Caren Bohan http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan Caren Bohan's Profile Mon, 13 Apr 2015 19:45:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Hillary Clinton surprises with early attack on CEO pay http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/13/us-usa-election-clinton-inequality-idUSKBN0N421620150413?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2015/04/13/hillary-clinton-surprises-with-early-attack-on-ceo-pay/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 19:05:27 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=850 WASHINGTON/DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Hillary Clinton, under pressure from the left wing of her Democratic Party to aggressively campaign against income inequality, voiced concern about the hefty paychecks of some corporate executives in an email to supporters.

Striking a populist note, Clinton, who announced on Sunday she was running for president in 2016, said American families were still facing financial hardship at a time “when the average CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker makes.”

In a tightly scripted campaign launch in which there were few surprises, the comments were unexpected, at least by progressives, who saw them as an early sign she may shift away from the centrist economic policies pursued by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

In the social media blitz that kicked off her campaign, Clinton, the prohibitive frontrunner to become the Democratic nominee, expressed concerns about economic inequality.

“I definitely see the push from the left wing, which I think is great,” said Jared Milrad, a Clinton supporter who appeared in a video launching her campaign for the presidency.

Milrad said he saw the populist rhetoric as a sign that Clinton “has been listening” to backers such as himself who want her to embrace some of the economic policies pushed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a hero of liberal Democrats. Warren favors tighter regulation of big banks and a bolstering of the social safety net.

PAY GAP WIDENING

While progressives applauded Clinton’s comments, the enthusiasm of some was tempered by the fact that they have yet to see the details of Clinton’s policy proposals.

    Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is organizing in early-voting states to push Clinton to adopt Warren-like policies, called Clinton’s launch language a rhetorical first step.

    “So far we don’t know very much,” Zephyr Teachout, a one-time New York gubernatorial candidate, said on a PCCC-organized conference call on Sunday. “I hope Clinton clarifies where she stands on these issues.”

Leo Gerard, international president for the United Steelworkers union, was also guarded about whether Clinton’s rhetoric will portend a more liberal economic agenda.

“I think it’s too early to make any judgments on what I would call the very short opening statement, and we’ll see what happens as we go forward,” Gerard told reporters at a conference of the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of large labor unions and environmental groups.

The gap between the pay of chief executives from major corporations has skyrocketed over the past several decades. In 1965, CEOs earned about 20 times what a typical worker brought home, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. In 2013, CEO compensation was nearly 300 times the pay of the average worker, the EPI study said.

Economic inequality has been a top campaign theme for Democrats for the past several years, including for President Barack Obama.

While Obama often talks about the need to address economic inequality, he is frequently cautious about appearing to lash out at corporations and their executives.

In 2009, for example, he bashed “fat cat” Wall Street bankers for accepting big pay packages in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 financial crisis at a time when many Americans were suffering hardship.

Faced with a barrage of criticism from Republicans who accused him of stirring class warfare, Obama softened his tone and sought to emphasize that he was not anti-business.

Obama’s efforts to walk a fine line on economic populism highlight the balancing act that Clinton will face. While such rhetoric stirs enthusiasm among her supporters on the left, she risks irking wealthy donors, including her backers on Wall Street.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington and Jonathan Allen in New York, editing by Ross Colvin)

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Bill Clinton says must ‘do whatever it takes’ to fight Ebola http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/20/us-health-ebola-clinton-idUSKBN0HF0JQ20140920?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2014/09/20/bill-clinton-says-must-do-whatever-it-takes-to-fight-ebola/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 18:37:50 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=848 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New initiatives from the United States, Britain, France and other countries to help fight Ebola marked a “good beginning,” former President Bill Clinton said on Saturday, but said the world will need to do more.

“We’re still a little behind the curve but we’re getting there,” Clinton told reporters in a conference call, a day before his charity, the Clinton Global Initiative, was set to begin its 10th annual meeting in New York.

“And we have to deal with trying to identify and isolate the cases in the Congo and especially Nigeria where there are so many people,” he said.

Since the current outbreak was first detected in March, Ebola has infected at least 5,357 people, according to the World Health Organization, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It has also spread to Senegal and Nigeria. The virus has killed an estimated 2,630 people.

CGI announced on Saturday that an airlift it had coordinated along with other U.S. aid organizations was shipping 100 tons of medical supplies to West Africa to fight Ebola. The charity said it was the single largest emergency shipment from the United States to West Africa to date.

The airlift was scheduled to depart New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday afternoon.

In a major expansion of the U.S. effort against Ebola, President Barack Obama this week announced that the United States would send 3,000 troops to West Africa help tackle the outbreak, including a major deployment in Liberia.

“We’re going to have to do whatever it takes to contain the epidemic,” Clinton said of Ebola.

“It’s a sprawling, growing thing. But at least they’re putting the infrastructure in and have shown a willingness to put some money behind it, and I think it’s a good beginning.”

(Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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U.S. Republican Rubio to offer bill on new education financing vehicles http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/09/usa-congress-rubio-education-idUSL2N0N024A20140409?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2014/04/09/u-s-republican-rubio-to-offer-bill-on-new-education-financing-vehicles/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 05:00:00 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=846 WASHINGTON, April 9 (Reuters) – U.S. Republican Senator
Marco Rubio, a possible 2016 White House contender, will unveil
legislation on Wednesday to broaden the use of financial
vehicles known as “income share agreements” that students can
use to fund their higher education costs.

Under the agreements, which are marketed as an alternative
to traditional student loans, private investors or organizations
provide students with financing for their education costs in
exchange for a percentage of their future earnings.

“The same way that private investors invest in a business
idea, they could invest in a person who basically says: ‘This is
who I am. This is what my career goals are. This is what I’ve
done so far. This is what I intend to major and graduate in. And
in return, when I graduate, I will pay a percentage of my salary
over a defined period of time in return for that investment,'”
Rubio told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Some companies including Upstart, developed by former Google
employees, and Pave already offer the financial instruments.

But the legislation Rubio is proposing is aimed at making
the vehicles more widely available by providing a legal
framework for them.

“Many players have resisted getting into the marketplace
because they’re not sure of the legal certainty behind it. The
fact that it’s now a recognized investment vehicle would allow
more players to get into the space and could encourage more to
come forward,” Rubio said.

The Florida lawmaker added the legislation would also
establish new legal protections for both investors and students.

Companion legislation on the “income share agreements” is
being offered in the House of Representatives by Republican Tom
Petri of Wisconsin. Petri said the financial instruments would
not replace traditional student loans in many cases but
supplement them.

The amount of outstanding student loan debt has eclipsed
that of auto loans and credit cards in the United States,
according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Rubio has often talked in speeches about how he graduated
from law school with close to $150,000 in debt. He paid off the
debt with the proceeds of his 2012 autobiography, “An American
Son.”

(Reporting by Caren Bohan and Julia Edwards; Editing by Peter
Cooney)

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In an election year, Republicans join the debate on poverty http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/09/us-usa-republicans-poverty-idUSBREA080FW20140109?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2014/01/09/in-an-election-year-republicans-join-the-debate-on-poverty/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 10:51:31 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=844 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans on Wednesday seized on the 50th anniversary of the “War on Poverty” to attack long-cherished Democratic social programs and roll out their own alternatives for fighting income inequality.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a potential 2016 White House contender, stood in the Lyndon B. Johnson room of the U.S. Capitol to criticize what he said were flawed Democratic big-government solutions dating back to Johnson’s presidential tenure.

“We have anti-poverty programs that help alleviate the pain of poverty, but they don’t do nearly enough to help people overcome the causes of it,” Rubio said, separately invoking the struggles of his parents who emigrated to the United States from Cuba. A lack of jobs was the chief cause he cited.

Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty” in his 1964 State of the Union speech. He followed with legislation creating a series of new federal programs, including the Head Start early education program for toddlers, food assistance, and health insurance for the poor and elderly through Medicaid and Medicare.

Rubio offered ideas such as shifting responsibility for many federal benefit programs to the states and providing a new form of federal aid, “wage enhancement,” to low-income wage-earners designed to ensure that they make more money working than they might from receiving unemployment benefits.

At a separate event, House of Representatives Republicans pushed a proposal to require people to work in exchange for food stamps. A party effort to toughen requirements for food-stamp eligibility has been challenged by Democrats, who say it would knock some people off the rolls and add to economic suffering at a time when many Americans are struggling.

Rubio’s charge that earlier ideas weren’t helping the poor was picked up by Florida Republican Representative Steve Southerland, who is leading an initiative on poverty for the Republican Study Committee, a large bloc of House conservatives: “While (the war on poverty) may have been launched with the best of intentions, it’s clear we are now engaged in a battle of attrition that has left more Americans in poverty that at any other point in our nation’s history.”

’47 PERCENT’ SOLUTION?

Democrats have been laying plans for months to focus their 2014 U.S. congressional agenda on narrowing the gap between the rich and poor, and President Barack Obama intends to make the theme central to his State of the Union address on January 28.

Michael Czin, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said that far from helping the poor, Republicans are intent on “shredding” social safety net programs. He cited Republican resistance to Democratic proposals such as extending federal unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a former vice presidential candidate and another potential 2016 Republican presidential contender, has also taken up the issue of poverty.

Ryan has been visiting poor neighborhoods and meeting with advisers to shape an anti-poverty program he will publicize later this year. Ryan will be interviewed about the subject on Thursday by NBC and is scheduled to speak at the Brookings Institution think tank next Monday on the topic of social mobility.

The Republican pivot comes at the start of a year in which the party aspires to wrest control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats in the November congressional elections and to boost its majorities in the House of Representatives by crying up the problem-plagued rollout of Obamacare.

Prominent Republicans have worried since the 2012 defeat of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney about the need to avoid the appearance of not caring about the poor and the middle class, a portrayal Democrats have encouraged since the Johnson era.

Romney sealed that image during the campaign when he disparaged the “47 percent” of U.S. households he described as living off government handouts.

Most recently, Obama and Democrats in Congress have made much out of Republican resistance to raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits.

“What Paul Ryan and others are trying to do is undo decades of stereotypes that are associated with the political parties. And that’s just a really tough battle,” said George Washington University political scientist John Sides.

“I think there’s been something of an indifference among the Republican party and the conservative movement to the poor. I think that’s been a moral failure, and I think it has had negative political ramifications,” said Peter Wehner, a scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and a former aide to Republican President George W. Bush.

If Republicans want to make headway in changing perceptions, Wehner said, it will be crucial for them to flesh out their ideas on fighting poverty with concrete details in the coming months.

“Rhetoric alone won’t do it,” he said, “but serious policies will.”

(Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Fred Barbash and Prudence Crowther)

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Democrats plan big push on U.S. jobless aid in new year http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/28/usa-unemployment-democrats-idUSL2N0K618K20131228?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2013/12/28/democrats-plan-big-push-on-u-s-jobless-aid-in-new-year/#comments Sat, 28 Dec 2013 00:38:22 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=842 WASHINGTON, Dec 27 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama and
Democrats will make a major push when Congress returns Jan. 6 to
renew expired benefits for the unemployed and will seek to
pressure Republicans over the issue by painting them as uncaring
toward the middle class.

Federal unemployment benefits will officially expire for 1.3
million out-of-work Americans on Saturday. With Congress in
recess, no last-minute fix is possible.

Democrats have spent much of the holiday week criticizing
Republicans for resisting an extension of the emergency jobless
aid program, which began in 2008 under President George W. Bush
and has been extended every year since then.

The federal benefits kick in once people exhaust their
state jobless benefits, which end in many states after 26 weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to make an
extension of the benefits the top issue in his chamber when
Congress returns on Jan. 6.

The issue is part of an economic agenda aimed at winning
support from middle-class Americans. Along with the push for an
extension of unemployment insurance, Democrats will also push
for an increase in the minimum wage.

The renewal of unemployment benefits is expected to face
opposition in the Republican-led House of Representatives, but
Democrats said this week they are increasingly optimistic about
gaining political traction for the issue.

Democrats have been highlighting the personal stories of
out-of-work Americans about to be bumped off the unemployment
rolls.

PLIGHT OF MOTHERS

An ad running on cable television by the liberal group
Americans United for Change accuses Republicans of putting the
interests of the wealthy above those of ordinary Americans and
spoiling Christmas for the unemployed.

Earlier this week, House of Representatives Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, held a conference call with reporters
to highlight the plight of unemployed mothers.

The White House is also hammering the message.

“As the president has repeatedly made clear, it defies
economic sense, precedent and our values to allow 1.3 million
Americans fighting to find jobs to see their unemployment
insurance abruptly cut off – especially in the middle of the
holiday season,” Gene Sperling, director of the White House
National Economic Council, said in a statement.

Obama, who is spending the holidays in Hawaii with his
family, on Friday telephoned Democratic Senator Jack Reed and
Republican Senator Dean Heller, the sponsors of a measure that
would temporarily extend the federal unemployment benefits.

Congressional Democrats, on the defensive over the botched
rollout of Obama’s signature healthcare law, view a focus on
economic issues as a chance to improve their prospects in the
midterm congressional elections in November.

Reviving a strategy that helped Obama win re-election in
2012, Democrats plan to use Republican resistance to renewing
unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage to portray
them as insensitive to the struggles of middle- and lower-income
Americans.

CLOCK TICKING

“The clock is ticking, not only for 1.3 million Americans
who have been looking for work for longer than six months, but
tens of thousands more who each week will lose their
unemployment insurance if House Republican leaders don’t agree
to put an extension up for a vote,” said Representative Sander
Levin, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Democrats have seized on a comment earlier this month from
Republican Senator Rand Paul that extending the unemployment
benefits would be a “disservice” to those out of work by giving
them less of an incentive to rejoin the workforce more quickly.

Republicans have argued that the federal unemployment
benefits were always meant to be temporary and that the program
would add to the deficit unless offset by reductions in spending
elsewhere in the budget.

“We’re not going to convince (Republicans) substantively
that it’s the right thing to do. We have to put political
pressure on them,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans
United for Change.

The proposal by Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Heller, a
Nevada Republican, would extend the federal unemployment
benefits for three months.

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Obama, Democrats push for extension of unemployment benefits http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/27/us-usa-unemployment-democrats-idUSBRE9BQ0IL20131227?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2013/12/27/obama-democrats-push-for-extension-of-unemployment-benefits/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 21:53:05 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=840 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On the eve of the expiration of federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies are stepping up pressure on Republicans to renew the program.

Top White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said in a statement issued on Friday that a failure to renew emergency jobless benefits would harm the economy and he urged Congress to move quickly to pass a short-term extension of the aid.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has vowed to bring to a vote a bill extending federal unemployment insurance benefits as soon as Congress returns from its holiday recess on January 6.

“While we remain disappointed that Congress did not heed the president’s call to extend emergency unemployment benefits for next year before the holidays, the president as well as the Democratic congressional leadership have made clear the importance of extending the benefits immediately upon Congress’s return,” Sperling said in a statement.

Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, endorsed legislation introduced by Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, that would extend the unemployment benefits for three months. He said passage of the temporary bill would allow time to consider an extension for all of 2014.

Without an extension, some 1.3 million unemployed Americans are scheduled to lose their federal jobless benefits on Saturday.

Under an emergency program created during President George W. Bush’s administration in 2008, federal benefits kick in for Americans who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. In many states, unemployment benefits run out after 26 weeks.

The federal jobless aid has been renewed every year since 2008. Many Republicans oppose an extension of jobless benefits, arguing the program was always intended to be temporary. They have also said an extension would add to the federal deficit unless it is offset by spending elsewhere in the budget.

(Reporting By Caren Bohan. Editing by Fred Barbash and Andrew Hay)

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Analysis: How the White House is rebranding Obamacare for ‘young invincibles’ http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/21/us-usa-healthcare-youth-analysis-idUSBRE9BK03E20131221?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2013/12/21/analysis-how-the-white-house-is-rebranding-obamacare-for-young-invincibles/#comments Sat, 21 Dec 2013 06:05:06 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=836 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Last summer, White House officials planning a nationwide push to urge young adults to enroll in new health insurance plans had a big problem: Polls showed that many young, healthy people who could be key to the success of the Affordable Care Act knew little about it or its October 1 rollout.

So the administration, scrambling to create a publicity “buzz” that would ripple across social media, turned to Hollywood. Stars such as pop singer Lady Gaga – a Twitter icon with nearly 41 million followers – singer John Legend (5 million followers) and actress Olivia Wilde (1.2 million followers) tweeted messages urging their fans to “get covered” by the program known as Obamacare.

The tweets faded quickly, though, when it became clear that the launch of the Obamacare website designed to enroll millions of Americans was a disaster that threatened the viability of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Now, with the HealthCare.gov website functioning better and enrollment deadlines for 2014 looming, the White House and its allies are making an urgent new pitch to “young invincibles” who may question whether they need health coverage.

This time, the pitch focuses less on celebrity messengers and more on casting Obamacare coverage as more affordable than many young people might think, particularly if they qualify for federal subsidies. It also seeks to nudge young adults into action by portraying insurance as a social responsibility, and encouraging peers and parents to put pressure on the uninsured.

A key goal of the media push is reversing what polls suggest is rising disillusionment toward Obamacare among young adults, who have become more familiar with the healthcare law through unflattering reports about the website’s woes and a drum beat of ads from conservative groups calling the program a fiasco.

In essence, the administration and its allies are trying to recast Obamacare as a consumer issue, rather than a political one. That is an enormous challenge, advocates acknowledge, at a time when Republicans are pursuing congressional investigations of Obamacare’s launch and vowing to make dissatisfaction with Obamacare their top issue in next year’s elections, when control of Congress will be at stake.

For Obama and his legacy, the stakes are huge in the campaign to reach young adults.

However many people sign up for Obamacare for 2014 – the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of 7 million now appears too optimistic, given the website’s problems – about one-third or more will need to be young, healthy adults whose payments into the system would help offset the costs of covering older, sicker people who require more care.

The task of signing up enough young people could be even tougher because the White House decided on Thursday to exempt hundreds of thousands of Americans from the new law’s requirement that they buy health insurance.

Those who have had their current policies canceled because they do not meet the standards of the new law will be allowed to buy a bare-bones plan or go without insurance in 2014.

If Obamacare does not enroll enough “young invincibles,” analysts warn the program could face a financial “death spiral.” Insurers would need to raise premiums to pay for covering a sicker population. That could deter young people from enrolling, and private insurers would lose their incentive to participate.

The White House and its allies will need to enroll young adults like Michael Baratta, 30, a day trader from Tucson, Arizona. Baratta said that when the HealthCare.gov site launched, he tried for days to shop for coverage, but gave up.

Baratta said he plans to try again once he’s more confident the website’s glitches have been ironed out.

In a troubling sign for Obamacare, a recent Harvard University poll suggested that young people were souring on the program, with 57 percent saying they disapproved of it. In the poll of 18-to 29-year-olds, fewer than 3 in 10 who were uninsured said they definitely or probably would enroll.

“The program is built on the assumption that healthy people will have an incentive to come into the healthcare system. We don’t really know if that’s going to work yet,” said Elaine Kamarck, a domestic policy analyst at the Brookings Institution.

“The bottom line is going to be: Do the economics work for these young people?”

‘TELL A FRIEND’

Putting a sunny face on that question – and generating conversations about young adults and healthcare – is at the core of the administration’s stepped-up effort to get uninsured adults ages 18-34 to sign up for coverage.

On Wednesday, Obama and his wife Michelle hosted a group of mothers at the White House to talk about healthcare, a meeting meant to symbolize the administration’s hope that parents will encourage their adult children to get coverage.

But most of the new enrollment push for young Americans is being carried out by advocacy groups in one-on-one discussions that emphasize the economics and security of health insurance.

The “Tell a Friend – Get Covered” campaign, sponsored by Covered California and the advocacy group Enroll America, aims to promote healthcare conversations among friends and neighbors.

One video made for the campaign features a montage of young people, including a woman at a bus stop who suddenly begins wheezing and a man who takes a spill on a mountain bike. The message: Young people can be quite vulnerable without insurance.

Generation Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based group focused on youth issues, has published blogs aimed at explaining the health law. A recent post touted tax credits available under the law and benefits such as free preventive care for women.

One of conservatives’ complaints about the law is that it requires young people who have had inexpensive, bare-bones coverage to upgrade into costlier plans that feature benefits some young adults may never use, such as maternity care.

With costs in mind, a group called Young Invincibles has launched a mobile app that allows people to calculate the federal subsidies they would receive if they bought health insurance through HealthCare.gov’s marketplace.

Other blogs linked on Twitter and Facebook tout people who have gotten good deals on insurance through Obamacare.

They include a pregnant woman from California who will pay only $34 a month for coverage, and a Miami waiter who got a plan for $145 a month after going two years without insurance.

Conservative groups such as Generation Opportunity, which gets money from the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, continue to hold events on college campuses to urge students to reject Obamacare as a law that limits healthcare choices.

Conservatives have ridiculed some of the work by Obamacare supporters. Their target this week was a tweet by Organizing for Action, a group aligned with Obama’s administration.

The tweet included a photo of a young man wearing plaid pajamas next to a message that read, “Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance.”

Mocking references to “Pajama Boy” swept across social media, as conservatives lampooned the man as a slacker.

‘SPIN’ and ‘GIMMICKS’

One difficulty in forecasting enrollment by young people is that many tend to procrastinate. The White House has cited the experience of Massachusetts, whose healthcare program was a model for Obamacare. Officials note that many young adults in Massachusetts waited until the deadline to initially sign up.

For Obamacare, two key deadlines are looming. Those who want coverage to begin on January 1 need to sign up by Monday, although some states have indicated they will extend that deadline. By March 31, most Americans must have health coverage or face penalties that start at $95.

Despite the threat of penalties, many young adults remain on the fence when it comes to Obamacare.

They include Michael McBride, 34, a restaurant manager from St. Louis who gets no insurance from his employer and is worried about the cost of Obamacare coverage. He said that on his annual income of about $40,000, that might be tough to afford. He said he makes too much to qualify for a significant subsidy.

“I’m still looking at $100 or $200 a month, and that’s outrageous,” McBride said, adding that he still might enroll.

“I’m probably going to be late on the wagon there,” he said.

Jonathan Wilcox, a communications specialist at the University of Southern California who has advised Republicans, said that disapproval of the healthcare law – which stood at 57 percent in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday – is a big challenge for the White House.

He said the outreach to young adults amounted to “spin” and “gimmicks” that “don’t encourage young people to do what’s best for them. They urge them to do what’s best for Obamacare.”

Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, said she doubts conservatives’ criticism will deter young adults from enrolling.

“We’re not focused on the politics,” she said. “We’re focused on, what does this actually mean to you as a consumer? What are the options available to you?”

(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner, Caroline Humer and Lewis Krauskopf in New York and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by David Lindsey, Ross Colvin and Ken Wills)

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How the White House is rebranding Obamacare for ‘young invincibles’ http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/12/21/usa-healthcare-youth-idUKL2N0JZ04G20131221?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2013/12/21/how-the-white-house-is-rebranding-obamacare-for-young-invincibles/#comments Sat, 21 Dec 2013 06:00:00 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=838 WASHINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Last summer, White House
officials planning a nationwide push to urge young adults to
enroll in new health insurance plans had a big problem: Polls
showed that many young, healthy people who could be key to the
success of the Affordable Care Act knew little about it or its
Oct. 1 rollout.

So the administration, scrambling to create a publicity
“buzz” that would ripple across social media, turned to
Hollywood. Stars such as pop singer Lady Gaga – a Twitter icon
with nearly 41 million followers – singer John Legend (5 million
followers) and actress Olivia Wilde (1.2 million followers)
tweeted messages urging their fans to “get covered” by the
program known as Obamacare.

The tweets faded quickly, though, when it became clear that
the launch of the Obamacare website designed to enroll millions
of Americans was a disaster that threatened the viability of
President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Now, with the HealthCare.gov website functioning better and
enrollment deadlines for 2014 looming, the White House and its
allies are making an urgent new pitch to “young invincibles” who
may question whether they need health coverage.

This time, the pitch focuses less on celebrity messengers
and more on casting Obamacare coverage as more affordable than
many young people might think, particularly if they qualify for
federal subsidies. It also seeks to nudge young adults into
action by portraying insurance as a social responsibility, and
encouraging peers and parents to put pressure on the uninsured.

A key goal of the media push is reversing what polls suggest
is rising disillusionment toward Obamacare among young adults,
who have become more familiar with the healthcare law through
unflattering reports about the website’s woes and a drum beat of
ads from conservative groups calling the program a fiasco.

In essence, the administration and its allies are trying to
recast Obamacare as a consumer issue, rather than a political
one. That is an enormous challenge, advocates acknowledge, at a
time when Republicans are pursuing congressional investigations
of Obamacare’s launch and vowing to make dissatisfaction with
Obamacare their top issue in next year’s elections, when control
of Congress will be at stake.

For Obama and his legacy, the stakes are huge in the
campaign to reach young adults.

However many people sign up for Obamacare for 2014 – the
non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of 7 million
now appears too optimistic, given the website’s problems – about
one-third or more will need to be young, healthy adults whose
payments into the system would help offset the costs of covering
older, sicker people who require more care.

The task of signing up enough young people could be even
tougher because the White House decided on Thursday to exempt
hundreds of thousands of Americans from the new law’s
requirement that they buy health insurance.

Those who have had their current policies canceled because
they do not meet the standards of the new law will be allowed to
buy a bare-bones plan or go without insurance in 2014.

If Obamacare does not enroll enough “young invincibles,”
analysts warn the program could face a financial “death spiral.”
Insurers would need to raise premiums to pay for covering a
sicker population. That could deter young people from enrolling,
and private insurers would lose their incentive to participate.

The White House and its allies will need to enroll young
adults like Michael Baratta, 30, a day trader from Tucson,
Arizona. Baratta said that when the HealthCare.gov site
launched, he tried for days to shop for coverage, but gave up.

Baratta said he plans to try again once he’s more confident
the website’s glitches have been ironed out.

In a troubling sign for Obamacare, a recent Harvard
University poll suggested that young people were souring on the
program, with 57 percent saying they disapproved of it. In the
poll of 18-to 29-year-olds, fewer than 3 in 10 who were
uninsured said they definitely or probably would enroll.

“The program is built on the assumption that healthy people
will have an incentive to come into the healthcare system. We
don’t really know if that’s going to work yet,” said Elaine
Kamarck, a domestic policy analyst at the Brookings Institution.

“The bottom line is going to be: Do the economics work for
these young people?”

‘TELL A FRIEND’

Putting a sunny face on that question – and generating
conversations about young adults and healthcare – is at the core
of the administration’s stepped-up effort to get uninsured
adults ages 18-34 to sign up for coverage.

On Wednesday, Obama and his wife Michelle hosted a group of
mothers at the White House to talk about healthcare, a meeting
meant to symbolize the administration’s hope that parents will
encourage their adult children to get coverage.

But most of the new enrollment push for young Americans is
being carried out by advocacy groups in one-on-one discussions
that emphasize the economics and security of health insurance.

The “Tell a Friend – Get Covered” campaign, sponsored by
Covered California and the advocacy group Enroll America, aims
to promote healthcare conversations among friends and neighbors.

One video made for the campaign features a montage of young
people, including a woman at a bus stop who suddenly begins
wheezing and a man who takes a spill on a mountain bike. The
message: Young people can be quite vulnerable without insurance.

Generation Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based group focused
on youth issues, has published blogs aimed at explaining the
health law. A recent post touted tax credits available under the
law and benefits such as free preventive care for women.

One of conservatives’ complaints about the law is that it
requires young people who have had inexpensive, bare-bones
coverage to upgrade into costlier plans that feature benefits
some young adults may never use, such as maternity care.

With costs in mind, a group called Young Invincibles has
launched a mobile app that allows people to calculate the
federal subsidies they would receive if they bought health
insurance through HealthCare.gov’s marketplace.

Other blogs linked on Twitter and Facebook tout people who
have gotten good deals on insurance through Obamacare.

They include a pregnant woman from California who will pay
only $34 a month for coverage, and a Miami waiter who got a plan
for $145 a month after going two years without insurance.

Conservative groups such as Generation Opportunity, which
gets money from the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch,
continue to hold events on college campuses to urge students to
reject Obamacare as a law that limits healthcare choices.

Conservatives have ridiculed some of the work by Obamacare
supporters. Their target this week was a tweet by Organizing for
Action, a group aligned with Obama’s administration.

The tweet included a photo of a young man wearing plaid
pajamas next to a message that read, “Wear pajamas. Drink hot
chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance.”

Mocking references to “Pajama Boy” swept across social
media, as conservatives lampooned the man as a slacker.

‘SPIN’ and ‘GIMMICKS’

One difficulty in forecasting enrollment by young people is
that many tend to procrastinate. The White House has cited the
experience of Massachusetts, whose healthcare program was a
model for Obamacare. Officials note that many young adults in
Massachusetts waited until the deadline to initially sign up.

For Obamacare, two key deadlines are looming. Those who
want coverage to begin on Jan. 1 need to sign up by Monday,
although some states have indicated they will extend that
deadline. By March 31, most Americans must have health coverage
or face penalties that start at $95.

Despite the threat of penalties, many young adults remain
on the fence when it comes to Obamacare.

They include Michael McBride, 34, a restaurant manager from
St. Louis who gets no insurance from his employer and is worried
about the cost of Obamacare coverage. He said that on his annual
income of about $40,000, that might be tough to afford. He said
he makes too much to qualify for a significant subsidy.

“I’m still looking at $100 or $200 a month, and that’s
outrageous,” McBride said, adding that he still might enroll.

“I’m probably going to be late on the wagon there,” he said.

Jonathan Wilcox, a communications specialist at the
University of Southern California who has advised Republicans,
said that disapproval of the healthcare law – which stood at 57
percent in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday – is a big
challenge for the White House.

He said the outreach to young adults amounted to “spin” and
“gimmicks” that “don’t encourage young people to do what’s best
for them. They urge them to do what’s best for Obamacare.”

Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, said she doubts
conservatives’ criticism will deter young adults from enrolling.

“We’re not focused on the politics,” she said. “We’re
focused on, what does this actually mean to you as a consumer?
What are the options available to you?”

(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner, Caroline Humer and
Lewis Krauskopf in New York and Roberta Rampton in Washington;
Editing by David Lindsey, Ross Colvin and Ken Wills)

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Democrats wouldn’t reject U.S. budget deal over jobless aid: senator http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/08/us-usa-fiscal-unemployment-idUSBRE9B70AA20131208?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2013/12/08/democrats-wouldnt-reject-u-s-budget-deal-over-jobless-aid-senator/#comments Sun, 08 Dec 2013 18:18:30 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=834 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Democrat said on Sunday he hoped an emerging deal on the U.S. budget would include an extension of unemployment benefits but added that his party would not necessarily walk away from an agreement that left it out.

“I don’t think we’ve reached that point where we’ve said, ‘This is it, take it or leave it,'” Senator Richard Durbin told the ABC program “This Week,” when pressed on whether his party would insist on including jobless aid in a final deal.

Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said that based on what he has heard from Senator Patty Murray, the lead Democratic negotiator on the budget, the fiscal talks are making progress and moving in the right direction.

The House of Representatives and Senate budget panel, created after the government shutdown in October, is discussing a two-year accord that would ease the impact of across-the-board spending cuts known as the “sequester” and lower the near-term risk of another damaging fiscal showdown.

Durbin’s comments signaled some flexibility on the issue of jobless aid. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said last week that Democrats “cannot support” a budget deal without an extension of unemployment insurance. Pelosi later clarified that she would like to see jobless benefits included in the budget deal but that she would be open to the idea of passing it under separate legislation.

Speaking on ABC on Sunday, Republican Senator Rob Portman, who is a member of the negotiating committee, expressed optimism about a fiscal deal, saying he hoped it could come together by the end of the week.

An extension of emergency unemployment benefits is a priority for President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress. Democrats have warned that without an extension, federal benefits will expire for some 1.3 million Americans in the week of December 28.

Democrats see a budget deal as one of the best legislative vehicles for passing an extension of the jobless aid, though they have said there are other options they could consider.

Federal unemployment benefits kick in for out-of-work Americans who have exhausted their state unemployment aid, which in many states runs out after 26 weeks.

The emergency federal aid began during the Great Recession in 2008 and has been renewed every year since.

Though government figures on Friday showed the U.S. unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 7 percent in November, many Democrats say the U.S. job market is still far from robust and long-term unemployment remains a problem for many Americans.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has said that if Obama has a plan for extending unemployment benefits, he would “entertain” it.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said an extension of jobless benefits beyond the traditional 26 weeks could work against the unemployed.

He cited studies that show that the longer workers have been unemployed, the harder it is for them to find jobs.

“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” Paul said. “And it really – while it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you’re trying to help.”

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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U.S. Republicans broaden attacks on Obamacare http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/04/us-usa-healthcare-republicans-idUSBRE9B317020131204?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/2013/12/04/u-s-republicans-broaden-attacks-on-obamacare/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 21:56:55 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/caren-bohan/?p=832 WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With the Obamacare website performing better, congressional Republicans on Wednesday returned to their broader attack on President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, warning that it would harm the quality of medical care and drive up costs.

They used hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives to highlight what they say are flaws in the 2010 Affordable Care Act that go beyond the potentially transitory issues of the website, HealthCare.gov, and cancellations of several million insurance policies that did not meet the law’s standards.

Repeating predictions they have been making since the law was being debated in Congress in 2009, Republicans said it would end up restricting consumers’ choices of doctors and would ultimately saddle families and businesses with higher premiums.

“The Affordable Care Act’s fundamental problems can’t be fixed with better marketing. The flaw is not the website. The flaw is the law itself,” said Representative Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health.

“Looking forward, the flaws in the law itself may prove to be getting worse, not better,” Brady, a Texas Republican, said during a subcommittee hearing.

Republicans view the problems with Obamacare as a potent weapon against Democrats in the 2014 congressional elections and are seeking ways to keep the issue from fading once HealthCare.gov functions more smoothly.

Scott Gottlieb, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the Ways and Means subcommittee that he believed that consumers would be surprised when they learn that many of the plans available to consumers under Obamacare will restrict their choices of doctors.

“I fear many consumers who enroll in these plans will find themselves disappointed by the resulting health plans or worse, get caught in difficult financial and medical binds,” Gottlieb said.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, which advocates for free-market health policies, said new requirements under the health law would translate into higher premium costs for both consumers and businesses.

SOME DEMOCRATIC FEARS CALMED

At a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Chairman Darrell Issa said that the problems with the Obamacare website were evidence the government was incapable of carrying out big initiatives, such as overhauling the healthcare sector.

“I believe that in fact we have before us an example of something that may be too big to swallow, even for the U.S. federal government,” said Issa, a California Republican.

Democrats accused Republicans of scaremongering as a way of undermining the law, which is aimed at making affordable health care insurance available to millions of people who have no coverage.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the leading Democrat on Issa’s committee, said popular initiatives such as the Social Security retirement program and Medicare health program for seniors demonstrated that the government “is fully capable of overcoming initial problems with the implementation of programs that help millions of people in their daily lives.”

After intensive outreach to Capitol Hill Democrats in recent weeks, White House officials have managed to calm some of their fears about the political fallout from the Obamacare rollout.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said that although some Democrats in the chamber had expressed support for legislative fixes for Obamacare, it was unlikely any such legislation would make it to the Senate floor by the end of this year.

Instead, the aide said, senators would keep an eye on how the website is performing and whether other problems are arising before deciding early next year whether legislative changes are needed.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Richard Cowan; Editing by Fred Barbash and Peter Cooney)

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