Category Archives: medical news

CBO verdict is in: health care bill is ‘mean’

The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t use language such as “mean” to assess its analysis of legislation, but that’s what one can surmise of its latest analysis of a key Senate bill.

The CBO today turned in its “score” of the Senate Republican-passed health care legislation and it has told us:

* 22 million more Americans are going to be uninsured.

* The budget deficit will be cut more than $300 billion over the next decade, but that’s because of cuts in Medicaid spending for those Americans with financial need.

* There will be lower premiums, but there also will be less coverage.

It’s still a “mean” overhaul

Donald J. Trump said he wanted a less “mean” health care insurance plan than what the House of Representatives approved. The CBO score suggests that the Senate version of health care overhaul doesn’t make the grade.

Is the GOP plan in trouble? That depends on who’s doing the talking. Since this blog gives me a voice to speak out, I’ll suggest that Senate Republicans on the fence or leaning against the overhaul well might be inclined to vote “no” on this new plan if it comes to a vote later this week.

The president promised he wouldn’t touch Medicaid, that Americans who rely on Medicaid will continue to rely on it once he repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act with something else.

It looks to me as though this promise won’t be kept.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has his work cut out for him as he looks for the votes to approve this bill.

Planned Parenthood: classic political football

Oh, how I wish there were more U.S. Senate Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine. Or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

These two GOP moderate lawmakers are standing firm in their desire to see Planned Parenthood retain its federal government support. They dislike the Senate Republicans’ draft of a bill to overhaul the Affordable Care Act because it cuts money for Planned Parenthood for a year.

You see, we now have the makings of a political football game, with Planned Parenthood being the ball and competing forces within the Republican Party — not to mention the Democratic Party — kicking it all over the proverbial field.

Debate will get heated.

“There are already longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion, so this is not what this debate is about. And Planned Parenthood is an important provider of healthcare services, including family planning and cancer screenings for millions of Americans, particularly women,” Collins said.

Abortion, that’s the kicker. Which means that abortion is at the epicenter of this particular discussion.

Senate and House conservatives detest Planned Parenthood because it does provide abortion referrals to women seeking to end their pregnancies. Last time I looked, it’s a legal activity. According to the “true believers,” though, Planned Parenthood is sanctioning the “murder of unborn children” and therefore its mission is steeped in evil intent.

Collins, though, is correct to point out two things about Planned Parenthood. One is that Congress already has written into law restrictions on federal funding for abortion; two is that Planned Parenthood provides a number of vital health care services for Americans.

But the organization is going to get kicked around, mauled, chewed up and spit out as competing legislative factions argue over whether the new health care legislation should use taxpayer money to keep it functioning.

I’m on Sen. Collins’s side.

Good call, Sen. Ernst; ask your ‘bosses’

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, is doing something quite useful.

Sen. Ernst says she is undecided on the Senate Republican health care overhaul plan designed to replace the Affordable Care Act. Her response? She wants to poll her constituents back home. She wants their opinion on what the Senate GOP wants to do to — or with — their health care insurance.

How about that, dear reader? She wants her bosses to weigh in, to give her advice on what she should do when this matter comes to a vote, possibly as early as this week.

Here’s the deal, though. It’s fair to wonder a couple of things about the freshman senator.

Is she truly undecided, or has she secretly made up her mind and is using the poll as a ruse? And if she polls her constituents, will the questions be fair, without a hint of bias? You know how these surveys can work. If you ask questions a certain way, you can elicit certain answers.

Sen. Ernst might not have much time to collect responses from her Iowa constituents. I’ll hope for the best for her and hope that she’ll do the right thing by asking the questions straight up and will act on what her constituents tell her … one way or the other.

If her bosses back home share the views of so many other Americans — that they detest the GOP alternative — I think I know what they’ll tell her if they’re given the chance to speak freely.

Hard to keep track of what Trump likes, loathes

If you’re keeping tabs on the president’s tweets and assorted public statements, then you’ve got your hands full.

When the U.S. House of Representatives approved its American Health Care Act by the narrowest of margins, Donald J. Trump called the GOP-authored-and-passed bill “spectacular.”

Then he tweeted that it is “mean.”

Then tweeted about the draft U.S. Senate plan — again crafted solely by Republicans. He says now, with a vote scheduled for later this week, that the Senate plan is far better than the House plan.

OK, Mr. President. We keep hearing how you make decisions based on the last person to have your attention. Which of these plans is the suitable replacement for the Affordable Care Act, which you once said would be “easy” to replace, but now you say is “hard”?

I cannot begin to possibly keep up with this guy’s ever-evolving stance — on anything and everything!

Health care is ‘hard,’ yes, Mr. President?

What once was “easy” has become “hard.”

So said the president of the United States. Yep, Donald J. Trump has told TV interviewers that efforts to overhaul health care legislation is a “hard” task, that it’s going to take time.

Who knew?

Certainly not the man who, while running for president, called it “easy.” He boasted from many campaign podiums that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act almost immediately upon taking office and replace it with … um, something else.

“It’s easy!” he bellowed.

Sure thing, bub.

It’s not so easy. The American Health Care Act barely cleared the House of Representatives. Now it’s the Senate’s turn to discuss and debate this matter. Except that only Republicans are doing the dickering; Democrats aren’t in the game.

And, oh yes. Now we have five Republican senators saying they dislike the current Senate legislation “in its current form.” The Senate, with a 52-48 GOP majority, can afford to lose only two votes; that would result in a tie and Vice President Mike Pence could cast the deciding vote, as he did when the Senate confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to her Cabinet job.

So, the president bragged and blustered about the ease of overhauling one-sixth of the nation’s economy. Today’s reality is telling him the hard truth, which is that legislating is a complicated job.

It’s hard, man!

Can’t get past the ACA repeal process

As I look over the outlines of the congressional Republicans’ effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I see precisely one element that’s worth supporting.

That would be the end of the “individual mandate” that requires all Americans to have health insurance or else face a federal penalty. That particular part of the ACA has bothered me from the get-go.

The rest of it? I cannot accept what the GOP has tried to do — in secret, with no Democratic input, no public testimony (other than the angry rhetoric members of Congress have heard at town hall meetings across the country).

This is star chamber legislation, despite what Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today said to the contrary.

***

Which brings me to my major point.

The process stinks to high heaven. Yes, it stinks even more than the way the ACA came into being, which wasn’t ideal, either. Still, the Democrats who ran Congress in 2009 at least were able to solicit public commentary while seeking in vain for contributions from their Republican colleagues in crafting the legislation.

Now we hear from former President Obama, who today weighed in with his scathing critique via Facebook. “Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm,” Obama wrote. “And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

The Hill story on Obama post is here.

Why is it mean? It gives tax breaks to the wealthy; it rolls back Medicaid insurance for poor Americans; it wipes out federal money for Planned Parenthood, a major contributor of health services to women.

The Senate version of this new measure resembles the House version. The House managed to approve it with a 217-213 vote. Today, four conservative GOP senators said they can’t support the Senate version, which — if they hold their ground — dooms the measure.

McConnell is going to tempt them with goodies and other amendments. We’ll have to wait for whatever rabbit McConnell pulls out of his hat.

If the end justifies the means by which congressional Republicans have cobbled this legislation together, then we’re witnessing an exercise in political cynicism at its worst. The GOP aim — to my way of thinking — has been solely to strip Barack Obama’s legacy of this landmark law.

Let’s all wait now for the Congressional Budget Office — the famously non-partisan auditing agency — to “score” this latest GOP monstrosity. If the numbers show what previous CBO analyses have revealed — that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance — then we’ll get to listen to GOP lawmakers criticize the CBO for being too, oh, dire or negative.

The dance, then, will continue.

Americans are numb to congressional hypocrisy

It’s no surprise to anyone that hypocrisy exists in the halls of federal government power.

What I think is a surprise is how we are now so numb to it, that it doesn’t bother us.

U.S. Senate Republicans are in the process of doing precisely what they criticized their Democratic colleagues of doing just eight years ago. They are meeting in secret to cobble together a health care overhaul they say will replace the Affordable Care Act. In 2009, Republicans were frothing at the mouth because of what they said was occurring when Democrats crafted the ACA.

Video recordings of Republican Senate and House leaders bear out their anger then. Eight years later, well, here we go again.

The weirdness of it, though, shows itself in the apparent tolerance among average Americans at what’s going on.

A newly elected president, Barack H. Obama, sought Republican help in crafting the ACA. He didn’t get it. They stiffed him. The ACA process did include public hearings and testimony from those who favored and opposed it.

Another president new to his office, Donald Trump, hasn’t extended his hand to Democrats. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are plowing ahead with an ACA replacement with no input from Democrats, no public hearings, no testimony.

Same song, different verse? Yes. The major difference appears to rest in the tacit acceptance that hypocrisy is now the norm in Washington, D.C.

I’ll go on record here to say that not all Americans accept this as business as usual. I believe it stinks to high heaven!

GOP changes tune on health care bill accountability

I must have dreamt it in 2009.

We had a new president of the United States, Barack Obama. He wanted to enact a health care reform bill that would help provide “affordable health insurance” for millions of Americans. Obama and congressional Democrats couldn’t get any help from Republicans.

So they went alone. Republicans howled like horny hounds. They condemned Democrats for the way they pushed the Affordable Care Act to a vote. It passed. The president signed it into law.

Republicans haven’t stopped yowling ever since.

So, what’s their answer? Senate Republicans now are locking Senate Democrats out of negotiations for their so-called replacement of the ACA. They aren’t going to release any details of what they hope will replace the ACA until it comes to a vote in the Senate.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer challenged Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to produce the details of the bill to give every senator ample time to debate it. Ten hours is what they’re getting to talk about legislation affecting one-sixth of the nation’s economy. Ten hours!

McConnell insists that’s enough time. Umm, no, Mr. Leader, it’s nearly enough time.

What do these GOP senators hope to do here? I believe they are seeking to foist a bill onto Americans in an even more egregious manner that Democrats sought to do at the beginning of Barack Obama’s term as president.

The Affordable Care Act is not the “failure” Republicans have described it as being. The Congressional Budget Office has “scored” the GOP alternative to the ACA and said 23 million Americans will lose health insurance if it becomes law.

The House of Representatives approved an ACA replacement with zero Democratic votes; it now rests in the Senate.

Transparency? Accountability? We can have neither of those things when the lawmakers in charge cobble a massive bill together in private, talking only to those of like minds.

That is not how you legislate.

HIV/AIDS gets short shrift from Trump administration

Here’s a quick story about the respective value two Republican presidents have placed on researching a cure for HIV/AIDS.

One of them is George W. Bush, who in 2002 managed to create an agency called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. It has delivered an enormous contribution to the worldwide fight against the dreaded disease.

In 2004, I was fortunate enough to attend the International Conference on AIDS in Bangkok, Thailand, where I learned that because of PEPFAR, the United States has given more money to AIDS research than every other nation in the world combined.

President Bush began pondering such an initiative in 1998 when he was still governor of Texas but considering a run for the presidency in 2000.

Now, let’s fast-forward to 2017. President Barack Obama has departed the White House after two terms and Donald J. Trump has settled into his new gig. What’s happened to the national effort on HIV/AIDS research? Six members of the president’s HIV/AIDS council have quit in anger. They say Trump doesn’t care about HIV/AIDS.

According to The Hill newspaper: “The group said that the administration ‘has no strategy’ to address HIV/AIDS, doesn’t consult experts when working on policy and ‘pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.'”

They wrote in their letter of resignation: “As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care.”

This, dear reader, looks to be yet another travesty of the Donald J. Trump administration.

CBO verdict: Not good for GOP repeal of ACA

A jury — if not the jury — has weighed in on the Republicans’ version of health care reform.

It doesn’t look good for legislation designed to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The verdict comes from the notably non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which says that under the GOP plan 23 million Americans will lose their health insurance by 2026. That’s a 1 million-person “improvement” over the bill that didn’t even get a vote in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

The latest version of Trumpcare got a vote, but it came before the CBO weighed in with its analysis of it. Hey, why wait when you’ve got a political agenda to fulfill?

Deficit reduction? It’s not as good as the initial bill. Again, House members didn’t bother to wait for the nitty-gritty before sending it to the Senate.

Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other prominent Republicans all promised — pledged, crossed their hearts and swore on a stack of Bibles — that Americans wouldn’t lose their health insurance if the GOP replaced the Affordable Care Act with something of their own making. The ACA, of course, was President Barack Obama’s signature piece of domestic legislation, which of course is why congressional Republicans want to get rid of it.

They contend it is failing. The president calls it a “disaster.” After the failed vote on the initial repeal/replacement bill, the president said he was willing to wait for the ACA to collapse, leaving Americans in the health-care lurch. I guess he wanted to say “I told you so.”

The Hill reports: “Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly,” the report said.

The ACA repeal effort was shoved down Democratic House members’ throats, much in the manner the GOP said of the ACA’s enactment in 2010. Hey, turnabout is fair play … isn’t that the name of the game?

It still stinks.