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Amash talks partisanship, Syria, healthcare


N-Amash-pullquoteBy Judy Reed

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash told the crowd at Cedar Springs High School Monday night, April 10, that the partisanship in Washington is the worst he’s ever seen, and that the leadership doesn’t seem to be interested in breaking the gridlock.

“I’ve always said that we need to work with each other, have honest debate, and let things fall where they may. The only way you fix it is by choosing a speaker of the house who is non-partisan. It takes tremendous will, and I haven’t seen that with this or the previous speaker,” remarked Amash.

N-Amash2The town hall meeting was the first of several that Amash is holding throughout the district over the next week.

He explained that the only things that go to the floor for a vote are the things that the leadership wants, things that have no chance of passing, or things too mild to affect anything. “We either need a change in direction from this speaker, or we need a new one,” he said.

Amash is a firm believer in the principles of the Constitution. He is known for not only standing up for those principles, but also for not mincing words when it comes to politicians he feels are violating them, such as President Trump. That was the case with the President’s recent strikes on Syria.

“The process was not right,” said Amash. “He risked escalating the situation. The framers of the Constitution gave to Congress the power to declare war because we are the closest to the people. I’m here holding the town hall meeting, not Donald Trump. With war, I might be sending your son or daughter off to be killed. To think you can launch a missile strike with no consequence is naïve.”

Amash explained that the War Powers Resolution is often used to justify one-off strikes. Those cases are supposed to only happen when the U.S. itself has been attacked. It says: “The President’s powers as Commander in Chief are exercised only pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization from Congress, or a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States” (50 USC Sec. 1541).

“It did not give the president the authority to do what he did,” noted Amash. “There are times we want him to act quickly. But it’s not for offensive acts against another government.”

Amash said the framers of the Constitution left it up to the people to decide whether they want war, and the president then conducts the war.

He did say he thought they should continue to go after ISIS, but that they should update the 2001 mission and goal, and have more debate about it in Congress. “I don’t think you can have perpetual war; it’s dangerous,” he said.

Amash also talked about why he didn’t support the failed Republican proposal on healthcare. “It didn’t repeal the ACA, just tweaked it,” he explained. “The ACA is not functioning the way we’d like it to function. Premiums are going up for a lot of people. It helps many, but also hurts many. We need to start over, in a bipartisan way. The Republican proposal just restructures it, and tweaks can make it worse. It left the sickest and most vulnerable at risk.”

He said that there is no reason to rush it. “We want to make sure we get it right. They just wanted to get it done quickly. It was just a political plan. I’m part of the Freedom Caucus, and I’m sure you heard that we caused it to fail. It’s not true. There were more Republicans going to vote against it than were part of the Freedom Caucus.” Amash said that 50-80 Republicans would have voted against the bill. “It would have been actually very embarrassing, and that’s why they pulled it,” Amash said.

After the failure of the bill, an aide to President Trump called Amash a liability over Twitter and urged Trump supporters to vote for a different Republican candidate in 2018.

But Amash isn’t letting that sway him. “We should’ve worked with the Democrats on it. It needs to be bipartisan. We need buy-in. I still believe the best system is to let states regulate health care. They have different people, different demographics. Allow them to try out a variety of ways. There would be more alternatives, more choices, and would cause the least amount of tension. If you didn’t like it, you could move to another state. I think it would be easier to move out of state than out of the country,” he said, which brought a chuckle from the crowd.

Amash touched on several other topics including immigration, Internet privacy, education, the presidential transparency act, and more, and answered questions for two hours. He also encouraged residents to let him know their feelings on possible war with Syria, and to reach out to his office if they have problems, such as veterans getting assistance, immigration issues, and other concerns.

You can contact the Grand Rapids office at (616) 451-8383 or send physical mail to 110 Michigan St NW, Suite 460, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. You can also email him through his website. Visit https://amash.house.gov/contact-me.

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How do I get healthcare under the Affordable Care Act?


By Judy Reed


Rhetoric. Sound bites. Pages upon pages of rules and exemptions. A website not quite up to par. And not much useful information printed for those who need healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. So many people just want to know, how do I get healthcare? Where do I go, what do I do, and how much is it going to cost?

The Basics

Starting in 2014, every individual in the United States of America is required to have some minimum essential health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty when you do your taxes for that year.

The deadline to acquire coverage is March 31, 2014.

There are six ways to meet the minimum essential coverage:

1. Being insured through your employer or your spouse’s employer. 

2. Being insured on your parent’s policy. Children can remain on their parent’s policy until age 26 regardless of whether they are working, in school, single or married. However, if that child has a baby of his own, that baby is not covered on the grandparent’s policy.

3. Enrollment in another government health program such as Medicare, Tricare, or a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Michigan’s MiChild.

4. Being eligible for coverage under Medicaid due to expansion of coverage to people with income up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

5. Purchasing healthcare through the Exchange or Marketplace at healthcare.gov

6. Purchasing healthcare insurance from a company in the individual market.

How to find out what you are eligible for

If numbers one through three do not apply to you, you will want to see if you are eligible for subsidies to help pay for insurance. The only way to do that is by applying at healthcare.gov. You can do that one of two ways: either try to navigate it yourself, or contact a registered agent who will do the work for you at no charge.

“You will pay the same amount either way. You are paying for an agent, even if you don’t use one,” explained Gabrielle Warner, of Innovative Solutions Agency, Inc. Warner is a Chartered Benefits Consultant, and Marketplace and SHOP registered agent.

An agent will be your advocate and guide throughout the process, and can track where your application is at all times.

An agent will take you through the healthcare.gov application process to see if you are eligible for subsidies to offset health insurance premiums. You will see one of three possible results: your income is low enough that you will best benefit by expanded Medicaid, which starts in April 2014; you are eligible for subsidies; or you make too much money.

If you are eligible for subsidies, then the agent will help you choose a plan through the three insurance companies in Michigan’s exchange or marketplace. If you are not eligible for subsidies, the agent will help you to purchase insurance from a company on the individual market.

To find a registered agent to take you through the process, go to www.wmahu.org. On the left side, scroll down to “find an agent.” Put in your zip code and choose “50 mile radius” in the drop down box. Go further down the page and mark Michigan in the section titles “Certified to sell health insurance exchange marketplace coverage.” Twenty or so random agents will come up.

What if I don’t buy insurance?

In 2014, the penalty for not having insurance is $95 per person, or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater. The penalty for children is $47.50 per child. The maximum penalty is $285 per family. Next year it increases to 2 percent or $325 per person, and in 2016 it is 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person. In 2017 and beyond it will be adjusted by the cost of living. The penalty will be due when you pay your taxes. Paying the penalty does not give you insurance; you will still need to fully fund your own healthcare, at a non-discounted rate.

There are some circumstances that may help you qualify for a hardship exemption. To see those and to get a form to apply, go to www.healthcare.gov/exemptions/

What is the transitional reinsurance program?

One thing that caught some people by surprise this month is a new fee called the transitional reinsurance program. People covered under their own employer’s insurance plan began paying the fee this month, in addition to the fee deducted for their own insurance plan. The program takes the fees and then pays it to insurers in the individual market that cover high-risk individuals. The fee will be in place from 2014 to 2016, and supposedly “levels the playing field” across the health insurance markets, and protects the high-risk insurers from huge losses.

NEXT WEEK: What businesses need to know

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