Category Archives: medical news

Trump slaps another group squarely in the face

Donald John Trump made a proclamation to commemorate World AIDS Day.

Do you think he would call attention to specific groups of Americans who have been disproportionately affected by this disease? Gay people? Or people of color? Oh, no! He didn’t go there.

The president broke with decades of tradition by failing to mention the LGBT community, or racial minorities, or poor people in declaring his intention rid the world of this terrible disease.

“Today, on World AIDS Day, we honor those who have lost their lives to AIDS, we celebrate the remarkable progress we have made in combatting this disease, and we reaffirm our ongoing commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat,” Trump said.

I learned a hard truth while attending the International Conference on AIDS in 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand. It is that the disease has spread far beyond where it began in the early 1980s, when it was killing primarily gay men. It now affects sex workers and the spouses of men who become affected with HIV/AIDS through unprotected sex with women who are infected with the virus.

The president made no mention of those groups while making his declaration.

As The Hill reported: Scott Schoettes, a project director at the legal advocacy group Lambda Legal criticized the proclamation in a statement to BuzzFeed.

“Not only did the White House statement on World AIDS Day fail to mention the population in which two-thirds of HIV cases in the US occur — gay and bisexual men — it also failed to point out the disproportionate impact in communities of color, for gay and bisexual men of color, particularly young men of color, or for transgender women,” he said.

Here again, I am saddened to say, is another example of the president feeling queasy about talking to — or about — constituency groups that opposed his election and who continue to oppose his policies.

A politician who pledges to be a president for “all Americans” should be able to summon the rhetoric that speaks to everyone’s particular concerns. Once again, the president has failed to speak to the entire country.

Sad.

Film creates a guilty conscience

Have you ever seen a film that leaves you with a guilty conscience?

I just saw such a film. Today. I sat between my wife and son for a couple of hours watching “Wonder.” The parents in the film are portrayed by a couple of well-known actors: Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.

But then there’s this boy, the “wonder” in the eyes of his mother. Jacob Tremblay portrays a youngster named August Pullman, who was born with a serious facial deformity.

Auggie is home schooled by his mother. Then his parents decide to send him to a prep school in New York City. He gets the expected harsh reaction from fellow fifth-graders when he enters the school. Auggie powers through the ridicule, the taunts, the hideous give-and-take that middle schoolers are so capable of delivering.

I won’t give any more of the plot away. It is, simply put, just about the sweetest film I have seen since, oh, I can’t remember when.

The film is based on a novel, which by definition is a fictional story. Auggie’s story, though, does mirror the real-life story of a young man named Nathaniel Newman, who was born with Treacher Collins syndrome. Nathaniel’s story was detailed on a recent edition of “20/20” on ABC-TV.

In the film and in real life, the boys who are affected by this syndrome are just as normal as any children with whom they interact. Auggie happens to be a science genius who loves the space program and wants to walk someday on the surface of the moon.

My guilt comes from the gripes I level at seemingly trivial matters. I get stopped by traffic? I complain about it. Someone cuts in front of me at the grocery store? I grumble under my breath. My favorite football team loses a close game? I curse the television set.

Then I witness on film the portrayal of a little boy who has to go through life with a struggle that too few of us can understand and appreciate. I read about another little boy with precisely the same condition and wonder: Could I be so noble and gracious in light of such struggle as he faces each day in the real world?

It makes me ask myself: Why in this world should I ever complain about anything ever again?

Senate GOP makes yet another run at the ACA

Here we go … again!

U.S. Senate Republicans have come up with a scheme to pay for the big tax cut they’re trying to enact that involves the Affordable Care Act. They want to repeal the individual mandate portion of the ACA, which they say will save more than $300 billion over the next decade.

The savings would be used to pay for the tax cuts being pitched for many wealthy Americans.

This is so very maddening, in my ever-so-humble view.

Congress trying again to repeal ACA

Congress has been unable to repeal the ACA and replace it. The president has been unable push his Republican pals across the finish line. They have tried and failed since long before Donald Trump took office as president of the United States.

Now comes this bit of Senate trickery: attach the individual mandate repeal to a tax cut they say would jumpstart the economy. Moreover, is anyone on Capitol Hill or the White House worried any longer about the national debt and our annual budget deficit, which economists say are going to explode under the GOP tax cut?

I want to make a couple of points.

One is that the economy is rocking along just fine. The U.S. Labor Department announced earlier this month that non-farm payrolls jumped by 260,000 jobs in October; the unemployment rate is at its lowest rate in 17 years. Not bad, man!

Two, enrollment for the ACA is moving along at a brisk pace. Hundreds of thousands more Americans signed up for insurance when open enrollment began at the beginning of the month, despite the president’s efforts to undermine the ACA.

I remain totally opposed to any wholesale repeal of the ACA. I continue to insist that it can be improved. It can be made more affordable. 

Removing the individual mandate — which requires Americans to purchase health insurance or face a penalty — is certain to do one thing: It will toss millions of Americans off the rolls of the insured.

How is that supposed to help?

Bill Gates takes on Alzheimer’s disease

I want to take a break from commenting on people for whom I have zero respect and toss a bouquet at someone who has earned tons of gratitude and appreciation.

Bill Gates is the world’s richest human being. He has announced he is going to kick in $50 million — which in reality is essentially walking-around money for someone worth roughly a hundred times that amount — for Alzheimer’s research.

Hey, I am not going to give the Microsoft founder the short shrift on this gift. It’s valuable and it well could lead to a cure for an incredibly cruel and heartless disease.

Gates is giving the money to the Dementia Discovery Fund, based in London. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Its impact affects not just those it robs cognitive skill, but also the loved ones of those who afflicted by this terrible killer.

Disease hits close to the heart

I know of what I speak.

My own dear mother died at the age of 61 in 1984 of Alzheimer’s-related complications. A neurologist delivered the formal diagnosis in the spring of 1980, which she was just 56. In truth, she had been exhibiting signs of behavior change for years prior to the doctor’s grim news.

Believe me when I say this: Watching someone you love lose his or her very being is as painful an experience as one can endure. That’s what happened to Mom. She forgot how to sign her name; she couldn’t dress herself; she couldn’t bathe herself; eventually, she lost her ability to speak.

It’s not pretty.

Bill Gates wants to contribute tens of millions of dollars to help finance research that can lead to a cure for his monstrous killer. It’s the first such contribution that Gates has made to a non-communicable disease; he has been giving money for years for HIV/AIDS research.

I know my and family and are far from alone in this struggle against Alzheimer’s disease. Others have gone through the misery we have suffered. I am quite certain they, too, are grateful for Gates’ contribution to this noble effort.

This man is a champion. I appreciate beyond measure his huge gift.

Trump doing all he can to destroy ACA

The Affordable Care Act isn’t dying on its own. Donald J. Trump just cannot stand the thought of the ACA surviving, so he’s taking measures to kill it.

Congress has failed to repeal the ACA and replace it with an abomination called Trumpcare. So what does the president decide to do? He plans now to eliminate the cost-sharing reduction subsidies that have helped low-income Americans afford the health care the ACA is intended to provide them.

That’s right. The CSR is slated to be toast. The president is intent on wiping the ACA off the books. No matter what it takes or who it hurts. He’s going to hurt a lot of Americans by eliminating the CSR provision.

Vox.com reports: The White House announced late Thursday that the administration would stop the payments. The move comes as the Trump administration is also cutting funding for Obamacare outreach and pursuing new regulations to blow holes in the law, changes that collectively threaten a program through which millions of Americans purchase insurance.

I get what’s happening. The president is taking some executive action to do what couldn’t be done legislatively. The irony is that Trump and other Republicans were so damn critical of President Barack Obama for exercising his constitutional authority time and again on issues of the day.

CSR helps provide insurance

The subsidy is intended to provide a cushion for Americans seeking insurance under the ACA. I have some knowledge of this, as my wife applied for health insurance under the health care law, and was able to purchase it with the CSR allowance. She’s now on Medicare — as am I.

The president is now intent on denying that benefit to millions of Americans. He said the ACA was “dying.” Medical analysts have disagreed with that assessment. So the president has decided to pull the trigger himself.

Shameful.

GOP needs to learn how to govern

It’s over. For now. Maybe it’ll be back. Maybe not.

Senate Republicans — along with their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives — had signed in blood (proverbially) their vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which they referred to colloquially and derisively as Obamacare.

They failed. Again. For the umpteenth time. The ACA remains the law of the land for the foreseeable future if not longer.

This begs the question for me: Can the Republicans ever govern?

The GOP face-planted on ACA repeal when three senators said “no” to the bill called Graham-Cassidy, named after GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The senators who stuck the shiv into this effort were John McCain, Rand Paul and Susan Collins. They’ve all been in the Senate for a while and were part of the Republican pledge to rid the nation of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation.

This cluster-fudge reminds me a bit of how an earlier Republican insurgency, led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, stormed Capitol Hill in 1994. They took command of Congress and then had to learn quickly how to govern. They stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way while battling a Democrat in the White House, President Bill Clinton.

But they managed, eventually, to find their way out of the darkness. The difference between then and now is that the the earlier GOP congressional leadership team worked with a president who knew how to govern, how to compromise, how to cajole the opposition when he needed to do it.

The Republican Party now controls Congress and the White House. Therein we have the difference between then and now.

Republicans fought tooth-and-nail with President Barack Obama over repealing the ACA. They never crafted an acceptable alternative. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress fought them off. Obama then left office in January. Donald Trump said he wanted a bill on his desk when he stepped into the Oval Office. He didn’t find one.

How come? The GOP was too fixated on the “repeal” part of the strategy and not nearly enough on the “replace” part of it. As for the president, he was clueless during the campaign about what it took to assemble a legislative alternative to the ACA — and is just as clueless at this very moment about how to negotiate with disparate members of his party’s congressional caucus to find a solution.

I keep circling back to the notion that the presidency requires knowledge of the complex and sometimes arcane system of governing the United States of America.

Donald Trump doesn’t know it and his ignorance of the details of his office has revealed that the political party to which he ostensibly is a member has yet to find its governing legs.

Buh-bye, latest GOP effort to kill the ACA

Well, here’s where we stand with the persistent Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It’s a goner. Kaput. Finished. Party’s over, man.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, today announced she won’t vote for the latest Senate GOP-engineered effort to repeal the ACA and replace it with an abomination that we’ll call Trumpcare.

You know what interests me about this latest death knell being run over the GOP’s ACA repeal effort: The three senators who’ve announced their opposition to it have done so for wildly varying reasons.

Collins opposes the bill because it cuts too much money from state Medicaid assistance programs for Americans who cannot afford health insurance. Sen. John McCain of Arizona hates the partisan process that brought this bill forward; he wants Democrats to be involved in this effort. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky doesn’t like the block grant provision, which he says simply renders the replacement as an “Obamacare light” version of the ACA.

There might be more Republicans who’ll abandon this effort. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has strong reservations. So does Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who contends that his buddy Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also might vote “no.”

That all might be a moot point. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said today he doubts the bill will get to a vote. Senate Republican leaders have conceded likely defeat.

The Senate GOP has until Saturday to repeal the ACA with a mere 50-vote (plus one) majority; after that the rule shifts back to the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.

What now?

Hey, here’s an idea: How about sitting down with congressional Democrats to work out ways to repair the ACA? Are congressional Republicans so hell bent on removing President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement from the books that they simply won’t look for common ground with their Democratic “friends”?

Premiums are too high. Health insurance isn’t as “affordable” as it was advertised. Surely there are ways to tinker, tweak and fine-tune the legislation to make it better. Aren’t there?

We aren’t re-inventing the wheel here, folks. Members of Congress did that very thing more than 50 years when they approved Medicare legislation. It wasn’t perfect, either, but they sought — and found — common ground to improve it to older Americans’ satisfaction.

That, I submit, is a sure-fire formula for furthering the cause of good-government legislation.

Is the party over for ACA repeal? Let’s hope so

On the day earlier this summer when he voted “no” on a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., made an impassioned plea for the body where he has served for three decades to return to “regular order.”

Meaning that both parties, Democrats and Republicans, need to work for common ground, to seek compromise, to actually get things done for the good of the citizens they all serve.

The Vietnam War hero’s plea fell on deaf ears. Senate Republicans decided — against logic and good judgment — to proceed yet again with a GOP-only repeal of the ACA.

Sen. McCain has stuck the shiv into the GOP’s efforts by announcing he plans to vote “no” once again on this ACA repeal effort. It likely blows the effort to smithereens. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will vote against it because it doesn’t go far enough in getting rid of the vestiges of the ACA; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is a likely “no” vote, as is Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Senate Republicans — who have hardly any room for defections given their slim Senate majority — face a Sept. 30 deadline to get this deal done with a 50-vote plus one (Vice President Mike Pence) majority; after that, Senate rules return to a 60-vote supermajority requirement.

So, what about that “regular order” thing that McCain sought earlier this year?

The ACA isn’t perfect. It likely isn’t even a good piece of legislation. Barack Obama’s signature bill needs work. It needs to be amended, nipped and tucked. To do that, though, requires that “regular order” that McCain wants to see restored. That would mean bipartisan cooperation, the search for commonality.

That’s how legislation gets done.

President Lyndon Johnson knew how to legislate. He employed his overpowering persuasive skills to bring Republicans along. President Richard Nixon was no slouch, either, at working with Democrats. Nor were Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton or Bush 43.

President Obama needed to work better at developing that skill. Then again, the Republican intransigence was too big a hurdle for him to overcome.

Sen. McCain has called repeatedly for a return to the old way of legislating. His decision today only drives home that call even more deeply.

The question now becomes: Is anyone in a leadership position going to heed those calls ever again on Capitol Hill?

ACA repeal foes keep adding up

For those who might be keeping score on the Who Hates the ACA Repeal Bill the Most list, I’ll offer a quick review.

The list of medical and related professional organizations that oppose the Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with God-knows-what is growing.

They include the American Medical Association, the insurance industry, the assorted medical specialist groups within the AMA umbrella, every single state Medicaid agency (yes, all 50 of them oppose the GOP repeal/replace option), political think tanks covering virtually the entire political spectrum.

Who favors the bill about to be decided next week in a U.S. Senate vote? As near as I can tell, the list comprises just two key groups: the Republican Senate caucus and the president of the United States, Donald John Trump Sr.

They are intent on tossing millions of Americans off the list of the insured; they want to all but eliminate Medicaid subsidies for those Americans who rely on them to afford health insurance … and some other things, too.

To what end? They want, according to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and a key Senate heavyweight, to fulfill a campaign promise. Grassley said recently he could think of “10 reasons” why the Senate shouldn’t even consider this legislation, but they’re pushing ahead because of pressure from the Trump base of supporters who want to get rid of anything with Barack Obama’s name on it.

So, who do these folks represent? The various and sundry — and powerful — interest groups that oppose repealing/replacing the ACA, not to mention the vast majority of the American public? Or do they represent only the shrinking minority of voters within their own party?

I don’t need to remind these folks — but I will anyway — that they govern a nation comprising millions of Americans who would prefer the federal government to amend and repair the ACA to make it better. There is no compelling need to toss the entire legislation into the crapper.

Grassley tells ‘truth’ about ACA repeal effort

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said this about Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered … But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”

Well now …

The GOP rush to repeal and replace the ACA is meant to fulfill a campaign pledge. Does it not matter, then, what the Republican bill does? Or who it harms? Or whether it’s an actual improvement over the ACA?

The Senate Republican caucus is up against the wall on this one. It has until Sept. 30 to get this bill approved with just 50 Senate votes; a tie would bring in Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote. After that date, Senate rules roll back to a 60-vote supermajority requirement, which the Republicans don’t have.

I’m going to give Sen. Grassley kudos for candor, though. There’s been so little of it as it relates to this discussion. It’s rare to hear a leading U.S. lawmaker speak the truth about political motives.

Not that it makes it any better …