Has the Affordable Care Act given 200,000-plus West Virginians health coverage?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘POLITIFACT’) 

 

Has the Affordable Care Act given 200,000-plus West Virginians health coverage?

Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., in 2017. (AP/Michael Virtanen)

During the 2018 midterm elections, many Democrats across the country argued that they would be better positioned than their Republican rivals to protect Americans’ health insurance provided under the Affordable Care Act.

The 2018 election cycle may be over now, but the West Virginia Democratic Party continues to make that argument.

In fact, the issue gained new relevance in March 2019 when the Trump administration said it has decided to seek the law’s full repeal in an ongoing court case. (This is the same lawsuit that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey signed on to, as we’ve noted.)

In an April 1 tweet, the state party said that President Donald Trump “is threatening to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act that provided over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage. Our seniors depend on it for affordable prescriptions and pre-existing condition coverage.”

WV Democratic Party

@wvdemocrats

Trump is threatening to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act that provided over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage. Our Seniors depend on it for affordable prescriptions and pre-existing condition coverage.

See WV Democratic Party’s other Tweets

Here, we’ll look at whether the party is correct that “over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage.” (The West Virginia Democratic Party did not respond to an inquiry for this article.)

The Affordable Care Act provides two primary ways to get coverage — individual policies purchased on online marketplaces and an expansion of Medicaid to a wider group of eligible Americans. We turned to data on both types from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

For 2019, the number of West Virginians purchasing health insurance on the marketplace totaled 22,599.

And for fiscal year 2017, West Virginia added 183,100 residents to its Medicaid rolls due to the Affordable Care Act. (Kaiser communications director Craig Palosky said 2017 figures are the most recent available due to state-by-state reporting lags.)

Combined, that works out to 205,699 West Virginia residents securing coverage from the law, making the Democratic tweet accurate.

Palosky added that other West Virginians benefited from the law without specifically securing insurance under the law. For instance, the law required coverage of pre-existing conditions and provided more generous coverage of prescription drugs under Medicare.

Our ruling

The West Virginia Democratic Party said the Affordable Care Act “provided over 200,000 West Virginians with health care coverage.”

The combination of insurance purchases on the marketplace and the increase in Medicaid coverage works out to 205,699, according to the most recent data available. That’s in line with what the tweet said, so we rate it True.

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The Affordable Care Act “provided over 200,000 West Virginians with health care coverage.”

Republicans: Trump Is a Mad King — Vote for Us to Give Him Unchecked Power

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INTELLIGENCER NEWS AGENCY)

 

Republicans: Trump Is a Mad King — Vote for Us to Give Him Unchecked Power

All power to this person. Photo: Rick Loomis/Getty Images

Throughout 2018, the Democratic Party has had two core messages for the American people: Donald Trump is a dangerouscorrupt president whose power must be checked — and the GOP are a corrupt, dangerous party thatwants to take away health care from the sick.

Now, as the midterm campaign hits the homestretch, Republicans are making the Democrats’ case for them.

In an anonymous New York Times op-ed published Wednesday, a senior Trump administration official wrote that President Trump has “anti-democratic impulses,” is bereft of “any discernible first principles,” behaves in an “erratic” manner that is “detrimental to the health of our republic,” and is so psychologically unstable, “there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment” (which allows for a president to be removed for physical or mental incapacity). The official went on to insist that all of this “would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House” who “have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.”

The op-ed never advises its readers to vote for Democrats this fall. In fact, it suggests that unified Republican government serves the American people’s interests, as it has led to “effective deregulation” and “historic tax reform.” But when GOP strategists were sketching out the ideal message for their party to run on in 2018, they probably didn’t choose: “The health of our republic requires Donald Trump’s power to be checked — but don’t vote to place any additional checks on his power because his insubordinate staff is sometimes successful at blocking his worst ideas, and if you vote Republicans out of office they won’t be able to pass any more corporate tax cuts that you don’t like.

What’s more, it isn’t just a single, anonymous Republican official saying that President Trump cannot be trusted with power. Following the anonymous op-ed’s publication Wednesday, GOP senator Bob Corker told reporters, “This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from day one … I understand this is the case and that’s why I think all of us encourage the good people around the president to stay. I thank General Mattis whenever I see him.”

Corker’s comments echo remarks he made in October 2017, when he told theTimes that the president’s recklessness threatened to put America “on the path to World War III”; that “every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” and that “the vast majority” of the Republican caucus knows these things to be true.

Corker’s Republican colleagues have not moved to expel him from the Senate for telling outrageous lies about the president. Many have declined to even dispute the senator’s account. Which is to say: A large swath of elected Republicans have tacitly conceded that Donald Trump poses a threat to global security, and that this threat is mitigated primarily by the systemic insubordination of officials who serve at Trump’s pleasure.

Once all this is stipulated, the only plausible argument for allowing Republicans to retain full control of Congress (instead of putting a check on Trump that he could not summarily fire) is that the GOP is ready and able to check Trump’s authority itself.

But in recent weeks, congressional Republicans have explicitly assuredvoters that they will not provide effective oversight of the Executive branch. In campaign advertisements, Republican congressional candidates have devoted more airtime to proclaiming their loyalty to Donald Trump than they have to defending their party’s signature tax reform legislation. In recent weeks, many Republicans have reframed their 2018 message around a pledge to protect Trump from overzealous oversight. Last month, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn warned voters that a Democratic Congress would seek “to reverse the election by whatever means possible.”

Around the same time, Republicans on Capitol Hill compiled a list of all the White House scandals that a Democratic House would likely investigate — which is to say, a list of scandals that the current Congress is actively covering up. Among them, per Axios:

• President Trump’s tax returns

• Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the

Constitution’s emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization

• Trump’s dealings with Russia, including the president’s preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin

• The payment to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels

• James Comey’s firing

• Trump’s firing of U.S. Attorneys

• Trump’s proposed transgender ban for the military

• Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s business dealings

• White House staff’s personal email use

• Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks

• Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago

• Jared Kushner’s ethics law compliance

• Dismissal of members of the EPA board of scientific counselors

• The travel ban

• Family-separation policy

• Hurricane response in Puerto Rico

• Election security and hacking attempts

• White House security clearances

It’s hard to imagine any Democratic consultant putting together a better advertisement for divided government than this.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been doing everything in its power to bolster the other pillar of Team Blue’s midterm message. It’s long been clear to Democrats and Republicans alike that health-care policy is the House majority’s biggest liability. The Obamacare repeal bill that House Republicans voted for last year proved to be the most unpopular piece of major legislation in America’s modern history. Shortly after the bill’s introduction last spring, the Democratic Party opened a double-digit lead in polls of the 2018 generic ballot, while President Trump’s job approvaldipped. Subsequent surveys showed the public favoring the Democrats over the Republicans on health-care policy by wide margins.

In May, Republican congressman — and longtime GOP strategist — Tom Cole told CNN that he wasn’t worried about the repeal effort hurting his party on Election Day. After all, by then, it would be water under the bridge. “It’s hard to beat you on a vote you didn’t succeed on,” Cole reasoned.

Alas, the Trump administration — and red-state attorneys general — has made that task much easier for Democrats. Earlier this summer, the Justice Department announced that it would not defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from a challenge brought by a group of red states, which claims that Congress’s repeal of the individual mandate rendered the law’s protections for people with preexisting conditions invalid. This claim — that Congress is not constitutionally allowed to eliminate the ACA’s insurance mandate, unless it also repeals the law’s other regulations of the health-care market — is not some sacred principle of originalist jurisprudence. Rather, it’s an ad hoc rationalization for right-wing judicial activism so specious, it makes theNational Review blush. And yet, Attorney General Jeff Sessions concluded that his department could make no honest argument against the plaintiffs’ case, and thus, had no choice but to forfeit its responsibility to defend federal law.

Oral arguments in that case began this week — and a Republican-appointed judge in Texas signaled that he buys the red states’ case. Judge Reed O’Connor “gave only cursory treatment to the baseline question of whether the individual mandate without an accompanying penalty could stand as constitutional,” according to Modern Healthcare’s Susannah Luthi, devoting most of his questions to the matter of precisely how much of the Affordable Care Act he is constitutionally obligated to strike down. On Wednesday, the judge indicated that he expects to deliver a ruling soon on whether the ACA’s consumer protections can remain in force.

It’s hard to overstate how inconvenient such a ruling would be to the GOP’s electoral strategy. The only thing Republicans want to discuss less than repealing Obamacare is repealing that law’s most popular provision. Last year, the idea of letting the market decide who can get chemotherapy without having to declare bankruptcy proved so politically toxic, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell retained versions of the ACA’s protections for people with preexisting conditions in all of their health-care bills. Even for a House Speaker whose signature policy idea is privatizing Social Security, scrapping those protections outright was a bridge too far.

Now, as voters head to the polls, Republicans may be forced to defend the god-given right of insurance companies to deny coverage to anyone who’s ever seen a psychologist. In fact, in some of 2018’s most competitive Senate races, Republicans nominated state attorneys general who brought the lawsuit to begin with.

In general, the relevance of messaging to midterm election outcomes is greatly exaggerated. But to the extent that campaign themes influence voter behavior, the Republican Party is doing its best to turn the long-forecasted “blue wave” into a tsunami.

So, Does Anyone Really Need Washington?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)

By Susan Milligan, Senior Writer | Sept. 22, 2017, at 6:00 a.m.

As Nevada Sen. Dean Heller was trying to convince his colleagues to back the most recent GOP effort to undo the Affordable Care Act, his state’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, was thwarting it, signing his name to a bipartisan letter from governors opposing the bill and putting the legislation in peril. Meanwhile, in New York, as President Donald Trump fielded criticism for a United Nations speech many saw as isolating and combative, California Gov. Jerry Brown was doing his own version of diplomacy, meeting with world leaders, including the U.N. Secretary-General, to talk about climate change and adherence to the Paris agreement Trump has lambasted. The previous week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a bipartisan coalition of 14 states and Puerto Rico were already on track to meet or exceed the Paris standards for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

So who needs Washington?

Congress may be unable or unwilling to pass major legislation. Trump might be threatening to pull out of international agreements on trade, the environment and nuclear security, shrinking America’s footprint on the world stage. But governors and states, lauded as laboratories of democracy at best and recalcitrant junior players at worst, are stepping up to fill the power void. And less than a year into Trump’s presidency, one the commander-in-chief pledged would mark a major upending of policy and politics, it is the governors and state attorneys general who are wielding the influence.



“Governors tend to be more pragmatic than members of Congress,” so while they may have ideological agendas, they are focused on problem-solving and keeping within mandated budget limits, says John Kincaid, a Lafayette College government and public service professor who teaches a course in federalism. And while governors are more empowered to stop federal policies or legislation than to force their enactment, the state players can have a great deal of influence over how the whole nation – and not just their constituencies – live, experts say.

Governors have long pushed back against the policies and mandates of administrations in the other party, notes Robert Mikos, a law professor at Vanderbilt University and an expert of state-federal relations. But the trend may be exacerbated because of Trump’s presidency and Democrats’ minority status in the nation’s capital, he says.

“In part, it reflects the change in administration and having a single party in control of Washington that makes people turn more to the states. It may be accentuated now, given this administration. There may be more hostility to it than there was with prior administrations,” Mikos adds. But while Democratic governors have aggressively pushed back on predictable issues – such as mandating birth control coverage by health insurers, as Oregon has done, or becoming a “sanctuary state” to protect undocumented immigrants, as California is doing – governors are setting the agenda on a bipartisan basis as well.

But there is a great deal of bipartisan efforts by governors as well of late. Most recently, 10 governors (five Democrats, four Republicans and a conservative independent) sent a letter to congressional leaders opposing the Graham-Cassidy bill to undo key elements of Obamacare. The measure would give more authority to the states in implementing details of the law, which is typically appealing to governors. But it also block-grants Medicaid, raising fears that a pot of federal cash many states rely on to pay for constituents’ health care would be cut. Some governors also have already built assumptions of federal Medicaid payments into their budgets – and unlike the federal government, all states except for Vermont are legally required to have balanced budgets.

The letter – which called for a bipartisan approach and “regular order,” meaning congressional hearings and consideration of Congressional Budget Office estimates – is notable because it includes the signature of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Sandoval. Alaska’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, is a swing vote on the measure, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to put up for a vote next week. Sandoval, the chair of the National Governors Association, openly rejected a bill co-sponsored by Heller, who is considered the most vulnerable GOP incumbent senator next year.

Anyone who thinks the governors’ views will get lost in a cacophony of special-interest dissent need only look at Arizona, says John Dinan, a politics and international affairs professor at Wake Forest University. “In casting the deciding vote to kill the earlier repeal effort this summer, Sen. McCain said he was voting no in part because of the concerns of his own state’s governor,” Dinan notes but given Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s support for Graham-Cassidy, the governor also “could therefore be decisive in enabling Sen. McCain to vote for the current repeal bill and therefore lead to its passage.”

Meanwhile, as Congress fiddles with legislation to repeal Obamacare, a bipartisan team of governors, Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper and Ohio Republican John Kasich, are working on their own offer, a plan that would tinker with Obamacare around the edges without undoing its basic tenets, such as the individual mandate.

“The ACA stuff is interesting because it involves bipartisanship among governors in a way Congress has been unable to do,” Mikos says. While Congress is under no obligation to consider a legislative approach proposed by governors, the state chief executives can put pressure on the feds or go their own way in the absence of action from Washington.

Even on matters normally reserved for the nation’s chief executive, governors are taking the lead, ignoring – and arguably underscoring – Trump’s responses. The president, for example, has been criticized for placing blame on both the white supremacist marching in Charlottesville as well as the protesters who opposed them. The NGA, meanwhile, issued an unequivocal statement on the deadly conflict, saying, “The nation’s governors strongly condemn the violent attack perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville.”

On climate change, too, governors in both parties are implementing environmental policies Trump has rejected as too onerous on business. At the U.N., Brown announced that 14 states and Puerto Rico were on schedule to meet the environmental protection standards of the Paris accords, despite Trump’s announcement he intends to withdraw from the pact.

Individual state efforts can go a long way in making de facto national policy, experts note. If states and localities indeed continue their commitments despite new federal policy, the nation will end up meeting half its Paris commitments by 2025 anyway, according to a recent report by NewClimate Institute and The Climate Group.

And while federalism” and “states rights” have historically been connected to anti-civil rights positions, the concepts can also be used to advance minority rights, Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken points out in a piece on “the new progressive federalism” in the journal Democracy. For example, Gerken notes, the momentum for same-sex marriage built after Massachusetts and San Francisco just went ahead and did it, accelerating an effort that had been limited to editorial pages and public marches. And, advocates have noted, the domino-like approval of same-sex marriage by states made it hard for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against it.

The sheer size and economic influence of states can push national policy and trends as well. Texas, with its big buying power in school textbooks, has an outsized influence on details such as questioning evolution in science textbooks. And while California’s greenhouse emissions standard might not be much liked by industry, which one would refuse to do business with the Golden State, which has the sixth-biggest economy in the world? And when states can’t stop Washington from passing policies, they can slow-walk their implementation or scream so loudly Washington is forced to regroup. When states complained it was impossible to meet the standards of No Child Left Behind, for example, the Obama administration offered them waivers (and Congress later tweaked the law).

The failure of the White House and Congress to agree on a number of issues, then, may just create the vacuum for governors to step in – and step up, analysts and individual governors say. “America is not run by Donald Trump,” California Gov. Brown said in New York during the U.N.’s annual meeting. “We are a nation of diverse power centers.” And they are already flexing their collective muscles.

Tags: Donald TrumpgovernorsAffordable Care Act


Susan Milligan is a political and foreign affairs writer and contributed to a biography of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, … full bio »

We Have Been Duped: Obama Care Is Not Raising Our Insurance, Republicans Are

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)

You’ve Been Duped

The Affordable Care Act isn’t raising your premiums. Republicans are.

You’ve Been Duped

By J. Mario Molina | Opinion Contributor

May 30, 2017, at 11:20 a.m.

As I watch the debate unfold over repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I keep thinking about the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In the story, the emperor’s weavers convince him that they have made him clothes of special cloth, invisible to those too stupid to appreciate their beauty. The emperor parades through town stark naked, and his subjects are too afraid to state the obvious until one little boy blurts out that the emperor has no clothes. The emperor looks down and realizes the boy is right.

You might guess that President Donald Trump is the emperor in my metaphor, but you’d be wrong. The emperor is the American public, who has been duped into believing that the Affordable Care Act is failing, even as Republicans work behind the scenes to destroy it.

And who is the little boy in this story? I am. I am the former CEO of a health insurance company, and I have been warning publicly what will happen if Trump continues to effectively sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, I lost my job.

When Trump ran for president, he promised reforms to ensure there would be health insurance for everyone and that it would be a “lot less expensive” than under President Barack Obama’s health care law. We have yet to see the plan he described during his campaign. Instead, earlier this month, House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act – a bill the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined would cause 23 million Americans to lose health insurance coverage.


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Editorial cartoon on President Donald Trump and health care
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Editorial cartoon on Republicans and health care
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Editorial cartoon on Paul Ryan and health care
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Editorial cartoon on House Republicans and health care
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Editorial cartoon on House Republicans and health care and the Senate

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When confronted with the dire projections about how their bill will make insurance unaffordable for their constituents, most of the representatives who voted for the bill often echo a line that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Trump have used repeatedly: that the Affordable Care Act is in a so-called “death spiral” that will inevitably “explode,” so they need to pass a bill, no matter how terrible, before it does. That narrative is patently false. In fact, most of the instability driving up premiums in the marketplace can be directly traced to Republicans’ efforts to undermine the health care law for their own political purposes.

What CBO Estimates Say About the House Health Bill
Bloomberg

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, was among the first to land a blow. In 2014, he proudly led a successful effort to cut funding for the “risk corridors” program. Rubio called the payments made from these funds a “bailout” for insurers, but in fact the program was an integral backstop to help control premiums as insurance companies in the marketplaces adjusted to the new population they were covering. The consequence of that ploy to score political points was that some insurers left the marketplace, and many Americans’ premiums went up.

Since Trump took office in January, these kinds of sneak attacks on the law have accelerated. During the final week of the open enrollment period, when consumers can sign up for a marketplace health care plan or choose a new one, Trump officials within the Department of Health and Human Services decided to cancel advertising and outreach for the HealthCare.gov website. That decision came despite the fact that it is well documented that younger, healthier enrollees tend to sign up at the last minute. It was a transparent effort to damage the stability of the health insurance marketplace and to create the illusion that demand for insurance was decreasing.


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Perhaps the most drastic way that the Trump administration is sabotaging American’s health insurance is by refusing to commit to reimbursing health plans for the cost-sharing reduction payments they make to lower out-of-pocket costs for their lowest income members. Insurance companies are currently in the process of determining their rates for the 2018 plan year, and without a guarantee from the administration that they will receive the payments they are owed, they will factor that added cost into their premiums for next year. And you don’t have to take my word for it – the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that insurers would need to raise premiums for silver-level plans by an average of 19 percent to compensate if the administration will not commit to making the cost-sharing reduction payments.

One common thread in all these efforts is that Americans who purchase their health coverage through the individual market are the ones harmed, not insurance companies. The administration and Republicans in Congress want you to believe that insurers raising premiums for their plans or exiting the marketplaces all together are consequences of the design of the Affordable Care Act instead of the direct results of their own actions to sabotage the law. Don’t let them fool you.

If you think Obamacare is failing, I have one simple message for you: Open your eyes and stop being the emperor.

Democrat strikes back over healthcare
Reuters

Tags: health care, health care reform, American Health Care Act, Affordable Care Act, Republican Party

J. Mario Molina OPINION CONTRIBUTOR

J. Mario Molina, M.D., is the former CEO of Molina Healthcare, one of the largest health insurance companies serving Medicaid and Marketplace programs. He has three decades of experience caring for low-income patients.