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Obama: GOP’s Stance On Preexisting Conditions Off-Base, Especially During Pandemic



Endorsing his former vice president, Joe Biden, to win the White House, former President Barack Obama sought to contrast the 2020 platforms of Democrats and Republicans on a critical plank: their stance on the Affordable Care Act. It’s a difference, he argued, that has assumed newfound urgency.

“The Republicans occupying the White House and running the Senate … have shown themselves willing to cut millions off their health insurance and eliminate preexisting condition protections for millions more, even in the middle of this public health crisis,” Obama said.

Obama was referring to a couple of GOP policies, the former president’s senior adviser Eric Schultz told KHN. The first: a pending Supreme Court case, Texas v. Azar, in which the Trump administration has argued the 2010 health law should be struck down. Schultz also highlighted the White House’s refusal to provide a special open enrollment period for the ACA health exchanges in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

We’ve previously checked claims about President Donald Trump’s stance on the law’s preexisting condition protections — arguably its most popular component ― and his position on the Texas v. Azar lawsuit.

But COVID-19 adds new relevance, because of both the virus’s devastating health implications and bludgeoning impact on the American economy. Indeed, the Trump administration’s handling of the virus crisis is shaping up to be a defining issue in the run-up to November. Meanwhile, Biden made the health care law a signature component of his presidential platform and has been a vocal critic of the administration’s pandemic response.

With that in mind, we decided to take another look.

The Republican Agenda

Obama is correct: The Republican Party has opposed the ACA for years. In 2016, then-candidate Trump campaigned on its repeal. Since then, the White House and congressional Republicans have pursued an agenda that would dismantle the law’s preexisting condition protections. Republicans haven’t united behind an alternative plan, either.

First: the lawsuit. Texas v. Azar stems from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. That measure took the teeth out of the health law’s individual mandate, which required that all Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. The tax law, pushed by Republicans and signed by Trump, set that penalty to $0.

A collection of Republican states’ attorneys general now argue that, without the penalty, the rest of the health law doesn’t work and should be struck down.

Killing the ACA would eliminate the stipulation that insurance plans cannot charge people more if they have a preexisting condition, get rid of the subsidies it provides for people to buy insurance on the exchanges and gut the Medicaid expansion that, in six years, directly extended coverage to more than 13 million people. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, although it won’t rule until after the November election.

The Trump administration, while technically in the position that would defend the law in court, has declined to support it — a move legal experts say is almost unprecedented.  In fact, the administration has even sided with the states arguing that it should be struck down. Neither the White House nor Senate Republicans have put forth a replacement bill that would maintain the ACA’s protections in the event the high court rules against the law.

We asked the White House if the administration had changed its stance in the wake of the pandemic. Trump’s staff redirected us to the Department of Justice, the federal government’s legal arm. The DOJ did not respond to emailed requests for comment. As recently as the end of March, though, Trump told reporters he still wanted the law “terminated.”

Senate Democrats have pushed the administration to change its position on the lawsuit. But Republicans, who hold the Senate majority, have been silent, a position that hasn’t changed even since COVID-19 effectively shut down large swaths of the country.

In some ways, the Republican stance isn’t important, argued Thomas Miller, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank. It’s hard to imagine the Supreme Court voting to get rid of the health law, especially in the midst of COVID-19, he said.

Still, that doesn’t change the facts of what Trump is arguing.

And the lawsuit is also only one part of the equation. Another, is

Americans who have lost their jobs ― and, often, the insurance that came with it — are eligible to buy insurance on the federal exchange, since job loss is a“qualifying life event” that gets you special access. Those who otherwise lack coverage would normally have to wait until the regular open enrollment period, which takes place at the end of the year. But the threat of COVID-19 has changed the risk for many of these potential shoppers.

In response, 11 states have independently reopened their state-run health exchanges for a special sign-up period. But the administration has declined to take such steps for the national marketplace.

“If you have been uninsured and picked up your newspaper, or turned on your news and realized your health was in much greater risk than you had anticipated, and would like to rush and get health insurance in case you end up on a ventilator ― you’re out of luck,” said Linda Blumberg, a health policy fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization.

Even before coronavirus, the institute estimated that 32 million Americans were uninsured. About 20 million of them could benefit from a special enrollment period, Blumberg said. Without insurance, coronavirus treatment poses not just a health risk, but also a financial one.

The Trump administration has said it will pay hospitals directly, out of a pool of $100 billion, to cover the cost of treating uninsured people with COVD-19. After treating patients, hospitals would get paid at the Medicare rate.

But the administration’s policy extends only to covering COVID-19 treatment. Uninsured people with underlying chronic conditions don’t have a way to pay for health care, noted Robert Berenson, another Urban Institute fellow. If left untreated, those chronic ailments make COVID-19 far more dangerous than it would be for someone able to get preventive treatment earlier on.

Coronavirus And The ACA

President Trump’s stance raises another question, experts noted. Without the ACA, what kind of impact would COVID-19 have?

Even with the heath law intact, many Americans won’t be able to find affordable health insurance. That particularly applies to people who can’t afford the premiums on the individual marketplace, don’t qualify for federal subsidies or live in one of the 14 states that didn’t opt into the ACA’s Medicaid expansion provision.

And the ACA is nowhere near sufficient on its own, Miller noted. Having insurance is part of the picture, but it doesn’t guarantee access to testing or that a hospital will be able to treat you. “On the margins, it does help a little bit to have insurance coverage, but the problem is so much larger than that,” Miller argued.

Still, without the health law, the virus’s impact would be “catastrophic,” said Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Striking the individual marketplace and Medicaid expansion would leave almost another 20 million people uninsured — “at risk,” said Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Without the ACA, COVID-19 could be considered a preexisting condition. Insurance companies could charge more to cover people who have previously contracted the virus (assuming, of course, those people can get tested and recorded as having had COVID-19). Plus, emerging evidence suggests severe cases of COVID-19 may leave lingering health consequences, that even after recovery would require ongoing medical care, Levitt said.

“The ACA’s consumer protections ensure that persons with COVID-19 can obtain insurance without fear of being turned away or charged exorbitant premiums because of their preexisting condition,” Oberlander said.

The health law also imposed strict regulations over what insurance must cover. Without those regulations, plans could ― and likely would — revert to skimpier coverage, Blumberg said.

That, she said, means plans that perhaps don’t cover ventilators or branded medicines, or that cap how many days of hospital care they’ll cover, or that require people to pay much more out-of-pocket.

“Insurers, given the legal ability to do it, would limit their legal liability and protect themselves from high claims,” she said. “They did it before and will do it again.”

Our Ruling

Obama accused the Trump administration and Senate Republicans of being “willing to cut millions off their health insurance and eliminate preexisting condition protections for millions more, even in the middle of this public health crisis.”

Evidence indicates that this is an apt characterization. None have put forth a plan that would maintain coverage or consumer protections ― policies that benefit millions of Americans — if the Supreme Court rules against the ACA. And as Obama asserts, striking down the law without an equivalent replacement could be devastating, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We rate this claim True.


By: Shefali Luthra, Kaiser Health News
Title: Obama: GOP’s Stance On Preexisting Conditions Off-Base, Especially During Pandemic
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Published Date: Fri, 17 Apr 2020 09:00:05 +0000

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Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970



There always has been and always will be a reason not to invest or not to stay invested. This is all the mainstream media reports to us. Below you will find a list of some of the worst global events each year since 1970. I have some commentary to follow.

1970: War: US troops invade Cambodia.
1971: Civil Unrest: Anti-war militants march on Washington.
1972: Political: Start of Watergate Scandal.
1973: Economic: OPEC raises oil prices in response to US involvement abroad.
1974: Political: Nixon resigns as President of the United States.
1975: Political: Multiple assassination attempts on President Ford.
1976: World: Ebola virus.
1977: Political: Government shutdowns.
1978: Market: U.S. Dollar plunges to record low against many European currencies.
1979: World: Iranian militants seize the U.S. embassy in Teheran and hold hostages.
1980: Economic: Inflation spiked to a high of 14.76%.
1981: Political: President Reagan assassination attempt.
1982: Economic: Recession continues in the U.S. with nationwide unemployment of 10.8%.
1983: Economic: Unemployment in the U.S. reaches 12 million.
1984: Economic: 70 U.S. banks fail during the year.
1985: World: Multiple airplane hijackings around the world.
1986: World: Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station explodes.
1987: Market: DOW drops by 22.6% on October 22.
1988: Environment: Awareness of global warming and the greenhouse effect grows.
1989: Environment: Exxon Valdez dumps 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
1990: World: Persian Gulf War starts.
1991: World: Mass shooting in Killeen, TX.
1992: Human Rights: Los Angeles riots following the death of Rodney King.
1993: Terrorism: World Trade Center bombing.
1994: World: Mass genocide in Rwanda.
1995: Terrorism: Oklahoma City bombing.
1996: Terrorism: Olympic Park bombing.
1997: World: Bird flu.
1998: World: Multiple U.S. embassy bombings.
1999: World: Columbine shooting.
2000: Economic: Start of the Dotcom Market Crash.
2001: Terrorism: Terrorist Attacks in NYC, DC & PA.
2002: Economic: Nasdaq bottomed after a 76.81% drop.
2003: World: The U.S. invades Iraq.
2004: World: The U.S. launches an attack on Falluja.
2005: World: Hurricane Katrina
2006: World: Bird flu.
2007: Economic: Start of the Great Recession.
2008: Economic: Great Recession continues.
2009: Economic: S&P bottomed after a 56.8% drop.
2010: Market: Flash crash.
2011: Market: Occupy Wall Street and S&P downgrades U.S. Debt.
2012: Political: Fiscal cliff.
2013: Political: Taper tantrum.
2014: World: Ebola virus.
2015: World: Multiple mass shootings.
2016: Political: Divided U.S. Presidential election.
2017: World: North Korea testing nuclear weapons.
2018: Economic: U.S. & China trade war.
2019: Economic: Student loan debt reaches an all-time high of $1.4 trillion.
2020: World: COVID-19.

While many of these events were undoubtedly terrible (and there are certainly others not named here that were worse), most of these were broadcast as end-of-the-world events for the stock market. Despite that attention, it is worth noting that these were, for the most part, one-time events. In other words, most faded into the newspapers of history. We moved on.

Obviously, some caused monumental shifts in the way the world works. Just think about how much air travel continues to be impacted by the events of 9/11. But, outside of the resulting inconveniences (if we want to call safety protocols inconveniences) associated with air travel, flying is safer than ever before.

Take a look at just about any of the events and you will find there are many that people will hardly remember. My point here isn’t that these events are to be ignored or that they were easy to stomach at the time, but that they have become a distant memory.

I want to also make the point that we should expect these types of negative events. As investors, we know these types of crises, economic catastrophes, and global phenomena are going to happen.

But in almost all cases, here is what we can say in the next breath – this too shall pass.

Will there be legal, humanitarian, economic, or some other aid required as a result of these events? Almost certainly the answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it they won’t eventually fade into history.

Lastly, what’s worth noting is how the market has performed over these last 50 years despite the continual advertisements of the world crashing down around us. On January 2, 1970, the Dow Jones stood at 809 and the S&P at 90 -> those are not typos. These same indexes have grown (not including dividends) to 26,387 and 3,232 respectively. Amazing, no?

Perhaps what gets overlooked more than anything else is what separates the above one-time negative events from the positive stories that go largely ignored over our lifetimes. And that is a story worth telling. See the companion post below:

Unheralded Positive Events Every Year Since 1970

Stay the Course,

Retirement Field Guide Mission:

“To help 10 million people make better retirement decisions.”

If you would like to join us in achieving our mission, I hope you will consider sharing our site if you have found it helpful in your own retirement planning.

This post is not advice. Please see additional disclaimers.

The post Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970 appeared first on Retirement Field Guide.


By: Ashby Daniels, CFP®
Title: Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970
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Published Date: Tue, 04 Aug 2020 13:26:19 +0000

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Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing



The post Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing appeared first on Live Insurance News.

The bill is expected to be heard in upcoming weeks as opposing sites prepare for major battle.

A new California bill, the outcomes of which will have a lot to say about coverage for wildfire prone property in the state, will soon be headed for hearing. The hearing is expected to be a heated one as strong opposing opinions have the opportunity to be voiced.

Opponents of this bill are calling it a direct attack on consumer protections in insurance.

That said, proponents of the bill claim it is the best method for making coverage available to wildfire prone property in California. The bill in question is Assembly Bill 2167. It was written by Assemblyperson Tom Daly (D-Anaheim). If it passes,it will create the Insurance Market Action Plan (IMAP) program. The IMAP program is meant to protect residential properties.

So far, AB 2167 has progressed quickly, when taking into consideration that a chunk of the legislature has been considerably restricted by pandemic crisis precautions. It was first presented in early June and backers have been saying that it was brought forward in good timing and that it has all the momentum it needs to be passed.

That said, AB 2167 has not been without opposition. In fact, it has faced considerable opposition, having been called an attack on Proposition 103, insurance consumer protection law. California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara lobbed that argument at it, calling it an “insurance industry wish list, with nothing to help consumers,” and Consumer Watchdog, whose founder, Harvey Rosenfeld, was the original author of Proposition 103.

The insurance industry strongly supports the bill, saying it will help wildfire prone property coverage.

Insurance organizations such as the American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the Personal Insurance Federation both support AB 2167. The bill also has the support of the California Association of Counties (CSAC), as well as Fire Safe Councils of California, and the CalFIRE union.

The Consumer Federation of America, another watchdog organization, has predicted that if AB 2167 passes, it will cause 40 percent increases in insurance rates. On the other hand, insurance groups claim that the bill offers owners of wildfire prone property a greater opportunity for choice and competition among insurance companies based on coverage and premiums while avoiding the limitations and high costs associated with FAIR Plan coverage.

The post Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing appeared first on Live Insurance News.


By: Marc
Title: Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing
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Published Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2020 09:00:14 +0000

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Is this the last hurrah for bonds?



Recently, I have written quite a bit about the long-term return expectations for investing in bonds. See here, here, here and here.

Spoiler alert: I don’t think it’s good.

But long-term bonds this year have been quite an amazing story as the COVID pandemic has caused the Fed to take historically monumental actions. As a result, we’ve watched long-term Treasuries tear the roof off the market. For instance, a 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (name withheld for compliance purposes) is up more than 31% YTD as of July 31st.

That is insane!

But there is a good reason for this increase shown below.

The red circle shows a decrease in the 30-year Treasury rate of almost 40% over a span of six months. That’s practically unprecedented with only two periods (2008 and 1981-1982) having similar declines over such short periods.

But this begs the question: Is this the last hurrah for bonds as a driver of any meaningful return? Below is the 30-Year Treasury rate over the last 40+ years.

For what it’s worth, people have been forecasting the end of the bond bull market since 2012 (maybe even earlier) and yet it has continued despite those predictions. But at some point, the bond party will come to an end.

The Fed has been clear that they are going to keep rates stable until at least 2022 which means this may not change for a little while longer. Or in the near term, I could even see the high returns continuing if we experience pandemic economic shutdown round two.

But, I can’t see a world where this is the case for much longer than that – most importantly over the span of a 30-year retirement.

The official end of the bond bull market depends on a recovery from the pandemic economy as well as a few other factors causing rates to rise. But when they do, it seems likely to me that this may be the last great hurrah for bonds for quite some time.

The question is when to get off that train and that undoubtedly requires a personal answer.

Stay the Course,

Retirement Field Guide Mission:

“To help 10 million people make better retirement decisions.”

If you would like to join us in achieving our mission, I hope you will consider sharing our site if you have found it helpful in your own retirement planning.

This post is not advice. Please see additional disclaimers.

The post Is this the last hurrah for bonds? appeared first on Retirement Field Guide.


By: Ashby Daniels, CFP®
Title: Is this the last hurrah for bonds?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2020 13:47:16 +0000

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