WHAT MY CONGRESSMAN HAS TO SAY IN FAVOR OF THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT

Virginia’s 1st congressional district (from here)

Am I a big fan of Rob Wittman? No. The guy talks like a Conservative, but he votes like a moderate. In fairness, however, a large chunk of his district is in Northern Virginia. Conventional wisdom does not favor the election of Conservatives here.  So if he voted as a Conservatively as he talks, I suppose he thinks a Democrat Liberal would soon replace him. Yet he also has a bunch of Conservatives in his district.  So he tries to please everyone. Not possible, of course.

Anyway, here is Wittman’s rationale for voting for the American Health Care Act. It is the text of an email he sent out today.

Friend,

This week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act, with my support. It is clear the Affordable Care Act is failing and must be fixed. Having reviewed the text of the bill and the Upton and MacArthur Amendments, I believe this legislation does what is necessary to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions, meets the principles for health care reform I laid out several months ago, and puts in place policies that will expand health care choices, increase access to care, and reduce costs.

This is the first step in a multi-step legislative and administrative process that will give individuals and families more control and choice over their health care decisions while increasing flexibility for states to deliver quality, affordable health care options to their residents.

I wanted to further explain my support of the bill by highlighting key parts of the American Health Care Act. Throughout the year, I conducted a Healthcare Listening Tour, where I heard from hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, patient advocates, people affected by the failing Affordable Care Act, and other stakeholders. These conversations reiterated how the failing Affordable Care Act is negatively affecting the constituents of the First District and furthered my resolve to work to make healthcare better for everyone. I remain committed to the constituents of the First District and will continue working to on behalf of their best interests.

 The Case for the American Health Care Act

1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is failing

The Affordable Care Act promised to lower costs, increase access to care, and expand health care choices. It has failed on all three.

Costs: According to the Washington Post, “Insurers are raising the 2017 premiums for a popular and significant group of health plans sold through HealthCare.gov by an average of 25 percent, more than triple the increase for this year, according to new government figures. The spike in average rates for the 38 states that rely on the federal marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act was announced by federal health officials on Monday.”

Access: According to Bloomberg, “Failing insurers. Rising premiums. Financial losses. The deteriorating Obamacare market that the health insurance industry feared is here. As concerns about the survival of the Affordable Care Act’s markets intensify, the role of nonprofit “co-op” health insurers — meant to broaden choices under the law — has gained prominence. Most of the original 23 co-ops have failed, dumping more than 800,000 members back onto the ACA markets over the last two years.”

Choice: According to Time, “According to a new analysis from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, almost a third of counties will have just one insurer participating in the exchanges by 2017, significantly more than the 7% of counties who had one option this year. That equates to 19% of all enrollees facing just one insurance option.”

And just recently we heard that Aetna was leaving the insurance exchanges in Virginia, meaning that Virginians in 50 of our 95 counties where Aetna operates will have one fewer insurance option. In 24 counties where it operates, there is just one other insurer selling Obamacare plans. This means Virginians have fewer choices and will face increased costs.

2. The Republicans plan to repeal the ACA will replace it with a bill that expands choice, increases access, and reduces costs

That plan is H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act. The bill is the first step in a multi-step legislative and administrative process that will give individuals and families more control and choice over their health care decisions while increasing flexibility for states to deliver quality, affordable health care options to their residents.

The American Health Care Act repeals the ACA’s individual and employer mandates and tax increases while phasing out the ACA’s health insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion, replacing them with refundable tax credits and a more effective Medicaid funding model.

3. American Health Care Act Questions Answered

Will the AHCA kick 24 million people off of their health insurance?

No. AHCA will ensure everyone has access to affordable, quality health care, but not by forcing them to buy insurance or penalizing them if they don’t purchase insurance. Instead, the AHCA provides refundable tax credits to low and middle income individuals so they have an incentive to purchase insurance.

Moreover, the original Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate failed to take into account other planned legislative and administrative actions, which will help bring down costs and expand coverage. The CBO has a spotty track record when it comes to projecting health insurance coverage.  When CBO originally scored Obamacare, they projected that 21 million Americans would have coverage in 2016. The reality was half that number, about 10.4 million gained coverage.

Our plan provides every American with access to affordable coverage. Low-income individuals not on Medicaid will receive a refundable tax credit to purchase insurance (meaning they get assistance even if they do not pay income tax). States can also further help low-income Americans through a new Patient and State Stability Fund.

I have a pre-existing condition. How does this bill affect me?

Under the AHCA, insurance companies cannot deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions. And your health status cannot affect your premiums, unless your state asks for and receives a waiver—a condition of which is the state having other protections in place for those with pre-existing conditions. Even if your state does obtain a waiver, so long as you’ve been continuously covered, you still cannot be charged more. The bill provides added resources to help people in waiver states who have not been continuously covered to gain coverage. Bottom line, there are many levels of protection for those with pre-existing conditions in the legislation.

I heard about the MacArthur amendment allowing states to waive protections for pre-existing conditions. If this happens, will I lose all my benefits?

No. This amendment preserves protections for people with pre-existing conditions while giving states greater flexibility to lower premiums and stabilize the insurance market. To obtain a waiver, states will have to establish programs to serve people with pre-existing conditions. And no matter what, insurance companies cannot deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

The MacArthur amendment only applies to the individual insurance market, where roughly 7 percent of the country purchase coverage. This means that the MacArthur amendment does NOT apply to 93 percent of Americans with employer-provided coverage or government coverage (Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VA benefits, and others).

Does the MacArthur amendment allow states to waive certain coverages, therefore raising costs?

Although it gives states an option to tailor coverage limitations, the process is very strict. A state must explain how a waiver will reach the goals of lowering premiums, increasing enrollment, stabilizing the market/premiums, and/or increasing choice. States must lay out the benefits they would provide. And most importantly, states may only apply for a waiver if they have their own risk pool in place. Again, the coverage of people with pre-existing conditions will be protected.

Even if a state asks for and is granted a waiver, no one’s premium may be priced based on health status if they have maintained continuous coverage. In addition to these protections, the AHCA provides significant resources at the federal and state level for risk-sharing programs that lower premiums for all people.

And what about the Upton amendment?

This $8 billion is on top of the $130 billion available to states through the AHCA’s Patient and State Stability Fund, which helps states repair their health markets damaged by Obamacare.

States can use the funds to:

  • cut out-of-pocket costs, like premiums and deductibles
  • promote access to preventive services, like getting an annual checkup, as well as dental and vision care
  • promote participation in private health insurance or to increase the number of options available through the market


How will the AHCA affect seniors?

We know that seniors require and deserve more robust health insurance coverage. But under the ACA, the cost of the most generous plan for older Americans is limited to three times the cost of the least generous plan for younger Americans. Many health economists say the true cost of care is 4.8-to-one. So Section 135 of the American Health Care Act changes what is known as the “permissible age variation” to a five-to-one ratio in insurance premium rates so that seniors have coverage that works for them. Simply put, seniors will be able to purchase a plan that covers their true cost of care.

Are Members of Congress and their staff bound to the same rules as everyone else?

Yes. The House passed, with Rep. Wittman’s support, H.R. 1292, a bill that ensures Members of Congress and their staff are treated the same way as everyone else under the American Health Care Act. What many people don’t know is that the Affordable Care Act included the exemption for Members of Congress and staff. Rep. Wittman opposed that language in the ACA, worked to get the exemption removed, and does not accept the stipend provided to Members of Congress under the Affordable Care Act to pay for his insurance premiums.

Personally, I am not happy with this bill, but it is a start, and we have to start someplace.

Elections have consequences. When we elected all those Democrat Liberals —  Socialists — and we asked them to give us other people’s money, that permitted our government to rob us.  Fortunately, we have started electing people who are more willing to let us run our own lives. That may not sound as wonderful as electing a clown who makes promises only God could keep, but it is considerably less costly, both in fortune and in blood.

Remember these words.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

Supposedly smart people gave the man the Nobel Peace Prize just for uttering pretty words and getting elected. How crazy is that! Obama had almost no experience managing anything, much less a peace process. Just because someone can confidently spout pretty prose, does mean he can or even intends to deliver? Yet we elected him twice.

Republicans are not promising the sun and the moon or suggesting they have control over the rise of the oceans. They are not trying to pass their bill before we know what is in it. So please ignore our biased news media and give them a fair hearing.

WHO IS MORE INCONVENIENCED, THE DETAINED OR THE DEAD?

Protesters holding signs outside terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport protest (from here)
Protesters holding signs outside terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport protest (from here)

Well, I suppose it is better late than never. It seems that the Democratic Party has once again — now that they are a minority party and the party that hates President Donald Trump — rediscovered the Constitution.  However, they have not given up on their victim hunt. So it is that when President Donald Trump decided to ban refugees and residents from seven Muslim nations (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen) Democrats went predictably bonkers.

The news media, of course, went looking for victims, and so Trump had to defend his policy.

And in Iraq, a man who had risked his life working on behalf of the U.S. government bleakly wondered about his future and that of his wife and three children. Visas in hand, the family was due to fly Monday to the United States. “It’s like someone’s stabbed me in the heart with a dagger,” he said.

Trump issued a statement late Sunday afternoon that offered little clarity, even as he defended his executive order as necessary to protect the United States from terrorism.

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump said in the statement. “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.”  (from here)

Frankly, since the vast majority of terrorists are Muslims, and those terrorists are trying to kill us in the name of Islam, it is about religion.  Nevertheless, Trump did not make it about religion.  He just picked countries countries that are hotbeds of terrorism, and he used a list provided by former President Barack Obama.

As the Left and some Republicans lose their minds over President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on immigration, let’s not forget that the list of concerned countries that the Trump administration outlined in the order is based on the one signed into law by the former Obama administration. So, it looks like the Obama White House set the groundwork (viaMic News). (continued here)

Why those seven nations? How do we vet people from nations in chaos? Who are we going to ask — which security services — whether the applicants from these nations are safe to let into our country.  When Muslim nations that are at “peace” already send us terrorists, why would we want to take refugees from nations we know are full of active and rabidly dangerous, murderous terrorists?

Anyway, I like what our new president is doing. It isn’t perfect, but it is far better than what the guy he replaced was doing.  So I am sending out this note to my elected officials.

Dear President Donald Trump (https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact)

Thank you for making a good start on your campaign promises. What a great string of executive orders!

I hope you will stand firm on your commitments. I understand that sometimes you will see that you have made a mistake and make adjustments. I also understand the need for compromise. Sometimes as President Ronald Reagan said we have to give up 20 percent of what we want to get 80 percent. Nevertheless, I pray you will have the courage, fortitude, and wisdom required to withstand the pressure from a partisan news media and your opponents in Congress. I hope our Lord will bless your efforts, and you will continue to forge ahead.

Note that I am sending this note to the elected officials who represent me in Congress.
Dear Congressman Rob Wittman (http://wittman.house.gov/contact/)

For all intents and purposes, you come across as a Conservative Republican. Yet as a famous commercial once said: “Where’s the beef?” Granted you have had excuses. First it was that the Senate was run by Democrats. Then it was that the White House was still run by Democrats.

Now the Republican Party is out of excuses. You say you are a Conservative? Well, our President could sure use some help, and he is getting more Conservative things done than anyone else. Please follow his example and help him.

Dear Senators Tim Kaine (www.kaine.senate.gov/contact) and Mark Warner (www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Contact)

I just wanted you guys to know that there are people out there who like what our new president is doing.

Here is a list of Trump’s Executive Orders.  Good stuff!

WHY DOES CONGRESS HAVE TO PASS A LAW TO PROTECT OUR EMAIL?

On Friday I got this email from my congressman, Rob Wittman. It left me a bit confused. Wittman is not a bad congressman, and I suppose he should have voted for the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699). I just wonder why it was necessary.

Rob_WittmanYou know that email you’ve been saving? The one from your dad … or co-worker … or best friend … or daughter? The one they thought only you would see? The one YOU thought only you would see? Well, as the law stands now, law enforcement officials could have legal access to that email without so much as a warrant.

Maybe that surprises you, or maybe it doesn’t. But the fact is that as technology has expanded, the law hasn’t. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the primary law governing email privacy, was passed in 1986—before most of us even knew that email existed. Since then, only minimal reforms have been made to the ECPA, and vulnerabilities in the law have raised significant digital privacy concerns for the public.

It’s not hard to see that the world is evolving around us. We have access to technology that didn’t exist 10 or 5 or even 2 years ago, and that’s a great thing. Technology gives us the opportunity to better ourselves and the world around us. It helps us to connect with people all around the globe in ways we never could have imagined were possible. But tech developments shouldn’t come at the cost of individual privacy and security. The way we protect information should be reflective of the way that we store and share information.

Last week, the House voted 419 to 0, with my support, in favor of the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699), a bill that would revise the ECPA to require law enforcement agencies to obtain search warrants before gaining access to personal messages and files stored by companies like Google, Yahoo, and Dropbox. Right now, agencies can gain access to emails and other digital files more than 90 days old by issuing subpoenas to technology companies—a very low standard for gaining access to information. This legislation would require law enforcement officers to secure a judge-issued warrant before gaining access to digital information stored in the cloud.

The Email Privacy Act represents the first major update to our digital privacy laws in three decades, and it’s past time for us to make a change. The choice between privacy and technology is a false one. The Fourth Amendment, the Constitutional provision that guarantees privacy and designates it as a fundamental liberty, is strong enough to safeguard our rights in every situation. We have to make sure that our laws conform to that standard, and I believe that the Email Privacy Act takes positive steps in that direction.

Here is the  Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I am no legal scholar, but is there such a big a difference between snail mail and email that judges think snooping into our snail mail requires a warrant, but an email doesn’t? Don’t our presidents nominate these judges? Doesn’t our Senate consent to their appointment? Then why do we need this law?

Technology should free us to do things our ancestors never even imagined.  Today we can fly. We have visited the moon. Perhaps our grandchildren will settle other planets in our solar system. Who knows? Is it possible that some day Americans will journey to distant stars? Maybe not. Some of those who rule us care about us, but we also have many perverse leaders, and we have the people who vote for them. Instead of protecting our rights and furthering our dreams, too many of those who rule us seek to spend every cent we have, and then they spy on us. They have to make certain they have us under control. How can we dream of reaching the stars when our own rulers seek to bind and enslave us?

You have a congressmen or a senator who is more interested in spending your money than he is in protecting your rights? Have you considered voting for someone else?

WHAT IS THE LAW OF THE LAND? — PART 4

Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn c. 1657
Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn c. 1657 (from here)

In the first post of this series, we took up the task of Defining The Law Of The Land. After that, we considered The Purpose Of The Law Of The Land. The last post focused upon the effect of what we believe. How do we achieve a consensus? What should be The Law Of The Land? That post considered The Means of Persuasion — Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Here we will look at our leadership, but first a diversion.

Fun On A Saturday Afternoon

On Saturday afternoon, I attended Delegate Bob Marshall‘s Campaign Kick-Up” Event (Virginians will vote on November 3, 2015.). It was fun, good food, dancing, and politics.  Got to watch Delegate Marshall dance with his lady, Cathy, and Senator Dick Black dance with his lady, Barbara. That obviously made the ladys happy. Now my wife is after me to dance. Oh well….

I was there for the food and the politics. In addition to Delegate Marshall, Congressman Rob Wittman, Senator Black, Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, and Willie Deutsch (candidate for Member School Board – COLES DISTRICT) spoke. Clerk of the Court Michele B. McQuigg also attended. McQuigg surprised Marshall a bit when she declined to speak, but she did had little reason to do so. Wittman and Marshall both spoke glowingly of her, and she obviously supports Marshall. And there were plenty of good speeches.

Strangely, however, what I found most memorable was a speech not given by a politician. Instead, the fellow giving the invocation made the most powerful statement, and his quotes of Charles Finney and Noah Webster formed the core of his speech. I then decided quotations from those two gentleman would form the core of this post.

Why Must We Choose A New Leadership?

Many wise and learned men have written about the problem of finding good leadership for a republic. That includes why we must be careful.

In 1838, Abraham Lincoln gave this address, The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois (January 27, 1838). Here is an excerpt.

It is to deny, what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion, as others have so done before them. The question then, is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would inspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon?–Never! Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.–It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs. (from here)

Note that Lincoln speaks of only the chief leader. He predicted that some leaders would be controlled with only the greatest difficulty, and we now have a leader who speaks brazenly of the power of his phone and his pen. Yet what is our real problem? Is President Barack Obama a man possessed of the loftiest genius, or is it that at every level of public office we have elected unscrupulous men and women? Thus, when our president does not fulfill the obligations of his office — when he violates his oath and breaks The Law Of The Land — he finds support. Therefore, we cannot stop him. We cannot even slow him down. And so our leader, the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, has set the whole world in turmoil, and we can only watch the unraveling.

fatter_disaster

What have we failed to do?

Some call Charles Finney the Father of American revivalism. Whether he was such or not, Finney spoke at a time preachers were willing to speak of politics.

The church must take right ground in regard to politics. Do not suppose, now, that I am going to preach a political sermon, or that I wish to have you join and get up a Christian party in politics. No, I do not believe in that. But the time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics, or the Lord will curse them. They must be honest men themselves, and instead of voting for a man because he belongs to their party, Bank or Anti-Bank, Jackson, or Anti-Jackson, they must find out whether he is honest and upright, and fit to be trusted. They must let the world see that the church will uphold no man in office, who is known to be a knave, or an adulterer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler. Such is the spread of intelligence and the facility of communication in our country, that every man can know for whom he gives his vote. And if he will give his vote only for honest men, the country will be obliged to have upright rulers. . . . As on the subject of slavery and temperance, so on this subject, the church must act right or the country will be ruined. God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right ground. Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God. It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation were becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics. But I tell you, he does see it, and he will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they take. (from here)

Was Finney right? Is politics part of the religion in a country such as this? All I know is that who we vote for reflects a moral choice. When fail to vote for the welfare of our family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen — when we vote selfishly — God cannot sustain us as a free and blessed country.

Noah Webster is famous as a lexicographer for his commitment to education. He stated our obligation as voters this way.

When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, “just men who will rule in the fear of God.” The preservation of government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws. (from here)

So what should we do? How should we select good leaders? Fortunately for us, the Bible offers us some good advice. A couple of thousand years ago, here is what the Apostle Paul told a young protegé about selecting leaders for the church in Ephesus, which was then a corrupt city.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 Good News Translation (GNT)

Leaders in the Church

This is a true saying: If a man is eager to be a church leader, he desires an excellent work. A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, be sober, self-controlled, and orderly; he must welcome strangers in his home; he must be able to teach; he must not be a drunkard or a violent man, but gentle and peaceful; he must not love money; he must be able to manage his own family well and make his children obey him with all respect. For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the church of God? He must be mature in the faith, so that he will not swell up with pride and be condemned, as the Devil was. He should be a man who is respected by the people outside the church, so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the Devil’s trap.

We tend to overlook Paul’s advice and think only of church leaders. Yet our nation’s borders envelope thousands of churches. Our political leaders ensure the morality of our laws. Like it or not, our leaders impose their values upon society. When our leaders are immoral, they endanger our own values and the values of our family, friends and country.

We also may think of Paul’s advice as quaint, not appropriate for today.  For example, when Paul wrote this passage, he wrote to people who would not have seriously considered women as leaders. Paul, however, appointed women to positions of trust, and he readily accepted their help. As 1 Corinthians 9 explains, Paul adapted to the culture of each people he visited. He wanted people to listen to when he preach the Gospel, not argue over side issues.

1 Corinthians 9:22-23 Good News Translation (GNT)

22 Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible.

23 All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings.

Thanks to a couple of thousand years of such patient Christian teaching, in this country we no longer allow men to select themselves to lead by using the point of their swords. Instead, we vote. Hence, each Christian now has an obligation to demonstrate how a Christian should participate in politics. When we support our candidates, and when we vote, we can put Paul’s words to action. We can back the candidate we would most like to have in charge of our church. If he (or she) is not fit for that job, he probably won’t do a good job as a leader of our county, our city, our state or our country.

Character does matter.