Affordable Care Act · Texas Politics

Texas bill would label citizens who receive Obamacare subsidies

Haven’t we learned anything from the past?  People being labeled by their government for nefarious reasons cannot stand.  If this is approved by Texas legislators it will surely be shot down by the Supreme Court…or will it?

Is labeling one’s health card any different from this? (ks)

Wiki: The yellow badge (or yellow patch), also referred to as a Jewish badge (German: Judenstern, lit. Jews’ star), was a cloth patch that Jews were ordered to sew on their outer garments to mark them as Jews in public at certain times in certain countries. Intended or not, it served as a badge of shame.[1]


Last Friday, the Texas House of Representatives passed HB 1514, a bill that would label the health insurance cards of people whose plans are subsidized through the Affordable Care Act with an “S” for “Subsidy.” The bill heads to Texas’s State Senate this week.

Supporters of the bill, channelling their inner Orwell, have unironically asserted that the bill is necessary so as to “standardize” Texans’ insurance cards by singling out those whose insurance is subsidized. Others havetestified that the label would remind doctors to “remind the patient about the importance of continuing his or her portion” of payments to their health insurance plan.

The coalition of physicians in support of the bill would have us believe that citizens who receive subsidies for their insurance are financially irresponsible freeloaders who don’t pay their bills, but that simply isn’t the case. Over 91 percent of Americans who have signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act have remained up to date on their premium payments.

Critics of the bill have pointed out that one doctor’s reminder could be another’s rejection, arguing that the label could create a “scarlet letter” effect in which doctors turn away patients whose insurance cards indicate that they are receiving a subsidy. While doctors are prohibited from turning patients away based on the type of insurance they have, public health advocates in Texas have interpreted doctors’ arguments in favor of the bill as an indication that that’s exactly what they intend to do.

As Jose E. Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers said, quoted by the Texas Tribune, “Other than creating a group that you’re going to discriminate against, I don’t see any purpose for indicating that people are getting a subsidy.”

This bill is the latest in a long line of attempts in Texas to make it harder for citizens in the state to afford their health coverage. The state has refused to expand Medicaid, and is a cosignatory of the lawsuit brought forward in King v. Burwell the Supreme Court case deciding whether a typo in the Affordable Care Act invalidates health insurance plans purchased through federal exchanges. If the plaintiffs in King are successful, HB 1514 will be unnecessary because such a ruling would invalidate Affordable Care Act subsidies for all 1.75 million Texans currently receiving them.

Texas’s efforts to deny its own citizens health coverage is even less acceptable given how little financial sense they make from the point of view of, well, Texas’s state government. 30 percent of Texans are obese, 19 percent smoke and 24 percent are projected to have diabetes by 2040. Texans already spend more on health care than citizens in all but two states, California and New York, and that’s only going to go up as those obesity, smoking and diabetes rates take their toll.

And just because those citizens aren’t insured doesn’t mean they won’t be consuming health care. When citizens need healthcare and can’t pay for it, their costs are passed on to everyone else in the state. That means higher premiums for every Texan.

In other words, if there were ever a state that stood to gain by getting its citizens on private health insurance plans, that state would be Texas. In spite of this, Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country, and is doing everything it can to keep it that way.

Stigmatizing consumers who signed up for their coverage via the Affordable Care Act doesn’t help anyone, with the possible exception of Republican state legislators who need to sponsor three anti-Obamacare bills each term in order to avoid an Americans for Prosperity-sponsored primary challenge.

Fingers crossed that the bill dies in the Senate.

~Jon Green

Affordable Care Act

ACA scores big on customer satisfaction

Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the Feb. 15th deadline on Feb. 5, 2015 in Miami, Fl. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)
Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the Feb. 15th deadline on Feb. 5, 2015 in Miami, Fl. | Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

The Maddow Blog

When the Affordable Care Act’s Republican critics were making all kinds of dire predictions about the inevitable “failures” of “Obamacare,” one of the charges was that American consumers will end up hating the coverage they receive through the reform law.
And for those ACA detractors looking for something, anything, to bolster their contempt for the law, I’m afraid I have more bad news: Americans who received coverage through Obamacare tend to be quite pleased with the results.
Obamacare customers nationally also tended to be more satisfied with their plans bought in 2014 than people who primarily have traditional job-based health coverage – the majority of those with insurance – the study by the J.D. Power market research company found.
And those customers from last year were as happy with their coverage as other people who had multiple choices when it came to buying plans outside Obamacare markets from insurers or brokers, according to the J.D. Power report, which was released Thursday.
The full market-research report is available online here.
This is obviously just one study, and other analyses may draw other conclusions, but let’s not forget that this isn’t the first evidence we’ve seen pointing to high customer-satisfaction rates for those who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
Politico reported back in November: “A majority of Americans give good reviews for insurance they recently acquired through government exchanges within the past year, a new poll shows. With the second round of Obamacare enrollment set to begin on Saturday, 71 percent said their coverage through the exchanges was good or excellent, according to a Gallup poll released Friday. Another 19 percent said the coverage was fair, while 9 percent rated it poorly.”
As for why ACA customers are pleased, Sarah Kliff had a good explanation.
The J.D. Power survey … shows that people with employer-sponsored coverage who have “multiple plan options” have the exact same satisfaction rating as the people on Obamacare. And this might actually circle back to the cost issue. People shopping on Obamacare have the option to decide whether they want a plan with a high premium or a low one. Shoppers have typically gravitated toward the lower-cost premium. The average monthly premium on is $374. For people getting coverage at work, the average premium is $464.
What this data suggests is that health-care shoppers seem to be okay with a trade-off: they like the idea of selecting a lower-premium plan, even if it might mean incurring higher out-of-pocket costs down the line – and are more satisfied customers as a result.
As for the ACA predictions Republicans got right, I still haven’t found one.
Affordable Care Act · Obamacare · U.S. Politics

Proof That Bigots Are Not the Best and Brightest

Rapture-thanks-Obama | Attribution: None


Michele Bachmann has assured us that the Rapture is imminent, and that “we in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the Rapture of the church.”

Thanks, Obama.

But until our Evangelical neighbors start drifting skyward and getting in the way of Amazon’s delivery drones and drive CNN to distraction, we have to continue to deal with our mundane reality.

Like so-called Religious Freedom legislation. And the people wewish would float away (seriously, Michele, nobody wants the Rapture more than we do), like Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall, author of one of those repressive RFRAs.

It’s funny how we keep hearing that, as the American Family Association’s Tim Wildmon puts it, we hate them because they allegedly ‘represent God’s message of a moral standard having to do with sexuality’ while they have absolutely no standards where honesty is concerned.

And let’s face it: honesty made the Ten Commandments and sexual morals did not. So which is more important? Thou shallt not diddle or thou shallt not bear false witness?

So we find Bob Marshall lying like a rug about his legislation and other recent RFRAs, like Indiana’s, which he claims is identical to Virginia’s current 2007 law – which is based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 – even though it is not.

Marshall is angry that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe published a letter in the Indianapolis Star inviting businesses to relocate to Virginia. You’d think he’d be happy McAuliffe is drumming up business for his state, but Marshall takes it as an insult to heterosexuals.

Gov. McAuliffe wrote,

In light of that responsibility and recent events in Indiana, I would like to welcome you to take advantage of Virginia’s open, inclusive and thriving business environment.

In Virginia, we do not discriminate against our friends and neighbors, particularly those who are supporting local businesses and generating economic activity.

According to Marshall,

When you actually look at the rhetoric, that you need these laws to hire the best and the brightest, that kind of like is a sweeping statement that says that heterosexuals cannot be the best and the brightest.

No. I think it’s saying that bigots cannot be the best and the brightest.

And to prove my point, Marshall says that the LGBT community isn’t being discriminated against anyway:

My question is, what possible rights can a person who has this inclination have that you don’t have right now? I mean, homosexuals go to public schools, they can go to colleges, they vote, they drive cars, they have businesses, they go to country clubs. I don’t know what else is needed.

You don’t get to enjoy the kingdom of God when you’re a big fat liar, do you? Maybe Bachmann is right to get all worked up. It seems strange that she would blame Obama for what is, after all, supposed to be a good thing.

Maybe she agrees with Harlem pastor James David Manning who likes to rant about “Obama’s homo-demons,” and the coming “homosexual Armageddon!” Manning says “The sodomites are the most vicious, demonic, vile people,” even though he and his Evangelical friends are the ones acting like ***hats.

There is something seriously messed up about people like this, and what is disturbing is that these attitudes cut across all segments of the right wing, from top down and from bottom up. Hate permeates the Republican Party.

Well, hate and stupidity. We can’t forget that James Dobson thinks bisexuality means orgies:

“I would like them to think, just for a moment, about ‘LGBT. The ‘B’ stand for bisexual! That’s orgies! Are you really going to support this?”

Does he sound a bit breathless and excited to you, too?

These people are not only backing some of the crazy laws passed by Republican legislatures, but they’re the ones responsible for them being written in the first place.

Even while the Republicans are giving our money to corporations hand over fist, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Staver is claiming “studies estimate” that “homosexuality” is costing the federal government tens of billions of dollars (heterosexuals don’t cost a penny, apparently).

It is a well-known fact that stupid people don’t realize they are stupid. As Plato said, you have to be wise to know how much you don’t know. And there is not a drop of wisdom to be found in the Republican Party, which is living proof that room temperature IQs go hand in hand with bigotry.

I personally suspect that all these men have very small penises too as a driving force of their insecurities, though I have no interest in proving it (and by Republican standards, at any rate, should not have to). I can’t exclude Michele Bachmann and her wife Marcus from this either, for the same reasons.

I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Affordable Care Act · Sen. Ron Johnson

Republican Senator Has No Time For ‘Sad Sack Stories’ Of Those Who Lose Healthcare

Getty Images

Addicting Info

It’s no secret that Republicans want to take healthcare from low-income Americans. Some Republicans have been seemingly sympathetic, others just don’t know the scope of dismantling Obamacare, and some are just plain heartless and cold.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson is a perfect example of a heartless, crotchety, old time conservative.

During a radio interview, Johnson seemed completely unfazed by the horror that would come from striking down Obamacare’s subsidies in the King v. Burwell case. He even went so far as to agree with the radio host that those who would lose their subsidies are “sad sack stories” who are dying:

Johnson: Unfortunately, President Obama’s response to an adverse decision … would be really simple. Just a one-sentence bill allowing people’s subsidies to flow to federal exchanges and/or offer the governors, ‘Hey, we know you got those federal exchanges. Just sign the bottom line. We’ll make those established by the state.’ And of course, he’ll have the ads all racked up with the individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer. He’ll have all those examples as well so…

Host: And the sad sack stories about who’s dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage.

Johnson: Right.

Yeah, those who are dying “from what” because they don’t have coverage are just sad sack stories. Apparently Johnson, who gets his healthcare for free, is completely fine with letting people die because he doesn’t want the Obama Administration to have a political success. Being completely passive to human suffering shows the true republican colors on this issue.

Johnson recently wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal warning Republicans on how they should handle the fallout of Obamacare should it lose in court, and his biggest fear if it is struck down. Johnson says the GOP must be ready for a new healthcare plan (if he’s lucky, it will be as successful as Marco Rubio’s), and his biggest fear is that President Obama and Congressional Democrats will put forth a one-page bill to restore the subsidies.


Affordable Care Act · Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

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?


Affordable Care Act · Sen. Ted Cruz

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.

Affordable Care Act · Right-wing Conspiracy Theories

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).

Affordable Care Act · Obamacare · President Barack Obama · Sen. Ted Cruz

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.

Affordable Care Act · Obamacare · Supreme Court Of The United States

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.

Affordable Care Act · President Barack Obama

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.

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