Terry H. Schwadron

July 14, 2017

All-things-Russia aside, there is plenty of federal policy being made, or more appropriately un-made. These are issues upsetting to me, and maybe you. You have a chance to comment:

Health Care:

The Senate is out with the newest version of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and the results continue to threaten to push millions off health care insurance. It is not a bill about health; it is about taxes, ideology, politics, take your pick, but not health.

There will be plenty of commentary on all this, of course, but the bottom line is that Senate Republican leadership has decided to embrace a combination of keeping a couple of the Obamacare taxes on the wealthy, adding some money, but not enough, for opioid addiction problems, and to include a change sought by Sen. Ted Cruz to allow insurers to offer cheaper health care alternatives for healthier, younger people. It continues the cut and cap Medicaid contributions to the states.

Basically, the approach is to try to keep the Senate’s most conservative votes, while trying to pick off more moderate members one by one. Still, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, is against the bill as a less-than-clean repeal of Obamacare.

You may want to reach out to the offices of Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Susan Collins of Maine as those “moderates” most likely to vote against the main health care bill’s advance.

As you may remember, Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford two Republican defectors, and Paul and Collins are already pretty well committed against the bill.

Just to add to the confusion, Sen. Lindsay Graham. R-SC, and Bill Cassidy, R-La., offered a bill of their own to simply redirect all money under Obamacare to the states. Cassidy explained that blue states can offer blue care, and red states red care.

The Cruz amendment basically allows insurers who offer at least one plan consistent with the principles of Obamacare, including coverage for maternity, contraception and pre-existing medical conditions, to also offer a lower-cost alternative that does not. Critics, including insurance companies themselves as well as all parts of the medical services sector, say this will bifurcate the health care markets and force higher costs for older, sicker people. Cruz acknowledges that could happen, but argues that this approach meets the demand that many have for lower-cost programs, even if they do not cover as much. Interestingly, Republicans may not submit the Cruz amendment to the Congressional Budget Review for financial impact review.

The general Senate telephone is (202) 224–3121, where you can be connected to specific offices, or you can look up the specific office.

Campus sexual assault:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is taking testimony about cutting back enforcement of Title IX rules to pursue campus sexual assaults. Basically, her chief internal adviser on these matters is Candice E. Jackson, an attorney who, though a victim of sexual assault herself, has represented a number of students charges with assault under the Title IX rules. Her advice is that the enforcement of the rules are too often unfair to those charged with assault.

DeVos was taking testimony yesterday from a number of students, enforcers and university officials about the issues and the competing views, But DeVos already has an internal memo from Jackson, head of the department’s Civil Rights division, recommending that the department cut back on requirements that investigators broaden their inquiries to identify systemic issues and classes of victims. The memo lays out that regional offices will no longer be required to alert department officials in Washington of all highly sensitive complaints on issues such as the disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the mishandling of sexual assaults on college campuses.

When Obama era officials publicized their enforcement efforts, the reports of rape and sexual assaults multiplied, leading to long waits for resolution and some pushback from universities who think they are too engaged in enforcement.

The telephone for the Office of Civil Rights in the education department is 1–800–421–3481. Email is ocr@ed.gov

Net Neutrality:

You may have seen notes on your usual websites yesterday — all in the name of trying to save your access exactly to those websites. Web publishers designated the day to make sure people know what “net neutrality,” under fire in the Trump administration, is all about.

In brief, net neutrality is a policy from the Obama administration that protects the same access that you and I have, as well as the vast number of internet publishers, as do the owners of Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and other big Internet Service Provider companies. The change of administration has resulted in a 2–1 Republican majority in the Federal Communications Committee which controls this issue. The FCC is collecting public opinion now through mid-August on the question, but appears ready to overturn the net neutrality rule. The neutrality rules, they argue, are akin to regulations that inhibit development of new businesses, and have capped the investment that ISPs make in improving their networks.

What would result is that ISPs would be able to favor their own content or their licensees for cash payments in the delivery of internet signals to the home and businesses. The whole idea of the Internet was to keep an open information highway, not to set up private roadways with toll booths. As it happened, even AT&T opposes the current plan, preferring that Congress vote the change rather than the FCC, fearing further oversight as a “utility.”

Citizens can comment at the fcc.gov site by clicking on “express” in the bottom left.



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