Senate Healthcare Deal May Save The ACA from Trump’s Illegal Attack

It is no secret that Donald Trump hates the U.S. Constitution as much as he hates people of color, democracy, and women; he has violated it with a frequency that is mind boggling. In fact, his attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act is a glaring example of his disregard for the Constitution that informs his legal obligation is to faithfully execute all valid laws; particularly one that has been upheld twice by the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Article II of the Constitution, all branches of government, including the executive branch, have to “take Care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Trump’s mandate is making sure that the nation’s laws are not only executed in good faith, he has to use his “executive discretion toward that end.” The agencies under Trump are also legally mandated under the Administrative Procedure Actnot to use their power to engage in arbitrary action” that harms a valid federal law.

Trump’s unilateral decision last week to inflict damage on the insurance industry and eliminate healthcare for millions of Americans is an “intentional sabotage of the ACA” and a violation of Trump’s constitutional obligations and those of his sycophants running the Department of Health and Human Services. In a fair society Trump would have been impeached for violating his oath of office and the Constitution, but this is Trump’s America now and the concept of a “fair society” no longer exists.

That being the case, it may explain why a Republican joined with a Democrat in a bipartisan attempt to shore up the cost-sharing subsidies Trump just unilaterally ended as part of another Republican attack on the American people.  Trump’s executive order putting an end to “cost sharing reductions” would have driven the insurance industry to increase premiums by 25 percent as well as make it impossible for low-income families to afford healthcare.

It was another effort by Trump to kill a valid law he claimed was “virtually dead” after his barbaric and illegal executive order ending cost sharing reduction payments. Two members of the Senate reached a bipartisan deal and it isn’t clear if the Republican was involved to save Trump or help the people and insurance industry; it is almost certain it wasn’t to help the people. Republicans never, never ever, do anything to help the people unless they are in the wealthiest 1 percent of income earners.

A short-term (two year) fix to save Americans from suffering a double-digit rate increase and save affordable access to healthcare is the work of Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA). It is noteworthy that Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) teamed up with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) last month to attempt at a similar deal even as Republicans were working to put an end to the ACA. Ms.Collins and Mr. Nelson’s efforts appeared to be genuine efforts to protect the people, not Trump.

On Sunday Senator Collins reiterated what everyone with a pulse knew that what Trump was doing would hurt Americans and the insurance industry. She told CNN’s Jake Tapper:

What the president is doing is affecting the ability of vulnerable people to receive healthcare right now. These certainly are very disruptive moves that will result in smaller numbers of people being insured. That will make it more difficult [for] low-income people to afford their out-of-pocket costs, and that will destabilize the insurance markets.

It is that disruption and destabilization the bipartisan effort hopes to put off for a couple of years if the short term deal manages to squeak through both houses of Congress.  According to Senator Alexander, that is precisely what the intention of the deal is. Only instead of avoiding “disruption and destabilization,” the Tennessee senator claims it is to “avoid chaos.” He said:

In my view, this agreement avoids chaos, and I don’t know a Democrat or a Republican who benefits from chaos.”

According to reports, terrible Trump “appeared” to back the deal he claimed was a “short term solution so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period, it’ll get us over this intermediate hump.” What Trump didn’t say was that without his illegal executive order attempting to kill a valid law, there wouldn’t be a “very dangerous little period.”

However encouraging a sign of bipartisanship to shore up the ACA appears, it is certainly not all good news. The deal includes giving states “more flexibility in the variety of choices they can give to consumers,” and it is a gift to Republican states that want authority to control how healthcare is administered and who they can restrict access to.

For example, to save the cost sharing reductions, Republican states will win free reign to disregard many requirements unique to the Affordable Care Act. Another gift to Republicans is the ability to offer “catastrophic insurance plans” (junk policies) to people of any age. Under the ACA only Americans under the age of 30 can buy worthless policies, or if they received a waiver because they work at jobs paying slave wages.

On the up side, Ms. Murray and Mr. Alexander restored millions of dollars for advertising and outreach activities publicizing the options available during the ACA’s open enrollment period. As part of his illegal and unconstitutional attempt to kill the valid health law, Trump decimated that funding earlier in the year. Senator Alexander “promised” that the deal “will spend about twice as much or more than President Trump wanted to expend.”

Although there was tepid support for “the deal,” there is no guarantee that hard line Republicans in the House and Senate will go along with anything that might possibly extend the life of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, it isn’t entirely clear if any Republican is supporting the “deal” for any other reason than saving the insurance industry or their standard bearer Trump from being in yet another violation of the U.S. Constitution. As anyone with a pulse is likely aware, Republicans have not done anything whatsoever for the health and welfare of the American people and if the deal was simply keeping the cost reduction sharing in place to help Americans afford access to healthcare coverage, it would have been a first.

What isn’t a first is Trump’s blatant disregard for the Constitution. Whether any member of Congress would have invoked Article II to pressure him to rescind his latest illegal executive order is highly doubtful; it is possible, but unlikely. It appears that the only people in Congress that can hold Trump accountable to the law will do anything to protect the corrupt cretin in the Oval Office. In this case it appears that a few Republicans are willing to let the ACA last a bit longer, but not to help the American people. It is more likely they are acting to save the insurance industry and protect Trump from being accused of something he does regularly; violate the U.S. Constitution.

Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

California Bill Bans Employers From Firing Women Who Use Birth Control

Trump’s election was wildly celebrated by evangelical fanatics across the nation, and that cheering was certainly related to their potent new weapon in the Republican war on women. Having an anti-women’s rights and misogynist in the Oval Office is a serious threat to women at the federal level, but possibly more so at the state level. Women who are unfortunate enough to live in GOP controlled states are in serious trouble because with an anti-women’s rights administration appointing an anti-women’s rights religious attorney general, it is  certain the DOJ will always support anti-women legislation. Women who live in solidly red states are in the deepest  trouble, but only if they object to religious Republicans aiding evangelicals’ efforts to control their reproductive health choices.

Women in California are a governor’s signature away from receiving a lifeline in the form of legislation that forbids religious employers from forcing women to sign religious “statements of faith” or “codes of conduct” in order to keep their employment. The legislation also prohibits employers from retaliating against a [female] worker for making reproductive health decisions contrary to religious employers’ objects to. The truth is that the religious fanatics generally object to women making any reproductive health decisions that prevent them from becoming perpetual birth machines.

The legislation, AB 569 (Discrimination: Reproductive Health), was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) who said religious employers have been regularly discriminating against female workers’ based on their reproductive health-care decisions in California. The legislation was sponsored by NARAL, Pro-Choice California, and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and sixteen faith-based groups signed a letter supporting the anti-discrimination legislation.

The legislation simply “protects workers from discrimination or retaliation for using any medications, medical service, or device related to reproductive health.” The legislation is particularly necessary now because a few months ago Trump signed an executive order  greatly “expanding religious imposition” authority while surrounded by that misogynistic group of Catholic nuns still furious that the Affordable Care Act contained contraception coverage; coverage they still assert is a violation of their religious freedom to control women’s reproductive health.

The bill’s sponsor said the legislation was necessary to stop religious employers from “infringing on a woman’s right to make personal decisions about birth control and pregnancy.” Religious employers, and not just “church-affiliated” organizations, are not shy about their intent to control women’s reproductive choices.

It is important to remember that the private company Hobby Lobby is not a “religious organization” or “church-affiliated.” And yet they convinced the conservative wing of the Supreme Court that contraceptives, including birth control pills, are “abortifacients” and tantamount to having an abortion. The Court’s “religious imposition” ruling was founded on Hobby Lobby’s owners’ “religious belief” that contraceptives are abortions, and since that was “their heartfelt religious belief,” they won the legal right to deny women’s access to contraceptives.

Ms. Gonzalez Fletcher wasn’t stretching the truth when she said religious employers discriminate against women’s healthcare decision. For example, a San Diego Christian College required a financial aid specialist to sign a document pledging to not to have premarital sex, and then fired her for “becoming pregnant” and using her “pledge” as proof she violated the employer’s religious code. In liberal San Francisco the Archbishop attempted to force teachers to sign a “code of conduct” pledging they would refrain from using birth control or attempting to conceive by artificial insemination; fortunately for female teachers in San Francisco the attempt failed, but the attempt should have incited a massive outrage. Instead, California Democrats had to pass legislation making those attempts illegal.

The bill’s sponsor said in a statement:

Women in this country have been fired for getting pregnant while unmarried, for using in-vitro fertilization and for other personal reasons related to their own reproductive health. No woman should ever lose a job for exercising her right to decide when, how, or whether to have a family.”

Sadly, the minority religious fanatics running the United States vehemently disagree with the legislation and one of the bill’s primary opponents is a revolting religious outfit, the California Family Council; It is the policy arm of the Family Research Council and its president was livid that pro-life employers may be prohibited from literally forcing their religious beliefs down their employees throats. Seriously, the California Family Council president, Jonathan Keller said:

“Every organization that promotes a pro-life message must be able to require its employees to practice what they [the employers] preach. It is unconscionable for any politician to attempt to abridge this sacrosanct religious liberty by inserting themselves into the employee-employer relationship.”

Keller, like his dirty theocratic ilk, firmly believes that evangelicals’ “sacrosanct religious liberty” includes controlling women by way of controlling their reproductive health. That bizarro-world version of “religious liberty” is fervently embraced by Catholic organizations and they present a monumental threat to women’s ‘personal liberty” to decide when, how, and if they give birth.

Over the last few years Catholic organizations have been buying up hospitals, clinics, medical networks, and physicians groups  and demanding absolute fealty to the Catholic Hospitals Association rules and regulations regarding women’s reproductive health choices. After coming under Catholic ownership, those physicians, hospitals, clinics etc. are required to abide by the United. States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs). The Vatican-inspired ERDs strictly forbid abortions, even in the case of rape or incest,  and forbid access to contraceptives, sterilization procedures, in vitro fertilization or the use of sperm or egg donors.

If California Governor Jerry Brown signs AB-569, women will have a measure of protection from religious employers who believe infringing on a woman’s right to make personal reproductive decisions is just part of their “sacrosanct religious liberty.”

This dirty religious imposition situation is not going to get any better for women  and California women may want to put any wild celebrations on hold. No doubt if Governor Brown signs AB-569 there will be a flurry of church-funded lawsuits to protect employers’ right to impose their religion on their employees to control their reproductive lives. What should give every American pause is that in 21st Century America a state legislature has to pass legislation banning employers from attempting to control a woman’s reproductive life. It should also leave Americans asking what kind of leaders advocate allowing a fanatical religious sect to control women under the aegis of the federal government that is not the Taliban.

h/t Rewire