Archive for August, 2017

Colorado’s Senate GOP spokesman calls fact-check journalism “largely phony”

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

paige on Ingold article 8-2017Colorado’s Republican Senate spokesman, Sean Paige, isn’t shy about expressing himself on Twitter.

So I was surprised that he wouldn’t explain why he took to Twitter to call into question the “objectivity” of John Ingold’s excellent Denver Post article, “Is Medicaid Gobbling Up Colorado’s Budget?

“What’s wrong with The Denver Post article?” I tweeted at Paige, who’s the former Deputy Director of Colorado Americans for Prosperity. “This is one of the most serious topics facing #coleg #copolitics.”

He disappointed me by tweeting back, “I’ll leave the faux media critic shtick 2 U and share what critiques I have with the paper. But I thought the piece was flawed.”

I eventually got more details on Paige’s thinking, because someone passed along a Facebook post by Paige, in which he explained his problems with the piece and with journalists.

Basically, he seems to hold them in very low regard, calling fact checking by reporters a “largely phony” activity carried out mostly by “left-leaning journalists not correcting but counter-spinning points of view they disagree with.” (Now I feel much better about him calling me a “faux media critic.”)

Ingold’s Medicaid piece is an example of the left-leaning, counter-spinning work of the press, writes Paige:

Paige: “The ‘reporter,’ who in this case becomes an advocate disguised as an ‘analyst,’ takes on the question of whether the Medicaid expansion that accompanied Obamacare is really, in fact, devouring a bigger share of Colorado’s budget. But instead of just reporting the facts and the truth — which of course is taking a bigger bite out of the budget, squeezing dollars that could be going to schools, roads, etc. — the writer [Ingold] works to soften that harsh but factual conclusion by mounting a defense of the program and putting the problem in a context that makes it appear like a non-problem. He’s doing what Democrats do, in other words, every time a non-Democrat asks and impertinent question about the blob that’s eating the state budget.” [emphasis added]

So Paige is openly advocating for shallow journalism. He wants Ingold to write that Medicaid costs are increasing and stop there!

Ingold’s sin was to dig into the budget Medicaid numbers, instead of just regurgitating the budget pie charts.

He determined that none of the money being spent on Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion can go to “roads, schools, etc.,” as Paige wants. You’d think this would be important information for Paige, as are the other facts reported by Ingold: The Medicaid budget has, in fact, increased, from 17 percent of the general fund in 2000 to 26 percent today. But how to cut it? Ingold reports that if you took the advice of many conservatives and took away Medicaid from “able-bodied” poor people (most of whom incidentally, are already working), you’d save hundreds of millions of dollars out of a $10 billion general-fund budget.

Ingold tells us where a disproportionate amount of Medicaid spending goes: “People with disabilities and people in nursing homes, for instance, make up 10 percent of the state’s Medicaid enrollment — but account for 42 percent of state Medicaid spending.”

These nonpartisan facts didn’t stick in Paige’s brain, because he accuses Ingold of doing “intellectual contortions” to avoid “reaching a politically incorrect conclusion.”

Since Paige cites no factual errors, it appears he thinks Ingold contorted by failing to report on, as Paige puts it, “the trap [Obamacare] set for the state, by creating the potential for a fiscal crisis when ‘the feds’ either can’t or won’t continue with that arrangement and Obama’s check bounces.”

All of Paige’s hostility toward Ingold seems to stem from Ingold’s decision to leave that dubious notion out of his article. Seriously? Every time reporters write about a federal program with a state impact (military, national parks, roads, BLM, EPA) they should discuss the possibility of Uncle Sam’s check bouncing?

Paige, who didn’t return a call for comment, concludes his post with a broad slam at fact checking, which is one of the most honorable missions of journalism in our age of degraded discourse.

Paige: “I believe ‘yes but’ stories, like the dishonest ‘fact-checking’ exercises that have become such a trend among media outlets, are just another way for opinionated journalists to have the last word, while pretending to be honest brokers of information.”

I have to say, I’m glad he’s not my press secretary. But if he were, and I were his honorable Republican boss, I’d tell Paige to immediately stop blaming Obamacare for Colorado’s budget problems and, instead, come up with reality-based solutions. I doubt a specific list of Medicaid cuts would be among them.

Gardner wants to lower insurance costs, but where’s his plan to do so?

Monday, August 14th, 2017

With U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) first solo town hall in about 500 days coming up tomorrow, it’s worth reviewing how Gardner responded to questions at the skinny town hall he held in Durango, with other lawmakers, Aug. 4.

As expected, Gardner was was asked repeatedly about his votes for Obamacare replacement legislation that would have thrown tens of millions off the Medicaid insurance rolls. Gardner’s core defense, which he’s repeated numerous times, is: He’s mad as hell about health insurance costs and he wants a plan to lower them.

In Durango Gardner said (at 36 minutes 30 seconds here): “What we have right have right now isn’t working… What have to do  is find something that is actually going to do what you and I think both want to do, and that’s find something a way to drive down the costs of healthcare. We have to drive down the costs of health care.”

Everyone would love to bring down the cost of health care, but Gardner has yet to put a proposal on the table that would do this.

For example, the Obamacare replacement bill (BCRA) that Gardner voted for in the U.S. Senate, which was defeated by a 57-43 vote, would have increased insurance rates by 74 percent for market place enrollees above what’s expected under Obamacare, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

So Gardner voted for legislation that would make insurance costs worse! Why? The senate bill wouldn’t have improved market insurance rates for anyone in Denver, Mesa, or Yuma counties.

Another point worth revisiting from Gardner’s skinny town hall was his assertion that he wants to “stabilize the insurance markets.”

In Durango Gardner said (at 36 minutes 30 seconds here): “What we ought to do is stabilize the insurance markets. We we ought to do is put Medicaid in a sustainable fashion, keeping that important safety need. So that it is there for people in this country who truly need it… I believe we can do better. And that’s why I hope we have a bipartisan solution.”

Recall that Gardner helped sabotage Obamacare by stripping from the healthcare law a program to stabilize insurance markets.

Then, Gardner voted for the same program when it was included in Senate repeal-and-replace legislation (BCRA).

Denver Post article should stop conservatives from misrepresenting the Medicaid budget and scapegoating low-income people

Friday, August 11th, 2017

I can’t tell ya how excited I was to read, “Is Medicaid Gobbling Up Colorado’s Budget,” in The Denver Post, and reporter John Ingold did not let me down.

The piece provides a sober look at the repeated Republican allegation, documented multiple times on this blog, that if not for Democrat-led healthcare spending on children, elderly, disabled, and other poor people, there would be no budget crisis and the pavers would likely be doing their thing on every street corner.

Here are some takeaways from Ingold’s piece:

Killing Obamacare won’t free up money for roads, schools, or other wish-list spending.

We already knew this, but Ingold nails the door to the crazyhouse shut by finding out from Henry Sobanet, Hick’s budget director, that the small percentage of Colorado dollars that pay for Obamacare, also called the Medicaid expansion, can’t be used for general budget expenses.

“We could cancel the expansion, and we wouldn’t save a dollar in the general fund,” Sobanet told Ingold.

But something tells me, if I turn on the radio this morning, I’ll still hear a conservative blaming Obamacare for Colorado’s budget crisis.

Expunging “able-bodied” people from Colorado’s Medicaid rolls won’t do much for roads or the budget

That’s because, as Ingold reports, cutting “non-disabled adults” from Medicaid would free up “hundreds of millions of dollars” out of a $10 billion budget:

…Colorado could remove all non-disabled adults from the program — cutting its Medicaid population almost in half —  and the savings to use elsewhere in the budget would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, not in the billions of dollars. (The state’s total general fund budget this year is $10.6 billion.)

And if you cut non-disabled people from Medicaid, you’re left with the collateral social costs of dealing with the lives you’ve blown up, not to mention the weight on your conscience from your decision to reject this group of people, who mostly the working poor.

Colorado’s Medicaid costs are increasing, but actual-factual ways to bring down costs look to be cruel and illusive. 

Ingold reports, “Tackling bigger areas of general-fund Medicaid spending means focusing on other groups. People with disabilities and people in nursing homes, for instance, make up 10 percent of the state’s Medicaid enrollment — but account for 42 percent of state Medicaid spending.”

Who are the “able-bodied” adults whom conservatives want to kick off Medicaid?

This question is left unanswered in Ingold’s otherwise excellent article, and it’s a seriously important question, because the phrase “able-bodied” has become a buzzword among conservatives at the top of the heap, like U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, to talk-radio hosts, and others at the bottom of the heap, for attacking Medicaid recipients. U.S. Rep. Ken Buck expressed the view clearly when he told The Boulder Daily Camera: “I’m not in favor of able-bodied people with no child care responsibilities getting squat.”

I’ll write more about this later, but it turns out, in short, able-bodied Medicaid recipients are truly poor people, most of whom are actually working.

In fact, 75 percent of the adults who got health insurance under Obamacare, about 400,000 in Colorado, who make up a sizable chunk of the “able-bodied” Medicaid group, are working. For a single adult, to be eligible for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, you have to earn less than $16,00. For a family of four, it’s about $32,000.

Bottom line: This article should help fact-conscious politicians have more informed debates about Medicaid spending in Colorado. And it should help stop the stomach-turning scapegoating of low-income people that we hear from conservatives.

 

Coffman’s support for killing Obamacare via repeal-later raises questions

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Recall that Congressman Mike Coffman of Aurora promised to vote for the first House measure to kill Obamacare, a measure that would have taken away health insurance from millions of people.

Then he voted against the second House bill, which also would have pushed millions off the health insurance rolls, and it seemed his first promised vote disappeared.

Now it turns out that he’d have also voted for the repeal-later measure, which would leave an unknown number millions with no health insurance.

Asked by 9News’ Marshall Zelinger Aug. 6 (at 1:30 here) if he’d support a “straight repeal,” Coffman replied:

Coffman: “If you said, ‘Well, okay, we’re going to repeal,’ and the date certain for the repeal was long enough out, where it wouldn’t disrupt the markets, and it gave Congress adequate time, I think that would be appropriate.”

It’s worth getting more details from Coffman, whose office doesn’t return my calls, in case it comes up again.

Why does he think there could be agreement on an Obamacare replacement in the future when there was no agreement in seven years?

When he says he wants a date-certain for an Obamacare repeal to be “far enough out,” does he mean longer than seven years? How long?

Why wouldn’t the uncertainty of not having a replacement in hand disrupt the markets no matter how “far out” the repael date is, given the inability of Republicans to agree on a replacement in seven years?

Those are a few of the questions for Coffman.

An early version of this post incorrectly characterized Coffman’s proposal as repeal-now-and-replace-later.