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Paul Ryan Misrepresents The “Mandate” In His Medicare Voucher Plan, Again

6:21 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The inimitable Digby points us to another effort by Rep. Paul Ryan to misrepresent his deeply unpopular Medicare voucher plan. It’s not clear whether Ryan simply doesn’t understand his own proposal or is just a serial liar.

Digby links to coverage (and the video here) at Think Progress, which catches Ryan admitting that his plan requires a “mandate” but then claiming falsely that “[i]t literally would be like Medicare Advantage.”

Q: If Medicare becomes a voucher program, would you require seniors to purchase private insurance and if so isn’t that an individual mandate? If you will not require them to purchase insurance how do you propose to prevent a situation where the costs of uninsured seniors is very expensive and gets passed on to me as a private policy holder? [...]

RYAN: Its mandate works no different than how the current Medicare law works today, which is you just select from a wide range of different plans. It literally would be like Medicare Advantage…

Having shown that Ryan’s plan has a “mandate” for those who later reach 67 (yeah, he’d raise Medicare’s eligibility age, too) just as the Affordable Care Act does for those under 65, TP’s Igor Volsky then adds this:

All this tells us is that the mandate isn’t some horribly coercive policy aimed at usurping individual freedoms. Rather, it is a mechanism by which government attempts to encourage more individuals to purchase coverage and expand the size of the health care risk pool, thus spreading the costs and risks of insurance across a larger population (and bringing down health care costs). It’s simply asking able individuals to take personal responsibility for their health care expenses and it’s something Republicans have supported in the past and (apparently) still favor.

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How Will Mitt Romney Explain Why Paul Ryan’s “ObamaCare for Seniors” Is Okay?

2:06 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Now that FDL’s Jon Walker has done the deliciously dirty work of exposing Paul Ryan’s anti-Medicare proposal to force America’s seniors to accept the same flawed mandate and voucher system as ObamaCare, I can’t wait to hear Mitt Romney explain why he thinks this is a terrific idea.

As Jon so subtly hints, a pig is a pig, even if it has Mitt Romney’s lipstick on it. For the affected groups, the basic outline of RomneyCare is the same as the basic outline of ObamaCare is the same as the basic outline of StupidRyanCare. Let’s review the features:

1. Force everyone in the affected group to purchase private health insurance. We’ll call that a “mandate.”

2. Require the private insurers to accept all eligible customers but do little to prevent them from discouraging/screening out sick people via poor service and marketing. Call this “the business plan.”

3. Deprive the customers of any lower-cost public alternatives, like Medicare for all, a public option, etc. Call that “choice” or “keeping the insurers honest.”

4. Allow insurance companies to become so concentrated that in 80-90 percent of the country, only one or two mega insurers control the local market and set prices, while providing minimal oversight to ensure quality of service. Allow the antitrust, anti-price fixing regulators to wither. Call that “free market competition.”

5. Require the affected group to select between this one or two insurers on an “exchange” website that allows them to find the websites for the few eligible private insurance plans. We call this, “using teh Google.”

6. Having stripped consumers of the ability to bargain collectively (via Medicare, a union, an employer) for better, cheaper, more honest private insurance, send individual consumers, including the sick and the elderly, out on their own to “bargain” with the insurance giants. Call this, “leveling the playing field.”

7. Minimize or neglect obvious efforts to rein in the costs of private health care providers, including hospitals, specialist cartels, and big PhRMA, who are allowed to merge and concentrate. Let them be shielded by too-long patents and non-compete agreements and exempt from market or regulatory cost controls or antitrust pressure. Then allow them to fix the prices that private insurers must cover and pass on to their captive customers, plus the insurers’ higher but hard-to-audit administrative costs and profits. Do “homes of the rich and famous” shows on the execs. Call this, “the invisible growing hand in your wallet.”

8. Collect payroll taxes and other revenues via government mandate to help subsidize premiums — we’ll call this “premium assistance” — but provide no mechanism to ensure that the assistance keeps up with rising care costs to make the premiums affordable. If you’re Ryan, make sure it doesn’t keep up (See Dean Baker and CBO on how this screws Seniors). Call that “fixing the budget by shifting the costs to vulnerable people on fixed incomes.”

9. Wait to see how many people die from this stupid system. Call that “fiscal responsibility” or just “evil.” (Note similarity to Wi. Gov. Walker et ilk in shifting budget costs to workers as a means to strip workers’ economic leverage.)
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Tea Party About to Learn Constitution Doesn’t Say What They Think It Says

10:44 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Beginning in January 2011, we’ll be sucked into the black hole of Tea Party Anti-Government Mythology, in which many of the things the US Constitution says will be ignored or misread out of existence.

As promised by some of its silliest adherents, the Tea Party has convinced the shamelessly pandering House Republican leadership to require a reading of the US Constitution at the beginning of Congress’ First Taliban Session. It’s to become a religious ritual:

“You can do the talk, but you have to do the walk,” said Clifford Atkin, a leader of the New Boston Tea Party in Woodbury, Conn., who likened the increased focus on the Constitution to a religious conversion.

Beth Mizell, who leads a loose affiliate of tea party activists in tiny Franklinton, La., has attended weekend classes on the Constitution that she compared to a church Bible study. She said she is heartened that Congress is taking these steps.

The ostensible purpose is to convey to the nation how serious their commitment is to passing legislation only if it is expressly authorized by a provision they understand and agree with and have not promised to repeal or ignore.

This will be a delicate undertaking, requiring the utmost care in selective reading and limited understanding, followed up by required reeducation seminars conducted by Cardinal Scalia. Any stray logic, misplaced feelings of empathy, or, God forbid, commitment to the public welfare constitute a threat to the enterprise. Nor will the new Taliban tolerate any inadvertent dwelling on something as clear as the First Amendment, emphatic as the Fourth or morally compelling as the 5th and 14th Amendments.

No, understanding these provisions would force painful reevaluations of much of the so-called anti-terrorism legislation of this decade. Why, they might realize the Constitution does not sanction many provisions of the Military Commission Act, funding for Gitmo and CIA black sites, engaging in unlawful wars, or enabling massive electronic surveillance without just cause. Can you imagine the Tea Party repealing the most tyrannical provisions of the Patriot Act?

But a lesson in civil liberties is not the new priests’ goal. Our Tea Party patriots hope to expose to their countrymen that the Constitution does not permit a mandate to buy private health insurance; in Scalia’s Court, they may succeed. But they will have missed the point, again.

What will likely not occur to them is that one of the difficult problems they’ve been elected to solve is how to provide humane, medically appropriate health care to everyone and provide a just means to collect the money and allocate it fairly to providers. Those are really hard problems when you start from where we are, but it’s not the Constitution that stands in the way of solving them.

Fortunately, every other advanced country has solved this on a far more affordable and universal scale. So in a sane world, Congress’ job would be to figure out why we remain so confused about this and to stop listening to those who keep us locked in a corrupt, inhumane system with 50 million uninsured. They might then realize that some parts of a solution set will likely require most people, with whatever exceptions seem fair, to do something they might not otherwise do for themselves, such as, e.g., pay their taxes to support Medicare for all. That’s not a constitutional problem, because we already do it for everyone over 65.

The Founders did not write the Constitution to make solving the nation’s problems impossible. They designed a framework in which problems like providing humane, universal care and a host of other national issues can be solved. How do we provide work at decent wages for everyone who needs/wants a job? How do we use fiscal/monetary policies to encourage growth and allocate wealth fairly? How do we provide a financial system that doesn’t loot the country? How do we provide sustainable commerce, industry and livelihoods that don’t destroy our own planet? So, far, not a single representative of the Tea/Republican Party has said an intelligent word on any these topics. They don’t know what their job is.

The notion of having a capable national government committed to “provide for the general welfare” is not an alien doctrine; it’s the purpose of the Constitution, the one that made America “exceptional” at the time. That’s why this foundational principle is in the Preamble. Yet this core principle somehow escapes those calling themselves the “defenders of the Constitution.”

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Terms like we, union, Justice, common, general welfare, ourselves . . . leap out at you.

The Republican House Leadership would do well if it simply read the Constitution’s Preamble every day, and then set to work on how to use the Constitution to solve the nation’s problems. Where’s your jobs program, Speaker Boehner?

Health Insurers: “We’re Shocked, Shocked to Learn the Bill Benefits Us”

3:12 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Who could have predicted? Now that the mandate to purchase private health insurance is the law of the land, America’s health insurers have decided it’s okay to reveal, well, uh, they really liked the bill’s basic structure all along.

Suzy Khimm from Mother Jones gets the story:

The industry’s main trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, has announced that it will join Enroll America, a new non-profit devoted to registering those people who will newly qualify for insurance subsidies or Medicaid under the law.

After spending massive sums in an attempt to defeat the bill, why are insurers suddenly eager to help the reforms succeed? "It’s good business for them," says Families USA’s Ron Pollack, who is heading up the Enroll America effort. “All of them will benefit from a business plan standpoint to extend coverage."

[snip]

In truth, the Democratic reforms were never as punishing to the insurance industry as AHIP (or the Democrats themselves) made them out to be. The government-run public option—private insurers’ biggest bugbear—never made it into the final bill. Neither did the repeal of the anti-trust exemption for the industry. The excise tax on high-cost insurance plans got scaled back significantly in the reconciliation fixes.

I’m shocked, shocked.

"Your gambling winnings, sir"

"Thank you, very much."