Saturday, July 31, 2010

Happy 45th Anniversary, Medicare


Who you gonna believe, Rand Paul, David Vitter and Sharron Angle... or Andy Griffith?

Actually, the 45th anniversary of Medicare was yesterday... but we can still celebrate today. Like all social progress-- from the Declaration of Independence, to public education, to freeing the slaves, women's emancipation, child labor laws, weekends, the right of workers to bargain collectively, to Social Security-- Medicare was violently opposed by conservatives. And they're still opposing it-- and still trying to turn back the clock, still letting their selfishness and greed run rampant and declaring that the poorest among us should go die in the streets rather than the wealthiest pay their fair share-- or even any-- taxes.

When Medicare, H.R. 6675, passed the House on April 7, 1965, 313-115, 48 conservative (mostly Southern) Democrats joined 68 right-wing Republicans to oppose it. On July 9th of that year it passed the Senate 68-21, 13 mostly moderate Republicans voting with 57 Democrats for it while 7 arch-conservative Democrats voted with the GOP majority against it. Today there are slightly fewer conservative Democrats-- most of the worst of the Southern racists have found a new home in the GOP-- but there are virtually no moderate Republicans left any longer. Passing any kind of sweeping progressive change legislation is nearly impossible to do in a bipartisan manner. In fact one of the most fringy of the GOP candidates, Russ Feingold's opponent, Ron Johnson, is campaigning on privatizing Medicare. And as Tula at the AFL-CIO pointed out yesterday, "nine Republican candidates would end Medicare, think it’s a mistake or believe it is Soviet socialism. They are: Sharron Angle in Nevada; Rand Paul in Kentucky; Dan Coats in Indiana; David Vitter in Louisiana; Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, John Boozman in Arkansas, Roy Blunt in Missouri and Jane Norton and Ken Buck in Colorado." Is that really possible? Well, let's let these Republicans speak for themselves about why-- aside from wealthy campaign contributors' demands-- they want to do away with Medicare.

The Las Vegas Review Journal is basically a Republican newspaper. Last October after an interview with Sharron Angle they reported that she believes in phasing Medicare out. “As for Medicare, she (Angle) said the entitlement program popular with seniors will eventually grow too costly to maintain… ‘We need to phase it out,’ she said.” Rand Paul went even further. A Courier-Journal review of Paul’s prior statements found he had compared Medicare to Soviet socialism. “Advancing his belief that health care prices should be set by the marketplace, Paul also has attacked having government set Medicare reimbursements for doctors. The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed-- socialism doesn't work," Paul said on Kentucky Tonight on June 16, 1998. "You have ... no price fluctuation.” (Interestingly more than half of Rand Paul's income-- he's an uncertified eye doctor-- comes from Medicare.)

There are nearly a million Hoosiers getting Medicare but Dan Coats, the likely next senator from Indiana, who isn't generally thought of as insane as Angle or Paul, is taking his lead on this from Ayn Rand extremist, Paul Ryan, a blithering imbecile from Wisconsin who the morons in the mass media keep repeating is the smartest Republican out there-- although admitting privately that they can't make heads or tails out of his nonsensical arguments. In July 2010, Coats praised Ryan’s ideas for "entitlement reform" and vowed to work with him on passing them if elected. He said, “Paul Ryan has come up with some very sensible ideas, I have talked personally with Paul I have read his materials and there are many many things in there that I agree with and want to work with him on. Uhhh it basically says we are out of money and we are deeply in debt. And if we are going to have a future in this country for our children and our grandchildren and going to have jobs available and be the country of opportunity and be the country that can lead the world and the economy we have to come up with some reforms. And Paul has come up with some very constructive ideas and so have other Republicans.” Fact of the matter is, Ryan's ill-conceived and sketchy "roadmap," put together by a gaggle of K Street lobbyists for him, would eliminate traditional Medicare, most of Medicaid, and all of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), converting these health programs largely to vouchers that low-income households, seniors, and people with disabilities could use to help buy insurance in the private health insurance market.

David Vitter is already in the U.S. Senate-- when he's not chasing prostitutes-- and he believes his route to re-election is to take the most negative, extreme and hysterical positions on every issue. That kind of approach seems to have a lot of resonance in Louisiana for some reason probably relating to the state of the state's dramatically failed education system. Last September Vitter endorsed a report from the conservative Pelican Institute that promoted ending the employer-based health insurance system. According to the Times-Picayune, “Vitter has endorsed a new study from a conservative think tank that calls for scrapping the nation’s employer-based health insurance system in favor of individually owned policies and converting the Medicaid program into vouchers for private insurance.” Although he's a backbencher with virtually no influence and commands less respect from his colleagues than any other member of the Senate, Vitter managed to make himself the recipient of $311,718 in thinly veiled bribes from Big Insurance. His pronouncements may ill-serve the working families of Louisiana but they are exactly what the insurance industry expects from the whores they dole out their cash to.

And the aforementioned Ron Johnson, the clown who wants to replace Feingold, is even more radical than Vitter. In May Johnson praised Ryan’s privatization plan. He said, “You know, in his 'Roadmap for America,' [Paul Ryan] starts laying out some possibilities, I think some common-sense approaches, on you know, recognizing the fact that, I mean, when these programs were implemented, life expectancy was far shorter. You know, so, life expectancy has gone on. So I mean, you have to recognize that reality and start making adjustments to the program to figure out how you can keep these things sustainable so they’re around for people.”

As you know, Blue America hasn't exactly been a bastion of support for conservative Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln-- and if I were living in that state I would be voting for Mayor John Gray of Greenland, the Green Party candidate-- but Rep. John Boozman is even worse than Lincoln. He's another clod who goes along with whatever Wall Street dictates to Ryan and, of course, not only followed Ryan into voting for Bush's 2008 no-strings-attached Wall Street bailout, but also voted for Ryan's 2009 alternative budget that called for scrapping Medicare and replacing it with a privatized voucher system. And so did Congress' most corrupt member, Roy Blunt (R-MO), currently running for the open Missouri Senate seat. Blunt, who failed as Boehner's healthcare spokesperson before the portfolio was given over to Ryan, thinks the government should never have gotten involved with healthcare-- basically the GOP approach-- and Big Business'-- to everything. During a radio appearance on Eagle 93.9 in St Louis (July 10, 2009), he cited Medicare and Medicaid as examples of government intervening in the health care business “in a big way,” proof in the dystopian Hobbesian world he lives in that government should never have gotten in the health care business.
HOST MIKE FERGUSON: What is the proper role of government, and what are the potential impacts of the direction that we're going right now?

BLUNT: Well, you could certainly argue that government should have never have gotten in the health care business, and that might have been the best argument of all, to figure out how people could have had more access to a competitive marketplace. Government did get into the health care business in a big way in 1965 with Medicare, and later with Medicaid, and government already distorts the marketplace.

During a July 2009 campaign event in Hannibal, Blunt said Medicare had never done anything to make people healthier. "We've had Medicare since 1965, and Medicare has never done anything to make people more healthy. If there's any opportunity for more healthy activity, it's going to be, again, a private, competitive industry..." Blunt has taken $2,051,921 from the Medical Industrial Complex and another $695,332 from Big Insurance. He has nearly 3 million reasons to claim Medicare hasn't done anything to make anyone healthier, although I suspect that the 992,968 who currently use Medicare would disagree.

And in Colorado the Republican Party is running dueling freaks, Jane Norton and Ken Buck, eagerly trying to outdo each other in their anti-Medicare approach. In January Norton was already stirring up anti-Medicare fever in the GOP base: “Health care needs real, common-sense reforms. A government mandated, and government controlled, health care system is not the solution… If you agree that the government shouldn't be in the health care business, show your opposition by signing this petition today.” Buck, whose whole approach to winning the primary is to claim the Tea Party mantle-- despite calling them a bunch of assholes when he thought no one was listening-- decided to tack to the right of Norton. At a GOP campaign event in March, he posited that "The idea that the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe. And that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better.”

Yesterday Stephanie Cutter, an assistant to the President, went on the record about GOP attempts to distort Medicare.
As we worked to pass the Affordable Care Act, seniors were the target of a major misinformation campaign that was designed to scare and confuse older Americans about the real impact of reform. False rumors about death panels and cuts in benefits made the rounds. We are committed to correcting the record and ensuring seniors have the information they need  and get the high-quality care they have earned and deserve... We know seniors will see tremendous benefits from the new law. Under the Affordable Care Act:

• Seniors guaranteed Medicare benefits will remain the same.

• Medicare beneficiaries who hit the prescription drug “donut hole” will receive a one-time, $250 rebate check. Hundreds of thousands of seniors have already received their check. And the donut hole will be closed completely by 2020.

• Preventive care services like colorectal cancer screenings and mammograms and an annual physical will be provided free of charge.

• Medicare pays Medicare Advantage insurance companies over $1,000 more per person on average than Original Medicare. These additional payments are paid for in part by increased premiums by all Medicare beneficiaries-- including the 77% of seniors not enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The new law eliminates these overpayments and starting in 2014, Medicare Advantage plans will be required to spend 85% of every dollar they receive on health care, not profits, overhead or administrative costs.

• By 2018, seniors will save an average of $200 per year and $200 in co-insurace compared to what they would have paid without reform.

• The new law extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by more than a decade.

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At 8:04 AM, Blogger Bill Michtom said...

The list of the individual pieces of the new health plan show exactly how pathetic it is: one thing after another that will not go into effect for years, while people are still hurting from the existing rules.


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