Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Oregon To Vote On Extreme Views, Medicare: The Issue of 2012, How To Pay For Social Security

Oregon Vote - National Test

"[Today] is the deadline for residents of Oregon’s first congressional district to vote in a special election for U.S. Representative -- and the Republican nominee in that race holds some rather extreme views."  "The Republicans selected unsuccessful 2010 nominee Rob Cornilles, a strategic consultant for sports-industry executives.  He supports partial privatization of Social Security, would cut Social Security and Medicare to avoid any defense cuts, and has called himself 'the original Tea Party candidate.'"

MORE:  Oregon Race Previews Medicare as Sleeper Issue in Campaign -- "The two political parties are test- marketing their strategies for the presidential campaign and congressional races in a special election in Oregon.  Republican candidate Rob Cornilles in ads is accusing Democrat Suzanne Bonamici of seeking to cut Medicare benefits for seniors because she supports President Barack Obama’s 2010 health law.  The Democratic campaign arm has linked Cornilles with a plan by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, to create Medicare vouchers that passed the U.S. House last April."  An interesting article.  Take a look.

Medicare 2012

"House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) controversial Medicare proposal could be a key issue during congressional races this year as Democrats seek to regain control of the House."  "Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Medicare will be 'a defining issue in the 2012 elections.'  He said he is advising candidates to 'make sure that at every opportunity you mention the following three issues in alphabetical order and in order of priority, Medicare, 1; Medicare, 2; and Medicare, 3.'"

MORE:  "In the last few days, three mainstream news outlets elevated 'Medicare: The Political Story' into the headlines.  It was good to see that The New York Times, PBS’s Need To Know, and Reuters, all of which reach large audiences, have realized Medicare may be the most important health story of the campaign.  (Yes, perhaps more important than the Supreme Court’s ruling on the individual mandate.)  During the 2008 campaign, ... the candidates ignored Medicare.  It was not a winning issue, their advisers advised.  This year is different.  Both the GOP and the Dems see Medicare as political hay."

Social Security Financing

From NCPSSM:  "Talking about Social Security financing in a way that the average person can truly understand is a challenge.  Yet given the constant -- and often purposeful -- misinformation provided by those who hope to undermine the program, it’s a challenge we all must undertake because as FDR said 'Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.'"

More Extreme Republican Chatter

"Last week, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) announced he would take revenge for President Obama’s decision to make four recess appointments by engaging in a scorched earth campaign of obstruction against the president’s nominees."  Among his views, "Lee claimed that any federal program that provides health care or a retirement plan also violates the Constitution."

Tax Deal In The Works

"Top Republican lawmakers on Sunday said they expect to forge a deal with Democrats to extend the payroll tax cut before it expires at the end of February but offered no specifics on how they would pay for it.  'I'm confident that we'll be able to resolve this fairly quickly,' top congressional Republican John Boehner said."

For Your Information

When the President talked about tax rates and mentioned people "just like me," I wondered: How much does the President pay?  What is his tax rate?  "If Mitt Romney wins the GOP Presidential primary, his exceptionally low tax rate promises to loom large in the general election.  As you can see from this chart, it really takes a special kind of wealthy person to reduce tax liability so dramatically."


Monday, January 30, 2012

SOTU & Medicare, Romney Medicare Fraud Follows Him, Election Year Readies, Santorum Attacks Romney, Right Wing Media

Address Shuns Medicare

As we've already noted, President Obama had little to say about Medicare (or health care) in his State of the Union Address.  Naturally, we weren't the only ones to notice.

From Kaiser Health News:  "KHN's Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about President Obama's State of the Union speech.  Obama talked little about health care, reflecting maybe the hard sell they're having getting the public to buy into the health law's benefits. Republicans talked about reforming Medicare in their response."  [transcript and audio]

Follow Up: Romney Medicare Fraud

The problems created by Mr. Romney's ties to a company involved in Medicare fraud are dogging him and intensifying.  Sometimes an issue or concern which is not terribly startling or notable somehow captures people's imaginations or begins to look like a serious problem.  Like a pack mentality, they attack.  Will that happen in this case?

November Elections in Focus

"A Republican plan to remake Medicare, set forth in a budget blueprint devised by Representative Paul D. Ryan, has largely faded from public view.  But it is about to come back in a big way as Democrats try to win control of the House by battering Republicans over Medicare in Congressional races around the country."  "The fights suggest that Medicare will be a perennial point of contention in politics in the coming decade, as the number of beneficiaries is projected to grow by one-third, to 65 million."

"From Florida to the Midwest to the Southwest and the Pacific Coast, Democrats are urging voters to oust Republicans who supported the Ryan proposal, which they say would gut the guarantee of health benefits for older Americans."

Santorum: Romney Wrong Man For GOP On Health Care

More from Kaiser Health News:  "Health care, especially the individual mandate, was the focus of a tense and angry exchange in Thursday night's last debate before the crucial GOP Florida primary. In answering a question from the audience, all four candidates -- Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum -- had sharp words as they tried to claim they were the right candidate on this crucial election issue.  Moderator Wolf Blitzer tried to contain the discussion, but Santorum pursued Romney doggedly."

Transcript and video.  Well done, Kaiser Health News.

Shameless Conservative Lies

"One benefit of the prolonged campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has been the revelation that most of the 20 or 30 percent of Americans who describe themselves as conservatives live in a fantasy world.  In their imaginations, Barack Obama, a centrist Democrat with roots in Eisenhower Republicanism rather than Rooseveltian liberalism, is a radical figure trying to take America down the path of 'European socialism.'"

"How can otherwise sane people believe such lunacy?  The answer is that members of the right-wing counterculture are brainwashed -- that is the only appropriate term -- by  the apocalyptic propaganda ground out constantly by the conservative media establishment."

Somewhat entertaining but very relevant discussion about how the right wing media still are fighting against Social Security and Medicare -- a war lost long ago, but a battle they still seek to wage.  (How can anyone be so destructive of the middle class?)  The Conservative media's "intellectually dishonest maneuvers" clearly show that they don't care about the facts.  I have a Conservative friend who used to send me lots of that crazy anti-Clinton email -- sometimes a few a day.  I finally said to him, "Hey, if you want to have an honest discussion on the facts, OK.  But, if you just want to lie because you don't care about a rational decision, don't bother me."  We're still friends, and he doesn't send crap to me anymore.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, January 27, 2012

Supreme Health Care Decision, Florida GOP Downplays Medicare, Tavenner on Top, Biden on GOP Plans

Supreme Court Bias Expected

From Kaiser Health News:  "With the Supreme Court just two months away from hearing a historic legal challenge to the 2010 health law, nearly 60 percent of the public expects the justices to depend more on personal ideology than a legal analysis of the individual mandate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's January health tracking poll."

"Just 28 percent of those surveyed believe the justices will base their decision on the mandate without regard to politics and ideology, according to the survey.  The poll also asked about general views of the Supreme Court and found three quarters of the public believe that justices sometimes let their ideological views influence their decisions.  Seventeen percent of those surveyed say justices usually decide cases based on legal analysis."

Medicare Concerns Secondary to Florida Republicans Says Chairman

"Though [Leonard] Curry [chairman of the Republican Party of Florida] acknowledges that other issues like Medicare and Social Security are important for Florida voters, he said they are secondary to the economy.  But others are not so sure."

"Victoria Funes, associate director of the American Association of Retired Persons in South Florida, said the large percentage of older voters in the state put emphasis on traditional senior issues.  'We know that Social Security and Medicare are very important to Florida Republicans,' said Funes. 'They oppose any kind of cuts.'  She pointed to a survey conducted by the AARP in November that showed that likely Republican voters oppose cutting the entitlement programs by more than two to one."

Medicare Chief In The Money

"President Obama’s nominee to run the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid agency can count on receiving more than $160,000 a year in retirement pay for the rest of her life from the country’s largest private hospital chain, records show.  Marilyn Tavenner, a former executive at Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), was nominated in November to be administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency at the heart of Mr. Obama’s health care initiative.  She disclosed the arrangement with her old employer in a newly filed government ethics form."


Remember to visit "2012 Campaign Watch" from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Biden on GOP Plans

"Republican presidential hopefuls are blatantly focused on advancing economic policies that favor the wealthy over most Americans, giving voters in the 2012 election a clear choice, Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday.  Biden told reporters there's no discussion in the Republican campaign about compassionate conservatism, or wanting to save Medicare or education as in past campaigns.  'The reason I think this race is going to be so clear is that for the first time in my career, Republicans aren't hiding the ball,' he said.  'They're putting forward a political philosophy that is absolutely straight-forward...  The way it's going to work is to not only keep the tax cuts for the wealthy but increase tax cuts for the wealthy, and the way to move forward is to deregulate Wall Street.'"

For Your Information


Thursday, January 26, 2012

NCPSSM Raises Concerns, Progress on the Doc Fix, Middle Class Defense, Reality-Free Politics

Worry About Medicare and Social Security . . . and Something New From NCPSSM

From NCPSSM:  "Only time will tell whether the 'reforms' President Obama offered up again in last night’s State of the Union are the standard Washington formulation of reforms = benefit cuts for seniors or something more meaningful."

NCPSSM President/CEO Max Richtman says, "We share President Obama’s belief that we must rebuild our economy in a way that rewards Americans’ hard work and re-instills fairness into an economic system that too often rewards the rich and punishes everyone else.  Ironically, these core American values of hard work, fairness and compassion are also the tenets of the programs most often targeted by Washington for cuts -- Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  If offering more reforms leads to benefit cuts for seniors in these vital programs then seniors program will once again become a bargaining chip traded in exchange for tax breaks millionaires don’t need in the first place."

Once again, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is standing up for people who will need Social Security and Medicare the most -- the middle class.  Please occasionally check their blog: "Entitled to Know."  Or -- better yet -- visit and bookmark their new site "2012 Campaign Watch."  Of great interest, "What the Candidates Are Saying" reports what the candidates claim and then discloses the facts.  Give it a look!

GOP Might Support Doc Fix

"House Republicans are coming around to the Democrats’ plan for permanently ending the Medicare 'doc fix' problem -- a $300 billion and growing albatross around the nation’s neck that virtually everybody believes needs to be fixed.  The option is now on the table, key Republicans tell TPM, just one month after some of those same lawmakers dismissed it as a senseless Washington gimmick.  Last fall Democrats began pushing the idea to pay for a full repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula with war savings from troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Republicans didn’t much care for it, but Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) hopped on board during the Super Committee negotiations, and has since been working behind the scenes to win GOP support."

MORE:  Pay for SGR Repeal With War Savings, Says Organized Medicine  "The American Medical Association (AMA) and 109 other medical societies are urging Congress to use a peace dividend from military pullbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan to underwrite the massive cost of repealing Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for setting physician reimbursement."

Dems Defend Middle Class

"Senate Democrats are preparing an aggressive legislative agenda to complement the vision President Obama outlined in his State of the Union Address.  The goal is to test the idea that the public supports an agenda of aggressive federal action on behalf of the middle class, and that Republicans are locked in a pattern of reactionary opposition, even to popular policies."  "'We intend to test this theory out by pursuing major chunks of the President’s middle class agenda.  We’re going to push serious proposals to help create middle class jobs.  We’re going to defend Medicare.  And we will pursue tax reform that makes sense for the middle class,' [Sen. Chuck] Schumer [NY] said."

Hard to believe that the Republicans already haven't done enough on their own to get on the wrong side of the middle class.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone

More Reality-Free Politics

"60 Plus Chairman Jim Martin, leader of the nation’s largest conservative seniors organization with over 7.1 million supporters, released the following statement in response to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) comment that ObamaCare was helping restrain health care costs and 'fix' Medicare:  'Are Democrats hallucinating, or have they just gone blind, as there is nothing in President Obama’s health care law that constrains the cost of health care.  The mounting body of evidence in fact proves just the opposite, that Obama’s health care bill is escalating costs, and undermining Medicare as an affordable program for America’s elderly.'"

Whoa.   Enough anger and misleading remarks that we could ask, "Really, who's hallucinating?"


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union, Health Care in the GOP Debate, Romney Health Care Repeal, Santorum Medicare Logic

State of the Union

President Obama only briefly mentioned Medicare and Social Security in his State of the Union Address last night.  He seemed, however, to offer them as bargaining chips in the vast political arena.  It appears that the possible concessions, perhaps the very same ones the President has offered before, would not necessarily be optimal for the aged and disabled -- or the middle class.  It's difficult to read these words as anything but troubling.

"The American people know what the right choice is.  So do I.  As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors."

GOP: Health Care in the Debate

From Kaiser Health News:  "Health care came up in a variety of ways in Monday's debate in Tampa, sponsored by NBC, National Journal and the Tampa Bay Times.  Mitt Romney accused Newt Gingrich of influence-peddling on Medicare and also defended the Massachusetts health care reform.  Rick Santorum tried to distinguish himself from both men, claiming their support of the individual mandate in the past undermines their conservative credentials.  And he defended his behavior during the 1995 controversy about Terri Schiavo, who was in the center of a right-to-die dispute."  (Video and transcript)

Romney Cannot Repeal Health Care Reform

"Mitt Romney has been running around the country trying to convince Republican voters that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act on 'day one.'  'Now, there are some programs I just don’t like and would be easy to eliminate like Obamacare,' Romney told a town hall audience in Exeter, New Hampshire this past November.  'And that saves about $90 billion, Obamacare alone, by 2016.'  But this morning, Romney backer and former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) threw cold water on Romney’s claim and 'predicted the GOP won’t repeal the Democrats’ healthcare reform law even if a Republican candidate defeats President Obama this November.'"

Santorum Warns Seniors

"Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Monday warned Florida's seniors that the Democrats' health law would limit their access to doctors and dollars and criticized his main rivals for backing its requirement that younger Americans buy health insurance.  Santorum tried to draw a connection between Medicare and a key provision of the health care law, the so-called individual mandate, which doesn't affect older Americans because virtually all of them are already covered through the government program."


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gingrich and Private Social Security, President Can Promote Medicare, GOP Continues Anti-Medicare Attack

Gingrich: Social Security For Investment Companies

From NCPSSM:  "There are many reasons primary voters cast the ballots they do … unfortunately, a deep understanding of the candidates’ positions on important (and sometimes complex) policy issues isn’t always at the top of the list.  This often leads to 'buyers remorse' once voters actually get a good look at the nominees’ positions on issues that truly impact the average American.  Issues like Social Security for example."

"We weren’t in South Carolina doing exit polling but are still willing to bet most voters have virtually no idea what the former Speaker plans for Social Security.  Not only does he support privatization, he doubles down on the failed Bush plan, by promising the private investment companies who might someday control your Social Security contributions that the government will back them up if/when they lose your money."

Presidential Opportunity

"In his State of the Union address, President Obama has a compelling story to tell the country about the importance of health security to America's middle class and why we have to stop the Republican assault on Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The ACA is an extraordinary accomplishment and is already making a huge difference in people's lives by making health care more affordable for families and businesses and protecting consumers from insurance company abuses.  Along with Social Security, these bedrock programs are essential to ensuring that everyone in this country has a fair shot at achieving the American Dream."

"The president could use the speech to remind the nation that Medicare and Medicaid are the cornerstones of our health care system and provide equal opportunity for all.  We don't want a society that leaves people to fend for themselves when they fall ill.  Only if everyone has affordable health care can we have a vibrant middle class to power the world's leading economy."

Ryan Marches On

"Republicans in the House of Representatives will put forward a budget plan this year that will seek substantial reforms to health benefits for the elderly and make aggressive strides toward reducing deficits, a senior lawmaker said on Friday.  House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said he wanted his budget plan to offer voters an alternative vision to the 'cradle-to-grave welfare state' that he says Democratic President Barack Obama is promoting.  The House Republican budget resolution will contain reforms to Medicare, the healthcare program for Americans 62 and over, such as providing subsidies to help recipients pay for private insurance, based on their wealth and medical needs."

Follow Up


Monday, January 23, 2012

Romney's Medicare Fraud, Gingrich Avoided Medicare Contributions, GOP Medicare Options

Romney Aware of His Company's Medicare Fraud

"In 1989, Bain Capital purchased controlling interest in Damon Corp., a medical testing company located in Needham, Massachusetts.  During the time that Bain held its ownership of the company, Mitt Romney personally sat on the Board of Directors.  And during that same period, Damon Corp. was busy submitting fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare to the tune of millions of dollars charged for unnecessary blood tests."

"Inasmuch as neither Romney nor Bain was ever implicated in the fraud, it would be reasonable to conclude that while the illegal activity was going on under Mr. Romney’s nose, Romney would, himself, bear only some responsibility for perhaps not being as on top of things as one might hope for a company’s director to be.  But, according to Romney, such a conclusion would be wrong.  When Mitt Romney was confronted with the matter during his campaign to become the Governor of Massachusetts, Romney acknowledged that he did have some awareness of the funky things going on at Damon."

Mr. Romney apparently does not care where money comes from as long as it comes to him.  This may be the friendly, smiling face of greed.  Hold on to your wallet!

Gingrich Reduces His Medicare Payments

"Newt Gingrich avoided tens of thousands of Medicare payroll taxes in 2010 by using a technique the Internal Revenue Service has consistently and successfully attacked.  Republican Presidential candidate Gingrich and his wife, Callista, treated only $444,327 of what they got from Gingrich Holdings. Inc. and Gingrich Productions as compensation to them, while reporting a whopping $2.4 million of their earnings from these corporations as profits or dividends. Medicare taxes are levied at a rate of 2.9% on an unlimited amount of compensation and self-employment income (say, from a consulting contract, speeches or a book) but not on profits from a business."

An ego (and greed) at their worst.  I can hear him say, "So what if the IRS disputes what I do?  Just like those judges I don't agree with, I'll simply have them arrested and shut them down."

House Republicans Focus on Medicare

"Republicans in the House of Representatives will put forward a budget plan this year that will seek substantial reforms to health benefits for the elderly and make aggressive strides toward reducing deficits, a senior lawmaker said on Friday.  House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said he wanted his budget plan to offer voters an alternative vision to the 'cradle-to-grave welfare state' that he says Democratic President Barack Obama is promoting."

"Representative Tom Price, who heads the House Republican Policy Committee, said there was a lot of enthusiasm at the Baltimore retreat to tackle fundamental reform of 'automatic spending programs' such as Medicare and Social Security."

YIKES!  Now the buzz-phrase is "automatic spending programs?"  Give us a break.  They are pre-paid by the beneficiaries and managed more efficiently than the private sector partly because profits don't diminish the payback to beneficiaries.

MORE:  "House Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday his chamber would definitely pass a budget this year and signaled the GOP may pursue a bipartisan Medicare proposal in order to deflect Democratic attacks."

The "Wyden effect" -- the appearance of being bipartisan without the substance.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, January 20, 2012

Santorum Against Medicare, President Gets Good Medicare Marks, Medicare Cuts, No Easy Fix, Still Asking

Santorum Raps Medicare

"Rick Santorum continued to rail against Medicare during a stop in South Carolina this afternoon, pledging to reform the program by turning it over to private health insurers and 'free markets.'  'We have to look at how we’re spending our money,' Santorum explained, before awkwardly comparing the health care program to Mitt Romney’s signature law in Massachusetts.  'In the area of Medicare, it is incredibly inefficient.  The Medicare system is simply like Romneycare in Massachusetts  …  It will eventually mean that a lot of seniors aren’t going to get the care that they need.'"

Many, many erroneous statements about Medicare.  Broad accusations which are not backed up by the facts.  Shameful, but expected from a disgraced, former US Senator.

President Obama and Medicare

"President Obama opens his re-election bid facing significant obstacles among independent voters, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, with the critical piece of the electorate that cemented his victory four years ago open to denying him a second term."  "When asked whom they trust, the poll found that Mr. Obama has an advantage over Congressional Republicans in making the right decisions about creating jobs, health care, Medicare and Social Security.  Yet the gap narrows on the economy -- the chief concern among voters -- with 44 percent of Americans saying they trust Mr. Obama and 40 percent saying they trust Republicans in Congress."

GOP Ready To Cut Medicare

"Hospitals are reigniting a battle with House Republicans that grew bitter last month after the GOP pushed to offset its payroll tax cut package with deep cuts to hospital payments under Medicare.  The undercurrents of this fight are deepening fissures between hospitals and Republicans over the passage and future of the Affordable Care Act.  The American Hospital Association, the industry’s top lobbying group, on Friday issued an action alert -- provided to TPM by a source -- to its roughly 40,000 members, mobilizing them against some $14 billion in cuts pushed by the House GOP to hospital bad debt payments and outpatient services to help fund a longer payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and a two-year Medicare doc fix."

Difficult To Fix

From Kaiser Health News:  "If you were hoping for a quick resolution of the Medicare physician payment issue, think again.  The 'doc fix' issue is part of a broader and more complicated debate: how to finance an extension of the current payroll tax cut for the rest of the year and federal benefits for the long-term unemployed.  Both parties want to stop a scheduled 27 percent cut in Medicare physician payments but disagree over how to pay for it.  The current extension expires at the end of February."

I'm Still Asking . . .

What is a so-called senior organization doing meddling in Conservative political issues like the Keystone Pipeline and Internet policy, issues that only tangentially, at best, have any effect on older people?  I've asked before but can only find that the 60 Plus Association reportedly has ties to the national Republican Party and appears to be a front group for Big Pharma.  If you know more about them, please leave a comment.

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone

How Republicans Killed Their Own Pet Oil Pipeline Project -- "'It’s a question of whether we’d rather have the pipeline or the issue,' said one of the GOP aides.  In the end they chose the issue."


Thursday, January 19, 2012

More On 2012, Saving Medicare, Millionaires Over Medicare, In the Trenches, GOP Re-Evaluates

The Year Ahead

"As we approach budget time we can look forward to another burst of hand wringing by the Washington elites, who will once again tell us about the need to cut Social Security and Medicare.  News stories and opinion columns will be filled with solemn pronouncements about how these programs must be curtailed before they drive the nation to bankruptcy.  We can look forward to that famously deceptive graph showing how the cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are projected to soar as a share of the economy over the next two or three decades.  Those with good eyes will notice that it is the cost of Medicare and Medicaid that are soaring, not Social Security."

A look at who's behind calls to cut the coverage and eligibility for Medicare and Social Security (the 99%).  . . .  And why we need to hold out against any retreat from strong and effective programs.

Protecting Medicare

"A key Democrat tasked with helping to negotiate a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits, and Medicare physician reimbursements says Republicans will have to move significantly off their December demands or all three will lapse.  'We want to extend the middle class tax cut, we want to extend unemployment insurance, and we want to keep our promise to Medicare beneficiaries that we’re going to pay for their doctors, so they can have access to their physicians,' Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) told me in a brief interview off the House floor Tuesday.  'But I’m not going to support something to pay for that by cutting Medicare or cutting the middle class.  We can reach an agreement on these things, but the Republicans are going to have to move.'"

Looks like there's hope that Democrats will stand firm on Medicare and Social Security.

Congressional Elections: Millionaires Over Medicare

"After a wave election gave Republicans the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010, no one thought that Democrats, a year later, would be in a position to take it back.  A key reason Democrats are feeling good about November is the particular crop of Republicans they are looking to replace: the freshmen tea partiers elected in 2010. '[Democrat] candidates are going to be aggressively holding Republicans accountable for consistently choosing Millionaires over Medicare, oil companies subsides over middle class tax cuts and ideology over solutions,' Israel said.  The Dem spin is that much of the work that needs to be done to take back the House, Republicans have done for them over the past year."

Medicare Debate on the Ground

OREGON:  "When it comes to Social Security, Democratic congressional candidate Suzanne Bonamici doesn't venture far beyond talking about raising taxes on the wealthy to shore up the retirement system, something that appears dead on arrival politically.  Her Republican rival, Rob Cornilles, is willing to go further out on a political limb by suggesting he would support a bipartisan deal like the one cut in 1983 that could gradually trim benefits for future Social Security recipients."

"Cornilles is taking a lot of hits from Democratic advertising that questions his commitment to Social Security and Medicare. He says he supports both programs but is just more willing to talk about how to get them on a sound financial footing.  ...  Bonamici says she supports raising the cap on wages subject to the Social Security tax -- now set at $106,800 -- to bring in more revenue.  She points to a bill sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that would also levy Social Security taxes on income above $250,000 a year."

If you read the article, you'll see the kinds of questions and interactions that will be unfolding this election year.

"Right" Fight, Wrong Time

"Speaker of the House John Boehner admitted Wednesday that his strategy in last year's fight over extending the payroll tax cut was mistaken.  'We were picking the right fight, but I would argue we probably picked it at the wrong time,' Boehner told reporters, referring to the House GOP's decision to battle against the Senate's two-month extension in favor of a yearlong measure in the waning days of the 2011 session."


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Congress Back to Work, Romney & Medicare, Medicare Solutions, A Right To Healthcare

Congress Returns With Same Issues Waiting

"With Congress set to return to town this week, staff-level bipartisan discussions are underway over how to pay for extensions of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and the so-called Medicare 'doc fix' beyond the end of February, when they’re set to expire.  The private meetings are a continuation of the December showdown, which ended with two-month extensions of the three provisions and a guarantee that the House and Senate would negotiate a year-long measure.  But many of the factors that made the two month bill so contentious remain in place, and threaten a new brinkmanship at the very beginning of this session of Congress."

MORE:  "With the House returning this week for a short session and with one week to go before the president’s State of the Union address, Republicans are on the clock to unite around a message on a package to extend a payroll tax holiday, unemployment benefits and Medicare payments."

An interesting discussion of the variations and nuances at play.

Romney Pitching Same Medicare Story

From Kaiser Health News:  "In last night's GOP presidential candidate debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, front-runner Mitt Romney described his approach to Medicare, which includes charging wealthier recipients more and including 'premium supports.'  He also attacked the health law, the only candidate on the stage to discuss the law."

Romney calls the new health care law the "Fourth Entitlement."  Video excerpts and a transcript of the health care parts of the debate.

Fixing Medicare Via the Healthcare System

"Simplistic rhetoric that Medicare is 'broken' fails to diagnose where the real challenge lies in creating enduring financial stability for this critical program.  Medicare is doing exactly what it was designed to do: draw in funds from working individuals and beneficiaries to help millions of older Americans and people with disabilities pay for medical care.  A fundamental problem is how Medicare pays for services and how the delivery system responds to that payment structure.  The current medical care delivery system that Medicare pays for is fragmented, uncoordinated, favors the health care provider over the person receiving care, and is exceedingly expensive."

Well thought through, and one of the few pieces that draws into consideration the chronic care needs of the elderly and disabled.  This is a critical concern as people age and acute care is replaced by chronic or long term care.

Healthcare - Civil Right

"We should move to an Improved Medicare for All system, in which we share the cost of covering everyone, as we do for other valued services such as education, police, and the fire department."  "Concerned that this is socialized medicine?  Not at all.  The U.S. has a high-performing socialized medicine system in the Veterans Administration, which owns hospitals and employs doctors and enjoys high patient satisfaction.  Improved Medicare for All is not socialized medicine.  The bills would be paid by one source, but medical practices and non-profit hospitals would continue to be independent."

Easy to read and informative.  Highly recommended.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Medicare Un-Affordability, Nothing Doing for 2012, Social Security: Candidates on Parade, Doc Fix

Affording Medicare Not Easy

"Millions of retired Americans are frozen out of the health care system even though they've paid into it all their lives, because most of them rely on Social Security for the bulk of their income and can't afford the 20 percent of every medical bill that Medicare requires them to pay.  These numbers will grow enormously over the next 15 years as the population ages, whatever our economic future.  Fundamental shifts in employment and incomes growing out of what's still being called the Great Recession will likely compound the problem for decades."

"And demographic and other statistics strongly suggest that this is only the beginning of an unavoidable challenge to the idea of what it means to grow old in America, and to what many consider the obligations of government to citizens.  In this pass, the political system seems unable to even concede the facts, much less design a practical response to them."

By the numbers, if you are old in the future America -- regardless of changes that might occur in Medicare and Social Security -- you are going to have a rough time affording medical care.  There's a scary and depressing reality out there which should be discouraging to anyone.  We need to work triply hard to prevent a financial and medical disaster for ourselves, our families, and our friends.

2012 Stalemate

"When last seen in Washington, House Republicans were furious with their own leader, Speaker John Boehner, and angry with their Senate Republican brethren over how the showdown over the Social Security tax cut turned into a year-end political debacle."

"In the coming year, House Republicans remain doubtful about accomplishing anything more than the must-do spending bills and a year-long extension of the Social Security tax cuts, unemployment benefits and a reprieve in the cuts to doctors for Medicare payments.  Congress faces a Feb. 29 deadline to agree on a new extension, no easy task after last year's deep divisions but politically inevitable as lawmakers would be loath to raise taxes in an election year."

Threats to Social Security

"Social Security is a tricky issue in the GOP primary: It's a program of nearly unparalleled popularity, resonates with the seniors most likely to vote, but is also a pure example of government spending and redistribution of wealth, the types of things that have become anathema to a party increasingly tied to its most passionate and extreme wing.  How does a Republican who wants to win both the primary and the general election thread the Social Security needle?"

"Most of the Republican candidates vying for the presidency have proposed at least partially privatizing Social Security.  Others have taken their attack on the old-age and disability insurance program even further, calling it a Ponzi scheme and unconstitutional, though conceding that benefits should be made available for those currently approaching or at retirement age."

This review is based on the work of Strengthen Social Security, which we have featured here before.

Permanent Doc Fix

"One of the items Congress extended for two months in the December payroll tax package is current Medicare payment rates to physicians, averting a steep 27.4 percent cut.  Although a yearlong 'doc fix' is seen as likeliest when lawmakers return to town this week and begin negotiating pay-fors, even that would merely be punting an issue in need of a permanent fix.  Over the last few months there’s been serious talk in Congress of buying out the 'doc fix' issue once and for all with war savings from troop withdrawals in Iraq and Afghanistan, estimated at over half a trillion dollars."

"But look closer and you’ll see why House Republicans don’t want to give up this issue: doc fixes are typically funded with health spending cuts elsewhere in the budget, so the issue offers them a rare opportunity to go after Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, two programs they want to tell their 2012 constituents they helped contain."

A "peace dividend."  We've heard of that before.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Lenin Would Be Pleased, Sustaining Medicare

If it's quiet, we won't make up news.  Here's all there is.  Happy to save you time.

Conservative Attacks Emulate Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

"Attacks on Social Security, Medicare borrow a strategy from Lenin.  For three decades, conservatives' proposals for dramatic changes to the programs have reflected a divide-and-conquer strategy inspired by the Leninist movement.  About the last thing you'd ever expect is for conservatives to draw procedural lessons from the founder of the Soviet state.  So it's fascinating to ponder the persistence of an attack on Social Security that was explicitly billed as a 'Leninist' strategy three decades ago by analysts at the Heritage Foundation and is still in use today."

"This is the notion, which is part of pretty much every proposal today to 'fix' Social Security and Medicare, that benefits for the retired and near-retired should be guaranteed, while those for everyone else must be cut."

I had never heard of this before -- and it's STUNNING.  Not that the Conservatives have been following a strategy for three decades.  But that it was so well formulated and well defined right from the start.  Not the development over time of an approach that seemed to work, but the full blown purposeful attempt to destroy Medicare and Social Security through what almost amounts to something like a pogrom.  Please read this and post a comment here.  What do you think?

Innovative Treatments

COMMENT:  "Last month the New York Times posted its recommendations for how to cope with the costs of Medicare in the future.  In their proposals for Medicare sustainability, the Times failed to include a proven strategy for lowering health care costs:  Finding innovative treatments to cure or manage costly diseases.  In doing so, the Times also misdiagnoses the remedy for reducing Medicare costs."

For Your Information

Who Knew? California May Have a Public Option -- "During the health reform debate, there was controversy and disappointment over the failure to include a public option in the Affordable Care Act.  Not only did the public option idea not die, it is alive and well in California."

MORE: From Kaiser Health News.  The Public Option Did Not Die.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Lie That Won't Die, Raising Medicare Eligibility Age, Older Voters Helped Romney, Health Care for All, Candidates' Health Coverage

What Is Medicare?

"PolitiFact and others should have left it there and devoted space to the larger issue.  Medicare may be wildly popular, but it is not well understood by most people -- be they beneficiaries, politicians, or journalists. Deconstructing how this complicated and misunderstood program works and the historical context for proposed changes would go a long way to helping the public evaluate the arguments from both Democrats and Republicans."

Good reading. I strongly recommend this piece to you -- a clear description of the context  of the Medicare political debate.

Medicare Age Increase Bad Idea

From NCPSSM: "We couldn’t help but scratch our heads a bit at all the attention generated by the latest CBO report on raising the eligibility age for Medicare and retirement age for Social Security.  You really don’t have to be an economist to know that cutting benefits to millions of Americans saves the government money.  Of course, it also shifts costs to seniors and employers, forces millions more into Medicaid or into private insurance exchanges (which will go away if conservatives have their way and repeal healthcare reform) and cuts benefits for those who can’t stay on the job until they’re 70 years old.  However, those real-life consequences are never fully discussed by Washington’s fiscal hawks.  Never."

But wait; there's more.  You should be sure to read this well presented argument and then memorize a few facts that will help you explain the financial and budget implications.  This information is clear and compelling.  Thanks, NCPSSM.

Romney Should Thank Older Voters - Not Betray Them

"Powered by older voters, Mitt Romney won an unmistakable nod of approval from New Hampshire in the GOP presidential sweepstakes."  "Fifty-six percent of GOP primary voters were over 50 years old, and 4 in 10 of those older voters cast ballots for Romney -- a much better showing than four years ago.  Then, Romney won the oldest voters, but lost the 50-to-64 year olds to McCain.  This year, Romney swept both age groups, swamping his competition 2-to-1."

I hope older voters learn more about the positions of Republican Presidential hopefuls on Medicare and Social Security.

Strategy Conference

"Join activists from around the country to plan strategy to win guaranteed single-payer national health insurance at the Healthcare-NOW! National Strategy Conference, January 28 and 29, 2012 in Houston.  Special topic:  how to mobilize support for single payer in southern states."  It's not too late to register.

From Health Care For All - Texas:  "Did you Know?  Medicare Pays for More than Health Care for the Elderly.  It pays for -- 1. The sickest Americans:  the elderly and the disabled, 2.  Most medical residencies, 3.  Most durable equipment for many hospitals.  For-profit health insurance companies do NOT pay for any of this."

The Candidates' Health Insurance

Republican Candidates Get Lucky on Health Insurance  "Mitt Romney's rivals may enjoy repeating his line that he likes 'being able to fire people who provide services to me,' but when it comes to health insurance, he has the luxury of choosing among several coverage options, thanks to the health care reform law he signed in his home state.  Romney, like all his rivals for the Republican nomination, says he would like to repeal the 2010 health care reform law, privatize parts of Medicare, and create a system in which more people shop for health insurance on the individual market.  But that’s not the option most of the candidates have taken for their personal health care -- which is not surprising, considering that the individual market is generally the most restrictive and most expensive place to buy health insurance."

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Thursday, January 12, 2012

GOP & Medicare Reform, Holding Ground, Whose Fact Is It

Republicans Oppose Health Reform, Jumbled on Medicare

From Kaiser Health News:  United Against Health Law, Medicare Reforms Divide GOP Presidential Candidates  "The GOP field is united in their opposition against Obama's Health Law, but differences remain in how they would reform Medicare."  Read the transcript / listen to the audio.

"JACKIE JUDD: Good day, this is Health on the Hill. I'm Jackie Judd.  Another day, another state.  The Republican presidential candidates have moved on to South Carolina where the next primary will be held January 21st.  Last night in New Hampshire, in Mitt Romney's victory speech, he again promised to roll back the health care overhaul law.
(ROMNEY SOUNDBITE: This president has enacted job-killing regulations; I’ll eliminate them.  He lost our AAA credit rating; I’ll restore it.  He passed Obamacare; I’ll repeal it.)
JACKIE JUDD: Repealing so-called 'Obamacare' is an issue that unites the GOP candidates.  What separates them from each other in terms of health care policy?  Here to answer that question: Kaiser Health News reporters Mary Agnes Carey and Marilyn Werber Serafini."

More great coverage and perspective from Kaiser Health News, and that's why TMDR keeps you informed of their Medicare coverage.  Of course, when the Republicans have a candidate, they also will have something like a singular voice about the changes they want to make to Medicare.  But beware.  The Republican Candidate might say something moderate and still be very willing to sign a radical Republican plan if delivered to him as President.

Partisans Stand Firm

"In the debates and campaign ads leading up to the New Hampshire primary a new strain of Republican politics has suddenly surfaced -- a brand of compassionate capitalism that, were it to come from President Obama, Newt Gingrich would describe as socialism.  Gingrich has led this emergence with his blistering critique of Mitt Romney for being too good of a capitalist."

Because of strong Republican and Democrat differences, there are two "very different visions of our country.  That's why members of Congress and the President can't give any ground on key issues like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  If everyone is in favor of cuts to these and other important programs, then the boundary between the two sides will be blurred beyond recognition, and the choice will not be clear on Election Day."

Just the Facts

From NPR:  Political Fact-Checking Under Fire  "Sites like PolitiFact and Factcheck.org are designed to verify political claims and hold politicians accountable.  But critics say fact-checking entities are themselves biased.  The Weekly Standard's Mark Hemingway and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post discuss fact-checking in American politics."  Read the transcript / listen to the audio (30 minutes).

More Facts

"So maybe PolitiFact isn't the arbiter of truth it wants to be, even in the traditional media. Greg Sargent reports on the refusal of two TV stations to yank Democratic ads making the claim that House Republicans voted to end Medicare."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone