LIAR, LIAR, PENCE ON FIRE II” – EXPLODING CAPITOL HILL LIES ABOUT HEALTH CARE

LIAR, LIAR, PENCE ON FIRE II” – EXPLODING CAPITOL HILL LIES ABOUT HEALTH CARE.

 

In an earlier article of the same name:  “Liar, Liar, Pence on Fire” (10/6/16) I focused on the outright LIES – intentional or otherwise, that the Trump campaign refused to correct or intentionally let stand as “fake news.”  That was during the campaign and before the election.  Evidently, they got away with it, controlled the news cycles along the way, and resulted in confusion and doubt regarding competing “facts”, real of imagined.  The traditional free press – objective, researched, vetted, and sourced – had to complete for readership and/or eyes with other “news” outlets (spin shops or spin-offs of the National Enquirer paper that finally admitted that the publication was never intended to be “news”, but, rather “entertainment”).  The result was a tug-o-war for the attention and credibility between the professional traditional media and other less-than-credible “news” sources, free to present anything, regardless of how disconnected from reality it might be, and to describe it as news-worthy fact.  So, lets recall some of the really BIG WHOPPERS from recent reports.

– How about the one about Donald Trump’s hand size? (who knows?)
– Or, that Trump himself saw “thousands of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating” as the Twin Towers
came down on 9-11. (Never took place).
– Or, that Donald knew more about ISIS than all of the generals? (You are kidding me, right?)
– Or, that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim born in Kenya who was connected with radical
Muslim terrorist groups. (Finally admitted as an untruth years just last year.)
– Or, that Senator Ted Cruz’ dad was a pal of Lee Harvey Oswald and was connected with the
assassination of JFK? (Really? Maybe a Congressional Committee should hold hearings and
investigate to get to the bottom of this!)
– Or, that more people attended his Inaugural ceremony that at any other Inaugural in history!
(NOT!)
– Or, that he won the election in a “landslide?” (He lost the popular vote election by 3 million).
– Or, that Trump carried more electoral votes than any other candidate for President since Reagan?
(Actually, Clinton, Bush, and Obama all won their elections with more Electoral votes.)
–  And, now, Trump tweets that President Obama committed a felony and wire-tapped his home, his
campaign, and him at  Trump Tower in NYC last fall.  (Whopper alert!) FBI Director Comey
urged the Justice Department to refute that allegation as baseless within hours of Trump making
the charge. Instead, we get the promise of a House Committee Investigation of a baseless charge?
Get the picture?

As you can see from the list presented, some of these LIES are before or during the campaign, and some after, during the transition, or after Trump became President. The Donald also said time and again during both the Republican Primary campaign and during the General Election, that he would NOT support the repeal of the ACA (Obamacare) without a replacement that “was much better and covered everyone.”  Trump committed to “never” reducing Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid noting that, “you made a deal a long time ago” and that he would protect that deal as president.  Trump said over and over that “everybody’s got to be covered.”  In fact, in September of 2015 on “60 Minutes”, Trump said the following,

“I am going to take care of everybody.  I don’t care if it costs me votes
or not.  Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re
taken care of now.” – Donald Trump

If fact, Trump was so emphatic on this point that his then-competitor, Senator Cruz, accused Trump of being a fan of the “single payer system” favored by Liberal Democrats. So, the question in 2017 is, what Kool-aid did President Trump drink that made him do a complete turn-around and abandon his pledges to the elderly, the working poor, the disabled, and others who cannot afford health insurance?  What would make our President gleefully support a program that will abandon millions of Americans by setting them adrift from medical coverage via cutting Medicaid and short-changing millions of others by reducing health coverage so much that it that prompted the head of the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, Stanley Brezenoff, to describe the Ryan Plan – the American Health Care Act – as a “brutal attack on low income health providers” and, by inference, the low-income individuals who presently are covered by the Medicaid expansion that was contained in the Obamacare program.  The Ryan bill eliminates the medicaid expansion – and the 10 millions people covered who reside in 31 states – by 2020, just 3 years (and one congressional election) away from now.

The Ryan-House Republican Leadership Plan does contain several positive elements borrowed from the Affordable Care Act.  The plan allows young folks to remain on their parents insurance coverage until the age of 26; prohibits insurers from denying coverage or charging more for pre-existing conditions; and, the bill maintains the rule prohibiting insurers from establishing annual and/or lifetime caps.  However, instead of creating a framework where everyone gets health coverage, the Republican Plan, in a cruel play-on-words, provides a framework where everyone has “ACCESS” to healthcare.  As Senator Sanders has often said, “I have ACCESS to buying a Trump Tower condo that costs $10,000,000…. but, I just cannot afford it.”  Listen to the Republican apologists, intent of denying Medicaid coverage to millions of poor and disabled Americans, say that they are providing everyone with ACCESS to healthcare. Medicaid becomes a state-based block grant at current levels and is then capped notwithstanding the annual inflation in medical costs – a real cut or a slow bleed.  Those states that did not opt in to the Medicaid expansion of Obamacare, are prohibited from doing so, and those 31 states who did opt in, like Kentucky, lose the expanded coverage in 2020.  Expanded tax-advantaged Medical Savings Accounts don’t help the poor who can’t afford to build a bank account and they will be left behind.  Instead, those who can afford the condo in trump Tower can access some added tax breaks by stuffing some income into these accounts and gaining a tax deduction or a credit.

In what has been described as a “senior tax” contained in the measure, where the ACA permitted insurers to charge their oldest clients no more than 3 times the rate charged their youngest participants, the Ryan bill jacks that rate premium up to 5 times the price charged the young – a whopping 66% increase!  And, that is one reason that the growing number of opponents includes the AARP.  In addition to the AARP, opponents include the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Hospital Association, the catholic Hospital Association, the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The AMA said it opposes the Ryan plan because of the “potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations”, especially through the rollback of Medicaid. The March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society describe the legislation as “critically flawed.”

On the right, opponents for other reasons include the House Freedom Caucus, the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, and the Koch brothers to name a few. Essentially these folks say that the bill does not go far enough and call the proposal, “Obamacare Lite.”  Senator Rand Paul and others oppose the Ryan bill on that basis alone – not saving enough money – and want to simply repeal Obamacare and cut the Medicaid expansion right away, among other things.

In addition to cuts aimed at Planned Parenthood  by including them on a “list of designated prohibited entities”, the bill reduced the Center for Disease Control by 12%.  According to Andy Slavitt, one of the architects of the ACA, “losers” under this bill include those who have coverage under the Large Employer Mandate that will be eliminated along with premium subsidies for those who cannot otherwise afford coverage, 55-64 year old folks will see their premiums skyrocket, bad medical debt will rise due to lost coverage by individuals needing medical care, anyone who accesses covered preventive care – eliminated from the Ryan plan, people who lose their job and cannot afford coverage – especially in states where Medicaid is no longer available or has retracted substantially due to the frozen block-grant to states – and women who could now be charged more for insurance coverage than men. Does all of this – and more bad news on the horizon – sound like everybody being “taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now”?  Why throw millions of Americans under the bus and off of their health coverage – with insurance or covered by Medicare or Medicaid?  Why inflict all of this pain?  Perhaps, it is as president Trump commented last week – “no one knew how complicated the issue of health care was.”  Really?  This has been a topic of hot political and governmental debate since 1993, for nearly a quarter of a century!  Or, (wait for it….) Trump LIED again.

According to Speaker Ryan, the need to inflict all of this on the American people is because the current ACA system is “imploding.”  Said Speaker Ryan, “Obamacare is collapsing.”  Ryan claims that insurers are losing money and are withdrawing from offering coverage all across the nation. Red ink is just everywhere! Insurance companies cannot afford to stay in business and take all of these losses! Really?  Not quite.

Just as with every other American corporation that is listed on the US Stock Exchange, annual financial reports are required to be filed, not to mention federal income tax filings.  As public corporations, these documents are easy to locate and are available to review, print, read, and publish.  No Wikileaks required.  So, I reviewed three of the largest health insurers in the nation – Aetna, Humana, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  I read their reports for the past 5 years, ending in 2015, the last filing that I was able to pull up. Obamacare was adopted in 2009-10 so the 5 year period from 2010 to 2015 should be representative of the financial impact on these three insurers.  Here is the data reflected in each company’s financial report.  You can make your own determination as to the “financial stress” that these outfits suffered as a result of the ACA.

HUMANA:  Humana reported annual after-tax profits of $1.1 – 1.2 Billion each year from 2012 to 2015.  In fact, Humana was so fat with cash that it re-purchased outstanding stock in 2014 with an outlay of $4.6 Billion dollars.  And, on the stock market, Humana stock far outpaced the Standard and Poor’s 500 Stock Index, increasing in value by 240% between 1/1/2010 and 1/1/2015.  Some financial strain….

AETNA:  Aetna described 2015 as “a landmark year” for the company in their financial filings and Annual Report to Shareholders (dated April, 2016). It was so good in fact, that they put forward an offer to buy Humana for $37 BILLION!  In 2016, Aetna reported growth in net after-tax income from $1.912 Billion in 2013 to $2.427 Billion in 2015.  No red ink in sight. Just another sad case of excessive wealth building.

BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD:  BC/BS, unlike those listed above, is a segmented company divided among states and, in some cases, by function in the health care system.  In the overall, summary report for 2016 states that “overall profitability for industry leaders has improved based upon available statutory reporting as of June 30, 2016.”  BC/BS parent company raised eyebrows in their reporting of holding onto a $9.9 BILLION surplus.

So much for the Ryan position that the insurance industry is “imploding” due to the burdens of the ACA and that the need for change and “reform” is driven by a system in “collapse.”  Another LIE.

Tired of LYING?  LIARS?  Those who manipulate “alternative facts” or misdirection to hoodwink the American public into swallowing bad public policy to address imaginary “crises” with a “beautiful wall”, a Muslim Ban, tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, large cuts in the EPA and HUD, transfer of tax dollars from public schools to for-profit private schools and more?  Then … STAND UP, SPEAK OUT, AND MARCH ON!

Stay tuned for updates.  In the meanwhile, call your member of Congress, join a march, write a card. Let your voice be heard and your concern be expressed.

 

A Senior activist and former DNC member on the Presidential election – candidates, parties, and results – with insightful analysis and commentary.

Source: THE SENIOR PROGRESSIVE

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