Legislative roundup for June 11, 2015

Image via Flickr.com; some rights reserved.
Image via Flickr.com; some rights reserved.

Alexander says college debt aid sets a bad precedent

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 8 — Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) made the following statement June 8 on the Department of Education’s announcement regarding its debt-relief plan for former Corinthian Colleges students:

“Students have been hurt, but the department is establishing a precedent that puts taxpayers on the hook for what a college may have done,” Alexander said. “Later this year in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act the Senate will review and address the right way to help students who find themselves in this predicament. This is one more reason it was a bad idea to make the U.S. Department of Education the banker for students as well as the regulator of their colleges.”

He continued, “If your car is a lemon you don’t sue the bank that made the auto loan; you sue the car company.”

Details withheld on future of Iran’s nuclear program, Corker alleges

Appearing on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” on Wednesday last week, Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Obama administration is withholding details about the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

“[T]here is a document that explains what Iran is able to do per the agreement after the 10-year period,” said Corker. “I have asked the State Department for the document. They have not given it to me. I have asked the Energy Department for the document. They have not given it to me. I’ve asked the White House for the document. They have not given it to me. The only thing I can imagine … is that they think that it would shed [a] bad light on what they have agreed to. Most of us want to make sure that if we’re going to enter into an agreement, it is an agreement that will keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon over a long-term.”

President Obama revealed in an April NPR interview that in the years following the first decade of an agreement, Iran’s breakout time for obtaining a nuclear weapon would drop to near zero.
Corker also questioned the State Department’s lack of concern over a New York Times report that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium has increased by 20 percent during the nuclear negotiations.

“There’s no question that their stockpile has increased. That’s not debatable…But I hope there will be no sanctions alleviated until they get down to that 300 kilogram stockpile,” said Corker. “The problem is when the [State Department spokesperson] said, ‘This is not an issue. This can be dealt with,’ I would like to know how? They don’t have a conversion facility to down-blend or downgrade…the 5 percent [enriched uranium]. So are they going to ship it out of the country?

Those are issues that need to be dealt with and hopefully will be dealt with…[because] they have to get down to 300 kilograms per the political agreement that was reached on April 2nd.”

Rep. Cohen helps boost funding to test rape kits

The House passed an amendment by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) to boost funding for testing rape kits by $4 million.

He noted, “Something is wrong with our criminal justice system when rapists are allowed to roam free — and attack other victims — simply because the evidence needed to find and convict them sits on a shelf somewhere. Testing these kits can help catch criminals and prevent additional attacks, but across the country the resources to fully test each and every one have not always been available.”

He continued, “I am proud to have championed a 25% increase in funding to provide victims of sexual assault a degree of justice and am very pleased that Democrats and Republicans came together to help make this critical funding available.”

See his speech online (4 minutes, 49 seconds).

White House lists benefits of Tenn. Medicaid expansions

The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has released estimates of the health and economic benefits if Tennessee decides to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

As Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman wrote, the report “leaves no doubt that the consequences of States’ decisions are far-reaching, with major implications for the health of their citizens and their economies.”

Tennessee’s decisions to expand Medicaid would have major health benefits for its low-income citizens, including:

  • Greater insurance coverage: Expanding Medicaid will increase the number of the State’s citizens with insurance coverage. The report cites estimates that if Tennessee expanded Medicaid, an additional 179,000 people would have insurance coverage in 2016.
  • Improved access to care: Expanding Medicaid improves access to needed medical services, including primary and preventive care. The report estimates the number of additional Tennessee citizens that would get their cholesterol checked and receive a mammogram or pap smear each year. It also estimates the number of additional people who would receive all needed care and have a usual source of clinic care if Tennessee expanded Medicaid.
  • Better health: By improving access to care, expanding coverage through Medicaid improves mental and physical health. The report estimates that if Tennessee expanded Medicaid, 24,000 additional individuals would report being in good (or better) health and 16,000 fewer individuals would experience symptoms of depression.
  • Greater financial security: Expanding Medicaid reduces the risk of financial hardship due to sickness. The report estimates that if Tennessee expanded Medicaid, 25,500 fewer people will have trouble paying other bills due to the burden of medical costs.

The report also finds that Tennessee’s decision to expand Medicaid would generate economic benefits:

  • A higher standard of living: States that expand Medicaid bring billions of dollars into their economies. That funding boosts the standard of living of the State’s citizens both by improving the lives of the newly-insured and by reducing the burden of uncompensated care for providers, taxpayers, and the privately insured. The report estimates that by not expanding Medicaid, Tennessee will miss out on $1.77 billion in federal funding in 2016.
  • Lower uncompensated care: Uncompensated care costs would be $190 million lower in 2016 if expanded coverage was fully in effect in Tennessee.

“The administration is willing to work with any state interested in expanding Medicaid, said Vikki Wachino Acting Director, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. “We are committed to supporting state flexibility and working with states on innovative solutions that expand Medicaid to low-income individuals in accordance with the law’s goals and consumer protections, while securing quality, affordable health coverage and growing a state’s economy.”

See the full CEA report online.