Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Not the best Obama spoof in the world. But it's got a good beat, and he can dance to it.
The Daily Show asks the question of the week, which is how can the federal health care web site be so messed up?
OLYMPIA – A quarter-million adults in Washington will gain dental coverage over the next two years as the state expands its Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act and re-establishes programs dropped in budget cutbacks.
Starting Jan. 1, current Medicaid recipients who lost coverage after successive rounds of budget cuts in 2009 and 2011 will have it restored and those who being added to the health care program under an agreement between the state and federal government will also be eligible for dental coverage, state officials said.
“Obviously, it’s a relief,” Dr. Ashley Ulmer, a Spokane dentist who has a North side private practice and serves as director of the Inland Dental Expanded Access, or IDEA, Clinic. “Some people have put off care for a long time.” . .
OLYMPIA – More than 165,000 people have visited Washington’s website designed to help them find medical insurance, and about 9,400 individuals or families have enrolled in some type of plan.
After some computer problems in the opening days that resulted in long delays for both the website and at call centers, state officials say the system is improved and has run smoothly since Saturday morning…
One reason the shutdown remains so intractable is a core of House Republicans who signalled in August they wanted to eliminate the federal health care reforms.
In a letter to Speaker John Boehner, 80 House Republicans said they supported using the “power of the purse” to end the law. It didn't get much attention at the time, but in the last week, as the shutdown loomed and then occured, national political commentators have pointed to the letter, and its author Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, as a key to they deadlock.
Several readers have asked if Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers or any of Washington's GOP House members signed onto the letter.They did not. But Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho did.
For a map of the districts of those who signed on to the letter, click here.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers hears lots of angst about Obamacare in Eastern Washington.
At least, that's what she says in a USA Today guest column defending the House Republicans in their move to link continued funding of the federal government to some changes in the Affordable Care Act.
“No matter where I go when I'm home in Eastern Washington — the grocery store, the local coffee shop, the county fair — the concern is the same: Obamacare is making life harder for everyday Americans. At the doctor's office, the dinner table and in the job market. “ ” she wrote in a counterpoint to the newspaper, which criticized House Republicans.
A skeptic would probably point out that McMorris Rodgers most recent visit to the home district was pretty much designed so she would mostly hear criticisms of the new law. A playbook for House Republicans returning home for the August recess (they prefer “work period”) advised members to hold an Obamacare Media Tour “to emphasize the need to repeal Obamacare to protect employees, small businesses and jobs.” Such events were to be peopled with like-minded folks, so the opportunity to hear something other than a discouraging word about the new law at those gatherings was pretty limited.
The forward to this “Planning Kit” was written by McMorris Rodgers herself, so it's a good bet she followed it closely.
The congresswoman did hold a “y'all come” town hall meeting in Spokane during that recess, but by most accounts the reaction to the Affodable Care Act was mixed, with some people unhappy with it, and others unhappy with McMorris Rodgers and her fellow Republicans for repeatedly trying to repeal it.
Yesterday she sent out a tweet noting problems on the opening day for Washington state's health care exchange, where people without insurance can sign up for plans, “#ObamaCare exchanges open today and #WA State's website isn't even working. Precursor to the complications to come,” she wrote.
The tweet was time stamped at 7 a.m., which was before state officials said the website was supposed to open. The exchange did have problems later in the day, but for reasons that somewhat undercut her statement about people being so concerned about the program. The system was slow or crashed at times because so many people were trying to go online to sign up.
Figures released Wednesday from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange showed that the web site had 170,487 page views and the call center fielded 6,199 calls. It established 6,385 accounts.
The system is still having problems — it's being taken down from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday for maintenance — and it would be a fair criticism that one might've expected better from the nearly $55 million contract Deloitte received to build it. But it seems fair to say that at least some people think the new law is going to make their lives easier.
Item: Government shutdown begins over health care feud/Associated Press
More Info: Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a protracted dispute over President Barack Obama’s signature health care law reached a boiling point, forcing some 800,000 federal workers off the job. Obama readied a midday statement to the nation as Democrats and Republicans maintained a blame-each-other duel on Capitol Hill. Even as Obama prepared to meet with citizens signing up for his health care program and then make a lunch-hour speech in the Rose Garden, the White House cut back to a skeletal staff. The U.S. Capitol canceled tours not personally led by Congress members.
Question: How long do you think the Republicans and Democrats are going to play chicken with the government shutdown?
OLYMPIA — Washington state will debut its web site to help people find medical insurance under Obamacare on Tuesday even if the federal government is forced into a shutdown over health care reform, Gov. Jay Inslee said.
Some state workers might be furloughed, some job training programs could be cancelled and some road projects might eventually put on hold if the shutdown continues, Inslee said. But the new health care exchange, a way for uninsured people to shop for the best deal on medical insurance, will be up and running sometime in the morning even if Congress deadlocks and doesn't pass legislation to continue paying for some parts of the government.
“We will be open for business,” Inslee said of the Washington Health Plan Finder, which had its web address and toll-free number on the podium beneath his microphone.
As many as 1 million Washington residents are expected to get health care in the coming years through the exchange and the expansion of Medicaid. Increased federal money for the Medicaid expansion is also expected to help the state balance its budget.
State agencies are still trying to determine how programs that get some or all of their money from the federal government will be affected by a shutdown. Training programs to help returning military veterans would be put on hold, Inslee said. Extended unemployment insurance benefits come from the federal government, and could be delayed. The state Department of Transportation might delay some projects that rely on federal transportation money.
Some 1,000 civilian employees of the Washington National Guard could be sent home a few hours after they arrive at work Tuesday. Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the Guard, said they could come to work Tuesday morning and be told they have four hours to wrap up and go home until further notice. About 120 workers got notices last week that they could be furloughed, but their labor contract requires a seven-day notice, so they may be working through this week but it's not clear if the state would be reimbursed for their pay.
Signup for the Affordable Care Act begins tomorrow, but Saturday Night Live offered its take over the weekend on why health care reform is so necessary.
Included is a cameo shout out to the final episode of “Breaking Bad”, which in a sense was the ultimate story of how things go wrong when you don't have health insurance. The clip is from the NBC files, so you do have to sit through a commercial before it comes on, but it is worth it.
WASHINGTON — Compromise elusive, Republicans and Democrats engaged in finger-pointing Monday just hours before the first government shutdown in 17 years, driven by an intractable budget dispute over President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
“This law is not ready for prime time,” said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who insisted that the Democratic-controlled Senate act quickly and accept a House measure that would avert a shutdown — but only by delaying further implementation of the health care law for a year.
“Where, oh where, has the Senate gone?” asked Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.
House Democrats soundly rejected the GOP alternative and pleaded for an end to the fighting. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., implored Boehner to be “the leader of this body” — Democrats and Republicans.
The Senate returns shortly after 2 p.m. EDT — just 10 hours before a threatened shutdown — and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his Democrats have made it clear that they want a straightforward bill to keep the government operating and won’t accept any GOP-crafted legislation that delays or unravels the 3-year-old health care law. Full story.
How likely do you think it is that the government will shut down and how concerned about it are you?
On his Facebook wall last night, Councilman MikeK posts: “
Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador blamed a potential federal government shutdown next month on what he sees as President Barack Obama's unwillingness to delay the health care reform law's further implementation. With a shutdown, there “wouldn't be a significant change” visible to most Americans, the Republican said Tuesday in an interview with The Press editorial board. A shutdown is possible at the end of this month because the U.S. House and Senate can't agree on a budget bill for continued government funding. The two houses are battling over funding for the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare. A recent House version of a proposed stopgap budget, known as a “continuing resolution,” includes an item that would defund Obamacare. That won't go anywhere in the Democratic controlled Senate. So if the Senate strips the defunding provision out of the House budget, Labrador said a delay of Obamacare would be a great compromise/David Cole, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (AP file photo)
Question: Do you think the 1st District supports Congressman Labrador's continuing fight against Obamacare, even if it means a shutdown of the federal government?
The GOP-controlled House voted Friday to cripple President Barack Obama’s health care law as part of a risky ploy that threatens a government shutdown in a week and a half. The fight is coming on a stopgap funding measure required to keep the government fully running after the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year. Typically, such measures advance with sweeping bipartisan support, but tea party activists forced GOP leaders — against their better judgment — to add a provision to cripple the health care law that’s the signature accomplishment of Obama’s first term. The 230-189 vote sets the stage for a confrontation with the Democratic-led Senate, which promises to strip the health care provision from the bill next week and challenge the House to pass it as a simple, straightforward funding bill that President Barack Obama will sign/Andrew Taylor, AP. More here.
Question: Do you support/oppose this vote by the U.S. House of Representatives?
1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador announced today that he is co-sponsoring a resolution introduced today by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, to avert a government shutdown Oct. 1 only if President Obama's health care law is both de-funded and its individual mandate to purchase insurance delayed for a year. “If there’s any single issue that can unite House Republicans and has the strong support of the American people, it’s getting rid of ObamaCare,” Labrador declared. “The resolution I’m cosponsoring will keep the government open while keeping overall spending at the same rate the Senate has already agreed to through the sequester. House Leadership should bring it to the floor for a vote. If the House passes it and the Senate rejects it, it will be the Senate that’s responsible for shutting down the government. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but House Republicans must seize this opportunity to keep our promises to the American people on ObamaCare.”
Click below for Labrador's full news release. Meanwhile, President Obama, in a White House speech yesterday, blasted House Republicans who are taking that position, saying, “I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can't get 100% of what it wants.” In his speech, which House GOP leaders criticized as partisan, Obama asked, “Are some of these folks so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they're willing to tank our whole economy?”
WASHINGTON – American workers and their employers saw another rise in health insurance premiums this year as the total cost of employer-provided health benefits ticked up 4 percent for family plans and 5 percent for individual plans, according to a closely watched national survey.
The 2013 increases are lower than in many previous years, undercutting claims by critics of President Barack Obama’s health care law that the 2010 legislation is dramatically driving up costs.
Nor is there much evidence that many employers are dropping coverage – 57 percent of firms with at least three employees offered health benefits in 2013, according to the report by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. More here.
Have you seen an increase in your health insurance premiums?
Your Health Idaho ( www.yourhealthidaho.org) is attractive, easy to navigate and informative. It looks like Idaho. This is not a site that will intimidate the wary, nor incite those who remain steadfastly opposed to Obamacare. Unfortunately, what it does not yet have is a matrix of the plans and rates the insurance companies will be selling; that information is now available in every surrounding state with the possible exception of Utah, where the individual and small business markets are split. With just 40 days and some hours and minutes to go, Idahoans anxious to sign up will not have much time for buying a policy. Under the best of circumstances, everyone knows how complicated a process buying the right coverage can be. The calculations will be further complicated by a separate determination of how much premium assistance will be available, depending on household income. Consumer Connectors, the designated helpers in Idaho, has a steep learning curve ahead/Spokesman-Review Editorial Board. More here.
Obamacare is coming, even to Idaho. While other states including Washington have worked for years to implement it, and now are unveiling comprehensive health coverage options for the uninsured, Idaho’s Republican-controlled state government tried for years to fight it. The long fight left a legacy: Tens of thousands of the poorest of Idaho’s poor will still be without affordable care under the Affordable Care Act.
On Oct. 1 the 222,533 Idahoans who have no health insurance will be able to go to a website and seek more comprehensive, affordable coverage than was available in the past. Federal law requires it, and federal taxes will pay for it.
But adults with incomes between 26 percent and 100 percent of the poverty level will be out of luck; no assistance will be available. Read more. John Webster, SR
Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, critics have piled on the scary warnings about how federal mandates would mean death panels, individuals would be dragged off to jail because they couldn’t afford government-mandated insurance and small businesses would be boarded up all along Main Street. As the provisions of the act finally begin to take effect, Obamacare is turning out to be a pretty good deal for small businesses like Express Publishing, Inc., which publishes this newspaper. Obamacare requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums collected on patient care. That includes premiums paid by companies like the Express, which began providing health care coverage for employees in 1980. It turns out that our insurance provider, among many, missed that target this year. So this week, it sent us a substantial refund/Idaho Mountain Express, Sun Valley. More here.
Question: Still convinced Obamacare is no good for Idaho?
What will Obamacare cost, and who will it help? In Washington state, where final rates emerged this week, it will cost less, cover more people, and provide more comprehensive benefits than consumers get today. On Thursday, the office of state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced its final decisions on the rates and policies to be offered for sale on Washington’s new insurance-selling website, the Health Plan Finder. Located at http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org, the site is already running. The new rates are not on it yet, however, and insurance sales will not begin until Oct. 1. The policies it sells will take effect starting Jan. 1/John Webster, SR. More here. (SR illustration)
Question: Is it possible that Republicans are wrong about Obamacare? Less cost? More covered? Hmm.
In his latest Cheers & Jeers column, Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune give jeers …
” … to U.S. Sen. Jim Risch and Congressman Raul Labrador, both R-Idaho. The latest D.C. twaddle has Republicans threatening to shut down the federal government to force an Obamacare repeal. Risch is among 11 GOP senators who have signed Utah Republican Mike Lee's threat. Labrador is among 66 Republicans who have endorsed a similar effort in the House from North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows. Whatever Risch and Labrador are up to here, it's entirely self-serving: Playing to the GOP's fringe is a certain winner in the all-important closed primary. Risch and Labrador are betting President Obama and the Democratic Senate so fear a shutdown that they'll defund Obamacare.” Full Cheers & Jeers column here.
Question: Do you agree/disagree with this Jeer?
House Republicans seem to be leaving little to chance as their members prepare to spend the August recess among their voters. A “planning kit” explains how to maximize exposure and minimize contrary opinions on issues like health care reform.
In the kit’s introductory letter to her fellow Republicans, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers says they should tell the folks back home the GOP is fighting for them against Washington and the bureaucracy. “There is no better message than one that puts the American people before an out-of-control government,” she wrote.
As chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the Eastern Washington congresswoman is in charge of this year’s kit, a 30-page booklet of helpful hints to members on how to make the most of their time back in the district. Riva Litman, a conference spokeswoman, said something similar goes out before each August recess. It’s a “a playbook of best practices” gleaned from many members’ experiences.
The kit offers suggestions for events on energy, health care and jobs; at power plants, on Main Street and on farms; highlighting red tape and government waste. It suggests events aimed at “millennials” – the young adults who voted strongly for Democrats in the 2012 election
It also suggests an ObamaCare Media Tour, “to emphasize the need to repeal ObamaCare to protect employees, small businesses and jobs.” House Republicans have voted 37 times to repeal the law, also known as the federal Affordable Care Act, but it remains on the books.
In planning such an event, the kit advises members and their staff to “make sure all participants will be 100 percent on message. They do not have to be Republicans. They need to be able to discuss the negative effects of ObamaCare on their employees” . . .
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.
To see the “Fighting Washington For All Americans” click on the document below.
Could it possibly be a coincidence that Barack Obama has illegally postponed the imposition of Obamacare until after the next round of congressional elections? Even though the execrable Nancy Pelosi tried to make the case that we should celebrate Obamacare on the Fourth of July (Dependence Day?), congressional Democrats (other than Pelosi) understand full well that the implementation of Obamacare will cost many of them their jobs. The damage that just the anticipation of Obamacare has already done to the economy is easily quantified. Many employers have elected to reduce the hours that their employees may work to below 30 hours per week to escape the mandatory coverage provisions for full-time employees. Other small businesses have laid off employees or refused to grow beyond 49 workers to escape the mandate/Michael Costello, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Why do you think President Obama postponed imposition of a key provision of Obamacare for a year?
Amber Williams has joined the ranks of working moms. Williams, whose daughter, Isabelle, is 4 months old, recently returned to her job as manager of a Spokane bank, where she takes short breaks throughout the workday to express breast milk for her daughter. Many moms like her stand to benefit from a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurers to cover the costs of renting or purchasing breastfeeding supplies, plus support and counseling. Williams’ insurance covered her double electric pump, which would have cost hundreds of dollars out of pocket. “It was huge,” she said. “It was a big relief and, of course, it freed up money to buy the other big things that insurance doesn’t pay for”/Chelsea Bannach, SR. More here. (Colin Mulvany SR photo: Amber Williams, with her daughter, Isabelle, prepares her breast milk to be stored in the freezer for later feedings)
If cleverness is a disease in politics, it’s endemic with some of the folks involved in implementing Gov. Butch Otter and Barrack Obama’s health insurance exchange. Exhibit A: The insurance exchange law passed by the Legislature and signed by Otter says “the exchange shall be financially self-supporting and shall not request any financial support from the state and shall not have the power to tax or encumber state assets.” So, you might wonder, how is it that the state Department of Health and Welfare managed to give nearly $400,000 to the insurance exchange to begin operating? Well, the key word, it seems, is “request.” The exchange didn’t “request” money (at least, perhaps, through official channels)/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.
Question: Does Wayne Hoffman have a good point here?
Concerns about the Affordable Care Act being unaffordable for those purchasing policies through health care exchanges were understandable, because the law didn’t do enough to contain costs. But the worry that people would be priced out of the market looks to be overblown. Washington, Oregon and California have released the prices of policies on their exchanges, and the results are encouraging. Transparency and competition have served to keep prices below forecasted levels. California’s prices, which were released Friday, beat the 2009 Congressional Budget Office’s projection by a fairly comfortable margin, according to the Washington Post. CBO pegged the monthly premiums for a silver plan (70 percent coverage) at $520. A more recent estimate from the consulting firm Milliman put the price at $450. But the actual cost for a Los Angeles County resident ranges from $225 to $325, depending on which of the 13 insurance company plans are selected/Spokesman-Review Editorial Board. More here.
Question: Do you still oppose Obamacare?
Idaho’s new state-based health insurance exchange board gathered for its first meeting today, and each of its 19 members had already received a somewhat surprising welcome – an anonymous call threatening a lawsuit. “I got a call from a guy who did not want to identify what firm he worked for,” said Stephen Weeg, the board’s interim chairman. “He just wanted to give us all a notice that within three months’ time we would all be sued for being on this board – I think he called everybody on this board, just to let us know that we were already in trouble.” Weeg said his first reaction was, “Wait a minute – we’re just doing what the law requires”/Betsy Russell, SR. More here.
Question: Are you ready for the state health exchange?
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, spoke out against HB 248, Gov. Butch Otter’s state health insurance exchange bill, saying he rejects the idea that health care reform is “the law of the land.” Said Vick, “Those states that opposed slavery, did they say, well I guess the best we can do is when those slaves get into our free states, is make sure that we take care of ‘em well, clean ‘em up and send ‘em back home to their slave owners? No they did not. They formed the underground railroad and they got those people to Canada.” He brought up civil rights icon Rosa Parks and her resistance to segregation laws/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.
- Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, via Facebook:
Question: Are you bothered that exchange opponents are invoking name and memory of Rosa Parks this session?
At my request and after careful, deliberate consideration, the Idaho Senate recently approved legislation affirming my choice of a state-based health insurance exchange.
That bill now goes to the Idaho House of Representatives, where debate figures to be just as passionate. That's understandable, since most members of the Idaho Legislature share my intense opposition to the so-called Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Fans of the Grand Slam breakfast, fear not. The Denny’s franchise owner who told a reporter that he would be adding a 5 percent “Obamacare” surcharge to diners’ meals has walked back that statement. John Metz, who owns around 40 Denny’s and multiple Dairy Queen Locations in Florida, as well as a franchise called Hurricane Grill & Wings, made news and ruffled diner food fans’ feathers when he told the Huffington Post that he planned to add a 5 percent surcharge at the start of next year in addition to cutting back some full-time employees to part time. His reasoning, he said, was that the measures are necessary to offset the costs of the Affordable Care Act, which goes into full effect in 2014/Kyle Blaine, ABC News. More here. (Photo: AP Business Wire)
Question: Would you frequent a restaurant that cut staff hours and added a 5% Obamacare tax surcharge?
We are hoping to see an announcement from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter later this week that the state intends to do everything it can to create a state-based health insurance exchange within the bounds of Obamacare. That was the recommendation last week from a group he appointed to study the matter, make a recommendation and, in so doing, give him some political cover from the far right ideologues that abound in the Legislature. One such, Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation was on the panel and one of its two negative votes. Creating such an exchange, given the experience in other states, is neither simple nor easy, if done well. Getting started as soon as possible is advisable.The alternative, doing nothing and waiting to see whether Mitt Romney is elected and whether he can dismantle Obamacare, is absurd/Lee Rozen, Moscow-Pullman Daily News. More here.
Question: Do you support the continued dilly-dallying by the Otter administration and Republican leaders of the Idaho Legislature on Obamacare?