In today's On the News segment: The Obama Administration is holding off on instituting out-of-pocket expense limits; North Carolina's Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed our nation's most restrictive voter ID law on Monday; California became the first state in our nation to provide legal protections to transgender students; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Yet another key provision of Obamacare meant to protect consumers is being delayed - the Obama Administration is holding off on instituting out-of-pocket expense limits. That provision would have put a cap on the total amount an insurance company can charge individuals or families for deductibles, co-pays, and prescriptions. The healthcare law was supposed to restrict out-of-pocket expenses to about 6,000 dollars for an individual, and 12,000 for a family, but administration officials have delayed that requirement, and will allow insurance companies to set their own limits. The U.S. Labor Department website listed the change since February, but we're just now finding out about it. A White House official defended that decision to the New York Times, saying, "We had to balance the interests of consumers with the concerns of health plan sponsors and carriers, which told us that their computer systems were not set up to aggregate all of a person's out-of pocket costs." However, critics of the delay argue that most, if not all, insurance companies already set out-of-pocket limits, and this change is simply another give-away to the for-profit health care industry. And, many people expect that Republicans will use this additional delay to attack and discredit the president's healthcare law. Patient advocacy groups, like the Multiple Sclerosis Society, are furious about how this latest delay will effect individuals who require expensive medical care. Theodore Thompson, of the MS Society, said, "The promise of out-of-pocket limits was one of the main reasons we supported health reform." It's unclear whether these groups will pull their support for Obamacare because these limits will not be in place. Already, there have been many mixed reviews about other provisions in the healthcare law being delayed, like the employer mandate. It's unlikely that most Americans will be happy about the news that private, for-profit insurance companies will get away with pushing even more healthcare costs on to patients.
In screwed news... On Monday, North Carolina's Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed our nation's most restrictive voter ID law. In addition to a voter ID requirement, and limits on which forms of ID are acceptable, the new law contains several other measures designed to make it more difficult for people to vote. The bill also cuts early voting by a week, ends same-day registration, eliminates a state-sponsored voter registration drives, and makes it easier for political action groups to hide their dark-money donors. The new law does include a measure to provide a "free ID" to state residents, but there's hidden costs to obtaining such ID's – like paying for new copies of birth certificates and other documents – and, that measure will cost taxpayers over $800,000. Governor McCrory defended the law, saying it's necessary to prevent voter fraud. However, when reporters pointed out that very few cases of fraud have ever been discovered, the governor said, "Just because you haven't been robbed doesn't mean you shouldn't lock your doors at night." The ACLU, NAACP, and the Advancement Project have already filed lawsuits to block the measure, saying it violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Hopefully, those groups can stop this massive voter disenfranchisement before people are blocked from the polls in 2016.
In the best of the rest of the news...
At the same time Governor McCrory was signing North Carolina's discriminatory voter ID bill into law, Hillary Clinton was giving a speech about the ongoing "assault on voting rights." Clinton spoke about the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act ruling, and discussed the "deep flaws in our electoral system" regarding racial discrimination. She said, "In the weeks since the [Supreme Court's] ruling we have seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions that will make it harder for our fellow Americans to vote. Unless we act now, citizens will be disenfranchised and victimized by the law instead of served by it." Her speech was the first of several she will be giving around our nation, which many say is the beginning of a long campaign for the 2016 presidency. Hillary Clinton may not be an elected official right now, but many Americans are happy to see someone of her stature demanding that Congress act fast to protect our right to vote.
Yesterday, California became the first state in our nation to provide legal protections to transgender students. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, which gives students the right "to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities" based on how they perceive themselves, not how they were born. Students will now be able to decide whether they want to play boys' sports or girls' sports, and choose which restroom and locker room they prefer to use. Critics of the new law say that allowing transgender students to use facilities intended for a specific gender, could "invade other students' privacy." However, supporters of the plan, like the ACLU, say that those fears are overblown because transgender students typically just want to blend in. This law puts California at the forefront of transgender rights in our nation, and it will make life better for many transgender students and teens in that state.
And finally...If you've called the Oklahoma Lottery Commission lately, you may have gotten a bit more excitement than you were expecting. Nope, they weren't announcing more winners; they accidentally sold lotto tickets with a phone sex number printed on the back. Apparently, the telephone number is no longer owned by the Lottery Commission, and has since been purchased by "America's Hottest Talk Line." Oklahoma's Lottery director, Rollo Redburn, said, "they must have had an old paper stock that didn't get picked up." Ticket purchasers who dialed the number heard phone sex offers and racy messages. Some people were deeply offended by the adult content, while others chalked it up to a lottery win they simply didn't see coming.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, August 13, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.