November 15, 2013 (Issue 8)
The Obamacare Edition
Sportsmanship and Statesmanship
|I live in a dry cabin on an island off Sitka and commute into town every morning by skiff to the downtown harbors. I was going under the O'Connell Bridge last week and a friend saw me and snapped this photo, chuckling because I was on my phone while skiffing. Hey! Gotta get in my call time and productivity whenever I can!
I love great sports rivalries. I love that the intensity of competition between great rivals — Red Sox and Yankees; Auburn and Alabama; Duke and North Carolina — is couched by an even greater respect each holds for the other. Ferocious competitors, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird dueled each other in some of the most epic playoff games in NBA history, but when the series was over, Bird and Jordan genuinely respected each other and even teamed up to shoot good-natured McDonalds commercials in the off-season.
In sports, this is sportsmanship. The political equivalent is statesmanship.
Obamacare was political high drama. The Affordable Care Act (the official title) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a simple majority (219-212) and passed the U.S. Senate with a supermajority (60-39). Love Obamacare or hate Obamacare, the Democrats had more votes; through our constitutionally-ordained political process, the Affordable Care Act became law June 25, 2010.
After Bird's Celtics beat Jordan's Bulls in the '87 playoffs, Jordan didn't take a baseball bat to Bird's knees. Jordan honored the result, refocused his legendary competitive drive, and the very next year took his Bulls deeper into the playoffs than ever before.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act has been greeted with startling obstructionism. Georgia passed a law specially designed to handicap healthcare "navigators" (people whose wholesome, nonpartisan job is to answer questions from regular people). Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens (R) crowed about the new legislation: "Let me tell you what we're doing: everything in our power to be obstructionist."
That government shutdown? It happened because congressional Republicans, who desperately want to repeal Obamacare (which is totally fair game if they can accomplish it through our political process!), didn't have the votes to repeal Obamacare. So they shut down the United States government. This is crazy! Statesmanship is to this ridiculous government shutdown as sportsmanship is to Tanya Harding having her goon of an ex-husband assault Nancy Kerrigan with a baseball bat before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
|Who knew there'd by a way to merge music and the legislative life?! This photo's audience, which was full of questions and curiosity, is Kake's kindergarten class.
The sunset of statesmanship casts a shadow beyond the government shutdown. Republicans are filibustering federal judicial nominations and critical appointments to federal agencies. Democrats did the same thing to President Bush (although much less frequently). Neither party can pass an actual budget.
I write about this for a couple of reasons. First, as I've said before, Juneau is not Washington, D.C. Thank goodness. But remember the credo of Mad-Eye Moody: "Constant vigilance!" The Washington, D.C. of yesteryear is unlike the Washington, D.C. of present day; there's nothing that prevents Juneau — except constant vigilance! — from undergoing the same ugly metamorphosis.
And second, to those jokers over in D.C.: "Why can't we all just get along?" I would buy a dozen Big Macs if Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell found enough statesmanship in their partisan souls to shoot a goofy McDonalds commercial together.
You Got Obamacare Questions? Crystal Bourland has Obamacare Answers.
Our healthcare system is insanely complicated and correspondingly dysfunctional. Obamacare itself is pretty complicated (and its roll-out has been maddeningly dysfunctional). The law likely affects (and I'd like to hope, helps) you.
Crystal Bourland's job is to answer your questions. She's really good at answering my questions, she'll be really good at answering your questions, and she's really nice, too. Crystal lives in Juneau and works for the United Way. She's a healthcare "navigator" (which is enough to make her a statutory enemy of the State of Georgia).
Give Crystal a call (523.1147) or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). SEARHC has also set up a hotline for beneficiaries: 966.8684 or toll-free at 855.966.8684.
The Biggest Decision of 2013
This morning Governor Parnell declined to expand Medicaid. I'm not normally a hashtag kind of person, but... #really?!? #disappointing
You might think Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to the healthcare system since the bubonic plague. You might think (as I do) that the roll-out of healthcare.gov has been so abominable it's practically seditious. But that's irrelevant to the question of Medicaid expansion, which would change the lives of tens of thousands of people for the better.
|Sitka by autumn moon:
the perks of commuting by skiff.
Morally: Our status quo healthcare system is not working super well. 45,000 Americans die every year because they can't afford treatment for preventable disease. This is a simple, morally repugnant statistic. Expanding Medicaid (from 0%, 76%, or 81% of the poverty line — the threshold changes depending on family and personal factors — to 138% of the poverty line) would provide healthcare to 40,000 uninsured Alaskans: those living on the economic margins who need the help the most. Medicaid expansion insures the uninsured and offers a glimmer of humanity in our rough-and-tumble world.
Economically: Obamacare is a blend of taxes, benefits, and spending cuts. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that the feds will pay 90 percent of the cost of Alaska's proposed Medicaid expansion (and like a Maraschino cherry on top, the feds will pay 100 percent of the cost for the first three years). Governor Parnell has the legal prerogative to refuse the billions in Medicaid money and thereby deny 40,000 uninsured Alaskans insurance. But refusing the Medicaid money won't make the taxes or spending cuts go away. Because the Governor declined to expand Medicaid, Alaskans will pay for the expansion of Medicaid in California and Kentucky and the other 24 states that have opted for expansion while denying ourselves the benefit — effectively, a public policy of economic self-harm.
The AFN, Alaska Chamber of Commerce, Anchorage NAACP, Alaska Hospital and Nursing Home Association, Alaska Bush Caucus (that includes me!) all support Medicaid expansion. I wish our Governor did, too.
Rep. JKT Media Management
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Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins