Affordable Care Act

GOP congresswoman gets surprise on Facebook after asking constituents for Obamacare horror stories

Anti-Obamacare image on the 5th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act | attribution: Cathy McMorris Rodgers Facebook page

 Daily Kos

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers posted an image on her official Facebook page, slamming the Affordable Care Act on the fifth anniversary of President Obama signing it into law. She asked constituents to share their Obamacare nightmare stories and well, the response probably wasn’t what she expected. Below are a small sample of the comments constituents left on her page:

My story is that I once knew 7 people who couldn’t get health insurance. Now they all have it, thanks to the ACA and President Obama, and their plans are as good as the one my employer provides–and they pay less for them. Now, that’s not the kind of story you want to hear. You want to hear made-up horror stories. I don’t know anyone with one of those stories.

I work for cancer care northwest. We actually have more patients with insurance and fewer having to choose treatment over bankruptcy. Cathy, I’m a die hard conservative and I’m asking you to stop just slamming Obamacare. Fix it, change it or come up with a better idea! Thanks

With Obamacare, I saved 300 bucks a month premium.. I have more coverage.. I like ObamaCare and can’t wait til we go to the next step… Medicare for ALL.

And now my daughter, diagnosed with MS at age 22, can have insurance. What do you plan to do with her?

My daughter is fighting for her life with stage 3 breast cancer! We are about to enter a second go round of diagnostic procedures and possibly more treatment after two full years of treatment! So yah! The ACA is more than helping! I resent that our rep thinks the only problems involve her personal story!

My whole family now has coverage. The ACA is the cause for this, I work in health care, I have seen the increase in covered patients first hand. The next step is universal coverage, this will truly lower costs and provide the best care. Cathy, you barely work, spend most of your time catering to special interests so you can be re-elected.. All while receiving a large wage and the best health insurance and care. Stop telling us how it doesn’t work while enjoying your tax payer funded care and life.

Instead of trying to repeal it why don’t you improve it? Our local rural clinics are packed daily with people who have needed healthcare for years!! it is a godsend. It is pitiful this nation does not have healthcare for all and that doesn’t mean the EMERGENCY room!!

Thanks to the ACA, my cousin was able to get affordable insurance despite her preexisting condition. So grateful.

I think we should repeal Obamacare, and replace it … with universal socialized medicine – like the rest of the industrialized nations of the world.

Hello Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers!I work as the facilitator of a task force that is overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State. I have learned that the ACA is helping people who did not previously have health insurance get it. It is helping bring down medical costs. It is improving the quality of care. It is improving experiences of both patients and their families.

I work with doctors, nurses, hospital and clinic managers, non-profit service providers, citizens-at-large. Each of them can site an improvement they would like to make to the Act. But whether they are Republican or Democrat, from urban or rural areas, powerful or not, they all say the ACA is working.

Can’t you and your Republican colleagues stop trying to repeal this Act and work to make it even more effective? Please?

Obama Care saved us when my husband was unemployed and we couldn’t afford coverage. We might have been ruined without it. My husband could not have had the eye surgery needed after an accident. So grateful.

We now have patients that can see a doctor in the clinic on time rather than waiting till they are too ill ACA is saving lives and you are too stupid to realize that. Get your political view out of the way and see what is happening in our community because you have shown again and again it is not your community. I see that your son has downs but not everyone in our community has it so get done with this supporting downs to the neglect of everything else.

My plans are intact, premiums have increased as always, but what seems to be a lesser rate, my plan was not cancelled, I did not lose my doctor, I have not experienced reduced work hours, and it’s actually freed me from the chains of employer based being the ONLY path to coverage. #FEARMONGER

Those are just a small sample of the hundreds or even thousands of comments left on her Facebook page. It is damn clear that her constituents are loving the Affordable Care Act. Will she take their comments to heart and abandon attempts to take insurance coverage away from her constituents?


Ted Cruz is Trying and Failing to Weasel Out of His Obamacare Duplicity


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) | Attribution: none

Note: As other GOP Presidential candidates announce their intention to run, TFC will have less news on Ted Cruz.

Sen. Ted Cruz was the first candidate to announce his intention to run for the presidency, hence the incessant coverage from all news outlets…

Daily Banter

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is a master at what Al Franken used to call “weasel words” — talking points that are carefully constructed to sound legitimate but really aren’t at all. Come to think of it, Stephen Colbert famously referred to this sort of thing as “truthiness.” Cruz is especially on his game when the topic of the complicated Affordable Care Act comes up because even top-shelf reporters don’t quite grasp all of the ins and outs of Obamacare and, frankly, the administration hasn’t been very strong at educating the public about what the law covers. And Cruz is exploiting every square mile of this supercolossal Obamacare ignorance gap.

For the last two days or so, Ted Cruz has repeatedly said that 1) as a member of the Senate, he’s required to have an Obamacare policy, 2) in spite of this requirement he was on his wife’s insurance policy until just recently, and 3) Congress is exempt from Obamacare because of an illegal move by the president. So, Obamacare is mandatory now, but it wasn’t before, and it’s actually not any more because of the allegedly “illegal” Obama exemption.

On Wednesday, Cruz sat down with a reporter from an outfit called The Daily Signal and delivered this troika of nonsense once again.

1) First, Cruz again described how for two years he’s been on his wife’s insurance — not an apparently mandatory congressional Obamacare plan.

When I announced the campaign, my wife also decided to take an unpaid leave of absence from her job. We have been for the past couple of years covered on my wife’s health insurance. When she took an unpaid leave of absence, it means that she’s also losing her benefits. And so we’re gonna do what anyone else would do, which is take their health insurance from their employer. So, in all likelihood, we’ll go on the exchange.

2) After discussing so-called “Obama subsidies,” Cruz then described why Obamacare is a requirement for members of Congress.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley introduced an amendment to Obamacare that said members of Congress have to be on the exchanges with no subsidies just like millions of Americans.

So, the “amendment” stipulates that members “have to be on the exchanges with no subsidies.” When he first mentioned this to CNN’s Dana Bash on Tuesday, he said it was “one of the great things about Obamacare.” Then why is he still not on the exchange? It’s because members of Congress really don’t “have to” use Obamacare — unless they choose employer-based health insurance from the government. If they do, the government’s plan is now the exchange rather than the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. If members and staffers don’t want employer coverage, they can buy a plan directly from a provider or go without insurance. On top of all that, there’s absolutely nothing in the Affordable Care Act that says Congress isn’t permitted to receive subsidies or premium-sharing. Nothing. Cruz lied.

3) Next, even though he said he plans to follow the law (he hasn’t for two years now, but okay) which he claims features an Obamacare requirement, he goes on to say that Congress doesn’t have to use Obamacare after all because the White House carved out an exemption for Congress.

Now, Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats when this passed were horrified. They didn’t wanna be under Obamacare. They went to Obama and said, “Give us a special exemption.” And Barack Obama did, and his administration ignored the plain text of the statute and created an illegal exemption. I have no intention of using that illegal exemption. I’m gonna follow the law.

Inexplicably, he wants viewers to think Congress is no longer mandated to be on Obamacare (it never was) — that Congress has an “illegal” waiver to get around Grassley’s amendment. In fact, the spirit of Grassley’s language is still intact and in effect. The “exemption” is, in reality, the Office of Personnel Management’s decision to continue to cover 72 percent of the premium costs for Congress and its staffers — just like both the government and private businesses alike always have. There was no “plain text of the statute” to ignore because, to repeat, there’s nothing in the law that says Congress can’t have a premium sharing employer benefit.

While we’re here, let’s get to the bottom of who lobbied the administration for this so-called “exemption.” Politico reported that it was a collaboration between Harry Reid and Senate Democrat John Boehner. Wait. Boehner’s not a Senate Democrat like Cruz said. He’s the Republican Speaker of the House. It was a completely bipartisan move that included both the White House and congressional leaders. Let’s clear another thing up. Grassley merely proposed an amendment that failed. The Democrats later resurrected and adapted the idea and wrote it into the body of the law. Grassley only deserves partial credit for the rule, since it was ultimately a Democratic decision.

More weasel words from Cruz:

So suddenly the media goes, “Hahahaha! Gotcha!” Because Cruz is now signing up for Obamacare. Listen, I have zero intention of take any government subsidy or Obama subsidy. Rather, what I’m gonna do is pay on the marketplace for health insurance for my family, just like millions of Americans.

Well, he won’t get a subsidy because he earns significantly more than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — the upper limit to receive premium subsidies. Notice, though, that he didn’t say “premium sharing” or “cost sharing” or “employer contribution.” He said “subsidy.” Why would he go on the Obamacare exchange, a politically dangerous move, other than for the better deal: comparable benefits and continued employer premium sharing, just like his wife’s old plan? If he intends, on the other hand, to pay his premium dues entirely out-of-pocket without any premium sharing, why didn’t he just enroll in COBRA through Goldman Sachs or buy insurance directly from a provider, sidestepping the political mess he’s in? Obviously because he wants the premium sharing, which technically isn’t a subsidy but rather a employee benefit — just like millions of Americans receive through their employers.

It’s one thing to abide by a law you don’t like, which happens all the time, but it’s another thing entirely to abide by a law you don’t like even though you have numerous alternative options to choose from. Instead, he chose Obamacare, which he hates, and, worse, he clearly plans to accept the premium sharing “exemption” that he keeps saying was an illegal plot by the Senate Democrats. Why is he doing this? Because it’s a fantastic deal and, financially, he’d be insane not to take it. Politically, however, it was a massive blunder. You know why the press is saying “gotcha!” right now? Because Cruz just blindly derped his way into a gigantic bear trap — an unforced error — and now he’s trying to weasel out of it.

Obama Ribs GOP: Obamacare Didn’t Bring ‘Death Panels, Doom’


AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin


“I mean we have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case —death panels, doom, a serious alternative from Republicans in Congress,” Obama said, smirking during a speech highlighting the fifth anniversary of his signature healthcare law. “The budget they introduced last week would literally double the number of uninsured in America.”

Obama’s comments came a week after Republicans introduced a new House budget that gutted most of Obamacare but did not offer an alternative. Obama conceded part of the reasons Republicans hadn’t yet offered an alternative plan was because healthcare policy isn’t easy.

“And in their defense, there are two reasons why coming up with an alternative has proven to be difficult,” Obama said. “First, it’s because the Affordable Care Act pretty much was their plan before I adopted it!”

Obamacare, Obama said, was “based on conservative market based principles developed by the Heritage Foundation and supported by Republicans in Congress. And deployed by a man named Mitt Romney in Massachusetts to great effect. If they want to take credit for this law, they can. I’m happy to share it.”

There have been many efforts, Obama added, to reform the country’s healthcare system.

“And second, because health reform is really hard and people here who are in the trenches know that. Good people from both parties have tried and failed to get it done for a hundred years,” Obama said. “Because every public policy has some tradeoffs, especially when it affects one sixth of American economy and applies to the very personal needs of every individual American. Now we’ve made our share of mistakes since we passed this law. But we also know beyond a shred of a doubt that the policy has worked. Coverage is up, cost growth is at a historic low, deficits have been slashed, lives have been saved.”

Obama also said in the speech that he was ready to sign a major overhaul of Medicare negotiated by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

The Good, The Bad and The Infuriating Aspects of Ted Cruz Signing Up for Obamacare


attribution: none

The Daily Banter – Bob Cesca

On one hand, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) signing up for an Obamacare health insurance policy is fantastic news. As we discussed yesterday, Cruz had a number of options at his disposal after losing his health insurance coverage due to his wife taking a leave of absence from Goldman Sachs. And no, he isn’t required to buy an Obamacare policy, so he absolutely had options.

But before we recap his options, it’s important to underscore that contrary to what many observers were suggesting throughout the day Tuesday, no — the law does not mandate that all members of Congress and their staffers enroll in an Obamacare exchange plan. Or else. The law merely states that exchange plans are the only plans offered to congressional employees, including members of Congress. Here’s the text from the ACA (emphasis mine):


(i) REQUIREMENT- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the effective date of this subtitle, the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are–

(I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or

(II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).

In other words, members of Congress can do whatever they want, but the government is no longer offering the old Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) to members and their staff — only the exchange plans under Obamacare. And since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is continuing to pay 72 percent of the premiums (the truth behind the so-called “Obamacare exemption for Congress”), the best value for members and especially staffers is to sign up for an Obamacare plan.

If Cruz doesn’t have to sign up for an Obamacare plan, what were Cruz’s other non-Obamacare options?

He could’ve immediately enrolled in COBRA, which would’ve allowed Cruz and his wife to keep their existing policy. He could’ve signed up for an Obamacare policy as an individual, like some members of Congress are doing to sidestep the so-called “illegal” premium sharing plan implemented by the OPM (continuing the policy of premium sharing from Congress’ previous health insurance program). Or he could’ve simply enrolled directly with an insurance provider in his state.

And what did Cruz choose instead of all of these alternatives? He chose his arch-nemesis: Obamacare. Why? Because none of the above options would’ve included the 72 percent premium sharing from the government. And the plans offers, probably one of the Gold-level plans is likely comparable to his wife’s Goldman Sachs plan. So, not only did Cruz basically endorse the Obamacare option, but he did so in part because of Obama’s allegedly impeachment-worthy decision to continue the premium sharing plan for Congress.

All told, this was almost a de facto endorsement of Obamacare. Ted Cruz, of all people, thinks Obamacare is the best deal for his family. The hypocrisy angle is almost a sideshow compared with this. Cruz filibustered Obamacare. He helped force a government shutdown over Obamacare. He’s lied dozens of times about Obamacare. And now he’s basically saying, “Hey, this Obamacare thing and the employer premium thing that I’m opposed to — really great deal!” So, again, for a rabid Obamacare enemy to pull off an inadvertent Nixon-to-China moment is a huge endorsement of the law.

On the other hand, it should also infuriate anyone who has an insurance policy due to or via Obamacare.

I’m personally just now reaching the contemptuous anger stage in my coverage of Ted Cruz this week, precisely because of this story. If Cruz makes it all the way to the White House (he won’t, but let’s — cough — imagine) one of the first things he’ll do is to repeal Obamacare, thus stripping me and 16+ million other Americans of our insurance policies. Repealing “every word” of the law also means repealing the part about pre-existing conditions, which would subsequently allow my insurance company to either dump me or to jack up my premiums beyond affordability.

Meanwhile, Cruz won’t have to worry about his current Obamacare plan once he’s president. Why? Because he’ll be covered by the other government-run health insurance program, FEHBP — the aforementioned Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. There’s something wickedly unfair about this scenario, not that it’ll ever happen but that he’d jump at the chance if he got it. It’s like blowing up a bridge just after he’s managed to make it across. Screw everyone still on the bridge.

You know what this is like? President Glenn Greenwald ordering a series of drone strikes. It’s like Ayn Rand receiving Social Security and — wait, never mind. She did. Someone said to me yesterday that I probably didn’t return any of the money I saved from the Bush tax cuts. Well, no, I didn’t. I also didn’t oppose the tax cuts for middle class earners (my income level at the time), going so far as to filibuster those cuts on the Senate floor and voting dozens of times to repeal them. It’s more than hypocrisy. It’s about the decision to sign up for something he’s all along claimed to hate, but now thinks is a pretty good deal — only after misleading millions of Americans into hating the bill and therefore electing more lawmakers who want to kill it.

Ultimately, though, I’m filing this particular chapter in the Ted Cruz saga into the same folder with stories about radically anti-gay Christian evangelists getting caught having same-sex affairs. Hypocrites, yes. But also iron-fisted persuaders who influenced and indoctrinated millions before committing their hypocritical deeds. The hate lives on.

A Supreme Court decision against Obamacare could cost states billions and billions of dollars

Washington Post ~ Greg Sargent

If you want a sense of just how far-reaching the impact of a Supreme Court decision gutting Obamacare subsidies could prove, new data on health care signups released this week provide a fresh way to game out such a ruling’s consequences.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the other daythat some 11.4 million people have signed up for health plans through federal marketplaces. The new HHS data also provides a breakdown of the number of sign-ups in each of the three dozen states on the federal exchange — precisely the states that would no longer get subsidies if the Court invalidates tax credits to people in all federal exchange states.

This provides a way of approximating just how much money in tax credits each state could lose if the Court rules that way. We’re talking about enormous amounts of money: Florida could lose nearly half a billion dollars per month in subsidies to its constituents. Texas could lose a quarter of a billion dollars per month. North Carolina and Georgia could each lose over one hundred million per month.

Here it is in chart form (a note on methodology is below), detailing the impact of such a ruling on the 14 states that stand to lose the most:

The column on the left details the approximate total number of people in each state who qualify for subsidies. The middle column details the average amount in subsidies per person. And the column on the right details the approximate total number of dollars per month that are set to flow into each state — money that would presumably stop flowing if SCOTUS guts the subsidies.

This methodology was suggested to me by Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation who may know more about the Affordable Care Act than anyone else alive. He says one reasonable way of trying to calculate total subsidies per state is to take the total number of new signups in each state, and multiply that by the percentage in each state who qualify for tax credits, data that is also supplied by HHS. That produces the approximate total in each state who qualify for subsidies (the left column).  You then multiply that by HHS data detailing the average monthly subsidy payment in each state (the middle column), and it gives you the approximate total in monthly subsidies to each state (the right hand column).

A few caveats: First, these calculations are very rough and approximate. The data on the percentages who qualify for subsidies and on average monthly subsidies are a little bit older than the newest data on total signups (but they probably won’t change much). Also, not all of the people who signed up will end up paying, so these totals will likely drop somewhat, though it’s hard to know how much. Still, Levitt says this is a good way of trying to gain a rough sense of how much money in each state we’re talking about here.

“This a very reasonable approach to estimating the amount of federal subsidies people living in these states will receive,” Levitt says. “Billions of dollars are flowing to low and middle income people under the law, and most of those are going to people in states using This makes it very tangible: If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs, states would be losing in some cases hundreds of millions in federal money per month.”

If defenders of the law get their way, numbers like these could end up having legal significance. A number of states have argued, in a brief filed for the government’s side, that the plain text of the ACA contains noexplicit threat to withdraw subsidies from states that fail to set up exchanges. Thus, they argue, if the Supreme Court guts subsidies, it would impose a “dramatic” hidden punishment on them and their residents for their decision not to set up an exchange, despite the fact that they had no clear warning of the consequences of that decision. This raises serious Constitutional concerns, and as a result, the states argue, the Supreme Court should opt for the interpretation of the statute that doesn’t raise those concerns — the government’s interpretation that subsidies are universal.

This federalism argument, which has been expanded upon by law professors Nicholas Bagley and Abbe Gluck, could potentially appeal to Anthony Kennedy or possibly to John Roberts. The fact that the states stand to lose such enormous amounts in subsidies to their residents could help underscore that case.

Indeed, all of this suggests that a SCOTUS ruling against the ACA could create real problems for GOP lawmakers in many states. Reuters reportsthat officials in some states are currently scrambling to figure out what to do in the event of such a ruling. Even state officials who want to respond by setting up their own exchanges — keeping subsidies flowing — tell Reuters they may not be able to do so for political and other logistical reasons, meaning they’d lose subsidies even if they don’t want to. In Ohio, for instance, GOP governor John Kasich has suggested he wants to come up with a fix but doesn’t seem clear on what. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that relatively few red states have signed a brief in support of this lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are working hard to convey the impression that they might have a contingency plan in place — or even their own alternative health reform — for those who might lose subsidies and coverage. Such feints are probably just designed to persuade the Justices that the consequences of an anti-ACA ruling might somehow not prove so dire. But, taking those Republicans at their word, numbers such as the above provide a useful way to judge any such contingency plans or alternatives: Do they come anywhere close to covering the same numbers of people?

Conservatives might seize on these sums of money for their own purposes.Some on the right are arguing that, if SCOTUS does gut subsidies to millions, Republicans must not offer a fix that spends anything close to the same amount in subsidizing those people’s health care, and instead must advocate for a return to a pre-Obamacare baseline level of spending and propose “free market” solutions instead. These conservatives will likely argue that such huge expenditures as those detailed above underscore their point.

As I’ve repeatedly written, I think there’s a decent chance the Justices could side with the challengers. The massive amounts of money at stake underscore that if this does happen, a whole new political and policy story will unfold from there, with consequences that no one should pretend to be able to predict.

16 Times Fox News Claimed Obama “Diminished” The Presidency

I’ve come to the conclusion that the POTUS does not give a crap about what Fox News “analysts” think…at all!  To that, I say in today’s youth vernacular:  “Do you, Mr. President!”

Media Matters

Naturally, President Obama’s lighthearted appearance last week in a BuzzFeed video that promoted the deadline to sign up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act triggered humorless responses from his conservative critics.

Like clockwork, conservative commentators, led by Fox News, swooped in. Assigning themselves the role of protocol police, they sternly announced that Obama had extinguished all “dignity” from the Oval Office. “I yearn for my president looking presidential and serious right now,” announced Fox News host Greta Van Susteren.

Sound familiar? It should. For six years now Fox News’ lineup of talkers and guests have been regurgitating the same condescending claim: Obama has “diminished” the office of the presidency and had done something unspeakable that’s “beneath” his lofty position. It’s part of an uglier, ongoing attack on Obama. It’s the Fox News suggestion that Obama’s not part of the American tradition, that he doesn’t understand our history and doesn’t know how conduct himself. Or, he’s so arrogant that he just doesn’t care.

But a review of the charges shows the alleged offenses have almost always been trivial and unimportant.

Here’s a collection of at least 16 times Fox News figures claimed, or certainly insinuated, that Obama had diminished the office or done something “beneath” it. Each quote (via Nexis) is followed by the alleged etiquette slight that prompted the habitual hand wringing.

*February 12, 2015: “Some people think this diminishes the presidency. I certainly hope so because I think the presidency, not this president but the office itself, is too much with us and far too grand and encrusted in royal trappings.” – George Will

Obama transgression: Appearing in the BuzzFeed video.

*January 21, 2015: “Does it diminish the office to be sort of showing the swagger?” — Megyn Kelly

Obama transgression: Being too confident during his State of the Union address following Democratic midterm losses.

*January 23, 2015: “For the people to say this is diminishing the dignity of the office, that happened a long time ago.” — Tucker Carlson

Obama transgression: Being interviewed by handful of YouTube stars.

*November 6, 2014: “I thought his news conference yesterday was beneath the office in a sense of pretending that this wasn’t a shellacking and just giving lip service to common ground.” — National Journal’s Ron Fournier appearing on Special Report With Bret Baier

Obama transgression: Not being humble enough at press conference following Democratic midterm losses.

*October 2, 2014: “So as we face down big, big, big problems in the world, skip the trash talk. It only diminishes the office of the president.” — Greta Van Susteren

Obama transgression: He criticized Fox News in a speech.

*March 11, 2014: “Yes, look, people sometimes will say, look, I disagree with the president, but I respect the office. It’d be nice if Obama respected the office. When he does things like this, it diminishes not just him but the office itself. People around the world are watching this, as you say, with all these international crises going. And you just see him and the office just shrinking day by day.” — Fox News contributor, Deroy Murdock

Obama transgression: He appeared on comedian Zach Galifianakis’ comedy interview show, “Between Two Ferns” to promote Obamacare.

*April 6, 2013: “I’m on Twitter a lot, and when I see some of the things that these guys say, it’s just beneath the office of the president.” — Kirsten Powers

Obama transgression: A Politico report that noted the president’s aides often find fault with Obama’s critics via Twitter.

*April 25, 2012: “Do you think it’s beneath the office of the president of the United States to go on ‘Jimmy Fallon’ and not only do an interview? I like that he did the interview, and we’ll play some of that. But the fact that he did this slow rap, this slow talk afterwards, does that make any sense to you? Do you think that that is something beneath the office?” — Brian Kilmeade (on Fox News Radio)

Obama transgression: Doing a few comedy bits on late-night television.

*April 25, 2012: “He’s diminishing the office, diminishing himself, seemingly petty.” — Sean Hannity

Obama transgression: Running a negative re-election campaign.

*May 2, 2012: “And the great asset the President has is the Oval Office, the presidency of the United States. He is diminishing that by using events which are national events as partisan events.” — Patrick Buchanan

Obama transgression: Trumpeting the death of Osama bin Laden for political gain.

*June 26, 2012: “Don’t you think it diminishes the office of the president, talking about condoms?” — Andrea Tantaros

Obam transgression: Addressing birth control.

*October 26, 2010: “The decisive — divisive rhetoric that he’s used seems to me beneath the office.” Dana Perino

Obama transgression: Criticizing Republicans while campaigning for Democrats.

*October 28, 2010: “One of it, it drives independents further into the Republican column and energizes the Republicans as well, and more importantly that diminishes the office that he’s been entrusted by the American people.” — Karl Rove

Obama transgression: Appearing on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

*July 27, 2010: “This pandering to the entertainment elites diminishes the office and it ends up further estranging him from the common man.” — Laura Ingraham

Obama transgression: Being too cozy with celebrities.

*June 18, 2009: “The president of United States should not be afraid of coming on Fox News, nor should the president of the United States diminish his office by seeming to engage in a petty fight with the — with the — with a network himself.” — Karl Rove

Obama transgression: Criticizing Fox News.

*April 6, 2009: “This diminishes him. This takes the presidency, the most powerful office in the world, and diminishes it.” — Karl Rove.

Obama transgression: “separating himself from the Bush administration,” according to Bill O’Reilly.

Sorry Fox News, but you know what does “diminish” the office of the presidency? Incessantly claiming the occupant isn’t worthy of respect.

The White House’s unlikely ally at the Supreme Court

A view of the Supreme Court, Jan. 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

A view of the Supreme Court, Jan. 16, 2015 in Washington, DC | Drew Angerer/Getty

MSNBC ~ Rachel Maddow Show

In recent years, one group has had more success at the Supreme Court than any other. It’s not Republicans. It’s also not conservatives, per se. It’s not the NRA, the Koch brothers, or the religious right movement.
In Justice John Roberts’ court, there’s been a lot for the right to like, but Big Business and Corporate America have consistently found a friendly ear among the majority of the sitting justices. With this in mind, Stephanie Mencimer’s report last night stood out as especially significant.
If getting rid of Obamacare is such a good idea, why isn’t corporate America getting behind King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court case designed to demolish the Affordable Care Act? More than 52 different parties have weighed in with briefs in advance of oral arguments on March 4…. But not a single business group – not the US Chamber of Commerce, not any of the health industry companies and trade groups that opposed the law when it was being drafted – has presented a brief endorsing this lawsuit.
These outfits are either backing the Obama administration’s attempt to defeat the suit or sitting out this case. Briefs in the case help explain why: Obamacare is working.
Mencimer pointed to a brief filed by the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the nation’s largest health care provider, which described the argument underpinning King v. Burwell as “absurd,” while also making the argument that the system at risk in this case is working quite well, both for the public and for America’s hospitals.
What’s more, it’s not just private medical institutions pushing against the ridiculous litigation. National Journal reported a couple of weeks ago that private insurers are doing the same thing.
In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, health insurers said a ruling against the subsidies would have widespread and severe ripple effects, potentially throwing states’ entire insurance markets into chaos.
Stopping the flow of subsidies “would create severely dysfunctional insurance markets” in 34 states, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s leading trade organization, said in its amicus brief. “It would leave consumers in those States with a more unstable market and far higher costs than if the ACA had not been enacted.” […]
AHIP … said the state and federal exchanges work the same as a practical issue. The subsidies and the law’s individual mandate are part of an interconnected series of policies designed to stabilize insurance markets, AHIP said – irrespective of who runs the exchange in any particular market.
We generally think of Big Business and Corporate America aligning themselves with Republicans, and for good reason; that’s usually true. But on the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans like to pretend is bad for the private sector, the usual partisan lines are blurred – the White House, insurance companies, hospitals, and even pharmaceutical companies are all telling the Supreme Court that this stupid case is genuinely dangerous, both to the American public and the American marketplace.
And that’s no small development. It’s quite easy to imagine Republicans on the Supreme Court ignoring the White House and deliberately gutting one of President Obama’s accomplishments, but it’s tougher to imagine those same justices blowing off private-sector leaders – the same corporate leaders hoping to avoid systemic chaos and shattered balance sheets.

The Case Against Obamacare May Fail One Of The Most Basic Tests Of A Lawsuit

Justice Anthony Kennedy | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MATT SLOCUM

Think Progress

King v. Burwell, a Supreme Court case seeking to defund much of the Affordable Care Act and strip health insurance from as many as 13 million people, is a project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative organization whose former chairman compared Obamacare to the Holocaust. CEI, does not hide this fact. To the contrary, its website announces that CEI is “coordinating and funding” the King litigation.

The Constitution, however, does not permit CEI to bring a lawsuit challenging Obamacare simply because they do not like the law. Rather, in order to invoke the jurisdiction of federal courts, CEI had to track down at least one plaintiff somewhere in the country who is actually injured in some way by the provisions of the Affordable Care Act CEI wishes to attack. Recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones, however, indicate that CEI may have failed at this basic task when it assembled the four plaintiffs in King.

Article III of the Constitution requires plaintiffs challenging a federal law to show that they will actually be harmed in some way if the law remains in effect, a requirement known as “standing.” King challenges tax credits that help millions of individuals who purchased health insurance through health exchanges operated by the federal government afford their coverage. To establish standing, however, the lawyers behind this case offer a somewhat convoluted theory.

Although the Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to either carry health insurance or pay somewhat higher taxes, individuals are exempt from this requirement if the cost of the lowest-price coverage available to them exceeds 8 percent of their household income. The King plaintiffs claim that the cost of such a health plan is below 8 percent of their income if they are eligible for tax credits, but it is above 8 percent of their income if the tax credits are struck down. Thus, they claim, by rendering health care unaffordable for millions of Americans, they can also save themselves from complying with the law.

It’s not at all clear that the plaintiffs’ (and their attorneys’) math is correct, however, at least if one assumes that the claims that they made regarding their own finances are correct. According to a declaration filed by a senior official in the Department of Health and Human Services, two of the four plaintiffs are exempt from the consequences of not buying health insurance regardless of whether they receive a tax credit, because the cost of the cheapest plan will exceed 8 percent of their income even if they do receive a tax credit. Additionally, while plaintiff Brenda Levy projected that she would earn as much as $43,000 in 2014, reporting by the Wall Street Journal suggests that her income may actually be “less than $10,000.” If her income is this low, she would also be exempt from the law’s consequences for people who do not buy health insurance.

That leaves one more plaintiff, Douglas Hurst.

The Wall Street Journal also reports, however, that Mr. Hurst is a veteran and may be entitled to enroll in a veterans health plan. Federal regulations provide that several veterans health programs qualify as insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. So if Hurst qualifies for one of these programs, he does not have standing the challenge the tax credits even if he hasn’t actually enrolled in the veterans benefits he is entitled to. A plaintiffs’ decision not to claim benefits they are entitled to is their own choice, but that does not give a plaintiff a right to “complain about damage inflicted by its own hand.”

In an email to ThinkProgress, CEI’s general counsel Sam Kazman writes that, to CEI’s knowledge at the outset of the King litigation, “neither Mr. King nor Mr. Hurst was ever enrolled in any veterans health care program,” and he claims that their failure to enroll in veterans benefits means that “under the ACA and its regulations, neither was ‘eligible’ for such coverage.” To justify this counter-intuitive definition of the word “eligible,” Kazman points to a regulation establishing a “Special rule for coverage for veterans and other individuals.”

“CEI is wrong,” however, according to law professor and health policy expert Tim Jost. Jost explains that “there are two sets of regulations that discuss veterans benefits,” and the regulations Kazman cites to do not answer the question of who has complied with their obligation to obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Rather, the regulations Kazman cites gives veterans a choice — they can either enroll in a veterans program or obtain insurance through another means such as through the health insurance exchanges. But, once again, a plaintiff cannot root his standing to bring a lawsuit in his own choices.

So what all does this mean for the future of the King case? If all four plaintiffs lack standing, the Court must dismiss the case because the Constitution does not permit federal courts to decide cases where no plaintiff has standing. Based on what we know now, however, it would be premature for the Court to definitively hold that no party has standing. It is possible, for example, that Ms. Levy’s income is higher than news reports suggest, or that Mr. Hurst does not qualify for veterans benefits. These facts could only be determined with certainty if the case is sent back to a lower court to allow additional fact-finding.

One possibility is that the Supreme Court could dismiss the case as “improvidently granted,” a process that would allow the justices to wait for another case that presents a similar issue without also presenting the same doubts regarding whether the Court has jurisdiction to decide the matter in the first place. As a practical matter, however, it probably is not in the Justice Department’s interests to urge the justices to reach such a decision. If there are five votes who are inclined to reject this attack on Obamacare, then the best outcome for the Department — and for the millions of Americans who rely the law’s tax credits to afford insurance — is to have the justices reach the merits and uphold the law. If, on the other hand, there are five votes eager to gut the law, then they are unlikely to stay their hand due to doubts about the plaintiffs’ standing.

As the New York Times‘s Linda Greenhouse recently explained, the plaintiffs’ legal arguments in King aren’t just weak on the merits, they conflict with the previously stated views of all five of the Supreme Court’s conservatives. By taking CEI’s case, according to Greenhouse, the justices allowed themselves “to be recruited into the front lines of a partisan war.” And once a justice decides to take sides in such a war, it’s not likely that they are going to be deterred because CEI was less-than-diligent in recruiting plaintiffs.

Nevertheless, CEI’s trouble recruiting plaintiffs for this lawsuit who can claim, with certainty, that they were actually injured in some way by Obamacare says a great deal about the stakes in this litigation. During oral arguments before a federal appeals court that upheld the tax credits, Judge Andre Davis described what he thought the plaintiffs in this lawsuit were after — “You are asking us to kick millions of Americans off health insurance, just to save four people a few dollars.” As it turns out, the four King plaintiffs may have even less at stake than Judge Davis thought.

Disaster Looming For Republicans As Poll Finds 64% Want To Keep Obamacare Subsidies


President Obama | White House Photo


A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that Congressional Republicans are living in a difference universe from most Americans. The poll found that 64% of Americans want to Congress to act to restore ACA subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against the health care law.

Via the Kaiser Family Foundation:


If the Supreme Court rules that financial assistance is only available in states with state-run marketplaces, nearly two-thirds of the public says that Congress should take action so that people in all states can be eligible for financial help to purchase health insurance. Majorities of Democrats and independents say they would support Congressional action while Republicans are more divided. And, although the Supreme Court’s decision would have significant implications for many people in states using the federal exchange, their views are similar to those of people living in states with their own marketplace.

A nightmare scenario for Republicans would unfold if the Supreme Court ruled the ACA subsidies unconstitutional in states that have not set up their own exchanges. Republicans are committed to killing the ACA. Their most ardent supporters want to kill the law. The problem is that nearly two-thirds of the American people want congressional Republicans to act to protect the subsidies if the Supreme Court rules them unconstitutional.

Millions of people will lose their health care if the subsidies go away. The fate of the subsidies would become a big issue in the 2016 presidential election, and the Republicans will be trapped between doing what a majority wants and what their right-wing ideological base wants. A Supreme Court ruling against the subsidies would be a disaster for the Republican Party. If Congressional Republicans refuse to act to restore, the subsidies voters will blame them for the loss of their health care.

The House has announced that they will vote to repeal the ACA next week. Only 32% of those polled in Kaiser poll want the law repealed. Congressional Republicans are completely out of touch with the majority of Americans on the issue of the ACA. If the Supreme Court rules against the subsidies, the conservative justices will be dropping a ticking time bomb into the laps of Republicans.

No matter how the Supreme Court rules, this won’t end well for the GOP.

GOP’s Stealth Blow To Obamacare Helps Claim Its First Victim


AP Photo/Cliff Owen


Part of the reason that the insurance commissioner took over the struggling insurer, and therefore part of the reason it is now being shut down after state officials determined it couldn’t be saved, is a provision that House Republicans inserted into the spending bill approved in December.

As TPM reported at the time, House GOP staff requested a change to Obamacare’s so-called risk-corridor program as part of the CRomnibus. The program, a favorite punching bag of Republicans, who have pushed for its repeal, is designed to help insurers in the law’s first few years. Companies estimate what their insurance pools will look like. If they turn out better than expected, then the companies pay money into the program. If they turn out worse, then companies are paid money by the program.

That helps lessen the risk for insurers as they take on a new population of Obamacare enrollees. But what the Republicans inserted into the CRomnibus was a requirement that the risk-corridor program effectively be revenue neutral. So if the program didn’t bring in enough money from overperforming companies, it wouldn’t be able to make payments to underperforming ones.

Experts told TPM at the time that bigger companies would likely be able to absorb any short-term losses that might come with the change, but that smaller insurers — like CoOpportunity Health, which covers about 68,000 people in Iowa and Nebraska — would be more vulnerable.

When Iowa insurance commissioner Gerhart petitioned to take over the company in December, he cited the uncertainty of the risk-corridor money as one reason for CoOpportunity Health’s struggles, stating that the CRomnibus provision had “placed in jeopardy” up to $60 million of the company’s projected assets.

Becky Blum, a senior official at the Iowa agency, confirmed to TPM in an email that the CRomnibus provision had been one of the factors in the company’s financial instability, though not the only one. The bottom line was that the insurer was paying out too much in claims and not bringing in enough revenue.

But that is exactly the problem that the risk-corridor program is designed to address and, because the revenue for CoOpportunity wasn’t guaranteed after the spending bill, it put the company’s long-term solvency further into doubt.

“The potential limitation on recouping the risk corridor money complicated the company’s ability to put forward a plan of viability,” Blum said.

That was the fallout that Obamacare supporters warned about when the CRominbus passed.

“The risk corridor program was established specifically to assist insurers, like the coops and other new entrants, who face difficulties in setting premiums accurately for the first couple of years of their existence because they lack previous experience,” Tim Jost, a health law professor at Washington and Lee University who supports the law, told TPM. “Congress should have realized that by limiting funding for the risk corridor program, it would likely be driving some insurers into insolvency.”


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