Tag Archives: Dean Heller

Here’s What Senator Heller Is About To Support

The GOP controlled Senate is trying to fast-track a backroom health insurance bill which contains some exceedingly unpopular provisions, including the following:

Age Tax:  A provision gives insurance corporations the power to charge up to 5 times more for people aged 50 to 65.  It is estimated that premiums could rise as much as $8400 for a person 64 years old.

Ending ACA Protections:  The bill ends ACA protections, and allows insurance corporations to sell policies with lifetime and annual limits, policies Consumer Reports and other consumer protection organizations have categorized as Junk Insurance.

Cuts critical coverage: The bill in its current form allows insurance corporations to refuse to cover maternity care, substance abuse, and opioid addiction treatment. If a person has a pre-existing condition the insurance corporation could refuse to provide coverage for the prescription medication or services needed.

Benefits insurance corporations at the expense of the policy holders.  Insurers could use more of a person’s premium payments for profits if the states opt out of the medical loss ratio rules; current rules have reduced costs and recovered nearly $3 billion for millions of families.

Ends Medicaid Expansion: Ends Medicaid expansion and guts Medicaid help for senior citizens, children, and people with disabilities.

Caps Medicaid: Places caps on Medicaid which endangers 1 out of every 5 Americans.

Cuts care:  The bill in its current form cuts care for nursing home patients, Veterans’ care, care for people with disabilities, and care for those with opioid addiction.

Tax Cuts for the Wealthy: The bill in its current form provides large tax cuts for wealthy Americans and for corporations.

 “A study by the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group, found that when the bill would take full effect in 2022, 40 percent of the benefits from the tax cuts would go to the richest one percent of the country. Those households would receive an average tax cut of $37,000, or 2.1 percent of their incomes. People in the lowest income bracket would get an average tax cut of $150, an amount that is just 0.9 percent of their earnings.” [NYT March 15, 2017]

It’s hard to imagine a collection of provisions such as this could even be remotely classified as “moderate.” It’s simply window dressing on the egregious House version of the bill.  Expect some tip of the hat to “protecting those with pre-existing conditions,” with a major loophole to allow the insurance corporations to charge higher premiums for those who have pre-existing conditions.  Also in the window dressing category — we’re going to cut Medicaid assistance to the states, but we’re not going to do it for X number of years (the current X = 7).  A cut is a cut no matter when it happens.

Let Senator Dean Heller know how you feel about his support for this bill. Soon, before the Senate has the chance to ram this through without public hearings, and with a limited amount of time for representatives and citizens to review the provisions.

H/T to Andy Slavit for his succinct summation of the bill, from which this post is taken.  Follow him on Twitter for more information!

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Filed under Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Politics

Please, No More Mr. Moderate

Here’s the beltway narrative du jour:

“Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed phasing out higher federal payments for people who sign up for Medicaid under the health law’s expansion in three years. Ohio Republican Rob Portman and others such as Nevada’s Dean Heller are pushing for a seven-year phaseout ending in 2027. Senators also are debating how much to reduce federal funding for Medicaid as compared to current law.”

Cutting to the chase, there’s nothing “moderate” about support for dropping federal payments for Medicaid — in three years, in seven years, or even in ten years.  It’s almost tantamount to arguing that Poison X is better than Poison Y because X won’t kill you for another 7 years.

There’s also a pattern to Senator Heller’s carefully crafted media image.  First, he expresses “great concern” about Republican legislation; then, he comes out against the legislation “in its present form.”  When the time comes for a vote on the bill Senator Heller suddenly finds his “concerns” have been addressed and he can support the measure.  There are clocks in this house that don’t function with this kind of regularity.

On May 4, 2017 Senator Heller is reported by the Reno Gazette Journal as “opposed to the Obamacare repeal in its present form.”  Notice that prescient loophole — “in its present form,” because it’s guaranteed that the “form” will change just enough for Senator Heller to announce his support when the roll is called.   McConnell is pushing for a vote before the end of the month:

“McConnell and his leadership team hope to have a preliminary framework submitted to CBO by the end of the week and a floor vote by month’s end, Republican sources said. On Tuesday, the Senate Budget Committee said the House bill cleared the Senate’s stringent reconciliation rules, allowing the House to formally send the bill to the Senate. Otherwise, the House would have had to vote again on a modified bill, further derailing the repeal effort.”

There are some ironic touches in the GOP controlled Senate — the Republicans once cried into their towels that the Affordable Care Act was jammed through the Congress, this has been thoroughly debunked:

“This is a bizarre description of a bill that spent a year working through Congress, eventually passing numerous committees, two full House majority votes, one Senate supermajority vote and, in fact, many, many, many hearings. While the law did use a budget-reconciliation bill to enact minor fiscal adjustments, a maneuver that Republicans decried as akin to a death blow to the Republic, in fact its major provisions all received 60 votes in the Senate. The bill was evaluated by the independent Congressional Budget Office, and the projected premium levels in the new exchanges turned out to be accurate, and its predictions of overall federal health spending turned out to be too pessimistic, as the federal government is now spending less on health care with Obamacare than it was projected to spend without it. The bill was enacted in a democratic, deliberate, transparent, and excruciatingly slow fashion.”

In contrast to the “excruciatingly slow” enactment of the ACA the current Senate is (1) seen to be fond of that budget reconciliation procedure; (2) holding the work sessions on the bill behind closed doors; and (3) has not scheduled any hearings on the bill to date. Not to put too fine a point to it, the Republicans are doing exactly what they falsely accused the Democrats of doing — and thus far getting away with it.

Senator Heller’s constituents can contact his office at 202-224-6244 (DC office); 702-388-6605 (Las Vegas Office), or 775-686-5729 (Reno Office)  Senator Heller’s aide assigned to health care issues is Rachel Green.

 

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Filed under Health Care, health insurance, Heller, nevada health, Nevada politics, Politics

Follow the Money: The Internet No-Privacy Act in the 115th Congress

The Verge offers a public service for American voters, compiling the votes on the Internet No-Privacy Bill HJRes 43 and the money received from Big ISPs.  Thus we discover that Senator Dean Heller received $78,950 from industry sources, which doesn’t put him “up there” with the $251,110 given to Senator Mitch McConnell, and the $215,000 awarded to Senator John Thune, but nevertheless a nice contribution.

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) received a tidy $22,000 contribution from the industry coffers.

What the resolution does is muddy the waters about enforcement of FCC rules, Verge explains:

“That brings us to the privacy rules. Through a rarely invoked law, Congress was able to take back the privacy rules set by Wheeler, effectively undoing his interpretation of what the Telecom Act says about customer data. That leaves a gap: we don’t know how Chairman Pai will interpret the law, or what rules he’ll set. He might replace them with looser rules that take after the FTC or wait to roll back the Title II interpretation overall. But until he acts, we can’t say for sure what carriers will be allowed to do.

At the same time, the absence of firm rules could be the whole point. Pai is a free-market conservative, and believes that companies will typically find the optimal solution without government interference. Holding off on setting new rules could be right in line with that philosophy, leaving companies to make their own judgments on customer data without fear that they’ll be punished for overstepping FCC guidelines. Unfortunately for privacy-minded consumers, that would leave few legal protections for private data shared with carriers.”

That last line is rather chilling.

What the advertisers want is a land amenable to “granular personalized targeting,” read advertising directed to specific consumers for specific products and services.  Those advertisers can just as easily be political groups and organizations.

The final irony is that Our information may be aggregated and sold to the highest bidders, but members of Congress are protected.  The ‘yes’ votes may be saying, in essence, “I’ve got my privacy, you try to get yours.”

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, Internet, Politics, privacy

SJR 34 and Your Internet Privacy

The purpose of SJR 34 (and HJR 86) was simple: To allow Internet Service Providers to collect and sell your Internet browsing history.  Not only did Senator Dean Heller support this, he signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill on March 7, 2017, one of 23 sponsors to do so.  Who’s impacted by this? Anyone who links through Comcast (17 million customers), AT&T (another 17 million customers), Time Warner Cable (add another 14 million customers), Century Link (additional 6.4 million customers), Charter (another 5 million customers), and a host of smaller providers. [Ecom] (See also PEcom)

Nevada customers of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox and others, are also among those whose private browsing history can be tracked, collected, and sold off. [into link]

It seems bad enough to have the ISPs sell off information about browsing history to advertisers, who after browsing one day for sneakers, would want to be bombarded by advertising for the next year with sneaker ads?  Browsed for ‘best garden supplies?’ Expect ads for plant food, fertilizers, spades, and wheelbarrows for eternity? Then the scenarios become more pernicious.

Browse for information on asthma? Not only is the human browser now in line for a multitude of ads for medications, but there’s a hint here that some personal medical history may have been collected and sold.  The same issue might be raised about those looking up symptoms and treatments for everything from pediatric illnesses to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Thus far we’re only talking about the initial sales, and the use of the collections by commercial advertisers. However, there’s a question about what constitutes a buyer for the information?

The buyer might not have to be, for example, the Interpublic Group of New York City, one of the nation’s largest advertising firms. Could the buyer be the WPP Group of London, UK? Or, the Dentsu Group, of Tokyo. Could the buyer be RMAA, the largest advertising firm in Russia? Is there any protection in the bill to prevent the secondary sale of browser histories from an advertising agency to a data management and analysis company? What we have herein is a bill to allow the transfer of massive amounts of valuable data collected from individuals in the United States to the highest bidder, with little or no consideration of the after effects.

Gee, let’s hypothesize that I’m a foreign power with some experience dabbling in US state and national elections.  Let’s also assume that the foreign power is familiar with inserting ‘bots’ to drive traffic to particular websites, or insert fake news, confirmation bias ‘news,’ and other practices into the research patterns of American Internet users. What do I want? I want data on where those people ‘go’ on the Internet; the better I know my ‘target’ the better I can hone my message. Do those who go to Senator Bilgewater’s site also tend to go to sites concerning wildlife preservation?  If I can put these two bits of information together I can more effectively insert advertising either for or against the Senator. I can more effectively insert phony information into my messaging for the supporters or opponents of Bilgewater.  In short, I can ‘dabble’ more efficiently. Even more bluntly, have we handed our adversaries more ammunition for their advertising and propaganda guns?

The Senate twin in the House (HJR 86)/SJR 34 passed on March 28, 2017, only Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of the bill; Representatives Kihuen, Titus, and Rosen voted against it. [RC 202]

At the risk of facetiousness  on a serious topic, when Jill, of downtown East Antelope Ear, NV, goes online to search for a bargain on bed sheets, does she find herself viewing a plethora of ads for sex toys, a result of Jack’s periodic perusal of pornography sites? Would a simple search for high thread count sheets yield the splitting of those sheets in the Jack and Jill household? At least Jack and Jill will know whom to call about the issue — Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei, who thought selling browser histories to be a grand idea at the time.

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, Internet, media, Nevada politics, Politics, privacy, Republicans, Titus

Gorsuch’s Record Invites Some Phone Calls

The 45 Administration would very much like to have Judge Gorsuch confirmed as a member of the US Supreme Court. The judge for his part has been loathe to offer any more than Name, Rank, and Serial Number during his confirmation hearings. Not that this tactic is anything new in the process.  Famous for his Hobby Lobby decision, his dissent in TransAm Trucking v. ARB-DOl, (PDF) is attracting attention.  This is the now infamous Frozen Trucker Case in which Judge Gorsuch opined that taking such things as common sense, and legislative intent, were extraneous and if to operate a truck means to drive a truck (and its trailer with the frozen brakes) then that’s all there is to say on the subject. It’s interesting to note that Judge Gorsuch was dismissive of reinterpreting the wording of a statute, while interpreting the wording of a statute in such a way as to defend the indefensible actions of the trucking company.  In less complimentary terms, the Gorsuch rule appears to be an interpretation is acceptable if and only if that reading agrees with his interpretation.

There is still time to reach Nevada’s Senators, Heller (702-338-6605) (775-686-5729) and Cortez Masto (702-388-5020) (775-686-5750) (202-224-3542) on this subject.  Little wonder that Democratic Senators interviewed on the topic have said things like “his answers are unacceptable,” and “his answers are evasive,” and “his answers have been less than forthcoming…”

Judge Gorsuch needs to supply more than the Alito/Roberts song and dance routine to the Judiciary Committee, and the Senators need to attend to the fundamental problems with his nomination to the highest court in the land. His responses so far have been noncommittal and apolitical, but his decisions have been those of an activist ultra conservative. Actions do, indeed, speak louder than words.

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Filed under conservatism, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans, Supreme Court

Heller Takes The Easy Road: Cadillac Health Plan Target

Nevada Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) took aim at one of the more vulnerable (and questionable) parts of the Affordable Care Act as his contribution to the Republican Repeal – and eventually replace with something we don’t know what – plan.   [LVSun]

First, a “cadillac plan” is an exceptionally generous health care plan offered by some employers.  There’s good and bad news herein.  On the bright side, the plans offer very full coverage.  On the darker side, maybe there’s a bit too much coverage, and that has implications for restraining health care costs.

At this point it’s necessary to focus on what’s is important for the employees. Is it the continuation of the generous health care coverage OR is it health care cost containment. 

The Herring & Lentz report (2011) describes the cost and tax issues involved in summary form:

“One controversial aspect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the provision to impose a 40% excise tax on insurance benefits above a certain threshold, commonly referred to as the “Cadillac tax.” We use the Employer Health Benefits Survey, sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust, to examine the number and characteristics of plans that likely will be affected. We estimate that about 16% of plans will incur the tax upon implementation in 2018, while about 75% of plans will incur the tax a decade later due to the indexing of the tax thresholds with the Consumer Price Index. If the Cadillac tax is ultimately implemented as written, we find that it will likely reduce private health care benefits by .7% in 2018 and 3.1% in 2029, and will likely raise about $931 billion in revenue over the ensuing 10-year budget window from 2020 to 2029.”

Senator Heller calls this “onerous,” however the Senator has often called any form of regulation on the insurance and banking sectors “onerous.”  Thus, it’s helpful to remember why this element was inserted in the bill in the first place.

Consider the following examples:

1) A patient with an extravagant health plan, often dubbed a Cadillac plan, goes to the doctor’s office. She’s told by her doctor that she should take a bunch of tests, even though the tests seem unnecessary. The patient knows most the tests are unnecessary, but she figures that since her health insurance covers everything, it’s better to be safe than sorry — it’s not like it’s costing her anything except a little time, anyway.

2) Another patient with a less generous health plan goes to the doctor’s office. She’s also told by her doctor that she should take a bunch of tests, even though the tests seem unnecessary. But this time the patient also knows her health insurance will charge her a bunch of extra fees for each test. Wanting to avoid a lot of costs, she decides to talk to her doctor about what tests are actually necessary, and she declines to take any of the tests that she and her doctor decide are unnecessary.

The Cadillac tax attempts to move more health plans from example No. 1 to example No. 2. [Vox]

The Cadillac Plans are popular – why not? Most medical costs are covered.  And, therein, as the examples suggest, lies the problem.  The employer can boast to prospective employees that “everything’s covered” in our health care plan; the employee can spend as much on medical care as is practical and then some; and, unions representing employees can boast about their prowess in gaining exemplary health care insurance coverage.  However, none of these positions suggests any form of health care cost containment.

There is no incentive built into the Cadillac  health insurance plans to contain rising health care costs. 

There are a couple of ways to address health care cost containment – none of which are evident in the Cadillac plans — (1) there could be limits on coverage, the bug-bear of the junk insurance policies sold before the ACA which put a lifetime limit on health care insurance coverage; met quickly if the person had a serious illness or accident; (2) there could be limits on the type of coverage sold to policy holders – unpopular with those who want (and can afford) the addition of vision, dental, etc. etc. (3) put an excise tax on the Cadillac plans to encourage employers and other policy holders to move from over-generous plans to more cost sharing models.  The third option was the intent of the ACA.

Repealing the excise tax on the Cadillac plans would completely remove any incentive for cost controls in this part of the ACA.

One of the trickier issues the Republicans will have to address in their Repeal and Replace operations is how to contain rising health care costs.  Repealing the “onerous” excise tax will eliminate one element of health care cost containment in the ACA. So, what do Senator Heller and other Republicans want as a way of replacement?  Junk insurance? Surely not. Limits on policy provisions for individual policy holders? Doesn’t sound very “freedom” or “customer oriented” to me at least.

Thus, the question Senator Heller, and others in his party, must face is how to “repeal” the ACA without opening the floodgates to rising health care costs?  Has anyone ask him about the implications of his suggestion?

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Filed under Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada politics

Obstruction By Blue Slip: GOP assault on Federal Courts

Heller Blue Slip

Senator Dean Heller’s (R-NV) slip is showing, or rather it isn’t showing up. President Obama nominated Ann Rachel Traum to the Federal District Court (Nevada) on April 28, 2016.  So, where’s the blue form from the Senator’s office indicating the Judiciary Committee should move forward with this nomination?

One theory has it that not only are Senate Republicans blocking a Supreme Court nomination but they’re doing it down the line, right down to the overworked, understaffed federal district courts level.

“There are lots of GOP senators doing this. Sen. Dan Coats (Ind.) hasn’t turned in his blue slip for his judicial nominee, Myra Selby. Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) haven’t turned in their blue slips for their nominee, Abdul Kallon. Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) haven’t turned in blue slips for their nominees, either. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t turned in his blue slip for his nominee, Lisabeth Hughes.”  [HuffPo]

It isn’t like the current nominee isn’t qualified. The resume is remarkable:

“Anne Rachel Traum is a Professor of Law at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law.  She is currently on leave from the law school and serving as Special Counsel in the Office for Access to Justice at the United States Department of Justice.  Professor Traum joined the University of Nevada-Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law faculty in 2008, and she has served as the Director of the Appellate Clinic since 2009.  She also served as the Associate Dean for Experiential Legal Education from 2013 to 2015.  From 2002 to 2008, Professor Traum served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada from 2000 to 2002, while on detail from the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice, where she worked from 1998 to 2000.  She began her legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  Professor Traum received her J.D. Order of the Coif and cum laude from the University of California, Hastings College of Law in 1996 and her A.B. with honors from Brown University in 1991.” [WH

This obstructionism is egregious on so many levels.  Politically, it’s the equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum – if we can’t have exactly the courts we want then we don’t want any.  This, in turn leads to the next layer of political idiocy.

It doesn’t do to complain about the time and expense required to litigate cases and at the same time keep courts short handed such that they cannot schedule hearings on a timely basis. This affects both plaintiffs and defendants in both civil and criminal cases.  Nor, are we merely speaking of the vacancies at the top of the judicial roster.

“While Senate battles over nominees to the Supreme Court and appeals courts draw more headlines, the less-noticed openings are increasing workloads and delaying trials in federal courts that take in hundreds of thousands of cases a year — compared with the 80 or so cases heard by the nation’s highest court.

Of 673 U.S. district court judgeships, 67 — or 10 percent — are vacant under President Obama, nearly twice as many as at this point of Republican George W. Bush’s presidency and 50 percent higher than at this time under Bill Clinton (D) or George H.W. Bush (R), according to data kept by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The number of federally designated district court “judicial emergencies” — where seats carry particularly heavy caseloads or have been open for an extended period — is also roughly double what it was in May 2008 and May 2000, according to the administrative office.

Heavy caseloads in some places slow resolution of everything from commercial disputes to workplace discrimination claims to federal regulatory challenges, in which district court rulings are often the last word because most are not appealed.” [JDnom] (emphasis added)

Consider this last paragraph carefully.  “Commercial disputes” is one category worthy of attention – someone, somewhere, who is engaged in interstate commerce may not be getting paid in a timely fashion because there is no judge with docket time available to hear the case?  Someone, somewhere would like to challenge a federal regulation, but hasn’t the “float” required to engage in protracted litigation because of the docket backlog?

We do have a constitutional guarantee of a “speedy and public trial,” under the provisions of the 6th Amendment, but this applies only to criminal prosecutions – not to those commercial disputes, discrimination claims (and defenses), regulatory challenges, and other civil litigation.  We have a backlog, and it’s getting deeper:

“Combined filings for civil cases and criminal defendants in the U.S. district courts decreased by 28,836 (down 7 percent) to 361,689. Terminations once again held steady, declining by 2,634 (down less than 1 percent) to 347,828. Because filings exceeded terminations, the total for pending cases and defendants rose by 12,268 (up 3 percent) to 438,808.” [UScourts.gov] (emphasis added)

Pending civil cases are reported up by 5%, to 340,925 nationwide.  And, still the Senate Republicans will not act.

Senator Heller, Where is your blue slip?

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Filed under Heller, Judicial, Nevada politics, Politics