Trump Administration Undoes Obamacare’s Egregious Assault on Religious Freedom, Conscience Rights

The Trump administration issued interim final rules Friday that will provide much-needed relief to those with moral or religious objections to one of Obamacare’s most egregious assaults on rights of conscience and religious liberty: the HHS mandate.

The mandate, from the Department of Health and Human Services, requires that nearly all insurance plans must cover abortion-inducing drugs and contraception. This onerous mandate is a burden on employers, individuals, and religious organizations who, because of their beliefs concerning the protection of unborn human life, are faced with the decision to violate sincerely held religious or moral beliefs, pay steep fines, or forgo offering or obtaining health insurance entirely.

The Trump administration’s interim final rules (which will go into effect immediately) provide relief for employers and educational institutions with religious objections to the mandate, as well as relief for certain organizations with similar objections based on moral convictions.

The origin of the mandate can be traced to Obamacare’s charge to the Department of Health and Human Services to outline the types of preventative services that health insurance plans must cover. HHS issued guidelines requiring coverage of all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures, which includes certain abortion-inducing drugs.

Confronted by scores of religious organizations affected by the rule, the Obama administration proposed a wholly inadequate religious liberty exemption.

As previously explained at The Daily Signal,

The HHS guidelines initially included a very narrow religious exemption that effectively applied only to houses of worship. The Obama administration later extended the religious exemption to houses of worship and their integrated auxiliaries (such as church-run soup kitchens).

But other religious employers (such as hospitals, schools, and social service organizations) and businesses remained responsible for complying with the mandate, despite sincere moral or religious objections.

The Supreme Court provided relief to Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, family-owned businesses with religious convictions contrary to the mandate (in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) and to certain religious institutions (in Zubik v. Burwell). But many individuals, employers, and organizations remained subject to the mandate.

Friday’s interim final rules rightly note that the United States “has a long history of providing conscience protections in the regulation of health care entities and individuals with objections based on religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

Predictably, liberals have immediately caricatured the interim final rules as the administration’s attempt to deny women access to contraception, when in fact they do no such thing.

The administration calculates that the rules will affect the roughly 200 employers that previously filed lawsuits or object to the mandate on religious or moral grounds, and “the number of women whose contraceptive costs will be impacted by the expanded exemption…is less that 0.1 percent of the 55.6 million women in private plans receiving preventive services coverage.” In other words, nearly all women in the United State will be unaffected by the rule.

Nor do the new exemptions affect the many existing programs that subsidize contraception at the local, state, and federal level. Moreover, the rules outline, at length, the various ways that women will remain free to make their own decisions about, and purchase or find coverage for, contraception. The only thing the exemption does is to exempt those with objections from coercion to be complicit in choices that would violate their religious or moral convictions.

While the administration has provided regulatory relief from the mandate, there are also still pending cases regarding the mandate in courts across the country – including the case brought forward by the Little Sisters of the Poor. The government still needs to take action to resolve these cases, and it should do so immediately.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump stood in the Rose Garden to unveil an executive order on religious liberty and instructed the secretaries of Treasury, Labor, and HHS to address conscience objections to the mandate. Friday’s action is sound policy that will provide meaningful relief to Americans who have spent years raising objections to one of Obamacare’s most egregious assaults on rights of conscience and religious liberty.

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Failure to Repeal Obamacare Not Bad Omen for Tax Reform, Key GOP Lawmaker Says

The chairman of the largest Republican caucus in the House of Representatives said Americans should be confident tax reform will pass, even though a repeal of Obamacare didn’t.

“We are not going to give up,” Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., told The Daily Signal in a Facebook live interview, referring to repealing Obamacare.

“The House is going to continue to fight if we have to look at this piece by piece or bill by bill,” Walker said. “We are going to continue to fulfill the promise that we made last year, and even longer [ago] than that, to remove this huge legislative burden of what is Obamacare.”

Senate Republicans attempted to use a procedure known as budget reconciliation to dismantle Obamacare because they would need only 51 votes to pass a bill, and Vice President Mike Pence could break a tie.

In a July 28 Senate vote, three Republicans–Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and John McCain of Arizona–blocked what lawmakers dubbed the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare.

Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said failing to act on tax reform is not an option.

“What happens to all of us if we don’t get this done?” Walker told The Daily Signal in the interview. “This is a promise that we ran on, many of us did over the last couple years, tax reform and repealing Obamacare. The Senate did not get it done for Obamacare, so at the very least this year [Congress] must get true, genuine tax reform accomplished.”

The last time Congress updated the tax code was in 1986, with President Ronald Reagan’s Tax Reform Act.

Republicans’ tax reform framework presented Sept. 27 by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders seeks to significantly simplifying the tax code.

It calls for roughly doubling taxpayers’ standard deduction (an individual’s first $12,000 of income would become tax free, as would the first $24,000 for married couples), and condensing the current seven tax brackets to three.

Depending on their income, individual taxpayers currently may be taxed at one of these percentages: 10, 15, 25, 28, 33, 35, or 39.6. The three brackets in Republicans’ proposed framework are 12 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent.

The framework would end personal exemptions for dependents, increase the child tax credit, and end the estate tax, which opponents call the death tax.

Walker said citizens should stay engaged and keep their lawmakers accountable to pass tax reform, just as they must to achieve repeal of Obamacare.

“The concern is real,” Walker said, adding:

In North Carolina alone, there are 94 out of 100 counties that are down to one [source of] insurance. This is not a talking point. There are people who are literally hurting with the ills that have been brought about by Obamacare. They need to stay concerned, they need to stay involved.

The post Failure to Repeal Obamacare Not Bad Omen for Tax Reform, Key GOP Lawmaker Says appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Obamacare Repeal Isn’t Dead, House Conservatives Insist

Despite “fake news” claims that Republicans’ chance to repeal and replace Obamacare ends Saturday, that isn’t necessarily true, a conservative House member said Tuesday.

Obamacare repeal plan is “not dead on September 30th,” @RepThomasMassie says.

“Go back and look at the name of the Obamacare reconciliation vehicle in 2010,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told reporters during lawmakers’ monthly Conversations With Conservatives event on Capitol Hill, referring to how Democrats pushed through the health care law without a single Republican vote.

Democrats combined education and health care, and “they did student loan reform, they used some of the savings on the Obamacare tweaking that they did,” Massie said.

“So you can absolutely do two things at once. It’s not dead on September 30th,” he said of dismantling Obamacare.

On Saturday, however, time runs out for Senate Republicans to use their current filibuster-blocking budgetary device to pass a bill to replace Obamacare with 50 votes.

The GOP has only 52 seats in the 100-seat upper chamber, and Massie’s fellow Kentucky Republican, Sen. Rand Paul, is one of four GOP votes against the latest version of the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill. The others are Susan Collins of Maine, Ted Cruz of Texas, and John McCain of Arizona.

The co-sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, conceded Tuesday that their effort is done for now.

“We haven’t given up on changing the American health care system. We are not going to be able to do that this week,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday. “But it still lies ahead of us, and we haven’t given up on that.”

Massie also questioned the structure thus far of House and Senate Republicans’ unsuccessful bills to repeal and replace Obamacare, and how they seemed to cater to congressional Democrats, none of whom appears willing to vote for repeal.

“Why is it that every GOP repeal and replace bill includes a trillion-dollar federal health care program?” Massie said. “Who are we negotiating with if [Democrats] are not going to vote for it?”

>>> Commentary: How the GOP Could Make Graham-Cassidy a Success

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told reporters that repeal and replace legislation isn’t  “totally dead.” He said he hopes to have the opportunity to vote to repeal Obamacare in the near future.

“I would really love the chance at least once in my lifetime to repeal it,” Biggs said.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., showed support for the Graham-Cassidy bill during the event, despite saying the legislation has flaws.

“There’s no piece of legislation that’s ever going to be perfect,” Harris said. “But if this [is] the only piece of legislation we could get, it does accomplish the defederalization of the Affordable Care Act.”

Harris said his reasons for supporting the bill include its plan to take money that would have been sent directly to Medicaid and give it to states in the form of block grants for health care. He said he liked the bill’s reversal of “the increase in Medicaid, which is an out-of-control spending plan.”

The post Obamacare Repeal Isn’t Dead, House Conservatives Insist appeared first on The Daily Signal.

How the GOP Can Make Graham-Cassidy a Success

This weekend, Republican senators released a new version of “Graham-Cassidy,” their latest effort to undo Obamacare’s damage.

It’s far from clear the bill can get enough votes to pass, but negotiations continue behind closed doors.

Here at Heritage, we have kept close track of the major bills Congress has considered to provide relief from Obamacare’s mandates.

Like the previous House and Senate health bills and the earliest versions of Graham-Cassidy, this version falls short of fully repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a new patient-centered system.

But as the chart below illustrates, Graham-Cassidy provides regulatory relief and gives states the ability to get out from under some of Obamacare’s most costly insurance mandates.

This latest version of the Graham-Cassidy bill also repeals the individual and employer mandate tax penalties in Obamacare and provides Medicaid reform. These provisions are good: As we’ve pointed out, it’s critical to free states from the Obamacare insurance mandates.

However, a significant concern that we previously noted remains in the current version of Graham-Cassidy.

Specifically, the block grant program in the bill is written such that states could use the money to simply expand government health programs. In the worse case, this could result in transferring up to 8 million people (half of the people in the individual market) from private coverage into government-run programs with no consumer choice.

To be consistent with the sponsors’ intent, the bill should be modified to ensure that any state using federal dollars to subsidize health insurance allows recipients to purchase the coverage of their choice in a competitive private market.

Maintaining and expanding consumer choice of coverage is the difference between a patient-driven system and a program that puts first the needs of providers and special interests.

The post How the GOP Can Make Graham-Cassidy a Success appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Think Obamacare Is Bad? ‘Medicare for All’ Would Make Things Even Worse.

As Republican senators look to scrape together the votes for a deal on health care, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is pushing his own proposal.

He calls it “Medicare for All,” and it has already garnered support from 16 Democratic senators.

As nice as Medicare for All may sound, Sanders’ proposal is a classic example of a bait and switch. Once the consumer is lured by the slogan, he is suddenly hooked by a reality far less enticing.

Contrary to what Sanders’ proposal implies, today’s Medicare is a giant, government-mandated health savings account that is funded by retirees. The latest data show that 55.5 million Americans are enrolled. The retirees paid into the system for years while working, and now the trust pays them in retirement years in the form of medical care.

How can we offer those same benefits to the 268 million Americans who have not paid in fully and are not yet retired?

We can’t—and Sanders knows it. His proposal is structurally impossible, if by “Medicare” he means the program as it exists today. It would be more accurate to call his plan “Medicaid for All.” Medicare is the bait—Medicaid is the switch.

But is the Medicare bait really that attractive in the first place? Let’s look at how the program actually works.

Medicare claims that it only spends 2 percent of Medicare funds on administrative costs, leaving the impression that the other 98 percent goes to patient care.

But that’s not so. Two percent is just the internal administrative cost. Medicare’s total spending on administration, bureaucracy, regulation, compliance, oversight, and review amounts to at least 31 percent of Medicare revenue overall, and more likely 40 percent.

Wasteful spending at this level would send any business into bankruptcy, and that is precisely where Medicare is headed. The Congressional Research Service predicts the Medicare trust fund will go insolvent by 2029. The trust fund is simply a big bank that keeps your contributions until you retire. But when that bank runs out of money, retirees will no longer receive care.

Most rational people would try to withdraw their money from a bank before it closes its doors. Unfortunately, you can’t do that with Medicare. Even though you paid into the program, it only pays you back in the form of medical benefits.

And even those benefits are getting harder to receive. More and more doctors are refusing to accept Medicare insurance, especially after Obamacare cut the already-low doctor reimbursement schedules even lower.

Despite having Medicare benefits, average wait time to see a family physician has risen to 122 days. That’s four months to find out if your belly pain is gas or cancer.

In response, medical practices are expanding to provide things like direct primary care and concierge medicine, which refuse to take insurance and accept cash only, Their growth is proof that government health insurance fails to deliver care.

So Sanders is using Medicare as bait. Now consider the switch.

Medicaid is a government-supported, government controlled form of health care that poses no cost to the patient. While that may sound good, it is an ongoing disaster.

The medical outcomes for Medicaid patients have been called a “humanitarian catastrophe.” Access to care is so bad that people die waiting for care. Surgical outcomes for Medicaid recipients are inferior to those who have no insurance at all.

This is the quality of care Sanders’ proposal would foist on the nation. His plan, which he proudly describes as single-payer, calls for the following:

  • Provision of all necessary medical care for 323 million Americans;
  • Additional government-mandated benefits, such as long-term care, no-charge public college tuition, and paid family leave;
  • Taxes on all Americans to cover the trillions in new costs;
  • An increase in the national debt—possible double;
  • A 6.2 percent increase in insurance premiums paid by employers; and
  • Increases in income, capital gains, and estate taxes.

Sanders estimates this proposal would cost a minimum of $1.5 trillion, while the Tax Policy Center says costs could reach up to $15.3 trillion—all to be paid through higher taxes, higher premiums, and more debt.

Is there a single American who wants more of those things?

Keep in mind that the goal of health care policy should be better health outcomes. That is not what universal Medicaid would provide.

Americans should reject Sanders’ bait-and-switch proposal, which would only worsen access and quality of care for more Americans while raising our tax burden. What we need is patient-controlled health care. Only that will produce the outcomes that we all want.

The post Think Obamacare Is Bad? ‘Medicare for All’ Would Make Things Even Worse. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

We Hear You: Why Republicans Haven’t Kept Their Promise to Repeal Obamacare

Editors’s note: With the Senate once again on the brink of a vote to partially repeal and replace Obamacare through the Graham-Cassidy bill, it’s a good time to share more emails from some in The Daily Signal’s audience who don’t like what they see, especially in Republicans’ actions. You can join in by writing letters@dailysignal.com—Ken McIntyre

Dear Daily Signal: The people gave Congress and President Trump the mandate for conservative policies and the repeal of Obama’s Gordian knot of liberal, big government mess, especially Obamacare, when we elected Trump and a GOP majority in both houses of Congress.

And while Trump has started making progress on some goals on deportation of illegal immigrants, betterment of the military, and re-emerging on the world stage as a world power and military leader, Congress had done nothing.

It has become clear that Republicans in Congress have no intention of repealing Obamacare, and only want to sit in their cozy chairs and collect their salaries, which they’ll soon be voting on to raise again. I have worked for 30 years hoping to bring about change from within the Republican Party. The tea party was a hopeful moment, but turned out to be a flash in the pan.

I recently quit my affiliation with the GOP and joined the Constitution Party. It is a fledgling party, to be certain, but a group of well-educated and motivated individuals. The only hope left to keep the republic is to repeal and replace the Republican Party. They have been failing the people for too long.Gordon H. Hoffman Jr.,  Baltimore

***

We all know Obamacare should never have been passed, but it was, along with many other dishonest acts under President Obama. Americans are putting themselves in debt to keep health insurance they do not need or does not work for them. Some have dropped insurance, some pay the penalty rather than put themselves deeper in debt, while all we hear is there will be millions without insurance without Obamacare.

Americans should be told Obamacare will be repealed and not exist any longer, to ensure they find individual coverage. Government should be out of the insurance business, and that would solve many problems.

People had so much faith in who they elected to Congress, but now have little if any trust that they are who we voted for. It appears they are working only for the lobbyists who are greasing their palms, and actions are speaking much louder than words. I am trying very hard not to lose faith; I am a glass half full, not half empty.Phyllis Blum

Republicans got their jobs on the promise of repealing Obamacare. They had many chances to defund the government and they didn’t. Now they have the House, the Senate, and the executive branch, and their first responsibility is to keep their word and repeal.

I don’t want government having anything to do with my health care.  Repeal now and let the chips fall where they may.

We have had over seven years to get our act together. Now it is time to keep promises. We need to go back to health care the way it was before Obama “cared.” We should be able to go across state lines to buy insurance.  There should be no mandate to carry insurance.

If people are forced into buying health insurance, they should at least be able to enter some kind of health insurance savings group where they get money back for every month they don’t use their insurance.  I didn’t have health insurance until I turned 65, and Medicare was taken from my Social Security.

I was way better off paying as I went for my doctor bills. I led a healthy lifestyle and I saved plenty by paying for my own health care as I went along.  If people have to buy insurance, they will want to use it to get their money’s worth.Susan Rose

***

Thank you for posting comments from readers about the truth of congressional Republicans (“We Hear You: The Failure of Republicans to Repeal or Replace Obamacare“). Most are RINOs and  embarrassing. We’ve been totally lied to.

The Republicans are nothing more than Democrats, and all of the previous votes to repeal Obamacare were a show. Every one of those Republicans must be exposed and shown for who they really are. Americans need to see all of their donations from Planned Parenthood and their supporters, as well as insurance companies, AARP, and others who profited from Obamacare at our expense.

Mitch McConnell is such an embarrassment. And to think that President Trump was trying to do something nice and connect with the Senate majority leader by appointing his wife as commerce secretary. Well, we must get rid of McConnell and Paul Ryan, who are really Democrats posing as conservatives.Rachel Janzen

Once again, a spot-on article from Fred Lucas about real cronyism in Washington, D.C. (“How Trump Could Force Congress and Its Staff to Live Under Obamacare“). How members of Congress can so blatantly pull an end run around the provisions of the Obamacare law and exempt themselves and their staffers is way beyond me.

I wrote to my congressional folks over a year ago, and guess what–I got no replies to any of my three letters. So, once again, go get ’em.  Put the pressure on the White House to reverse the Office of Personnel Management decision and lump these folks in with the rest of us “deplorables.”–Arthur S. Catullo, Cmdr., USN (Ret.), Jacksonville, Fla.

***

Absolutely do not exempt Congress from Obamacare . This whole scenario is such a farce. John McCain is not the only RINO in this; he just gets the attention.Shirley

***

We the people need to start a petition to cancel the health care the House and Senate have and make it  the  same we have. How long do you think it would take them to pass a health care bill then?Susan Penn

***

Let’s see that our president knows we the people support his use of the pen to force Congress to live the way we have to live, without the exemptions they have given themselves. It is disgraceful that they can sidestep laws like Obamacare. All my friends, even the Dems and liberals, agree with me on this one.Beatrice

***

You alert people to so much.  Please run an article on the so-called death panels built into Obamacarethe issue of caps and the independent payment board. According to an opinion piece I read in The Wall Street Journal, time is running out to repeal this.

Please give this some attention so that your readers can contact their representatives if they wish to do so.  I think when the words “death panel” are used, most people think they refer to doctors being paid for end-of-life counseling. That isn’t the issue at all.John Stocks

Regarding Jarrett Stepman’s commentary, “How Obamacare Is Eroding Private Insurance,” my husband and I are both self-employed, and we have two college-age sons. Though thankful to Obamacare to be able to keep our sons on my insurance (supplemental insurance offered by colleges is exorbitant and just a money maker),  we indeed “make too much money” for Obamacare yet not enough actually to be able to use the insurance we pay for.

Our premium for health insurance (Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bronze, no dental or vision) is $1,500 a month with an annual deduction of $10,000 per person and $20,000 family.  I am finding that I cannot afford to go to the doctor when I need to because it literally costs me the complete out-of-pocket costs.

The only benefit is that if we go “in network” we will have the “negotiated” rate billed.  Though that isn’t even the real case, as physicians billing companies are masters at breaking out the charges  into subcategories (sort of like peeling an onion), so one ends up getting a lot of duplicate charges and that is passed on to the consumer.

The consumer must be very diligent to evaluate every doctor’s bill and every explanation of benefits to make sure charges are accurate.  It is expensive, exhausting, and frustrating.  I am quite aggravated with being forced by law to pay for others to have insurance when I  cannot effectively use my own for the benefit of my family.

I think it is ludicrous that our leaders in Congress (a true dichotomy) on both sides of the aisle can’t seem to do the job they were hired to do. If my progress performance was on par with theirs, I would have been fired. Hey, now, there is an idea: Let’s toss them all and start over again.  Pretty sure the Founding Fathers never intended politics to be a lifelong employment opportunity.

Please keep up the pressure. The Heritage Foundation does good work.Melissa Turrisi

***

I am using this opportunity to vent my anger and disgust at our so-called Congress. They make laws that don’t apply to them. They are immune to prosecution for their violations. They have a golden parachute retirement program and health care. The rhetoric they spew about protecting citizens of their states is nothing but lies.

When they talk about citizens without health insurance who may not have expanded Medicaid any longer, they fail to mention this was a windfall entitlement from Obamacare that suddenly appeared for able-bodied citizens who otherwise wouldn’t have insurance in the first place.

Republicans have fallen into the same pit as the Democrats, expecting their election campaign funding to come from their favorite lobbyists, who are deciding how they vote. They will never receive a dime from me again.

Come the next election, I will vote for the candidate who has the best haircut or color of tie. There is little difference between parties anymore. I don’t expect any astounding revelation when it comes to tax reform either.

I am 76 years old and on limited income, with no COLA in Social Security for several years.  My wife has Alzheimer’s, with me being the primary caregiver. But life is good because we have our Lord. All of the above is to be expected because this nation abandoned God a long time ago.Charles Fickling

Why not a “universal health care policy” written by the government and offered by all the insurance companies across state lines? The insurance companies would bargain with hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, and other health care providers for the best prices, and we would all benefit from the savings. The only government involvement would be to insure compliance.Dan O’Toole

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Excellent chart on  the differences among Republicans’ Obamacare repeal/replace bills in Jarrett Stepman’s commentary, “7 Years of Promising Obamacare Repeal Leaves Republicans Just Once Option.” Concise, comprehensive, and easy to grasp quickly.

The president and vice president needed to have a blow-up or power point of this chart for their meetings with the 52 Republican senators. It seems the crybaby repeal-and-only-repeal  folks  just like to throw childish temper tantrums. We have the opportunity to start reform now.Liana Silsby, Ft. Lauderdale , Fla.

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In a recent interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox, Dr. Charles Krauthammer explained how he would fix the health care problem.  His point, which I’ve never heard brought up by any senator in any interview, was the high cost of insurance on doctors for malpractice and how it affects medical costs. His suggestion is to reform the tort laws,  protecting doctors from frivolous lawsuits so they may do their jobs rather than just making lawyers rich. The government would save billions of dollars with that alone.John McAlpin

***

As with any provider, expenses dictate the charged fees. In medical cases, legal amounts to an inordinate dollar amount compared to other free world countries. Malpractice insurance, medical equipment, pharmacy, litigation, excessive monetary settlements and fees, and so on. Tort reform should be the primary issue to resolve.Mike Dahly

Work and Dignity

Dear Daily Signal: Thanks to Jarrett Stepman for his commentary article, “Why the Left Is Wrong About Welfare Reform.”  I hope it can be the start of a change in the conversation about welfare and work, and the nature of work itself.

We want people to work because, as a country, we count on this money to keep our economy going.  Steve Smoot, in his talk to the World Congress of Families in 2009, stated that 70 percent of our gross domestic product is driven by individual consumer spending.

So how can we have a robust economy if people are on government assistance programs footed by taxpayer dollars?  This adds further drag to our economy.  We want to grow the private sector.  This frees up our tax dollars for spending in the economy.

I don’t believe our young people are getting these basic economic principles taught to them.

We want welfare recipients (like all our citizens) to work because our country values the skills and talents they possess.  We must make good use of these skills and talents where there is a fit.

The “talking points” from the left seem to paint work as drudgery.  When people aren’t working, what are they doing?  Are they spending their idle time in less worthy pursuits?

Treating people with dignity should be incorporated into our goals.  How are people being treated with dignity when they are living in poverty and reliant on the government?

Moving people to self-sufficiency, where they provide for themselves and their own families, is where we need to go.  Ideally, growing private sector jobs–as President Trump is doing–is going to help get us there.

This latter model is the basis for Catholic Charities’ transitional housing program, designed to move people from homelessness to self-reliance in two years.  The program’s success, however, relies on the ability of people to get a job that allows them to provide for their needs and those of their family.

Thanks for your honest and insightful reporting.Katie Goryl

***

I enjoyed Genevieve Wood’s interview with J.D. Vance (“‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Author Outlines Ways to Increase Opportunity“).  I recently read his book with great appreciation for his life experiences. He is so right on about what this country needs. Less government and more family involvement. Not just in Appalachia, but everywhere.

The bottom line is, good people, whether successful or not, need a healthy, stable, loving family environment. It all starts from within the home, and thankfully, J.D. had grandparents who ruled with both love and strict discipline. Without proper role models, most of us are doomed.

When I see the violent looters and thugs who protest our government, I can pretty much guarantee you that they come from chaotic, unstable home environments. This behavior would not even occur to most of us.

I raised two daughters and am in my 60s now. I think I am a pretty cool grandma. I am blessed with good health and love to be active with my seven grandkids. With involved parents, strict discipline and lots of love, I pray that they will all grow up to be healthy, well adjusted adults. Regardless of what directions their careers take them, my prayer is that they are kind, considerate adults who can make a difference in some way.

Anyone can make a baby, but it takes a lot of work to make a good person. J.D. Vance is definitely one of those success stories.Lynne Plaxton

This and That

Genevieve Wood’s piece on Hurricane Harvey is so heartwarming, and I am ever so grateful to see it (“Hurricane Harvey Brings Out the Best in Americans“).  It is the true picture of what Texas and the USA are all about. God gave us this country to do his work, and we will never stop taking care of it.

I thank God for your honest, unbiased reporting that keeps us in balance.  We need you desperately to stay the course and overcome the evil that so many delight in spewing daily. God bless all at The Daily Signal and Heritage.Shirley Sclafani

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Thank you to Jarrett Stepman for the excellent commentary article about Louisiana’s disgraceful jettisoning of history (“Louisiana Democrats Purge Thomas Jefferson, Who Acquired Louisiana“). Here in Arkansas, the Democrats have replaced their Jefferson-Jackson Dinner with the “Clinton Dinner” (gag).

In order to preserve the memory of our third president (Arkansas was also part of the Louisiana Purchase), I am considering renaming our Reagan-Rockefeller event (named after President Reagan and Arkansas Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, and his son, Lt. Gov. Win P. Rockefeller) as the Jefferson-Reagan-Rockefeller event.Mark Johnson, chairman, Pulaski County Republican Committee

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I know White House correspondent Fred Lucas’ heart is broken because Democrats want to impeach Trump (“Democrats Hatch Plans A, B, and C to Impeach Trump“). Both parties, and their ideological allies, have always put politics and their interests above the nation. I’m not sure Lucas is writing what he writes because he has to earn a living or he really believes in what he writes.

Republicans are equally vicious, or more so, in attacking and coming up with one-liners like “death panels” and so on. Republicans spent a great deal of time trying to sabotage Hillary Clinton using Benghazi, and The Daily Signal was complicit with its writings. Now Democrats are trying to undermine Trump, and your hearts are hurting. I am speechless!Ash Patel

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So many of us would love to see President Trump do as he said: Drain that swamp. Our vote is for the president to cut all the perks of Congress, who think they are so above the real people. The people are sick to death of their superior attitude. We love The Daily Signal; keep up the good work. God bless you.Jenny King

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Thanks for letting us know that President Trump is cracking down on the Veterans Administration. We have no complaints here in Wisconsin. But the VA’s way of doing business with workers through a union is an eye-opener. And the accounting of payoffs to quiet those who are to be dismissed is really out and out blackmail.

A few bad apples spoil a barrel of good ones. The media should have this on the front page. But they won’t publish anything good about Trump. Sad state of affairs.Carol Crowe

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Agriculture as a whole would be better off if government never had gotten in it.  I’m an 80-year-old retired farmer who farmed for 45 years without their programs.  It’s time for those takers of our tax money to be weaned off and a real supply and demand take place.Joe Mahaffey

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If the Defense Department continues to spend on green energy projects, then should the Trump administration divert funds from the Energy Department to fund those projects (“Most of Obama’s Green Policies Persist at Defense Department“). Since we have the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, is the Defense Department’s green energy program a duplicate, and one or the other should be killed?Richard R. Allen, Colorado Springs, Colo.

How Are We Doing?

Dear Daily Signal: I am neither a radical nor a liberal, just an old, blind, and disabled woman, retired from six decades of teaching and counseling. In all sincerity, I want to thank Kelsey Harkness for her reporting. It’s refreshing to see individuals and groups who still believe in presenting unbiased facts for the public to read and decide upon for themselves.

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Jimmy Kimmel Knows Comedy, Not What Ails Obamacare, Conservatives Say

Jimmy Kimmel may be a funny man, but he doesn’t understand Obamacare, according to a U.S. senator who the late-night TV host slammed this week as dishonest in describing a Republican alternative to the health care law.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., one of the chief authors of legislation to partially repeal Obamacare, sought to make himself clear Thursday morning on a friendlier show.

“Jimmy doesn’t understand, not because he’s a talk show host–[but] because we’ve never spoken,” Cassidy said on “Fox and Friends”  of Kimmel’s contention that Senate Republicans’ bill would abandon Americans with pre-existing medical conditions.

“He’s only heard from those on the left who are doing their best to preserve Obamacare,” Cassidy said of Kimmel and his appraisal of the bill. “He’s not heard from me, because we’ve not spoken.”

Cassidy apparently meant they haven’t talked about the details of his bill. The legislation, drafted with three fellow Republican senators–Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin–would repeal Obamacare’s mandates requiring individuals to obtain health insurance and larger employers to offer it.

Other conservatives came to Cassidy’s defense on the particulars of the so-called Graham-Cassidy legislation.

In his own interview with “Fox and Friends” Thursday morning, Mike Needham, chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America, the lobbying affiliate of The Heritage Foundation, said Kimmel’s estimation of the Graham-Cassidy bill was incorrect.

“What Section 106 of the bill says is that every single state has to make sure that there continues to be affordable access for people with pre-existing conditions,” Needham said, adding:

The entire thing is kind of what is wrong with the way we talk about policy in this country, I am sure Jimmy Kimmel is a nice guy, I am sure he is very well intentioned, but he is both wrong on what this bill does, and he doesn’t understand. There’s a whole bunch of conservative ideas as to how we can take care of people with pre-existing conditions.

President Donald Trump, who announced he would sign the Graham-Cassidy bill, tweeted Wednesday night:

Graham, co-sponsor of the bill, also came to Cassidy’s aid in the pop culture battle:

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, whose daughter received care at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for a heart condition similar to that of Kimmel’s son, said the entertainer isn’t an authority on health insurance just because his son had a major medical issue.

In a piece published Wednesday in The Daily Wire, Shapiro wrote:

It’s absurd on a logical level: having a child with a heart condition doesn’t make you an expert on health care anymore than it makes you an expert on heart surgery. I should know–as I’ve said before, and only in response to Kimmel’s invocation of his own son, my daughter received open heart surgery at a year-and-a-half old at CHLA, at the hands of the same magnificent doctor Kimmel used.

So by this logic, my opinion should be treated with precisely the same kind of moral weight Kimmel’s is. But I don’t think that the fact that my daughter had her heart fixed at CHLA is what grants me credibility to talk about health care.

Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, said Kimmel’s comments show he is out of touch with mainstream America.

According to Cassidy’s website, the Graham-Cassidy bill would give states the freedom to waive Obamacare regulations, protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and provide block grants to states by “equalizing the treatment between Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states through an equitable block-grant distribution.”

A former Republican senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, also helped draft the Graham-Cassidy bill, which is expected to go to a Senate vote next week, Politico reported.

“This guy, Bill Cassidy, he just lied right to my face,” Kimmel said on Tuesday night’s show, referring to Cassidy’s appearance nearly four months ago, adding:

For lots of people, the bill will result in higher premiums, and as far as lifetime caps go, the states can decide on that, too—which means there will be lifetime caps in many states…Not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, but he failed the Bill Cassidy test, too.

The comedian and host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” was referring to a comment Cassidy made on the show in late May. “We’ve got to have insurance that passes the Jimmy Kimmel test,” the Louisiana Republican said then.  

Also on Tuesday night’s show, Kimmel said the Graham-Cassidy bill actually is contrary to the “Kimmel test,” which, he said, is: “No family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can’t afford it.”

Kimmel previously announced on air in May that his son, Billy, was diagnosed with a heart condition and underwent successful surgery.  He said Tuesday night that under the “current plan,” meaning Obamacare, his son’s medical treatment would be covered.

“Our current plan protects Americans from these [insurance] caps and prevents insurance providers from jacking up the rates for people who have pre-existing conditions of all types, and Senator Cassidy said his plan would do that too,” Kimmel said.  

>>> Jimmy Kimmel’s Moving Story Shows Why Private Charity Trumps Government

Then, on Wednesday night’s show, Kimmel slammed Cassidy and the Senate bill again, saying:

Oh, I get it. I don’t understand because I’m a talk show host. Then help me out, which part don’t I understand? Is it the part where you cut $243 billion from federal health care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having pre-existing conditions?

Cassidy also replied on Twitter to criticism distributed by National Public Radio:

Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, told The Daily Signal in an interview Thursday that Kimmel’s comments were misinformed.

“The bill does retain prior law,” Haislmaier said of the Graham-Cassidy legislation, adding:

It doesn’t change prior law on [pre-existing conditions] and … a lot of this was dealt with before Obamacare. …

    In terms of the actual Graham-Cassidy bill, they specifically say that they have to cover…they have to explicitly use the money in a way that makes sure that people with pre-existing conditions have access to health care. So it reinforces that.

The post Jimmy Kimmel Knows Comedy, Not What Ails Obamacare, Conservatives Say appeared first on The Daily Signal.

What Needs to Change in the Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill

Since January, Republicans in Congress have been working on efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare using the budget reconciliation vehicle.

As a last-ditch effort to utilize this legislative vehicle before it expires on Sept. 30, Congress looks likely to vote next week on the Graham-Cassidy health bill that partially repeals and replaces parts of Obamacare.

While this bill falls short of fully repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a new patient-centered system, it is probably the last viable attempt to begin unwinding Obamacare’s glaring failures. The Graham-Cassidy bill has some critical issues the Senate must fix in order to ensure it improves the status quo, but it is certainly a bill worth fixing.

What the Bill Does

The Graham-Cassidy bill repeals the individual and employer mandate tax penalties in Obamacare, provides Medicaid reform, and empowers states to design health care subsidies and insurance rules that work for their residents.

These provisions are a good first step in addressing Obamacare’s damage and allowing states to pursue reforms of their insurance markets and Medicaid programs.

However, the bill retains the Obamacare levels of spending as well as major Obamacare taxes, including taxes that directly drove up the cost of health care.

The bill keeps the spending to create a state block grant program, which will be funded with all of the current federal Obamacare spending for subsidizing exchange coverage through tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, and about 75 percent of the current Obamacare funding for expanding Medicaid to cover able-bodied adults.

The upside of this framework: It transfers to states the responsibility to ensure that individuals who do not have employment-based health coverage can access insurance. This is a significant reversal from Obamacare’s top-down, federal government-centric approach.

The Critical Fixes Needed

The Senate needs to make changes to the block grant program in order to fulfill the sponsors’ stated intent of promoting “market-based solutions.”

As written, nothing would prevent states from using the money to simply expand government health programs, which could result in transferring up to 8 million people (half of the people in the individual market) from private coverage into government-run programs with no consumer choice.

To guarantee patients have choice and options in health insurance, the Senate should change Graham-Cassidy to preclude states’ ability to use the new block grants to force individuals into a government-run program that lacks choice.

Specifically, the Senate should delete language that allows states to spend the new federal grant funding to (1) expand Medicaid, (2) pay medical providers directly for providing services, and (3) contract with managed-care plans to cover specified groups.

Any of these options would inherently result in adding more people either to existing programs or to new programs that are effectively government-controlled monopolies without consumer choice.

Without such changes, states are likely to spend the funding in ways that expand the number of people in government health care programs rather than providing subsidies to help recipients purchase the coverage of their choice in a competitive private market with a variety of different plan options.

The pattern of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and the Children’s Health Insurance Program before it show that, with very few exceptions, states historically have used federal funding for health insurance coverage simply to expand one-size-fits-all government programs.

Liberals are pushing for more government control of health care through a single-payer system, which would be a disaster. So it is imperative now more than ever for policymakers to continue to promote access to mainstream private insurance for more Americans, rather than open the door to additional government program expansions.

Improving the Status Quo

If the Senate makes the recommended changes mentioned above in the block grant program, the Graham-Cassidy bill will provide an improvement over the status quo.

Even with these recommended changes, many more actions are needed to achieve a truly patient-centered health care system in our country. While this bill allows for more state flexibility, there is still much more to do at the federal level to restore free-market principles in other facets of health policy, including Medicare and the tax treatment of health insurance.

Members of Congress should not be under any illusion that passing Graham-Cassidy relieves them of the burden of continuing to reform our nation’s health care system in a more patient-centered, market-based direction.

This piece was adapted from a recent Heritage Foundation research publication.

The post What Needs to Change in the Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Bernie Sanders Introduces Single-Payer Health Care

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is pushing a single-payer health care bill that would give Americans health insurance through Medicare.

“Today, we begin the long and difficult struggle to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all its people,” Sanders said in a statement.

“At a time when millions of Americans do not have access to affordable health care, the Republicans, funded by the Koch brothers, are trying to take away health care from up to 32 million more,” he added. “We have a better idea: guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare for All, single-payer health care program.”

Sanders proposed financial options for Medicare for All that he said would save families and businesses when it comes to expenses. A couple of the options are for employers to pay a 7.5 percent income-based premium and for households to pay a 4 percent income-based premium.

Sanders, who introduced the bill Sept. 13, also proposed a marginal income tax rate of 40 percent for $250,000 to $500,000; 45 percent for $500,000 to $2 million; 50 percent for $2 million to $10 million; and 52 percent for incomes over $10 million.

Robert Moffit,  a senior fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, said Sanders is proposing a monopoly over the health finance and delivery systems, and this means “there will no longer be any private health insurance.” He said people will not be able to keep their current health insurance plans.

“In order to accomplish this objective, Congress is going to have to impose very heavy taxes,” Moffit said.

Moffit said he doesn’t think a single-payer system will ever be successful unless it either allocates a budget for health care or imposes a price control system. He said the problem is that if demand exceeds the budget, choices will have to be made, such as deciding the people who will receive health care and how they will get it.

Because Sanders’ bill would create a government program, Moffit said, it will also go through congressional deal-makings and interventions.

“You’re talking about a massive politicization of the system where almost every health care decision becomes a political decision,” Moffit said.

The Medicare for All Act of 2017 has been controversial among Republican members of Congress. Phil Novack, press secretary of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Cruz was “strongly opposed to a single-payer system that would put government in control of our health care.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Americans will receive “inferior health care” if it is in the hands of the government.

“What we find is that when we hand other things over to the federal government, it very often makes a mess of them,” Lee said.

There were also 15 Democratic senators who introduced the legislation with Sanders, including Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

If we’re dealing with it in the emergency room, it’s too little, too late and it’s too expensive,” Harris said in a press release. “Let’s give the taxpayers of the United States a better return on their investment, which means Medicare for All.”

Moffit said the Democratic Party he grew up with had moderates and even conservatives, but this bill is a “really sharp turn to the left” in public policy.

The post Bernie Sanders Introduces Single-Payer Health Care appeared first on The Daily Signal.

The GOP’s Last-Ditch Effort to Partially Repeal Obamacare

Republican senators are pitching one last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare regulations before a Sept. 30 deadline.

A bill, drafted by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, along with former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, would repeal both Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates.

The bill, released Sept. 13, would also help give states the freedom to waive Obamacare regulations, protects patients that have pre-existing conditions, and gives block grants to states by “equalizing the treatment between Medicaid expansion and non-expansion States through an equitable block-grant distribution,according to Cassidy’s website.

The bill, according to Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, “takes the money that is currently being spent on providing subsidies for people [buying coverage on the exchange], plus most of the money, most of the extra funding, for expanding Medicaid,” Haislmaier said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

This new form of distribution is “designed to change the incentives in the program for the states because that way, if the program has fraud or waste, the state is stuck with the extra spending,” Haislmaier said, adding:

If the state runs the program efficiently and cracks down on fraud and waste, then the state pockets the savings because … how much does the state have to add on top of what the [federal] government gives them under this new design is dependent on how well the state runs the program.

The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson legislation would also do away with “the inequity of four states receiving 37 percent of Obamacare funds and brings all states to funding parity by 2026,” according to the Louisiana senator’s website.

The four states are New York, Massachusetts, California, and Maryland, according to Cassidy’s office.

Since Republicans are using a procedure known as budget reconciliation, they will need just 51 votes to pass a health care bill, with Vice President Mike Pence empowered to break a tie.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who joined fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona to block the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare on July 28, told The Huffington Post on Monday that she is currently undecided on the legislation.  

The Hill reported Sept. 6 that McCain has expressed support for the legislation.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., does not support the legislation.

“This isn’t a repeal,” Paul said Tuesday, adding:

This is keeping Obamacare and redistributing the proceeds. So, this is not a repeal bill. This is sort of, ‘Hey, we’ll take Obamacare, replace it with Obamacare, but we’re going to let the states have a little more power in how we spend it.’

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the legislation “our best, last chance to get repeal-and-replace done,” CNN reported.

If the package passes the Senate, Ryan said he would bring it to the House floor for a vote.

He called the bill “a far greater improvement over the status quo,” CNN reported.

The legislation would need to be voted on by Sept. 30, as the Senate parliamentarian ruled Sept. 1 the ability to use reconciliation expires at the end of this month, the Washington Examiner reported.

Ryan Ellis, a senior tax adviser at the Family Business Coalition, told The Daily Signal in an interview that the legislation gives more freedom to states.

“I think the basic parameters, as I see it—without characterizing it as good or bad, but just sort of looking at it—[as] ‘What does it do?’” Ellis said. “It basically block-grants Obamacare to the states, is the headline that I would explain to somebody in an elevator.”

The idea is more of the federalist persuasion, Ellis said.

Is is full Obamacare repeal? No, it’s not, but if you ask conservatives in general, if you can’t repeal a program, ‘How do you feel about devolving it to the states?’, most conservatives in general would say that’s a pretty good idea …

If you can’t repeal it as a conservative, how do you feel about letting the states administer it, run it, have it as a second-best option? Historically, that has been a pretty good second-best option for conservatives.

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