It is well known that Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Representative Tom Price (R-GA) wants to essentially abolish Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. During his campaign and as late as January 11, Trump promised to change the policy that blocks Medicare from negotiate drug prices to reduce costs. …
Tag Archive: Medicare
The Republicans and their wealthy corporate supporters (re: the Koch brother and Pete Peterson, etc.) have long wanted to decimate the social safety net through a number of programs such as; block grants to states for Medicaid with no guarantees the money would be used for that program; health care savings programs as an opt …
Up Date: TAA has failed to pass the House by a vote of 126 – 302.
The House will now vote on Fast Track.
Up Date: TPA (Fast Track) passed 219- 211.
In an unusual move, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made a motion to reconsider the TAA which was tabled for later consideration.
House now voting on the Customs Enforcement Bill.
Up Date: The Trade Enforcement and Customs Act passed 240 – 190.
The vote on the motion to reconsider TAA will take place on Monday June 15. Without it the TPA bill cannot move forward:
Technically, the vote was on a portion of the legislation to renew federal aid for workers who lose their jobs through imports.
A second roll call followed on the trade negotiating powers themselves, and the House approved that measure, 219-211. But under the rules in effect, the overall legislation, previously approved by the Senate, could not advance to the White House unless both halves were agreed to. That made votes something less than a permanent rejection of the legislation.
In complex maneuvers to get more Democrats to vote for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, aka Fast Track), Republicans pulled language from the TAA bill that would have cut $700 million from Medicare to offset the cost. Don’t Be Fooled! The Republicans just moved the cuts to another bill that will be attached to Fast Track. From Dave Johnson at Crooks and Liars:
A bill on customs and trade law enforcement is being “loaded up” with amendments that will be attached to the fast-track TPA law, after (and if) fast track passes. These include amendments that would forbid the U.S. from doing anything through the trade agreement to address climate change, restrict actions to fix immigration laws or allow more visas, require trade laws to expand markets for Alaskan seafood, as well as other items intended to “buy votes” for fast-track TPA from reluctant Democrats. The customs bill also tries to get Democratic votes by undoing a provision that cuts Medicare in order to “pay for” trade adjustment assistance for workers who will lose their jobs if TPP passes.
Democrats who vote for the customs bill are voting to approve the ideological amendments added by Republicans. Many Republicans may choose to vote against fast-track TPA if the customs bill does not include the ideological amendments.
In other words, the Medicare cuts are still in the TAA and Democrats must vote for the Customs Bill to change it.
Lori M. Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, explained to MSNBC host Michael Eric Dyson how these bills will hurt everything from climate change and emigration, to killing jobs and greases the path to passing the TPA. Also on the show discussing how very bad these bills are Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jim Keady, director of Educating for Justice.
As Democracy for America puts it this is a trap
The Fast Track plan includes a trap: a $700 million cut to Medicare in order to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits and services for people who lose their jobs to foreign trade. Although Trade Adjustment Assistance and Fast Track are two separate bills, they’ve been linked by Republicans.
As the AFL-CIO and other allies are saying right now to House members, the bottom line is clear: A vote for the current Trade Adjustment Assistance bill and a vote for Fast Track is a vote to cut Medicare.
This is it. We need all hands on deck — and we need to take drastic action to win.
There are eight Democrats who are still undecided, whose votes could decide whether Medicare gets cut and whether Fast Track passes. Can you give these eight Representatives a call right now? Even if you’re not a constituent, they need to hear from you. It’s that important.
Oh, and in case you are wondering about what we mean we say “it’s a trap,” check out these Medicare attack ads that Republicans ran against Democrats in 2014 — a video made possible by our friends at the Communications Workers of America:
I don’t often agree with DFA these days but they are spot on exposing the GOP agenda.
The TAA bill has passed the Senate. Senate Republicans cut TAA funding by 21 percent from current levels, excluded public-sector workers from receiving any assistance and required that Medicare be cut to pay for what remains. Yet several Democrats agreed and voted for the bill. Now with the bill before the House, House leadership is trying to lure Democratic votes for the TAA bill by changing the funding from Medicare cuts in the sub-Saharan Africa bill, while retaining the ability to use the recorded TAA vote to cut Medicare against them in the coming elections.
The AFL-CIO has come out against TAA. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, has stated his opposition to the TAA bill. Many Democrats who support fast-track TPA will find it political difficult to continue to do so without assistance for the workers who will lose jobs as a result of their support. [..]
This is widely called a “trade” vote, but from what is known about the actual TPP agreement (it’s secret from the public) it is largely about things other than what would usually be understood as trade. For example, one provision called investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) has been leaked to Wikileaks so it is known that it allows corporations to sue governments for laws and regulations that interfere with the corporation’s ability to collect current and “expected” profits.
Another leaked provision revives the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that Congress killed a few years ago. Yet another extends patents and copyrights far beyond what Congress has approved.
The Hill has been maintaining a “whip list” of who is for or against the fast-track bill. As of late Thursday, 118 Republicans and 20 Democrats were either declared or leaning “yes” votes. There were 44 Republicans and 135 Democrats declared or leaning “no.” That left 33 Democrats and 83 Republicans in the “undecided” column.
Especially the members who are undecided need to feel the heat from you to vote against fast track. If you have not made that call to your member of Congress, use our click-to-call tool to make that call now.
There is no time to waste, do this NOW. Call and tell your representative to vote no on these bills.
Last week many received an e-mail from Democracy for America claiming the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would cut Medicare for senior citizens by $700 million:
There’s a big — brand new — attack on Medicare that’s just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP. The bill would cut a whopping $700 million from Medicare, hurting seniors who need access to health care.
That’s right, Republicans insisted on cutting Medicare spending to pay for a Trade Adjustment Assistance program that Democrats got added to the bill in order to support workers who lost their jobs due to trade deals like the TPP.
A few bloggers were a little confused by this claim and dug a little deeper.
Lambert Strether, at naked capitalism, had a few good questions:
1) Has Trade Adjustment Assistance been added to the TPP Fast Track bill?
2) Has $700 million been cut from Medicare as a result?
3) Does Trade Adjustment Assistance serve any public purpose?
The answer to question #1 is No.
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA) and the Trade Promotion Authority (“Fast Track”) are separate pieces of legislation, so when DFA says that TAA has “just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP,” that’s not correct. Still, that doesn’t mean that a deal wasn’t cut, and that seems to be just what’s happened. [..]
And the bills indeed moved in tandem; the Senate voted for closure of both Fast Track and TAA last Thursday, May 14.
The answer to #2 is Yes. The cut is in the TAA. It was added by Republicans who insisted that the cost of bill be offset:
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), would rely on $700 million in reduced Medicare spending in 2024 to pay for [sic] healthcare coverage and other benefits for workers who lose coverage because of any agreements negotiated under fast-track trade authority sought by President Barack Obama.
The $700 million in savings would be achieved by increasing Medicare cuts that were part of the sequester by 0.25% in 2024.
Lambert points out the more colorful language from the National Journal
Apparently using Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for [sic] everything under the sun has become the new legislative norm for Congress,” Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement to National Journal. “Rather than balancing priorities or considering a penny of new revenue, congressional leaders are proposing to once again funnel Medicare resources into unrelated programs and fixes-this time it’s the trade adjustment assistance program.
Brown lists a ton of reasonable seeming tweaks and enhancements. Reading through the list, though, I’ve got to say I’m both ticked off and skeptical:
Ticked off, because how come the millions who got kicked out of the labor force when the powers-that-be decided to downsize it aren’t eligible for the same treatment? For example, it sounds like the Health Care Tax Credit workers screwed over by trade deals get is a better deal (at least in terms of dollars, even though it’s a tax credit) than COBRA, which is what workers screwed over by recessions and depressions get. What a horrible patchwork.
And skeptical, because in today’s post-crash and crapified labor market, is training really the answer? Especially for over-50s?
So I’m not convinced that TPP + TAA nets out positive for workers, or even makes them whole. [..]
Bottom line is that TAA is a bandaid on a cancer, and the Democrats – assuming good faith, which I think with Sherrod Brown it’s fair to do – traded away something for nothing, as so often. If corporations can go to a rigged court and sue for lost profits, how come workers can’t go to a rigged court and sue for lost wages?
Over at Salon, lapsed blogger David Dayen had this to say about the TAA and the Democrats sell out of seniors:
There’s substantial disagreement on whether TAA actually helps workers get new jobs, but Democrats strongly support the program. Even pro-trade Democrats made renewing TAA a condition of passing fast track, and the two bills will move together in the Senate this week. But even though supporters constantly talk up the economic benefits of trade, they nevertheless offset the $2.9 billion in TAA funding by cutting other spending. Supposedly, trade increases jobs and therefore federal revenue, leaving enough money available to pay for TAA. But in Congress’ eyes, some other priority has to pony up that cash nonetheless.
That priority happens to be Medicare. TAA is partially financed through $700 million in Medicare cuts. Sequestration expires in fiscal year 2024, but the TAA bill expands it by piling those cuts onto the back end. Most of the other $2.2 billion gets financed through customs user fees. [..]
The other problem here is that it fundamentally breaks that promise – already, before any vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or any other fast-tracked agreement – that no laws will change in this new era of corporate-friendly “free trade.” This continues a troubling trend, identified by Paul Krugman, about not being able to trust the White House’s categorical denials about the consequences of their trade agenda. They said the investor-state dispute settlement process couldn’t weaken regulatory priorities; that’s not true. They said Dodd-Frank would be protected in any trade deals; that’s not true either. To quote Krugman, “The Administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.” The Medicare cuts represent another drop in that bucket. [..]
Every hit on the credibility of the free trade agenda makes it less likely that the bill will pass the House. Republicans claim they are gaining momentum in picking up votes, but all public whip counts show the tally coming up short. Adding Medicare cuts into the mix makes voting for fast track an even heavier lift for the House Democrats likely needed to get the bill the required votes. Republicans have repeatedly torched Democrats for Medicare cuts in campaign ads. They cannot relish giving another opening for that attack.
These are all bad bills that in the long run will hurt the vast majority of workers. So fight back by arming yourself with the facts then contact your congressional representatives via letters, e-mail and phone calls. Get together with a few people, make an appointment and visit their offices to express your concerns. Delegations get attention. Write letters to the editors of newspapers. And don’t let up, be persistant and polite.
The lies about TPP need to be exposed and this agreement needs to be stopped.
This week has a certain nostalgia for me. I am working the last four shifts in my home, Humboldt County. Nestled between pristine redwoods and dramatic cliffs overlooking the west coast of California, I want to stay here, but cannot. I am feeling the full force of the United States health care crisis. In the four years I have worked here eight of ten obstetricians in the southern half of the county have left, and now I find I am one of them.
Two obstetricians, far apart geographically and serving two different hospitals, are all that is left to serve an area once supporting 10 obstetricians. Both doctors are men over 60, who have a tough future ahead of them. Without outside help there is no way they can see all the patients that will need them. They have to remain within 30 minutes of the hospital and can be told to come to work any time of the day or night. They can never have a moment off, a full night’s sleep, a drink of alcohol to ring in the New Year. Watching a full length movie, or having a nice dinner with the spouse without interruption is a thing of the past. Neither of the remaining doctors can get sick or injured. This is really asking them to be super human and there is no cavalry on their horizon. In fact, if Catholic Health Systems is successful at closing one of the two hospitals, only one physician will remain.
As a young person, I wanted to take my medical skills to a disadvantaged third world nation. Looks like I got my wish-right here in the US. How did we get here?
by Richard (RJ) Eskow, The Huffington Post
A broad coalition of organizations, including the Campaign for America’s Future and Social Security Works, is joining Sen. Bernie Sanders in a petition drive to resist cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It only takes a few moments to sign; it’s that easy. [..]
The threat is very real, and these cuts could take place with very little warning. On a personal note: I signed. I did it because a lot of people would suffer needlessly by the kind of deal they’re cooking up. I did it because I think it’s wrong to allow the privileged and powerful to overrule the will of the people. And frankly, I did it because I’m scared. This deal could be done before most Americans even see it coming.
It’s fast and easy to sign this petition. It only took me seven seconds. Here are seven reasons why you should. [..]
1. Republicans are still demanding “entitlement cuts.”
2. Some of these cuts are in the President’s budget.
3. The “chained CPI” is a deep cut to Social Security benefits.
4. The chained CPI isn’t fair, either.
5. The cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are both inhumane and cumbersome.
6. Millennials are already getting a raw deal. This would make it worse.
7. In a democracy, the people — not corporations are billionaires — are supposed to decide.
Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and our coalition partners in demanding, “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”
Bernie is serving on the Budget Conference Committee which will be negotiating a new federal budget over the next few months — and where a deal could be struck to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, Bernie is fighting every day to protect our earned benefits. Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and a diverse coalition of thousands of fellow progressives now and demand that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
Add your name today!
He’s right, depending on how fast you can type and press enter, just seven seconds. So it for yourself and future generations.
It’s been awhile since I’ve written you because — well, let me be honest — you’re really not interested. In one of my wilder moments, I wondered: What if I stole some stationery from Peter Peterson’s office, or faked his stationery. Perhaps that would get Dick’s attention though no doubt they speak on the ‘phone often enough and do not bother with letters.
At any rate – you have been been at it again – the entitlement blitz. Recently on Fox, you said:
…because Social Security is going to run out of money in 20 years. I want to fix it now before we reach that cliff. Medicare may run out of money in ten years. Let’s fix it now. And that means addressing the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. That’s what Obamacare is focused on. If we don’t focus on healthcare and dealing with entitlements the baby boom generation is going to blow our future.
Oh my –
This is a lie, Dick and you know it. Though very clever indeed you somehow putting Obamacare in the white hat and the entitlement progams in the dastardly black hats. But we’re on to you buddy and your cohorts in DC – you guys need to get real jobs.
The “comedy team” of former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) and businessman Erskine Bowles trotted out their latest version of their unauthorized report from the “Cat Food Commission” that they co-chaired for President Barack Obama. Not surprisingly, the dynamic duo of austerity and cuts to the social safety net go even further with the 2.0 version of their solution for ending the mythical budget crisis calling for even greater cuts and less revenue all on the backs of those who have the least to contribute:
The corporate austerians released their ‘new’ Bowles-Simpson recommendations today (pdf). They claim that they are building upon their original plan, not replacing it. They framed their recommendations as the last two steps in a four step process. For Social Security followers, Step Three includes the chained CPI. And Step Four includes all of the previous cuts to Social Security which they recommended in their first plan. Raising the retirement age starting in 2022 slowly to 69, cutting benefits through re-indexing and flattening all future benefits for our recipients in 2050. [..]
The corporate austerians go for installing the chained cpi first. Why? It could be that they still think that most Americans do not realize that the chained cpi is a cut which keeps on cutting [..]
The language is a vague euphemism for cuts; code words to their rich buddies that the uploading of wealth will not be threatened with significant new taxes. No pesky new scrap-the-FICA cap income taxes which might be used to pay for under-funded social insurance programs.
Meanwhile, President Obama, seemingly ignoring his two side show buddies, called for tax reforms that would increase revenue and a more balanced approach to the looming sequestration that would impose draconian cuts to non-defense spending programs. Taking lessons from Bill Maher, the Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), is having none of that and has proposed “new rule“:
“The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget in the next 10 years.”
At Maddow Blog, Steve Benen points out that Mr. Boehner may not have thought this “new rule” through and it could pose some problems in his caucus:
One of the details that often goes overlooked is that the House Republican budget plan from the last Congress — the one that included all the spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and tax breaks the GOP are desperate to have — didn’t bring the federal budget into balance until 2040. That’s not a typo — under the House Republican plan, written by Paul Ryan, the United States would run deficits every year for nearly three decades, and then might reach a balanced budget 27 years from now if optimistic projections are met.
And that plan included spending cuts so severe, GOP candidates were afraid to talk about them out loud in public.
This year, however, thanks to a new “rule” embraced by Boehner and his cohorts, the new House Republican plan intends to balance the budget by 2023, instead of 2040. Why does that matter? Because trying to eliminate the entirety of the deficit in one decade instead of three necessarily means ridiculously drastic cuts.
A plan from the House Progressive Caucus that presented the unique idea that creating jobs would bring down the already shrinking deficit. But, as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post‘s “Plum Line“, notes it stands little chance of even being considered in the Republican held House:
Needless to say, this plan – the creation of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – has no chance whatsoever of passing Congress. Which is exactly the point: No plan that prioritizes job creation as the best means of reducing the deficit; no plan that cuts defense while determinedly avoiding any cuts that would hurt the poor and elderly; no plan that includes equivalent concessions by both sides – could ever have a prayer in today’s Washington. It’s yet another indication of how out of whack Washington’s priorities are.
Greg sums up the problem of the GOP’s approach in a nutshell:
So, Boehner says House Republicans are not only willing to let the sequester hit, but that the only acceptable replacement for it will be a plan that wipes away the deficit in 10 years – all without revenues. [..]
There’s simply no chance that House Republicans will produce such a budget by March 1st, which is the deadline for the sequester. If Boehner means any of this, he’s confirming that we’re getting the sequester, and it will remain in effect until it is replaced by a plan that is simply never, ever going to happen. Wiping out the deficit in 10 years with no new revenues would be at least as bad as the Ryan plan – probably worse – yet even that plan was loaded up with unspecified cuts and other big question marks. Republicans are never going to propose specific cuts that balance the budget in 10 years with no new revenues – ever. Boehner has, in effect, just taken ownership of the sequester.
No, Mr. Boehner has not thought this “boner” through.
Unbeknownst to most of the legislators and public, tucked very neatly in section 632 (pdf) of the “fiscal cliff” bill, was provision that gave the world’s largest biotechnology firm, Amgen, a drug maker that sells a variety of medications, a half billion dollar gift that allows the company to evade Medicare cost-cutting controls by delaying price restraints on a class of drugs used by kidney dialysis patients for two years. Meanwhile in December, Amgen had been fined $762 million in civil and criminal penalties for illegal marketing of one of its other drugs. This pricing break would wipe out two thirds of those fines.
This undercover handout of taxpayer’s dollars during a so-called “fiscal crisis” was reported in depth by The New York Times investigative reporters, Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack, who also revealed the “architects” of this giveaway, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and that committee’s ranking Republican, Orrin Hatch.
Amgen has deep financial and political ties to lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the Finance Committee.
It also has worked hard to build close ties with the Obama administration, with its lobbyists showing up more than a dozen times since 2009 on logs of visits to the White House, although a company official said Saturday that it had not appealed to the administration during the debate over the fiscal legislation.
The measure flies in the face of attempts to curb the enormous expense of dialysis for the Medicare program by reversing incentives to over-prescribe medication. But that didn’t deter the “three amigos” from sneaking in the provision to their generous benefactor:
Amgen’s employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750 to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee’s ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama’s campaigns.
What distinguishes the company’s efforts in Washington is the diversity and intensity of its public policy campaigns. Amgen and its foundation have directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions to influential groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and to lesser-known groups like the Utah Families Foundation, which was founded by Mr. Hatch and brings the senator positive coverage in his state’s news media.
Not surprisingly when the news of this giveaway hit the paper, it enraged a bipartisan group of legislators to repeal this section.
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) filed legislation this week to eliminate the exemption for a class of drugs, including Amgen’s Sensipar, that are used by kidney dialysis patients. [..]
“Amgen managed to get a $500-million paragraph in the fiscal-cliff bill and virtually no one in Congress was aware of it,” Welch said. “It’s a taxpayer ripoff and comes at a really bad time when we’re trying to control healthcare costs. Amgen should not be allowed to turn Medicare into a profit center.” [..]
Other co-sponsors of the bill seeking repeal include House Republican Richard Hanna of New York and two House Democrats, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Bruce Braley of Iowa.
Rep. Welch sat down with Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company to discuss Amgen’s “sweetheart deal”
The transcript can be read here
“When there is this back room dealing that comes at enormous expense to taxpayers and enormous benefit to a private, well-connected, for-profit company, we’ve got to call it out,” Welch tells Bill. “Those members of Congress who are concerned about the institution, about our lack of credibility, about the necessity of us doing things that are in the public good as opposed to private gain, we’ve got to call it out.”
Although, the Petition to nominate Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary continues to circulate and continues to grow in numbers of signatures, President Obama, apparently, had his sights on someone else. Maybe, he just didn’t know about the Krugman Petition . . . . uh hum!
At any rate, President Obama has chosen Jack Lew, for varying reasons:
President Barack Obama is expected, as early as Thursday, to announce that he has picked White House chief of staff Jack Lew to succeed departing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
In doing so, according to a source close to the process, Obama is drafting a trusted confidant who played a key role in crafting popular Clinton-era economic policies.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lew, 57, would take the reins from Geithner just in time for a series of confrontations with congressional Republicans on everything from raising the debt ceiling to averting automatic domestic and defense spending cuts to deciding how much to fund government agencies after a stopgap measure expires in late March.
So why pick Lew? The source, who strongly supports the president and Lew-and who declined to confirm published news reports that Obama had settled on the soft-spoken economic policy wonk-laid out a three-part “Why Obama would pick Lew” argument to Yahoo News.
Be sure to read, including “another reason” listed toward the end of the article!