Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Last Call For Voting Rights And Wrongs

As expected, NC GOP Gov. Pat McCrory is demanding that the Supreme Court immediately reinstate the unconstitutional "voting reform" law passed by Republicans to disenfranchise black and Latino voters.

North Carolina officials asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to keep a voter identification requirement and 10 days of early voting for the November election, even after a lower appeals court ruled these changes illegally restricted voting by blacks.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory said his lawyers and those for other officials, including some hired by GOP legislative leaders who championed the 2013 law, asked the court to delay enforcement of last month's ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The delay would occur while attorneys draft an appeal for the justices to consider the inherent issues in the case more deeply. 
The ruling struck down the photo ID mandate and returned early voting to 17 days.
The attorneys wrote that altering the voter laws would create voter confusion weeks before the election inNorth Carolina, a presidential battleground state with races for governor and U.S. Senate also on the ballot. The voter ID requirement already was used in this year's primary elections. 
"North Carolina should not be forced to scramble mere months before the general election to rejigger settled election plans at the 4th Circuit's command," the state's attorneys wrote to Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts receives such appeals for North Carolina matters. 
A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit already refused to delay their July 29 ruling, which found the Republican-led General Assembly enacted the law with intentional discrimination in mind. The court ruled the changes targeted black voters more likely to support Democrats. 
McCrory has said the ruling is factually wrong and maligned the state, adding that requiring photo ID makes common sense and protects the integrity of elections at a time when people must show IDs all the time. 
"The 4th Circuit's ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand," McCrory said in a release.

So we'll see what the Supreme Court does.  Given the 4th Circuit's pretty substantial findings, especially given that the state's Republican party went out of their way to target black NC voters in particular with practices that would specifically limit their ability to vote, I can't see the Supreme Court saying "Hey, yeah, we need to keep those practices going until we can decide this."

Then again, all Chief Justice Roberts would need to do is say "It's too close to the election in order to make any changes" and punt, which is why McCrory waited several weeks in order to petition the court for an injunction.

How the court will proceed, I don't know.  We'll find out soon, I suspect.

Picking Up Where They Left Off

If you think House Republicans are going to accept a Clinton landslide as a mandate or even as a legitimate election result, you really haven't been paying attention to the last 20 years.

A pair of leading House Republicans on Monday laid out detailed instructions for the Justice Department to file perjury charges against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 
More than a month after first requesting the department open a criminal probe into Clinton for alleged misstatements she made under oath, the GOP heads of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees told a federal prosecutor specifically where they believed Clinton had lied to Congress about her email setup at the Department of State.

In at least four separate occasions during a marathon appearance before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, the lawmakers alleged, the former secretary's claims were at odds with what the FBI has now discovered to be the truth about her private server. 
"Although there may be other aspects of Secretary Clinton’s sworn testimony that are at odds with the FBI’s findings, her testimony in those four areas bears specific scrutiny in light of the facts and evidence” provided by FBI Director James Comey, Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Channing Phillips. Goodlatte leads the Judiciary Committee and Chaffetz runs the Oversight Committee. 
Monday’s letter is a sign that Republicans are committed to pressuring the Justice Department to act against Clinton, even after it notably declined to prosecute her for mishandling classified information. 
The GOP chairmen also appear to be making a public case for an indictment, perhaps building off widespread unease with the decision not to prosecute the former first lady. In addition to their letter on Monday, the Oversight Committee also released a 2.5-minute video detailing apparent inaccuracies in Clinton’s testimony.

I'm not at all surprised to see Jason "Benghazi" Chaffetz behind this particular mess, and this little gambit doesn't depend on the increasingly volatile and desperate Donald Trump, either.   It does however depend on our press to actually take this farce seriously, and they probably will, at least until Trump blows up again.

This obnoxiously political move to win the election they're destined to lose by trying to indict their opposition's nominee is the kind of nonsense you'd expect from the Banana Republicans.  But it seems like it's the last card they have to play right now.

They must really, really be worried about losing the House as well as the Senate to try this stupidity.

Aetna Tu, Brute?

I mentioned last month that the Justice Department sued to block the massive health care mergers between Anthem and Cigna, and another between Aetna and Humana, which would have dropped the number of major health insurance providers in the country from five to just three (the other player being United Health).  The mergers would have been a disaster for consumers and competition and in areas of several states would have left Americans facing a monopoly in health insurance coverage.

Now we see Aetna's counterstroke: the insurer is suddenly planning to drop out of Obamacare health exchanges across the country.

Health insurer Aetna Inc. will stop selling individual Obamacare plans next year in 11 of the 15 states where it had been participating in the program, joining other major insurers who’ve pulled out of the government-run markets in the face of mounting losses.

It will exit markets including North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida, and keep selling plans in Iowa, Delaware, Nebraska and Virginia, Aetna said in a statement Monday. In most areas it’s exiting, Aetna will offer individual coverage outside of the program’s exchanges.

The decision by Aetna is the latest blow to President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy law. While it has brought coverage to millions, the new markets have proven volatile for some of the largest for-profit insurers, and UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. are also pulling out, after posting hundreds of millions of dollars of their own losses. Aetna said earlier this year that it expects to lose $300 million on the plans.

Next year will be the law’s fourth of providing coverage under the new markets. Aetna’s decision doesn’t affect people covered by the company this year, but when they look for 2017 coverage, they’ll need to pick a new insurer. The decision raises the prospect that some consumers will only have one insurer to choose from when they buy 2017 coverage.

Aetna’s about-face on the ACA comes less than a month after the U.S. Justice Department sued to block the company’s $37 billion purchase of Humana. The DOJ says the combination would harm competition for private Medicare plans and for ACA health plans. Aetna has said its revised stance on the ACA wasn’t prompted by the suit.

“The vast majority of payers have experienced continued financial stress within their individual public exchange business,” Aetna Chief Executive Officer Mark Bertolini said in the statement. “Providing affordable, high-quality health care options to consumers is not possible without a balanced risk pool.”

Sure, the DoJ lawsuit had nothing to do with Aetna's decision to pull out. And if you believe that, I've got some insurance to sell you.  After all, the Bloomberg article does note that this is an about face for the company, because just three months ago, Aetna was salivating over stepping in to pick up new Obamacare customers and even wanting to expand its markets.

Health Insurer Aetna Inc on Wednesday said it plans to continue its Obamacare health insurance business next year in the 15 states where it now participates, and may expand to a few additional states.

"We have submitted rates in all 15 states where we are participating and have no plans at this point to withdraw from any of them," said company spokesman Walt Cherniak. But he noted that a final determination would hinge on binding agreements being signed with the states in September.

Again, this was May and Aetna was full steam ahead.  Then the DoJ antitrust lawsuit was filed in July, and now suddenly in August Aetna can't possibly continue in 11 of those 15 states because of "hundreds of millions in losses."

Oh, and by the way, three of the states Aetna is pulling out of?  Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

You do the math.  Charles Gaba has a lot more at his place.


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