Posts Tagged - ‘senate’

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First Step for GOP: Repealing Health Insurance Reform?

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Image: Gage Skidmore under CC 3.0

After a mostly triumphant Tuesday, Republicans are gearing up to take on several legislative centerpieces of the Obama administration. Most significantly, they are looking to say sayonara to healthcare reform by repealing what they refer to as “Obamacare”.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, current Senate Minority Leader (the Democrats retained control of the Senate) Mitch McConnell stated that the GOP was given a wide mandate by independent voters to repeal healthcare reform. According to them, they owe it to the American people to do better and come up with another way of making health insurance plans more accessible.

For their part, Dems are skeptical that the law can actually be reversed so easily. Those looking for it to happen as soon as the new congresspersons are sworn in in January will be disappointed. For one thing, Obama is sure to veto any such legislation that reaches his desk.

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Health Insurance Plans’ Autism Coverage Under Fire

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Image: Bob Bobster under CC 3.0

Republicans running for Congress this year are touting their anti-Obamacare credentials. Nevada’s Sharron Angle is no different. Boosted by the tea party past a more moderate candidate in the GOP primary, she is going up against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. As one of the key architects behind the controversial healthcare reform law, Reid is in danger of losing his seat.

Angle is obviously against the individual coverage mandate, as well as health insurance plans being forced to cover certain conditions. She blames the latter for raising costs. Video from a speech last year on that issue has recently been released to controversy. In that speech, Angle railed against a state law that requires health insurers to cover early treatment for autism spectrum disorders. When she mentioned the word “autism”, she used air quotes, which some have interpreted as meaning that she doesn’t believe that autism is a legitimate condition that children’s health insurance should treat.

Not done offending people, Angle went on to say that maternity coverage should not be mandated, since she herself is done having children.

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Medicare & Medicaid Head Named Via Recess Appointment

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

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One of the people most responsible for implementing the provisions of affordable health insurance reform is the administrator for the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services. President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Donald Berwick for the role several weeks ago.

However, the Obama administration has had trouble getting Berwick approved by the Senate. Many senators fear that some statements Berwick has previously made indicate that he favors totally government-run socialized medicine, similar to that in the United Kingdom. As a result, Obama has used the controversial recess appointment to install Berwick.

A recess appointment is done through an executive order when Congress is on break. Despite its risks, effective healthcare reform that results in cheap health insurance rates requires that the post isn’t left open any longer than necessary.

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Bartering Livestock As A Health Insurance Plan?

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Image: hddod under CC 3.0

It sounds like a joke, but it was a half-serious proposal by Republican Sue Lowden, who is vying for the GOP nomination in Nevada to take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November. Since Reid helped steer healthcare reform to its passage, he is a clear target.

Lowden looked like a lock for the nomination and even win, with her staunch opposition to the law. However, she slipped when asked about her proposed alternatives to the Democrats’ health insurance plan reform. Her suggestions included bartering for health care services–specifically citing our grandparents, who supposedly brought a chicken to the doctor.

Her primary opponents, as well as Democrats, have run with the absurdity. Offhand quip or not, it makes her appear out of touch with the struggles of those unable to find affordable health insurance in modern times. Lowden’s response is the classic bipartisan political excuse: her comments were taken out of context.

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2010 Elections: Health Insurance Reform Trips Up Democrats

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

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This year, many Democrats are up for re-election. With much discontent directed at the government (and therefore the majority party), their campaigns are struggling. As a result, a lot of them are attempting to downplay the controversial issue of health insurance plan reform.

Democratic representatives and senators who voted in favor of the legislation are skipping huge, public town hall-style meetings, in order to avoid a repeat of last August’s disasters. When they do major appearances, they largely focus on other issues, especially if they are in more conservative, Republican-leaning districts.

However, they are not necessarily ashamed of their “yes” votes. Far from it; they are making several appearances to tout the benefits of the law, which is meant to increase access to affordable health insurance for their constituents. Admittedly, they are doing that through newspaper opinion pieces, conference calls, and smaller-scale appearances in front of more friendly audiences.

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What Will Republicans Do If They Win?

Friday, April 9th, 2010

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Republicans are running for election or re-election this fall on the platform of “repeal and replace”. They largely want to dismantle the health insurance plan reform passed by the Obama administration and Democrats. It remains to be seen if that’s an effective political tactic, but what about the practical aspects?

Despite the potential for Republican victory, President Obama will still be in office for at least two more years. Obviously, he’ll veto a measure that seeks to gut one of his most significant domestic policies–the expansion of access to affordable health insurance. So how will a Republican-controlled Congress change things? According to conservative Rep. Michelle Bachmann, they’ll refuse to include funding for it in appropriations bills. She calls it “starving the beast”. Cynics believe that such a strategy makes it more likely that the bill will fail, making it easier for a Republican president to win in 2012 and repeal the law.

The GOP has a good shot at taking back the House of Representatives. However, only one-third of the Senate seats are up for grabs this year. Even if a Republican takes every single one, that will barely leave them with an equal number of seats. They’ll only have 50 votes if independent Joe Lieberman (a former Democrat) switches sides, which he has done in other cases. However, he has expressed his support for the Senate’s legislation. Don’t forget that when the Senate’s tied, the vice president has the deciding vote! Joe Biden will surely vote in favor of retaining the legislation. Senators are responsible for overriding a presidential veto, which can only be done with a two-thirds majority. Reaching that level is mathematically impossible in this election year.

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Recess Not Fun For Pro-Affordable Health Insurance Reform Democrats

Monday, March 29th, 2010

(Image: rstrawser under CC 3.0)

Both houses of Congress are currently taking a recess. After months of frenetic work on affordable health insurance reform, it’s understandable that they would like some rest. Some congresspersons, however, are finding that their constituents are refusing to let them rest.

Here’s the situation: Democrats who voted for the healthcare reform bill are being confronted by angry constituents against it. Although they are receiving support, they are also attracting protesters. Republicans are mostly being hailed and encouraged to attempt repeal in Congress, but some voters are lukewarm. It shows how the issue of health insurance has largely cut across party lines, especially for those Democrats who opposed the bill.

Since many senators and all representatives are up for re-election this fall, this vacation back to their home districts is critical. The developments will be interesting.

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Health Insurance Reform Bill Includes Abstinence Funding

Monday, March 29th, 2010

(Image: quinn.anya under CC 3.0)

While technically related to health, it is surprising that funding for abstinence-only education is included in the recently passed health insurance reform bill. Over five years, the bill provides $250 million to states. These programs are used by schools to encourage remaining a virgin until marriage.

It is favored by social conservatives, many of whom did not support the bill in general. The approach, which does not mention contraception or other methods of safer sex, was popular during the George W. Bush administration but lost its funding under President Obama’s first federal budgets. Although abstinence is the only 100% effective strategy for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), most abstinence-only programs have been criticized for being unrealistic and misleading about other methods.

The provision was snuck into the bill at the last second by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch during Senate Finance Committee negotiations, angering and confusing opponents. Most Democrats weren’t going to let their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of increasing access to affordable health insurance to pass them by, despite the addition by a senator who had no intention of voting for the bill regardless. Some conservative Democrats, however, may also be in favor of the funding.

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Health Insurance Reform Do-Over A Success

Friday, March 26th, 2010

(Image: Daniel Suarez under CC 3.0)

The Obama administration is probably breathing easy that their second attempt at passing a comprehensive health insurance reform bill was a success. After their triumphant reaction to the House of Representatives voting in favor of the Senate’s bill on Sunday, they hit a snag.

Republicans noticed several errors in the Senate’s bill of “fixes”, which would prevent the legislation from becoming law through reconciliation. According to the nonpartisan parliamentarian, issues dealt with through reconciliation must be directly related to the federal budget. Since he deemed a handful of provisions ineligible, the bill had to go back to the House for another vote.

That move is risky for Democrats looking to avoid yet another controversial vote prior to the midterm elections in November, but it worked. Yesterday, the Senate passed their bill of affordable health insurance fixes by a margin of 56 to 43; they needed only 51 votes. Several hours later, the House approved them 220-207.

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Back To The Drawing Board: Health Insurance Reform Returns To House

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

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It’s possible that healthcare reform supporters were rejoicing too soon: it turns out that the health insurance bill will end up returning to the House of Representatives for a Senate vote.

Although Republicans tried to offer many amendments in an attempt to force the bill back to the House, it wasn’t their efforts that have stalled it. Unfortunately for the GOP, the thrust of the bill remains as is. Rather, Democrats themselves made some minor mistakes when writing the legislation. According to the Senate’s parliamentarian, two provisions are not considered to be directly related through the federal budget. Therefore, they cannot be passed through the reconciliation process. The offending provisions are related to an increase in federal Pell grants for college education.

Now, the Senate will have to vote on those issues sometime today, after working on the legislation last night. The House will then have to vote on the bill again, as soon as this evening. While some representatives may consider changing their vote, doing so makes little sense. The changes will not significantly change the content of the bill. Also, those who are angry probably won’t forget their support for the changes in how health insurance plans are bought and sold.

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