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Winners and Losers on Obamacare’s Supreme Court Victory

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Republicans are denouncing the 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court and Democrats are celebrating a victory where many had grudgingly assumed defeat was inevitable.  Both party’s spin doctors are telling this tale in a way they believe will advance their separate agendas.  This was the most important Supreme Court case in 40 years and almost every American will be affected by the shock waves from this decision……whether they realize it or not.

The big winner of course was President Barack H Obama.  The President admittedly inherited two wars in the Middle East, a housing market collapse, and a recession.  That said, he staked his presidency and all the political capital and muscle he had to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and it cost him the House of Representatives.  If after all of that the U.S. Supreme Court had told him that the entire act was unconstitutional (as many of us and four Supreme Court Justices believed it was), that would have been (rightly) seen as a sad spectacle and a waste of time.  Now his Presidency has an actual accomplishment that it can point to…..other than a successful mission by SEAL team 6.  This election MAY become a referendum on whether or not we want Obamacare; but if Obamacare had lost Thursday it would have been a referendum on the economy and President Obama would have lost that argument.  BIG win for Obama.

The pharmaceutical companies were big winners.  Obama needed corporate allies to push Obamacare through the Congress and after the insurance companies balked at his proposals the drug companies came forward with millions of $$$s in advertising and lobbyists in exchange for not getting saddled with government price controls on their merchandise.  Their core business is safe and the costly Medicare Perscription Drug Benefit survived untouched by Obamacare.  Score it a win for big Pharma.

Persons with preexisting conditions were winners.  Pre-Obamacare you paid for insurance when you were young and healthy so you could get insurance if your health changed for the worse and preexisting conditions meant you were turned down by health insurance.  Now a 45 year old 330 pound diabetic who just had a heart attack will be able to get health insurance and can’t be turned down (beginning in 2014).  Now it means rates will go up for everybody on the plan, but score it a win for unhealthy people.

Slackers won big.  In the America of long, long ago, you turned 18 and you went to college, joined the military, or left to start a career.  That appears to have changed and now 20 somethings are playing video games on their parents couch and the government is now requiring that insurers cover “children” until they are 26 on their parents’ healthcare insurance.  Again the other people paying for family coverage on the plan will be paying for this, but slackers everywhere can rejoice.

This was a big win for news talk radio.  Nothing drives ratings on conservative talk radio shows like President Obama messing with your healthcare.

This was a win for Romney.  This just went from being an election to being a crusade.  If conservative won’t reach for their checkbooks to defeat a President who has expanded federal power more than anybody since LBJ in the 60s; then they really can’t call themselves conservatives anymore.

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The states.  Thursday was not a total victory for team Obama.  The Court agreed that the federal government can not force the states to expand Medicaid to take in millions of the uninsured.  Dozens (if not all) the states will opt out of the Medicaid expansion.  They simply don’t have the funds in their budgets.

That is pretty much it for the winners……now let’s take a look at the losers.

Insurance companies.  After today, the only business more regulated than insurance companies may be nuclear power plant operators.  The government is regulating what insurers can sell, how they market it, profit margins, administrative costs, executive bonuses and has created a situation of adverse selection where the sick, the diseased, the unhealthy have to be insured, while raising rates so that the young and the healthy have to subsidize the less healthy on the plan.  Health insurers were big losers.

Doctors.  Obamacare is enormously unpopular with physicians.  Obamacare cuts what doctors get paid, strips them of their right to not participate in procedures that violate their consciences, and raises their regulatory burden without giving them what they wanted most…..tort reform.  Expect thousands to leave the field.

The uninsured.  Obamacare was supposed to decrease the ranks of the uninsured.  When the Supremes tossed out the demand that states expand Medicaid to include many more adults it meant that 30 million who would have been insured under Obamacare likely won’t be and now they will have to pay more on their income taxes too.

The Tea party.  Obamacare birthed the modern tea party movement.  They exist to wage war on Obamacare and the growing state apparatus.  They failed to stop it in 2010.  They failed to get it repealed in 2011 and the Court rejected their views on the subject again.  The tea party may be losers today….but they have not lost this war yet.

Medical device makers just got slammed with a new tax so they are among the losers.

The elderly will see their access to doctors decreased and eventually they will receive less and less care as the government seizes more power over senior healthcare and increasingly life extending treatments will be harder to get.

Business.  Obamacare slaps business and industry with greater costs and makes insurance less affordable.

Religious institutions.  Their fight for the preservation of religious liberty goes on even though it appears that this court is firmly in the Obama camp.  By the time their case is finally heard Obama could have packed the court with another Kagan or Sotomajor.

The currently insured.  Rates are going up and the people who currently have health insurance are going to have to absorb the costs.  A lot of employers will drop coverage and pay the fine rather than pay increasing premiums.

The taxpayers.  The government is spending $1.3 trillion a year more than it takes in now and now the government is adding new entitlements and more bureaucracies.  Obamacare is adding billions more to the $15.9 trillion national debt.  Somebody will pay for this at some point in time and the resulting combination of budget cutting and increased taxes will be painful for all of us.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with six and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook.

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Crime

Three more prison workers test positive for COVID-19, testing of inmates remains low

Eddie Burkhalter

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Two workers at the Bullock Correctional Facility and one employee at the Kilby Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections said Thursday evening.

The latest confirmed cases among staff bring the total of COVID-19 cases among prison workers to 58. Twelve of those workers have since recovered, the Alabama Department of Corrections said in a press release Thursday. 

ADOC is investigating to determine whether inmates or staff had “direct, prolonged exposure to these staff members,” according to the release. Anyone exposed to the infected staff members will be advised to contact their health care providers and self-quarantine for two weeks, according to the release. 

The latest case at Bullock prison makes 5 workers there who’ve tested positive for coronavirus, and the worker at Kilby prison also became the fifth employee at that facility with a confirmed case of the virus.

There have been confirmed COVID-19 cases in 18 of the state’s 27 facilities, with the Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County with the most infected workers, with 12 confirmed cases among staff.

As of noon Thursday, there were no additional confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates, according to ADOC. Of the 11 confirmed cases among inmates, two remain active, according to the department. 

The extent of the spread of the virus among inmates is less clear, however, due to a lack of testing. Just 155 inmates of approximately 22,000 had been tested as of Tuesday, according to the department. Test results for six inmates were still pending. 

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An ADOC spokeswoman was working to respond to APR’s questions sent Wednesday asking whether the department had plans to broaden testing among inmates to include asymptomatic people, but APR had not received responses as of Thursday evening. 

ADOC this week completed installation of infrared camera systems at major facilities that can detect if a person attempting to enter or exit the facility is running a temperature greater than 100 degrees, according to the release Thursday. 

“This added layer of screening increases accuracy of readings while reducing the frequency with which individuals must be in close proximity at points of entry/exit,” the release states.

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Elections

League of Women Voters of Alabama sue over voting amid COVID-19 pandemic

Eddie Burkhalter

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The League of Women Voters of Alabama on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and several Montgomery County election officials asking the court to expand Alabama’s absentee voting and relax other voting measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The nonprofit is joined in the suit by 10 plaintiffs who range in age from 60 to 75, many of whom have medical conditions that put them at greater risk for serious complications or death from COVID-19. 

“Voting is a right, not a privilege, and elections must be safe, accessible, and fairly administered,” the League of Women Voters of Alabama said in a press release Thursday. “Alabama’s Constitution specifically requires that the right to vote be protected in times of ‘tumult,’ clearly including the current pandemic.” 

Currently, to vote absentee in Alabama, a person must send a copy of their photo ID and have their ballot signed by a notary or two adults. The lawsuit asks the court to require state officials to use emergency powers to waive the notary or witness requirement, the requirement to supply a copy of a photo ID and to extend no-excuse absentee voting into the fall. 

Among the plaintiffs is Ardis Albany, 73, of Jefferson County who has an artificial aortic valve, according to the lawsuit. 

“Because she fears exposing herself to COVID-19 infection, Ms. Albany has already applied for an absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020, general election,” the complaint states. “Her application checked the box for being out of county on election day, and she is prepared to leave Jefferson County on election day if necessary to vote an absentee ballot.” 

Another plaintiff, 63-year-old Lucinda Livingston of Montgomery County suffers from heart and lung problems and has been sequestered at home since March 17, where she lives with her grandson, who’s under the age of five, according to the complaint. 

“She fears acquiring COVID-19, given her physiological pre-morbidity, and she fears spreading the virus to her grandson at home,” the complaint states. “She has never voted an absentee ballot, but she wishes to do so in the elections held in 2020. She does not have a scanner in her home, cannot make a copy of her photo ID, and has no way safely to get her absentee ballot notarized or signed by two witnesses.” 

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In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Ivey pushed the Republican runoff election back until July 14. Although Merrill has allowed those who may be concerned about voting in person in the runoff to vote absentee by checking a box on the ballot that reads “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”

Merril has not extended that offer for voters in the municipal and presidential elections in November, however. 

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama continue to rise, while testing for the virus has remained relatively flat in recent weeks. 

“We’re extraordinarily concerned about the numbers that we have been seeing,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking during a press briefing Thursday. 

Harris said the department continues to see community spread of the virus and have identified several hotspots. He’s concerned that the public isn’t taking the virus seriously or following recommendations to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing, he said Thursday. 

“One hundred years ago the nonpartisan League of Women Voters was founded to protect and preserve the right to vote and the integrity of the electoral process,” said Barbara Caddell, President of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, in a statement. “The unexpected risks posed by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID19) challenge our election system to the utmost.  Today, we ask that Alabama’s courts use Alabama’s laws to make it safe and possible for all citizens to vote.”

The League of Woman Voters of Alabama’s lawsuit is similar to a suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program which asks the court to require state officials to implement curbside voting for at-risk citizens during the coronavirus pandemic and to remove requirements for certain voter IDs and witnesses requirements.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a brief in that suit that states the department doesn’t believe Alabama’s law that requires witnesses for absentee ballots violates the Voting Rights Act.

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Health

Two patients at Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center die from COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Two patients at the state’s Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center have died from COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Mental Health confirmed to APR on Thursday. 

There remained 17 active coronavirus cases among patients at the state-run facility, said ADMH spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert in a message Thursday. 

One patient at the facility has recovered from the virus, Valdes-Hubert said. Two nurses at the facility have also tested positive for the virus, Valdes-Hubert said on May 15. 

There were no confirmed cases at ADMH’s two other facilities in Tuscaloosa, Bryce Hospital and the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility as of Thursday, Valdes-Hubert said.

Among the preventative measures being taken at the Mary Starke Harper facility are staff temperature checks and screening for other symptoms, and workers are required to wear FDA approved masks, Valdes-Hubert previously said.

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News

Inmate at Elmore prison dies after attack from another inmate

Eddie Burkhalter

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A man serving at the Elmore Correctional Facility died Wednesday after being assaulted by another inmate, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday. 

Jamaal King, 33, died Tuesday from injuries he received after an attack from another inmate, ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Banks wrote in a message to APR.  

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against King by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” Banks said in the message. 

King was serving a 22-year sentence after being convicted of murder, according to ADOC. His exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

 

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