Your questions answered on health care bill

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

Paul Ryan says his current plan to repeal and replace Obamacare involves more than the budget reconciliation bill currently up for debate.

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: http://kff.org/interactive/tax-credits-under-the-affordable-care-act-vs-replacement-proposal-interactive-map/

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.

Sen. Sherrod Brown donates pay during shutdown

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 11:53 PM

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol following the weekly Senate luncheons on Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington, DC.
Getty Images
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol following the weekly Senate luncheons on Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington, DC.(Getty Images)

Under relentless attacks from Republicans for blocking a vote on a bill that would have kept the federal government open, Sen. Sherrod Brown said he would donate his paycheck during the shutdown to an Ohio diaper bank which helps low-income families. 

Brown, D-Ohio, announced the move in a statement Saturday on the first full day of a partial shutdown of the federal government. Senate Democrats have insisted that any spending measure provide legal protections for the children of undocumented immigrants, a program known as the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA. 

Senate Republicans Friday night could not muster 60 votes to force a floor on a bill that would have kept the government open for the next four years and extend a children’s health program which provides coverage to nearly 220,000 low-income Ohio children. 

Even though Brown is a supporter of the program – the Children’s Health Insurance Program known as CHIP – he sided with 43 other Senate Democrats to block passage of the temporary spending bill. 

Senate Republican candidates Jim Renacci and Mike Gibbons assailed Brown’s move. Blaine Kelly, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party quipped “that’s the least he can do after flip flopping on CHIP and putting the health insurance of a quarter million Ohio children at risk.” 

Earlier in the week in a conference call with Ohio reporters, Brown indicated he would support a separate vote on DACA instead of tying it to the spending bill. 

If the Senate does not agree to a spending bill Sunday, hundreds of thousands of federal workers – including as many as 13,000 civilian workers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton – would face a furlough. 

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, however, would continue to be paid. In addition to Brown, Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, asked that his pay be withheld during the shutdown. Latta voted for the bill that passed the House Thursday to keep the government open and extend CHIP. 

Mail will still get delivered, the post offices will remain open, the Army, Navy and Air Force operate as usual, and Americans receive their Social Security checks. Medicare and Medicaid continue to function.

Women's marches, events taking place across nation

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

WATCH: Scenes From 2018 Women's March

A series of women’s marches, protests and voter registration events are taking place across the country this weekend.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. In 2017, the Women’s March on Washington drew a large crowd that marched in protest of Trump’s election. Women’s marches were held across the country and the world.

For 2018, marches and rallies are being held in cities across the country throughout the weekend. There will be a voter registration drive on Sunday in Las Vegas.

Congress at work on a Saturday as lawmakers try to end shutdown quickly

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 5:18 AM

Hours after funding lapsed for the federal government at midnight, lawmakers in both parties returned for an unusual Saturday session of the House and Senate, as both parties quickly launched themselves into finger pointing over who is to blame for the first government shutdown since 2013, with few signs that a deal was near on the major spending and immigration issues that brought about the standoff.

“Get it together,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi bluntly said to Republicans in a morning speech on the House floor, as she led a chorus from her party in blaming the President for the budgetary impasse.

“The Trump travesty continues, as it has for the last twelve months,” said Pelosi’s top lieutenant, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

But Republicans were having none of that.

“We’re about nine hours into the Schumer shutdown,” said Rep. Greg LaMalfa (R-CA) as the House convened, “which is basically Senate Democrats holding the United States, 320 million people, hostage.”

“There is no excuse for this,” said Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA).

“Democrats shut down the govt to protect illegals this week,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA).

Behind the scenes, lawmakers in both parties were still hoping to cut a deal that would have the government fully open by Monday – but there was little evidence of a possible breakthrough on the broader budget and immigration issues which led to this stalemate.

Negotiations have centered on reaching a two year agreement on spending levels for the budget – as President Trump wants a sizable increase in the military’s budget – and on DACA, where Democrats were still hoping to get an agreement that would protect some 700,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” from being deported.

As the clock ticked toward midnight on Friday night, there were a flurry of talks on the Senate floor between Senators of both parties – not really about the specifics of the budget or DACA – but mainly about the length of any temporary funding plan for the government, and plans to vote on that hot button immigration topic.

“Since there were discussions here in earnest, in a bipartisan way, we ought to give those discussions a chance to bear fruit,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).

“We should stay and work,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “Senator McConnell chose to shut the government down,” referring to the GOP leader in the Senate.

But the underlying issues remain fraught with political problems, especially on immigration, where many Republicans see no direct link between funding the government and a deal on DACA and illegal immigrant “Dreamers.”

“This Schumer Shutdown is absolutely ridiculous,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “It is totally irresponsible for the Democrats to use government funding as a bargaining chip.”

At the White House, there was no sign that the President was going to cave on Democratic demands on immigration, as officials accused Democrats of doing all they could to slow political momentum from a big GOP tax cut plan that was signed into law in December.

Democrats said they thought they were close to a deal with the President on Friday over DACA and other immigration issues, but that Mr. Trump backed off, again emphasizing the uncertainty that surrounds talks with the White House on major legislative issues.

Even if the Senate were to approve a bill which combined provisions on DACA and the Dreamers, along with other items on border security, most Republicans say that would have little chance in the House, where GOP lawmakers favor a much tougher approach.

One obvious difference between this shutdown and the one in 2013, is seen right here in Washington, D.C., where outdoor memorials and the Smithsonian museums were still open. Those were shut down by the Obama Administration last time, in what Republicans said was an effort to punish the GOP for a shutdown battle.

Congress slides into a government shutdown, as Democrats derail temporary budget in Senate

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 7:16 PM

In a high stakes game of legislative chicken, the U.S. Senate on Friday night blocked a House-passed bill to fund operations of the federal government for the next four weeks, as most Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans to filibuster the spending measure, demanding faster action on immigration matters, driving the Congress toward the first federal government shutdown since 2013.

The vote was 50 to 49 – 60 votes were needed.

Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump had met with Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer at the White House – but while they seemed to make some progress, there was no final deal.

And Mr. Trump made clear who was to blame.

A handful of members from both parties broke with their leaders on the Senate vote, which would have shut off debate on the four week spending measure approved on Thursday by the House.

Mainly because of the impasse over DACA and immigration, several Republicans refused to join with the President, as they voted against the plan.

“I believe no one wants the government to shut down,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “I also believe that we are inside the ten yard line on finding solutions on all issues.”

Other Republican “no” votes included Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Democrats voting to end debate included five from states which were won by President Trump: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9DjtAfhZFY&w=640&h=390]

For many Democrats, the biggest thing missing from a temporary budget plan was something concrete on the DACA program, to deal with close to 700,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” now in the United States.

In the various Congressional office buildings, immigration activists and many Dreamers joined in demonstrations for their cause.

But Republicans argued that backers of DACA relief were not interested in doing enough to stop people from coming illegally in the future.

“We want to be able to resolve this, but it has to be resolved with border security attached to it,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).

“There’s a deal here that could be struck very quickly,” argued Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).

But signs of a late agreement did not seem to be there for Senators as the clock ticked toward midnight, a reminder that many hours had been spent in recent months on the issue, so far – to no avail.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Congressional leaders would try to broker a deal.

President Trump stayed at the White House Friday night instead of flying as scheduled to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida. It’s not clear if he will go there on Saturday for a party to mark his first year in office.