Trump Outlines Agenda for ‘New Chapter of American Greatness’

President Donald Trump presented five parameters for replacing Obamacare, called for “merit-based” immigration reform, and invoked two Republican predecessors, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, to promote initiatives on trade and infrastructure Tuesday night in his first address to a joint session of Congress.

“The time for small thinking is over,” @POTUS says.

Trump spoke for about an hour, prompting cheers and standing ovations from his fellow Republicans, as when he touted his intention to propose one of the biggest increases in defense spending in American history and to wipe the Islamic State, or ISIS, from the face of the earth. 

Democrats joined in when the president spoke directly to Carryn Owens, the widow of the Navy SEAL, William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed last month in an operation in Yemen.

“Ryan’s name is etched into eternity,” Trump said, prompting an extended ovation as Carryn Owens struggled to keep her composure, looking skyward while tears streamed down her face.

Trump was positive and optimistic throughout the speech, reaching out to Democrats several times.

“The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us,” Trump said, adding:

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts. The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations – not burdened by our fears. …

When we fulfill this vision, when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began.

The five Supreme Court justices who attended the address all stood to applaud Maureen Scalia, widow of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, when Trump recognized her as she sat with first lady Melania Trump.

“Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice,” Trump said. “To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law. He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.”

Trump won thunderous applause from Republicans in the House chamber when he renewed his call for repealing and replacing Obamacare—formally known as the Affordable Care Act, which was supposed to be the signature legislative achievement of his predecessor.

“Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America,” Trump said. “The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going to do… Obamacare is collapsing–and we must act decisively to protect all Americans.  Action is not a choice–it is a necessity.”

Noting massive premium increases across the country, the president outlined five standard for Obamacare’s replacement:

First, we should ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts–but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the government.

Thirdly, we should give our great state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid, to make sure no one is left out.

Fourth, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance–and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines–creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care. So important.

Trump, who made immigration enforcement the cornerstone of his campaign, talked briefly but strongly about how his administration will enforce the law and build “a great, great wall.”

He also called on Congress to reform the legal immigration system in a merit-based way along the lines of other countries:

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others–have a merit-based immigration system.  It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits:  It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families–including immigrant families–enter the middle class.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws. If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

Trump also drew boos from Democrats when he noted creation of a new office to help victims and survivors of  serious crimes committed by illegal immigrants. They quieted, though, when he saluted four Americans who lost family members to such crimes.

At another point, Trump said he supports free trade, but that it also must be fair trade.

“The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the ‘abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people,’ Trump said. “Lincoln was right–and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore. They have taken advantage; no longer.”

The president later touched on the legacy of a more recent Republican leader to promote his plans to rebuild roads, bridges, and other infrastructure—something that many Democrats say they can agree on.

Without specifying the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Trump said:

Another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program–the building of the interstate highway system.  The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding. America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling.  With this $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country–twice.  And maybe even three times, if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States–financed through both public and private capital–creating millions of new jobs.

The post Trump Outlines Agenda for ‘New Chapter of American Greatness’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Trump Outlines Agenda for ‘New Chapter of American Greatness’

President Donald Trump presented five parameters for replacing Obamacare, called for “merit-based” immigration reform, and invoked two Republican predecessors, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, to promote initiatives on trade and infrastructure Tuesday night in his first address to a joint session of Congress.

“The time for small thinking is over,” @POTUS says.

Trump spoke for about an hour, prompting cheers and standing ovations from his fellow Republicans, as when he touted his intention to propose one of the biggest increases in defense spending in American history and to wipe the Islamic State, or ISIS, from the face of the earth. 

Democrats joined in when the president spoke directly to Carryn Owens, the widow of the Navy SEAL, William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed last month in an operation in Yemen.

“Ryan’s name is etched into eternity,” Trump said, prompting an extended ovation as Carryn Owens struggled to keep her composure, looking skyward while tears streamed down her face.

Trump was positive and optimistic throughout the speech, reaching out to Democrats several times.

“The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us,” Trump said, adding:

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts. The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations – not burdened by our fears. …

When we fulfill this vision, when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began.

The five Supreme Court justices who attended the address all stood to applaud Maureen Scalia, widow of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, when Trump recognized her as she sat with first lady Melania Trump.

“Her late, great husband, Antonin Scalia, will forever be a symbol of American justice,” Trump said. “To fill his seat, we have chosen Judge Neil Gorsuch, a man of incredible skill, and deep devotion to the law. He was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals, and I am asking the Senate to swiftly approve his nomination.”

Trump won thunderous applause from Republicans in the House chamber when he renewed his call for repealing and replacing Obamacare—formally known as the Affordable Care Act, which was supposed to be the signature legislative achievement of his predecessor.

“Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America,” Trump said. “The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going to do… Obamacare is collapsing–and we must act decisively to protect all Americans.  Action is not a choice–it is a necessity.”

Noting massive premium increases across the country, the president outlined five standard for Obamacare’s replacement:

First, we should ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions have access to coverage, and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage, through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts–but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the government.

Thirdly, we should give our great state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid, to make sure no one is left out.

Fourth, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance–and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

Finally, the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines–creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide far better care. So important.

Trump, who made immigration enforcement the cornerstone of his campaign, talked briefly but strongly about how his administration will enforce the law and build “a great, great wall.”

He also called on Congress to reform the legal immigration system in a merit-based way along the lines of other countries:

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others–have a merit-based immigration system.  It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits:  It will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages, and help struggling families–including immigrant families–enter the middle class.

I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws. If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

Trump also drew boos from Democrats when he noted creation of a new office to help victims and survivors of  serious crimes committed by illegal immigrants. They quieted, though, when he saluted four Americans who lost family members to such crimes.

At another point, Trump said he supports free trade, but that it also must be fair trade.

“The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the ‘abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people,’ Trump said. “Lincoln was right–and it is time we heeded his words. I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers, be taken advantage of anymore. They have taken advantage; no longer.”

The president later touched on the legacy of a more recent Republican leader to promote his plans to rebuild roads, bridges, and other infrastructure—something that many Democrats say they can agree on.

Without specifying the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Trump said:

Another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program–the building of the interstate highway system.  The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding. America has spent approximately $6 trillion in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling.  With this $6 trillion, we could have rebuilt our country–twice.  And maybe even three times, if we had people who had the ability to negotiate.

To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States–financed through both public and private capital–creating millions of new jobs.

The post Trump Outlines Agenda for ‘New Chapter of American Greatness’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Conservatives Use Clout to Press for Full Repeal of Obamacare

Conservatives in the House and Senate are leveraging their numbers in an attempt to influence the direction of legislation repealing Obamacare and ramp up the pressure on Republican leadership to bring a 2015 repeal bill back before members for another vote.

Their efforts began Monday night when Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky said in a series of coordinated tweets, and later a joint statement, that they would support only a “full repeal” of Obamacare.

They were joined by three key House conservatives—Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, and former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio—in opposing a draft of the repeal they called “Obamacare-lite.”

“We have the votes to now tell the leadership this is what we want to do,” Paul said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. “We do have the votes. We’re a force to be reckoned with, and we want to be part of the negotiation over trying to make sure that we have complete repeal.”

The conservatives are rebelling against the draft bill leaked last week and instead want GOP leaders to revive the successful repeal bill from 2015 and bring it before members for a new vote.

That legislation passed both chambers of Congress, but President Barack Obama vetoed it in January 2016.

The 2015 bill repealed key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual and employer mandates, Medicaid expansion, tax credits, and taxes. It also stripped Planned Parenthood of federal funding.

But GOP leaders haven’t committed to that wording and instead say they want to include parts of a replacement plan in the bill dismantling the health care law.

Republicans will use a budget tool called reconciliation to repeal Obamacare; reconciliation fast-tracks legislation through the Senate and allows it to pass with 51 votes.

With control of 52 seats in the Senate, Republican leaders view reconciliation as the best way to repeal the health care law, especially since the legislation would earn President Donald Trump’s signature once it lands on his desk.

The GOP has a slim margin in the 100-member Senate, so Paul and his fellow conservatives are hoping to use their numbers to extract concessions from Republican leaders.

Since Vice President Mike Pence can break a tie, Republicans can lose no more than two votes.

“There have been rumors and rumblings of those in leadership putting forward something that is not a complete repeal, that some of us would refer to as Obamacare-lite,” Paul said. “We are for complete repeal.”

The same situation is unfolding in the House, where the bill fails if Republicans lose more than 20 votes.

The House Freedom Caucus stands roughly 40 members strong. If the entire group of conservative members opposed legislation repealing less of Obamacare than the 2015 reconciliation bill did, it wouldn’t pass the lower chamber, where Republicans have 238 seats.

When asked by The Daily Signal whether conservatives were worried their demand for the 2015 bill possibly would derail repeal efforts entirely, Jordan said the lawmakers weren’t concerned.

“We actually think you should do what you said you would do [in the 2016 campaign],” Jordan said.

“They didn’t tell us to repeal it, but keep the Medicaid expansion,” he said, referring to voters. “They didn’t tell us to repeal it, but keep this new tax increase. They didn’t tell us to repeal it and start a whole new entitlement program. They told us to repeal it and replace it.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said last month that Republicans would vote on a repeal bill this month, but details of a proposal haven’t yet been released.

A draft bill to replace Obamacare was, however, leaked to the press last week.

It was that legislation that sparked the critical response from the six conservative lawmakers, who said the proposal amounted to “Obamacare-lite.”

The draft document would repeal Obamacare’s major provisions, with some aspects effective in 2020 and others sooner, and implement parts of a replacement centered around age-based tax credits.

The conservatives, though, said the draft document stopped short of full repeal and, through the refundable tax credits, would create a new entitlement program.

“The draft legislation, which was leaked last week, risks continuing major Obamacare entitlement expansions and delays any reforms,” Walker said in a statement.

“Worse still, the bill contains what increasingly appears to be a new health insurance entitlement with a Republican stamp on it,” the Republican Study Committee chairman said.

Now, House Republican leaders are distancing themselves from the draft replacement plan.

Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that he had spoken to Walker, who said he couldn’t recommend the 170 members of the Republican Study Committee support the document.

“That draft is not even representative of where we are,” Scalise said. “[Walker is] working with us, and we’re in direct conversations with the chairman of the RSC as well as others about the best way to build a consensus to pass a bill to gut Obamacare.”

“That draft is no longer valid,” he said.

A spokesman for Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, later told The Hill that the leaked document was an “older draft.”

For the last month, conservatives irked by the slow speed of repeal efforts have been pushing Republican leadership to pass a new bill with the 2015 language.

But although that language cleared both the House and Senate, some senators are skeptical about repealing Obamacare’s taxes and expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

Further compounding the divide between conservatives and their fellow Republicans is Trump, who has said the White House and new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price would send their own Obamacare replacement plan to Capitol Hill.

Trump has yet to do that, and it isn’t clear when he will. But the president has advocated a simultaneous repeal and replacement of Obamacare, a strategy that some conservatives, Lee among them, said would be dangerous.

Jordan and Paul, though, said Congress should pass a repeal of Obamacare and Paul’s Obamacare Replacement Act the same day.

Though Trump, the House, and the Senate aren’t yet on the same page regarding the future of the health care law, Jordan appeared poised to deliver a message to the president during an interview Tuesday morning on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” a morning show Trump is known to watch.

“We make this job too hard,” Jordan said. “Let’s do what we told the voters.”

The post Conservatives Use Clout to Press for Full Repeal of Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

6 Lawmakers Promise to Reject Obamacare Legislation That Doesn’t Repeal as Much as 2015 Bill Did

Six lawmakers have come out stating that they will not support any form of Obamacare legislation that does not repeal as much of Obamacare as previous legislation did, stating that the language of a 2015 bill passed by both chambers should be “the bare minimum.”

“[Two years] ago, [the] GOP Congress voted to repeal #Obamacare,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tweeted Monday night. “That 2015 repeal language should be the minimum.”

Other lawmakers who are calling for 2015 language to be the “bare minimum” for any Obamacare repeal legislation include Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; and Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C.

The 2015 reconciliation bill that was passed by Congress but vetoed by President Barack Obama includes repeal of key Obamacare provisions, including funding for Medicaid expansion and almost all of Obamacare’s tax increases, according to Alyene Senger, formerly a health care policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation.

The 2015 bill also repealed the individual and employer mandates, tax credits, and defunded Planned Parenthood.

>>>In Repealing Obamacare, Congress Should Look to the 2015 Reconciliation Bill

The lawmakers say that they were elected to Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare, and that they should follow through on that mandate from their constituents.

“Congress must keep its word,” Paul said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “We were elected to fully repeal and replace Obamacare, and that’s the only thing I will vote for. The legislation brought to the Senate floor must at least match the standard set by the 2015 repeal bill that both chambers of Congress passed.”

Cruz joined his fellow senators:

“Right now, [Americans] may have insurance, but they can’t afford it,” Jordan said Tuesday morning in an interview with “Fox & Friends.”

“They can’t afford the deductibles, they can’t afford the premiums,” Jordan said, adding:

We are saying, ‘Let’s repeal it, let’s put the same legislation on President [Donald] Trump’s desk that we put on President Obama’s desk, and then let’s replace Obamacare with a patient-centered, family-centered, doctor-centered plan,’ not what we have currently, which is Washington in control.

Meadows said he supports the efforts of his colleagues for repeal, tweeting Monday that “every tax, every mandate, every regulation of #Obamacare needs to go.”

Walker, who also serves as the chair of the Republican Study Committee, said he would not support a draft of an Obamacare repeal bill leaked last week. He said it is simply another “entitlement with a Republican stamp on it.”

“The bill contains what increasingly appears to be a new health insurance entitlement with a Republican stamp on it,” Walker said. “In that form and absent of substantial changes, I cannot vote for the bill, and, in good conscience, cannot recommend RSC members to vote for it either.”

The post 6 Lawmakers Promise to Reject Obamacare Legislation That Doesn’t Repeal as Much as 2015 Bill Did appeared first on The Daily Signal.

GOP Governors Say Real Threat Comes If Obamacare Not Repealed

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said he’s puzzled his predecessor, Steve Beshear, will be delivering the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress.

Democrats have touted Beshear for making Obamacare work in Kentucky. Bevin said that’s not the case.

“He unilaterally chose to expand Medicaid in Kentucky, enrolled hundreds of thousands of people, and the result has been a remarkable decline in access to health care coverage,” Bevin told reporters at the White House Monday.

“More people covered, but covered by what?” Bevin asked, rhetorically. “Fewer people are even able to see a doctor, in 50 percent of our counties there is only a single health [insurer]. There are only three in the entire state, and only one covers the entire state. So it hasn’t been successful anywhere, including Kentucky.”

The National Governors Association held its winter meeting over the weekend. Governors met with Trump Sunday evening and Monday morning. Afterward, several Republican governors addressed the media.

Trump will talk more about the plans for repeal and replace during his address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said he didn’t want to get ahead of the president on details.

“The timeline is right now. That’s why the president and the vice president and the administration is all hands on deck,” Walker told The Daily Signal. “This is an important issue because I don’t think we can reiterate enough, Obamacare is collapsing. The Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable, and not me or any of these governors here, but a Democratic governor said that last year. It is collapsing right now and to show compassion [toward] our fellow citizens, we’ve got to do something about it. That’s why we’re on top of it. We’re going to hear the president’s vision tomorrow.”

Walker was referring to Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who said last year that Obamacare was no longer affordable. Walker also noted that former President Bill Clinton said last year that Obamacare wasn’t working.

Trump addressed the governors earlier Monday, where he spoke about his budget proposal. He said that before proposing tax cuts, he would have to fix health care.

“We have to do health care before we do the tax cut,” Trump said. “The tax cut is going to be major. It will be simple, and the whole tax plan will be wonderful, but I can’t do it until I do health care because we have to know what the health care is going to cost … Obamacare is a failed disaster.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also met with the president at the White House Monday afternoon about addressing Obamacare.

The post GOP Governors Say Real Threat Comes If Obamacare Not Repealed appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Rep. Mark Walker: Congress Must Deliver on Obamacare Repeal Promise

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., told conservatives Saturday that Congress must act quickly to “deliver on promises” made on the campaign trail.

“It is with urgency that our unified Republican government deliver on promises, promises to repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered healthcare choices, not additional entitlements,” Walker said.

Tax reform, regulatory reform, and protecting religious liberty must also be top priorities for Congress, added the congressman, who heads the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservative lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

“We must deliver on tax reform that creates new lifeblood into our economy,” he said. “We must beat back the power-grabbing regulations and we must protect our religious liberties no matter the cost.”

In his remarks to attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, Walker hailed the efforts of grassroots conservatives.

“Many of you are part of this change,” he said. “You have worked your butts off to change the course of our future and here’s the proof …In all, Democrats have lost over a thousand seats throughout our nation and now control over 31 of the 98 state legislatures.”

As part of the initiative to fulfill campaign promises, Walker said that that Congress must lead to bring about change and address the failed policies of government overreach.

“We have the truth,” Walker said. “Over the last several decades, the progressive movement has failed our society, giving us the opportunity to serve and to lead.”

Conservatives, he added, must “rise above, lead with class and character, and passionately run to those who have suffered under the overbearing and abusive arm of the federal government.”

President Barack Obama, Walker said, did not bring the leadership or change that he campaigned on, and it is is up to conservatives to address the failed policies that Obama put in place for the last eight years.

“President Obama talked much about hope and how he wanted to fundamentally change the future of our country. His brand of change did not make us stronger. In fact, we are weaker because of failed promises with our economy, our education, our healthcare, our military and defense,” Walker said.

His home state, Walker remarked, had been on the receiving end of Obama’s failed policies.

“In North Carolina, home ownership among our minority communities are down for nine years in a row,” Walker said.

Walker closed his remarks with a passionate call to conservatives to reach out to their fellow Americans.

“Make time for those who disagree with you,” Walker said. “It is easy to preach to the choir, but we must take our message to places, to new neighborhoods, and to new communities. Learn to listen. Hold your leaders accountable.”

CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, runs from Wednesday to Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington.

 

The post Rep. Mark Walker: Congress Must Deliver on Obamacare Repeal Promise appeared first on The Daily Signal.

AARP Mischaracterizes a Good Reform Proposal as an ‘Age Tax’

The AARP, the nation’s largest association of retired persons, is criticizing a proposal to more closely align premiums with actual health care costs, calling it an “age tax” that will supposedly “line the pockets of big insurance companies.”

In reality, the proposed change would simply undo a misguided provision of Obamacare that forced insurers to artificially lower premiums for older adults and increase them for younger adults.

The more accurate characterization is that the Obamacare rating provision “taxes” younger adults by making their premiums more expensive than they need to be, and “subsidizes” older adults by making their premiums cheaper than they should be. Thus, undoing that provision would simply remove a tax on young people and end an artificial (hidden) subsidy to older individuals.

One can understand why it may be in the self-interest of AARP’s members to want to keep that subsidy, but removing an artificial subsidy does not constitute the creation of a new “tax.”

It is a basic fact that older adults consume more in health care services than younger adults. Indeed, health care consumption among adults varies along an age curve by about a 5-to-1 ratio.

In other words, average health care costs for 64-year-olds are about five times the average costs for 21-year-olds.

What Obamacare did was to impose a federal rule on all insurers in the individual and small group markets that says a 64-year-old cannot be charged more than three times the premium charged to a 21-year-old for the same plan.

Of course, the effect is to force insurers to increase premiums for young adults and slightly decreases them for older adults. A review of actuarial studies finds that this Obamacare provision increases premiums for younger adults by about 33 percent.

Beyond a question of fairness, this Obamacare provision also creates harmful distortions in insurance markets. It forces insurers to overcharge the customers who are already less likely to buy the product (younger, healthier individuals) and simultaneously offer discounts to the customers who are already willing to buy at the normal price (older, less healthy individuals).

With fewer customers paying more than they cost, and more customers paying less than they cost, the risk pool becomes unbalanced and insurers are forced to further raise rates.

Compounding that effect is the fact that younger adults also tend to earn less than older adults. The combination of better health status and lower incomes make young adults the most price-sensitive health care consumers.

As Heritage Foundation experts have explained before, “ … imposing rating rules that artificially increase health insurance premiums for young adults is not only unfair, but also counterproductive since it increases the cost of coverage for those who are most likely to be uninsured already.”

To remedy this problem, Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., recently introduced a bill that would allow insurers to vary premiums based on age by a factor of five rather than three, or to a factor determined by state law.

This is a commonsense change that matches premium variation to cost variation, or allows a state to do what it thinks is best for its market.

The effect would be significant reductions in premiums for younger adults, which should help entice more of them to purchase health insurance.

More young and healthy people purchasing health insurance would, in turn, dampen the recent premium escalation in the individual market caused by this and other misguided Obamacare insurance regulations.

Indeed, according to the study AARP commissioned on the issue: “Younger adults ages 20-29 would see an average $696 per year reduction in their premiums, from about $4,704 to $4,008. This represents a 15 percent reduction.”

In addition, the study estimates that the 5-to-1 policy change would increase insurance enrollment among younger people (under age 50) by 386,000 and decrease enrollment among older people (over age 50) by 18,000.

Rather than fight against Bucshon’s sensible policy proposal, the AARP should consider supporting the many replacement proposals that would change the rating band to 5-to-1 and offer tax relief for the purchase of insurance that increases with age.

Of course, those reform proposals increase health care tax relief with age because they recognize the fact that health care costs increase with age.

The post AARP Mischaracterizes a Good Reform Proposal as an ‘Age Tax’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Pence Vows to End ‘Obamacare Nightmare’

Vice President Mike Pence attempted to assure conservative activists on Thursday that Obamacare is on its way out.

“Let me assure you,” Pence said at the annual Conservative Action Political Conference, or CPAC. “America’s Obamacare nightmare is about to end.”

As plans to repeal and replace Obamacare remain in limbo, Pence made the issue centerfold in his keynote address at CPAC, the largest annual gathering of conservatives. Pence promised to repeal Obamacare, “eliminating its mandates, its taxes, and its intrusion into your business and into your lives,” saying Obamacare would be “replaced with something that actually works.”

“Despite the best efforts of liberal activists in town halls around the country,” Pence added, “The American people know better. Obamacare has failed and Obamacare must go.”

“This failed law is crippling the American economy and crushing the American people.”

Adding fuel to the fire, Pence referred to the “promises liberals made about Obamacare” as “fake news.”

“Remember they told us the cost of insurance would go down. They told us if you liked your doctor, you could keep [him]. They told us if you liked your health plan, you could keep it.”

“Now we all know the truth. Today Americans are paying $3,000 more a year on average for their health insurance. Last year, premiums skyrocketed by a stunning 25 percent. Millions have lost their plans and lost their doctors. Higher costs. Fewer choices. Worse care. That’s Obamacare.”

He also said the Affordable Care Act was a “job killer.”

Discussing replacing Obamacare, Pence was dismissive of “all the fearmongering from the left,” and said there would be “an orderly transition to a better health care system that finally puts the American people first.”

He detailed what he and President Donald Trump would do to ensure all Americans had “access to quality and affordable health care insurance, which is why we’re designing a better law that lowers the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government.”

Pence continued:

We’re going to let Americans purchase health insurance across state lines, the way you buy your life insurance, the way you buy your car insurance.

We’re going to make sure that Americans with preexisting conditions have access to health insurance and the security they need, and we’re going to give states the freedom and flexibility to take care of the least fortunate in the best way that will work in their state and in their community.

It was Pence’s ninth time addressing CPAC, but his first time doing so as vice president. CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, runs from Wednesday to Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington.

Pence spoke about Trump’s “historic” victory, noting he won 30 of 50 states, and saying that “the media, the elites, the insiders, everybody else who profits off preserving the status quo,” had “dismissed our president every step of the way.”

“In dismissing him, they also dismissed millions of the hard-working forgotten men and women who make this country great,” Pence said. “And worse yet, they’re still trying to dismiss him. They’re still trying to dismiss all of us.”

“What they should have learned on Election Day is this is not a government of the elites, by the media, or for the establishment. What Nov. 8th showed, even if they didn’t listen, is that this is still government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

But he also cautioned the “fight didn’t end” on Election Day, saying “the harder work, the most important work, now lies ahead.”

In addition to repealing and replacing Obamacare, Pence highlighted several additional top agenda items under the Trump administration. These included rescinding “unconstitutional executive orders signed by Barack Obama,” rolling back “job-killing regulations,” strengthening the military, and reducing taxes. He said under Trump, “no state will ever be forced to adopt the Common Core [standards],” and highlighted the administration’s approach to Israel, “our most cherished ally.”

“Israel’s fight is our fight. Her cause is our cause. Her values are our values.”

The vice president also highlighted the top figures in the Trump administration. Mentioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Housing secretary pick Ben Carson, Pence said “This is the A team.”

“President Trump has assembled the strongest conservative cabinet in my lifetime, bar none,” Pence said.

Pence told conservatives they have a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to accomplish this agenda. “My friends, this is our time. This is the chance we worked so long to see.”

In order to accomplish all this, Pence said, “We got to mobilize. We got to march forward as if it’s the most important time in the history of our movement, because it is.”

He called on young conservatives “use social media to fight back.”

And pray.

“More than anything,” Pence concluded, “Trump and I need your prayers.”

The post Pence Vows to End ‘Obamacare Nightmare’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Conservatives to Congress: Deliver on Obamacare Repeal and Replace Promise

Conservatives and business leaders in the health care market have a message to Congress on Obamacare: deliver on your promise to repeal the health care law and begin the process of returning to a health sector that can be “America’s greatest.”

During a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, on Thursday, Grace-Marie Turner, president of The Galen Institute, told attendees to think of Obamacare’s repeal as a “down payment” which will allow Republicans to implement their own health care reforms in the future.

But first, Turner said Republicans need to take action to repeal the law using a fast-track budget tool called reconciliation.

“We have to do this,” she said. “We have to be get this out of here to be able to deliver on the repeal-and-replace pledge to the American people, and then to begin the process of truly returning to a health sector that can be America’s greatest health sector again.”

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, Scott Flanders of eHealth, and Dale Bellis of Liberty HealthShare joined Turner on the health care panel at the annual event.

While Republicans campaigned since 2010 on repealing Obamacare, efforts to advance the legislation dismantling the law have slowed over the last few weeks.

The GOP-led Congress passed a bill using reconciliation to undo major provisions of the health care law in 2015. But President Obama ultimately vetoed that legislation.

Now, conservatives in Congress are calling on their leaders to bring that same bill before members for another vote.

“It’s going to happen,” Burgess said of Obamacare’s repeal. “What [the 2015 bill] demonstrated to me was that if you got the the right president in the White House, you could send that bill back down to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and you could repeal large pieces of the Affordable Care Act.”

The 2015 reconciliation bill repealed Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates, Medicaid expansion, and subsidies. It also stripped the federal government of the authority to run the exchanges, and eliminated federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Though that legislation passed both chambers of Congress, tensions have emerged among GOP lawmakers over which parts of the health care law to unwind.

Republicans are split over whether to leave the Medicaid expansion in place, while GOP leaders want to include parts of a replacement plan in the same legislation that will repeal the law—a strategy that some conservatives have derided.

But Burgess, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the 2015 reconciliation bill will serve as a “starting point” for Congress this year, with Republicans understanding that the repeal bill will be at least the same as that passed in 2015.

In addition to disagreement over whether to include parts of Obamacare’s replacement in the repeal bill, Republicans also split on whether to provide tax credits or tax deductions to consumers.

But Turner stressed that the process for replacing the law—what she said will become a “once-in-a-generation reform”—will be a lengthy one that requires thought, particularly since Republicans are starting not from a blank slate, but with an already-changed health insurance market.

“It’s really what would we want if we were starting from the right kind of policy for the health sector? We are not starting there. We’re starting with Obamacare,” she said. “We’re starting with some number of millions of people … relying on Obamacare. You have to create a lifeboat for them, and structures that provide the kind of resources people need who don’t have means to purchase health insurance on their own so they can continue coverage.”

Like Republicans in Congress, President Donald Trump campaigned on repealing Obamacare.

During his first day in office, Trump signed an executive order addressing Obamacare and giving his federal agencies the discretion to no longer enforce the individual mandate.

And he’s repeatedly said that his new Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, will present a replacement plan before Congress.

But so far, no proposal has been presented.

Trump will address a joint session of Congress next week, and Burgess had his own wishes for what he hopes the president will tell Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

“I would like for him to say very directly to us, to my leadership in the House, Republicans and Democrats, that ‘this is your job,’” Burgess said. “‘I want you to get it done.’ Simple as that.”

The post Conservatives to Congress: Deliver on Obamacare Repeal and Replace Promise appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Big Challenges Await Seema Verma, Trump’s Choice to Oversee Medicare, Medicaid

The Senate Finance Committee has completed nearly four hours of confirmation hearings for Seema Verma, President Trump’s nominee as administrator of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

A Senate hearing is always a challenge for a new administration, but The Hill got it right: Verma, the daughter of immigrants from India, “cruised” through the ordeal, leaving frustrated liberal Democrats in her wake.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, or CMS, is the division of the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for administering Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the health insurance marketplace (the Obamacare federal exchanges).

CMS programs cover 100 million people, roughly one-third of America’s population. Verma’s mission as head of the CMS team will be to focus on improving health outcomes, access, and affordability while reducing disparities in health care and combating health care fraud.

In her appearance before the Finance Committee, Verma didn’t provide any details about what specific policy changes she thought necessary to preserve Medicare for the next generation of retirees. She indicated, however, her willingness to work with Congress.

In response to senators’ questions, Verma acknowledged that Medicare faces big troubles.

There is little doubt about the size and scope of the program’s problems. Consider key findings from the 2016 Medicare Trustees Report:

• The hospital insurance trust fund is dwindling faster than anticipated.
• Medicare spending once again is accelerating.
• Taxpayers face heavier burdens.
• Because of Obamacare’s Medicare payment reductions, seniors face difficulty in getting access to care.

Another, but unsurprising, development at the hearing was the standard display of liberal perspectives on Medicare reform. Liberal Senate Democrats have been trying to characterize recent reform proposals to expand defined contribution financing as tantamount to turning the program into a “voucher system.”

This is a false characterization. In fact, no one in Congress is proposing to give seniors vouchers or certificates to use in purchasing health insurance on some unregulated private market.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., nonetheless posed that question.

Verma responded: “I’m not supportive of that. … But I think it’s important that we look for ways of making sure that the program is sustainable.”

Of course Verma doesn’t support that approach. In fact, it’s hard to find anyone in Congress who is in favor of giving seniors “vouchers.” Virtually all reformers, on and off Capitol Hill, want to expand the defined-contribution financing that now characterizes Medicare Part D and, with some modifications, Medicare Advantage.

Both are large, popular programs with high rates of patient satisfaction. More than three out of four seniors already are enrolled in Medicare Part D, and almost one-third are enrolled in Medicare Advantage. Both are conventional, defined-contribution programs, where the government makes a per capita payment to a health plan of a senior’s choice.

The Heritage Foundation and a bipartisan proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., both adopt this approach, which is the best way to keep patients at the center of their health care decision-making. Nonetheless, this tiresome “Mediscare” tactic, an old standby of leftist fearmongering, has been going on for years.

As for Medicare Part D, senators asked Verma whether she thought Medicare should “negotiate” drug prices directly with drug manufacturers, as is done today in the Veterans Administration program. There isn’t “a simple yes or no answer,” she responded.

In fact, private sector negotiations between competing health plans and drug companies have stabilized Part D premiums since the inception of the program. The aggregate costs of the program have fallen to approximately 50 percent lower than the original Congressional Budget Office projections.

Competition is key to holding down the cost of pharmaceuticals, Verma reiterated, adding: “We need to do everything we can do to make drugs more affordable for seniors.”

Verma also signaled her awareness of the many frustrations faced by physicians and other medical professionals who currently wrestle with Medicare’s enormous regulatory regime–in particular the payment system mandated by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

Physicians are right to expect some sort of regulatory relief, particularly under the leadership of HHS Secretary Tom Price, the physician and former congressman who will be Verma’s boss.

Verma, who pioneered Medicaid reform in Indiana, was particularly pointed in her critique of the Medicaid program, saying she found the status quo unacceptable. Measures to improve the program, she indicated, should treat able-bodied recipients differently than the disabled population, including those who depend upon nursing or custodial care.

Verma called for greater flexibility for the states in administering Medicaid, suggesting her support for putting the states in a leadership role in implementing reforms.

The next CMS administrator will face many financial, structural, and demographic challenges with the health care programs the agency oversees that affect millions of Americans on a daily basis. It is imperative that reforms focus on putting patients at the center of their health care decision-making and limit the government’s interference.

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