Deep uncertainty and serious divisions within the Republican coalition about the way forward on Obamacare have surfaced in the new Congress, and they’ve put the future of repeal and replace in doubt.
Social Security has long earned its status as "the third rail of American politics"--touch it, and your political career gets electrocuted. But its immunity had seemed threatened during the Congressional negotiations over the federal budget deal reached Monday night. Leaks from the party caucuses and negotiations suggested that the agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling and remove some sequester caps would be paid for by cuts to Social Security disability benefits and Medicare.
Earlier this month, the government reported something incredible: Just 9.2 percent of Americans lack health insurance. Why such big news? As I flagged at Forbes, it was the first time ever that a major survey found more than 90 percent of Americans had health coverage.
Every so often—okay, not very often actually, but more often than I hunt, or “take” (what a verb!), lions—I feel a little wistful about the Republican Party we all once knew. And that feeling is never stronger than when I reflect on the history of Medicare and Medicaid, which I spent part of yesterday doing, what with it being the 50th anniversary of the passage of the bill and all.
RaDonna Kuekelhan and her sister, Cathy O’Mara, have spent their whole lives in and around southeast Kansas, a largely rural area wedged up against Oklahoma and Missouri. Long pastoral stretches separate the region’s smattering of ghostly quiet small towns, the depopulated remains of a thriving industrial past. Cathy left the area briefly as a young woman, following a man to Florida, a decision she still regrets.
For a long time, many American cities housed their poorest residents in giant public housing towers that had little going for them except for the fact they were affordable. Crime was rampant and indiscriminate, drugs were everywhere, and children who grew up in housing projects often had little access to educational opportunities that would allow them to live a better life than their parents did. Perhaps the most illustrative story of the horror of the housing projects was that of Dantrell Davis, the seven-year-old boy shot to death on his way to school one morning in the Cabrini Green project in Chicago.
In a speech delivered April 14 in New Hampshire, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie proposed a large across-the-board cut in Social Security benefits that would primarily target poor Americans. In a remarkable bit of political salesmanship, he also managed to get this covered in the press as primarily a proposal to reduce benefits for wealthy retirees. The proposal is part of an effort by Christie, whose 2016 chances have dimmed considerably in recent years, to position himself as the Republican brave enough to take on the politically difficult fights the rest of his party won't. In recent years, congressional Republicans have decided to back off any cuts to Social Security — Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, for instance, simply punts on the issue altogether.
When it comes to health care at the Supreme Court this year, all eyes are focused on the Obamacare tax credits case, King v. Burwell. But a case decided this week, Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc., has raised significant concerns for the availability of quality health care for those who need it most. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court turned against decades of legal precedent and ruled that Medicaid providers cannot use the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution to stop state provider payment policies that are inconsistent with the federal Medicaid Act’s requirement for adequate reimbursement rates. That may sound like a bunch of legalese, but the outcome has a real impact on the 68 million-plus people relying on Medicaid.
In 1988, Ronald Reagan traveled to the Soviet Union and gave a speech at Moscow State University, making the case for capitalism. America’s secret, he argued, was its entrepreneurs, whose “courage to take risks” was responsible “for almost all the economic growth in the United States” and much of its technological edge. This risk-taking was made possible, he continued, by economic freedom, which he associated with “limited, unintrusive” government. Reagan was right about the link between startups and growth, but wrong in assuming that small government was the way to encourage them. His belief in a tradeoff between taking care of citizens and promoting innovative new businesses is at odds with the evidence.
"The Daily Show" has just made a huge difference in the lives of veterans, helping many gain access to a program they were unfairly kept from using. The Choice Program, which was put in place to speed access to medical care after it was revealed that some patients had been waiting months for treatment, allows veterans who live far from VA facilities to get out-of-network care closer to home. The problem? To be eligible, you have to live 40 miles from the nearest VA facility using "as-the-crow-flies" miles.
The House's top two leaders are on the verge of securing a sweeping deal to permanently fix a gaping hole in Medicare that has haunted Congress for more than a decade while also securing significant long-term savings in the program. And shockingly, it has broad support among Democrats and Republicans, including even some hardline conservatives who have spent years thwarting bipartisan agreements. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) are aiming to finalize the deal this week and put it to a vote next week, leadership sources said.
More than 16 million Americans gained health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, mainly via the law's health insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion, according to an analysis published Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services. The government estimate is consistent with numerous surveys taken over the past two years. The Health and Human Services report issued Monday is based in part on findings from the polling company Gallup, which found the uninsured rate has fallen from 20.3 percent in October 2013, when Obamacare sign-ups began, to 12.3 percent during the first quarter of this year.
President Barack Obama is slated to speak to students at Georgia Tech on Tuesday about how he wants to make the process of repaying student loans easier to understand and manage. Obama will sign a “student aid bill of rights” and will speak about an assortment of policy tweaks and projects to try to make it easier to help people with student loans pay back their debt. "It's our responsibility to make sure that the 40 million Americans with student loans are aware of resources to manage their debt, and that we are doing everything we can to be responsive to their needs," said Ted Mitchell, undersecretary of education, on a conference call with reporters. More than 70 percent of U.S. students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree leave with debt, which averages $28,400.
Today’s question asks if the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) is recomputed for people who continue working past full retirement age. The answer explains how Social Security calculates your benefit and how frequently it does so, and reviews the benefits that you can potentially increase by continuing to work.
Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for over two years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions. Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version.
Pity the poor Republican governor. Take John Kasich of Ohio. He's caught between a state budget that has to be balanced every year, one of the least healthy state populations in the country, a deep purple electorate, a Republican legislature, and his own presumed presidential aspirations in 2016. For a time, it looked like he might also face a stiff challenge to keep his office this year, though an improving economy and a catastrophically gaffe-prone Democratic nominee leave him in the catbird seat.
The unearthed recording of Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst decrying the fact that Americans are insufficiently “self-sufficient” has invited comparisons to the hidden camera footage of Mitt Romney writing off 47 percent of the electorate, and commentary on the candor with which she lumps government health insurance subsidies (which she, too, enjoys as a state employee) together with welfare spending. But the most revealing thing about the comments is how breezily she renders contradictory judgments about the concept of dependency. Because it is apparently not dependency, but rather poverty, that she finds so abhorrent.
Last Thursday the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project. The case concerns the “disparate impact” rule, a legal guideline embedded in the 1968 Fair Housing Act that says discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional to be discrimination. This rule has been at the bedrock of fair-housing enforcement for more than four decades. Another way to understand disparate impact is this: It’s a way to confront the realities of racial inequality without trying to prove the motivations of an institution, organization, or landlord. In housing especially, it’s rare to get someone as explicit about his discrimination as Donald Sterling.
Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the law has weathered a government shutdown, a Supreme Court challenge and scores of political attack ads. But while an estimated 20 million people have gained insurance under the law, it still has no shortage of opponents, from lawmakers trying to repeal it, governors blocking portions of it and lawyers challenging its constitutionality. More Americans, after all, still oppose the law than support it. So where does that leave us? One year after the ACA opened its new health insurance markets to the public, we asked some of the country’s smartest health-care thinkers, from in and outside government and both sides of the aisle, to tell us what Obamacare hasn’t fixed in the American health-care system—and what we can do now.
I am 23 years old. I've got $60,000 in debt from student loans. I make around $10 an hour working as a cook, and I live off of about $20 a week after I cover rent and other expenses. Since I graduated, my degree has been pretty much useless. When people see that I have a degree, it's like it doesn't even mean anything. Every job that I've done, it's kind of been by personal relation or word of mouth.