light and Power

But the work of the ESA has only grown more urgent as many scientists agree that the planet is either on the cusp of or already experiencing a sixth mass wave of extinction. A study last week by Stanford scientists found that a significant number of plant and wildlife populations are growing dangerously thin.

Earthjustice is working with coalition partners to oppose efforts on Capitol Hill to weaken protections for endangered species. The public can also make a difference in this fight—despite the big money from fossil fuel industries funding opponents of the ESA—by contacting their Congressional offices (use this call-in tool to be directly connected).

The assault on the ESA comes in the form of dozens of legislative proposals and amendments tacked onto spending bills.

One bill that’s expected to be introduced in a matter of weeks is the handiwork of Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

A Republican from Wyoming, Barrasso shares something in common with other politicians who have made it a legislative priority to weaken or undermine this conservation law. He’s received substantial campaign contributions from extractive industries that wish to exploit public lands for mining, drilling and other environmentally destructive operations. Across the American West, for instance, the fossil fuel industry is often pitted against conservationists because habitat for the imperiled sage grouse overlaps with lands eyed by industry for mining or drilling.

More from Ecowatch

Posted by Libergirl

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