What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 25, 2017

Revisiting Pat Toomey's Flawed "Defense" Of His Flawed Healthcare Bill

Hey, remember yesterday when we found out that Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey was misleaing you, his Pennsylvania constituents, about his Obamacare replacement bill?

Well, I'm not the only one.

Over at Whatifpost, Rob Cullen did basically the same thing (if by "basically" I can mean he covered more of Pat's disassembling with a wider range of information - hahahaha!).

Take a look at a few examples of Cullen's work.

Pat wrote:
The reason is simple: The foundation of Obamacare, a dramatically enhanced federal role in health insurance, has failed to deliver on the promises of its architects.
Rob countered:
Obamacare hasn’t delivered on every one of its promises, but it has inarguably delivered on its biggest: fewer people are uninsured than at any time in America’s history, and they have coverage that actually protects them when they get ill. Here’s the CBO’s coverage estimates for Obamacare vs. the House bill, which, like the Senate version, ends the Medicaid expansion and cuts tax credits to help purchase insurance:
Including some art:


Then there's this from Pat:
Millions, who liked their plans and their doctors, couldn’t keep them.
And this from Rob:
Only 2.2% of Americans who purchased coverage on their own (400,000 people), and just 0.3% of Americans with coverage through their employer (500,000 people), had their health insurance policies cancelled when the ACA took effect in 2014. Not millions.
Now on this one I have to call a technical. 900,000 is close to a being million and a million  is close to being "millions" so I guess technically what Pat said  is close to being true.

Haha.  I'm only kidding.  Pat's BSing us all here, too.

But here's some bigly BS from our junior Senator:
Republicans have begun the process to roll back this misguided experiment, and the first step is to address the most immediate challenges presented by Obamacare’s collapse.
And from Rob:
Again, the CBO has made it clear that Obamacare was not on the verge of collapse.
Had I written this, I have to be honest, I would have gone with a few other links than Vox.

Like these:
  • Snope:
    Republicans repeatedly claim that Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” collapsing of its own weight. This is wishful thinking on their part, with little evidence to support it.
  • The Washington Times:
    Obamacare in a death spiral? It’s been a mantra of Republicans, who say the law is collapsing and they are riding to the rescue.

    But the Congressional Budget Office, in a little-noticed part of its report last week, said that is not the case. In fact, the CBO analysts said, Obamacare’s exchanges are likely to “be stable in most areas” under the existing law.

    The analysts said the key is the tax subsidies the government provides to most of those buying plans on the exchanges. As premiums go up, so does the amount the government pays out to help people buy their coverage — meaning there will always be a pool of customers.
  • CBO:
    Under current law, most subsidized enrollees purchasing health insurance coverage in the nongroup market are largely insulated from increases in premiums because their out-of-pocket payments for premiums are based on a percentage of their income; the government pays the difference. The subsidies to purchase coverage combined with the penalties paid by uninsured people stemming from the individual mandate are anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by people with low health care expenditures for the market to be stable.
Did Pat get anything right in his defense of his cruel bill?

Rob Cullen gets the last word:
Over a million Pennsylvanians rely on [Obamacare] for coverage, and the Senate bill (which Toomey apparently supports) guts the funding that makes their coverage affordable. It then goes a step forward and guts federal funding for traditional Medicaid, putting Pennsylvania’s disabled, children, and elderly at risk.

June 24, 2017

Senator Pat Toomey's Defense Of His ACA Replacement (SPOILER: He's Lying About Medicaid)

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey has, luckily for us, posted an explanation/defense of his "draft bill" to replace Obamacare.

This gives us a very good opportunity to contrast/compare what he says about the bill with the reality of the bill.  For example, he writes:
Despite inaccurate reports to the contrary, the Senate draft bill keeps Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the program for low-income Americans. Obamacare created a new category of eligibility: working age, able-bodied, childless adults. Under the Senate bill, both the 700,000 Pennsylvanians who signed up for this expansion and future expansion enrollees will retain their federal eligibility for the program. In fact, the federal government will pay at least 90 percent of their costs through 2020, with states paying the balance. Then, over a four-year phase-in period, states wishing to cover this new category of recipients will be required to pay their fair share — only 48 percent in Pennsylvania — for the Medicaid expansion. This is the same amount states currently pay for every traditional Medicaid category: the aged, disabled, children, and families.
The Senate's bill keeps the expansion and enrollees retain their federal eligibility.  That's what Pat Toomey said.

So what's changed?  Ah, Pat you hinted at it but you left out an uber-important part, dinja?

From AARP:
The Senate bill would restructure the Medicaid program, which provides health care coverage for 74 million poor and low-income adults, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Medicaid also pays for long-term care services and supports, including home- and community-based care, and covers two-thirds of the care for people living in nursing homes.

The bill would phase out the additional federal funding 31 states and Washington, D.C., receive to expand their Medicaid populations. This phaseout would leave states with a huge deficit. [Emphasis added.]
The program would still be there.  The eligibility would still be there. But the funding wont be (thanks be to Pat).

AARP has more on that point:
These changes mean less federal money would be available to the states for Medicaid. Starting in 2025, the rate of growth of the per capita cap would decline significantly, meaning even deeper cuts to the program. Given the aging demographics of the country, the cap would not keep pace with the funding necessary to support the needs of the senior and disabled population.
Pat also wrote:
The Senate draft proposal will not affect that vast majority of Pennsylvania families who receive their coverage through an employer, Medicare, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Bu-u-u-u-t, the scaling back of Medicaid funding DOES effect children's health, doesn't it, Pat?

Take a look at this from the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics:
The bill fails children by dismantling the Medicaid program, capping its funding, ending its expansion and allowing its benefits to be scaled back. The bill fails all children by leaving more families uninsured, or without insurance they can afford or that meets their basic needs. This bill fails children living in or near poverty, children in foster care and children with complex health care needs whose parents have private insurance – all of these children depend on Medicaid, and if this bill passes, Medicaid will no longer be there for them.

The bill includes misleading ‘protections’ for children by proposing to exempt them from certain Medicaid cuts. A ‘carve-out’ for children with ‘medically complex’ health issues does little to protect their coverage when the base program providing the coverage is stripped of its funding. Doing so forces states to chip away coverage in other ways, by not covering children living in poverty who do not have complex health conditions, or by scaling back the benefits that children and their families depend on. This bill would make a child’s access to health care dependent on his or her ZIP code and force states to make decisions about which vulnerable population gets services. Put simply, this bill is bad policy for children.
So you seen what he did? He lied by not tell you the whole truth.

And for what? Pat brushes against it a few times but doesn't quite come out and say it. But the AP does:
Senate Republicans’ new health bill cuts taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, mostly for corporations and the richest families in America.
As does CNBC:
The health-care bill the GOP rolled out on Thursday morning will retain the nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts previously proposed, with few minor differences.

This means the Senate health-care bill's tax breaks would go primarily to the wealthy, with 40 percent of savings going to the top 1 percent of earners and 64 percent of savings going to the top 20 percent of earners.
For the sake of shuffling off all that money to the very wealthy, Pat Toomey's cutting funding for the medical care of the very poor.

That's simply reprehensible, Pat.  Cruel, mean and reprehensible.

And now you own it, Pat. This work is yours. Forever. Congratulations.

June 23, 2017

Thanks, Senator Toomey! This Is YOUR Draft Legislation.

As much as I love to write about how Trump lied (or is still lying) about the "Comey tapes" I think a more important issue is how the GOP in the Senate plans to "fix" Obamacare.

From ConsumerReports, there's an analysis.  Under the headline there's this one sentence summary:
The Better Care Act would roll out more slowly than the House proposal, but funding cuts could be even more severe
And then they begin:
Republicans moved closer to their goal of replacing the Affordable Care Act Thursday, with Senate Republicans issuing a plan that significantly restricts access to Medicaid and eliminates billions of dollars in taxes for companies and higher-income people.

The plan was hatched in a matter of weeks by a small group of senators meeting in secret. In many key ways, it's similar to the American Health Care Act, passed by the House in May after several failed attempts.

Thursday’s legislation, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, gives the public—as well as senators who weren’t in on the discussions—the first detailed look at how the Senate proposes to amend the AHCA.
One of that "small group of senators" was Pennsylvania's own Pat Toomey. And yes, that's a pun, of sorts. He owns this. This is his work.  Back to what Toomey's work:
Medicaid expansion is phased out more slowly. Under the ACA, the Medicaid expansion brought health insurance to 14 million Americans who didn't previously qualify. The Senate pledges to continue to fund the expansion through 2021 and phase it out over three years. The House bill would have phased out and then stopped funding in 2020.

But funding for Medicaid is cut more drastically. Beyond the expansion, both the House and Senate legislation make fundamental changes to how the federal government pays for Medicaid, changes that have nothing to do with ACA provisions. But the Senate proposal would make even deeper cuts than the House plan. It would shrink the annual growth rate in federal funding to state Medicaid programs to align with consumer inflation—not medical inflation, which grows faster. [Bolding in original.]
And then there's this from President Obama:
The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions.
Cutting Medicaid. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Lotsa people will suffer while a few will have more money for a second luxury car.

It's mean and it's cruel and it came from the pen of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

Thanks, Pat!  We'll remember this day.

June 22, 2017

The Latest On Trump's (Alleged) Obstruction Of Justice

From Politico:
In an interview with POLITICO Wednesday in his Capitol office, [Republican senator Chuck] Grassley was the most definitive yet that his committee’s probe will examine issues of obstruction of justice.

“I don’t want to say for sure. But I don’t know how you can avoid it,” Grassley said regarding questions of obstruction of justice in his investigation. “Because the FBI was investigating it before there was a special counsel.”

The Iowa senator, who took charge of the Judiciary panel two years ago, has been hammering out the parameters of an investigation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on probing Comey’s dismissal, as well as potential political interference at the Justice Department under the Obama administration.

Grassley and Feinstein, along with two other key senators in the Russia probe, met with special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday.
Amber Phillips over at the Washington Post has a "cheat sheet" for the current Trump investigations:
  • A special counsel on Russia 
  • The FBI Investigation
  • Various congressional committees
Of that last point, she writes:
The House and Senate intelligence committees, which deal with some of the nation’s most well-kept secrets, are investigating Russia’s attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election and Trump associates’ connections to Russia.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees the federal government, is asking the FBI for Comey’s memos. So is the Senate Judiciary Committee.
How many days has the little-handed pussy-grabber been in office, anyway?

June 21, 2017

Meanwhile Outside...

From NOAA (the Climate Scientists left working for the science denier Trump):
Averaged as a whole, the global land and ocean temperature for May 2017 was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F) and the third highest May in the 138-year global records, behind 2016 (+0.89°C / +1.60°F) and 2015 (+0.86°C / +1.55°F). This was also the coolest monthly temperature departure from average since December 2016 (0.80°C / 1.44°F) and tied with April 2010, November 2013, and December 2014 as the 26th highest monthly global land and ocean temperature departure from average in the 1,649-monthly records. May 2017 also marks the 389th consecutive month with globally-average temperature nominally above the 20th century average. December 1984 was the last time a monthly temperature was below the 20th century average at -0.09°C (-0.16°F).
And:
Globally, the average land and ocean surface temperature for March–May 2017 was the second highest such period since global temperature records began in 1880 at 0.92°C (1.66°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F) and behind 2016 by 0.15°C (0.27°F).
Meanwhile, from the White House, according to NYMag:
“For some reason or another,” says Vice-President Mike Pence, “this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world.” Might that reason be … a global scientific consensus that greenhouse-gas emissions pose a dire risk to humanity? Pence does not pause to consider it, instead moving on to the “burden” of Paris and how “refreshing” it is to finally have a president who stands up for American interests.

The Trump administration has been conspicuously silent on the question of climate science. When George Stephanopoulos asked Kellyanne Conway about Trump’s stance on climate change, she replied, “He believes in clean air, clean water, a clean environment.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer, asked whether the president still dismisses climate science as a Chinese hoax, said, “Honestly, I haven’t asked him.” EPA Director Scott Pruitt, himself a confirmed skeptic, refused to answer whether Trump believes in climate change. A White House official deflected the question by insisting, “I have not talked to the president about his personal views,” and then shut down follow-up questions as “off topic.”
Nevertheless, let me persist in saying that it's still getting warmer out there and that human activity significantly contributes to that warming - something, by the way, Senator Pat Toomey voted against..

June 20, 2017

My EIGHTEENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

I need to ask you again about the GOP's plans to appeal and replace Obamacare. Last week, I asked you why we, your constituents (and members of the American public), couldn't see the draft of the replacement you're working on. It seems that you and your party are planning on sliding it in for a vote with little or no public discussion.

This week, however, I'd like to draw your attention to some recent poll data by Kaiser Health. When they asked in May 2017, "As you may know, a health reform bill was signed into law in 2010. Given what you know about the health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it?" 49% of those polled (if I am reading it correctly) said they approved of the ACA with 42% opposed. Those numbers are more or less in line with the current (June 2017) data at Real Clear Politics.

Given that the public approves of Obamacare more than it opposes it, I'll ask it again, why are you drafting its replacement in secret?

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up: 

June 19, 2017

JUNETEENTH

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN