Bridging the partisan divide

Bridging the partisan divide

With the failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care,  efforts are now underway in Congress to stabilize the individual health insurance marketplaces.

Number of the Day

71 -  Percent of Americans that would rather see Republicans in Congress work with Democrats to make improvements to the Affordable Care Act instead of repealing the law. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

With the failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care,  efforts are now underway in Congress to stabilize the individual health insurance marketplaces. The paths forward in the House and Senate are likely to include plenty of disagreement and difficult negotiations, but bringing the health-care debate back under “regular order” with committee hearings, stakeholder input, and transparency is an important and promising step. Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan with the New York Times report:

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the influential chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee announced that his panel would begin work in early September on legislation to “stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market” for 2018. “In my opinion,” Mr. Alexander said, “any solution that Congress passes for a 2018 stabilization package would need to be small, bipartisan and balanced. It should include funding for the cost-sharing reductions, but it also should include greater flexibility flexibility for states in approving health insurance policies.” In the House, two Republicans, Representative Tom Reed of New York and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, teamed with Democrats to promote incremental health legislation that would also fund the cost-sharing subsidies.

Bolstering the ACA’s individual marketplaces and leaving Medicaid untouched is exactly what the majority of Americans support. Gary Burtless with The Brookings Institution explains:

The shift in public opinion on the value of the Obamacare is traceable to a simple fact. Over time, an increasing fraction of Americans is affected by events that make them eligible for the protections offered under the Act. People are injured or become seriously ill and require expensive care; workers lose their jobs and health coverage. Many of us are only one medical emergency away from bankruptcy if we do not have adequate insurance. It is not easy to measure the financial value of a backup insurance plan if we lose our current health coverage. When the backup plan faces elimination, however, the intangible value of such a plan might seem quite appealing.

 

The most radical plan yet

While bipartisan health efforts are beginning to emerge, Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham are still pushing a partisan plan that Vox’s Sarah Kliff describes as “the last GOP plan standing.” Unfortunately the plan is more of the same: per capita caps in Medicaid, elimination of the Medicaid expansion, and weakening of consumer protections:

The plan hasn’t been scored by the Congressional Budget Office yet, but analysts who have studied Cassidy-Graham estimate it would cut deeply into federal funding for the health law programs, likely resulting in millions losing coverage. Cassidy-Graham would arguably be more disruptive, not less, to the current health care system. It would let money currently spent on health insurance go toward other programs, providing no guarantee that the Affordable Care Act programs individuals rely on today would continue into the future. … Cassidy-Graham would repeal the health care law’s tax credits for middle-income Americans, the cost-sharing reduction subsidies for low-income Americans, and the Medicaid expansion in 2020. This makes it a bit more radical than other Republican plans, which leave a (less generous) version of the tax credits in place.

 

An abominable pay gap

July 31 was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day: marking the day that earnings of black women in America have “caught up” to the 2016 earnings of white, non-Hispanic men. It signifies how black women have to work 19 months to bring home the same amount of money white male workers earn in 12 months. As Jennifer Larino with The Times Picayune/Nola.com reports, in Louisiana the pay gap between white men and black women is even more striking:

Louisiana ranks among states with the worst pay gaps between men and women. That picture worsens significantly if you are a black woman living and working in the state. More than 210,000 black women working full-time jobs in Louisiana earn a median $26,488 a year in wages, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. That compares with $55,386 in median annual wages earned by white, non-Hispanic men in Louisiana. That means African-American women in Louisiana face the worst pay gap in the nation, earning just 48 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men in the state. Looking nationwide, black

 

Reverse discrimination?

A leaked internal document from the U.S. Justice Department suggests President Donald Trump’s administration plans to put colleges using affirmative action admissions policies under heightened scrutiny and at risk of possible legal action. While not stated explicitly in the memo, many advocates for civil rights and equal opportunity see the move as a way to undermine efforts to boost the number of minority students attending college. Charlie Savage with The New York Times has the story:

The document does not explicitly identify whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. But the phrasing it uses, “intentional race-based discrimination,” cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minority students to university campuses… “This is deeply disturbing,” [Kristen Clarke, president of Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights] said. “It would be a dog whistle that could invite a lot of chaos and unnecessarily create hysteria among colleges and universities who may fear that the government may come down on them for their efforts to maintain diversity on their campuses.

 

Number of the Day

71 –  Percent of Americans that would rather see Republicans in Congress work with Democrats to make improvements to the Affordable Care Act instead of repealing the law. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)