After yesterday’s town hall in Concordia, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill briefly took questions from media.
…Question: You like the individual mandate?
Senator McCaskill: Uh, I mean, the mandate obviously is the most unpopular part, but, um, when you ask people if they want to do away with preexisting conditions they say, well of course, that’s so unfair. Well, who’s gonna buy insurance before they’re sick. You can’t do away with preexisting conditions unless you set up an environment where everyone has insurance. The nice thing about this is it’s not gonna be government run, it’s not gonna be government policies. People are gonna be able to shop, make choices. And if they can’t afford it we’re gonna help ’em by making it more affordable with some help from the government. So I think it’s, is it a perfect solution? No. But it’s the best solution I think that anybody’s come up with to an untenable spiral of healthcare costs in this country.
Question: Let me change, que, and he’s got, um, you did get a couple questions that I saw on immigration. [inaudible] a huge issue in Kansas in the Republican primary. Chris Kobach is now the nominee for [Kansas] Secretary of State, I’m sure you’ve heard of his name, Claire. Give me some sense of whether you think immigration is going to, it was a big issue in oh-six, then not so much in oh-eight, now back in ten it looks like a huge issue [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: Well [crosstalk]…
Question: …that people are really worried about.
Senator McCaskill: …I think people want the laws to be enforced. I think it’s just that simple. And I think we, um, need to make a priority. What I have tried to do since the day I’ve gotten here is be consistent with what I’ve said during the campaign. I’m gonna go to Washington and do everything I can [inaudible] the laws we have in place enforced and to go after employers who knowingly hire [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: …illegal immigrants.
Question: Which is kind of the Democratic approach.
Senator McCaskill: well, and, I think it’s a republican approach, too, by some people who now realize [crosstalk]…
Question: Their deal is build the wall. And the Arizona law.
Senator McCaskill: Yeah, well, first of all. [crosstalk]
Question: Which you don’t support.
Senator McCaskill: First of all, people aren’t coming across the border for vacation. They’re coming to try and feed their families. If they don’t think that they can get a job, this reminds me of when we were trying to deter crime. We had a hard time deterring meth cooks, but we could deter the businessmen that were selling the ingredients for meth. And that turned the tide. This is the same kind of thing. We can deter businessmen from hiring illegal immigrants if we come down like a load of bricks on ’em.
Question: Better than wall, better than Arizona in your view, I mean you told [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: Better. [crosstalk]
Question: …these folks you’re not a supporter of the Arizona law.
Senator McCaskill: Better. I said parts of it I support, parts of it I don’t support.
Question: But the idea of Arizona taking it on their own is something [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: I think we have to be careful of having fifty different immigration policies in this country…
Senator McCaskill: …that the federal government ultimately is gonna bear the cost for. But I get their frustration. I think border has to be part of it, that’s why I did the border [crosstalk] security bill…
Question: Yeah, right.
Senator McCaskill: That’s why I’ve continued to vote for more border security. That’s part of it, but employer enforcement is also part of it. Once we get those two things better handled, uh, then we can maybe talk about something else. But I’m not interested in talking about anything else until we do a better job [crosstalk] on those two subjects.
Question: Do you think that plays into the, into the, these midterms? [crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill: I don’t know whether it, I [crosstalk]…
Question: Immigration, I mean is it [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: …don’t know if it plays or not. It just is my opinion [crosstalk].
Question: Bigger than hea, no, but it, is immigration more important to people now than say health care, Claire? Is, or, or the deficit, uh, because it seems like it comes up. I went to a Moran [Kansas Republican U.S. Senate nominee] town hall, first five questions were on immigration.
Senator McCaskill: Yeah, I think people, um, people are uncertain and, and antsy about the economic conditions right now. And when you feel uncertain about economic conditions then it, it, it’s more likely that you focus on well, who’s here that shouldn’t be here. Who’s taking part of the pie that doesn’t deserve it, because it feels like my part of the pie is shrinking and I’m playing by the rules. [crosstalk]
Question: Particularly if their skin color is different?
Senator McCaskill: I don’t know about skin color, because I, I, I, I’m not gonna go there. I, I think this is more about a frustration that I’m playing by the rules, how come everybody else [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: …doesn’t have to play by the rules?
Question: All Right.
Senator McCaskill: I think it’s that simple.
Question: That’s all I need to know. [laughter] [crosstalk]
Question [second questioner]: Claire, getting back to Prop. C, you talked about the largely symbolic import, but. But what about the political ramifications, including the midterm elections as well as, perhaps, uh, your own reelection campaign in two years?
Senator McCaskill: Well, I’m, look, you know, I’m, I’m not, I’m not deaf, dumb, and blind. I’m sure there, there’ll be some political ramifications. I’m hopeful that as time goes on and people begin to realize the positive things that are in the bill and realize that some of the things they’ve heard are just not true, um, that, that it won’t be as unpopular as it was in the primary election. And, and the split in the primary election was very close to Democrat versus Republican. And, and in that regard it was a fairly unusual election in Missouri ’cause typically in, in primaries we
have a more fifty-fifty split, we certainly usually have a more fifty-fifty split in general elections.
Question [first questioner]: But, but you had Democrats voting for Prop. C [inaudible].
Senator McCaskill: We had some Republicans voting against it [crosstalk], but…
Question [first questioner]: Right, but you had lots [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: Absolutely, absolutely. This is an, let me state unequivocally this is an unpopular piece of legislation. Um, but it’s really hard to fix a hard problem in this country, uh, and, and, and make it be really popular, because if it’s really popular it doesn’t generally fix anything.
Question [second questioner]: The handouts that were left, uh, on the chairs regarding the, the ten myths, I think, that’s so, uh, something that will be distributed at [inaudible] the other meetings today and tomorrow as well? [crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill: We’ve been distributing ’em for a while. We think that may be the easiest way to begin to get people focused that, realize some of the things they’ve heard aren’t true.
Aide: Sorry, we’re on a tight schedule. [crosstalk]
Questioner: Thank you, that’s all I need.
Senator McCaskill: Hey Michael, how are you? Nice to see you.
Question [first questioner]: ….instead of extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone we let them expire and then give everyone a credit to purchase it or has insurance because you want to incent them to do that. So the net effect is zero on the recipients, those who have insurance. The only people who are not incented are those who don’t have insurance, but they’re not penalized, they just don’t get a tax break.
Senator McCaskill: Well, [crosstalk] the problem is…
Question [first questioner]: And you could do the math really.
Senator McCaskill: …the vast majority of the people who don’t have insurance are not people who enjoyed any benefit under the Bush tax [crosstalk] cuts.
Question [first questioner]: But they don’t pay, yes they did, as EITC recipients. And so what you do in essence, is say your EITC is gonna shrink unless you use some of that money to buy insurance, in which case your EITC goes back up, you’re made whole and by the way, you now have health insurance. And it’s a backdoor way of paying for it. [crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill: Well, you know, I’m gonna get you the numbers on it [crosstalk] because they ran ’em.
Question [first questioner]: The math [crosstalk].
Senator McCaskill: They ran ’em [crosstalk].
Question [first questioner]: Well [crosstalk], but you.
Senator McCaskill: And I want you to see the numbers. But, you need to run, clearly, you’re itchin’.
Question [first questioner]: [inaudible]
TOP 10 MYTHS AND FACTS
Myth 1: The value of your health insurance will be added to your W-2 income and you’ll be taxed on it.
Reality: Most people do not know how much their insurance costs since employers often pay a large share of the premium. The new law requires employers to report the value of insurance on employees’ W-2s, but it is solely informational and is on a separate line that is not included in the taxable income.
Myth 2: When you sell your house you will be required to pay a 3.8% tax on the sales price.
Reality: The new law includes a 3.8% tax on unearned income for individuals who make over $200,000 or couples who make over $250,000. Unearned income includes making a profit on the sale of a home, but a couple can exempt the first $500,000 in profit from such a sale. That means that a couple would have to make over $250,000 per year AND make a PROFIT of over $500,000 on their home to be taxed. The median home sales price in MO is $149,900.
Myth 3: Congress is exempted from the healthcare law.
Reality: Like everyone else, members of congress and their personal staffs are required to maintain minimal essential coverage. Congress and their staff are the only people required by law to buy their insurance on the exchanges.
Myth 4: The exchanges are “Government-run” insurance.
Reality: The exchanges are shopping sites comparable to Expedia™ where private insurance companies like BlueCross sell their insurance. None of the choices will be government-run and individuals are not required to buy their insurance there, but rather can get their insurance through their employer or private broker. The exchanges make sure that state-specific laws are met, and by setting minimum standards they ensure that consumers won’t end up being sold bogus insurance.
Myth 5: Healthcare reform will cut benefits for military families.
Reality: Nothing in this law reduces any benefits to active military members or veterans. The president of the Military Officers Association of America, VADM Norb Ryan Jr. (Ret.), had this to say about the new healthcare law: “But if you were worried that national health reform legislation is somehow aimed at whacking military beneficiaries’ health coverage, that’s just not so.”
Myth 6: This law creates death panels that will order euthanasia for sick patients.
Reality: There are no panels to determine end of life care. The decisions about patient care rest in the hands of the patient and their family as was always the case. This false claim was a scare tactic fabricated by opponents and cannot be found anywhere in this law.
Myth 7: The healthcare reform law cuts Medicare benefits.
Reality: No guaranteed Medicare benefits are cut by this law. An experiment started in 1997 created Medicare Advantage, a privatized form of Medicare, with the hope of saving money. It turns out that the federal government pays 14% more for this private form of Medicare than for government provided Medicare so this new law cuts these subsidies. Seniors will still be able to choose between getting their benefits from traditional Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, but the government will stop wasting billions of dollars by overpaying Medicare Advantage plans.
Myth 8: Extends government benefits to illegal aliens
Reality: Not only are government-sponsored benefits like Medicaid not extended to illegal aliens, but they are not even allowed to buy insurance even if they pay for it with their own money. Illegal immigrants cannot receive any benefits under the new law.
Myth 9: There are accounting gimmicks used to give the appearance that the law is paid for.
Reality: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is the official “scorekeeper” of Congress and they have determined that this bill is not only paid for, but reduces deficits over the next two decades by a trillion dollars. While CBO adjusted their estimates upward after the bill became law, even with that adjustment the bill is still paid for whether the bill is analyzed over 3, 5, 10 or 20 years, and reduces the long-term deficit. Benefits start immediately including $5 billion for high-risk pools, help for early retirees, and tax credits to small businesses that pay for health insurance.
Myth 10: The government will decide what care you can receive and will ration your care.
Reality: The law funds research to figure out which treatments are the best for curing diseases and makes that information available to your family doctor, but regardless of this research the law specifically states: “Nothing in section 1181 (the section funding research) shall be construed as authorizing the Secretary to deny coverage of items or services under such title solely on the basis of comparative clinical effectiveness research.”. In other words, this law makes sure that doctors and patients have
access to the best information in the world about healthcare options, but leaves those decisions between the doctor and patient.
Transcripts of the audience question and answer portion of the town hall will follow in subsequent posts.