Resist the Destruction of Our Health Care System

March 13, 2017

Please, please don’t be believing what Republicans say about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). They insist immediate repeal is the only remedy for problems that don’t really exist and they ignore improvements that could make it better.

A fundamental of insurance is making the pool of payers and beneficiaries as broad as possible. Mandates to get insurance do that. They’re much like requirements to insure vehicles or homes mortgages. With health insurance, sooner or later, most people are going to need to use it. Unless it is required and affordable, millions simply won’t have it when the need arises. Republicans call it “freedom” to eliminate the mandates, but no person can truly be free if they’re injured, sick or economically stressed.

Republicans proclaim the ACA a “disaster,” “collapsing under its own weight,” “in a death spiral,” etc., but the actuaries say otherwise. It is actually succeeding – over 20 million now with access to care, millions who have gotten care they would not otherwise have received, including preventive care, cancer treatment, emergency surgeries and drug abuse treatment, lives saved, bankruptcies avoided. Thirty-one states plus D.C. that expanded Medicaid are doing very well, hospitals have stayed open, and the health care and small business sectors of the economy are growing.

It’s failing, Republicans claim, because premiums are rising. Never mind that premium increases are smaller now than they were before ACA and that most of the increases are not paid by individuals. It’s failing, they say, because insurers are leaving the market. But neither of these are the measure of success of the health insurance system and both of these were caused in part by Republican-dictated limitations on backup reinsurance for insurers. The measure of a health care system is the care it gives to people, not how well the insurers are doing.

What are the Republican solutions in the bill they’re ramming through Congress without hearings, discussion with the public and amendments?

* Cost controls? – Zip, nada, zero proposed

* Huge tax cuts for the well-to-do, including tax breaks for insurance companies that overpay their CEOs. They’re there and are the real purpose of the legislation!

* “Buying insurance across state lines” – Deceptive rhetoric because actually it means doing away with minimum standards for insurance coverage. We buy insurance across state lines already, but all plans must cover a minimum of services. Doing away with standards returns us to the bad old days of junk insurance that didn’t cover care bought in a state with lower standards.

* Health savings accounts – existed before and after ACA but serve only the well to do.

* High risk pools – also there before ACA and don’t work because they wall off those with the highest expenses (the greatest need) into high-cost pools.

* Reduced financial assistance for those receiving advanced tax credits – something sure to make many drop insurance despite need if it’s no longer mandatory. Then if they can’t pay for a couple of months, there is a 30% surcharge added to the costs they already couldn’t pay in order to get reinsured.

* Block grants to states for Medicaid that don’t fully cover the costs, and fazing out of Medicaid expansions whereby 11 million citizens get care. By the way, did you know that half of all babies born in the US are paid by Medicaid? Did you know that when we have exhausted all our resources at the end of life, Medicaid pays for nursing home and hospice care?

Everything they are ramming through Congress will result in sicker people, higher costs for middle and low income families, a crippled economy, huge breaks for the wealthy and a return to junk insurance. They call it “patient-centered” care but it really puts insurance companies back in control of your health care decisions.

Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, 70% of the American people supported its provision and now 58% want it kept as is or improved. But from the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan we have this exact quote: “…we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.” They will do it too, unless you speak out now. Call you U.S. Representative and Senators at (202) 224-3121.

Why Would Anyone Do That?

January 26, 2017

We’ve been hearing for years from Republican politicians, Trump to Speaker Ryan and Members of Congress, about how they were going to repeal the Affordable Care Act they named “Obamacare.”  Now they’re set to proceed without ever even considering, much less answering, this simple question:  Why?
Why would ANYONE want to
–Deny anyone, much less tens of millions of people, the ability to go to the doctor when sick or to get preventive treatment to live happier, healthier lives
–Make it harder to start up small businesses by removing access to affordable health insurance
–Eliminate thousands of good jobs as doctors, nurses, or other providers
–Close hospitals, nursing homes and clinics, especially in rural areas
–Harm a significant segment of the US economy, including health care, one of the fastest growing segments
–Increase costs for hospital district taxpayers who pay for uncompensated care
–Force those with serious illness into bankruptcy
–Increase costs of prescriptions for seniors on Medicare
–Remove tax credits for businesses that pay for employee health insurance
–Increase our already extreme  income inequality by tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor
–Increase unplanned pregnancies and increase the number of abortions (especially while claiming to be ”pro-life”)
–Saddle businesses with increased employees sickness
–Reduce the government’s ability to combat Medicare/Medicaid fraud
–Reduce the federal and state governments’ ability to control insurance premiums, growth now slowed under ACA
–Reduce the quality of care or the coverages of insurance?
These are just some of the questions they haven’t addressed.  They talk of replacement but have nothing comparable.  If they persist in this insanity, we will have to give them a BIG answer at the ballot box in 2018 and 2020, “You’re fired!”

To Members of the Electoral College

December 8, 2016

Please protect our democracy by casting your presidential electoral vote for the winner of the national popular vote, Hillary Clinton.

The United States is the only democracy that elects the leader of all the people, the President, through a mechanism such as the Electoral College. While the Electoral College itself is in the US Constitution, how states allocate electoral votes and how individual electors vote is not. This places great responsibility on electors like you to fulfill the purposes of this election process.

The main purpose of our presidential election process is to select a person of high qualifications and to prevent the selection of a person lacking in knowledge or personal and professional integrity. The President also should not have foreign entanglements and foreign governments should not influence our political discourse. And it’s not just about the person – in selecting their President the people express their will regarding the actions they want that person to take.

Votes are still being counted, but we know that Hillary Clinton received at least 2.7 million more votes nationwide than Donald Trump. However, since our population is not evenly distributed, Donald Trump was able to win victories by tiny margins in 3 states (Wisconsin by .9%, Michigan by .2%, Pennsylvania by .8%, subject to recounts). In those states, Donald Trump had at most 87,504 more votes than Hillary Clinton and, under a winner-take-all allocation, would receive 46 electoral votes. Nationwide, Hillary Clinton only needs 38 electoral votes to reach 270 and win.

This is an electoral process based on geography, not the political will of the people. It can, however, be modified to reflect the political will of the people and you can do that in this election. Thirty-eight true patriots who are now designated as Trump electors can do it by voting for Clinton instead.

Donald Trump exhibits a lack of knowledge about the complexities of modern domestic and foreign policy and has never held any elective office. His personal behavior and demeanor is offensive to millions at home and abroad. His business history is one of repeated law violations, lawsuits, civil settlements and bankruptcies. He refuses to release his federal income tax returns so we must assume he has something to hide. He does business in many countries from which complete disinvestment is virtually impossible. Many of those businesses would present targets for terrorist attacks or opportunities for political pressure to be applied. He bragged of his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has received millions from his businesses in Russia and our national security professionals believe Russia illegally invaded U.S. private email and database files for the purpose of influencing this election.

Finally, at least 65 million Americans do not want him to carry out his stated intended actions as President. Donald Trump is, therefore, everything our election process is supposed to protect us from as President of the United States. We cannot subvert our democracy by allowing 87,504 votes in 3 states to “trump” 2.7 million votes across 50 states and the District of Columbia. Please let the will of the people be done. The world is watching.

Think of Flint and Vote

January 24, 2016

Have you heard about Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water, poisoning thousands of residents? Children are sick, their future health is compromised from irreversible lead poisoning and there’s been a spike in cases, some fatal, of legionnaires disease. The water pipes of the entire city have been destroyed by corrosion such that they must be replaced.

How can this happen, you may ask? The answer is destruction of the deliberative processes of democracy at the local level. Too many of Michigan’s citizens stayed home on Election Day and there came into power an extremely conservative legislature that sealed their power in place by gerrymandered districts. While cutting taxes for corporations, that legislature enacted a provision allowing the State to take over cities in financial distress, install a financial manager accountable only to the autocratic Governor, and leave elected city officials completely powerless.

Well, Michiganders rightfully hated that law so much that they passed a citizen’s initiative to repeal it. However, due to gerrymandered districts, they re-elected the same State legislators who immediately passed the financial manager law again, now with a provision that it couldn’t be repealed by the citizens. Flint lost its auto manufacturing tax base and fell into bankruptcy. Almost half its population is gone. The Governor appointed a financial manager who in April 2014, thinking only of cutting costs, changed the source of Flint’s drinking water from the clean waters of Lake Huron to the notoriously contaminated (with automotive waste) Flint River.

As the contamination became evident, State agencies of environmental quality and public health, also under the control of the Governor, failed to act. And the Governor ignored the reports of illness and death for many months. Elected city officials held office in name only and couldn’t do a thing to save their own people though they tried. It took out-of-state researchers and a courageous doctor who treats the children to force the issue.

It gets worse for Flint! Residents now have their contaminated water shut off for not paying the high bills for water they can’t drink. State lawyers cite State sovereignty to block accountability lawsuits. YOUR tax dollars are paying for bottled water to be delivered to Flint residents by that “intrusive” Federal government so many love to hate because that “over reaching” President Obama sent the National Guard to directly help the people. The Michigan Governor asked the President to use funds for natural disasters to rebuild Flint’s infrastructure (the President had to refuse). The same old awful Federal government is investigating the failure of Michigan state government to meet drinking water standards. Meanwhile, our US Senators and Representatives (also from gerrymandered districts) are passing bills to roll back surface water quality standards implemented by the EPA.

If you can hardly stand the tediously slow and often contentious battles your local elected officials go through on issues like streets, water, schools and sewage, such that you can’t stand to vote in local elections…..

If you only vote in years of Presidential elections (if you vote at all) and don’t know about or don’t care enough to vote for your State and Federal Representatives and Senators…,

Think of Flint, Michigan!

Similar things are happening now in Texas, a direct result of historically low voter turnout in 2014 and gerrymandered districts. Laws to further suppress the vote have been implemented. Texas has NO provision for citizens’ initiative to override an off-the-rails State legislature. Legislation was passed blocking cities from limiting fracking within their boundaries. We lead the nation in polluting discharges. Our State government has refused to properly fund public education, its single highest responsibility. They refuse to expand Medicaid to provide millions with health care. Our Governor brags about suing the Federal government, promoted scare propaganda that the President would use military exercises to take over the state, and is now pushing a scheme (fortunately going nowhere) whereby states would override Federal laws. Austerity is being imposed with the blessings of corporate wealth all too content with THEIR low-taxes and OUR low-service economy.

Elections have consequences. We can only survive as families, communities, as a state and a nation, if we become informed on the issues and use that information to vote in local, state and national elections. Millions have died and millions more are struggling now to achieve what so many of us take for granted and ignore, our citizenship right to vote. Your vote is your voice (su vota es su voz), use it or lose it!

Despicable Disconnection

February 18, 2015

Television producer Norman Lear recently expressed it well – “I’m just another version of you.” Yet we seem to be self-sorting into those who keep and those who have lost perception of our connections to each other.

Do we understand friends and enemies as another version of us and we of them? Do we genuinely understand that we’re all in this together, that we are our brothers’ keepers, that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves? Are these core principles of all religious faiths and the foundation of our government?

It’s lost on Texas Teapublicans. President Obama rightfully and lawfully redirected enforcement away from 2 groups of non citizens facing possible deportation – 1) law-abiding, hard-working, tax-paying parents of US citizen children and 2) law-abiding, hard-working, tax-paying young adults brought here as children.

Since the President doing something to help people of ordinary means just enrages Teapublicans, Greg Abbott, as Attorney General, joined 26 other Teapublican states to sue the President. Never mind that, as Chief Executive, the President has the same power of “prosecutorial discretion” that police, prosecutors and judges exercise every day; or that similar Presidential action has already been ruled lawful in Arizona; or that this action likely helps those states more than it harms and saves us all money. Talk about a “frivolous lawsuit!”

Intent on hurting families, Teapublicans shopped a Federal judge (of dubious connection to the human race) and got him to issue a temporary injunction. It shouldn’t withstand legal review, but we saw the despicable spectacle of our corporatista Governor Abbott and our Teapublican Lt Governor Patrick applauding and cheering their temporary “victory” while law-abiding hard-working, tax-paying human beings endure fear of deportation tearing their families apart. Disconnected Teapublicans are the biggest threat our society faces.

Texas Medicaid Expansion and Control of Epidemics

October 4, 2014

An Ebola case in Texas should give us pause to think about what Medicaid expansion would mean in controlling epidemics. Diseases know no jurisdictional boundaries and we should expect more isolated cases of Ebola. However, one or a few closely-connected cases of a disease are not an outbreak or epidemic. What stops an outbreak is the public health infrastructure including PREVENTIVE measures such as vaccines and sanitation standards, INVESTIGATIVE work such as lab testing and contact tracing and medical TREATMENT and care of patients.

“What does Medicaid expansion have to do with this?” you might ask. It provides access to care for those who lack resources. In Texas, you have to be very poor to qualify for Medicaid. Now, because of the Affordable Care Act, if your income is at least at or above the federal poverty level you can buy health insurance on a sliding scale making your out-of-pocket costs affordable. But what about the millions in that gap too “wealthy” for Medicaid but too poor for subsidized insurance? That is who Medicaid expansion is intended to cover, so that EVERYONE can go to a doctor when they are sick or to receive preventive vaccines and exams. Our federal tax dollars return to Texas, saving State government BILLIONS. Doctors and hospitals get paid for providing the care, 300,000 jobs get created and local taxpayers are freed from costs for uncompensated care.

Access to care is a huge part of preventing the spread of diseases like Influenza or Ebola.   For example, we currently have about 1 million food workers in Texas and, in part because of their substandard wages, many fall in that gap with no access to care and no paid sick leave. So, instead of seeing a doctor when they are sick with easily-transmitted colds and flu, they go to work, handling the food you eat and the plates or boxes you handle. YOU catch whatever they caught and the disease spreads.

An Ebola outbreak is not likely in Texas because it is hard to transmit, but we endure outbreaks of highly-contagious vaccine-preventable diseases like flu and measles (with dozens of deaths each year). There is NO economic or moral reason for Texas to refuse to expand Medicaid. Wendy Davis, as Governor, and Leticia Van De Putte as Lt Governor will do it, while their Republican opponents will not. Vote November 4 to protect everyone from disease outbreaks.

Corruption With a Capital “C”

October 4, 2014

This was written 9.29.14, so again, I’m slow in getting it posted here

From the musical “The Music Man:”

“Trouble, oh we got trouble,

Right here in River City!

With a capital ‘T’

That rhymes with ‘P’

And that stands for ‘Pool'”

In this case the “pool” is millions of our “pooled” business incentive funds inappropriately doled out by Texas Republican leaders, often to Republican political donors.

Connect the dots:

  • Texas creates the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the 2nd largest funder of cancer research. An official in that organization was indicted for dispensing funds inappropriately.
  • Texas creates the Major Events Trust Fund to draw major events to the state. The San Antonio Express-News is reporting discrepancies with the $250 million application for Formula One racing.
  • Texas creates the Texas Enterprise Fund to draw large employers to the state. An audit revealed funds were dispensed without proper review, some without the recipient even submitting any application at all.
  • Rick Perry is indicted for using his authority to coerce removal of the Travis County District Attorney who oversees the Public Integrity Unit which is responsible for prosecuting State corruption. He wanted her resignation so he could appoint her replacement – 3 guesses why.

It’s not as though incentive programs aren’t a good thing; they are. But these cronies have been going about it all wrong and that speaks directly to your vote in the November election. They’ve run these programs without adequate oversight, transparency and accountability to prevent corruption and abuse from which they politically benefited.

The central players in these scams are:

  • Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed officials running these funds – and the officials themselves, one already indicted.
  • Attorney General Greg Abbott failed to exercise direct oversight responsibility for CPRIT and general oversight responsibility for all State transactions. He also ruled as Attorney General that the public wasn’t entitled to see applications submitted to the Texas Enterprise Fund.
  • The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts failed to set up and follow transparency and financial accountability of these funds.

Are your dots connected? Even some Republicans realize they need to save their party from itself. Vote for the “best people for the job” to end this corruption: Wendy Davis for Governor, Sam Houston for Attorney General, Mike Collier for Comptroller. All have proven themselves honest, expert in their fields, and devoted to the people of Texas.

The Goober in the First Texas Gubernatorial Debate

October 4, 2014

This was dated 9.22.14.  Just a little slow posting it here

“We hide, you don’t seek, but vote for us anyway, because…hmm, because…um, because we’re not Barack Obama.” That’s the 2014 campaign strategy for Texas Republicans. They avoid debating Democratic opponents or participate in debates of limited viewing availability. They must know they have nothing of substance to offer most Texans and Texas businesses. Instead, they rely on attack ads laced with lies, innuendo and smears of the President, funded by billionaires like the Koch brothers, whose interests they serve.

That was evident in the first gubernatorial debate between Senator Wendy Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott. I betcha didn’t even see that debate which flashed for one hour across difficult-to-locate viewing screens. But Davis took on Abbott on our behalf. Background: When more than $5 billion was cut from public education in 2011, Wendy Davis tried to stop it with a filibuster.   School districts across the state sued Texas and, as Attorney General, Abbott defended the State against the schools. A judge has now ruled the school funding unconstitutional but Abbott is appealing. In the debate, Davis called the cuts what they are, harmful and stupid. Abbott pretended he had to continue the appeal when in truth he can drop it at any time and direct the legislature to properly fund our schools.

Regarding the immigration issue of refugee families and unaccompanied children, Abbott repeated the tea party myth that our border is insecure when it has never been as secure as it is today. He pretended President Obama’s leniency for DREAMers was what drew families from Central America when that’s not the case. Abbott supported Rick Perry’s grandstand of sending practically useless troopers to the border. Wendy Davis, on the other hand, said she supported secure borders and the Federal responsibility, but she would first ASK the border communities what they needed to handle the influx of refugees. There’s a novel idea! She seeks humane and practical solutions while Abbott just wants to grandstand and lie about President Obama.

There were other issues discussed I’ll have to relate later, as I’ve reached the word limit. However, I laughed with Davis when, during the segment where candidates ask each other questions, Abbott asked Davis if she regretted voting for President Obama–as if that had anything to do with a Texas Governor’s job! Bottom line: Vote for the “best man for the job,” which in this case is clearly the woman, Wendy Davis.

 

Corruption with a Capital “C”

September 29, 2014

From the musical “The Music Man”

“Trouble, oh we got trouble,

Right here in River City!

With a capital ‘T’

That rhymes with ‘P’

And that stands for ‘Pool'”

In this case the “pool” is millions of our “pooled” business incentive funds inappropriately doled out by Texas Republican leaders, often to Republican political donors.

Connect the dots:

  • Texas creates the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the 2nd largest funder of cancer research. An official in that organization was indicted for dispensing funds inappropriately.
  • Texas creates the Major Events Trust Fund to draw major events to the state. The San Antonio Express-News is reporting discrepancies with the $250 million application for Formula One racing.
  • Texas creates the Texas Enterprise Fund to draw large employers to the state. An audit revealed funds were dispensed without proper review, some without the recipient even submitting any application at all.
  • Rick Perry is indicted for using his authority to coerce removal of the Travis County District Attorney who oversees the Public Integrity Unit which is responsible for prosecuting State corruption. He wanted her resignation so he could appoint her replacement – 3 guesses why.

It’s not as though incentive programs aren’t a good thing; they are. But these cronies have been going about it all wrong and that speaks directly to your vote in the November election. They’ve run these programs without adequate oversight, transparency and accountability to prevent corruption and abuse from which they politically benefited.

The central players in these scams are:

  • Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed officials running these funds – and the officials themselves, one already indicted.
  • Attorney General Greg Abbott failed to exercise direct oversight responsibility for CPRIT and general oversight responsibility for all State transactions. He also ruled as Attorney General that the public wasn’t entitled to see applications submitted to the Texas Enterprise Fund.
  • The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts failed to set up and follow transparency and financial accountability of these funds.

Are your dots connected? Even some Republicans realize they need to save their party from itself. Vote for the “best people for the job” to end this corruption: Wendy Davis for Governor, Sam Houston for Attorney General, Mike Collier for Comptroller. All have proven themselves honest, expert in their fields, and devoted to the people of Texas.

Political Polarization and Slippage of Time

August 17, 2014

The editor of my hometown newspaper claimed that today’s political polarization was the result of extremists on the right and left. She also claimed that those seeking to address climate change were the extremists on the left, comparable to Sarah Palin on the right. Then she asked for rebuttal, but would only allow 400 words in that rebuttal. So I sent a drastically cut-down version to her paper and post the full response here.

I’ll bite on Alpine Avalanche Editor Lisa Hannon’s invitation for alternative views to her description of the political polarization of today. Serious analyses have been done regarding this subject which clearly show a distinct movement farther to the right by Republicans and little or no movement to the left by Democrats.

I recommend reading “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” by Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. These serious political analysts, one on the left and one on the right, agreed that movement rightward by Republicans is the core polarizing factor. They described today’s Republican Party as “…an insurgent outlier- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition”. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck, Dan Patrick, Tom Tancredo, townhall.com, Fox News, World Net Daily, etc., all cases on point! No one on the left is in any way comparable to those on the extreme right who have taken control of our media and the Republican Party.

And I don’t say that with pleasure. I grew up in Alpine at a time when liberals and conservatives took each other to dinner and argued politics ‘til the cows came home yet stayed close friends. They agreed that we needed good government that served the needs of the people; they just disagreed about how to do it. They didn’t demonize anyone and they didn’t shout and talk over others to make their point. Above all, they both believed in science and education and accepted facts. I would love for the Republicans to pull back from extremism, not just because it would make life more sociable and fun, but also because we are all in this life together.

The Editor presented a false equivalency between Sarah Palin and those who insist or dealing with human-caused global climate change. Really? Are the highly educated climate scientists, over 90% of whom agree about climate change, extremists? Science told us too many were dying in car wrecks. We regulated vehicle safety and it worked to reduce the carnage. They said we could go to the moon and we did. They said industrial emissions were causing acid rain; we changed the regs and reduced it. They gave us antibiotics, heart transplants, television, computers and mobile phones. Science and scientists have been right so many times, we should not bet our children’s and grand-children’s future that they are finally wrong about something.

The claim that global climate change couldn’t be a real crisis for us today because at certain times in its history the planet has been warmer or colder leaves out this simple fact: When the earth was at those different temperatures it was not a climate suitable for humans, plants and animals as they exist today. It is not extremist to be very worried about the global effects of the industrial revolution and use of fossil fuels. It’s just plain common sense.

So, where are the extremists of the left that Editor Hannon equates with the right? They don’t exist. Furthermore, scholars of income inequity and societal health have found that, wherever the gap widens between the few at the top of the scale and the many below, this polarization, with it’s distrust, demonization, denial and division, results. Polarization is entirely predictable by our extremely inequitable economy which today is the worst ever in America and worse among Southern states governed by Republicans (like Texas). I wrote an article in 2012 based on the worldwide research finding regarding income inequity which readers can find in books such as “The Spirit Level” (Wilkinson and Pickett), “The Health of Nations: Why Inequality is Harmful to Your Health” (Kawachi and Kennedy), and “The Impact of Inequality” (Wilkinson). By the way, the time I spoke of with nostalgia above was also a time to LOW income inequity and a growing middle class in America.

Ironically, political polarization becomes the major obstacle to reducing income inequity and thus feeds a downward spiral in society. There are actions our government could take right now to reduce economic inequity, but extremists on the right fiercely obstruct them. Why? Because those extremists in the media and politics are funded and supported by those at the top of the economic food chain – billionaires, banksters, multi-national corporations, fossil fuel industrialists – who do not want to see action taken to reduce either economic inequity or global climate change.

This is why I hope thoughtful Republicans and other conservatives will recognize that polarization exists, reject extremists in their midst, and return to seeking real solutions to our considerable problems. “Time keeps on slipping into the future” (Steve Miller Band); the question is will humans be there to see it?