24 Mar

AHCA Even Worse – Raises Premiums, Forces New Moms on Medicaid to Find Work in 60 Days

The American Health Care Act, which is the GOP’s health plan to replace Obamacare, has gotten even worse.

AHCA Raises Premiums

According to Congressional Budget Office’s evaluation of the AHCA, the increase in premiums would rise 10 percent less than if the law remained the same, “By 2026, average premiums for single policyholders in the nongroup market under the legislation would be roughly 10 percent lower than under current law, CBO and JCT estimate.” However, this estimate is very misleading.

The CBO came up with this estimate by assuming that many older people will drop their coverage because premiums for older people will increase dramatically. For example, a person who is 64 years old with a yearly income of $26,500 would pay a net premium of $1,700 under Obamacare. The same person would pay a net premium of $14,600 under the AHCA. When older people drop their coverage, it raises the proportion of younger people buying insurance, and since their coverage cost less, the increase in premiums is less.

The CBO’s apples-t0-oranges comparison led to their misleading result. According to the Brookings Institution an apples-to-apples comparison causes premiums to increase [emphasis mine]:

The CBO estimate does not, therefore, answer the question of greatest interest, which is how CBO expects the AHCA to affect average premiums for a given generosity of coverage and a fixed population of individual market enrollees.

However, other information provided in CBO’s analysis can be used to answer this question. Using that information, we estimate that premiums would be around 13 percent higher under the AHCA than they are under current law, holding plan generosity and the individual market age distribution fixed at their current law levels.

New Moms Must Find Work in 60 Days After Delivery or Lose Coverage

On Monday, March 20, in an effort to appease conservatives, Paul Ryan added a provision to the AHCA that would allow states to rescind Medicaid coverage from new moms if they have not found work within 60 days. Forcing new mothers to job hunt right after their baby’s birth is surprisingly cruel, even for Republicans.


21 Mar

Russian Links, Yes; Wiretap, No; Unanswered Question

Yes on Russian links investigation

Yesterday, FBI director James Comey confirmed that the agency is conducting a counterintelligence probe into possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. The collusion inquiry started in July according to Comey.

No on wiretap

Comey also said that he found no evidence that former President Barack Obama ordered the phones tapped at Trump Tower. Comey went on to say that no president could order such surveillance.

Unanswered question

A crucial question that did not get answered is how come 11 days before the 2016 election Comey mentioned that the FBI had reopened the Clinton email investigation, but mentioned nothing about the investigation into the collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign?

As a reminder, here is a link to all the times that Trump surrogates said, “You can’t elect someone under FBI investigation.”

09 Mar

Changes to the ACA proposed by Republicans

The Republicans have introduced their bill to modify the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare. The Republican bill, The American Health Care Act (AHCA), makes health care more expensive for sick, chronically ill and lower-income individuals while giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

The AHCA is summarized here by Physicians for a National Health Program. The key points from the PNHP summary with some added comments are shown below:

  • Continue to channel billions of taxpayer dollars through wasteful private insurers.
  • Sharply reduce the ACA’s subsidies (or “tax credits”) available to lower-income persons, particularly older adults, to purchase coverage.
  • End the ACA’s cost-sharing subsidies for copayments and deductibles, increasing the cost of care for those with chronic medical conditions.
  • Replace the ACA’s “individual mandate” penalty on the uninsured with a 30 percent surcharge on insurance premiums for those who experienced a lapse in insurance coverage
  • Slash federal funding for the Medicaid expansion beginning in 2020, and move towards a “per capita” cap on Medicaid spending that would squeeze state Medicaid budgets and push millions of enrollees out of the program. Currently, Medicaid provides funding on per enrollee basis. The ACHA would provide funding on a per capita basis based on population. The funding would increase based on a general inflation rate, but not based on medical inflation. Since medical inflation usually rises faster than the general inflation rate, the per capita funding will decrease over time.
  • Increase the tax-favored status of Health Savings Accounts, which mostly benefit people in high income brackets.
  • Reduce taxes on pharmaceutical, medical device and health insurance companies.
  • Offer tax reductions totaling $274.6 billion over 10 years to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.


A more detailed summary can be found here and is reprinted below.

Summary of Republican Congressional Health Reform Proposal Released 3/6/2017
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H., & David Himmelstein, M.D.

Most ACA insurance regulations unchanged (probably can’t be changed through

  • Cover preexisting conditions
  • No health status underwriting
  • Meet actuarial value requirements
  • Cover adult children up to age 26
  • Cap out-of-pocket expenditures
  • No lifetime or annual limits
  • 10 essential benefits

Medicaid – Cuts in Federal payments estimated at $370 billion/10 years

  • Ends ACA expansion and essential health benefit requirements 1/1/2020
  • Replaces Federal Medicaid match with per-enrollee funding 1/1/20. Full funding for
    those continually enrolled since 1/1/2020; reduces funding for new enrollees or reenrollees
    by one third.
  • Federal payments to the states through Medicaid or any other program for Planned
    Parenthood would be prohibited

Insurance Regulation and Continuous Coverage Requirement

  • Replaces mandate with continuous coverage requirement for individual/small group
    plans: Premiums increased by 30 percent for those with a gap in creditable coverage of
    at least 63 continuous days during the preceding 12 months (or, for people leaving
    dependent coverage, who did not enroll during the first available open enrollment
  • Allows premiums to vary by a 5:1 ratio for old:young (vs. 3:1 under the ACA)

Coverage subsidies (tax credits)

  • Replace ACA subsidies with age-adjusted, fixed-dollar advanceable tax credit. Phased
    out for individuals with income > $75,000 (families > $150,000)

    * $2,000 for individuals under 30;
    * $2,500 for those ages 30 to 40;
    * $3,000 for those ages 40 to 50;
    * $3,500 for those ages 50 to 60; and
    * $4,000 for those over 60 (<1/3 of the average cost of coverage for this age group)

  • Tax credits would only be available for individuals not eligible for employer coverage
  • Most non-citizens ineligible for tax credits
  • Prohibit using subsidies for any plan that covers abortions

Taxes repealed & new cuts (amounts in parentheses are amounts lost to treasury over 10

  • Medicare tax on unearned income for wealthiest 2% of taxpayers ($157.6 billion).
  • Medicare surtax on high incomes >$200,000 ($117 billion)
  • Tax on prescription drug firms ($24.8 billion).
  • Tax on medical device firms ($19.6 billion).
  • Tax on health insurers ($144.7 billion).
  • Tax on health insurer executive compensation exceeding $500k ($400 million)
  • Others: Tanning tax ($600 million);.med. expense deductions ($34.9 billion); FSAs
    ($18.6 billion); HSAs ($24.1 billion);
  • Delays Cadillac tax

Other Provisions

  • Cuts $1 billion from Prevention and Public Health Fund (i.e. CDC and public health
  • $100 billion in new funds for states to establish high risk pools etc.

06 Mar

Minimal Policy Coverage, Bad Bills

As the news is filled the latest outrageous Trump Tweet or the latest in the ongoing saga about the connections among Pres. Trump, his administration and Russia, it is easy to get distracted from something very important–policy.

Policy was barely covered during the campaign. ABC, CBS and NBC allotted only 32 minutes of policy coverage from the start of 2016 until roughly the end of October. Unfortunately, the minimal policy coverage may be continuing after the election. Here is a list of 10 bad bills that been introduced in the 115th Congress:

HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education
HR 785 National Right to Work (this one ends unions)
HR 808 Sanctions against Iran
HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife

These bills indicate that we must keep a focus on policy.

02 Mar

Jeff Sessions’ Russian Contacts

Last night, Wednesday, March 1, Justice Department officials revealed that then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), now the Attorney General of the United States, met and spoke twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign in 2016.

It is possible that Sessions committed perjury during his Senate testimony on Jan. 10:

Sen. Al Franken: “If there was any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this (2016) campaign, what would you do?,” the Minnesota Democrat asked.

Sessions: “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

To a written question on Jan. 10, Sessions responed:

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy: Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” the Vermont Democrat asked in a questionnaire.


With Leahy, Sessions leaves open the possibility that he talked to the Russians.  With Franken, Sessions states that he has had no contacts with any Russian officials. Sessions response to Franken directly contradicts the justice department revelation.

More details about Sessions testimony and his meeting with the Russians can be found here. A summary of Jeff Sessions’ changing explanations of his meetings with Russian officials can be found here.

01 Mar

Trump’s speech to Congress and the Democratic Response

Last night (Feb. 28, 2017), Pres. Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress. The video and transcript of the speech can be found here.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear gave the Democratic Party’s response. The video and transcript of that speech can be found here.

Fact checking of Trump’s speech can be found here.


27 Feb

New DNC Chair, News Organizations Barred From WH Briefing

Democratic National Committee Chair Election

The Democratic Central Committed elected a new Chair on Saturday, Feb. 25. Tom Perez won the election on the second ballot after falling one vote short of winning on the first ballot. Perez beat Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison 235 to 200.

Perez was Labor Secretary under President Obama. Previously, he was the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, and has served as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. In addition, he was the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration.

Ellison has been the Representative of the 5th district in Minnesota since 2007. He was the first Muslim elected to Congress is currently one of two Muslim members of Congress. Ellison is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Ellison backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the primary, and became the early favorite of Sanders’  supporters, some of whom are likely to view Perez’s win as showing that the entrenched establishment controls Democratic politics. Some commentators argue that the differences between Perez and Ellison are minimal and that Perez is a solid progressive.

In his first move as DNC Chair, Perez nominated Ellison to become deputy chair, and the nomination was quickly approved.

Perez emphasized party unity. He also emphasized that he wants to rebuild the grass roots of the party and that the DNC will work to elect candidates at all levels. He said “We’re no longer simply the committee that helps elect the president; we’re the committee that helps to ensure we’re electing people up and down the Democratic ticket.”

News Organizations barred from White House Briefing

On Friday, Feb. 24, the White House barred several news organizations from attending a White House briefing. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, the BBC and the Guardian were excluded from the meeting according to CNN.

In the same article, CNN also reported that “[t]he decision struck veteran White House journalists as unprecedented in the modern era, and escalated tensions in the already fraught relationship between the Trump administration and the press.”

07 Feb

MC Commission Openings – Feb 2017

This is a reprint of a message sent to the MCDCC

Please Note that the BCC Application Process is Online!!!

County Executive Isiah Leggett is committed to representation on all of the County’s boards, committees, and commissions that is reflective of, and responsive to, our County’s residents. Public participation contributes to the work of County government and provides an important service to the community when a variety of issues, concerns, and viewpoints are presented. Currently, there is a valuable opportunity to serve on the following:

  • Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission 
  • Taxicab Services Commission

The deadline for application is February 24, 2017.

Please share this notice with anyone who may be interested.

Please Note that the BCC Application Process is Online!!!

You may access vacancy announcements for boards, committees, and commissions through the following link: . Please read instructions carefully on that page, where you will find a link directly to the vacancy announcements.

Applicants of diverse backgrounds, professions, gender, geography, disability and ethnicity are encouraged to apply. Members of County boards, committees and commissions may not serve on more than one such group at a time. Members of these boards must complete training on the Maryland Open Meetings Act and basic parliamentary procedure. Members are eligible for reimbursement for travel and dependent care for meetings attended. Leggett’s appointments are generally subject to confirmation by the County Council. Applications of individuals selected for appointment are made public as part of the confirmation process.

31 Jan

Montgomery Democrats Stand Against Trump Executive Order

The entire 32-member Montgomery County Delegation released a statement on January 30 in opposition to Trump’s Executive Order and calling on Governor Hogan to also stand to protect American values. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Montgomery County Council also released a joint statement re-affirming the County’s commitment to “fairness, justice and equal treatment under the law.”

Click here to read the Montgomery County Delegation statement.

Click here to read the Montgomery County Executive & County Council’s statement.

Leaders in the Association of Black Democrats gather behind banner with County Executive Ike Leggett
06 Jan

Association of Black Democrats Hold Board Elections

Reposted from the ABD’s email blast on January 6th here.

Join us for our first general body of the new year.

We will be electing a new Executive Board, as well as discussing the Club’s priorities for the upcoming year.

If you are interested in running for a Board position, please send your indication of interest to no later than January 12, 2017. We will be voting on the following positions:

1. President
2. Vice President
3. Treasurer
4. Financial Secretary
5. Membership Director
6. Communications Director
7. Secretary

We look forward to seeing everyone at this important meeting. Please bring a friend or two and your willingness to share your thoughts and ideas!

Julian Haffner, Director of Communications