TW3 — and a chat

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Can we talk? (A little Joan Rivers’ism.)

It’s been awhile since I put out some chat, focused more on cross posting on the PWaves main page. I’m working on a piece about healthcare and the public option, but I’ll tell you true — I’m conflicted. Ultimately, I’m committed to pushing for what we can get in these obnoxiously irrational times, but it’s hard to swallow no option. Damned hard. I’ll get that out later in the week but if you’re still pushing hard for the option, there are some activist/ops here and here. And if you haven’t signed MoveOn’s pledge to go after Blanche Lincoln … Blue Dog and DINO … do so; unless we get these weenies out of the Dem camp, we’re spinning our wheels. Her group of conservatives are what’s holding this up, not the Pubs.

It’s so absurd it makes my eyes cross. I could see how the nation might go nose to nose over passing a single payer plan into law, but a public option? A frikken Clash of the Titans over a public option, still charged out to the public in competitive terms and wrapped in establishment red tape? The government isn’t broken — the public is mind-crimed and their elected officials compromised to the point of immorality and possible legality; but that’s another post. Still, until Mars goes direct, having slowed now, we have more anger than good sense out there so it’s a good thing that Harry Reid has indicated a vote will likely not happen for a couple of months.

This economic downturn of ours has legs that slowly extend to touch everyone and everything in our lives and this has been a discouraging week for me and mine. I hope yours has been better, but more likely this is universal energy not only getting our attention but shaking us awake to the truth that things have to change whether we approve it or not. The rules have changed, even if we haven’t — many of us are being victimized for having played by them even as we understood they were more and more twisted. Waking up is hard to do — untwisting? Even harder.

Keep as calm and detached as possible, dearhearts … anything else adds to the angst and only spins us into a vortex of fear. We’ll find our way through this.

And now, after a long absence:

That Was The Week That Was … rather interesting as a litmus paper for our woes.

First, McChrystal has apologized for the wrong thing — this isn’t a shock, but its getting old. Less militaristic rhetoric and more compassion would be in order. Next, we’ve had several examples of the cheese slipping off folks cracker: the IRS plane-crasher, the biology professor that went postal. This is byproduct of the pressure building in the average Joe/Jane … and the inevitable result of same in those whose wiring is a bit off. We’ll see more of this, I suspect.

The original commentary on Sarah Palin by Andrea Fay Friedman, the Down’s actress from Family Guy, included notation that her family raised her to have a sense of humor. Also note that, for whatever reason, the part of her statement bolded below was cut from the New York Times article. Too bad — that was the best bit of it and the most savvy, revealing our ignorance about the reasoning capacity of those labeled “retards.”

As regards Uncle Dick’s surprise visit to the Bozo Show … aka C-PAC … he has now been hospitalized for a mild heart attack. With a chest full of technology to avoid that kind of thing, you’d think he’d keep on ticking like a Timex.

I thought the British churches had a very innovative idea with its carbon fast — makes the whole notion of Lent more pragmatic and productive.

The Pennsylvania school district that decided to spy on its children at home needs a sharp whack to the power-pack. These little local organizations seem to think themselves the true defenders of wisdom and truth — I’d bet they were picking out “true Americans” to groom and heretics to discard. This reminds me of the Texas school book publishers that are rewriting history on a grand [and Christianist] scale and selling the books across the nation. Only one answer: bud — nip it, and quickly. The more we school young minds to think this is normal, the faster the nation sinks into junk science and rote thinking.

In terms of the last bit on the Report, it comes as no surprise that our cultural differences loom large — but, seriously, what do you think your own neighborhood would do with a poster that said, “We await you, merry gnome.” It boggles the mind and not in a good way.

In terms of chat, here are a few links I’ve saved up for this post. This one will move you, and should be passed around. This one will make you even more determined to undermine FOX News, which long ago crossed the line into nothing more than a functioning lobby for wingnuts and PR firm for all things right-wing. This one is worth your consideration, especially if your cell phone is permanently attached to your ear. And this one will spark your imagination for the possibilities of an innovative future.

The bonus today is from Consumer Reports — it’s a breakdown of the current healthcare proposition written in English. Very helpful when discussing this.


February 23, 2010

The top military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley
McChrystal, apologized for a NATO airstrike that killed 27
civilians and wounded 14 near Kandahar; the victims’
convoy was mistaken for Taliban vehicles. “I have made it
clear to our forces,” said McChrystal,
“that… inadvertently killing or injuring civilians
undermines their trust and confidence in our mission.”
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was second in command to
the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullar Muhammad Omar, was
captured in a joint U.S.-Pakistani raid in Karachi. After
posting to the web a 3,000-word manifesto about the
federal tax code, Catholicism, and government bailouts, a
53-year-old software engineer and honky-tonk bassist, Joe
Stack, set fire to his house in Austin, Texas, then
crashed his plane into a nearby building containing nearly
200 IRS employees, killing himself and one other
person. “Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man,” he wrote, “take
my pound of flesh and sleep well.” Rapper Sky Blu, of
LMFAO, was escorted off a plane after an altercation with
Mitt Romney, who was seated behind him; according to Blu,
Romney inflicted a “condor grip” on his shoulder when he
refused to return his seat to an upright position.

Told that she would be denied tenure, a University of
Alabama biology professor shot and killed three colleagues
and wounded three others. “She’s wacko,” said her defense
attorney, who hypothesized that “high IQ… is sometimes
not good for people.” After complaints by Sarah Palin,
Andrea Fay Friedman, the voice actress with Down syndrome
who played the daughter of a former governor of Alaska on
“Family Guy,” said that “My parents raised me to live a
normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her
arm like a loaf of French bread the way former governor
Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and
.” Republicans rallied in Washington at the
Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which
some likened to a right-wing Woodstock. Dick Cheney paid a
surprise visit to the gathering, and his daughter Liz
analyzed President Obama’s plan to close the detention
facility at Guantanamo Bay: “Man, use your brain, dude,
that’s totally stupid.” A British anti-bullying helpline
revealed that it has received multiple calls for help from
the staff of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Scientists were
working on a morphine alternative made from scorpion
venom. Evan Bayh of Indiana became the latest Democratic
senator to announce that he would not seek reelection. “I
love helping our citizens make the most of their lives,”
said Bayh, “but I do not love Congress.” British church
leaders were encouraging people to go on a carbon fast for
Lent, by giving up their iPods, eating by candlelight,
cutting meat thinner so it cooks faster, and flushing the
toilet less often.

The FBI was investigating a Pennsylvania school district
for remotely activating webcams on some of the 2,300
laptops it issued to high school students; according to a
lawsuit brought against the district, a vice principal
scolded one student for being “engaged in improper
behavior in his home.” The student’s lawyer claims that
officials suspected the boy was selling drugs because they
saw him handling Mike & Ike candy, which they mistook for
pills. The inventor of the Easy-Bake Oven died, as did
Alexander Haig and the crusader behind New York City’s
“pooper-scooper” law. DNA testing determined that King Tut
was a sickly boy whose parents were likely siblings; he
had a cleft palate and club foot, and died at age 19 of
complications resulting from a broken leg and
malaria. Scientists decoded the genomes of !Gubi, G/aq’o,
D#kgao and !Ai, four Bushmen in Namibia, as well as that
of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Bantu, and identified more
than 1.3 million new genetic variants thereby providing a
framework for understanding why so many drugs do not work
as well for Africans as they do for Caucasians, who have
historically been the main test subjects for
medications. A Ugandan preacher showed his congregation
same-sex pornography in order to disgust them into
supporting a bill that would mandate life imprisonment for
anyone engaged in gay sex. The Knack’s Doug Fieger, who
was responsible for “My Sharona,” died. President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia released his third pop
album, “I Believe I’ll Get There,” and a hiker fell 1,500
feet to his death after posing for a photo on the rim of
Mount St. Helens’ crater. Tiger Woods apologized for his
infidelity and promised to recommit himself to Buddhism,
the Dalai Lama tossed some snow at White House reporters,
and an escaped circus zebra galloped along an Atlanta
highway during rush hour. “It was an inconvenient time for
this to happen,” said spokeswoman Monica Luck, “because
the downtown connector southbound usually gets backed up
on its own, that time of day.” In advance of a visit from
5’4″ President Dmitry Medvedev, a Russian town, Omsk, took
down posters for a children’s theater show that read, “We
await you, merry gnome.”

– Margaret Cordi


Coverage you can keep, no matter what

Health reform is designed just for these rough economic times. It makes sure you and your family can get health care if you lose your job or steady income. It makes sure coverage is there until you get back on your feet again. And it helps everyone from young adults to seniors have peace-of-mind about the security and quality of their health coverage.

We’ve laid out how you you’ll always have good health insurance based on the Senate bill, since it may serve as the basis for final legislation. This week, the President released a proposal building upon the Senate bill that improves several benefits, including more credits to help struggling families buy insurance, and completely phasing out the Medicare prescription drug ‘donut hole.’ (For a more detailed analysis of the President’s proposal and the Senate and House bills, click on the links to the lower right.)

We’ll be telling you more in the coming weeks on how health reform is progressing, and what you can do to make sure Congress passes reforms that help you.

If you like the insurance you have through your job, you keep it.

Many businesses offer their workers good health coverage a benefit employers use to keep good employees. So under reform, if you like the coverage you have now, you keep it. The only real difference is reform will discourage large employers from dropping your health coverage just to cut costs — which they can do right now without repercussions — by making them pay a fee. The fee would help you cover the cost of buying your own policy in the insurance mall, or ‘exchange,’ if that should happen.

Or, if your employer dramatically hikes your share of your health insurance (to about 8 percent of your salary), and your income qualifies you for the credits described below, you could buy your own policy in the exchange. Your employer would have to give you a voucher for the amount that they would have spent on your health insurance, and you’d use that to help buy your own policy. If your cost of employer coverage exceeds 10 percent of your salary, then you can get a tax credit to purchase in the exchange. Of course, these rules only apply to companies with more than 50 employees. Small businesses are exempt, and will get extra help providing their workers insurance.

Help to buy coverage if you hit a rough financial patch.

If you’re laid off from your job, you can buy a good policy for you or your family through the insurance mall, or ‘exchange,’ based on your income. The less money you have coming in, the more help you would get in the form of credits to buy coverage. Credits will be available on a sliding scale basis for an individual making between $14,440 and $43,420 a year. Or a family of four, for example, would be eligible for sliding-scale credits with incomes between $29,400 and $88,200. These credits will make insurance more affordable for hardworking Americans who otherwise would have no health care.

For the very low-income an individual making less than $14,440 a year — Medicaid will be expanded so they can get health care. These and other measures are expected to help some 30 million Americans now without insurance get and keep coverage.

Your kids can stay on your policy until they turn 26.

If your children are growing up, you know the dilemma when it comes to their health insurance — either they must be a full-time student to stay on your family policy, or they’re kicked off and have to get coverage on their own. And with this tough job market, it’s not easy for a recent graduate to get a job with health coverage. This reform will give parents some real peace-of-mind by requiring insurance companies allow dependent children to remain on their folks’ policies until the age of 26, regardless if they’re in school or not.

Small businesses will get help to cover their workers.

It’s always been tough for small business owners to provide coverage to their workers, namely because they don’t have the bargaining clout as bigger employers to get a good deal. And if just a few of their employees are sick or have pre-existing conditions, premiums for the rest of their workers often are jacked up to compensate.

Health reform would help small businesses on several fronts. First, they could buy coverage for their workers in the insurance exchange. The exchange would prevent insurance companies from discriminating against small businesses based on employees’ illness or pre-existing conditions. Second, small businesses that cover at least half of their workers’ premium will get tax credits up to 50 percent of their cost, a real incentive to provide coverage. Third, employees who work for small businesses will have a wide choice of quality plans to choose from in the exchange that fit their individual needs, rather than being shuttled into one high-deductible plan.

Seniors will get more benefits and a more stable Medicare program.

To make sure the popular Medicare health insurance program is sound — and offers health benefits seniors need and want — reform improves Medicare in a variety of ways. First, preventive care will be covered at 100 percent, including immunizations and physicals, to keep seniors healthier. The dreaded prescription drug ‘donut hole’ will be shrunk — right now, seniors must pay 100% out-of-pocket for their medications after they and Medicare spend $2,830. The hole won’t begin until $3,330 is spent, and then seniors will get a 50% discount on their drugs, under the bill. And home and community-based services will be expanded to keep people in their homes should they get seriously ill, instead of nursing homes.

Getting control of costs in Medicare also will be critical as more Americans age. Currently, the Medicare Trust Fund is expected to go bankrupt in seven years — reform will ensure Medicare is fully funded until 2026 through aggressive belt-tightening. One approach is making sure the insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage programs (privately run insurance programs that seniors can choose instead of Medicare) aren’t overcharging government for their services. These programs currently cost taxpayers 14 percent more per person than what it costs Medicare to provide health care. New programs will also root out fraud, waste and abuse among Medicare providers.

Oversight of insurance companies, control over costs

It’s time you had some control over your health insurance costs. If we continue to do nothing to rein in the health insurance industry, premiums are expected to double again in another 10 years. How can you, or our nation, afford that?

We have the power to force health costs down if we get real oversight of insurance companies, and allow competition to flourish.

Insurance companies must spend your premiums on health care, or give you a rebate.

When you pay for insurance, you should get something in return. Which is why, for the first time ever, all insurers in large group markets (usually those businesses with more than 51 employees) would have to spend at least 85 percent of your premium on your care. Smaller group and individual markets would require at least 80 percent of your premium dollar go to your care. If they don’t spend that on medical care, they’d have to rebate you the difference.

Unless this reform passes, there is no way to ensure your money doesn’t go toward marketing, ads, overhead, fancy corporate dinners and CEO bonuses. There is no national standard for how much of your premium insurers must spend on health care — one recent study found some spend as little as 66 percent. It is one of the tools that will help keep rising insurance premiums in check.

Insurance companies would have to come clean about their tactics.

If you’ve ever been denied a claim for a procedure or test, you probably were scratching your head on the reasons why. Health reform would require insurers to describe their policies in plain language, as well as clearly explain your rights as a customer. Qualified health plans would have to report information on claims payment policies, customer enrollment and disenrollment, number of claims they deny, what a customer’s share of costs will be, and out-of-network policies.

Clear rates and what policies cover, so you can easily comparison shop.

Deciphering what an insurance policy will or won’t cover, or how much you’ll pay in the end, is impossible — and insurance companies bank on that. Reform would require that every company use the same format for presenting their coverage options, so you can compare them side-by-side. You will know exactly what your premium will be, and what you will pay out-of-pocket, depending on how much coverage you want, so there will be no surprises. And you’ll be able to find it all in one place on the Internet.

Companies would have to compete for your business in new insurance ‘shopping malls.’

By making all the companies that offer health insurance compete by the same rules like those above, consumers will have more information and more power to get the best deal. Right now, some states are dominated by just one or two insurance companies, and the lack of competition can lead to high prices and poor service.

To improve your choices, you can select from insurance policies offered to federal employees and members of Congress in a new sort of insurance shopping mall, called an ‘exchange.’ These exchanges allow you or a small-business to shop among many companies that are all held to the same national standards, so no one is short-changed based on where they live. And they’ll feature new national plans that are sold across state lines. Exchanges provide the level playing field for competition and oversight of insurance companies that is now lacking, and if a company doesn’t follow the rules, they’d be kicked out.

Simplify the paperwork.

Forms, forms and more forms, and no two companies likely have the same ones. Streamlining health insurance administration will help save money, and reform will require a single set of rules that all companies will follow when it comes to eligibility and claims. If companies don’t comply, they’ll be fined.

Health coverage you can count on

One of the greatest threats to your family’s well-being and financial stability during rough economic times is not having health insurance. Health reform would remove the barriers to getting more affordable, reliable health coverage, so you never face going without the medical care you may need, or the threat of losing your life savings to pay for it.

Congress must choose from the same health coverage we get.

Much has been made about health reform not being good enough for members of Congress so the Senate bill specifically requires that members’ health coverage will be the same that the rest of us can choose from. Here’s the language from pg. 157 of the bill which requires members to choose from policies offered in the national health insurance “store,” or exchange:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the effective date of this subtitle, the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are–1 (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act.

You can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition or your health.

Right now any insurance company can reject your application or drop your coverage. The new law would require that any insurer give you coverage, and renew it, regardless of your age or pre-existing condition, beginning in 2014. Until then, if you’ve been denied a policy because of your health, you can immediately get coverage through a high-risk insurance plan and get help paying for it.

If you get a serious illness, your needed care will be covered.

Many people lose their life savings paying for medical care because insurers today can limit how much they’ll pay for over the course of a year, or your lifetime. Reform would prohibit companies from placing lifetime limits on your coverage within six months after the bill is passed. By 2014, health plans would be prohibited from putting a yearly dollar limit on how much they’ll cover (until then, the only annual limits on your policies must be approved by the Health Secretary).

Preventive care and screenings will be covered 100% by your policy.

The best way for us to stay health and save money is through prevention. But if you’ve had a mammogram or colonoscopy lately, you know that those and other preventive tests can cost you a lot out-of-pocket. Reform would require health plans cover recommended preventive care like annual checkups and cancer screenings at 100% of the cost. Employers can also offer employees discounts on their insurance premiums or other incentives for participating in wellness programs. Detecting serious diseases early, preventing problems like diabetes and heart disease, and encouraging Americans to be healthier will cost us all a lot less in the long run.

More primary care doctors and more doctors in rural areas.

Everyone wants to be able to see their doctor when they need to. Which is why reform puts an emphasis on graduating and training more primary-care doctors by increasing scholarships and financial help for medical students who choose that field. There also are incentives to boost the number of doctors in those states with low doctor-to-patient ratios, as well as increase the number of nurses through more training and loan repayment programs. ++

“I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington … I’m asking you to believe in yours.”
~ Barack Obama

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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