Contract negotiations are stalled for thousands of workers at casinos on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas to the point where they may go on strike — and the sticking point is Obamacare.
On Feb. 20, thousands of housekeepers, porters, cooks, cocktail servers, and others represented by Nevada’s largest union, the Culinary Union Local 226, voted to end a contract extension the workers agreed to last summer. The union wants to maintain its current benefits — including health care coverage at no cost to workers, pensions, and guaranteed 40-hour workweeks.
Rising health care costs due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act could put those benefits in jeopardy, the union says.
“The biggest hurdle to reaching settlements in Vegas is the new costs imposed on our health plan by Obamacare,” Donald “D” Taylor, president of Unite Here, the parent union of CU Local 226, told BuzzFeed in a statement. “Even though the president and Congress promised we could keep our health plan, the reality is, unless the law is fixed, that won’t be true.”
When the unions are starting to sound like us, then you know this law is in serious trouble.
But hey, at least the law is getting insurance to the uninsured, right? Eh, yeah, about that . . .
The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway so far in signing up Americans who lack health insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal.
A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private health plans through the new marketplace have signed up for one — and that about half of uninsured adults has looked for information on the online exchanges or plans to look . . .
One of the surveys, by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., shows that, of people who had signed up for coverage through the marketplaces by last month, just one-fourth described themselves as having been without insurance for most of the past year.
The survey also attempted to gauge what has been another fuzzy matter: how many of the people actually have the insurance for which they signed up. Under federal rules, coverage begins only if someone has started to pay their monthly insurance premiums.
And, the survey show, that just over half of uninsured people said they had started to pay, compared with nearly nine in 10 of those signing up on the exchanges who said they were simply switching from one health plan to another.
Although several parts of the Affordable Care Act have yet to be implemented, 23% of Americans say the healthcare law has hurt them or their families, while 10% say it has helped them so far. Still, the majority of Americans (63%) feel the law has had no impact on them or their families.
This update is from Gallup polling conducted between Feb. 28 and March 2, just prior to the Obama administration’s announcement this week that insurance companies will be able to delay until next year the requirement that they cancel or replace policies that don’t conform to the provisions of the law often referred to as “Obamacare.”
The 23% who feel the law has hurt them is the highest percentage for the question since Gallup began asking Americans about it in 2012, and is up from 19% in previous polling.
By 40% to 21%, Americans say the law is more likely to make their families’ healthcare situations worse rather than better, with the rest saying it will make little difference.
The Thursday Morning Jolt looks at the accelerating era of Obama lame-duck-hood, and of course, a preview of CPAC, which begins today:
Welcome to CPAC. Try Not to Catch the Annual Plague-like Cold.
Are you ready for the Conservative Political Action Conference for 2014? Tomorrow, Kathryn Jean Lopez and I will be at CPAC, conducting quick video interviews with the biggest movers and shakers at the conference. Look for them here in the Corner, starting tomorrow morning and all the way through Saturday.
Three perennial CPAC stories we ought to retire:
“Look, it’s an offensive or racist tchotchke from a vendor!” All it takes is one bumper sticker and that becomes the photo sent out over the wires. MSNBC will get a month’s worth of programming out of it.
“Look, this faction of the party or movement is being driven out!” Here’s the Daily Beast’s early entry into the genre; notice the glaring contradiction that undermines that “increasingly fractured conservative movement” reference she begins with:
On the list is Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots. Off the list is House Speaker John Boehner, the highest-ranking Republican in Washington who has run afoul of the far right flank of the GOP again and again over the last year.
On the list is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the embattled 2016 hopeful who has suddenly gained favor with the right after two months of abuse from the mainstream media over his bridge scandal. Off the list are Mitt Romney and John McCain, Christie’s fellow “pragmatists,” “moderates” or “RINOs,” and former White House aspirants who no longer need to try to convince activists they’re all on the same team.
So those torch-carrying fundamentalist arch-conservatives managed to drive Romney and McCain from the invite list, but not Christie. Oh, by the way, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s among the speakers.
Paul Ryan’s speaking; wasn’t he on the squish list not long ago for the budget deal and sounding cheery about immigration reform? Sen. Pat Toomey’s speaking; I guess his gun deal with Joe Manchin isn’t such a deal-breaker. Sen. Marco Rubio’s speaking; wasn’t he supposed to get driven out over the Gang of Eight deal? Ed Gillespie, who’s running for Senate here in Virginia, is speaking; isn’t he Mr. GOP Establishment? Finally, Mike Huckabee’s speaking, and he’s Mr. Big-Government Conservatism. Some purge this turned out to be!
“Look, So-and-so won the straw poll!” Okay, the straw poll winner might be intriguing. If somebody like, say, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker wins, it will be a wake-up call for the other big names. But this is about as unrepresentative a sample of the GOP primary electorate as you can find; the 11,000 or so straw-poll participants are the die-hards of the die-hards, the most dedicated, most passionate, most up-to-date folks. But Republican primary electorates include a lot of folks who aren’t like that, even in states with closed primaries. They’re Republicans, not necessarily conservative activists, and what appeals to one group isn’t guaranteed to appeal to the other. Remember, while McCain and Romney were greeted reasonably warmly at the CPACs of 2008 and 2012, they were never classic CPAC crowd-pleasers. Yet they both won their respective nominations.
The Conservative Political Action Conference has never been known for attracting Hollywood (unless you count Kirk Cameron, Stephen Baldwin or the Duggars), but the Motion Picture Association of America will be there this year — at least in spirit. The movie studios’ biggest lobbying group is once again sponsoring the conservative confab, which kicks off Thursday just outside of D.C.
The MPAA won’t really talk about the sponsorship, though the group’s logo adorns the CPAC website.
“We don’t comment on political contributions,” an MPAA spokesman told Whispers.
Cue the cries of “CPAC has sold out to Hollywood!”
ThinkProgress is not pleased that seven Senate Democrats just voted with Republicans to reject the nomination of Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s choice to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Adegbile’s nomination was opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police in part because of his legal efforts to overturn the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer.
Those seven are, clockwise from top left, Senators Chris Coons of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, John Walsh of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
Well, progressives and liberals, if you really wanted to send a signal, you could refuse to donate to the DNC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this year, since they’ll be going all-out to help Mark Pryor and John Walsh win in 2014. (Coons is running for reelection and is considered safe.) You could even pledge to sit out those races, concluding that Pryor and Walsh won’t be there for you on the hard votes, the ones where you really see whether a lawmaker is committed to your values.
But I suspect you’ll just take it and learn to like it.
Tom Foley dominates the crowded Republican primary field in the Connecticut governor’s race and is locked in a 42 – 42 percent dead heat with Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
There is a large gender gap as women back the Democrat 45 – 37 percent while men go Republican 48 – 39 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. Foley leads 83 – 9 percent among Republicans and 45 – 33 percent among independent voters while Gov. Malloy takes Democrats 79 – 10 percent.
Perhaps most surprisingly, out in the Aloha State, the Hawaii News Now/Star Advertiser poll found Republican Duke Aiona leading incumbent governor Neil Abercrombie in a head-to-head matchup 48 to 40 percent, a result that even Aiona found “surprising.”
Beyond the Russia and Alan Grayson news in today’s Morning Jolt . . .
Advertisers Pitching to Americans Yearning to Feel Confident Again
Take a look at three of the biggest, most-discussed television ads of the past year or so.
First, Ram Trucks’ “God Made a Farmer” ad from the Super Bowl last year:
Then the Coke ad from the Super Bowl this year:
I know there were some folks who watched the Coke ad and perceived the message, “America isn’t just for English-speakers! Embrace the polyglot, you ethnocentric hicks!” But it’s just as easy, or easier, to look at the ad and see the message that all across the globe, in every tongue, people find America, and its freedoms, cultures, and traditions beautiful.
Then the latest ad to make a splash, no pun intended, is Cadillac’s “Poolside”:
“Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff?” asks actor Neal McDonough as he gazes out over his pool in new Cadillac’s TV commercial before delivering a dissertation on the American Dream.
With that, the actor begins the controversial 60-second spot Cadillac that will air both before and during ABC’s broadcast of the Academy Awards this Sunday night.
The “Poolside” spot created, by ad agency Rogue, is intended to serve as a “brand provocation,” according to Craig Bierley, Cadillac’s advertising director. Consider it mission accomplished.
Fox Business News contributor Jonathan Hoenig, a founding member of the Capitalistpig hedge fund, praised “Poolside” as a “tremendous” celebration of profit-seeking, productivity and, yes, enjoyment of material goods.
“Those are considered very declasse these days, very down. So here’s a wonderful ad that actually celebrates America,” Mr. Hoenig said.
But Fox Business host Neil Cavuto worried “Poolside” feeds the negative perception of the richest 1% as smug, rich bastards who are contemptuous of everyone else. It also takes chutzpah for GM, a company bailed out by American taxpayers, to preach self-reliance, Mr. Cavuto wryly noted.
What’s the theme tying together all three of these?
Americans desperately want to feel good about their country again.
The farmer in the Ram Trucks ad is what we think we once were, and want to still be: hard-working, reliable, honest, filled with determination and integrity. The Coke ad actually begins with a cowboy who would fit in the Ram Truck ad, but moves on to break-dancing kids, a family visiting the Grand Canyon, a big (Hispanic?) family settling in for dinner, folks wobbling at a roller rink and laughing at themselves. That ad shows that we’re warm and welcoming, close to our families, spending quality time with our kids who aren’t sitting in front of a video-game console or staring at the screen of their phone.
And then Neal McDunough — “Hey, it’s that guy from Band of Brothers and Captain America!” — comes along and stabs a needle of adrenaline and confidence into our heart. He chuckles about other countries sitting at cafes and taking August off. He walks past his kids, who are doing their homework, with one appearing to be working on a model of DNA. He explains that “we’re crazy, driven, hard-working believers,” and high-fives his younger child, who obviously has already absorbed this cheerful, confident philosophy. He’s got a gorgeous house with a pool, happy, bright kids, a good-looking wife who reads the Wall Street Journal after he does, and he looks good in a suit. He’s got spring in his step. The world is his oyster, and he says it’s America’s oyster, too, because “you work hard, you create your own luck, and you’ve got to believe anything is possible.”
We want to be that guy. Or we want to believe we could be that guy if we tried. Or perhaps put even clearer, we want to believe we have the opportunity to be that guy, whether or not we actually want to pursue that life, that house, that lifestyle, and drive that car.
UPDATE: A reader reminds me that Mike Rowe’s ad for Walmart fits in this theme as well:
Most companies test their ads extensively with focus groups. The folks in those focus groups must be bursting at the seams for a message that America can be great again. Are the potential 2016 contenders hearing this?
After giving my two hour lecture, I wondered what the Senator from New Jersey’s thoughts were on the saber-rattling going on over the crisis in Ukraine. So I went to his official Senate website and looked. It read very much like the website of a mayor. I clicked on “news” and found a list of recent press releases — most jointly written with New Jersey’s senior Senator, Bob Menendez. I searched for the word “Ukraine”. I got back: “No news found at this time.”
Hillary Clinton has yet to comment on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a situation that escalated Saturday when 6,000 troops moved into the province of Crimea. Even as Republicans have criticized the former secretary of state for her implementation of Obama’s “reset” approach to Russia in recent weeks, Clinton has stayed quiet. Her spokesman did not respond to an inquiry on Monday about the still shifting conflict.
Well, it’s not like she had a role in managing the American relationship with Russia in recent years, right?
DONETSK, Ukraine – U.S. Senators Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL) called for the immediate destruction of 15,000 tons of ammunition, 400,000 small arms and light weapons, and 1,000 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) or shoulder missile launchers that are often sought by terrorists.
Lugar and Obama toured the Donetsk State Chemical Production Plant, a conventional weapons destruction facility where the U.S. has taken the lead in a three-year NATO program to destroy the weapons. Another 117,000 tons of ammunition and 1.1 million small arms and light weapons are slated for destruction within 12 years.
Heck, it’s not like Ukraine will need lots of weapons in the next decade, right?
Fast forward nine years…
CNN: “Turning to the troop buildup in the Russian-dominated autonomous region of Crimea, Putin said Ukraine is a brotherly neighbor of Russia — and that the troops there have much in common. He also said Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea.”
Russia’s unilateral and menacing acts mean the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade. Second, the West should convey — privately at this stage, so as not to humiliate Russia — that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch.
Meanwhile, NATO forces, consistent with the organization’s contingency planning, should be put on alert. High readiness for some immediate airlift to Europe of U.S. airborne units would be politically and militarily meaningful. If the West wants to avoid a conflict, there should be no ambiguity in the Kremlin as to what might be preciptated by further adventurist use of force in the middle of Europe.
NATO member countries that border Ukraine are Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Turkey’s on the other side of the Black Sea.
The last Tom Clancy book, Command Authority, published last year, is all about Russian aggression against its former satellites. Dialogue on p. 70:
Golovko added, “Volodin has his eyes on the Crimea, in Southern Ukraine, and he knows once Ukraine joins NATO, that will be difficult for him to achieve. The way he sees it, he has to move soon.”
Ryan said, “He is right that there is no treaty between Ukraine and NATO. And if he does invade, getting Europe on board to fight for the Crimea is a nonstarter.”
It’s like he’s psychic. The only good news in this revelation is that if Clancy’s right about this, it means he’s right about everything else, and that means the U.S. Navy got their hands on a Russian submarine with a caterpillar drive back in 1984.
UPDATE: Separately from Clancy’s last novel, the author lent his name to a line of computer games. The first Ghost Recon game depicted U.S. special forces secretly going into T’bilisi, Georgia to deal with Russian invasion forces backed by ultra-nationalist hard-liners. The “future date” of the 2001 game was… April 2008. In real life, Russian forces crossed into Georgia a few months later. Ghost Recon also featured Russia taking over… Ukraine. The trailer is below:
“Russia chose this brazen act of aggression and moved in with its forces on a completely trumped up set of pretext, claiming that people were threatened. And the fact is that that’s not the act of somebody who is strong, that’s the act of somebody who is acting out of weakness and out of certain kind of desperation.”
Above: What Kerry calls ‘weak.’
Kurt Schlichter points out that despite CNN’s chryon, those aren’t tanks, they’re mobile artillery. Sharper eyes and minds than me may correct me, but it looks like Kurtis Marsh may be right, that these are 2S1 Gvozdika, or some variation of it. Presuming the Wikipedia entry is correct, these artillery have a range of 10 to 14 miles.
In other words, this is a tool for projecting destructive power a significant distance away, not just occupying a territory full of ethnic Russians eager to politically rejoin their motherland. This isn’t proof that Russia intends to take a bigger bite out of Ukraine, but if they wanted to… they have some of the tools they would need in place.
From Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s new book about Hillary Clinton’s years at the U.S. State Department, HRC, p.136-137:
[Hillary Clinton's senior adviser] Philippe Reines, a lover of both gimmickry and iconic imagery, had come up with a plan to show the world a symbol of the “reset” mantra. Hillary would give [Russian foreign minister Sergei] Lavrov a gift-wrapped button emblazoned with the English and Russian words for “reset.” It seemed like a clever way to draw attention to the message, one sure to be bounced across the globe on television and in newspaper pictures. But Reines had sidestepped traditional protocol by not asking State’s team of translators to help with the project from the start. He later said he was unaware such resources were available to him.
One of Hillary’s top aides didn’t know the State Department had professional translators? Really?
[Reines] had asked NSC Russia director Mike McFaul for the word and both McFaul and State Russia expert Bill Burns signed off on the spelling…
Lavrov pointed out that peregruzka – printed not in Cyrillic but in Latin script – means “overcharge.” …
Reines tried to correct the error, asking Russia’s ambassador to Switzerland to give the gift back temporarily so that a new label – with the right word – could be printed and affixed to it.
“This is a gift from the United States. I don’t think I can give it back to you,” the ambassador replied with a smile. “If I did, my minister would be very upset.”
“If your minister doesn’t give that back, my minister,” Reines said, referring to Hillary, “is going to send me to Siberia.”
Reines pleaded his case in good humor, even suggesting they bring a label-maker into the room so that the Russian ambassador didn’t have to let the gift – an emergency stop button that had been hastily pilfered from a swimming pool or Jacuzzi at the hotel – out of his sight. Nyet, the ambassador said.
We’re in the very best of hands.
Somewhere in Geneva, there’s a hotel maintenance guy who’s wondering where the button went.
The U.S. should immediately move to expand its existing Magnitsky Act, which prohibits Russians engaged in illegal activity from entering the U.S. If it were extended to the regulation of bank accounts and property ownership in the U.S., we’d hear howls of outrage from many Russian officials and oligarchs. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), for one, supports this kind of restriction: “Living in Miami, I have seen in recent years the wave of Russian tourists coming to our city and state to spend money and buy property. Many are government officials or allies whose wealth stems from allegiance to Putin, and we should limit their ability to travel here.”
Russia today is not the isolated Soviet Union, and its leaders and oligarchs need access to Western markets and capital. All trade and banking relationships with Russia ought to be reconsidered, and the U.S. should restrict the access of Russian banks to the global financial system. Aggressive investigations and leaks about the money the oligarchs and Mr. Putin hold in Western banks might raise the pressure in the Kremlin. The U.S. should also expand the list of Russian officials on the Magnitsky Act’s American visa ban and financial assets freeze, including Mr. Putin.
The U.S. can also deploy ships from the Europe-based Sixth Fleet into the Black Sea, and send the newly commissioned George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean. NATO has a “distinctive partnership” with Kiev and in 2008 promised Ukraine that it could eventually join. It’s impractical and risky to bring Ukraine in now. But the alliance should do what it can to help Ukraine and certainly boot the Russian mission, a well-known den of spies, from NATO headquarters in Brussels and shut down the useless Russia-NATO Council.
Were the president to unleash America’s energy boom into the export sector, fast-tracking energy supplies to Europe, he’d pull the rug out from under Putin’s feet. No longer subject to Putin’s energy protection racket, Europe would be free to take a tougher stand against his intimidation. More important, removed of the foreign capital flows born of his own energy exports, Putin would be unable to support his increasing military expenditures and continuing support for Assad’s rampages in Syria.
So will we use any of these options? Or will the administration reject all of them as being too “provocative” — as if the invasion of a country we wanted to bring into NATO wasn’t provocative enough?
According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 10.2 million Americans who are officially categorized as unemployed, with 3.6 million considered long-term unemployed. There are 7.3 million Americans working part-time involuntarily, sometimes considered underemployed. There are 837,000 “discouraged workers” — persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.
Nobody has a good, real-time fix on how successful the Affordable Care Act has been in reducing the ranks of the uninsured. The Obama administration hasn’t been able to say how many of the 3.3 million people who have signed up for private health insurance coverage, or of the 6.3 million who have been determined eligible for Medicaid, were actually uninsured before — and health care experts aren’t sure yet, either.
Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner wrote in with a thought or two on why, as detailed in yesterday’s Jolt, Kathleen Sebelius’s Health and Human Services Department is slashing Medicare’s payments for home health-care services.
“The Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — both big Obama backers — have been trying to organize these home health care workers, mostly by leaning on states to declare people who receive the subsidies state employees,” Higgins writes. “The states then hand over the workers’ contact info to unions. That is the basis of the current Supreme Court case, Harris v. Quinn: whether these workers ‘really’ are state employees. . . . A problem the unions have run into is that the rates are set by the feds so there is little to bargain with the states for — and therefore little reason for the healthcare workers to join a union. It is hard to get somebody to sign a union card if they don’t think the union can actually do anything for them.”
In 2003, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared that home workers for the physically disabled were now state employees. Anyone who does this work now has to join the Service Employees International Union, or at least pay it monthly fees.
I wanted to ask Blagojevich about this decision but was prevented by the fact that he is currently serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison on 17 counts of corruption related to his duties as governor.
In 2009, current Gov. Pat Quinn declared home workers for the mentally disabled were also state workers.
Tellingly, both declarations stated that they were not public employees for the purposes of state pensions, health benefits or protection from civil liability. Just unionization.
A puzzle piece falls into place, in some way; here’s a group of workers that is paid for through Medicare, resisting membership in the big public-sector unions. If they won’t get with the program, they’ve got to be punished. As Obama said early in 2009, “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”
Remember when this sort of thing was ipso facto evidence that someone was a lunatic, a conspiracy theorist, a hate-monger, and unfit for public discourse?
The Montana Democratic Party today called on Congressman Steve Daines, who claims in his latest TV ad to be a “fifth-generation Montanan,” to clear up confusion about his roots by releasing his birth certificate.
Daines’ latest ad asserts he “grew up in Bozeman, a fifth-generation Montanan,” which directly contradicts earlier versions of his biography when he claimed: “I’m a third-generation Montanan, kind of that classic Montana kid.”
So the dispute is really whether Daines’s great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were Montanans, huh? Really? Does Daines need to dig up their birth certificates, too? Do we need to dig deep into his Ancestry.com profile to get to the bottom of this?
Democrats insist Daines isn’t really a Montanan, because he was born in California and lived there . . . until he was two.
Everything in Montana’s going so hunky-dory that you guys have nothing else to worry about, huh? Anything else going on in that state?
Colorado’s Senate Race Just Got a Lot More Interesting
This is not a guarantee that Senator Mark Udall (D., Colo.) will be defeated in November. But it is good news.
Weld District Attorney Ken Buck and Rep. Cory Gardner are swapping races.
Buck said Wednesday he will drop his bid for U.S. Senate and instead pursue the 4th Congressional District seat, which represents Weld County.
Gardner, a Republican who currently represents the 4th, will run for U.S. Senate, Buck said.
“I have talked with Cory Gardner and feel that he would be a strong candidate for the United States Senate to beat Mark Udall,” Buck said. “I made the decision to step down and endorse Cory for that job. I was running against Mark Udall because I think this country needed to change directions, and I still think the country needs to change directions, and I think Cory gives us the best chance to get that done.”
State Rep. and United States Senate candidate Amy Stephens confirmed with The Gazette on Wednesday evening what had been rumored throughout the day. She will remove herself from the U.S. Senate race and throw her support behind U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in a campaign that will pit a Republican nominee against Sen. Mark Udall, a Boulder Democrat born to a powerful political dynasty.
“Cory is Colorado’s great unifier,” said Stephens, of Monument. “He is liked in so many circles — right, left, moderate, you name it. He is Colorado’s beloved son and at the end of the day he is the candidate who can take on Mark Udall and make this happen. If we want to avoid a single-payer health system, we need Cory to win.”
Colorado Republicans must never forget this selfless decision by Stephens, who could have posed a formidable threat to the incumbent Democrat. We seldom see politicians place the interests of a party or a political philosophy ahead of the self interest of winning a higher political office.
Buck’s not a bad candidate, but he had a golden opportunity against appointed Senator Michael Bennet back in 2010 and fell just short, 46.4 percent to 48.1 percent in what was a near-ideal issue environment for the GOP. His mouth got him in trouble with an ill-regarded off-the-cuff comment that voters should support him over his female primary opponent, Jane Norton, “because I do not wear high heels” — the kind of statement easily exploited in attack ads. By shifting to the House race in Gardner’s R+11 district, he becomes, barring some massive implosion, Congressman-elect Ken Buck.
Cory Gardner is a top-tier candidate. You may recall him grilling witnesses about some of the more inane “got coverage?” ads running in his state. Back in 2010, Gardner was one of the “young guns” and considered one of the GOP’s best shots to pick up a seat, running against Betsy Markey. Markey outspent Gardner by $1.2 million . . . and lost, 41 percent to 52 percent. He’s young and polished and has solid conservative credentials but is also capable of articulating that message in a way that doesn’t alienate the soccer moms.
Mark Udall isn’t toast — yet — but his year just got a whole lot tougher.
Previously, I’d thought that Ed Gillespie’s run in Virginia was the ultimate Republican bet on the power of Obamacare to win elections this year. Gardner’s usurped that title. He’s giving up a safe seat to challenge a Democrat, Mark Udall, who’s carved out a good profile for himself (especially on NSA issues) in a state that went Democratic in 2008, 2010*, and 2012. Udall even felt safe enough to vote for Manchin-Toomey; months later, conservative activists successfully recalled two Colorado state senators who voted for gun control.
Cory Gardner, now hunting for a Senate seat.
UPDATE: Taylor Budowich, executive director of the Tea Party Express, writes in to remind me that Cory Gardner, lifetime ACU rating 86.7, has a challenger in State Senator Owen Hill, adding, “some back-room deal making won’t stop his momentum… with Ken Buck out of the race there is a clear Tea Party vs hand-picked establishment matchup.”
This is one of those mornings where I want to post the whole Morning Jolt as soon as it’s done. But it’s better to subscribe, so you’ll get the whole package faster.
Why is the Obama Administration Squeezing the Home Health-Service Industry?
A couple of nights ago, Jim Angle of Fox News pointed out a largely unnoticed aspect of Obamacare: HHS Kathleen Sebelius’s decision to cut the maximum amount she could from Medicare’s payments for home health-care services.
Home health-care services are when a professional from a Medicare-certified home health agency comes to an elderly person’s house and provides nursing care, physical therapy, or speech-language pathology services.
Sebelius cut the maximum permitted by law, 3.5 percent, and declared HHS would do the same for the next three years.
As Angle’s report: noted, “The cuts were deep enough that officials offered a damaging prediction of the impact saying, it was estimated that approximately 40 percent of providers would have negative margins.”
“Negative margins” is another term for losing money. And businesses that lose money either go kaput or lay off workers. Forty percent of the firms in the industry adds up to roughly a half-million jobs. That doesn’t mean that 500,000 home health-care workers will be fired tomorrow, but it does mean that they’re at serious risk for layoffs in the next three years.
So we’re talking about a massive job-killer in a field dedicated to treating the health problems of the elderly.
Here’s industry research firm IBISWorld, basically declaring that the outlook for what was, not long ago, one of the fastest-growing health-care fields looks grim:
Prior to December 2013, the Home Care Providers industry was quickly becoming one of the fastest growing healthcare industries in the United States. Home care saves billions of dollars every year by allowing patients to avoid high-cost healthcare settings, such as hospitals . . .
To help pay for other provisions of the recent healthcare legislation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the implementation of a four-year 3.5% annual reduction to the Medicare base payment for home healthcare services beginning in January 2014. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice estimates that the magnitude of these reductions will likely render three-quarters of all industry operators unable to run profitably by 2017.
(Note: That is way more than 40 percent!)
According to the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, the industry experienced its largest job loss in more than a decade in December 2013; although the Medicare reductions were not officially implemented until 2014, CMS’s announcement was enough to spur industry operators to begin cutting costs. The industry is aggressively lobbying Congress to reconsider or revoke these reductions, but unless that happens, IBISWorld expects industry revenue to decrease in the five years to 2019. Spurred by slow revenue growth in 2014, IBISWorld also anticipates significant profit losses across the industry, with average margins decreasing by 2019.
So what’s the administration’s angle here? They never met a dollar they didn’t want to spend, particularly in entitlements, so why are they suddenly putting the screws to the home health-care industry, of all professions? Is it that the financial forecasts of Obamacare have been so wildly overoptimistic and unrealistic that they feel they’ve got to make a big-time cut somewhere to prevent their “bending the cost curve down” promise from becoming an even bigger joke? Or does the administration have something ideological against home health care? Is it that by having the health-care provider coming to a person’s house, there’s not enough of a role for the government to intervene, manage, and meddle?
And why does Paul Ryan get ads depicting him throwing Granny off the cliff when Kathleen Sebelius really is cutting funding for care for the elderly right now?
Does that nurse who visits your home really need that paycheck?
In Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s new book about Hillary Clinton’s years at the U.S. State Department, HRC, the former secretary’s recent health troubles are mentioned:
At a follow-up examination later that month, doctors discovered that a blood clot had formed inside her skull, in a sinus cavity behind her ear. The clot could have killed her, or caused severe brain damage, if it had gone untreated. Hillary was immediately admitted to New York Presbyterian Hospital. She was placed on blood thinners and remained at the hospital for several days, so doctors could keep an eye on her . . .
A few pages later:
The X factor [in a future presidential run] was Hillary’s health. Her concussion and the ensuing blood clot were no trifles. Friends who visited with her in the spring and summer of 2013 were struck by how relaxed she was but also how much older she looked after four years at State.
When people discuss the possibility of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016, certain images come to mind, mostly images of her campaigning in 2007 and 2008. Here are some Facebook graphics from ReadyforHillary.com, an organization aiming to build grassroots support for a 2016 campaign:
Or the image on cover of HRC itself:
But her recent appearances indicate that the Hillary Clinton of 2016 won’t look like the Hillary Clinton of 2008; the aging mentioned by her friends is obvious:
An electorate that judges candidates, particularly female candidates, based upon appearances may not be fair, but it is reality and is likely to be a bigger deal because of those blood clots and genuine questions about the health of a woman who will be 69 on January 20, 2017.
Sheila Lawless is the office manager at a small rheumatology practice in Wichita Falls, Texas, about two hours outside of Dallas. She makes sure everything in the office runs smoothly — scheduling patients, collecting payments, keeping the lights on. Recently she added another duty — incorporating the trickle of patients with insurance plans purchased on the new Affordable Care Act exchanges.
. . . It’s presented a major challenge: verifying that these patients have insurance. Each exchange patient has required the practice to spend an hour or more on the phone with the insurance company. “We’ve been on hold for an hour, an hour and 20, an hour and 45, been disconnected, have to call back again and repeat the process,” she explains. Those sorts of hold times add up fast.
A big issue is whether the patients have actually paid their first month’s premium; the New York Timesreported earlier this month that “one in five people who signed up for health insurance under the new health care law failed to pay their premiums on time and therefore did not receive coverage in January,” citing insurance companies and industry experts.
In Illinois, workers’ hours are dropping dramatically — almost as if a new law had given employers a major incentive to have employees working less than 30 hours a week!
In fact, average work hours increased slightly in two of these sectors between 2008 and 2010. But all three sectors (retail trade, food and beverage, and general merchandise) saw dramatic reductions in average work hours after ObamaCare was enacted.
Illinois is far from a unique example. This disturbing trend is becoming more apparent nationally, as well.
Retail employment, which makes up almost one-tenth of the nation’s total nonfarm employment, is seeing similar reductions. In 12 of the 14 states including Illinois where average weekly hours worked are available, non-supervisor workers in the retail trade showed average annual declines in hours worked between 2011 and 2013. In fact, six states saw average hours worked fall to 30 hours or below for that sector.
In Hawaii, the state has spent roughly $27,000 per enrollment.
Yet four months after enrollments began, the Hawaii Health Connector has allocated $120 million while signing up only about 4,300 people for health plans — fewer than any other state. Despite officials’ initial hopes of enrolling tens of thousands of Hawaiians, only 400 employers have applied for plans for their employees.
Maryland looks on in envy at a barely used state exchange that generally works:
Maryland has fired the contractor that built its expensive online health insurance marketplace, which has so many structural defects that officials say the state might have to abandon all or parts of the system.
But perhaps Maryland’s mess looks good compared to Oregon, where the accusations of lying are piling up:
Carolyn Lawson, the IT expert who tried and failed to build Oregon’s online insurance exchange, complained to an Oregon Health Authority official that she was forced to leave under false pretenses in an email uncovered by the On Your Side Investigators.
Lawson emailed OHA chief operating officer Suzanne Hoffman in January to complain that a reporter had been given her personal cell phone number, and asked that the state “allow me to move on with privacy and grace,” after one of the worst health-care-exchange website launches in the nation left her career in tatters. “I have done everything I have been asked to do,” Lawson wrote. “I stuck to the talking points even though I protested . . . that they were not accurate. I walked away quietly when asked to resign. I wrote the resignation letter per the script I was given.”
KATU Investigators recently uncovered major accountability issues on Lawson’s watch, and former Republican state representative Patrick Sheehan told KATU earlier this month that he’d gone to the FBI with allegations Cover Oregon project managers initiated the design of dummy web pages to convince the federal government the project was further along than it actually was.
Sure, most Americans say the law hasn’t affected their lives yet. But among those who have, more say the impact is negative:
While most Americans (54 percent) continue to say they haven’t been impacted by the law one way or another, the share saying they’ve been negatively affected has inched up in recent months (29 percent in February, up from 23 percent last October) and continues to outpace the share saying they’ve personally benefited from the law (17 percent).
And evidence continues to mount that the uninsured have a remarkably resilient capacity to tune out news, information, and details of a massive, complicated piece of legislation that overhauled the entire health-care system in the name of helping them get insurance:
The vast majority of uninsured Americans do not know they must sign up for health insurance by March 31 or pay a fine, according to a new poll.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), in its monthly tracking survey, found that 76 percent of the uninsured are not aware of the looming sign-up deadline.
American Atheists, an outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, will have a booth at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference.
The atheist institution, which is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns, informed CNN of its inclusion on Monday night, and a representative from CPAC confirmed that the group will have a booth at the annual national gathering of conservative leaders and activists in March. American Atheists hopes to use the forum to tap into the conservative movement and bring conservative atheists “out of the closet.”
One of the founders of GOProud, a gay Republican organization, has resigned from the board after accusing the group’s new leadership of allowing themselves to be used as “stooges” by antigay conservatives.
Chris Barron, who helped create GOProud in 2009, condemned the current directors for touting an agreement that only allowed for limited GOProud participation at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
In 2010 and 2011, GOProud, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to Log Cabin Republicans, served as a CPAC sponsor. But amid a strong pushback from conservatives who complained about the participation of the gay organization, the relationship splintered and GOProud was not invited back in 2012 and 2013.
The National Journal reported Wednesday that a compromise was reached to permit GOProud to attend this year’s Maryland conference March 6-8, though it would not be a sponsor or have a booth as it had in past years.
In an interview Thursday, Barron mocked the agreement, saying nothing had been achieved since GOProud members were allowed in 2012 and 2013 to attend the event though the organization had no official involvement.
“It’s completely and totally disingenuous to pawn off an unconditional surrender as a ‘compromise’” said Barron, who complained that he was not consulted about the decision as a board member.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie was not invited to address the Conservative Political Action Conference because of his position on gun control, according to a source familiar with CPAC’s internal deliberations who requested anonymity to speak freely.
Christie has a “limited future” in the national Republican party given his position on gun control, the source tells National Review Online. As a result, the CPAC insider says, the focus of this year’s conference, “the future of conservatism,” made Christie a bad fit.
Christie, the source adds, is simply not a conservative in the eyes of organizers.
So what’s changed since last year? Is Christie now better on Second Amendment issues? Is his future in the national Republican party brighter now?
Last year I wrote that the organizers of CPAC should sit down and try to get a clearer sense of what the purpose of the conference is. “Begin with the end in mind,” as Stephen Covey wrote. What headline does the American Conservative Union want coming out of three days of events? When attendees go home, they should say, “I’m really glad I went because [blank].” Now fill in the blank.
Is it meant to showcase the rising stars of the conservative movement? Or is part of the experience bringing out the “old favorites” like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich?
Is it meant to hash out policies, or is it more of a showcase for the most rousing, rah-rah speakers? After news broke that Donald Trump would be speaking, someone I respect declared that his appearance is “fun and entertaining. If anything, we’d be better off with more of that at CPAC and less debates on tax law.” I don’t know if it’s possible for me to disagree more strongly, but then again, I’m not in charge of persuading people to buy tickets to attend this shin-dig.
Kevin Eder: “Obviously, the real purpose of CPAC is to generate outraged headlines and tweets about CPAC.”
The health care law isn’t supposed to affect manufacturers with fewer than 50 employees, but I know one who was affected. Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Dayton, Ohio, which only has 22 employees, saw a 21 percent increase in health care costs last year, and it’s projecting a 91 percent increase this year.
The company’s president made this very obvious statement: “The Affordable Care Act is far from affordable.”
If we don’t do something to fix the law, more than 60 million fewer American workers will have employer-sponsored coverage in 10 years. That will be the new reality for our workforce.
(UPDATE: NAM issued a correction Wednesday morning, suggesting a much lower figure of 6 to 7 million. See below.)
Assume for a moment that Timmon is overstating the impact and overestimating how many companies will choose to pay the fine and leave their employees to shop for insurance on the exchanges; let’s even say that he’s doubling the number of Americans who will lose their employer-sponsored insurance. That would still be an additional 30 million people losing their insurance — and in quite a few of those cases, those Americans probably like their plans and don’t want to change.
The law, as implemented, will hurt manufacturers and their employees. Take, for instance, what you are facing in additional fees and costs over the next three years: $22.2 billion. That figure is simply added cost — it won’t get that mom on your assembly line one more pediatrician visit or one more prescription filled for your shop floor manager’s family.
UPDATE: This morning, NAM issues an epic correction:
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Senior Vice President of Communications Erin Streeter issued the following statement:
“Earlier today, the NAM stated the number of employees with employer-sponsored coverage who would lose plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act. That number should have been between 6 million and 7 million total between the years 2016 and 2024, according to the Congressional Budget Office.”