The health exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, opened on October 1, 2013. An analysis by Bloomberg Government shows that competition among health insurance companies on the Health Exchange Marketplace is driving down premiums by as much as a third.
Rates released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show that the price of policies offered in “rating areas” with 10 or more participating insurers are between 31 percent and 35 percent lower than those for the same policies in areas with only one issuer.
A preliminary review of rates in the remaining 14 to 16 states and the District of Columbia that will run their own exchanges suggests that a similar pattern holds in most.
The pattern shows that at least for 2014 exchanges probably will live up to one of their advocates’ key claims: that the ACA can expand coverage while constraining costs.
House Republicans and the Tea Party are going to extreme lengths to delay, defund, and/or repeal Obamacare. Our question is: Why? The health insurance exchanges are, in some ways, a triumph for market-based conservative ideals.
After all, Republicans supported Obamacare…before Obama. Seriously. Lots of them.
Quick history lesson: In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which required all hospitals participating in Medicare (pretty much all of them) to provide emergency room treatment to anyone who showed up. Policy experts began to worry about the “free rider problem,” where people wouldn’t pay for health insurance because they could just show up at the ER if they got sick (this was passed at the same time as COBRA, for those of you keeping score at home).
In 1989, Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, wrote a paper called “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” in which he proposed the “individual mandate.” That’s the idea, that ended up in Obamacare, that all Americans be required to have health insurance or pay a fine. It’s also the idea that makes the exchanges work: private insurance companies can accept the regulations and “managed competition” of the Health Insurance Marketplace because Americans are required to be customers.
During the health care debate in 1993, Republicans proposed an alternative to President Bill Clinton’s plan that included the individual mandate. Among these Republicans were Newt Gingrich, Orrin Hatch, and Chuck Grassley, who all now rail against Obamacare.
And, of course one-time Obama opponent Mitt Romney included an individual mandate in his health care plan as governor of Massachusetts. Here’s what he said in April 2006:
…we’ve come up with something that’s much closer to Republican ideals: reform the market to make the health-insurance marketplace work better. Insist on personal responsibility instead of government responsibility.
Now, since that time, Romney, Gingrich, and even Heritage’s Stuart Butler have twisted themselves into pretzels saying how different their ideas are from Obamacare, detailed here by Forbes’ Avik Roy. And yes, the Affordable Care Act is a large bill containing various components that some people like and some don’t. But the idea of private health insurance companies competing for customers in the free market is a (small-c) conservative idea, an idea supported by the Republican Party in various ways over the past 30 years.
So instead of shutting down the government and throwing tantrums, conservatives should be beaming with pride. You got Democratic President Obama and a Democratic Congress to pass one of your ideas into law. And so far, it ain’t half bad!
Get the most out of the Affordable Care Act. Sign up at WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org today.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, bill clinton, chuck grassley, Health Care, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, obamacare, orrin hatch, ronald reagan
Workers at Guitar Center’s flagship Chicago store voted last week to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Earlier this summer, workers at the Manhattan Guitar Center votedoverwhelmingly to join the RWDSU.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said the Chicago vote “proves that retail workers are ready and willing to stand up and demand change.” He added:
Retail workers at Guitar Center nationwide are reaching out to the union because they understand that when they unite and stand together, their voices will be heard.
The Guitar Center chain is owned by Bain Capital and is the world’s largest musical instrument retailer with some 220 stores in the United States.
Brian Webb, a sales associate at the Chicago store, told Rolling Stone that he struggles to survive on his pay of roughly $11 an hour.
I make exactly as much as I did when I started here seven years ago. Anyone who works a hard, 40-hour week should be able to earn an honest living. This isn’t just about our store—it’s part of a larger effort to revive the middle class in this country.
Many of the company’s employees are musicians themselves. Webb plays guitar and sings in a local band called Jonny Rumble. After Guitar Center workers and the RWDSU launched a petition drive to build support for their campaign, a number of prominent musicians and members of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) signed on, including Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Billy Bragg, Ted Leo and Kathleen Hanna.
Add your name to the petition.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, bain capital, Corporate Accountability, Mitt Romney, organizing, Rights At Work, rwdsu, ufcw
Our country needs workhorses, not showhorses. We need depth of knowledge, not empty slogans. Most importantly, we need leaders who will fight for working families all of the time, not some of the time.
Let’s get specific. We need leaders who will protect the earned benefits of Medicare and Social Security. We need to stand firm against the relentless attacks on the essential functions of government: the unprecedented filibuster abuse, the man-made paralysis of the National Labor Relations Board, and the dismantling of our hard-fought protections against the Wall Street crimes that plunged American workers into deep recession.
This isn’t abstract. American workers can’t afford anything less. And that’s why we strongly urge Massachusetts voters to support Ed Markey for U.S. Senate on June 25.
Ed Markey has represented Massachusetts in Congress for many years. He’s been in the majority and the minority. He’s served with Democrats and Republicans in the White House. Through it all, he has consistently striven to make our country cleaner, more equal, more technologically savvy, and more transparent.
The camera at the bottom of the ocean that showed the oil leaking out of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010? That was Ed Markey. The creation of an entire Congressional committee devoted to developing clean energy jobs? That was Ed, too. New requirements for airline cargo screening to keep us safe? Markey.
But the choice is even clearer when you compare Markey to his Republican opponent, private equity investor Gabriel Gomez. Gomez is selling himself as a “new kind of Republican,” but on the things that matter to working families, it’s hard to see what’s new. He supports chained CPI cuts to Social Security benefits, which he calls an “entitlement.” He wants to lower the corporate tax rate, which has only lead to more off-shoring, not less. He thinks Wall Street reform is “too tough.” Like Scott Brown before him, the majority of his donations have come from the financial services sector.
Here’s the question: Do we want more Elizabeth Warren’s in DC? Or more Mitt Romney’s?
Let’s support someone who will work for working families. Vote Ed Markey for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, June 25.
Polls are open 7am to 8pm. Find where to vote here.
Paid for by Working America, 815 16th St., NW, Washington, DC 20006 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Image via Ed Markey on Facebook.
Tags: ed markey, Elizabeth Warren, gabriel gomez, Jobs, Massachusetts, Medicare, Mitt Romney, Rights At Work, Scott Brown, social security
A wealthy businessman is running on the Republican ticket for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, but he has a problem: he thinks he should get to play by different tax rules than the rest of us.
I could be talking about Mitt Romney, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy in the Bay State’s 1994 election. Or I could be talking about what’s going on right now in 2013.
Gabriel Gomez, a private equity investor who made his fortune working with companies like upscale apparel store Lululemon, is the Republican nominee to succeed former senator and current Secretary of State John Kerry. The Massachusetts special election will be held on June 25. And he has more in common with Mitt Romney than you think.
A special rate for some
During the presidential campaign, we learned a lot about Mitt Romney’s tax rate, which was effectively 14 percent in 2011 despite making $13.7 million that year. (For context, a single person making $50,000 paid roughly 23 percent that year.) This is because much of Romney’s income came from stock dividends and investments rather than salary, which are taxed under a lower rate for “capital gains.”
President Obama proposed changing this with the “Buffett Rule,” which would ensure those making $1 million or more a year wouldn’t pay a lower rate than middle class families. Romney rejected that proposal, calling it a “gimmick,” and a 45 Republican Senators blocked the proposal for even coming up for debate.
Free money for not breaking the law
As a fellow investor, Gomez also made much of his income in the form of capital gains, allowing him to pay that lower tax rate than those of us who earn wages – but that’s not all. In 2005, he also used a special deduction to effectively pay $281,500 less in taxes for doing…nothing.
That’s right. In 2005, Gomez claimed a deduction for making “no visible changes” to the façade of his 112-year old home in Cohasset, Massachusetts. Using a federal tax loophole, Gomez claimed this as a charitable contribution to protect historic homes. So poof! An extra $281,500 in the bank.
Here’s the catch: local laws already prohibited Gomez from making changes to his historic home. In other words, Gomez saved over five times the median household income in the United States just by not doing something that was illegal.
Gomez isn’t the only one who has pulled this trick. The IRS considers it one of the “Dirty Dozen” of most common tax cheats, and the organization that Gomez made the easement to has been targeted by the Department of Justice.
There were many reasons the American people rejected a potential President Romney last year, but certainly the idea that he saw no problem with keeping special breaks for a wealthy few was one of them. Gabriel Gomez has demonstrated that he feels the same way: first by making a fortune thanks to the special capital gains tax rate, and then by exploiting a loophole to maneuver an extra $281,500 into his bank account.
We need less of this greedy maneuvering and exploitation, not more.
Tags: gabriel gomez, massachuetts, Mitt Romney, taxes
Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog
While congressional Republicans are heavily focused on cutting Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefits and other harmful budget cuts that threaten the 98%, a better approach is to eliminate loopholes that allow the wealthiest 2% of Americans and Wall Street to pay much less than their fair share of taxes. Focusing on loopholes keeps money in the hands of working families, which helps the economy grow without increasing hardship and economic insecurity for working people.
Many current loopholes just aren’t fair. Take, for example, what Think Progress calls the “Mitt Romney Loophole.” People like Mitt Romney who manage investment funds get paid in two ways. Part of their income is a management fee that is taxed as ordinary income, currently at a top rate of 39.6%. But fund managers also get a cut of the profits of the investments, which is taxed as a capital gain, with a top tax rate of only 20%. The typical investment manager takes a management fee of 2% and gets a 20% cut of the profits, meaning they avoid paying the normal tax rate on the vast majority of their income, something working families are not able to do. As Think Progress explains:
This loophole is one of the main reasons that Mitt Romney paid a tax rate of just 13.9 percent on income of more than $20 MILLION. Meanwhile, millions of middle-class workers pay a much higher rate on their much, much lower salaries.
Closing this loophole would not only make our tax code fairer and more progressive, it would help raise revenue to protect vital programs and leave room in the budget for investments to grow the middle class. Closing just this one loophole that often benefits the ultra-wealthy would raise $21 billion over 10 years.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr
Tags: Corporate Accountability, deficit, Medicare, Mitt Romney, Retirement, social security, taxes
We’re never going to be truly satisfied with how the media covers elections – but after last week’s first presidential debate things got a little out of hand.
Mitt Romney came onto the stage in Denver last week and continuously stretched the truth, changed from his previous positions, and made policy proposals that were mathematically and logistically unfeasible. Blogger Igor Volsky counted 27 myths in Romney’s 38 minutes of speaking time.
Sure, we all laughed at the “Big Bird” mention, but let’s be clear: You can’t increase the size of the military, give an enormous tax cut to the wealthy, lower the corporate tax rate, and reduce the deficit and debt by eliminating subsidies for PBS.
Yet too many commentators across the spectrum awarded a “win” to Romney. Why? He earned more “style points,” some said. He “seemed” more confident and forceful, other said. With health care coverage, jobs, and housing for millions on the line, too many people used the same standards that are applied to American Idol to address the most important decision of the decade.
All this talk of style over substance bothered Working America member Sid Washington, who wrote a letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer titled “Stop focusing on candidates’ debate style and start focusing on who’s telling the truth.”
It never fails to amaze me how superficially our society judges winners and losers in political debates. Style and delivery have become the determining factors, while substance and truthfulness have become insignificant side issues.
When Mitt Romney criticizes the president for the size of the deficit, he fails to mention how Republicans ended negotiations on a deficit-reduction plan because they would not consider tax increases on the rich. When he talks about high unemployment rates, he does not discuss how Republicans have fought and voted against every proposal the president has put forward to increase jobs, including the American Jobs Act.
Instead of obsessing on who looked the best and who had the more forceful debating style, while telling lies and deceiving the voters, we should be focusing on who’s telling the truth on how his proposals will affect middle-class Americans.
But before we begin any debate, we must be truthful and acknowledge that the Republicans have vowed from Day One to make Barack Obama a one-term president. And for this vow, they have forsaken all others, including a vow to implement policies that benefit the American public.
Sid Washington Brook Park
Tags: Jobs, Mitt Romney, Ohio
Reposted from EmptyWheel.net – by Marcy Wheeler
Fairly early in Mitt’s speech last night he said this:
But today, four years from the excitement of the last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future.
It is not what we were promised.
It’s not just what we wanted. It’s not just what we expected.
It’s what Americans deserved.
You deserved it because during these years, you worked harder than ever before. You deserved it because when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out movie nights and put in longer hours. Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits, you took two jobs at 9 bucks an hour and fewer benefits. You did it because your family depended on you. You did it because you’re an American and you don’t quit. You did it because it was what you had to do.
But driving home late from that second job, or standing there watching the gas pump hit 50 dollars and still going, when the realtor told you that to sell your house you’d have to take a big loss, in those moments you knew that this just wasn’t right.
But what could you do? Except work harder, do with less, try to stay optimistic. Hug your kids a little longer; maybe spend a little more time praying that tomorrow would be a better day. [my emphasis]
The passage is fundamentally important to the logic of the speech–and indeed, Mitt’s entire campaign–both because it pretends Mitt understands the struggles of average people and because it suggests Obama failed to deliver on Hope and Change.
And at the core of the passage are $9 jobs that don’t pay enough to live on.
Which is funny, because just a few hours earlier, the Founder of Staples, Thomas Stemberg, bragged about Mitt’s role in this:
The truth is Mitt was not a typical investor. He was a true partner. Where some saw an unproven new business, he saw a store that could save people money. He recognized that efficiency creates consumer value. He never looked at Staples as merely a financial investment. He saw the engine of prosperity it could become.
Today Staples employs nearly 90,000 people. It has over 2,000 stores. Over 50 distribution centers.
The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples EasyTech Associate is $8.89. The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples Sales Associate is $8.54.
Those jobs Mitt talked about as a symbol of America’s failed promise, the ones that don’t pay a living wage? That’s what Mitt’s campaign boasted about last night as his idea of an “engine of prosperity.”
And it was an engine of prosperity, for Mitt, for Stemberg. Mitt’s worth at least $250 million. Stemberg is reportedly worth $202 million. And they got that money by running an engine of prosperity that relies on workers who are Mitt’s own example of the failure of the American dream. “This just wasn’t right,” Mitt said himself. (Not to mention that some of the steel jobs Mitt destroyed probably were $22.50 an hour jobs, with benefits.)
And look at the solution Mitt imagines for these Americans in the dead-end jobs he created. Not joining a union, the historically proven way to improve dead-end jobs. But work harder, cut back on expenses.
And, vote for Mitt Romney, the guy who destroyed those $22.50 an hour jobs and replaced them with $9 an hour ones.
The RNC spent a lot of time this week appealing to small business owners. Indeed, those small business owners are the customers whose prosperity Stemberg imagines Staples serving.
But to a large and increasing number of American people, Mitt’s actually arguing that he should be President so he can solve the problem he got phenomenally rich by causing in the first place.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr
Tags: Jobs, Mitt Romney
Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog
Although Mitt Romney continues to try and distance himself from his record of offshoring U.S. jobs overseas during his tenure at Bain Capital, a newreport by the Financial Times’ Robin Harding shows there were even more anti-worker tactics occurring under Romney’s watch at the company. Now we might understand more about why he boasted earlier this year that he’s “taken on union bosses before.”
According to the U.S. District Court and federal documents, Key Airlines, controlled by Bain Capital at the time, ran an unlawful campaign to stop the organization of a union in the 1980s. Mitt Romney was a director of the airline, according to regulatory filings, and a shareholder in the company. The Financial Times put together this report with documents from the National Mediation Board in 1986 and a 1992 judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
Financial Times reports:
Key Airlines, an early investment for the private equity firm founded by a young Mitt Romney and two associates, broke the law by attempting to coerce and then dismiss two pilots who tried to organize a union. Two months after a union vote failed, Bain agreed to sell Key Airlines at a large profit in 1986.
Those two Key Airlines pilots later brought the union suppression case to court. In 1992, Roger Foley, federal judge for the District of Nevada, wrote:
The anti-union activities in this case are not merely unfair labor practices as Key argues, but blatant, grievous, willful, deliberate and repeated violations of the Railway Labor Act.
According to the Financial Times:
Key Airlines was a small charter carrier with a military contract to ferry personnel to bases in the Nevada desert. The union effort was suppressed under Bain’s ownership in 1985 and 1986, although a court judgment against the company and its management—including Bain Capital founding partner T. Coleman Andrews III—did not come until 1992. The judgment was later qualified by a subsequent court ruling in 1994, together with an agreement to settle an appeal.
Citing safety concerns in 1985, Key Airlines pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers planned to organize a union.
Financial Times reports management began to coerce the pilots after they heard a union was forming:
According to the court ruling, Key held coercive meetings with pilots; said management would leave and the company lose contracts; and told pilots that salaries, bonuses and benefits could be frozen. Federal labor law forbids an airline “to interfere in any way with the organization of its employees.”
Although outsourcer-in-chief Mitt Romney would like us to believe he invested in companies that created U.S. jobs, his record of shipping jobs overseas at Bain Capital speaks for itself.
Now, we have suppressing workers’ right to collectively bargain to the long list of anti-worker tactics Romney and Bain Capital employed.
Read more on Key Airlines here.
Tags: Jobs, Mitt Romney, outsourcing, Rights At Work
With 16,000 members and growing, Working America is ready to make an impact in the 2012 elections for North Carolina working families.
A story in The Nation by Ari Berman details the political dynamics of North Carolina, and asks if President Obama can win the state like he did in 2012. While that’s difficult to predict, one thing is clear: North Carolinans are tired of corporations getting tax breaks to send their jobs offshore, and they are tired of politicians who campaigned on job creation but then ignored the state’s jobs crisis once in office.
There’s no question that Mitt Romney and his fellow partisans fit that bill: Mitt Romney, the Republican standard-bearer for President, is no stranger to outsourcing. And Republican Senator Richard Burr voted just this past July to filibuster (or, “avoid talking about”) the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would’ve ended those tax break for companies who move jobs overseas. (The other North Carolina Senator, Democrat Kay Hagan, strongly supported the bill.)
Berman tagged along with one of our canvassers one evening:
Working America signs up “working-class moderates” who don’t have a union job but respond favorably to a populist economic message. Organizers do this the old-fashioned way: knocking on door after door…
We talked to housewives, truck drivers, teachers, cashiers, construction workers and nurses. Jobs and healthcare were the main concerns. Brandon [the canvasser] told them about the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would end tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas. “We’re out here today to keep good jobs in North Carolina, not send them abroad,” he said during his pitch. The issue of outsourcing could play a decisive role in the campaign. “North Carolinians are folks who have read over and over and over again about their textile jobs and other manufacturing jobs going overseas,” Farinella says. “So it is my expectation that this issue of Romney’s role in Bain Capital—and the notion that Bain shipped jobs overseas—is likely to resonate in North Carolina to a greater extent than it even resonates nationally.”
Since the beginning of the year, Working America in North Carolina has swelled to over 16,000 members. We’re going to be pounding the pavement, educating voters about how their politicians have acted – or not acted – to get folks employed and keep jobs from leaving the country.
To get involved with Working America in North Carolina, sign up here or call our Greensboro office at (336) 288-4970.
Tags: Jobs, Mitt Romney, North Carolina, outsourcing
It took approximately five minutes after the announcement of Paul Ryan as the Republican running mate for the spin to begin. Anxious to pre-empt a conversation about Ryan’s plan to end the guarantee of Medicare, the Mitt Romney campaign is on the air with some (strikingly dishonest) Medicare ads of their own. They have plenty of money to advance this message, so it’s worth unpacking what’s really going on.
First and foremost, the Ryan plan, in any form, would mark the end of Medicare as we know it—as a guarantee of health coverage for senior citizens. Instead, it would give older people a voucher to go buy their own private insurance. The Ryan budget would also increase the eligibility age, delaying the time when retirees could get Medicare. That’s the proposal the U.S. House voted on and passed in March and it’s the model Ryan has continued to promote even as he’s suggested possible tweaks.
So let’s move on to the claims the Romney campaign is making. The Affordable Care Act is paid for partly through billions in future savings—about $700 billion over 10 years in reduced payments to health insurance companies and providers. A lot of that money stays in the Medicare system, by paying for free preventative care for seniors and closing the prescription drug “doughnut hole.” The attack leveled by Romney, Ryan and their allies—an attack that’s Jonathan Cohn rightly called “astoundingly cynical”—is that this constitutes a massive cut to Medicare.
But here’s the catch: in the Ryan budget that passed, these future savings are included, even as the rest of the ACA is repealed. So the same reductions that the Romney campaign is complaining about were voted on and approved by Ryan and virtually every House Republican.
In the ACA, the cost savings that come out of Medicare go back into the health care system. In the Ryan budget, they’ll be needed to pay for the massive tax cuts proposed in that plan. Cohn notes that not only does this money get pulled out of providing health care entirely, but the attack the Romney campaign is making is a “brazen misrepresentation of reality.” Or, to say it in fewer and shorter words, “a lie.”
The Ryan plan doesn’t replace the guarantee with the vouchers for 10 years, so that major change doesn’t immediately affect today’s retirees. But the repeal of the ACA’s provisions on prescription drugs and preventative care absolutely will. If those provisions are gone, seniors who are on Medicare now will be paying hundreds of dollars more out of pocket. Ryan’s cuts to Medicaid, which many seniors depend on for nursing home care, would also have a big impact—his proposed cuts to Medicaid and the repeal of the ACA Medicaid expansion are a big and under-covered change in his budget. Some 6 million of today’s retirees depend on Medicaid and could lose out under Ryan’s plan. This is what was in the Ryan budget the House passed, and he hasn’t backed off of this at all.
What’s more, if Ryan’s plan kicks in ten years from now, today’s Medicare beneficiaries will get an unpleasant wake-up call as the voucher plan starts to erode the program:
In 2022, when the limited-subsidy program would be introduced, seniors who qualified for traditional Medicare would be allowed to switch to the new program. If healthier or younger beneficiaries make the change to lower their out-of-pocket costs, those still participating in Medicare would be part of an insurance pool that is less healthy and more expensive. To cover those higher per-person costs, Medicare might well be forced to either raise premiums or limit reimbursements to health care providers—which could prompt many to stop taking Medicare patients.
Romney has suggested he may back off of the Medicare savings that Ryan included in his original budget. But in that case, the Ryan budget math gets even more implausible. And by the standards Romney has laid out for how he wants his budget to work, Medicare would have to be slashed either way. That these cuts to programs for vulnerable people would be required in order to pass his huge tax cuts for the rich adds insult to injury. As Derek Thompson notes, Romney’s proposals “have clear and inevitable conclusions: Tax cuts for the richest and spending cuts for the poorest.”
It’s hard to overstate how hypocritical and dishonest the new Romney-Ryan attacks over Medicare are, coming from two people who have pledged changes so radical that they’d leave it unrecognizable.
Tags: Medicare, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Retirement