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Archive for the ‘health care reform’ tag

Health care status quo

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The rollout, especially the website, has been a boondoggle for sure, but people are being dropped from coverage because their old health insurance policies don’t measure up to the standards of Obamacare, which means the people that were dropped had bad policies to begin with, whether they realized it or not.

Obama should be embarrassed that he said time and again, “If you like your coverage you can keep it,” but the fact is, the folks who were dropped had shit policies from the start. America either joins the scores of nations (Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Japan, Sweden, Australia, Denmark, Portugal, Greece, South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Switzerland) that have instituted some form of universal health care or we become satisfied with the status quo.

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Written by Jeremy

November 9th, 2013 at 12:49 am

GOP’s meaningless vote

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Rather than, you know, do anything constructive in Washington, health care reform repeal-obsessed Republicans in the House yet again — for the 33rd time today … 33 times! — symbolically voted to repeal Obamacare.

The Washington Post has compiled a handy list of the other 32 meaningless, wastes of time, effort and public dollars. If you are keeping tabs, that means we are paying Republicans members of the House $174,000 per year to effectively do nothing. It’s funny how the Tea Party crowd and Republicans harp on fiscal responsibility, when, by wasting time on these useless votes, House Republicans are basically robbing the government’s coffers. That’s a pretty large, hypocritical disgrace.

Here’s the list of previous votes:

1.) Jan. 19, 2011: The Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act: A measure to repeal the health law in its entirety. (Measure passed 245 to 184, according to The Washington Post Congressional Votes Database.)

2.) Feb. 19, 2011: The Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011: The House passed the spending measure, which included amendments that would curtail the reach and funding of the health law.Votes 3 through 11 in the GOP vote tally were on amendments that stripped away specific funding for parts of the law. (See the vote count.)

12.) March 3, 2011: The Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act: This measure repealed Form 1099 reporting requirements that were added to help finance the health law. (See the vote count.)

13.) April 13, 2011: A vote to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund: The fund is administered by the secretary of health and human services for various public health services. Republicans argue the “slush fund” would be used to fund jungle gyms, bike paths, and some lobbying activities. (See the vote count.)

14.) April 14, 2011: The Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011: The measure repealed the free choice voucher program and reduced funding for the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan. It also barred increasing Internal Revenue Service funding to hire additional agents to enforce the health law’s individual mandate. (See the vote count.)

15.) April 14, 2011: The House directed the Senate to hold votes on defunding all mandatory and discretionary spending established by the law. (See the vote count)

16.) April 15, 2011: Fiscal 2012 Federal Budget: This spending proposal repealed and defunded the health-care law. (See the vote count.)

17.) May 3, 2011:H.R 1213: This measure repealed mandatory funding provided to state governments to establish health benefits exchanges. (See the vote count.)

18.) May 4, 2011:H.R 1214: The measure repealed mandatory funding to build “school-based health centers.”(See vote count)

19.) May 24, 2011: H.R. 1216: The measure converted $230 million in mandatory spending for graduate medical education programs to discretionary spending. The conversion would have allowed teaching health centers to receive funding through the regular appropriations process and with congressional oversight. (See the vote count.)

20.) Aug. 1, 2011: The Budget Control Act of 2011: President Obama signed this bill, which curtailed some funding for the health law. (See the vote count.)

21.) Oct. 13, 2011: The Protect Life Act: This bill prevented barred money from the health law to be used to pay for abortion procedures or abortion coverage. (See the vote count)

22.) Nov. 16, 2011: The bill required that certain benefits be included in the calculation of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) for purposes of determining eligibility for certain programs established by the law. (See the vote count.)

23.) Dec. 13, 2011: The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011: This bill offset the cost of extending the payroll tax reduction, unemployment insurance, and the “doc fix” by cutting funding to the public prevention fund, among other provisions. (See the vote count)

24.) Dec. 16, 2011: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012:This measure rescinded $400 million from the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan and $10 million in funds for the Independent Patient Advisory Board (IPAB). It also cut IRS’s enforcement budget and tightened restrictions on using federal CDC grant money for lobbying purposes. (See the vote count)

25.) Feb. 1, 2012: The Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011: This bill repealed the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, a long-term care program established by the law. (See the vote count)

26.) Feb. 17, 2012: The Conference Report to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012: The bill cut a total of $11.6 billion from the law. (See the vote count)

27.) March 22, 2012: The Protecting Access to Healthcare Act (PATH): The measure repealed the IPAB and reformed medical liability insurance, which Republicans argued would save money for the Medicare program.(See the vote count)

28.) March 29, 2012: The Fiscal 2013 Federal Budget: This spending proposal also repealed and defunded the health law. (See the vote count)

29.) April 27, 2012: The Interest Rate Reduction Act: This measure froze federally-subsidized student loan rates at 3.4 percent for another year by repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund established by the law. (See the vote count)

30.) May 10, 2012: The Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012:The bill replaced across-the-board cuts in defense and non-defense discretionary spending by, among other things, cutting funding for elements of the health law. (See the vote count)

31.) June 7, 2012: The Health Care Cost Reduction Act of 2012:This measure repealed the medical device tax, one of the law’s key funding mechanisms, and limitations on reimbursements for certain over-the-counter medications. (See the vote count)

32.) June 29, 2012: As part of a bill establishing federal transportation funding and freezing federally-subsidized student loan rates for another year, the House also voted to save $670 million by recalculating the amount of money Louisiana gets from Medicaid. — House has voted 32 times to repeal all or part of health-care reform law

Read more.

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Written by Jeremy

July 11th, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Boehner again calls for nation to default

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Just how out of touch is John Boehner anyway?

Last year, he nearly caused the United States to default on its debt, and this year, he’s whistling the same tune, refusing to raise the debt ceiling and calling for spending cuts.

We shouldn’t dread the debt limit. As a matter of fact, I think we should welcome it. It’s an action-forcing event in a town that has become infamous for inaction.

A town “infamous for inaction?” Doesn’t he means a party infamous for inaction?

The GOP unanimously said “no” to the health care reform bill. “No” to the $787 billion stimulus package, which, by the way, is responsible for many job-creating infrastructural improvements across the nation, and “no” to nearly everything else Obama has put on the table.

U.S. House Speaker Boehner commemorate Holocaust victims and survivors in Washington (Benjamin Myers Reuters, REUTERS / May 16, 2012)

The GOP has languished in Washington the last four years and has been little more than dead weight, unceasingly complaining about Obama, yet accomplishing next to nothing, unless pushing the party even further to the right, “symbolically” passing votes and “symbolically” reading the Constitution counts for accomplishing something.

And at a time when we can clearly witness austerity cuts in Europe failing miserably, Boehner is calling for — wait for it — more austerity cuts. Lucid as ever, Fareed Zakaria identifies the problem with spending cuts in already sagging economy:

The problem is that as these governments cut spending in very depressed economies, it has caused growth to slow even further — you see government workers who have been fired tend to buy fewer goods and services, for example — and all this means falling tax receipts and thus even bigger deficits.

Spending cuts don’t just affect government workers. That’s just one obvious example. If the government starts hacking away at services that improve people’s lives, their quality of life diminishes, thus, not only are they less happy, more apathetic and more likely to hoard what little savings they do have, but they are less likely to turn around and invigorate the economy with new consumer-side spending.

I’m reminded of two memorable lines from Tony Benn, who was interviewed for the 2007 movie, “Sicko:”

Keeping people hopeless and pessimistic – see I think there are two ways in which people are controlled — first of all frighten people and secondly demoralize them.

and

An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.

So, let’s look at the other side. What about people that make more than $250,000 per year? When government hands them tax breaks, do they help stimulate the economy? Not so much. Sure, they spend some, but I would wager that rich people are not primarily concerned with consumer spending, but with saving and investing. After all, there is a reason some people are able to accumulate mass amounts of wealth. They happen to be good with managing money and have some smart investment sense. Good for them. But that doesn’t help the national economy or the American public.

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Written by Jeremy

May 16th, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Book review: ‘Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society’

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Apologies for not having posted in three weeks. Work has been crazy, and while I’ve had some free time to do some reading as of late, I haven’t had as much time to write — or at least not as much time or mental energy to write anything other than what I do for the newspaper.

I’ve also resurrected one of my former hobbies: building maps for the game Counter Strike: Source with a client called Hammer. Needless to say, like all of my other hobbies, it’s a rather time consuming enterprise. But on to the review.

***

The 199 page count on “Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society” by John A. Andrew III is a touch deceptive. Most of the nonfiction works that I read are in the 300-500 page range, but given the content and presentation, they can usually be digested with relative ease. But this book, though fairly short, is anything but a quick read. What it is, is a tightly packed and illuminating look at the political issues surrounding Johnson’s policies in the late 1960s, the social problems and challenges at the time and the ramifications of the various Great Society programs.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Jeremy

August 21st, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Judge dismisses challenge to health care reform

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Important news in court today in Virginia, as a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming the newly passed health care reform bill was unconstitutional in requiring companies to purchase insurance for their employees. According to the above-linked Reuters story:

Focus on the Family headquarters/Credit: David Shankbone

Saddleback Church/Credit: Manutdglory

U.S. District Judge Norman Moon ruled that the law requiring individuals to buy health insurance coverage as well as requiring employers to buy coverage for their employees was legal under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Moon found that without the coverage requirements in the law, the cost of health insurance would increase because the number of insured individuals would decline, “precisely the harms that Congress sought to address with the Act’s regulatory measures.”

Further, interstate commerce would be hurt by large employers failing to offer adequate healthcare coverage, thus “the employer coverage provision is a lawful exercise of Congress‘ Commerce Clause power,” said Moon, who was appointed by then-Democratic President Bill Clinton.

The suit was filed by Lynchburg, Va.-based Liberty University and a group of individuals. Liberty was founded by conservative Christian Jerry Falwell, and apparently his college heirs apparent are continuing the tradition of attempting to do away with every measure put on the table that may make lives of the lesser among us better in preference to policies that help quite inhuman companies and their owners. Such policies are, it seems, diametrically opposed to Christian doctrines, at least as I read them, but let’s not let that get in the way propping up more wealthier interests and, in turn, stamping down the poor in continuing to build up the empire that Falwell built and the empires that folks like Dobson, Warren and others are still building. For anyone not familiar with those two “empires” of Warren and Dobson, research their enclaves in California and Colorado, respectively, and find out for yourself. Sprawling campuses of power and wealth that, if sold for charity, could feed many thousands, if not millions, of mouths. But feeding mouths, feeding the 5,000 seems to not be the ultimate purpose anymore, and making life on this planet better isn’t the ultimate goal either (For what good is food for the hungry if the hungry don’t know God?), and therein lies the heart-wrenching tragedy that tears at me and co-thinkers on a daily basis.

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Written by Jeremy

November 30th, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Obesity and health reform

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By 2015, four out of 10 Americans may be obese. Until last year, the author was one of them. The way he lost one-third of his weight isn’t for everyone. But unless America stops cheering The Biggest Loser and starts getting serious about preventing obesity, the country risks being overwhelmed by chronic disease and ballooning health costs. Will first lady Michelle Obama’s new plan to fight childhood obesity work, or is it just another false start in the country’s long and so far unsuccessful war against fat? — Beating Obesity, The Atlantic

Reading this article by Marc Ambinder (at right), with The Atlantic, I was struck by the irony of the moment.

The story was titled “Beating Obesity” and was framed in Ambinder’s personal struggles with obesity and how, through bariatric surgery, he was able to overcome the oftentimes crippling physical, mental and social implications behind the disorder.

IMAGE CREDIT: LEFT, PHOTO COURTESY OF MARC AMBINDER; RIGHT, PHOTO BY STEPHEN VOSS

Now, since I barely push the century mark in weight and, however futilely, do all I can to actually put on pounds. Thus, I was enjoying a hearty burrito de carnitas at one of my favorite local Mexican joints and reading a story about obesity. Just in front of me, and later seated at a nearby table, came a middle-aged couple, and the man, by any standards, could rightly be categorized as overweight. His corpulence was not initially apparent to me until he got up to go to the bathroom. Upon returning, and already breathing heavily, he, with no small measure of effort, slid back into the booth across from the woman. He then continued his labored breathing for a good 3-4 minutes after that, and I thought, unless he has a genuine breathing condition, he really isn’t helping himself by loading up on Mexican food. And I then thought: “This really is what’s wrong with this country.”

Admitting my own guilt — although to many people’s chagrin, and to mine, I can eat just about anything and stay the same size — we readily recognize our own unhealthiness, personally and as a nation, yet continue, week after week, to pony up to the buffet line as if we have lived off a diet of  food and water for two straight weeks.

Although I don’t really have a dog in that hunt, obesity really is far-reaching problem in the United States, and we should all be concerned about the horse-trough mentality that pervades this country. Some individual cases of obesity do have ties to genetics and societal pressures. We can’t dispute that. But the overarching health issues we have in this country, rising cases of diabetes, for instance, is inextricably linked to our Wahoo, gung-ho, manifest destiny, I-want-it-all-and-I-want-it-now culture.

And, ever a capitalistic engine, we exploit this culture to entertain our baser impulses. Ambinder notes that

For the average fat person, life can be an endless chain of humiliating experiences. On a flight to Denver not too long ago, I watched as a very large woman struggled to settle into her seat. Next to her, a much skinnier man curled his lip in disgust. The woman softly asked a passing flight attendant for a seat-belt extender. The flight attendant didn’t hear her over the roar of the engines, so the woman had to ask again, and this time, everyone looked at her. Grocery shopping, eating at restaurants, going to the movies, having drinks at a crowded bar—for the fat person, these are situations to be negotiated and survived, not enjoyed. The workplace is no different: a television executive once remarked to me that my career as a political analyst would “really take off if [I] would just lose a few pounds.” When I was fat, I avoided meeting people’s eyes. I didn’t want to subject them to my ugliness.

Unfortunately, our culture reinforces this anxiety by turning obesity into pornography. This is not surprising. Obesity has become not just a scientific fad of sorts, generating intense research, curiosity, and public concern, but also a commercial gold mine that draws on the same kind of audiences that used to go to circus carnivals a century ago to peer at freakishly obese men and women. The TLC network, which long ago transcended its “Learning Channel” origins and gave the world Jon and Kate, now features obesity-programming blocks. One recent special followed the progress of an extremely obese teenage boy who struggled through bariatric surgery and its aftermath. Another special chronicled the life of the fattest man in the world. In addition to The Biggest Loser, NBC’s popular weight-loss boot-camp competition, and Fox’s More to Love, a dating show for larger people, the Oxygen network now has a dancing competition called Dance Your Ass Off. Fat people are funny.

Our obsession with the obsessive has to end and the much debated health care reform package must contain elements geared toward education about diabetes; the dangers of overeating, fast food and sodas; and general healthy living. And the education must begin with children in elementary school. I’m no star student and enjoy a meaty, messy, 1,000-calorie burger like everyone else, but we could also use a good measure of conscience-raising , or else, Americans will continue to be among the least healthy people in the modernized world.

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‘Hate sells when the chips are down’

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In the wake of the historic vote Sunday to secure health care for 30 million more Americans, the Republican response, by and large, and has been vitriolic and retaliatory.

Only two days after the vote and seven minutes after President Obama signed the bill into law, 13 attorney generals across the country, 12 Republicans and 1 Democrat have sued the federal government claiming the act is unconstitutional. According to the lawsuit:

The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage.

Legal experts say it has little chance of succeeding because, under the Constitution, federal laws trump state laws.

In Washington, members of the Republican party are calling for repeal legislation to undo the bill:

Already, three of the GOP’s most prominent conservative voices, Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), as well as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), are introducing legislation to repeal the bill, even though the party is nowhere near to having the votes necessary to pass a repeal bill.

On top of that, some of the Republican party’s likely 2012 contenders have weighed in on the matter. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin yesterday called the health care vote a “clarion call and a spur to action” and endorsed the repeal of the “dangerous portions of Obamacare.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, also called for the bill to be repealed, in spite of the comparisons often made between the Democrats’ health care plan and Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan.

While in my current state of residence, Rep. Paul Broun, who is apparently still dreaming of 19th century Southern glory, bafflingly on March 19 equated health reform to the Civil War. As Media Matters notes,

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is a fanatical opponent of health care reform, who has suggested that President Obama might “declare martial law” and rule as a dictator. In recent days, the right-wing congressman has made Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) the target of his fury, calling her arrogant, ignorant, and incompetent. Last night on the House floor, Broun continued his streak of combative statements by comparing health care reform to the American Civil War, which he called “The Great War of Yankee Aggression.”

And from the horse’s mouth:

If ObamaCare passes, that free insurance card that’s in people’s pockets is gonna be as worthless as a Confederate dollar after the War Between The States — the Great War of Yankee Aggression.

Not to be undone and ever telling us that we should all be praying and quivering in a dark corner about the government’s transgressions, Republican House Leader John Boehner of Ohio’s fightin’ 8th, in response to a scathing crowd heckling lawmakers at the Capitol had this to say: The offensive comments were:

… reprehensible and should not have happened.

Nevertheless, frenzied crowd, your irrational outcries are justified:

But let’s not let a few isolated incidents get in the way of the fact that millions of Americans are scared to death.

Indeed, Boehner, as the House Republican Leader, has been one of the most vocal lawmakers on the bill. Says Boehner in this animated speech,

We have failed to listen to America , and we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents, and when we fail to reflect that will, we fail ourselves, and we fail our country.

To groans from fellow House members, Boehner continued with this diatribe:

Look at this bill. Ask yourself: Do you really believe that if you like the health plan that you have, that you can keep it? No you can’t. In this economy [jeers and gavel], you can’t say that. In this economy, with this unemployment, with our desperate needs for jobs and economic growth, is this really the time to raise taxes, to create bureaucracies and burden every job creator in our land?

Here’s the full speech:

If I may interpose, Boehner and others just say the keyword “taxes” and never elaborate. Boehner, for instance, did so in this pre-vote health care bill renunciation:

What they never get around to saying is that the taxes imposed by the bill will affect families who earn $250,000 or more ($200,000 for individuals) per year, which as nearly all readers of this site know, does not affect them. Yet, Republicans want to make the case, to the unlearned public, that the mean, bad old Democrats want to take everything for which they have worked so hard. Unless I have an exceeding rich friend of whom I’m not aware, I don’t know that I’ve ever personally had a conversation with someone who makes that much per year. So, diametrically opposite to the claims made by Republicans in their desperate attempts to disparage health care reform at any (theoretical) cost, you probably don’t even know someone who makes $200,000 per year, much less $250,000.

Finally, even some Republicans are not happy with how their fellow party members are reacting to the health care bill. Here is a blogger who appears frustrated over fellow Republicans’ negative response to a seemingly positive reform like health care:

Republicans are shouting and spitting like a bunch of fucking hyenas as they clamor for face time in the media. They’re filling our inboxes, vandalizing our social networking profiles and polluting the airwaves with venomous messages rebuking the Obama Administration over health care. HEALTH CARE! My fellow Republicans are tearing this nation apart over providing medical care for those less fortunate. Not bank bailouts, war, or wasteful pork spending— Health care. Really?

The behavior among elected Republicans and the dimwitted TV pundits who are whipping America into an absolute frenzy is the worst thing about this bill and has led me to question my long-standing affiliation with the Republican Party. For a moment, I thought it was me; that maybe I had changed and lost touch with Republicanism. So, in seeking to refresh my recollection of what this party stands for, I logged onto the GOP home page.

What I found was as pathetic as it was cartoonish. A complete embarrassment. The site opens to a fiery red screen with Nancy Pelosi, fists and teeth clenched in a fit of rage against a backdrop of flames, with the words “Fire Pelosi” in bold letters emblazoned on the screen. This buffoonery doesn’t torch Nancy Pelosi—it’s Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Abraham Lincoln who are torched by the flames of dissent and hatred that now embody this once-great party.

Going deeper in the site only serves to highlight the confusion within the GOP. It lists the accomplishments of the Republican Party since its inception and its own core values of today. It proudly claims responsibility for freeing the slaves, establishing Howard University and outlawing the Ku Klux Klan. It touts Republican leadership in writing the 19th Amendment, passing two civil rights acts and ending racial segregation in Little Rock. The list spans two centuries of achievements such as these and others that today seem more in alignment with the Democratic Party, like establishing Yellowstone National Park, building the federal highway system and authoring welfare reform.

This is the party I belong to.

But the current “platform”—if you can call it that—lists only six ideals. The power of the individual, voluntary giving, limited government, low taxes, less regulation and national strength. That’s what it says, but what it practices is hate, because hate sells when the chips are down. (italics mine)

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Written by Jeremy

March 24th, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Historic legislation well on its way

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The most fateful piece of legislation since FDR’s New Deal programs in the 1930s and the Civil Rigths Act of 1964, the Senate version of the health bill (already passed in the Senate on Dec. 24) passed the House of Representatives by a 219-212 (To correct something: I believe I said previously that it still needed to be approved by the Senate, but that body has already voted on it), and here is a map from The New York Times on how the vote broke down across the nation:

Credit: The New York Times

Obviously, the most progressive parts of the country are easy to pinpoint, and less progressive folks, rabble that are easily roused, were clearly on display this weekend, heckling lawmakers and making fools of themselves. After all, when mind power and logic isn’t a person’s strong suit, all that’s left is emotion.

So, what now? Well, the House (still in session as of late Sunday) will vote on the reconciliation bill, which will then go to the Senate for approval. The one that was just approved is one and done and will now go to the president’s desk.

The perceived blowback from all this is complete conjecture, no matter what the talking heads might say. As I noted in the last post, the Congressional Budget Office has already released its cost estimate for the bill, but all other theses — impending socialism, uncontrolled debt and, in the most extreme cases, the destruction of America, are the products of guesswork and attempts to inject fear into the public about the bill. Folks said the same thing after FDR’s New Deal programs, and we’re still here.

I, personally, am not to going to live in fear or loathing of the government, its programs or anything else. As I’ve noted to friends, if we have the resources to help people, in this case, 30 million, we should; damn the politicians, and damn the lobbyists who line their pockets. Calls from Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity and others that we are headed toward socialism are laughable. Too many of those same politicians have a vested interest in the capitalistic status quo that they would never let us take their money.

What if the bill is flawed? If parts of the bill are not working, the parts can later then be retooled; this has been the story of decent legislation made better down through the decades. The key, after nearly a century (!) of debate on the topic, was action, and we saw historic action today, regrettably, without Republicans. Clearly, parts can be made better, and we can leave it to lawmakers to improve the bill. As Jim Wallis, author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy (www.godspolitics.com) said,

… despite the very flawed health-care bill coming up for a vote this weekend, and the even more flawed processes that we will witness during its debate and vote, I believe (as does Sojourners) that something is better than nothing, and that this bill will hopefully be only the beginning of a process, and a first step toward comprehensive health-care reform. We simply cannot walk away from the 30 million people without health-care coverage who would benefit from this bill. And it is absolutely clear to us that simply doing nothing and letting the opportunity pass once again for beginning to reform the health-care system is a formula for everyone’s health care getting worse — more people being uninsured, higher premiums for those with insurance, continually diminishing benefits for us all, more family bankruptcies, and more people literally dying without proper health care.

I’m not quite as “bleeding heart” as this guy, but something clearly had to be done. When we, as a country, keep folks uneducated, poor, unhealthy and frightened, we can more easily control them. The measure of a strong government, however, is when we have a health, educated and thriving body politic, as Tony Benn said in the movie, Sicko, in this telling interview:

A 1948 leaflet issued in England, as read by Benn:

“‘Your new National Health Service begins on the fifth of July. What is it, how do you get it? It will provide you with all medical, dental and nursing care. Everyone, rich or poor, man, woman or child can use it, or in it part of it. There are no charges, except for a few special items. There are no insurance qualifications. But it is not a charity. You are paying for it mainly as taxpayers, and it will relieve your money worries in times of illness.’ Now somehow, the few words some of the whole thing up.”

Now somehow, the few words sums the whole thing up.”

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Pre-2012, health care falsehoods afoot

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Examples surface everyday to prove that folks not only can’t believe what they hear or read, but that the folks delivering the “message” don’t always, and rarely, know what they are talking about. Indeed, volumes of misinformation are swirling regarding the proposed health care reform bill.

From Karl Rove to Sean Hannity (and no doubt others), falsehoods are flying about what the health bill would and wouldn’t do. For instance, in his Wall Street Journal column today, Rove

claimed that the Senate health care bill has “abortion-funding language,” adds to the deficit and contains no immediate benefits.

according to Media Matters. Yet

the Senate bill prohibits federal funding of abortion, contains numerous immediate benefits, and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, reduces the deficit.

For his part, Hannity on March 3 claimed that the health care bill would not be implemented before we began having to pay for it. Which, again, isn’t true. Here’s a 12-part list by The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein detailing parts of the bill that are, indeed, implemented upon enaction:

To put it another way, in 2010 and 2012, when Republicans are saying that reform has done nothing despite the fact that it hasn’t yet gone into effect, what will Democrats be able to brag about? Here’s the list:

1) Eliminating lifetime limits, and cap annual limits, on health-care benefits. In other words, if you get an aggressive cancer and your treatment costs an extraordinary amount, your insurer can’t suddenly remind you that subparagraph 15 limited your yearly expenses to $30,000, and they’re not responsible for anything above that.

2) No more rescissions.

3) Some interim help for people who have preexisting conditions, though the bill does not instantly ban discrimination on preexisting conditions.

4) Requiring insurers to cover preventive care and immunizations.

5) Allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance plan until age 26.

6) Developing uniform coverage documents so people can compare different insurance policies in an apples-to-apples fashion.

7) Forcing insurers to spend 80 percent of all premium dollars on medical care (75 percent in the individual market), thus capping the money that can go toward administration, profits, etc.

8. Creating an appeals process and consumer advocate for insurance customers.

9) Developing a temporary re-insurance program to help early retirees (folks over 55) afford coverage.

10) Creating an internet portal to help people shop for and compare coverage.

11) Miscellaneous administrative simplification stuff.

12) Banning discrimination based on salary (i.e., where a company that’s not self-insured makes only some full-time workers eligible for coverage.

And as Klein wittily concludes:

Given that we’re all going to die when the earth consumes itself in 2012, the effectiveness of these policies takes on a new level of importance.

Indeed, but I don’t think the rumor is that Earth is going to consume itself in 2012. I thought the rumor was that solar flares were going to consume Earth. Regardless, at least some folks will benefit from the health care plan before we are all singed by a wash of solar radiation. Maybe we won’t even have to worry about funding the health care bill after all!

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Health care bill stews in House

with one comment

If you want to spend an unenlightening and sickening few minutes, go listen to members of the U.S. Congress debate health care reform on C-SPAN, in which Republican and Blue Dog Democrats summon every possible cliché, from freedom to the founders, to try to convince folks that the health care Democrat-sponsored reform bill is bankrupt. That doesn’t mention the dozens and dozens of uncited claims about the bill.

Particularly sickening were comments from Mike Pence of Indiana’s fightin’ 6th, in which he made a peculiar analogy between World War II veterans and those who might vote “Nay” on H.R. 3962. “When freedom hung in the balance, you did freedom’s work,” he said of those potentially in opposition to the bill.

The argument goes that passage of the Democrats’ health care bill will mean a loss of freedom for some in America, claiming that some residents will be forced to take policies whether they want to or not, that the private insurance agency’s freedom to persist unimpeded in denying coverage for those who need it and finally, that some sort of collective freedom will be lost if we go down the road toward “nationalized” medicine, a system in which every single developed and modern country operates under. And, every single modernized country has a higher life expectancy than people in the United States.

Jim McDermott of Washington State’s fightin’ 7th tonight made the simple and salient point that the Republicans would prefer the status quo, in which insurance companies are allowed to run roughshod, as they have for decades and that “most (people) can’t take care of their health care problems on their own.”

And Charles Rangel of New York fightin’ 15th requested that members of the House choose that “morality (would) go beyond party loyalty.”

Regardless, it is expected that the House will get the necessary 218 votes to pass the bill, but it’s not certain whether it will pass the Senate, much less some negotiated final bill to make the president’s desk.

As for my personal thoughts, the Republican plan does not ban the denial of insurance to those with pre-existing conditions, and H.R. 3962 does, and to me, that reason alone is enough to stymie the former approach. Returning to Rangel’s thoughts, the moral necessity of helping those who need it most should supercede party lines. I’ve written at length on this topic, so I haven’t put a full, rhetorical thrust behind this post. I’ve done that already here and elsewhere, but I want to include one of the more colorful remarks from George Miller from California, who had this to say:

If the Republican’s plan was a plan for a fire department, they would rush into a burning building and they would rush out and leave everybody behind. … They say their plan is inexpensive. They say their plan saves somebody money. But 10 years from now, there’s as many uninsured as now. At the end of their watch, after 12 years of control of this Congress, eight years of control of the White House at the same time, they left behind 37 million Americans without health insurance. That’s what they left behind on their watch. And now they come forth with a plan for the future, and over the next decade, they’re going to leave behind 50 million Americans! Wanna buy it? Wanna try it? Wanna sell it? Come on, America, buy this one. You’re guaranteed to be left behind if you’re left behind today. What a plan! Hah! God. … [Unintelligible exit, but it sounds like he said, "See ya."]

I’ve heard many Republicans, some of which I heard during the debate today, say that, “Well it’s not really 40 million uninsured. If we take out the illegals and the young people who don’t want (I would add, can’t afford) insurance, we are left with 5 million or more uninsured. So, I would ask, what of those 5 million?  That’s still a big number. Those 5 million aren’t worth helping? What if it was 500,000? Or 100,000? Or 10,000?

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