Posts Tagged ‘Health Care’


Stocks Soar Near 12,000 While Unemployment Stays Steady Near 10 Percent


As the Dow Jones Industrial Average nears 12,000, its highest point since June 2008, unemployment still hovers just below 10 percent.

Just showing how much of a gap there is between perceived and actual economic health.

Meanwhile states are slashing everything from police forces to HIV testing, treatment, and counseling to college funding, and many people think that we’re in the middle of a structural shift that doesn’t seem likely to end the current unemployment rate any time soon.

For those people who still own stock, this is good news: their once vanished equity slowly regaining their worth increases their overall financial independence. And for those who had capital to invest in the market when it was at or near its low, they really should be feeling good about the news.

But for those who didn’t own stock or have 401(k)s, or who used up all of their savings to stay afloat while they were looking for work, this doesn’t help them much. Now, it could be the case that the uptick in jobs is related to this rise in the stock market. Either way, it seems that this news is indicative of one industry doing well: the financial district.

Even though, apparently, those companies saw their stocks drop:

Gains were spread across the market. Financial and health care companies were the only two of the 10 company groups that make up the S&P index to fall.

Odd considering the financial district is still giving itself large bonuses (albeit some of it deferred per new rules) and the health care industry is where much of the job growth exists.

McDonald’s Corp. gained 0.5 percent to $75.38 after it said it meet analyst expectations and warned that rising food costs could affect its margins this year.

J.C. Penny Co. jumped 7 percent to $32.52 after the retailer said it would close some stores and its catalog business to reduce costs.

So, a large retailer company shutting stores – and thus, laying off most likely hundreds of people – is good news worthy of its stock going up? And while McDonald’s showing slight improvement means that those entry-level jobs may stay intact, but those aren’t the types of careers that families can live on.

A bright spot perhaps:

Materials companies rose after a report from the National Association for Business Economics showed that economists are more positive about economic growth and the job market than at any time since the start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

Though the stocks went up based on the speculation that jobs will continue to grow, not on actual job growth. Given what we know about the depths of the unemployment rate, it seems like the stock market could be getting a bit ahead of itself.

Photo courtesy of othermore (other)’s Flickr Photostream.


Oklahoma Passes Strict Abortion Legislation Despite Vetoes


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.


Homosexual Hospital Patients Now Finally Treated Like Human Beings


In a memo to the Department of Health and Human Services, President Obama extended visitation rights to same-sex couples in hospitals.

This is huge.

There are countless heartbreaking stories of people – like that of Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg – banned from the death beds of their beloveds simply because their unions – no matter how long they’ve been together – weren’t recognized by the state, which meant that the hospitals wouldn’t let them near their dying loved ones — only allowing those related by blood or marriage.

Denying people the basic right to be with those whom they love during their last moments is abominable and unforgivable. I can’t imagine how much fear and misguided hatred must be in the hearts of the people who pushed for that to remain the status quo.  Thankfully now, in “any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding, a move that covers the vast majority of the nation’s health-care institutions,” patients will be able to choose who they want in the room with them — regardless of their sexual orientation or their marital status.

That’s how it always should’ve been.  It’s so nice to finally see that wrong made right.

Image courtesy of stevebott


GOP Not Interested in Governance, Only Politics


The Republican Party established itself as the “Party of No,” a unified front interested only in voting against whatever Obama and the Democrats proposed, regardless of the content of that legislation.  No to the Stimulus. No to SotomayorNo to Healthcare. No to Extending Unemployment Benefits.

And it continues.

Instead of bothering to announce anything productive for 2010, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterates that nothing has changed for the Grand Old Party: repeal health care is their number one priority.  Now, I’m sure many a Republican could and would argue that repealing health care reform would be productive.  But that would mean that the status quo prior to March 21st – or their own ideas (Rep. Paul Ryan’s bill the only real document they’ve provided as an alternative) – is a step forward from the reform, not a step backward.

Boehner sounds like his background vocal track hit a snag and he’s stuck on repeat:

“I’ve never seen a bill pass the House of Representatives that the American people knew about, that the American people had discussed, debated, and had decided ‘no.'”


I suppose this will be the strategy until November.  If the GOP wins as many seats as they hope, then one could argue their strategy worked.  As far as winning seats in Congress goes.  And that’s just politics.  Not governance.  Which is all in which they’re interested anyway.


Health Care Passes! What Does That Mean Again?


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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This Political Theater Lost Me in the 2nd Act


I almost didn’t comment on my silence here on Agree to Disagree.  I thought maybe I should let my silence speak for itself.  But, what’s a blog when there’s nothing being said?

I don’t consider myself jaded.  I just feel rather numb by all the major items in politics right now.  Perhaps I’ve burned myself out.  If this were a movie, I’d say that the screenwriter completely failed at finding the second act climax, continuing to add plot twist after plot twist after plot twist in hopes of keeping us on the edge of our seats but in reality boring us to death while waiting for that much-desired release.

Watching drama unfold, you need moments of levity.  They call these “comic relief.”  Not necessarily needing to be funny, these are breaks in the action where the audience gets to catch their breath after the exhausting and exhilarating chase scene or tense interrogation or riveting race against time while the bad guys close in and there’s just no way possible that our hero… okay, you get the picture.  In our current drama that we call American politics, we haven’t had many of these moments, nor many resolutions.  Stories are best told with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  And when the middle drags on to long, you lose your audience.

That has officially happened to me.  I’m over it.  Don’t misunderstand me: I still feel very passionately about much of what’s happening right now.  I just don’t have the interest in dissecting every little development along the way.  At this point in the murder mystery, I just want to know who the killer is; I’m willing to fast forward to the end just to get it over with faster. (Oh, I knew it was the boyfriend all the along.)

There will always be another anti-gay politician who gets caught being gay.  Or another idiot claiming that torture is necessary to keep America safe.  Sarah Palin will continue being uneducated and possess a scary sense of self-righteousness and religious certainty that she’s supposed to be doing what she’s doing right now.  Rush and Beck will be assholes.

Okay — I guess I do have some vitriol after all.  I just haven’t felt the desire to comment on the latest scandal with Massa, the latest takedown of Thiessen by Jon Stewart, or the latest vulgarities by Liz Cheney.  It’s politics as usual.  I’ve written about it a million times before, it seems.

So until something changes.  Until something actually HAPPENS.  Like, for instance, health care passes.  (I called my Representative today and told her that she had my support.  It felt good actually taking part in politics aside from just writing about it on this blog.)  I have a feeling I might be quieter than I have in the past.

Of course, I say this now.  Just wait until someone does something that really gets under my skin and we’ll see how quiet I remain.  Somehow I don’t think that’s too far off.


White House Releases the Real ObamaCare

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.

Image via Wikipedia

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House Reps: Pass the Senate Bill


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.


Elect Scott Brown, Magician


To find out what issues on which the people of Massachusetts elected Scott Brown (R), I turned to the senator-elect’s own website, hoping that it could shed some light on just how he’s going to run Washington better since he’s a Republican and here to solve some challenges that the Democrats are incapable of doing.  Let’s take a run through these issues and how he’s planning to solve them.

First off, his main reason for running, we learn, is to help get our economy moving again.  His strategy: “I want to ensure that we leave them [our children and grandchildren] an America that is financially stronger and independent: minus a national debt that we can never repay.”  A noble idea, for sure, to want a better life for the next generation but hardly a solid plan to turn around the economy in the very near future, which is exactly what the American people want and probably a big reason why voters in Massachusetts elected Brown: Dems are in control and unemployment is still over 10%.

Health care: He believes that all Americans deserve health care, but he’s not going to do anything to help all Americans receive health care.  He states that he will oppose the current health care bill that is stalled in Congress because it “raises taxes,” but that he supports policies that “will drive down costs and make it easier for people to purchase affordable insurance.”  Perhaps Brown could let us know what those policies are that will drive down costs – it’s a nice campaign promise but, based on every other GOP senator and congressperson, there are no policies out there that he speaks of.  Nevermind the fact that he now governs in a state that provides health care to its citizens – courtesy of former governor Mitt Romney – yet refuses to provide anything remotely equal to the rest of America.

Economy: Brown says it all pretty clearly right here: “I am a free enterprise advocate who believes that lower taxes can encourage economic growth. Raising taxes stifles growth, weakens the economy and puts more people out of work.”  Well, Obama’s stimulus plan included a gigantic tax cut – bigger than Bush’s in the first two years of the bill – but the economy hasn’t exactly turned around.  Perhaps he’s of the belief that tax cuts only work when the GOP does them. I guess that just means that Obama didn’t cut enough taxes then, but then why was the GOP screaming that the stimulus plan was far too huge?  Maybe Brown has it all figured out, but it sure seems like all he’s got for us is smoke and mirrors. Let’s keep looking at what he has in store for us.

Energy and Environment: “I support reasonable and appropriate development of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal and improved hydroelectric facilities. I oppose a national cap-and-trade program because of the higher costs that families and businesses would incur.”  No clue what “reasonable and appropriate” means.  Perhaps cap-and-trade isn’t the best option, but what is an alternative?  Let’s push a better idea if cap-and-trade is awful.  The alternative cannot be just doing nothing.  Although, it sure looks like that’s what Brown advocates, along with the rest of the GOP on just about every big issue.

Immigration: Well, Brown sure doesn’t win back any of those Hispanic votes that went to Obama in the last presidential election with his unique ideas in this category: “I oppose amnesty, and I believe we ought to strengthen our border enforcement and institute an employment verification system with penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants.”  Opposing amnesty is a camouflaged way of saying, “I think we should send them all back to Mexico.”  Of course, he doesn’t mention just how unbelievably expensive – culturally, politically, and fiscally – that endeavor would cost.  And “strengthen our border enforcement” means exactly what it sounds like: let’s build a huge wall!  Pathetic and monumentally stupid.  Not to mention extremely expensive.  Not exactly helping the debt any for our grandchildren, Brown.

Marriage: Nothing new here, just the same old discrimination disguised as age-old definition: he believes that marriage is between a man and a woman only.  Of course, his state does provide marriage equality so yet again Brown governs in a state whose laws run contrary to his own beliefs and stances on policy issues.

There are plenty more issues that Brown tackles on his site and if you want a boilerplate for where the GOP currently stands, look no further.  He’s all for guns and the death penalty and against gay marriage.  Shocking.  He does actually say that he believes in a woman’s choice, but favors strong regulation and opposes partial birth abortion – a moderate tone in an otherwise pretty straightforward GOP game plan.  He’s definitely not the worst person to elect into office; he’s just what you’d expect from a GOP candidate right now, which means that the Republican Party really offers only illusion and misdirection and providing alternatives with real-world values no more than those of magic potions.

Scott Brown, Magician: the 41st Republican vote in the Senate.


Senate Already Pessimistic About Health Care


The worst part of the news that the Senate will have a really tough time passing the health care bill – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even suggesting that nothing will get done this year – is that the impasse is with Democrats.

It’s disheartening and infuriating to see the Democrats not only straddling the middle of the road mediocrity, but actually being completely on the right side of the party lines.  We already have conservatives that are worried about the size of government.  They’re called Republicans – although, their track record of late really warrants them that term in the loosest of senses.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe said that she would vote in favor of the bill, so long as the public option is altered so that it only goes into effect after a series of triggers require it.

That approach appeals to moderates such as Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. “If the private market fails to reform, there would be a fallback position,” Landrieu said last week. “It should be triggered by choice and affordability, not by political whim.”

Excuse me, Sen. Landrieu, it’s already been triggered by choice (lack thereof) and affordability (again, lack thereof) with the elections of the past three years that saw an overwhelming majority of Democrats in the Congress and in the Presidency.  It’s not political whim when those elected officials are doing what the people elected them to do.  In fact, to not do so, would be a failure.