Goodlatte mum as Congress fails to act on children’s health insurance

While Congressman Goodlatte seems especially eager to inform his Sixth District constituents about his recent visit to a drug-smuggling tunnel and his inspection of border wall samples, he has been notably silent about an issue much closer to home– the imminent threat to the health insurance that covers 65,000 children and 1,100 pregnant women in Virginia.

The [Virginia] Department of Medical Assistance Services, or DMAS, has to be ready by the beginning of December so it can give families at least 60 days notice that their children will no longer be covered by the program when money runs out at the end of January.

“Congress is acting as if it’s just a matter of when the money runs out, and they’re not acknowledging the work and the investment that states have to make in trying to do this in the least chaotic way possible,” said Linda Nablo, DMAS’ chief deputy director.

Amidst wrangling over repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Congress didn’t meet a deadline to renew the program, often called CHIP, that has previously enjoyed bipartisan support.

Unless state lawmakers decide to pick up the multi-million-dollar tab, thousands in Virginia will lose coverage.

The result would look would like this: a child with asthma who loses health insurance will have nothing to prevent future asthmatic episodes and will almost certainly end up in the emergency room, said Dr. Richard Bennett, a pediatrician at the Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital.

“The coverage that would have cost a few dollars to hundreds of dollars will now cost a family thousands to tens of thousands of dollars,” Bennett said.

With the health of nearly one-third of children in the Sixth District insured by CHIP and/or Medicaid, you’d think the impending crisis would be at the top of Goodlatte’s agenda. But perhaps his apparent lack of concern was foretold in 2009, when he voted in Congress against a law that extended CHIP coverage to four million children without health insurance.

Goodlatte finally finds something worth investigating

Since I started posting at Goodlatte Watch, I have noted the following:

— All Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote to committee chair Bob Goodlatte in November asking him to schedule hearings on the potential conflicts between Donald Trump’s business interests and his future position as president of the United States.

— All Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote to Goodlatte in May urging immediate hearings on President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey.

— All Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote to Goodlatte in June sharply questioning his reluctance to hold hearings on the Trump administration’s possible obstruction of justice, the firing of Comey and the actions of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

— After President Trump answered “100 percent” to a question about whether he was willing to testify under oath about his conversations with Comey before he was fired, Congressman Luis Gutierrez in June called on Goodlatte to invite Trump to do just that.

— All Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote to Goodlatte in July to demand hearings after Trump in a New York Times interview attacked the credibility and fairness of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and after news emerged of a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian government attorney.

— All Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote to Goodlatte in August asking for hearings on Trump’s pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted for ignoring a federal judge’s orders to stop detaining people based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally.

— After a counter-protester was murdered by a white supremacist in Charlottesvile last August, even one of Goodlatte’s Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee wrote to him calling for a hearing on the dangers posed by white supremacist groups.

After ignoring all these requests– and not even having the courtesy to respond– Goodlatte has revealed what he considers far more important than any of the above: an investigation into the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

With this move, Goodlatte’s willingness– eagerness– to put party above country is on full and ugly display.

In his powerful speech announcing that he won’t seek reelection next year– a speech which ought to make Goodlatte and the vast majority of Congressional Republicans hang their heads in shame– Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said: “Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party.”

But Senator Flake is a Republican with integrity.

 

Goodlatte goes underground to prove himself wrong

Congressman Goodlatte and House Republican colleagues visited a drug-smuggling tunnel under the Mexican-US border to prove the utter futility of spending $25 billion to build a “big beautiful wall” to keep out drug smugglers.

Well, OK, that wasn’t really the purpose of the visit– Goodlatte, after all, is a strong advocate of the border wall boondoggle. But it might as well have been.

Meanwhile there’s no word from Goodlatte on some of those most responsible for the opioid addiction crisis in the US– the pharmaceutical industry, its lobbyists and their lackeys in Congress– who were called to account in a report on “60 Minutes” last Sunday by Joe Rannazzisi, who ran the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Diversion Control, the division that regulates and investigates the pharmaceutical industry..

JOE RANNAZZISI: This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors’ offices, that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs.

BILL WHITAKER: Who are these distributors?

JOE RANNAZZISI: The three largest distributors are Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. They control probably 85 or 90 percent of the drugs going downstream.

Cardinal Health and McKesson were among the pharmaceutical industry donors to Goodlatte’s 2016 reelection campaign.

Timothy Jost responds to Goodlatte on health care

Timothy Jost, Emeritus Professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law and one of the nation’s foremost experts on government health care policy, replies to Congressman Goodlatte’s statement of support for President Trump’s recent actions threatening health insurance coverage for millions of Americans through the Affordable Care Act.

Goodlatte’s statement: On Thursday, President Trump signed an Executive Order with the goal of maximizing competition in the health care marketplace and potentially providing Americans more affordable health insurance choices. This action directs Administration officials to take a look at the options available through the regulatory process and consider expanding access to things like Association Health Plans, which allow small employers to band together to offer affordable insurance, selling insurance across state lines, and using health reimbursement arrangements to give employees greater choice over how to finance their health care. These are reforms that I have also supported in Congress.

The facts: Association health plans in the past have defrauded small businesses and left them with millions in unpaid claims.  Short term health plans offer inadequate coverage and undermine the market for major medical coverage.  These are bad ideas that have already been tried and failed. Congressman Goodlatte should try to make health reform work for his constituents rather than undermining it.

Goodlatte’s statement: Additionally, last year the federal courts concluded that the Obama Administration unconstitutionally usurped congressional authority by sending federal funding to private insurance providers without the approval of Congress. Last week, President Trump announced that the federal government will not continue an appeal of this ruling. Therefore, these unauthorized payments cannot continue. This is yet another example of how President Obama’s executive overreach, which ignored the other two branches of government in a naked attempt to try and achieve his policy agenda, backfired and worsened the already imploding Obamacare system. This is exactly why the Senate needs to take action to repeal and replace Obamacare, as the House has already done with my support, and help all Americans access the affordable coverage they desire.

The facts: It is incorrect to say that “the federal courts” concluded anything. A single district court has ruled that the cost-sharing reduction payments had not been appropriated. That decision was appealed by the Obama administration. President Trump has not dismissed that appeal, and could not do so in any event because the appellate court has allowed 19 states, including Virginia, to intervene in the appeal. Given the inability of Congress to get anything done, President Obama exercised executive authority to implement the ACA. Given the continuing inability of Congress to get anything done, President Trump is now doing the same thing. He has issued more executive orders so far than any president since Roosevelt.  And the House of Representatives did not repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It merely amended parts of the statute. Congressman Goodlatte no doubt did not read the legislation.

Goodlatte backs Trump effort to kill the ACA

Although President Trump may be backing off, Congressman Goodlatte issued the following statement essentially supporting the president’s latest actions to undercut the Affordable Care Act:

goodlatte statement

Timothy Jost, Emeritus Professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law and one of the nation’s foremost experts on government health care policy, wrote at the Health Affairs website:

These two steps obviously furthered the administration’s two-part strategy to undermine the ACA. President Trump is reportedly furious that Congress failed to repeal the ACA and has set out to single-handedly dismantle it himself. The cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payment cut-off will, in tandem with other steps taken by the administration to discourage enrollment in the individual market, drive up the cost of coverage. The executive order will open escape routes so that healthy people will leave the ACA-compliant individual market for cheaper, non-compliant forms of coverage.
…..
Several conservative commentators have characterized the administration’s decision as a victory of the Constitution over lawlessness. They claim that the Obama administration made payments that had not been appropriated by Congress, in violation of the Constitution, and the Trump administration is finally complying with the Constitution. Why is anyone surprised, much less outraged?

This opinion was supported by the decision of a district court judge below in House v. Price. But it is important to note that the Obama administration never argued that it could make the payments without an appropriation—it argued that there was an appropriation. The Trump administration has now concluded, after making the payments for months, that the “best interpretation of the law” is that there is no appropriation. But the case is still on appeal to the D.C. Circuit, which could still conclude that the Obama administration was correct. A judge in the Northern District of California could also reach that conclusion. This is not a question of constitutionality versus lawlessness, but rather a dispute as to what the law is.

And health care correspondent Sarah Kliff wrote as Vox:

There is no question that this new policy is lose-lose-lose for key stakeholders with no upside:

— It will raise Obamacare premiums by an estimated 20 percent in 2018, as health plans have to charge more to make up the lost funds. By 2020, premiums would increase 25 percent due to this change.

— Pulling the plug actually increases the national deficit. As those insurance plans make double-digit rate increases, the government will have to spend billions more on the other subsidies that 10 million Americans receive to purchase that coverage.

— The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this move will ultimately cost the government $194 billion over the next decade.

— The number of uninsured Americans would rise by one million people in 2018, in the CBO’s estimate.

— Insurance companies lose out, too, particularly those that assumed Trump would pay these subsidies and set their premiums accordingly. They now stand to face significant financial loses on the Obamacare marketplaces.

To recap: Trump is enacting a policy where the government spends billions more to insure fewer people.

You’d think that would be a concern to a self-styled deficit hawk like Goodlatte. Apparently not.

Goodlatte’s latest campaign finance report

Congressman Goodlatte added more than $80,000 to his campaign coffers between July 1 and September 30 of this year, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

This brings the total raised so far this year for Goodlatte’s 2018 reelection campaign to more than $460,000.

As usual the vast majority of donations come from corporate and trade association political action committees. And the NRA Political Victory Fund kicked in $2,950 to bring its total contributions this year to $4,950.

(See previous posts about Goodlatte’s campaign finances here, here, here and here.)

Goodlatte opposes Puerto Rico relief bill

Congressman Goodlatte Thursday was among a minority of Republicans who voted against a package of emergency relief for Puerto Rico and other parts of the US struck by natural disasters.

The Republican-controlled House voted 353-69 to approve $36.5 billion in emergency relief for Puerto Rico and other areas hit by recent disasters. Senate approval is expected in coming weeks.

[President] Trump and his aides on Thursday suggested that there would be a limit to how much help Puerto Rico could expect from Washington to solve some of its longer-term problems, although Trump is expected to sign the latest emergency package.

…..

Besides helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria, the House-passed bill would also provide funds for the storm-struck areas of Florida, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and fire-ravaged California.

…..

Much of Puerto Rico remains without electricity or running water three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

Goodlatte’s hard-hearted attitude toward the suffering people of Puerto Rico might be seen as a sign of his professed devotion to fiscal and budgetary restraint– were it not for his votes for irresponsible spending during the George W. Bush administration and his  support for Trump’s $25 billion border wall boondoggle.