In Case You Missed It…

October 11, 2013 at 3:58 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the government shutdown and debt limit debate, health reform, and the safety net.

  • On the government shutdown and debt limit debate, Sharon Parrott explained that the impact of the shutdown will increase over time.  Robert Greenstein responded to various proposals from House Republicans concerning the government shutdown and debt limit:  he noted that an offer from House Republicans was anything but a reasonable and middle-ground compromise; explained that Rep. Paul Ryan’s recent proposal outlined in a Wall Street Journal op-ed is more of what got us to this impasse in the first place; and criticized a House Republican proposal to appoint a committee to recommend ways of reducing the deficit, without raising any revenues, while the government remains shut down.  
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GOP Senators Revive Fake Offset for Medical Device Tax

October 11, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Republican Senators Collins, Murkowski, and Ayotte are reportedly pushing to repeal health reform’s medical device tax — which helps pay for extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans — as part of the price for reopening the government.  As we explained last week when a similar proposal emerged in the House on a bipartisan basis, that’s a terrible idea for several reasons.

First, the tax is sound and the arguments against it do not withstand scrutiny.

Second, the proposal purports to pay for the real cost of repealing the tax (about $30 billion over the next decade) with a fake offset:  a timing gimmick that would bring in more revenue within the ten-year budget “window” but lose significant revenue after that.… Read more

Why the Shutdown Needs to End

October 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

House Republicans unveiled a plan yesterday to raise (or suspend) the debt ceiling for six weeks but leave the government shutdown in place, raising the specter that the shutdown could continue for weeks — maybe all the way until November 22, the GOP’s proposed new debt limit deadline.  There is growing support among policymakers on both sides of the aisle to reopen the government — and here’s why ending the shutdown sooner rather than later is so vital.

Day by day, the real-world problems that the shutdown causes will grow, and more and more of the “make do” steps that federal agencies and states have used to limit the damage will run out.… Read more

Potential GOP Demand to End Shutdown Would Undermine Health Reform

October 11, 2013 at 9:49 am

Some Republican senators reportedly will seek to include a House-passed bill to delay health reform’s premium and cost-sharing subsidies in legislation that (among other things) would reopen the government.  Proponents claim this House bill is an anti-fraud measure, but its real effect would be to undermine health reform.  The bill would prevent the new insurance marketplaces (or exchanges) from operating effectively starting on January 1 by keeping millions of lower- and middle-income uninsured Americans from obtaining subsidies for which they qualify — and which they need to afford coverage.… Read more

Ryan’s Proposal: More of What Got Us Here in the First Place

October 10, 2013 at 9:19 am

While some in the media are portraying Paul Ryan’s op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal as a breakthrough that offers hope of ending the impasse over the government shutdown and debt limit, it is nothing of the sort.

The column is heavy on PR and spin; parsing the first part of it requires separating inaccuracies from half-truths.  Particularly noteworthy is the opening, which labels President Obama as the culprit.  “He’s refusing to talk,” Ryan laments.

Actually, Obama reiterated Tuesday that he’s ready to talk and that everything — including health care — can be up for discussion, but the government needs to reopen first and everyone needs to back off the threat of default. … Read more

Early Results From Connecticut Show Health Reform Is Helping Young Adults Get Coverage

October 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Enrollment in health reform’s new marketplaces (sometimes called exchanges) began last week, and Connecticut already has reported encouraging results about young adults signing up for the coverage that will take effect on January 1.

Almost one-third of those who applied for coverage through Access Health CT, Connecticut’s state-run marketplace, in the first five days are under 35, according to Kevin Counihan, the exchange’s CEO.  (Connecticut is one of 17 states operating its own marketplace; the rest of the states are partnering with the federal government on their marketplace or having the federal government operate the marketplace for them.)

This is an early report, but it’s a promising indicator of health reform’s potential to reduce the rate of uninsurance among young adults — and address this group’s need for greater coverage options. … Read more

While Government Remains Shut Down, Republicans Propose Another Committee — And One That’s Not Supposed to Discuss Revenues

October 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Critical government services have been shut down for over a week, federal employees and contractors are going without pay, and the nation is fast approaching a potentially catastrophic default on its obligations.  But instead of addressing these problems, the House Republican leadership now wants to appoint a committee (termed a “working group”) to recommend ways of reducing the deficit — without raising any revenues.  The proposal — which the House will vote on later today — is deeply disappointing.

Not only does the legislation do nothing to reopen the government or avoid default, delaying badly needed action on these fronts while the working group talks. … Read more

Kaiser: Costs Will Grow More Slowly in States Expanding Medicaid

October 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured’s annual survey of states on their Medicaid budgets, released yesterday, shows why states should expand Medicaid to adults with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty line, as health reform makes possible:  in the 25 states that have decided to expand Medicaid, Kaiser projects that state spending on Medicaid will grow by 4.4 percent in 2014 — compared with 6.1 percent for the states that are not moving forward with expansion (see chart).… Read more

History Isn’t Repeating Itself — This Shutdown Is Different

October 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

Former Reagan Administration official Joseph Morris argues that there’s nothing unusual about policymakers using a government shutdown to work out policy differences.  In an October 2 Washington Post column, he claims the Reagan years prove it and, therefore, people should stop criticizing House Republicans for shutting down the government to extract changes in health reform.

But the evidence that Morris cites undercuts his arguments.  This time indeed is different, and it’s far more dangerous to the economy and the functioning of American democracy itself, as the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote last week. … Read more

“Emerging” House Republican Offer Could Spell More Trouble on Shutdown, Default

October 7, 2013 at 3:42 pm

The nation may be in for more trouble on the government shutdown and debt limit than many commentators realize — if Robert Costa’s recent National Review piece accurately reflects House Republicans’ thinking on their next steps.  In “The Emerging Offer,” Costa describes the “offer” that House Republican leaders are assembling, which suggests that what House Republicans will portray as a reasonable, middle-ground compromise is anything but.

The offer largely represents yet another effort to push — as ransom for President Obama and Congress to pay in exchange for House Republican agreement to reopen the government and raise the debt limit — a set of highly unbalanced policies that are favored by one end of the political spectrum. … Read more

Why Isn’t Poverty Falling? Blame a Too-Quick Retreat on Unemployment Benefits

October 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

If you are wondering what’s behind the stubbornly high poverty rate, which has remained virtually frozen for the last two years despite continued economic growth, one thing is unemployment insurance (UI).  Not too much UI — too little.  As our new report explains, if the UI system hadn’t weakened, poverty would have fallen in the last two years, instead of remaining stalled at around 15 percent.  And UI will shrink further in just a few months unless Congress acts.

UI benefits kept 1.7 million people — jobless workers and their families — above the poverty line in 2012, according to Census figures. … Read more

The Extremist Boehner Rule

October 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Some House members are urging Speaker John Boehner to resurrect the so-called “Boehner Rule,” which demands that policymakers accompany any increase in the debt limit with equal or larger cuts in spending.  The Boehner rule would require the most radical transformation of government in nearly a century, producing policies that can only be described as extremist, as we explain in an updated paper.

The Boehner rule would require new spending cuts in any year in which the federal debt grows in dollar terms, even if it is stable or shrinking in relation to the economy.… Read more