On-Going Things that are Pissing Me Off 14

Well a few things have been on my mind and building up, so let’s begin.

Charter Schools and Voucher programs:  There is no evidence that Charter Schools are any better than public schools, there is evidence however that they are much, much worse. What is this about, the incessant need to cheap out on our children? What I mean by cheap out here is, the hiring of unqualified individuals with crackpots ideas to teach our children.

Creationism: Check.

Distorting test results: Check, Why does Michelle Rhee’s name always come up in these cases?  (Hey New Orleans, what’s up?)

Greenwald, because Greenwald… that guy is simply exasperating. I’m tired of him.

Climate change deniers.. seriously, what will it take for these people to wake the fuck up?

Politico, all of it, all of their reporters, Check out the link, Pot meet kettle.

Chuck Todd, who doesn’t seem to know what his job actually is, oh well.

Congressional Republicans, god they piss me off. So once again they are attacking poor people. Why do they hate poor people so much? I honestly don’t understand it.  Republicans actually worship at the Temple of Draco. I am convinced of this.

Congressional Republicans have rushed headlong into a draconian new cut to the nations meal assistance program known as  SNAP. The 5% cut will displace 3.8 million people from receiving this assistance.  Not a big deal for those Republicans and their big wig friends.  However, the SNAP program dollar amount is around $32.00 a week for groceries per person. Wow. If one gallon of non-organic milk is around 6.00, which is roughly 1/5th of the weekly allotment, how does one get adequate nutrition? And yet these horrible human beings, Congressional Republicans, are willing to throw 3.8 million more people off the rolls, even though they are only getting $32.00 a week. It’s a huge cut at a time when we should be putting more money into that program. We should be boosting WIC, Public Health programs and senior meals. These monies need to be restored.

There are huge societal consequences to malnutrition.

In children the effects are great from an early age in that it impacts cognitive abilities.

From the Nursing Times.

Here is more on the impact of malnutrition on children and pregnant women.

Effects of malnutrition on the elderly.

And let’s be honest here, cutting SNAP does nothing for the budget, it has no impact. If Republicans were serious about righting the wrongs of subsidized money we would quit subsidizing oil, natural gas, corn, commodity crops, military contractors and their cost plus bidding processes, etc and so on. Cutting SNAP just makes Republicans look like they worship at the temple of Draco.  Well they do worship at the Temple of Draco, that is part of the problem.

And now onto ACA, Republicans need to stop, just stop, they look like the biggest asses on the face of the earth.  Like Chris Hayes said on Real Time last night, let’s see what works, let’s get this law implemented and see what works, and we will go from there.  And frankly, this is the law, all three branches have affirmed this. All three.  Time for the opposition to get over it. They Lost. Time to  participate in the system we have created, contribute to new reforms, something anything, just quit being such pricks about everything by basically holding the entire country hostage because they are still mad they lost the election in 2008 and 2012.  If they don’t they will be left out of the process, because the more they dig their heals in and do nothing, or do things that have extremely negative effects on the nations already fragile economy, they will be thrown out of office, and that is just fine by me.

That’s all I got.

Have a good day.

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Fact Checking Factcheck.org 3

Factcheck has released yet another ridiculous truth-o-meter on the President and how he is selling the newly Constitutional PPACA. I think their points are worth refuting.

Fact Check States in their summary: Obama reiterated his “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” refrain, despite the fact that at least a few million workers won’t keep their employer-sponsored plans, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Really? You are suggesting that below average plans which leave subscribers underinsured, is definitely a product sentient beings want for their families. Three cheers for substandard insurance! PPACA is in part a regulation that mandates what a basic health plan must cover. It’s already that way for federal employees. There are two levels of health insurance, the standard, which has somewhat higher co-pays and high-options which cost more and cover more services. Previous to the law standards vary wildly state by state. Governments are supposed to regulate services that can affect the general wellbeing of the citizenry. I realize Republicans have made the claim over and over again that government is only to wage war and make it so businesses can rip off whomever they choose to rip off. American citizens deserve standardized insurance coverage that basic minimum requirements, and if an insurance company for some odd reason does not comply they will go out of business, does anyone see that happening? Nope. It isn’t as simple as Fact Check states, and it certainly isn’t a negative for the President for people to have standard and not substandard health services coverage. They have tried to twist it into a negative.

One more point, employers switch health plan providers every time they get a better deal. I mean you can’t be serious on that critique; currently no one can stop your employer from taking his business elsewhere. I am not sure why that fact works against the President and brings what he said into doubt.

Fact check states: The president also exaggerated the benefits of the law, such as the number of young adults who were able to join their parents’ plans.

Coverage for Young Adults:
Factcheck cited the Los Angeles Times claiming it refutes the claim that 6.6 million young adults have insurance because of ACA. Unfortunately for factcheck, the LA Times and the Commonwealth Fund, from the outset they actually misstate ACA, the passage in the times says this:

Not all of the estimated 6.6 million young adults who joined or stayed on their parents’ plans would have otherwise been uninsured, according to officials at the Commonwealth Fund, which is a leading source of healthcare research. At least some probably moved to their parents’ plans from other health insurance plans because the family plans were less costly or more comprehensive.

Take special note of the part I bolded, both not only is factcheck, because this is the Republican talking point of their argument and is a misstatement of the legislation
This is important: Young adults have the right to stay in a parent’s plan—or to get back into that plan—if they meet the following conditions:

1. Their parent has coverage through an employer or buys family coverage in the individual market.
2. Their parent’s health plan provides “dependent coverage”—that is, it covers children, spouses, or other family members.
In the past, some plans required children and young adults to be “dependents” for tax purposes before they could qualify for coverage on their parents’ plans. Under the new law, this is no longer the case. Nor does it matter whether or not the young adult is a student, lives with the parent, or receives financial support from the parent.
3. Insurance companies are only required to provide access to insurance for young adult children if the child does not have access to insurance through their employer.
But then factcheck states:

The White House told us that the president’s statement is correct because all 6.6 million benefited from the law, but some more than others. True.

What?

Factcheck claims the President has overstated the number of people affected by the preventive care coverage regulation.

Obama: [Insurance companies] are required to provide free preventive care like checkups and mammograms, a provision that’s already helped 54 million Americans with private insurance.

Fact Check’s complaint is: Obama would have been on safer ground if he had said the provision potentially helped 54 million.

This is a distinction without a difference. It has more than a potential to impact those 54 million people, it is a regulation, it is required by law that insurers implement these reforms. It is hard to tell what fact is distorted here, it directly affects those 54 million people why the word game? Is it to appear more balanced to Republicans, so factcheck has apparently decided to go full Orwellian Newspeak to twist their critique to appear legitimate, even when it isn’t.

Finally, factcheck goes all in and makes the claim that because the vast majority of those tax rebates are going to employers, people aren’t really getting a rebate. But it does mean the cost of their insurance will go down, and their premiums will reflect that fact. Not every savings will be in the form of a direct rebate for each and every person. But he isn’t exaggerating either, because rebate checks are going out. Costs will begin to stabilize across the country and that is positive news.

So factcheck, could you get anymore dramatic using the term overreach to describe the Presidents attempts to explain this law to people? Overreach is such an overused Republican word, they use it all the time, wasn’t Jim DeMint just claiming Overreach here and threatening nullification once again as their ultimate solution. I wonder how many times Sheldon Adelson is going to use your half-assed work to attack ACA and the President. I guess as many times as his money can purchase.

Crossposted @ DAGBlog and LittleGreenFootballs

Politics, the Kennedy Court and Health Care 2

If I were a member of the Supreme Court I’d be a bit embarrassed at how easy it is to predict Supreme Court rulings knowing only a few elementary political facts.
I expect a 5-4 ruling and i expect it to break down along political lines. It shows me this, the Supreme Court is only there to support certain ideology, making this less about the Constitution and more about what it is to hold power for more than 30 years.  This, whether the members of the court care or not this is the problem. They’ve become, based on Bush v Gore merely an arbiter that always errs on the side of promoting the political ideology of one side or another. Imagine if  Brown v. Board of Education, Bolling v. Sharpe, Cooper v. Aaron, Gomillion v. Lightfoot, Griffin v. County School Board, Green v. School Board of New Kent County, Lucy v. Adams, Loving v. Virginia had been left for this court to decide, shit, we be where South Africa was in the 1980’s in terms of civil rights. We’d be the largest segregated nation  on earth!

Well let’s get past the rant, let’s talk about Anthony Kennedy.

I’ve heard all the popular analysis about Kennedy, he is the swing vote, etc and so on. Well yesterday in a little noted exchange he seemed to be telling the government lawyer the route he sh0uld take to defend the Constitutionality of the law.

In an exchange with Paul Clement, (he is representing those 25 states) this went down:

Kennedy asked Clement this: Is the government’s argument this–and maybe I won’t state it accurately. It is true that the noninsured young adult is, in fact, an actuarial reality insofar as our allocation of health services, insofar as the way health insurance companies figure risks. That person who is sitting at home in his or her living room doing nothing is an actuarial reality that can and must be measured for health service purposes; is that their argument?

And just a short while later:

MR. CLEMENT: And with respect to the health insurance market that’s designed to have payment in the health care market, everybody is not in the market. And that’s the premise of the statute, and that’s the problem Congress is trying to solve.

And if it tried to solve it through incentives, we wouldn’t be here; but, it’s trying to solve it in a way that nobody has ever tried to solve an economic problem before, which is saying, you know, it would be so much more efficient if you were just in this market–

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But they are in the market in the sense that they are creating a risk that the market must account for. 

MR. CLEMENT: Well, Justice Kennedy, I don’t think that’s right, certainly in any way that distinguishes this from any other context.

What does this mean? It almost seems like Justice Kennedy is signalling the defense the government should be making, (and why aren’t they anyway??? WTF, seriously).

And a little later this:

MR. CARVIN: It is clear that the failure to buy health insurance doesn’t affect anyone. Defaulting on your payments to your health care provider does. Congress chose, for whatever reason, not to regulate the harmful activity of defaulting on your health care provider. They used the 20 percent or whoever among the uninsured as a leverage to regulate the 100 percent of the uninsured.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: I agree–I agree that that’s what’s happening here.

MR. CARVIN: Okay.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: And the government tells us that’s because the insurance market is unique. And in the next case, it’ll say the next market is unique. But I think it is true that if most questions in life are matters of degree, in the insurance and health care world, both markets–stipulate two markets–the young person who is uninsured is uniquely proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the costs of providing medical care in a way that is not true in other industries.

That’s my concern in the case.

I fully expect this to be a 5:4 decision based on the politics of the court. I have no faith that what-so-ever in the non-partisanship of the court. Sorry Bush V Gore cured me of believing in the non-partisanship of the court. And I know that 75% of the country is with me on that, this is something that the Court itself should be ashamed of and it is telling that they are not.

Oh well, we tried. Get ready for your health insurance costs to skyrocket.

CrossPosted @DAGBlog

The Evolution of Liberalism 2

Ultimately as liberals and progressives I think we get stuck in our definition of words. There are some people who define liberalism as a static rather than dynamic concept. But I would put out there that liberalism as a concept is dynamic and does nothing more than reflect the milieu of any given era in civilization.

Let’s take the oft talked about Greatest Liberal of all time FDR. FDR was a great liberal, but he interred Japanese Americans, which isn’t liberal at all. Social Security was a liberal policy, but just for white men when it began. Just saying.

Let’s look at R.M. Nixon for a minute, an arch conservative with fascist tendencies, who committed a political crime, that dude created the EPA and his signed into law NEPA thanks to  Scoop Jackson, another flawed liberal in Washington State politics, he supported Vietnam but was a great environmentalist. They usher in an era of deep research into ecological restoration. Nixon reflected his era,because of the pressures around him. That era  demanded some action on the environment, which was considered a liberal cause.

Let’s look at t Jimmy Carter for a minute, you define him as a liberal, but under his administration the airlines were deregulated, this is not what we would consider today to be a liberal policy position. Indeed he was reflecting his era, his time. And many of the Carter policies were liberal.

We all know that under Clinton, Welfare was effectively gutted, and that was an indication of what was to come, the deregulation of financial services. People love Clinton now, b/c the economy was so great back in the 90’s and everyone wants to go back to that, but at the time, Clinton’s policies were just reflecting the era, sometime his policies could be considered quite liberal, The Federal Acquisition and Streamlining Act of 1994, a very liberal policy that expanded the numbers of minority businesses competing for Federal Government contracts. It was a very important micro-economic policy.

Barack Obama is no different from those Presidents, he reflects this era. This returns us to my original statement, but what I am describing is our dynamic  concept of liberalism which has changed over time.  His agenda is mostly liberal. But not everything his administration proposes or accomplishes is liberal. I think that is because as people we too are more complex than that, we are not one dimensional and we are not static beings. We evolve and change as do our expectations of civilization. This is just another step up in our continuing growth as humans. As we continue to evolve as people, our government will evolve with us.

Crossposted at DAGBlog

Helping the Working Poor — A Practical Defense of PPACA 3

The Health Care Bill, more often than not, raises the ire of both conservatives and progressives. They’ve teamed up to spread as much misinformation about the bill as possible. Why? I am not sure, because this bill goes a long way to get more people access to health care.

I think it all began with a guy named Howard Dean and some comments he made In December of 2009.  Dean was very angry that the public option was eliminated from the Senate bill. The target of Dean’s rant was Joe Lieberman, ( I)CT, he was pretty pissed at Lieberman and he seemed to feel no bill would be better than this bill now. He was angry at the process. And his anger is not unfounded. This Senate has become a branch of our government that is immovable, ideologically entrenched, almost completely unable to pass any worthwhile legislation. Dr. Dean was pretty pissed about that, as we all should be. However, instead of directing his anger at the improbable 60 vote requirement to pass any legislation of substance, he decided it would be time to just let Republicans win by killing the bill. That didn’t happen of course, but that was an extreme reaction, one Republicans were relying upon, this is where they were able to begin to sow the seeds of discontent among voters, they have filled the air with misinformation, with the help of people who are otherwise quite progressive. All that discontent, and the Executive Branches unbelievable inability to fight back against the propaganda has left people with a sour taste in their mouths when it comes to their thoughts about PPACA.

A number of people jumped on Dr. Dean’s bandwagon, Keith Olbermann went on the air to loudly proclaim why the Senate Bill should not be passed. Two days after Dean’s rant against the bill, a number of left leaning organizations and people banded together to help kill the bill:

Dave Linderhoff of The Public Record
Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake
Markos Moulitsas; Daily Kos Founder
Darcy Bruner; a past candidate for Congress

Lying about ACA has become something of a cottage industry. But don’t believe the hype, the reforms already implemented have brought down insurance costs, added more people to insurance rolls, new benefits for senior citizens, implemented necessary regulations regarding pre-existing conditions and an 80% requirement that premiums be spend on the consumers health care costs, with 20 mandated for administrative costs.

People who will benefit most from the bill:

  1. Those without any insurance.
  2. Those who have paid for expensive individual policies on their own.
  3. Employees of small businesses that have trouble affording the cost of joining a group plan.
  4. Low income Medicare participants who are left paying for whatever is not covered by Medicare for their medical bills and prescriptions.

Who is without access to health insurance? Some of those people are the working poor. It has been a long struggle to get federal legislation dealing with this problem, the estimates are there are some 45 million people without access to basic heath care.  In the past, some states attempted to solve this problem on their own by setting up their own state run “group” for people who didn’t qualify for Medicaid. When the boom of the 1990’s ran its course, those programs began to be cut severely because of the expense of running the programs and because states don’t have as much revenue since the economic downturn and they are having to make tough choices.  Many states of course never attempted such things. Washington State has such a program, but its funding has been cut in the past few years so although people may qualify by their income, there are no slots open to take them as customers, in fact the plan has had to disenroll people because of a lack of funding, in total 17,000 members were disenrolled.

However the results of PPACA have been positive.

  • More young adults have coverage
  • Requires beginning this year, insurers must spend 80% – 85% of premiums in actually delivering care
  • Premiums decreasing even for state employees.
  • Our health insurance plans now have to justify their premium rate increases to the State and pass an approval process before they can raise prices.
  • Because of the ACA, young adults can now stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
  • New York has something called “community rating,” which means that health insurers can’t charge you higher rates simply because of your age, gender, or health history.
  • Because of the ACA, we no longer have to pay co-pays for many preventative care services.
  • Because of the ACA, people with pre-existing conditions now have choices for coverage, one example the NY Bridge Plan.
  • Because of the ACA, seniors who hit the Medicare “donut hole” are now getting help with their prescription drug costs.
  • States like New York have a law in place called “guaranteed issue,” which means that insurers have to offer health insurance to everyone, even if they have a pre-existing condition (even though they have waiting periods for coverage related to that condition.  But thanks to the ACA – those waiting periods will soon be a thing of the past!). 
  • More changes to Pre-existing condition plans by states, here is a preview, premiums have decreased.
  • Premium and Cost sharing subsidies to individuals: the mechanism provides refundable and advanceable premium credits to eligible individuals and families who fall between 133% and 400% of FPL (Federal Poverty Level) to purchase insurance through state created health exchanges.
  • Provide Costsharing subsidies to eligible individuals and families. Cost-sharing credits reduce the cost sharing amounts and annual cost-sharing limits and have the effect of increasing the actuarial value of basic benefit plan to the following percentages of the full value of the plan:
    • 100 – 150% FPL  94%
    • 150 – 200% FPL  87%
    • 200 – 250% FPL  73%
    • 250 – 400% FPL  70%

Health Exchanges: a few examples

  • Vermont : passed legislation to build a single payer plan for the state of Vermont and in October  of this year, (2011) that plan got one step closer to implementation.

These new federal policies are working. I think this is good. There seems to be a small, but loud coalition of people on both sides of the ideological aisle who would have you believe PPACA is a complete failure, but the evidence says otherwise. Let’s stop letting them get away with their propaganda war against delivering health care to those who would not otherwise have access. Let’s fight back with the facts at hand, because the facts indicate the legislation is working.

Crossposted at DAGBlog

ACA: The Slow Dance of Reform 4

There is positive news about  ACA, and an indication so far things are moving in the right direction. But you won’t hear about it on the front page of any newspaper or on an evening news cast, no it is information you must seek out yourself. Whether you believe in insurance or not, a Public Option was merely an insurance company run by the government, meaning it is fully regulated by the government, in essence this will be no different, when ACA is fully implemented, insurance companies will be heavily regulated by the Federal Government. There is very little difference between this and a program run by the federal government. Each is a middle man who pays health care providers through premiums collected.

There are some positive results happening and they are a direct result of the legislation.

1.  As reported June 6th, in the Washington Post, some health insurance premiums are going down.

“In May, insurer Aetna received approval from Connecticut regulators of its request to reduce premiums on individual policies by an average 10 percent, starting in September. Yes, you read that right: reduce the premium. The decrease, which affects some 15,000 consumers, will save those policyholders $259 annually, on average.”

I think most people know, but maybe not, under the new law, insurers must spend 80% of what they receive in premiums on medical claims or quality improvement efforts. Administrative costs and profits must be 20% or less of a premiums collected.  According to the Post what Aetna did is a preemptive strike, so that they will not be responsible for rebates to consumers, because they’ve already lowered individual premiums.  Effectively, this caps administrative costs. For consumers this is a positive sign.

2. Implementation of a National Prevention Strategy, the goal of the strategy will move us from being a system of sick care to one that is based on wellness and prevention. Preventative care is what the uninsured lack, of course many people who are uninsured eventually end up in an emergency room to treat a problem, but this system lacks  long term care and prevention.

3. 5.5 million seniors have taken advantage of  free preventive services. One aspect of medicare many people who are not on medicare don’t understand, it a yearly check up was not covered before the implementation of ACA, it is currently mandated in the reform. This of course plays right into the National Prevention Strategy

4. Affordable Care Act helps fight unreasonable health insurance premium increases because as of May 19th, the HHS.

HHS has issued a final regulation to ensure that large health insurance premium increases will be thoroughly reviewed, and consumers will have access to clear information about those increases. Combined with other important protections from the Affordable Care Act, these new rules will help lower insurance costs by moderating premium hikes and provide consumers with greater value for their premium dollar. In 2011, this will mean rate increases of 10-percent or more must be reviewed by state or federal officials.

The average premium increases imposed on individual plans were nearly 20%, with no rhyme or reason as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Patients were essentially left with three Hobson choices: lose coverage altogether, pay the premium increase, or switch to a plan that covered less. None good, each with dire consequences. This is why rate review is so important.  Rate review does has two important goals,  scrutinizing directing some sunlight premium increases. and mandating the insurance companies justify the increases with information and data.

5.  One result has been the California Assembly has voted to crack down on insurance rates. This was a major step taken by the Assembly to overhaul the way health insurance companies are regulated by the state. AB 52 allows the California State Insurance Commissioner to and the California Dept of Managed Care to block any premium increases. and it would require Insurers to get permission to raise rates.

These are all positive achievements of ACA so far. There will be more. Let’s not allow the Republicans and others with an agenda to continue to claim ACA has no benefits for Americans. We can’t allow Republicans to pull grants that will allow many other people to obtain health insurance. It might not be the bill you want, but it is a positive step in the correct direction.

There are some excellent blogs out there that cover this issue. One is a blog called Heath Care Reform Updates. It’s good, take a gander.

Crossposted at DAGblog