A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OF CONGRESS
This comes from The American Conservative, published the time of the government shutdown. I’m only just seeing it now. It concludes:
. . . I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I hope the House flips to the Democrats in 2014, so we can be rid of these nuts. Let Ted Cruz sit in the Senate stewing in his precious bodily fluids, and let Washington get back to the business of governing.
MISSOURI AND TEXAS
Our Republican friends are so keen on preventing people from getting affordable health care — it is just so deeply important to them that Romneycare, a success in Massachusetts, fail everywhere else — that they not only shut down the government a couple of months ago (see above), they also now are working to make it a crime to help your neighbor find a good plan.
From Rachel Maddow last week (if pressed for time, just read the bolded parts):
MADDOW: Earlier this fall, a group funded by the Koch brothers specifically to target college students and young people launched these ads to try to convince young people to not sign up for health insurance. The pitch was that signing for health insurance is creepy.
It’s like having a guy with a big paper mache pop head perform your prostate exam. Don’t get health insurance, young people, it’s gross.
The Koch brothers’ idea here was that young people should opt out of the health insurance, and if you wrote to their opt out of insurance Web site, they would send you an opt out of health insurance kit for your college with stickers and beer koozies and stuff so can give them to your friends to let them know that getting health insurance is just not cool.
Around the same time, another conservative group linked to the same billionaire conservative brothers launched this Web site in Alaska to convince people in that state that they also should not get health insurance. They actually launched two Web sites at once, one of which just flat out told Alaskan that they should pledge to not get insurance. And the other sort of tried to look more like a neutral site where you might go to get answers about health insurance, but it ended up giving the same advice, don’t do it under any circumstance.
Yesterday, “The L.A. Times” reported on the same kind of trick being played in California. In California, though, it’s not some random conservative group funded by the Koch brothers that’s doing it. In California, it’s the state Republican Party.
California Republicans are a little bit of an endangered species right now, but when they learned that the health insurance Web site for people to sign up for insurance in California was going to be called CoveringCA.com, as in Covering CA as in Covering California, the Republican Party in the state came up with a dummy Web site that looked just like the real one. Instead of CoveringCalifornia.com, their rip-off version was coveringcaliforniahealthcare.com.
If you ended up there accidentally, it kind of looked like you were in the right place to sign up for health insurance. But you were not at that right place. You, in fact, were at the Republican Party’s Web site that was designed to make you think that health reform is terrible and in no way should you ever think about signing up for health insurance because of health reform’s terrible, terribleness.
The conversation in Washington about health reform is sort of an esoteric one now. Republican House Speaker John Boehner was asked whether the Republican Party would ever have its own health care policy, its own policy ideas on the subject. His answer was, “We’ll see.” No rush, we’ll see.
Today in the Republican-controlled House, there were four, count them, four separate hearings on how terrible health reform is, but with no more votes to repeal it scheduled, with no more plans to shut down the government to try to stop health reform and proper Republican alternatives to replace health reform, the Republicans’ whole approach to this issue in Washington has gotten a little esoteric, where it is not esoteric is in the states, and the states really get no attention from the beltway press in terms of their political importance. But that is where you can see much more clearly than in Washington what the real fight is right now between the parties over this issue.
And the real fight now between the parties is that one party really wants you to get health insurance. They’re saying it at every turn, the president is going to do an event every day between now and Christmas Eve saying, hey, go get health insurance. One party really wants you to really get health insurance, and another party is proving that they will do almost anything possible to stop you from getting more health insurance.
Nowhere is that more clear that in Texas, which, of course, is under complete Republican control and which has more uninsured people than anywhere else in the entire country. Today in Texas, they unveiled 64 pages of new state rules and regulations that restrict people who want to help other people in Texas sign up for health insurance.
So, if you want to be a health care navigator in Texas to help people sign up for insurance, as of today, Texas says you must be fingerprinted. You must pass a detailed background check. You have to display evidence of financial responsibility. They will put you through 40 hours of training. And after that, after all that, you will still be banned by law in Texas from actually offering people advice about how to get health insurance.
The new Texas rules they unveiled today say that nobody in Texas may recommend to anyone else that they sign up for health insurance plan. Doing that is illegal. You also cannot tell anybody in Texas the differences between the various plans that are being offered to them. You can’t explain the differences between the plans. So if you want to help people sign up for health insurance in Texas, effectively, that is now illegal.
And in Missouri, it is outright illegal. Missouri is being taken to federal court right now over their efforts to make it basically impossible for people to figure out how to get health insurance in that state. Because the law that Missouri passed flat out makes it illegal for anybody to offer anyone any advice concerning benefits, terms or features of any health insurance plan. You can’t talk about that in Missouri.
So, sure, millions of people across the country who could not get health insurance before now should be able to get it because of health reform. But Republican-controlled state governments are making it illegal, or at least hopefully impossible for you to find out that there are health insurance options out there that you might like.
And conservative groups across the country are trying to convince you that health insurance itself is just a terrible, terrible idea. And you don’t want it anyway.
It’s clear that Republicans did not want the health reform to pass in the first place. They didn’t want President Obama and the Democrats to have a legislative win. They didn’t like the policy itself.
But now the policy itself is in effect. And it means that millions of Americans now can get health insurance who could not get it in the past and millions of Americans who did have health insurance before should now have better and in most cases, more affordable choices for their coverage.
And all the talking about it in Washington, if you put it aside, really, the real question is whether this much more under the radar political effort in the states can effectively stop Americans from getting insurance that they might really like if only they knew how to get it.
Joining us now is Michael Smerconish. He’s a radio host on Sirius XM. He’s an MSNBC contributor. Michael spent eight weeks trying unsuccessfully to find insurance options for himself and his family through healthcare.gov, before it finally worked this week.
Michael, it’s great to see you. Thanks for being here
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Rachel, for having me.
MADDOW: So you had a miserable eight weeks, early experience trying to get through the federal exchange. But now, it has worked for you, is that right?
SMERCONISH: It is. I had Eureka moment yesterday. And what broke the log jam for me was a new feature on the Web site that allowed me to withdraw my prior applications. This time, I used a brand-new e-mail, frankly an e-mail address that I obtained just for this purpose, because the system wouldn’t allow me.
I made so many efforts I think the system thought I was somehow a fraud, to which I responded if a crook spent that much time trying to impersonate me, he deserves my health insurance.
MADDOW: You know, the exact same thing happened to me on PayPal the other day. I spent so long trying to get back in to my old PayPal account, that ultimately, I was ready to arrest myself, I seemed so suspicious.
I know you were a Republican until a few years ago. You and I talked about lots of policy issues like this over the years. What is your take on Republican state governments and these conservative groups that are telling people, don’t get health insurance that are trying to make it impossible for people to find out about their options? What do you make of that politically and practically?
SMERCONISH: Well, now that I’m in, I have 24 different plans that are competing for my business. So I’ve got tremendous choice. And they range in price from a thousand dollars a month to $2,000 a month. And the deductible is what fluctuates in the balance, but I get it now why this was an idea that grew out of the Heritage Foundation, because it’s an antithesis of socialism.
I laughed when I hear that charge because it’s either Independence Blue Cross or it’s Aetna. These are private insurers competing for my business, so that I can then go into the marketplace and still select my physician.
I completely understand how this is in sync with free market capitalism. So, the Republicans now, you know, abandoning an idea that was originally their own is purely for political purposes. And I think that what illustrates this so clearly is what you just described. These advocacy efforts to say don’t get insurance, that is so antithetical to the idea, the Republican idea of personal responsibility.
I mean, what we really need to ask ourselves is, who will pay for those who don’t get insurance or who are allowed to maintain an under- insured policy. Well, society is going to pay. And that was part of the premise at the outset, we wanted to cover people, right? But we also wanted to make sure that those who had coverage were not caring for those who used the E.R. as a primary care facility.
So what they’re doing now is so out of whack, dare I say with basic conservatism, that I think it exposes their true hand. . . .
I have a very bright and dear friend who reads this page (yes, Peter — I’m talking about YOU!) who assured me the other day he thought Obamacare was a disaster and that it was actually the Democrats who shut down the government this past fall. That is how powerful Fox News and the Republican religion is.
In my view, it’s incredibly destructive, whether on health care or in keeping us from modernizing our crumbling infrastructure or in dealing more aggressively with climate change or in giving the working poor a larger piece of the pie* or passing comprehensive immigration reform — all of which would boost our economy and compellingly improve our collective future (including, ironically, that of the ultra-rich).
*With, thus, more purchasing power to boost the economy and less need for food stamps that adds to our debt. Henry Ford got that he should pay his workers enough so they could buy what they made; why are today’s Republicans so sure only lowering taxes on the rich can boost the economy? They’re wrong, of course, as Nick Hanauer makes so clear.
Quote of the Day
That I'm their competition.~Famed hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt, when asked the most important thing an investor could learn from him.
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