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Monday, July 24, 2017
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Gov. Eric Holcomb talks to a reporter in Greenfield earlier this month. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
Gov. Eric Holcomb talks to a reporter in Greenfield earlier this month. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
Monday, July 24, 2017 3:28 PM

By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Eric Holcomb has written a letter to the people of Indiana about the health care reforms that could be debated and voted on in the U.S. Senate. A vote could take place on Tuesday, but at this writing none of the senators even know what’s in the legislation. President Trump said on Monday at the White House that Senate Republicans "must fulfill that solemn promise to the voters of this country to repeal and replace."

The Holcomb administration has been sitting on an analysis of potential Indiana impacts, but in his letter released Monday afternoon, the governor said that the evolving legislation is virtually impossible to accurately gauge. “Last week, we saw two separate publicly reported estimates about the impacts of Senate legislation that were $5 billion apart,” he said. “By tomorrow, there could be other reports with completely different numbers. As I write this, there are rumblings of a potential vote this week. The point is, no one yet knows what the final legislation will contain or whether there will even be agreement to bring a bill to a vote at all.”

The National Governors Association received a study from Avalere Health, which found Indiana’s federal Medicaid funds would decline by $36.5 billion by 2036 under the last GOP plan. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported that Indiana would lose $4.9 billion in fun ing for the poor, disabled and elderly on Medicaid under the ailing Senate health care bill, a 14% drop from what the state would receive under current law through 2026. The estimates come from a governors-only discussion on the future of health care that was presented last week at the NGA and obtained by the Journal Gazette. The federal funding reductions would grow even more severe under the Senate plan by 2036 with Indiana’s loss at 32%, or $36.5 billion.

And the Wall Street Journal reported that the Senate Republican push to repeal the Affordable Care Act would cause 32 million more people to be without insurance coverage by 2026 and decrease the federal de cit by $473 billion, according to a new CBO report released Wednesday. The estimate also projects that repealing the ACA would double premium increases by 2026.

In his letter, Holcomb said, “Here’s what I do know. We cannot continue to ignore the problems with our nation’s current health care system. Medicaid and Medicare are shattering our federal budget, and the national debt has skyrocketed to $20 trillion. Obamacare is crumbling under its own weight. In Indiana, as many as 60 counties will be left with just one choice for insurance coverage under the Obamacare marketplace beginning in 2018. Premiums are rising, our Hoosier neighbors are losing access, and employers are frustrated by federal overregulation that makes it more difficult for Indiana to put Hoosiers to work.”

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  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    KOKOMO – There was President Trump, author of the “Art of the Deal,” dining with Vice President Mike Pence and Republican senators at the White House Monday night. He complained about the grind of the health care reforms, reaffirming his winter quote that “no one knew how tough” such a process could be. He trashed Sen. Rand Paul for his opposition. Pence had spent the previous weekend arm twisting 49 of the nation’s stone-faced governors in Providence (Gov. Eric Holcomb wasn’t there) on the Senate bill, simultaneously discrediting Congressional Budget Office estimates and using other CBO data to make his case. The governors were presented with an Avalere Health study that revealed Indiana’s Medicaid program would lose $4.9 billion in the next nine years, and $36.5 billion - or 32 percent - by 2036. And the Wall Street Journal reported on a CBO estimate of the Senate bill impacts: 32 million Americans would lose coverage, and while the federal deficit would decrease $473 billion, insurance premiums would double by 2026. Saturday night, Pence would intone with one of his “let me be clear” intros that is often followed by fallacy: “We’re on the verge of a historic accomplishment here in our nation’s capital. Because in the coming days, President Trump, working with the Congress that you helped elect, is going to keep our promise to the American people, and we are going to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

  • By CRAIG DUNN
    KOKOMO – Single payer health care is on its way, as inevitable as the rising sun. Through the cumulative effects of Democratic scheming, Republican incompetence and the ignorance of the American people, we stand on the brink of the final dismemberment of the greatest health care system in the world. Soon we will enter a world of rationed medical care, medical treatment by committee and true equality of health care, where the only equality of care will be that no one will receive quality care. Call me a pessimist, but I have seen this train wreck coming for several years, at least since 1993. Since that time, health care has become an effective wedge issue for both political parties. Much as the issue of abortion has been used for political purposes since Roe v. Wade, access to universal affordable health care has become the football of choice for the game of divide and conquer played by Republicans and Democrats alike. Although the issue of socialized medicine dates back many decades, its latest incarnation began in earnest with the creation of the Clinton Health Care Task Force, in 1993. After campaigning for the need for universal health care during the 1992 presidential election, newly elected President Bill Clinton acted quickly in January, 1993, to appoint his wife Hillary to chair a task force to design a plan for universal care. Conservatives, Libertarians and the health care industry banded together to launch an all-out attack on Clinton’s plan. 
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND –  For Democrats to win control of the House next year – possible, though not yet probable – they must upset some Republicans entrenched in “safe” seats, such as Rep. Jackie Walorski in Indiana’s 2nd District. Walorski is targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But so are many other Republican incumbents, most of them in districts in which they appear to be more vulnerable than Walorski. She is regarded as “safe” in most national evaluations. And why not? She won a third term in 2016 by nearly 62,000 votes, carrying nine of the 10 counties in the district and just barely losing in St. Joseph County, supposed bastion of Democratic strength. Walorski, however, is a target because of other past elections. She lost in her first race for Congress in 2010 to Joe Donnelly, who then was the incumbent congressman, and won in a squeaker for a first term in 2012 in a race with Brendan Mullen. Polls showed high negative perceptions of her back then.
  • By RICH JAMES
    MERRILLVILLE – It’s becoming clear that President Donald Trump doesn’t like former President Barack Obama. It’s not a political thing. It’s personal. And it’s driving Trump – and to a lesser extent, Vice President Mike Pence – up a wall. And, yes, the springboard is the Affordable Care Act, which is better known as Obamacare. I think it’s a jealousy thing. Obama twice won the popular vote while Trump didn’t in his one try. Trump started the birther movement, contending Obama wasn’t born in the United States. And Trump never let go of the issue. And Trump was offended when Obama said he wasn’t mentally fit to be president. And virtually anytime something goes wrong, Trump blames it on Obama. What really eats at Trump is Obamacare. The repeal and replace of Obamacare was at the heart of Trump’s campaign. I’m not terribly sure why, given what people are saying today. Last November, just before being elected, Trump said, “My poll numbers are going through the roof. Part (of the reason) is Obamacare.”
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON – A lot of people want what I do from the media and feel they’re not getting it: More facts and fewer opinions; more investigative reporters and fewer pundits; more substance and less fluff; more policy exploration and less politics.  I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to journalism, I’m a traditionalist. Old-fashioned, even. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that even while confidence in the media drops to new lows and Time magazine feels moved to wonder “Is Truth Dead?” on its cover, huge numbers of Americans have come to believe the media is not as authoritative as it once was. Straightforward, responsible journalism is an indispensable public asset, a cornerstone of democratic life. This is threatened by the trends reshaping the media landscape. With less consensus around information and data, the cohesiveness of our society is diminished.
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  • Atomic: Kushner testimony; pardons & firings; 'imaginable' war
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Kushner’s memo and coming clean: Here are your week’s initial power lunch talking points. As this is written, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is testifying behind closed doors, but not under oath, before Senate Intelligence Committee that includes U.S. Sen. Todd Young. There are two precursors to this. The first is a Wall Street Journal editorial last week in which the Trump White House was urged to come clean. “Even Donald Trump might agree that a major reason he won the 2016 election is because voters couldn’t abide Hillary Clinton’s legacy of scandal, deception and stonewalling,” the WSJ editorial began. “Yet on the story of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump and his family are repeating the mistakes that doomed Mrs. Clinton. Don’t you get it, guys? Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the Russia story. Everything that is potentially damaging to the Trumps will come out, one way or another. Everything. Mr. (Ty) Cobb and his team should tell every Trump family member, campaign operative and White House aide to disclose every detail that might be relevant to the Russian investigations. That means every meeting with any Russian or any American with Russian business ties. Every phone call or email. And every Trump business relationship with Russians going back years. This should include every relevant part of Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which the President will resist but Mr. Mueller is sure to seek anyway. Then release it all to the public.”

  • Atomic: Target Mueller; Sessions fallout; Murray v. Sen. Grooms
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. A constitutional clash brews: Here are your Friday power lunch talking points: As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion investigation begins to peel back the onion on the Trump business empire, we are now witnessing the beginnings of what could be an epic constitutional crisis. President Trump’s attorneys are scouring members of the Mueller task force, with Kellyanne Conway noting on Fox News this morning that some had donated to the Hillary Clinton campaign and alleged other “conflicts of interest.” Trump is asking his legal team about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself. The fact that he is even asking raises the prospect that he really has something to hide. Otherwise, why ask? This is the first modern president who didn’t release his tax returns. We know that Mueller is now probing “money laundering” of campaign manager Paul Manafort.

  • HPI Analysis: Trump, Pence, GOP whiff on health reforms
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    KOKOMO – For seven years, Hoosier Republicans railed against Obamacare. Poll after poll showed it deeply unpopular here. It drew spiteful reaction from Govs. Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence and Eric Holcomb. The Indiana delegation marched lockstep through some 60 votes in the House to repeal the ACA, all doomed under President Barack Obama. Then came Nov. 8, 2016, when the planets aligned, Donald Trump and Mike Pence forged one of the greatest upsets in presidential history, and both chambers in Congress went majority Republican. Obamacare was destined for the dustbin of history. On May 5, 2016, all Hoosier House Republicans voted for the American Health Care Act, which passed by a single vote. There was a Rose Garden beer party with President Trump as they all smiled, brimming over $880 billion in Medicaid cuts that would have booted 22 million Americans from health coverage, including about 50,000 Hoosiers in each congressional district. For the first time in modern history, a political party under a non-ideological president merely seeking a deal for a win, were attempting to roll back an entitlement. Polls showed a mere 17% supporting RyanCare or TrumpCare.
  • Horse Race: Money, rancor spill into GOP Senate race
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – The second quarter FEC totals are in and there is parity between U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, though the latter took away the perception that the former’s uber finance team would provide a decisive advantage with a $1 million quarter, compared to $574,000 for Messer. Rokita ended the halfway point with $2.35 million cash on hand, compared to $2.02 million for Messer. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly reported raising $1.3 million in the second quarter of 2017 and has nearly $3.7 million in cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission reports. The Republican money wars took a back seat to the increasing rancor between the former Wabash College classmates. This played out in conspicuous fashion when Messer released a statement assailing Rokita. “For months, Todd Rokita has spread lies and half-truths about my family, claiming we are not Hoosiers and attacking my wife’s legal career,” Messer said. “He started by planting misleading news stories and whispering distortions in back rooms. This past weekend, he lifted the veil and directly attacked my wife and family in a television interview.”
  • Atomic: GOP health fisasco; Holcomb rates high; Senate warfare

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight: Your Tuesday power lunch talking points: The Trump White House has become the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, residing in an alternative universe. President Trump dined with senators last night pushing the Senate GOP repeal and replace. “He basically said, ‘If we don’t do this, we’re in trouble,’” Politico quoted one attendee. “‘That we have the Senate, House and White House and we have to do it or we’re going to look terrible.’” Two senators who weren’t there, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, were simultaneously writing press releases becoming the third and fourth Republicans to bail. Trump had no idea the statements were coming, according to White House and congressional sources. His top aides were taken aback. Ahhh, yes, the exploding cigar that continues to dog Vice President Mike Pence, who on Saturday took his “let me be clear” stance that is often followed by fallacy: “We're on the verge of a historic accomplishment here in our nation’s capital. Because in the coming days, President Trump, working with the Congress that you helped elect, is going to keep our promise to the American people, and we are going to repeal and replace Obamacare.” Pence said this morning, "Last night we learned Senate doesn't have consensus. President Trump and I fully support just the repeal of Obamacare. Then we can start with a clean slate. The Senate should vote to repeal now and replace later. Inaction is not an option. Stay tuned. We will return."

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  • Pelath rallies LaPorte Democrats citing 'fragile democracy'
    “I think we all learned in the last six months that this noble experiment, American democracy, is a lot more fragile than we thought. We find ourselves fighting for the right to fight at all. Although party leaders drew laughs and jeers as they took jabs at Republicans — from Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the national stage to even those on the local level — they also sought to convey the gravity of their remarks. It’s time to talk serious business now. We have to look ahead with some humility about what we face and what we have to do to turn things around.” - Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, rallying LaPorte County Democrats with U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky last Friday. According to the LaPorte Herald Argus, Pelath urged party members to “hang on to that feeling” they had after Trump was elected and use it to fuel positive action. He urged fellow Democrats to speak gently with relatives, friends and neighbors who voted for Trump.”
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  • Volatile meetings of Members, the press, and the Hoosier people
    We give great credit to U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon for conducting a rollicking town hall meeting in Evansville Friday night where he found supporters and detractors. Other Members, notably U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and Jim Banks, have held town halls during this GOP health reform sequence. Others, like U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, haven’t. That’s a sad development, that the people’s representatives fear their own constituents. And there’s reason for that, such as the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and the assault on the Republican baseball team earlier this summer that critically wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. We in the press have ventured out into volatile territory and know what it’s like to face a critical public. Throughout 2016, I attended five Donald Trump rallies (until I was banned by the campaign), and he would openly goad his supporters to confront the press, calling us thugs, liars and the worst of humanity. The positive news on this front is that Hoosiers are good folks. When Trump would aim his rhetoric at us in the press pen, people would turn and look. Some would wave and smile. I never heard a single insult or threat. A number of Indiana reporters and photographers had good-natured conversations with Trump supporters as we awaited the candidate. I never felt unsafe. Hoosiers are civic minded and good stewards of the process. - Brian A. Howey, publisher, writing in Nashville, Ind.
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