2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

 

(Yes, I'm Jewish. Yes, hearing Michelle Bachmann mangle the pronounciation of "chutzpah" makes my teeth itch, but it's hilarious).

Late last night, Texas Attorney General Ken "don't confuse me with Bill" Paxton announced that he, along with 19 other state Attorneys General, is suing the federal government (again) over the Affordable Care Act:

Texas is suing the federal government over President Barack Obama's landmark health law — again.

In a 20-state lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that after the passage of the GOP's tax plan last year — which also repealed a provision of the sweeping legislation known as "Obamacare" that required people to have health insurance — the health law is no longer constitutional.

 

Please watch the full video above before reading this entry.

I've been debating about whether to post this for several days now.

My son is on the Autism spectrum. His case is fairly low-level/high-functioning (mostly in the Aspergers Syndrome category, I believe), and most of the time it's not all that noticeable, but it's definitely an issue in certain circumstances...and the video above gives a perfect example.

I've made one or two vague references to a member of my immediate family being in need of mental health services and physical therapy (he also has a mild case of cerebral palsy), but haven't gone into specifics before. This is partly because it wasn't really necessary to the point I was making, but mainly because my wife and I are very protective of our son and don't want him to grow up thinking of himself as an "Aspie" or whatever the label is; he's just himself. However, he's old enough now that I decided to ask him if he's OK with my mentioning it publicly, so here we are.

In 2018, unsubsidized premiums for ACA-compliant individual healthcare policies have shot up by around 30% on average nationally. Around 18 points of this (60% of the total) is due specifically to policy decisions by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans, primarily the cut-off of Cost Sharing Reduction reimbursement payments and the (accurate, as it would later develop) anticipation, by some carriers, of the ACA's individual mandate being repealed.

What about 2019, however? The 2-3 points tacked on out of concern for the mandate being repealed was only a small portion of the full impact insurance carriers expect it to have, and of course there's the further undermining of the ACA via Donald Trump's "Short Term" and "Association Plan" executive orders. Finally, there's the impact of what is assumed to be another year of the advertising/outreach budget being starved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid.

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress announced their own proposal for a new, comprehensive, national, universal healthcare coverage system. I'm giving my initial thoughts annotation-style.

Medicare Extra for All: A Plan to Guarantee Universal Health Coverage in the United States
By the CAP Health Policy Team Posted on February 22, 2018, 6:00 am

OVERVIEW: This proposal guarantees the right of all Americans to enroll in the same high-quality plan modeled after the Medicare program.

Presented with minimal comment:

(CNN) A top official at the Department of Health and Human Services has been placed on administrative leave after a CNN KFile inquiry while the agency investigates social media postings in which he pushed unfounded smears on social media.

Jon Cordova serves as the principal deputy assistant secretary for administration at HHS. A KFile review of Cordova's social media accounts found that he pushed stories filled with baseless claims and conspiracy theories, including stories that claimed Gold Star father Khizr Khan is a "Muslim Brotherhood agent" and made baseless claims about Sen. Ted Cruz's personal life.

"Principal deputy assistant" is probably just a gussied-up name for a low-level flunkie, right?

 

Back in June 2016, the Obama Administration rightly clamped down on "Short-Term Plans", limiting them to, you know, a "short term"...no more than 3 months out of the year, while also making them non-renewable; that is, you couldn't get around the 3-month limit by simply renewing the policy every three months:

 

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are not screwing around:

EMMA GONZALEZ: Well what we have set up right now we have a website, March for Our Lives. We're going to be doing a march in March on Washington where we get students all over the country are going to be joining us. These kids are going to make this difference because the adults let us down. And at this point I don't even know if the adults in power who are funded by the NRA I don't even think we need them anymore because they're going to be gone by midterm election. There's-- there's barely any time for them to save their skins. And if they don't turn around right now and state their open support for this movement they're going to be left behind. Because you are either with us or against us at this point.

UPDATE 2/18/18: I noted in my original post last night that "it's important to note that the [3/14] walkout doesn't appear to have started with the Stoneman Douglas students themselves, but the Women's March folks. Or perhaps it was suggested to them by some students, I don't really know."

Well, it sounds like there may have been a bit of message co-opting, (or perhaps not; see 2nd update below) well-intentioned though it may have been. Apparently there's a third date being touted for a different event: #MarchForOurLives, on March 24, nationally...and this one is officially endorsed/touted by the students themselves, which I think is critically important:

Last November, along with voting to keep a Democrat in the Governor's office, Virginia voters also swept a huge wave of Democrats into office in the state legislature. They didn’t quite take a majority, but they came within a single vote of getting a 50-50 tie in the state Assembly. Instead, they have a two-vote shortfall (51-49), matching the same two-vote shortfall (21-19) in the state Senate.

New Governor Ralph Northam has solidly promised to finally push through ACA Medicaid expansion for 400,000 Virginians, but those two-vote margins have made doing so incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, it looks like the dam may have finally been broken:

A prominent Republican state legislator from southwest Virginia announced his support Thursday for expanding Medicaid, an about-face that could make it easier for other rural conservatives to get on board after four years of steadfast opposition.

As everyone's heard by now, there was ANOTHER horrific school massacre by a white supremacist Trump supporter*, this time at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and teachers were murdered, and another fourteen were wounded and hospitalized.

*Update: It turns out that while he is a white supremacist himself, he isn't necessarily an official member of any specific white supremacist organization, not that it makes much difference.

From October 17,2017:

On the other hand, assuming there isn't enough time to re-set the premiums back to "CSRs funded" levels for 2018, that means that prices will spike for next year [2018]...and then presumably would drop by about 15-20% starting in 2019, just in time for the midterms. If that happens, I guarantee that the GOP will run around trying to claim that they "fixed" Obamacare and "saved" the American public from spiraling premiums, bla bla bla. Of course they'll try to do that whether it kicks in for 2018 or 2019, but if prices go up this year and drop next, it'll make for much more dramatic campaign ads.

Trump, of course, will claim to have "saved" (or even "repealed") Obamacare no matter when anything kicks into effect. If the deal falls through, of course, he'll once again blame everyone but himself as he always does.

Cut to February 15, 2018: (via Stephanie Armour of the Wall St. Journal)

 

From the Cabinet Meeting scene in the comedy "Dave":

DAVE: Now the Commerce Department..,

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE (sitting erect): Yes, Mr. President?

DAVE (from a card): You're spending forty-seven million dollars on an ad campaign to... (reading) 'Boost consumer confidence in the American auto industry.'

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Um...yes, sir...it's designed to bolster individual confidence in a previous domestic automotive purchase.

DAVE: So we're spending forty-seven million dollars so someone can feel better about a car they've already bought?

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Yes, sir, but I wouldn't characterize it that way...

DAVE (indignant): Well I'm sure that's really important, but I don't want to tell some eight- year-old kid he's got to sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their cars. (beat) Do you want to tell him that?

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE (quietly): No sir...(looks at TV cameras)...no sir, I sure don't.

 

UPDATE 2/17/18: I've also embedded the full speech of Cameron Kasky's fellow Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez, who gave one hell of an impassioned speech today at a rally.

I'm incredibly impressed by students like Kasky, Gonzalez, as well as David Hogg (a student reporter who actually recorded interviews with the students while they were hiding from the murderer and Sarah Chadwick, who's pretty much obliterated Donald Trump and the NRA on Twitter. These "kids" are far more mature, eloquent and savvy about what's going on than most adults and should be listened to.

This isn't normally the sort of thing I write about, but gun violence is absolutely a healthcare policy issue, whether you're talking about the physical injuries, rehabilitation, mortality rates, psychological/emotional trauma or, of course, mental health. But even if it wasn't, I really don't care; I'm posting this anyway:

Freedom's just another word for..."better not get sick."

In Idaho, "Freedom" comes with limits
— Zachary Tracer (@ZTracer) February 14, 2018

— Katherine Hempstead (@khemp64) February 14, 2018

Two weeks ago, Idaho Governor "Butch" Otter issued an executive order allowing insurance carriers to basically just ignore federal law altogether and start offering non-ACA compliant healthcare policies. As Sarah Kliff of Vox.com noted at the time:

OK, let me get this out of the way up front: Yes, this is pretty self-serving of me, and kind of stupid, but it's something which has been bugging me for four years now, so I finally decided to do something about it.

As longtime readers know, ACA Signups didn't start out as a full website. Originally it consisted entirely of a Google Docs spreadsheet with a domain name pointing to it. The domain wasn't even ACASignups.net; I started out using ObamacareSignups.net, which still repoints to the site today. I changed it after the first month or so not because I have a problem with "Obamacare" but because ACASignups.net is simply faster to type out.

The ACA Signups project actually started out as a series of blog posts over at Daily Kos, one of the largest online progressive political sites in the country, where I had already been posting under the name Brainwrap on any number of issues for nearly a decade.

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