By JOE MOLLOY
It’s one thing for voters to support healthcare on its own. It’s another for an issue to outweigh all others. Did healthcare really beat every other concern a voter thinks about when picking a candidate during the midterms?
Congressional and Statewide Races
Democrats took 3 of the Iowa’s 4 seats, unseating 2 Republican incumbents. They had a sizeable majority of the votes cast, so things looked good for the Democrats. If the theory holds up, the focus the Democrats kept on healthcare throughout the race would pay off. And it would seem it worked, right?
There’s a big problem here. If Democrats had made gains in Iowa because of healthcare issues, we should expect them to have a pretty resounding victory in the gubernatorial race and in the statehouse.
A congressional subcommittee held a hearing Thursday to examine the health insurance co-op loan program established by the Affordable Care Act. The program provided $2.4 billion in taxpayer-backed loans as seed money for the co-ops, which are private companies that were originally intended to bring competition, choice, and innovation to the health insurance market. In spite of this seed money, co-ops are off to a rough start. Since their inception just over two years ago, 12 of the original 23 co-ops have closed due to financial concerns. Taxpayers aren’t the only ones at risk of getting left with the tab for the co-ops.
A co-op left doctors and hospitals in Iowa and Nebraska holding over $80 million in unpaid claims when it closed. Worse still, consider that unpaid claims left behind by failed insurance companies are often allocated by state guaranty funds to the surviving insurance companies, who ultimately pass them on to consumers. One way or another, you’re likely to pay for any obligations the co-ops can’t meet. The co-ops’ leaders don’t offer much comfort, either. One co-op CEO recently offered this assessment of the co-ops’ prospects for re-paying their loans: “Will there be a little money left? Yeah, maybe.” Fortunately, the surviving co-ops have an often-overlooked asset they can tap to stay in business and meet their obligations: the recovery rights to their overpayments.
In his last State of the Union address, President Obama stated that “anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction”. I agree. The American economy has roared back from the Great Recession with 14 million new jobs, a ridiculously low unemployment rate, a booming stock market and 57 brand new American billionaires in 2015 alone.
The American people on the other hand are in a completely different boat. Almost a third of us are not working. Half of us have practically no savings and a record number is surviving on public assistance. Wages are stagnating and the middle class is shrinking. Student debt is skyrocketing and 20% of our kids live in poverty. Whereas in the immediate past the economy and the welfare of the people used to be one and the same, nowadays these terms have little if anything to do with each other.
The President did acknowledge that “the economy has been changing in profound ways” and therefore “a lot of Americans feel anxious”. To allay our collective anxiety, the President announced an unemployment program that will pay up to $10,000 to those who lose jobs to the economy fixing racket, money that can be used to retrain machinists, welders, builders and such, to flip burgers in the booming job market of the fixed economy. The anxiety reduction program will also ease the transition to a “work-sharing” economy, where lower wages and no benefits, augmented by public assistance, a.k.a. the Walmart and Uber models, are the new normal.