Saturday, October 27, 2012

Medicare Vouchers Raise Costs For Most Seniors

By    Justin Acuff     
    Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have suggested a ‘voucher program’ as part of their budget plan to save costs on Medicare. They claim that giving seniors a subsidized amount of money to go buy insurance will introduce capitalist competition into the healthcare field which will drive healthcare costs down as well as save the government money. This is, of course, in contrast to Obama’s plan, which is to make healthy insurance legally mandated and make healthy, young people get it too (on their parents’ policy until they are 26) to drive down the cost of premiums.

Except that a new study out recently (October 15) says that Romney and Ryan’s claims aren’t true and that Medicare vouchers raise costs for most seniors. The study was performed by the non-partisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, an organization that describes itself as a “non-partisan source of facts and analysis for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the general public.”

Talking Points Memo‘s Sahil Kapur reports on the study, saying:

The Kaiser Family Foundation delved into the likely impact of transforming Medicare into a “premium support” system. Under that approach, the federal government would provide seniors a subsidy to shop for insurance plans from a menu of competing private plans and traditional Medicare. That subsidy would be capped at the value of the second least costly premium in the marketplace.

Using 2010 data as a model, Kaiser’s study found that among seniors who chose to remain in traditional Medicare, more than half would have paid higher premiums. Just under half would have paid the same. That would’ve yielded an average premium hike of $720 annually for seniors who chose to remain in traditional Medicare.

The study has pros and cons for either side of this issue. For the anti-Romney/Ryan crowd, the study is easy to quote as a nonpartisan damning of the voucher program. While it does show that the voucher program would have cost more than traditional Medicare in 2010, that’s about all it does. It is very difficult — as the authors pointed out — to definitively say whether or not that would affect the future of Medicare, as Romney/Ryan’s plan wouldn’t go into effect until 2023.

The Romney campaign was quick to point this out, as TPM continues,

The Romney campaign quickly moved to dismiss the significance of the study.

“As the authors stress, this is not a study of the Romney-Ryan plan,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told TPM. “Our plan would always provide future beneficiaries guaranteed coverage options with no increase in out-of-pocket costs from today’s Medicare.”

The study nevertheless concludes that, taking a broadly similar approach, the majority of seniors would have paid higher premiums in 2010 than they did under Medicare in its existing form.

While beneficiaries might not have the cost of insurance go up, there is an excellent chance they will have to switch to plans with lower benefits. Romney’s plan doesn’t allow for the inevitable increase in healthcare costs over time and will likely result in higher and higher spending out-of-pocket per year if it is implemented.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bill Graham Sells Out To The Dark Side

   I guess that every man does indeed have his price, right Billy?

By Don Hamel   October 24, 2012

The readers of the Columbus Dispatch awoke to Billy Graham sermonizing on Sunday morning. And they didn’t even have to go to church. He took out a full page ad to make the following entreaty to the good people of the swing state of Ohio:

The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.

In case you’re still wondering who he could possibly be endorsing with that ad, here’s an additional clue: An article from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s website that called Mormonism a “cult” disappeared days after Graham met with Mitt Romney, earlier in October.

For several years Graham’s website had this to say regarding cults:

A cult is any group which teaches doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith. It is very important that we recognize cults and avoid any involvement with them. Cults often teach some Christian truth mixed with error, which may be difficult to detect… Some of these groups are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others (Emphasis mine), which describes itself as “Resources for entrepeneurs,” tells us that full page ads in U.S. newspapers can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000, depending on factors like circulation,etc. It also cautions, “Newspaper advert prices can blow your marketing budget if you are not careful. Before you launch an advertising campaign, understand the costs of advertisements in newspapers.”

Of course that’s not a big problem for an ‘entrepeneur’ of Billy Graham’s stature, his business is booming these days. And aside from syndicated radio, television specials and newspaper columns, his Evangelical Association has even produced over 130 movies through their subsidiary company, World Wide Pictures. So his “marketing budget” can probably absorb the cost of a Sunday ad in the Columbus Dispatch. And of course, it’s all tax free. Separation of church and state, don’t you know.

The question isn’t how he did it, it’s why; as recently as two weeks ago, Billy Graham’s official position on Mormonism is that it was a religious cult. Making Romney, who has held several high-ranking positions in the church, not just a cult member, but a cult leader. At least he was until last week.

Billy Graham, like many of his oh-so-holy brethren, has amassed a vast fortune, without the inconvenience of having to kick in to keep America afloat. It’s the deal the founding fathers made with themselves, to keep religious leaders from trying to wrest control of our democracy, on behalf of ‘God’s will.’Billy’s own words provide a damn fine example of why that separation is important. And there was a time when Graham himself felt as though that was a pretty good idea. In 1979 he said:

“I’m for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak with authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future.

The future isn’t now, I guess. Between changing Mormonism’s ‘cult status’ and taking out full page ads to sway voters, he certainly hasn’t been ‘faithful to his own advice’ in the present. I suppose if he already believes, “ this election could be my last,” then that was just another deeply held belief that needs to be deleted.

Creative Commons License

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ohio county sends voters wrong election date, directions to polls

By Meteor Blades  on Tue Oct 23, 2012  

It was "just a mistake," according to the deputy director of the Republican-run Ottawa County Board of Elections in Ohio. And, you know, I'd really like to believe her. But it's Ohio. The board sent a mailer to 2,300 voters in three northwestern Ohio precincts on Lake Erie near Toledo informing them that their voting location had been moved to a building on the east side of Danbury High School. The actual location is on the west side. Voters were also told Election Day was Nov. 8. It is, of course, Nov. 6.

Normally, one might be willing to give whoever generated that screw-up the benefit of the doubt. But Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, who happens to live in Ottawa County, rightly noted, "There is no excuse for a board of elections or Secretary [of State Jon] Husted's office to botch their most basic job, notifying voters when and where to exercise their right to vote." He called upon Husted to review all the board's correspondence for the past year "to ensure that there are no other errors that could disenfranchise voters."

According to the Deputy Director Carol Ann Hill, the board realized the error soon after it sent out postcards to voters and said it was "sending out a new mailer, as we speak, with an apology."

Hill described the error as a "costly mistake," though she said she did not know how it happened, or how much it would cost taxpayers. [...]

"We want people to vote, that is our reason to be here," said Hill. "It was just a mistake. It is troublesome to make a mistake, but there was no effort to suppress the voting of anyone."

Sure. Okay.

Hill's boss, JoAnn Friar, said the mistake was the consequence of substituting text from last year when the election was on Nov. 8.

Asked to explain how two errors were included in one short announcement, she replied, “If you’re going to mess up, do it right.”


Meanwhile, in Maricopa County, Arizona, the Elections Department learned that a document containing the wrong date for the election has gone out to more voters than it originally had explained was the case. The department distributed a document with voter-ID cards in which the date of the election in English was correctly stated as "November 6th," but in Spanish it said "8 de Noviembre," the 8th of November. A spokesperson had said that only people who picked up the document over the counter, not by mail, saw the mistaken date. Perhaps as few as 50 people had received the document, a spokesman said.

Now, however, it turns out that the document went to a larger, unknown number of citizens because it was passed out at three Maricopa locations.

An honest mistake? Perhaps. But, unlike the old days of Jim Crow, voter suppression is now all about shaving vote totals. A couple of percentage points here, a couple there, add up.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This is becoming a disaster for the GOP on multiple levels

By MinistryOfTruth on Tue Oct 23, 2012

Last night every GOP fear about a Mitt Romney presidential candidacy came true. He couldn't stand up to Obama at all. There's only two weeks left to go. If this race is as close as the media keeps telling us than last night was a tremendous disaster for Republicans. Since the first debate Romney has failed to make the case for Conservativism. Instead Romney has adopted the debate strategy of being a moderate democrat who appears on Fox News, and that strategy didn't work.

Proof, from last night.

attribution: None Specified

The sum of all wingnut fears

    Romney ceded Obama way too much policy territory, adopting a "Me too" strategy that utterly failed to win over debate viewers, and the few times Mitt tried to interject with Fox News talking points about "apology tours" the President readily smacked those strawmen down. At Fox News utter calamity broke out. Did they address Romney's failures? No. They called Obama a retard instead. This is why Republicans are going to lose. Last night proved that if Obama is paying attention to the debates instead of his day job he can easily mop the floor with Romney, the best guy the GOP had in a very weak field of candidates. What Republicans must be doing is looking at the utter shitstorm coming down on the them if things don't go their way, and it can't look pretty.

   More below the fold

       Here is that shitstorm, summed up in 5 points (couldn't help myself)

1.    Utter failure on foreign policy.

This should be a deal breaker. The job is Commander-in-Chief. That's not a part time job to outsource to Dan Senor or John Bolton, that's a full time job along with all of the other hats that the President must wear simultaneously. I'm sorry, but last night was an embarrassingly shallow display of amateurism on the part of Romney on foreign policy. Put simply, this should disqualify Romney from the Presidency.

2.    Losing the Senate. Again.

Republicans failed to win the Senate in 2010 despite the shellacking Democrats took. This was because they ran horrible candidates who made themselves look like fools. The same thing is happening in this election.

3.    Losing the growing Latino vote by a record margin.

This is the one that hurts really bad in the long run. By pandering to a nativist base for gains in the short run Republicans are totally screwing themselves in the long run.

4.    An over-reliance on RW media instead of reality

Reality has a well-known liberal bias and Republicans haven't figured out the internet yet. When you lie on camera it exists forever. At this point you can divide America into the people who believe everything they hear on Fox News and Right Wing radio and everyone else. Whenever Republicans try to venture outside of a controlled media environment it is an utter disaster, as in "In what respects, Charlie" kind of disasters. Chris Hayes reminded us a few weeks ago that Biggie Smalls used to say "Never get high on your own supply". That is where the modern GOP is right now. They truly believe their own bullshit, no matter how demonstrably false that bullshit may be. "Fuck facts" is the motto of this GOP, and that makes it very hard to win over anyone who isn't already a true believer.

5.    Fox News and RW pundits are destroying the Republican party

This ties in with my last point. There is a reason that after America rejected Sarah Palin she ended up on Fox News across from Sean Hannity. As reality becomes less like the world Republicans are trying to convince us that we live in they have to go further and further in their attempts to stretch the truth. What works on Fox News no longer works on America. Yet the Republican party can hardly divorce themselves from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, they are one and the same. Fox News is where Republicans go when they aren't running for a higher office, it is where they get their ideas and talking points, Fox News is as much a part of the GOP as stink is part of a skunk, and every time Mitt Romney tried to use Fox News talking points about "Libya" or "Apology Tours" Barack Obama easily pointed out that the kings of the Fox Newsiverse have no clothes. The same media that tells us Republicans are never, ever wrong is what is destroying the Republican party, by insulating them in bullshit they are walling them off from reality, and I think it will cost them at the polls. In a sane country it should.

    This was supposed to be the year the GOP took back the Senate. This was the year Republicans would defeat that overbearing tyrant who is weak overseas Barack Hussein Obama. 22 Democrats have to defend their seats this year to only 10 Republicans. GOP winning the Senate? That ain't happening. Because of bad candidates with unpopular positions Democrats will likely retain control of the Senate if they turn out and vote. Running as ultra-conservatives who parrot Fox News and Right Wing radio is costing the GOP the Senate. Again. Same thing happened in 2010, and it is proving to me that massive money and the right wing propaganda machine along with gerrymandering can deliver the House of Representatives to the GOP on a local level, but on a State level Republicans can no longer win consistently outside of the South and the sparsely populated South West and North West.

    The same, I think, is becoming true of the race for the White House. The utter folly of Republicans in nominating a Presidential candidate who wrote off the auto industry that is a vital part of America's mid west can not be overlooked. The same can be true of Romney's 47% comments. The same can be true of nominating a bankster from Bain Capital who can't connect with anyone outside of the yacht club unless they already have a blind berserker hatred of Barack Obama. The GOP, since the end of the Bush/Cheney years, has alienated too many people, and instead of moderating their policy positions or changing them altogether they have concocted a fantasy world where all of this is Obama's fault and George W. Bush never existed. The problem with that world is it doesn't exist. If Romnesia is an epidemic, than the epicenter is at Fox News. Ultra-Conservative right wing propagandists, a parade of unaccountable, mud slinging grifters and-has beens who only appeal to their own echo chamber are dragging the GOP into the gutter. Face it, take away all of their money and voter suppression and the GOP wouldn't have a chance in this election, without the astroturfed artifice of RW media and Citizens United enabled campaign money the GOP would be in total shambles. The problem for Republicans is that unaccountable billionaires run their party now and they don't know what they are doing, and even then those billionaires don't have the best interests of the once proud GOP in mind, they don't have the best interests of America in mind, they're just in this for the money. If the GOP wants to gain back its' credibility outside of its' own sphere of influence it has got to ditch its' unaccountable gasbag blowhards pundits and financiers, and I think that is about as likely as me pitching in the World Series.

   I'm not saying that we shouldn't fight like hell. If the GOP can't buy this election I have no doubt they may attempt to steal it. Fight like hell. Get out the vote. Elections matter, but keep a happy thought in mind, if things go our way this could become a disaster for the GOP on multiple levels. After 4 years of lying, obstructing and sabotaging the American recovery for their own petty political gain, I think they deserve it. In this election I felt that the GOP is like a bad football team that thinks it can win the Super Bowl when instead they should have fired their coach and started to rebuild. The GOP did not do that. Now, four years after McCain and Palin lost to Obama, the GOP has made zero inroads with shifting demographic groups that they must remain competitive with to remain viable in the future and I think they are going to get whupped by Obama again anyway.

   Fight like hell. If we vote, they lose. Elections matter, that's why the only new GOP idea in the last four years was to make it harder for people to participate in elections. Fight like hell, not like we are losing by ten points, instead fight like we can finish these wingnuts off for good. Like I said, after doing nothing to fix the country for the last four years because they were so hell bent on defeating Obama, the GOP deserves it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Paying Extra Medical for Talking To Much?

  Seriously, you  can’t make this stuff up.

Lest greedy American sick people -- who the big-profit insurance executive fraudsters feel don't have enough 'skin in the game' -- actually try to be proactive about their health, big-profit insurers are responding absolutely as we would expect by making sure selfish American patients don't get even a single question -- literally -- of free health care than they deserve under the Affordable Care Act:

Susan Krantz has a medical and business background; but when she got her latest medical bill from a recent visit, the Minnetonka woman was perplexed.

“Even as a registered nurse, I can’t figure out what this is,” she said.

Krantz was upset when she opened a recent bill. Along with the list of procedures was the itemized charge of $50.06 for something she couldn’t make out. When she questioned Park Nicollet, the response puzzled her.

“You can be charged an extra office visit if you ask too many questions,” she said. “I said I don’t understand that, because isn’t that what this visit is for?”

Yes, talking too much at your next doctor's visit might really screw you over...seriously. At base, this is nothing more than another perverse symptom of a brutal health care non-system designed to allow big-profit insurers to maximize as much profit as possible through complicated and nuanced benefit plans:

Medical services are carefully coded for insurance purposes. As Park Nicollet explained to us, the billing has to accurately reflect the medical services provided. If the doctors feel their work goes beyond the scope of the visit, they must code that on the bill. That’s to assure that coverage for a “wellness” visit doesn’t fraudulently cover care given to an “acute care” matter.

Now, let's unpack this bullshit -- another sick feature of American health care. At first glance it could appear that unscrupulous and greedy doctors (of which there are some -- remember that doctors opposed national health care before insurers opposed it) are trying to turn patient questioning into a truly 'sick' two-for-one deal. Further clarification from the provider -- Park Nicollet -- however, reveals that once again, sleazy big-profit insurers are at the root of the corporate-imposed sick-people-talking tax. Please read further.

Park Nicollet says it’s an insurance issue. In a written statement, the medical provider said that “the insurance company may require that patients pay or make a co-pay for services beyond the ‘preventive’ part of the appointment.”

The statement goes on to say that the total amount billed to the insurance provider is the same as if it were one appointment, only it’s “broken out separately on the invoice.”

So, doctors aren't getting any extra money when your annual physical also includes a question about your chest pains, but big-profit insurers are making sure that they can get a piece of the action when that happens. You see, asking a question about an actual problem means your annual physical has been turned into a different kind of visit -- one that is not 'free' from deductibles or cost-sharing payments under Affordable Care Act rules as is the case with physicals and other preventive care like immunizations.

Big-profit insurers are truly sadistic -- they look for any possible opportunity to squeeze blood out of the sick.

Why is asking a question even an issue? Why is this even news? American health care is appallingly monetized. This is just another corporate-based-big-profit-Kafkaesque nightmare.

This is also why American health care is so bloody expensive -- how much effort and time of a human employee did it take to bill and sort out this kind of 'coding' challenge? Big-profit insurers by the very nature of their existence force the health care 'system' to deal with this kind of insane hair splitting.

Medicare for all?

Originally posted to james321 on Mon Oct 22, 2012

Romney Losing McCain Supporters

   According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos polls:

The McCain-to-Obama switchers are 55 percent male, and 34 percent of them are 55 or older. (Overall, Obama trails Romney 34 percent to 52 percent among white men over 50.) About 72 percent of them are white.

They are largely from the East Coast; nearly 4 in 10 live in the mid- or South Atlantic. Nearly 3 in 10 finished their education after high school, and nearly 2 in 10 have a bachelor's degree.

Two-thirds say they are absolutely going to vote, choosing "10" on a 1-10 scale for likelihood of voting.

Even though 38 percent of all voters believe the economy is the election's most prominent issue, just one-third of the McCain defectors agree. Character matters more.

     So it looks as if the few remaining smarter Republicans have figured out that Mittens is an idiot and a con-man, not to mention that his character is non-existent.