Posts tagged with "Medicare"

It took a ‘Magic Minute,’ but the House delivers Biden a huge win

November 22, 2021

It took 10 months, 16 days, and an eight-and-a-half-hour speech from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy but House Democrats finally passed their $1.75 trillion social welfare spending bill on Friday morning, November 19, reports The Daily Beast.

By a vote of 220-213, Democrats passed the bill with just one Democrat joining all Republicans in opposition to the Build Back Better (H.R. 5376) legislation: Representative. Jared Golden of Maine.

It was a victory on multiple levels for Democrat— most notably on a policy note. The bill would provide $550 billion for climate change, $400 billion for child care and universal preschool, $150 billion each for affordable housing and Medicaid’s home-care program, expanded child tax credits, and expanded Medicare provisions and subsidies, among other priorities.

But the victory was made sweeter on a personal level, after McCarthy’s antics late Thursday night and early Friday morning. The California Republican was able to delay the vote by taking advantage of the so-called “Magic Minute”—a courtesy extended to the leaders of both parties that allow them to speak for as long as they want with it only counting as one minute toward the allotted time for debate.

By the time McCarthy ended at 5:10 a.m., all but a handful of Republicans who sat behind McCarthy as a C-SPAN backdrop had departed the Capitol. Democrats swiftly recessed, and gaveled back in at 8 a.m. on Friday.

At that point, members continued their few final minutes of debate and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took her turn at the podium. She quipped at the start of her remarks, “With respect to those who work in this Capitol and as courtesy to my colleagues, I will be brief.”

And she was. Pelosi spoke for just over 10 minutes, hitting on the usual Democratic talking points about the substance of the bill and suggesting the legislation will be a “pillar of health and financial security in America.”

Upon conclusion of her speech, Republicans pulled out one last stop: A motion to recommit the bill to committee, which failed by a 208-220 vote. And then passage of the bill was swift.

Instead of passing the bill late Thursday night, all that McCarthy accomplished was pushing the vote to the daylight hours of Friday morning.

House passage now offloads the BBB burden to the Senate, where time will tell whether Democratic problem children, Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and Joe Manchin (West Virginia) are ready to push the measure through. Any changes to the bill in the upper chamber, including a likely removal of paid leave provisions, would send the BBB back to the House in a game of legislative ping pong.

But that’s if the bill can ever pass the Senate. Manchin and Sinema have yet to sign on, even with a topline cost that largely hews to their demands, The Daily Beast says.

The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday in a preliminary analysis that the bill would cost $367 billion over 10 years, but they didn’t add in a key offset to the legislation. They said increased IRS enforcement would bring in an additional $207 billion over the next decade, bringing the total cost to $160 billion—and that’s with an estimate that the White House believes is overly pessimistic.

The Biden administration thinks increased IRS enforcement—essentially making people pay their taxes—would bring in $400 billion. That means that some Democrats believe the $1.75 trillion bill would ultimately have a positive budgetary impact on the debt. Or, at least, a minimal cost.

Democrats accomplish offsetting the new provisions by implementing a number of new corporate taxes. There’s a 15% minimum tax for large corporations, a 1% tax on corporate stock buybacks, a new tax on income above $10 million and $25 million, and new limits on what deductions businesses can take for losses—among other corporate tax law changes.

But for Republicans, the cost of the bill was simply unacceptable. Even before McCarthy’s eight-and-a-half hour rant, GOP lawmakers made it clear they thought the bill spent recklessly and without consideration for future generations.

Still, Democrats were more than happy to pass the bill and give themselves a long list of accomplishments to run on in 2022, including popular provisions like capping monthly insulin costs at $35 a month.

As the end of the vote neared, Democrats rallied near the front of the chamber—cheering and applauding the tally. Republicans, meanwhile, insisted on order in the chamber to announce proxy votes for colleagues who hadn’t showed up to the House floor Friday morning.

One of the Republicans insisting on quiet was Representative Kat Cammack of Florida. She announced that she and other Republicans would be voting “Hell no” on the “Build Back Broke” legislation and she offered Democrats an ominous sign-off.

“Good luck in the Senate,” she said.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Mitch McConnell: GOP intends to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after midterms

October 26, 2018

It’s the talk of the Beltway, according to the Los Angeles Times: Did Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) just admit that the GOP intends to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after the midterm elections?

The scuttlebutt started, the Times reported on October 19, after the Senate majority leader gave an interview to Bloomberg  on October 16, in which he singled out “entitlements”—that’s political code for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—as “the real drivers of the debt” and called for them to be adjusted “to the demographics of the future.”

To make it short and sweet, McConnell intends to cut benefits.

Indeed, Bloomberg said, the Senate Majority Leader blamed rising federal deficits and debt on “a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.”

What’s more, although Republican legislators spent most of last winter trying to gut the Affordable Care Act, McConnell also telegraphed a plan to try again to repeal healthcare coverage after the midterm elections.

That’s despite indications that the ACA is becoming more popular with the public, not less, and voters’ concerns about preserving its protections for those with preexisting conditions may be driving them to the polls — and not to vote Republican. A poll released on October 18 by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, found that fully 71% of U.S. voters say healthcare is the most important issue driving them to the polls in the midterm elections.

In an October 17 interview with Reuters, McConnell commented that the GOP’s failure to repeal the ACA was “the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view.”  He said Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in U.S. elections next month.

The CBO projects the current fiscal year deficit at $973 billion, and says it expects annual deficits to exceed $1 trillion into the next decade. The CBO attributed much of the deficit to “recently enacted legislative changes. … In particular, provisions of the 2017 tax act.”

The Congressional Budget office sees things differently. The CBO projects the current fiscal year deficit at $973 billion, and says it expects annual deficits to exceed $1 trillion into the next decade. The CBO attributed much of the deficit to “recently enacted legislative changes. … In particular, provisions of the 2017 tax act.”

Research contact: @hitzikm

Healthcare CEOs are not ‘bleeding money’

May 4, 2018

The Axios new site revealed the annual compensation of five chief executives in the healthcare industry on May 3—and their bank accounts are extremely robust.

In fact, Axios reports, some of these pay packages for pharmaceutical leaders represent “hundreds of times more than the median employee at their companies” is making.

The CEO numbers are calculated using actual realized stock gains, instead of the estimates that are displayed in company filings. (Employee figures are the only numbers listed in filings and may only include estimated stock.)

Biogen (Therapies for neurological and neurodegenerative diseases)

  • CEO Michel Vounatsos: $4.9 million
  • Pay ratio: 33:1 (median employee made $148,904)

Celgene (Medicines for inflammatory disorders and cancers)

  • CEO Mark Alles: $4.5 million
  • Pay ratio: 21:1 (median employee made $213,089)
  • Retired CEO Bob Hugin, who is running for U.S. Senate (R-New Jersey), made $40.5 million.

DaVita (Dialysis treatments)

  • CEO Kent Thiry: $15.6 million
  • Pay ratio: 258:1 (median employee made $60,332)

Exact Sciences (Early detection of colorectal cancer)

  • CEO Kevin Conroy: $32.3 million
  • Pay ratio: 328:1 (median employee made $98,724)

Sage Therapeutics (Medicines for central nervous system disorders)

  • CEO Jeff Jonas: $28.2 million
  • Pay ratio: 73:1 (median employee made $383,682)

These compensation packages have drawn attention from the American public and legislators. At a press conference in January 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump accused the pharmaceutical industry of “getting away with murder” and said that he would change the way the country bids on drugs to bring prices and spending down, according to a report by The Washington Post.

“Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs,” Trump said during the event at Trump Tower in New York. “We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly.”

To date, the federal government has not been allowed to negotiate with drug companies to bring down the price of medicines for seniors using Medicare.

Even if legislation were passed to enable such deals, these high pay packages likely would make the process more difficult.

Research contact: bob@axios.com

Medicare doesn’t measure up to eldercare in 10 other countries

December 16, 2017

Although a Harvard School of Public Health survey, found that 72% of Americans age 65+ have a favorable opinion of Medicare, a new, 11-country survey has disabused us of that sentiment. In reality, Medicare pales against the health coverage offered to older populations by many other nations.

Based on the findings of the Commonwealth Fund’s International Health Policy Survey, people who rely on Medicare receive a lower level of medical protection and maintenance than those in 10 other countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

They also are more likely to go without needed care because of costs.

There is one caveat: America has a significantly higher rate of high-need older adults (43%) than most of those other countries, the researchers noted. And, they said, high-need elderly individuals are more likely to suffer economic hardship, experience depression and anxiety, live alone and feel socially isolated and be at greater risk for falls than those who aren’t high need.

America also has the highest proportion of people 65+ with multiple chronic conditions.

And while some countries spend $2 on social services for every dollar devoted to healthcare, America spends less than 60 cents.

“U.S. seniors face more financial barriers to care than those in other countries and are, in effect, hit with a triple whammy — higher healthcare costs, higher out-of-pocket costs and—because the U.S.A. doesn’t invest heavily in social services, they are more likely to struggle to have their basic needs met,” said Robin Osborn, lead author of the study and vice president and director of the International Program in Health Policy and Practice Innovations at The Commonwealth Fund.

Said Commonwealth Funds President Dr. David Blumenthal: “Clearly there are struggles everywhere, but here in the U.S., we are hearing loud and clear that many of our seniors, especially those who are sickest, need more support if they are going to get the health care they need and live healthy lives.”

Research contact: mm@cmwf.org