Alexander Points Finger At Trump As Opposition to Obamacare Deal Mounts

Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) deal to stave off the collapse of Obamacare is meeting with a less than ecstatic response. As the bipartisan framework meets opposition, Alexander pointed to President Trump as the force behind the tentative agreement.

After a phone call with the president, Sen. Alexander claimed that the deal was Trump’s idea in the first place. “Trump completely engineered the plan that we announced yesterday,” Alexander told Mike Allen of Axios. Alexander said that Trump repeatedly called to push him toward a deal that included Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “He wanted a bipartisan bill for the short term,” Alexander said.

A few minutes after Alexander’s appearance with Allen, President Trump appeared to throw then senator under the bus. Trump tweeted, “I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care.”

Meanwhile, there are signs that the deal may be a tough sell for Republicans. A spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan said, “The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.”

Business Insider reported that Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) had announced that he would oppose the Obamacare deal. Hatch, who penned an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, “Obamacare doesn’t deserve a bailout,” told reporters, “It would last two years and spend a whopping amount of money and not solve the problem.” John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate’s third highest ranking Republican, said that the bill had “stalled out.”

The effort did pick up several cosponsors as Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) signed on to the bill. There were reports that more cosponsors from both parties would announce their support soon.

The bill could pass with combined support of Republicans and Democrats, even if a large number of conservatives withhold their support. Small Republican majorities in both houses make it difficult to pass a unilateral bill. Republicans alone do not have the numbers to win a cloture vote in the Senate and the loss of only three senators is enough to scuttle a budget resolution that requires only a simple majority to pass. However, a bipartisan coalition could conceivably muster enough support to win a vote as well as end a filibuster by holdouts.

At this point, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not indicated his position on the deal. As leader of the Senate, McConnell could doom the bill by preventing the Senate from bringing it to a vote.

If the bill dies, the Trump Administration has announced that it will suspend Obamacare subsidy payments to insurance companies in accordance with a federal court decision earlier this year. The effect that this would have upon insurance markets is uncertain, but insurance company stocks tumbled after the president announced the decision.

Sen. Alexander said that Republicans may reintroduce the Graham-Cassidy bill if the Alexander-Murray deal fails. Graham-Cassidy was withdrawn last month after four Republican senators announced that they would vote against it.

Bipartisan Deal Would Preserve Obamacare For Two Years

In an “if you can’t beat them, join them” moment, Republicans appear to have reached a deal with Democrats to preserve key components of the Affordable Care Act in the wake of President Trump’s announcement that his administration will stop paying subsidies to insurance companies under the Obama-era law. The tentative agreement was announced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday.

“Sen. Murray and I have an agreement. We’re going to round up co-sponsors as best we can,” Alexander told Politico.

President Trump appeared optimistic about the deal. “Lamar has been working very, very hard with the Democratic, his colleagues on the other side,” Trump said. “And they’re coming up and they’re fairly close to a short-term solution. The solution will be for about a year or two years. And it’ll get us over this intermediate hump.”

The deal reportedly contains funding for Obamacare’s subsidies to insurance companies for 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well as funding for state Obamacare enrollments. In return, Republicans would get expanded access to state waivers to approve lower cost plans and consumers over 30 would be allowed to purchase “copper plans” that cover only catastrophic illnesses for a lower premium, but have higher out-of-pocket costs.

There would also be an important advantage for Republicans in postponing the shakeout of the insurance industry that would accompany stopping the subsidy payments. No one knows precisely what would happen if the Trump Administration stopped the payments, but the likely chaos in insurance markets would probably not reflect well on Republicans as midterm elections approach. The deal would give Congress two additional years to resolve the issue.

Whether the bill can pass Congress is uncertain. Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) tweeted, “The GOP should focus on repealing and replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it. This bailout is unacceptable.” Others, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), adopted a wait and see attitude.

“Most of the members of the conference are finding out about the details for the first time. I don’t think anybody beyond Lamar and a few others know,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said. “The details are important.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) seemed to favor the bill. “We think it’s a good solution and it got broad support when Patty and I talked about it with the caucus,” he said. “We’ve achieved stability if this agreement becomes law.”

If Schumer and Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) can deliver Democrat votes, the bill could become law in spite of almost certain opposition by conservative Republicans. At this point, it seems likely that Democrats would favor the bill, which would preserve most of Obamacare intact and force the Trump Administration to continue paying subsidies.

At this point, there is no indication of how fast the bill will move through Congress. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “We haven’t had a chance to think about the way forward yet.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has not publicly addressed the new deal, but told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Monday that he preferred a comprehensive approach to replacing the Affordable Care Act.

“I think we’ve got to do more to get it fixed, but the answer is not to shovel more money at a failing program that is doubling premiums and causing monopolies,” Ryan said. “The answer is to reform the underlying failure of the law and one of those underlying failures is the lack of choice and competition in health insurance.”

Is Trump’s Obamacare Executive Order Constitutional?

There has been a lot of discussion about President Trump’s healthcare Executive Order. Most of the discussion centers around the likely effects of the order while little has been said about the constitutionality of Trump’s executive action. For a party that roundly condemned President Obama’s abuse of executive authority, a big question should be whether Trump has the legal authority to make the changes that he proposes.

The bottom line is that Trump’s Executive Order doesn’t actually make any changes to the Affordable Care Act. What it does do is to order cabinet secretaries to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law.” In other words, Trump isn’t proposing changes to laws passed by Congress, he is considering changes to regulatory laws enacted by bureaucrats. These changes will be “considered” in three main areas.

First, the president wants to expand access to association health plans (AHPs). Health Affairs notes that these plans are more loosely regulated than traditional insurance plans. They are normally regulated by the states, but can be regulated by the federal government in the case of some national associations. The order instructs the Secretary of Labor to “consider” expanding the definition of “employer” under ERISA to allow more groups to sell AHPs and to “promote AHP formation on the basis of common geography or industry.” To purchase insurance, consumers would have to be a member of the association.

Second, the Executive Order moves to expand Short-Term, Limited-Duration Insurance (STLDI) policies. The order notes that STLDIs are “exempt from the onerous and expensive insurance mandates and regulations” of the Affordable Care Act, but that “the previous administration took steps to restrict access to this market by reducing the allowable coverage period” to less than three months. “To the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy,” the president directs cabinet members to “consider allowing such insurance to cover longer periods and be renewed by the consumer.”

STLDIs are not considered to be individual health insurance policies and do not have to meet the insurance policy requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The policies are governed by rulemaking agencies of the Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services. Therefore, these departments can amend the rules for STLDIs without going through Congress.

Third, the Executive Order instructs relevant cabinet secretaries to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, to the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, to increase the usability of HRAs, to expand employers’ ability to offer HRAs to their employees, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with nongroup coverage.”

HRAs are health reimbursement accounts. They allow employers to contribute money on a pre-tax basis to reimburse employees for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. HRAs were created by Congress, but executive branch agencies have leeway in how to regulate them.

President Trump’s decision to halt Obamacare subsidies to insurance companies is not part of the Executive Order, but is on firm legal ground. House Republicans sued the Obama Administration over the subsidies in 2014. In May 2016, a federal judge ruled that Congress had authorized the payments, but had never appropriated money for them. The Obama Administration appealed the ruling, but the decision by President Trump seems to be merely accepting the court’s initial decision and dropping the appeal.

This doesn’t mean that the Trump Administration will be able to stop making the payments. Several states ultimately joined the appeal, claiming that the Trump Administration was not adequately defending their interests. Now 18 states have filed a new lawsuit seeking an injunction against President Trump’s decision.

Because the President Trump’s Executive Order does not change existing law and only instructs cabinet members to “consider” making changes to bureaucratic regulations within the framework of the law, the order is constitutional. It remains to be seen what regulatory changes the various cabinet secretaries will propose, but the changes will probably be much less sweeping than claimed by either right or left-wing pundits.

President Trump’s Executive Order is legal in large part because it doesn’t do much. The president simply does not have much authority to change laws that have been passed by Congress. The decision to stop insurance company subsidies is a more serious threat to Obamacare, but even this is unlikely to take effect until the lawsuit by the states is settled.

BREAKING: Trump Axes Subsidies Propping up Obamacare

Late Thursday night, the Trump Administration announced that the government would no longer be making “cost-sharing reduction” (CSR) payments to insurance companies. Under Obamacare, the CSRs were intended to subsidize insurance premiums in order to lower costs to those purchasing the plans. Removing the $10 billion in subsidies for 2018 will cause premiums to rise by an estimated 20% according to the Congressional Budget Office.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a written statement Thursday night which said:

“Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.”

“In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments. The United States House of Representatives sued the previous administration in Federal court for making these payments without such an appropriation, and the court agreed that the payments were not lawful.”

The move came just hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order which would essentially allow more people to purchase insurance across state lines. Of course, one wonders why there was ever a law in place which would block the purchase of medical insurance across state lines, thus requiring further government action reversing the artificial barrier to the free market.

In response, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) predictably and immediately took to Twitter:

While the CSR payments will be halted, other Obamacare subsidies in the form of federal tax credits will not be affected. Eighty-five percent of those on Obamacare qualify for the subsidies, whose premiums should not be affected, since the subsidies rise along with premium increases.

Ultimately, whether you’re on the left or the right, we all recognize that what we have now is unsustainable. There is no free market in health care, so consequently, prices continue to shoot skyward. Some, such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — and even Donald Trump — have argued for a government-run universal health care system.

It’s a very lovely thought, the idea that, if you get sick, you get “free” health care (of course, never mind that nothing is ever “free” — that it’s really you and your neighbors that are paying for your medical bills). The problem is, whenever the free market is tampered with, costs rise without fail (that’s assuming you don’t die waiting for treatment, which occurs regularly under government run health care systems around the world). And isn’t that what we’re all complaining about here? Costs? It’s nigh unaffordable. Yes. Nigh. It’s that bad.

Some have accused Trump of putting Obamacare in a “death spiral” with his two actions Thursday. But hasn’t our entire insurance system been on a “death spiral” for some time now?

The government puts additional mandates on insurance companies. The insurance companies, in turn, raise prices, since they’re being forced to cover additional services. The government, in turn, subsidizes the additional costs with taxpayer dollars. (If one were cynical, one might suppose it was so the elected official could go home and brag to their constituents about how much they “care” about making health care affordable — with other peoples’ money.) And on, and on it goes. Not sustainable.

Here’s an idea: what if we were all “allowed” to purchase whatever type of insurance we wanted, because insurance companies were “allowed” to sell the types of insurance their customers requested (I hope you’re having the same reaction I am at having to choke down the word “allowed” in the “land of the free”). I’ve yet to hear a good explanation as to why a 60 year-old man should be forced to buy insurance with maternity and birth control coverage.

We need to decide: what do we value more? Freedom or security? Because when it comes to insurance, in the real world, you can’t have it both ways. Freedom involves risk and choice and actual affordable costs. Security involves unaffordable prices ultimately resulting in a single-payer government run system, which always results in reduced services, diminished quality and care, and sometimes premature death due to waiting for care.

Those are our choices. We are adults, and we need to act like adults and face the economic reality. There is no such thing as “affordable” health care (or affordable anything) when the government is involved. We may not want to admit that, but, as John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Speaking of Founding Fathers, we do have one other choice: we could choose to return to the system they set up for us. Under that system, the federal government had no hand whatsoever in health care. Period. Full stop. End of story. The states, however, could be as government-run as their state constitution allowed, thus, setting up as many mini-laboratories as there were states. States could all test different ideas to see what worked (and what didn’t), and people could move to a different state if they didn’t like what theirs was implementing.

If you heart Romneycare, you could move to Massachusetts. If you don’t, you could move to a state with more freedom and choices.

So, America, in the area of health care, how pro-choice are you?

O’Care: Teddy, Scott and the Blue Dog Democrats

This past Friday, true to his campaign promise, President Trump’s administration removed a key Obamacare birth control requirement. 

The Trump administration on Friday rolled back an ObamaCare requirement that employers include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. Under highly anticipated rules published Friday, any for-profit or non-profit employer or insurer can stop following the birth control mandate on moral and religious grounds. The changes also let publicly traded companies obtain a religious exemption but not a moral one. The rules take effect immediately. The changes follow an executive order President Trump signed in April that instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to address “conscience-based objections” to the mandate, which has faced strong opposition from religious schools, charitable organizations and priests and nuns. The decision is a big win for social conservatives, a voting bloc that strongly supported Trump in the presidential election.

Within hours, liberal organizations were announcing plans to file lawsuits with the intent of obtaining an injunction barring the government from removing the birth control mandate.

The action has already drawn lawsuits. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Women’s Law Center said Friday  they would challenge Trump administration’s changes in court. “Today’s outrageous rules by the Trump Administration show callous disregard for women’s rights, health, and autonomy. By taking away women’s access to no-cost birth control coverage, the rules give employers a license to discriminate against women,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the NWLC. “This will leave countless women without the critical birth control coverage they need to protect their health and economic security. We will take immediate legal steps to block these unfair and discriminatory rules.”

The game plan for challenging the administration’s removal of the birth control mandate is highly flawed and specious. This leaves liberals and the MSM with little choice but to attempt to control the narrative through deception and historic revisionism. This is the backstory they don’t want you know, and hope the courts won’t consider.

Along with President Obama being elected in 2008, the country also chose to give the Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives, and a 60 seat super-majority in the Senate.  The super-majority in the Senate meant the president could virtually get any legislation he wanted passed. He wanted healthcare legislation, and in the spring of 2009, both the House and Senate began work in various committees with the goal of producing a comprehensive healthcare bill.

But, along the way they hit a major roadblock. On August 25, 2009, Sen. Ted Kennedy D-MA died of brain cancer. By that time the Tea Party movement had gathered steam and had become a major voice opposing any national healthcare legislation. In January 2010, a Republican, Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election to replace the late Sen. Kennedy.

The Senate no longer had a Democratic super-majority, putting healthcare legislation at very real risk of failure. Senate Republicans were in lockstep vowing to filibuster any healthcare legislation, and this forced the Democrats to find another avenue for passage of one of President Obama’s major campaign promises.

Enter Budget Reconciliation. This seemed to be an ideal path for Democrat success because any bill coming from the House of Representatives to the Senate through this method required only a simple majority for passage. But this path also had potholes, and those were very real threats to the party leadership.

While the Democratic Senate leadership was working to solve several objections from various Democrat senators, Rep. Bart Stupak D-MI was leading a small pro-life Democratic caucus, and their demands were centered around eliminating all federal funding for abortion, abortion counseling, and any birth control mandate. Coupled with the Republican members of the House, this small group had the leverage to kill the bill.

In order to bring these Blue Dog Democrats back into the fold, the President and Nancy Pelosi agreed to their stipulations. It was only after the bill passed, that these pro-life Democrats realized party leadership had lied to them, and had crafted a bill which  allowed the Secretary of Health and Human Services the latitude to implement a birth control mandate within Obamacare.

Back to the present. An Executive Branch mandate isn’t law, rather it’s part of the Executive Order category. Rolling it back requires nothing more than another Executive Order, which happens routinely when the next president takes office.

The MSM, liberals and the Democratic Party Leadership will begin their campaign of deceit making various claims, none of which are actually based on legal grounds. They are following a staged script, one which no doubt will end up at the Supreme Court.

First, some liberal organization will find a liberal federal judge sympathetic to their cause, and will file suit for an injunction seeking to preserve this mandate. The Executive Branch will appeal, and one way or another this will end up in the Supreme Court.

It is highly doubtful this will end up in success for Democrats. The Supreme Court gives far too much weight to the Chevron Doctrine.

In its 1984 decision, the Supreme Court said that when Congress passed a law that did not have a clear meaning, courts should defer to the federal agency applying the law unless its interpretation was unreasonable. The court reasoned that experts at agencies had been trusted by Congress to make informed decisions. This has become the doctrine. In the decades since, courts have commonly deferred to agencies not just on the environment but in areas touched by laws such as the Federal Communications Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

While this will be red meat for the far left, this is just another issue which will push mainstream Americans away from their party.  Once again, the fringe is controlling the party, giving Republicans a very real Nancy Pelosi issue to run against.

The bottom line is they mishandled the entire legislative process in passing Obamacare, and now that incompetence is coming back at them with a vengeance.

BREAKING: Trump Deals With Schumer On Healthcare

In an early morning tweet, President Donald Trump made the shocking revelation that he was in negotiations with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on reforming Obamacare.

In the tweet, Trump said, “I called Chuck Schumer yesterday to see if the Dems want to do a great HealthCare Bill. ObamaCare is badly broken, big premiums. Who knows!”

No specifics on the potential deal were announced. The president also did not say when further details would be available.

Republican attempts to pass a healthcare bill recently failed in the Senate. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) had announced that they would not vote for the bill.

Any deal with Democrats would be certain to leave the core of Obamacare intact. While many Republicans would likely oppose such a bill, a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Trump supporters in the GOP could form a majority. It is possible that such a coalition could even get enough votes to end a filibuster.

 

 

NEW: Trump Administration to End Obama’s Contraception Mandate

One of the most egregious examples of a federal attack on religious liberty in recent years may be about to come to an end. There are reports that the Trump Administration is preparing new regulations that will end the birth control mandate established by the Obama Administration as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The New York Times reports that new rules, which could be issued on Friday, would offer exemptions to certain employers who have moral objections to providing insurance that includes contraceptives to their employees. The new rules would reportedly cover employers and insurers who hold “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “moral convictions” against providing contraception.

The mandate was not part of the ACA, but was the product of regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services. While the Obama Administration did provide a religious exemption from the rules, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo noted in 2011, “Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption….”

Many private employers also objected to the fact that the regulation required them to purchase insurance for their employees that included not only contraceptives, but drugs that induce abortions. Others, such as employers who are Catholic, objected to contraception in general.

The mandate prompted several lawsuits. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious charity made of nuns who practice celibacy, went to the Supreme Court to seek relief from the mandate. In 2015, Hobby Lobby won its lawsuit and the government was forced to amend its rule to provide religious exemptions. In the final rule, insurers were still forced to provide coverage for these employees, but the employers were not billed for the contraceptive coverage.

President Trump promised to end the revised mandate during the campaign, but so far has not taken steps to do so. In August, Daniel Dinardo, now the Catholic Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, wrote an op-ed in The Hill asking why the Obama-era policy was still in place.

It is important to note that changing the contraception mandate will not ban contraception in any way. It would merely mean that employers would not be forced to pay for drugs that they find morally objectionable. Their employees will still be able to get birth control and abortifacient prescriptions, they would just have to bear the cost, about $50 per month, on their own.

If President Trump does decide to roll back the Obama-era mandate, he will have fulfilled an important part of his promise to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The big question is why he waited so long to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

Obama Calls GOP Attempts to Repeal Obamacare “Aggravating”

In a speech in New York City on Wednesday, Barack Obama admitted his aggravation with the GOP’s continued attempts to repeal Obamacare, the former president’s signature legislative achievement.

“Those of you who live in countries that already have universal health care are trying to figure out what’s the controversy here,” Obama told his audience at the Gates Foundation event.

“It is aggravating,” he continued, “And all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or common sense rationale, it frustrates.” He condemned the “people trying to undo that progress for the 50th or 60th time.”

Of course, Obama makes no mention of the men and women who were dumped into Obamacare exchanges when their insurance was canceled, despite being promised repeatedly that their health insurance wouldn’t change.

Millions of Americans found that aggravating.

The former president makes no mention of how the law’s employer mandate pushed companies to replace full-time employees with part-time workers to avoid the extra cost of providing expensive health coverage.

American workers found that aggravating.

Obama seems to forget the scorched earth legal battle he fought to force all groups to cover contraception, including abortifacients, regardless of religious liberty objections.

Groups like Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor found it aggravating.

Americans in the Obamacare exchanges saw their premiums rise by an average of 25% last year.

That’s aggravating.

Those same Americans are also seeing their deductibles increase by double digits as well. For example, deductibles went up by about 17% for those with a silver plan.

That’s aggravating.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare will be one of the main factors increasing the national debt to $30 trillion over the next decade.

That’s aggravating to tax paying Americans. And their children. And their children’s children.

After all of this money and effort, only 12.2 million people signed up for Obamacare in 2017. Those numbers were slightly down from 2016, and way off of the 21 million predicted when the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. In all, 28.2 million Americans opt to pay the penalty for not having health insurance rather than paying for Obamacare. The stated goal of the legislation was to make sure every American had health insurance, and that goal is nowhere close to being achieve.

How aggravating.

If one wasn’t already used to hearing such audacity from the former president, it would be astonishing to hear this man attack Republicans for not being properly aware of the “economic” and “actuarial” realities of healthcare reform. Time has proven that Obama, despite his feigned certitude, was making it up as he went along.

Americans watched in powerless horror as Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid forced this monstrosity of a law on the country. They suffered the consequences as they were forced to buy plans they didn’t want at prices they couldn’t afford. And despite Obama’s assumptions to the contrary, they have never seen socialized medicine as “progress.”

American voters responded by sending more Republicans to Congress than at any time in the last 90 years, with a clear mandate to fix the mess Obama left of our healthcare system. Despite difficulty, they continue to try to achieve that objective.

For this, Obama is aggravated. Good. It’s his turn.