Our country is split down the middle when it comes to Medicaid. Literally.
25 states and the District of Columbia have elected to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. That includes states with both Democrats and Republicans in control.
Unfortunately, politicians in 25 states have actively refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would pay for 100 percent of costs through 2016, and never less than 90 percent after that.
The stubbornness of these politicians is leaving 5 million Americans without access to affordable health insurance.
Luckily, the White House and wide variety of activist groups are pursuing the issue in 2014. In Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Maine, there are signs that next year’s legislative sessions could offer a path to expanding the program in those states.
In addition, enough voters are waking up to the needless cruelty of blocking Medicaid expansion to make it a viable campaign issue. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was elected governor in purple Virginia in part by promising to make expansion a priority. 200,000 Virginians would be helped by such an action.
Rep. Mike Michaud, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maine, has made an issue out of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s outright refusal to expand Medicaid. “It’s not just good economics; it’s the morally right thing to do,” Michaud writes on his campaign website.
However, the big win would be in Texas, which has the most uninsured of any state in the country. Nearly 2 million Texans would benefit from expansion, but Gov. Rick Perry refuses to take any action on the issue.
More than 16,000 Texans have signed our petition to Gov. Perry to expand Medicaid. Join them.
Tags: Florida, Health Care, Maine, Medicaid, Mike Michaud, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Paul LePage, Rick Perry, Terry McAuliffe, Virginia
At your Thanksgiving dinner this year, the new health care law is bound to come up in conversation. You’ll hear a lot of myths about the Affordable Care Act, and Working America wants you to be prepared with the facts.
“Obamacare will make my premiums go up.”
The vast majority of people are expected to pay lower health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act, and many will also be eligible for financial assistance. In fact, premiums in some states are higher because of politicians blocking parts of the new law.
Remember before health reform? Even if you had insurance, you were paying a ton out of pocket for services your plan didn’t cover, sometimes even simple services like blood tests. But now that there are rules about what plans have to cover, we’ll all save money in the long run by paying less out of pocket, even if premiums for some folks are higher.
Under Obamacare, overall costs are rising slower than they have in previous years: more people are getting coverage, which means more people are accessing preventive care instead of expensive emergency care, which lowers costs for everyone.
In fact, premiums are higher in some states because of politicians who refuse to implement parts of the law. For example, the average Wisconsinite is paying $1,800 more annually for health care than the average Minnesotan, partly because Minnesota expanded Medicaid and does a better job reviewing their rates. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican governors have refused to expand Medicaid
“Obama lied about me being able to keep my health care plan under Obamacare.”
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act hasn’t been perfect, but President Obama didn’t lie. Health insurance companies, not any elected official, are responsible for plans being canceled.
Before Obamacare, there were few rules about what health plans had to cover. Millions of Americans had plans that were so shoddy, they ended up paying out of pocket for a lot of their medical costs. Too often, having insurance was a lot like not having insurance.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover at least 60% of the total cost of medical services for a standard population. Plans must also cover at least ten essential services, including lab services and hospitalization. Just like how there are rules about selling lead toys, bad meat, and moldy produce, the new law established rules about the quality of health insurance plans. These rules kick in on January 1, 2014.
The problem is that even after the law was passed, insurance companies kept pushing plans that didn’t meet these minimum standards. The insurance companies knew these plans would have to be canceled when the new law kicked in, but they kept selling them anyway.
Given the lack of warning from their insurance company, many customers were shocked to discover that their plans would soon be canceled. What’s worse, many companies are taking advantage of this situation by trying to push those customers onto more expensive plans.
If your plan was canceled, there are solutions. You can purchase insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace, where you’ll have more options. Depending on your income and the size of your family, you may be eligible for financial assistance that will make coverage even more affordable.
“Obamacare steals from Medicare.”
The Affordable Care Act actually helps Medicare by eliminating waste and inefficiency. Medicare benefits are not affected by the health reform law — but they would be affected if we turned it into a voucher system.
You may have heard someone say “Obamacare takes $716 billion from Medicare.” That’s a lie. That statement has been proven false by Politifact and almost every news organization that has covered the issue.
But where does that number come from? The Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce future Medicare spending, and the savings are estimated at $716 billion over 10 years. The savings come from reducing subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans (saving taxpayer money!) and from taxes on drug companies, device makers, and insurers. Luckily, those companies will be able to afford those new fees because of all the new customers they’ll get as a result of the law.
So, Medicare benefits will not be affected by Obamacare — but they would be affected by the budgets proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which replaces Medicare with “vouchers” to use on the private market.
“Obamacare is forcing me to buy health care.”
Let’s face it: everyone will need health care at some point in their lives. Under the new law, you can either purchase health insurance or pay a small fee. Regardless, prices are lower for everyone.
Before Obamacare, many people who could not afford insurance got their medical care from the emergency room. Emergency care is more expensive than preventive care and free of charge for those who use it but cannot afford to pay for services, so when more people wait until an emergency to access care (because they couldn’t see a doctor beforehand) that increases overall health care costs and leads to higher premiums for everyone.
Essentially, Americans were already paying for “universal health care” through the emergency room, which made health care more expensive, less efficient, and more dangerous for patients.
The Affordable Care Act takes that burden off our shoulders by asking every individual to buy insurance — the “individual mandate.” Every American has to have some sort of health insurance or pay a fee; because of subsidies and other assistance having coverage is almost always the easier choice.
“Obamacare isn’t working because the federal government can’t do anything right.”
A bumpy start for a massive and complex law doesn’t mean Obamacare “isn’t’t working.” And Medicaid expansion, which is a program of the federal government, is already helping millions of people under the new law.
Yes, there have been some problems with the federal health exchange, especially the website. By comparison, the expansion of the public Medicaid program — insurance for low-income and disabled Americans — has been going very well. Oregon, for instance, has cut its number of uninsured citizens nearly in half thanks to Medicaid expansion.
Plus, millions of Americans have already been helped by Obamacare’s provisions: allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26, scrapping lifetime caps, rebates from insurance companies, and ending to the shameful practice of denying insurance because of preexisting conditions.
Unfortunately, governors and legislators in 24 states are refusing to accept Medicaid expansion, even though it would cost their states almost nothing until 2020. About 5 million Americans who would be eligible for Medicaid can’t access it because of these politicians. The more uninsured, the more people using the emergency room for care, which drives up costs for everyone.
It’s been about 8 weeks since the website was launched, and glitches are being fixed every day. Remember: Social Security and Medicare took several years to get up and running. That doesn’t mean they are failures.
“Obamacare is a government takeover of health care. I don’t want socialized medicine!”
Every plan offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace is offered by a private company. Far from “socialized medicine,” the Affordable Care Act is based on free market ideas.
The government is not in the business of selling insurance. Every plan available on the health exchange is offered by a private company, co-op, or other health related organization.
Obamacare is in fact based on free market principles: that competition between private insurance companies will bring down prices. Some of the central ideas behind Obamacare come from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and were first proposed by Republicans in Congress during the 1990’s.
This is very different from a single-payer system like in Canada, where the government pays for all health care costs. It’s also different from the National Health Service in Great Britain, where all doctors are employees of the state.
“We can’t afford Obamacare.”
The Affordable Care Act pays for itself and cuts the federal deficit at the same time.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the Affordable Care Act will cut the federal budget deficit by a whopping $210 billion dollars by 2021.
How? A combination of fees on insurers and device-makers, ending subsidies to expensive Medicare Advantage plans, and reducing Medicare payments to hospitals and insurers by eliminating waste and fraud.
And you know what else? Like we’ve said, when more people have health insurance and fewer people are using the emergency room for care, that saves money for all of us.
Want to learn more? Sign up for health care tips and info at Working America Health Care.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Medicaid, Medicare, obamacare, Turkey Talk, Working America Health Care
The health insurance industry is reacting badly to President Obama’s announced health care “fix” — which would allow customers to keep health plans that may not meet minimum standards.
“This decision continues different rules for different policies and threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond,” said Jim Donelon, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
That response lead cartoonist Mark Fiore to ask: when doesn’t the health insurance industry react to an event by raising premiums?
Remember during the health insurance Wild West before health care reform, when premiums were skyrocketing, not to mention loads of people getting dropped from their plans? Remember leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when premiums rose? That suddenly seems like so long ago. Remember the insurance companies complaining about rising premiums before? Me neither.
Mark Fiore’s cartoon above, “A message from the Health Insurers of America,” is a good reminder that private insurance companies are responsible for high premiums, and that they will take the opportunity to pad their profits more often than not.
Since I am a self-employed cartoonist, I’ve been living in the health insurance wilderness for quite a while. My family’s plan was canceled, like all those other people you’ve heard about lately.
Fiore’s solution? Kicking his old insurance company to the curb and getting a better deal from his state’s new health exchange, California Covered — even more affordable with subsidies.
Since I’m not holding my breath that my insurance provider will “un-cancel” me, let alone offer my previous plan at the same price, off to California Covered I go! Once I’m there, thanks to generous subsidies, my premium will be lower than before. Ah, America!
Do insurance companies deserve all the blame? No sir. You can also lay the burden at the feet of Republican governors and legislators who have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving more than 5 million Americans without access to affordable coverage. That means more people using the emergency room, which means higher overall health care costs, which means — you guessed it — higher premiums for everyone.
If you don’t believe the effect that stubborn governors can have on health care costs, just compare average premiums in Minnesota (Medicaid expanded) and Wisconsin (Gov. Scott Walker refuses Medicaid expansion). Due to the difference in Medicaid eligibility and a better review of rates in Minnesota, the average Wisconsinite is paying $1,800 more than the average Minnesotan.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Medicaid, Minnesota, obamacare, Scott Walker, Wisconsin
At 9:40 am, Monday, November 25th, Working America members and activists will gather at a press conference to urge Ohio State Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beaver Creek) to support a permanent expansion of Medicaid in Ohio. While the Ohio controlling board extended Medicaid through July 2015, legislative action will be needed to make the expansion permanent.
The Medicaid expansion is critical to Ohio’s economic health. It is projected to create approximately 25,000 jobs in Ohio, and would cover approximately 300,000 Ohioans by 2016 if it is extended. Because of the federal money that the expansion draws into the state, it will also save Ohio taxpayers over $1.8 billion.
“Expanding Medicaid is the only policy that makes sense,” said Emma Godsey, a community organizer with Working America. “It will help cover uninsured Ohioans, create jobs and save the state money. Failing to make the expansion permanent is a grave mistake, and it would hurt all of us.”
“My family will be directly affected by Medicaid expansion, and we need to know that we can count on it,” said Shonda Sneed, a Working America member. “Medicaid expansion will help keep my family balanced, and will help us balance the state budget, too.”
WHAT: Press conference urging extension of Medicaid expansion
WHO: Working America organizers, members and allies
WHERE: Beaver Creek City Hall Council Chambers, 1368 Research Drive, Beaver Creek, OH
WHEN: 9:40 am November 25th
Contact: Emma Godsey: 614-376-9272
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, John Kasich, Medicaid, Ohio, Rick Perales
On Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert helped turn Walmart’s food drive fiasco into a full-blown PR nightmare.
Earlier this week, a Walmart associate shared a photo from a Canton, Ohio store showing empty bins with a sign that read “Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.”
Not only is Walmart not taking responsibility for their low wages and unfair scheduling practices that put many of their employees “in need.” They are placing the burden on their fellow associates to help them out.
“Some critics out there are saying Walmart isn’t doing enough, but they’re wrong because Walmart isn’t doing anything,” Colbert told his audience. “These bins are for employees to donate to other employees. And where can Walmart low-wage employees find cheap food to donate? Walmart.”
“Anyone can afford food there,” he continued, “except people who work at Walmart.”
This is just another way Walmart, despite huge profits and exorbitant executive pay, places its financial burdens on others. Because of Walmart’s low wages, erratic scheduling, and lack of health benefits for more employees, each Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers approximately $900,000 in Medicaid, SNAP, and other public assistance.
Walmart claims they pay an average hourly wage of $12.78, but independent analyses peg that number closer to $9 an hour. A Walmart executive boasted at a Goldman Sachs conference in September that 475,000 of the company’s U.S. associates make more than $25,000 a year, implying that the vast majority of Walmart’s 1.4 million American employees make less than that.
This business model is a choice, not a necessity. A Demos report showed how Walmart could double hourly wages just by not repurchasing billions of dollars its own stock. An analysis from Fortune magazine’s senior editor Stephen Gandel — hardly a left-winger — demonstrates that Walmart could give its employees a 50 percent raise and still deliver on its promises to shareholders.
Thus far, Walmart is refusing to listen to shareholders, independent business analysts, or its own workers. That’s why we’re standing up on Black Friday – stand with us by finding an event near you.
Tags: black friday, CEO Pay, Medicaid, minimum wage, retail, Stephen Colbert, Walmart
The photo above comes from the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton, Ohio.
The bins aren’t to collect cans for a food pantry somewhere else in the city. They are meant to collect food for Walmart associates themselves.
Here’s some context. The average Walmart sale associate makes $8.81 per hour, according to the independent market research group IBISWorld. That translates into $15,576 a year if the associate works a full-time schedule of 34 hours a week. But that’s actually pegging it quite high, as many associates have highly erratic or meager work schedules that don’t allow them anywhere close to full-time status.
For a three-person household (two parents and a child, for instance), the 2013 federal poverty level is $19,530.
When their paychecks don’t cut it, many associates turn to public assistance to make up the difference. Walmart’s low wages and insufficient scheduling are behind the enormous costs to the taxpayer incurred by each store. One Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers $900,000 in Medicaid, SNAP, housing assistance, and other forms of public assistance.
But beyond the numbers are the associates themselves, juggling unpredictable schedules and light paychecks, who see the food bins as a sign that the company sees their struggle as the rule, not the exception:
An employee at the Canton store wasn’t feeling that Walmart was looking out for her when she went to her locker more than two weeks ago and discovered the food drive containers. To her, the gesture was proof the company acknowledged many of its employees were struggling, but also proof it was not willing to substantively address their plight.
The employee said she didn’t want to use her name for fear of being fired. In a dozen years working at the company, she had never seen a food drive for employees, which she described as “demoralizing” and “kind of depressing”.
An analysis by Fortune shows that Walmart can afford to give its employees a 50 percent raise without hurting its bottom line. But low wages are only one part of the widespread culture of disrespect, retaliation, and indifference Walmart shows its employees.
More than ever before, associates are standing up to this culture, and we’re standing with them. On November 29, 2013, protests are planned at Walmart stores across the country, and all are welcome to stand in solidarity with associates.
Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer. They have set the standard for an entire generation of business practices. Whether or not we shop there, what they do at their company affects all of us.
Visit BlackFridayProtests.org to find an event near you.
Tags: black friday, Health Care, Medicaid, minimum wage, Ohio, retail, Rights At Work, Walmart
Alaska’s Republican Governor Sean Parnell announced Friday that he would be refusing federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others who have made a similar decision, Gov. Parnell described his decision in vague terms:
Parnell said the Affordable Care Act involved a combination of parts.
“Many of those pieces are failing,” Parnell said. “Can states trust the federal government to not cut and run on its share?”
He described Medicaid as already one of the state’s most costly programs.
That’s why the federal government is paying for 100 percent of Medicaid expansion until 2020, at which point they’ll pay for 90 percent. Gov. Parnell is refusing a policy that will come at no cost to his state for years.
As for the “pieces” of the Affordable Care Act that Gov. Parnell says are “failing,” it’s certain that Medicaid expansion is working quite well.
The number of people lacking health insurance in Oregon, for instance, was halved in just two weeks, with more than 60,000 people signing up.
Kentucky has one of the most successful health insurance exchanges in the country, with more than 5,000 enrollees in the first month. But even there, five times as many people have successfully joined the Medicaid rolls.
While the private insurance-based Health Insurance Marketplace has had an uneasy rollout, the public, single payer-esque Medicaid expansion has worked phenomenally. If Gov. Parnell was serious about implementing parts of the law with a proven record, he would accept Medicaid expansion in a heartbeat.
But like Govs. Walker, Perry, McCrory and others, Parnell is less interested in giving his constituents access to affordable health insurance than he is in making a political statement. And as a result, insurance premiums are higher for everyone, and thousands remain unable to access the care they need.
Photo by wonderlane on Flickr
Tags: Affordable Care Act, alaska, Medicaid, Pat McCrory, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, sean parnell, Tom Corbett
Thanksgiving is coming up! As I reflect on what I’m thankful for, one of the many things is the healthcare that my family and I had while I was growing up. My dad, a waiter, is in a union, and unionized workers at his restaurant collectively bargained for the healthcare that kept my family secure.
But not all workers and their families can give thanks for their healthcare this Thanksgiving, because some workers don’t have healthcare.
As of January 1st, 613,000 uninsured low-income Pennsylvanians—the majority of whom are working—could gain access to healthcare if Gov. Tom Corbett embraces the opportunity to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania.
Thus far, Gov. Corbett has been playing politics instead of taking effective action. Instead of simply welcoming federal Medicaid expansion funds, Gov. Corbett is pushing a cumbersome and cost-inefficient plan that may take an alarmingly long time to implement.
It’s easy to be distraught, frustrated, or flat-out furious about Gov. Corbett’s current approach. But the process of getting involved and holding Gov. Corbett accountable can be genuinely uplifting, as Working America member Georgeanne Koehler’s experience shows.
Georgeanne personally knows the weight of Gov. Corbett’s decisions about Medicaid expansion, as her brother passed away at the age of 57 because he couldn’t access the healthcare he needed. Georgeanne has since fought to ensure that no one has to go through what her brother or her family went through.
On Halloween, Georgeanne participated in Working America and One Pittsburgh’s Medicaid expansion event in front of Gov. Corbett’s office. She highlighted what’s truly scary: being uninsured. After the event, Georgeanne wrote about her experience at the event:
On October 31st, 2013, I got up and headed to downtown Pittsburgh to attend a Working America rally to Expand Medicaid. Although I was early, soon I was joined by Working America members, One Pittsburgh members and a few PHAN members.
There were handshakes and hugs, “How are you?” and “What’s been going on with you?”, and smiles all around. I knew most of the folks that came to the rally. These are folks that struggle every day to get through their day, and when the sun sets on that day, they are able to pat themselves on the back because they found a way to made it through another day. Some grieve, just like me, for a family member who was lost because of our broken healthcare system. They know that nothing they do will bring their loved one back, but everything they do will be done to keep another American from knowing that grief.
The folks at the rally have one goal: to make America the best she can be. They know that to meet that goal they have to stand up for fairness and justice, and they do it so well. When the rally ended and the last “See you soon” was said, I found myself filled with overwhelming pride. On Oct. 31, 2013, for a few hours, which seemed like a minute, I stood with true-blue red, white and blue heroes. Oct. 31, 2013 I was the luckiest girl in the world!
You’re invited to join us as we continue to stand up together for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and their loved ones. Contact me, Catherine Balsamo, at email@example.com or 412-456-2985 to get involved.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Healthcare, Jobs, Medicaid, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Tom Corbett
A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found that 67 percent of Texans support the expansion of Medicaid, which would allow 1.2 million in the state to afford health insurance.
Two-thirds of voters support giving states the option to expand their Medicaid programs for low-income, uninsured adults. That majority spanned the ideological spectrum on an issue that Texas lawmakers ducked last session, opting not to expand that coverage.
Republican Governor Rick Perry, who is leaving office in January 2015 after three terms, has refused Medicaid expansion at every turn. He has said expanding Medicaid would be “like putting another thousand people on the Titanic,” whatever that means. Past standard anti-Obamacare claptrap, he has not offered any solutions for the 1.2 million Texans who don’t have health insurance, the most of any state in the country. Perry’s refusal also leaves $79 billion in federal assistance on the table.
But the Perry administration’s opposition to Obamacare implementation goes past Medicaid. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is seeking to succeed Perry, has also placed additional restrictions on health care “navigators,” making it more difficult for Texans to obtain insurance on the state exchange.
More than any website glitch, the deliberate obstruction of politicians like Perry and Abbott is what stands between Texans and affordable health coverage. And public opinion stands firmly against this reckless, needless cruelty.
Take Action: Tell Gov. Perry to accept Medicaid expansion and allow 1.2 million Texans to afford health insurance.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Greg Abbott, Health Care, Medicaid, obamacare, Rick Perry, Texas
AFL-CIO’s Damon Silvers went on CNBC last week to make it clear that the labor movement won’t give political cover to any elected official, Republican or Democrat, who seeks cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.
But sometimes “cuts” hide in the form of other changes to earned benefits. Silvers gave the example of “Chained CPI,” which cuts Social Security by changing how benefits are calculated. “Chained CPI is the vampire of American politics,” Silvers told the Washington Post. “It keep being shot through the heart and it keeps reviving.”
Here’s another vampire idea that needs to die: raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67.
The argument typically goes like this: with modern medicine, people are living longer than they did when Medicare set the retirement age at 65, so why not raise the eligibility age to keep up with the times? After all, we need to save money!
This argument conveniently ignores what happens to the millions of 65 and 66 year olds who would no longer be able to access coverage through Medicare, which they have paid into throughout their entire lives.
Many of these seniors with low enough incomes will be pushed into Medicaid, shifting costs onto that other program. Some will have incomes high enough to be ineligible for Medicaid but low enough to qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance on the health exchanges on the Affordable Care Act.
But many more seniors will lose coverage altogether, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, because while their incomes make them ineligible for Medicaid or subsidies, health insurance companies will consider them to be extremely expensive. “Because exchange plans could charge the oldest workers three times as much as the youngest, unsubsidized premiums could reach $10,000 to $12,000 (in 2014 terms) for 65- and 66-year-old individuals and twice that for couples.” Even if every state implemented ACA completely, that’s about 200,000 more uninsured seniors, according to Matt Stoller of the Roosevelt Institute.
So for increased pressure on Medicaid and more seniors unable to buy coverage at all, how much money do we save? The Congressional Budget Office has updated numbers on that front: the net savings would amount to less than $3 billion a year, a paltry sum in the context of the federal budget.
Thursday, the CBO said the overall savings wouldn’t amount to as much as it had previously estimated. Instead of saving the federal government about $113 billion over a decade, CBO now figures it’s more like $19 billion over eight years starting in 2016.
Joan McCarter wants this idea to be finally laid to rest:
It will keep people working longer, and that means it will cost their employers—and everyone with private insurance—more in insurance premiums to cover this older, sicker population. The thing is, people still need health care when they’re 65. There isn’t a magic two years between 65 and 67 when everyone is healthy and doesn’t need to go to the doctor.
If we are serious about raising revenue and dealing with our fiscal health, we ought to stop looking at seniors – who have earned Social Security and Medicare by paying into it through a lifetime of paychecks – and start looking at the complex web of tax avoidance schemes of the very billionaires and large corporations that are pushing these cuts to begin with.
Tags: Medicaid, Medicare, Retirement, Retirement Security, social security