Ain’t So Crystal Clear

“Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”  That was the quote heard round the world (okay, maybe just round the country) around a month into Trump’s presidency, when it began to dawn on him that getting rid of Obamacare and giving everybody “beautiful” health insurance to replace it wasn’t going to be so easy.  And it’s true: health care, Obamacare imploding cartoonwhich as an industry makes up nearly 1/5 of our economy, is complicated – very complicated.

And that fact has allowed Republicans to demagogue about Obamacare for the past seven years, misleading the public, and terrifying countless Americans about things that exist only in the GOP imagination.  That fact also means that even when good faith efforts are made to talk honestly about issues relating to health care, confusion can reign supreme.  And unfortunately, that’s what’s been happening with the coverage of Trump’s latest move on Obamacare. Continue reading

Trumper Tantrum

Well, he did it.  The Trump administration has formally announced that it will stop making Obamacare’s cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments.  I’ve written on this blog numerous times about Trump’s threats to stop making these payments, and how dire that would be for the Obamacare markets.  Siren image cropI first told you about this back in April, long before the mainstream media was giving it attention.

That lack of media attention was the reason I spent so much time on the topic.  I recognized it as a grave threat to Obamacare’s survival, and I was very concerned about the fact that it was getting almost no attention from the media (or from Democrats at the time).  If you are not familiar with Obamacare’s cost sharing reductions and the background on Trump’s threats, you can enter “cost sharing” into the blog’s search bar and see the past posts. Continue reading

But Can He Do That??

With Trump issuing a new, major executive order on health insurance/Obamacare today, there have been lots of questions about exactly what sort of changes he is allowed to make by executive order.  I’m not going to attempt to specifically answer whether the changes in today’s health care executive order are legal. That is a very complex question – so complex that it will almost certainly end up having to be answered by the courts in several lengthy lawsuits. (That gives you a hint though that there’s a decent argument that the executive order is not entirely legal. But in part this will depend on how the relevant agencies implement the order, which still remains to be seen).

But, for help understanding the boundaries of executive action in general, I’m going to point you to a post I wrote back in the very beginning of Trump’s presidency, when he was in the midst of an executive action spree. The post describes what a President is legally permitted to do by executive action, and it also explains some of the practical considerations involved.  So with that, please have a look at Order Up.

Very Superstatute

Are you superstitious?  I am a little bit.   I don’t believe in a lot of the common superstitions that are out there, but I do get superstitious about the “jinx.”   You know – that thing where you say something out loud, for example, Superhero image“wow, the Mets are actually healthy for once this season,” and then it brings bad luck to the exact thing you spoke about, so that within a week of your comment half the Mets starting lineup ends up on the disabled list.  And it feels like you conjured it up just by talking about it.

So for that reason – and also because I don’t believe they will give up on it anytime soon – I’m loathe to ever say that Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare have failed.  But now that the 2017 fiscal year has ended, and the deadline for this particular round of reconciliation has expired, we can at least say that their first attempt at repealing Obamacare has ended with the law still alive (though it is quite bruised & bloodied – please see the very important note below).*

So now that we at least have the first round of repeal attempts under our belt, I wanted to share a really interesting idea I came across a couple months ago (thanks to @onceuponA) about the status of Obamacare – or to be more accurate, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as it’s more properly known.  Abbe Gluck, a professor of health law & policy at Yale Law School, has written a number of articles (both scholarly and popular articles) about the ACA over the past few years.  But the particular article that caught my eye was one from this past July in which Prof. Gluck talked about the idea of “Obamacare as Superstatute.”

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You Play, You Pay

If you had time to keep up with the news last week, you almost certainly heard the tale of Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. no sex image  Rep. Murphy got himself caught up in a scandal, and unfortunately for him, it was just the sort of scandal that the media and the public love to talk about – not only was it a sex scandal, but it was a sex scandal that exposed Murphy as a big time hypocrite.

But this post isn’t about Rep. Murphy or his hypocrisy.  What happened with Rep. Murphy is just a pit-stop on the way to what I really want to talk about.

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What Did I Miss? 10/6

It’s the end of another week, and there’s no other way to say it – it was a terrible one.  The big story dominating the news this week has been, of course, the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas – the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history.   So far, we have no answers as to why the shooter did what he did, and at the moment, it looks possible that we might never understand it.  Las Vegas shooting flag

As for how the country will respond, the conversations about “gun control” are still as divisive as ever, but there does appear to be at least a chance that Republicans in Congress will be willing to go for the very low hanging fruit and pass some sort of law regulating “bump stocks.”  Tragically, this week we all learned that bump stocks are the accessories the shooter likely used to modify his semi-automatic rifles so that they fired more like automatic rifles, allowing him to fire off more rounds more quickly.  In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, bump stock sales appear to be spiking.

The other important story this week, which we must not lose sight of, is the continuing suffering in Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria.  Trump made a much publicized but very bizarre and callous visit there on Tuesday.  He would like us all to believe that the recovery is going great, but the vast majority of Puerto Rico is still without power, and most of the hospitals are running on emergency power.  This means they have no air conditioning, and seriously ill patients are lingering in temperatures of greater than 100 degrees.  So Puerto Rico is still in desperate need of assistance.  Now what else happened this week that you might have missed?

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Let’s Get It Started

Can you feel it??  It’s that time of year that legal nerds and other Supreme Court watchers get all tingly over – the start of a new Supreme Court term.  But even if that’s not normally something you’d get excited about, this week brings a case that you’ll want to pay attention to. confetti This Tuesday October 3, the Court will hear oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case that Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the most important of this term.  And that’s in a term filled with momentous cases.  I’ll actually go out on a limb and say it might be one of the most important cases the Court will hear in our lifetime, for reasons I explain below.

I first told you about this case back in July in Please Don’t Go, when there was talk that Justice Anthony Kennedy might retire from the Court.  The outcome of the Gill case – like so many cases these days – will likely turn on the vote of Justice Kennedy.  So I wrote about the case at that time, noting that it was crucial for Democrats/Progressives, and really anyone who’s concerned about the health of our democracy, that Justice Kennedy remain on the Court in order for us to have at least a hope of a positive outcome.

Since the case is now finally about the begin, I’m going to repost most of that July post here as a refresher, or for anyone who missed it the first time around . . . Continue reading

Resent the Dissent

Unless you’ve been conducting a social media fast the last few days, you know about the latest controversy Trump has set off with his comments and tweets about the NFL “take a knee” protests.   Trump’s statements have engulfed much of the sports world and a good part of the country in yet another culture war.  Lucky for Trump, this is the kind of war he loves to enlist in.  But for the rest of us, it’s just another exhausting round in the never-ending drama that is the Trump presidency.

So this post is not going to be a continuation of that debate – though I do of course have thoughts about the President’s comments and the actions at which they were directed (and you can probably guess what those thoughts are).  But those issues have already been debated for days without any resolution, and you guys know that I try to use this blog to talk about things that aren’t getting as much coverage in the media.  Unfortunately, in all the back & forth over the President’s comments, and even in the (sometimes surprising) pushback that came from all around the NFL, the real core issue seems to have gotten lost. Continue reading

What Did I Miss? 9/25

We didn’t have our usual “What Did I Miss?” post last Friday, but there’s so much news happening every week, I didn’t want to let an extra week go by without a roundup.  So today we’re going to do a Monday version to get caught up . . . Mother Nature’s fury once again dominated the news last week, bringing earthquakes to our neighbors in Mexico, and yet another round of damaging hurricanes to the U.S., leaving Puerto Rico especially devastated. Obamacare cartoon 4

The GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort was also back in the news, as the latest incarnation, known as Graham-Cassidy, appeared to be picking up steam.  Late night host Jimmy Kimmel got in on the fun, engaging the country in perhaps the most in-depth discussion of health care reform that we’ve had since Trump became President.

Though the repeal effort appeared to die on Friday, when Senator John McCain announced he would vote against the bill, reporters & activists who are following the story closely warn that the bill is not dead yet.  Republicans are pulling out all the stops to drag this thing over the finish line.  In the meantime, Politico reported that our supposedly frugal Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has gotten into the habit of chartering private planes for his on-the-job travels, charging taxpayers at least $400,000 over the last few months.*  And this is the man who will be responsible for determining what counts as “affordable” health insurance if Graham-Cassidy becomes law.  So what else happened this week that you might have missed? Continue reading

Did You Miss It?

Hello, readers.  DC Deciphered doesn’t have a “What Did I Miss?” post for you today.  But if you missed it earlier this week, please make sure to check out Mind Your Gerrymanders about an extremely important Supreme Court case that is on the docket in less than two weeks.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called it the most important case this term.  The Court has scheduled oral arguments in the case, Gill v. Whitford, for October 3.