Obamacare exchanges are not cheap to build or run

“In its next Obamacare-related decision, the Supreme Court will decide whether employers in states that chose not to establish their own Obamacare exchanges can be forced to pay penalties for not offering insurance the government deems acceptable. The case is somewhat complicated and based on textual questions and legislative history. But if the court rules that the phrase “established by the state” means what it looks like it means, this will bring a small dose of chaos to up to 37 states that now rely on the federal exchange — the infamoushealthcare.gov. A majority of those who bought insurance from the federal exchanges in those states would no longer be eligible for the subsidies that have made the high price of Obamacare insurance less unpalatable for Americans of modest means. And the employer fines that are currently triggered when employees who aren’t offered qualifying health insurance obtain subsidies to purchase it on the exchange would go away. Some have speculated that a ruling against Obama will set off a mad rush by states to establish exchanges of their own. Before state legislators embark on this rash course, however, they might want to look at the experience of the 15 states and the District of Columbia that originally set up their own exchanges. As it turns out, they are a rather messy and expensive proposition. As the Washington Post reported last week, about half of these state-run exchanges — which were very, very expensive to build in the first place — don’t bring in enough money to sustain themselves. Some states have already been forced to impose or are now considering new taxes and fees on health insurance policies to cover their exchanges’ costs. This obviously defeats the purpose of subsidizing insurance in the first place…”


Emergency room visits up, despite Obamacare

“Too many Americans get care in emergency rooms instead of doctors offices — and expanded health coverage is making the problem worse rather than fixing it. Three in four emergency room doctors said patient visits have increased since the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to have health insurance went into effect, in an email survey released Monday by the American College of Emergency Physicians. That’s not the news some healthcare advocates had hoped for. The thought was that by expanding health coverage to more people, they would get their ailments treated earlier by primary care doctors and could avoid visiting emergency rooms, which already struggle with an overload of patients. “I think a lot of people shared our hope that when you gave people access to Medicaid, they would go to the doctor, get preventive care and not need to go to the emergency department,” said Katherine Baicker, a health economics professor at Harvard. “That’s a reasonable hope.”…”


ER visits climb under ObamaCare, poll finds

“Emergency room visits have increased under ObamaCare despite the law’s intention to reduce their use for standard medical care, a new survey finds. The survey of ER doctors finds that three-quarters say their number of patients has increased since ObamaCare’s insurance mandate took effect at the beginning of 2014. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), which conducted the survey, pointed to the shortage of primary care doctors and the low payment rates from Medicaid, which accounts for much of ObamaCare’s coverage expansion. “America has severe primary care physician shortages, and many physicians will not accept Medicaid patients because Medicaid pays so inadequately,” Dr. Michael Gerardi, president of ACEP, said in a statement. “Just because people have health insurance does not mean they have access to timely medical care.” The inability to get a timely appointment with a primary care doctor leaves people still relying on emergency rooms, he argues. One of the goals of ObamaCare was that, as people gained insurance, they would be able to go to other doctors and not rely on emergency rooms as much…”


ER visits up under Obamacare, despite promises: Doctors’ poll

“Three out of every four emergency physicians have seen a great or slight uptick in the number of patients streaming into the ER since Obamacare’s main provisions took effect, according a survey released Monday that seemed to undercut one of the key selling points of the 2010 overhaul. Only 17 percent of doctors told the American College of Emergency Physicians that ER volume has held steady since January 2014, when the government began to require most Americans to hold health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Only 5 percent saw a decrease. Instead, nearly half (47 percent) said ER volume had increased “slightly,” and 28 percent said it had increased “greatly.” Similarly, more than half of ER physicians said the volume of Medicaid patients increased greatly (24 percent) or slightly (32 percent). The findings contradict claims that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 would reduce the frequency of expensive ER visits, as more people gained coverage through the exchanges or Medicaid and, ostensibly, relied on preventive care through regular visits to a primary doctor. Nearly two-thirds of physicians said they’re spending more time coordinating patients’ care after they come to the ER, and the main reason is that patients have a hard time scheduling timely follow-up visits with primary doctors and specialists…”


Poll suggests ER visits are rising under Obamacare

“The reliance on emergency care remains stronger than ever,” said Dr. Michael Gerardi, president of ACEP.

“Emergency care physicians say the ER is busier under Obamacare — the opposite of what many policy makers predicted. It’s the first year doctors have noticed a discernible difference since the law was passed. One of the expected benefits of the Affordable Care Act was that emergency rooms would become less crowded. The logic was that if more people are insured — roughly 10 million more people have insurance thanks to the healthcare law — then more people will be able to address health issues with primary care physicians. But according to a new poll of emergency healthcare professionals, that hasn’t happened. In a survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), more than of quarter of the 2,000-plus respondents said they had witnessed an increase in ER visitors in the last year. Roughly 90 percent of the respondents said the severity of illness or injury among ER visitors has either increased or remained the same. “The reliance on emergency care remains stronger than ever,” Dr. Michael Gerardi, president of the ACEP, said in a press release. “It’s the only place that’s open 24/7, and we never turn anyone away. Rather than trying to put a moat around us to keep people out, it’s time to recognize the incredible value of this model of medicine that people need.” Gerardi says one of the problems is that there aren’t enough primary healthcare providers to handle the influx of newly insured patients. The trend is also a product of routine. Patients who find themselves newly insured may simply be comfortable with and used to visiting the emergency room. It should be noted that ACEP represents the interests of emergency care physicians, a group of doctors who have a financial interest in emergency medicine. Policy changes that discourage the use of emergency care could negatively affect this group in the long run. Still, the new study suggests more may need to be done to diminish the burden on emergency rooms and encourage patients to seek out preventative care. If not, emergency rooms could become overwhelmed….”


Contrary to goals, ER visits rise under Obamacare

“Three-quarters of emergency physicians say they’ve seen ER patient visits surge since Obamacare took effect — just the opposite of what many Americans expected would happen. A poll released today by the American College of Emergency Physicians shows that 28% of 2,099 doctors surveyed nationally saw large increases in volume, while 47% saw slight increases. By contrast, fewer than half of doctors reported any increases last year in the early days of the Affordable Care Act. Such hikes run counter to one of the goals of the health care overhaul, which is to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by getting more people insured through Medicaid or subsidized private coverage and providing better access to primary care. A major reason that hasn’t happened is there simply aren’t enough primary care physicians to handle all the newly insured patients, says ACEP President Mike Gerardi, an emergency physician in New Jersey. “They don’t have anywhere to go but the emergency room,” he says. “This is what we predicted. We know people come because they have to.” Experts cite many root causes. In addition to the nation’s long-standing shortage of primary care doctors — projected by the federal government to exceed 20,000 doctors by 2020 — some physicians won’t accept Medicaid because of its low reimbursement rates. That leaves many patients who can’t find a primary care doctor to turn to the ER — 56% of doctors in the ACEP poll reported increases in Medicaid patients…”


Of course: ER visits increasing under ObamaCare

“And not unexpected either, except for those who continue to defend ObamaCare as the solution to rising medical costs. A poll of over 2,000 emergency room doctors shows that visits to ERs have increased, and in precisely the population that ObamaCare advocates claimed they would decrease and reduce costs: A survey of 2,098 emergency-room doctors conducted in March showed about three-quarters said visits had risen since January 2014. That was a significant uptick from a year earlier, when less than half of doctors surveyed reported an increase. The survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians is scheduled to be published Monday. Medicaid recipients newly insured under the health law are struggling to get appointments or find doctors who will accept their coverage, and consequently wind up in the ER, ACEP said. Volume might also be increasing due to hospital and emergency-department closures—a long-standing trend. “There was a grand theory the law would reduce ER visits,” said Dr. Howard Mell, a spokesman for ACEP. “Well, guess what, it hasn’t happened. Visits are going up despite the ACA, and in a lot of cases because of it.” ObamaCare includes a Medicaid expansion component, which advocates claimed would get people out of ERs and into clinics. Emergency rooms cannot deny service, and many people without health insurance chose to seek care in ERs and then let their bills go unpaid, creating the need for government subsidies. By forcing people into either health insurance plans or Medicaid through the individual mandate, ObamaCare would give these patients the option to seek medical care at lower-cost clinics rather than through expensive ER visits, which was a major theory for its supposed cost controls…”


Two More Signs Obamacare Is Imploding

“Two new reports highlight the financial burden and physical strain Obamacare is placing on the healthcare system. Almost half of the insurance exchanges set up by states are struggling financially, forcing officials to consider turning the exchanges over to the federal government. And most doctors are reporting an unsustainable surge in ER visits, contrary to the law’s intent. Low enrollment numbers, expensive call centers and cumbersome technology are driving up costs for many of the 17 exchanges set up by the states and the District of Columbia, which is a big problem since federal funding of the costs expired at the beginning of the year, reported The Washington Post. States that received a combined $5 billion in federal grants must now cover their operating costs, and many may be forced to drop their marketplace in exchange for the federally operated HealthCare.gov. That transition would cost about $10 million per exchange, Jim Wadleigh, executive director of Connecticut’s exchange, told The Washington Post…”


Obamacare’s Best Defense? ‘It Could Have Been Worse’

“Healthcare costs have risen over 12 percent since the passage of Obamacare in 2010. So the White House is trotting out a new defense of the law — “it could have been worse.” That’s essentially what top White House economist Jason Furman said during a recent speech. Furman admitted that deductibles under Obamacare are troublingly large. But, he added, “The important thing about this is it’s no worse.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Obamacare. And certainly not what President Obama promised when he signed the measure into law. Instead, Obamacare has made health costs worse — much worse. It’s pushed both deductibles and premiums through the roof. As a result, millions of consumers have been forced to buy overpriced insurance — and yet still have to empty their wallets when they visit the doctor’s office. According to the online insurance marketplace HealthPocket, deductibles shot up 42 percent during the health law’s first year, compared to those for plans available pre-Obamacare. Today, almost one in seven Americans spends 10 percent or more of his or her income on out-of-pocket costs like deductibles….”


Republicans Still Working on Reconciling Obamacare Fixes With Reconciliation

There are several proposals floating around, but it’s all dependent on what the Supreme Court decides in June.

“Republicans as a group are generally rooting for the Supreme Court to knock down a key part of Obamacare this summer. But they’re still divided as to what should happen next. If the Court rules as Republicans hope it will in King v. Burwell, financial assistance will be invalidated in more than 30 states that have federal exchanges. And although several Republican proposals have already been put forth to deal with the chaos that would ensue following an immediate subsidy removal, the party is split over whether or not it should use budget reconciliation to ensure one of them ends up on the president’s desk. The reconciliation process requires only 51 senators to put a bill before the president, as opposed to the normal 60. But, prior to the post-King proposals, many Republicans called for it to be used for a full Obamacare repeal, and the Republican budget agreement uses language ambiguous enough to leave reconciliation’s specific use up in the air. “I think we all know President Obama is not going to sign a law that repeals his signature proposal in his law,” Sen. John Barrasso told National Journal. “So the only way, I think, to actually repeal the health care law is with a Republican president after the 2016 election. “But what I want to do is put something on the president’s desk that hopefully he would sign, which would be to continue helping the people that have been harmed by his actions, and at the same time, giving them freedom from the significant mandates and the expense of his law,” added Barrasso, a sponsor of a post-King proposal that would give financial assistance to those impacted for a transitional period and allow states to create their own competitive health-insurance markets…”


Boehner struggles with his failed ACA predictions

“House Speaker John Boehner sat down with NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” yesterday, and the host asked a good question about the Republican leader’s failed predictions about the Affordable Care Act. Regrettably, the Speaker couldn’t respond with an equally good answer.

TODD: You made some dire predictions about health care. 2014 you said fewer people would have health insurance. According to plenty of surveys, more people have health insurance today than they did before it went down from – the uninsured rate went down 17 percent to just under 12 percent. You said it would destroy jobs. The first year it was implemented, the country added 3 million jobs. Why…

BOEHNER: Obamacare made it harder for employers to hire people. The economy expands and as a result, you are going to have more employees because businesses have to. But if you can ask any employer in America, and ask them whether Obamacare has made it harder for them to hire employees, they’ll tell you yes. Because it’s a fact. When you look at – you know why there are more people insured? Because a lot more people are on Medicaid. And giving – you know, we expanded Medicaid in a big way. And giving people Medicaid insurance is almost like giving them nothing. Because there aren’t – you can’t find a doctor that will see Medicaid patients.

The Speaker soon added that, as far as he’s concerned, the Affordable Care Act is “not working.”

Boehner might have a credible argument, if we abandoned the agreed upon meaning of “working.”…”


ObamaCare program saves Medicare $400M

“A pilot program created under ObamaCare to change Medicare’s payment system saved almost $400 million and will be expanded, the administration announced Monday.  An independent report released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday finds that the pilot program saved Medicare more than $384 million across 2012 and 2013. The pilot program, called Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations, is part of an effort to shift Medicare to paying for quality instead of quantity of care.  Under the program, groups of doctors agree to accept lump payments under Medicare instead of individual payments for each service they provide, as in the traditional Medicare payment system. The idea is to discourage unnecessary tests and procedures and better coordinate care. If the groups of doctors, known as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), end up keeping costs below the target, they get to keep some of the leftover money, providing an incentive to keep costs down…”



Support for More Border Control Hits Four-Year High

“A growing number of voters consider illegal immigration a serious problem and believe controlling the border is the most important thing the government can do, even if using the military is necessary. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 77% of Likely U.S. Voters now consider illegal immigration a serious problem in America today, with 51% who say it is Very Serious. Just 19% don’t think it’s a serious problem, and that includes only three percent (3%) who say it’s Not At All Serious. (To see survey question wording, click here.) While overall concern about illegal immigration is unchanged from January, the number who think it is a Very Serious problem is up from 47%. As they have for years, most voters (63%) think gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States. While that’s up just two points from January, it is the highest level of support for border control since December 2011.  Thirty percent (30%) believe it’s more important to legalize those already living here, the lowest finding in two years. Most voters (63%) still agree that the U.S. military should be used along the Mexican border to prevent illegal immigration, but that’s up from 57% in January and is the highest finding since December 2012. Just 26% disagree, while 12% are undecided.  Fifty-eight percent (58%) believe providing a pathway to citizenship for those currently in the country illegally will just encourage more illegal immigration, also up from January. Just 24% disagree, but 19% are not sure…”


Immigration Reform 2015: Illegal Immigrants Could Get Free Health Care Under Proposed California Law

“A California bill that would help illegal immigrants get healthcare coverage faces a key hurdle Monday when it goes for a vote before the state Senate Appropriations Committee. Opponents of the bill, which would help 2.5 million people in California, are balking at the price tag, reports the San Jose Mercury News. State Senate Bill 4 would let illegal immigrants join Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. If the bill passes the committee, it needs passage in both the Senate and Assembly and then the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown to become law. Opponents of the bill authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from the heavily Latino Los Angeles suburb of Bell Gardens, say it will hurt the economy. An earlier bill proposed by Lara failed to clear the Appropriations Committee last year because it was forecast to cost the state $1.3 billion, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The newer version bill is reportedly cheaper for the state. “The numbers are still being worked out, but we’ve brought it down from what we once thought would be $1 billion to close to $400 [million] to $800 million a year,” Lara said in early April, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “It looks like something that’s doable to cover folks.” The Mercury News reported the price tag could fall anywhere between $174 million to $740 million, depending on whether President Barack Obama’s executive order giving 5 million illegal immigrants deportation protection — an order that is currently blocked in federal court — takes effect.  The bill would let immigrants who often have no way of receiving healthcare — outside of free clinics and emergency rooms — acquire coverage through an exchange. The Medi-Cal coverage for illegal immigrants would be paid for entirely by the state and not split with the federal government — unlike the people currently covered by Medi-Cal. The Medi-Cal program currently covers one in three Californians, the Mercury News reported, and proponents of the bill are confident the cost to the state is small enough that SB-4 will eventually pass…”


Court hears challenge to Obama’s immigration actions

“Judges on the nation’s second most influential court questioned Monday whether Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio has legal standing to challenge President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The outspoken lawman is challenging Obama’s move last year to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. But during arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a panel of three judges appeared skepitical of the case. “Your client has to have standing to raise the challenge he’s raising and you have to show how the president’s program is causing harm to your client and how the relief he seeks would address that harm,” Judge Cornelia “Nina” Pillard said. Larry Klayman, the attorney representing Arpaio, said his client had to spend $9 million from February to December in 2014 to handle an increase in the number of immigrants being incarcerated in his Maricopa County jail. Because of the president’s actions, he said immigrants who would have otherwise been deported are staying in the country and becoming repeat offenders. “Only the most severe criminals are deported, but the lower level criminals are in these jails and it’s raising the cost for Maricopa Country,” Klayman said. Arpaio is appealing U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s December 2014 decision to dismiss the case. In her opinion, she said Arpaio brought up important issues in his lawsuit, but lacked legal standing to file the suit because he hadn’t suffered direct harm from Obama’s actions.  Now Arpaio is asking the federal court of appeals to overturn Howell’s decision and stop the President from giving legal status and work permits to nearly five million illegal immigrants. The case stems from actions Obama took in November to expand eligibility to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which offers protections to immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, and create a new program to allow parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for amnesty. Klayman argues that Obama’s orders not only keep criminals in the country to reoffend, but act as a “magnet,” attracting new immigrants to enter the country illegally. He said the president violated the Constitution when he put himself “above Congress, above the Administrative Procedures Act and above the American people.” “The President is not an emperor,” he said. “You don’t get to supersede what Congress has done.” Beth Brinkmann, the attorney representing the Obama Administration and the Department of Justice, said Obama’s policies do not allow an application to be made by someone who has committed a crime. Judge Sri Srinivasan questioned whether the President’s orders would apply to a person with only one misdemeanor, but Brikmann said low level misdemeanors don’t require jail time. Because Obama’s orders don’t apply to illegal immigrants who entered the country after Jan. 1, 2010, immigrants that have felonies, multiple misdemeanors or pose a threat to public safety or national security, she said Klayman’s theory of increased crime is “unlikely” and “speculative.” “The court’s opinion below really shows why this is a non-judicial matter,” she said…”


Court skeptical on Barack Obama immigration challenge

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio contends his jail is spending millions of dollars to house illegal immigrants Obama is refusing to deport.

“A legal challenge to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration faced a big hurdle at a federal appeals court Monday: The judges could not seem to figure out what good it would do the plaintiff if he won the case. Three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit spent a little over an hour hearing arguments on a lawsuit brought by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County. Arpaio contends his jail is spending millions of dollars to house illegal immigrants who Obama is refusing to deport under “deferred action” policies that offer a quasi-legal status to some who came to the country illegally as children…”


OVERNIGHT REGULATION: Court skeptical of challenge to immigration order


Justice Department checked with White House before telling immigration judge amnesty already begun

“The Justice Department checked with the White House before informing a federal judge that it was already carrying out part of President Obama’s immigration amnesty, administration attorneys revealed in documents filed in court late last week as they tried to head off a judicial spanking. The attorneys turned over the communications with the White House to Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who is hearing the major case challenging Mr. Obama’s 2014 deportation amnesty, but the lawyers pleaded with the court not to look at the documents on grounds that it would intrude on the president’s powers. Still, the revelation that the White House was looped in suggests officials knew the seriousness of the error in not informing Judge Hanen earlier that the Homeland Security Department was already carrying out part of Mr. Obama’s amnesty by granting three-year work permits to illegal immigrants who qualified under the 2012 policy. “The Department of Justice and the White House counsel’s office sometimes confer regarding civil litigation that impacts high-priority policy initiatives of the administration,” the attorneys said in a 34-page brief filed Friday that repeatedly apologized for misleading the court, while insisting it wasn’t intentional. In documents filed with the court, the attorneys said more than 1,500 Homeland Security employees knew the three-year part of the amnesty was in effect as of November. The Justice Department attorneys are trying to avoid a reprimand from Judge Hanen, who has expressed surprise that the administration was carrying out any part of the amnesty, despite telling him in both filings and during a hearing that the amnesty program wouldn’t begin until February…”



“The Obama administration is expressing regret to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen — the man presiding over 26 states’ court challenge to executive amnesty — for not being entirely forthcoming about the implementation dates associated with the programs, according to reports. “The Government deeply regrets not only the confusion that these statements created, but that it did not recognize the prospect of confusion earlier,” the Justice Department explains in a court filing late last week, according to the Valley Morning Star. “But the miscommunications were not the product of bad faith, and they do not warrant sanctions or further discovery.” The “miscommunications” in question involve the revelation that, despite the government’s assertions that the executive amnesty programs — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — would not start before February 18 (DAPA was scheduled to start in May), an aspect did begin before then. Days before expanded DACA was set to take effect Hanen issued a preliminary injunction on the executive amnesty programs, to stop the implementation from going forward as the case works its way through the courts. In early March, however, the Justice Department revealed to Hanen that in fact it had already started to implement an aspect of expanded DACA, and had issued more than 100,000 new three-year DACA renewals. Hanen was not pleased. In later filings he called the government misleading, accusing the government of “deceptive representations and half-truths.” According to the Washington Times, in addition to its brief, the government also turned over documents dealing with the executive amnesty expansion that included communications with the White House. “We sincerely regret the misunderstanding that the government’s statements inadvertently caused, and hope that this submission fully resolves the issue,” the administration said in its brief,” the Times quoted the briefing…”


Arizona Regents to decide on university tuition hikes

“The Arizona Board of Regents will decide on upcoming tuition rates for the three state universities, including a proposed discounted rate for certain immigrants who have to pay out-of-state fees. Regents are scheduled to vote Monday on setting tuition fees for the 2015-2016 school year. The panel will consider a proposal to reduce tuition to 150 percent of in-state tuition for young immigrants who are protected from deportation under a federal program. The presidents of Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University all proposed fee or tuition increases last month to make up for millions of dollars in state funding cuts. Tuition at state universities has more than doubled in the past decade. Overall, state funding has dropped despite big enrollment increases…”


Durbin, Cupich urge supporters of immigration reform to speak out, vote

“Supporters of immigration reform should share their stories with legislators and register Hispanic voters, Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich said over the weekend in Northfield. Applause often punctuated the remarks of Durbin and Cupich, who spoke Sunday, May 3, to an audience of more than 300 people at the Temple Jeremiah synagogue. When asked the best way for Chicago area residents to voice support, Cupich asked them to share their views with friends and neighbors, the first step toward changing hearts and minds…”


The Myth of the Socially Conservative Immigrant

“You know how Jeb Bush and other immigration enthusiasts are always telling us how conservative immigrants are, how they’re more religious and traditionalist? Appealing to their supposed conservatism is the key, we are told, to getting their votes, if only we would embrace amnesty and mass legal immigration. There are two problems with this argument: First, there’s a pretty clear consensus that Latin American and Asian immigrants (who comprise 75 percent of all immigrants) and their U.S.-born children do not vote based on social issues, assigning them low priority. Second, immigrants are not particularly conservative. There is a mountain of survey data demonstrating that, in general, Latin American and Asian immigrants and their children are supportive of bigger government and are no more socially conservative than the native-born. In addition to survey data, there’s another way of assessing the stereotype of the socially conservative immigrant — their abortion rates. If the Jeb Bush storyline is correct, one would expect immigrant women to be significantly less likely to get abortions than the native-born. They’re not. My colleague Steven Camarota looked at that question, using an extensive survey of women who had undergone abortions.  He found that immigrant woman (ages 15–44) overall have nearly identical abortion rates to natives. But there are relatively few immigrants under 25, where the likelihood to get an abortion is highest; comparing only those over age 25 finds that immigrants actually have a somewhat higher abortion rate. It only gets worse for the native-born children and grandchildren of Latin American immigrants. Their abortion rate is double that of Latin American immigrants, and more than triple the rate of native-born non-Hispanic whites. The abortion rate for the children and grandchildren of immigrants from Asia is more than double that of U.S.-born whites. Given these dramatically higher rates of abortion, it’s likely the abortion rate will increase as immigration changes the demographic makeup of the population. The point here is not that immigrants and their children are somehow “bad” because they’re more likely to get abortions. Rather, it’s yet another indication of how hard it will be for Republicans to sell a conservative message — in this case, opposition to abortion — to groups that are likely to be less receptive to it…”


The End to the U.S. Immigration Debate?

“Immigration policy appears to be a lost cause in the U.S. political system… Take the reform attempts in 2007 and 2013, for example. Having been developed and put forward, the proposals were swiftly captured by special-interest lobbies and ran into fierce popular opposition. And President Obama’s “amnesty” program in November is now tied up in the courts. It’s a good old-fashioned congressional gridlock – and as I’ll explain, we have a way to go before we reach any clarity. Don’t expect the standoff to last long, though. Come election time, immigration policy will ring loud and clear again as a key campaign issue. Heck, we may even get a compromise… Current Unresolved Issues – The biggest problem with immigration policy? The poor quality of debate. It’s quite clear that there are certain groups who stand to gain from immigration, while others may not. The issue is segregated into two primary sections. Low-Skill Immigration. On one hand, low-skill immigration (whether legal or illegal) tends to depress the wages of domestic U.S. workers in low-skill occupations. This, of course, benefits employers – and needless to say, the cheap-labor lobby is strong, especially among big donors to congressional candidates. Economically, though, much of the lobby’s claims are unjustifiable. Take large labor-intensive farming operations in California, for instance. They already benefit from huge subsidies on their usage of scarce water. And it would be more rational to outsource production to areas with high rainfall and low-labor costs – like Latin America. High-Skill Immigration. High-skill immigration ought to be generally beneficial. After all, these are workers with hard-to-find expertise. But there are certainly a lot of losers from it, too, especially if it’s poorly controlled. So what does the public want? Unsurprisingly, 39% of the U.S. population wants lower immigration than currently, while only 7% want higher immigration, according to a recent Gallup survey. That probably correlates with the proportion of people who significantly lose out versus benefit from the trend in immigration among the voting population. The remainder likely experience little direct effect. In both the 2007 and 2013 debates, the people who benefit from immigration were well represented at the bargaining table, while the larger number of immigration losers exerted their influence only indirectly. The upshot was two bills that boosted immigration and appeared set to pass, but then stalled on a wave of opposition. (A fine use of democracy, in my opinion.) And in the run-up to the general election, don’t think for a second that the issue is strictly divided by political parties….”


McCain toughens tone on immigration as 2016 approaches (May 2nd)

“U.S. Sen. John McCain on Wednesday sparred with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson over border security in the latest sign of the Arizona Republican’s toughening attitude on immigration in advance of a potentially competitive primary. McCain was the lead Republican negotiator on the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013. The following year, McCain was formally censured by Arizona Republican Party as too liberal on immigration, “amnesty,” and other issues. In April, he announced he is running for a sixth term in 2016 and a conservative primary challenger is expected. This year, McCain and U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., attached an amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution that would speed the removal of children and other Central American immigrants who cross the U.S.- Mexico border illegally. On April 23, McCain voted against the confirmation of new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch because he disagrees with her position that President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration was reasonable and constitutional. At a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, McCain challenged what he characterized as Johnson’s suggestion that a drop in Border Patrol apprehensions of unaccompanied migrant children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala from October to March should be celebrated. McCain held up a graph that showed there were 19,707 such apprehensions in the same period a year ago. “I am not suggesting that this constitutes victory,” Johnson responded. “The fact is you’re being disingenuous when you say that things really are a lot better,” McCain shot back. “9,800 is not satisfactory to anybody in my state.” McCain also grilled Johnson on how many of the unaccompanied minors who cross the border actually show up to their immigration court hearings. Johnson said he didn’t know…”


Scott Walker In 2006: “I Support Paul Ryan’s Position On Immigration Reform”

As the Wisconsin governor takes a conservative hardline on immigration, his past statements come under scrutiny.

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely 2016 candidate for president who has positioned himself as an opponent of so-called “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, wrote in 2006 blog posts uncovered by BuzzFeed News that he supported fellow Wisconsinite’s Paul Ryan’s position on immigration policy. In the past, Republican Rep. Ryan has been a supporter of a comprehensive approach to changing immigration law and has supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. A review by BuzzFeed News of Walker’s old campaign website has found blog posts written by Walker saying his stance on immigration mirrored Ryan’s.

“As for the issue of immigration, I commented on it in my post on Monday. In particular, I support Paul Ryan’s position on immigration reform,” Walker wrote in a blog post responding to a question on immigration. Walker wrote in a previous post that he was most impressed by a speech Ryan gave at a Republican event where he spoke of the assimilation of immigrants into American culture. “Ryan mentioned that his family learned the language and the culture,” Walker wrote. “Sure, they still cook corned beef and cabbage and honor other Irish traditions, but they learned about American culture. I agree, being a melting pot means respecting ethnic backgrounds, but melting together in the principles that make America great.” Ryan co-sponsored in the House the companion bill to the McCain-Kennedy Senate bill, which included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He was one of the few members to do so…”


Can Hillary Clinton win over Latino voters?

“Cesar Vargas has a message for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she blames Republicans for a broken immigration system and seeks Hispanic support: We’ve heard it all before. President Obama promised an immigration overhaul that hasn’t come, said Vargas, co-director of Dream Action Coalition, an advocacy group for young Latinos. And while Obama has made some progress on slowing deportations and other issues, he said, Clinton will have to show how she will get farther. “That type of rhetoric is already stale, especially to the Latino community,” Vargas said. “It’s like a piece of stale bread.” Clinton, who will travel to Nevada on Tuesday for a campaign appearance aimed at Hispanics, faces politically tricky terrain on immigration and citizenship issues. She will be under pressure to declare much of the Obama immigration agenda a failure, and she also faces a Republican field with more potential appeal to Hispanic voters than in the past. Clinton’s early and frequent attention to immigration issues in her three weeks as a 2016 candidate suggests that she has an eye on former Florida governor Jeb Bush in particular. Bush had generally good relations with Hispanic leaders as governor, is married to a Mexican-born woman and speaks fluent Spanish. Unlike some of his likely Republican primary opponents, Bush has also avoided taking positions that many Hispanics see as anti-immigration…”



House will struggle to pass spending bills that adhere to caps

“It was supposed to be the easy one. A bill to fund military construction and veterans affairs for fiscal 2016 was expected to sail through the House on Wednesday, but at the last minute Republicans postponed a vote when it became clear a Democratic amendment to blow up the legislation actually stood a chance of passing with GOP support. The legislation was poised to eventually pass, Republican leaders insisted, but the floor struggle over the measure foreshadows what will be a difficult few months as Congress attempts to pass 12 spending bills that stick to federally-mandated spending caps that lawmakers in both parties despise. A bill to fund the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services as well as legislation to pay for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development are expected to be impossible to pass, due to the mandated spending limit…”


Fast-Tracking Lets President Hide Details Of Trade Deals

“Critics of “fast-tracking” for free-trade agreements say it would prevent Congress from seeing important details of the deals, and the bill’s language supports their concerns. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, also known as “fast-tracking,” would enable the president to submit trade agreements to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no opportunity for amendments. Although TPA would ease passage of agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), opponents worry that it could also hide potentially controversial elements of those deals from the public…”


Obama to announce expansion in ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative

“A White House program aimed at young minority men is growing. President Obama will announce Monday the launch of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new independent nonprofit. Obama will give remarks during the launch at Lehman College in the Bronx, N.Y., and then participate in a roundtable discussion with young men from around the country, the White House said. The new nonprofit is related to My Brother’s Keeper, a White House initiative launched in January 2014 in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing. This new off-shoot is seen as a response to the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and subsequent unrest. “As a proud son of Baltimore, this week’s announcement comes at a time of unique and special resonance for me,” Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, the chairman of My Brother’s Keeper, wrote in a White House email announcing the initiative. “The president’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative is about recognizing that our young people are not the problem, but rather the solution,” he added…”


Brother’s Keeper enters new phase amid Baltimore tension

“From the campus of Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, Monday, President Barack Obama announced a spin-off of his already-existing “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative into a new, non-profit foundation — a clue into what work the President will take on in his post-presidency years. The President’s initiative was first created in 2014 by the White House the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing to address the lack of opportunity that young minority boys face across in often-poor neighborhoods across the country. Monday’s announcement comes as the nation continues the conversation on race relations, after the unrest in Baltimore following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Obama, speaking ahead of a roundtable event — including singer John Legend — said he had an outstanding conversation with some young men. “If you have any doubt about the incredible promise of America — you need to get to know these young men, they are examples of intelligence, hard work and street smarts,” Obama said. White House officials had said the President would likely speak to the situation in Baltimore, within the context of the foundation’s work — addressing broader, systemic issues that still plague so many neighborhoods across the country, like Freddie Gray’s. “Stories of young men being stopped and put on the ground by police for no reason, schools who aren’t invested in their success. They are succeeding because somewhere along the someone mentored them,” Obama said. Broderick Johnson, chairman of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, wrote in an email to supporters about the formation of the new nonprofit, “As a proud son of Baltimore, this week’s announcement comes at a time of unique and special resonance for me.” The alliance will be made up of celebrities, athletes, CEOs and current and former government officials, including singer John Legend, former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. According to the alliance, the foundation will focus on key moments in a young man’s academic and professional life, targeting key, symbolic milestones for intervention: when boys are entering grade school, in middle childhood, graduating from high school, finishing college and then entering the workforce. According to the alliance, the intervention would continue with the goal of reducing violence “throughout life.” “This is an issue that the President intends to continue to be focused on, long after he has left the Oval Office,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said….”


As Obama seeks urban ‘investments,’ Baltimore got $1.8B from stimulus

“The city of Baltimore received over $1.8 billion from President Obama’s stimulus law, including $467.1 million to invest in education and $26.5 million for crime prevention.  Obama claimed last Tuesday that if the Republican-controlled Congress would implement his policies to make “massive investments in urban communities,” they could “make a difference right now” in the city, currently in upheaval following the death of Freddie Gray.  However, a Washington Free Beacon analysis found that the Obama administration and Democratically-controlled Congress did make a “massive” investment into Baltimore, appropriating $1,831,768,487 though the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), commonly known as the stimulus. According to Recovery.gov, one of Baltimore’s central ZIP codes, 21201, received the most stimulus funding in the city, a total of $837,955,866. The amount included funding for 276 awards, and the website reports that the spending had created 290 jobs in the fourth quarter in 2013.  Of this amount, $467.1 million went to education; $206.1 million to the environment; $24 million to “family”; $16.1 million to infrastructure; $15.2 million to transportation; $11.9 million to housing; and $3.1 million to job training…”


Obama: Helping young men from poor areas will be ‘my life’s work’

“President Obama launched a new spin-off of his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative Monday, pledging to make helping young men in impoverished communities his life’s mission. Speaking at an event on the campus of Lehman College in the Bronx, N.Y., Obama said the country will “profit or pay” for what the young men in poor communities across the country become and spoke extensively about the lack of opportunities that are contributing to drug addiction, unemployment and a sense of hopelessness in these areas. “The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way,” he said. “We can have courage to change. We can make a difference.” “This will be my mission, not just for me and Michelle for the remainder of my presidency, but for the rest of my life.” As the president spoke about the work of the new spin-off of My Brother’s Keeper initiative, he sprinkled in references to the racial tensions in Baltimore over the past two weeks and argued that the opportunity gaps for these communities begin early, often at birth, and “compound over time.”


Bill would bar lawmakers from flying first class

“A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation to prevent members of Congress from using official funds for first-class airfare. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) said that luxury air travel is “especially wasteful” while Congress has yet to eliminate the federal deficit. “Members of Congress are public servants of the people and should not be considered a privileged status,” Gosar and Ruiz said in a joint statement. Each lawmaker is allotted funds known as a Member Representational Allowance to pay for running their offices, including staff salaries and office supplies. The bill from Gosar and Ruiz, titled the Coach-Only Airfare for Capitol Hill (COACH) Act, would mandate that lawmakers and staffers can only fly first-class with personal funds. It would  permit exceptions for first-class travel to accommodate disabilities or other medical needs. Fourteen lawmakers have co-sponsored the legislation, several of whom will face tough reelection races next year: Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.). Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Fla.), one of the most vulnerable House Democrats in the next election cycle, introduced a similar bill earlier this year that prevents members of Congress from buying first-class plane tickets with federal funds…”


Pelosi’s perplexing claim that House bill would ‘cut’ VA medical care funds

“…To call the funding in the House bill a “cut” is not accurate. The president’s budget proposal is just that: a proposal. The House bill is, indeed, lower than what the president and VA proposed, and what many veterans groups hoped to see. But the House appropriations bill increased VA’s total budget and its discretionary spending over fiscal 2015 levels. This is more money than the agency ever has had, and the total VA funding has grown by nearly 73 percent since 2009. It is also difficult to see how rescissions of bonuses or pay raises would lead to fewer veterans receiving care. Aside from this bill, VA also has access to billions of additional dollars that was allotted to deal with its access-to-care problems. The agency has more than $14 billion left to spend. Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act specifically to allow veterans to cut through bureaucracy. The argument that 70,000 fewer veterans would access medical care because of the House appropriations bill is perplexing and clearly an exaggeration…”

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