The AHCA: The early years. If only we would devote the same amount of energy to reading the thing as we do to objecting to or supporting it. That would be impressive.
The outrage heard round the world began in early May, when the House of Representatives passed the AHCA and the newly reconfigured Republican healthcare bill moved along into the Senate. Before we move on, we’d like to stipulate to a few basics here at Two Weeks Ago News:
1. We are not policy wonks. Far from it. But based on what we read on social media and online through various news sources, we recognize that this fact doesn’t make us any less qualified to discuss or dissect a topic than anyone else. (We hope that people reading this site will acknowledge, even grudgingly, that at least a modicum of research goes into every point of view we share.)
2. We are not about to read the AHCA. We tried that many years ago with ObamaCare when we wrote for a political website. That was a nightmare we still haven’t quite recovered from and not because the policy was necessarily a complete disaster. Because anyone with a pulse could never be expected to wade through that much information and understand it enough to form a reasonable opinion. It would be impossible for the average American to do so. We stand by that. Because we’re just that masochistic, we went back and read that column from 2010. If anyone can tell us, we’d love an explanation of how the 2010 bill was so much more straightforward than the 2017 bill. We’ll wait.
So all of that leaves us exactly no where, we get that. But because we have the luxury of time and we like to try to adhere to our “two weeks to marinate” formula, we’re going to keep reading and discerning what we can about the AHCA. As we do, we’ll pose a question or two along with our favorite passage so far. Honestly, it’s perfect. First, the questions:
1. We’ve read meme after meme of politicians who seemingly want people to die. Question: Do the people posting these memes truly believe that? They believe, wholeheartedly and without reservations, that elected Republican officials hope that by passing this law, some Americans will die? Wow. Just wow. We can be pretty bleak here at Two Weeks Ago News but even at our lowest moment, when we were in complete disagreement with the prevailing party, we never imagined they wanted us dead. We wonder how it must feel to live with all that misery.
2. We recognize that we all have our biases but does anyone really think his or her point of view will get any legitimate debate or consideration when it comes from any one of these admittedly and unapologetically biased sources: Daily Kos, Jezebel, Moveon.org, Think Progress, Mother Jones, Salon and Vox on the Left; Drudge Report, The Weekly Standard, Red State, WND, The Blaze, Breitbart and The Daily Caller on the Right. Again, they have a known perspective and their coverage underscores it. And good writers (mostly) produce these pieces! So by all means, read what you like, share it like crazy and feel good about it - but please don’t point to it as unbiased journalism. Please don’t treat it like straightforward news. Please don’t dismiss people with a different perspective as ignorant. Stories that emerge from these sources very rarely – if ever – are without an agenda.
3. Whatever happened to reporting the news? Without loaded words, loaded headlines and slanted perspective? We try and try and try to find it. Some sources come close but there is always a “tell,” an explanation that reveals a bias of one kind or another. Our linked NPR article starts off with a great title and a straightforward promise, but then uses a fair amount of “but – however – if - very likely - may choose - would likely be” qualifiers, and then seems to devolve into a comparison of the AHCA to the existing healthcare program. Look, that’s a fair enough perspective. It’s just not what the title of this piece - “Here’s What’s in the House-Approved Health Care Bill” – indicated it would be.
And now - thank you for your patience - our favorite passage to date in the AHCA, and no we’re not making this up. This entire section of the bill is devoted to - wait for it - lottery winners. And specifies the rules about how states may legally disenroll high dollar lottery winners. We’re not kidding. Keep reading. Before you go too far, or if you want to save yourself the headache, just read this next little bit. It’s our favorite sentence of the whole passage. (For extra fun, read it out loud. It’s magical.)
Nothing in the amendment made by paragraph (1)(B)(i) shall be construed, with respect to a determination of household income for purposes of a determination of eligibility for medical assistance under the State plan under title XIX of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396 et seq.) (or a waiver of such plan) made by applying modified adjusted gross income under subparagraph (A) of section 1902(e)(14) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1396a(e)(14)), as limiting the eligibility for such medical assistance of any individual that is a member of the household other than the individual (or the individual’s spouse) who received qualified lottery winnings or qualified lump-sum income (as defined in subparagraph (J) of such section 1902(e)(14), as added by paragraph (1)(B)(i) of this subsection).
Here’s the rest of the section. Good God in heaven. Lottery winners? That’s what we need to address here?
SEC. 114. REDUCING STATE MEDICAID COSTS. (a) Letting States Disenroll High Dollar Lottery Winners.-- (1) IN GENERAL.—Section 1902 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396a) is amended-- (A) in subsection (a)(17), by striking “(e)(14), (e)(14)” and inserting “(e)(14), (e)(15)”; and (B) in subsection (e)-- (i) in paragraph (14) (relating to modified adjusted gross income), by adding at the end the following new subparagraph: “(J) TREATMENT OF CERTAIN LOTTERY WINNINGS AND INCOME RECEIVED AS A LUMP SUM.-- “(i) IN GENERAL.—In the case of an individual who is the recipient of qualified lottery winnings (pursuant to lotteries occurring on or after January 1, 2020) or qualified lump sum income (received on or after such date) and whose eligibility for medical assistance is determined based on the application of modified adjusted gross income under subparagraph (A), a State shall, in determining such eligibility, include such winnings or income (as applicable) as income received-- “(I) in the month in which such winnings or income (as applicable) is received if the amount of such winnings or income is less than $80,000; “(II) over a period of 2 months if the amount of such winnings or income (as applicable) is greater than or equal to $80,000 but less than $90,000; “(III) over a period of 3 months if the amount of such winnings or income (as applicable) is greater than or equal to $90,000 but less than $100,000; and “(IV) over a period of 3 months plus 1 additional month for each increment of $10,000 of such winnings or income (as applicable) received, not to exceed a period of 120 months (for winnings or income of $1,260,000 or more), if the amount of such winnings or income is greater than or equal to $100,000. “(ii) COUNTING IN EQUAL INSTALLMENTS.—For purposes of subclauses (II), (III), and (IV) of clause (i), winnings or income to which such subclause applies shall be counted in equal monthly installments over the period of months specified under such subclause. “(iii) HARDSHIP EXEMPTION.—An individual whose income, by application of clause (i), exceeds the applicable eligibility threshold established by the State, may continue to be eligible for medical assistance to the extent that the State determines, under procedures established by the State under the State plan (or in the case of a waiver of the plan under section 1115, incorporated in such waiver), or as otherwise established by such State in accordance with such standards as may be specified by the Secretary, that the denial of eligibility of the individual would cause an undue medical or financial hardship as determined on the basis of criteria established by the Secretary. “(iv) NOTIFICATIONS AND ASSISTANCE REQUIRED IN CASE OF LOSS OF ELIGIBILITY.—A State shall, with respect to an individual who loses eligibility for medical assistance under the State plan (or a waiver of such plan) by reason of clause (i), before the date on which the individual loses such eligibility, inform the individual of the date on which the individual would no longer be considered ineligible by reason of such clause to receive medical assistance under the State plan or under any waiver of such plan and the date on which the individual would be eligible to reapply to receive such medical assistance. “(v) QUALIFIED LOTTERY WINNINGS DEFINED.—In this subparagraph, the term ‘qualified lottery winnings’ means winnings from a sweepstakes, lottery, or pool described in paragraph (3) of section 4402 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or a lottery operated by a multistate or multijurisdictional lottery association, including amounts awarded as a lump sum payment. “(vi) QUALIFIED LUMP SUM INCOME DEFINED.—In this subparagraph, the term ‘qualified lump sum income’ means income that is received as a lump sum from one of the following sources: “(I) Monetary winnings from gambling (as defined by the Secretary and including monetary winnings from gambling activities described in section 1955(b)(4) of title 18, United States Code). “(II) Income received as liquid assets from the estate (as defined in section 1917(b)(4)) of a deceased individual.”; and (ii) by striking “(14) EXCLUSION” and inserting “(15) EXCLUSION”. (2) RULES OF CONSTRUCTION.-- (A) INTERCEPTION OF LOTTERY WINNINGS ALLOWED.—Nothing in the amendment made by paragraph (1)(B)(i) shall be construed as preventing a State from intercepting the State lottery winnings awarded to an individual in the State to recover amounts paid by the State under the State Medicaid plan under title XIX of the Social Security Act for medical assistance furnished to the individual. (B) APPLICABILITY LIMITED TO ELIGIBILITY OF RECIPIENT OF LOTTERY WINNINGS OR LUMP SUM INCOME.—Nothing in the amendment made by paragraph (1)(B)(i) shall be construed, with respect to a determination of household income for purposes of a determination of eligibility for medical assistance under the State plan under title XIX of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396 et seq.) (or a waiver of such plan) made by applying modified adjusted gross income under subparagraph (A) of section 1902(e)(14) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1396a(e)(14)), as limiting the eligibility for such medical assistance of any individual that is a member of the household other than the individual (or the individual’s spouse) who received qualified lottery winnings or qualified lump-sum income (as defined in subparagraph (J) of such section 1902(e)(14), as added by paragraph (1)(B)(i) of this subsection).
For God’s sakes of America, we hate this. We feel like Charlie Brown, begging for someone to explain the meaning of Christmas.
Us: (shouting at Washington D.C.) Isn’t there anyone who knows what the AHCA is all about?
Linus (AKA some kind soul in Washington D.C. who offers a simple explanation to the needy masses): Sure, American people. I can tell you what the AHCA is all about.… And there were in the same country, citizens, working in the fields, in the cities, in the suburbs, keeping watch over themselves and their families, and the government came upon them. And the endless debate began, including clauses and subsections and adding hyphens and then striking and then inserting, and they were sore afraid…”
Stay tuned. We’ll keep reading and let you know what we find out.