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April 1, 2015

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Health care:

Policy vs. politics in health care fight

Republicans and Democrats see more than one battle, several fronts looming in House GOP’s effort to repeal law


• About 129 million people with pre-existing conditions could lose insurance or exceed lifetime coverage limits. • Repeal will add $230 billion to the deficit over 10 years. • Law protects seniors, 22- to 26-year-olds who were pushed off parents’ insurance, and people with chronic ailments • Law controls costs by providing tax breaks for small businesses that provide health insurance. • Accuse Republicans of playing to the insurance companies, looking out for business, not individuals.


• “Washington Knows Best” is the current phrase they’re using to push for the repeal. • Protect the doctor-patient relationship. The government is not the middle man between doctor and patient. • Cut spending and debt. Don’t pay for the program with taxes or by cutting Medicare. • “Obamacare” is destroying jobs. The uncertainty of the law is preventing hiring by small businesses. • Start over and this time avoid raising taxes and redirecting funding for other federal programs to pay for it.
Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Click to enlarge photo

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio looks on as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia speaks about repealing President Barack Obama's health care law at a news conference Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Joe Heck

Joe Heck

This afternoon, when the GOP-led House of Representatives votes to repeal the health care law it took the last Congress almost a year and a half to pass, Republicans will be delivering as much as they can on what was perhaps their biggest campaign promise of the past election.

And with that, they’ll be casting the opening salvo for the next one.

With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dead set against any measure to pick off parts of the health care law — save for one piece, the overly onerous 1099 tax reporting requirement — the GOP’s push to repeal health care says less about immediate policy goals than it does about long-range political strategies.

But it’s reopening a more detailed debate about what health care law supporters say Americans stand to gain from the new system — or what those in favor of repeal say have they already lost. There are many areas where the parties disagree, but at the crux of each is a war of numbers.

Since the Democrat-led 111th Congress passed the health care bill almost a year ago, several provisions have gone into effect. Those include the mandate that insurance companies cannot deny coverage to patients with pre-existing medical conditions, lifting the age of eligibility for family insurance coverage from 22 to 26, reimbursement payments to senior citizens and tax breaks for small businesses that agree to provide coverage for employees.

With those provisions in effect, the Congressional Budget Office said this month that a repeal of the health care bill will add $230 billion to the growing deficit over the first 10 years, and another $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.

That nonpartisan estimate let Democrats capture the flag of political efficiency from the Republicans that was only redoubled Tuesday when the Health and Human Services Department — part of the Obama administration — released its findings that a repeal of the law could force 129 million Americans under the age of 65 off their health care plans because they have some sort of pre-existing condition, or have exhausted lifetime benefit allowances for treatments of a chronic illness.

That number includes up to 1.2 million people in the Las Vegas metropolitan area — as well as the elimination of preventive care benefits for 333,000 seniors and Medicare “doughnut hole” reimbursements for another 32,800, and elimination of tax credits for an estimated 52,900 small businesses providing health insurance.

The local statistics, compiled by the Democratic policy staff of the House Ways and Means committee, also estimate a repeal of the health care law would raise costs for local hospitals by about $166 million annually.

“Current law is helping Nevadans with access to affordable guaranteed health coverage,” Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said. “The loss of these protections would leave our neighbors, co-workers and loved ones vulnerable once again.”

Democrats are also pointing to jobs, saying that the health care sector, which is posting the fastest growth in a largely sluggish economy, would suffer as a result of a repeal. They counter the Republican rhetoric to repeal the “job-destroying” (formerly job-killing, pre-Tucson rampage) health care law, by saying that a repeal would in fact, destroy the potential to add hundreds of thousands of jobs to the economy in health care industries.

But the onslaught of damning figures have Republicans crying mathematical foul.

Republicans point out analyses of the health care bill before it became law showed the measure would cost more than $500 billion in the next decade — costs that were eventually offset with cuts to Medicare and new tax levies.

“This is a bill whose numbers don’t quite jibe, and that’s because of the gimmicky accounting in the workings of the bill itself,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said. “The underlying sense of the Obamacare bill is one of ‘Washington knows best.’ ”

Republicans, starting with House Speaker John Boehner, have waived the traditionally relied-upon CBO statistics as being but one opinion on the economic aspects of the debate.

“The present score says the repeal of the health care bill’s going to add $230 billion to the deficit ... but back in July, they said that passing the bill was going to cost $500 billion,” Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck said. “It’s very hard to quantify things that you think will or won’t happen in five or 10 years — it’s difficult for anybody, but especially with a health care bill.”

But the GOP is chiding Democrats for cooking the books on the uninsured. They argue that 129 million Americans under the age of 65 can’t really be in danger of suddenly losing their health benefits if only 17 million Americans were uninsured before the health care law was passed.

“Providing individuals with a pre-existing condition access to affordable coverage is a common-sense goal. It is not solely a Democrat goal or a Republican goal — it is a goal of all who want to make sure that patients have much-needed protections — regardless of their health condition or how they buy coverage,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means committee and one of three who leadership will look at to come up with a replacement bill — one that lowers the cost of health care “without raising taxes or cutting Medicare.”

Still, the zeal to zap the health care law seems to have waned somewhat in the realm of public opinion. A recent poll by the Associated Press measured only 30 percent of the country as wanting to see the repeal go through. CNN/Opinion Research and Quinnipiac polls released Tuesday showed a closer margin, with about 50 percent in each favoring a repeal.

So whose numbers are right? It might not matter.

In the (very likely) event that a repeal effort dies on its way from the House to the Senate, Republicans have pledged to redouble their efforts by seeking to cut funding to the federal mandates in the health care bill at every opportunity, bit by bit, beginning, potentially, with the budget, which they have pledged to bring down to 2008 spending levels.

“Republicans want health care,” Cantor stressed to reporters Tuesday. “But we want to emphasize the doctor-patient relationship.”

Republicans offered an alternative bill last Congress that never came up for consideration, and hearings on a Republican replacement for health care are set to begin this week. But neither Cantor nor others would lay out a timeline for when they thought that replacement should be concluded or brought to a vote.

“This is not the end of the repeal of Obamacare,” said Rep. Steve King, who stumped for the health care repeal Tuesday with some of the most vocal anti-Obamacare conservatives. He said he’d like to see Congress resume its debate about health care through a series of smaller legislative measures on health — one to tackle tort reform, another on health care savings accounts, and so on — instead of one comprehensive measure.

But even King admitted that there was little point in the Republican Party doing much beyond pushing for a repeal right now.

“We’re marking time through 2011 and 2012,” he said, when the GOP figures it may have a more sympathetic president who would sign a repeal — or a majority in both houses of Congress that could force the president’s hand.

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  1. Oh no! World Word War III is coming! We're doomed!

    Our beautiful city is going to be Carpet Word-Bombed!

    Rhetoric napalm i-n-c-o- o-o-m-i-n-g!!!

    The Nuclear Sound Byte silos are going HOT!

    This MAY Be the BIG ONE!!! Get to the shelters!!!

  2. Our elected officials in Washington need to prioritize the deficit and debt issues over all else. One shudders to think what will happen when the world's bond markets figure out that the United States is in even worse fiscal shape than the PIIGS nations of the EU.

    Here is a look at the U.S. situation for the first quarter of fiscal 2011 where interest payments on the debt are up 10 percent year-over-year and are set to overtake the outlays for Medicaid:

  3. This is simply another time-wasting side show entitled "Health Car Repeal". It is the equivalent of a gladiatorial contest in the Roman Colosseum -- except that Congressional Representatives (rarely) lose their lives in the combat and losers get to keep their campaign contributions and go on to even higher paying jobs as lobbyists.

  4. "Republicans, starting with House Speaker John Boehner, have waived the traditionally relied-upon CBO statistics as being but one opinion on the economic aspects of the debate."

    This is nothing new. The entire House Republican Party perpetually scoffs at CBO statistics. CBO has been verified to be a non-partisan accounting department. And Republicans continually rail at their statistics all the time. Especially when they disagree with the policy of the accounting. Ever since this health care reform started up, according to Republicans, the CBO bean counters get EVERYTHING wrong. The only time Republicans agree with them is when it fits their agenda. And even then, they don't care. They start two wars, cut taxes for the filthy rich, spend, spend, spend, spend for the previous eight years without anyone stopping them. Now, when they are slapped out of power, CBO statistics are all of a sudden flawed. Give me a break....

    "'Republicans want health care,' Cantor stressed to reporters Tuesday. 'But we want to emphasize the doctor-patient relationship.'"

    No, they don't. To prove that, Republicans, before taking the House, and even after taking it kept up this mantra of "Repeal and Replace." Skip forward to now. All we hear is "Repeal." There ain't no more "Replace" in their rhetoric.

    They just want to kill this. And in turn, kill American people. Because it's politics. THEIR politics. All of them are in the pockets of the health insurance companies.

    Make no mistake about it: The goal for Republicans in both the House and the Senate is the destruction of President Obama and his entire administration. They could care less about anything else.

    Right now, just about one out of every four Americans wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Since Republicans suck at math, I'll spell it out. This means that three quarters of American people want the Affordable Care Act to continue to happen. And this even includes a lot of Republican registered voters.

    But still they spout this crap about how "we're doing the will of the people."

    It's a guarantee this whole effort will fail, and even more horribly that our taxpayer dollars are going towards a complete waste of time regarding this repeal.

    But, the best thing to happen out of all of this is that the Republican Party has taken one more step to complete self destruction. I said this before and I'll say it again: When you give something to the American people that helps, is immensely popular, affordable and quality...and then you fanatically move towards taking it away and going back to the way it was before...a way that was totally and completely flawed in favor of big business? That is not good. It spells their doom in the next elections. Mark my words. Voters will remember this stuff.

  5. Debbie Smith references some blogger guy somewhere to scare readers about the DEBT and DEFICIT. Where was she when Reagan, Bush Sr., and Shrub were running them up? Given that the U.S. has been running deficit spending, with an exception for the later part of the President Clinton's presidency, for decades when will the world decide we are too great a risk? Since Republicans are fiscally irresponsible Debbie must be referring to their policies ala Dick Cheney's statement that "deficits don't matter...". See here for more of the witless sayings by Cheney:

  6. Reagan, Bush I & II ALL CREATED DEBT: 80% of the National Debt is due to the last 30 years of Republican Presidents.

    Junior was responsible for $7 Trillion, nearly 50% of the National Debt himself and the Republicans claim they are "worried" about the debt - it's no wonder they want to push Religion into the Government and Schools: Bogeyman Economics, Bogeyman Wars and Bogeyman logic.

    Put on the white hood and get ready for a coon hunt...the dogs are warming up now.

  7. As usual the Republicants (the party of me, me, me) try to defeat a bill that will help all American citizens, They are so concerned that this will cost Insurance corporations in the long run that it may interfere with all of perks that get thrown there way. I mean the Republicants will not get as many cruises and flights and envelopes full of cash to sweeten their lives while they try and ruin the average working people for the sake of big business. If you should ever have medical disaster you risk losing your home and being sued by Doctors and Hospitals (big business also) ultimately going into bankruptcy. If this allowed to be defeated the cost of medical care will skyrocket. California is going to see it even if it is not repealed. I shudder to think of the cost if it is repealed. It will just be like taking the handcuffs off the pickpockets better known as the Republicants (the party of me, me, me). It seems to me the Republicants are in essence becoming the death squads if this bill is repealed. The Republicants have done everything they can to diminish a persons ability to pay for medical care by keeping wages low. After reading the majority of that bill there is decidedly some points that should be changed, but over all the bill helps the majority of the people. It also provides health coverage for some that cannot get coverage right now. Just the provision to cover preexisting conditions should be the major selling point of this bill, not to mention that you will be able to keep your kids covered until they leave home and are on their own. The Republicants do not have any concern for the people just big business. Why the voters cannot see this is beyond me. The Republicants (the party of me, me, me) know this will bill not be defeated and continue to waste time on it instead of working on jobs and the economy. That is a greater concern in my mind. It looks like it is no big concern of theirs. Their answer is do deny mortgage interest deductions on your income tax, if that does not equate to a tax increase what does?

  8. You can't believe the figures coming out of the CBO about what the repeal of Obamacare will cost. Those figures are based on the criteria they are being fed by the Democrats and that criteria is not accurate. Like everything else the liberals do, it is skewed to their agenda.

  9. To pri1ncess: The cost of KEEPING Obamacare in place far exceeds the cost of scrapping it. The liberals' fuzzy math has a lot of sheeple fooled, as usual. "THERE ARE NONE SO BLIND AS THOSE WHO REFUSE TO SEE"

  10. I'll believe the GOP line on "fuzzy math" just as soon as they point out where all the death panels are!

    I haven't been to one yet, have you?

  11. The thing that should really disturb us is the veiled reference to repeal of 1099 reporting requirements as the part of the "Repeal of Obamacare" which would pass in the Senate?

    A vast amount of income goes unreported, and, consequently, untaxed, because it is not reported on 1099s. If we are going to close the US Budget Deficit, requiring complete 1099 coverage is good starting point.

    But that actually would accomplish something. Instead of doing something practical we will be regaled with rhetorical flourishes about "fiscal responsibility" and the new "Constitutionalism," while we move still further away from real (as opposed to fictional) deficit reduction.

  12. The GOP is still completely incoherent.

    In 1993, during the health care reform debate under President Clinton, Rhode Island republican John Chafee introduced the GOP alternate plan for health care reform, co-sponsored by 20 other GOP senators, demanding a federal individual mandate for health insurance. It was supported by other republicans like Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley.

    Linda Quick of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association fondly recalled the first time she heard a politician promoting the idea of the individual mandate. It was 1994, during a speech given by republican John McCain.

    In 2004, would-be GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney introduced his great idea for health care reform in Massachusetts: individual mandates.

    In 2008, Tommy Thompson, George W. Bush's pick for secretary of Health and Human Services said, "Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance."

    Fast-forward to 2011, and now the GOP declares that their idea, the individual mandate, is an "affront to personal liberty," "akin to tyranny," "unconstitutional," "unpatriotic," etc.

  13. Heck and Heller get their medical care from the taxpayers and now are voting to take it away from children. Many people will die if the Republicans get their way.

    Shows what a sick mode of thinking Heck has. For once, families with children with preexisting medical conditions can get insurance, and Heck wants to take it away.

  14. Pitiful, pathetic posturing by the GOP. Their machinations are costing us money, time, and effort but the efforts will ultimately go nowhere. It's all grandstanding because it won't get past the Senate and they don't have the numbers to override a veto.

    So....Speaker Boehner, while you're pretending to repeal health care, where are those jobs you promised us?