No Room for the Little People in Trump World

Little Rock   The little people are taking a beating in Trump’s Washington and the rest of America. Behind the curtain while the wildness and rants are on display on stage, the march to unravel rights and protections for regular, low-and-moderate income Americans as citizens and consumers is relentless.

Vice-President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote this week in a gift to big and small corporations, banks, Wall Street, and sneaky, fast dealers everywhere to allow corporations to use the fine print to force consumers to arbitrate any grievances with a company, rather than allowing them to collectively join with other consumers, similarly afflicted, in a class action lawsuit. In a classic example of double speak, corporate lobbyists claimed on the basis of the few arbitration awards that consumers won more money. The cumulative total though was $500,000 for the total arbitration awards versus over $1 billion for the class action settlements. Talk about taking advantage of short attention spans and American math deficiencies, wow!

In another example of how outrageous everything is getting, the Illinois Attorney General sued to stop a payday lending sketch outfit in that state and elsewhere from forcing workers making less than $13 per hour from having to sign non-compete clauses if they left the company, essentially blocking one of the few powers workers had there: the threat of exit. Sure they can leave, but they can’t use the skills they developed in that job in any related company. The feds are asleep at this switch, but some 18 state legislatures have passed similar non-compete allowances for companies.

Trying to hang on to your health insurance, lower drug and medical prices, and a bit of protection from the Affordable Care Act for your family? Sure, you are, and why wouldn’t you, but understand the odds. A report says that the pharmaceutical, hospital and health industry spent half a billion dollars for lobbying last year. It won’t be enough to save your loose change. You better find some friends. A lot of them! They’re running it, and we’re running from it.

Consumers, regular citizens, workers, and others just need to realize our line for the next three years starts at the back…way back! The FCC says media conglomerates can own radio, TV, and newspapers in the same markets in coming years: one voice will become the only voice. Federal lands are being opened for extraction and 77 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico are going up for the highest bidding for oil exploration, while the market is glutted. Environmental regulations are being rolled back so fast we will be lucky to be able to drink water or breath air. And, the beat goes on.

While we’re watching the reality-horror show and pinching ourselves that this all can’t be happening, the corporate lobbyists and the haterators are stealing the country away from us, piece by piece, day by day.

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Welcome to the No-Insurance Emergency Rooms as Long as They Last

New Orleans  The Congressional Budget Office has released its score on the cost and impact of the Senate Republicans version of healthcare coverage. The bottom lines have gotten wide publicity. 22 million will lose insurance by 2026, 15 million almost immediately. 15 million lower income people will lose Medicaid coverage. It wasn’t big news that this will be an income transfer from the poor to the rich, because we had already known that was coming in all the Republican bills.

Elderly people hoping to live long enough to qualify for Medicare will have to run the gauntlet, unless they are wealthy. The New York Times gave two examples from the CBO report that were appalling.

for a typical 64-year-old with an annual income of $26500, the net premium in 2026 for a midlevel silver plan – after subsidies – would average $6500, compared with $1,700 under the Affordable Care Act. And the insurance would cover less of the consumer’s medical costs. Likewise, the report said, for a 64-year-old with an annual income of $56,800, the premium in 2026 would average $20,500 a year, or three times the amount expected under the Affordable Care Act.

Yes, you understand the math. In the first example that’s a quarter of the person’s income and in the second it’s more than one-third, 36% to be exact.

The Senate added an amendment at the request of the insurance industry recently that anyone not on insurance more than 60 days would have to wait 6-months to get coverage and pay 30% more on their premiums. The industry recognized that as bad as this bill is, no one is going to get coverage until they are sick, so they wanted to try and put some boulders in the road.

And, of course they are right. With no mandate and no penalties for not having insurance most people will not get insurance for the plain and simple reason that they won’t individually be able to afford it unless their employer is providing it for them. Young people on insurance will be rare. For the rest of the population, health insurance will be the American version of Russian roulette. How long can you wait before getting insurance? People will be arbitraging their family fiances against their lives.

What if you are diagnosed with cancer or something and have to wait 6-months for treatment? In the short term survival for you and tens of millions of others will mean throwing yourself on the mercy of the hospital emergency room, as long as the law doesn’t allow them to refuse service, and until so many of these hospitals go bankrupt from providing care without government support or private insurance payments.

There’s a reason why hospitals, doctors, nurses, and everyone connected to providing health care services have opposed these bills. It’s not because many will lose their jobs as healthcare facilities go under, which they certainly will. They aren’t politicians. They’ll see the people dying at their door, too late to save, and too poor for the insurance, yet too rich for any assistance. Who wants to live through that?

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