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Daily Archives: July 14th, 2017

We see again the Neer do wells taking care of themselves rather than the “American People” they are so find of citing. MA

Senate Republicans exempt own health coverage from part of latest proposal
Updated by Sarah Jul 13, 2017, 3:00pm
Senate Republicans included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan.

Vox’s daily email explaining the biggest news in health care, edited by Sarah Kliff

This exemption could have the effect of ensuring that members of Congress have coverage for a wider array of benefits than other Americans who purchase their own coverage.
A Senate Republican aide confirmed that the exemption existed but was unable to comment as to the specific effect it would have. The aide said it was included to ensure that the bill hewed to the chamber’s strict reconciliation rules that limit the policies this health bill can include.
The exemption is similar to the one that existed in the House health bill. After Vox reported on its existence, the House voted to close the loophole — and the Senate aide expected their chamber to follow the same path.
An exemption mandates that members of Congress have access to the essential health benefits
The revised Senate health bill draft released Thursday lets health insurers offer plans that do not cover the Affordable Care Act’s essential health benefits, which requires insurers to include a wide array of benefits such as maternity care and mental health services.
Insurers can offer plans without these benefits — unless they’re selling coverage to members of Congress and their staff, who are required to buy coverage on the health law marketplaces. The exemption says this part of the law still applies to any plans sold to Congress.
The language of this exemption is very similar to the exemption in the House repeal bill. It appears on page 167 of the bill, in this paragraph (bolding my own):
(d) NON-APPLICABLE PROVISIONS DESCRIBED. — The provisions described in this subsection are the following:
(1) Subsection (d) of section 1302 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 6 18022); except for the purposes of applying section 1302(b) to sections 1252, 1301(a)(2), 1312(d)(3)(D), 1331, 1333, and 1334 of such Act, subsection (b) of such section 1302; and subsection (c)(1)(B) of such section 1302.
To decode that language a little bit: The bolded text says that section 1302(b) will still apply to certain plans. Section 1302(b) is the part of the Affordable Care Act that spells out what is included in the essential health benefits.
The section then goes on to spell out which plans get to keep essential health benefits. It includes the plans specified in 1312(d)(3)(D) of the Affordable Care Act — the section that covers the health plans of members of Congress and their benefits.
Congress does not get an exemption in this bill from plans that ban preexisting conditions or charge sick people higher premiums. The exemption is relatively narrow, and the expert who pointed it out to me (Timothy Jost of Washington and Lee University) is somewhat puzzled about how this would work in practice.
The Senate draft, for example, would still allow insurers to charge higher prices to those with preexisting conditions — when selling to Congress as well as to the rest of the public. This could create an odd scenario where the plans that Congress is eligible for have to cover a wide array of benefits but can also deny coverage or charge more to those expected to have higher costs.
Reconciliation rules mandate that the Senate bill only include policies under the jurisdiction of two committees: Budget and HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions). The Senate aide I spoke with explained that the regulation of congressional health plans falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee, and therefore changes to their benefits could not be included in this bill. A fuller explanation is available here from, outlining the jurisdictional issues raised by reconciliation.

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The state of hate in America
19 / 19

Alia E. Dastagir

It feels like nearly every week, America is rattled by a new incident of hate.

In June, a white man in a Chicago Starbucks was filmed calling a black man a slave, and a white woman in a New Jersey Sears was videotaped making bigoted comments against a family she believed was Indian (they were not). In May, two men on a Portland train were stabbed to death trying to stop a white supremacist’s anti-Muslim tirade against two teenagers.
Hate symbols are showing up around the country: nooses in the nation’s capital, racist graffiti on the front gate of LeBron James’ Los Angeles home, a banner with an anti-Semitic slur over a Holocaust memorial in Lakewood, N.J. On Saturday, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in Charlottesville, Va., less than two months after white supremacist Richard Spencer — who coined the term “alt-right” — led a similar protest in the city against the removal of a Confederate monument. Several white nationalist groups are planning another rally for Aug. 12.
In an America where deep divisions exposed in the presidential election have only intensified in the past eight months, these incidents take on new meaning as they become more widespread.
“They’re increasing not only in number but in terms of their ferocity,” said Chip Berlet, a scholar of the far right.
Groups that track these incidents — including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the non-profit news organization ProPublica, which is creating a national database of hate crimes and bias — say hate incidents are a national problem whose scope we don’t fully grasp. Tracking them is notoriously difficult:
Not all law enforcement agencies send hate crime data to the FBI.
Five states don’t have any hate crime protections.
Many states don’t include protections for LGBTQ people.
Incidents of public harassment motivated by hate bias may not meet the legal definition of a “hate crime.”
While a patchwork of data means we don’t have a complete picture of the problem, the SPLC and the ADL say available numbers show disturbing trends. In its most recent hate crimes report, the FBI tracked a total of 5,818 hate crimes in 2015, a rise of about 6.5% from the previous year, and showed that attacks against Muslims surged. The SPLC documented an uptick of hate and bias incidents after the presidential election, tracking 1,094 in the first month alone. The organization also says the number of hate groups in the U.S. increased for a second year in a row in 2016. In April, the ADL reported anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 86% in the first quarter of 2017.
“Even though the data is incomplete, we still think it’s statistically significant, and in that it’s troubling to see more manifestations of prejudice than we’ve seen in the past,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL.
Minorities feel less safe
By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority, a change driven by immigration, according to the Pew Research Center. An analysis conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic — based on surveys taken before and after the election — reveals that members of the white working class concerned about immigration were more than 3.5 times more likely to vote for President Trump. Nearly half of white working-class Americans said, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”
Heidi Beirich, leader of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project — which publishes the organization’s Hatewatch blog — said right now minorities feel less safe, particularly Muslim and immigrant communities. According to the Pew Research Center, 41% of Hispanics say they have serious concerns about their place in America since the presidential election.
“People feel like they could be attacked at any moment,” she said. “Often, they also don’t trust the police to help them.”
While the FBI’s data typically show 5,000 to 6,000 hate crimes a year, the Department of Justice’s estimates are much higher. A report out this month from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, based on data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, show Americans experienced an average of 250,000 hate crime victimizations each year from 2004 to 2015. About a quarter of hate crime victims who didn’t report said they feared police wouldn’t be able to help them.
Us vs. Them
For years before he ran for president, Trump roused the “birther” movement that falsely questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. During the presidential campaign, Trump said an Indiana-born federal judge was biased because of his “Mexican heritage.” Since becoming president, Trump has taken a hard stance on immigration, instituting a travel ban on immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries, which the Supreme Court partially reinstated in late June.
Trump’s ascendance, Berlet said, was built upon a narrative of “us vs. them,” language that resonates with many Americans who fear cultural shifts brought on by changing demographics.
After the deadly shooting at Pulse nightclub in June 2016, then-candidate Trump said, “The Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And we had death and destruction.”
“When a public figure with a high status identifies a group that is described as threatening to the stability of the community or the nation, in certain conditions this can lead people to conclude that they have to defend their way of life from these ‘others,'” Berlet said. “These scapegoated or demonized others have to be either silenced or eradicated.”
Trump has been repeatedly asked to do more to denounce hate associated with his name. Expressions of bigotry among his supporters were well-documented during his campaign and Trump himself has been accused by civil rights groups of using hateful and violent rhetoric, as well as being too reticent in condemning it. Just this month, Trump posted a CNN smackdown clip on Twitter that was taken from a Reddit troll who the ADL says has “a consistent record of racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry.”
Of the 1,094 hate and bias incidents the SPLC counted in the month after the election, 37% of them directly referenced either Trump, his campaign slogans or his remarks about sexual assault.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer has denied that such hate incidents have increased since Trump’s election victory. And many Americans who support Trump — though they admire his bluntness and tendency to eschew political correctness — say they don’t condone racism or violence either.
“It doesn’t make one racist to have voted for Trump, and I’m sure many didn’t pay that much attention to the campaign,” Beirich said. “That said, Trump’s rants against Mexicans, Muslims and women were widely reported. So clearly Trump’s views on these matters weren’t disqualifying for many Trump voters. For those Trump voters bothered by this racism, I hope they will speak out against it. It could help increase civility in the U.S.”
A nation divided
Increased political polarization is part of what moves hate from the margins to the mainstream, Greenblatt said. Sentiments once considered extreme become validated and “people feel the pain of prejudice in a manner that is really beneath our values as a country,” he said.
The Pew Research Center found about half of Democrats and Republicans say the other party makes them feel “afraid.” More than 40% of Democrats and Republicans say the opposite party’s “policies are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”
“I don’t think either side of the ideological spectrum is exempt from intolerance,” Greenblatt said. “Whether it’s the U.S. president, or a university president … I think we should expect our leaders to stand up and speak out against manifestations of hate.”
And the rest of us? We remain where we always have, Greenblatt said, capable of moving the country away from cruelty and toward greater justice.
When the approximately 50 KKK members converged on Charlottesville this weekend to protest what Klan member James Moore called “the ongoing cultural genocide … of white Americans,” more than a thousand counter protesters showed up to decry hate in their city. The Klan members were heavily outnumbered, chants of “white power” drowned out by “racists go home.”
“I think all of us have an obligation to interrupt intolerance when it happens and to be an ally when we see others being subjected to harassment and hate,” Greenblatt said. “We owe it to ourselves to make sure we call upon our better angels when we see people that we know, or don’t know, who are being treated unfairly because of how they look or how they pray or who they love. Every one of us is capable of rising to that occasion.”

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Hobby Lobby hypocrite or just business as usual? The company was  investigated regarding illegal artifacts brought into their Bible Museum. The company was fined 3 million dollars and had to return items. It makes one wonder how holy art thou?

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It is unfortunate that our Neer do well Congress is intent on hurting the people they purport to represent, the long noses are insisting that they are doing good work for us. I offer that we let them know that we are not as dumb as they would assume we are. MA

The Plum Line | Opinion
The dumbest criticism of single payer health care
By Paul Waldman
July 6, 2017 at 12:59 PM

Democratic politicians are rapidly embracing single payer health care, and as they do, they’re being met with an utterly bogus criticism. Unfortunately, it’s coming not only from Republicans but also from misinformed members of the media.
So before this goes any farther, we need to get a few things straight.
To see how this is happening, take a look at a recent exchange between some CNN personalities and Randy Bryce, the mustachioed ironworker challenging Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, as reported by the Post’s David Weigel. Bryce favors single payer, and has said he supports a plan that Rep. John Conyers has been offering in Congress for years:
This week, Bryce beamed into CNN to keep up the momentum — and ran straight into a question about whether he, like a growing number of Democrats, supports European-style universal health care.
“You want to raise $32 trillion in taxes?” asked CNN’s John Berman.
“There’s a lot of people not paying their fair share in taxes,” Bryce said. “There’s corporations getting away with a lot.”
“That would be quite a tax hike,” said CNN’s Poppy Harlow. “That’s an astonishing number, $32 trillion over a decade.”
Ugh. We saw a similar discussion in 2016 around Bernie Sanders’ single payer plan, and while I had numerous criticisms of that plan, this is the single dumbest response to single payer that you could possibly come up with. We shouldn’t be surprised to hear it from Republicans — if there’s an enormous number they can toss around while screaming “Democrats are gonna raise your taxes by a zillion percent!” they’ll do it. But no self-respecting journalist should fall into the trap of repeating something so inane.

There is simply no critique you can make of single payer health care that is more wrong than “It’ll be too expensive.” That is 180 degrees backwards. Single payer is many things, but above all it is cheap. And what we have now is the most expensive system in the world, by a mile.
If we were to institute some kind of single payer system, what we’d be doing when it comes to money is changing how we pay for health care. But when you say, “Hoo boy, it would mean trillions in new taxes!”, you’re acting as though we’d be paying all those taxes on top of what we’re already paying. But of course we wouldn’t.
Let’s look at what we’re paying now. In 2016, we spent $3.4 trillion on health care. That spending is projected to rise an average of 5.6 percent per year over the next decade. If you do the math, that means that between 2018 and 2027 we’ll spend $49 trillion on health care in America. That’s the current system.
That $32 trillion number the CNN folks are tossing around comes from an analysis of the Conyers bill, which is basically a placeholder — it’s only 30 pages long, which for bill texts is like an executive summary of an executive summary. If we get to single payer, the Conyers bill won’t be it. Nevertheless, Republicans have seized on the $32 trillion number to scare people into thinking that Democrats want to raise their taxes some insane amount (“When you look at the majority of House Democrats, they support a single-payer, $32 trillion bill backed by Bernie Sanders,” says Sean Spicer). But if we’re going to spend $49 trillion under the current system, and single payer would cost $32 trillion, doesn’t that mean we’d be saving $17 trillion? Congrats on all the money you’d be getting back!
It wouldn’t work out that way precisely, of course. But the point is, if we were to shift to a single payer system we’d be changing how we pay for health care, not just paying more. Right now if you’re like most working-age Americans, you pay thousands of dollars every year to insurance companies. If we switch to a primarily government-funded plan, you’d pay for it with taxes, but you’d be relieved of what you now pay to insurers.
But Republicans would like you to believe that any cost of single payer would be on top of what you already pay, which is completely false. Now here’s the truth: Republicans don’t object to single payer because it’s expensive, because compared to what we have now, it isn’t. Their objection is philosophical: they don’t think it’s government’s role or obligation to provide health insurance.
We should have a robust debate about whether it is or not. But Republicans don’t really want to have that debate, because the last few months have proven something that chills them to the marrow of their bones: Americans like government health coverage. Medicare is spectacularly popular, and it turns out Medicaid is popular, too. Most people have no problem going on a government health plan, if it provides good benefits. They don’t think that being kicked off Medicaid makes people “free.” They aren’t hoping for some glorious Randian future where the noble rich get health coverage and the weak and sick are left to their own devices. That may be Paul Ryan’s fantasy, but for most people, it’s a nightmare.
There are two more points I’d like to make about single payer as a policy and political matter. The first is that “single payer” is not well defined, and people use it to refer to a range of very different health systems. In a pure form, it would mean that the government pays for all health care and there are no private insurers; Great Britain’s system is the one that comes closest. But there are very successful systems that achieve universal coverage and have a role for private insurers, whether they’re hybrid systems built on a basic government plan that covers everyone but that also include private supplemental insurance (as in France), or systems built on private but tightly regulated plans from which everyone chooses (as in Germany).
As Democrats start advocating more strongly for single payer, they need to think seriously about which of these systems they favor and how to get from where we are now to there. I’d prefer a hybrid system built on an expanded Medicaid, but there are arguments to be made for each of them. Any Democrat who says “I’m for single payer” should be prepared to answer the follow-up question, “What kind?”
Second, Republicans are going to try very hard to scare Democrats into retreating into a milquetoasty vagueness on this issue, particularly in 2018. Right now Democrats are debating among themselves about whether it’s more important to just be anti-Trump or to have a clear and identifiable agenda voters can understand. The answer is: Yes! Being anti-Trump is incredibly important, particularly to 2018, since success in midterm elections comes from turning out your base. But those base voters also need to know that Democrats know what they want to do the next time they have the power to enact their own policies, and voters in the middle need a sense of what their agenda is.
The nice thing about single payer is that unlike previous Democratic health care reforms, it’s not that hard to explain. But if they’re going to get the chance, they’ll have to bat away some bogus attacks from Republicans — and, sadly, from the news media too.

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