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Other View: Betrayal, carelessness, hypocrisy on health care

This appears in Washington Post:

What a betrayal: Republicans promise to maintain access to health insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions, and then on Thursday press a bill through the House that would eliminate those guarantees.

What a joke: Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., objects to the loss of protection, and then pretends that a paltry $8 billion over five years will fix the problem.

And what hypocrisy: House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., claims to be restoring fair process to his chamber, and then orchestrates a vote on this hugely consequential bill before the Congressional Budget Office can tell lawmakers what it will cost or how many people will lose access to health care as it takes effect.

Carelessly, the bill would threaten the integrity of even employer-based health-care plans in every state, apparently by accident. Recklessly, its drafters introduced just one day before the vote new legislative language that an independent expert called “incoherent, arbitrary, and technically complex.” Tragically, the repeal-and-replace effort is causing so much uncertainty that, even if this bill dies in the Senate, it may unravel the existing health-care system.

There can be no doubt that this legislation would erode protections for people with preexisting conditions. States seeking to weaken regulations protecting vulnerable people would face few legal barriers. The Brookings Institution’s Matthew Fiedler warns that once these states got federal waivers allowing insurance companies to hike premiums on sick people, many of those with preexisting conditions would be priced out of any comprehensive individual insurance market plan, whether or not they kept coverage continuously to that point. There would be few requirements on states to offer a real backstop—no mandates on who or what a high-risk pool must cover, or even that a high-risk pool be created.

And the $8 billion Upton secured? “If all the states with Republican governors opt for waivers, the $8 billion will dwindle into insignificance,” wrote health-policy expert Nicholas Bagley.

Meanwhile, the bill’s sloppy drafting means that employer-based health-care plans might be permitted to impose annual spending limits and lifetime coverage limits—even if most states attempted to keep strong market protections in place. And do not forget that much of the bill is unchanged from March, when the CBO found that it would result in 24 million fewer people with health insurance. It still rolls back a Medicaid expansion for the near-poor and de-links federal health-care subsidies from income and region. The money saved would go to wealthy people in the form of tax cuts. Poorer, sicker and older people would feel the pain.

This process began with Republicans seeking to solve a problem that exists only in their imagination, the supposed catastrophic failure of Obamacare. Their solution has involved half-baked legislative language and magical thinking at every step. It is beyond sad that this is what passes for a “win” for President Donald Trump and the Republican majority in Congress.

Letter: It's time to strike North Korea

There is no safe way to deal with North Korea. Nobody wants a real war with North Korea, but there appears to be no real safe way to avoid that. No matter which way the United States looks at it there will be a ton of death.

Now that I have painted a bleak outlook on the situation let me explain why I think this is. For starters you have a tyrannical dictator who will kill a man for cooking is steak wrong this is a man who would put his own people in the crossfire just so he could live a minute longer, speaking of his people their another reason why, they worship him like a god have you ever seen interviews of them completely brainwashed. These people will fight to the bitter end to protect their god from harm.

While I say this I hope you're not disheartened because now would be the time to strike upon North Korea. Its big brother, China, has stepped away and is refusing to accept coal shipments from North Korea so if we were to strike and try to end this, now would be the time every leader from the area has agreed that this little man is indeed a threat. Let me remind you that he doesn't even need to strike the U.S. While it is his goal, he might just take any target he can hit. He is a threat and we need to strike him down now while the iron is still available and with as few civilian deaths as possible. We need to strike him quickly now— real ground troops — or we can try assassinating him and replacing the government with a democracy, but that failed on Castro. Still, no matter what we do with them the end result will be bad.

Justin Mattson

Twin Falls

Idaho View: The candy bar test

This appeared in the Idaho Falls Post Register:

Perhaps you’re still on the fence as to whether Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, did anything wrong.

The background: Trujillo won’t say where she lived during the legislative session. Her full time home is in Idaho Falls, but her new husband, Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, lives less than 20 miles from the statehouse in Boise. Trujillo (and, by virtue of Idaho’s marital property laws, Moyle) took a $129/day per diem, meant to cover the costs of legislators’ food and lodging expenses if they live outside Ada County. Those whose homes are in Ada County get $49/day.

On Wednesday Bryan Clark reported House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said that because Trujillo’s primary residence is in Idaho Falls, technically she did nothing wrong.

The rules are set up by the Citizens Committee on Legislative Compensation. Bedke thinks they should handle it. Members of the committee say they have no authority to do anything except change the rule – in a year and a half, which is the next time they meet.

Let’s translate this into a little allegory: Say you leave your young child in the care of a part-time babysitter.

One day the babysitter, at your request, stops off at the grocery store to pick up a few items.

It’s just before lunch time. Your child asks the babysitter for a candy bar. But she has instructions to only spend money for the items on the list you gave her.

The babysitter explains, “We’ll eat soon and this money is for just the things on the list.” She pays for the items, loads the groceries and the child into the car and buckles up to head home.

But before the babysitter puts the car in reverse, she hears something. She turns around and sees the little boy unwrapping a candy bar in the backseat.

“Where did you get that?” she asks him in surprise.

He takes a bite of the candy bar. “I was hungry,” he says. “I wanted it. No one told me I couldn’t have it.”

“You should have known better! I told you the money we had was only for what was on the list.”

The child shrugs and finishes the candy bar.

“All gone,” he says, holding up his chocolate-covered fingers.

The babysitter shakes her head in frustration then picks up the phone to call you at work. She explains the situation: “We went shopping for groceries and I stuck to the list and the budget you gave me. Your son took a candy bar without paying. What should I do? You told me I’m not supposed to punish him.”

You ponder the situation. The babysitter never technically told your child he couldn’t have the candy bar. Then again, he should have known better. He took and ate a candy bar without paying for it. What now?

Do you, like Bedke, do nothing? Do you let your kid off the hook on a technicality?

Or do you punish him and point out that not every rule should have to be thoroughly explained? How many rules do each of us abide by without being told the ins and outs of every letter of every law?

Most of us have been on one side or the other of this situation – whether you were the young child caught stealing candy, or the parent dispensing wisdom and consequences.

We just don’t take things without permission, especially when it has a financial impact on others — whether that’s a grocery store or a state.

Time to gauge your moral compass: Was it right or wrong to take an extra $6,400 from the state when Trujillo could have (and may have) lived with her spouse and saved the cost of maintaining a second home during the session?

And who’s the grown up in charge here?