Good news on Social Security and Medicare? Reports show just that BY DEA

The following column by Dean Baker was posted on the Hill website July 19, 2017:

Social Security and Medicare are the country’s two largest and most important social programs, which is why the release of the annual trustees’ reports usually get considerable attention. These are effectively report cards on the financial health of these two programs.

The release of these reports last week actually got relatively little attention, in part because of competition from other big news items, and in part because there was little change from the reports issued last year. However, at least in the case of the Medicare trustees report, the fact that there were no major changes should have been big news.

The reason that a 2017 Medicare trustees report showing pretty much the same financial picture as the 2016 Medicare trustees report (the projected shortfall is actually slightly lower in this year’s report) is newsworthy is that it’s a different group of trustees. (more…)

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CBO: GOP Plan Would Spike Premiums, Cut 32M From Insurance Rolls

The following article by the Roll Call staff was posted on RollCall.com July 19, 2017:

Credit: Oscar Gronner

A new Senate GOP health care plan would result in 32 million more people without health insurance, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis released Wednesday. The measure, similar to a 2015 bill passed by the Senate, would save $473 billion over a decade.

According to the analysis from Congress’ nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, average premiums in the individual marketplace would increased by about 25 percent next year, increasing to 5o percent by 2020 and 100 percent by 2026.

“Under this legislation, about half of the nation’s population would live in areas having no insurer participating in the nongroup market in 2020 because of downward pressure on enrollment and upward pressure on premiums. That share would continue to increase, extending to about three-quarters of the population by 2026,” CBO wrote on its website.  (more…)

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Obamacare’s Future Now Depends on an Unhappy White House

The following article by Steven Pressman was posted on the Conversation website July 18, 2017:

Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, has repeatedly warned that Obamacare is near collapse. “The situation has never been more dire,” he said on July 10. Credit Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The congressional effort to overhaul the health care system appears to be in shambles. But the current health care system lives on. And decisions the Trump administration makes about how to manage it could have big effects on who has coverage next year, and what it costs them.

The Department of Health and Human Services is in charge of administering Obamacare, and so far the department’s staff has given many public indications that it does not enjoy such duties.

The Department of Health and Human Services is in charge of administering Obamacare, and so far the department’s staff has given many public indications that it does not enjoy such duties. (more…)

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Governors Call for Bipartisan Fix to Health Care

The following article by Kyle Stewart was posted on the Roll Call website July 18, 2017:

State leaders want to be at decision table with Congress

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is one of 11 governors calling for a bipartisan solution to health care reform. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Following the collapse of the Senate’s health care overhaul bill, a group of governors are suggesting a new way forward: bipartisanship. And the group wants a spot at the decision table.

Eleven governors from across the nation issued a statement Tuesday morning calling on the Senate to stop the effort to repeal the 2010 health care law without a replacement.

“This could leave millions of Americans without coverage,” the statement said. “The best next step is for both parties to come together and do what we can all agree on: fix our unstable insurance markets.” (more…)

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Four charts that show who loses out if the White House cuts food stamps

The following article by Orgul Dement Ozturk was posted on the Conversation website July 18, 2017:

The White House has proposed cutting 25 percent of SNAP’s budget – about US$193 billion – over the next decade.

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though it’s more widely known by its pre-2008 name, food stamps. This program helps about 44 million people per month buy food. Last year, the government spent $71 billion in total on the program.

SNAP serves the most vulnerable in our society, for whom a little money means a lot. According to the Congressional Budget Office, cuts to SNAP will likely have a major impact on the individuals who were hurt most by the recent recession. (more…)

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Facebook says it shouldn’t have to stay mum when government seeks user data

The following article by Ann E. Marimow was posted on the Washington Post website July 15, 2017:

Demonstrators and police clash on the streets of the nation’s capital on Inauguration Day in January. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Major technology companies and civil liberties groups have joined Facebook in a closed courtroom battle over secret government access to social media records.

Facebook is fighting a court order that prohibits it from letting users know when law enforcement investigators ask to search their political communications — a ban that Facebook contends tramples First Amendment protections of the company and individuals.

Most of the details of the case in the nation’s capital are under wraps, but the timing of the investigation, and references in public court documents, suggest the search warrants relate to demonstrations during President Trump’s inauguration. More than 200 people were detained and many have been charged with felony rioting in the Jan. 20 protests that injured police and damaged property in an area of downtown Washington. (more…)

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Why health savings accounts are a bust for the poor but a boost for the privileged

The following article by Simon Haeder was posted on the Conversation site July 13, 2017:

Credit:  AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his new version of the Republican health care bill July 13, he relied on a favorite Republican device to solve the nation’s health care woes – Health Savings Accounts.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were established by the same legislation that created the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit in 2003. HSAsallow individuals to make tax-deductible contributions, withdraw money tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses and avoid taxes on the money invested in the account. (more…)

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The Racist Origins of Private School Vouchers

The following article by Chris Ford, Stepenie Johnson and Lisette Partelow was posted on the Center for American Progress website July 12, 2017:

Credit: AP Photo  A schoolteacher teaches music to the first class for black children since 1959, when schools closed in Prince Edward County, Virginia, as a protest against desegregation, July 1963.

About three and a half hours southwest of Washington, D.C., nestled in the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont is Prince Edward County, a rural community that was thrust into the history books more than 60 years ago when county officials chose to close its segregated public schools rather than comply with court-mandated desegregation following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision.1 Like many public school districts in the South during the Jim Crow era, Prince Edward County operated a segregated school system—a system white officials and citizens were determined to keep by any means necessary. The scheme they hatched was to close public schools and provide white students with private school vouchers.

Fast forward to 2017: President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have championed a plan to provide federal funding for private school voucher systems nationwide, which would funnel millions of taxpayer dollars out of public schools and into unaccountable private schools—a school reform policy that they say would provide better options for low-income students trapped in failing schools. Their budget proposal would slash the Education Department’s budget by more than 13 percent, or $9 billion, while providing $1.25 billion for school choice, including $250 million for private school vouchers.2 (more…)

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The 5 faulty beliefs that have led to Republican dysfunction on health care

The following article by J.B. Silvers was posted on the Conversation site July 12, 2017:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, shown here in June, 2017, is scheduled to unveil a revised version of the Senate health care bill today. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

As we watch for a new version of a Senate health care bill today, an outside observer might think that Congress is just dysfunctional, lurching from one extreme to another in search of something that works for health care reform.

The latest development has been the inability of Republicans to even agree on their own proposal and, worse yet, what should come next if it fails. Should they repeal the Affordable Care Act and worry about a replacement later or just try to “fix” the ACA now?

But the problem is much deeper than just a policy fix. As a former health insurance CEO and professor of health finance, it seems clear to me that Republicans are making five key implicit assumptions that are inherently problematic: (more…)

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