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Friday, September 22, 2017
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President Trump pushes the Graham/Cassidy health reform bill in New York earlier this week as Vice President Pence looks on.
President Trump pushes the Graham/Cassidy health reform bill in New York earlier this week as Vice President Pence looks on.
Friday, September 22, 2017 8:32 AM

By BRIAN A. HOWEY

NASHVILLE, Ind. - If you want to bear witness to one of the most dismal policy and political debacles in American history, consider the last five American presidents and the last dozen or so congresses when it comes to health care. In managing one-sixth of the nation’s economy and the needs of the populace, this is simply a sad story sans leadership.

I will give some examples via my own personal prism. Last summer I was at my cabin, got tangled up in my dog’s tether and split my forehead open. A friend drove me to Columbus Regional Hospital emergency room where in 90 minutes I received 24 stitches and a tetanus shot. The bill: $1,600. My friend Mike Carr, a health consultant who helped Gov. Mitch Daniels devise the welfare “hybrid plan” observed: “That comes out to over $1,000 an hour.”

It underscores a Rand Corporation analysis of Indiana hospital costs which it terms “shockingly high” for charges of in-patient and out-patient procedures, often three times that of other markets.

I’m on an IU Health insurance silver plan, so the $5,000 deductible didn’t help. Since Obamacare was passed in 2010, I’ve been on MDWise, Anthem and IU Health plans. The latter two are pulling out of the Indiana Obamacare exchange, so I’ll be on my fourth insurer next January. My monthly premiums (for just me) have gone from $440, to $780, and $681 this year. I expect them to skyrocket next year.

President George H.W. Bush scuttled the catastrophic health plan forged under Doc Bowen and President Reagan. President Clinton and Hillary couldn’t pass health reforms in 1993. President Bush43 and Republicans ignored the skyrocketing costs and lack of coverage for those of us with pre-existing conditions despite controlling the White House and Congress for six years. President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, which has not been affordable. Republicans dug in and refused for seven years to evolve Obamacare.

And throughout the spring, summer and fall of this year, President Trump and the Republican congressional majorities have been punking us with repeal and replace schemes that would throw tens of millions of Americans off insurance roles, including some 420,000 Hoosiers on the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, and jack up premiums. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the current Graham/Cassidy joke reveals that Indiana will lose about $1.5 billion in federal Medicaid funding between 2020 and 2026.

Remember when Gov. Eric Holcomb and General Assembly Republicans passed the gas and diesel tax increase last winter to fund our roads? Quietly in the 11th hour, they slipped in an amendment that would allow them to shift fuel tax dollars to prop up health programs like HIP 2.0 if Trump and Congress somehow foist the Graham/Cassidy joke into law.

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  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE – Jeff Bezos recently announced that Amazon is looking for a location other than Seattle for a second headquarters building. The proposal is for perhaps 50,000 total jobs with annual compensation of $100,000 or higher. This would make it the largest potential economic development deal in U.S. history. Naturally, this announcement sent city fathers across the U.S. scrambling to craft a proposal for Amazon. The specifications for the new site leaves just a dozen or so metropolitan areas as potential places for the facility dubbed HQ2. Any reasonable analysis would rank the Indianapolis area in the top half dozen potential sites. This raises a few issues that everyone in Indiana and the Midwest as a whole should consider. This proposal comes on the heels of what is arguably the most irresponsible economic development deal in modern history, Wisconsin’s $3 billion plus bid for 3,000 Foxconn jobs. Compared to that piece of fiscal insanity, the Amazon deal should be worth about $25 billion in incentives. By comparison, Indianapolis spends a tad bit more than $1 billion running the city each year, and New York City’s annual budget is about $75 billion a year. Beyond offering an immediate illustration of Wisconsin’s folly, there are other insights into this deal.
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – I’ve been impressed by writings on the Amazon call for proposals concerning the location of their second headquarters. Some writers believe Indianapolis should be flattered by being qualified to compete for the second headquarters to be built by this massive, transformative company. Others contend we don’t have the financial resources required by Amazon’s list of desirable attributes to make the final cut. How would we finance the modern, comprehensive transportation system Amazon envisions? Does Indiana offer the appreciation of innovative thinking Amazon imagines necessary for its new location? However, I find it strange no one objects to the paternalistic, self-congratulatory, insensitive attitude of Amazon’s proposal. The company demands much and offers little in return to its all-too-eager metropolitan supplicants. Amazon wants to add (perhaps) 50,000 jobs to the blessed area, paying an average of (perhaps) $100,000 in total compensation, and (perhaps) $5 billion in construction outlays.
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND – President Donald Trump is doing no favors for Republicans seeking to defeat Sen. Joe Donnelly. Republican contenders are trying to tear down Donnelly’s image as a moderate Democrat, likening him to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. And then Trump invites Donnelly to dinner at the White House, clearly identifying him as one of the moderates who might be willing to reach across the aisle for bipartisan agreement on tax reform. The president shared the thousand  island dressing and views on middle-class tax relief with Donnelly during the dinner last week. Donnelly was seated next to Trump at the affair, attended by a bipartisan group of senators, four Republicans and three Democrats. Vice President Mike Pence and other key administration officials also were there. In a telephone interview, Donnelly said the discussion “was really productive and businesslike,” not like the sharp partisanship on display at a White House luncheon to which he was invited earlier in the administration.
  • By RICH JAMES
    MERRILLVILLE – There were a lot of questions raised during and after the Democratic precinct caucus that elected Oscar Martinez Jr. as the new Lake County sheriff last week. Martinez, who has been a Lake County police officer since 1993, won a third-ballot victory over Schererville Police Chief David Dowling. Martinez had 223 votes to Dowling’s 170. It was the first Democratic caucus since James L. Wieser was elected party chairman earlier this year. What a web has been weaved. During the chairman’s election, Wieser and Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay tied. Outgoing chairman John Buncich broke the tie by selecting Wieser. It was because of Buncich that there was a need for the special caucus last week.
  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    INDIANAPOLIS – If I’m gonna go to the Amazon, I’m going to pack and pack tight, take a first aid kit, mosquito netting, a hammock, a Sears poncho, rations, trail mix, potable water and . . . cold beer. As the General Assembly’s Alcohol Code Revision Commission met last Monday, mayors from Indianapolis and Fishers, along with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, were dreaming of Amazon’s HQ2, a $5 billion, 50,000 employee, high-wage gem. Analysis from the New York Times and others place Indiana in the mix along with dozens of other cities until “quality of life” and “mass transit” come into play. With this plum capturing site selector fantasy, Indiana is plunging into a debate about where carryout cold beer can be sold and whether it should be available on Sundays beyond Big Woods, Upland, Mad Anthony and dozens of other craft breweries springing up across the state. In 49 other states and the District of Columbia, the temperature of beer sales is unregulated. Indiana is the only state that bans retail beer, wine and liquor sales on Sundays.
        
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  • Horse Race: Trump, Pence heading back to Indiana
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Both President Trump and Vice President Pence will return to Indiana in the coming week, and you can thank Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly for the coming exposure. Donnelly is a conspicuous Democrat when Trump pushes his tax reform package. He was one of three moderate Democrats to dine at the White House with Trump and Pence last week, as they sought a new coalition of Senate moderates to break through the inertia that has trapped most of the administration’s congressional agenda. Pence is expected to visit Anderson on Friday, where Donnelly kicked off his campaign in August, with the Herald-Bulletin reporting the vice president will likely address the Anderson Chamber of Commerce in his former congressional district. Trump is expected to travel to the state where he clinched the Republican presidential nomination in May 2016, possibly to Fort Wayne. Pence will almost certainly join him on the trip.
  • Horse Race: Klutz kicks off her auditor reelect

    Howey Politics Indiana

    FORT WAYNE - Auditor Tera Klutz kicked off her campaign at Parkview Field in her hometown of Fort Wayne Wednesday. “I am proud to have increased the transparency of Indiana’s finances as well as created an Internal Control Department which will work to improve the processes within the Auditor’s office,” said Klutz. “It is fiscally responsible to be transparent when spending taxpayer’s money. But equally important, being transparent encourages fiscal responsibility,” Klutz said. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who appointed Klutz to fill the office vacancy created when then- State Auditor Suzanne Crouch became Lt. Governor, said, “Tera Klutz’s experience as a Certified Public Accountant, as Allen County’s elected Auditor and for the last eight months as our Auditor of State, have only reassured me that she was, and continues to be, the best choice to serve as Indiana’s Chief Financial Officer.  I fully support her campaign, from convention to General Election, and look forward to continuing to work with her for years to come."
  • HPI Analysis: Rating Indiana for Amazon's HQ2
    By CRAIG DUNN
        
    KOKOMO – There’s no doubt about it. The location of a second world headquarters for Amazon in the Indianapolis area would significantly alter the landscape, in just about every discernable area, forever. The recent news that Amazon is soliciting proposals for locating a second world headquarters, employing up to 50,000 new employees, has sent shock waves around the country as cities and states begin the high stakes process of competing for the biggest plum in economic history. And just because you don’t know computer code from Morse code, don’t think the location of Amazon in Indiana won’t affect you and your family. Economic development specialists are always looking at the employment multiplier of every type of new job. For example, industrial jobs have a multiplier effect of 1.4 new jobs created for every new industrial job created. That sounds great but when it comes to technology jobs, the multiplier goes off the charts. According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, every new technology job spawns 4.3 other new jobs. That means that the 50,000 Amazon jobs would, in reality, become a 250,000-new-job bonanza.
        
  • Atomic! Gov heads to Amazon; mayors on climate, parental leave
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Holcomb from Japan to Amazon: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Gov. Eric Holcomb returns from Japan today after a weeklong trade mission to Tokyo, Nagoya and Tochigi Prefecture, Indiana’s sister state. He topped off the tour by sinking a basketball at Aichi Prefecture after meeting with Gov. Ohmura. After doing so in all 92 counties, the gov vowed to make baskets in all 47 Japanese prefectures. “We've accomplished a great deal together these 9+ days #INJapan,” Holcomb tweeted. “Our visit to Aichi has been the perfect capstone to my first visit to Japan.” Holcomb, presiding over a state with a 3.5% jobless rate for August, now faces one of the greatest challenges of his fledgling administration: Land the Amazon H2Q that could bring 50,000 high-paying jobs.
  • HPI Analysis: Trump2.0 and the courting of Sen. Donnelly
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – One week ago we witnessed what could be President Trump 2.0. It occurred as a smiling Vice President Pence watched in the Oval Office as minority Democrat leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi sat nearby. President Trump abruptly shut down a discussion where Treasury Sec. Steve Mnunchin was talking about an 18-month debt ceiling window. Then – Presto! – came the art of the deal with new-found friends “Chuck and Nancy.” Trump would agree to a three-month delay on the debt ceiling, pushing it to December, and tied it to $15 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief. It left Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stunned, perplexed and furious and fearing 2018 mid-term fallout. McConnell was whispering that he didn’t believe Trump had a strategy, that it was just another impulse move in search of that elusive deal. Mike Allen of Axios observed: “It’s now possible that Trump’s biggest legislative wins this year will be more spending and raising the debt cap – the exact opposite of what Tea Party Republicans came to D.C. to do. Trump ‘brazenly rolled his own party’s leaders,’ as AP put it.” Fast-forward to Tuesday night when U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly joined fellow Democrat Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin for dinner and a scoop of ice cream (President Trump had two) at the White House.
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  • Pence presses Donnelly on tax reform as McCain scuttles health bill
    "We will make America safe again. We will make America prosperous again. And to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again." - Vice President Mike Pence, appearing in Anderson to push President Trump’s tax reform plan. Pence made a pitch to Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, who attended the speech, saying, "Senator Joe Donnelly we need your help." Pence’s appearance came as U.S. Sen. John McCain announced he will vote against the Graham/Cassidy health care bill, saying, “I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried.” Pence had been lobbying Senate Republicans to support the plan, which is now opposed by McCain and Sen. Rand Paul, with Sen. Susan Collins likely to vote against the measure.
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  • Mike and Hillary
    We’ve watched 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton make the rounds on her new book: “What Happened.” The reaction has been cringes from Democrats hoping to move on, a set-the-record mentality from some journalistic quarters, and taunts from Republicans. Vice President Pence has the best line of all, with this tweet Thursday morning: “The first book that has the question and the answer on the cover.” Good line, Mike, er … Mr. Vice President. It harkens back to those studio days near the Speedway and a retreat to Claude & Annies. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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