Does Gingrich Back Individual Mandate?

Does Gingrich Back Individual Mandate?

By Michael Meulemans, About.com Guide November 25, 2011

Presidential candidate politics got tangled up in health care policy during the recent Republican candidate debate sponsored by CNN on the subject of health care reform, the PPACA, and the individual mandate.

In CNN’s Republican presidential debate last month, when Mitt Romney argued that his Massachusetts reform plan’s central individual health care mandate idea had come from Gingrich. "You did not get that from me," Gingrich thundered in response, before eventually conceding that in the early 1990s he and the conservative Heritage Foundation had backed the idea of a mandate compelling individuals to purchase health insurance.

What Gingrich didn’t say during this dust-up was that the Gingrich Group, a consulting firm the former GOP House speaker founded in 1999, currently promotes a plan that includes an individual mandate.

So what is Gingrich’s health care policy? Now, he says he does not believe in mandates. Ok, positions can evolve over time. But now the think tank Gingrich founded has collected at least $37 million over the past eight years from major health-care companies and industry groups, offering special access to the former House speaker and other perks, according to records and interviews. The Center for Health Transformation, which opened in 2003, brought in dues of as much as $200,000 per year from insurers and other health-care firms, offering some of them "access to Newt Gingrich" and "direct Newt interaction," according to promotional materials.

While there’s nothing illegal, or unethical about that its important nonetheless to remember when analyzing his policies and thinking forward as he makes health care policy if elected to be President of the United States. Surely, it seems if that happens insurance companies would benefit.

In May, Gingrich also criticized Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan as "too radical" and a step toward, "right wing social engineering". At the time and since, Gingrich has offered little idea of how he would reduce the deficit. He said it was possible to solve the US’s long-term fiscal deficit without any tax increases but the only cuts he specified were reducing government waste and "not paying crooks".

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Advertisements

NAIC Statement on MLR Producer Issue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STATEMENT FROM NAIC PRESIDENT
SUSAN E. VOSS

The NAIC adopted a resolution urging Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to use their respective authorities to preserve consumer access to insurance agents and brokers by adjusting the medical loss ratio (MLR) component of the Affordable Care Act.

The impact of the MLR provision on agents and brokers’ ability to serve consumers has been the subject of extensive debate among regulators and there is clearly not unanimous agreement on this issue. However, the resolution follows up on concerns consistently raised by the NAIC since passage of the Affordable Care Act in comments to HHS and letters to Congress. In addition to calling upon Congress to amend the MLR portions of the Affordable Care Act, the resolution specifically asks HHS to take action through its rule-making process to help preserve consumer access to insurance agents and brokers.

The NAIC previously requested that HHS recognize the essential role served by producers and encouraged them to accommodate producer compensation in the MLR rule promulgated. The resolution urges HHS to explore possible options for providing relief.

Throughout the process of implementing provisions of health care reform charged to us by Congress, state regulators have strived to provide our perspective and expertise to federal officials on issues with a direct impact on consumers, even if those issues are potentially divisive and contentious. This resolution reflects that continued commitment.

Click HERE to read the resolution.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

DC Democracy Analysis Bolsters Claims by Those Seeking Ban on Constituent Services Funds

Council Constituent Services Funds: Little Goes for Actual Needs (11/23)

Expenditures

DC Councilmembers are allowed to receive up to $80,000 per year in contributions to their Constituent Services Funds (CSF’s) per year, and may spend up to that amount per year as well for constituent services. Leftover campaign funds may also be contributed without regard to the $80,000 limit. It is a widely held view among District residents that CSF’s are used primarily to pay for urgent individual or family needs such as rental assistance to avoid eviction, utility bills to prevent cutoff, or help with funeral expenses, etc.

The reality is that councilmembers spend very little from their CSF’s to meet these immediate constituent needs. As shown in Table 1, during 2010, for nine (9) councilmembers the amount spent for these needs represented only between 1% and 12% of their total expenditures. The other four members ranged from 25% to 32%. For all members combined, the amounts spent totaled only $48,271, representing 12% of all expenditures from CSF’s for the year.

TABLE 1
COUNCILMEMBER EXPENDITURES ON ACTUAL CONSTITUENT NEEDS (2010)
Councilmember Total Constituent Svcs Expenditures Amount Actually Spent on Constituent Needs1 % Actually Spent on Constituent Needs
Yvette Alexander $49,939 $1,007 2%
Marion Barry $14,463 $3,607 25%
Muriel Bowser $35,713 $2,336 7%
Kwame Brown $7.354 $816 8%
Michael Brown $49,951 $4,793 10%
David Catania $14,932 $1,855 12%
Mary Cheh $34,686 $476 1%
Jack Evans $85,381 $3,286 4%
Jim Graham $48,713 $11,988 25%
Vince Gray $50,508 $14,235 28%
Phil Mendelson $3,751 $455 12%
Harry Thomas, Jr $6,259 $768 12%
Tommy Wells $8,299 $2,649 32%

1Covers immediate constituent needs, mostly to provide rental assistance to avoid eviction, pay electricity bill to avoid service cutoff, and help pay funeral expenses.

Source: DC Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) quarterly reports submitted by councilmembers.

Thus, despite widespread impressions to the contrary, councilmembers spent the vast majority of their constituent services funds for purposes not related to helping constituents with serious, immediate needs.

What then are most constituent services funds spent for? They fall into two broad categories. The first is to assist community organizations and to sponsor or support community events. In 2010, as shown in Table 2, councilmembers spent far more on community organizations and events than on pressing individual and family needs. The amounts spent in this category by councilmembers ranged from 8% to 48% of their total expenditures, with the exception of one member for whom these kinds of expenditures represented 77% of total expenditures.

The other category of expenditures may primarily benefit the councilmember and staff rather constituents. This includes spending on office supplies, computer expenses, printing, local travel and large amounts for catering and refreshments, of which an unknown amount may be for community events. Constituent funds were also used for Council breakfast meetings, for bottled water for their offices, and even to pay for season tickets costing $28,000 to four professional sports teams.

Nine councilmembers spent far more from their constituent services funds on this category of expenditures that they spent on either immediate constituent needs or on community events or organizations, with their expenditures for this category ranging from 40% to 87% of their total CSF expenditures. (See Table 2 for details)

TABLE 2
COUNCILMEMBER EXPENDITURES FOR CONSTITUENT NEEDS AND COMMUNITY EVENTS & ORGANIZATIONS (2010)
Councilmember Total Constituent Svcs Expenditures % Spent on Constituent Needs % Spent on Community Events/Orgs % Spent on Other Kinds of Expenditures1
Yvette Alexander $49,939 2% 11% 87%
Marion Barry $14,463 25% 35% 40%
Muriel Bowser $35,713 7% 14% 79%
Kwame Brown $7,354 11% 8% 81%
Michael Brown $49,951 10% 22% 68%
David Catania $14,932 12% 77% 11%
Mary Cheh $34,686 1% 18% 81%
Jack Evans $85,381 4% 21% 75%
Jim Graham $48,713 25% 20% 55%
Vince Gray $50,508 28% 42% 30%
Phil Mendelson $3,751 12% 48% 40%
Harry Thomas, Jr $6,259 12% 29% 59%
Tommy Wells $8,299 32% 45% 23%

1Includes spending by councilmembers for office supplies, computer expenses, printing, catering & refreshments and local travel; also for breakfast meetings of councilmembers, for Deer Park water and to pay for season tickets to DC professional sports teams.
Note: Catering & refreshments were not broken down and likely include amounts spent in support of community events.

Source: DC Office of Campaign Finance quarterly reports submitted by councilmembers.

Contributions to CSF’s

As noted above, councilmembers are allowed to accept contributions of up to $80,000 per year for their CSF’s, plus leftover campaign contributions. Contributions are limited to $500 per individual or entity.

As can be seen in Table 3, there was great variability among councilmembers in the amounts brought in during the year, ranging from a low of $33 to a high of $81,000. Only four members had contributions in excess of $40,000, while eight brought in less than $15,000. Total contributions to CSF’s were $308,321, and average of $23,717 per member.
The contributions came primarily from those donating the $500 maximum allowed. Many of the $500 maximum donations were from familiar names of individuals and entities that appear prominently in campaign fundraising reports as well. We can only speculate about the motivations behind these contributions. It is worth noting, however, that contributions of $500 over four years ($2,000) vastly exceed the amounts that can be legally contributed to a campaign fund during that time ($500 for ward-level races, $1,000 for at-large races).

TABLE 3
TOTAL CONSTITUENT SERVICES CONTRIBUTIONS TO COUNCILMEMBERS (2010)
Y. Alexander $46,725 J. Evans $81,000
M. Barry $14,000 J. Graham $ 8,461
M. Bowser $50,128 V. Gray $3,142
K. Brown $2,200 P. Mendelson $4,500
M. Brown $57,811 H. Thomas $6,925
D. Catania $ 4,405 T. Wells $ 33
TOTAL $308,321

Source: DC Office of Campaign Finance quarterly reports submitted by councilmembers.

Conclusions

DC for Democracy believes that CSF’s should be eliminated. The quite limited amounts spent on hardship cases handled by these funds—less than $50,000 for all councilmembers’ CSF’s—suggests that there must be a better way to handle them, perhaps in the executive branch through a central office with the ability to access city-wide public and private resources to service them.

We are also concerned that the combination of the nature and sources of contributions, the ability to transfer leftover campaign funds into these accounts, and their use to fund community organizations and events, raise the question whether these funds are being seen as an adjunct to political campaign contributions. There are many legitimate expenditures being made by CSF’s, but our belief is that they should be covered by other means and through budget authorizations. Reducing the limits on contributions and expenditures from $80,000 to $40,000, as Councilmember Muriel Bowser proposes, yet not really narrowing the definition of what CSF’s can be spent for, does not, in our view, address the underlying question of why the CSF’s should be continued.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Cantor praises Obama’s pick for key healthcare post

Cantor praises Obama’s pick for key healthcare post

By Sam Baker – 11/29/11 04:46 PM ET

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor supports President Obama’s nominee for a key healthcare position, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Virginia Republican told the AP that Marilyn Tavenner is “eminently qualified" to lead the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid.

The White House announced her nomination last week.

"I would hope to be able to support her," Cantor said. "Obviously, I’m not in the Senate, so I don’t have that vote, but I do think she is qualified. Obviously, she’ll be working for a president with an agenda that’s quite different from mine."

Many stakeholders already thought Tavenner might be able to win Senate confirmation, based largely on the fact that Senate Republicans did not immediately attack her. Support from Cantor, one of Congress’s leading conservative voices, will likely bolster her prospects.

Cantor told the AP that he worked well with Tavenner when she was Virginia’s health secretary.

“I always found her to be extremely professional and understanding of the value of the private sector in health care,” he told the wire service.

Source:
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/medicare/195989-cantor-praises-obamas-pick-for-key-healthcare-post

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

Nine GOP-led states receive new money to implement health law

Nine GOP-led states receive new money to implement health law

By Sam Baker – 11/29/11 02:04 PM ET

Nine Republican governors received grants Tuesday to help implement the core component of President Obama’s healthcare law.

The Health and Human Services Department awarded 13 grants, totaling almost $220 million, for states to build insurance exchanges. The new marketplaces for insurance must be up and running by 2014, and HHS has the power to step in with a federal exchange in any state that doesn’t establish its own.

Planning for exchanges has divided Republican governors and created rifts within state governments. Some have taken a hard line against implementing the law, but others either support the concept of an exchange or want to ensure that the federal government does not take over.

The 13 grants announced Tuesday went to Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont.

HHS also said Tuesday that states can apply for, receive and spend grant money even if they don’t have an exchange set up by the healthcare law’s deadline. The department has consistently pushed states hard to set up their own exchanges or to split the responsibilities with the federal government. States that get exchanges grants can use the money to set up parts of an exchange while HHS handles the rest, the department said in new guidance for states.

“States are moving at their own pace to get their exchanges up and running,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters.

Source:
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/195931-9-gop-led-states-receive-new-money-to-implement-health-law

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

Mobile: 202-253-4929

4410 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150

Washington, DC 20016

States squirm over health exchanges

States squirm over health exchanges

By: Jason Millman
November 28, 2011 11:11 PM EST

For state governments, the coming Supreme Court ruling on health reform isn’t an abstract argument about the U.S. Constitution.

It’s a highly practical question about whether, when and how to proceed with one of the health law’s most important and complicated pieces: setting up health insurance exchanges. Already facing political strife over implementation of health reform, some states are wondering if they should sit tight on exchange decisions until the court rules, probably in June.

Set to open in January 2014, exchanges will offer a marketplace where individuals and small businesses in each state can shop for health coverage. The exchanges, which offer subsidized coverage to lower- and middle-income individuals, will absorb more than half of the law’s projected expansion of health coverage to 32 million people.

Like many of the law’s provisions, the onus falls on states to take on much of the work of setting up the exchanges, with the Department of Health and Human Services running an exchange in states that fail or choose not to create one.

For some conservative states trying to block the law in the Supreme Court, the idea of federal intervention is enough motivation for them to plan ahead for an exchange in case their lawsuit fails. In others, the Supreme Court’s consideration of health reform is a cause for paralysis.

Two Midwestern governors have already declared their states won’t set up an exchange until the Supreme Court decides on the health law. And that idea is growing popular among powerful state legislators vigorously opposed to health reform.

Even without the uncertainty surrounding the Supreme Court, states are already on a tight timeline to get exchanges in working condition. Though the exchanges open in January 2014, HHS must determine by Jan. 1, 2013, whether a state will be ready to run one. The last opportunity for states to receive federal financial assistance for building an exchange is the end of June 2012 — right around the time of the Supreme Court ruling.

Recognizing the heavy lift for states’ exchanges, HHS in September floated ideas for partnership exchange models in which the states would split exchange responsibilities with the feds. But the models were met with grumbles from the states, which found them too restrictive.

Steve Larsen, who oversees exchange development for HHS, said he’s heard from states that are hesitant to do too much ahead of the Supreme Court decision. However, he thinks that states won’t want to fall too far behind if the Supreme Court upholds the law in June.

“If that’s when they start to work on an exchange, they will certainly be challenged to have a state-based exchange in 2014,” Larsen told a conference of Medicaid directors earlier this month.

But it’s an argument that Missouri state Sen. Scott Rupp isn’t buying. Rupp, a Republican who chaired the state’s interim exchange study committee this fall, said Missouri should hold off planning entirely until the Supreme Court has its say. Doubtful that the feds have the resources to set up exchanges in every state that declines, Rupp isn’t worried about the health law’s tight deadlines.

“I think there’s plenty of time,” Rupp said. “We don’t care about the timeline the federal government has laid out. We’re a sovereign state. Just because they throw down a deadline, we don’t have to scramble to hit it.”

In Wisconsin, Frank Lasee, the Republican chairman of the state Senate insurance committee, is looking beyond the Supreme Court decision. Lasee wants to know who wins the 2012 elections before Wisconsin confronts health reform. He recently killed a bill that would have written into state law many of health reform’s insurance provisions, such as banning lifetime and annual limits, preventing discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. The bill wouldn’t have created an exchange, though.

“Exchanges really aren’t required until 2014, so we have plenty of time after November 2012,” Lasee said, even though it would leave the state less than two months until the January 2013 certification.

Just 13 states have passed exchange legislation in the 20 months since health reform became law, and some of those states face further legislative battles to design the exchange. Five governors have taken some form of executive action to continue exchange planning after legislatures balked, with only Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee flexing executive muscle to actually establish a functioning exchange. It’s hard to imagine many more governors taking similar action without facing the wrath of state legislators.

Some Democrat-led states are further ahead in the planning process. Maryland and California have had functioning exchange boards in place for months, while Connecticut and Vermont are trying to align their exchanges with new state initiatives that aim for universal coverage.

Some states that have set the Supreme Court decision as a symbolic marker continue their exchange planning. Both Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman have ruled out an exchange until after the Supreme Court’s decision, but “just-in-case” policy discussion has not disappeared.

Though Kansas this summer sent back a $31 million grant to build an exchange, an advisory committee continues to meet and a special legislative panel recommended that the legislature continue to pursue a state-run exchange again in January.

Likewise, Nebraska continues to make inroads, recently applying for millions more in federal grants to plan an exchange. Insurance Commissioner Bruce Ramge said the grant would position the state well for designing an exchange, if it comes to that.

“We also continue to have frequent stakeholder meetings with interested parties,” Ramge said.

Exchange planning is even taking place in Gov. Rick Perry’s Texas, which this year approved a “health care compact,” a symbolic agreement among conservative states to take control of federal health programs and reject health care reform. Stakeholders in the state said some legislators are planning for an exchange behind the scenes after receiving a $1 million HHS grant last year.

“I’ve talked to members who are on board,” said Jared Wolfe, executive director for the Texas Association of Health Plans. “They say they get it, an exchange is a good idea, but politically can’t vote on it right now and want to wait until the Supreme Court decides.”

© 2011 POLITICO LLC

Source: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/69253.html

Wash Post: Wal-Mart proposed at D.C.’s Skyland center faces obst acle: Safeway