Archive for the ‘Health Care’ Category

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Oklahoma Passes Strict Abortion Legislation Despite Vetoes

04.28.10

While Arizona passed the strictest immigration law in the nation, Oklahoma did their own clamping down, as well, enacting some of the country’s toughest abortion laws:

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

My emphasis.

Let me repeat: No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

I can’t fathom the horror of being raped nor do I wish that upon anyone.  To find out that you’re now pregnant because of that abominable invasion must be something beyond comprehension.  On top of that, Oklahoma now requires doctors to then lecture and impose more guilt and shame upon that woman about her next decision, should that be an abortion.

This is unconscionable.

I heard recently on the radio that in some Islamic societies, when a woman is raped, she’s actually committed a crime.  How nonsensical and judiciously bankrupt is that?  The victim is at fault for her own assault?  I shook my head at how backwards that line of thinking is, and yet, this law in Oklahoma makes me wonder just how far removed we are from that mentality.

As far as the second law goes: it essentially prevents doctors from being sued for breaking their Hippocratic Oath, rendering it useless.  If there is no threat of ramifications from not objectively giving a patient all of the information about her health and body, we have a completely broken health care system.  Talk about playing God.

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Health Care Passes! What Does That Mean Again?

03.21.10

The House of Representatives passed the Senate Health Care Reform Bill tonight, by a vote of 219-212.  I repeat, HCR passed.

After months and months of watching the gnarled, ugly yet effective mess that is the American legislative process, we finally have health care reform despite the gnashing, screaming tantrums and staunch opposition from the Republican Party.

So, wait: what does this all mean?  Good question. Rep. John B. Larson notes the changes that will take effect immediately:

  • Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
  • Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
  • Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
  • Lower seniors prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;
  • Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
  • Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
  • Require plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
  • Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
  • Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
  • Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.

Noticeably absent: death panels, government takeover of health care, the public option, and socialism.  Also, the argument that this bill was rammed down the throats of Americans holds no water.  There was no voting on a “rule.” The majority of representatives took an up-or-down vote on health care and health care won.

The first step has finally been taken, which is always the hardest to make.  The nastiness from the opposition is far from over, I’m sure.  Sen. Jim DeMint already announced that he’s going to initiate a bill to repeal HCR.  But given how difficult it was to pass, I imagine it’ll be next to impossible to repeal.  Unless it ends up being an utter failure, which I don’t see happening.   This is a major reform unlike any we’ve seen in health care in 40 years.  But, at the end of the day, the bill will prove to not be nearly as radical as some on either side of the divide claim it to be — health insurance companies won’t become nice guys overnight nor does the reform bill shred the Constitution.

Thank you, Representatives, for seeing this through.  Especially to Rep. Jane Harman, who represents my district here in Venice, CA, to whom I called last week to lend my support and remind her that we do want health care reform.  It wasn’t pretty, but you got it done, and for that, I thank you.

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White House Releases the Real ObamaCare

02.22.10
South façade of the White House, the executive...

You can download the PDF of the president’s proposal here.

From what I’ve read, it looks like what people expected: a combination of the Senate bill and the House bill.  No public option was added; no more federal insurance exchange; the Nebraska deal eliminated along with the Stupak amendment; and many of the taxes won’t go into effect for several years to help ease states into the system.

In some aspects it looks like this proposal is a little more centered with the change of having states create their own insurance markets versus a national one, but then it also removes the abortion language that moves it over to the left.  So a few moderate Republicans might be happy with the former but then they, along with the conservative Democrats, will be rather displeased with the latter.

At the end of the day, I don’t know that the actual substance of this proposal will sway any politicians who weren’t already on board with the Senate bill.  It’ll lose some Democratic support with the removal of the Stupak amendment, and I highly doubt that it will gain any Republican support for any reason because they’re lock-step in opposition to the bill.  But one of the big criticisms of Obama and how the Democrats have handled this health care reform business was their total failure on selling the bill; they let the Republicans demonize it as a socialist, government takeover of health care.  And the public bought it.  How else can you explain how people tend to approve of the specific elements of the bill but not the actual bill itself? So, we’ll see if this has any affect on public opinion. If it does, it will take away some of the Republican’s ammunition of opposition and hopefully nudge the listless Democrats into signing off on a bill similar to that which almost all of them already voted yes. We’ll see.

Do your part of making an informed opinion: take a look at the proposal.  Nothing revolutionary that we haven’t already seen in some form in the House or Senate bills; like expected, it’s a mix of the two.  But, try to make up your own mind about it.

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California Blue Cross Hikes Premiums by 39%

02.10.10

Anthem Blue Cross – California’s largest for-profit health insurance company – just sent notice to some 800,000 customers who purchase individual health plans that their premiums will be increasing by as much as 39% on March 1st.  That’s over 15 times the inflation rate.  They also told subscribers that they will be adjusting rates more frequently, perhaps many times a year.

Insurers are free to cherry-pick the healthiest customers in the lightly regulated individual market. They can raise rates at any time as long as they notify the state Department of Insurance and prove that they are spending at least 70% of premiums on medical care.

The reason for these drastic hikes?  According to the company:

“Unfortunately, the individual market premiums are merely the symptoms of a larger underlying problem in California’s individual market — rising healthcare costs.”

The company just blames that amorphous entity: healthcare costs.  I would like to see just how much those costs are to the company, actually.  I highly doubt that they have risen anywhere even remotely close to the 39% hike that premiums will take.  Did doctors just start charging 39% more per office visit?  Did X-ray technology all of a sudden cost hundreds more per scan?  Are nurses making as much as their doctor counterparts now?  That sure would be news, wouldn’t it?  I feel like I would’ve read about that if it had happened.

Adding insult to injury, it was reported that Anthem Blue Cross’s parent company, WellPoint Inc.,  earned 2.7 billion dollars in the last quarter of 2009 alone, its CEO took home $10 million just in salary, and the company “spent nearly $9.5 million on lobbying against health reforms in 2009.”

I just don’t understand why people are so adamant about keeping health insurance a for-profit industry.  Their job is not to insure us and provide us care when we get sick or injured; their job is to make money.  And they don’t make money when they spend money on cancer treatments, insulin shots for diabetics, or pain medication for people with migraines.  Their stockholders don’t profit when the company dolls out money for your health care.  They are in the business of not providing care.

How many people were denied coverage so that Anthem CEO (and soon-to-be WellPoint chairperson and member of the board of directors) Angela Braly could earn her $10 million payday?

Why is it so un-American to not want people profiting off my health problems?

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GOP Doesn’t Want Bipartisan Health Care Bill – They Want Nothing

02.08.10

Republicans keep crying about how the Democrats didn’t even allow them to participate in the drafting of the health care bills, trying to undermine Obama’s push for bipartisanship and make it look like the Democrats are the ones who aren’t team players.

Republicans claim that the health care bill is socialist, a government takeover of the health care industry.

So, what do they propose in return?  According to their website, the GOP lists what they would like in the health care bill:

  • Number one: let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.
  • Number two: allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do.
  • Number three: give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs.
  • Number four: end junk lawsuits that contribute to higher health care costs by increasing the number of tests and procedures that physicians sometimes order not because they think it’s good medicine, but because they are afraid of being sued.

Ezra Klein points out that all of these are already in the bill that every single Republican Senator voted against and continues to rally against today.

The Republican Party has no interest in any type of health care reform despite what they might say or type up on their website.  They have nothing at all to gain from it passing even if their constituency would, which is why they are the Party of No and are only in the business of self-perpetuation rather than governing or representing the real needs and interests of Americans.

Let’s go Democrats.  Grow some stones and make history.

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Time for Negotiations, Not Debates

01.30.10

Even the conservative pundits agree:

“Obama did well, got the better of GOP today,” the Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb tweeted. “Fortunately, we got the better of him the last six months or so. And health care is dead.”

Politics as brutal warfare with the only real losers being the American people.  Instead of acting on behalf of their constituents, lawmakers vote according to party and personal agendas.  Goldfarb makes it clear that this is a simply a political game.  Us versus them.  Red versus blue.  Republican versus Democrat.  All in an effort to simply win the votes of the people, to regain power, and to continue that process over and over and over again.  Nevermind the fact that Obama won the debate today by simply pointing out facts and the GOP’s hypocrisy while Goldfarb’s idea of getting the better of the Democratic president is to act like children and just say no to anything and everything that he says or wants to do and then when Obama can’t pass legislation, the GOP win.

It would be one thing is the parties were disagreeing on some core issues but still finding common ground – in that case, their arguing would be productive and compromises would be reached that would please a strong majority of voters.  But these aren’t negotiations, these are debates.  In debate, one arguer wins, and one loses.  In proper negotiations, both parties win, essentially, accepting what they need and conceding some of what they want.

Unilateral opposition to a president is not governance.  It’s not a political ideology.  It’s emptiness disguised as substance. And people are eating it up.  It’s time the Republicans swallowed their collective massive pride (for what, I don’t know – their failed policies were a huge reason we’re in this mess right now and that’s fact) and started negotiating with Democrats instead of debating ideology.  (And yes, the Democrats have negotiated.  If you don’t think they have, take a look at the Senate HCR Bill and you’ll see that universal coverage, single-payer insurance, and the public option are nowhere to be found, for which progressives have clamored for years.)

Save the debating ideology for college and universities and let’s get some legislation passed.

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House Reps: Pass the Senate Bill

01.22.10

Paul Krugman:

The fact is that the Senate bill is a centrist document, which moderate Republicans should find entirely acceptable. In fact, it’s very similar to the plan Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts just a few years ago. Yet it has faced lock-step opposition from the G.O.P., which is determined to prevent Democrats from achieving any successes. Why would this change now that Republicans think they’re on a roll?

It is centrist.  Fox News and those on the far right (which seems to be the only side of the right anymore) will scream that the radical liberals are pushing socialism onto America.  This is just not true.  The Senate Bill doesn’t have universal health care.  It doesn’t have government-run insurance, instead it actually cuts Medicare.  There is no public option.  Progressives will dislike this bill because it doesn’t do enough; staunch conservatives will dislike this bill because of the individual mandate.  That still leaves a – theoretical – strong majority comprised of members from both parties that should see not only enough good in this bill to pass it, but see just how bad it will be if we don’t.

But like, Krugman says, why would the Republicans bother to play ball now that their Party of No campaign seems to be working.  The Democrats keep buying into the notion of bipartisanship as if they need to do something differently to gain the support of the GOP.  But, that’s the issue: the GOP has made it clear that they will not support anything the Democrats have on their agenda, regardless of policy.

If the Democrats don’t pass the bill, it’s guaranteed failure.  They will cement their status as inept politicians who can’t get anything done even when they hold a 60-vote majority in the Senate.  If they pass the bill, it’s a tossup as to whether or not it’s a success or failure.  But if they don’t pass anything, there is no tossup: it’s game over for the Democrats.  And all of this because one Republican got voted into office in Massachusetts?  Democrats: you still hold a huge majority! Americans voted you into office overwhelmingly because we wanted health care reform (McCain wasn’t offering much at all, and still isn’t), we wanted out of Iraq and Afghanistan (timetables have been set for our departure, McCain was and is for an open-ended war), we wanted accountability on torture (Gitmo has been set to close but that’s a quagmire all its own).  Scott Brown doesn’t change this.  One senator in Massachusetts doesn’t speak for the masses even though the minority on the right want it to.  59 Senators have jobs right now because a majority of Americans, among other things, want health care reform.  To cave to the minority would be to go against the will of the people.

The people have spoken. And they want you to finally do something about it.