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Cynthia Lummis’s (Stunningly) Glib Fraud: A Follow-Up

Cynthia Lummis, a wealthy Republican House member from Wyoming, claims her husband passed away, thanks in part to Obamacare. Lummis cited the law as a major contributing factor to her husband’s demise. Instead of blaming her husband, who could easily have afforded the test (who elected to skip the necessary diagnostic), she blames the best thing to happen to millions of low income Americans, Obamacare.

From Addicting Info:

Cynthia Lummis is actually among one of the richest members of Congress. In 2007-2008, Representative Lummis’ financial disclosure forms reported a net worth between $20 million and $75 million… Obamacare wasn’t designed for people who have $20-$75 million. It was passed so the rest of us, who are either self-employed or have no access to insurance, can afford health care. It’s not the fault of the law that Lummis’s husband chose not to get a potentially life saving test – if he chose not to get the test.

Steve Doocy was desperately trying to dramatize her ‘poignant’ moment during these ridiculous hearings based on a pompous MIT economics professor speaking candidly. Lummis would not take the bait and blame her husband’s death entirely on the healthcare law. But she was willing to attribute a likely mistake in coverage to the passing of her husband. She believes men in general are easily dissuaded from seeking medical care, so any little glitch or problem will convince them to discount medical advice.

It’s truly disingenuous to blame a death on a law which is reliant on the insurance marketplace, as we all know insurance companies aren’t exactly cooperative and committed to the well-being of their customers. They are, like Republicans, only interested in financial gain and not human lives. Her husband’s choices and consequences should not deny insurance to the millions of poor people who finally have access to medical care. But they sure as hell will try their best to perpetuate the Republican Cult of Death and take away as much as they can from poor and needy Americans.

Cynthia Lummis Lies And Blames Obamacare For Her Husband’s Death, Crooks and Liars, yesterday

 

I can’t figure out which is worse. That this woman dragged her dead husband into this witch hunt to make a political point, or that she is so stupid to not realize that her story makes no sense.

And [Washington Post political blogger Nia-Malika] Henderson really needs to get a clue.

— EMichael, comment this morning to my post yesterday titled “Cynthia Lummis’s (Stunningly) Glib Fraud

The one thing I wish Crooks and Liars had added to that post was that Lummis mentioned that her husband was 65 years old.  He therefore was on Medicare–although Lummis failed to say that.* 

Indeed, that may well have been what caused the confusion when he sent in his claim to “Obamacare”; he turned 65 last January, and this might have been his first use of Medicare, and that might have someow complicated the matter.  But in any event the cost at issue would have been the difference between what Medicare paid for the various tests he had, and would have paid for the test he did not have, and the portion of the remainder of the charges that the “Obamacare” plan that Lummis and her husband purchased was supposed to pay for as Medicare supplement coverage.

Lummis is trying to get away with murder here—the murder of others.  I really, really would like to see one of the high-profile fact-checker blogs inquire into why Lummis was effectively claiming that “Obamacare” negated her husband’s access to Medicare coverage.  Nor was her husband even required under the ACA to have insurance beyond just Medicare, although of course the additional coverage was free, courtesy of his wife’s employment with the federal government.

Might the Washington Post’s own Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, be interested in pointing this out?

But the Cooks and Liars highlights a critical point: that the ACA is reliant on the insurance marketplace, and, as we all know, insurance companies aren’t exactly cooperative and committed to the well-being of their customers.  Thus the problems—of the sort that Lummis complained of and of the sort that virtually everyone else who complains about it, complains about.

Such as Catherine Keefe, whose op-ed published yesterday in the Washington Post, is titled “I’m an Obama supporter. But Obamacare has hurt my family.” The subtitle is “Obamacare has been far more frustrating than I’d ever dreamed.”  Chances are, I’d say, excellent that Keefe wrote the subtitle but not the title, since the subtitle accurately summarizes her piece but the title does not.

What Keefe’s complaint, like most other accurately stated complaints about the ACA are really complaints about this country’s for-profit, market-based healthcare insurance industry.  So were Lummis’s.  Keefe’s only actual harm from the ACA itself, as opposed to harm from the obnoxious insurance-industry-created provider-networks system—a factor now in most employer-based insurance coverage, although that’s rarely mentioned in the media—is that as a 56-year-old woman (her husband is 59), she should not have to purchase a plan that includes children’s dental coverage and maternity care.  Point taken, but that would be an easy fix.  (Missing from her article is mention of two benefits from the ACA that may matter to her husband: no annual nor lifetime coverage cap.  She does, though, note her gratitude for the ACA’s having ended the pre-existing-conditions thing, a big factor for husband, especially, but also for her.)

As for Lummis, what she’s really complaining about is that, thanks to an amendment offered by Sen. Charles Grassley (R. IA) to the original ACA bill as it was being debated in Congress, members of Congress and their staffs no longer are covered by the federal government’s famously generous and user-friendly healthcare coverage. They now must, like regular folk, deal with the for-profit, market-based healthcare insurance industry that she and her ideological cohorts claim to hold in such high esteem.

As I read Keefe’s op-ed yesterday, what struck me is how very ready huge swaths of the public are for Medicare-for-all. And how thoroughly clueless most politicians, political operatives and pundits are that this is so.  Lummis’s husband needed simply to schedule that final test and present his Medicare card when he arrived at the medical facility.  And that’s how simple and direct such things should be for everyone. Including the spouses of people whose financial assets don’t range between $20 million and $75 million.

—-

*Post edited slightly to clarify that while Lummis mentioned her husband’s age, she failed to note that he had Medicare coverage–a key point I made in my earlier post.  12/11 at 1:07 p.m.

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Cynthia Lummis’s (Stunningly) Glib Fraud

The big news story of the last 24 hours, of course, is the Senate Intelligence Committee’s sickening torture report.  But you might also have heard about Wyo. Rep. Cynthia Lummis’s dramatic statement yesterday as a member of Darrell Issa’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Jonathan Gruber/Marilyn Tavenner Obamacare hearing.

The purpose of the hearing was, naturally … well, you know.  But something surprising did happen at the hearing.  In short, Lummis, the chairwoman of the Republican Study Committee’s Obamacare-repeal subcommittee, claimed that her 65-year-old Medicare-eligible husband failed to get a physician-recommended medical test to diagnose the cause of his chest pains because he was told incorrectly that he and his wife “were not covered by Obamacare”.

Even if you did hear about this, you might have missed Washington Post political blogger Nia-Malika Henderson’s precious take on it as “the most moving moment of the Gruber hearing.”:

Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who said that the stupidity of the American public played a major role in the passage of the  Affordable Care Act, came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to be verbally flogged by members of Congress. Amid the predictable litany of “stupid” references, Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) provided a poignant moment. Here’s what she said:

“On October 24, the week before election, my husband went to sleep and never woke up. He had a massive heart attack in his sleep at age 65.  A perfectly, by all accounts, healthy man. Come to find out, in a conversation with his physician after he died, he chose not to have one of the tests, the last tests, his doctor told him to have. This happened to coincide with the time that we were told that we were not covered by Obamacare. I’m not telling you that my husband died because of Obamacare.  He died because he had a massive heart attack in his sleep.

Lummis’s husband was Alvin Wiederspahn, a former Democratic state legislator and a lawyer and rancher. They married in 1983. When he died, Lummis released this statement, which mentions the couple’s only child: ‘Last night, my husband, Al, passed away peacefully in his sleep in our home in Cheyenne. Annaliese and I know that God has taken Al home to heaven, but right now our hearts are broken.’

“Her statement about her husband in the Gruber hearing wasn’t so much a question as much as it was a raw accusation about the Affordable Care Act, a statement she ended by asking for some compassion. ‘I want to suggest that regardless of what happened to me personally, that there have been so many glitches in the passage and implementation of Obamacare that have real-life consequences on peoples’ lives,’ she said, almost choking up. ‘The so-called glibness that has been referenced today has direct consequences for real American people. So get over your damn glibness.’”

“Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner tried to offer Lummis some sympathy, but was cut off by outgoing chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)”

Hearings like this are always political.  But they don’t usually offer such deeply-felt personal stories from lawmakers.

Apparently, it didn’t occur to Henderson, nor for that matter to Tavenner, to mention that Lummis’ husband surely was covered by Medicare.  For the record, Mr. Wiederspahn, according to his own Wikipedia page, was born on January 18, 1949, so he turned 65 a full 10 months before his death.

Also for the record, Lummis and her husband had a net worth of between $20 million and $75 million, including three Wyoming ranches.  Although Mr. Wiederspahn himself came from a prominent Cheyenne family and was a successful lawyer, the couple, who met when they were young across-the-political-aisle colleagues in the state legislature, inherited most of their extensive wealth from Lummis’s family.

Lummis said at that hearing that her husband had had several routine heart-health tests, presumably months or at least weeks before he died, and had submitted payment claims to “Obamacare,” but was told, erroneously, by “Obamacare” that the two of them were not were not covered, even though they had purchased a plan through the DC exchange website.  She said he resubmitted the bills and was told again that he and his wife weren’t covered.  But he was covered primarily by Medicare. And of course he knew that. Lummis didn’t mention that, but she did say that he had been having chest pains yet declined to have that final diagnostic test.

Lummis ran unsuccessfully in September to chair the Republican Study Committee, and she heads its legislative-repeal subcommittee. Her story was not a deeply-felt personal one but instead a deeply-felt ideological one.  The chance is nil that her husband delayed getting that final diagnostic test for fear that he might have to pay out-of-pocket some relatively small portion of the cost for the test–the portion that Medicare would not pay. Or that he thought the insurance error would not be corrected.

Her claim is a fraud.  Call her the “‘Jackie’, the-University-of-Virginia-fraternity-gang-rape-victim” of the Obamacare-horror-story crowd.  By which I mean that, theoretically at least, her fabrication in order to try to serve her cause may prove to have the opposite effect.  But only if the news media reports the credibility issues.  And because this is not about sex but instead about Obamacare, the news media probably won’t.

And, no, I’m not being glib.  Lives indeed are at stake.

And while it may be unfair to analogize Henderson to Rolling Stone journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the infamous UVa-fraternity-gang-rape article—Henderson, after all, was just extemporaneously reacting to what she had just seen on CSPAN, not writing an ostensibly extensively-investigated in-depth news article—I’ll draw the analogy anyway, albeit while noting that important distinction.

But Henderson certainly is correct on her last point: Congressional hearings don’t usually offer such deeply-felt personal stories—real ones or fake ones—from lawmakers. Nor, of course, was this lawmaker actually testifying.  Not under oath, anyway.

But to Henderson’s observation, I’ll add one of my own: There has, at least to my knowledge, never been a House or Senate hearing at which, say, a surviving spouse of someone who died because of lack of access to diagnostic tests or to treatment because of the family could not afford healthcare insurance on the private market on the pair’s minimum-wage jobs, or because the spouse had a pre-existing condition detailed this.  Nor, to my knowledge, has there been testimony by a witness who alone or along with a spouse filed for bankruptcy, or completed lifelong savings and retirement accounts, because of huge and possibly ongoing medical bills that far exceeded the pre-Obamacare annual benefit cap on the family’s Blue Cross plan.

For that matter, there has been no Congressional-hearing testimony by people who will lose access to healthcare insurance if Antonin Scalia brings along with him next spring the votes of four other justices to interpret the ACA as containing an antidisestablishmentarian clause that bars insurance-premium subsidies under that statute in states that have allowed the federal government to set up and run their state’s insurance exchange website, as per the ACA, rather than set one up and run it itself.  During a little-publicized private speech to the Appellate Judges Education Institute Summit last month, Scalia decided to tamp down public speculation that in the ACA cases, King v. Burwell and Halbig v. Burwell, he might adhere to the rule of statutory construction that he announced for the Court last June in a ruling favoring a who’s-who cadre of anti-environmental-regulations Republican campaign finance benefactors, and against the EPA.  Scalia reportedly told his audience that judges don’t have the power to interpret “garbage” statutes enacted by Congress to avoid an undesired outcome. (Scalia and four of his colleagues do believe, however, as they demonstrate regularly these days, that they have the power to interpret non-garbage statutes and statutory procedural rules as garbage statutes, but apparently he didn’t mention that in his speech.)

And there has been no Congressional testimony by anyone who, notwithstanding a very moderate annual income ($11,670 to $29,175 a year for an individual), this year has enjoyed excellent healthcare insurance through an ACA provision that has remained almost secret because it requires a separate budget appropriation that the Republicans have blocked. HHS has used funds appropriated for the tax subsidies to fund the program this year, but the professional-anti-Obamacare-litigation industrial complex is challenging the legality of this in the courts.  New York Times healthcare reporter Robert Pear explained on November 29:

In mounting the latest court challenge to the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans are focusing on a little­-noticed provision of the law that offers financial assistance to low­ and moderate­ income people.

Under this part of the law, insurance companies must reduce copayments, deductibles and other out-­of­pocket costs for some people in health plans purchased through the new public insurance exchanges. The federal government reimburses insurers for the “cost-­sharing reductions.”

Nor has there been Congressional testimony by anyone who is deeply grateful for the dramatic slowing of the decades-long virulently-rising annual increase in healthcare insurance costs for private-employer-based insurance, although surely there are many, many millions who are.

I want to suggest that regardless of what happened to Lummis personally, that although there have been so many glitches in the passage and implementation of Obamacare, the actual real-life consequences of Obamacare on peoples’ lives are that it mitigates to some extent but by no means fully the profoundly harsh and quite-often deadly American healthcare-access/healthcare-coverage system, and that Lummis is fraudulently invoking her husband’s untimely death in the service of trying to strip millions of spouses, parents, and children of their newfound, very-long-in-coming access to diagnostic tests, treatments, and preventative medical care.  That—unlike her false indictment of the ACA in her husband’s death—is a fact.

Lummis’s husband, whether or not he remained a Democrat throughout his life, did remain someone whose heart was in the right place.  He reportedly played a large role in obtaining financial support for Cheyenne’s largest homeless shelter.  His widow should have let him rest in peace, rather than glibly invoking his death in a cause whose purpose is to deny access to healthcare insurance to massive numbers of people.  His widow’s glibness was intended to have direct consequences for real American people, of exactly the sort that her husband (who surely knew that at the least he was covered by Medicare) did not face.  It is not Gruber, but Lummis, whose glibness will kill, as is its intention.

Yes, Henderson really did title her blog post “This was the most moving moment of the Gruber hearing.”  Once Obamacare has been repealed root-and branch, as Mitch McConnell has vowed, or just branch-but-not root, by the Supreme Court, as Scalia is hinting, there will be many possible moving moments, superficially similar but substantively different than Lummis’s, although of course not by lawmakers.  There still is a difference between staged theater and real life; at least I think so.  So I suppose we’ve seen the last of the moving moments, at Congressional hearings, concerning spousal deaths due to lack of health insurance coverage.

Lummis surely mourns her husband.  Deeply.  But she also made him her unwitting stage prop yesterday.

 

 

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Nia-Malika Henderson has the same trouble Ernst does with understanding clear, sequential sentences

For those who don’t know, Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for the Washington Post’s politics blog The Fix.  I am neither of fan generally of that blog (with the exception of one of its regulars, Sean Sullivan, and one or two of the several others) nor a fan specifically of Henderson—who, best as I can tell, never met a comment related to women, or to a woman, that she didn’t reflexively view as sexist if some woman or women said the comment is sexist or if the comment could be twisted as sexist.

And this morning Joni Ernst said a comment by Tom Harkin about her was sexist; ergo, Henderson thinks the comment by Harkin is sexist.

Or, more specifically, Henderson thinks that Harkin said Ernst is as attractive as Taylor Swift, so even though Harkin said nothing of kind—seriously; he said nothing of the kind—Henderson thinks Harkin said Ernst is as attractive as Taylor Swift.  Specifically, here in full is what Henderson wrote, in a post titled “Tom Harkin compares Joni Ernst to Taylor Swift, because sexism. Then he apologizes.”, which I momentarily thought, naïvely, was sarcastic:

Here’s a Fix rule for politicians. Never, ever, ever comment on someone else’s personal appearance. Nothing good can ever come of it.

Retiring Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin just broke this rule into a million pieces. Here’s what he said about state Senator Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee running to replace him, courtesy of Buzzfeed:

“In this Senate race, I’ve been watching some of these ads. And there’s sort of this sense that. Well, I hear so much about Joni Ernst. She is really attractive, and she sounds nice. Well, I got to thinking about that. I don’t care if she’s as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa.”

If you watch the video, what Harkin said isn’t just him riffing and going off script. Nope, he has clearly given some forethought to what he said and doesn’t think it’s sexist or problematic. He likes the line. He thinks it’s cute and clever and the audience seems at least slightly amused.

Ernst, a National Guard lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq, was not. In an interview with Fox News she said she was “very offended that Sen. Harkin would say that.” “I think it’s unfortunate that he and many of their party believe that you can’t be a real woman if you’re conservative and you’re female,” Ernst said, adding that there is a double standard in terms of coverage. “I believe if my name had been John Ernst attached to my resume, Sen. Harkin would not have said those things.”

She is exactly right. The relative attractiveness of “John Ernst” would not likely be a focus for Harkin.

Give Ernst credit. She came up with this zinger of a retort to Harkin.

“He compared me to Taylor Swift, so I’m gonna shake it off.” ‐ @joniernst responds to Harkin

comments at kick off of 24‐hour campaign swing

8:51 AM ‐ 3 Nov 2014

Nick Corasaniti

@NYTnickc

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Update #1: Harkin has, so far, declined to apologize.

Update #2: Harkin has now apologized.

EXCLUSIVE ‐ Just talked w/ @SenatorHarkin ‐ says he

“was wrong” to make Taylor Swift remarks re:

@joniernst ‐ “Didn’t mean to hurt anyone”

2:33 PM ‐ 3 Nov 2014

No, indeed, the relative attractiveness of “John Ernst” would not likely be a focus for Harkin.  Nor, of course, was the relative attractiveness of Joni Ernst a focus for Harkin. Harkin’s comment was that he kept hearing that Ernst’s attractiveness is a focus of some voters, as is her reputed niceness—and that neither is an appropriate focus, in Harkin’s opinion, because neither will impact how her votes in the Senate would affect her constituents’ lives.  Only her ideologically-based votes—which will be most of her votes—will affect her constituents’ lives.

If she does become a senator.

Not really a tough concept to understand.  And I don’t actually know whether Ernst herself did not understand the comment or instead just pretended not to understand it.  Harkin’s comment involved a more-than-one-step analysis—two steps, by my count—and Ernst doesn’t present herself as the most intelligent of folks, so maybe she didn’t understand the comment rather than taking a clear-but-compound statement and twisting it for attempted political gain.  But there’s no question at all that Henderson did not understand it.

Here’s a rule for political journalists. Never, ever, ever mindlessly adopt some politician’s or political operative’s take on an opponent’s statement.  Nothing good can ever come of it.

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