Medicare

Conservative group: Budget deal a “lose-lose compromise” for taxpayers

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairs of budget committees in both chambers of Congress, reached an agreement last night that will partially roll back the bipartisan spending cuts mandated by the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011.

Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, warns that the looming budget promise is “disastrous” for fiscal conservatives because reversal of some of these reasonable spending cuts and does nothing to address entitlement programs — the real drivers of federal budget deficits.

“This deal would be a disastrous lose-lose compromise that kicks the can down the road while refusing to address the core of our national fiscal crisis,” wrote Bydlak in an email blast before the agreement was formally announced.

RELATED: United Liberty chats with Jonathan Bydlak

“At this point, sources have reported that the deal will likely replace less than half of the sequester cuts for 2014 and 2015, and not touch major entitlements and the tax code,” he continued. “[W]e’re hearing rumors that the disastrous deal could…include spending around $980 billion to $1 trillion, along with raising revenues through increased federal employee benefits contributions and air ticket taxes, among other things.”

Tom Price’s Obamacare replacement saves $2.34 trillion over 10 years

Legislation offered by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) that would repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered healthcare reform would save taxpayers nearly $2.34 trillion over the next 10 years, according to an independent analysis by a former Congressional Budget Office director.

The Empowering Patients First Act, H.R. 2300, would provide Americans with tax incentives for maintaining health insurance coverage, improve access to health savings accounts (HSAs), reform Medicare and Medicaid, and allow consumers to purchase plans across state lines. It would also guarantee coverage for roughly 1% of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served as director of the CBO from 2003 to 2005, and Stephen Parente estimated that these reforms will reduce health insurance premiums almost across the board and reduce the budget deficit by nearly $2.34 trillion in the 10-year budget window from 2014 to 2023.

“H.R. 2300 would lead to smaller premium increases on average when compared to current law. The largest reductions would occur in narrow network and high PPO insurance products,” wrote Holtz-Eakin and Parente at the American Action Forum.

“The number of insured individuals would increase by 29 percent in 2016, a smaller net increase than current law by 3 percentage points. Over ten years, H.R. 2300 would yield a net savings of $2,337 billion,” they added.

President Obama up for PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year”

PolitiFact, one of the many fact checkers that has sprouted up on the web, announced yesterday that it had opened voting for the readers’ choice for the  ”2013 Lie of the Year.”

Though PolitiFact’s editors and reporters will still choose the “Lie of the Year,” the fact checker, run by the Tampa Bay Times, has selected 10 finalists for this year’s “dishonor,” readers have been given the option to weigh-in. Readers can also write-in a one not on the list.

Among the 10 finalists are number of claims about Obamacare, including one made by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and another by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) about the congressional exemption from the law. There are a few others dealing with other random issue, from Syria to the United Nations.

President Barack Obama is also the list because of his revisionism on his infamous “if you like you plan, you can keep your plan” promise amid millions of insurance policy cancellation notices that are a direct result of the law.

“If you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you could keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed,” Obama told his supporters early last month.

“So we wrote into the Affordable Care Act you are grandfathered in on that plan. But if the insurance company changes it, then what we’re saying is they have got to change it to a higher standard,” he said. “They’ve got to make it better.”

Filibuster change revives Obamacare’s “death panel”

Death Panel

Not only did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) give Democrats a convenient political distraction from the Obamacare meltdown, the “nuclear option” was also very obvious power grab that gives President Barack Obama virtually unchecked power to whomever he wants to his cabinet or to federal courts.

But the executive appointments that can now be made without any real check in the Senate are not just innocuous posts. Sam Baker of National Journal noted last week that the elimination of the filibuster gives President Obama the ability to make appointments to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), otherwise known as “death panels.”

“The IPAB is technically supposed to submit its first proposed cuts in January, but Obama hasn’t even nominated anyone to the board yet. Nominees have to be confirmed by the Senate, which until today required 60 votes—and Republicans were highly unlikely to help confirm anyone to the board,” wrote Baker on Thursday.

“But now that the Senate has moved to a 51-vote threshold for executive appointments, Obama will likely be able to fill the board and move ahead with one of the most significant cost-control measures in his signature health care law—if he wants to,” he noted, adding that Senate aide confirmed that the filibuster change applies to IPAB.

If you like your doctor, you may not be able to keep him

Doctors and Obamacare

Not only did President Barack Obama tell Americans that they could keep their health plans under Obamacare, he also said on numerous occasions that they could keep their doctors. Like his health plan promise, there was no ambiguity or nuance to the statement.

“Under the reform that I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you’ll keep your doctor,” said President Obama on July 29, 2009. “If you like your health care plan, you will keep your plan.”

“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” he said, again, on March 10, 2010. “I’m the father of two young girls –- I don’t want anybody interfering between my family and their doctor.”

Despite that promise by President Obama, many Americans are losing their doctors. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that UnitedHealth Group dropped thousands of doctors from its Medicare Advantage network, leaving many seniors without access to the doctors they liked and trusted:

Big Labor may make entitlement reform more difficult to accomplish

The already small chance of Congress passing any sort of entitlement reform in a budget agreement before the mid-December deadline may have gotten a little smaller thanks to a prominent labor leader.

In a speech before the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans on Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka promised that Big Labor would “never stop working” to end the careers of congressional Democrats who support entitlement reform.

“Let me just say this one for the record. No politician — I don’t care the political party — will get away with cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Don’t try it. And this warning goes double for Democrats,” said Trumka, according to the Washington Examiner. “We will never forget. We will never forgive. And we will never stop working to end your career.”

For all the Democrats’ complaints about conservative groups and organizations making it difficult for Congress to get anything done, labor unions have long had a stranglehold on the party. Since 1990, Big Labor has given $751.8 million to Democratic candidates, which is 92% of their contributions. And in 2008, they worked heavily for then-candidate Barack Obama, who promised them their long-desired legislative goal, card check.

Medicare trustee: ObamaCare is financially unraveling

When the Affordable Care Act was working its way through Congress, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats promised that the law would bring down healthcare costs and have a positive impact on the federal budget deficit. Unfortunately, those promises aren’t panning out, according to one of the trustees of Medicare and Social Security, and taxpayers will be worse off.

“Even before the president signed the ACA into law, non-partisan analysts demonstrated that the belief it would reduce federal deficits was based on a misunderstanding of government accounting,” wrote Charles Blahous, a trust of the two major entitlement programs and a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

“The ACA’s projected savings from Medicare payment reductions were in effect being doubly committed: once to extend Medicare solvency and a second time to fund a massive coverage expansion,” noted Blahous. “Both the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Medicare Chief Actuary alerted Congress to the problem at the time.”

Paul Ryan urges Obama to discuss entitlements in op-ed, doesn’t mention ObamaCare

One of the most notable absences from the debate over funding the federal government has been Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and House Budget Committee Chairman.

Aside from participating in a photo op last week with other House conferees ready to negotiate with their missing Senate counterparts, Ryan has been relatively quiet as of late, which is peculiar since he is one of the most prominent Republicans in Congress and the architect of two House-passed budget plans.

But Ryan spoke out about the budget stalemate yesterday in the pages of the Wall Street Journal and urged President Barack Obama to talk with Republicans, who he said are ready to negotiate, and also noted precedent for such discussions in a divided government. The Wisconsin Republican also talked up the idea of reforming entitlements, which are the drivers of federal spending.

“The president is giving Congress the silent treatment. He’s refusing to talk, even though the federal government is about to hit the debt ceiling,” wrote Ryan in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal. “That’s a shame—because this doesn’t have to be another crisis. It could be a breakthrough.”

Ryan noted that President Obama is misleading the public he says that negotiations on the debt ceiling would be “unprecedented,” pointing to agreements forged under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. He also pointed out that President Obama himself has negotiated on the debt ceiling in the past, citing the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was passed with bipartisan support and backed by the White House.

What happens when the government shuts down…

There’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the government shutdown that started today. Democrats in both chambers of Congress have been complaining about how it will slowdown basic services and hurt Americans. But there are a lot of misconceptions about what services and programs are affected.

Reason magazine put together the video below back in 2011 listing the departments, agencies and programs that will continue running during a government shutdown. Medicare will continue running and Social Security checks will still go out. The IRS will, unfortunately, continue to operate. The United States Postal Service and the TSA will also work through a shutdown.

Non-essential government workers will be furloughed, though it’s likely that they’ll get paid when an agreement is reached on spending. President Barack Obama and Congress will, unfortunately, continue to receive their paychecks during a shutdown.

Check out the video from Reason:

True cost of national debt could be $222 trillion

National debt and funded liabilities

The Treasury Department announced on Monday that the $16.7 trillion debt limit will be reached in mid-October, meaning that Congress will once again have wade into the tumultuous politics that come with the issue.

House Republicans may hold a “clean vote” on the debt ceiling to show that there isn’t support for raising the borrowing limit without some sort of trade off, either further spending cuts or a showdown on ObamaCare. It could lead to a stalemate similar to what we saw in 2011 when Congress passed the Budget Control Act, a compromise between the Congress and the White House that led to the sequester.

Record budgets deficits that President Obama has overseen and a growing national debt are something about which Americans should be concerned. But the focus on the debt ceiling misses the larger point — specifically entitlement spending.

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, recently took a look at various estimates of the true cost of the national debt, including unfunded liabilities, and what she found is nothing short of speechless:

Fiscal policy discussions generally focus on the current year’s budget numbers: $1.0 trillion budget deficit and $16.0 trillion national debt.

As alarming as these numbers are, they fail to account for the far greater fiscal challenges of unfunded liabilities.  Here is some key evidence from various studies:

 


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