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PBPC Statement on the AHCA Vote

Third and State - May 4, 2017 - 2:34pm

HARRISBURG – Marc Stier, Director of the PA Budget and Policy Center, made the following statement following today's passage of the American Health Care Act by the U.S. House:

 "Today the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed legislation that will strip health insurance from 1.3 million Pennsylvanians, will lead to the pre-mature death of 3,250 Pennsylvanians for lack of health insurance, and will threaten the health insurance of five million Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions. If the the health care exchanges survive, premiums for older adults will skyrocket, making health insurance unaffordable for most Pennsylvanians between the age of 50 and 64. 

"This legislation was never about improving health care. It was about giving $500 billion in tax breaks to the very wealthy and to big insurance and drug companies.

"We are grateful that all of Pennsylvania’s Democratic members of Congress and four of its  Republican members of Congress in Pennsylvania were willing to put aside right-wing ideology to stand with their constituents.

"Pennsylvania families, including the thousands of people in our state who attended town halls, wrote letters, called their representatives, and fought against this bill, will not stop fighting to prevent this bill from becoming law."

PBPC Statement on the AHCA Vote

Third and State - May 4, 2017 - 2:34pm

HARRISBURG – Marc Stier, Director of the PA Budget and Policy Center, made the following statement following today's passage of the American Health Care Act by the U.S. House:

 "Today the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed legislation that will strip health insurance from 1.3 million Pennsylvanians, will lead to the pre-mature death of 3,250 Pennsylvanians for lack of health insurance, and will threaten the health insurance of five million Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions. If the the health care exchanges survive, premiums for older adults will skyrocket, making health insurance unaffordable for most Pennsylvanians between the age of 50 and 64. 

"This legislation was never about improving health care. It was about giving $500 billion in tax breaks to the very wealthy and to big insurance and drug companies.

"We are grateful that all of Pennsylvania’s Democratic members of Congress and four of its  Republican members of Congress in Pennsylvania were willing to put aside right-wing ideology to stand with their constituents.

"Pennsylvania families, including the thousands of people in our state who attended town halls, wrote letters, called their representatives, and fought against this bill, will not stop fighting to prevent this bill from becoming law."

ACA Repeal Puts Pennsylvanians Who Work for Large Corporations At Risk

Third and State - May 4, 2017 - 10:01am

The disastrous implications of the GOP health care bill are becoming ever more apparent, especially for those who get their insurance from large national corporations. Under the bill, even if Pennsylvania does not opt-out of the federal essential benefits regulation, large multi-state employers could choose to deny Pennsylvanians coverage for pre-existing medical conditions or particular conditions, such as pregnancy. Or they could impose annual or lifetime limits on coverage.

Over 62% of Pennsylvanians have employer-based coverage, one of the highest rates in the country. Millions of Pennsylvanians get their insurance from large, multi-state corporations that also operate in states that are likely to opt-out of the federal essential benefit rule.

So all of these scenarios could happen:

  • Someone from Pittsburgh who works for Wal-Mart gets pregnant and discovers that pregnancy is not covered by Wal-Mart’s health insurance. When she leaves, she is responsible for the entire bill. A pregnancy with no complications averages $30,000 — a C-section increases that cost to $50,000.
  • Someone from Oil City who works for Target gets cancer, needs multiple operations and chemotherapy and uses up his annual cap on health care in four months, leaving him without any means to pay for post-operative therapy.
  • Someone from Chester who works for Wells Fargo develops multiple sclerosis and uses up her lifetime health benefits in two years. From there, she's responsible for all health care costs.
  • Someone from Camp Hill who works for NTB seeks treatment for depression, but is denied coverage because it was a pre-existing condition.

The Republican attack on the ACA and Medicaid is not just directed at low-income people. It is directed at all of us.

ACA Repeal Puts Pennsylvanians Who Work for Large Corporations At Risk

Third and State - May 4, 2017 - 10:01am

The disastrous implications of the GOP health care bill are becoming ever more apparent, especially for those who get their insurance from large national corporations. Under the bill, even if Pennsylvania does not opt-out of the federal essential benefits regulation, large multi-state employers could choose to deny Pennsylvanians coverage for pre-existing medical conditions or particular conditions, such as pregnancy. Or they could impose annual or lifetime limits on coverage.

Over 62% of Pennsylvanians have employer-based coverage, one of the highest rates in the country. Millions of Pennsylvanians get their insurance from large, multi-state corporations that also operate in states that are likely to opt-out of the federal essential benefit rule.

So all of these scenarios could happen:

  • Someone from Pittsburgh who works for Wal-Mart gets pregnant and discovers that pregnancy is not covered by Wal-Mart’s health insurance. When she leaves, she is responsible for the entire bill. A pregnancy with no complications averages $30,000 — a C-section increases that cost to $50,000.
  • Someone from Oil City who works for Target gets cancer, needs multiple operations and chemotherapy and uses up his annual cap on health care in four months, leaving him without any means to pay for post-operative therapy.
  • Someone from Chester who works for Wells Fargo develops multiple sclerosis and uses up her lifetime health benefits in two years. From there, she's responsible for all health care costs.
  • Someone from Camp Hill who works for NTB seeks treatment for depression, but is denied coverage because it was a pre-existing condition.

The Republican attack on the ACA and Medicaid is not just directed at low-income people. It is directed at all of us.

They Can’t Buy Us Off

Third and State - May 3, 2017 - 3:16pm

We are hearing today that the Trump administration is “buying off” support from members of Congress for the bill to repeal the ACA by adding more money for one thing or another.

The latest is a plan to add $8 billion to the $130 billion already set aside for the high-risk pools to provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.


A new report from the Center for American Progress
shows that — as we have been saying — this is far less money than needed to provide insurance to everyone with pre-existing conditions. At a minimum, 54,000 Pennsylvanians would be eligible for a high risk pool. Even if they pay $10,000 a year — which many could not afford — the state would need $1.4 billion a year to provide insurance for them. But the AHCA, even with the addition $8 billion over ten years, would only give Pennsylvania $498 million a year. PA would be $1 billion a year short.

Need I add that the state government is in no shape to make up the difference?

Or that actually over five million Pennsylvanians have pre-existing conditions and might need to take advantage of the high-risk pool?

Or that 1.3 million Pennsylvanians a year will lose health insurance as a result of the GOP health plan.

Or that people between the ages of 55 and 64 even without pre-existing conditions would pay 2 to 4 times as much for health insurance?

Or that the ACA has helped provide treatment for 148,000 Pennsylvanians who suffer from the substance abuse crisis in our state, most of whom would lose that treatment if the GOP health care plan is enacted?

And note that the changes in the rules on pre-existing conditions and essential benefits made possible by this legislaiton apply to all health insurance not just insurance secured through the ACA. If you have employer based insurance and lives in a state that opts-out of the ACA regulations, your policy may not cover your pre-existing conditions. And it may again have annual or lifetime limits on the health care you can receive. 

Call your member of Congress today and demand that he not be fooled by the latest alternative facts from Trump and Ryan and their attempt at a buy-off. They need to defend our health care. No matter where you live, you can call 866-426-2631 to get connected.

They Can’t Buy Us Off

Third and State - May 3, 2017 - 3:16pm

We are hearing today that the Trump administration is “buying off” support from members of Congress for the bill to repeal the ACA by adding more money for one thing or another.

The latest is a plan to add $8 billion to the $130 billion already set aside for the high-risk pools to provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.


A new report from the Center for American Progress
shows that — as we have been saying — this is far less money than needed to provide insurance to everyone with pre-existing conditions. At a minimum, 54,000 Pennsylvanians would be eligible for a high risk pool. Even if they pay $10,000 a year — which many could not afford — the state would need $1.4 billion a year to provide insurance for them. But the AHCA, even with the addition $8 billion over ten years, would only give Pennsylvania $498 million a year. PA would be $1 billion a year short.

Need I add that the state government is in no shape to make up the difference?

Or that actually over five million Pennsylvanians have pre-existing conditions and might need to take advantage of the high-risk pool?

Or that 1.3 million Pennsylvanians a year will lose health insurance as a result of the GOP health plan.

Or that people between the ages of 55 and 64 even without pre-existing conditions would pay 2 to 4 times as much for health insurance?

Or that the ACA has helped provide treatment for 148,000 Pennsylvanians who suffer from the substance abuse crisis in our state, most of whom would lose that treatment if the GOP health care plan is enacted?

And note that the changes in the rules on pre-existing conditions and essential benefits made possible by this legislaiton apply to all health insurance not just insurance secured through the ACA. If you have employer based insurance and lives in a state that opts-out of the ACA regulations, your policy may not cover your pre-existing conditions. And it may again have annual or lifetime limits on the health care you can receive. 

Call your member of Congress today and demand that he not be fooled by the latest alternative facts from Trump and Ryan and their attempt at a buy-off. They need to defend our health care. No matter where you live, you can call 866-426-2631 to get connected.

Trump is Wrong: the AHCA Will Make Health Insurance Unaffordable for Those with Pre-Existing Conditions

Third and State - May 2, 2017 - 4:14pm

President Tump discovered not too long ago that Health Care is hard. So it’s no wonder he doesn't always get things right. He said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, "Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, 'Has to be.'"

Wrong.

In the last day, two respected organizations, Consumers Union and AARP, confirmed what we said two weeks ago:  the AHCA will make it impossible for many people — if not most people — with pre-existing conditions to afford health insurance if their state opts out of the ACA rules that guarantee people with pre-existing are offered insurance at the same rates as those without them. A million people in Pennsylvania are threatened if, as seems likely, the Republican-dominated General Assembly were to vote to make Pennsylvania one of those states.

The Republican plan calls for high risk pools to cover people with pre-existing conditions. But as Consumers Union says, their “long track-record of failure have historically resulted in very high premiums and onerous terms for coverage that doesn’t provide the care consumers need.” Consumers Union points out, as we did, that we can’t make high risk pools effective in protecting people with pre-existing conditions at a lower cost than the cost of the ACA. The nation would have to spend more than $1 trillion over ten years, that is 300% more than is included in the most generous version of the AHCA, to guarantee affordable, high-quality care for everyone with pre-existing conditions. 

Members of Congress have to decide whether or not they are going to support a plan on the basis of Donald Trump's fake guarantiees and risk the health insurance of milions of people.  

Trump is Wrong: the AHCA Will Make Health Insurance Unaffordable for Those with Pre-Existing Conditions

Third and State - May 2, 2017 - 4:14pm

President Tump discovered not too long ago that Health Care is hard. So it’s no wonder he doesn't always get things right. He said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, "Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, 'Has to be.'"

Wrong.

In the last day, two respected organizations, Consumers Union and AARP, confirmed what we said two weeks ago:  the AHCA will make it impossible for many people — if not most people — with pre-existing conditions to afford health insurance if their state opts out of the ACA rules that guarantee people with pre-existing are offered insurance at the same rates as those without them. A million people in Pennsylvania are threatened if, as seems likely, the Republican-dominated General Assembly were to vote to make Pennsylvania one of those states.

The Republican plan calls for high risk pools to cover people with pre-existing conditions. But as Consumers Union says, their “long track-record of failure have historically resulted in very high premiums and onerous terms for coverage that doesn’t provide the care consumers need.” Consumers Union points out, as we did, that we can’t make high risk pools effective in protecting people with pre-existing conditions at a lower cost than the cost of the ACA. The nation would have to spend more than $1 trillion over ten years, that is 300% more than is included in the most generous version of the AHCA, to guarantee affordable, high-quality care for everyone with pre-existing conditions. 

Members of Congress have to decide whether or not they are going to support a plan on the basis of Donald Trump's fake guarantiees and risk the health insurance of milions of people.  

Why Representative Tim Murphy Should Oppose the Republican Health Care Bill

Third and State - May 2, 2017 - 3:51pm

Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA18) has been one of the most important advocates for mental health and addiction care in this country. He’s been a champion of parity between the treatment of physical and mental health problems. And that’s why it’s so surprising that he might vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 24 million people nationwide — 1.3 million in Pennsylvania, and 67,000 in his district — will lose health insurance as a result of this legislation and many of them, by some estimates 29%, suffer from mental illness including substance abuse disorders.

And what is even more striking is that the MacArthur amendment to the Republican health care plan allows states to opt-out of the Essential Benefits Requirement that guarantees insurance must provide mental health benefits. Repealing that provision, and the prohibition on insurance companies charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions, could lead to disaster in Pennsylvania. Republican majorities in the General Assembly are likely to vote for Pennsylvania to opt-out of both requirements, and if they have a veto-proof majority or a Republican governor who agrees with them, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians between the ages of 50 and 65 will see their premiums skyrocket and the ACA’s protection of mental health parity will be defunct in our state.

Let’s hope Representative Murphy listens to the better angels of his nature and stands with the people he has championed for so long.

Why Representative Tim Murphy Should Oppose the Republican Health Care Bill

Third and State - May 2, 2017 - 3:51pm

Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA18) has been one of the most important advocates for mental health and addiction care in this country. He’s been a champion of parity between the treatment of physical and mental health problems. And that’s why it’s so surprising that he might vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 24 million people nationwide — 1.3 million in Pennsylvania, and 67,000 in his district — will lose health insurance as a result of this legislation and many of them, by some estimates 29%, suffer from mental illness including substance abuse disorders.

And what is even more striking is that the MacArthur amendment to the Republican health care plan allows states to opt-out of the Essential Benefits Requirement that guarantees insurance must provide mental health benefits. Repealing that provision, and the prohibition on insurance companies charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions, could lead to disaster in Pennsylvania. Republican majorities in the General Assembly are likely to vote for Pennsylvania to opt-out of both requirements, and if they have a veto-proof majority or a Republican governor who agrees with them, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians between the ages of 50 and 65 will see their premiums skyrocket and the ACA’s protection of mental health parity will be defunct in our state.

Let’s hope Representative Murphy listens to the better angels of his nature and stands with the people he has championed for so long.

Last Chance for Sen. Toomey to Vote with Main St. Savers on Retirement Security

Third and State - May 2, 2017 - 11:35am

We hear from our friends in Washington DC that a U.S. Senate vote on a House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 66) that would impede states from improving retirement security for private workers could come today or tomorrow. It won’t come to a vote unless Republican leaders in the Senate think that the resolution will pass – so now is the time for Pennsylvanians to make their voice heard with Sen. Toomey. If he votes against H.J. Res 66 as he should, joining Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, that can send it down.

To refresh your memory, Sen. Toomey should be with us on this issue. A growing number of states have stepped in to help private workers who have no retirement plan at all through their job – more than half of all private workers (about 3 million in Pennsylvania) – set up a savings plan into which they would contribute a small part of their paycheck each pay period. This approach empowers people to save for retirement using their own money, thereby supporting personal responsibility. This approach relieves small businesses of the headaches of researching and setting up a retirement savings plan for their employees. This is why Small Business Majority strongly supports this approach (along with the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce). And it’s another reason why Sen. Toomey, who speaks often of the importance of small business, should support this approach and vote NO on H.J. Res 66.

In an earlier blog, we walked through the details on why Sen. Toomey was wrong to vote with Wall Street and in favor of a companion resolution (H.J. Res. 67) that already impeded big cities from enabling their private workers from saving for retirement. (Here is the Economic Policy Institute’s summary on the same issue.) That earlier blog also explained that there is a bipartisan effort in Pennsylvania to begin studying and then setting up retirement savings options for private workers without them.

What's urgent TODAY is that people need to call Senator Toomey’s offices (here are the phone numbers). Let him know that he should vote with small business, with Main St. Savers, and for personal responsiblity – by rejecting H.J. Res. 66. 

Last Chance for Sen. Toomey to Vote with Main St. Savers on Retirement Security

Third and State - May 2, 2017 - 11:35am

We hear from our friends in Washington DC that a U.S. Senate vote on a House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 66) that would impede states from improving retirement security for private workers could come today or tomorrow. It won’t come to a vote unless Republican leaders in the Senate think that the resolution will pass – so now is the time for Pennsylvanians to make their voice heard with Sen. Toomey. If he votes against H.J. Res 66 as he should, joining Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, that can send it down.

To refresh your memory, Sen. Toomey should be with us on this issue. A growing number of states have stepped in to help private workers who have no retirement plan at all through their job – more than half of all private workers (about 3 million in Pennsylvania) – set up a savings plan into which they would contribute a small part of their paycheck each pay period. This approach empowers people to save for retirement using their own money, thereby supporting personal responsibility. This approach relieves small businesses of the headaches of researching and setting up a retirement savings plan for their employees. This is why Small Business Majority strongly supports this approach (along with the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce). And it’s another reason why Sen. Toomey, who speaks often of the importance of small business, should support this approach and vote NO on H.J. Res 66.

In an earlier blog, we walked through the details on why Sen. Toomey was wrong to vote with Wall Street and in favor of a companion resolution (H.J. Res. 67) that already impeded big cities from enabling their private workers from saving for retirement. (Here is the Economic Policy Institute’s summary on the same issue.) That earlier blog also explained that there is a bipartisan effort in Pennsylvania to begin studying and then setting up retirement savings options for private workers without them.

What's urgent TODAY is that people need to call Senator Toomey’s offices (here are the phone numbers). Let him know that he should vote with small business, with Main St. Savers, and for personal responsiblity – by rejecting H.J. Res. 66. 

Why Representative Thompson Should Vote No on the Health Care Bill

Third and State - April 27, 2017 - 1:37pm

Rep. Glenn Thompson's Background, Consequences for Constituents Are Reasons to Vote "No" on GOP Health Care Bill

Given his personal history in human services, and the demographic makeup of the 5th Congressional district, Congressman Glenn Thompson has long been an advocate for older Pennsylvanians – not just seniors but those in the 55 to 65 age bracket as well.

And that must make the upcoming vote on the Republican replacement of the ACA so difficult. As a loyal Republican, Thompson has reason to support it. But the bill is, in many ways, terrible for older Pennsylvanians, including many of his constituents in the 5th district. So the concerns of his district and his own history very much point in the other direction.

The threat to seniors and near-seniors come from a number of directions.

To begin with the threat to seniors: the per-capita cap  Medicaid expenditures will cost Pennsylvania $18 billion over ten years. This cut will force the state to reduce expenditures for long-term care under our medical assistance program. Nursing homes, like those Representative Thompson once managed, will see their reimbursements reduced. Many seniors will find themselves unable to secure affordable long-term care.

The problems for Pennsylvanians 50 to 65 begin with the Republican plan's subsidies to purchase insurance on the health care exchanges, which are far inferior to those in in the ACA. According to Kaiser Foundation data, In the 16 counties of the 5th Congressional District, a 60 year old couple with an income of $40,000 would receive a subsidy that is $7,566 less under the GOP plan than under the ACA. A 60 year old couple with an income of $50,000 would receive $5,786 less. A 60 year old individual with an income of $30,000 would receive $3,095 less while one with an income of $40,000 would receive $1,495 less.

Revisions made to the Republican plan in late March added a $85 billion fund to lower premiums for people aged 50 to 64. There are rumors that members of Congress have been promised that this amount will be increased to $130 billion. But, there is still no guarantee that these funds will be appropriated. And rough estimates drawing on work by the Center for America Progress suggest that even $130 billion isn’t enough money to compensate for the reduction in subsidies. Indeed, even if we assume there are no other changes in the law, a $130 billion fund would only compensate for half of the subsidy reductions. And that fund can’t compensate at all for other changes in the health care law that increase insurance premiums for those 50 to 65.

The March Republican proposal called for two changes that will lead to higher costs for near-seniors. It raises the age rating ratio to 5:1, allowing the premiums charged to near-seniors to be five times those charged to younger, healthier people, instead of the ACA’s ratio of 3:1. And it abolishes the ACA’s rules on the minimum actuarial value of health insurance plans, which limit the costs of deductibles and co-pays. The result is that the health insurance plans under the GOP proposal will not only be subsidized at lower rates, but both premiums and out of pocket costs will be higher.

If this were not bad enough, the changes to the GOP plan in the MacArthur amendment allow states to opt-out of ACA regulations that were specifically designed to protect those in the 50 to 64 bracket. It allows states seek waviers for the rules that:

  • limit the costs of insurance premiums for older Americans to five times that of younger Americans. (The ACA sets this ratio as 3 to 1.)
  • prohibit insurance companies from charging people with pre-existing medical conditions more.
  • require insurance companies to provide essential benefits in all policies.

If Pennsylvania were to opt out of all three rules, near-seniors now protected by the ACA will face a health care disaster. If the age ratio limitation is eliminated, premiums for those in the 50 to 65 age range will shoot  up even more than predicted. If the prohibition on charging people with pre-existing conditions more is lifted, the burden of higher premiums will also fall on this age group. And if the essential benefits provision is lifted, insurance companies will again be allowed to offer people in this age group insurance that excludes their pre-existing conditions.

We expect that Representative Thompson is as concerned about these implications of the Republican health care plan as we are. And we urge you to contact his office to tell him that you share that concern and want him to put Republican unity aside and vote to support his constituents in the 5th district. 

Why Representative Thompson Should Vote No on the Health Care Bill

Third and State - April 27, 2017 - 1:37pm

Rep. Glenn Thompson's Background, Consequences for Constituents Are Reasons to Vote "No" on GOP Health Care Bill

Given his personal history in human services, and the demographic makeup of the 5th Congressional district, Congressman Glenn Thompson has long been an advocate for older Pennsylvanians – not just seniors but those in the 55 to 65 age bracket as well.

And that must make the upcoming vote on the Republican replacement of the ACA so difficult. As a loyal Republican, Thompson has reason to support it. But the bill is, in many ways, terrible for older Pennsylvanians, including many of his constituents in the 5th district. So the concerns of his district and his own history very much point in the other direction.

The threat to seniors and near-seniors come from a number of directions.

To begin with the threat to seniors: the per-capita cap  Medicaid expenditures will cost Pennsylvania $18 billion over ten years. This cut will force the state to reduce expenditures for long-term care under our medical assistance program. Nursing homes, like those Representative Thompson once managed, will see their reimbursements reduced. Many seniors will find themselves unable to secure affordable long-term care.

The problems for Pennsylvanians 50 to 65 begin with the Republican plan's subsidies to purchase insurance on the health care exchanges, which are far inferior to those in in the ACA. According to Kaiser Foundation data, In the 16 counties of the 5th Congressional District, a 60 year old couple with an income of $40,000 would receive a subsidy that is $7,566 less under the GOP plan than under the ACA. A 60 year old couple with an income of $50,000 would receive $5,786 less. A 60 year old individual with an income of $30,000 would receive $3,095 less while one with an income of $40,000 would receive $1,495 less.

Revisions made to the Republican plan in late March added a $85 billion fund to lower premiums for people aged 50 to 64. There are rumors that members of Congress have been promised that this amount will be increased to $130 billion. But, there is still no guarantee that these funds will be appropriated. And rough estimates drawing on work by the Center for America Progress suggest that even $130 billion isn’t enough money to compensate for the reduction in subsidies. Indeed, even if we assume there are no other changes in the law, a $130 billion fund would only compensate for half of the subsidy reductions. And that fund can’t compensate at all for other changes in the health care law that increase insurance premiums for those 50 to 65.

The March Republican proposal called for two changes that will lead to higher costs for near-seniors. It raises the age rating ratio to 5:1, allowing the premiums charged to near-seniors to be five times those charged to younger, healthier people, instead of the ACA’s ratio of 3:1. And it abolishes the ACA’s rules on the minimum actuarial value of health insurance plans, which limit the costs of deductibles and co-pays. The result is that the health insurance plans under the GOP proposal will not only be subsidized at lower rates, but both premiums and out of pocket costs will be higher.

If this were not bad enough, the changes to the GOP plan in the MacArthur amendment allow states to opt-out of ACA regulations that were specifically designed to protect those in the 50 to 64 bracket. It allows states seek waviers for the rules that:

  • limit the costs of insurance premiums for older Americans to five times that of younger Americans. (The ACA sets this ratio as 3 to 1.)
  • prohibit insurance companies from charging people with pre-existing medical conditions more.
  • require insurance companies to provide essential benefits in all policies.

If Pennsylvania were to opt out of all three rules, near-seniors now protected by the ACA will face a health care disaster. If the age ratio limitation is eliminated, premiums for those in the 50 to 65 age range will shoot  up even more than predicted. If the prohibition on charging people with pre-existing conditions more is lifted, the burden of higher premiums will also fall on this age group. And if the essential benefits provision is lifted, insurance companies will again be allowed to offer people in this age group insurance that excludes their pre-existing conditions.

We expect that Representative Thompson is as concerned about these implications of the Republican health care plan as we are. And we urge you to contact his office to tell him that you share that concern and want him to put Republican unity aside and vote to support his constituents in the 5th district. 

The New Version of the GOP Health Care Bill is Even Worse Than The Last One

Third and State - April 26, 2017 - 9:57am
Having failed to enact a plan that would lead 24 million Americans and 1.1 million in PA to lose health insurance, the House Republicans have returned with a new amendment, proposed by Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), which would lead to larger losses.   Though this new proposal is being touted as a compromise between moderate and far-right Republicans, in reality it is a surrender to the demands of those on the right who have repeatedly rejected the notion that the risks of illness should be shared by all of us, young and old, healthy and sick. The new proposal would place the burden of health care on those who, because of their age or medical condition, find that burden most difficult to bear:  
  • It allows states to opt-out of the rule that prohibits insurance companies from charging people with pre-existing medical conditions more.
  • It allows states to opt-out of the rule that limits the costs of insurance premiums for older Americans to five times that of younger Americans. (The ACA sets this ratio as 3 to 1.)
  • It allows states to opt-out of the rule that requires insurance companies to provide essential benefits in all policies, and will make it possible for insurance companies to deny health care for critical medical conditions.
Eliminating these regulations will make insurance unaffordable for millions more in the country as a whole and hundreds of thousands more in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, 5.3 million people under the age of 65 — 52% of the non-senior population — have pre-existing conditions. According to a study prepared by the Center for American Progress, a 40 year old who has breast cancer will pay a surcharge of $32,740 a year for health insurance. If he or she suffered from depression, the surcharge would be $9,700 a year, for diabetes $6,390 and for asthma, $4,950. But it would be just as bad for seniors; in addition to being hit with the surcharges for pre-existing conditions, a 60-year old making $22,000 a year would see their net premiums rise by an average of $9,271 under this proposed legislation.   While the MacArthur amendment would require states opting out of these rules to establish high-risk pools for those who could not secure insurance, it does not provide the funding necessary to make them work.   This proposal is not a replacement of the ACA’s guarantee of quality, affordable health care for all. It is a near-complete abandonment of that guarantee.   The Pennsylvania members of the House of Representatives who opposed or said they would have opposed the last Republican plan, and who have repeatedly defended the regulation that would be repealed in this new proposal, have been given no reason to support it now.

The New Version of the GOP Health Care Bill is Even Worse Than The Last One

Third and State - April 26, 2017 - 9:57am
Having failed to enact a plan that would lead 24 million Americans and 1.1 million in PA to lose health insurance, the House Republicans have returned with a new amendment, proposed by Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), which would lead to larger losses.   Though this new proposal is being touted as a compromise between moderate and far-right Republicans, in reality it is a surrender to the demands of those on the right who have repeatedly rejected the notion that the risks of illness should be shared by all of us, young and old, healthy and sick. The new proposal would place the burden of health care on those who, because of their age or medical condition, find that burden most difficult to bear:  
  • It allows states to opt-out of the rule that prohibits insurance companies from charging people with pre-existing medical conditions more.
  • It allows states to opt-out of the rule that limits the costs of insurance premiums for older Americans to five times that of younger Americans. (The ACA sets this ratio as 3 to 1.)
  • It allows states to opt-out of the rule that requires insurance companies to provide essential benefits in all policies, and will make it possible for insurance companies to deny health care for critical medical conditions.
Eliminating these regulations will make insurance unaffordable for millions more in the country as a whole and hundreds of thousands more in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, 5.3 million people under the age of 65 — 52% of the non-senior population — have pre-existing conditions. According to a study prepared by the Center for American Progress, a 40 year old who has breast cancer will pay a surcharge of $32,740 a year for health insurance. If he or she suffered from depression, the surcharge would be $9,700 a year, for diabetes $6,390 and for asthma, $4,950. But it would be just as bad for seniors; in addition to being hit with the surcharges for pre-existing conditions, a 60-year old making $22,000 a year would see their net premiums rise by an average of $9,271 under this proposed legislation.   While the MacArthur amendment would require states opting out of these rules to establish high-risk pools for those who could not secure insurance, it does not provide the funding necessary to make them work.   This proposal is not a replacement of the ACA’s guarantee of quality, affordable health care for all. It is a near-complete abandonment of that guarantee.   The Pennsylvania members of the House of Representatives who opposed or said they would have opposed the last Republican plan, and who have repeatedly defended the regulation that would be repealed in this new proposal, have been given no reason to support it now.

Our Upside-Down Tax System

Third and State - April 25, 2017 - 10:33am

The Pew Research Center released the findings from a recent survey (conducted April 5-11, 2017) that shows an increasing number of Americans find our current tax system unfair.

What do people believe is most unfair about our tax system? Nearly 2/3 (62%) of Americans are bothered “a lot” because some corporations do not pay their fair share in taxes; 60% are equally bothered because some wealthy people don’t pay their fair share.

A significantly less number of Americans are bothered by the amount they pay in taxes (only 27% are bothered “a lot” by this).

What does this tell us?

Americans are ready to fix our unfair tax system. In Pennsylvania, we have a chance to do just that.

What people perceive about corporations and the wealthy not paying their fair share in taxes is, in fact, true. Especially in Pennsylvania.

First let’s look at the wealthy.

The chart below shows that higher income taxpayers pay a lower share of their income in state and local taxes. The top one percent pays less than half of the tax rate of the middle class and two-third’s less than the lowest 20% (earning less than $22,000 a year). We refer to this as an upside-down tax system because it is those people who earn the least amount of money that are paying the highest proportion in taxes and vice versa.

 

Not all states have such a system.

Take a look at Delaware:

or Maryland:

or West Virginia:

Now, let’s look at corporations. The graph below shows how corporate taxes, as a percentage of the state’s general fund revenue over time, has been declining since 1972. In 1972, corporate taxes accounted for 30% of the general fund revenue while today they only account for 17%.

No wonder the state struggles to pay for the services Pennsylvanians want, like quality public education for our kids and human services that help care for our most vulnerable.

Senate Bill 555, otherwise know as the Fair Share plan, proposes to fix this upside down tax system by dividing our Personal Income Tax into two parts: 1) a tax on wages and interest and; and 2) a tax on income from wealth. This plan would raise $2 billion a year by increasing tax on income from wealth (from the current rate 3.07% to 6.5%) and decreasing the tax on wages and interest from 3.07% to 2.8%.

Still not convinced? Compared to neighboring states, with this plan the top 1% in Pennsylvania will still have an overall tax rate of 3.6%, below Ohio (3.7%), Maryland (4.2%), Delaware (4.9%), New York (6.6%) and New Jersey (6.6%).

And that’s not all. With the Fair Share plan, 85% of Pennsylvanians will see their taxes decrease or stay the same. Which, according to the Pew Research Center study, is not most people’s primary concern. Ensuring that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share is.

The Fair Share plan, then, is exactly the kind of public policy Pennsylvanians will support. Will our elected officials?

To learn more about the Fair Share plan in PA, go to http://pennbpc.org/fair-share-tax-support-public-investment-pennsylvania.

Our Upside-Down Tax System

Third and State - April 25, 2017 - 10:33am

The Pew Research Center released the findings from a recent survey (conducted April 5-11, 2017) that shows an increasing number of Americans find our current tax system unfair.

What do people believe is most unfair about our tax system? Nearly 2/3 (62%) of Americans are bothered “a lot” because some corporations do not pay their fair share in taxes; 60% are equally bothered because some wealthy people don’t pay their fair share.

A significantly less number of Americans are bothered by the amount they pay in taxes (only 27% are bothered “a lot” by this).

What does this tell us?

Americans are ready to fix our unfair tax system. In Pennsylvania, we have a chance to do just that.

What people perceive about corporations and the wealthy not paying their fair share in taxes is, in fact, true. Especially in Pennsylvania.

First let’s look at the wealthy.

The chart below shows that higher income taxpayers pay a lower share of their income in state and local taxes. The top one percent pays less than half of the tax rate of the middle class and two-third’s less than the lowest 20% (earning less than $22,000 a year). We refer to this as an upside-down tax system because it is those people who earn the least amount of money that are paying the highest proportion in taxes and vice versa.

 

Not all states have such a system.

Take a look at Delaware:

or Maryland:

or West Virginia:

Now, let’s look at corporations. The graph below shows how corporate taxes, as a percentage of the state’s general fund revenue over time, has been declining since 1972. In 1972, corporate taxes accounted for 30% of the general fund revenue while today they only account for 17%.

No wonder the state struggles to pay for the services Pennsylvanians want, like quality public education for our kids and human services that help care for our most vulnerable.

Senate Bill 555, otherwise know as the Fair Share plan, proposes to fix this upside down tax system by dividing our Personal Income Tax into two parts: 1) a tax on wages and interest and; and 2) a tax on income from wealth. This plan would raise $2 billion a year by increasing tax on income from wealth (from the current rate 3.07% to 6.5%) and decreasing the tax on wages and interest from 3.07% to 2.8%.

Still not convinced? Compared to neighboring states, with this plan the top 1% in Pennsylvania will still have an overall tax rate of 3.6%, below Ohio (3.7%), Maryland (4.2%), Delaware (4.9%), New York (6.6%) and New Jersey (6.6%).

And that’s not all. With the Fair Share plan, 85% of Pennsylvanians will see their taxes decrease or stay the same. Which, according to the Pew Research Center study, is not most people’s primary concern. Ensuring that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share is.

The Fair Share plan, then, is exactly the kind of public policy Pennsylvanians will support. Will our elected officials?

To learn more about the Fair Share plan in PA, go to http://pennbpc.org/fair-share-tax-support-public-investment-pennsylvania.

Attacks on Public Sector Workers Hurt Working People and Benefit the Rich

Third and State - April 22, 2017 - 1:47pm

Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House and Senate continue to promote bills that would reduce the power of public sector unions by undercutting them financially. These bills would make it harder or illegal to collect some current contributions to unions (e.g., from non-members who enjoy higher wages and benefits and workplace representation from public sector unions). While proponents say these proposals would benefit taxpayers and private sector workers, in reality weakening public-sector unions hurts middle-class taxpayers and workers in both the private sector and the public sector. One reason for this is that public sector unions are vital advocates for public policies that benefit the middle class as a whole, such as raising the minimum wage, protecting Social Security, or fighting for more affordable and accessible health care.

Now we have some fresh evidence that attacks on public sector workers hurt working people and benefit the wealthy — from Wisconsin. As documented by Gordon Lafer, after weakening public sector workers, Wisconsin lawmakers enacted $2 billion worth of tax cuts in 2011-14, paid for by the layoffs and wage and benefit cuts of public employees. Lafer shows that the benefits of these tax cuts skewed dramatically to the rich. The top 1 percent enjoyed an average tax cut of $2,500 per year, over 20 times the $118 cut for the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers. 

Republican champions of bills that would weaken unions clearly hope to make Pennsylvania “the next Wisconsin” in the next several years. Pennsylvania has already cut taxes so much for the wealthy over the past 15 years — as a result of over $3 billion in corporate tax cuts. Those cuts exacerbated the blatant unfairness in Pennsylvania’s upside-down tax system, which requires middle-income families to pay 10.1% of their income in state-and-local taxes, low-income families to pay 12%, and the top 1% to pay only 4.4%.  

In Pennsylvania, the immediate tax issue before us is raising revenue — revenue needed to cover the current costs of education and essential services and to address the state’s investment deficit. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has advanced a creative proposal that would raise $2 billion in revenue. This Fair Share Tax would cut taxes for nearly six in 10 Pennsylvanians, while raising half the new funds from the top 1% and 88% from the top fifth. 

Public sector unions will play a critical role in any successful effort to achieve fairer taxes in Pennsylvania that especially benefit moderate income families concentrated in rural areas and some urban neighborhoods. Those same taxpayers would also benefit disproportionately from the education and other services funded by additional revenue.

So when advocates for laws that would weaken public sector unions tell you that this would benefit most taxpayers and the middle class, don’t believe them. If you care about a fair tax system, a higher minimum wage, quality public school for all, accessible and affordable higher education, health care for the middle class, services for the vulnerable — most government investments that help Pennsylvania thrive and make it more humane — the fight to protect the strength of public sector unions is your fight. If we do follow the lead of Wisconsin in the next several years, it will not be pretty…except for very rich people happy to live in insulated communities unaffected by how others in the state are doing.

Attacks on Public Sector Workers Hurt Working People and Benefit the Rich

Third and State - April 22, 2017 - 1:47pm

Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House and Senate continue to promote bills that would reduce the power of public sector unions by undercutting them financially. These bills would make it harder or illegal to collect some current contributions to unions (e.g., from non-members who enjoy higher wages and benefits and workplace representation from public sector unions). While proponents say these proposals would benefit taxpayers and private sector workers, in reality weakening public-sector unions hurts middle-class taxpayers and workers in both the private sector and the public sector. One reason for this is that public sector unions are vital advocates for public policies that benefit the middle class as a whole, such as raising the minimum wage, protecting Social Security, or fighting for more affordable and accessible health care.

Now we have some fresh evidence that attacks on public sector workers hurt working people and benefit the wealthy — from Wisconsin. As documented by Gordon Lafer, after weakening public sector workers, Wisconsin lawmakers enacted $2 billion worth of tax cuts in 2011-14, paid for by the layoffs and wage and benefit cuts of public employees. Lafer shows that the benefits of these tax cuts skewed dramatically to the rich. The top 1 percent enjoyed an average tax cut of $2,500 per year, over 20 times the $118 cut for the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers. 

Republican champions of bills that would weaken unions clearly hope to make Pennsylvania “the next Wisconsin” in the next several years. Pennsylvania has already cut taxes so much for the wealthy over the past 15 years — as a result of over $3 billion in corporate tax cuts. Those cuts exacerbated the blatant unfairness in Pennsylvania’s upside-down tax system, which requires middle-income families to pay 10.1% of their income in state-and-local taxes, low-income families to pay 12%, and the top 1% to pay only 4.4%.  

In Pennsylvania, the immediate tax issue before us is raising revenue — revenue needed to cover the current costs of education and essential services and to address the state’s investment deficit. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has advanced a creative proposal that would raise $2 billion in revenue. This Fair Share Tax would cut taxes for nearly six in 10 Pennsylvanians, while raising half the new funds from the top 1% and 88% from the top fifth. 

Public sector unions will play a critical role in any successful effort to achieve fairer taxes in Pennsylvania that especially benefit moderate income families concentrated in rural areas and some urban neighborhoods. Those same taxpayers would also benefit disproportionately from the education and other services funded by additional revenue.

So when advocates for laws that would weaken public sector unions tell you that this would benefit most taxpayers and the middle class, don’t believe them. If you care about a fair tax system, a higher minimum wage, quality public school for all, accessible and affordable higher education, health care for the middle class, services for the vulnerable — most government investments that help Pennsylvania thrive and make it more humane — the fight to protect the strength of public sector unions is your fight. If we do follow the lead of Wisconsin in the next several years, it will not be pretty…except for very rich people happy to live in insulated communities unaffected by how others in the state are doing.

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