When the political firestorm over the millions of health policy cancellations became too much of a problem for Democrats to ignore, President Obama, who told Americans they could keep their plans, pushed an “administrative fix” that would allow insurers to voluntarily extend policies for one more year.
But with control of the Senate on the line, it appears that the administration is kicking around the idea of extending plans that would otherwise be outlawed by Obamacare narrowly written regulations for three more years:
The Obama administration is considering an extension of the president’s decision to let people keep their individual insurance policies even if they are not compliant with the health care overhaul, industry and government officials said Thursday.
Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson said Thursday that the administration may let policyholders keep that coverage for as long as an additional three years, stressing that no decision has been made. Policymakers are waiting to see what rate hikes health insurers plan for the insurance exchanges that are key to the overhaul’s coverage expansions.
Health and Human Services spokesman Joanne Peters confirmed that the issue is under discussion, saying: “We are continuing to examine all sorts of ways to provide consumers with more choices and to smooth the transition as we implement the law. No decisions have been made.”
The Wall Street Journal ran a story today highlighting the pressure that insurers are under from politicians and state regulators to expand provider networks in plans on being sold on the Obamacare exchanges. That’s a “serious problem,” as Joe Scarborough said this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“I think this is, at the end of the day, the issue that’s the greatest challenge for everybody,” said Scarborough as he pointed to the headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. “If patients aren’t allowed to go to the doctor of their choice, that’s going to be a serious problem.”
Mark Halperin, a senior political analyst at Time, pointed out that the problem extends beyond doctors to “medical clinics or any kind of providers.”
“It’s as if the plans are being regulated by both the state and, increasingly, by the federal program,” Halperin told Scarborough. “And it’s going to deny people access to medical providers they had in previous plans.”
CBO Director Doug Elemendorf appeared before the congressional committee yesterday to testify on his agency’s budget outlook report. As one might image, given its explosive findings, the most the discussions centered around Obamacare.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) kicked off the hearing by noting that the CBO report shows that “autopilot spending” are driving budget deficits, but he quickly turned to the findings related to Obamacare.
“This report says the debt gets worse, and we have slower economic growth compared to the last forecast,” said Ryan in his opening remarks. “But what is particularly troubling is CBO’s projection of labor force participation. CBO says that about half of this decline is attributable to the aging of the population — most notably the retirement of the ‘baby boom’ generation.”
But CBO also says that government policies, especially the President’s healthcare law, are discouraging work. Washington is making this problem worse,” he said. “This does not have to be our fate. We need to reverse this decline.”
Elemendorf parsed through various parts of the report, going through points related to the federal budget and the economy, both in the short- and long-term. But he also touched on parts of the report dealing with Obamacare.
“The baseline projections show what we think would happen to federal spending, revenues, and deficits over the next 10 years if current laws were generally unchanged,” Elemendorf told the House Budget Committee. “Under that assumption, the deficit is projected to decrease again in 2015 to [$478 billion].”
Vulnerable Senate Democrats have been working overtime to distance themselves from President Barack Obama by highlighting differences they have with the White House on various issues, even avoiding appearances with him in visits to their home states.
But are these Democrats as independent as they would have voters at home believe? Not really, according to a 2013 vote analysis by Roll Call:
As Sen. Mark Pryor runs for a third term in Arkansas — he’s the only incumbent now rated an underdog by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call — he will surely delight in announcing he voted more often against Obama than any other Senate Democrat last year. That will sound much more like a boast than a confession in a place where the president’s approval last year was 35 percent, according to state-by-state approval numbers released last week by Gallup.
But Republican Rep. Tom Cotton will just as undoubtedly promote his challenge by describing Pryor’s presidential support score in a way that sounds exactly the opposite, but is just as precise: The sitting senator sided with Obama 90 percent of the time.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has upped the ante against Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC). The right-leaning grassroots organization has announced another wave of television ads in North Carolina that encourage the vulnerable Democrat to rethink her support of Obamacare.
AFP has spent heavily in North Carolina in recent months, running ads connecting Hagan to Obamacare and President Obama. In October, for example, the organization ran an ad that blistered Hagan for backing the congressional exemption from Obamacare.
Just last month, after Hagan decided not to appear alongside President Obama at an event in her home state, AFP purchased air-time for an ad that called the two “best friends” and tied her to the “Lie of the Year.”
In its latest media buy — which is worth $1.4 million, according to Politico — AFP is reintroducing an ad it ran in November.
“People don’t like political ads. I don’t like them either, but healthcare isn’t about politics. It’s about people,” says a woman in front of a grayish background. “It’s not about a website that doesn’t work it’s not about poll numbers or approval ratings. It’s about people.”
“Millions of people have lost their health insurance, millions of people can’t see their own doctors and millions are paying more and getting less. Obamacare doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work,” she adds.
When I was in high school, I made a big decision for the rest of my life: I decided I would become a lawyer. To that end, I decided I would attend an Ivy League college, study day and night, apply to law school, and make six figures by the time I was 26.
Things didn’t work out quite the way I’d planned. For one, I found my newly-acquired freedoms away from my parents to be a slight distraction from my studies, and I realized that my Ivy League education wouldn’t get me much if I didn’t actually attend classes.
The second obstacle to my grand plan was that I actually found pre-law course work dull. I liked foreign languages and creative writing. I liked history and politics. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting in a library 12 hours every day, digging through case law, written in a language that resembled English, but that required the Rosetta Stone to decipher.
So after graduation, and after spending a year temping and bartending, I decided I would join the military – not as an officer, but as a mere enlisted Soldier. Why? Because the job I wanted to do in the military did not have a path for officers. So I became a disc jockey – or a Broadcast Journalist, as the Army calls them.
A few years later, I left the military after completing my contract, and I got a job as a news anchor and reporter at my local radio station. Local radio did not pay a lot. I started my broadcasting career making $22,000 per year, working sometimes as much as 12 hours per day, including some weekends and most holidays. At that point in my life, it was OK. We had one child, an inexpensive home we were renting in a rural area, and I knew that this was just the start for me.
It looks like Sen. Mark Begich’s (D-AK) strategy of avoiding President Barack Obama is working, at least for now. The latest poll out of Alaska shows the freshman senator leading each of his potential Republican challengers.
The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, shows Begich leading Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell by 6 points, at 43/37. He also holds a 20-point lead (45/25) over Tea Party activist Joe Miller.
Begich’s lead falls within the margin of error when paired against Dan Sullivan, former Alaska Department of Natural Resources commissioner. The Alaska Democrat takes 41%, while 37% back Sullivan, just outside the poll’s 3.4% margin of error.
Sullivan, by the way, leads the GOP primary field.
The presence of third party and independent candidacies are likely hurting Republicans. The Alaska Independence Party (AIP) candidate, Zachary Kile, for example, gets 6% of the vote in the Begich-Sullivan scenario. Most of his support comes from voters who backed Mitt Romney in 2012. That’s certainly a concern for Republicans going forward.
The good news is that third party and independent candidates typically don’t perform as well as polls indicate, though no campaign or party should ever bet on that.
Still, the poll isn’t necessarily all good news for Begich. As noted above, he didn’t break 45% against Miller, who is, arguably, one of the most unpopular candidates in the country. No, seriously, Miller’s favorability rating is 46 points underwater (16/62).
It seems that The New York Times is pulling directly from White House talking points about Obamacare. In response to the devastating CBO budget report released yesterday, the paper’s editorial board says that 2.5 million fewer full-time workers in the labor force by 2024 is actually a good thing (emphasis added):
The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of full-time workers by 2.5 million over the next decade. That is mostly a good thing, a liberating result of the law. Of course, Republicans immediately tried to brand the findings as “devastating” and stark evidence of President Obama’s health care reform as a failure and a job killer. It is no such thing.
The new law will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage. Workers can seek positions they are most qualified for and will no longer need to feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families. It is hard to view this as any kind of disaster.
Uh. What? Obamacare incentivizes people not to work so that they can gain greater subsidies for insurance coverage, thus reducing their productivity. How can that be considered a good thing in the mind of any rational person?
“What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.” — Thomas Sowell
— Conservatives urge Boehner forego “theater” on debt ceiling: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Raul Labrador (R-ID), two of the most conservative members of the House, are urging Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) avoid political theater and pass a clean debt ceiling rather than delay the inevitable. “Our constituents are fed up with the political theater. If we’re not going to fight for something specific, we might as well let the Democrats own it,” said Labrador. Amash was more resigned to the ends of a showdown, saying, “It’s going to end up being clean anyway.”
— Oh, Chris Matthews, you are such a pitiful person: The MSNBC host says that complaining about President Obama’s use of executive power and lawlessness is “second-term birtherism.” Make fun of birthers all you want, we don’t mind. But the constitutional limits on the executive and separation of powers is not something that should be so easily tossed aside. No word on whether Matthews still gets a thrill up his leg when he hears Obama speak.
Rather than answer a very direct question in a local news interview this weekend, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) wouldn’t say whether President Barack Obama will help or hurt her quest to convince North Carolina voters that deserves reelection.
“Senator, I’ve got to ask you,” said Bill O’Neil of Greensboro-based WXII, “do you think the President, at the end of this campaign, will he help or hurt your chances of reelection?”
“You know, I think this issue on my race is about who is going to speak for North Carolinians,” replied Hagan, one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection this year. “This seat is not for sale.”
O’Neil noted that Hagan “went on for another 45-seconds, talking about constituent services, job creation, and the need for both parties to work together,” adding that “she never once answered the question, will the president help or hurt her campaign.”