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Healthcare

House to Vote on Obamacare Repeal
Posted By:  - 01/06/11

The 112th Congress has officially begun and House conservatives are quickly acting on their promise to repeal the new health care law. According to the Daily Caller, the vote has been set for next Wednesday, January 12.

Representative Fred Upton, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Fox News that he believes repeal does have the chance to pass through all of Congress with enough votes to override President Obama’s (inevitable) veto. In order to make that happen, you need 2/3 majority of both chambers. That means every single Republican as well as 48 House and 20 Senate Democrats. In my opinion, that is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, this is an important vote, and one that we will wholeheartedly endorse.

The budget-busting health care bill, complete with mammoth tax hikes and mounds of restrictive regulations, is NOT real reform and will do little to lower costs and improve quality of care. With every related vote that takes place, it enables us to keep the issue alive with American taxpayers and help stop the damaging provisions before they take effect.

I encourage all of you to put pressure on your Representative and Senators. Emphasize that next week’s vote is far more than a “symbolic” gesture, and remind them that they were sent to Washington to listen to the wishes of those people they serve.

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Colorado Citizens Draft a Budget
Posted By:  - 12/17/10

Lately, the politicians who control Congress and the state house in Denver have complained about the difficulty with writing a sensible budget in a down economy. Perhaps they should consult with the people of Colorado more closely.

Late last week, the Independence Institute, Colorado’s premier free-market think tank, released the Colorado Citizens’ Budget, a product of many hours work by volunteers to find a way to balance the state’s budget without raising taxes. Some highlights from the Citizens’ Budget include: pension reform to reduce unfunded liabilities, fewer incarcerations for non-violent offenders to reduce the size of the corrections budget, more school choice to reduce the cost of K-12 education, and reforming Medicaid eligibility.

To think that the Citizens’ Budget is just about saving money or getting the state through the next budget cycle is to miss the point of the project. As Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute, puts it: “The [Colorado] General Assembly over the course of the next several years must make difficult decisions and will dramatically shape our state's economy. Its debates will echo the important question about the nature of government that is being carried out in Washington, D.C. Will we as a People expect only those public goods that allow for a vibrant, growing private sector, or will we demand an ever-larger, more intrusive government on which we depend for our every need and decision?”

To answer this question, it is helpful to read the Citizens’ Budget in its entirety.

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Individual Mandate Unconstitutional
Posted By:  - 12/13/10

According to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, "Today, a federal judge in Richmond ruled the individual mandate of the federal health care law UNCONSTITUTIONAL!"

Cuccinelli says that the fight against health care law isn't over but that this victory is a first step.

The judge's ruling is available here (in PDF) via the Wall Street Journal.

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More on Mini-Meds
Posted By:  - 11/24/10

Back in June, I highlighted a Politico article entitled “Health care law could ban low-cost plans.” In case you missed it, here is an excerpt from that blog post:

The "Affordable" Health Care Act would ban the caps currently in place for the amount of insurance company payouts. While, on the surface, this sounds like a positive reform to improve the quality of care, it is problematic for a couple of reasons. There is a niche insurance market, called mini-med plans, which many employees (retail, restaurant workers, etc.) have come to depend on. While these plans do offer limited benefits, they are priced low for low-wage workers who may not be able to afford more comprehensive health care. If caps are eliminated, it could force insurance companies to significantly raise costs or eliminate the plans altogether. That would be detrimental to many of these low-wage workers since insurance exchanges and tax credits will not be available until 2014.

The big concern was that mini-med subscribers would lose their coverage before they could access subsidies to purchase government-regulated insurance in 2014. However, according to The Hill, “McDonald’s and other employers that offer low-value ‘mini-med’ health plans to 1.4 million workers will temporarily be allowed to keep them under highly anticipated federal regulations released Monday.” Employers that offer mini-med plans will still have to comply with new requirements, but they have been afforded extra time.

Go here for more information on the newest HHS-issued health care regulations.   

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Repeal and Replace
Posted By:  - 11/12/10

Next Tuesday, Congress will reconvene for a lame duck session in order to tie up loose ends before the end of the year. While it’s unlikely we’ll see anything on the health care front, it’s important that we push conservative lawmakers to take immediate action on the issue at the start of the 112th Congress. The new Congress doesn’t begin until January 5, but that doesn’t mean we should delay in putting ideas on the table and helping to educate Members now.

Nina Owcharenko, Director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, just released a great report entitled “Repealing Obamacare and Getting Health Care Right.” In the piece, Owcharenko lays out a great plan of attack for the new Congress and those Americans wondering where we go from here.  

First step. Fight for full repeal. Immediate success in this endeavor will be inevitably difficult given the Senate landscape and a Democratic President, but that shouldn’t deter Members from churning out an honest attempt. While working to achieve repeal, Owcharenko says, “Members should continue to focus on the failures and consequences of the new law, block its implementation at every opportunity, and exert strong oversight over the implementation process.” The best and most straightforward approach to blocking provisions is to defund them, thus making it difficult for agencies to follow through with the new regulations. When considering defunding, the CLASS Act, new 1099 requirement, changes to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and the Cadillac Tax are good places to start. Owcharenko also suggests prohibiting funds from going toward Internal Revenue Service efforts to hire new agents to enforce the egregious individual mandate.

While she emphasizes the need for full repeal of the law, she also provides positive alternatives in the form of targeted policies. In the midst of the health care debate, we must remember that we can’t merely strive for repeal and no further action. Our current system is in need of reform, but it’s free-market solutions, focused on patient choice, that will ultimately prove to be the right cure for our health care woes.  

Here are a few of Owcharenko's market-based ideas that she believes will begin to move our health care system in the right direction:

  • Provide individual tax relief for all persons purchasing private health insurance, regardless of where they work;
  • Eliminate barriers to individuals purchasing health care coverage that best suits their personal needs across state lines;
  • Promote new group purchasing arrangements based on individual membership organizations and various associations;
  • Improve consumer-directed health options (such as health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, and flexible spending accounts) that encourage greater transparency and consumer control over health care decisions;
  • Expand states’ ability to develop consumer-based reforms that enable states to customize solutions for their citizens;
  • Increase federal and state efforts to combat fraud and abuse in Medicaid, including tightening eligibility loopholes in Medicaid for long-termcare services;
  • Stop new tax increases and promote tax cuts that would expand private insurance coverage and grow the economy.

She lists several others in her report, so I’d encourage all of you to check it out! Mind you, we must remember that full repeal of Obamacare is critical before a more positive alternative can be delivered though a step-by-step, fully transparent legislative process. Rest assured we will stay on the forefront of this very important issue and will keep all of you in the loop as developments arise.

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$572 Million Net Federal Spending in Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/09/10

Tab Insert

The NTU Foundation’s Taxpayer’s Tab is back to its regular schedule and format, highlighting four newly scored Congressional bills.

Covering veterans educational benefits, the Most Expensive Bill of the Week would allow certain service members to transfer benefits to their dependents. The Least Expensive Bill of the Week would establish a comprehensive energy plan, including more domestic oil exploration, alternative technology development, and a natural gas vehicle demonstration project provision. The House version of the Prevention First Act was found to increase federal spending by $417 million in the first year.

Bills covered in the latest Taxpayer’s Tab include:

  • HR 3577, Education Assistance to Realign New Eligibilities for Dependents (EARNED) Act of 2009
  • HR 3505, American Energy Production and Price Reduction Act
  • HR 463/S 21, Prevention First Act
  • S 3078/HR 4757, health Insurance Rate Authority Act of 2010
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Election 2010: What a night
Posted By:  - 11/03/10

Oh what a night!

 

As of this morning, Republicans won 60 additional seats and control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Also, Republicans expanded the size of their caucus by six in the Senate. These two changes that will have serious implications for a host of economic policies at the national level, including energy production, taxes, entitlements, and the debt. My colleague Jordan Forbes will have more to say about the federal results soon.

 

But for all of the dramatic change at the federal level, what happened in Congress pales in comparison to the changes that voters made at the state level. Republicans picked up nine governorships, including several in the economically important Midwestern states, and won control of 18 state legislative bodies, including chambers in North Carolina and Alabama; today marks the first time since Reconstruction the GOP has controlled those chambers. The larger number of fiscal conservatives in state legislative chambers will have a significant impact on the next round of budget negotiations, when states will have to face no easy choices to balance the budget in the midst of uncertain economic times.

 

Voters also weighed in on hundreds of state and local ballot measures that affect tax and budget policies. There were several setbacks for taxpayers yesterday. It appears as though voters rejected efforts to reduce taxes income and property taxes in Colorado and sales taxes in Massachusetts. Additionally, California passed a measure that would allow the legislature to enact a budget with a simple majority vote, which will likely open the door to more tax hikes. Unfortunately, Californians also rejected an effort to repeal a costly cap-and-trade emissions program in the state. However, at the same time, Californians voted to require supermajority votes on fees and to prevent the state from raiding funds for local government.

 

But taxpayers did score several important victories. Despite rejecting a broad reduction in the sales tax, Massachusetts approved a cut in the sales tax on alcoholic beverages. Washington voters resoundingly rejected an effort to enact a new state income tax and approved a measure rolling back a tax on soda, candy, and bottled water. Washingtonians also voted for a measure to require a supermajority in the legislature for any tax increase. Missourians voted overwhelmingly to require votes on local earnings taxes. Meanwhile, Indiana approved a measure to enshrine caps on property tax increases in the state’s constitution.

 

Elsewhere, Arizona and Oklahoma approved measures that projected the right to choose a health care plan from the individual insurance mandate in Obamacare. Several states, including Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia approved measures to increase the size of their rainy day funds to weather bad economic times. Other states also approved measures that would provide property tax exemptions, impose term limits, and improve government accountability.

 

Of course, these are just a sample of the hundreds of measures that NTU is analyzing for its report showing how taxpayers fared at the ballot box yesterday. Stay tuned.

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Obamacare Threatens Additional Health Plans
Posted By:  - 10/29/10

I realize you all may be tired of the many, many Obamacare blog posts but, hey, I promised I’d keep you apprised of developments! And sadly, there is further evidence that the health care overhaul could cause you to lose your current coverage.

The non-partisan National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) sent a letter to Health and Human Services warning the agency of potential “unintended consequences” (yes, I know you’ve heard that term once or twice before) from Obamacare. More specifically, NAIC cited concerns over “insurance markets where consumer choice is limited and the solvency of insurers is undermined.” The NAIC also wrote that “those who lose coverage may be unable to find or afford other coverage.” We appreciate the House Ways and Means Committee Republican staff for bringing this letter to our attention.

While the NAIC-specific health care provision does not go into effect until next year, thousands of Americans are already starting to lose their insurance. We’ve touched on specific groups already, but here are a few additions, courtesy of the House Ways and Means Republicans:

  • National Health, Aetna, and John Alden in New Mexico are no longer offering insurance to people who purchase individual insurance or insurance through a small business;
  • Principal Financial Group announced that it will stop selling health insurance, thereby causing 840,000 Americans to lose their coverage;
  • Maine’s Superintendent of Insurance has said one-third of Mainers with private insurance could lose their health plans if Maine is not granted a waiver;
  • Virginia-based nHealth is closing; and
  • Major insurers like Anthem BlueCross and BlueShield, Aetna, Cigna, CoventryOne, Humana and UnitedHealthCare are going to stop selling child-only health plans in several states.  

I hope this information helps you stay informed. Make sure your elected officials are aware of Obamacare’s unintended consequences, and hold them accountable at the polls this Tuesday, November 2.

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State Ballot Measures Challenge ObamaCare
Posted By:  - 10/21/10

As Americans learn more about ObamaCare, the more they realize they don't want it.

My colleague Jordan Forbes has been blogging on a regular basis (most recently here) about the ever-growing costs and problems with ObamaCare, especially the mandate for all Americans to have health insurance. The impact of ObamaCare on the states will be significant as Medicaid enrollments increase and the federal government expands its power into areas traditionally reserved for the states, as documented by this Heritage Foundation study.

But, as the study points out, the states don't have to take ObamaCare lying down. In fact, several states are already looking for ways to mitigate the harmful impact of ObamaCare through passing memorials asking Congress to make changes and using their policymaking and regulatory authority to shape how the law is implemented. Some states are even taking the federal government to court to challenge the individual mandate and others are asking the voters to render judgment on ObamaCare

In less than two weeks, residents of Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma will vote on ballot measures that would protect one's right to choose a health plan by prohibiting the government from requiring anyone to join a health plan or participate in a healthcare system. These measures follow on the stunning success of Missouri's Proposition C, the Health Care Freedom Act, which passed with the support of more than 70% of the one million votes cast.

Since the passage of ObamaCare, we have seen seniors lose Medicare Advantage, studies that show the cost of health care will increase, and employers like McDonald's request a waiver from federal requirements because they were at risk of dropping their coverage. Given all of these problems, is it little wonder that Americans do not wish for the states to be agents of this change?

As I said when Missouri passed Proposition C, "As more Americans learn that the federal health care takeover will boost government spending by $2.6 trillion over the next decade, raise taxes, create new penalties, and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, the likelier they will be to take the same stance Missouri voters did [on August 4, 2010]. Whatever their success may be in repealing or overturning the new law, one thing is certain: this truly historic movement, aimed at changing policy, not just politics, is gathering a level of strength that federal officials can ill-afford to ignore."

I'm confident that I'll see more of this historic movement on Election Day.

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Got questions about ballot measures? NTU's Ballot Guide has answers
Posted By:  - 10/14/10

Voters face many important decisions in the upcoming elections, which are now less than three weeks away. But many of these critical decisions will not involve choosing between the names of candidates. Instead, voters will have to choose between letters and numbers identifiying hundreds of state and local ballot measures, many of which could have an especially profound impact on tax, spending, and other fiscal policies for years to come and regardless of which political party triumphs in the state houses. To help taxpayers better understand these measures, NTU has produced and made available on our website "The 2010 Ballot Guide: The Taxpayers Perspective."

Our Guide is more than just a list of measures. The Guide is an analysis of these measures on the state and local ballots across the country, providing evaluations of how these measures grow the size of government and increase the tax burden on hard-working families. Unfortunately, there are many such measures on the ballot according to the Guide. However, many other measures on the ballot will give taxpayers opportunities to exercise a greater degree of control over government tax, spending, and regulatory powers.

Here are some highlights from the pages of the Guide:

  • In Washington State, Initiative 1098 would impose a state-level income tax there for the first time, beginning on individuals with incomes above $200,000 but later possibly extending to other groups at the Legislature’s discretion.  This would knock Washington off the list of just nine states without a broad-based income tax. On the other hand, Initiative 1053 would require two-thirds of the Legislature or a majority of voters to raise taxes in the future, while Initative 1107 would roll back taxes on candy, bottled water, and soft drinks.
  • In California, Proposition 23 on the statewide ballot would suspend the California Global Warming Act, and all of its mandates until unemployment eases. Taxpayer advocates in the state argue that this measure would prevent substantial hikes in energy costs on struggling consumers. Meanwhile, Proposition 25 would do away with a two-thirds legislative vote requirement to pass a budget but Proposition 26 would extend a two-thirds vote stricture on increases in many fees.
  • Voters in Massachusetts will consider a measure that would reduce the state’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent, as well as one repealing in most cases the sales tax on alcoholic beverages.
  • Proposition A on the Missouri statewide ballot would take away the authority for cities to levy an earnings tax, require voter approval for the continuation of earnings taxes where they currently exist, and provide for their eventual phase-out.
  • At the local level, voters in California's San Diego County, as well as voters in Illinois' DuPage County, will vote on measures that would either require voter approval for increases in public safety pension benefit formulas or call upon the state to undertake serious pension reforms immediately.

We hope you find the Guide useful in evaluating the choices awaiting you at the polls. Be sure to check back with NTU after the election for our report on how taxpayers fared.

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