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— Rachna Choudhry, Co-founder, POPVOX.com, email@example.com
The House returns this week to vote on a bill repealing “Obamacare,” the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while the Senate continues work on a water resources bill and comprehensive immigration reform. Weigh in on POPVOX — and we’ll deliver your message to Congress. (Learn how it works or link to this update online.)
In the House
Repealing the healthcare law (HR 45): The House will yet again vote on a bill to “repeal Obamacare.” Many Republicans have been asking for this vote all year as a chance to get new Members on the record as opposing the controversial law. - https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/hr45
- From our Hill Sources: House leaders promised in April that a vote would come, after a failed attempt to pass legislation to adjust the law. House passage will once again give the GOP a chance to remind voters that they are fighting to repeal the law. But just as in the last Congress, House passage will likely be as far as the bill goes, with no indication that the Senate will consider it.
The SEC Regulatory Accountability Act (HR 1062): This bill would require the SEC to conduct an enhanced cost-benefit analysis for all regulations it issues, and ensure that the benefits of a rule outweigh the costs. - https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/hr1062
The House will also consider several other bills this week, including:
- HR 180: encouraging the development of plans for law enforcement to send out information when an officer is hurt or killed.
- The Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act (HR 356): To clarify authority granted under the Act entitled “An Act to define the exterior boundary of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in the State of Utah”.
- The Homes for Heroes Act (HR 384): requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay closer attention to veterans’ housing needs.
- HR 573: granting the Northern Mariana Islands the same coastal land rights as other US territories.
- HR 701: setting a fall deadline by which the Securities and Exchange Commission can exempt securities from regulation.
- HR 767: assigning regional Bureau of Land Management offices as Pilot Project offices under the Energy Policy Act.
- HR 1580: affirming US policy on Internet governance.
- SConRes 10: authorizing the celebration of King Kamehameha’s birthday in the Capitol Visitors Center.
In the Senate
The Water Resources Development Act (S 601): The bill authorizes several projects related to flood and storm risk reduction, and coastal and environmental restoration. - https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/s601
The bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill (S 744): The Senate Judiciary Committee will continue its consideration of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. - https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/s744
— by Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary–Dept. of Health & Human Services
This week, starting with Mother’s Day, we celebrate National Women’s Health Week. As a nation, we honor the women in our lives – our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and colleagues – by encouraging them to make their health a priority and to take steps to live healthier, happier lives.
Women are frequently the health care decision-makers in their families. We take time off from work to drive a parent to the doctor. We hold our children’s hands while they get their vaccinations. We make the appointments for our spouses’ checkups – and then make sure they actually go. We stretch and re-work our family budgets to pay the doctor’s bills. And too often, we put our own health last.
But the truth is unless we take care of ourselves first, we cannot really take care of our families. That means we have to eat right, exercise, and get the care we need to stay healthy. Unfortunately, preventive care has not always been easily accessible or affordable for everyone, including young women.
But the health care law is helping to usher in a new day for women’s health. The Affordable Care Act is making it easier for women to take control of their own health. For many women, preventive services like mammograms, Pap smears, birth control, and yearly well-woman visits are now available without cost sharing. The health care law improves women’s access to appropriate preventive health screenings, which can help detect diseases early, when treatment is most effective and least costly.
Starting next year, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to refuse us coverage just because we’re battling breast cancer or have another pre-existing condition – and they won’t be allowed to charge us more just because we are women.
If you’re one of the millions of women who are uninsured or who buy insurance on their own, more options are on the way because of the Affordable Care Act. Starting October 1, 2013, you will be able to visit a new Health Insurance Marketplace where you can compare and choose from a range of plans to find one that best fits your needs and budget. All of these plans must cover a package of essential health benefits, including maternity and newborn care.
To get more information about the Marketplace and to sign up for email and text updates to get ready for October, visit HealthCare.gov.
Being healthy starts with each of us taking control. So Monday on National Women’s Checkup Day, and during National Women’s Health Week, I encourage you to sit down with your doctor or health care provider and talk about what you can do to take control of your health.
- Learn more about National Women’s Health Week and find a health week event in your community.
- Follow #NWHW on Twitter.
- For more information on how the health care law is addressing women’s unique health needs, visithttp://www.womenshealth.gov/NWHW/activity-planning/NWHW-Infographic-508.pdf
— by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits some of the worst insurance industry practices that have kept affordable health coverage out of reach for millions of Americans. It provides families and individuals with new protections against discriminatory rates due to pre-existing conditions, holds insurance companies accountable for how they spend your premium dollars, and prevents insurance companies from raising your insurance premium rates without accountability or transparency.
For more than a decade before the ACA health insurance premiums had risen rapidly, straining the pocketbooks of American families and businesses. Oftentimes, insurance companies were able to raise rates without explanation to consumers or public justification of their actions.
One of the provisions of the ACA is that insurance companies must now reveal the percentage of premium dollars they actually spend on health care and how much they spend on administration (e.g., salaries and marketing. Prior to ACA, this type of information was a closely held secret and insurance companies pocketed a good percentage of your premium dollars. With ACA in place, that’s no longer the case. If an insurance company spends less than 80% of premiums on medical care and quality (or less than 85% in the large employer, large group market), it must rebate the portion of premium dollars that exceeded this limit. This 80/20 rule is commonly known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule
Rate Review in Action
The ACA brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny and transparency to health insurance rate increases by requiring insurance companies in every state to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10% or more. Insurance companies are required to provide easy to understand information to their customers about their reasons for significant rate increases, and any unreasonable rate increases are posted online.
And it’s working. A new report released today shows that the health care law is helping to moderate premium hikes. Since this rule was implemented, the number of requests for insurance premium increases of 10% or more has dropped dramatically, from 75% to 14%. The average premium increase for all rates in 2012 was 30% below what it was in 2010. And available data suggest that this slowdown in rate increases has continued into 2013.
Moreover, when an insurer does decide to increase rates, consumers are seeing lower rate increases than what the insurers initially requested. In the review of rate requests for 10% or more, over 50% resulted in customers receiving either a lower rate increase than requested or no increase at all.
States have received $250 million in Health Insurance Rate Review Grants to help strengthen and improve their rate review processes thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Of the 44 states that received rate review grants, 40 have reported enhancements to their rate review websites. These website enhancements include searchable rate filings, new public comment options, live streaming of rate hearings, and plain language explanations of rate review and rate filings.
The Effective Rate Review program is one of many in the health care law aimed at protecting consumers. The rate review program works in conjunction with the 80/20 rule, which requires insurance companies to generally spend 80% of premiums on health care or provide rebates to their customers. Insurance companies that did not meet the 80/20 rule have provided nearly 13 million Americans with more than $1.1 billion in rebates. Americans receiving the rebate will benefit from an average rebate of $151 per household.
Additionally, today we issued a final rule that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act, including protection against denial of health coverage because of a pre-existing condition. This rule makes the health insurance market work better for individuals, families and small businesses, and it also increases the transparency brought to rate increases by directing insurance companies in every state to file all of their rate increase requests.
For more information about the Affordable Care Act, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/index.html.
- Insurance Analysts: Obamacare to Increase Out-of-Pocket Premium Costs, Despite Lavish Subsidies (Forbes, 1/12/2013)
- Proof That Obamacare ‘Rate Shock’ Is An Ugly Insurance Company Deception (Forbes, 3/26/2013)
- Obamacare to Hike Some, Lower Other Individual Health Premiums: Sebelius (Insurance Journal, 3/27/2013)
- Some health insurance premium hikes reduced (Orange County Register, 3/7/2013)
- Insurance Companies Warn of Premium Hikes (Hispanic Business.com, 3/22/2013)
- The Hidden Cost of A Pre-Existing Condition Exclusion in the PPACA (Benefits@Work, 3/24/2013)
— by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, March 21, 2013
In the three years since the Affordable Care Act became law, the slower growth of health care costs is saving money in Medicare and the private insurance market, helping to curb previously skyrocketing premiums and making Medicare stronger.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that Medicare and Medicaid spending would be 15 percent less — or about $200 billion— in 2020 than was previously projected, thanks to this slower growth. Medicare spending per beneficiary rose by just 0.4% in 2012, while Medicaid spending per beneficiary actually dropped by 1.9% last year. We are making Medicare stronger, too, by spending smarter, promoting coordinated care, and fighting fraud. Not only does this ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. It means that those who count on Medicare — our grandparents, parents, our friends, and neighbors – will have it for years to come.
Today, we are announcing that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 6.3 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have saved more than $6.1 billion on prescription drugs since the health care law was enacted three years ago. This is the result of the law’s closing of the prescription coverage gap known as “the donut hole.”
Nearly 3.5 million people with Medicare saved an average of more than $706 each on their prescriptions in 2012.
In the case of Helen Rayon of Pennsylvania, the savings on her medications is enough to help her contribute to the education of her grandson. She says: “I take seven different medications. Getting the donut hole closed … gives me a little more money in my pocket.”
David Lutz, a community pharmacist from Hummelstown, PA, described his elderly customers, “splitting pills, taking doses every other day, missing doses, stretching their medications.” But he says this has begun to change with the savings resulting from the Affordable Care Act, and that’s good for their health as well as their budgets.
After the law was passed, the Affordable Care Act provided a one-time $250 check for people with Medicare who reached the Part D prescription drug coverage gap in 2010. Since then, individuals in the donut hole have continued to receive savings on prescription drugs. In 2013 individuals in the donut hole are saving over 50% off of the cost of branded drugs. The savings on both brand name and generic drugs will continue to increase until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.
Along with savings on their medications, American seniors have also benefited from access to vital preventive services — such as mammograms, cholesterol checks, cancer screenings, and annual wellness visits — with no Part B coinsurance or deductibles. In 2012, more than 34 million seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare received at least one free preventive service. Having easier access to preventive services without worrying about the cost helps seniors stay healthier and identify health conditions before they become more serious and costly.
Helen works as a health-and-wellness coordinator at a senior center, arranging for health and fitness activities for seniors older than herself. She knows they struggle with the costs of staying healthy. “If it weren’t for the health care reform, many of our seniors would not get to a doctor,” to get a check up, Helen says. “It is expensive for us to keep good health.”
Affordable Care Act initiatives are also ensuring that if Medicare beneficiaries do end up in the hospital that their care is coordinated and they stay out of the hospital once they’re discharged. This also gives Medicare beneficiaries – and other taxpayers – more value for their health care dollars. In fact, hospital readmissions in Medicare have fallen for the first time on record, resulting in 70,000 fewer readmissions in the last half of 2012.
The Affordable Care Act is helping us keep our moral commitment to ensure that our grandparents and other seniors get the high-quality, affordable health care and security they need and deserve.
To learn more about how the Affordable Care Act is saving seniors on prescription drug costs by closing the donut hole coverage gap, visit www.hhs.gov/news/press/2013pres/03/20130321a.html
NOTE: Today, in the U.S. House of Representatives, GOP members of that House, on a purely partisan vote, passed the Ryan Budget which, if it were to become law, would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and all of it’s provisions which help not just those folks on Medicare, but those of us who might have what the insurance industry has termed a “pre-existing condition” that they can then use to deny coverage. It would also allow insurance companies to once again impose both annual and lifetime limits on coverage. Those of you with children under 26 would no longer be able to continue to carry them on your existing health insurance policy once they reach age 18. And that’s just a few of the provisions that make a difference in ordinary Americans’ lives. Please take the time to review exactly “what” is covered under Obamacare and then help us bury Senator Heller in emails, tweets, and letters letting him know you will not forget any vote he takes to repeal this needed and necessary law by voting for Ryan’s Path to Poverty budget.
Paul Ryan is still stuck in the same old rabbit hole.
Apparently, Rep. Paul Ryan missed the outcome of last November’s presidential election. Oh, wait — wasn’t he on the ballot in that election as Mitt Romney’s running mate?
Well, yes, but less than five months later, the Wisconsin Republican seems to have forgotten that he and the Mittster were soundly rejected.
Maybe the trauma of losing big — including failing to win a majority of the votes cast in his own hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin — has his memory slipping.
Whatever the cause, it’s embarrassing to see him now trotting out the very same Republican budget proposal that he wrote last year and put at the center of the Romney-Ryan presidential campaign — the same nauseating budget extremism that induced the great majority of Americans to throw up their hands.
Ryan recently headlined a Washington media event for the re-release of this bucket of right-wing hash. It includes turning Medicare into a “WeDon’tCare” privatized voucher scheme that would deliver seniors into the tender clutches of giant insurance corporations, forcing the elderly to pay more for less.
Also, to save the super-rich from even the slightest tax increase, Ryan again served up a mess of cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, and other vital programs for the poor, while simultaneously jacking up the tax burden on both the working and middle classes.
Then, to make his package even more odious to the general public, he cluelessly re-issued the far right’s cry to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hello, Paul, it’s reality calling: Obama thoroughly thumped you and Willard on this issue last year. Remember?
And since the election, Obama’s signature health care reform has grown in popularity. Several Republican governors are now seeing the political light and embracing it.
Maybe it’s time for his family and friends to pull the gentleman from Janesville out of the rabbit hole where he’s gotten stuck.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org | RMoney/RAyn Photo credit to DonkeyHotey/Flickr
The Obama administration moved forward today to implement provisions in the health care law that would make it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. The provisions of the Affordable Care Act also would make it easier for consumers to compare health plans and employers to promote and encourage employee wellness.
“The Affordable Care Act is building a health insurance market that works for consumers,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Thanks to the health care law, no one will be discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition.”
“The Affordable Care Act recognizes that well-run, equitable workplace wellness programs allow workers to access services that can help them and their families lead healthier lives,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Employers, too, can benefit from reduced costs associated with a healthier workforce.”
The Obama administration issued:
- A proposed rule that, beginning in 2014, prohibits health insurance companies from discriminating against individuals because of a pre-existing or chronic condition. Under the rule, insurance companies would be allowed to vary premiums within limits, only based on age, tobacco use, family size, and geography. Health insurance companies would be prohibited from denying coverage to any American because of a pre-existing condition or from charging higher premiums to certain enrollees because of their current or past health problems, gender, occupation, and small employer size or industry. The rule would ensure that people for whom coverage would otherwise be unaffordable, and young adults, have access to a catastrophic coverage plan in the individual market. For more information regarding this rule, visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2012/11/market-reforms11202012a.html.
- A proposed rule outlining policies and standards for coverage of essential health benefits, while giving states more flexibility to implement the Affordable Care Act. Essential health benefits are a core set of benefits that would give consumers a consistent way to compare health plans in the individual and small group markets. A companion letter on the flexibility in implementing the essential health benefits in Medicaid was also sent to states. For more information regarding this rule, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2012/11/ehb11202012a.html.
- A proposed rule implementing and expanding employment-based wellness programs to promote health and help control health care spending, while ensuring that individuals are protected from unfair underwriting practices that could otherwise reduce benefits based on health status. For more information regarding this rule, visit:http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2012/11/wellness11202012a.html
“If you are a salesman and you see life and politics as about the sell, you adjust the sell every time to a different customer-base.” — Andrew Sullivan
Who was that last night at the debate with President Obama? It kind of looked like it might have been former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But, the words that came forth from that guy’s mouth didn’t sound anything like what he’s been saying over the last 18 months. Was the debate stage yet another etch-a-sketch moment for Mr. Romney? And if it was, what might we expect should he win the opportunity to walk through the doors of the White House to take up residence there?
Governor Romney has been saying, that is, up until last night that is, that he is on the same page as Congressman Ryan. If that really is his stance, and I suspect that it is, America’s seniors and the middle class should take note of what that means for them. And if you listened to Andrea Mitchell this morning. as she interviewed former Gov. Sununu, absolutely everything will be on the table for identifying spending cuts with which to balance out Romney’s tax cuts, medicare, medicaid, social security, home mortgage interest deductions, charitable deductions … everything!
Up until last night’s debate, Romney’s budget plan has been strikingly similar to Paul Ryan’s “Path to Poverty” budget which espouses some serious tax cuts for the top and what will most likely be deep cuts for the middle class. But apparently, since Mr. Romney new he would have his largest audience to-date and figuring that “that” audience would have a large number of people who, up until now, hadn’t chosen to tune in to his rantings, that it was time to employ a “gish gallop” debate strategy … or, if you spent any time in the service, it’s a common technique known as just “baffling them with bullshit.”
Named for the debate tactic created by creationist shill Duane Gish, a Gish Gallop involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it. To make matters worse a Gish Gallop will often have one or more ‘talking points’ that has a tiny core of truth to it, making the person rebutting it spend even more time debunking it in order to explain that, yes, it’s not totally false but the Galloper is distorting/misusing/misstating the actual situation. A true Gish Gallop generally has two traits.
- The factual and logical content of the Gish Gallop is pure bullshit and anybody knowledgeable and informed on the subject would recognize it as such almost instantly. That is, the Gish Gallop is designed to appeal to and deceive precisely those sorts of people who are most in need of honest factual education.
- The points are all ones that the Galloper either knows, or damn well should know, are totally bullshit. With the slimier users of the Gish Gallop, like Gish himself, its a near certainty that the points are chosen not just because the Galloper knows that they’re bullshit, but because the Galloper is deliberately trying to shovel as much bullshit into as small a space as possible in order to overwhelm his opponent with sheer volume and bamboozle any audience members with a facade of scholarly acumen and factual knowledge.
Again, up until last night, Mitt Romney touted both in speeches and on his campaign website, permanently extending the 2001-03 tax cuts, further cutting individual income tax rates, broadening the tax base by reducing tax preferences, eliminating taxation of investment income of most individual taxpayers, reducing the corporate income tax, eliminating the estate tax, and repealing the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the taxes enacted in 2010’s health reform legislation.
If the above outline isn’t what what Romney has been stumping about, why or why would the Tax Policy Center (TPC) take the time to prepare a preliminary analysis of the Romney plan, an analysis based on information posted on Romney’s campaign website and a slew of email exchanges that have gone back and forth between TPC and Romney’s campaign policy advisors? Now, if Romney’s campaign policy advisors don’t speak for Romney, that opens an even bigger can of worms that brings his leadership skills into question.
Romney pushed his plan throughout the primary season and once he was officially named the GOP nominee, he announced his running mate … Paul Ryan, someon we’re all familiar with given his stance on economic issues. Romney has expounded on how much he likes how Ryan thinks, fiscally that is. Their budgets/plans are surprisingly similar. Both the Romney “plan” and Ryan budget would:
- Turn Medicare into a voucher program,
- Increase health care costs to seniors by thousands of dollars, and
- Make arbitrary cuts to programs essential to middle class families, like education and clean, affordable energy.
They plan to all of do that, while at the same time, giving massive tax cuts to the wealthiest and protecting taxpayer subsidies to oil companies and hedge fund managers. But they’re not stopping there. They also plan on repealing health care reform and cutting over $1 trillion from Medicaid. By doing so, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan would deny coverage to approximately 50 million Americans who currently have it, including low-income children, pregnant women, nursing home patients and people with disabilities.
Up until last night, this is what Romney supposedly espoused as compared to what we know that Rep. Paul Ryan promotes (because Ryan’s “Path to Poverty” is actually in writing and has been introduced in Congress):
I’m now sure who the decoy Romney was who showed up last night to debate President Obama. The policy ideas “decoy” Romney perpetrated on unknowing first time viewers bore no resemblance to what the “real” Romney has been stumping about on the campaign trail for 18 months. Call it yet another Etch-A-Sketch moment, call it a Gish Gallop strategy, call it masterful performance art, or just call it what it was … LIES. It’s all about the same.
FORWARD — The Affordable Care Act is helping people with Medicare save on the care they need to stay healthy—from free preventive services to lower costs on prescription drugs and monthly premiums.
BACKWARD — Mitt Romney would end guaranteed benefits and turn Medicare into a voucher program, which could cost seniors as much as $6,400 more each year.