Monday, May 08, 2017

The LuLac Edition #3492, May 8th, 2017


Bob Casey and Lou Barletta. (Photo: The Daily Item)
This past week there have been reports that 11th District Congressman Lou Barletta has been urged by the Trump administration to run for the Senate seat in 2018 held by Bob Casey. Immediately speculation ensued as to what the Congressman would do. Naturally, opinions on the local scene varied. Here’s my take on why I don’t think this will happen.
1. Barletta is an excellent Congressman in the way he communicates how Congress works. Before the current administration took office, Barletta, in his public appearances detailed honestly how his job was done. He gave you an insight into the good, the bad and ugly of how Washington works. I could tell he enjoyed the position.Unlike his President, Lou actually understands his role.
2. Barletta’s main political goal has always been to be a Congressman. He ran three times against Paul Kanjorski to finally get that brass ring. During the interim of his first and last run, (which spanned the first decade of this century) Barletta was offered statewide opportunities. In 2006 and 2010 he was courted to run for Lt. Governor. He turned it down.
3. As I told WBRE/WYOU TV’s Andy Mehalshick last Thursday, I would hope Lou wouldn’t listen to the entreaties of the administration. Or the President himself. He has a safe seat now. He is popular in many quarters of the district. From a purely political standpoint, being recruited by “the big guys” is flattering. It’s almost like a star athlete being pursued by a Division One College. They’ll tell you anything to get you to sign. While the Republican National Committee has resources at their disposal, Barletta would be at their mercy in term of help. What happens if he says yes and the race, despite the relentless ad campaign coming against Casey, puts Barletta 10 points down. The RNC pulls out and he’s on his own.
I’ve been doing this blog for 11 years now. I have followed politics since the age of 9. Through those decades I have seen many a candidate who was urged on by party bosses and friends, telling them “you’ll be a shoo in” and then leave them flat when something else happens in their lives. All of a sudden a trip, another candidate doing well somewhere else,  or something else  will take priority over Barletta.He'll be left hold the bag. 
Plus the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will most likely overwhelmingly go against him given his immigration stance through the years.
4. Barletta, like any politician has an ego. But I believe he is more centered than most having had such a hard climb in getting to Congress. He has already had one invite from the Trump people for Labor Secretary. Barletta turned it down and only he and the administration know the particulars. I would think this would be part of his thought process.
5. Finally, is Barletta willing to put his political career in the hands of a President with a 40% approval rating? Despite the jubilation of the Republican Party in the state, Trump won by less than 75,000 votes, half of which came from Luzerne County. By 2018 would Trump’s popularity be a help or a hindrance? Putting all my personal and policy differences aside with Trump, I think it would be a hindrance. Both Trump and Toomey won by a whisker. It was not the "historic" landslide the President claims. 
My opinion, Barletta should stay put for now. Here’s a little more of the story with WBRE/WYOU TV from this past week.



Regarding this Senate race, a lot will depend upon whether Barletta is right or wrong the health care bill. In the news release below, we see how Barletta fought for the pre existing conditions being included in the bill. But the 8 billion in subsidies promised over a few years is just a drop in the bucket as far as health care spending goes. Here’s what his office proudly sent us the other day. One has to wonder if Barletta ever holds an open town meeting again, what the local reaction will be.
Congressman Lou Barletta voted for the American Health Care Act (AHCA), H.R. 1628, the first major step toward repealing and replacing Obamacare. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, is part of a multi-phase process Congress is taking to provide Americans with relief from Obamacare’s restrictive mandates, high costs, and decreased access to health care.
“As we speak, Obamacare is collapsing,” Barletta said. “This disaster of a health care law threw people off their preferred plans, eliminated access to their favorite doctors, and on average, increased Pennsylvanians’ premiums by 32 percent. This bill is not the final product, but rather a starting point for a better health care plan that will drive down costs, restore choice, continue protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions so that they cannot be denied coverage, and ensure that Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars go only to American citizens. Today, I also voted to block members of Congress and their staff from receiving any special health care benefits. Sticking the American people with Obamacare was simply not an option, and today we took a necessary step to repair that damage.”
The American Health Care Act repeals many of Obamacare’s crippling mandates, including the individual and employer mandates, and replaces them with provisions meant to drive down the cost of health insurance and increase access to affordable, patient-centered health care. The bill provides age-adjusted tax credits to individuals to make purchasing health insurance more affordable. It also establishes the Patient State and Stability Fund, which sends $15 billion in funding to states for maternity coverage and newborn care, as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment, and an additional $100 billion to lower health care costs and stabilize health insurance markets. It also creates a Federal Invisible Risk Sharing Program which provides $15 billion to further aid in lowering costs for high risk individuals. Barletta successfully worked to include language directing the Senate to provide additional financial assistance to older Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare. The bill also keeps the provision allowing adult children to stay on their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26.
Importantly, the AHCA maintains protections for people with pre-existing conditions so that they cannot be denied coverage. Under the AHCA, nobody will be charged higher premiums if they keep up their health insurance coverage, and nobody can be denied coverage based on a health condition. Additionally, the bill maintains that individuals cannot be discriminated against in the insurance market based on gender.
Obamacare applied a one-size-fits-all mandate on individuals and states, which forced insurers out of the marketplace and left individuals with and without pre-existing conditions either uncovered or with significant premiums and out of pocket costs. The AHCA, by contrast, allows for competition and for market forces to lower premiums. While the AHCA allows states to apply for waivers to opt-out of certain Obamacare regulations, the state must first show how the waiver would serve to either reduce premiums, increase enrollment, stabilize the insurance market, increase consumer choice, or stabilize premiums for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Any state that receives a waiver will receive additional funding to support programs, such as high-risk pools, that cover costs for individuals with pre-existing conditions. If an individual in a state which receives a waiver does not maintain continuous coverage and experiences a higher premium as a result, protections will kick-in to ensure that the individual's rate lowers after a year. The bill was further amended to include an additional $8 billion specifically to bring down premiums and out-of-pocket costs for individuals with high health insurance costs in a state that receives a waiver.
“Despite false assertions, this bill retains the policy that nobody can be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition and includes multiple layers of protections to maintain affordable costs for these individuals,” Barletta said.
Barletta simultaneously voted in favor of H.R. 2192, which clarifies that members of Congress and their staff are not exempt from the waiver provisions in the AHCA. This language blocks members of Congress and their staff from receiving any special health care benefits.
Congress is working through a multi-phase process to repeal and replace Obamacare. While today’s vote advanced step one of this process, Congress continues to simultaneously consider standalone bills to provide targeted relief from Obamacare. The policies included in these additional bills include allowing individuals to purchase coverage across state lines and empowering small businesses to pool together through association health plans to provide their employees with affordable health benefits. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will also remove excessive Obamacare regulations, stabilize the health insurance market, increase choices, and lower costs.
Concerned about abuse of taxpayer dollars, Barletta was able to secure a guarantee from President Donald J. Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan that the House will vote on his bill to prevent fraud by verifying that taxpayer-funded health care benefits do not go to those who are not eligible to receive them. Barletta’s Verify First Act requires the Treasury Department to verify individuals’ social security numbers with both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security before issuing health insurance premium tax credits. A Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report issued last year revealed that, under Obamacare, $750 million in health care subsidies went to individuals who committed fraud to receive them.


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