Posts Tagged ‘Senator Harry Reid’

Polls: Most Americans Oppose Changes to Medicare

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Americans have mixed feelings about what changes should be made to the popular Medicare program. Although 53 percent say the program needs fundamental changes, 58 percent say it is working fine the way it is.  Americans were asked to decide which of three statements is closest to their viewpoints: “Medicare works pretty well and only minor changes are necessary to make it work better”; “There are some good things about Medicare, but fundamental changes are needed”; or “Medicare has so much wrong with it that we need to completely rebuild it.”

Twenty-seven percent – including 36 percent of Democrats – believe that only minor changes are needed.  Another 13 percent said the program needs to be completely rebuilt.  Fully 53 percent said Medicare needs fundamental changes — even though the program has many good points.  People who want basic changes include a majority of Republicans and independents, though just 43 percent of Democrats support the plan.  A majority of Americans between ages 18 and 64 want significant changes.  Just 37 percent of those 65 and older agree.

Additionally, respondents were asked if they wanted to see Medicare “continue the way it is set up now, as a program that pays the doctors and hospitals that treat senior citizens” or “if they think it should be transformed into “a program that gives senior citizens payments towards the purchase of private insurance.”  Democrats want to retain Medicare in its present form; Republicans want to transform it into a voucher system in which seniors choose their coverage and are given money to cover their insurance premiums.

So strongly does the Senate Democratic leadership feel,  they have reaffirmed that Medicare cuts should not be on the table during the debt ceiling discussions.  “Seniors can’t afford it,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said.  “The vast majority of the American people, including most Republicans, do not support changing Medicare as we know it, as articulated in that piece of legislation that came from the House.  That” piece of legislation is the Paul Ryan (R-WI) plan, “The Path to Prosperity”, which slashes the budget deficit by about $5 trillion over the next decade.

Ryan’s plan would overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and proposes major reforms to Medicaid and Medicare.  Medicaid would become a block grant system; the federal government would allocate money to states, giving them greater flexibility to shape their healthcare programs that serve the poor.  Currently, the government matches every dollar that states spend on Medicaid; the formula varies from state to state.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said Democrats will not accept a “mini” Ryan plan.  “The Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it must be taken off the table, but Republicans should know that we will not support any mini version plan of ‘Ryan’ either,” Schumer said.  “We want to make our position on Medicare perfectly clear.  No matter what we do in these debt-limit talks, we must preserve the program in its current form, and we will not allow cuts to seniors’ benefits.“

Slashing Medicare will be a major issue in the 2012 election. According to Harvard political scientist and pollster Robert Blendon, “Older Americans tend to vote at much higher rates than other voters,” he said.  “They are the group that most care about healthcare as a voting issue.”

“Medicare for us is a pillar of health and economic security for our seniors,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is the House Minority Leader.  “It’s an ethic, it’s a value…and we intend to fight for it.  Pelosi is well aware that there is a problem with Medicare and acknowledges that the program is not financially sound enough to support the retirement of 78 million baby boomers who are joining the program.  Additionally, she knows that Medicare costs strongly impact the nation’s debt and deficit problem.  Additionally, she says that she prefers not to use Medicare as a weapon against Republicans.  “Would you rather have success with the issue, or would you rather have a fight in the election?  Of course you’d rather have success,” she said.  “That’s what you came here to do.  That’s what’s important to the well-being of the American people.”

Another recent poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center found that older Americans do not have a favorable opinion about privatizing Medicare.  Fifty-one percent of people aged 50 and over oppose the plan, while just 29 percent support it.  Even among Republicans, more respondents oppose the plan than support it.  The changes are designed to save the program’s finances by trimming government benefits for all Americans under the age of 55.  Medicare says it will run out of funds to pay full benefits by 2024.  One person polled is Michael A. Smith, a 54-year-old lifelong Republican who is currently unemployed and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs.  “A community like this, they want jobs and no changes in the funds they’ve paid into all their lives,” Smith said.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that Ryan’s plan would not allow insurers to charge sick people more than healthy ones. Insurance companies would set premiums at the same level for everyone of the same age.  Although Ryan’s plan would leave Medicare intact for anyone now 55 or older, Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA, said older voters have a hard time believing that.  “Anytime you say, `But this doesn’t affect current senior citizens,’ they think it’s going to affect them,” he said.  “Seniors are very, very sophisticated when it comes to these programs.  They figure any change could have a loophole or an exception or a provision that could end up hurting them after all.  They’re very zealous about safeguarding the programs from which they benefit.”

Republicans Vow to Take on Healthcare Entitlement Programs

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

With the power shift in the House of Representatives, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are being targeted in proposed budget cuts designed to bring down the deficit. “It will likely be the first time you see a House have a prescription for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said at the Federation of American Hospitals’ annual public policy conference and business exposition in Washington.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a Republican, said that members of Mississippi’s Medicaid program saw its enrollment drop approximately 23 percent to 580,000 beneficiaries from 750,000 after the state started requiring beneficiaries to establish their eligibility in person.  Barbour began this practice in his first year as governor in 2004.  Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, slammed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), noting that its expansion of Medicaid will “bankrupt” the states, which already have strained budgets.  Hatch also cited Congressional Budget Office figures that say the ACA’s Medicaid expansion will cost taxpayers $435 billion over the next decade.

President Barack Obama said his proposed 2012 budget was a “down payment,” on cutting the federal budget deficit, and said that more work is needed to address “long term challenges”. Cantor said that on “individual items” there were “probably some areas of agreement” between the President and Republicans.  “But we can’t keep taking the savings and going to spend it,” he said.  “The object here is to cut.”  According to Cantor, the President’s plan “just misses the mark of living up to the expectations” Obama laid out in his State of the Union speech in January.  Asked if Cantor expected adjustments to Social Security and Medicare, Cantor said he was “hopeful that we can get some cooperation from [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] and the President, because these are programs that touch the lives of every American and we don’t want, nor can we, make these changes by ourselves.”

Writing on the Huffington Post, Richard Eskow took an alarmist tone, saying that “entitlement reform” is a euphemism for allowing the elderly to die if they become ill. “’The President’s budget punts on entitlement reform,’ reads a statement by House Republicans.  ‘Our budget will lead where the President has failed, and it will include real entitlement reforms.’  ‘You have to do entitlement reforms if you are serious about this budget,’ according to Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI).”  Eskow counters “Reality check: Nobody’s proposing ‘entitlement reform.’ That term is a cloaking device for some very ugly intentions.  It’s a meaningless manufactured phrase cooked up by some highly-paid consultant, and it diminishes the sum total of human understanding every time it’s used.  The phrase is a euphemism for deep cuts to programs that are vital and even life-saving for millions of elderly and poor people, but it’s politically unpalatable to say that.  So it became necessary to come up with yet another cognition-killing term designed to numb us from the human toll of our political actions.  ‘Entitlement reform’ is the new ‘collateral damage.’”

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein is more diplomatic in his assessment of the possibility of entitlement reform. “We’ll see.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama has his name on a broader deficit-reduction bill at this time next year.  If he takes the deficit away from Republicans before 2012, his reelection campaign becomes considerably easier.  And on a less cynical level, his administration is stocked with deficit hawks — the same folks who actually balanced the budget under Bill Clinton.  And similarly, Republicans want to deliver on the deficit-reduction promises they’ve made to their base.  In theory, everyone’s incentives and ideologies are pointing in the same direction.  That’s a good sign for progress.”

Nearly 50 Percent of Americans Think the Healthcare Law Has Been Repealed – They’re Wrong!

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Defying the odds – and facing President Barack Obama’s veto pen – the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA); a move that was DOA in the Senate.

Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, approximately 50 percent of Americans are convinced that the healthcare law has been successfully repealed.  A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found widespread public confusion about the law, with 22 percent of Americans incorrectly believing it has been repealed and another 26 percent unsure or unwilling to say. Even after extensive media coverage of the repeal effort, only 52 percent of Americans accurately responded that the healthcare law remained intact.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “There remains no consensus about whether to keep, expand, replace or repeal the law.  Forty-eight percent are opposed to the law, while 43 percent favor it.  Sixty-one percent of those polled oppose Congress cutting off funding of the law in order to block it, as many Republican lawmakers are considering.”

The Republican-sponsored repeal bill, curiously named the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” passed 245 – 189 with assistance from three Democrats.  Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has refused to bring repeal to the Senate floor for a vote.  President Obama has vowed to veto any repeal effort.  Republicans have not introduced an alternative bill, although Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said Republicans will ask congressional committees to make “common-sense reforms” to expand coverage and cut costs, but told reporters no “artificial deadlines” were needed.

“As has been true since early in the debate, individual provisions of the new law are more popular than the law itself, complicating the debate over repeal,” the study notes. “So while the public in general is divided over whether to keep or repeal the legislation, if they could pick and choose, the large majority (roughly eight in 10 Americans) would keep the provisions providing tax credits to small businesses, and upward of seven in 10 would keep the provisions that close the Medicare doughnut hole, provide coverage subsidies to those of low and moderate income, institute the new voluntary long-term care insurance program known as the CLASS Act, and prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.”

According to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 32 percent of Americans would like to see the law repealed; 13 percent want to see the bill left as it stands. The poll found that 29 percent of Americans want to see minor changes and that 24 percent want major changes.  Representative Ben Chandler, (D-KY), who voted against the law last year, said he voted against repeal because he thinks the law’s “bad” parts should be repealed piece by piece.  “I will not vote to repeal parts of the law that protect central Kentuckians by preventing insurance companies from dropping people if they get sick, ending lifetime caps on coverage and eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions,” Chandler said.

Implementation of the law is continuing as planned, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “I want the people who are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act — including families, seniors and small business owners — to know that this vote does not change the law and that this department will continue to work every day to implement this vital law.”

New York Senator Charles Schumer Rejects Healthcare Reform Failure

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Declaring that “failure is not an option” on healthcare reform, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)  said that the legislation will be passed with or without Republican support. “We’re not going to not pass a bill,” Schumer said, pointing to a healthcare system that is broken because some 47 million Americans lack any kind of insurance coverage.

Before this can happen, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has the task of resolving issues within his own party regarding abortion, taxes and allowing the government to sell health insurance in competition with private insurers.  Democratic leaders are working to persuade Senator Olympia Snow (R-ME) to cross party lines and vote in favor of the ultimate bill, even though she sided with her fellow Republicans on the recent procedural vote to move the debate to the full Senate floor.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives bills require all Americans to have healthcare insurance, and plan to make government subsidies available to help pay premiums.  Insurance companies would be banned from denying coverage or charging extra for individuals with pre-existing conditions.  New insurance marketplaces would be created for those Americans who have difficulty finding affordable coverage – such as the self-employed and those who own small businesses.  Americans who currently have employer-provided coverage won’t see any big changes in their coverage.  Senior citizens will see improvement in their prescription coverage.

As for paying for these bills?  The House bill depends primarily on an income tax hike on upper-income individuals.  The Senate bill would tax Cadillac insurance plans, increase the Medicare payroll tax for the wealthy and mandate fees on medical industries.

Joe Lieberman Vows to Say “No” to a Public Option

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Healthcare reform’s worst news could be former vice presidential candidate Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), who is threatening to join a Republican filibuster should a public option in any form be included in the final legislation.  Senators possibly joining Lieberman in opposing a public option are Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).  Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is exploring compromise measures with his 60-member caucus.

So opposed is Lieberman that he has vowed to filibuster the ultimate bill if it contains any form of public option.  This includes “the trigger” or “fallback” that is favored by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).  Under this plan, the trigger would let states opt out of a public plan.  Lieberman also opposes Senator Tom Carper’s (D-DE) “the hammer”, which would allow states to opt into a public plan.  Blue Dog Democrats like Landrieu have expressed some support for both “the trigger” and “the hammer”.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) remains optimistic.  “I think that what happens is there are two weeks, three weeks, whatever, of debate.  Senator Lieberman, everybody gets a chance to offer amendments.  I don’t want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it’s not going to be in it,” he said, noting that a majority of the American people support a public option.  According to Brown, the four dissenters will “look at this bill in the end and say, I don’t think they want to be on the wrong side of history.  I don’t think they want to go back and say, you know, on a procedural vote, ‘I killed the most important bill in my political career.’  I don’t think they want to be there on that.  So I think in the end, we get them.”

Pat of the dilemma, the Democrats find themselves in is that two Democrats – Roland Burris and Bernie Sanders – have vowed not to vote for the bill if there’s no public option.

Senate: Final Healthcare Reform Vote May Come in 2010

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is warning that the healthcare reform bill may not pass until after the New Year.  According to Reid, debate in the Senate may not begin until December, pushing back the timeline on legislation that tops President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that the House of Representatives is on a faster track and that a vote could come soon on a bill to extend coverage to people who lack healthcare insurance, ban industry practices such as denying coverage of pre-existing conditions and put the brakes on medical spending.  The $1.2 trillion, 10-year bill would expand coverage to an estimated 96 percent of all Americans.  Additionally, the House bill includes a public option intended to put pressure on private insurers to make coverage more affordable for all.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) currently is working on a cost estimate for the draft bill that Reid submitted recently.  White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer reacted to the news by saying “The House plans to vote on the health reform bill within days.  Senator Reid has committed to the president that as soon as the Senate has the information back from the CBO they will move expeditiously to pass health reform.”

A delay past the year-end timetable would push off healthcare reform to a mid-term election year and raise questions about the Democrats’ ability to deliver legislation that the Obama administration has made a priority.

Public Support for the Public Option Grows

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

The public’s support for the public option in healthcare reform is on the upswing, as the Senate debates whether to include such a plan in the ultimate healthcare overhaul bill.  According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, fully 57 percent of Americans favor a public option, a rise from the 52 percent reported in August.  Even so, the statistic is below the 62 percent approval rating the public option received in June.

At present, the Senate is working to reconcile the Finance Committee’s healthcare bill and the Health Committee’s legislation.  Only the Health Committee’s legislation includes a public option, which President Obama favors but has said is not a requirement.  The public option is a bone of contention in the healthcare reform process, and has strong opposition from Republicans who believe it could drive private insurers from the marketplace and result in a single-payer system.

Patients First, a conservative group, believes the poll’s methodology is flawed.  According to Phil Kerpen, the group’s policy director, “The poll is a mirage designed to create the illusion of a groundswell of support for government-forced healthcare when no such support exists.  The poll reflects the political aspirations of a few peddlers of failed big-government ideas, not the common sense wishes of the American people.”

President Obama has said he wants to sign healthcare reform legislation by Christmas.

Senate Moves Healthcare Reform Forward in Historic Vote

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Senate votes to send healthcare reform legislation to the floor; language of the ultimate bill still unknown.  In a rare Saturday evening roll call, the Senate recently voted 60 – 39 along straight party lines to open debate  on wide-ranging healthcare reform legislation.  The procedural vote – in which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) won backing from his entire 60-member caucus – moves the healthcare reform debate from committee into the full Senate.  Even with an important victory under his belt, Reid still faces a fight from conservative Blue Dog Democrats – not to mention Republicans.

Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) told ABC’s “This Week” that he voted to cut off a Republican filibuster because it opens the way to revising the legislation as it currently is written.  “If I thought the bill couldn’t be amended and couldn’t be improved, I wouldn’t vote to move it forward and move the debate,” Nelson said.  “Debate can begin.  We ought not to stop the opportunity to improve the bill.”

Conversely, Senator Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told “Meet the Press” that Saturday’s vote was a victory for President Barack Obama and Senator Reid.  “We have a lot of different opinions on our side of the caucus and we came together last night.”  New York Democrat Charles Schumer agreed, saying the bill can win the necessary supermajority to fend off a filibuster because the Senate’s public opinion is adequately centrist.  “There is no intent to compete unfairly with private insurance.  This is a modest public option,” he said, noting that it has the same requirements as private insurance coverage.

Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, want to write entirely new legislation with significant GOP input.  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said the current bill will be an expensive “disaster for our country” that would increase the deficit and force some Americans to lose healthcare coverage.

Whatever shape the ultimate Senate legislation takes, it will have to undergo reconciliation with the more liberal House of Representatives’ bill passed in early November.  Although Saturday’s procedural motion required a 60-vote majority, passage of the final healthcare reform bill will require just 51 votes.

Large Corporations Give Public Option Two Thumbs Down

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Big companies lining up against the public option.  Corporate giants like Verizon, JPMorgan, General Electric and Wal-Mart are lining up in opposition to the inclusion of a public option in healthcare reform legislation now under consideration in the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The Business Roundtable, comprised of large companies that in aggregate employ more than 12 million Americans, accuse the federal government of inefficiency and charge that it would underpay healthcare providers.  Additionally, the Business Roundtable claims that a public option will increase prices for private insurers and employers.

By contrast, President Barack Obama believes that a government alternative will force private insurers to offer more competitive pricing.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said his bill includes a public option that is an alternative to policies sold by private insurers.  States will have the ability to opt out from offering the plan.

“A public plan would neither manage cost nor encourage innovation,” said Antonio Perez, chief executive of Eastman Kodak and head of the Business Roundtable’s healthcare group.  “We believe it is the wrong direction for fixing our healthcare system.”  Other business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring national television ads in seven states opposing the public option.  The chamber prefers a national exchange “with an Orbitz-like website” that compares deals offered by various private providers.