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Republican Fiscal Irresponsibility Continues

I’ve mentioned it before, but ever since I became of age to vote, Republicans have had a consistent track record of fiscal irresponsibility. Which is ironic given that they claim to be the responsible ones. This started with Ronald Reagan, whose policies created then-record deficits. His vice president and successor, George H.W. Bush, continued the same spending habits, racking up new record deficits. And George W. Bush was famous for profligate spending, tax cuts with no matching spending cuts, and unfunded mandates, such as Medicare Part D. He also established new deficit records.

This year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives reserved the prime designation of H.R. 1 for the tax reform plan they intend to introduce. Get a load of the “plan:” lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, lower the tax rate for top individual earners from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, and don’t worry about how to pay for it.

See, the paying for it part is always left out of the Republicans’ plans. It simply isn’t important to them. The fact is, their track record indicates that they don’t really care whether their tax cuts are paid for–that’s beside the point.

Writing about Ways and Means Chairman David Camp’s plans to release details of a tax-reform package next week, the National Journal wrote:

Democrats say that plan did not contain specific ways to replace that lost revenue. The simple fact, according to Democrats, is that Republicans have not been able to make the math work—and to do what they want to do would add $5 trillion to the deficit.

On Thursday, Democrats said there was talk that Camp may have actually recently revised his own plan, so that his top rate may not be lowered below 30 percent, after all. But they say they expect gimmicks will be needed to pay for it, anyway. One big gimmick anticipated, they say, is expanding the Roth IRA, which could raise a lot of money now but cost a lot of money in the future.

All the Republicans ever have are gimmicks, time after time.

But don’t worry too much. The odds of such a plan actually getting introduced seems remote, since Republicans are afraid of doing anything in 2014 because the voting public might notice. As the National Journal writes, “With no chance of their plan being backed by Democrats in the House and Senate, many Republicans also do not want to draw any election-year focus away from their attacks on the Affordable Care Act.”

Yup. Your 2014 Republicans in action. Or not.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in Current Events, Politics

 

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Republican hostage taking ends with a whimper

So in the end, Republicans couldn’t agree on which hostage to take, so they gave up. The House passed a one-year suspension of the debt limit with no strings attached. Speaker John Boehner had to rely on Democrats to get the job done. Then he complained that it was President Obama’s fault because he wouldn’t negotiate over what was a routine procedural vote until Republicans seized upon the debt ceiling vote in 2011 as a way to undercut President Obama. He must be having a sad.

Politico has a good round down of the outcome.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Current Events, Politics

 

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Speaking of polls…

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a lower approval rating in his home state of Kentucky than President Obama. Kentucky isn’t exactly known as a bastion of liberalism, so these results are pretty damning.

In an especially troubling sign for McConnell, his job-approval rating was two points below the approval rating poll respondents gave President Barack Obama, who remains deeply unpopular in the state.

Only 32 percent approved of McConnell, compared to 34 percent for Obama. Both men won a disapprove rating from 60 percent of voters.

With women and young voters, McConnell trails Grimes badly, losing women 49 percent to 37 percent and the 18-34 demographic 43 percent to 34 percent.

Wouldn’t it be delicious if McConnell’s strategy of denying President Obama a second term resulted not only in failing in its stated purpose, but also ended up in his ouster from the senate.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Current Events, Politics, President Obama

 

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The Republicans’ “visceral” opposition to fixing ObamaCare [Updated]

Robert Laszewski–an astute observer of health care policy and no fan of ObamaCare–had a post on Monday about the recently proposed Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. He writes:

The problem for Republicans is that they have such a visceral response to the term “Obamacare” that they just can’t bring themselves to fix it. The notion that Obamacare might be fixed and allowed to continue as part of an Obama legacy and as a Democratic accomplishment is something they can’t get past.

Bingo. Since November 4, 2008, about the only thing that has united Republicans, aside from cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans, has been their unrelenting desire to deny President Obama any accomplishment, regardless of the consequences. And exhibit number one is the Affordable Care Act.

This strategy of cynical obstruction originated as early as the transition period leading up to Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009. In Michael Grunwald’s book, The New New Deal, he quotes Joe Biden as saying, “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything.” “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back.’” As former senator George Voinovich confirmed to Grunwald, “If [Obama] was for it, we had to be against it. [Mitch McConnell] wanted everyone to hold the fort. All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory.”

Then there was the Republican strategy session on the night of the inauguration, in which they agreed to “show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies,” as well as other objectives designed simply to hurt the president and congressional Democrats. And of course, shortly before 2010 mid-term elections, Mitch McConnell famously stated, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

So it’s been orchestrated obstruction, solely for political gain. There has never been a spirit of cooperation and compromise among Republicans since President Obama was elected. Nevertheless, a stimulus plan was enacted. Financial reforms were signed into law. Health care reform did happen. And President Obama was re-elected to a second term in 2012. What did Republicans get in exchange? The lowest approval ratings in the history of such ratings, and the indignity of repudiating the very things they once supported. Oh, they did win back the House in 2010, which lead to such smart ideas as repeatedly holding the American debt hostage to one silly demand after another. On the whole, it’s been a dismal performance.

My favorite Republican throughout this process was Senator Chuck Grassley, whose hypocrisy was stunningly comical. A member of the “gang of six” that was supposedly negotiating a bi-partisan health care solution in the summer of 2009, he was an unequivocal supporter of the individual mandate going all the way back to legislation he co-sponsored in the 1990s. (Yes, it was a Republican idea in the first place.) Then in September he suddenly disavowed his own long-held positions, completely undermining his own credibility.

All of this brings us to Robert Laszewski’s article about the Republicans’ current predicament vis-a-vie health care. “My sense is that most independent voters––the ones that matter in an election-year––don’t want Obamacare repealed; they want it fixed.”

Bingo again. But as Laszewski writes, Republicans have driven themselves into a ditch because of their unwavering insistence on repealing ObamaCare and starting over.

There is a problem with that strategy. Have you heard the one about, “If you like your health insurance you can keep it?”

It is now 2014. The Affordable Care Act is law. The Republican alternative would mean taking lots of things away the Democrats will quickly pounce on:

Medicaid Expansion – The Republican alternative would “not expand” Medicaid––presumably rolling back the Medicaid expansion in each of the 24 states that have expanded it. By year-end, millions of Americans will have gained coverage. Who wants to tell these people now on Medicaid the Republican alternative only contemplates covering pregnant women, low-income children, and low-income families at the old levels? Twenty-four states that would see benefit cuts equates to 48 U.S. Senators.

Insurance Subsidies – The Republican alternative would offer health insurance premium subsidies for people up to 300% of the poverty level. Far fewer people than expected are buying Obamacare but that number will be well into the millions before long. Obamacare offers subsidies up to 400% of the poverty level meaning that lots of people would lose their subsidies––and they would be the voters who are solidly middle-class.

The Tax Exclusion for Employer-Based Health Insurance – There is no health insurance policy so sacred in America as the one a worker gets from their employer. The Republican alternative would cap the tax exclusion, currently at 100% of whatever the employer gives the worker and their family for health insurance, at 65% of the cost of the “average” cost of a policy. Democrats will quickly jump on this as a huge middle class tax increase and an attempt to undermine employer-based health insurance.

Lower Premiums for Older People – A controversial part of Obamacare was its requirement that older people can’t be charged more than three times the premium of the youngest. That contributed to the rate shock that hit many people in the small group and individual market when Obamacare policies had to comply. Republicans would take people through the same political nightmare once again but in reverse this time. Their plan would cap rating differences at 5:1, thereby forcing older peoples’ premiums up, and younger peoples’ premiums down. Older people tend to vote more often. Ironically, they have also been the ones who so far have more often bought an Obamacare compliant policy.

The Prohibition of Pre-Existing Condition Provisions – As of January 1, 2014, there is no such thing in America any longer. But Republicans would bring the provision back if people did not maintain continuous coverage. That sounds fair. But what happens when someone is forced to drop their expensive coverage when they lose their job for a few months and the Republican tax credits don’t give them enough help maintaining it? Democrats will be able to think of lots of scenarios where a family playing by the rules has no choice but to drop coverage and face pre-existing condition provisions once again.

Each of these Republican proposals is credible and constructive and should be part of any discussion over how to move forward with health insurance reform.

Look, no one thinks the Affordable Care Act was perfect. It was an historic step toward health care reform, but any reform of this magnitude consists of trade-offs and potential missteps. Eventually, improvements are going to be made and trade-offs tweaked. But Republicans have painted themselves into a corner. For years, they’ve insisted that nothing will do other than a full repeal of ObamaCare and a return to the previous status quo. That becomes more infeasible with every passing day. Eventually they’ll be seen as the ones proposing radical disruption as opposed to the Democrats proposing sensible improvements.

Republicans will insist that ObamaCare can’t be fixed and we must start over, “but tell that to the older people who Democrats will be quick to remind will be paying more, the middle class people who would get their health insurance subsidies cut, and the 160 million people who get their health insurance––which they really like––through employer-based plans and will see their taxes go up.”

Ah, the irony. After years of being the party entirely dedicated to obstructing, it will be fascinating to see how Republicans become the party of doing. That is, if they can muster the courage.

[Update]

Jonathan Chait has a similar take in his column today. His conclusion:

Once it was no longer useful as a weapon to stop universal health insurance, the Republican health-care plan had to be abandoned. This was the fate of every Republican health-care plan, a durable pattern I call the Heritage Uncertainty Principle. Republican health-care proposals reside in a state of quasi-existence, and any attempt to summon them into political reality will cause them to disappear. Their purpose is to refute the accusation that Republicans lack a health-care plan. The elusive quasi-plan allows them to claim all the potential benefits of health-care reform without having to defend any drawbacks. The game offers Republicans advantages they are unlikely to forfeit for the rest of the Obama era.

The rapidly approaching dilemma for Republicans is that the endgame of preserving the status quo no longer helps them. Their posture always served the endpoint of preventing the creation of a national health-insurance plan. Whenever Republicans gain political power, they’ll inherit a system that confers rights upon the previously uninsured. Pretending to care about the uninsured won’t get them anywhere. They may have the votes to change the health-care system, but they’ll be forced to reckon with its effects in an actual way, not as a hypothetical they can engage with or ignore as it suits them. The game has been changed. And, as the disintegration of the latest GOP health-care plan shows, the Republican Party is not yet remotely prepared to play it.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Current Events, Health Care, Politics, President Obama

 

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Republican Hostage Taking Update

You really have to wonder if Republican congressmen have any clue how idiotic they look. They’ve been huddled up for the past several days trying to agree on something–anything!–to hold hostage in exchange for voting to increase the debt ceiling. On Monday they appeared to have narrowed their choices to either demanding approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or demanding a repeal of the Affordable Care Act risk corridors, which they ignorantly label insurance industry “bail outs.”

Yesterday, they were still mired in indecision, and cracks were beginning to show. Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho) complained, “We should bring up a clean debt ceiling, let the Democrats pass it and just move on. Our constituents are fed up with the political theater. If we’re not going to fight for something specific, we might as well let the Democrats own it.” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) also referred to the charade as “theater,” noting, “It’s going to end up being clean anyway. I don’t see anything they can put on the table that I would support as some sort of trade-off.”

You see, this is all about political theater, trying to make Republicans look responsible… or something. Instead, they look more craven by the day, with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warning that the temporary suspension of the debt limit passed by Congress last year expires this Friday.

But have no fear! Another hostage was proposed today. Speaker John Boehner has floated the idea of demanding the restoration of recently cut military benefits in exchange for a one-year extension of the debt ceiling. According to reports, he hasn’t actually endorsed the idea himself, because that would require him to take a stand without knowing whether he’d have the support of his fellow Republicans. And if we’ve learned anything about John Boehner since the Republicans regained control of the house in 2010, it’s that he won’t take a stand on anything unless he already knows he’ll be on safe ground.

The quotes coming out of the capital today are classic. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio) told reporters, “Right now, Jesus himself couldn’t be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something, so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that. Whatever we move, there will be critics everywhere, but at the end of the day we still have to govern.” At least he acknowledges that they need to govern. I’m not sure the rest of the bunch understand that.

And Rep. Doug Lamborn ­(R-Colo.) chimed in, “I’d support [restoration of military cuts] in a heartbeat. We need to figure this thing out, and that’s a way to do it.” Yup, anything to “figure this thing out.” You get the idea that the specific hostage is secondary to the need to simply have a hostage.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Current Events, Politics, The Freak Show

 

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Republican hostage taking, February 2014 edition

According to Robert Costa, Republicans have narrowed down their choices for what to hold hostage in return for raising the debt limit. They’ll either demand a repeal of the Affordable Care Act risk corridors, or approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The more extreme Republicans favor the former, the not-as-extreme Republicans favor the latter. (We can’t call them moderate Republicans, because they’re no longer allowed in the party.) Meanwhile, the Freak Show Republicans tried to demand a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, but someone must have told them, “STFU before you make us all look like idiots.”

All this for a one-year extension of the debt ceiling, after which they’ll think of some other ransom to extract from President Obama in exchange for agreeing to pay for the bills they’ve already rung up. Because you see, the real point in all of this is to try to make President Obama look bad.

This game is getting tiresome. Americans have grown weary of it. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, who just weeks ago worked with Paul Ryan to hammer out a budget, pointed out the obvious:

“There is no reason to hold anything hostage to getting a debt ceiling raise. We just had a budget agreement, we had an appropriations bill, we determined where our spending is going to be, we now have a responsibility as the managers of this country to pay for that.”

As far as the ACA risk corridors go, Republicans have been demonizing them as insurance company “bailouts.” Either they don’t understand risk corridors, or they do and choose to call them bailouts anyway. I suspect the smarter Republicans do understand them and have opportunistically instructed their pals who don’t to call them “bailouts.” Anything to demonize ObamaCare, of course. Ironically, the Congressional Budget Office says that repealing the risk corridors would actually increase the national debt.

I’ll give the Republicans one thing: They sure are stubborn, even as they keep lowering their price. Wasn’t it just a few years ago they were demanding trillions of dollars of spending cuts? Now it’s a pipeline. Next year they’ll demand that the first lady cut a college intern from her staff. In any event, I’m sure this will end just as well for them as it always has.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Current Events, Politics, Uncategorized

 

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Republicans just now learning that most Americans aren’t business owners

So the Republican Congresspeople had their annual retreat last week. Eric Cantor gave a presentation to his fellow Republicans, trying to get them to understand that, um, 90% of Americans are working class schlubs who have no ambitions. Er, I mean, that 90% of Americans don’t own businesses, and don’t want to own businesses. Apparently, this came as a huge surprise to his colleagues–previously they thought this only applied to 47% of Americans, the moochers–so he had to spell it out in a PowerPoint presentation with graphs and charts and short sentences.

Per Byron York’s report:

“Ninety percent of Americans work for someone else,” Cantor said, according to a source in the room. “Most of them not only will never own their own business, for most of them that isn’t their dream. Their dream is to have a good job, with an income that will allow them to support their family.”

“We shouldn’t miss the chance to talk to these people,” Cantor continued, according to the source, “which is why we will present and pass our plans to relieve the middle class squeeze.”

What was extraordinary about that portion of Cantor’s presentation was not that it was out of place — it was entirely on-target for a political party hoping to win elections in 2014 — but that it came six years into the economic downturn, and decades into a protracted decline in middle-class standards of living. Could it actually have taken Republicans that long to realize they should address such problems, especially when Democrats have made huge gains appealing directly to middle-class voters?

Apparently, yes. And even now, not all House Republicans are entirely on board. “It’s something that’s been growing and taking time for members to get comfortable with,” says a House GOP aide, “because they did spend the last decade talking about small business owners.

Six years into the economic downturn, and decades into a protracted decline in middle-class standards of living.

For years–decades, even–Republicans have demonized everyone who wasn’t a business owner, separating the makers from the takers. All of their policies have been predicated on the theory that business owners should be taxed lower than the rest of us and everything will be fine. Of course, in reality, their policies barely helped the majority of business owners, instead mostly benefiting the wealthiest and largest businesses.

So this is a step in the right direction, even if Cantor has to drag his fellow Republicans along with him. But let’s be patient. It “takes time” to recognize facts when you’ve predicated your entire strategy on a faulty understanding of the American people. They need to get comfortable and all before doing the right thing.

According to York, various conservative groups have been urging Republicans to devote more effort to middle-class concerns, prompting him to ask: “What took them so long?” What took them so long, indeed.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Current Events, Politics

 

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So Who Does Cathy McMorris Rodgers Represent, Anyway?

Timothy Egan has a spot-on editorial in the New York Times about Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ response to President Obama’s State Of The Union speech last Tuesday. McMorris Rodgers, who represents Washington’s fifth congressional district located in the eastern portion of the state, gave the official Republican response–one of seemingly hundreds.

What was striking to Egan is just how poorly she seems to represent her own constituents.

Her district, poorer than the west side of the state, with much of the broken-family, broken-promise poverty of white rural America, is in real trouble. But the policy prescriptions of McMorris Rodgers have nothing to offer these people. Through her, you can see what happens when biography trumps substance in politics.

Consider Stevens County, her home, an area about half the size of Connecticut with fewer than 50,000 people. It’s gorgeous country, hard by the Columbia River, but a hard place to make a decent living. The county’s unemployment rate was 30 percent above the national average last year. One in six people live below the poverty level. One in five are on food stamps. And the leading employer is government, providing 3,023 of the 9,580 nonfarm payroll jobs last year.

Given that picture, it would seem surprising that McMorris Rodgers voted to drastically cut food aid last year, and joined her party in resisting emergency benefits to the unemployed. She has been a leading strategist in the unrelenting Republican attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act.

And yet, in her district, people are flocking to Obamacare — well beyond the national average. Though she has been screening town hall meetings to highlight only critics of the new law, her constituents are doing something entirely different in making their personal health decisions.

In Spokane County, the most populous in the Fifth Congressional District with nearly half a million people, the rate of participation in the new health care law is even well above the state average. At the end of December, signups were 102 percent of the state target. That’s saying something, because Washington, with a big range of insurance choices and a well-run exchange, has been one of the nation’s success stories for the Affordable Care Act.

In her rebuttal speech, McMorris Rodgers told the story of “Bette,” who had written McMorris Rodgers a letter stating that she had “hoped the president’s healthcare law would save her money – but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month.” Proof, according to Rodgers, that “this law is not working.”

It didn’t take long for reporters to track down “Bette,” who is Bette Grenier of Spokane. As with pretty much every other ObamaCare horror story proffered by Republicans, Grenier’s tale of woe didn’t exactly hold up to scrutiny. She could have found less costly alternative plans had she tried, but she admitted that she refused to even consider looking at the exchanges, saying, “I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all.” And who has demonized the exchanges and encouraged their constituents to avoid them at all costs, even if it means going without health insurance, as Grenier has? Republican representatives such as Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Grenier did write a letter to McMorris Rogers’ office describing her situation and asking for help. Did McMorris Rodgers encourage her to explore all of her options, including the state-run Washington insurance exchange? Of course not.

In his editorial, Ryan goes on to say:

What doesn’t make sense is how McMorris Rodgers is so full of animus toward the leading employer of her county, government. Yes, she protects the Air Force base here, as if it’s not really government, and payments to wealthy wheat farmers. But every other form of federal outlay is demonized.

It gets stranger still when looking at her career. On Tuesday night, she proudly mentioned working in an orchard and a fruit stand as a girl. But since then, she has spent most her adult life in — you guessed it — government. She’s been on a state or federal payroll since graduating from Pensacola Christian College, in the early 1990s.

I always find it odd how conservatives can be so anti-government and yet depend on the taxpayers for their paycheck (and their health care) throughout their lives. I remember talking to a conservative friend who worked for government from the time he left high school until the day he retired. Every time I saw him, he regaled me about the fantastic work his department was doing, how it out-performed his private sector counterparts. Then one day he told me that all government workers are essentially worthless. I replied that I knew of at least one case in which that wasn’t true. He asked who I could be talking about, as though he couldn’t conceive of such a thing. When I explained that it was him, he paused and admitted, “You got me, you’re right.” He also subscribed to the old Ronald Reagan maxim, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” I asked him how, if he felt that way, he could work for such an organization for his entire adult life? Needless to say, I didn’t get much of an answer because, truth be told, he was quite proud of what he did in government. His strongly held conservative, anti-government politics were immune to his own personal experience working in government.

Ryan points out that in her speech, McMorris Rogers offered virtually nothing of substance. McMorris Rogers mentioned that Republicans have “plans,” but she didn’t bother to describe any. Rather, like Republicans are wont to do these days, she fell back upon bumper sticker slogans. Ryan concludes by writing:

Reducing dependence and giving people a way to step up the class ladder are fine goals. And no doubt, broken families and single parents — as the Republican Party has long pointed out — keep many people in poverty. But one way to strengthen families is to help them with the kind of medical debt that forces people onto food stamps or prompts a woman to work two jobs, with no time for her kids.

The reason that large numbers of people here in the home district of Cathy McMorris Rodgers are signing up for the first chance in their lives to get affordable, or even free, health care is because they know something their member of Congress doesn’t. The girl who once picked apples in Kettle Falls can’t see what they see, because she’s committed to a party that won’t allow it.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Current Events, Health Care, Politics

 

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Tweet Of The Day

Among the “older, white Democrats” is 90-year old Jim Wright, former Speaker of the House. I wonder if they checked his ID before they let him into the capital building.

Former Speaker of the House Jim Wright has voted in every election since 1944 and represented Texas in Congress for thirty-four years. But when he went to his local Department of Public Safety office to obtain the new voter ID required to vote—which he never needed in any previous election—the 90-year-old Wright was denied. His driver’s license is expired and his Texas Christian University faculty ID is not accepted as a valid form of voter ID.

To be able to vote in Texas, including in Tuesday’s election for statewide constitutional amendments, Wright’s assistant will have to get a certified copy of his birth certificate, which costs $22. According to the state of Texas, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters in Texas don’t have a valid form of government-issued photo ID. Wright is evidently one of them. But unlike Wright, most of these voters will not have an assistant or the political connections of a former Speaker of the House to help them obtain a birth certificate to prove their identify, nor can they necessarily make two trips to the DMV office or afford a birth certificate.

The devil is in the details when it comes to voter ID. And the rollout of the new law in Texas is off to a very bad start. “I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”

You’re missing the point, Speaker Wright. The sole purpose is to reduce the number of people who vote!

By the way, there’s been only one voter impersonation conviction in Texas since 2000.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Current Events, Politics

 

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The Next Fox News ObamaCare Poster Victim [Updated]

Look for Dianne Barrette to be splashed across the screens of every Fox News show in the coming days. She’s the woman from Winter Haven, Fla. who appeared on CBS today (yes, dirty, liberal mainstream media!), complaining that her insurance is going up by ten times.

From the transcript:

Last month, [Barrette] received a letter from Blue Cross/Blue Shield informing her as of January 2014, she would lose her current plan. Barrette pays $54 a month. The new plan she’s being offered would run $591 a month, ten times more than what she currently pays. “What I have right now is what I’m happy with, and I just want to know why I can’t keep what I have. Why do I have to be forced into something else?” [says Barrette]

Sure enough, I happened to hear about five minutes of the Sean Hannity radio show today and naturally, he’s now repeating the canard, “Insurance rates are rising by ten times!” with no context–a Hannity specialty.

As with the know-nothings who appeared on Hannity’s television show last week, a diligent reporter followed up; in this case, Erik Wemple. As Wemple writes:

More coverage may provide a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of Barrette’s situation: Her current health insurance plan, she says, doesn’t cover “extended hospital stays; it’s not designed for that,” says Barrette. Well, does it cover any hospitalization? “Outpatient only,” responds Barrette. Nor does it cover ambulance service and some prenatal care. On the other hand, says Barrette, it does cover “most of my generic drugs that I need” and there’s a $50 co-pay for doctors’ appointments. “It’s all I could afford right now,” says Barrette.

In sum, it’s a pray-that-you-don’t-really-get-sick “plan.” When asked if she ever required hospitalization, Barrette says she did. It happened when she was employed by Raytheon, which provided “excellent benefits.” Ever since she left the company and started working as an independent contractor, “I haven’t been hospitalized since then, thank God.” Hospitalization is among the core requirements for health-care plans under Obamacare.

As Wemple notes, Ms. Barrette’s current coverage doesn’t cover hospital stays at all; even a short stay could well bankrupt her under her current insurance.

But let’s look a little further. From Wemple’s article, we know the county Ms. Barrette lives in (Polk County), her age (56) and her income (about $30,000 annually). That’s enough to go shopping for health insurance for her. According the results at healthcare.gov, she could get a catastrophic plan for $235 per month, a bronze plan for $327, and a silver plan for $371. All of these are cheaper than the $591 she claims her new insurance would cost her.

Furthermore, she is eligible for subsidies because her annual income is less than $46,000. Plugging in her data into the Kaiser Family Foundation Subsidy Calculator, we find that, yes indeed, she is eligible for a subsidy. That Silver plan would actually cost her $209 per month, a Bronze plan $97 per month. The Silver plan would pay 70% of her health care costs (the Bronze plan, 60%), and her maximum out-of-pocket would be $6350. She’s not likely to go bankrupt with either plan if her appendix bursts.

Listening to Hannity today, these subtleties are completely lost in favor of repeating the headline, “Under ObamaCare rates are increasing by as much as ten times!” I don’t expect much better from Fox News.

UPDATE: An article at DailyKos has more details about Ms. Barrette’s current plan:

We can see from the video that Dianne Barrette has “GoBlue plan 91”. This is a ‘limited benefit’ plan. It is widely understood that these plans are not replacments for comprehensive health insurance plans, and it’s easy to see why. If Ms. Barrette incurs $30,000 worth of medical care, the plan will pay somewhere between $50 and $500 depending on the services. There are two things you get from these plans: a provider to negotiate down rates for you, and a small amount covered by the insurer themselves. You can see the supporting documentation for this plan here:

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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Current Events, Health Care, Politics

 

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