Kochs Still Preventing 600,000 From Getting Medicaid in North Carolina

The Kochs took a hit with the announcement of an Obamacare win in the King v. Burwell Supreme Court decision, but don’t expect that to stop them from doing their damnedest to prevent more people from getting covered. In response to the decision, the Kochs’ political strong arm, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has already released a new ad against Obamacare. AFP and the Kochs are also campaigning hard to prevent the expansion of Medicaid around the country. The latest ACA news has brought back that fight into focus, with North Carolina as one of the key decision states.
 
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory already rejected the expansion back in 2013, but now the state has a second chance to help cover its nearly 600,000 uninsured residents. The latest calls for change have been met by AFP-North Carolina with dismissal. In a December post on their website, AFP-North Carolina Director Donald Bryson said that “refusing Medicaid […]

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Hold your horses — Kochs and GOP will continue to fight ACA

More than six million Americans are breathing a sigh of relief today knowing they’ll be able to keep their affordable health insurance, but the scene at Koch headquarters is undoubtedly whipping into a frenzy. They’re gearing up for the next fight to prevent Medicaid expansion in the states and getting ready to bark orders at GOP politicians like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush eager to follow their lead.

For people who prioritize return on investment, today’s ruling dealt a huge blow to the Kochs, who spent millions to bring King v. Burwell to the Supreme Court and to stop Medicaid expansion.  Now more than ever, they will work with conservative state governments and GOP candidates to push their extreme agenda.

With this latest defeat, the Kochs and their Republican allies are setting their sights on next year’s court decisions and, of course, the White House.

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The Conservative Attack On Contraceptive Coverage

Today, the Supreme Court will hear a new challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement. Two companies are arguing that obligating businesses to provide insurance plans that cover contraceptive services free of charge intrudes on their owners’ religious rights. A victory for the companies could open the door for any private for-profit employer to interfere with its employees’ health care on the basis of the employers’ personal beliefs.

In this case, the plaintiffs are challenging commonsense public policy. The costs associated with birth control interfere with women’s ability to use it consistently and effectively, leading to higher numbers of unintended pregnancies. That leads to more abortions and negative outcomes for mothers, babies, and families who do go through with an unplanned birth.

Allowing women to plan their pregnancies yields healthier babies, more stable families, and better economic and social outlooks for women. There’s also evidence that covering contraceptives saves insurance companies, employers, and taxpayers money; one study suggested that unintended pregnancies cost taxpayers $11 billion each year.

Yet leading conservative politicians and right-wing groups insist on slapping a scarlet letter on contraceptive care, painting this sound health care policy as a question of religious intrusion. According to Rep. Steve King (R-IA), for example, “preventing babies from being born is not medicine.” And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) insists that the controversy over women’s access to contraception “is not about women’s rights or contraception, this is about the religious liberties that our country has always cherished.” However, these Republican critics are out-of-step with the mainstream. Polling shows that 99 percent of women – including most Catholic women – have used birth control, and most women approve of the contraceptive coverage rule.

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GOP Union: Rep. McMorris Rodgers In Lockstep With Tea Party’s Sen. Lee

Hoping to break the trend of awkward or forgettable State of the Union responses, Republicans have selected Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to counter President Obama’s annual address tonight.

As a top lieutenant to Speaker John Boehner who generally steers clear of controversy, McMorris Rodgers could seem like a logical choice to try and represent the more welcoming GOP that party leaders called for after the 2012 election. However, a brief review of her record indicates that McMorris Rodgers is no less extreme than many of her Tea Party colleagues. In fact, on several key issues, McMorris Rodgers is closely aligned with Tea Party responder Sen. Mike Lee.

Both McMorris Rodgers and Lee oppose increases in the minimum wage, support deep cuts to food stamps, and have voted against unemployment benefits. McMorris Rodgers has opposed equal pay for women and supported several attempts to restrict women’s health care choices – including notorious legislation that would have redefined rape as “forcible rape” – while Lee believes the Violence Against Women Act is unconstitutional.

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Rubio Left Thirsting For New Ideas On Poverty

Following a disastrous 2012 election cycle in which Mitt Romney infamously described 47 percent of voters as “dependent upon the government,” Republican leaders set out to make their party more appealing – or at least less insulting – to middle-class and working Americans.

Just weeks after the election, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave a speech on “middle-class opportunity” that was hailed as a sign of shifting conservative priorities and a more compassionate Republican Party. However, Rubio’s message did not translate into action, as he and his party spent the next year opposing middle-class tax cuts, pushing massive cuts to the safety net, and even shutting down the government in a futile attempt to undermine access to affordable health insurance.

Meanwhile, Rubio endorsed comprehensive immigration reform but failed to sell conservatives on a bipartisan bill and, after damaging his standing on the right, eventually dialed back his support. That failed leadership led one major Florida newspaper to dub Rubio the “political loser” of 2013, so it’s no surprise to see the senator delivering yet another highly publicized speech to give his image a boost.

It is almost unfathomable that Rubio is giving a speech on poverty just a day after voting against unemployment benefits. But his refusal to help the unemployed is actually emblematic of conservatives’ empty rhetoric on poverty. Until Rubio and the Republicans come up with any actual ideas beyond their endless calls for more tax cuts and repealing Obamacare, the real war on poverty in America remains their endless attacks on the middle and working class.

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Oversight GOP’s Hearing: “Obamacare’s Impact on Premiums and Provider Networks”

While committee Republicans can be expected to blame premium increases and changes to provider networks on Obamacare, the truth is that health care costs and premiums were rising dramatically for years prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Between 2000 and 2009, every Republican committee member saw premiums in his or her home state rise at a rate that far outpaced wages, with insurers sometimes spiking plans’ costs by as much as 50 percent in a single year.

Yet instead of supporting the health care law’s protections against insurance industry abuses – including the provision that requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual medical care – congressional Republicans have pursued a extreme deregulatory agenda. In addition to their dozens of attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the party has pushed to allow insurance sales across state lines, tried to exempt certain types of plans from state oversight, and even signed onto alternative plans that don’t include the prohibition against pre-existing condition discrimination. Incidentally, congressional Republicans – including many of Oversight Committee members participating in today’s hearing – have received tens of thousands of dollars from top health care industry PACs.

To make matters worse, the majority’s witness list is full of conservative operatives and anti-health care reform crusaders, including a Romney campaign adviser and the author of an ALEC model bill. The GOP’s mission to destroy health care reform and replace it with a “free-market” alternative that lets insurance companies run wild suggests the Oversight Committee’s hearing is likely to be little more than another excuse to publicize extreme anti-Obamacare GOP talking points as we roll towards the 2014 elections.

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Senate Finance Committee Republicans To Continue Cruz’s Crusade

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing on the October launch of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. While the committee’s Republicans are expected to keep up their extreme, Ted Cruz-led attacks calling for the wholesale repeal of Obamacare, it’s worth remembering that a number of them sang a different tune during the problematic implementation of Medicare Part D in 2006.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), for example, now the Finance Committee’s ranking member, said of Medicare Part D in 2006 that “any program of that size and magnitude will have problems initially!” Hatch also commended a CMS administrator for doing a good job with “this very, very difficult to implement bill that we saddled you with.” And fellow Finance Committee member Mike Crapo (R-ID) argued in 2006 that glitches shouldn’t outweigh the benefits of positive public policy, saying of Medicare Part D that “we should not let these problems overshadow the fact that every day there are folks who are paying far less for their medications than they were before.”

But the similarities between the rollout problems facing the Affordable Care Act and Medicare Part D are unlikely to buy Obamacare any leeway from a Republican Party that has been bent on destroying health care reform from the outset. Like their counterparts in the House, who have voted nearly 50 times to repeal or defund the health care reform law, Senate Republicans have introduced dozens of bills designed to chip away at the law and repeatedly tried to use political tactics to undermine its viability. Yet the GOP’s blind devotion to sabotaging the health care law at any opportunity ignores the millions of Americans who would suffer if the legislation were repealed, including those with pre-existing conditions and seniors who fall into the prescription drug “donut hole.”

Wednesday’s hearing follows several similarly themed events held in recent weeks by other Senate and House committees, at which Republicans berated witnesses from CMS and HHS and used the opportunity to attack Obamacare as a whole. With the Finance Committee’s Ted Cruz-led Senate Republicans likely to pile on, it’s clear that the GOP’s real interest is partisan grandstanding, not fixing the glitches in the law.

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GOP Glitch: Failed War On Obamacare Stuck On Repeat

The Republican Party is historically unpopular after shutting down the government in a futile attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act. In fact, with a favorability rating of just 24 percent, Republicans are far less popular than the health care law, which a majority of Americans support or would like to make stronger. Yet the backlash against them has not convinced Republicans to give up their desperate crusade to take away people’s health care.

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on the glitches in the Affordable Care Act’s recently launched insurance marketplaces. A memo from the committee’s Republican majority contends that the “significant and ongoing problems with the launch of the Exchanges further exacerbates the challenges facing American families.” However, a look back at President Bush’s Medicare Part D expansion shows Republicans – including members of the very same committee holding today’s hearing – defending the need to give new health care programs enough time to succeed. For example, as current chairman of the Ways and Means health subcommittee Kevin Brady (R-TX) said, “I think it needs to be understood that in a major reform, an improvement of a program like this, there are bound to be glitches.”

While the past conduct of these Republican committee members makes it abundantly clear that the hearing has nothing to do with improving people’s access to health care, the overall record of Republicans in Congress provides even more evidence that they are not genuinely concerned with the difficulties of obtaining health insurance. House Republicans have voted nearly 50 times to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act without offering any realistic replacement. Furthermore, Republicans have repeatedly approved radical budget proposals that would privatize Medicare and gut health care programs for children and the poor.

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GOP Refuses To Shut Down Unpopular War On Health Care Reform

The Republican Party is historically unpopular after shutting down the government in a futile attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act. In fact, with a favorability rating of just 24 percent, Republicans are far less popular than the health care law, which a majority of Americans support or would like to make stronger. Yet the backlash against them has not convinced Republicans to give up their desperate crusade to take away people’s health care.

On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on the glitches in the Affordable Care Act’s recently launched insurance marketplaces. A memo from the committee’s Republican majority contends that the rollout “has been fraught with significant problems that are leading to major delays for Americans attempting to shop for health coverage.” However, a look back at President Bush’s Medicare Part D expansion shows Republicans –including some of the very same committee members holding today’s hearing – defending the need to give new health care programs enough time to succeed. For example, as then-Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) said, “This is a huge undertaking and there are going to be glitches.”

While the past conduct of these Republican committee members makes it abundantly clear that today’s hearing has nothing to do with improving people’s access to health care, the overall record of Republicans in Congress provides even more evidence that they are not genuinely concerned with the difficulties of obtaining health insurance. House Republicans have voted nearly 50 times to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act without offering any realistic replacement. Furthermore, Republicans have repeatedly approved radical budget proposals that would privatize Medicare and gut health care programs for children and the poor.

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Conservatives In Crisis: Right-Wing Infighting Exposes Inability To Govern

After voting 41 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it appears that some congressional Republicans have finally realized that passing legislation to repeal health care reform is a right-wing pipe dream. Unfortunately, conservative groups and their allies in Congress are now pushing an even worse idea: threatening to shut down the government or manufacture another debt-ceiling default crisis in a last-ditch effort to defund Obamacare.

Heading into the fall, Republicans are divided – most visibly over how far they are willing to take the fight against Obamacare. Potential presidential contenders Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are calling on their party to oppose any continuing resolution that does not reject funding for the health care law, even if it results in a government shutdown. Their effort is opposed by establishment Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who have signaled their preference for refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to one-year delay to Obamacare implementation. However, it’s unclear whether Boehner and Cantor will be able to convince their conservative members, as ongoing divisions on a host of legislative issues point to a party in crisis. Making matters even worse, Republicans are under intense pressure from right-wing activists and organizations to defund Obamacare or face the consequences.

If it seems like déjà vu all over again, that’s because this isn’t the first time the Tea Party base has pushed Republicans to recklessly wreak havoc on the economy to get their way. In the past, Republican leaders have readily played along, most notably by threatening to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding and refusing to raise the debt ceiling until Democrats agreed to draconian budget cuts. The result is an expectation on the right that Republicans will use even the most basic responsibilities of governing as leverage to advance their extreme agenda.

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