Here’s my latest venture. A unique forum to discuss politics and culture. It’s also the official home of the Monster Militia, dedicated to the fun radio stations of Real Radio 104.1 in Orlando. A fun place to be you…join us at POLITIKAL CULTURE!
In the aftermath of the stunning reaction of extremist Catholic Bishops (you know…the guys who’ve taken an oath of celibacy) to President Obama’s recent rules regarding contraception, nothing rings more true than the fact that the Class Warfare initiated by the Republican Party and it’s increasingly effective off-shoot, the Tea Party, have a strong and hate-filled contingent of those waging not only a War on the Poor and Middle Class, but a War on Women.
First there was the fiasco that nearly (and may still) bring the once-honorable Susan G. Komen Foundation to it’s knees in submission thanks to a political agenda set forth by Republican and staunch opponent of Planned Parenthood, Karen Handel, who weaseled her way into the hierarchy of that group. What came out of the bloody fray was a once proud Foundation whose name will from now on connote the seedy side of political posturing and influence.
Next was the recent contraception policy set forth by the Administration that precipitated a manufactured outrage from the religious right, Constitutionalists, and the Catholic Church in particular.
Failing to realize the issue had less to do with a constitutional freedom of religion issue and more to do with the right of the individual, regardless of employer or religion, to seek contraception in pursuit of their own health, financial status, and well-being, the religious right used the issue to return to their heyday of the 1980′s, that of the so-called Moral Majority – of which they are neither.
The issue should have been a non-sequitur following the President’s compromise making the issue one between the patient and the patient’s insurer, which it always should have been. With support from the Catholic Health Organization, who’s Director, Sister Carol Keehan stated the resolution “protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions”, while the Catholic United issued a statement of support stating that President Obama “has shown [them] that he is willing to rise above the partisan fray to deliver an actual policy solution that both meets the health care needs of all employees and respects the religious liberty of Catholic Institutions”.
Other groups and institutions praising the President’s compromise include:
Catholic Charities: “Catholic Charities USA welcomes the Administration’s attempt to meet the concerns of the religious community and we look forward to reviewing the final language. We are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction and are committed to continuing our work to ensure that our religious institutions will continue to be granted the freedom to remain faithful to our beliefs, while also being committed to providing access to quality healthcare for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country.”
Rev. John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame” “We applaud the willingness of the administration to work with religious organizations to find a solution acceptable to all parties.”
Broad Coalition of Faith Community Leaders: “Today the Obama administration announced an important regulation that will protect the conscience rights of religious organizations and ensure that all women have access to contraception without a co-payment. We applaud the White House for listening carefully to the concerns raised by religious leaders on an issue that has provoked heated and often misinformed debate. This ruling is a major victory for religious liberty and women’s health. President Obama has demonstrated that these core values do not have to be in conflict.”
That should have brought an end to the consternation. But no! The Catholic Bishops (you know – those guys who’ve taken an oath of celibacy) still aren’t happy!
President Obama’s effort to accommodate the Catholic Church by altering his administration’s rule on birth control coverage has not appeased the church, congressional Republicans or GOP candidates trying to take his job next year.
Their continued anger over a requirement that nearly all employers offer free insurance coverage for contraception — even with changes Obama announced Friday (Feb. 10) for faith-based institutions that object on religious grounds — guarantees that the issue will percolate throughout the presidential election season.
Nor are the politicians who, on any other day, oppose telling others what to do:
Republican leaders in Congress stuck by their plans to overturn the requirement with legislation. The issue “will not go away until the administration backs down,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on CBS’ ”Face the Nation.”
Three of Obama’s potential opponents in November — Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — thundered against funding birth control under Medicaid or through employer subsidies, calling it a radical overreach by government.
Where will this go? Who will win The War on Contraception? We now have politicians introducing “Personhood” legislation at both the State and National level. We have one State Senator introducing a bill granting “Personhood” not only to embryos, but to sperm!
“However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”
Will the misogynistic actions of the religious right devolve even further into banning not only contraceptives, but condoms?
Will we be arresting men who masturbate into socks and charge them with murder?
Another question: What if this craziness actually does result in the banning of contraceptives and condoms? Who will be charged with raising the millions of unwanted children born to mothers who don’t want them?
The other day, in my post Without a Doctor, I claimed that the Medicare system here in Florida had been raped by the gubernatorial administrations of Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist; thus decimating their effectiveness as originally envisioned.
Medicaid in Florida is trashed because Republicans have ruined it?
In 1965, President Johnson signed the law establishing Medicare and Medicaid. The original purpose of the Medicaid program was:
The Medicaid program, authorized under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, was enacted to provide health care services to low-income children deprived of parental support, their caretaker relatives, the elderly, the blind, and individuals with disabilities.
Gov. Bob Martinez (whom I worked under while with the Florida Board of Nursing) cut, sliced, and pared Medicaid at an alarming rate, especially with regards to our elderly.
But it wasn’t until the reign of Jeb Bush (for whom I billed Medicaid and Medicare at a home health agency) that Medicaid in this state went under the greatest change.
One of Jeb’s first actions upon taking office was to kill his predecessor’s, Lawton Chiles (the only Florida governor in recent history to actually care about health care for children, the disabled and the poor) health care initiative for individuals and small businesses, the Florida Health Care Purchasing Alliance.
But that wasn’t Jeb’s first foray into the rape of Medicaid. In 2003:
Governor Bush is proposing to drop health care and long-term care coverage for about 26,000 seniors and people with disabilities, although they would retain prescription drug coverage. The governor also is proposing steep increases in co-payments for prescription drugs, which likely would make it harder for some poor patients to afford their medications. The state already implemented modest cuts in the Medicaid eligibility of elderly and disabled people last year.
In 2005, Jeb had the bright idea (not!) to be among the first to follow his brother George’s edict to make state Medicaid coverage over modeling it like (get this!) a health insurance company, complete with limits on coverage:
Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, both Republicans, have proposed radical changes intended to inject market forces and competition into Medicaid. Under their proposals, the state would give Medicaid recipients a fixed amount of money to buy health care or private insurance.
Under Governor Bush’s proposal, Florida would contribute a fixed amount toward coverage for each Medicaid beneficiary. Patients could use the money to “opt out of Medicaid altogether and purchase health care insurance in the private market,” Mr. Bush said.
(Ironically, today Jeb is on the board of Tenet Healthcare, the same company required to repay the government over 900 million dollars in Medicare and Medicaid overpayments and is plagued by scandal after scandal.)
Even today, Jeb Bush’s failed Medicaid managed care decisions are affecting the State negatively:
”We’ve done the experiment. It has failed,” said Durell Peaden, the Senate’s health care budget chief. “The reports are unsettling. People couldn’t get to specialists, couldn’t get adequate care. And they couldn’t do it cheaply.”
The son of Gov. Lawton Chiles said today Gov. Charlie Crist has “betrayed” needy children and old people by raiding a tobacco-funded trust fund for $700 million needed to balance Florida’s budget.
That’s a question I’ve seen a lot over the past year or so. Many of those opposed to health care reform often cite the Constitution; usually with the rally cry,
Perhaps they should read a little further…
Yesterday, over at the VSJ, my friend ekg stated:
She’s right. This, my friends, is the Republican Party/Tea Baggers response to Americans in need:
Meanwhile, the right wing front group for the health insurers, Americans for Prosperity, has this commercial running in the district of Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, (D) PA:
Obviously it’s false and indicative of the mass of lies we’ll be seeing in the next few days.
The truth? From PolitiFact:
A new TV ad from Americans for Prosperity, a group opposing the health reform bill, suggests that screening mammograms for women under 50 would be in jeopardy if the health reform bill passes…There’s an awful lot of misinformation and distortion packed into to these few sentences, and we’ll have to take them one at a time.
From Rep. Dahlkemper:
These attacks from a Washington-based front group are false, tasteless, and shameful,… “In the past month, I’ve lost both my parents to cancer. It’s truly disgraceful for outside groups to then attack me for not being tough enough on cancer.
Like millions of Americans, my family and I have lost loved ones to this horrible disease. This is personal for me; I’ve been a strong proponent of the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation and the work they are doing to find a cure, and I’ve encouraged more cancer screenings, particularly for women. My record and dedication are clear.
(The following commentary of mine was published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal today.)
There’s been a lot of talk in our state about health care reform, Medicare, Medicaid and so on. There’s one side who believes health care is a right, and another believes government intervention in health care is wrong.
We are seeing the penultimate example of why health care reform is so urgently needed in our country. For six years, I witnessed first-hand the rape of Medicaid and Ryan White funding at the hands of Florida’s Republican governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. What were once viable programs providing health care to people in need became bureaucratic jungles of unpaid claims and unmanageable care based upon rigid guidelines designed not to provide the best health care possible, but to deny payment for health care.
Faced with decreasing payments caused by further cuts to these programs, physicians have been forced to quit seeing patients they care for, thanks to political appointees bogging down the system to “save taxpayers money.”
Ten years ago, this area had five physicians handling HIV patients. Today there are none. Now that Dr. Daniel J. Warner has been booted as “the area’s only certified HIV doctor,” can someone out there explain where the hundreds of patients he’s seen over the years are supposed to go? Many of these patients lack the funds and transportation to go out of our area to see a capable physician. Will they have to see a physician who (most likely) is overwhelmed already? A physician untrained in the complex and ever-changing scope of care these patients need? How does the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida plan on ensuring proper care for these patients?
Here’s a message to Jim L. Mayo, chairman of the Health Planning Council: Instead of donating money to Republican political candidates and health insurance PACs, how about spearheading real reform to health care by supporting our president? Or will Mayo be content with the knowledge that his actions might very well lead to the death of so many patients?
“No matter how we move forward, there are at least four policy priorities identified by Republican Members at the meeting that I am exploring. I said throughout this process that I’d continue to draw on the best ideas from both parties, and I’m open to these proposals in that spirit,”
From The Washington Monthly:
The GOP ideas include:
1. Although the proposal I released last week included a comprehensive set of initiatives to combat fraud, waste, and abuse, Senator Coburn had an interesting suggestion that we engage medical professionals to conduct random undercover investigations of health care providers that receive reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, and other Federal programs.
2. My proposal also included a provision from the Senate health reform bill that authorizes funding to states for demonstrations of alternatives to resolving medical malpractice disputes, including health courts. Last Thursday, we discussed the provision in the bills cosponsored by Senators Coburn and Burr and Representatives Ryan and Nunes (S. 1099) that provides a similar program of grants to states for demonstration projects. Senator Enzi offered a similar proposal in a health insurance reform bill he sponsored in the last Congress. As we discussed, my Administration is already moving forward in funding demonstration projects through the Department of Health and Human Services, and Secretary Sebelius will be awarding $23 million for these grants in the near future. However, in order to advance our shared interest in incentivizing states to explore what works in this arena, I am open to including an appropriation of $50 million in my proposal for additional grants. Currently there is only an authorization, which does not guarantee that the grants will be funded.
3. At the meeting, Senator Grassley raised a concern, shared by many Democrats, that Medicaid reimbursements to doctors are inadequate in many states, and that if Medicaid is expanded to cover more people, we should consider increasing doctor reimbursement. I’m open to exploring ways to address this issue in a fiscally responsible manner.
4. Senator Barrasso raised a suggestion that we expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). I know many Republicans believe that HSAs, when used in conjunction with high-deductible health plans, are a good vehicle to encourage more cost-consciousness in consumers’ use of health care services. I believe that high-deductible health plans could be offered in the exchange under my proposal, and I’m open to including language to ensure that is clear. This could help to encourage more people to take advantage of HSAs.
The President should be commended for continuing to pursue a bipartisan health care reform bill. However, such overtures are worthless. It’s obvious the Republicans are against health care reform in any way, shape or form, and are adament in their refusal to work with the President:
“We fundamentally disagree with a comprehensive proposal to reform health care.”
I’ve always thought members of Congress were elected to represent the people. The constituents. Too many times over the past few months we’ve heard of Republican, and Blue Dog Democrat members of Congress state they are opposed to health care reform. The silly reality of all of this posturing is that they’re not concerned about the constituents they serve – they’re more concerned about getting reelected!
Note to the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats: You are in office to serve us. We really don’t give a damn if you remain in office if you don’t serve us.
We, the People, are in favor of health care reform. In fact – We, The People, favor health care reform with a Public Option.
Now. Get off your asses and pass the damn bill!
Here’s a look at yesterday’s Health Care Summit (kudo’s to The Huffington Post for publishing a full transcript of the summit) I’ve highlighted Republican talking points and constructive dialogue in Red, Democrats in Blue:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. Thank you so much for participating today. I am very grateful to all of you because I know how busy you are.
THE PRESIDENT: …it’s for that reason that last year, around this time, actually, I hosted in the White House a health care summit and indicated to Congress that it was absolutely critical for us to begin now moving on what is one of the biggest drags on our economy and represents one of the biggest hardships that families face.
SEN ALEXANDER: …clean sheet of paper
SEN ALEXANDER: …start over
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Lamar.
SPEAKER PELOSI: It was almost a year ago, March 5th of last year, when you brought us together in a bipartisan way to set us on a path to lower cost, improved quality — expand access to quality health care for all Americans. In the course of that time in our committees in the House and the Senate, we’ve had lively discussions. Here we are today.
SENATOR REID: Mr. President, my friends in the House and in the Senate, I want to spend a few minutes talking about Nevada, about our country, and not what’s going on here in Washington. I want to start by talking about a young man by the name of Jesus Gutierrez. He works hard. He has a restaurant in Reno, Nevada. He had everything that he wanted, except a baby. He had health insurance. He had employees that liked him. But he was fortunate — they were going to have a baby and it was going to be a little girl. And the baby was born, and in just a few minutes after the birth of that baby, he was told that the baby had a cleft pallet. “But that’s okay,” he was told. “We can take care of that.” And they did. They did some surgery on the baby; he was happy — that is, Jesus was happy — until he got his mail four months later, opened the envelope, and the insurance company said, “We didn’t realize that your baby had a preexisting disability. We’re not covering the $90,000 in hospital and doctor bills you’ve already run up.” So he’s trying to pay that off. The baby needs a couple more surgeries. This shouldn’t happen to anyone in America. He had health insurance. He paid his premiums.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Harry… just want to address very quickly, Lamar, the issue of process that you raised at the beginning and then we’ll move on and start talking about the specifics. As I listened to your description of the House/Senate bill, as well as the proposal that I put on our Web site, obviously there were some disagreements about how you would characterize the legislation.
On the other hand, when I listened to some of the steps that you thought Republicans would be open to, I thought, well, a bunch of these things are things that we’d like to do, and in fact are in the legislative proposals.
SEN ALEXANDER: Well, may I — may I — You’ve made some interesting points…
SENATOR McCONNELL: …some liberties have been taken here…
SENATOR COBURN: …with young kids going to the ER, whether they have meningitis or asthma, they’re going to get treated in this country…
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Tom, I appreciate what you said. I think we’re going to have Steny Hoyer go next. I just want to make this quick point. Every good idea that we’ve heard about reducing fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid system, we’ve adopted in our legislation. So that’s an example of where we agree — we want to eliminate fraud and abuse within the government systems.
You mentioned the idea of buying across state lines, insurance. That’s something that I’ve put in my proposal that’s actually in the Senate proposal.
CONGRESSMAN HOYER: Mr. President, thank you very much. A quote I will use is, we should have available and affordable health care to every American citizen, to every family. I suppose there are a whole lot of every Americans and American families listening to us today and watching us, and they’re hoping that we’re all sitting around here talking about them, not about us.
THE PRESIDENT: Before you go, Max, I just want to ask, whether it’s you, Tom, or anybody else on the Republican side, and maybe some of the House members might be interested — Senator Coburn mentioned some cost containment issues where it sounds like we agree: fraud and abuse. We agree. It sounds like you have maybe one other idea that you don’t think is in our proposal, but the idea of undercover patients, but that’s something that I’d be very interested in exploring. I don’t think conceptually that would be a problem.
CONGRESSMAN KLINE: …we’re looking at thousands of pages of legislation…
SENATOR BAUCUS: Sure. Absolutely, though I’d first like to say something that just strikes me just in spades. Frankly, we all have studied this issue a lot — health care reform. We basically know what the problems are, all of us. We basically know that the current system is unsustainable. We are actually quite close.
CONGRESSMAN CAMP: …maybe you shouldn’t be spending a trillion dollars on health care…
THE PRESIDENT: Dave, I don’t mean to interrupt. But the — we’re going to have the whole section talking about deficits. And we can talk about the changes in Medicare. We were trying to focus on costs related to lowering families’. And the only concern I’ve got is — look, if every speaker at least on one side is going through every provision and saying what they don’t like, it’s going to be hard for us to see if we can arrive at some agreements on things that we all agree on.
CONGRESSMAN CAMP: …mandates…
CONGRESSMAN ANDREWS: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank my friend Tom Coburn, and John Kline, for the spirit of conversation which they offered and try to carry that forward a little bit. The President asked at the beginning of this what ideas do we share about cutting costs. And Tom, I think you had some very good ones. Fraud, that the President has a proposal that says we should have a database, if you’ve committed fraud against Medicare once, you can’t make a contract again. Wellness, there’s a lot of good ideas in the bills. Junk lawsuits, I think that there’s — what Secretary Sebelius is doing is very important in curtailing that.
CONGRESSMAN KLINE:…I don’t hear people complaining about the insurance policies that they’re getting from their big companies.
CONGRESSMAN ANDREWS: But, John, would you favor a standard that says they have to do something like that or would you just leave it up to the insurance company?
SENATOR McCONNELL: Mr. President, could I just interject one quick point here very quick, just in terms of trying to keep everything fair, which I know you want to do. To this point, the Republicans have used 24 minutes, the Democrats 52 minutes.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m the President and so I made — (laughter) — I didn’t count my time in terms of dividing it evenly. In this section, Mitch, we’ve gone back and forth pretty well.
THE PRESIDENT: But I just wanted to point out that when we start talking about how much government involvement is at issue here, it’s not because the House or the Senate bills are a government takeover of health care; it is that the House and the Senate bills put in place some regulations that restrict how insurance companies operate, and if there’s an exchange or a pool that’s set up, that there’s a baseline sort of minimum requirements that were expected. And I understand that there may be some philosophical differences on the other side of the aisle about that issue.
SENATOR KYL: federal government would mandate it under your legislation
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, Jon. I’m going to go to you, Jim, but I — since as has tended to happen here, we end up talking about criticisms of the existing bill as opposed to where we might find agreement
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. I think this has actually been a very useful conversation. What I’m going to do is move on to the next topic, but maybe after we break for lunch and come back, I want to go through some areas where we decided we agreed and I know that abuse is a good example; some areas where we still disagree.
SENATOR KYL: …employers would drop you from their coverage…
REPRESENTATIVE BOUSTANY: …take a step back, and go step by step…
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thanks, Charles. We’re going to go to George Miller — and if you want to respond to some specific things that Charles raised or make some more general points. We’ll then go back to a Republican. At some point in this discussion — and we’re going to have to be a little more disciplined in our time in order to stay on schedule on this section — at some point I’d like Secretary Sebelius, who is not only a former governor but also an insurance commissioner, to address some of the issues that have been coming up around insurance and minimum payment.
SENATOR McCAIN: …the 2,400 pages…unsavory…deal-making…people are angry…special interests…PhRMA
THE PRESIDENT: John, can I just say –
SENATOR McCAIN: Can I just finish, please?
…back to the beginning
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.
SENATOR McCAIN: I’m reminded of that every day. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. So we can spend the remainder of the time with our respective talking points going back and forth. We were supposed to be talking about insurance.
SENATOR McCAIN: Could I just say, Mr. President, the American people care about what we did and how we did it. And I think it’s a subject that we should discuss. And I thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: They absolutely do care about it, John. And I think that the way you characterized it obviously would get some strong objections from the other side. We can have a debate about process, or we can have a debate about how we’re actually going to help the American people at this point. And I think that’s — the latter debate is the one that they care about a little bit more.
REPRESENTATIVE CANTOR: Mr. President, thank you again very much for having us and for staying with us for the six hours. I appreciate that. I don’t know if you will after the six hours or not. But I want to — (Places stack of papers on table…)
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just guess — that that’s the 2,400-page health care bill. Is that right?
REPRESENTATIVE CANTOR: We don’t care for this bill…there are plenty of taxes additional taxes mandate…
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me — since you asked me a question, let me respond. The 8 to 9 million people that you refer to that might have to change their coverage — keep in mind out of the 300 million Americans that we’re talking about — would be folks who the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, estimates would find the deal in the exchange better. It would be a better deal. So, yes, they would change coverage, because they’ve got more choice and competition. So let’s just be clear about that, point number one.
Point number two, when we do props like this — stack it up and you repeat 2,400 pages, et cetera — you know, the truth of the matter is that health care is very complicated.
And we can try to pretend that it’s not, but it is. Every single item that we’ve talked about on the Republican side, if we wanted to exhaustively deal with fraud and abuse, would generate a bunch of pages. So I point that out, just because these are the kind of political things we do that prevent us from actually having a conversation.
Now, let me respond to your question. We could set up a system where food was probably cheaper than it is right now if we just eliminated meat inspectors and we eliminated any regulations in terms of how food is distributed and how it’s stored. I’ll bet in terms of drug prices, we would definitely reduce prescription drug prices if we didn’t have a drug administration that makes sure that we test the drugs so that they don’t kill us.
The President’s Proposal puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care.
- It makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today. This helps over 31 million Americans afford health care who do not get it today – and makes coverage more affordable for many more.
- It sets up a new competitive health insurance market giving tens of millions of Americans the exact same insurance choices that members of Congress will have.
- It brings greater accountability to health care by laying out commonsense rules of the road to keep premiums down and prevent insurance industry abuses and denial of care.
- It will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
- It puts our budget and economy on a more stable path by reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years – and about $1 trillion over the second decade – by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.
Although the plan does not include a Public Option, it would be safe to say that such an option will be within the bill when it is passed through reconciliation, hopefully within the next two months.
Where does this leave the Republicans? After more than a year of record-breaking obstructionism, it’s time for them to get on the bus and work with the President and Congress on this issue, or continue their non-productive agenda.
We’ll know in three days.
The President should be commended for his actions and the obvious action right now is to do what Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly said last month: