Senate Health Care Reform – Act III

A bipartisan agreement has been reached in the Senate to help stabilize health care markets – from Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

Among other things, the Alexander-Murray agreement would:

  • fund cost-sharing reduction payments, which help lower consumers’ deductibles and co-pays, for two years;
  • broaden the pool eligible for a “copper plan” (catastrophic medical) coverage option, which would help reduce the mandate implications for essential benefits;
  • include funding to help Americans navigate signing up for health insurance, which had been cut by the Trump administration; and
  • set up high-risk pools that will allow for continued coverage for these individuals.

What this is not is a “repeal and replace”. That said, the two-year funding promise is good news for insurers and would help alleviate their unease, which would also be felt by consumers. But this bill does nothing to address the core problems in the individual marketplace that threaten its sustainability.

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, who has been pushing for bipartisan fixes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has thrown his support behind the Alexander-Murray agreement and is a co-sponsor of the legislation. He stated, “This is the product of hard work from members on both sides of the aisle, and it’s an important step in providing much needed stability to the market. I’m proud to be part of the effort, and I will continue working with Republicans and Democrats to move this much-needed legislation forward.”

President Trump has alternately met the agreement with both optimism and skepticism. Overall, he’s indicated that he would favor a short-term subsidy fix; however, he doesn’t want to help insurers either.

It would appear the bipartisan legislation would garner most, if not all, Senate Democrat votes (as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer alluded to on Thursday), so that would leave a lot of wiggle room for passage if some, or even many, Republicans vote against it. The question is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will do and what he says to his caucus.

Meanwhile, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the authors of the Senate’s second ACA reform attempt, have been working with Alexander and Murray on ways the bill can be made palatable to the very conservative arm of the congressional Republicans – most notably in the House.

In other words, this is far from a done deal.

Why We Endorsed Sen. Lugar Today

We announced our endorsement of six-term incumbent Richard Lugar for the U.S. Senate today. The endorsement was made by the Indiana Chamber Congressional Action Committee, the federal political action committee of the Indiana Chamber.

"Senator Lugar has compiled a most impressive pro-economy, pro-jobs voting record throughout his years of service," said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. "His focus on helping grow Indiana businesses and putting Hoosiers back to work is exactly what we need in Washington."

Lugar has been a long-time leader on many energy, national security, foreign policy and agricultural issues, among others. His effort to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and make the Keystone XL pipeline a reality – and create jobs in Indiana and throughout the country – is just one current example of his continued leadership.

"In a time when congressional approval levels are at record lows and partisanship is all too common," Brinegar adds, "Sen. Lugar should be applauded for his ability to reach across the aisle and work with members of both parties. We believe Hoosiers strongly benefit from his expertise and experience."

Internships Can Launch Surprising Opportunities

This post was originally published at Indiana INTERNnation.

The fun part of interning is that you never know what events you will have a chance to attend and what people you will get an opportunity to meet.  If you keep your eyes wide open, your internship can extend beyond your primary responsibilities and the department to which you are assigned.

After my Washington D.C. internship in international affairs did not work out because of differences in mine and the company’s schedules, I was desperately looking for something in Indiana.  I picked up the phone and called the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. To be honest, at that point of time, in mid-May, I did not expect that there would be anything available.  I picked up the phone because I thought that trying every single opportunity would be the right thing to do.

To my surprise, I was offered an exciting internship assisting Indiana INTERNnet with marketing and communications. What was even more surprising is that sometime later, I was able to participate in an international affairs event and had the opportunity to expand my professional network with a few interesting people – a high governmental official from my native country and some Indiana business community representatives interested in doing business in Russia.

Last Friday, the Russian Senator, Mikhail Margelov, who also heads the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Russian Federation Council, gave a presentation at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce about Russian investment opportunities and potential reset in US-Russia economic relations.  He was accompanied by the senior management of the U.S.-Russia Business Council, which promotes mutually beneficial business relations between the countries. 

I introduced myself to the Senator, took a picture with him, and we chatted in Russian.  I thought that he would be the only person to whom I would speak my native language. But you know what?  I was approached in Russian by the CEO of one of the Indiana firms that deals with the Russian Space Agency about working part-time and assisting them in communication with their Russian partners.

I also had a chance to speak Russian with the Director of International Government Affairs of one of the biggest American companies. It turned out that he went to the university in Moscow 18 years ago.  He still practices his Russian and has a dream of reading the books of famous Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, in original print.  Now I have the memories of the great conversation, his card, and his promise to introduce me to the staff of their office in Moscow.

So, keep your eyes wide open, pay attention to what is going on in different departments in your company, and do not miss the opportunity to meet new people.  As it happened in my case, even if you do not go to D.C., some international official might come to see you in Indianapolis.

Indiana Democrat Starts Facebook Movement to Choose Bayh’s Replacement

Sen. Evan Bayh’s surprising move last week to announce he was not running for re-election was stunning, even to many most familiar with Indiana politics. However, the timing of said move (just before the candidate filing deadline) struck some the wrong way, even in his own party. The Democrats’ inability to field a candidate via signatures leaves the ultimate decision to the party’s State Chair and Central Committee. Janette Surrisi, a Democrat in Culver, has started a Facebook group (which has 55 members as of this writing) to rally state Dems in demanding that convention delegates be the ultimate deciders. In an e-mail, she writes:

The people of Indiana deserve to choose the democratic candidate for Evan Bayh’s senate seat. Evan Bayh announced only a day before the deadline to get on the primary ballot that he would not be running for election in 2010. Many speculate that the timing was a political maneuver to make sure that the Indiana Democratic Chairperson and Central Committee could hand pick the candidate of choice for the senate seat and in doing so leave many primary voters in the cold.

To remedy this, we believe that the more than 2,000 Indiana Democratic State Convention Delegates should pick the candidate for Bayh’s seat. Delegates are elected in the primary to go to convention. If not enough candidates are elected to delegate spots, county party chairman can appoint citizens of the party to the position. Currently, democratic delegates pick their Secretary of State, State Auditor, and State Treasurer candidates at convention.

We petition that Dan Parker and the Indiana Democratic Party Central Committee allow the delegates to vote for the democratic senator candidate at convention in June. We believe that the candidate that earns the most votes from the delegates should be named by the Central Committee as the candidate on the ballot for the democrats in November.

This group is dedicated to giving Indiana voters a voice. All voters Democrat, Republican, or Independent deserve to pick their candidates.

The Impact of Bayh’s Departure

The Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter sat down with Gerry Dick to discuss the impact of today’s surprise announcement, though the true repercussions remain to be seen:

As political observers scramble to assess the impact of Senator Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek re-election, the vice president for federal affairs at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce believes it’s too early to tell what it could mean for business in the state. In a Studio(i) interview, Cam Carter says Bayh has been under the chamber’s microscope for voting to place a labor law attorney on the National Labor Relations Board, who appeared to favor proposals including card check legislation.

Carter says the Democratic Party will have to scramble to pick a candidate to run for the Senate seat in this year’s election.

Tomorrow is the deadline to gather 4,500 signatures from around the state to get a name on the ballot and Friday is the deadline for candidate filings.

Inside INdiana Business has video here.

Remembering Sen. Riegsecker

State Senator Marvin Riegsecker passed away today after a long battle with cancer at the age of 71. An Indiana Senator since 1988, Riegsecker represented District 12, covering a large portion of Elkhart County.

He will be missed greatly by his friends and colleagues. His leadership on business issues and government reform will also be missed by the Indiana Chamber. His friend and Chamber VP of environmental and energy affairs, Vince Griffin, remembers:

A few years ago, on his 65th birthday, Senator Riegsecker came to me and shared that it had been a lifelong dream of his to bicycle from his Goshen home to the State House in Indianapolis. He asked me to lay out a route and ride with him. We rode the 160-some miles over two days. Neither he nor his bike were well-prepared for the ride, but he did it and that is a testimony to Marv’s dogged determination. He exhibited that strong-willed nature in his 20 years in the Senate as he tackled issues related to the environment and health — and he was one of the champions of Daylight Savings Time. Marv was a good friend to many and will be missed by all.