Obamacare to Trumpcare
From today's Intelligencer: a collection of half-truths, no truths, and disingenuousness (a typical Saturday opinion page)
The lead editorial implores the Republicans to keep fighting to replace Obamacare
Of course we learn (without evidence) in the editorial how Obamacare is universally hated, "choking" state budgets, and has all sorts of horror stories that everyone (including Democrats) have heard. That's what the editorial tells us but the most recent Kaiser Health Poll suggests that Obamacare is more liked than disliked. Additionally, I could find no evidence that it was "choking" the states and while I hope I'm wrong, my hunch is that the "horror stories" will certainly increase if a Republican plan is put in and 25 million lose health insurance.
The editorial then goes on to discuss tax reform and argues that repealing Obamacare would provide tax relief for all:
But in considering tax reform, members of Congress and the White House need to keep the effect on revenue in mind. The very existence of Obamacare gives them about $100 billion a year less in latitude to provide tax relief. That works out to about $1,200 a year for every family of four in the country.
That's disingenuous. Repealing Obamacare will not give the average family of four $1200. Obamacare largely depends upon taxes upon the rich and repealing it, as most of the studies point out, will reward the rich. As CNBC reported:
About 45 percent of the benefits from the Republican health-care bill's tax cuts will go to households making $875,000 or more, according to the analysis by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution's Tax Policy Center released Monday. That group would see an average rise in after-tax income of about 2 percent, versus a 1 percent increase for the lowest 20 percent of households and 0.4 percent for middle-income Americans.
Finally, the editorial does cite a statistic from Senator Capito:
Here in West Virginia, as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., has pointed out, health insurance premiums in the individual market have increased by 169 percent during the past four years.
The stat looked familiar and I quickly found it: it was in yesterday's press release from the senator in which Capito explained her vote in favor of the most recent version of Trumpcare ("skinny care"). Here's the quote:
At the same time, health insurance premiums in West Virginia’s individual market have increased by 169 percent over the past four years, and action needs to be taken to lower premiums and expand consumer choice for West Virginians.
As it did the first time, the 169% increase struck me as a bit high and so I went looking for the source. Surprise, surprise, it was used by President Trump four days ago at a Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio. What struck me as odd is that Capito didn't reference the President of the United States for her quote. Did she think that few would believe her if she referenced him? Was she embarrassed to use him? Interesting.
I then went looking to see if any fact checker had checked the accuracy of Trump's Youngstown speech. Sure enough, the fact checkers at the Washington Post had examined it in a report titled:
26 hours, 29 Trumpian false or misleading claims
And here is what it said about the quote that Capito cited:
“In West Virginia, recent premiums have gone up 169 percent since Obamacare went into effect. In Alaska, over 200 percent.”
This is one of Trump’s favorite talking points on Obamacare, yet it’s still misleading. For 2017, the average increase in premiums before subsidies was 25 percent, so he is cherry-picking the highest end of premium increases.
Moreover, Trump using data from the Department of Health and Human Services that do not take into account the effect of subsidies, which shield 84 percent of people in the exchanges from such extreme premium hikes.
A final thought on this: I think it could be argued Trump is a job creator -- since his inauguration, the number of fact checkers has definitely increased and they are certainly kept busy.
Capito and Portman sell out their constituents -- Myer praises their ability to compromise
Last month I discussed the possibility that the Republican Party might buy Capito's vote on an Obamacare replacement. This despite a promise she had already made not to vote to end Medicaid coverage. To that end, I quoted Andy Slavitt in an USA Today article in which he listed a number of ways it might come to pass. Here are two that he listed:
— A “delay” of the end date for Medicaid expansion, probably beyond each of the senators’ re-election dates, but which would still end the expansion to people slightly above the poverty line and cause 50 million people to be without insurance by 2026.
— An “opioid fund” that restores only a small fraction of the massive Medicaid cuts and does not require insurers to cover related physical and mental health services.
This morning's Mike Myer column, "Portman, Capito on Right Track," praises Ohio Senator Rob Portman for offering an amendment which proposed exactly what Slavitt predicted. According to Myer:
In a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday night, Portman explained the core of his idea, which was to ease the Medicaid transition.
“I’ve worked to put Medicaid expansion on a glide path,” Portman told fellow senators. Instead of reducing federal support in two years, as called for under a House plan, his amendment would have stretched the change out for six years. Under the first three, the Obamacare federal subsidy plan would be retained. The following three years would be a transition to lower federal support.
And — in an very important move — Portman would have given governors “new flexibility . . . to design innovative Medicaid programs that meet the needs of their states and their expansion population.”
Secondly, Myer points out:
Finally, the bill included $45 billion over 10 years for substance abuse programs.
43 Republicans voted for it including Capito. For Myer, this is what compromise looks like:
(W)hat they are doing is attempting to get Obamacare repeal and replacement off dead center. The Portman bill was an attempt at the very kind of compromise needed to get a new, truly affordable care act in place.
Slavitt certainly called that one.
Let's see. The Portman amendment would have kicked people off Medicaid health benefits after 6 years instead of three -- and Capito supported him and Mike Myer is cheering them on. Who said they don't make "compassionate conservatives" anymore? And again: how is Capito not breaking her pledge not to hurt her constituents especially those on Medicaid by supporting this?