Your questions answered on health care bill

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 12:47 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 3:51 PM

Following criticism from organizations representing older Americans, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., modified a health care bill he backs to help people between ages 55 and 64 buy individual health insurance policies.

In a letter to Congress and a TV commercial, AARP assailed the House Republican leadership health care plan which would replace the 2010 health known signed by former President Barack Obama and known as Obamacare.

The TV commercial, called “Stop The Age Tax,” runs an unusually long time of one minutes and 18 seconds. In it, a man in his 50s chops wood and complains the GOP bill overcharges “older Americans for their health insurance.”

So is AARP, which represents 38 million people, correct? Let’s check.

RELATED: A look at the opposing sides of health care fight

How does the House Republican leadership bill change the individual market?

Under Obamacare, a family of four earning between $34,000 and $98,000 a year a year can receive subsidies to buy individual polices through the exchanges. The Republicans would scrap the subsidies and substitute a refundable tax credit ranging from $2,000 a year to $4,000 a year based on how old you are as opposed to income. A 27-year-old would be eligible for the $2,000 credit while a 60-year-old would be eligible for the $4,000 credit. When an individual earns more than $75,000 a year, the refundable tax credit is slowly phased out.

What is a refundable tax credit?

Unlike an ordinary tax credit, a refundable tax credit means an individual can receive more federal dollars as a refund than they actually paid in taxes.

How does the Republican refundable tax credit compare to the Obamacare subsidies people receive to buy individual policies in the exchanges?

Depends on your age and where you live. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a 27-year-old earning $30,000 a year in Montgomery County would receive a $2,000 tax credit under the Republican bill to buy an individual policy compared to $480 subsidy under current law. A 40-year-old would receive a $3,000 refundable tax credit compared to $1,130 under Obamacare. But a 60-year-old earning $30,000 a year would receive the $4,000 refundable tax credit under the GOP bill compared to $5,190 a year under Obamacare.

What if you earn more money?

Kaiser calculates a 27-year-old in Montgomery County earning $50,000 a year would receive a $2,000 a year tax credit under the Republican plan compared to nothing under Obamacare. A 40-year-old would receive a $3,000 tax credit compared to nothing under Obamacare. By contrast, a 60-year-old earning $50,000 annually would receive a $4,000 tax credit under the GOP bill versus a $2,570 subsidy.

What if you live in a different county?

You can use the following link to check for yourself:

RELATED: Gov. Kasich against GOP health care plan

Are deductibles higher under the Republican plan?

According to Kaiser, the answer is yes. Kaiser projects that the average deductible for a typical plan in the individual market would be $1,550 a year higher under the GOP bill than Obamacare — climbing from $2,550 to $4,100.

Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of Kaiser, wrote Wednesday that “if people have modest means and limited tax credits, and coverage is expensive, they will mostly buy health plans with lower premiums — and high deductibles.”

Any other changes that could hurt someone older?

Under Obamacare, insurers cannot charge premiums to older people that are more than three times what they charge younger people. Under the House Republican plan, they can charge five times what they charge younger people.

So it appears if you are older and earn less, you do not do not do as well under the GOP plan as Obamacare?

Probably, but not definitely. Republican sponsors hope by making the refundable tax credit so generous for younger people, it will encourage younger and healthier people to buy policies through the exchanges, resulting in a drop in insurance premiums. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office last week calculated that under the GOP bill, premiums would decline by 10 percent between 2020 and 2026.

Kasich: U.S. should consider ‘taking out’ North Korean leader

Published: Friday, April 28, 2017 @ 6:09 PM

            Gov. John Kasich signs books at bookstore in Washington on Friday. JACK TORRY/STAFF.

It was the John Kasich they wanted to see: Poking fun at himself, respectfully answering questions from the audience and saying “we have to come together in this country.”

So for nearly an hour in a trendy book store in an upscale neighborhood loaded with Democratic voters, the Ohio governor autographed copies of his new book for nearly 150 people while delivering the same sales pitch that resonated with moderates during his unsuccessful quest last year for the Republican presidential nomination.

And while at one point he joked that he wished he “wasn’t such a jerk at times,” the crowd squeezed at the rear of the bookstore loved his message and made clear if he ever runs for president against, he can count on their votes.

“I love Kasich,” said Amanda Linton, a self-described staunch Democrat from Woodbridge, Va., who bought four copies of “Two Paths - United or Divided.” She said Ohio’s governor is “reasonable, he’s fair, he compromises (on) issues, he works with both parties and in a time of true divisiveness he would have healed our country.”

Others had similar reactions: “Real and personable,” said Luci Delsignore of Virginia, who grew up in Brazil. “We need more people saying we need to get back together,” said Pam Duran of Alaska.

Although Kasich said he did not “know what I’m going to do doing” in 2020, Linton said she hoped he runs, no matter what the political party.

He certainly acted like a presidential candidate. Earlier in the day, he met with reporters from major news organization at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, a box every candidate has to check before running.

At the breakfast, Kasich suggested the United States should consider “taking out the North Korean leadership,” a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his quest to build a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach Japan, South Korea and the West Coast of the United States.

When a reporter quizzed Kasich about whether he meant military action, the governor replied, “You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

During the book signing, Kasich took a shot at the revised House Republican plan to scrap much of the 2010 health law known as Obamacare, saying Republicans “need to sit down with Democrats” and Democrats need to work with GOP lawmakers to revise and stabilize the law.

He added: “Let’s do it together.”

But in Ohio, Democrats say Kasich hasn’t made much of an effort to reach out to them.

David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, says he gives Kasich credit for being “a clear voice on how bad gerrymandering is and how that is leading to intense partisanship.”

But, he said, “Democrats want to see that bipartisanship in Ohio as opposed to” Kasich “talking about it at the national level.”

(Information from the Washington Post was added to this story.)


Ohio Gov. John Kasich Saturday will be at Books&Co. at The Greene, 4453 Walnut Street. Autograph line numbers will be given out starting at 12:30 p.m. You must show a receipt to get a line number. The event starts at 1:30.

Donald Trump on first 100 days in office: 'I thought it would be easier'

Published: Friday, April 28, 2017 @ 10:16 AM

As President Donald Trump approaches his 100th day in office, the commander-in-chief said he’s found the job of leading the United States to be more difficult than he expected.

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“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview published Friday. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

Saturday will mark 100 days since Trump was sworn into office.

Trump made his name as a wealthy business mogul and television personality before Jan. 20, when he became the 45th president of the United States. He had not held public office before January.

It’s not the first time Trump has expressed surprise over the scope of his responsibilities as president.

In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Trump said he “never realized how big” the job was.

“The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency. This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world,” he told the wire service. “I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility. You know, the human life that’s involved in some of the decisions.”

The lack of privacy afforded to the president also surprised Trump, who told Reuters that even in his “old life” he had little time out of the public eye.

"You're really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can't go anywhere," he told the news agency. "I like to drive. … I can't drive anymore."

Despite controversy, Trump grinds out some progress in first 100 days

Published: Friday, April 28, 2017 @ 4:30 AM
Updated: Friday, April 28, 2017 @ 4:44 AM

As both parties and the White House do their very best to spin the first 100 days of the Trump Administration, it has been an at times tumultuous political start in the White House for President Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been able to make progress on some fronts in the opening weeks of his time in office.

Let’s take a look at where Mr. Trump has been able to push the ball down the field in his first 100 days – and where things have not gone according to plan.

1. Neal Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court. When you talk to Republicans about the start of the Trump Administration, many GOP lawmakers eagerly cite this nomination. “We cannot miss that we have nominated and confirmed Neal Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “Confirming Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in his first 100 days was a 30 year victory for President Trump,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). We won’t know for many years where Gorsuch ends up on the ideological spectrum of the Court, but certainly there is no denying how important this was for Trump, and for Republicans who support him. “And I got it done in the first 100 days,” Trump said earlier this month. “You think that’s easy?”

2. Tough talk and enforcement leads to immigration slowdown. While President Trump certainly has not fulfilled all of his promises to crack down on illegal immigrants (DACA is still in effect, for example), his policy changes on immigration law enforcement seem to have had an impact, as the number of people trying to get across the southern border of the United States has clearly slowed. In December, over 16,000 families were stopped at the border – that was down to 1,100 in March. Overall in March, the number of people apprehended at the border is down 64 percent from where it was a year earlier. “These numbers are lower because we’ve shown we’re serious about border security and enforcing our immigration laws,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

3. Trump, GOP try to reverse federal regulations. Whether through executive actions, or efforts within federal agencies to rewrite major rules and regulations, President Trump has certainly taken a step to fulfill his promise of overturning regulations. And Congress has chipped in as well, sending the President 13 different measures to overturn a regulatory rule of the Obama Administration. “We’ve lifted one terrible regulation after another at a record clip, from the energy sector to the auto sector. And we have many more to go,” Mr. Trump said as he signed an executive order last week. Whether you think these changes are good or bad isn’t the point – rolling back red tape and regulations is something Republicans have talked about a lot – now Mr. Trump is in position to deliver.

4. Trump follows through on tough trade rhetoric.

5. Shaking up Washington, D.C. If there was one message that I heard maybe more than any other out on the campaign trail in 2016, it was the desire of supporters of President Trump to send a message to the political establishment – of both parties. They wanted to vote for him, because he was going to shake things up in Washington. Well, he certainly has succeeded in doing that. Again – as in other examples – you may not agree with what he’s done, or how he has gone about doing it, but he certainly has introduced a different dynamic in the nation’s capital. Obviously, there is room for argument about whether shaking things up actually leads to progress.

While progress has been made on some of his goals, there are certainly other issues where the President and Republicans in Congress have not been able to push ahead and fulfill their campaign promises.

Some of those include:

+ Health care – The legislative effort to repeal and replace the Obama health law remains hung up in the House, and even if a bill gets approved there, it’s not clear what the Senate would be able to do, as Republicans remain at odds on the best way forward. The GOP was trying to get a vote in the House before the President’s 100th day, but had to abandon that plan on Thursday night. They will try again next week.

+ Infrastructure – President Trump talked a lot about how he would spur new job growth by pushing a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, using a public-private partnership to trigger work on new roads, bridges and more. But the White House has not unveiled any official proposal, and there is no momentum on it in the Congress. How do you pay for it? That was the big hangup in the Obama Administration as well.

+ Border wall money – The White House wanted money in a stop gap budget plan to help build a wall along the border with Mexico, but basically hit a wall in Congress. First, Democrats are in no mood to help him, and there are a number of Republicans who don’t think much of the issue either. This will be a flashpoint again later this year.

+ Tax reform – While the President unveiled an outline of a tax reform plan this week, many details were still To Be Determined, and that doesn’t bode well for fast action in the Congress on a tax bill. Back in 1985, President Reagan delivered a full legislative bill to Congress on reform, and that was used as the basis for action. This time, the GOP has a one page flyer from the President. Lawmakers like to have some political cover, and the President has offered little.

+ Expectations – While President Trump grumbled a bit this week about the 100 day measurement, he set the bar pretty high on his own last year during the campaign, vowing to get ten major initiatives through the Congress. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen, but when you look back from this point, it’s important to realize how much energy it takes – even with one party control of the White House and the Congress.


Republicans put off House vote again on GOP health care bill

Published: Thursday, April 27, 2017 @ 11:12 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 27, 2017 @ 11:13 PM

Even with another major push to get Republicans on board with a plan to overhaul the Obama health law, House GOP leaders were unable to bring the bill to the floor for a vote on Friday, still short of the support needed to squeeze out a majority for a major campaign promise.

A day of arm twisting finally ended around 10 pm on Thursday night, as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters that there would be no vote on Friday or Saturday on health care, and that Republicans would try again next week.

“We’re going to go when we have the votes,” Speaker Paul Ryan had told reporters earlier in the day, as it became painfully evident for the GOP in the hours after that statement – again – that they were short on votes.

“I think they are real close,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) Thursday afternoon about the vote count, who said GOP leaders “want to be certain “before taking the bill to the House floor.

Overall, Republicans were closer than previous attempts, as more conservative lawmakers who had resisted the bill in previous weeks, got on board in recent days.

“I think the recent amendments to the health care bill have been very significant,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), a member of the more conservative House Freedom Caucus, who said he was ready to vote for the bill this time.

“I commend President Trump, Vice President Pence, Speaker Ryan, and my colleagues for keeping the lines of communication open, which has ultimately led to a better bill,” said Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), another Freedom Caucus member who was ready to vote “Yes.”

But the bottom line as lawmakers go home this weekend is the same – Republicans still haven’t found the magic formula to get the health care bill through the House.