What’s Happening with Seniors Benefits

Bills to remove the IRS from Obamacare introduced in Congress

1.  Representative Tom Price, M.D. (R-GA) (pictured) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) have introduced legislation to prohibit the Internal Revenue Rep. Tom PriceService (IRS) from administering any aspect of Obamacare.

HR 2009, the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act, has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill has 67 cosponsors.

The Senate companion bill, S 983, has been referred to the Finance Committee. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is a cosponsor.

Both bills contain these findings:

(1) On May 10, 2013, the IRS admitted that it singled out advocacy groups, based on ideology, seeking tax-exempt status.

(2) This action raises pertinent questions about the agency's ability to implement and oversee Public Law 111-148 (the official designation for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, i.e. Obamacare) and Public Law 111-152 (the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which made some modifications in Obamacare).

(3) This action could be an indication of future IRS abuses in relation to Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152, given that it is their responsibility to enforce a key provision, the individual mandate.

(4) Americans accept the principle that patients, families, and doctors should be making medical decisions, not the federal government.

Both bills also state, "The Secretary of the Treasury, or any delegate of the Secretary, shall not implement or enforce any provisions of or amendments made by Public Law 111-148 or 111-152."

These bills simply remove the IRS, and its parent agency, the Treasury Department, from involvement in Obamacare.  The authority of other federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), would not be affected.

New Bite to Repeal Obamacare Taken

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 229 to 195, with 9 not voting, for HR 45, by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) (pictured) and 128 cosponsors, to completely repeal Obamacare.
Michele Bachmann
All of the Republicans who were present voted for HR 45, and all of the Democrats who were present--except for Rep. Jim Matheson (UT) and Mike McIntyre (NC)--voted against HR 45.

The 9 legislators who didn't vote at all were Republicans John Campbell (CA), Sean Duffy (WI), Sam Johnson (TX), Raul Labrador (ID), and Ann Wagner (MO) and Democrats James Clyburn (SC), John Lewis (GA), Edward Markey (MA), and Mike Quigley (IL).

It is disappointing that only two Democrats voted for repeal of Obamacare, since the many severe problems with the so-called Affordable Care Act are already being manifested and even more serious ones are expected soon.

Previous issues of this newsletter HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE documented how Obamacare is causing unemployment, hurting the economy, increasing the cost of health insurance, causing employees to lose their existing health insurance, and destroying small medical practices.

And that doesn't include trampling on the religious rights of those non-profit organizations and privately owned companies which have moral objections to being required to provide health insurance with abortifacients.  Nor does it include the rationing of medical care through the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which hasn't become operational yet in Obamacare.

Obamacare is devastating to small businesses

A new Gallup Poll of small business owners documented the devastating effects Obamacare is having on employment and on both the cost and quality of health care.

49% of the owners say Obamacare is going to be bad for their small businesses, compared with only 9% who say it is going to be good.  Another 39% said it would have no impact.

As a direct result of Obamacare, business owners say they've taken the following actions:

41% Held off on plans to hire new employees
38% Pulled back on plans to grow their business
24% Considered dropping health insurance coverage for employees
19% Reduced the number of their employees
18% Reduced the hours of employees to part time status

55% of the small business owners believe the costs of providing health care to their employees will increase, while only a miniscule 5% thought the costs would decrease.  37% thought the costs would remain the same.

Similarly, 52% of the owners say Obamacare is going to reduce the quality of health care for their employees, while 37% thought it would increase the quality. 30% said it would make no difference.

Furthermore, the Washington Post reported that a new Obamacare tax on health insurance "scares the daylights" out of some small business owners.

House to vote soon on Obamacare repeal

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced that the U.S. House of Representatives will soon vote on legislation to repeal Obamacare.

In a memo to House Republicans, Cantor said, "While we have not locked in the timing, I expect that the House will vote on full repeal of Obamacare in the near future."

Polls continue to show declining support for Obamacare.  The latest Rasmussen Reports found:

Just 39% of likely voters now view the law at least somewhat favorably, while 55% share an unfavorable opinion of it.  This includes 14% with a very favorable view and 40% with a very unfavorable one.

As has been the case since its passage, senior citizens view the law more negatively than younger voters…

Voters have long cited cost as their number one health care concern, but 58% expect health care costs to go up as a result of the new law. Just 16% think costs will go down, while 17% say they will stay about the same…

20% believe the quality of health care will get better under the new law. More than twice as many, 46%, however, predict that the quality of care will get worse. 24% expect it to stay about the same.

A recent issue of this newsletter reported that even grassroots Democrats are beginning to oppose Obamacare.

If the American people could pass and repeal federal laws through initiative and referendum, as the citizens of 24 states can do, there is little doubt Obamacare would be uprooted by a vote of the people.  But with the Senate controlled by Democrats and President Obama able to veto legislation, the upcoming House vote is probably only symbolic.

But there is a chance that more modest revisions of Obamacare might actually be enacted into law.

Congress tries to exempt itself from Obamacare

With the full implementation of Obamacare just 246 days away, senior members of Congress tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to exempt themselves and their staffs from the law.

John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman reported in Politico that congressional leaders in both parties were "engaged in high-level confidential talks" about how to get out of Obamacare.

The talks, which continued for months, involved Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and officials from the Obama Administration.  The plan was for Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to "give Democrats cover by backing it."

According to Politico, "If the two sides can agree on a fix, leadership is discussing attaching it to a must-pass bill, like the government-funding resolution or legislation to hike the nation's debt limit."

A source close to the talks said, "Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump or nothing is going to get done."

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal said the Politico article "succeeded in blowing up the talks," but "there's a bigger story here about congressional intentions":

Reid's office says he merely wants to ensure that the generous subsidies in the current federal-employee health plan can continue to flow to congressional staff once they are required to obtain coverage via Obamacare's new insurance exchanges.

Since insurance companies are referring to the Obamacare policies that will be offered on exchanges as "Medicaid plus," you can see why Congress wants to protect its own.

The larger truth here is that this story goes back to 2009, when Democrats who passed Obamacare tried repeatedly to exempt themselves or their key aides. Their problem was Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who for years has maintained the heretical belief that politicians ought to obey the laws they write for everyone else.

In 1995, he sponsored the Congressional Accountability Act, which for the first time applied to Congress various civil rights, employment, and labor laws that the politicians had imposed on the rest of the country.

Grassley again succeeded in getting an amendment passed requiring members of Congress and their immediate staff to be covered by Obamacare, although committee staffs are exempt from that requirement.

Sen. Max Baucus: Obamacare could be a "huge train wreck"

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that drafted most of Obamacare, warns that unless there is more government propaganda to promote the law, there will be a "huge train wreck coming down."
Sen. Max Baucus
Jennifer Hakerkorn in Politico reported that Baucus (pictured) explained the train wreck is "that consumers and businesses will just not have enough information. That it will be too confusing."

In a hearing before his committee, Baucus lashed out at Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for not creating effective propaganda campaigns to convince the people of the benefits of Obamacare.

Emily Ethridge of CQ Roll Call reported that Baucus expressed frustration that voters did not appreciate Obamacare's benefits. He complained about "misconceptions and misinformation" regarding the law. "And people generally dislike what they don't understand."

"The administration's public information campaign on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, I think, deserve a failing grade. You need to fix it," Baucus told Sebelius, as reported by David Morgan of Reuters.

Morgan said Obamacare was "threatening the 2014 congressional re-election prospects of Democrats who voted for the law."  Baucus just announced that he will not run for re-election.

Numerous issues of this newsletter HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE have reported on the unrelenting efforts of HHS to use taxpayers' money for extensive propaganda campaigns to promote Obamacare.

Sebelius told Baucus, "We certainly take outreach and education very, very seriously."

Senate sponsor of Obamacare says it is "the most complex piece of legislation ever passed"

A Senate architect of Obamacare says it is "probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed" and "is just beyond comprehension."

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing for Marilyn Tavenner, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who President Obama has nominated to the job, a senator who was instrumental in the drafting of Obamacare was critical of the Administration's efforts to enforce it.

The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard wrote that Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), one of the key architects of the so-called Affordable Care Act, warned Tavenner that the President's health care law is complicated "and if it isn't done right the first time, it will just simply get worse."

"I believe that the Affordable Care Act is probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress…Up to this point, it is just beyond comprehension," said Rockefeller.
Marilyn Tavenner
As reported in a previous issue of this newsletter, Tavenner (pictured), 61, a former nurse, was Secretary of Health and Human Services in Virginia when Senator Tim Kaine was governor. She worked well with Republicans in the Legislature. Prior to that, Tavenner was employed by the Hospital Corporation of America, founded by the father of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN).  

Jennifer Haberkorn in Politico stated that Tavenner has the strong support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).

"Obviously, the issue of Obamacare remains very controversial. But if there is anyone that I trust to try to navigate the challenges, it is Marilyn Tavenner," Cantor said.

States Oppose Obamacare, but House GOP Leadership is Stalling

1.  Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, admitted the Administration didn't anticipate the continued opposition to Obamacare after it was passed.

Scott Malone of Reuters reported that "many voters have balked over concerns the law will raise healthcare costs and increase government involvement in their personal decisions."

At an event at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Sebelius said:

The politics has been relentless and that continues. There was some hope that once the Supreme Court ruled in July and then once an election occurred there would be a sense that, 'This is the law of the land, let's get on board, let's make this work.' And yet we will find ourselves having state by state political battles.

Many Republican governors and legislators are refusing to implement Obamacare, but Sebelius may have had reason to believe the Republican leadership in Congress would not seriously fight Obamacare.

A previous issue of this newsletter reported that, shortly after the 2012 elections, "House Speaker John Boehner indicated he would probably give up the fight against Obamacare, saying it 'is the law of the land'."

The strongly negative reaction to Boehner's statement of surrender caused an apparent about-face.  A later issue of this newsletter reported that he wrote a letter to the Republican members of the House which stated:

As I also said last week, the president's health care law--which adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our debt already exceeds the size of our whole economy--must remain on the table. The president's re-election means it's the law of the land at the moment--but we can't afford Obamacare, and we can't afford to leave it intact.

I've long maintained that there are three possible routes to repeal of Obamacare: the courts, the presidential election, and our constitutional responsibility for oversight. With two of them having come up short, the third and final of these becomes more important than ever.

Of course, as long as President Obama remains in office, it will be impossible to repeal his health care law in its entirety. But it is definitely possible that parts of the law could be repealed, or at least substantially modified, to make them less harmful.

Grassroots Democrats Begin to Oppose Obamacare

The results from the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows grassroots Democrats are beginning to join independents and Republicans in opposing Obamacare.

Recent issues of this newsletter here and here and here and here and here have clearly documented how Obamacare is causing serious unemployment, dramatically increasing the cost of health insurance, causing employees to lose their health insurance at work, forcing small medical practices out of business, and attacking the religious beliefs of many Christians.

And that doesn’t even include the rationing of health care for seniors that is designed into the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which this newsletter reported on here.  Former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) said IPAB would likely "have devastating consequences for the seniors and disabled Americans who are Medicare's beneficiaries."

As a result, it was only a matter of time before grassroots Democrats began to feel the pain from Obamacare and react against it.  While their negative opinions of the law are not yet as strong as independents and Republicans, it is clear they are beginning to understand its many flaws.
Kaiser Family Foundation
Overall, Kaiser found only 37% of the people have a favorable view of Obamacare.  40% view it unfavorably and 23% are undecided.

(A recent poll from Rasmussen Reports found that 50% viewed the law unfavorably.  44% viewed it favorably and 6% were undecided.)

In the Kaiser poll, when asked if "you and your family will be better off or worse off" under Obamacare, just 21% of voters said they thought they would be better off!  29% said worse off and 40% said the same.

When asked about the nation as a whole, 55% said the so-called Affordable Care Act (which is actually not its official name) would make the cost of health care worse. Only a tiny 21% thought the law would make health care more affordable, while 18% said it would stay the same.

When asked about the effect of the law on the quality of care, 45% said it would be worse, 24% better, and 26% the same.

Congress Hands Obamacare a Setback

Congress has dealt a setback to Obamacare by denying funds that are necessary for full implementation of the law.

The House and Senate have passed HR 933, the Continuing Resolution for federal spending for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013, which severely handicaps the implementation of the health care law.

A previous issue of this newsletter reported that, on March 6, the House passed this legislation 267-151 with 214 Republicans and 53 Democrats voting for it.  14 Republicans and 137 Democrats voted against it.  3 Republicans and 10 Democrats didn't vote.

HR 933 denied the request from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for an additional $949 Million to implement Obamacare.  And because the law locked in the sequester, the current funding level for the health care law was further reduced as well.

When the bill reached the Senate, on March 13, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and 20 cosponsors offered Senate Amendment 30, to prohibit the use of any funds to carry out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the official name for Obamacare.  That amendment was defeated 45-52. All Republicans voted for it and all Democrats voted against it with 3 Democrats not voting.

The Senate did amend HR 933 in various other ways, but the sequester was left untouched and no attempt was made to add the $933 Billion that HHS wanted to administer Obamacare.

The bill then passed the Senate 73-26 on March 20, with 20 Republicans and 53 Democrats voting for it.  25 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted against it, while 1 Democrat didn't vote.

With only 45 Republicans in the Senate, this outcome was the best that could reasonably be hoped for.

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