Health Care

10 things you need to know today: July 28, 2014

Palestinian girls celebrate the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, the festival to end Ramadan.

Palestinian girls celebrate the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, the festival to end Ramadan. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Week

Violence declines under Palestinian-Israeli truce, Congress reaches a deal on veterans’ health care, and more

1. Strikes ease under Palestinian-Israelis humanitarian truce
Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire declined sharply on Monday as a humanitarian ceasefire took hold at the start of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Hamas said it wanted a 24-hour truce. Israel said it would respect “an unlimited truce” but would respond to any attack. Palestinian health officials said the death toll in the Gaza Strip had reached 1,032, most of them civilians. [The Wall Street Journal]

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2. Politicians agree on a plan to improve veteran health care
The leaders of veterans’ affairs committees in the House and Senate reached a deal to fix the health-care system for the nation’s veterans. The Veterans Affairs Department has been gripped by scandal for months since reports surfaced of patients waiting months for care at VA facilities and attempts to cover up the failings. VA committee leaders scheduled a 1:30 p.m. news conference Monday to announce their proposal. [Bloomberg News]

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3. Ukrainian separatists agree to let Malaysian investigators see crash site
Ukrainian troops launched an offensive to retake the area where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down, stalling international investigators’ efforts to reach the site hours after Malaysia reached a deal with pro-Russian separatists to let 68 Malaysian police officers visit the site. Officials in Australia and the Netherlands, where some of the victims were from, also plan to send officers. [The New York Times]

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4. Judge overturns Washington, D.C., handgun ban
A federal judge has ruled that Washington, D.C.’s ban on carrying handguns in public is unconstitutional. The overturning of the city’s ban marked a setback for local politicians who — faced with the nation’s highest murder rate two decades ago — imposed gun laws once seen as some of the toughest in the country. City officials plan to ask for a stay while they decide whether to appeal. [Al Jazeera America]

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5. Liberia closes borders to keep Ebola from spreading
Liberia closed most of its border crossings on Sunday as part of a campaign to impede the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola has killed at least 660 people — including two Americans — in West Africa. Only Liberia’s main entry points will remain open, and people there will be subject to inspections and testing. Ebola can kill 90 percent of those it strikes, but the current outbreak has killed about 60 percent. [Reuters, CBS News]

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6. Beach goers hit by lightning at Venice Beach, California
A 20-year-old man was killed and nine other people were injured in a lightning strike at California’s Venice Beach on Sunday. A witness said the jolt blasted roof tiles off of nearby buildings. Around the time of the afternoon incident the National Weather Service tweeted a warning, urging people to stay indoors if they heard thunder. Three other people were injured by the same rare lightning storm elsewhere in Southern California. [Los Angeles Times]

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7. Washington says it has proof Russia is shooting at Ukraine
The U.S. released satellite images on Sunday indicating that Russia was shooting rockets and artillery at Ukrainian forces from across the border to support pro-Russian separatists. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about the need for an immediate ceasefire. Kerry also reportedly told Lavrov that Russia must stop shooting and sending weapons over the border. [The Washington Post]

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8. Man killed by plane crash landing on Florida beach
A father walking with his daughter was killed on a Florida beach on Sunday when a single-engine plane crash landed in the sand. The pilot and passenger in the 1972 Piper Cherokee sent a distress signal before bringing the plane down. Neither person on board was hurt as the plane came to a bumpy stop, but Ommy Irizarry, 36, of Georgia was killed, and his 9-year-old daughter, Oceana, was airlifted to a hospital in critical condition. [New York Daily News]

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9. Sarah Palin Channel launches online
Sarah Palin launched a subscription-based online video network — the Sarah Palin Channel — that she said would allow her to reach Americans with no “politically correct” media filter. “I want to talk directly to you on our channel on my terms,” she said in a video greeting viewers, “and no need to please the powers that be.” The site promises video chats, interviews, and clips from Palin’s events. Access costs $9.95 per month. [MarketWatch]

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10. Vincenzo Nibali wins the Tour de France
Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France on Sunday. The 29-year-old Sicilian — who calls himself “a flag-bearer of anti-doping” — was the first Italian to win cycling’s biggest race in 16 years. He won by picking up a second on his rivals wherever he could, then dominating in the grueling mountain phase, where he took three of the four stages he won in the tour. [CBS News]

GOP’s George Costanza moment: The “Moops” doctrine and the war on Obamacare

GOP's George Costanza moment: The "Moops" doctrine and the war on Obamacare

John Boehner, Jason Alexander as George Costanza on “Seinfeld” (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/NBC)

Salon

Republicans gloat over an Obamacare court case that poached its legal reasoning from “Seinfeld.” No joke…

The DC Circuit Court’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell came down yesterday, and in an anticipated but no less galling turn of events, a pair of Republican-appointed judges ruled that a single poorly worded snippet of the Affordable Care Act invalidates subsidies for people who purchased health coverage through the federal exchanges. Those exchanges were set up for the 36 states that declined to build their own exchanges, so the practical effect of the ruling would be to make health insurance more expensive for roughly 4.6 million people spread out across some of the country’s poorest states.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act point out that, the sloppily written language notwithstanding, the full text of the law clearly indicates that its drafters intended for the government to subsidize health plans purchased through the federal exchanges. These two judges, however, argued that a narrow reading of one out-of-context sliver of the bill trumps all, and ruled in favor of eviscerating the ACA and causing massive chaos in the insurance market. It’s the sort of thing that conservatives used to denounce as “judicial activism.” (A separate rulingyesterday from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the legality of the subsidies.)

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best characterize and/or mock the legal reasoning at play behind the Halbig decision, and I think it can be boiled down to one word: Moops.

I’m referring, of course, to George Costanza’s famous game of Trivial Pursuit against the Bubble Boy, in which Costanza tries to cheat his way out of losing by taking advantage of a misprint on the answer card: “Moops” instead of “Moors.”

“That’s not ‘Moops,’ you jerk. It’s Moors. It’s a misprint,” the Bubble Boy explains, accurately presenting the game manufacturer’s intent in spite of the minor technical error.

“I’m sorry, the card says ‘Moops’,  Costanza replies, adopting an absurdly narrow and nonsensical interpretation of the rules that furthers his own interests. It’s a pretty good match on the logic, and the happy coincidence that the situation pits a whiny, lying jerk against a person in need of substantial medical care only bolsters its relevance.

And that gets to the larger point: conservatives and Republicans are celebrating the fact that two judges indulged in some tortured legal logic in order to deny millions of people the subsidies that make their health plans affordable. The plaintiffs’ case in Halbig is a transparent attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and the people cheering on that sabotage are signaling that they’re fine with a whole lot of collateral damage just so long as Obamacare takes a hit too.

That’s a morally dubious position to maintain. It’s also a tough sell politically. For a Republican politician in a red state, refusing to set up a state-based exchange was an easy choice to make – you could be on the right side of argument politically, and the feds would step in to make sure that no one in the state would miss out on the benefits. But if the subsidies were to disappear, those same politicians would suddenly find themselves in the position of having to actually do something to mitigate the damage. Brian Beutler writes at the New Republic:

If you’re a Republican senator from a purple Healthcare.gov state—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and others—you’ll be under tremendous pressure to pass the legislative fix. If you’re a Republican governor in any Healthcare.gov state, many thousands of your constituents will expect you to both pressure Congress to fix the problem, and prepare to launch your own exchange.

But because the ruling dealt with Obamacare, and because Republicans are ideologically bound to be in opposition to the law, there was no shortage of GOP legislators putting out statements supporting the Halbig ruling and, in effect, higher health costs and reduced access to health care. Some of them, like Ted Cruz, just put it right out there and said hooray for the end of “insidious” healthcare tax credits: “This decision restores power to Congress and to the people and if properly enforced, should shield citizens from Obamacare’s insidious penalties, mandates, and subsidies.”

Speaker John Boehner put out a statement that didn’t make any actual sense. “Today’s ruling is also further proof that President Obama’s health care law is completely unworkable.  It cannot be fixed,” Boehner said, referring to a law that could be easily fixed by a small legislative tweak and is actually doing a pretty good job of providing health insurance subsidies. “Republicans remain committed to repealing the law and replacing it with solutions that will lower health care costs and protect American jobs,” Boehner continued, gliding right past the fact that the Republican Obamacare replacement “solutions” don’t actually exist.

The bottom line is that there are millions of people are newly and affordably insured courtesy of the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits, and they are generally happy with your coverage. And Republicans are celebrating that they could lose it all because two judges ruled that the card does, in fact, say “Moops.”

West Wing Week 03/14/14 or “What’s Up, Captain America?”

The White House

This week, the Vice President and Dr. Biden traveled to Chile to attend the inauguration of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, while President Obama worked on improving access to college for students, raising the minimum wage, and negotiating a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Ukraine. He also got out the word about the March 31 deadline for health insurance applications, congratulated NCAA champs, and designated a new national monument.

 

Friday, March 7th

·       The President and First Lady visited Coral Reef High School in Miami, Florida to speak about the importance of signing up for Federal financial aid.

Monday, March 10th

·       The President participated in a conference call with healthcare enrollment leaders.

·       The President congratulated the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Champions at the White House.

Tuesday, March 11th

·      Funny or Die released an interview with President Obama on the web series Between Two Ferns.

·      The President added the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to existing National Monument land in California

·      Later that day, the President visited a Gap Store in New York City to highlight Gap’s choice to raise the minimum wage for their               employees.

Wednesday, March 12th

·     The President met with a group of advocates who are getting the word out about the Affordable Care Act.

·      Later that day, the President held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine.

·      Then, the President hosted a meeting with women members of Congressto discuss the 2014 women’s economic agenda.

Thursday, March 13th

·       The President spoke on the urgent need to get hardworking Americans the overtime pay they deserve.

·       Later, the President took a photo with the 52nd Annual U.S. Sentae Youth program.

 

John Roberts Refuses To Grant Obamacare Emergency Stay

Chief Justice John Roberts

The Huffington Post

The Supreme Court has refused a group of doctors’ request to block implementation of the nation’s new health care law.

Chief Justice John Roberts turned away without comment Monday an emergency stay request from the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. and the Alliance for Natural Health USA.

They asked the chief justice Friday to temporarily block the law, saying Congress had passed it incorrectly by starting it in the Senate instead of the House. Revenue-raising bills are supposed to originate in the lower chamber. They also wanted blocked doctor registration requirements they say will make it harder for independent non-Medicare physicians to treat Medicare-eligible patients.

Still pending is a decision on a temporary block on the law’s contraceptive coverage requirements, which was challenged by a group of nuns.

Fox’s Hume Details How Right Wing Media Push GOP To Extremes

Media Matters

HUME: I’m not sure they’re calling the shots but make no mistake about it, Bill. These — some of these radio talk show hosts have real influence. They have a huge following, particularly in very conservative areas where they are most popular and where the many members of congress who inhabit those areas are not worried about being reelected if they can get nominated. But they are worried about a primary challenge that could deny them the nomination.

O’REILLY: And that happened –

 

HUME: So they’ll go a long way to avoid it and keeping radio talk show hosts off their back is one way of doing that.

 

O’REILLY: That happened in Indiana to Lugar. He was a very well thought of senator, moderate. And then a more conservative guy got the nomination. He lost in the general race. So you believe that in Congress, if somebody has to run every two years as they do, and they get on the wrong side of a powerful radio voice, that’s beamed into their district, because the guys are national, they can really do them bad damage if they promote the other guy?

 

HUME:  Well, look, it’s not controlling but it’s a factor. I mean, if you’re a pragmatic politician up for reelection, you’re looking at the landscape and you don’t want to a lot of problems. And you don’t — and in many of these districts the Democrats can’t cause you any problems. There are just not enough of them. What there are enough of is conservative Republicans and conservative Republicans around the country today are very disappointed in their party and its leadership. And they think that the control of the House of Representatives should have been able to give them much more leverage than they seem to have been able to demonstrate and they should have been able to do more with it. And so if you’re sitting over in the House of Representatives and some measures of defund Obamacare comes along and you think it’s a suicide mission because it might involve a government shutdown you’re going to be hesitant to oppose it anyway because you don’t want the most conservative — you don’t want the tea party and you don’t want the conservative radio talk show hosts on your back. That doesn’t mean they can defeat you but it means you don’t want it.

See video here…

Rick Perry Seeks Obamacare Funding For Texans – While Continuing Attack On Obamacare

rick perry obamacare funding

Texas Gov. Rick Perry continues his strident attack on Obamacare as he seeks funding under the law for Texans. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

Ooops

The Huffington Post

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), a longstanding Obamacare critic, is negotiating a $100 million health care deal with the Obama administration, Politico reported on Tuesday.

The Community First Choice Program, aimed at improving the quality of health services for the elderly and disabled, was approved by the Texas legislature earlier this year. Perry health aides are now looking to the Obama administration for funding.

Perry has been a strident Obamacare critic from the beginning, but his spokesman explained that the funding pitch is about aiding people with disabilities, independent of a health insurance mandate.

“Long before Obamacare was forced on the American people, Texas was implementing policies to provide those with intellectual disabilities more community options to enable them to live more independent lives, at a lower cost to taxpayers,” Havens said in a statement. “The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will continue to move forward with these policies because they are right for our citizens and our state, regardless of whatever funding schemes may be found in Obamacare.”

According to Politico, 12,000 Texans are expected to benefit from the program in its first year, beginning in September 2014.

 

Romney lied about pre-existing conditions during debate

John Aravosis of America Blog nails it:

Mitt Romney’s camp is already flip-flipping over Romney’s promises during last night’s presidential debate.  Starting with health care reform and pre-existing conditions, a topic Romney already flip-flopped on four times in a single 24-hour period a month ago.

Which is a pretty amazing record, considering that Romney has never really given anyone any details as to just what his health care plan is.

Here’s Romney during last night’s debate, lying:

OBAMA: But the fact of the matter is that some of the prescriptions that he’s offered, like letting you buy insurance across state lines, there’s no indication that that somehow is going to help somebody who’s got a pre-existing condition be able to finally buy insurance. In fact, it’s estimated that by repealing Obamacare, you’re looking at 50 million people losing health insurance…

LEHRER: Let’s…

OBAMA: … at a time when it’s vitally important.

LEHRER: Let’s let the governor explain what you would do…

ROMNEY: Well…

LEHRER: … if Obamacare is repealed. How would you replace it?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Well, actually it’s — it’s — it’s a lengthy description. But, number one,preexisting conditions are covered under my plan.

And with regards to health care, you had remarkable details with regards to my pre-existing condition plan. You obviously studied up on — on my plan. In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions. That’s part of my health care plan. And what we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation state by state. And I said that at that time.

What they did in Massachusetts is ban discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. The same thing that happens in Obamacare. Mitt Romney plans on repealing that, and leaving it up to the states if they want to ban pre-existing conditions.

Brian Beutler of TPMDC:

After the first presidential debate at the University of Denver in Colorado on Wednesday night, one of Mitt Romney’s top advisers acknowledged that, as a result Romney’s plan to repeal Obamacare, people with pre-existing medical conditions would likely be unable to purchase insurance.

“With respect to pre-existing conditions, what Governor Romney has said is for those with continuous coverage, he would continue to make sure that they receive their coverage,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, referring to existing laws which require insurance companies to sell coverage to people who already have insurance, or within 90 days of losing their employer coverage.

Pressed by TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro, Fehrnstrom said those who currently lack coverage because they have pre-existing conditions would need their states to implement their own laws — like Romney’s own Massachusetts health care law — that ban insurance company from discriminating against sick people.

Oops.

The practical import of this is that 89m people would lose the pre-existing condition protection they have under Obamacare. That ain’t nothing.

Related articles

Perry ‘proudly’ refuses health care to 1.2 million low-income Texans

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). Photo: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com.

Between Governor Rick Scott of Florida and Governor Rick Perry of Texas, their governing is quite questionable to any reasonable person.

The Raw Story

In a statement published Monday morning, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) “proudly” declared that he will decline to implement key tenets of the Affordable Care Act — a move that will see his state forgo an estimated $164 billion dollars in federal aid and leave over 1.2 million low-income Texans, who would have finally been eligible for health care, helpless and uninsured.

“This is a fiscally stupid decision on the part of Rick Perry,” Texas Democratic Party spokesperson Rebecca Acuña told Raw Story. “Texas would be one of the states that gets the most money from the federal government and the Medicaid expansion would have provided health care to more than a million Texans. It’s… It’s very sad that Rick Perry is willing to play politics with the health of Texans, and that’s exactly what this decision is.”

WATCH: Perry says Medicaid expansion like ‘adding 1,000 people to the Titanic’

With his announcement, Perry becomes the sixth governor to refuse implementing a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act: the Medicaid expansion and the state-based health care exchanges. Republican governors in Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Wisconsin have made similar decisions, but Texas is by far the biggest.

Perry would seem to be inviting a political free-for-all thanks to the relative size and power of the Texas hospital industry, which absorbed more than $4.6 billion in unpaid emergency medical costs in 2010. While not seeing it as a cure-all, Texas hospitals largely praised the Affordable Care Act for dramatically expanding health care options for poor people, who are ultimately paid for by others who carry their own insurance. Nearly 25 percent of Texans — 6.5 million people — do not have health insurance, including more than 1.2 million children, and the state’s health care system ranks last in the nation overall.

Continue reading here…

10 Things You Would Have Missed About Obamacare

FYI…

Think Progress

1) Access to health insurance for 30 million Americans and lower premiums. More than 30 million uninsured Americans will find coverage under the law. Middle-class families who buy health care coverage through the exchanges will be eligible for refundable and advanceable premium credits and cost-sharing subsidies to ensure that the coverage they have is affordable.

2) The ability of businesses and individuals to purchase comprehensive coverage from a regulated marketplace. The law creates new marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to compare and purchase comprehensive coverage. Insurers will have to meet quality measures to ensure that Americans can access comprehensive coverage when they need it.

3) Insurers’ inability to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Beginning in 2014, insurers can no longer deny insurance to families or individuals with pre-existing conditions. Insurers are also prohibited from placing lifetime limits on the dollar value of coverage and rescinding insurers except in cases of fraud. Insurers are already prohibited from discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions.

4) Tax credits for small businesses that offer insurance. Small employers that purchase health insurance for employees are already receiving tax credits to encourage them to continue providing coverage.

5) Assistance for businesses that provide health benefits to early retirees.The law created a temporary reinsurance program for employers providing health insurance coverage to retirees over age 55 who are not eligible for Medicare, reimbursing employers or insurers for 80% of retiree claims. The program has offered at least $4.73 billion in reinsurance payments to more than 2,800 employers and other sponsors of retiree plans, with an average cumulative reimbursement per plan sponsor of approximately $189,700.

6) Affordable health care for lower-income Americans. Obamacare extends Medicaid to individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty line, guaranteeing that the nation’ most vulnerable population has access to affordable, comprehensive coverage.

7) Investments in women’s health. Obamacare prohibits insurers from charging women substantially more than men and requires insurers to offer preventive services — including contraception — at no additional cost.

8) Young adults’ ability to stay on their parents’ health care plans. More than 3.1 million young people have already benefited from dependent coverage, which allows children up to age 26 to remain insured on their parents’ plans.

9) Discounts for seniors on brand-name drugs. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to provide a 50% discount on prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap. Seniors have already saved $3.5 billion on prescription drug costs thanks to the Affordable Care Act provision.

10) Temporary coverage for the sickest Americans. The law established temporary national high-risk pools that are providing health coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions who cannot find insurance on the individual market. In 2014, they will be able to enroll in insurance through the exchanges. 67,482 individuals have already benefited from the program.

David Gregory on “Obamacare”: “Nobody’s really been given anything yet.” Oh really?

In my opinion David Gregory still has a lot to learn about “Obamacare”…

The Political Carnival

I was barely awake when the news was blasted loud and clear about the Supreme Court upholding the individual mandate. That woke me up pretty quickly. But you know what really opened my eyes? This quote by MSNBC’s David Gregory (host of NBC’s Meet the Press”) when he was asked to comment about how Republicans would respond to the president’s victory:

“Nobody’s really been given anything yet.”

He said that to buttress the idea that the voting public wouldn’t be swayed by the decision because, see, they haven’t “benefited yet,” so they still won’t support the plan.

Yes, he said that. Yes he’s uninformed and unqualified to work in the news media.

So none of this happened, David?

  • Providing Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credits Effective Jan. 1, 2010
  • Allowing States to Cover More People on Medicaid Effective April 1, 2010
  • Relief for Four Million Seniors Who Hit the Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole” Program applied only on 2010.
  • Cracking Down on Health Care Fraud Many provisions effective now
  • Expanding Coverage for Early Retirees Applications for employers to participate in the program available June 1, 2010.
  • Providing Access to Insurance for Uninsured Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions National program established July 1, 2010
  • Putting Information Online Effective July 1, 2010
  • Extending Coverage for Young Adults Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010 Under the new law, young adults are allowed to stay on their parent’s plan until they turn 26 years old.
  • Providing Free Preventive Care Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Prohibiting Insurance Companies from Rescinding Coverage  Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Appealing Insurance Company Decisions  Effective for new plans beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Eliminating Lifetime Limits on Insurance Coverage Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Regulating Annual Limits on Insurance Coverage Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010
  • Prohibiting Denying Coverage of Children Based on Pre-Existing Conditions Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010 for new plans and existing group plans
  • Holding Insurance Companies Accountable for Unreasonable Rate Hikes Grants will be awarded beginning in 2010
  • Holding Insurance Companies Accountable for Unreasonable Rate Hikes Grants will be awarded beginning in 2010
  • Prescription Drug Discounts Effective January 1, 2011
  • Free Preventive Care for Seniors Effective January 1, 2011
  • Improving Care for Seniors after They Leave the Hospital Effective January 1, 2011

Oh, and there was this: Damn that “Obamacare” and its $1.1 billion in rebates!