Report: GOP Obamacare Plans Won’t Stave Massive Disruption of Insurance Market

The Hill: “Republicans have spent months pitching ideas on how to limit the potential fallout from next month’s Supreme Court decision that could wipe out ObamaCare insurance subsidies in at least 34 states.”

“But so far, none of their proposals are likely to stave off the massive disruption of the healthcare marketplace that would result from a ruling against the Obama administration, according to a new report by the American Academy of Actuaries.”

“The changes to the risk pool would be particularly costly for insurance companies because they cannot make mid-year adjustments to their rates if the court rules against the subsidies.”

“’That’s the big worry. That’s really the biggest worry for most us working in the field, the fact there’s no ability to reset things,’ said the report’s author, Cathy Murphy-Barron, who has spent 25 years as a health policy actuary.”

“Another popular Republican plan — a temporary extension of premium subsidies — also drew criticism from the American Academy of Actuaries, which warned that it would only ‘delay the market disruption.’”

Economy Shrinks 0.7% in First Quarter

Washington Post: “The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized pace of 0.7 percent in the first three months of the year, according to government data released Friday morning, a tumble for a recovering nation that until recently seemed poised for takeoff.”

“The contraction, the U.S.’s third in the aftermath of the Great Recession, provides a troubling picture of an economy that many figured would get a lift from cheap oil, rapid hiring, and growing consumer confidence. Instead, consumers have proven cautious and fracking companies have frozen investment — all while a nasty winter caused havoc for transportation and construction and a strong dollar widened the trade deficit.”

Wall Street Journal: “Most economists expect the economy to regain steam as the year unfolds, and early signs point to a slight spring rebound. GDP is expected to grow at a roughly 2% pace in the current quarter under economists’ latest projections.”

“But underlying demand appears to have reverted to sluggishness after a surge in output last summer sparked hopes of the economy finally shifting into a higher gear. Compared to a year earlier, the economy grew 2.7% in the first quarter, though that figure is exaggerated by a sharp contraction that occurred in the first quarter of 2014.”

Where Can Low-Income Workers Find Affordable Housing? Nowhere.

Ezra Klein: “There is no state in the union where a full-time, minimum-wage worker can afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment for less than 30 percent of his paycheck (which is a standard measure of housing affordability).”

“That’s the depressing takeaway from a new report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. The paper includes this map tallying the hours a worker would have to put in at her job each week to rent a one-bedroom apartment without it eating more than 30 percent of her wages:”

 

“What that chart shows, basically, is that there’s almost no way for low-income workers to live in the cities where the best-paying jobs are. And so, often, they don’t. As Joseph Stromberg wrote in an excellent piece, being forced to live far from jobs is a key impediment to moving up the income ladder.”

GOP Split Over Obamacare Alternatives

Wall Street Journal: “A month before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on a key component of the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans are split over their strategy for handling the possible fallout.”

“Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, are divided over whether to extend temporarily the health law’s tax credits if the court voids them in most of the country. An extension, some lawmakers say, would buy them time to enact a broader overhaul of the 2010 health law they have long opposed.”

“But some conservatives want the Republican Party to hold firm and refuse any reauthorization of the credits for the law they call ‘Obamacare.’”

“That group of more than 30 lawmakers hasn’t taken a formal position on the issue, but conservative opposition could make it hard to pass legislation in the House.”

“’That view suggests Obamacare was the right answer and that’s not what Republicans promised last fall,’ said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.). ‘This is a golden opportunity. If Republicans squander this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare, they squander an opportunity to actually win the White House. It’s not the time to support and extend Obamacare.’”

More Consider Themselves ‘Pro-Choice’ Than ‘Pro-Life’

Gallup: “Half of Americans consider themselves “pro-choice” on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as “pro-life.” This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans’ abortion views.”

Trend: U.S. Adults' Self-Identified Position on the Abortion Issue

“The pro-choice view is not as prevalent among Americans as it was in the mid-1990s, but the momentum for the pro-life position that began when Barack Obama took office has yielded to a pro-choice rebound. That rebound has essentially restored views to where they were in 2008; today’s views are also similar to those found in 2001.”

Illegal Border Crossings Lowest in 20 years

“As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million,” the Washington Post reports.

“A key — but largely overlooked — sign of these ebbing flows is the changing makeup of the undocumented population. Until recent years, illegal immigrants tended to be young men streaming across the Southern border in pursuit of work. But demographic data show that the typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more.”

Party That Wins Obamacare Lawsuit Could Be the Loser

Associated Press: “The party that wins the impending Supreme Court decision on President Barack Obama’s health care law could be the political loser.”

“If the Republican-backed challenge to the law’s subsidies for lower-earning Americans prevails, the GOP would have achieved a paramount goal of severely damaging “Obamacare.” But Republican lawmakers would be pressured to help the millions of Americans who could suddenly find government-mandated medical coverage unaffordable — and they’d face blame from many voters if they failed to provide assistance.”

“Should the Obama administration win, relieved Democrats would crow that Obama’s foremost domestic achievement had stood unscathed. But some say they’d have lost a potentially powerful cudgel for the 2016 campaigns: Being able to accuse Republicans of ending the assistance and disrupting health coverage for many.”

“Not everyone thinks their party will lose politically should they win in court. Many Republicans say if the Supreme Court rules that subsidies were provided illegally, it would be the Democratic administration’s fault for doing so, not the GOP’s.”

States Team Up To Keep Obamacare Sustainable

Fiscal Times: “A handful of states struggling to finance their Obamacare health exchanges are considering teaming up with other states to keep their insurance portals sustainable as federal funds run out this year.”

“A number of states including California and Oregon are having trouble financing their exchanges now that federal funding is drying up. Covered California, for example, is running a deficit of $80 million.”

“To save on costs, California is reportedly in talks with Oregon, another state struggling to afford its exchange, to merge their exchanges.”

“They’re not alone. Other states are contemplating building similar multi-state exchanges. New York and Connecticut are also discussing the plan, though both are in the very preliminary stages … The option is seen as an alternative to joining the federal exchange as other struggling state exchanges, like Nevada, have done.”

Wind Power Could Become Nation’s Largest Energy Source

Eco Watch: “Wind power could become even more prevalent in the U.S. than previously expected, according to a new report released last week from the Department of Energy (DOE), Enabling Wind Power Nationwide. The new report, which was announced at the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER Conference in Orlando, Florida, finds that there is wind power potential in nearly the entire U.S., even in places that were previously thought to have insufficient wind to generate electricity.”

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“According to the report, the U.S. has the ability to ‘unlock the vast potential for wind energy deployment in all 50 states’ because of next-generation wind turbines. These taller turbines with longer blades, which are currently under development by the DOE and its private industry partners will be able to capture the wind more effectively at higher altitudes where the wind is usually stronger and more constant, says the report.”

If Congressional Districts Were the Same Size

Washington Post: Daily Kos contributor Daniel Donner on Tuesday tweeted a map of the United State re-imagined as a series of hexagons representing congressional districts — the catch being that each congressional district would be the same size geographically.

The East is more recognizable than the West, since states there tend to be geographically smaller but have larger populations — and thus there’s more districts that were used to draw out the state.

Is the Rate of Innovation Slowing?

The Wall Street Journal reports on a new analysis showing that the “breakneck pace of innovation is showing signs of a slowdown.”

“More than 2.15 million patentable inventions were created world-wide in 2014, 3.3% more than in 2013. But the pace of growth seems to be slowing, according to Bob Stembridge, a Thomson Reuters intellectual property analyst: It was 17.7% in 2013, 20% in 2012 and 7.3% in 2011.”

“A different measure of innovation, the global rate of publication of scientific papers, also is slowing. The total number of research papers in 12 key industries fell beneath 250,000 last year… The number was around 300,000 in 2013. It peaked in 2008—just before the economy entered a recession—at 350,000.”

How Obama Can Make the Tax System More Progressive

Ike Brannon argues that President Obama should propose “a radical tax reform that goes far beyond what’s currently being contemplated by congressional Republicans.”

“Along with reducing the tax break for inherited wealth — an idea already floated by the White House — it would include eliminating the deduction for mortgage interest as well as state and local taxes while also capping the deductibility of charitable contributions and retirement savings. The proposal would also have a much lower cap for the deductibility of employer-provided health insurance than the one coming down the pike and eliminate lower tax rates for carried interest as well.”

“These tax deductions (actually, all tax deductions for that matter) go overwhelmingly to the wealthy… The problem is that most deductions have large lobbies dedicated to protecting them. If Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) or Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) were to propose these reductions, congressional Democrats would allege they are harming the middle class with their cuts and lobbyists would reward them for doing so. But if it’s the White House that’s proposing it, Messrs. Ryan and Hatch would leap at the deal and work furiously to round up votes, knowing there is no other way to come up with enough rid tax expenditure savings to finance anything worthy of being called a ‘fundamental’ tax reform.”

Obamacare Lawsuit: An Empty Suit?

Jonathan Chait comments on the latest news related to the Obamacare subsidies case “reassuring those of us who followed the health-care debate when it happened that we are not completely insane.”

“It is difficult to convey to people who don’t follow health care for a living just how preposterous the lawsuit against Obamacare has become. The original theory behind the lawsuit seized upon a tiny drafting error.”

“At the beginning of the legislative process, the law’s authors assumed that states would be happy to build their own exchanges. As it proceeded and the backlash reached a fever pitch, Congress realized that Republican states might boycott the exchanges, and created the federal exchanges as a fallback. But they failed to correct every line in the text, leaving one stray passage that assumes exchanges will be created by a state.”

“And so we are left with a lawsuit that is likely to gain at least three, and possibly as many as five, votes on the Supreme Court despite the fact that it rests on a history that is almost literally insane. Even those of us who have a low estimation of the intellectual standards of the conservative movement have been astounded by its ability to persuade itself of a historical theory so clearly at odds with reality.”