The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Medicaid Reform, Security Sweeps, and Dead Bodies: CPAC 2017

Medicaid Reform, Security Sweeps, and Dead Bodies: CPAC 2017

“Sir, you just walked through a crime scene, I’m going to need to see your ID.”

That’s how my Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference began; how was your day? Apparently someone jumped from the top floor of a parking garage about one block away from the Gaylord convention center. The streets had been blocked off with yellow crime scene tape and perpendicularly parked police cars, so I had walked through the garage of the Wyndham hotel to get around the blocked-off area. Apparently the entire block had been ruled a crime scene, so the polite, professional officers needed everyone to hand over their driver’s licenses and log the information.

Word from the police is that the jumper was an employee of a nearby business, and the act is not believed to be related to the conference. But it was an odd, macabre start to what should be one of the happiest CPACs ever. After all, there’s a Republican president, GOP control of the House and Senate, a terrific Supreme Court nominee in the batter’s box, and a slew of GOP governors and state legislatures, giving a leg up in the redistricting after 2020. The weather was unbelievably warm and enjoyable for late February. Literally and figuratively, the sun is shining on the conservative movement.

For all of the thermonuclear reactions in the press, the just-barely-started Trump administration hasn’t really had an unfixable mistake yet. Yes, the rollout of the executive order on immigration and refugees was a mess from start to finish, but the administration has the option of a mulligan and they’re taking it. (In retrospect, don’t even bother trying to enact a controversial change without your own attorney general in place to defend it legally.)

The markets continue a record run, although that can’t continue forever.

Strategists at Goldman put the mood of the market this way: “We are approaching peak optimism.” They forecast the S&P 500 will hit a high in the next month or so but end the year lower than where it is now as investors push back expectations for the timing of the tax cuts.

I did hear a little bit of grumbling about how slowly the process of repealing and replacing Obamacare is going, and someone asserted, “The Republicans just don’t want to do it, they just don’t want to listen to us.” I don’t think it’s as simple as a lack of will.

I had a chance to briefly interview Wisconsin governor Scott Walker yesterday, and he’s leading a small working group of governors trying to help Congressional Republicans figure out how to handle the Medicaid expansion aspect of Obamacare. In the 31 states that chose to expand the eligibility for the health program that is jointly run by the federal and state governments, about 10.7 million people are now covered by Medicaid that otherwise wouldn’t be covered. If you just repeal that, then those 10 million need something new.

Ironically, some states are buying into the Medicaid expansion just as Republicans start talking about replacing it. In Kansas, the state House just voted to expand eligibility, 81-44. It might get through the state Senate, but Governor Sam Brownback says the idea is akin to “airlifting onto the Titanic.” Maine just decided that in November of this year, they’ll vote on a referendum to expand eligibility.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska already said she won’t vote to repeal the expanded eligibility, citing improved health care for about 27,000 Alaskans.

It’s not surprising that what Walker likes best is the version in Wisconsin – where Medicaid eligibility wasn’t expanded, everyone at or under the poverty line was covered, and everyone above it was moved to private plans.

Wisconsin offers a “Premium Tax Credit” to households with incomes up to 4 times the federal poverty level – this was up to $94,200 for a family of four in 2013 – and who are ineligible for Medicaid or don’t have an affordable employer’s plan. “If the individual or family chooses a less expensive plan, the PTC will cover more of their premium costs. If the individual or family chooses a more expensive plan, the PTC will cover less of their premium costs (but the individual or family will have lower co-pays and deductibles).”

Some might grumble that this is taking away Obamacare-era subsidies for purchasing insurance and replacing them with Trumpcare (or whatever the replacement is called) tax credits for purchasing insurance. But Walker seems pretty convinced that this is better if it is part of an overall emphasis of getting people into the workforce:

When governors are given the ability to really reform Medicaid and our other assistance programs, when I say it’s the same or better, I mean we help somebody get into the workforce. Now they’ve got an employer-based plan, or they’re making enough to be able to afford the co-pays or the premiums on that. They’re better off than they were before. The government just giving them something, even in the form of a subsidy, isn’t necessarily good for them. We can find a better alterative. It doesn’t mean we’re giving you more money, but rather we’re giving you more ability to earn and live a better life.

Elsewhere at CPAC, the security sweeps presented a new and daunting challenge to the normal festivities. If you watch Cam’s show on NRATV from yesterday, you’ll see a normal half-hour of Charles C.W. Cooke and myself, discussing some egregiously reasoned court cases on the Second Amendment and gun laws…

…also not-too-subtly reminding the audience to buy our book…

… and then we were suddenly informed that because of a security sweep by the Secret Service, we all had to leave – meaning, everyone on “Radio Row” – every host, guest, producer, and technician had to clear out, even if they were supposed to be on the air. Everyone was herded past a security perimeter, and then eventually supposed to form an orderly line by a metal detector.

Above: Not an orderly line.

CPAC didn’t have this problem when Republicans didn’t run anything in Washington!

Obviously the Secret Service needs to able to ensure a secure environment, but this felt like a massive failure of logistics and foresight. Radio stations pay big bucks to set up a mobile studio at CPAC. It’s probably some of their busiest days of the year; CPAC brings together a small crowd of potential guests in one place. Panel discussions were effectively canceled because no one could get through the checkpoints in time. There’s a good chance one of those panels was on effective communication and the need for conservatives to get their message out… and no one could actually hear it because of the sudden, unannounced security protocols.

ADDENDA: In light of the security protocols, I hope to see you at 2 p.m. today in Chesapeake Rooms E and F. If I don’t see you, I’ll just assume you’re still stuck in the security line.

Ryan Anderson and Kathryn Lopez are teaming up thanks to the Heritage Foundation, the Catholic Information Center, and the National Review Institute, twice on Monday, February 27 to talk about alternatives to physician-prescribed suicide.

The first event is at 3 p.m. at the Heritage Foundation on the Hill and will include a keynote by Senator James Lankford. Details and RSVP information here.

The second event is at 6 p.m. at the Catholic Information Center near the White House. Details and RSVP information here.