Montana’s Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen is on the road this week, answering questions and clearing up myths about the Affordable Care Act. She’s also helping people find out about the new ways they can save money under the Affordable Care Act, which goes into place today. Lindeen is to be commended for being the only elected leader in Montana with the backbone to go out on the stump to clear up the myths about Obamacare, which is still very unpopular because of all the misinformation spewed by the TEA Party.
(This is a guest post by Moorcat, who blogs at The Road Less Traveled.)
While everyone is talking about Senator Cruz’s political meltdown yesterday (Really, Green Eggs and Ham?), what people are missing is one of the huge, glaring problems with the ACA that is going to bite over 14% of Montanans squarely in the ass come Oct 1, 2013.
You see, the ACA does have real problems that no one seems interested in talking about or even recognizing. Everyone is so focused on the brainless drive to repeal/defund it because it is “evil” or to defend it because it is politically sound to do so. So few really understand it, though, and it becomes obvious every time it is debated.
One of the key failures of this law is that the framers never really took into consideration just how strongly the vocal minority would react to it. It was never built to be “idiot” proof. A very good example of that is going to happen on Oct 1st of this year.
Under the ACA, the States are required to set up insurance exchanges by Oct 1st of this year. Monica Lindeen, our Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, and her office has done a great job of setting up these exchanges for us here in Montana. Her office has also worked tirelessly to make the information about these exchanges available to anyone that wants to know about it. Moreover, she has gone above and beyond the call of duty to try to negotiate reasonable rates for those using the exchanges from the Insurance Companies that stand to make an obscene amount of profit off the people of Montana. What she can’t do, though, is change the ACA itself and that is where the real problem lies.
Last year, our “Batshit Crazy” legislature thought it would be a great idea to deny the expansion of Medicaid in Montana laid out in the ACA. Their reasoning was convoluted at best, but it basically boiled down to “The ACA is bad, m’kay”. What they failed to realize is that the ACA was designed specifically for that expansion to occur. Until the Supreme Court gave the state’s the perceived ability to “opt out” of the Medicaid expansion, the framers had no reason to built in a contingency for that to occur.
Under the ACA, almost anyone can buy into private insurance from the State Exchanges. Further, those people with an income between 100% of poverty and 400% of poverty line will qualify for subsidies based on their income to help pay for that insurance. Anyone failing to get insurance (either though Medicaid, employer provided insurance or the exchanges) will be “fined” starting April 1, 2014, with some exceptions.
The real effects of that failure will felt by everyone in Montana with an income level below 138% of poverty. According to income census information that is approximately between 14.2% – 15.6% of Montanans. In real numbers, that is about 140,000 – 150,000 Montanans, in case you were wondering.
See, under the ACA, as written, those people could take advantage of the Medicaid buy-in. Since the Montana Legislature denied that part of the ACA in a fit of “righteous indignation”, those people are denied that. Moreover, since the ACA was never designed with that idea in mind, there is nothing in the ACA to address those people. They do not qualify for the subsidies given to those in the income range of 100% – 400% of poverty and no provisions have been passed by Congress to address the situation. In short, those people have been effectively thrown under the bus. They still have to purchase insurance, but they don’t have the benefit of getting subsidies for it.
The Executive Branch of the Federal Government has reacted to this situation in the only way they can – they have suspended the fines for those in that income range in States that have denied the Medicaid buy-in. This simply means that these people aren’t going to be penalized for not having insurance. The real issue is that these people don’t have insurance, though. 14%+ of Montanan’s will not have health insurance because of the actions of our Legislature. 140,000+ people in Montana were royally screwed by the batshit crazy people sent to Helena last year. Wrap your minds around this for second.
Not withstanding the morally reprehensible aspect of this situation, even the budgetary impact of this will felt by everyone. Since emergency care (on an average) costs the taxpayers 37% more than Medicaid does, this situation will have a serious financial impact on every Montanan. Ask anyone in Dillon what happens when thousands of uninsured individuals receive care at the local hospital. We are still waiting to feel the tax impact of this last summer on our next tax bill. Now multiply that by 140,000 people in Montana being effectively denied health insurance by the very legislation meant to correct the issue.
Thirteen states have denied the expanded Medicaid and 11 states have either failed to vote on the issue or have demanded changes to the Medicaid option and those changes haven’t been approved yet. That means that almost half the states in the US are in the same boat we are – with the working poor being seriously thrown under the bus.
Yes, the ACA has REAL issues and until we stop screaming at each other over whether it should be repealed/defunded and start talking about how to fix it, we are all going to see very real financial and moral repercussions. Make no mistake, as Senator Cruz found out yesterday, the ACA is not going anywhere, no matter how many times the Congressional Republicans force repeal votes. It is time to stop talking about what CAN’T be done and start talking about what MUST be done to fix it.
[Note: A previous version of this guest post indicated that people who earn between 133-138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) could buy a plan on the marketplace and qualify for subsidies. In fact, almost anyone can buy a plan at the marketplace--and pay full price - meanwhile, people who earn between 100-400% FPL will qualify for a price break. The post has been updated to reflect this and provide a source. I'm confident that the author will approve of these updates. Even though he and I often disagree, he's proven to be someone who thinks accuracy and details are important. -Cowgirl]
Brian Schweitzer surprised the state of Montana today when he announced that he would not be running for Senate. It’s surprising because he was such a heavy favorite. But it’s unsurprising too, because he has long maligned the US Senate as a do-nothing institution that he wants no part of. Others, too, have observed that the Senate is not a good fit for him.
And so thus concludes, for now, a tremendous political career in Montana, in which Schweitzer moved mounds of earth, changing the political landscape. He showed conclusively that a Democrat, and not a Republican, can be trusted to get things done. The record is well known–record budget surpluses, renewable energy development, economic development, protection of public lands, and all the things that the GOP whined about for two decades but never solved. And, we will miss Schweitzer’s no-bullshit gamesmanship in which he engaged with his opponents and reduced them, usually, to rubble. I’ve never witnessed a politician who so relishes mixing it up with his opponents. It made for some of the best political theater the state has ever seen. I would imagine that the members of the Montana press, with maybe a few exceptions, are not very happy about the news.
Also, Schweitzer helped turn the state Republicans into a joke. The Democrats have never been stronger. That’s saying something, especially when you consider that in 2004 the GOP was amid a 23 year imperial rule, and that Montana is very red.
Steve Daines will now run for the Senate. Expect an announcement soon. Whether he will attract serious opposition is an important question. But he will vacate a House seat, and so we should expect many candidates from both parties to run for that seat, rather than against Daines for Senate. The GOP House primary should be entertaining. Look for the usual suspects, like Stapleton, Sonju, Hill, Zinke, Livingstone, Edmunds, Reichner, and probably many more. On the Democratic side, it could be Juneau, Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List, Lindeen, McCulloch, Wilmer, and so on.
And on it goes.
So Max has answered the question about his future. News broke this morning that he willl not run for relection, and will instead retire at the end of ’14 to his new home in Bozeman. We wish Max well in his retirement. So ends 40 years of elections and office holding, which began in the 1970s when he literally walked across the western half of the state to campaign for his first job as a house member. He is probably looking forward to a rest now.
So now the question is, will he or won’t he? Continue reading
A terrible thing will soon happen in Montana. It is a nightmare: as reported in the Helena IR today, there will soon be a website which will advertise low-cost health insurance plans, affordable to people who cannot presently afford to buy insurance. These plans will be offered by private companies, but listed comprehensively for one-stop easy shopping on the web by the federal government, courtesy of Obamacare.
A week before the election, TEA Party Republican Derek Skees wrote a lengthy defense of his campaign strategy after the TEA Party blog PolyMontana pointed out flaws in his tactics.
Skees said there wasn’t a problem with his campaign for statewide office, rather “things are just where I want them.” Thesaurus firmly in hand, Skees explained that the facts did not support “the conclusions you are blindly flailing for.” He said his critics had no idea “how well received I am state wide.”
Skees explained that he wasn’t raising money and contacting voters on purpose. He said he is so reviled by the left that were he to campaign it would actually harm his chances.
Suffice to say, the left hates me, and would have rallied HUGE against me were I to come out swinging big in emails, press releases and social media, as well as massive early fund raising.
I will not circulate email blogs that would just frenzy the left: I have left them in the dark and bask in the quiet of the blogs while the press hammers home the fact I stand against Obamacare, all the while spelling my name as it appears on the ballot perfectly. Awesome!
Skees predicted that in the unlikely event that he lost, it would be the fault of those who question this awesome strategy:
If I lose, it will be attributed to failed political pundits like yourself questioning my ability to win for any of a hundred reasons, convincing just enough people to ballot fatigue me down ticket.
You can read Skees’ entire response on the PolyMontana blog. It’s also pasted below in case they take it down. Skees lost to current state auditor Monica Lindeen 53-46.
…only to discover that the pain in his ass was due to the fact that the entire 2012 election had been shoved up it.
Rove came up empty, in Presidential and Congressional races.
Here in Montana, Denny Rehberg has been sent packing by Jon Tester, in an enormous victory, a virtual landslide. Tester blew him out. Libertarian candidate Dan Cox got almost seven percent, one of the biggest takes by a third party candidate since Ross Perot got in the mid-twenties in 1992.
We should all be proud of what Tester did. The polls showed him neck and neck going into the last days, but he got his vote out and closed big. And he overcame an absolute monsoon of negative ads lasting three months, one of the biggest smears ever recorded on Montana’s airwaves, funded by Washington DC Republicans and Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS. He dumped tens of millions into the race (and even paid a visit to Montana, to help Rehberg with strategy), all of it impugning Tester for having had the temerity to support his President. And the beauty is, it doesn’t really look like the attack worked at all. Tester cruised to victory. What mattered more to voters was that Tester turns in a workday, doesn’t whine or complain, doesn’t spend his days smearing people or blaming people, but tries accomplish something.
Same for Obama, the object of vitriolic GOP hatred, who demolished the weak Mitt Romney in spectacular fashion, defeating yet another empty, negative campaign by the Republicans. Poor Rove, whose group spent half a billion dollars and got zilch in return. Dems have actually picked up a seat in the United States Senate, and Rove had the dubious task on FOXNews last night of trying to convince the public that while every network and news outlet was projecting Obama the winner, they were, according to Rove, doing so in error. He had secret math, you see, that showed Romney was, in fact, still going to win. What happened in Montana and nationally, well, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy than Karl Rove.
Dennis Rehberg, meanwhile, concludes 12 years of federal service and many more years of state government service, and the Cowgirl blog recognizes this contribution to society. Though we rarely agree with Rehberg and have always advocated against him, anybody stepping up to run for or hold public office deserves recognition and congratulations upon the completion of a career, as do his many staffers and operatives who spent the last two years in this fight. We wish Denny and his crew well in his future endeavors. Perhaps we will even see him try again two years from now for the Senate or even four years from now for governor, or maybe even try to take his seat back if Steve Daines vacates his newly won House seat to try to move up to Senate.
Speaking of Governor, Lee Newspapers, CNN, and NBC have called the race for Bullock, and now AP has as well. Down three points heading into the weekend according to a Mason Dixon poll, Bullock came up strong last night. Votes are still outstanding in Yellowstone County and also in a few key Indian countries like Glacier and Bighorn. But Bullock is showing about a 2 point edge right now, and I don’t believe it will be eroded much by the balance of votes yet to be counted. He will be our next Governor. Keep the cellphone tight, Steve, for Rick Hill will be calling you shortly to congratulate you and concede the race.
Hill, like Rehberg, deserves credit for trying a comeback late in life. He came up short, and has now probably concluded his political career, but he put in a tough effort and should be congratulated on having waged a pretty close race
Pam Bucy and Kim Gillan fought the good fight, but were up against two guys who had run for statewide office before, and so these two impressive gals started out at a disadvantage. Expect to see both of them remain in the orbit of public service. Either or both would be excellent applicants for Bullock cabinet positions and Bucy, I believe, will be back again to run for something else.
Daines got a huge investment from the national Republican party, so that made life miserable for Gillan who could not pull in the same dough from her party and was running for an office that seems to have the word Republican posted on the door. It was an uphill battle from the get-go. But Bucy, a far superior candidate to her opponent, got shafted. Our new attorney general Tim Fox has achieved his office by being bankrolled by secret money, close to a million dollars worth, the source of which has still not been determined. Bucy had no such slush fund. When you tally up the money, Bucy got outspent 5-1 at least. It puts a cap on a sad chapter in Montana electoral history, in which Republicans attempted to take over the government with unlimited, secret corporate money. Poor Pam became the object of the corporate wrath, despite an impeccable resume that made her opponent look like a bum.
In other races, Juneau, Lindeen and McCulloch all have leads right now, but Juneau’s race will be tight. She’s up half a point, with Billings and Indian country yet to be reported. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for her.
We should be proud of all these candidates. And, I am proud of all of you, who have participated in this election by tuning in, for keeping the discussion alive and spirited, providing information, and for making Cowgirl blog the place for politics in Montana.
TEA Party activists wearing Derek Skees t-shirts disrupted a fraud prevention even State Auditor Monica Lindeen held in the Flathead last week. The culprits were malcontents Annie Bukacek and her husband Roland Horst. Left in the West‘s Carla Augustad, who was at the event, has the story. It’s a must-read.
Apparently, the Skees supporters (Skees is Lindeen’s GOP-TEA Party challenger in the state auditor’s race) were angry that Lindeen’s office is protecting consumers from right-wing Pastor Harris Himes. Himes has been accused of defrauding a member of his congregation of his life savings by the Auditor’s office and Ravalli County.
According to Augustad, when the lights went down to show a documentary on how to protect yourself from fraud, Bukacek snuck out and changed into a Derek Skees shirt. Then, when the lights came back up for a discussion after the film, Bukacek apparently stood and “made some inference about corruption in the Auditor’s office. The name Harris Himes erupted and inferences may have transgressed to accusations.”
Buckacek even brought her own camera crew to film the moment for posterity. Bukacek’s husband Roland was apparently filming the entire outburst. (Bonus points for whomever can get a hold of this video.)
You can read the whole story at Left in the West.