“Trillion Dollar Fraudsters”: We’re Looking At An Enormous, Destructive Republican Con Job, And You Should Be Very, Very Angry

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By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

You might be tempted to shrug this off, since these budgets will not, in fact, become law. Or you might say that this is what all politicians do. But it isn’t. The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty…

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The GOP’s Unaffordable WeDon’tCare Act

The GOP’s belated solution to the nation’s health insurance challenges just makes working families pay more.

— by Emily Schwartz Greco

Emily Schwartz Greco

Remember when it looked like the Republican Party could do nothing but stamp its feet and shout about the Affordable Care Act’s shortcomings without coming up with any alternatives?

OK, there was former Sen. Jim DeMint’s suggestion last summer that having the uninsured continue to abuse emergency-room services due to a lack of options would work better than President Barack Obama’s health insurance reform. And conservatives enjoy boasting about how many ideas for overhauling the nation’s health insurance system the GOP has lobbed over the years into what it might call the marketplace of ideas.

The Unaffordable Health Care Act, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The Unaffordable Health Care Act, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Since none achieved any traction, the Republicans in Congress are trying again.

Maybe this escaped your attention. After all, Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010 and it’s now being implemented regardless of those 47 House repeal votes. Perhaps you heard about its rocky roll-out? Warts and all, major government programs are as easy to revoke as it is to get toothpaste back into the tube.

Plus, four years is a long time, especially when news cycles are so short that blinking means missing out on key developments like Justin Bieber’s latest travails.

The GOP is moving ahead anyway with new plans to replace the Affordable Care Act that are sure to go nowhere in our gridlocked Congress. A trio of Senate Republicans is leading the way with a new approach that upholds the party’s unofficial allegiance to the “WeDon’tCare” creed.

That’s the term Jim Hightower has used to describe Rep. Paul Ryan’s dream of converting Medicare into a privatized voucher scheme.

WeDon’tCare also serves as the Republican approach to many other urgent problems dogging the United States. Intractable unemployment? Rising hunger? Pollution? Climate change? The GOP just doesn’t care.

Maybe you do care and wish Republicans would too. But this policy does have plenty to offer. It’s versatile, consistent, and great for time management.

The GOP’s WeDon’tCare policy is very attractive for lawmakers who might have better things to do with their time than get bogged down in petty problems. Rather than grapple with issues that are making the lives of millions of Americans who can’t afford to make campaign contributions miserable, lawmakers free up time for other activities. Like golf. And taking free trips to France.

The new Republican plan probably won’t save any more tax dollars than the Affordable Care Act and might actually save less. It won’t shock you to hear that it’s structurally very similar to the system often called Obamacare except that its subsidies would be financed more by working families and less by taxes on corporations and the very rich.

Under this new plan, outlined in legislation introduced by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, insurance companies wouldn’t have to cover preventive care any more. Once again, insurers could charge women more than men. Unlike with the Affordable Care Act, the vast majority of Americans insured through their workplace would start paying more for their coverage. And if that isn’t enough, there are also, plans in motion to set some seriously low caps on amounts for which patients who’ve been harmed can sue the one or ones who did the harming.

I bet there’s a good chance that it will matter to you, personally, should this ever manage to get enacted. You might even get angry.

What about House Republicans? Majority Leader Eric Cantor says they’re on it, with Representatives Dave Camp and Fred Upton — both with Michigan seats — and John Kline of Minnesota taking the lead. If you’d like some specifics, you’ll have to wait a bit longer since apparently they need more time.

Why are they even bothering?

“Pointing and laughing at the failures of Obamacare will not be a sufficient governing vision,” conservative Michael Gerson observed in one of his recent columns.

Something more, in other words, is required to win back the White House. Having a presumed front-runner for the Republican nomination who isn’t embroiled in a career-killing scandal would be helpful.

But if the GOP really wants to fare better in the 2016 presidential election than it did in 2008 and 2012, Republicans will need to ditch their WeDon’tCare platform on health insurance and other issues voters care about.


Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org

How the Health Care Law is Making a Difference for Nevadans

Because of the Affordable Care Act, the 78% of Nevadans who have insurance have more choices and stronger coverage than ever before. And for the 22% of Nevadans who don’t have insurance, or Nevada families and small businesses who buy their coverage but aren’t happy with it, a new day is just around the corner.

Soon, the new online Health Insurance Marketplace will provide families and small businesses who currently don’t have insurance, or are looking for a better deal, a new way to find health coverage that fits their needs and their budgets.

Open enrollment in the Marketplace starts Oct 1, with coverage starting as soon as Jan 1, 2014.  But Nevada families and small business can visit HealthCare.gov right now to find the information they need prepare for open enrollment.

Key Features of the health care law are already providing better options, better value, better health and a stronger Medicare program for the people of Nevada:

Key Features

Coverage

Costs

Care

Better Options

The Health Insurance Marketplace

Beginning Oct 1, the Health Insurance Marketplace will make it easy for Nevadans to compare qualified health plans, get answers to questions, find out if they are eligible for lower costs for private insurance or health programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and enroll in health coverage.

By the Numbers: Uninsured Nevadans who are eligible for coverage through the Marketplace. 

  • 473,971 (22%) are uninsured and eligible
  • 347,244 (73%) have a full-time worker in the family
  • 174,840 (37%) are 18-35 years old
  • 218,730 (46%) are White
  • 44,217 (9%) are African American
  • 157,518 (33%) are Latino/Hispanic
  • 33,012 (7%) are Asian American or Pacific Islander
  • 258,036 (54%) are male

438,826 (93%) of Nevada’s uninsured and eligible population may qualify for lower costs on coverage in the Marketplace, including through Medicaid.

Nevada has received $74,754,285 in grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of its Health Insurance Marketplace.

New coverage options for young adults

Under the health care law, if your plan covers children, you can now add or keep your children on your health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old. Thanks to this provision, over 3 million young people who would otherwise have been uninsured have gained coverage nationwide, including 33,000 young adults in Nevada.

Ending discrimination for pre-existing conditions  

As many as 1,157,045 non-elderly Nevadans have some type of pre-existing health condition, including 162,452 children.  Today, insurers can no longer deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition, like asthma or diabetes, under the health care law. And beginning in 2014, health insurers will no longer be able to charge more or deny coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition.  The health care law also established a temporary health insurance program for individuals who were denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition.  1,373 Nevadans with pre-existing conditions have gained coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan since the program began.

Better Value

Providing better value for your premium dollar through the 80/20 Rule

Health insurance companies now have to spend at least 80 cents of your premium dollar on health care or improvements to care, or provide you a refund.  This means that 88,491 Nevada residents with private insurance coverage will benefit from $3,977,544 in refunds from insurance companies this year, for an average refund of $75 per family covered by a policy.

Scrutinizing unreasonable premium increases 

In every State and for the first time under Federal law, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. Nevada has received $4,959,972 under the new law to help fight unreasonable premium increases.

Removing lifetime limits on health benefits 

The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 937,000 people in Nevada, including 329,000 women and 269,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014.

Better Health

Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay

The health care law requires many insurance plans to provide coverage without cost sharing to enrollees for a variety of preventive health services, such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults.

In 2011 and 2012, 71 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 615,000 in Nevada. And for policies renewing on or after August 1, 2012, women can now get coverage without cost-sharing of even more preventive services they need.  Approximately 47 million women, including 391,181 in Nevada will now have guaranteed access to additional preventive services without cost-sharing.

Increasing support for community health centers

The health care law increases the funding available to community health centers nationwide. In Nevada, 2 health centers operate 30 sites, providing preventive and primary health care services to 57,987 people.  Health Center grantees in Nevada have received $8,264,743 under the health care law to support ongoing health center operations and to establish new health center sites, expand services, and/or support major capital improvement projects.

Community Health Centers in all 50 states have also received a total of $150 million in federal grants to help enroll uninsured Americans in the Health Insurance Marketplace, including $451,674 awarded to Nevada health centers.   With these funds, Nevada health centers expect to hire 9 additional workers, who will assist 10,600 Nevadans with enrollment into affordable health insurance coverage.

Investing in the primary care workforce

As a result of historic investments through the health care law and the Recovery Act, the numbers of clinicians in the National Health Service Corps are at all-time highs with nearly 10,000 Corps clinicians providing care to more than 10.4 million people who live in rural, urban, and frontier communities.  The National Health Service Corps repays educational loans and provides scholarships to primary care physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, behavioral health providers, and other primary care providers who practice in areas of the country that have too few health care professionals to serve the people who live there.  As of September 30, 2012, there were 36 Corps clinicians providing primary care services in Nevada, compared to 12 in 2008.

Preventing illness and promoting health

As of March 2012, Nevada had received $7,500,000 in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the health care law. This new fund was created to support effective policies in Nevada, its communities, and nationwide so that all Americans can lead longer, more productive lives.

A Stronger Medicare Program

Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors 

In Nevada, people with Medicare saved nearly $41 million on prescription drugs because of the Affordable Care Act.  In 2012 alone, 22,122 individuals in Nevada saved over $14 million, or an average of $611 per beneficiary.  In 2012, people with Medicare in the “donut hole” received a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 14 percent discount on generic drugs.  And thanks to the health care law, coverage for both brand name and generic drugs will continue to increase over time until the coverage gap is closed.  Nationally, over 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion on drugs since the law’s enactment.

Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay

With no deductibles or co-pays, cost is no longer a barrier for seniors and people with disabilities who want to stay healthy by detecting and treating health problems early. In 2012 alone, an estimated 34.1 million people benefited from Medicare’s coverage of preventive services with no cost-sharing.  In Nevada, 166,815 individuals with traditional Medicare used one or more free preventive service in 2012.

Protecting Medicare’s solvency

The health care law extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by ten years.  From 2010 to 2012, Medicare spending per beneficiary grew at 1.7 percent annually, substantially more slowly than the per capita rate of growth in the economy.  And the health care law helps stop fraud with tougher screening procedures, stronger penalties, and new technology. Over the last four years, the administration’s fraud enforcement efforts have recovered $14.9 billion from fraudsters.  For every dollar spent on health care-related fraud and abuse activities in the last three years the administration has returned $7.90.

Related articles

Obamacare: Signed, Sealed, Delivering …

Watch the Obamacare videos & get the facts

Obamacare is making health care work better for all of us, even if you already have insurance. It puts the health of your family first—ensuring access to free preventive care and protecting consumers from insurance company abuses.

71 Million Kids & Adults With Private Insurance Have Received No-Cost Preventive Care.
“HHS estimates that, as a result of the ACA, 71 million children and adults with private insurance, and 34 million Medicare beneficiaries have received no-cost preventive care. Enhanced federal matching funds in Medicaid are available to states providing all USPSTF-recommended preventive benefits without cost-sharing, but, to date, few states have made the changes required to gain the higher match rate.” “Health Reform-The Affordable Care Act Three Years Post-Enactment,” Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2013.
Discrimination By Insurance Companies For Children With Pre-Existing Conditions Was Banned.
“Coverage exclusions for children with pre-existing conditions were prohibited as of September 23, 2010. Insurers are no longer permitted to deny coverage to children due to their health status, or exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. Protections for adults will take effect in 2014. In addition, lifetime limits on coverage in private insurance have been eliminated and annual limits are being phased out.” “Health Reform-The Affordable Care Act Three Years Post-Enactment,” Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2013.
Consumers Received $1.1 Billion in Rebates From Their Insurance Companies.
“Insurance companies that don’t spend at least 80 percent of its customers’ premium dollars on health care are required to provide rebates to policy holders. In 2012, the first year this rule was implemented, 12.8 million consumers received $1.1 billion in rebates.” “Health Reform in Action,” WhiteHouse.gov, accessed 6/5/13.
3.1 Million More Young Adults Have Health Insurance Through Their Parent’s Plan.
“Under the law, most young adults who can’t get coverage through their jobs can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.” “Health Reform in Action,” WhiteHouse.gov, accessed 6/5/13.
Seniors Have Saved More Than $6.1 Billion on Their Prescription Drugs Since 2010.
“Seniors who hit the gap in Medicare’s prescription drug coverage, often called the ‘donut hole’ now receive 50 percent discounts on covered brand name drugs. The new health reform law will provide additional savings each year until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.” “Health Reform in Action,” WhiteHouse.gov, accessed 6/5/13.