Just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President Barack Obama's health care law is constitutional, the U.S. House voted this week for the 33rd time to repeal or change it.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, one of the law's most outspoken critics, took to the chamber floor July 10 to say why she thinks the law is a bad idea.
"The president told us that we would be saving $2,500 a year per household if we passed his health care bill," Bachmann said. "But the sad reality is that Americans' health insurance premiums have increased by almost that amount, which means the president was off by a stunning $5,000 per household."
"Americans are pulling their pockets inside out saying, 'Mr. President! I don't have the money to pay $5,000 more per year on my health insurance policy,'" Bachmann went on.
Bachmann's correct that Obama pledged to reduce premiums by $2,500. But the bulk of her claim is misleading.
When President Barack Obama was on the campaign trail in 2008 and subsequently trying to sell the health care overhaul in 2009, he said his plan would save households up to $2,500 on their premiums annually. It's a claim that independent fact-checking organization FactCheck.org has questioned repeatedly. And PolitiFact.com has rated Obama's promise to lower health insurance premiums by $2,500 as 'Stalled'.
To support the second part of Bachmann's claim, her staff points to a recent report compiled by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. According to that report, premiums for private family coverage increased by an average of $1,700 between 2009 and 2011, the first two years of Obama's presidency.
That's not the nearly $2,500 increase Bachmann mentioned in her speech because she was including 2008 as part of Obama's presidency, according to her spokesman. Obama wasn't sworn into office until 2009, so Bachmann's claim that premiums have increased by nearly $2,500 is inflated.
Further, Bachmann makes it seem as if families are paying the entire amount of that premium increase, but it is employers that cover the bulk of the cost. According to the same report, the increased cost to patients between 2010 and 2011 was only $130, and employers covered the rest.
Bachmann's underlying point that the new health care law is responsible for higher premiums is unfair, say health policy experts.
In fact, health care premiums have been on the rise for years. According to the Kaiser report, family coverage premiums have increased by more than $9,000 since 1999, so the trend isn't unique to Obama's presidency.
Michael Sparer, chair of the department of health policy and management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health says care is becoming more expensive, which drives up premiums.
"The underlying cost drivers (price and volume, especially of high tech services) continue to be the key," Sparer wrote in an e-mail.
Jonathan Oberlander, who teaches health policy and management at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said there's evidence that the rate of health spending is actually slowing down. Premiums are still growing, but at a slower pace, Oberlander said.
And while some insurers may raise rates in anticipation of more regulation ahead, Sparer wrote, the bulk of the health care law won't kick in until 2014, so it's too soon to say whether it will have a dramatic impact on premiums one way or another.
Oberlander and Bradley Herring, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, agreed.
"It's too early for the ACA to have any effect on health care spending," Herring said.
Bachmann's correct that Obama frequently promised to lower premiums by $2,500, a claim that other fact-checkers have questioned in the past. And she relies on a reputable report to underscore that premiums have been on the rise.
But she inflates the premium increase during Obama's time in office by several hundred dollars, and fails to point out that much of those additional costs will be borne by the employer, not employees.
Further, she implies that premiums are increasing because of the new health care law. But it is high-tech, increasingly complex medical procedures that are making care more expensive.
Bachmann's claim is misleading at best.
YouTube, Bachmann: Obamacare is Full of Broken Promises, July 10, 2012
The New York Times, Health Plan From Obama Spurs Debate, by Kevin Sack, July 23, 2008
The Irregular Times, Text and Audio of Barack Obama Speech in Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 27, 2008
PolitiFact.com, RNC ad blames Obama for $1,300 spike in family health care premiums, by Louis Jacobson, March 19th, 2012
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits: 2011, Annual Survey, Sept. 2011
Interview, Bradley Herring, associate professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, July 11, 2012
E-mail exchange, Michael Sparer, Department Chair, Health Policy & Management Professor and Department Chair of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, July 11, 2012
E-mail exchange, Dan Kotman, spokesman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, July 11, 2012
E-mail exchange, Jonathan Oberlander, professor of health policy and management, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, July 12, 2012(2 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Lots of money is flowing into what's expected to be Minnesota's tightest congressional race this fall in the 8th District. Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack's campaign reported Friday that he raised $393,753 in the second quarter of this year, his largest fundraising haul yet. Since entering Congress last year, Cravaack has raised more than $1.4 million.
Cravaack begins the campaign season with $898,681 cash on hand. So far, former state Sen. Tarryl Clark is the only one of Cravaack's three DFL opponents to report fundraising figures. While Clark's campaign out-fundraised Cravaack's last quarter, this quarter saw Clark bring in $232,138. She reports having $259,022 in the bank.
The funds raised by candidates will likely be only a small portion of the money that goes into the 8th District race this fall. A variety of outside groups and unions from the left and right have already been active in the district, which is rated by the Cook Political Report as a "toss-up" race that could go to either party.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents the 7th District, also filed his quarterly fundraising report with the Federal Election Commission. The long-serving Peterson brought in $191,174 and has $819,647 cash on hand. Lee Byberg, Peterson's Republican opponent, has not yet revealed his fundraising totals.
Thomson Reuters is the latest company to announce that it's opposing Minnesota's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
In an e-mail to employees, the highest two ranking executives headquartered in Minnesota (Mike Suchsland, President of Thomson Reuters Legal, and Rick King, COO, Technology) wrote that the amendment would hurt their ability to attract employees to work in Minnesota. Thompson Reuters is headquartered in New York and Westlaw, formerly West Publishing, is a subsidiary in Eagan.
"We believe the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, if passed, would limit our ability to recruit and retain top talent," the e-mail said. "For this reason, we do not believe that the Amendment would be good for Thomson Reuters or the business community in the state."
Thomson Reuters has 7,900 employees in Minnesota. In the e-mail, company officials also noted that the company's position is a "business decision" and that "as a news organization, Thomson Reuters is dedicated to upholding our Trust Principles and does not advocate political or religious positions."
The company's announcement comes just weeks after General Mills announced that it would oppose the amendment. It has also sparked a debate over whether the amendment would hurt or help the state's business climate.
"Today's historic announcement by Thomson Reuters shows that, more and more, companies in Minnesota are standing up and saying that this hurtful amendment is not in the best interests of businesses, families or the state of Minnesota," Richard Carlbom, executive director of Minnesotans United for All Families, said in a statement.
Minnesota for Marriage, the group campaigning to pass the amendment, has also been working to counter the argument that the amendment would hurt Minnesota's business climate. The group issued a press release yesterday noting that nine of the ten business friendly states in a recent CNBC study of America's Top State for Doing Business, have amendments in the constitution that ban same-sex marriage.
"The claim that the passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment will hurt Minnesota's economy is a complete myth," said John Helmberger, Chairman of Minnesota for Marriage. "If anything, the opposite is true. The CNBC study is yet another in a string of studies that consistently show states with a marriage protection amendment in their constitution are among our top performing economic states."
The campaign over whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between "one man and one woman" is expected to be fierce. The constitution will be amended if a majority of those voting in November's election vote yes on the ballot question.
Here's the e-mail from Thomson Reuters officials:
From Mike Suchsland and Rick King: Responding to questions on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment
We're writing today to respond to questions we have received from employees about an important issue that we are facing in Minnesota.
Some of you have asked if Thomson Reuters has a point of view on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, which voters will decide on this November. As you probably know, the question Minnesotans will vote on is whether our state constitution should be amended to limit marriage
to one man and one woman.
As we've heard from employees, recruiters and customers, one thing has been very clear: we're a better place when we have a rich variety of perspectives, talents, backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences in our workplace, and within the broader community from which we recruit. We
believe that building a culture that thrives on diversity and inclusion and provides equal opportunities to everyone is a critical factor in our ability to serve our customers and be successful.
We believe the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, if passed, would limit our ability to recruit and retain top talent. For this reason, we do not believe that the Amendment would be good for Thomson Reuters or the business community in the state. It's important to note that as a news organization, Thomson Reuters is dedicated to upholding our Trust Principles and does not advocate political or religious positions. Rather, our perspective on the Amendment is a business position.
Our view on the Amendment is also in keeping with our company's long-standing history of supporting diversity initiatives and promoting social justice in our local and global communities. Thomson
Reuters does these things because they support our core values and, in the end, we believe they are good for business.
We know that there are varying points of view on the Amendment and we encourage each of you to express your individual opinion at the polls. Thomson Reuters is a business that values open dialogue, and we know that this communication may generate some discussion. It's an issue that is full of emotion for many, so please remember to honor our tradition of treating all people fairly and with respect - whether your conversations are in person or online. We know you will.
All the best,
WASHINGTON - Minneapolis Democrat Keith Ellison raised $260,317 for his congressional re-election campaign between April and June, Ellison's campaign announced Friday afternoon. One of his Republican challengers, former Marine Chris Fields, brought in $40,240, while another, Lynne Torgerson raised $7,301.
Ellison's campaign has $142,959 in the bank as of June 30 while Fields has $33,782 in his war chest and Torgerson has $1,340 on hand.
Candidates have until midnight Sunday night to report their quarterly fundraising through June 30th.
UPDATE This post has been updated
WASHINGTON - Amy Klobuchar's Senate re-election campaign fund continues to grow. Her campaign announced Friday afternoon that she's raised more than $950,000 ahead of a July 15 Federal Election Commission deadline and has about $5.5 million cash on hand.
Her war chest grew by approximately $300,000 in the last three months, suggesting that her campaign's spending has begun to ramp up.
Klobuchar's Republican opponent, schoolteacher and state Rep. Kurt Bills, has not yet filed his fundraising totals with the FEC. When reached by phone Friday afternoon, Bills' campaign manager Mike Osskopp said, "We raised less," and promised to pass along those figures shortly.
We'll update when he does.
UPDATE Bills' campaign announced raising $243,300 in the second quarter of the year and issued an attack on Klobuchar, calling her "the candidate of lawyers, lobbyists and bailed out Wall Street."
"Amy Klobuchar votes for bailouts and boondoggles. It's no surprise that the beneficiaries want to keep her in office," Osskopp said. The campaign has $64,681 in the bank.
Outside observers consider Klobuchar's to be a safe Democratic seat this campaign and her fundraising is, in some ways, indicative of that. Senate candidates in competitive seats have been raising far more this election cycle. For example, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill brought in $2.6 million this quarter for her Senate re-election bid while next door in sparsely-populated North Dakota, the candidates for the open Senate seat there are each bringing in as much as Klobuchar has.