Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Washington Watch: "Obamacare???"

For better or worse, we are stuck with the term 'Obamacare' to describe the Administration's health care reform law.  ( is a law, in spite of 40 attempts by the GOP-led House to overturn it.)

Obamacare will be part of the President's legacy, and once it kicks in, and premiums go down (I hope), and those with pre-existing conditions get coverage...well, maybe this will be a good thing.

In the meantime...there is still much misinformation and the roll-out has been at a snail's pace considering what is at stake.  Democratic office holders are starting to have town halls across the country to explain Obamacare to their constituents. Is this enough?

I've written a couple of blogs about what's in Obamacare and where to get more information. Health insurance and its ramifications are confusing for most people. Those with coverage may not want to make the effort to determine if there are more affordable plans available or tax-credits they are eligible for.

There are many people who have no coverage or inadequate coverage and they are going without needed treatment. Others are paying exorbitant premiums. All are wondering, what will change with Obamacare? A recent field-poll shows that many Californians don't understand Obamacare eligibility. The San Jose Mercury News reported (Aug 21):
"California may be at the forefront of implementing Obamacare, but it still has a mountain to climb informing people that they're eligible for the subsidized or free benefits that are a key part of making the controversial law work, a new Field Poll shows."
The article continues:
"With enrollment in the state's new health-insurance exchange beginning Oct. 1, fewer than half of Californians whose income, age and insurance status qualify them for coverage benefits under the health care reforms knew of their eligibility when the poll was conducted this summer.
Less than half of low-income voters eligible to receive free health coverage next year under the expanded Medi-Cal program knew they're eligible. And only one in three moderate-income voters who aren't covered under an employer, union or government health care program knew that they're entitled to tax credits to reduce their insurance costs."

Already the false information and propaganda has started because this is a political football. Just recently, an elderly friend told me her son-in-law had lost his job because of Obamacare. Others in the room expressed concern that people might lose jobs or existing coverage.

Are there companies choosing to fire workers instead of comply? Probably. Is the GOP going to paint a dire picture and discourage people from signing up? Probably. They don't seem to have any policy issues of their own to put forth.

This will be the hot-button issue going into 2014 and 2016.

Some recent Obamacare headlines:

--Are premiums coming down?

The Remarkable Slowdown In Health Care Costs Since The Passage Of Obamacare (Think Progress, Aug 20):
"A new survey of health care premiums for employer-sponsored health care coverage shows that health care inflation is slowing, further undermining critics’ predictions that costs would skyrocket in the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act."

--A pre-existing condition made former Republican staff member Clint Murphy reconsider Obamacare.

A Republican conversion to Obamacare  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug 17)
"Obamacare isn’t perfect, the former political spear-carrier said. “But to even improve it, to make something work, you’ve got to participate in the process. [Republicans] are not even participating in the process.”
He makes a good point...what are Republicans proposing to fix our health care system? Instead, they are debating shutting down the government or delaying the funding of the Affordable Care Act. Until when?  2014, if they get control of the Senate?

In the meantime...while Congress is on recess...the battle for the public opinion on Obamacare rages on.

Democrats are right to get out in their communities this summer and try to get ahead of the curve.....or at least catch up to it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 28 - "2014"


The mid-term elections are coming soon. (Soon as defined by the political world.) The scrambling has started (began months ago) and we are about to see the beginning of the post-Obama era in American politics.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama will remain 'the-elephant-in-the-room' for quite some time. On the GOP side, candidates will run solidly against him in the coming years. Never mind that their own base is shrinking and they are perceived as out-of-touch.

In the upcoming election cycle, Democratic candidate attachment to Obama will range from mild to lukewarm, depending on his poll numbers as he wraps up his term -- even though many Democratic office-holders were elected because of his coattails in 2008 and 2012.

So what are the challenges for both parties going into 2014 and does it matter to the average citizen? (From a woman who actually LIVES the issues the pundits debate and the politicians ignore. I realize, as do most Americans, it is not about us everyday people!) 

What happens during elections has more to do with the money and the contributors. CBS's 60-Minutes anchor Leslie Stahl summed it up here: (The video is only about a minute. All the time that was needed to describe today's political and governing reality.)

Thanks to PDA, Progressive Democrats of America, for bringing this video, from 2011, back to the forefront this week, even though Stahl hammers (and rightfully so) both parties.

But back to 2014.

Currently, the big questions are will the Democrats be able to retake the House of Representatives, and will the Republicans capture the Senate? There is no shortage of headlines on this:

From TPM - How Republicans Can Win The Senate — And How They Can Screw It Up  (Sahil Kapur, August 12, 2013)

From the UK Guardian - Can the Democrats really win back the House in the 2014 midterms? (Harry J. Enten, July 11, 2013)

From the President - Obama says Democrats could win back U.S. House in 2014   (Reuters; Roberta RamptonMay 29, 2013)

And, from (fill-in-the-blank)_____________ - Rush Limbaugh: GOP could lose House   (Politico; Hadas Gold, July 2, 2013)

As of now, the Democrats would have to pick up an additional 17 seats to retake the House and net six seats to keep the Senate. Reportedly, there are about 50 to 65 Congressional Districts 'in play,' although it is still too early to tell.

Even if the Democrats are able to retake the House, I'm not sure how much this would help the Obama agenda because several of the winners will most likely come from moderate or somewhat conservative leaning districts. This is also absolutely true for Democratic Senate prospects.

While Senators are in place for six years, House Reps are elected every two years and might not want to upset the apple-cart. They will show their true colors on women's rights, gun control, and immigration reform -- voting against the Administration (or stalling) during Obama's final two years as President. Especially if his polling numbers stay low.

However, if the Democrats do win the House, we will not have 40 more Obamacare repeal votes!!!

Perhaps the Democratic Party can unify around a set of national issues that will bring out their base. These would include Voting Rights (in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling and North Carolina's oppressive voter suppression laws); Women's Rights (reproductive choice and equal pay); Immigration Reform; and...if the administration successfully gets the message out and gets people to sign up -- keeping Obamacare.

Speaking of unity...we can count on the GOP to be lock-step in their national platform and rolling it out locally. Their problem remains their far-right 'birthers ' and bigots (even GOP strategist Michel Steele had to call them out as being "asinine" recently) and their voting pool is shrinking. Unfortunately, on the right there seems to be more emphasis on restricting the vote than coming up with policies and solutions to the issues Americans care about. 'NOBAMA' is NOT a governing strategy. (I still see those bumper stickers and just yesterday I saw one that said "We must DEFEAT HILLARY.")

In the real world -- jobs, housing, and education remain critical to most Americans, yet both parties have proven they can win elections without focusing on these areas -- as long as the money is there for never ending campaigns. Politics is now an industry in America. Which goes back to Leslie's Stahl's comments on our broken political system.

Much can happen between now and 2014 that might change the national political talking points and strategies.

Not to be forgotten -- the other part of the equation is who is controlling the state houses? Many of the policy decisions that affect everyday Americans come from state and local government. Talk about winning the battle (the Presidency) and losing the war -- think North Carolina...Wisconsin...and Florida among others. Democrats need to focus on state governments and defeating voter suppression efforts. The GOP needs to focus on 2014 and not returning to 1950.

As they say...all politics is local. Stay tuned.


President Obama's First Term

From the National Scene blog by Linnie Frank Bailey

August 5 - 11, 2009

  • A Supreme Appointment -- American Hispanics of various origins—from Mexico, Central America, South America, Puerto Rico, and Cuba—celebrated the swearing-in of Bronx-native Sonia Sotomayor as the 111th Supreme Court Justice. Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Sotomayor on August 8, 2009, as her Puerto Rico-born mother, an 82-year-old former nurse, held the Bible.
  • Release of American Journalists from North Korea -- President Obama thanked former President Bill Clinton for his help in securing the release of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling whom had been detained in North Korea since March. The women were reunited with their families at the Burbank Airport. President Obama contacted the women and their families and called the reunion a “source of happiness not only for the families but for the entire country.”
Read more of the blog, including a health care reform law myth vs reality section as the bill was being debated.


And...back to 2013

President Barack Obama shakes hands with troops at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 27: "Scared of Her?"

(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seems to be a target of opponents even though she has not yet stated if she is running.

First, there were the Benghazi hearings, now the Republican National Committee is threatening to pull their presidential debates from CBS and CNN because of documentaries the networks are planning to air on the former First Lady and Secretary of State.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus stated: