Tag Archives: Medicare

Demorats launch “A Better Deal” platform. Their top agenda item: corporate mergers

a better deal

Because corporate mergers are what Americans are truly worried about. Good luck with that platform demorats!

From MSN: Democrats rolled out a new economic platform Monday in hopes of winning over President Donald Trump‘s populist base with promises to take on big businesses, lower the cost of prescription drugs and create jobs.

The campaign — “A Better Deal” — is intended as a counterpunch to the president’s frequent criticism of the lackluster recovery and stagnant wages under President Barack Obama and Trump’s vow to restore the economy to 3 percent annual growth. Democrats are also searching for ways to reconnect with working-class voters whose deep frustration with their own economic prospects helped drive their support for Trump.

“It is an ambitious economic agenda that represents a renewed Democratic commitment to the hard-working men and women across the United States who have been left out and left behind for too long,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

Among Democrats’ top agenda items is greater scrutiny of corporate mergers, including tougher standards that incorporate consumer privacy, product quality and the impact on wages and jobs. Democrats are also seeking post-merger reviews and greater enforcement authority.

Those responsibilities would be carried out by a new competition advocate that Democrats have nicknamed the “Trust Buster.” One of the deals that could be targeted is AT&T (T)’s $85 billion bid for Time Warner (TWX), which is awaiting regulatory approval. Other sectors that could wind up in the crosshairs include the beer industry, airlines and eyeglasses.

“We will revisit our antitrust laws to ensure that the economic freedom of all Americans — consumers, workers and small businesses — come before big corporations that are getting even bigger,” the document read.

Prescription Drug Prices: The plan would revamp Medicare by allowing the program known as “Part D” to negotiate prices directly with drugmakers.

“It is ridiculous that Big Pharma has controlled Washington for so long and has refused to even budge on the notion that we ought to negotiate for lower prices,” Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said in a YouTube video outlining the platform.

The campaign would also expand apprenticeship and vocational programs, as well as establish a tax credit for companies that provide on-the-job training. Additional pieces of the broader proposal will be unveiled in the coming months, such as addressing the cost of higher education, infrastructure investment and creating a national family leave program.

In addition to Pelosi, top Democrats Sens. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren are slated to outline the campaign later Monday, laying the groundwork for the party’s message in the 2018 midterm elections and beyond. The rollout takes place in Clarke County, Virginia, part of a congressional district that Democrats have long fought to turn blue. It is represented in the House by Republican Barbara Comstock and won by Trump in November.

However, Democrats do not directly mention Trump in their strategy documents, though the campaign’s title clearly references the president’s signature book, “The Art of the Deal.” Resistance to the Trump administration has energized the party’s base, but Democrats are hoping to complement that with a more optimistic vision of the nation’s economic potential.

“In the last two elections, Democrats, including in the Senate, failed to articulate a strong, bold economic program for the middle class and those working hard to get there,” Schumer wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times. “We also failed to communicate our values to show that we were on the side of working people, not the special interests. We will not repeat the same mistake.”

DCG

Advertisements

The price tag on universal health care in California is bigger than state’s budget

government solve all problems

Shocker, not.

From Sacramento Bee: The pricetag is in: It would cost $400 billion to remake California’s health insurance marketplace and create a publicly funded universal health care system, according to a state financial analysis released Monday.

California would have to find an additional $200 billion per year, including in new tax revenues, to create a so-called “single-payer” system, the analysis by the Senate Appropriations committee found. The estimate assumes the state would retain the existing $200 billion in local, state and federal funding it currently receives to offset the total $400 billion price tag.

The cost analysis is seen as the biggest hurdle to create a universal system, proposed by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

It remains a longshot bid. Steep projected costs have derailed efforts over the past two decades to establish such a health care system in California. The cost is higher than the $180 billion in proposed general fund and special fund spending for the budget year beginning July 1.

Employers currently spend between $100 billion to $150 billion per year, which could be available to help offset total costs, according to the analysis. Under that scenario, total new spending to implement the system would be between $50 billion and $100 billion per year.

“Health care spending is growing faster than the overall economy…yet we do not have better health outcomes and we cover fewer people,” Lara said at Monday’s appropriations hearing. “Given this picture of increasing costs, health care inefficiencies and the uncertainty created by Congress, it is critical that California chart our own path.”

The idea behind Senate Bill 562 is to overhaul California’s insurance marketplace, reduce overall health care costs and expand coverage to everyone in the state regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. Instead of private insurers, state government would be the “single payer” for everyone’s health care through a new payroll taxing structure, similar to the way Medicare operates.

Lara and Atkins say they are driven by the belief that health care is a human right and should be guaranteed to everyone similar to public services like safe roads and clean drinking water. They seek to rein in rising health care costs by lowering administrative expenses, reducing expensive emergency room visits and eliminating insurance company profits and executive salaries.

In addition to covering undocumented people illegal aliens, Lara said the goal is to expand health access to people who, even with insurance, may skip doctor visits or stretch out medications due to high co-pays and deductibles.  “Doctors and hospitals would no longer need to negotiate rates and deal with insurance companies to seek reimbursement,” Lara said.

Insurance groups, health plans and Kaiser Permanente are against the bill. Industry representatives say California should focus on improving the Affordable Care Act. Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, have deemed the bill a “job-killer.”

“A single-payer system is massively, if not prohibitively expensive,” said Nick Louizos, vice president of legislative affairs for the California Association of Health Plans. “It will cost employers and taxpayers billions of dollars and result in significant loss of jobs in the state,” the Chamber of Commerce said in its opposition letter.

Underlying the debate is uncertainty at the federal level over what President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will do with Obamacare. The House Republican bill advanced earlier this month would dismantle it by removing its foundation – the individual mandate that requires everyone to have coverage or pay a tax penalty.

Republican-led efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare is fueling political support for the bill, Atkins said at a universal health care rally this past weekend in Sacramento hosted by the California Nurses Association, a co-sponsor.

“This is a high-ticket expense…We have to figure out how to cover everyone and work on addressing the costs in the long-term — that’s our challenge,” Atkins said. “I’m optimistic.”

The bill has to get approval on the Senate floor by June 2 to advance to the Assembly. A financing plan is underway, which could suggest diverting money employers pay for worker’s compensation insurance to a state-run coverage system.

Lara said he believes California can and should play a prominent role in improving people’s lives. “We can do better,” he said.

DCG

$21.8 million in ObamaCare tax credits awarded to individuals who were not eligible to receive them

shock

From Fox News: The Affordable Care Act exchanges awarded $21.8 million in advance premium tax credits to individuals who were not eligible to receive them, according to an audit from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Advance premium tax credits are awarded to those with low to moderate income to help rein in the cost of purchasing health care insurance on the exchanges.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is responsible for overseeing the Obamacare exchanges which should ensure that an individual who applies for the tax credit has his identity verified and that the individual is eligible to receive the payment.

Individuals are asked a number of questions regarding their personal information such as their address, telephone number, date of birth, and out-of-wallet questions to determine their identity. After this process, individuals can submit an application to see if they are eligible to receive benefits.

The audit found that the exchanges did not successfully verify the identity of 35,276 individuals, and these individuals received $112 million in advance premium tax credits. The report notes that the majority of these applications—99 percent—had no verification process performed on them, and 251 failed identity verification.

Click for more from The Washington Free Beacon.

DCG

ObamaCare fallout: As premiums rise, so does cost to taxpayers

Going as planned.

obamacare2

From Fox News: The Obama administration is trying to calm the panic over soaring ObamaCare premiums by pointing to subsidies many will receive to offset the cost — but analysts and GOP lawmakers counter that those subsidies nevertheless will stick taxpayers with a rising bill. 

With enrollment set to begin Nov. 1, the administration announced Monday that premiums are set rise an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market. Some states, such as Arizona, will see premiums jump by as much as 116 percent.

Department of Health and Human Services officials are stressing that subsidies provided under the law, which are designed to rise alongside premiums, will insulate most customers from sticker shock.

But the rising cost of subsidies, which already totals tens of billions a year, would be passed on to the taxpayer.

“Taxpayers are already in for a lot,” Tom Miller, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told FoxNews.com. “The cost doesn’t go away, it just goes into someone else’s pocket.”

In a March report, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that subsidies given to enrollees in 2016 would amount to $43 billion in 2016, and predicted the cost would rise to $106 billion by 2026. It also said that over 10 years, ObamaCare provisions would reduce the deficit thanks to tax provisions and cuts to Medicare. That was before the latest announcement by the administration. It’s unclear how exactly the looming premium hikes will affect that picture, though Republicans are now seeking new estimates.

Analysts say it’s safe to assume taxpayer costs will rise. Miller noted that HHS reported an average subsidy of $291 per month in 2016. A 25 percent increase in premiums would theoretically translate into an extra $73 per month, or about $870 a year per person.

you don't say

“If you assume conservatively that there’s 10 million people getting subsidies, that’s an extra $8.5 billion in extra costs taxpayers are getting hit by going into next year,” he said.

Other experts warned this is likely to continue as long as premiums keep rising. “Its real simple, premiums are going up and up, and subsidies are going to go up with them,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and a former CBO director, told FoxNews.com.

The Department for Health and Human Services, when asked for comment by FoxNews.com, noted that the law’s coverage provisions are set to cost 28 percent less in 2019 than the CBO originally projected, amounting to about $49 billion less than originally predicted when the law was signed in 2010. A spokesman also said the same office predicted that repealing the law would increase the deficit by approximately $350 billion over 10 years.

Holtz-Eakin urged caution on the administration’s analysis. “It’s been a mixed pattern, because the enrollments haven’t been what they expected so it hasn’t been as big of an impact financially,” he said. “The bad news is that spending per person is much higher than anticipated due to subsidy increases because of premium hikes.”

Obama signs Obamacare bill

One of the biggest ObamaCare costs to taxpayers has been absorbed into the Medicaid budget, paid for by both state and federal governments. As a sweetener to get states to go along with the plan, the federal government offered to pick up the cost of expanding Medicaid eligibility up to 133 percent of the poverty line. That siphoned low income — and expensive – customers away from ObamaCare exchanges, seemingly contributing to its current solvency. But that cost – in the hundreds of billions — also is borne by taxpayers.

The CBO projected in 2013 that, in part due to ObamaCare, federal Medicaid spending would more than double over the next 10 years, topping $554 billion by 2023. State governments pay another $160 billion toward Medicaid. “Volume has been greater in Medicaid, and per person costs have been much higher than expected,” Edmund Haislmaier, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told FoxNews.com.

Sensing a spike in taxpayer costs, the Republican-led House Committee on Energy and Commerce has written to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services demanding how much taxpayer money will be spent subsidizing the cost of rising premiums.

“While the Administration continues to focus on premium ‘affordability,’ it ignores the undeniable fact that federal taxpayers are subsidizing these premium increases through tax credits,” the letter from Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., says. “The Committee is concerned that the federal taxpayer continues to bear the burden of subsidizing the growing cost of health care insurance.”

The committee is demanding estimates of the amount of money spent covering rising premiums by Nov. 7.

obamacare

DCG

Medicare’s funding well to dry up in 2030

titanic-sinking

Washington Examiner: The fund Medicare uses to pay hospitals will run out in the next 15 years, and experts say there are no easy answers to solve it.

The independent Board of Trustees for Medicare found the trust fund used for Medicare payments to hospitals would become insolvent in 2030 unless something is done. The board issued its annual report to Congress on the entitlement program’s finances on Wednesday.

As in prior years, the trustees found that the fund isn’t properly financed over the next decade. Last year’s report also pegged 2030 as the date the fund will become insolvent.

However, the fund could run dry as early as 2022 if spending is higher than estimated, the report said.

The fund covers hospital insurance benefits. It doesn’t affect Medicare Part B, which covers payments to physicians, or Medicare Part C, which is commonly known as Medicare Advantage.

The verdict is still out on how to solve the problem, said Juliette Cubanski, associate director of Medicare policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation. One answer to increase funding is to raise payroll taxes, she said.

The insolvency of the trust fund basically means Medicare payments will be higher than the money coming in, “which is basically the payroll tax for Part A,” she said.  But raising taxes is not the “easiest thing to do in the current political environment,” Cubanski conceded.

The report exuded a sense of urgency for Congress and the Obama administration to get together and find a solution. “The sooner solutions are enacted, the more flexible and gradual they can be,” the trustees said.

Whether that can happen is another story. After the report was released, some Republicans blamed Obamacare for the problem. “Rather than ignoring the problem and raiding Medicare to pay for the president’s health care law, we need a willing partner in Washington to take thoughtful and prompt steps forward in strengthening the program,” said a statement from Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Joe Pitts, R-Pa. Upton is head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Pitts leads the panel’s health subcommittee.

Blame the republicans...

Blame the republicans…

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., countered that it is Republicans who have contributed to the problem. “Instead of trying relentlessly and irresponsibly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans should work with Democrats to make sure that Medicare is protected for the next generation,” said the House minority whip.

But some lawmakers pointed to the year’s biggest bipartisan success as evidence that they can find a solution. The two parties permanently repealed an unsustainable Medicare payment formula for physicians and reauthorized a children’s insurance program.

“Reforming the way Medicare pays local doctors has had positive effects for our nation’s seniors, providers and the program itself,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s health subcommittee. “Now we must take the next step and pursue other important payment system reforms.”

DCG

Feds: Social Security Disability Fund Goes Broke Next Year

We warned you. (December 18, 2013.)

July 13, 2015: Obama says Medicare and Social Security “are not in crisis”.

obama-finger

Free Beacon (July 22, 2015): Social Security’s disability trust fund will run out of money next year, administrators said on Wednesday, forcing steep benefit cuts for the entitlement’s beneficiaries unless Congress acts to shore up the program.

The program’s trustees said in a report on the fund’s financial state that its fiscal reckoning, which is expected to come in late 2016, will automatically slash benefits by nearly a fifth, the Associated Press reported.

The report said the fund faces “an urgent threat” that requires prompt action by Congress.

There is an easy fix available: Congress could shift tax revenue from Social Security’s much larger retirement fund, as it has done in the past.

President Barack Obama supports the move. But Republicans say they want changes in the program to reduce fraud and to encourage disabled workers to re-enter the work force.

The date that the fund will be exhausted is unchanged from last year’s report. But as the deadline gets closer, advocates say the need to act becomes more urgent.

titanic-sinking

I’d say it needs to become urgent NOW.

See also:

DCG

CBO: Debt Headed to 103% of GDP; ‘No Way to Predict Whether or When’ Fiscal Crisis Might Occur Here

CBO Director Keith Hall has a dire warning...

CBO Director Keith Hall has a dire warning…

CNSNews: Testifying in the U.S Senate on Thursday, Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall warned that the publicly held debt of the U.S. government, when measured as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, is headed toward a level the United States has seen only once in its history—at the end of World War II.

To simply contain the debt at the high historical level where it currently sits—74 percent of GDP–would require either significant increases in federal tax revenue or decreases in non-interest federal spending (or a combination of the two).

Historically, U.S. government debt held by the public, measured as a percentage of GDP, hit its peak in 1945 and 1946, when it was 104 percent and 106 percent of GDP respectively.

In 2015, the CBO estimates that the U.S. government debt held by the public will be 74 percent of GDP. That is higher than the 69-percent-of-GDP debt the U.S. government had in 1943—the second year after Pearl Harbor.

By 2039, CBO projects, the debt held by the public will increase to 101 percent of GDP and by 2040 to 103 percent GDP. At that point, Hall told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the “debt would still be on an upward path relative to the size of the economy.”

The U.S. Treasury divides the federal debt into two main parts: debt held by the public and intragovernmental debt. The debt held by the public includes Treasury securities such as Treasury bills, notes and bonds that are owned by individuals, domestic and foreign corporations, private banks, the Federal Reserve Bank, and foreign governments. The Treasury pays interest on this debt to those who own it. The intragovernmental debt is money the Treasury owes to government trust funds–such as the Social Security trust funds–because the government has spent money belonging to those trust funds (i.e. Social Security payroll taxes) on things other than what the trust fund was created to fund (i.e. Social Security).

As of July 9, according to the Treasury, the debt held by the public was $13,102,609,587,775 and the intragovernmental debt was $5,049,321,696,720. That equaled a total debt of $18,151,931,284,495 (and counting).

While the run up in debt held by the public as a percentage of GDP in the 1940s financed a global war against Nazi Germany and Japan that ended with an allied victory, the current run toward unprecedented debt is based on projected increases in mandatory federal spending for entitlement programs. These include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies.

“Mainly because of the aging of the population and rising health care costs, the extended baseline projections show revenues that fall well short of spending over the long term, producing a substantial imbalance in the federal budget,” Hall said in his written testimony.

“As a result, budget deficits are projected to rise steadily and, by 2040, to raise federal debt held by the public to a percentage of GDP seen at only one previous time in U.S. history—the final year of World War II and the following year,” he said.

“Moreover,” he said, “debt would still be on an upward path relative to the size of the economy. Consequently, the policy changes needed to reduce debt to any given amount would become larger and larger over time. The rising debt could not be sustained indefinitely; the government’s creditors would eventually begin to doubt its ability to cut spending or raise revenues by enough to pay its debt obligations, forcing the government to pay much higher interest rates to borrow money.”

Eventually, the nation would face a crisis—with wary investors demanding “much higher interest” rates to buy U.S. government debt.

“How long the nation could sustain such growth in federal debt is impossible to predict with any confidence,’ testified Hall. “At some point, investors would begin to doubt the government’s willingness or ability to meet its debt obligations, requiring it to pay much higher interest costs in order to continue borrowing money. “Such a fiscal crisis would present policymakers with extremely difficult choices and would probably have a substantial negative impact on the country,” he said.

federal debt

“Unfortunately, there is no way to predict confidently whether or when such a fiscal crisis might occur in the United States,” he said. “In particular, as the debt-to-GDP ratio rises, there is no identifiable point indicating that a crisis is likely or imminent. But all else being equal, the larger a government’s debt, the greater the risk of a fiscal crisis.”

Simply keeping the debt in check would require significant changes in federal policy that would hit Americans in the pocketbook. “Just holding federal debt at its current high level of 74 percent of GDP in 2040 would require significant changes in tax and spending policies,” Hall testified. “The combinations of increases in federal tax revenues and cuts in non-interest federal spending relative to current law of about 1.1% of GDP in each year for 25 years would be needed.

“In 2016, this would be a spending and/or a tax revenue increase totaling about $210 billion dollars–and then more than that in each year after that,” said Hall. “If those changes came from increases of equal percentage in all types of revenues they would represent an increase of 6 percent relative to current law for each year between 2016 and 2040,” Hall testified.

“In 2016, for example, an average middle-income household would have to pay $750 more in taxes and more than that in each year afterwards,” he said. “Or if the changes came from cuts of equal percentage in all types of non-interest spending, that spending each year would have to be 5.5 percent less than projected,” he said. “If the reduction was applied across the board to all types of non-interest spending, an average 65 years old in the middle of the earnings income who retires in 2016 would see a reduction of about $1,050 in his or her initial annual Social Security benefits—more than that in each year afterwards.”

“The more ambitious goal of returning public debt by 2040 to its average level over the past half century, which is 38 percent of GDP, would require more than that,” Hall said. “This would require a revenue increase and/or non-interest spending decrease totaling 2.6 percent of GDP every years.

“This means an average middle income household would have to pay $1,700 more in federal taxes in 2016 and larger amounts in subsequent years,” he said. “Or by cutting non-interest spending across the board, average Social Security benefits for a 65-year-old in the middle of the earnings distribution would have to drop by $2,400 in 2016 and by larger amounts in later years.”

my work here is done

DCG