Posts Tagged With: Obamacare

THE HEALTHCARE SCARE

So Obama promised on numerous occasions that: “If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it. Period.” He often repeated this while campaigning for President and then after he was elected. Bad mistake, as it turned out, since perhaps millions of people will lose their healthcare plan due to implementation of Obamacare. Couple that with the disastrous incompetence of introducing Obamacare on-line, and you have Republicans, like sharks smelling blood in the water, circling around their prey, ready to pounce. I suppose if Obama had said that most people would be able to maintain their healthcare plans, this entire kerfuffle might have been avoided. In any event, before we let panic and hysteria reign supreme, I felt it would actually be helpful if we looked at the facts and the reality surrounding the whole healthcare stew that exist in America today. You know what facts are; those pesky and annoying items that always seem to interfere with ideology.

The first fact to acknowledge is that we are the only civilized country on Planet Earth, (and perhaps in the universe) that doesn’t provide its citizens with universal healthcare. Republicans, and other assorted right-wingers point to healthcare systems in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, India, and everywhere else, and declaim these systems as “socialized medicine.” Oh, the horror. We must never allow the evils of socialized medicine to take root in the U.S., they staunchly proclaim. Except that it already has for major segments of our society. Like the military, for example. Republicans hold the military in such high esteem, that it has not been a problem bestow upon them the “evils” of socialized medicine. Here’s how it works. The military healthcare system is called TRICARE, and it’s available to all active AND retired military, their spouses and their young children. All are eligible to obtain free medical treatment at VA hospitals or from private doctors. Currently, this comes to just under 10 million people who don’t have to worry about obtaining healthcare. Plus, if one has ever served in the military, they’re allowed to obtain medical care at VA hospitals for a small co-pay. Why is socialized medicine a given for the military, but such a big deal about making it available to the civilian population?

Next comes Medicare for all those pain-in-the-ass seniors, who, as everyone knows, are just leeches on society. While not as good as TRICARE, it’s still not bad. It pays an estimated 80 percent of usual doctor bills, and almost 100 percent of hospital charges. It doesn’t cover stuff like eye glasses or hearing aids which are an increasing necessity in many senior’s lives. Normally, when one has Medicare, one has to also acquire a supplemental healthcare plan to cover the stuff Medicare won’t pay for. My supplemental costs about 3 times more than my Medicare premiums; but, between the two, I don’t have to worry about any billings from doctors or hospitals. So we’ll say that Medicare is semi-socialized medicine. Except if a senior decides to belong to an HMO, where everything is paid for and no supplemental is required. Then it’s fully socialized. There are, however, certain disadvantages to belonging to an HMO, which you can learn about on Google. In any event, there are currently 49 million people receiving Medicare benefits. The list of those with Government healthcare support keeps growing.

The next category of Government provided healthcare is Medicaid, a health plan for the poor. Medicaid is generally not considered a worthy plan because the Government is extremely parsimonious in its funding. Medicaid is a joint federal and state funded venture and both have been reluctant in providing the resources needed to keep the system afloat. Many doctors will not accept Medicaid patients because of stingy reimbursements. Still, if you’re poor, and can’t afford health insurance, it’s better than nothing. Currently, 70 million people rely on Medicaid for their health benefits. There’s also CHIP, the Children Health Insurance Program; essentially, Medicaid for youngsters, which enrolls another 7.6 million people. So we’re now up to about 136 million Americans receiving health insurance benefits from the Government. (Better not alert the Tea Party nut cases, or they’ll develop a case of the heaves.)

An estimated113 million Americans receive their health insurance from private employers or as employees of governments at the federal, state and local levels. These are generally safe from the mandates of Obamacare. So where’s the problem with all these cancellation notices and rate hikes. It comes because 5 percent of the population, or about 15 million people have to buy health insurance directly, because, for one reason or another, they are not part of a group plan. Which is always an unfortunate position to be in. Most of these cancellation notices are occurring because many of these self-insured health plans do not meet minimum medical requirements specified by the Government. Or, in other words, these plans are a piece of crap; and the only thing saving the butts of those purchasing such plans is that they remain healthy enough to not require serious medical attention in the first place. Eventually, over time, if Obamacare is allowed to develop and evolve, those buying self-insurance will be able to obtain decent plans at reasonable cost.

But, if Republicans want to howl that Obama lied, they’re free to do so. Imagine, a politician in Washington lied. I don’t think my heart can take it. Where’s my defibrillator? Although I seem to recall those famous words uttered by George Bush, the Elder: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” That notorious line was proclaimed about a year before he signed legislation raising our taxes. Or how about the right-wingers favorite President, Ronald Reagan, lying to us for over 2 years about the Iran-Contra scandal. (Those not familiar with Iran-Contra can also check it out on Google.) Or how about the infamous: “I did not have sex, not even once, with that woman, Miss Lewenski.” Bill Clinton is now revered as a saint in Democratic circles, despite the utterance. It was he, more than anyone, that saved Obama’s butt, in the 2012 election. Or how about George Bush, the Younger, telling us we had to go to war with Iraq because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. It was only later that we found no WMDs existed in Iraq. Or better yet, take the man considered our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln. In trying to secure enough votes to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, lying was the least of his sins. Lincoln used bribery, blackmail, threats of political or bodily harm, coercion, and bunches of other bad stuff, but he got the job done and was hailed as a hero. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from that.

 

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RELIGIOUS FANATICISM ….. AGAIN

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on abortion in the case known as Roe V. Wade. In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court, citing a woman’s constitutional right to privacy, struck down laws that existed in virtually every state, that restricted a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in a sterile medical facility. Abortions were still taking place prior to the court’s decision; but more often than not, women had to accept some back-alley butcher as the abortion provider. It didn’t happen frequently, but sometimes women died during the procedure, because the person performing the abortion was often not a medical professional. In the 39 years since Roe V. Wade became law, about 55 million abortions have taken place, over, of course, the strenuous objections of religious fanatics who have fought the de-criminalization of abortion every step of the way. The Republican platform this year would prohibit abortions in every circumstance, without exception. Since the prohibition of anything is meaningless unless there are serious criminal penalties attached, the tens of millions of women that have had abortions over the last 39 years would have to do some serious jail time (say 5-10 years or longer) to say nothing of the doctors that performed the abortions and the nurses that may have assisted them, had the anti-abortionists won the day. I always knew that there was a considerable shortage of prison space in this country.

This came to mind because during this election season, all the snakes seem to be slithering out from under the rocks that sheltered them. For example, about 6-8 months ago there were a series of vile sermons given in churches (all of which seemed to be in North Carolina for some reason) that sought to demonize homosexuality in general and gay marriage in particular using the most venomous language. The sermons were being recorded and later posted on YouTube for all the world to see. What was most disturbing about these exercises in pure, distilled hatred, was not the bible-thumping crackpots giving these sermons. It was the several hundred people who attended these churches and cheered wildly as the bible -thumpers promised hell and damnation to anyone living the gay life-style. So much for civility and love-thy-neighbor in the Christian community.

Then several weeks ago, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri decided that he was going to outdo everybody in his fanatical anti-abortion beliefs. He came out with statements to the effect that he was told by medical professionals, that in cases of “legitimate” rape, a woman’s body would naturally cleanse itself of the fetus. He didn’t say what the body would do in cases of illegitimate rape, or for that matter, what his definitions of legitimate versus illegitimate rape were. The absurdity of his remarks were so mind-boggeling that even Mitt Romney, who goes to huge lengths not to offend any possible voter, issued a mild rebuke. However, even Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s former consigliere, who has created his own Super-Pac, with express intent of electing an all-Repulican Congress as a present to a Romney presidency, washed his hands of that one.

Still not to be out-done in religious fanaticism, the guy running for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, the other day, made the incoherent statement that if a woman gets pregnant because of rape (presumably both legitimate and illegitimate) it’s God’s will that she have that baby rather than seek abortion. ( Just the words that ┬áthe parents of a 15 year-old daughter that’s been sexually assaulted by some psycho animal, want to hear.) The problem in this case is that His Mittness had previously been caught on tape as endorsing this Republican candidate, as just the type of person that’s needed in Washington to clean things up. Fearing that he may have already alienated one evangelical nut-case too many with his previous rebuke of the guy in Missouri, His Mittness is still standing by his endorsement of the Indiana would-be Senator. Both the Missouri and Indiana religious extremists are Tea-Party favorites who believe that all our fiscal problems will be solved if we just cut-out the couple of million dollars the Government gives to Planned Parenthood. But don’t under-estimate depth of religious zealotry that prevails in much of this country, especially in the mid-west and south. Both men might still eke out a narrow victory in each of their races.

Lets go back, for the moment, to the elections of 2010 when the Tea Party movement was at its zenith. It was obvious that the GOP would capture control of the House of Representatives by a wide margin due to the country’s dislike of Obamacare and other issues. Karl Rove, who I mentioned earlier, also set his sights on Republican control of the Senate; but that would be more difficult because the Democrats had 59 Senate seats. But it was doable. One of the key Senate races that Rove was counting on to switch from Democrat to Republican was in Delaware. Mike Castle, one of dying breed of moderate Republicans, was running for that seat, and was considered a shoo-in victor against his Democratic opponent. He had been a popular Governor and then Congressman, and Rove considered his election to be a forgone conclusion. But first he had to win the GOP primary.

The Tea Party movement at that time, in its infinite wisdom, considered Mike Castle to be too moderate, and so put up their own candidate to oppose him in the primary. Their choice was a woman named Christine O’Donnell who had no previous political experience. Like Sarah Palin, she was pretty and perky, but a complete dingbat. However, only 12% of registered Republicans bothered to show up for the primary vote, and most of them were Tea Party fanatics. Christine O’Donnell, therefore, beat Mike Castle in the primary to became the GOP nominee, but thereby ended all hopes of the Senate reverting to Republican control. Upon hearing the news of Christine’s win, it was said that Karl Rove threw a tantrum, beating his fists into the floor and wailing for 24 hours.

In the general election (which was for Joe Biden’s old seat), it came out that Christine had practiced some form of witchcraft in the 1990s. As you may remember, that led her to cut a famous TV ad in which she starts out by saying: “I’m not a witch.” Words that the average American thought they would never hear in a political campaign since the 17th century. In any event, the Democrat, who was largely unknown, easily won the race and ended GOP hopes for Senate control.

In this coming election, the Tea Party is also strongly backing Mitt Romney and Republican Congressional hopefuls. It doesn’t matter that His Mittness used to be for safe and legal abortions before he was against them, that he was for universal health care before he was against it, that he was for gun control laws before he was against them and on and on. If I listed everything, I have a blog longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls. But if elected, Romney will make one major difference, and that is appointing an anti-abotion judge to the Supreme Court. The 40 year dream of zealots, fanatics, and outright religious crackpots, of overturning Roe V. Wade will finally be realized, if the public allows this by electing Mitt Romney as our next President.

 

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LEGALISTICS

Many moons ago when I was still working, I had a close friend whose brother suffered from multiple illnesses. Unfortunately the brother, who was in his forties at the time, was also poor and could not afford health insurance. So he decided to gamble everything and move to Canada, which had, and still has universal health care. That simply means that if you’re sick, you go see a doctor, and the Government picks up the ensuing costs. The only hitch to this scheme, however, was that you had to be a Canadian citizen to use their health care system, and in order to become that, you had to reside in Canada for at least 18 months. So taking a shot that his health could hold up for a year and a half, he moved to Toronto and hoped for the best. The last I heard, he had made it through the 18-month period, and was being treated by Canadian doctors.

I find it fascinating that we are the only first-world country on the planet that does not provide universal health care. It exists through most of North and South America(even Cuba, as poor as they are), throughout Europe, Japan and the rest of Asia, and so on. France has one of the best health care systems in the world, where all medical and dental bills are paid for by the state. The French plan also includes in-home nursing care for mothers of new-borns, or people whose health has deteriorated to a terminal status. Yet somehow, the most affluent country the world has ever seen cannot put together a system, where rich or poor, everyone could receive adequate medical treatment. Yes it’s true that if your poor and come down with an illness, you can visit any hospital emergency room, and they can’t turn you away for lack of insurance. But you can wait hours to see a doctor, and if you’re lucky enough to where the only thing wrong with you is a sore throat that can be treated with a bottle of anti-biotic pills, or a broken ankle that can be put in a cast, you will receive adequate care. But if your unlucky and have something far more serious like pancreatic cancer, you can bet that the hospital in question will not want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, to try to save your life, if health insurance is lacking.

All this came to mind this past week as the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, more fondly known as Obamacare, was argued before the Supreme Court for 3 days. The most contentious provision for opponents of the Act is the individual mandate that requires everyone to purchase health insurance by 2013. Of course, since all things political in this country these days are done with monumental irrationality if not stupidity, it’s helpful to look at the facts and leave the emotions at the front door. The Act provides that if you don’t purchase health insurance, the Government can assess you a fairly small penalty especially in comparison to the cost of health insurance. But if you don’t pay the penalty fee, then what. The answer is …Nothing. They don’t slap the cuffs on you, they don’t throw you in jail, they don’t even make you go to re-hab. The individual mandate is a clause without teeth since in the end, if you don’t accept it, nothing will happen to you. Yet opponents of Obamacare become apoplectic just at the mention of it. Democracy in this country will cease to exist, capitalism will be gone, and the country will become a Marxist, Socialist, Communist (choose one) dictatorship.

Now it’s true that the Act is a 2700 hundred page behemoth that would be cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment for anyone to have to read and understand it, as Justice Scalia asserted. The Democrats, in their full ineptitude mode, spent nearly 2 years putting together this Frankenstein of a bill, in an attempt to achieve universal health care. With commanding majorities in both houses of Congress, Democrats chose total incompetency and let a golden opportunity slip away, as opposition to this Act continued to build up and resulted in voters turning to Republicans in 2010. All the Democrats had to do was extend Medicare to everyone, and put those that couldn’t afford the Medicare premiums on Medicaid, and then pay for the whole thing through a 3-5% national sales tax. The bill could have been written in less than 10 pages and passed within 6 months before widespread opposition was allowed to build up. But, as I said, the Democrats chose to let supreme incompetence rule the day, and thus, suffered the consequences.

As convoluted as Obamacare is, it’s still a serious attempt to allow 30-45 million uninsured people to gain decent medical treatment when the need arises. However, out of the 9 justices on the Supreme Court, 4 are rock solid conservatives, and 4 generally vote along liberal lines. The ninth justice, Anthony Kennedy, is also a conservative, appointed by Ronald Reagan, but once in awhile takes an opposing view in his decisions from the other 4 conservatives. Through all the legalistic machinations that went on this week in both sides’ arguments, there is no question that 4 justices will rule Obamacare unconstitutional while the other 4 will likely say that it does pass muster. Thus the fate of the Affordable Health Care Act then comes down to Justice Kennedy’s decision. The early betting is that, at a minimum, the individual mandate will be ruled unconstitutional. Also from Justice Kennedy’s line of questioning and his comments, it appears that he, along with his 4 conservative brethren, are ready to rule the entire Act is unconstitutional. Thus, by a 5 to 4 vote, an attempt at universal health care in this country will fade away. The Justices will twist themselves into legalistic pretzels, writing lengthy opinions justifying their decisions, but in the end there is nothing in the Constitution that even remotely discusses this subject.

In the end everything is politics and everything depends on which side of the aisle you sit on. And if the Act is declared unconstitutional we’re back to square one, with sharply rising medical costs and insurance premiums, and millions of people unable to obtain decent medical treatment when needed.

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