HEALTH CARE COMPACT Blog

4-24-2014
Health Care Compact

Obamacare’s recruitment policy is based on two pillars. One is bribing people to join by offering compulsory incentives. The other is to hold them hostages once they’ve taken the King’s Shilling. The King’s Shilling was the term used to describe the obligation under which a British subject fell once he took money from a Royal Navy recruiter, once he had touched it he was obliged to submit to impression.


Recruiters often put a shilling inside a mug of beer offered to an unsuspecting recruit. Only when they had drunk the ale to the bottom did they see they had signed their lives away. Consequently many tankards of ale in British pubs to this day have glass bottoms.


Massachusetts representative Stephen Lynch said he was afraid voters would wake up to the existence of the King’s Shilling:


“There are parts of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, that were postponed because they are unpalatable,” he told the Boston Herald. The “Cadillac tax” that goes into effect in a few years and taxes employer health plans over a certain value, he said, will be “the first time in this country’s history that we have actually taxed health care.”


Repeal is now impossible, he says, because of the number of Americans who’ve signed up for the law’s exchanges. Democrats will take big political hits on the law this fall anyway, Lynch said.


“We will lose seats in the House,” he said. “I am fairly certain of that based on the poll numbers that are coming out from the more experienced pollsters down there, and I think we may lose the Senate.”


Now several lawmakers are suing to challenge the compulsory subsidies offered to them and their staff.  It’s like a compulsory bribe.


Thirty-eight Republican lawmakers are backing a lawsuit filed by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., challenging health insurance subsidies provided to lawmakers and their staffers who are required to obtain coverage under ObamaCare.


Johnson filed the lawsuit in January challenging a ruling by the Office of Personnel Management. The agency ruled that lawmakers and their staffs should continue to receive health care benefits covering about 75 percent of their premium costs after leaving the health insurance program for federal workers.


According to the lawsuit, the OPM ruling "does not treat members of Congress and their staffs like members' constituents. Instead, it puts them in a better position by providing them with a continuing tax-free subsidy."


On Tuesday, 38 Republicans filed an amicus brief accusing the Obama administration of attempting to "rewrite the Affordable Care Act."


What makes it worse was the executive branch wrote the subsidy into existence on their own authority.


"Courts must not shrink from their duty to enforce limits on executive power when necessary to protect the rights of individuals in actual cases and controversies. This case is a prime example," the 12 senators and 26 House members wrote.


The federal subsidies that members of Congress and their staff currently receive are in line with those paid by most private employers and are the same as other federal employees who are continuing in the federal plan. The lawsuit argues that they were not specifically detailed in the health care law and therefore are illegal.


Johnson told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren on Tuesday that the subsidy gives members of Congress and their staff "special treatment" that ordinary Americans forced to purchase health insurance under the law are unable to obtain.


"It’s unfair, it’s unfair treatment," Johnson said on "On the Record." "It’s special treatment, and by the way the president has no legal authority to change the law the way it did, and that’s really at the heart of this lawsuit is the doctrine and separation of powers and the fact that this president has exceeded his legal authority."


The administration is actually engaged in a suit with 34 states who wish to refuse subsidies. The administration says they have to take it.


While hundreds of people were rallying for religious liberty on a snowy day outside the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, there were heated arguments inside a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals courtroom a few blocks away, both involving challenges to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.


The Circuit Court, with Judge Thomas. B. Griffith presiding, heard oral arguments in Halbig v. Sebelius about whether tax subsidies for health insurance can be distributed through exchanges established by the federal government.


Sec. 1311 of the Affordable Care Act says that health insurance subsidies are available only “through an Exchange established by the State.”  The IRS, however, interpreted the statute to mean that the subsidies also could be distributed through federal exchanges in the 34 states that declined to create their own exchanges.


Once they sign up then the administration will argue that Obamacare is unrepealable because people have signed up for it. Maybe insurance policies should also have glass bottoms.  History often provides entertaining parallels.


The word press gangs derives from the term impressment, which can be defined as, the act of coercing someone into government service. Impressment was used from as early as Elizabethan times and was last used during the Napoleonic wars 1803-1815. …


The practice of impressment (also known as shanghai-ing or crimping) was common in all the world's ports until about 1820, and was widely used by Britain's Royal Navy as a means to maintain crew numbers on its warships. ...

The area of Spice Island, in Old Portsmouth, seems to have been a favourite recruiting area due to the large number of pubs, hostelries and other establishments that existed there. ...


When the press gang had seized a man, he was offered the King's shilling as a reward for volunteering, but often the coin was issued in devious and underhand ways, such as slipping the shilling into a pocket, or dropping it into his drink. If you were in possession of the shilling then that was good enough for the press gang. It is for this reason that glass bottomed tankards became popular, so that you could check your drink didn't contain a shilling before drinking it.


What’s old is new again.

4-24-2014
Health Care Compact

Advertised almost as a curosity, “Allyson Schwartz has become perhaps the first Democratic candidate to warmly embrace the Affordable Care Act in a 2014 campaign ad, will other Democrats in statewide races follow suit?”


Unlikely.


Schwartz, a Pennsylvania congresswoman who is running for governor, has some unique circumstances that account for the ad. For one, she has a huge amount of ground to make up right now in the Democratic primary.


Recent polls have Schwartz badly trailing businessman Tom Wolf, who's leading the field. A in March, for instance, put Wolf's support at 33 percent and Schwartz's at 7 percent among Democrats. The poll had a huge number of undecided voters, 46 percent.


So Schwartz badly needs a game changer if she is to persuade more Democrats to give her a look — especially that large bloc of undecided voters. Schwartz has evidently decided that going all-in on health care is her best chance to gain some much needed momentum before the May 20 Democratic primary.


This amounts to an internal referendum within the Democratic party. What’s startling is the fact that the candidate supporting the president’s flagship health care program is adopting it as a desperation tactic against an opponent who wants to mention it as little as possible.


Schwartz is also taking President Obama's advice on how to handle the ACA during 2014 races. He has urged them to take ownership of the law. And Schwartz is letting it be known the legislation has her fingerprints on it.


As a Democratic House member in 2010, she voted for the health law's passage. That added to her lengthy record on health issues as a federal and state legislator — which included a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee when it considered the health bill. She's the only one of the four Democrats running for the gubernatorial nomination in Pennsylvania who can say she was there at the health law's creation.


Waving the ACA flag in the ad has certainly gotten Schwartz more media attention than she was getting beforehand in and beyond Pennsylvania.


That's partly because she's the first Democrat running statewide to speak so unabashedly in support of it. Her ad has a certain novelty coming amid ads from other Democrats that have been critical of the law.


The embrace could help her win over some Pennsylvania Democrats who might prefer a Democrat who supports the law unequivocally versus one who's more cautious.


Her ACA positioning could very well be a problem in the general election — but Corbett's approval ratings are so low that Schwartz would have less to fear from the issue than in a more typical election.


Of course, the circumstances in Pennsylvania are fairly unique — and the health care law than popular in many parts of the country. Which is why we're unlikely to see very many — if any — other Democrats in statewide races follow Schwartz's lead.


The idea that the Obamacare debate is over is given lie by these political developments. The debate over the program has only just begun.

4-24-2014
Health Care Compact

And then there were nine. Nine states have signed onto the Health CareCompact as Kansas comes aboard. “TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a bill meant to separate Kansas from the federal government’s authority on health care issues.”


Brownback has cast his approval as a sign that he’s opposing the shape of the health care program, arguing that Obamacare basically re-packages federal dollars without providing any real benefit.


Brownback said in a statement that he would “oppose any effort at the state level to reduce Medicare benefits or coverage for Kansas seniors. I signed HB 2553 with this understanding and will work to make it a reality when the compact becomes effective.”


The governor also pointed a finger at the Obama Administration: “The Health Care Compact will allow states to restore and protect Medicare for generations to come. Obamacare is the most serious attack on Medicare and seniors since the program’s inception. By cutting $700 billion out of Medicare, President Obama and his allies made a policy statement that ideology is more important than protecting seniors.”


The administration has depicted Obamacare as a done deal and taken a victory lap. But the victory may be premature. Democratic senatorial candidates are distancing themselves from it while states are searching for an alternative. States like Kansas are betting that there’s another way forward and they are taking concrete action to achieve it.