Monday, October 31, 2011

No Progress on Joint Committee: Democrats Failing - One Percent Gaining

Democrats Giving Up on Seniors & Disabled?

From the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare: Apparently All the Super Committee Can Agree On is America’s Seniors Should Pay for Deficit Reduction.  "The new deficit reduction plan being proposed by some Democrats on the Super Committee proposes even more Medicare and Medicaid cuts than the draconian Bowles-Simpson plan and even less in revenue increases.  Yes, you read that right … this is a Democrat’s plan."

 Sometimes the appearance of being reasonable is not reasonable at all.  Democrats!  Get serious and stand up for workers, the aged, and the disabled.

1% Using Joint Committee to Its Ends

OPINION:  Message to the 99%: Help Stop the 1% From Using the Super Committee to Rob the American People.  "In order to spare defense contractors, the pharmaceutical industry, and other fat cats, while appeasing the credit agencies, whose AAA ratings to crony-clients helped crash the economy, the Supercommittee has proposed slashing benefits for current and future beneficiaries of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, notwithstanding that the current deficit has nothing to do with these programs."

"Neither Social Security, which by law, cannot borrow a penny, nor Medicare, nor Medicaid is to be found among the causes.  That hasn't stopped the Super Committee, though."

A very interesting and factual piece.  Helpful reading to sort through known facts and put them in the context of what is becoming not only a movement but also a growing conflict between the haves and have-nots in America.  It seems to be much more reality than perception that the super-rich have become not only greedy  but also spoiled and blind -- completely unaware and out of touch with the growing anger, frustration, and awareness that circumstances are grossly unfair and morally wrong.

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, October 28, 2011

Joint Committee: Republican Response

Boehner Rejects Democrat Proposal

He's not even on the Joint Committee, but "House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) acknowledged that the 12 member deficit Super Committee is having a hard time reaching consensus, and dismissed as unserious a Democratic proposal that would have reduced the deficit by nearly $3 trillion, split fairly evenly between cuts to entitlement and other federal programs, and new taxes.  'I’m not surprised that, you know, we’re having some difficulty,' Boehner told reporters at a Thursday Capitol briefing.  'Because this isn’t easy.  It’s going to be very hard.  But I do think it’s time for everyone to get serious about this.'"

"Democrats put forth an offer Tuesday that aides say was designed as a potential consensus package -- not a partisan Democratic proposal, but one that contained sacrifices for both sides.  Republicans responded with a smaller package comprised overwhelmingly of cuts to entitlement programs, and which generated some new revenue through government sales and fees, but not through targeted taxes.  Democrats regarded the offer as wholly partisan.  But whatever their intentions, the effect of each party rejecting the others’ plans may constrain future negotiations between two poles."

Still a "stalemate," if you're looking for winners and losers.  No consensus yet, if you're an optimist.  Fact is, there seems to be no hope for a deal.  Given that, one would think that they could start with what will happen "automatically" if they don't reach an agreement, and fine tune that.

For Your Information

"A new survey sponsored by a Democratic super PAC reveals that several Republican-held House seats could be competitive next year as Democrats look to gain 25 seats to take back the House of Representatives.  The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of the Democratic super PAC, 'House Majority PAC,' shows 12 Republican incumbents in a vulnerable position heading into their reelection campaigns: fewer than 50 percent of voters in their districts would vote to reelect them."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone

Rep. Bishop Says Federal Control Of Public Lands Is Unconstitutional  "The House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks Chairman [emphasis added] Rob Bishop (R-UT) made a startling claim at a Republican conference late last week: current federal control of public lands is unconstitutional."  Fox in the chicken coop.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Joint Committee: Breakthrough Possible & Discretionary Spending, Perry Persists on Medicare

Democrats Propose BIG Settlement

ONE:  "Jackie Judd [of Kaiser Health News] speaks with Politico Pro's Matt DoBias about the super committee's public hearing Wednesday when it heard from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf.  Democrats on the panel are near a $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion proposal to cut the deficit that includes about $400 billion in cuts to Medicare, though what the specific cuts might entail is still a bit of a mystery."

TWO:  "Democrats are proposing $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion in measures to reduce the budget deficit, including revenue increases and significant cuts to Medicare, congressional aides told Reuters." [Reuters article]

"According to congressional sources, the plan includes a roughly equal mix of spending cuts and revenue increases; between $200 billion and $300 billion in new economic stimulus spending that would be paid for with lower interest payments from reducing deficits; and around $400 billion in Medicare savings, with half coming in benefit cuts and the other half in cuts to healthcare providers."

Sounds like a bold proposal, a grand plan, but I'm worried about the specifics of the Medicare benefit cuts, if this is true.  There likely will be other issues, too.  It also sounds like a tried and true political maneuver -- send up a trial balloon, especially if it sounds reasonable or has a little something for almost everyone, and monitor the reaction.  It's certainly too early for us to weigh in.  And, it might be another political move -- co-opt your opponent by appearing to offer reasonable suggestions that they will shoot down -- entirely likely in these circumstances (although I have this little bit of hope), since the Conservative Republicans have yet to blink.

Defense Is Majority of Discretionary Spending

Dr. Doug Elmendorf, Director, Congressional Budget Office, Washington, DC, at Wednesday's hearing before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction:  "Discretionary outlays -- the part of federal spending that lawmakers generally control through annual appropriation acts -- totaled about $1.35 trillion in 2011, or close to 40 percent of federal outlays.  Slightly more than half of that spending was for defense.  [emphasis added]"

"The remainder went for a wide variety of government programs and activities, with the largest amounts spent for education, training, employment, and social services; transportation; income security (mostly housing and nutrition assistance); veterans’ benefits (primarily for health care); health-related research and public health; international affairs; and the administration of justice."

From the CBO:  Discretionary Spending.

Perry Still Out to Get Medicare

"Rick Perry’s new economic plan calls for significant changes to the country’s health care programs, a la Paul Ryan, including raising the Medicare eligibility age and potentially pushing seniors out of the government health care program and into the private health insurance market.  The Texas governor also reiterates his proposal to transform the current federal matching rate states receive for Medicaid into a pre-established block grant that does not keep up with actual health care costs."

"Perry touted his 'spending reduction' during an appearance on Fox News Business last night, stressing that while he’s willing to significantly cut the nation’s safety net programs, he won’t limit military spending."

Obviously, this position on Medicare no longer is news, ... and one would expect him to support military funding.  However, we do need to be reminded that Gov. Perry mostly sticks to his positions and is predictable.  If he were elected President, he'd likely do just as he says.  Fortunately, his polling numbers are way down.

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Super Silent Super Committee, Social Security No Longer Unconstitutional

Joint Committee Mum

"The 12 members of the deficit Super Committee have been so tight lipped about their negotiations, that most of the clues about their progress come from Congressional colleagues -- most of whom are also in the dark about specifics.  At his weekly Capitol briefing Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) had a hard time pegging the panel’s chances for reaching an agreement to achieve trillions of dollars in deficit reduction.  But he insisted that if the panel failed to achieve significant savings, Congress will have to keep chipping away."

Still waiting.  Still waiting for the Joint Committee.  As time passes, I'm actually getting a little hopeful that something positive might come out of the Committee.  I'm surprised that no news at all has leaked -- almost an impossibility in Washington.  To me, this might indicate that something real is happening -- at least something so surprising or compelling that none of them can object strongly and try to attack it before it even emerges.  Or, their punishment on an individual who squeals is devastating.

Private Social Security

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has ditched the idea that Social Security is unconstitutional.  "At other points, Perry mentioned that Social Security should be returned to the states, a 'solution' that is economically impossible.  Today, however, Perry walked all of that back, choosing instead to join his GOP colleagues in their support of privatizing Social Security.  In a Wall Street Journal op-ed outlining his new economic plan, Perry touted the benefits of 'personal' accounts, the GOP’s buzzword for privatization."

Sill not a popular position.  Look, if you want to carry out the wishes of the people, you need to listen to them.  If you "believe" in an extreme position, you should own it.  If you want progress, you've got to lead by inspiring people to believe as you do.  Gov. Perry doesn't seem able to do any of the above.

For Your Information

For Your MIS-Information

It's unbelievable that this ultra-conservative group can claim that AARP is anti-aging, turn around and support completely irrelevant issues, and say -- here, above -- that "AARP is forever AWOL in the battle to protect seniors and their families."  I'd like to find out who their contributors are.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taking It To the Streets, Committee Hearing Planned, Medicare: Cain's Target of Destruction


Hands Off-No Cuts Activists Say: “We’re Not a Mob but We Are Angry”:  "NCPSSM’s Hands Off-No Cuts activists were in Philly on Friday and just to set the record straight -- they are angry but they’re not a mob."

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is putting its words into action.  They are just one of the many groups who are fed up with ridiculous actions and nonsensical proposals coming from Washington and many state capitols.  Advocates for Medicare and Social Security should join in whenever their pre-paid public benefits are attacked.  Please check NCPSSM's Web site on a regular basis.

Joint Committee Hearing

"Members of the Committee will hold a hearing entitled 'Overview: Discretionary Outlays, Security and Non-Security' on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in 216 Hart Senate Office Building.  Dr. Doug Elmendorf, Director, Congressional Budget Office, Washington DC, will testify."

This is the first public activity of the Joint Committee for many weeks.  Some of the previous hearings were available on the Joint Committee Web site.  It's not clear whether C-SPAN will have live coverage.

MORE:  CQ Reporter Richard Cohen on Deficit Committee (Washington Journal): video from C-SPAN.  This is a good discussion.  If you have time, give it a listen.

Medicare: In the Crosshairs

"[Herman] Cain’s plan ends several of the current taxes that help fund federal government programs, including the payroll tax that finances Social Security -- one of the most popular government programs there is.  That would seem like a political loser, given that Americans of all political stripes oppose cuts to the program."

"But Sunday, Steve Forbes, a former presidential candidate and long-time proponent of the flat tax, praised Cain’s 999 plan specifically for not funding Social Security and Medicare in an editorial published in the New York Post:  'The Cain plan would rid us of not only the federal income tax, but also the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes.'"

Some people -- especially if they are privileged -- just do not get it.  Will they ever?  While many wealthy people are generous and understand that we all are in this together, many others are too selfish or too self absorbed to know or to care.  Will they ever change?

Republican Reality-Free Zone

The Republican Politics-Before-Patriotism Zone


Monday, October 24, 2011

Health Reform & Medicare Cuts, Seniors Speak Out

Cutting Medicare

"For all the chatter about how politicians have to buckle down and get serious about reining in Medicare, you might have missed this development: Last year's health reform bill cut $500 billion out of two big Medicare programs over a decade, while increasing the number of high-income retirees who have to pay larger Part B premiums."

"To be sure, health reform wasn't a let's-shrink-the-government project.  The reason Democrats got their hands grimy and made cuts to the program was to help pay for a new health care entitlement, making it easier for Americans under 65 to buy their own insurance.  Still, the new law shows that liberal lawmakers will slice into Medicare if needed, and offers a glimpse into how they'll try to do it."

Senior Protest

"Senior citizens clad in flapping hospital johnnies and hoisting signs reading 'Keep seniors covered' took the streets of downtown Boston to protest the proposed increase in the eligibility age for Medicare.  'Nobody’s giving us anything,' said Ann Stewart, 87, a Medicare recipient and president of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council.  'This is our money.'  Stewart and other speakers said seniors have already paid for access to the federal health insurance program throughout their working lives."

Ms. Stewart makes just the point we -- and others -- have made over and over: these "entitlements" (as if that were a bad name) are pre-paid public benefits.  These benefits have been earned and paid for with hard work and payroll taxes.  They are not gifts from the government.

Rehash of Old Ideas

Didn't TMDR just say we needed new, fresh ideas to address our fiscal and other problems?  Didn't we just worry that the Congressional Committees' ideas would be inadequate?  "The supercommittee asked for a few good deficit-cutting ideas from around Washington.  Here’s what it got: tens of thousands of recommendations that were culled from the legislative recycling bin, cloaked in fresh wrapping paper and regifted.  Washington, perhaps not surprisingly, is the wrong place to shop for fresh policy ideas."

Once again, no surprise here.  Same old safe (and inadequate) ideas.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, October 21, 2011

NCPSSM Urges Joint Committee to Protect Medicare, NCPSSM: Social Security Reality Check, Joint Committee "Progress"

NCPSSM Takes the Lead

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has released its letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.  In it, they urge the Joint Committee to fully consider the importance of Medicare to America's seniors.

"To summarize, our nation does not have a Medicare spending problem, it has a health care cost growth crisis.  Cutting Medicare alone shifts costs to a segment of the population least able to bear it, and will ultimately result in access issues as seniors find health care increasingly unaffordable.  Finding additional methods for slowing cost growth system-wide will not only help the economy as workers and their employers need to invest fewer resources to cover rapidly escalating health care costs, but will ultimately slow the growth of Medicare and other federal health programs as well."

This is a very informative letter, and I recommend it to you.  I also recommend that YOU contact the Joint Committee and inform them directly of your thinking.  It's easy.  Simply go to the Joint Committee Web site.  Click on "Write to us Today."  It's an opportunity you should not miss.  Lifft your voice, exercise your right to free speech.

Also From NCPSSM

Citing a recent letter from Social Security's Chief Actuary, NCPSSM notes that "The [Social Security] analysis highlights that there is virtually no way for the panel [Joint Select Committee] to use Social Security cuts to meet its target without harming current beneficiaries."

"One of the most cynical approaches used by those who’ve been advocating Social Security benefit cuts for decades has been to argue that as long as we don’t touch current retirees’ benefits (ie, [sic] protect the politically active senior voter) slashing Social Security would be an easier sell politically.  Problem is … that view may sound good tossed around in a think-tank boardroom but it just doesn’t wash out in the real world."

No Progress from the Joint Committee

"With a Thanksgiving deadline fast approaching, a powerful congressional panel devoted to debt reduction is running in rhetorical circles, unable to break the impasse over taxes that has long blocked aggressive action to tame the national debt.  Though the committee’s 12 members have been meeting for nearly two months in closed-door sessions, lawmakers, aides and others involved in the process say they have yet to reach consensus on the most basic elements of a plan to restrain government borrowing."

Clearly, this group is not "progressive."  They eschew progress.
The Republican Politics-Before-Patriotism Zone


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don't Pass Costs on to Medicare Beneficiaries, Medicare Under Romney, Republicans Debate Again

NCPSSM Stands Up to AHA

"The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, on behalf of its 3 million members and supporters nationwide, has urged the American Hospital Association to reconsider its support of raising Medicare’s eligibility age."  They say that "passing costs to seniors to avoid provider cuts isn't the answer."

Of course, we agree.  It's unfair to Medicare beneficiaries -- and ultimately unfair to providers also -- to change eligibility, add out-of-pocket costs, etc.  We need a longer-term solution which recognizes the essential needs of the aged and disabled, not only as beneficiaries of Medicare but also as patients.  It's time that advocates for the aged and disabled and advocates for health care providers UNITED to sensibly address the problems without blaming or taking from the other.

Romney and Medicare

Romney's proposal for Medicare:  "His proposal for Medicare, which he and other Republicans have nodded at in the past, would mimic the GOP budget plan.  It would provide future seniors vouchers to buy private insurance, while at the same time preserving traditional Medicare as an option.  This type of approach has been adopted by one independent fiscal commission this year (the Domenici-Rivlin proposal), but it dates back to the 1990s when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich embraced it as a way to put traditional Medicare on the path to extinction -- or as he put it to 'wither on the vine and die.' [emphasis added]"

Although Mr. Romney himself might not be thinking of repealing Medicare, the leaders of the Republican party and their Conservative friends sure are.  A Romney Presidency would mean that those forces would have greater opportunities to end Medicare.

More:  Romney Offers More Details On Medicare Plan: ‘We’re Going To Give People Vouchers’.  "Romney’s one modification [to the Ryan plan] -- maintaining traditional Medicare as an option -- is significant but also problematic.  Analysts who have studied similar plans, argue that younger and healthier beneficiaries would be encouraged to leave the traditional program for managed care, creating a severe adverse selection spiral for seniors who remain in traditional Medicare."

Republicans Debate Health Care

Oh, was there YET ANOTHER Republican debate last night?  Ho hum.  "Former Governor Mitt Romney came under attack for his health care overhaul in Massachusetts during the last half of the first segment of Tuesday night's CNN debate.  It was by far the toughest questioning he's faced from his fellow candidates during any of the nine debates that have occurred so far."

For Your Information

"Chart: ‘Huge’ Majorities Support Millionaire’s SurtaxA new poll out today from the National Journal shows that 59 percent of Americans agree with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  Moreover, Americans support a surtax on millionaires -- something Democrats have proposed to pay for a jobs bill -- 'by a huge 68 - 27 margin.  These findings are consistent with several other polls on the 99 Percent Movement and those on raising taxes on the wealthy.  As this chart demonstrates, Republicans are the only group which opposes the surtax."

 The data are not surprising.  It's heartening that people are paying attention.  There's hope for America.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone

Herman Cain Blames The Unemployed, GOP Debate Audience Cheers -- Herman Cain says, "Don't blame Wall Street.  Don't blame the big banks.  If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself."


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Moderate Republican Supports Medicare, Progressive Medicare

Olympia Snowe Likes Medicare

"Sen. Olympia Snowe, the most moderate Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, parted ways with her GOP colleagues over their calls for tighter Medicare eligibility and Medicaid block grants, according to aides.  Snowe was one of two GOP committee members who didn’t sign onto the Finance Committee Republican recommendations to the deficit supercommittee.  The other was Jon Kyl of Arizona, and his absence was less notable because he’s a member of the debt panel."

"It was Snowe’s concerns over the potential for block grants, stricter Medicare enrollment requirements and possibility for cuts to Social Security benefits -- and not the threat of repealing the reform law -- that precluded her from signing onto the committee’s proposals."

It's always nice to see someone break with the lockstep expectations of any political party.  It's not clear, however, if this was an act of conscience or simply an act of survival.  Either way, we appreciate her support -- such as it is.

Medicare Advocate Speaks Out

"Many of us wondered when it would happen, what it would take to ignite a national outcry against those that are destroying the American Dream for millions for their own selfish gain.  When would that magical tipping point occur when thousands, millions of those voiceless, 'ordinary' Americans would come together to take back our country?  That revolution has begun."

Advocate Pearl Korn of Improved Medicare For All successfully taps the frustration we all are feeling.  Hers is a rational and impassioned discussion, contrary to the increasingly shrill outcries we are hearing from all sides.  The pressure and volume is mounting already, for a Presidential election of potentially epic proportions.

The Republican Cozy-Up Zone

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Possible Cuts, Being Progressive, Affordable Long Term Care

Automatic Cuts

Discussion from Kaiser Health News: "Many Health Programs Face Sharp Automatic Cuts If Super Committee Deadlocks."  "Federal funding for medical research, disease prevention and a host of public health initiatives could be sharply reduced if the congressional super committee fails to agree on a deficit-reduction package, triggering automatic cuts.  Public attention has largely focused on possible cuts to the huge entitlement programs for seniors and the poor, Medicare and Medicaid, but health advocates are raising an alarm about many other smaller programs they say need to be protected."

No doubt about it.  Health and human services, the military, law enforcement, and many other government services face budget problems and serious consequences.

Useful Perspective

The Rise of the Regressive Right and the Reawakening of America from Robert Reich.  "A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward.  We are going to battle once again.  Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity, and tolerance."

"Progressives assume we're all in it together: We all benefit from public investments in schools and health care and infrastructure.  And we all do better with strong safety nets, reasonable constraints on Wall Street and big business, and a truly progressive tax system.  Progressives worry when the rich and privileged become powerful enough to undermine democracy.  Regressives take the opposite positions."

"Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern.  Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward.  Sometimes it takes an economic shock like the bursting of a giant speculative bubble; sometimes we just reach a tipping point where the frustrations of average Americans turn into action."

Read this and understand why I say that Medicare and Social Security are the targets of destruction.  You may find this helpful in clarifying your thinking about pre-paid public benefits, the role of government, and whether there is hope.

Long Term Care Loss

"The Obama Administration is pulling the plug on CLASS, the long-term insurance program within the Affordable Care Act.  The announcement came late Friday, most likely because administration officials hoped to bury the news.  They did not succeed, as Republicans and their supporters were all over it."  Read "A Setback for Obamacare? Or Vindication? How About Both" for an interesting and informative discussion about long term care.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Monday, October 17, 2011

Joint Committee Ideas, Medical Practice Fails Medicare

Advice for the Joint Committee

"Congress flooded its supercommittee with a jumble of advice Thursday about taming the government's out-of-control debt, with top agriculture lawmakers readying a bipartisan plan to pare food and farm aid while others urged an aggressive hunt for savings coupled with warnings against cutting cherished programs.  Most of the suggestions came from Democrats on 16 Republican-run House committees who sent letters to the special debt-cutting panel.  Generally, their advice was to create jobs, raise revenue and avoid damaging cuts to public works, health care and other programs they said are crucial to an economic recovery."

None of this is very startling or revealing.  It seems that many of the same old ideas keep coming up.  Makes one wonder if they're played out -- or if something more is going on behind the scenes.  I believe -- number one -- that our pre-paid public benefits must be protected.  At the same time, I'd like to see some new and creative ideas for doing so.

Whose Failure?  Medical Practice or Medicare?

Opinion: How Medicare Fails the Elderly -- "HERE is the dirty little secret of health care in America for the elderly, the one group we all assume has universal coverage thanks to the 1965 Medicare law: what Medicare paid for then is no longer what recipients need or want today.  No one then envisioned the stunning advances in medicine that now keep people alive into advanced old age, often with unintended and unwelcome consequences.  Indeed, scientific reports have showed the dangers, not merely the pointlessness and expense, of much of the care Medicare is providing."

While I agree with some of the author's points, I need to say that everyone can find a few things with Medicare that need to be fixed.  These are important, but not always consequential, in the bigger scheme.  When we look at issues in delivery of care, it's important to fully understand that the real problem is the practice of medicine not the content of Medicare.  Medicare makes options and choices available; it offers coverage that people might need.  It's up to physicians and other health care practitioners -- along with patients and families -- to determine the best use of the available coverage.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, October 14, 2011

Update on the Joint Committee - and Advice for Them, Medigap Under Attack

Serious Considerations By the Joint Committee

Update on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction: From Kaiser Health News -- What Is The Super Committee Doing? Advocates Elbow Lawmakers On Cuts.  "Jackie Judd talks with KHN's Mary Agnes Carey about the latest in talks around the 'super committee's' efforts to cut the deficit.  Advocates and lawmakers are busy whispering what health programs should be shielded from cuts and which should be on the chopping block."

Serious Advice for the Joint Committee

"Kaiser Health News asked Henry J. Aaron of The Brookings Institution, Nina Owcharenko from The Heritage Foundation and Third Way's David Kendall what they view as the most substantive issue or challenge facing this panel, and what advice they might offer -- specifically in regard to health care entitlement programs -- to tackle it."

As usual, thoughtful and provoking information, analysis, and opinion.  Strongly recommended reading.

Destroying Medigap To Save Medicare?

"Nearly one in five Medicare beneficiaries rely on Medicare Supplemental insurance policies (Medigap) to fill in the gaps of some of their Medicare coverage."  "Among the proposals raised to achieve savings for Medicare as part of ongoing debt and deficit reduction talks, some policy-makers have suggested changing the way Medigap policies are structured.  Under the assumption that charging beneficiaries more upfront will deter them from using unnecessary medical care, these proposals seek to increase Medigap deductibles and other cost-sharing."

The aged need Medigap coverage that actually helps THEM.  There are numerous other ways to address legitimate budget issues.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Save the Doctors, High Health Care Costs May Bring Cooperation, Lies About the Economy and Medicare, Medicare HMOs Improve

Joint Committee Handing Out Money to Physicians?

"The congressional 'super committee' charged with reducing U.S. budget deficits is considering tackling a measure that could make their job even harder by preventing a steep pay cut for Medicare doctors.  The bipartisan panel that has been tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over 10 years has a 'strong interest' in taking up the doctor payment issue, sources familiar with panel discussions said on Wednesday.  But doing so would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and thus complicate deficit-reduction work."

I guess the lobbyists have been working a lot harder -- and making a whole lot more money -- than you and I.  However, we do need to understand that reductions to physician reimbursements could create access problems for the aged and disabled -- even long-scheduled reductions.  Any change should be well thought through -- as if that were possible today.

Joint Committee Facing Health Care Costs

"To succeed, the so-called 'super committee' will need all of its super powers, and then some.  To get a deal on reducing the deficit, it must leap across the chasm between the GOP stance of spending-cuts only and Democrats' insistence that revenue must be part of any deal in a single bound.  And, to get it done by Thanksgiving, it will have to move faster than a speeding bullet."

"However, one issue that's typically kryptonite in budget talks may provide the committee with a chance to save the day.  The rising cost of health care is squeezing the federal budget, making it a common enemy."

There may be opportunities to make serious progress to confront rising health care costs.  However, the economic and medical needs of our most vulnerable citizens -- the aged and the disabled -- must first and foremost be addressed.

The 7 Biggest Economic Lies

Here are some of the economic lies that affect the way people think and vote.  All are worthy of understanding, but here is a very quick summary.  Pay close attention to Lie #5 (Medicare and Medicaid Are Killing the Budget) and Lie #6 (Social Security Is a Ponzi Scheme).  It's worth 4:24 of your time.

Medicare HMOs Rewarded

"Nine Medicare Advantage plans scored top marks on the five-star government rating system for 2012, up from only three plans this year, according to new figures posted by Medicare Wednesday.  That's a small share of the 569 private Medicare plans, but it’s a laurel much of the industry is now chasing.  For the first time, Medicare plans will get big cash bonuses for higher scores, a new reward created by the 2010 federal health law. [emphasis added]"

"The star ratings are part of a push by the Obama administration to increase the quality of care provided by private plans that contract with Medicare.  The ratings are based on 36 measures, ranging from rates of hospital readmissions to the volume of consumer complaints a plan gets."

Many parts of Health Reform are beginning to pay off.  More savings, and rewards, will come in the future.

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Poll: Tax Wealthy - Save Medicare, Joint Select Secrecy, Romney & Social Security

People Protecting Medicare

Polls continue to support Medicare and higher taxes for the wealthy.  "More than half of Republicans say wealthier Americans should pay more in taxes to bring down the federal budget deficit.  Fifty-three percent of self-identified Republicans back an increase in taxes on households making more than $250,000, a sentiment at odds with the party’s presidential candidates."  "More than two-thirds of all Americans back higher taxes on the rich and even larger numbers think Medicare and Social Security benefits should be left alone, according to a Bloomberg-Washington Post national poll conducted Oct. 6-9."

Looks like "ordinary citizens" really can think for themselves.  However, will those who think they are Republicans actually break from "their" party and vote for what the truly believe?

Also see -- "Washington Post/Bloomberg poll: Even GOP majorities say tax rich, protect Social Security, Medicare" which includes this chart (from Mother Jones) of what the top ONE PERCENT make:

Shsssh - Committee Working, Maybe

"On one crucial point, a powerful Congressional committee seeking ways to reduce the federal budget deficit has managed to produce a rare bipartisan consensus: Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives in and out of Congress say the panel is doing too much of its work in secret."  "Far from apologizing for their secrecy, members of the committee say it shows they are making progress toward a possible agreement, establishing trust among themselves without public posturing or partisan sniping."

Of course, just the other day, everyone was reporting no progress at all.

Romney No Friend to Social Security

"No matter how fatigued the rest of the country is with the endless Republican debate schedule, Mitt Romney must be looking forward to tonight’s face-off in New Hampshire.  Despite reports that he is losing ground in some states to Herman Cain and others, Romney knows he has nothing to fear in New Hampshire.  Pundits expect him to continue his above-the-fray act while letting his challengers duke it out for King-of-the-Right-Wing.  That the media has latched onto this narrative so tightly is disappointing, since even a glance at the candidates’ records shows them often to be apples from the same tree, differing more in rhetoric than actual substance. Case in point: Social Security."

We've said it before -- beware.

For Your Information

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is working to do just that -- preserve Social Security and Medicare.  Check their “Hands Off –No Cuts Campaign.”

Also FYI:  I check the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Web site every day.  No new information since September 13.

Is This Worthy of Support by Seniors or a Senior Organization?

Every now and again, I check the home page of the ultra-Conservative 60-Plus Association.  Here's what I found today:  "Seniors Group Recognizes Economic Benefits of Keystone XL Pipeline - 60 Plus Chairman supports $7 billion private sector TransCanada project."  As someone who worked in gerontology and aging services for decades, I am appalled that this group sees even a tenuous connection between a Trans-Canada oil pipeline and the needs of older Americans.  Get real.  More.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Joint Committee Stalemate, Obama Cares

I think things will be quiet for a while -- until the Joint Committee goes public or the Conservative Republicans decide to stir things up with unfounded, essentially irrational statements about Medicare.  Even if it is quiet, TMDR will let you know what (little) is going on.

No Progress to Report After Secret Talks

"After weeks of secret meetings, the 12-member deficit-cutting panel established under last summer's budget and debt deal appears no closer to a breakthrough than when talks began last month.  ...  The reason?  A familiar deadlock over taxes and cuts to major programs like Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.  Democrats won't go for an agreement that doesn't include lots of new tax revenue; Republicans are just as ardently anti-tax."

Well, some people -- including me -- think just about nothing will come of the work of the Joint Committee.  In fact, I'm among those who think no action by them, which will result in the imposition of the pre-determined cuts, is a better alternative for Medicare.

Obama Likes ObamaCare

"President Obama is embracing the term 'ObamaCare' on the campaign stump, attempting to turn the tables on critics who use it in a derogatory way.  'They call it ObamaCare?' the president told supporters at a St. Louis fundraiser Tuesday evening.  'I do care!  You should care, too.'"

For Your Information -- Dysfunctional Governance

"Congress has always been Washington's whipping boy, particularly near election time.  ...  That's not news.  What is news is that this time it's starting to scare the pros.  The GOP's hyper-partisan turn after Barack Obama's victory in 2008 meant 112th Congress was destined to test the limits of dysfunctional governance.  But it also happened to coincide with a moment in history when the country needed the government to do better than the bare minimum.  Instead, it's done less.  And that's shaken people who've spent their careers steering the ship of state."


Monday, October 10, 2011

Fighting for Medicare, New Deal a Bad Deal?

Good to be back.  Here's a short TMDR for Columbus Day.

From the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

"The National Committee's new online video is part of the first wave of actions in the newly launched multi-million dollar "Hands Off -No Cuts" campaign -- a coast-to-coast effort combining grassroots mobilization, advertising and social media to stop the Congressional Super Committee from proposing cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs which are vital to millions of middle-class Americans.  The ad highlights a new bipartisan poll that shows 82% of Democrats, 73% of Independents and 58% of Republicans are united in opposition to benefit cuts to reduce the deficit."

Of course, Medicare and Social Security are our most effective pre-paid public benefits.  If either were a failure, it would have been altered (as they have been from time to time) or scrapped long ago.  Each is extremely successful and popular -- with good reason.

New Deal Under Attack

"The New Deal has been targeted by conservative politicians for decades.  But no one in recent memory has placed an attack on the New Deal at the forefront of a political campaign as assiduously as Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  Perry has famously labeled Social Security a 'monstrous lie.'  Perhaps less well known is that a much broader attack on the New Deal lies at the core of his book/political manifesto 'Fed Up!'"  Read more of this Washington Post editorial.

No matter that every major, reputable poll ranks President Franklin D. Roosevelt as among the top three US Presidents: Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States.  (It's hard to beat George Washington, but FDR sometimes does.)  Overall, considering all the rankings, only Abraham Lincoln ranks better than FDR.  Mr. Perry apparently thinks he's a better judge of these matters than academic historians and political scientists.  Certainly, he has his own strong opinion.

For Your Information

Special Edition:  The Republican Reality-Free Zone

[I just have to quote you a little of this one.]  "Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich just completed one of the most radical speeches ever delivered by a presidential candidate on the judiciary.  Gingrich’s speech calls for a radical reshaping of our constitutional democracy, eliminating the judiciary’s power to make binding constitutional decisions.  He promises to openly defy Supreme Court decisions he disagrees with, and pledges to intimidate judges who dare to part ways with the Constitution According To Newt."

So much for the Oath of Office of the President of the United States:  "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."  (Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight)  Kind of makes you think.  Kind of makes you wonder.  What in the world is going on here?

FYI:  From the same source:  ”The Vice President also has an oath of office, but it is not mandated by the Constitution and is prescribed by statute.  Currently, the Vice Presidential oath is the same as that for Members of Congress [emphasis added].  I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God."

More: The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quiet Friday - Quiet Weekend

TMDR is taking the rest of the week off for a brief vacation.  We'll see you back here next Monday.

McCaskill Supports Seniors

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) shares her views about Medicare and Social Security:  "I never need to go far if I need a reminder of how important Medicare and Social Security are to Missouri's seniors.  My mom, Betty Anne, is one of millions for whom these services provide a reliable safety net.  Across the country, these protections are an integral part of sustaining millions of seniors' health and dignity.  Unfortunately, some misguided politicians in Washington don't understand the value of these protections."

Something to Remember

"President Obama has enjoyed a string of marquee victories against terrorist networks, but voters' concerns about the economy are obscuring what would have been significant political wins just a few years ago."  "The threat of terrorism has clearly been eclipsed by growing worries about the economy. That change in political dynamics represents both a remarkable change in the perceptions of the national parties and a bittersweet problem for a president facing reelection."

If You're interested in Learning More

From the National Academy of Social Insurance:  Medicare.

From the Medicare Rights Center:  Medicare Answers.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone