Weekly Toon …

and trying to fool you into thinking we were improving the House bill ...

June 28, 2017, Update

It’s not over, people. I wish it was, but Mitch McConnell is not easily deterred. He wants to win and he and his leadership team will be seeing what they can do to bribe or threaten their GOP colleagues into supporting their bill over the course of the next several weeks; and once they have the votes, they’ll bring it to the floor quickly.

In other words, if you care about this issue, you need to keep pressuring your GOP Senators not to backtrack in the coming weeks.

June 25, 2017, Original Post

Last Thursday Mitch McConnell finally released the Senate GOP’s version of healthcare reform. Of course, it’s not really a healthcare reform bill at all. As the New York Times noted: “It is, plain and simple, a plan to cut taxes for the wealthy by destroying critical federal programs that help provide health care to tens of millions of people.”

The Senate GOP bill throws the old, the sick, and the poor under the bus – and a lot of kids as well! It will deprive millions of Americans of health insurance entirely and raise premiums for many others who are older and sicker. It will also reduce benefits and raise costs as well as deductibles for still millions of others.

Think you may be one of those who benefits substantially from the tax cuts? Think again! You’ll save a pittance if you make between $200,000 and $500,000 a year and somewhat more if you make more than $500,000.

But the biggest benefits accrue to those making more than $1 million annually, people like Donald Trump and his family.

Some, like cartoonist Drew Sheneman (more of whose work is featured here), have pointed out that the Senate GOP proposal is not all that different from the version passed by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

But the truth is that the Senate GOP bill is worse than its House counterpart in at least one critical respect. It will do far more damage to the Medicaid program over the long term; and that’s really the key to the shell game Senate Republicans are playing.

The Senate GOP proposal immediately gets rid of all the taxes the Affordable Care Act imposed on higher income Americans to help subsidize insurance for those less well off. But the benefit reductions will take place much more gradually; and they will hit the Medicaid program especially hard.

Why should I care you may wonder? I’m not on Medicaid. That may be true, but someone you know may very well be.

Nearly one in five Americans, 74 million people, are on Medicaid, including a third of the nation’s children. Medicaid pays for half of all births and covers almost two-thirds of nursing home residents, including many who are middle class and spent all their savings on care before becoming eligible.

You can learn more about Medicaid here.

Congressional Republicans, who originally supported the program, have turned against it. They think it costs too much even though the Federal government spends hundreds of billions less on it annually than it does on the defense budget.

That’s why, starting in 2021, they want to change Medicaid from a Federal-state financing partnership that expands with need to a block grant program that doesn’t.

Funding would be capped at a set amount per Medicaid recipient. Of still more importance, starting in 2025 the Senate bill will begin to cut Medicaid deeper than the House bill as the cap on Medicaid payments would grow at a much slower rate than the inflation rate for medical costs.

Why 2025 you may ask?

First, McConnell and his Republican colleagues are counting on you to forget who was responsible for wrecking the healthcare system by phasing in the benefit reductions more slowly.

But with regard to Medicare specifically, pushing the timeline for the full effect of benefit reductions out to 2025 and beyond also has the effect of concealing the full damage being done to Medicaid by the GOP.

Because of the way the Congressional Budget Office typically scores bills it may not pick up some of the most devastating damage the Senate GOP proposal does down the road as inflation starts eating away at the program

This is a point discussed in far more detail by Jared Bernstein in an article well worth reading.

Of course, it isn’t just those on Medicaid who are harmed by the Senate proposal. For those who get insurance through a healthcare exchange, the Senate bill provides smaller subsidies to pay for less generous health insurance plans that will also feature higher deductibles.

Both GOP bills also defund Planned Parenthood for one year (the idea being to permanently defund it in separate legislation less constrained by the rules the Senate is operating under to consider this proposal; rules that prevent Senate Democrats from filibustering the bill).

Experts expect this would result in low-income Americans getting less medical care and having more unintended pregnancies as access to contraceptives decline.

In the end, the Senate GOP proposal is a $800 billion plus transfer of wealth to the rich and powerful, one of the biggest redistributions of wealth from less well-off Americans to the rich.

In fairness, of course, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) paid for its expansion of health care coverage by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. And why not? To whom much is given much is expected.

In the end, when push comes to shove, it all comes down to what kind of a person you are. If you’re someone who believes more Americans should have access to healthcare, this is very bad bill indeed. If you are among those much better off and don’t care what happens to others, this is the bill for you.

The bottom line is clear. Millions of Americans will lose insurance coverage over time if this bill or its House counterpart are enacted. Many others will pay a lot more for coverage worth much less and with higher out-of-pocket deductibles. States will be given more flexibility to scale back essential health services.

That’s why these GOP proposals are opposed by AARP and virtually all of the organizations representing health care professionals.

“There has never been a rollback of basic services to Americans like this ever in U.S. history,” said Bruce Siegel, president of America’s Essential Hospitals, a coalition of about 300 hospitals that treat a large share of low-income patients.

“Let’s not mince words. This bill will close hospitals. It will hammer rural hospitals, it will close nursing homes. It will lead to disabled children not getting services …. People will die.”

Will it pass? Don’t bet against Mitch McConnell. Yes, some GOP Senators are saying they cannot support the bill in its current form. Much of this is just an elaborate charade to allow certain GOP Senators to offer amendments they will then claim improved the bill and justified voting for it.

But if the bill passes the game is over. We will have taken a colossal step back in time and become a much more mean-spirited nation when it comes to taking care of our own.

Meanwhile, the defense budget to support unwinnable wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East will continue to rise; and still another tax cut to benefit the rich and powerful will be the next order of business for Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

One bite at the tax cut apple isn’t enough for them; and if that means wrecking our healthcare system in the process and becoming a meaner nation, so be it.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire …

Lying comes naturally to Trump - he's been doing it for years ...

Good news, people! We can finally put to rest the long simmering debate about whether Donald Trump recorded his conversations with James Comey, among others. Earlier today Trump finally tweeted that he did not tape his conversations with the former F.B.I. Director.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking, and illegal leaking of information,” Trump said in a pair of tweets shortly before 1 p.m., “I have no idea … whether there are ‘tapes’ of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, such recordings.”

You can read more about the breaking news in this New York Times story. The cartoon is from Clay Jones, more of whose work is featured here.

How convenient!

The announcement comes on the same day Senate Republicans were releasing their healthcare proposal so very little attention will be paid to Trump’s revelation. And Trump also left open the possibility that someone else may have recorded their conversations. One wonders who? Could it be the Russians perhaps?

In any event, Trump’s latest tweets raise still another question. We know Trump lies all the time; and since the man is a serial liar, can we really trust his denial today? Could it be the tapes do exist and would prove inconvenient if Trump was forced to share them with Congressional investigators or the Special Counsel?

Can we really be sure of anything when it comes to a liar like Donald Trump?

Justice

U.S. Supreme Court West Facade

I wanted to alert my gay readers that I’ve begun publishing a new story this evening over at The Annex.

While the story has a political theme, it was written primarily for a gay audience and will include adult-content that non-gay readers interested in my political postings at this blog may not be into.

Consider this both an invitation for my gay readers and a warning for those who are not.

Sabotage …

Talk about a death spiral ...

Update

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had a problem when the American Health Care Act arrived from the House last month. What to do with a bill that is clogging your agenda but only 8 percent of Americans want you to pass and members of your own caucus swore was dead on arrival?

This terrific article by Andy Slavett, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 to 2017, spells out what’s happening in the Senate on health care reform far better than anything I’ve written to date. And it comes from someone much more knowledgeable as well.

If you care about healthcare in the United States, I strongly urge you to read it and and then to contact your own Senators, especially if they’re Republican, to let them know that you’re not going to be fooled by Mitch McConnell’s political bag of tricks.

Original Post

ANOTHER WEEK, another insurance company deserting patients in a wide swath of the country. Last Tuesday, Anthem announced it would pull out of the Obamacare marketplace in Ohio, potentially leaving individual insurance-buyers in about a fifth of the state’s counties without Affordable Care Act coverage to purchase. The news came after insurers in various other states announced or threatened market exits or big rate hikes over the past several weeks.

Are these moves more evidence that Obamacare is fundamentally unworkable? Hardly. Of greedy insurance companies callously disregarding their customers’ health? Not that either. Anthem explained clearly what is responsible for its retreat: Republican sabotage of the health-care system.

It is now clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Trump administration is systematically undermining the Affordable Care Act – despicable behavior that is likely to result in many Americans losing their health insurance unless something is done quickly to persuade or force Trump to reverse course.

Wondering why the Trump is doing this? It’s simple really. Trump and his cronies want you to believe that there is no alternative to repealing and replacing Obamacare. The Washington Post makes this clear in that editorial I quoted from above and that you can read in full by following this link. (And catch more of editorial cartoonist Dan Wasserman’s work here)

Like I said, this is about as low as you can sink – holding innocent people hostage to a political agenda that has little support in the country. But, hey, it’s Trump we’re talking about here, a man with no heart, no conscience, and no capacity to tell the truth.

Weekly Toon …

Sad to see a grown man this insecure and desperate to for respect ...

Total and complete vindication” was Trump’s take on the testimony of James Comey this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The man may choose to live in a fantasy world if he wishes, but comments like that only reveal just how out of touch he is. Even the Republicans called his behavior inappropriate. But unlike all of the rest of us, Trump is never wrong and never apologizes.

Donald Trump is a self-anointed saint, perfect in every way. Still, I’m eagerly looking forward to the sworn testimony Trump volunteered to give – and to the release of any and all tapes of his conversations with Comey, something even Republicans are insisting upon.

Don’t hold your breath, however. Trump is a chronic and serial liar, someone who will say anything if he thinks it will benefit him to do so. But actually deliver truthful testimony under oath? The man likes to bluff, no doubt about it, but he would be risking a lot to do something like that, especially if the tapes exist.

For their part most of the Republican members of the Intelligence Committee were either incoherent (John McCain) or trying to run interference for Trump to one degree or another. They tried to make the case that Trump didn’t order Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn; that he merely expressed a hope that Comey would. Coming after ordering everyone except Comey out of the room, how plausible is that?

I don’t think most reasonable people buy that this was an innocent conversation – or that Trump is a naif who didn’t know what he was doing was inappropriate either. As the New York Times points out in an excellent editorial well worth reading: “The president obviously knows that it’s wrong to interfere in an investigation. As a candidate, he repeatedly condemned Bill Clinton’s tarmac conversation with Loretta Lynch, then the attorney general overseeing an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.”

Sadder still, Trump never once asked Comey what could or should be done to prevent future Russian interference in our elections. Sad! What ever happened to “and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?” When did that get changed to “preserve, protect and defend Donald Trump?”

So, yes, I think David Fitzsimmons, the editorial cartoonist for the Arizona Daily Star (more of whose work is featured here), got at least part of it right in the above cartoon. Trump, the petulant child, shrinks daily as others rise by struggling to do the right thing for a country led by a very pathetic creature indeed.

A savage commentary on Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord is our runner-up for the week.

How convenient …

the face of evil ...

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took a procedural step Wednesday that will allow the GOP to fast-track its Obamacare repeal efforts in the Senate and side-step the typical committee process. You can read the entire article here.

Just as all eyes are rightly focused on the impending testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken a crucial step to make passage of a GOP-repeal of the Affordable Care Act a lot easier.

Not surprisingly, none of the nation’s largest newspapers picked up on the story given the rest of the day’s events. But it’s an important story nonetheless.

What this means is that the GOP proposal will not have to go through public hearings where those opposed to the bill would have a chance to make their case and try to drum up opposition to the bill.

While it’s too soon to know for sure whether they will oppose the Senate GOP bill now being drafted in secret, the following groups opposed the House GOP proposal because it would substantially reduce the number of Americans having access to health care: the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Osteopathic Association.

The American Nurses Association, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Lung Association were also among those opposing the House-passed bill.

But what would any of these organizations know after all? They’re not experts like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump.

The point is it’s now obvious McConnell and the Senate GOP are getting prepared to jam through whatever they can agree on without taking into account the views of anyone else.

Time to keep your hands on your wallets, people. A lot of you are going to lose insurance coverage and/or be required to pay a lot more if Mitch McConnell has its way; and Mitch had just made having his way a lot easier.