One in Five of Us About to Get Our Benefits Cut

Budget Beat – August 2, 2013

Evidence Counts – Households Have Higher Debt than Federal Government

This fall Congress will need to raise the federal debt ceiling likely starting the inevitable comparison between government and household debt. Ted’s blog post this week looks into why this analogy does not look at the full picture and how U.S. households are actually in more debt than the federal government.

Some Obamacare opponents continue to want the ACA repealed while providing few ideas on how to solve the problems of so many of us lacking access to health care. Brandon’s blog post this week looks at this win-at-all-costs approach and the latest in threats, including shutting down the federal government, from the law’s opponents.

In the News – Budget Deficit Was Avoidable

This week the Clarksburg Exponent Telegram took a look back at last year’s state budget deficit, at least in part caused by tax cuts for coal and natural gas. It cited recommendations in a WVCBP report that could have helped the state avoid the shortfall. Read the full article here.

Today the Charleston Gazette reported on our issue brief, co-released with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that impending cuts to SNAP benefits (see below) will affect nearly 1 in 5 West Virginians and reduce benefits for many already struggling to feed their families.

Cuts to Snap Coming

On November 1, everyone in West Virginia who participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will see cuts to their benefits. Formerly known as the Food Stamp program, SNAP assists nearly 1 in 5 people in West Virginia in putting food on the table. For more on these harmful cuts, read our Issue Brief released today.


Understanding Obamacare

For help in understanding all the different predictions in what Obamacare will mean for health insurance premiums and more, check out Five Things to Know About Obamacare: A Guide for the Perplexed.

Losing Sight Of What Matters In Health Reform

There was an interesting article this week in the Washington Post called “Inside the Obamacare Resistance.”  What’s interesting about it (to me at least) is that it helped tie the loose ends of thought about a number of articles and interviews that I’ve come across lately from opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  It’s an idea that I’ve had sitting there in the back of my mind for some time but that is really just now coming together — Obamacare haters don’t actually care about what’s in the law (polls shows most don’t actually know, anyway), they just want to see it fail, completely and in spectacular fashion.  This win-at-all-costs, failure at any price mentality means that there would be a lot of collateral damage but that seems to be okay to many people, like those in the FreedomWorks group highlighted in the Post article:

Young adults tend to have lower medical bills, which would hold down premiums for the entire insurance market. If only the sick and elderly sign up, health costs would skyrocket. FreedomWorks wants to make that happen and, in so doing, doom the law.

It is true that the exchanges’ success will depend largely on getting enough young, healthy people enrolled, and this has been a challenge that proponents of the law have readily admitted.  But FreedomWorks’ position seems like morally questionable ground to stand on – advocating for the cost of insurance to go up so much that it’s unaffordable for the elderly and sickest among us.  Granted, they don’t acknowledge outright that they want to drive up the cost of health insurance for those who need it the most, but that is the undisputable domino effect of advocating that younger, healthier Americans refuse to enroll.  Interestingly, they recognize it’s a tough sell (especially in light of a recent Kaiser Health poll that found young adults value health insurance coverage at very high rates):

Clancy concedes it’s a difficult pitch. His group, and others, will ask Americans to forgo billions in tax subsidies that could, for many uninsured Americans, make health insurance affordable for the first time. But the anti-Obamacare movement has few options left.

One of those few options left is an effort by some members of the House of Representatives threatening to shut down the federal government over the impending September debt ceiling debate unless President Obama signs a bill defunding the ACA.  In so many words, these politicians would rather hold the whole country hostage than let the exchanges open.  Some legislators have even said they will refuse to help their constituents who are seeking help understanding the ACA.

House leadership also intends to bring more ACA repeal votes to the floor — a ploy that has already been attempted 37 times with no success over the last three years.  How’s that saying go? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.” Two of West Virginia’s own representatives, Rep. David McKinley and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito have voted for a full repeal on numerous occasions, including on bills that have no replacement plan.  This means that if a House vote for repeal were to succeed, Representatives McKinley and Capito would be supporting legislation that would effectively take away health insurance for up to 200,000 West Virginians while permitting health insurance companies to “cherry-pick” and deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, to set annual and lifetime maxes on insurance plans, and to drop dependents over the age of 18. 

There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to fix a law and undeniably there are many aspects of the ACA that could be improved.  However, Obamacare opponents have seem to lost sight of what matters in the health reform debate, preferring to kick people off of insurance and drive up the cost of care rather than let the ACA succeed.  This “win-at-all-costs” mentality does little but ensure that we all lose in the end.