It Turns Out Critics Of The GOP Health Care Plan Were Right All Along

Wednesday?s report from the Congressional Budget Office ought to erase any lingering doubt about how Republicans are trying to change American health care.

If they get their way, they will protect the strong at the expense of the weak ? rewarding the rich and the healthy in ways that punish the poor and the sick.

Republicans have tried mightily to deny this, and accused their critics of dishonesty. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ? they and their allies have insisted over and over again that their proposals would improve access to health care and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions.  

But it?s the Republicans who are lying about what their plan to repeal Obamacare would do.

They were lying back in March, when they introduced the initial version of the legislation ? a bill GOP leaders had to pull at the last minute because it didn?t have enough votes to pass. And they have been lying since early May, after they revised that proposal and rushed to vote on it before the CBO, Washington?s official scorekeeper, had time to evaluate it formally.

Now the budget office analysts have done their work. And if they are right, then the revised legislation would punish economically and medically vulnerable Americans more than the earlier version would have ? leaving many millions without insurance and unraveling the market for insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

To be clear, CBO?s overall assessment didn?t change much, since the basic framework of the bill hasn?t changed much either.

Older people would still face higher premiums, as insurers would gain more leeway to vary prices based on age. Lower-income people buying private insurance on their own would still lose financial assistance, as a new formula for tax credits would steer money away from them. And the very poor would still lose access to Medicaid, as states would lose funding they otherwise would have gotten from the federal government. 

Some people would feel better off as a result of these changes ? young people in relatively good health would get access to cheaper coverage, for example, while more affluent people who get little or no financial assistance from the government today would start to get more. Wealthy people would get extra money in their pockets, since the GOP legislation would undo the taxes that finance the Affordable Care Act?s coverage expansion.

But the net effect would be 23 million fewer people with health insurance ? many of whom, as a result, would face financial or physical hardship because they could no longer afford medical care. That?s nearly identical to the 24 million that the CBO estimated would lose coverage from the bill?s previous version.

The one big change Congress made to that bill is a set of amendments that would allow states to waive some of the Affordable Care Act?s most important regulations, including rules that prohibit insurance companies from charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing medical conditions. 

Republican leaders have insisted that these amendments, so essential to winning over holdout lawmakers in the House, wouldn?t actually make much difference to consumers.

Even in states that sought the waivers, GOP leaders promised, insurers could engage in ?medical underwriting? ? that is, varying premiums based on health status ? only for people who allowed their coverage to lapse for more than two months. And that was bound to be a small number of people, Republicans said.

On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office indicated just how wrong that argument is.

For one thing, coverage lapses of more than two months would be pretty common under the GOP bill, because lower-income consumers who struggle to pay premiums would be getting less financial assistance than they do today. More important, the CBO pointed out, allowing insurance companies to vary premiums based on medical conditions even in some cases would inevitably create a bifurcated insurance market.

Insurers would end up setting up two sets of plans ? one with medical underwriting and one without. Healthy people would flock to the underwriting plans, since they?d be eligible for cheaper coverage there. The older plans would be left with a relatively sicker population, forcing them to raise premiums for everybody still enrolled in them and thereby encouraging more healthy people to leave ? until, eventually, those plans had shrunk to small groups of people with big medical problems.

Premiums in these plans would be much more expensive, and in many cases downright unaffordable, making access to them for people who had maintained continuous coverage essentially meaningless. As a result, the CBO concluded, ?People who are less healthy … would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all.?

The finding echoes an analysis that Matthew Fiedler, a former Obama administration economist who now works at The Brookings Institution, published shortly before the House bill passed. And on Wednesday, in an email to HuffPost, Fiedler noted that the people the GOP bill would marginalize are those that, in theory, an insurance system should prioritize. ?Those markets would no longer fulfill one of their fundamental purposes, which is ensuring that people can get health care when they need it,? he said.

Of course, insurance markets under the Republican scheme would serve other purposes ? like limiting the size and scope of government, offering cheap coverage to younger and healthier people, and allowing wealthier Americans to keep some money they now pay to the federal government in the form of taxes.

Republicans may think that pursuing those goals ultimately does society more good than guaranteeing health insurance for the people who need it most. Such thinking would be consistent with the way they have tried to govern more generally, with their constant efforts to strip down programs for the poor and middle class while showering the wealthy with tax cuts. 

But when talking about health care over the past few years and especially in the past few months, Republicans have pretended they have different priorities ? a deception the CBO exposed quite clearly on Wednesday.

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Former Playmate Dani Mathers Gets 3 Years Probation In Body-Shaming Case

Former Playboy model Dani Mathers was ordered to serve three years probation and 30 days of graffiti removal after pleading no contest Wednesday to invasion of privacy, a misdemeanor. 

Last year, the model named Playboy?s 2015 Playmate of the Year, secretly recorded a 70-year-old woman nude in the shower area at one of Los Angeles? LA Fitness branches. She posted the recording to Snapchat with the caption, ?If I can?t unsee this then you can?t either.? Mathers didn?t stop there. She posted another Snapchat apparently deriding someone who dared shower in a public space specifically meant for showering. 

The Los Angeles Police Department located the woman in the video, and she decided to press charges against the model. The woman has remained unidentified throughout the proceedings, though Mathers publicly apologized to her over Twitter.

Mathers? post caused public outcry as users on Snapchat accused the model of body shaming. She was banned from all LA Fitness locations in the U.S. and fired from her job as a radio host.

?This case was really important to me,? Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in the KTLA video above. ?I thought of the case from the outset as a dad and as a son. Body shaming is humiliating. It devastates its victims. It tears down their self-respect.?

For more on the case, check out the video above.

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Health Bill’s Score Still Breathtakingly Bad

The new Congressional Budget Office numbers are in for the House healthcare bill, and they?re almost as breathtakingly bad as the first version?s score. Instead of 24 million Americans losing health insurance in the next ten years, now ?only? 23 million will lose health insurance. The number of people who will lose health insurance next year alone stayed the same, at 14 million. Medicaid funding will be cut by $834 billion, instead of $880 billion. This would save a paltry $12 billion a year, instead of the $15 billion a year the original bill would have saved. That?s a lot of pain for not very much money saved. Which Democrats are going to be pointing out soon, in midterm ads.

This legislation had two major goals. The first was to provide a whopping tax cut for wealthy people. The second was for Republicans to be able to claim ?we repealed Obamacare.? Measured on those metrics, the bill is a success. Measured by any other metric, it is a complete disaster.

The top-line numbers do not tell this story adequately. A $12 billion change in the federal budget is peanuts, after all. But when you dig into the numbers, the intent of the legislation becomes more obvious. Here are a few crucial paragraphs from the C.B.O. report (emphasis added):

CBO and JCT estimate that, over the 2017-2026 period, enacting H.R. 1628 would reduce direct spending by $1,111 billion and reduce revenues by $992 billion, for a net reduction of $119 billion in the deficit over that period. The provisions dealing with health insurance coverage would reduce the deficit, on net, by $783 billion; the noncoverage provisions would increase the deficit by $664 billion, mostly by reducing revenues. The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the replacement of the Affordable Care Act?s (ACA?s) subsidies for nongroup health insurance with new tax credits for nongroup health insurance (see figure below). Those savings would be partially offset by other changes in coverage provisions ? spending for a new Patient and State Stability Fund, designed to reduce premiums, and a reduction in revenues from repealing penalties on employers who do not offer insurance and on people who do not purchase insurance. The largest increases in the deficit would come from repealing or modifying tax provisions in the ACA that are not directly related to health insurance coverage ? such as repealing a surtax on net investment income, repealing annual fees imposed on health insurers, and reducing the income threshold for determining the tax deduction for medical expenses.

Below this is a chart, breaking down the impact of various parts of the bill. Medicaid is slashed a jaw-dropping $834 billion, and tax credits for people to buy insurance gets hit by $276 billion. Where does all this money go? Mostly to ?noncoverage provisions,? to the tune of $664 billion. What are ?noncoverage provisions?? Here?s the explanation (emphasis added):

Repeal or delay of taxes on high-income people, fees imposed on manufacturers, and excise taxes enacted under the ACA. Modification of various tax preferences for medical care.

Got that? We?ve got to slash Medicaid to give a huge tax break to ?high-income people.? And 23 million of our fellow Americans can crawl off into the woods and die, because this entire exercise was nothing more than a way to cut taxes on the ultra-wealthy. As I said, Democrats should already be drafting their campaign ads around this basic fact.

By magnanimously allowing an extra million people to keep their health insurance, the Republicans did fix one glaring problem with their first attempt. Now the number of uninsured will be exactly what it would have been if Obamacare had never happened. Incredibly, the first draft of this bill somehow denied health insurance to a million more people than a flat Obamacare repeal would have done. So at least now Republicans can?t be accused of making things even worse than they would have been if Obama had failed to pass his law.

Still, ?things won?t be worse than the status quo before Obamacare? isn?t really a rousing campaign slogan for the GOP. Democrats will be pointing out that this bill is in no way real deficit reduction, since after slashing Medicaid by $834 billion it only saves the government $119 billion in the end ? because of the $664 billion tax windfall.

Republican senators have all but announced they?re tossing the House bill out and starting with a blank sheet of paper. They may come up with their own bill, or they may be incapable of reaching agreement among themselves (if only three Republican senators decide not to vote for a bill, it will die ? a pretty thin margin). If the Senate acts and produces a slightly-less-breathtakingly-bad bill, then the focus may shift before the election cycle really gets underway. But whether the Senate acts or not, the House votes are already on the record. They voted for this Draconian bill, and their Democratic opponents should take every opportunity to point it out to their constituents.

The House Republicans congratulated themselves for throwing 23 million people off their health insurance. They slashed Medicaid by over $800 billion. They handed most of this money out to the wealthiest Americans, for no reason whatsoever. By doing so, they are saving a grand total of $12 billion a year in a $4 trillion budget ? a deficit reduction of roughly one-third of one percent. The numbers are in, and they?re bad. Spectacularly bad. Breathtakingly bad. Whatever else happens, House GOP members won?t be able to run away from them.

Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

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Adorable Animated Film Offers Beautiful Story Of Two Boys Falling In Love

A new animated short film is in the works that tells the story of a gay boy falling in love with the most popular boy in school.

?In A Heartbeat? follows Sherwin, an awkward young teen who is unsure of his sexuality. After crossing paths with Jonathan, a classmate, Sherwin?s heart literally pops out of his chest and chases after his new Prince Charming. Sherwin then has to try and stop his heart from revealing its true feelings ? not only to Jonathan, but the entire school.

Slated to be completed and then debut this summer thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $14,000, ?In A Heartbeat? is a completely dialogue-free and created by Esteban Bravo and Beth David.

?When we first started working on this film, we knew that we didn?t want it to be preachy,? the pair, both filmmakers at the Ringling College of Art, told HuffPost. ?There isn?t even dialogue, so we never have the characters speak to persuade the audience of anything. We simply wanted to show the audience what growing up was like for us through this story about a sweet, red-headed boy who feels just as confused and scared about his feelings as we did. Hopefully, it?ll resonate with those who identify with this character – and for those who don?t, we hope they?ll gain an understanding for people who go through this experience.?

We can?t wait!

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Danielle Brooks To Her Teenage Self: Your Stretch Marks Are ‘The Roadmap Of Your Strength’

Danielle Brooks is full of amazing advice ? and she just shared a few pieces with the world.

The ?Orange Is the New Black? star recently wrote a poignant essay for Refinery29 that details some of the advice she wishes she could give her 15-year-old self. 

?A lot of blessings and disappointments will come your way this year, and in the years to come, but I want you to continue to practice patience,? Brooks wrote to her teenage self. ?Let God write your story. It will always be brighter than you could ever dream ? so trust her.? 

Published on Tuesday, the essay is a heartwarming message about the trials and tribulations so many teen girls face: fights with parents, high school crushes, learning to love your body and figuring out how to be comfortable and happy in your own skin.  

?Love your stretch marks, Danie. They are the roadmap of your strength,? Brooks wrote for number 5 on the 11-point list. 

Number six? Don?t cry too much when you?re not asked out to prom. 

?One day that boy you had a crush on, you?ll run into him at the grocery store and discover he has three baby mamas and works at Verizon. Not even as a manager,? Brooks wrote. ?And the other dude, you?ll realize he doesn?t even have enough courage to pursue his dreams. How would he ever be able to handle yours? Again, be patient. One day you will bring all the boys to the yard. They will be sliding in those DMs, girl. That phrase will make more sense in 2017.?

The OITNB actress is no stranger to preaching self-love and body acceptance. Brooks modeled for Lane Bryant for the clothing company?s body positive campaign #ThisBody in 2016. The actress is also a spokesperson for R29?s The 67% Project, a multimedia initiative promoting body positivity and plus-size visibility that launched in September. 

In her R29 essay, Brooks reminded her teenage self that no matter what happens in life, she always needs to ?operate out of love.? 

?You are not an ordinary 15 year old, and that is okay. That doesn?t make you better or less than anyone. But what you must not do is dim your light,? she wrote. ?You have a lot of love to give and believe it or not, it is not as easily accessible for others to give the same. People have a lot of hang ups that will make them guarded, but continue to operate out of love. It will always win.?

Head over to Refinery29 to read Brooks? full essay. 

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Lisa Spoonauer, ‘Clerks’ Actress, Dead At 44

Lisa Spoonauer, the New Jersey?born actress known for her role as Caitlin Bree in ?Clerks,? died Saturday. She was 44. 

A cause of death was not released, but TMZ reports police responded to a 911 call to her house around 11:05 p.m. Saturday night, but she wasn?t breathing when EMTs arrived. 

Kevin Smith, who directed Spoonauer in ?Clerks,? shared the sad news on Instagram Tuesday, with a photo collage and touching caption. 

?Devastated to report that [Lisa Spoonauer], who played Caitlin in [?Clerks?], has passed away,? he wrote. ?In 1992, I went looking for Lisa without knowing either who she was or the integral role she?d play in my life.? 

Smith continued, telling the story of how he discovered Spoonauer in an acting class at Brookdale Community College.

?Lisa was easily the most natural and authentic voice in the room. She didn?t sound like she was acting at all; she delivered scripted dialogue as if she was inventing her conversation in the moment, like people do in real life,? he added. 

You can read his entire tribute below: 

Devastated to report that #LisaSpoonauer, who played Caitlin in #clerks, has passed away. In 1992, I went looking for Lisa without knowing either who she was or the integral role she'd play in my life. I'd held a night of open auditions at the #firstavenueplayhouse (where we found @briancohalloran and @marilynghigliotti) but the perfect Caitlin Bree never walked through the door. So I popped into an acting class at Brookdale Community College and watched the students from the back. Lisa was easily the most natural and authentic voice in the room. She didn't sound like she was acting at all; she delivered scripted dialogue as if she was inventing her conversation in the moment, like people do in real life. Captivated, I approached Lisa cold in the parking lot after the class and said “This is gonna sound creepy but… Do you wanna be in a movie?” Fearlessly, she replied “Not if it's porn.” I told her a bit about Clerks and gave her a copy of the script and my phone number. She called me a few days later and said “Well it's not porn, but everybody talks like it is. It's funny. I'll do it.” A complete stranger at first, Lisa quickly became one of the most important people I'd ever meet when she joined Brian, #JeffAnderson, Marilyn, @jaymewes, @samosier, @davidkleinasc and me as one of the chief architects of my first film. We rehearsed for a month straight in the store after hours, where Lisa perfected Caitlin (and fell in love with Jeff). The first night of the shoot, Lisa had to maneuver her way through a seven minute scene with Brian in the video store, when Caitlin finally shows up in the movie. Lisa and Brian CRUSHED it in one long take that still remains one of my favorite scenes I've ever shot – not because it shows off any directorial flare (it doesn't) but because it exemplified how great the performers were since we never had to cut away from their 2-shot. But as strong an actress as she was, Lisa was an even more excellent Mother to her daughter Mia. Whenever we'd Facebook later in life, she'd gush about her baby girl proudly. My heart goes out to Tom, Mia and Lisa's family. Thank you for dreaming my dream with me. You changed my life, Lisa.

A post shared by Kevin Smith (@thatkevinsmith) on

Spoonauer only appeared in one other film during her acting career: 1997?s ?Bartender.? However, she did reprise the role of Caitlin Bree for an episode of the 2001 animated ?Clerks? series.  

An obituary posted by a New Jersey funeral home describes Spoonauer as ?a devoted mother and loving wife … known for her strength, selflessness and faith.? 

It continues, ?Lisa loved spending time with family and friends, helping anyone she could and laughing as much as she made other people laugh.?

The obituary also notes Spoonauer went on to become a restaurant manager and event planner following her acting career. 

Spoonauer is survived by her husband, daughter, stepson, mother, twin brothers and her grandfather. 

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