In the USA...United Surveillance AmericaGlenn Greenwald rips apart the ‘most radical and criminal conduct’ of Dick Cheney
By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 9:20 EDT
Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald blasted Dick Cheney on Tuesday night, after the former vice president described Edward Snowden as a “traitor” for leaking NSA secrets.
“Remember, Dick Cheney is a politician who engaged in some of the worst, most radical and criminal conduct in the last century in the United States and did it all in secret — from lying about the war in Iraq to torturing people, to putting people in cages with no lawyers, to eavesdropping on the American people without the warrants required by law,” he told CNN host Anderson Cooper. “So of course political people like Dick Cheney, people in political power always want to do what they do behind a wall of secrecy because that’s how they abuse power.”
“And they always consider those who bring transparency to what they do to be evil, treasonous people,” he continued. “Edward Snowden is considered a hero to people around the world and the United States and received a whistle blowing award because he did what people have conscience do, which is tell that world about things that they should know.”
“That the world’s most powerful people are trying to keep concealed,” Greenwald said. “It’s created a worldwide debate over internet freedom and the value of privacy and dangers of surveillance. It’s created movements for reform and all kinds of legislators around the world including in the United States and the world is much better off that the Dick Cheneys of the world aren’t able to abuse their power in secret.”
There was no evidence that Snowden harmed U.S. national security by leaking information about the NSA’s surveillance practices, the outspoken columnist added. Terrorists already knew they were being spied on.
“What we told the world what they didn’t know is this spying system is directed at innocent people, people that have nothing to do with terrorism,” Greenwald said.
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube, below:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sEEPLO-W5M
October 30, 2013 06:00 AMDick Cheney: Iraq War Worth It 'Cause Saddam Might Get WMDs
By John Amato
Dick Cheney will never admit that he screwed the pooch with his push for war with Iraq. He now says that since we blew the shit out of Iraq, as well as eliminated Saddam as a WMD threat, spending a trillion dollars with 100,000 civilians killed and almost 4500 US soldiers dead made it worth the cost in blood and treasure to America. Huh? 'Potential' is his new benchmark for invading and destroying anybody he sees fit.
O’REILLY: But what — right now, what do we — what do we get of Iraq for all of that blood and treasure? What do we get out of it?
CHENEY: What we gain and my concern was then and it remains today is that the biggest threat we face is the possibility of terrorist groups like al Qaeda equipped with weapons of mass destruction, with nukes, bugs or gas. That was the threat after 9/11 and when we took down Saddam Hussein we eliminated Iraq as a potential source of that.
After O'Reilly tells him that Al-Qaeda is back, he blames Obama administration for not following his policies. What an evil man. He also cites Moammar Gadhafi giving up his nuke capabilities and catching AQ Khan as the other great achievements for invading Iraq. He's an evil man because he knows this was the real reason for his call to invade Iraq.
A senior official from former President George W. Bush's administration is quoted in “Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House” saying American troops went into Iraq because the U.S. was looking for a fight.
"The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy," the anonymous official said,according to Politico.
There's not a punishment severe enough that could be levied on Bush and Cheney for the horrors they caused in the Middle East as well as in America. All those lives lost and wounded and for what? They lied and lied to start a war, they should burn in hell.
Since Iraq didn't have any weapons of mass destruction maybe we could have saved ourselves some money and eliminated a cheaper "potential source of WMD" that didn't have any. Like "invading" Trinidad or something.
I'm frankly shocked that Cheney hasn't been able to develop a better line about this by now. But then, really, what can he say? There is no good reason. We went crazy. And everyone knows it.
Yes, there is no good reason to justify the Iraq invasion.
October 29, 2013Cancellation of Health Care Plans Replaces Website Problems as Prime Target
By JONATHAN WEISMAN and ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — After focusing for weeks on the technical failures of President Obama’s health insurance website, Republicans on Tuesday broadened their criticism of the health care law, pointing to Americans whose health plans have been terminated because they do not meet the law’s new coverage requirements.
The rising concern about canceled health coverage has provided Republicans a more tangible line of attack on the law and its most appealing promise for the vast majority of Americans who have insurance: that it would lower their costs, or at least hold them harmless. Baffled consumers are producing real letters from insurance companies that directly contradict Mr. Obama’s oft-repeated reassurances that if people like the insurance they have, they will be able to keep it.
“My constituents are frightened,” Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas, told Marilyn Tavenner, the official whose department oversaw the creation of Mr. Obama’s health insurance marketplace, at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday. “They are being forced out of health care plans they like. The clock is ticking. The federal website is broken. Their health care isn’t a glitch.”
In the weeks since the health marketplaces opened, insurance companies have begun sending notices to hundreds of thousands of Americans in the individual insurance market informing them that their existing plans will soon be canceled. In many of those cases, the insured have been offered new plans, often with better coverage but also at higher prices.
The cancellation notices are proving to be a political gift to Republicans, who were increasingly concerned that their narrowly focused criticism of the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov could lead to a dead end, once the website’s issues are addressed. Already they found themselves being pressed to join a Democratic push to fix the problems, not gut the law.
“There’s a little bit of a danger that if we’re just focused on the obvious ineptitude of the web designers and of the system breakdown — I wouldn’t call it a glitch, I’d call it a breakdown — we’re forgetting the bigger picture here,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio. “Once people do get on they’ll find out they’ll be paying more, not less, and won’t be able to keep what they have.”
Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, called the website criticism “overblown.”
“They’ll fix the problems with the website. I think they won’t fix the problems with the bill,” he said.
Democrats pushed back on the Republican attacks, pointing to problems in the early days of the prescription drug plan Republicans passed in 2003, known as Medicare Part D. Most Democrats opposed that law strenuously, but, they said, once it went into effect, they helped constituents enroll and worked for its success.
“Despite Democrats’ opposition to Part D 10 years ago, we committed to making the best of the program,” said Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, rising from his seat at the Ways and Means hearing to excoriate Republicans.
In contrast, with the president’s health care law, Republicans “want this to fail. They want chaos,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “Their credibility is not that strong.”
The cancellation notices appear to open a new front in the Republican war on the health care law. The affected population, those who bought insurance on their own, is a small fraction of an insurance market dominated by employer-sponsored health plans. But many of those individual policy holders are surprised and angry.
Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, pointed to Bruno Gora, a constituent who was informed this month by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield that “to meet the requirements of the new law, your current plan can no longer be offered.” Mr. Gora, 61, was offered alternatives, including one that would lock in his existing benefits. But, said Mr. Gora, a self-employed printing distributor, his premiums could rise by as much as $3,400 a year.
In an interview, Mr. Gora said he had not been able to determine if he would qualify for federal subsidies because he could not get on to the website.
“What did he say? I can keep my plan, and I can save,” Mr. Gora said of the president. “That’s not occurring.”
At the hearing Tuesday, Ms. Tavenner said that in compliance with the health care law, the new policies would provide more benefits and more consumer protections than many existing policies.
The chairman of the committee, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, said that at least 146,000 Michigan residents had recently received notices that their current insurance policies would be canceled because the coverage did not meet standards of the new law.
“In fact,” Mr. Camp said, “based on what little information the administration has disclosed, it turns out that more people have received cancellation notices for their health care plans this month than have enrolled in the exchanges.”
Ms. Tavenner said that “nearly 700,000 applications have been submitted to the federal and state marketplaces” in the past four weeks. But she would not say how many of those people had actually enrolled in health insurance plans since the federal and state marketplaces, or exchanges, opened on Oct. 1.
“That number will not be available until mid-November,” Ms. Tavenner said. “We expect the initial number to be small.”
But Democrats facing tough election campaigns next year are growing increasingly nervous. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat up for re-election, began pressing the Obama administration last week to delay the penalties on individuals who remain uninsured, arguing that consumers should not be held accountable for failing to buy health plans on a website they cannot access. The cancellation letters only added to the pressure she faces.
“We knew that they would have to sign up again,” she said of constituents on the individual insurance market who might face changes under the health care law. “But obviously I don’t think anyone thought people would be kicked off their health insurance plan.”
Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who was an enthusiastic supporter of the 2010 health care law and is now running for governor of Pennsylvania, told Ms. Tavenner that the chaotic debut of the federal insurance marketplace “has done some damage to Americans’ confidence in this website, in the marketplace and even potentially in the options that they would have available to get health coverage.”
Republican leaders faced their own conundrum. As they pick apart the carrying out of the health care law, top Republicans have found themselves at once calling for fixes to the law and insisting on its repeal. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said Tuesday: “It’s time to delay this. It’s time to fix this before it gets any worse.”
“We need to fix this problem,” Mr. Cantor added, a far cry from the Republican mantra of “repeal and replace.”
When pressed, Mr. Boehner backtracked: “There is no way to fix this monstrosity.”
*******************Ed Schultz blames scared media and ‘crappy insurance’ for backlash to Obamacare
By Arturo Garcia
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 20:31 EDT
MSNBC host Ed Schultz mounted a spirited defense of the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, blaming media outlets for playing into conservatives’ hands by spreading “misinformation” about the new law in an effort to protect their own reputations.
“I think that network reporters throughout the entire industry may be caught in a dilemma: that Obamacare is so positive and gonna have such a tremendous impact on American life and American society in setting the foundation for better changes in the future,” Schultz speculated. “I think that network reporters and people on TV are having a hard time saying something nice about it or positive about it because they might be viewed as ‘journalistically compromised.’”
According to Schultz, reports saying the White House knew that 2 million of the country’s 14 million individual health insurance buyers could be kicked out of their current policies were too quick to point the blame at the Obama administration and not at the insurance industry.
“Some of them are gonna get these [cancellation] notices because they have — I can’t use the S-word — they have crappy insurance,” Schultz said. “Raising the standards of health care in America, and making sure that insurance companies live up and actually deliver what they’re supposed to is what Obamacare is all about.”
The point of the law, Schultz argued, was that it would do away with “junk plans” that fall short when patients are most in need.
“Why doesn’t that get reported by all the people who think that ’40 to 60 percent of the people are gonna be losing their insurance,’?” Schultz grumbled, before taking a shot at CBS News anchor Charlie Rose. “Two million people in this country, Charlie, have got lousy insurance, and Obama’s trying to do something about it. That’s your headline on CBS, dude.”
********************Rash of Lazy, Sensational Reporting is Freaking People Out About Obamacare
By Joshua Holland, Moyers & Company
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 23:56 EDT
A rash of sensational, context-free reporting is needlessly alarming the public about what’s happening in America’s health insurance markets as a result of Obamacare. Making matters worse, it’s set against a backdrop of relentless, intentional misinformation from the law’s opponents. It should come as no surprise that many Americans are anxious about a law most know little about other than what they catch on short TV news segments.
Erik Wemple, media critic for the Washington Post, noted that a Florida woman named Wanda Barrette, who claimed that her insurance premiums were increasing ten-fold – from $54 per month to $591 — was interviewed by CBS and three different Fox TV shows (many conservative outlets like The Weekly Standard also picked up the CBS report). Wemple interviewed the woman himself and found that the story didn’t convey that she was losing “a pray-that-you-don’t-really-get-sick ‘plan.’”
Her current health insurance plan, she says, doesn’t cover “extended hospital stays; it’s not designed for that,” says Barrette. Well, does it cover any hospitalization? “Outpatient only,” responds Barrette. Nor does it cover ambulance service and some prenatal care. On the other hand, says Barrette, it does cover “most of my generic drugs that I need” and there’s a $50 co-pay for doctors’ appointments. “It’s all I could afford right now,” says Barrette.
When asked if she ever required hospitalization, Barrette says she did. It happened when she was employed by Raytheon, which provided “excellent benefits.” Ever since she left the company and started working as an independent contractor, “I haven’t been hospitalized since then, thank God.”
It was good reporting. But even Wemple only mentioned in passing that the woman “may be eligible for subsidies.” In doing so, he buried the lede — according to Kaiser’s subsidy calculator, and presuming Barrette doesn’t smoke, she would be eligible for a bronze plan, which guarantees free preventive care and coverage for hospitalizations, for only $97 per month — one-sixth of that headline number that’s making the rounds (a silver plan, with more extensive coverage, would cost her $209 after subsidies).
That story was far from alone in hyping a “trainwreck” narrative without giving equal time to the law’s benefits. Front-and-center today is an NBC “investigation” that’s been getting an enormous amount of attention, especially in conservative circles. It supposedly reveals that the Obama administration knew in advance that millions of insurance plans would be cancelled even as the president repeatedly promised Americans, “if you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan.”
But this purported ‘smoking gun’ only tells us the obvious: that the administration, like every health care expert in the world, knew that within the individual market there were insurance plans that don’t meet minimal standards of coverage – plans that would likely leave their purchasers bankrupt should an accident or serious illness befall them. (Perhaps Obama should have said, “if you have a plan that isn’t a ripoff and doesn’t leave you entirely exposed to risk, you can keep it.”)
And it should come as no surprise that some people will have to pay more for better coverage, but that, too, is a story that requires considerable context that’s been lacking in a lot of recent reporting.
Here’s an excerpt from NBC’s report:
Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
And here’s some of what’s missing from this report and many others like it…
Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic points out that there will, indeed, be some people who lose coverage, and some will have to pay higher rates, but many others are going to experience “rate joy” – a story that’s been getting far less attention…
Obamacare is transforming one part of the existing health insurance market, in ways that will force some people to pay more than they do now. But that’s only part of the story. Many other people, quite possibly the majority of people in that market, will pay less than they do now. And even those paying more will be getting more comprehensive, more secure insurance.
Read the whole piece – it’s a good primer on everything that’s happening to our insurance markets as a result of Obamacare.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones argues that the universe of people who will be adversely affected by cancellations is probably pretty small…
[These stories don't] describe a huge demographic—people who are just barely above the subsidy threshold and currently have individual coverage and are young enough to see premium increases—but there’s no question they exist…
It’s not clear how many people are genuinely going to get hit by sticker shock. In most of the stories I’ve read… people are simply taking the word of their insurance company about how much a new policy will cost. They may find out that things are better once they actually shop around and check out the subsidies they qualify for. Others may find that the higher premiums pay for themselves in lower out-of-pocket expenses throughout the year…
Right now, even in places like California that have working exchange sites, a lot of people are still guessing about how Obamacare will actually affect them…. Better benefits and federal subsidies are going to have a big impact, and that impact probably won’t be clear until Obamacare has actually been up and running for a while.
As for the “rate shock” some will experience, Josh Barro offered some much-needed perspective at Business Insider…
Once Obamacare is implemented, America’s health insurance system will be a thicket of subsidies and transfers that benefit some people and harm others….
But here’s the thing: Before Obamacare, our health insurance system was already a thicket of subsidies and transfers. The law doesn’t simplify the system, but it does make the thicket of subsidies and transfers more sensible: directed more at people who have low incomes or high health needs, and greatly shrinking the share of the population that doesn’t have health coverage at all. Making the thicket more sensible will mean that some people’s costs go up, producing “rate shock”…
The Los Angeles Times looked at how many Californians who currently get health insurance through the individual market are facing higher premiums. But here’s the most important part of the article:
A number of factors are driving up rates. In a report this year, consultants hired by the state said the influx of sicker patients as a result of guaranteed coverage was the biggest single reason for higher premiums. Bob Cosway, a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman Inc. in San Diego, estimated that the average individual premium in 2014 will rise 27% because of that difference alone.
It’s a lot cheaper to provide health insurance coverage if you exclude a lot of the people who need it most. Making insurance available to people with pre-existing health conditions costs money. Obamacare funds this transfer to the chronically ill in part by raising premiums on healthy people.
And Igor Volsky, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, notes that people in the individual insurance market were seeing their plans changed frequently prior to the existence of Obamacare…
The cancellations are a result of so-called grandfather rules promulgated by President Obama’s Health and Human Services. The rule exempts health insurance plans in existence before March 23, 2010 — the day the Affordable Care Act became law — from many of the new regulations, benefits standards and consumer protections that new plans now have to abide by, but says that policies could lose their designation if they make major changes…
The naturally high turnover rate associated with the individual market means that it’s highly unlikely that individuals would still be enrolled in plans from 2010 in 2014. In fact, the Obama administration publicly admitted this when it issued the regulations in 2010, leading Republicans like Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) to seize on the story in order to push for repeal of the grandfather regulations.
In the end, lazy stories of “sticker shock” and cancellations by reporters uninterested in the details of public policy only offer the sensational half of a complicated story, and that’s providing a big assist to opponents of the law. As Greg Sargent noted in The Washington Post after the government shutdown proved disastrous for their cause, Republicans “are now hoping to put that behind them by launching a series of coordinated, seemingly serious House investigations into what has gone wrong with Obamacare.” In the House, they’re introducing the ‘Keep Your Health Plan Act,’ which would guarantee that insurers could continue to rip off consumers.
And CBS, after breathlessly offering the meaningless factoid that three times as many people are receiving cancellation notices than have signed up for Obamacare so far (never mind that a grand total of 123 people signed up for “Romneycare” during its first month in Massachusetts), tells us that “the White House is on the defensive trying to explain it.” They could use a little help from a responsible Fourth Estate.
*******************Jon Stewart skewers CNN and Wolf Blitzer for ‘dumbing down’ the news
By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 0:13 EDT
Rather than pick on CNN for its coverage of a specific issue, Daily Show host Jon Stewart ripped Wolf Blitzer and his colleagues on Tuesday for reducing more of their reporting to choosing between “good things” and “bad things.”
“It’s like the word went out from CNN HQ: ‘Nobody watches this network unless they’re in the airport or going somewhere,’” Stewart guessed. “‘Eighty-six the professor talk and just let the people know, does this story go in my happy bag or my sad bag? Emoticon me, chop chop.’”
To prove his point, Stewart showed the network’s coverage of stories like the Jodi Arias murder trial and the JPMorgan Chase financial case, before featuring Blitzer’s Sept. 27 interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) where he used the tactic while discussing provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
“Just want to make this clear,” an incredulous Stewart told his audience. “That’s Michele ‘I think vaccines give you brain damage’ Bachmann being told by Wolf Blitzer to dumb it down.”
CNN’s shift to a “simplistic-ier” viewpoint, Stewart said, stood in contrast to competitors MSNBC and Fox News, which stick to the right-left divide; while Fox always thinks it knows the answer, and MSNBC always asks sarcastically, “CNN, they genuinely seem not to know.
October 29, 2013 04:00 PMWolf Blitzer Isn't President, But He Plays One On TV
CNN's Wolf Blitzer seems to think he should be President, because clearly he has all the answers and none of the pressure. Today's episode of "What President Obama Should Have Done" suggested that President Obama is incompetent or surrounded by incompetents, using news of the NSA bugging world leaders' personal cell phones and the HealthcareDotGov website launch as object lessons.
Ideally, news people should have a memory that stretches back farther than a month or so, but evidently Blitzer's hard drive is out of memory, because he begins with Kathleen Sebelius' "admission" that Obama wasn't told about the website problems when Healthcare.gov launched Oct. 1.
Blitzer forgets there were a few other things happening that day, like Republicans shutting down the government and sending the nation careening toward debt default, restive officials in the Middle East, and decisions about whether to cancel his trip to Southeast Asia to work on trade agreements.
When Gloria Borger jumps into the conversation with Blitzer, things really heat up, particularly over news that the NSA did not inform the President that they were tapping into the personal cell phones of world leaders. One might actually have inferred that from the fact that they didn't get anything worth using, because, well...it was a personal phone. One might also assume that if they had informed the President, it would have immediately been brought to an end as it was when the news came out.
For Wolf Blitzer, this is all Obama's fault. For Gloria Borger, it's just another example of how government doesn't work.
Both of those are false frames. Borger says, "I have a hard time believing the President didn't ask 'How's my rollout going?'" and Blitzer righteously exclaims "This is his signature issue...You'd think before the October rollout he'd call in Sebelius, he'd call in others, and say 'Everything ready to go'?"
Because of course, these two would do that.
For the capstone, Wolf channels his inner President, and wonders whether President Obama isn't asking himself whether he should have been more assertive or aggressive in getting answers.
This is a ridiculous segment from start to end and does nothing to illuminate a reasonable discussion about very real issues around procurement, contractors and oversight - both with the website and NSA spying. Clearly, the NSA is operating without appropriate constraints. Similarly, the rollout of the health care website involved many moving parts which are not working well together and which might have been better accomplished by in-house engineers rather than several different private contractors. Those are real issues, and an intelligent discussion would actually inform viewers.
By making this into a What-did-Obama-know-and-when-did-he-know-it moment, they're just playing the Fox News game of turning everything into a controversy, rather than trying to inform viewers or raise legitimate questions that could lead to a constructive discussion of how government works and where oversight should be strengthened.
Once again, we are treated like stupid little sponges with no actual vested interest in the success of a government by, for, and of the people. Because Obama.
By the way, you know who else had a disastrous website launch back in the day? CNN. That's right. Their initial debut on the web was an unmitigated disaster. I was there. I lived through the six-month process of getting it stabilized. And throughout that time, there wasn't a peep from Wolf about it.
****************Why Republicans Have No Business Being Upset About Obamacare
By Joshua Holland, Moyers & Company
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 23:56 EDT
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Republicans will seek to delay a requirement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that all Americans obtain health insurance or face a tax penalty. “With so many unanswered questions and the problems arising around this rollout, it doesn’t make any sense to impose this one percent mandate tax on the American people,” Cantor said last week.
While Republicans plot new ways to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, it’s easy to forget that for years they’ve been arguing that any comprehensive health insurance system be designed exactly like the one that officially began October 1st, glitches and all.
For as many years Democrats tried to graft healthcare onto Social Security and Medicare and pay for it through the payroll tax. But Republicans countered that any system must be based on private insurance and paid for with a combination of subsidies for low-income purchasers and a requirement that the younger and healthier sign up.
Not surprisingly, private health insurers cheered on the Republicans while doing whatever they could to block Democrats from creating a public insurance system.
In February 1974, Republican President Richard Nixon proposed, in essence, today’s Affordable Care Act. Under Nixon’s plan all but the smallest employers would provide insurance to their workers or pay a penalty, an expanded Medicaid-type program would insure the poor and subsidies would be provided to low-income individuals and small employers. Sound familiar?
Private insurers were delighted with the Nixon plan but Democrats preferred a system based on Social Security and Medicare and the two sides failed to agree.
Thirty years later a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, made Nixon’s plan the law in Massachusetts. Private insurers couldn’t have been happier although many Democrats in the state had hoped for a public system.
When today’s Republicans rage against the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, it’s useful to recall this was their idea as well.
In 1989, Stuart M. Butler of the conservative Heritage Foundation came up with a plan that would “mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance.”
Insurance companies loved Butler’s plan so much it found its way into several bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in 1993. Among the supporters were Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). Both now oppose the mandate under the Affordable Care Act. Newt Gingrich, who became Speaker of the House in 1995, was also a big proponent.
Romney’s heathcare plan in Massachusetts included the same mandate to purchase private insurance. “We got the idea of an individual mandate from [Newt Gingrich] and [Newt] got it from the Heritage Foundation,” said Romney, who thought the mandate “essential for bringing the health care costs down for everyone and getting everyone the health insurance they need.”
Now that the essential Republican plan for healthcare is being implemented nationally, health insurance companies are jubilant.
Last week, after the giant insurer Wellpoint raised its earnings estimates, CEO Joseph Swedish pointed to “the long-term membership growth opportunity through exchanges.” Other major health plans are equally bullish. “The emergence of public exchanges, private exchanges, Medicaid expansions … have the potential to create new opportunities for us to grow and serve in new ways,” UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen J. Hemsley effused.
So why are today’s Republicans so upset with an Act they designed and their patrons adore? Because it’s the signature achievement of the Obama administration.
There’s a deep irony to all this. Had Democrats stuck to the original Democratic vision and built comprehensive health insurance on Social Security and Medicare, it would have been cheaper, simpler and more widely accepted by the public. And Republicans would be hollering anyway.
The Poverty LineWill a Safety Net for Seniors Win Bipartisan Support?
By Joshua Holland, Moyers & Company
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 23:56 EDT
We’re proud to collaborate with The Nation in sharing insightful journalism related to income inequality in America. The following is an excerpt from Nation contributor Greg Kaufmann’s “This Week in Poverty” column.
The Older Americans Act (OAA) is one of the most important pieces of legislation that you probably never heard of or at least know very little about. You know Meals on Wheels? The OAA funds it, and also essential services for seniors like job training, caregiver support, transportation, preventive health services, and protection from abuse and financial exploitation.
This Wednesday, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, along with Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, will offer a 5-year reauthorization of the legislation to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. If the legislation is to pass the Senate and the House, it will need strong bipartisan support from the Committee.
OAA programs aren’t means tested, so they serve as a safety net for many seniors living just above the poverty line, and prevent other seniors from falling deeper into poverty. The programs also save money over the long-term. One clear example of cost-savings is the Meals on Wheels program. A study by the Center for Effective Government found that for every $1 in federal spending on Meals on Wheels, there is as much as a $50 return in Medicaid savings alone. However, the program currently reaches less than 10 percent of low-income seniors who need access to meals programs.
“During this terrible recession, there has been a growing demand for meals for seniors at a time when budgets are being slashed,” Senator Sanders told me. “There is clear evidence that some of our poorest seniors are simply not getting the food they need.”
Fall prevention programs funded by the OAA also protect seniors from needing to go to the hospital or into nursing homes — where too often they spend every last dime and are then forced to turn to Medicaid. One in three seniors falls every year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people ages 65 and older. The resulting injuries are projected to cost the nation $60 billion in 2020. Research has shown that several OAA-supported programs have reduced falls by 30 to 55 percent — which saves both money and lives.
The OAA’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) allows very low-income seniors to get job skills while also providing community service for non-profits. Nearly 90 percent of participants live in poverty (on less than about $11,000 annually), and one-third are homeless or at risk of homelessness. While the job training helps these seniors return to the labor force and in some cases prevents homelessness, participants also perform millions of hours of community service for local organizations struggling with their own budget cuts. Howard Bedlin, vice president of public policy at the National Council of Aging, said SCSEP has “a value to states and communities estimated at over $1 billion.” But due to a lack of resources, the number of seniors served by the program has declined by 34 percent since FY 2010, and the program now has waiting lists in many cities.
All of the OAA programs have been severely underfunded, failing to keep pace with inflation and population growth for decades. Senator Sanders and eighteen cosponsors previously attempted to reauthorize the OAA with a funding increase of 12 percent over FY2010 levels, but in this political climate that proved to be a non-starter, despite the fact that the programs save money. This bill is a scaled back version of the previous legislation. It does not set a cap on current funding levels, and it leaves appropriators with the flexibility to increase funding in future years.
Other important aspects of the legislation prevent and address elder abuse. Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation are all too common in the US and have long been overlooked. The bill directs the Administration on Aging to include training for state and local agencies on elder abuse prevention and screening, and it promotes data collection at the state level to help assess the scope of this problem. It also strengthens the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which provides ombudsmen to serve all residents of long-term care facilities, regardless of age. These advocates address issues ranging from complaints over a scheduled wake-up time, to concerns about quality of care, or abuse. Significantly, the bill specifies that all residents must have private, unimpeded access to ombudsmen, so there are no other parties that are interfering, intimidating, or somehow preventing candid communication.
In contrast to the National Council on Aging, which has been a steady supporter of a strong OAA, one powerful advocacy voice that was missing during earlier attempts at reauthorization was AARP. Although it is late to the party, AARP is endorsing the legislation now, and its support is critical to passing a strong bipartisan bill.
If you are represented by senators on the HELP Committee, now would be a good time to let them know that you expect strong support for the OAA — from the Committee markup on Wednesday through passage on the Senate floor — and that the legislation needs more funding.
If we truly think it’s important to respect our elders, here’s a simple way to prove it.
*****************In PracticeTracking the Affordable Care Act
As Washington and much of the rest of the nation debate whether President Obama misled Americans when he said that people who like their health plans may keep them, tens of millions of people are finding that their insurance is largely unchanged by the new health care law.
They are the estimated 149 million people who receive health insurance through an employer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. While the law has required adjustments to those plans and some prices could rise, generally people who keep their jobs may keep the same coverage. Some exceptions exist.
The story is different for the 10 million to 12 million people who buy insurance on their own. Rules for those policies have changed substantially for 2014.
Insurers are informing many of those people that their old plans have been discontinued and that they must choose new plans at new prices.
About half of those people may qualify for federal subsidies or Medicaid, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But those who do not are often facing much higher premiums.
The coverage required under the federal health care law is much more generous than many of the plans that had been sold to individuals, and insurers are now pricing these policies to account for many of the older and sicker people they once could turn away but must now cover. Under the new rules, people with pre-existing conditions may not be denied coverage and there are limits on how much prices may vary for people of differing ages.
Some people may find a new policy less expensive than their previous one. That could be because the insurer charged a high premium based on their age or medical condition. That is no longer permitted. And others may have plans that are “grandfathered,” meaning they were in place in 2010 and can be renewed without significant changes.
At Florida Blue, for example, 300,000 people will be notified this year that their coverage is up for renewal, and they will have to select a new plan, either through the new state marketplace or directly with the insurer. Only about 60,000 will be allowed to renew their current policies because they are grandfathered. The rest must choose among the new plans offered by Florida Blue or another insurer.
“There’s always been a lot of churn in the individual market,” said Jon Urbanek, a senior executive at Florida Blue. As a result, most people will be told that they need to change policies when they would typically be asked to renew, he said. “We’re not terminating their coverage,” he said, but people will be asked to change their policies and pay whatever premiums are being charged for that particular plan. “They’re renewing into these qualified health plans.”
About 40,000 people have received letters informing them that their policies end in January, he said, but the bulk of people tend to renew later in the year.
As part of the law, certain benefits must be included in the new policies. For example, coverage must include maternal care.
While many people may find coverage in the current open enrollment period, which ends March 31, they can still get coverage when their current policy ends.