Posts from the ‘Obamacare’ Category

Republican Officials Work ‘Under The Radar’ To Implement Obamacare In Their States


Republican Officials Work ‘Under The Radar’ To Implement Obamacare In Their States.

By Tara Culp-Ressler on Sep 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney
Republican lawmakers are continuing to delay setting up the state-run health insurance exchanges required under Obamacare as an act of resistance against President Obama’s health reform law. Even though the federal government will be forced to step in to implement exchanges for the states that don’t turn in their exchange plans for approval by November, some Republican governors are refusing to work on exchanges until after the election in case Mitt Romney wins and repeals Obamacare. However, despite the political battle over health care reform, not all Republican officials are convinced that refusing to set up health exchanges is the best course of action.

Reuters points out that some GOP officials like Mike Chaney, Mississippi’s insurance commissioner, have quietly worked against their party to take steps toward creating state-level insurance exchanges. Although his state’s lawmakers are deeply opposed to Obamacare — Mississippi was one of the 26 states that sued the administration over the health reform law — Chaney explained that resisting Obamacare’s health care exchange will force state officials to scramble after the November election:

Insurance officials like Chaney, however, want a better contingency plan in case the Republicans lose, as the 10-day window between the election and the exchange deadline will not give them enough time to prepare an exchange.

“They can’t just leave this to the will of the wind,” Chaney said in an interview.

“This isn’t about politics. It’s about following the law,” he added. “And I think I’m better equipped to operate an exchange in my state than the federal government.”

Chaney is not the only Republican to take this stance. Reuters interviewed half a dozen other Republican state health officials who agreed they would prefer to plan for state-run exchanges now rather than accept a federally-run exchange when the clock runs out, and some are working to do so. However, the contentious political climates in their states don’t always make this possible. Although Chaney said he worked “under the radar” to prepare for an exchange in Mississippi, mounting pressure from conservatives in the state curbed his work in mid-July, and he has since released a statement promising to hold off on any further work toward establishing an exchange until after the election.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has already urged Republican governors to embrace health care reform and take the necessary steps to set up exchanges in their states. As Frist and Chaney both point out, state-run exchanges are actually consistent with conservative federalist ideals. If Republican legislators continue to block them, they could help prove Chaney’s assertion that “this isn’t about politics” very wrong.

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FOCUS | With Deficit Hawks Circling Overhead


FOCUS | With Deficit Hawks Circling Overhead.

ith deficit hawks circling overhead, the responsibility for creating jobs has fallen by default to Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. Last week the Fed said it expected to keep interest rates near zero through mid 2015 in order to stimulate employment.

Two cheers.

The problem is, low interest rates alone won’t do it. The Fed has held interest rates near zero for several years without that much to show for it. A smaller portion of American adults is now working than at any time in the last thirty years.
So far, the biggest beneficiaries of near-zero interest rates haven’t been average Americans. They’ve been too weighed down with debt to borrow more, and their wages keep dropping. And because they won’t and can’t borrow more, businesses haven’t had more customers. So there’s been no reason for businesses to borrow to expand and hire more people, even at low interest rates.

The biggest winners from the Fed’s near-zero rates have been the big banks, which are now assured of two or more years of almost free money. The big banks haven’t used the money to refinance mortgages – why should they when they can squeeze more money out of homeowners by keeping them at higher rates? Instead, they’ve used the almost free money to make big bets on derivatives. If the bets continue to go well, the bankers will continue to make a bundle. If the bets sour, well, you know what happens then. Watch your wallets.

The truth is, low interest rates won’t boost the economy without an expansive fiscal policy that makes up for the timid spending of consumers and businesses. Until more Americans have more money in their pockets, government spending has to fill the gap.

On this score, the big news isn’t the Fed’s renewed determination to keep interest rates low. The big news is global lender’s desperation to park their savings in Treasury bills. The euro is way too risky, the yen is still a basket case, China is slowing down and no one knows what will happen to its currency, and you’d have to be crazy to park your savings in Russia.

It’s a match made in heaven – or should be. Because foreigners are so willing to buy T-bills, America can borrow money more cheaply than ever. We could use it to put Americans back to work rebuilding our crumbling highways and bridges and schools, cleaning up our national parks and city parks and playgrounds, and doing everything else that needs doing that we’ve neglected for too long.

This would put money in people’s pockets and encourage them to take advantage of the Fed’s low interest rates to borrow even more. And their spending, in turn, would induce businesses to expand and create more jobs. A virtuous cycle.

Yet for purely ideological reasons we’re heading in the opposite direction. The federal government is cutting back spending. It’s not even helping state and local governments – which continue to lay off teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and police officers.

Worst of all, we’re facing a so-called “fiscal cliff” next year when $109 billion in federal spending cuts automatically go into effect. The Congressional Budget Office warns this may push us into recession – which will cause more joblessness and make the federal budget deficit even larger relative to the size of the economy. That’s the austerity trap Europe has fallen into.

Mitt Romney has been criticizing the Obama administration for not doing more to avoid the cliff, but he seems to forget that congressional Republicans brought it on when they refused to raise the debt ceiling. They then created the cliff as a fall-back mechanism. Romney’s vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan, chair of the House budget committee, voted for it.

It’s a mindless gimmick that presumes our biggest problem is the deficit, when even the Fed understands our biggest problem right now is unemployment. Yet even the nation’s credit-rating agencies have bought into the mindlessness. Last week Moody’s said it would likely downgrade U.S. government bonds if Congress and the White House don’t come up with a credible plan to reduce the federal budget deficit. (Standard & Poor’s has already downgraded U.S. debt.)

Hello? Can we please stop obsessing about the federal budget deficit? Repeat after me: America’s #1 economic problem is unemployment. Our #1 goal should be to restore job growth. Period.

The Federal Reserve Board understands this. And at least it’s trying. But it can’t succeed on its own. Global lenders are giving us a way out. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity.

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest is an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

Comments

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+24 # Barbara K 2012-09-16 09:38
Absolutely, Mr. Reich, I’ve been wondering why the Rs are sulking so about the deficit. It cannot be fixed until people are working and paying taxes. Can’t pay down the debt until more money is coming in. End the tax cuts, that would help to take care of the deficit. It is like a family sitting around the kitchen table trying to pay its bills when it just threw out half their income. Not possible. Of course the Rs are so irresponsible, after all most of the debt was incurred before Obama even got there. We have the Rs to thank for the deficit in the first place. They howl over it now to make it look like they are really worried about it. If they were really worried about it, they would stop so much military spending. Buying things we don’t need.

OBAMA/BIDEN 2012
The alternatives are liars, cheats, thieves and greed. Loss of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, just to name a few.

California Tries to Lead Way on Health Law – NYTimes.com – California to Pave the way for Single-Payer


California Tries to Lead Way on Health Law – NYTimes.com.

SACRAMENTO — The meeting came to order, the five members of the California Health Benefit Exchange seated onstage with dozens of consumer advocates and others looking on. On the agenda: what to name the online marketplace where millions of residents will be able to shop for medical coverage under President Obama’s health care law.
Related

Times Topic: Health Care Reform

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Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Peter Lee

An adviser presented the options, meant to be memorable, appealing and clear. What about CaliHealth? Or Healthifornia?

Or Avocado?

“I am kind of drawn to Avocado,” declared Kim Belshé, a member of the exchange’s board of directors, which is hustling to make dozens of decisions as

Why Medicare Cards Still Show Social Security Numbers – NYTimes.com


Why Medicare Cards Still Show Social Security Numbers – NYTimes.com.

A Medicare identification card.The New York TimesA Medicare identification card.

Images of a woman waving her Medicare card on television at the Democratic convention last week in Charlotte, N.C., prompted the folks at Credit.com and others to ask: Why do Medicare cards still have Social Security numbers on them anyway, when access to the numbers can post a risk of identity theft?

The answer is that the federal government has been dragging its heels for years on making a change, because, according to various reports from the agency that oversees Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, it would be both expensive and complex technologically to re-issue cards with new identification numbers.

According to testimony from a C.M.S. official before Congress in August, “transitioning to a new identifier would be a task of enormous complexity and cost and one that, undertaken without sufficient planning, would present great risks to continued access to health care for Medicare beneficiaries.”

About 48 million Americans carry Medicare cards that use their Social Security number as part of their health-claim number.

In a report issued in 2006, C.M.S. said it would cost $300 million to remove SSNs from Medicare cards. Then, in an updated report last November, it said it would cost at least $803 million, and possibly as much as $845 million, depending on the option chosen. Much of the cost, the agency said, was for upgrading computer systems not only at the federal level, but also at the state level, for coordination with Medicaid systems.

But the Government Accountability Office said in its testimony to Congress in August that the methods and assumptions that C.M.S. used to develop its costs estimates “raise questions about their reliability.”

“Lack of action on this key initiative leaves Medicare beneficiaries exposed to the possibility of identity theft,” the G.A.O. said. It recommended that C.M.S. select an approach to modify or remove the numbers from Medicare cards and develop an “accurate, well-documented cost estimate.”

According to the G.A.O., C.M.S. agreed with its recommendations and will conduct a new estimate with improved methodology. That’s likely to take some time. So don’t expect Medicare cards free of the numbers anytime soon.

Meantime, the AARP and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse suggest making a photocopy of your Medicare card, cutting it to wallet size and cutting out the last four digits of your Social Security numbers. Carry the photocopy in your wallet instead of the actual card. (You’ll still need your original card the first time you visit a provider, because they’ll likely want a photocopy of it).

Survey Finds

How to Fix Health Care Without the Mandate: Put Single-Payer On the Table by Sarah van Gelder


What happens if the Supreme Court strikes down the “individual mandate” in the health care reform law?

Commentators ranging from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to Forbes Magazine columnist Rick Ungar agree: Such a decision could open the door to single-payer health care—perhaps even make it inevitable.

We don’t need to assume that our health care policy must be designed to maintain the health-industrial complex.

This may be the best news about health care in years. Because ever since Republicans convinced the Obama administration to drop the “public option” in the Affordable Care Act, health reform has been in trouble. True, most Americans favor many of the provisions of Affordable Care Act. But the overall plan rests on forcing you and me to buy insurance from the same companies that have been driving up the costs of health care all along—the same companies that have been finding creative ways to avoid covering needed care, shifting costs on to patients, and endlessly increasing premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for all of us.

Forcing all Americans into a failed system is bad policy, and it’s not just President Obama’s opponents who say so.

What the Doctors Ordered

When the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act brought by 26 state attorneys general, one of the supporting briefs came from an unexpected source—a group of 50 doctors who believe that single-payer health care is the way to cover everyone and contain costs. As a model for a revamped health care system, they point to Medicare, which covers millions of seniors while devoting just 2 percent of expenditures to overhead (compared to as much as 16 percent for private insurers).

In spite of all the fear about government involvement in health care, Medicare is enormously popular; in a recent poll, two-thirds of Americans oppose changing Medicare to something more like private insurance. In the Medicare model, as in Canada’s single-payer system, health care providers are in private practice, but the government acts as insurer, covering everyone. The money for the program comes from payroll taxes.

This model is just one of a variety of ways that industrialized countries provide universal coverage; only the United States does not yet offer universal coverage at all, and the impact of our fragmented, privatized approach ripples throughout the economy and into the lives of families that face bankruptcy and exclusion from needed treatment.

While we in the United States spend far more on health care, per person, than any other nation, we’re way behind other wealthy countries when it comes to our actual health. The residents of 25 other countries—all of which spend less on health care than we do—can expect to live longer, on average, than U.S. residents. In a recent study of 19 industrialized countries, the United States came in last when it came to averting preventable death. Researchers say that amounts to more than a 100,000 avoidable deaths each year.

We devote 15 percent of our economy (by GDP) to paying for health care (or $6,402 per person each year), and still leave millions without coverage. In contrast, the French spend 11 percent of GDP on health care (or $3,374 per person) and cover everyone; the French live two years longer, on average, than Americans, and have better health by all key measures.

Follow the Money

If we’re spending so much for poor results, where is all the extra money going? Private, for-profit health insurance companies spend big on overhead: covering the paperwork and arguments about who will cover what, finding ways to avoid covering people who might require costly services, disputing charges from health care providers. They spend money on marketing and on lobbying Congress, federal regulators, and state lawmakers. They pay dividends to shareholders and they pay executives six- or seven-figure compensation packages. No wonder premiums keep rising.

None of these costs are incurred by Medicare or other national insurance programs.

Asking each of us to choose among competing plans is like playing against the house in a casino—it might seem as though you’re getting choices among slot machines, but really, the odds are stacked against you.

Some argue that patients are better off with competing insurance companies because that gives them a choice. Perhaps this is true of a patient who spends many hours required to read the small print in competing insurance plans, producing spreadsheets to track the multiple variables, guessing what sort of coverage they and their family will need in years to come, and hoping that they made the right choice when an unexpected accident or illness means their life depends on the bet they made. On the other side, insurance companies have battalions of lawyers and adjusters making bets about coverage, co-pays, and deductibles—coming up with ways to cover less.

Asking each of us to choose among competing plans is like playing against the house in a casino—it might seem as though you’re getting choices among slot machines, but really, the odds are stacked against you whatever choice you make.

Where choice really matters to most people is in choosing health care providers. In France, where public financing of health care is the rule, patients actually have more choices among doctors than do Americans, who must choose among health care providers preferred by their insurance company.

So the doctors who are calling on the Supreme Court to strike down the individual mandate are on to something. Instead of locking us in even more tightly to an inefficient private insurance system, which has built-in incentives to take more of our money and do less for us, they argue we should switch gears. We’re spending $200 billion more per year than we would need to under a single-payer system, they say. We pay more out-of-pocket than other countries, and the Obama Affordable Care Act wouldn’t fix that.

What do Americans Want?

In poll after poll, a majority of Americans have expressed support for single-payer health care or national health insurance. This is true in spite of the near media blackout on this topic, and the failure of most national politicians to even consider single-payer as an option (the Obama administration and Democratic leadership in Congress excluded single-payer advocates from the key summits and hearings leading up to the passage of the health care bill).

In Massachusetts, which has had time to try out policies very similar to those in the Affordable Care Act, over 5 percent of the population remains uninsured. And, according to the doctors’ brief, local initiatives calling for single-payer health care passed by wide majorities in all the Massachusetts districts where they were on the ballot.

Vermont has adopted a single-payer health care plan, and the California Assembly twice passed single-payer, only to have it vetoed by the governor.

Single-payer health care, in short, is far more popular than the political establishment likes to admit—while requiring individuals to purchase health coverage from private insurance companies is wildly unpopular across the political spectrum. According to a recent poll, only a third of Americans favor the individual mandate, but 70 percent favor expanding the existing Medicaid program to cover more low-income, uninsured adults.

Here’s something to ask yourself: If you’re on Medicare now, would you give it up to move to a private insurance plan? If you’re not now covered and you could sign up for Medicare today, would you?

Medicare for All

That contrast offers a good starting point. We don’t need to assume that our health care policy must be designed to maintain the health-industrial complex and their lobbyists in the manner to which they have become accustomed. Instead, we can expand Medicare to cover more and more age groups, until everyone is covered. We could all then have access to a program that keeps overhead low, is wildly popular among its clients, and is similar to programs in Europe, Canada, Japan, and elsewhere that have excellent records of cost containment, universal coverage, and great health outcomes.

So what happens if the Supreme Court overturns the individual mandate or—as now seems possible—rejects the entire package? Such a move could turn out to be a great boon to those who doubt the wisdom of relying on private, profit-focused insurance companies to cover us when we get sick. It could offer us the opportunity to get the sort of proven universal coverage we can count on.


Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonproifit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Sarah is co-founder and executive editor of YES!.

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Reader Comments

Universal Health Care

Posted by Dilys Collier at Apr 06, 2012 08:14 PM
We Canadians love it even if it isn’t perfect. USA Republicans seem to consider Canadians “socialists.” We aren’t; our country is still run on a capitalist economic system (unfortunately). Socialism is an entirely different economic system. That’s not us. Our geographical circumstances determine our culture. During our extreme Canadian temperatures, we literally can live or die depending on whether we co-operate with one another. We don’t believe in leaving an injured Samaritan on the side of the road and passing by on the other side. Instead, we believe in offering assistance to everyone (regardless of colour, gender, or religion) by ensuring basic available health care to all.

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How to Fix Health Care Without the Mandate: Put Single-Payer On the Table by Sarah van Gelder.

CALIFORNIA’S ENEMIES OF SINGLE PAYER MUST RESIGN [Senators CALDERON,CORREA,VARGAS, PADILLA, RUBIO, WRIGHT]


Enemies of the people; they betrayed their communities Juan Vargas knows better than this he grew up in Imperial Valley and his father worked the fields to feed him. This is the gratitude that he gives to his community where he lived and worked most of his life. They killed Single-Payer Healthcare in California, and we are not going to forgive them for this; this is a crime against the people of California

Health Professionals – $89K

Alex Padilla can be contacted in Sacramento at 916-651-4020 or in Van Nuys at 818-901-5588
Insurance – $137K
Health Professionals – $105K
Pharma – $67K

Michael Rubio can be contacted in Sacramento at 916-651-4016 or in Bakersfield at 661-395-2620
Health Professionals – $94K
Insurance – $36K

Juan Vargas In Sacramento at 916-651-4040 or in Chula Vista at 619-409-7690
Insurance – $115K
Health Professionals – $46K
Pharma – $28K

Rod Wright can be contacted in Sacramento at 916-651-4025 or in Inglewood at 310-412-0393
Insurance – $87K
Pharma – $45K
Health Professionals – $43K

Thank Senator Mark Leno for championing SB 810 at Senator.Leno@Senate.CA.gov. We do not want to tie up his phones. It is important to thank legislators when they champion our cause, and not just spank them when they do not.

Help Build a Stronger Movement – Order SB 810 Postcards, direct new people to our website, and consider becoming a monthly contributor to Single Payer Now.

Please order SB 810 postcards. They ask Governor Brown to pass SB 810. The legislation will again be introduced in 2013. Asking new people to sign a postcard is wonderful way to have a discussion about the merits of single payer healthcare. We add the names to our action alert list to keep activists engaged in the campaign for universal healthcare.

An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich From the Pastors of Poor Children


Mr. Gingrich,

For this you still owe our children an apology:

“Some of the things they could do is work in a library, work in the front office, some of them frankly could be janitorial; what if they clean up the bathrooms, what if they mopped the floors, what if in the summer they repainted the school; what if in the process they were actually learning to work, learning to earn money; if they had their own money, they didn’t have to become a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer. [If] they had the dignity of work and learned how to be around adults who actually wanted to mentor them and help them. This is not a casual comment… It grows out of a lot of thinking over many years of trying to figure out how do we break out people trapped in poverty who have no work habits.” — Gingrich

We, the students and faculty of the Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute of the AME Church, representing over 34 congregations and their constituents throughout Delaware and southern Pennsylvania are outraged at your continued demeaning of poor children and their families.

As a candidate vying for the Republican Presidential nomination, to suggest that poor children collectively lack a work ethic and drive for legal and productive work is entirely classist. Your national platform is no place for such irresponsible remarks. Our children deserve better than your degrading rhetoric.

In fact, they deserve an apology, and we — their pastors and advocates — demand one.

Mr. Gingrich, what your remarks have demonstrated is a failure to acknowledge the resilience of many who work daily and yet are unable to escape poverty. For many, low wages, a poor economy, and sparse full time employment opportunities have landed many families into the category of what the U.S. Department of Labor & Labor Statistics call the working poor. Contrary to what your remarks propagate, a significant number of children in households below the American poverty line (and those one paycheck away from it) are in homes with working family members; many of them are in our congregations weekly and are active citizens.

Mr. Gingrich, not only did you get the “cause” of poverty wrong, but your “solution” is just as unsubstantiated and offensive. Mandating that poor children become the janitors of their own failing public schools to better their work ethic is not a well thought out, viable, or realistic solution. Such a proposal is not only insulting, it is ridiculous.

Where would the currently employed janitors work (obviously this is a back handed assault on union employees)? If poor children are to benefit from extracurricular employment, why not at least provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) opportunities to increase their competitiveness in the global marketplace? Why not invest in education reform instead of cutting back early education/head start programs? Why not put forth solutions to the unemployment crisis in our nation, so that those who have the dignity, but not the work, can have an opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their children?

But, no — instead you fan the flames of prejudice to get votes. With a move right out of Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy play book (i.e., “Welfare Mothers” = Lazy Blacks), you have managed to stir the xenophobia and racist fears of your far right republican base with the statement:

“I’ve been talking about the importance of work, particularly as it relates to people who are in areas where there is public housing, et cetera, where there are relatively few people that go to work.” (Emphasis added)

Mr. Gingrich, the poverty of many poor minority children is the byproduct of systemic injustices that bar them from participation in the American Dream because of their racial and social location — not laziness.

We understand that you are of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” camp, but the last time we checked Mr. Gingrich, it is impossible to pull yourself up by your own boot straps, and even more difficult when you have no boots to begin with.

Consequently, as pastors and leaders of the poor and their children, we are called to champion those without the boots of opportunity, fair play, and justice. For us not to mandate an apology for such biased, erroneous and offensive remarks would be as irresponsible as the remarks themselves. Today, Mr. Gingrich, we extend to you the opportunity to recant your “war on poor children” rhetoric and the opportunity to apologize to our children for speaking such falsehoods over their lives.

Awaiting your response,


Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute

The Rev. Dr. Janet J. Sturdivant, Dean of Ministerial Institute
The Rev. Silvester S. Beaman, Chairman of Board of Examiners
Sis. Joi Orr, M.Div, Organizer & Institute Student

 
 

Follow Joi Ruth Orr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joi_orr

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