GOP’s Obamacare Plan? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

New York Times: “At precisely 3:56 p.m. on Thursday, Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, introduced a popular Internet symbol for a careless shrug of the shoulders — ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ — into the Congressional record, holding it up on a placard and describing it as ‘a pretty good summary of what the Republicans’ plan is,’ if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act this summer.”

Jonathan Chait points out that a lack of a Republican plan has “induced a wave of panic … among Republicans. The chaos their lawsuit would unleash might blow back in a way few Republicans had considered until recently, and now, on the eve of a possible triumph, they find themselves scrambling to contain the damage. It is dawning on the Grand Old Party that snatching health insurance away from millions of helpless victims is not quite as rewarding as expected.”

King v. Burwell “works more on the level of an elaborate prank than as a serious reading of the law. And yet it stands at least some chance of success … That prospect has grown suddenly unnerving because, unlike previous Republican efforts to strangle the law, the current one comes as Obamacare is functioning extremely well.”

“The party remains doctrinally committed to the complete destruction of Obamacare … This doctrine will now put Republicans in the position of endangering the lives of sick Americans who will lose access to their medical treatment.”

States Contemplate Obamacare Exchange Mergers

The Hill: “A number of states are quietly considering merging their healthcare exchanges under ObamaCare amid big questions about their cost and viability.”

“Many of the 13 state-run ObamaCare exchanges are worried about how they’ll survive once federal dollars supporting them run dry next year.”

“Others are contemplating creating multi-state exchanges as a contingency plan for a looming Supreme Court ruling expected next month that could prevent people from getting subsidies to buy ObamaCare on the federal exchange.”

“The idea is still only in the infancy stage. It’s unclear whether a California-Oregon or New York-Connecticut health exchange is on the horizon.”

“But a shared marketplace — an option buried in a little-known clause of the Affordable Care Act — has become an increasingly attractive option for states desperate to slash costs. If state exchanges are not financially self-sufficient by 2016, they will be forced to join the federal system, HealthCare.gov.”

The Return of Go-Go Years for Wall Street

Neil Irwin: “Seven years after a crisis that shook Wall Street to its core, the financial sector’s economic imprint has largely recovered. The number of people working in the securities business nationally has returned to 2007 levels, as has the gap between the compensation of Wall Street workers and that of everyone else. The financial sector as a whole is reporting profits that are as large a share of the overall economy as in the early 2000s and more than double their average level over the 70 years ended in 1999.”

“This time, Wall Street has largely returned to a state more reminiscent of the go-go 2000s than of the middle decades of the 20th century. Average pay per full-time worker in the securities industry averaged 2.2 times that of the average American worker for the 70 years that ended in 1999 and peaked at 4.2 in 2007. It has rebounded to 3.6 times as high in 2013, and looks likely to have risen further since then.”Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.48.25 PM

 

While Poor and Minorities Shoulder Debt, College Presidents Rake in Top Salaries

Washington Post: “Amid state cuts in higher education funding and modest increases in federal grant aid eclipsed by rising tuition, African American, Latino and low-income students … must borrow to get a degree, according to a new report from liberal think tank Demos.”

“Eighty-four percent of college students with Pell grants graduate from four-year public schools with debt, compared with less than half of students without the need-based grants, the report said. While less than two-thirds of white graduates from public schools borrow, four out of five black graduates take out loans for college. And black students who do borrow come out with more debt than their peers.”

Mark Huelsman of Demos: “We see worrying signs around the impact of student debt on the ability to build wealth and assets, find a satisfying or civic-minded job or start a business.”

Meanwhile, Frank Bruni reports on the staggeringly lucrative salary deals for college presidents that “have become almost commonplace.”

“Their extravagance strikes an especially discordant note in light of the challenges confronting higher education today, and it undercuts their moral authority.”

“The lofty pay of college presidents is part of higher education’s increasingly corporate bent, of the blurred lines between the campus and the marketplace.”

Majority of Enrollees Are Satisfied With Their Obamacare Plans

Kaiser Family Foundation: “Following the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period, most people enrolled in marketplace plans report being satisfied with a wide range of their plan’s coverage and features, finds a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey of people who buy their own health insurance.”

“A large majority (74%) of those in marketplace plans rate their coverage as excellent or good, the survey finds. Most (59%) also say their plan is an excellent or good value for what they pay for it, though the share rating the value as ‘excellent’ declined somewhat from 23 percent last year to 15 percent in the current survey.”

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“In spite of high overall satisfaction levels, a significant minority of enrollees report challenges and worries related to the affordability of coverage and care.”

“The survey finds most (57%) of those in ACA-compliant plans feel financially well-protected by their insurance, though nearly four in ten (38%) feel vulnerable to high medical bills.  A similar share (34%) of those with non-compliant plans reports feeling vulnerable to high medical bills, as do 28 percent of people with employer coverage interviewed as part of a separate survey.”

Climate Scientists Are Also Susceptible to Denialist Campaigns

The Hill: “President Obama in a speech on Wednesday cast climate change as a growing national security threat, accusing Republican skeptics of harming military readiness by denying its effects.”

A recent study shows that climate denial campaigns also take a toll on climate scientists and their findings.

Inside Climate News: “Scientists spend time and resources addressing denialists’ debunked claims in a way the scientific community has never done, said Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol in England and lead author of the new study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change. Researchers also often downplay future climate risks to avoid being labeled an ‘alarmist’ by climate contrarians.”

“The study reviewed dozens of psychological and social science papers to understand why scientists are susceptible to denialist campaigns and provided a real-world example of this impact from the climate science literature. The authors concluded that scientists are as vulnerable as anyone to persuasive messaging and fear being stereotyped (in this case, as a global warming alarmist), and that when enough people criticize or question their work they, too, may begin questioning their findings.”

 

More Americans Benefit from Obamacare Than They Realize

Drew Altman: A less appreciated reason the Affordable Care Act gets mixed reviews is “simply that many more people benefit from the ACA than may realize it.”

“More than half of Americans say the health reform law has had no impact on them or their family, Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Polls have found. As the chart above shows, that’s true of Democrats (60%), independents (54%), and Republicans (55%).”

“But the ACA benefits more people than say it has affected them and far more than the approximately 23 million more people who have signed up for a marketplace plan or Medicaid as a result of the law.”

“ACA-related insurance reforms affect many Americans, and these provisions are popular with the public. But as the Kaiser poll findings show, Americans don’t always connect the benefits with the law. It’s likely that many people just don’t know that the law is responsible for their free flu shot, or contraceptive coverage, or their ability to get coverage if they have a pre-existing condition. These new benefits are provided by insurers or employers without a promotional label reading ‘brought to you by the ACA.’”

Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Threaten Repeal Efforts

Philip Bump: “For the first time, the number of people who have signed up for a health-care plan under the Affordable Care Act has reached 12 million, according to Charles Gaba of ACAsignups.net. The milestone is significant largely because it ends in six zeroes. But it’s significant for a political reason, too: It means that 3.7 percent of the country has selected a plan in the politically contentious system.”

GabaData

“OK. So if we combine the 10.1 million people with active coverage under an Obamacare exchange (federal or state) with the 12.4 million enrolled in Medicaid, that’s 22.5 million people with health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That’s about 7 percent of the population of the country. A lot may not know that they’re enrolled in an Obamacare program, but it still creates a lot of friction for any politician that wants to start pulling aspects of the program away. Which was always the Democrats’ political plan, of course.”

CBO Director: Obamacare Subsidies Were Meant For All States

The Hill: “The man who led the Congressional Budget Office when ObamaCare was being constructed said Tuesday it was the ‘common understanding’ at the time that subsidies would be available in all states — a crucial question in a looming Supreme Court case.”

“The challengers in the case of King v. Burwell argue subsidies are only available in states that established their own exchanges, as opposed to a federally-run exchange, citing language in the law referring to an exchange ‘established by the state.’
Part of the challengers’ argument is that Congress could have intended to bar the subsidies from federally-run exchanges as an incentive for states to create their own.”
“’It was a common understanding on the Hill, again on both sides of the Hill, on both sides of the aisle, in late 2009 and early 2010, that subsidies would be available through the federal exchange as well as through state exchanges,’ Doug Elmendorf said in an interview at the Peterson Foundation fiscal summit.”
“’And I’m confident in saying that because CBO’s analysis always worked under the view that subsidies would be available under the federal exchange.’”

Obamacare Extension Adds Almost 150,000

The Hill: Nearly 150,000 people signed up for health insurance during ObamaCare’s extra enrollment period this spring, the federal government announced Tuesday.

People who lack insurance were given an extra month and a half to buy coverage through the federal marketplace to avoid next year’s penalty, which will rise to at least $325 a person.

This year is the first time that ObamaCare’s individual mandate penalty goes into effect.

Do Wealthy Countries Need Big Government

Noah Smith in Bloomberg argues that the claim among conservatives that big government is bad “only holds locally. If you do an empirical study and you find that more government bureaucracy is bad for the economy, what you’ve found isn’t that this is true in general — only that it’s true at one particular moment in time.”

“Look at how U.S. total government spending has grown as the country has become richer and richer:”

gov't share chart

Are we supposed to believe that rich countries are rich in spite of the fact that they all have big governments? Should we believe that government is a parasite that always, without fail, finds a host in the body politic of every single country that reaches first-world status?

“Or should we conclude that big government is a necessary ingredient for countries to get rich?”

“According to MIT economist Daron Acemoglu — who is one of the most respected economists in the business, and who specializes in development and growth economics – it’s weak states, not overbearing ones, that hold back growth in much of the developing world.”

“In other words, big government is good — up to a point. And people know that big government is good, so they allow it. This is what Acemoglu calls a ‘consensually strong state.’”

 

Is Fox News Hurting the Republican Party?

James Fallows comments on a detailed study by Bruce Bartlett called “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.”

“Bartlett’s accumulation of detail showing (a) that Fox’s core viewers are factually worse-informed than people who follow other sources, and even those who don’t follow news at all, and (b) that the mode of perpetual outrage that is Fox’s goal and effect has become a serious problem for the Republican party, in that it pushes its candidates to sound always-outraged themselves.”

Bruce Bartlett: “Like someone dying of thirst in the desert, conservatives drank heavily from the Fox waters. Soon, it became the dominant –and in many cases, virtually the only – major news source for millions of Americans. This has had profound political implications that are only starting to be appreciated. Indeed, it can almost be called self-brainwashing – many conservatives now refuse to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox, and to believe whatever appears on it as the gospel truth.”

Fallows: When will Republicans who care about winning national elections, or actually governing, stop thinking of Fox as a help and start viewing it as a hindrance, and what will happen when they do?