Tag Archives: health care

Quote of the Week

25 Mar

From Ohio Representative Steve Driehaus:

“Leader Boehner suggested that if I vote yes on this bill and go home to the west side of Cincinnati, that I could be a dead man…. It really calls into question his ability to lead. He should be a statesman.”

Driehaus confronted Boehner about the interview on the floor of the House. “I told him it was inexcusable,” Driehaus said. “It doesn’t really matter the way you meant it, nor the way I accept it. It’s how the least sane person in my district accepts it.

The Buffalo News Op-Ed Page Goes Full-Boehner Republican

13 Mar
"Republican Party Elephant" logo
Image via Wikipedia

The Buffalo News is vilified as a pinko outfit by conservatives, and condemned as a right-wing rag by liberals. Usually, that would be evidence of evenhandedness and equal-opportunity advocacy.

On Friday, it wrote something that was quite literally a parroting of right-wing talking points. If that editorial wasn’t ghost-written by someone like Andy Rudnick, Bob Wilmers, or some other wealthy and well-connected plutocrat, then I’m shocked. Every single bitchy little disingenuous Republican complaint about health care reform was in there.

Luckily for us, Paul Krugman disembowelled each one in the Times that same day.

The crux of the op-ed piece is that costs aren’t brought down by health care reform.

Instead, he has thrown his weight behind an expensive collection of entitlements, mandates and regulations that will only raise the deficit again. And he has turned away from some obvious steps that would reduce costs.

Increased competition between health insurance companies, by allowing them to sell nationwide, is the traditional American way to bring costs down. Medical malpractice reform must be addressed with reasonable caps on damages, so that doctors and hospitals will make costly diagnostic and care decisions based less on fears over lawsuits.

And as the debates rage despite the Democrats’ intent simply to push through the plan they want, it remains puzzling that so little attention is being paid to the health reform plan — as opposed to the health reform rhetoric — advanced by Republicans. The Common Sense Health Care Reform and Affordability Act has a lot of the things that the public is asking for and could lower costs as well.

Included in that plan are items worthy of actual debate instead of political posturing. Among them are provisions that would allow children to stay on their parents’ policies longer, guarantee that people with pre-existing health problems will be able to get insurance and not allow insurance companies to drop people if they get sick

Wow, that Republican plan seems great! Why won’t the Democrats include those things?

While those provisions also are in the Democrats’ plan, so are a slew of others — all costing a lot of dollars, which the Democrats say would be covered by an unlikely combination of scenarios including future congressional cuts in popular programs. The Republican proposal is contained in 219 pages. There are 2,000 pages in the Democrats’ bill.

In an editorial where the Buffalo News decries Democratic “posturing” on health insurance reform, it’s downright shocking to see it take up the dumbest anti-intellectual meme the Republicans have – how many pages a bill has.

Where was this editorial when massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans were passed through reconciliation during George W. Bush’s administration? Tax cuts that exponentially grew the deficit, and which still make up the vast bulk of it today.

Buffalo News:

With health care already tied to a sixth of the American economy and heading higher, that cost control is essential. The difference essentially is that the Republicans first want to control costs and Democrats first want to expand entitlements. In this case, expansion should follow cost control — not undermine it.

Krugman:

Well, if having the government regulate and subsidize health insurance is a “takeover,” that takeover happened long ago. Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs already pay for almost half of American health care, while private insurance pays for barely more than a third (the rest is mostly out-of-pocket expenses). And the great bulk of that private insurance is provided via employee plans, which are both subsidized with tax exemptions and tightly regulated.

The only part of health care in which there isn’t already a lot of federal intervention is the market in which individuals who can’t get employment-based coverage buy their own insurance. And that market, in case you hadn’t noticed, is a disaster — no coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, coverage dropped when you get sick, and huge premium increases in the middle of an economic crisis. It’s this sector, plus the plight of Americans with no insurance at all, that reform aims to fix. What’s wrong with that?

Buffalo News:

It is unclear whether the president is willing to get to the heart of the matter. Already, he has consumed 13 months on aggressively pushing health care as a top priority when the public, during a difficult recession, is concerned first about jobs. This is neither good political thinking nor good decision making.

Economies bounce back. Health insurance is still beyond the reach of 40+ million Americans – a number that grows each year, and is made worse by recessions.

Buffalo News:

If the sound economic approach in a time of huge federal debts and deficits demands health care cost control, do that first. And do it without saddling a new bill with a thousand pages that crushes real reform by expanding entitlements without really figuring out how to pay for them.

Finally, there is a difference between health insurance and health care. The latter is important not only from a cost standpoint, but also from the standpoint of quality delivery of medical care in this country. The president loves to talk about how excellent the care is and how low-cost the price is at the Cleveland Clinic and other such superior medical facilities. If that is the future he aspires to, where is the action to get there?

This obviously is no simple task, but if the president and the Congress would accomplish this improvement along with cost reduction, they will have advanced the public’s well being far beyond what has been presented so far.

Krugman:

The second myth is that the proposed reform does nothing to control costs. To support this claim, critics point to reports by the Medicare actuary, who predicts that total national health spending would be slightly higher in 2019 with reform than without it.

Even if this prediction were correct, it points to a pretty good bargain. The actuary’s assessment of the Senate bill, for example, finds that it would raise total health care spending by less than 1 percent, while extending coverage to 34 million Americans who would otherwise be uninsured. That’s a large expansion in coverage at an essentially trivial cost.

And it gets better as we go further into the future: the Congressional Budget Office has just concluded, in a new report, that the arithmetic of reform will look better in its second decade than it did in its first.

Furthermore, there’s good reason to believe that all such estimates are too pessimistic. There are many cost-saving efforts in the proposed reform, but nobody knows how well any one of these efforts will work. And as a result, official estimates don’t give the plan much credit for any of them. What the actuary and the budget office do is a bit like looking at an oil company’s prospecting efforts, concluding that any individual test hole it drills will probably come up dry, and predicting as a consequence that the company won’t find any oil at all — when the odds are, in fact, that some of the test holes will pan out, and produce big payoffs. Realistically, health reform is likely to do much better at controlling costs than any of the official projections suggest.

And to the Buffalo News’ general Republican talking point that the whole thing is fiscally irresponsible, Krugman:

How can people say this given Congressional Budget Office predictions — which, as I’ve already argued, are probably too pessimistic — that reform would actually reduce the deficit? Critics argue that we should ignore what’s actually in the legislation; when cost control actually starts to bite on Medicare, they insist, Congress will back down.

But this isn’t an argument against Obamacare, it’s a declaration that we can’t control Medicare costs no matter what. And it also flies in the face of history: contrary to legend, past efforts to limit Medicare spending have in fact “stuck,” rather than being withdrawn in the face of political pressure.

So what’s the reality of the proposed reform? Compared with the Platonic ideal of reform, Obamacare comes up short. If the votes were there, I would much prefer to see Medicare for all.

For a real piece of passable legislation, however, it looks very good. It wouldn’t transform our health care system; in fact, Americans whose jobs come with health coverage would see little effect. But it would make a huge difference to the less fortunate among us, even as it would do more to control costs than anything we’ve done before.

I don’t mind the Buffalo News taking a political stand that differs from mine. I do mind the Buffalo News acting as stenographer for FreedomWorks and the Republican National Committee, repeating half-truths and outright lies about a reasonable bill that probably doesn’t go far enough to expand insurance coverage to all Americans.

Maybe Stan Lipsey and the union guys who write editorials at the News don’t have to worry about how their medical care gets paid for. But a lot of working poor and middle-class people in Buffalo do. For the city’s only paper to advocate against insuring them based on make-believe concern trolling is sickening.

Palin and Canadian Medicare

9 Mar
Her last speech as governor
Image via Wikipedia

I’m heartened to see Facebook status update author Sarah Palin sing the praises of Canadian universal-coverage, single-payer Medicare. Perhaps we could simplify the whole health care debate and simply enact a universal Medicare buy-in here in the United States. Wouldn’t that be so much simpler? Wouldn’t it be great to abolish Medicaid and just cover everyone? Wouldn’t it be great if your employer and you didn’t have to share the five-figure cost for difficult and often inadequate private medical insurance plans?

At least that way, breathlessly false Republican accusations of a “government takeover” of the “health care system” would be incrementally closer to the truth.

Not true, mind you – just closer to it.

Informing The Present, Part 2

8 Mar

Picture chosen because after re-reading this article, it seems sanctimonious and douchey.

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how my readers perceive the arguments, theories and opinions I put forth on this website.  The lens through which each of you views the individual articles I write about journalism, government, economic development, corporations and general current events.  I always feel the need to link heavily to other sources because I want you to understand not just the subject matter, but how I’ve come to my established position on the issue.  It’s also a way for me to keep track of my thoughts and a running journal of my own positional development.

Each day, I update a segment of my sidebar with articles I read or sites I find interesting, which inform much of what I write here.  It’s on the right and it’s labeled “Your Daily Homework”.   I suppose the title is a bit condescending, but I intend for it to be a general supplement to your daily news consumption at WNYM.  You can either check that sidebar for current links or you can simply subscribe to my Delicious feed by clicking here.  It’s a daily compendium of what I read and leads to a lot of posts not just on my personal corner of WNYM, but on others as well.

Aside from that, each weekend, I’m going to post some videos or links to longer form content which provides a bit of a backstory on how I see the world.  Do I think there is a thirsty bunch of readers out there longing to be quenched with the dew of my intelligence or experience?  Umm, no.  However, if you come here frequently (and a couple thousand of you do each day), I thought you might be interested in the content which informs my opinion and what tweaks my Id and Ego.

This week, I’d like to present a series of videos culled from a documentary titled, Consuming Kids.

Consuming Kids throws desperately needed light on the practices of a relentless multi-billion dollar marketing machine that now sells kids and their parents everything from junk food and violent video games to bogus educational products and the family car. Drawing on the insights of health care professionals, children’s advocates, and industry insiders, the film focuses on the explosive growth of child marketing in the wake of deregulation, showing how youth marketers have used the latest advances in psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience to transform American children into one of the most powerful and profitable consumer demographics in the world.

Consuming Kids pushes back against the wholesale commercialization of childhood, raising urgent questions about the ethics of children’s marketing and its impact on the health and well-being of kids.

Here’s the trailer:

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As a parent of two toddlers, I see the pervasive marketing and advertising that is intended to influence my children and ultimately, my buying decisions.  It’s everywhere, it’s immersive and it’s intended to insinuate brand awareness into every aspect of our lives.  It’s the ultimate manifestation of a corporatist culture which demands that new consumers be introduced into the market at the earliest possible stage.  While we all ultimately have the final decision-making power with our dollars, the marketing stream stacks the deck against those of us who wish to delay our child’s entrance into the consumer culture.

Think Baby Einstein videos are helping your child learn?  Think again.

Think a barrage of sexualized messages about the market’s interpretation of beauty are having a negative effect on your daughter’s body image?  You’re right.

We are the only industrialized nation with no standards or statutory guidelines on advertising to children.  We used to have guidelines on this, but in 1980, the toy companies led a lobbying effort to repeal any limitations or standards which resulted into the bible of childhood marketing, the FTC Improvement Act of 1980.  The documentary does a thorough job of demonstrating that “consumerizing” our children at such a young age results in serious financial and health risks for them.   Click through to watch the film…

Continue reading

Slaughter on Health Care

25 Feb

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28) at Thursday’s health care reform summit:

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I’ve been through this before. I was here when we had the Clinton debate. It was started, some of you will remember, by Lee Iacocca, who said, “We cannot export our automobiles, there is a $1,000 cost for health care in every one of them. My competitors are way ahead of me. They are eating my lunch.”

That was one of the main reasons, Mr. President, if you recall, that we decided we had to do something about that.

In the 13, 15 years since that’s happened we have done nothing about health care. We don’t export so much anymore. The automobile business is basically gone. We have done nothing to encourage entrepreneurs.

and

I think it would be really a good thing for us today, while we’re here in this room together, to really think about what’s absolutely important here. Not nitpick over little pieces of this and that, but think about all the people out there every single day, the number of people, excess deaths, because they have no health insurance.

I even have one constituent — you will not believe this, and I know you won’t, but it’s true — her sister died. This poor woman had no denture. She wore her dead sister’s teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit.

Do you ever believe that in America that that’s where we would be?

This is the last chance as far as I’m concerned, particularly on the export business. We have fallen behind. We’re no longer the biggest manufacturer in the world. We’ve lot our technological edge. We have an opportunity to do that, but a major part of the success of that is getting this health care bill passed.

Setting aside the fact that stories like this are all too common even in our “best system in the world”, the trade issue is an important one. In Canada, Ford, Honda, GM, Chrysler, and other automakers don’t have to worry about offering and paying for ridiculously expensive and crappy health insurance coverage for their employees. They get free comprehensive medical through the provincial government.

Maybe the Republicans are right. Maybe we should scrap the bill and start from scratch.

Since no serious politician is willing to badmouth or abolish Medicare, if it’s good enough for the over-65 set, it’s good enough for the under-65 set. Expand Medicare as an option available to all and be done with it.

Health Care Summit

25 Feb

I spent some time today listening to congressional Republicans set up their “let’s scrap it and start from scratch” talking point du jour, and congressional Democrats rebutting a year’s worth of unadulterated bullshit the GOP had been smearing across Americans’ faces over the last year or so.

It makes you want to vomit.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Tea Party Movement

24 Nov

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From HuffPo:

A group called the Chicago Tea Party Patriots publicly heckled a grieving family and suggested that the couple fabricated their tragic story.

At a town hall held by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) on Nov. 14,, Dan and Midge Hough spoke about how they believed the death of their daughter-in-law and her unborn child were caused, in part, by a lack of health insurance. Twenty-four-year old Jennifer was uninsured. According to her in-laws, she was not receiving regular prenatal care and was not properly treated when she got sick. She ended up in an emergency room with double pneumonia that developed into septic shock, had a heart attack, a brain bleed and a stroke. The baby died and Jennifer died a few weeks later.

Midge Hough was heckled by anti-reform crowd members. “You can laugh at me, that’s okay,” she said, crying. “But I lost two people, and I know you think that’s funny, that’s okay.”

More Like This, Please

7 Nov

Tom Tancredo is one of the most detestable xenophobes ever to have darkened the halls of congress.  Lou Dobbs has got nothing on this guy. It’s also quite ironic, given the fact that Tancredo’s last name ends in a vowel.

The other day, Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas was debating Tancredo on MSNBC about health care reform and the recent teabag ruckus on Capitol Hill that attracted literally hundreds of people.  Tancredo did the standard Republican “socialism” nonsense and called the public option – a thoroughly incomplete “reform” – the biggest threat to American freedom they had ever seen; a “threat to the American way of life”.

Talk like that leads to signs like this, seen at the Michele Bachmann Teaparty of Ignorance this past week:

At one point, comparisons were drawn to existing government-run single-payer plans like Medicare and the VA.  Tancredo claimed that veterans begged him to set up some sort of free market insurance system for them because the VA was “too bureaucratic” and didn’t “serve their needs”.

Because everyone who has private for-profit or non-profit healthcare knows just how unbureaucratic it is.  I hate disingenuous, idiotic statements like that.

On the point of the veterans, Moulitsas is a veteran, and Tancredo is not.  Moulistas does what the kids call “pwn” Tancredo:

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Sure enough, Tancredo was in favor of the Vietnam War, but went out of his way to avoid serving in it.

After graduating from college in June 1969, he became eligible to serve in Vietnam. Tancredo said he went for his physical, telling doctors he’d been treated for depression, and eventually got a deferment.

Chickenhawk.  Xenophobe.  Detestable human being.  It’s about time guys like him got called out on their incessant fucking bullshit.

Gillibrand Expands Coverage for Vet Illnesses

22 Oct

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If a Vietnam Vet was exposed to Agent Orange while on the ground, the government will cover him for any health expenditures for related maladies. But if the Vet was serving, e.g., in the air or on a ship, that coverage is not available.

Veterans have turned to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has vowed to pass legislation to change the loophole that denies the coverage. She said she hopes to get it through committee and onto the Senate floor soon.

Condon recently visited the place as he put it, that “made him a man.”

“When you’re seventeen you see things differently,” he said as he stood along the West Side Highway, near the Intrepid. “Yeah, you don’t think you can die, but I’m from Brooklyn, thought you could live forever.”

Condon said his NYPD retirement coverage will save him. Sen. Gillibrand has said some 13,000 people are affected in New York alone, and some 800,000 nationwide.

When people think about the ideal of public service, it would be to make a direct, palpable, positive difference in people’s lives. This action by Senator Gillibrand on behalf of America’s veterans is to be applauded.

The Speech

9 Sep

Barack Obama let the Congress and the talk radio cretins and the talking heads flail around for a month while he sat back and watched.  As the Republican Party slowly became equated with people screaming rudely at town halls, blatantly lying about what was and wasn’t in the President’s proposal, and while various people referred to each other as HitlerStalinGoebbelsMengelePolPot, etc., the President came back to work and sent all the kids to their room.

He blew the lies out of the water, and called them exactly what they are.  Obama’s speech was masterful in that it addressed not only the lies, but also addressed the Republicans directly, explaining that they can’t just stand on the sidelines and hope for failure.  There are certain things they wanted in health care reform, and those things are in this bill.  If they are for competition, it’s in this bill.  If they’re for protecting Medicare, it’s in this bill.  If they’re for tort reform, they’ll take another look.

Here’s the text of the speech.

Framing the changes being sought as consumer protection issues is perfect, because that’s what this is all about at its essence.  Protecting people and making sure that they get the care they contract and pay for.

I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.

For the progressives, that was his guarantee that there would be some public option.  Restructuring the market, regulating the industry, and offering up a non-profit, public alternative to keep insurers honest.

Obama is staking his Presidency on this most important issue.

That’s called leadership.