Category Archives: medical news

CBO weighs in again: not good for ACA repeal

That doggone Congressional Budget Office has done it again.

It has released a report that suggests an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act — even through a back-door process — is doomed to cost Americans more than many of them can afford.

The CBO reports that Donald Trump’s threat to repeal the “cost-sharing” payments to Americans seeking health insurance under the ACA is going to cause premiums to skyrocket. Such a repeal also would balloon the deficit by $194 billion over the next decade.

The president has made the threat as a way to get congressional Democrats to bargain with Republicans after the GOP repeal/replace effort failed in the U.S. Senate.

The payments provide Americans a way to afford health insurance. They subsidize insurance companies as well, giving them a chance to provide coverage to Americans who otherwise could not afford it.

As I’ve noted already, my wife and I have benefited directly from the payments provided under the ACA and I am appalled that the president would threaten to cut them off, to use them as a bargaining tool — or, if you’ll accept this description, as a political football.

I’m glad the CBO has lined up on the side of Americans — such as yours truly — who want the president and Congress to improve the ACA, not repeal it.

VA passes first semi-serious test

I am happy to report that the Thomas E. Creek Veterans Medical Center has passed its first semi-serious test regarding yours truly’s health care.

Today was a significant step for me that resulted in some continuing physical therapy on a nagging pain that’s developed along my left leg.

Its source is in the lower back, between a couple of vertebrae. That’s what my nurse practitioner diagnosed immediately about a week ago. The physical therapist I saw today verified that diagnosis.

The PT’s name is Debbie. She ran me through some stretching exercises this morning. She looked at my spine, stretched my legs to make sure they’re the same length (they are), asked me quite a few questions about the pain, when it hurts, when it subsides, when and where am I most comfortable, least comfortable.

Then she set up a twice-weekly schedule for additional physical therapy. I’ll be returning to the Creek center to meet with another therapist until the middle of September.

Debbie has high hopes that the regimen will lessen the pain. I informed her it isn’t debilitating. I am able to function more or less normally, even with the hitch in my git-along.

Oh, and I was in and out of the physical therapy office this morning in 45 minutes.

My sense on the care I am getting — and expect to get — at the VA medical center is that I continue to have faith that it’ll measure up to what the politicians promise for us.

***

A final note …

As I was leaving today, Debbie asked me, “What branch of the service were you in?” I told her the Army.

“Oh, that’s too bad. Your other physical therapist was in the Navy,” Debbie said with a huge smile. “After 9/11, she just got mad and signed up.”

“Hey, no sweat,” I said, “my dad served in the Navy during World War II.” I’ll also be sure to tell the sailor-turned-therapist that we all served on the same team.

Trump is right: GOP blew it on ACA repeal/replacement

I hope you’re sitting down as you read this next sentence: Donald Trump is correct — to a point — in criticizing the congressional Republican caucus for failing to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The president, who has opened a new front in his all-out war against the Washington political establishment, tore into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the GOP’s failure to have a replacement ready for enactment when Trump took office.

Do I wish the Republicans had done such a thing? No. I do not like the idea of total repeal of the ACA; I would prefer mending it, fixing it, repairing what’s wrong with it.

My point about the president’s criticism is that the congressional GOP caucus had many years to come up with a replacement plan. It didn’t. It dawdled and twiddled. It didn’t have the wisdom to come up with a reasonable alternative to the ACA. It instead chose to fight with the President Barack Obama on all manner of issues.

Then came Donald Trump to the scene. He won a presidential election while making some grossly overstated promises. He pledged to take Washington by the back of its neck and shake, rattle and roll it to do his bidding.

That didn’t happen, either.

The president was right to at least expect to have a starting point on this repeal-and-replace effort regarding health care insurance. There was nothing waiting for him when he took office.

To the extent that GOP members of Congress were at fault, then the president is correct. They didn’t deliver the goods.

However, the president’s anger at the GOP breaks down because of his refusal to accept any personal responsibility for his party’s failures. It might have been better for Trump to say something like this: “The Republicans in Congress had seven years to replace ‘Obamacare,’ but they didn’t. It’s not entirely their fault, though. As the leader of the Republican Party, I must share in this disappointing outcome. I am the president of the United States, the head of the executive branch of government, which shares power with Congress. I also must share the blame. That’s part of the deal.”

Trump told McConnell that he needs to “get to work.”

Yes. So should the president.

VA to get an initial test of its level of care

I have sung the praises of the Department of Veterans Affairs operation here in Amarillo, Texas. I stand by the praise I have given the staff at the Thomas E. Creek Veterans Medical Center.

I stood by them while all hell was breaking loose throughout the VA in connection with the scandalous treatment veterans were getting at other medical centers. The scandal cost Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki his job.

I’ve been fortunate since enrolling in the VA health program about three years. I’ve enjoyed perfect health. I visit the Creek center twice each year; I get in and get out quickly; the nurse practitioner I see gives me a clean bill of health; the staff is courteous, professional and efficient.

All that said, I’ve developed a slight hiccup. My health, while still quite good, isn’t pitch perfect at the moment. My left leg hurts … constantly. I visited the Creek medical center this past week for my regular visit and told my nurse practitioner about my problem, which arose while my wife and I were traveling back east in June. She diagnosed it quickly: I have nerve problem stemming from my lower back, causing the pain to shoot down the front of my left leg. It hurts constantly throughout my quadriceps muscle.

The VA called today. I have scheduled a visit next week for some physical therapy. I am unclear about what might lie ahead after my physical therapy sessions have ended. Maybe they’ll be able to deaden the pain in my leg. If not, then I might need to have my leg and back examined with an MRI so they can determine the precise source of the pain.

None of this is life-threatening. I don’t even consider it a serious ailment; it’s more of an annoyance than anything else.

This hitch in my git-along, though, does represent the first legitimate test of the medical care I can expect at the Thomas E. Creek Veterans Medical Center.

My optimism remains quite high. The president of the United States has made veterans care a “top priority.” I appreciate his stated commitment. If it goes well, I’m willing to give him all the credit he deserves. If it doesn’t, well, he’ll hear about that, too.

I’ll report back to you later.

Alzheimer’s claims another celebrity

A dreaded disease that needs intense national attention has taken another noted celebrity.

Glen Campbell died today at the age of 81. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a merciless, ruthless killer that afflicts about 4 million Americans. That number is going to increase as the nation’s median age continues to rise.

My blog post today isn’t so much about Campbell as it is about the disease that killed him. I’ve written to you many times over the years about Alzheimer’s disease. I take news such as Campbell’s death very personally.

My mother died of Alzheimer’s complications on Sept. 17, 1984. She was 61 years of age at the time of her death. She was diagnosed formally only in the spring of 1980 but truth be told Mom exhibited some strange behavior shifts for years prior to the neurologist’s grim diagnosis.

The federal budget doesn’t devote nearly the amount of money I would prefer for research into finding a cure for this neurological disease. Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t get the kind of attention it needs, either. Why is that? Its victims generally are older. They are susceptible to this killer. We used to pass it off as merely age-related dementia.

I will tell you this as well: Its victims aren’t just the individuals it strikes without warning; they also are the loved ones who care for them. The afflicted individuals eventually do not know they are in dire peril. They don’t know their family members. They lose their cognitive ability … all of it. In my mother’s case, she lost the ability to speak.

This disease is as ugly as they come.

The only blessing in Glen Campbell’s death is that we’re talking yet again about the disease that killed him. May this conversation translate — finally! — into meaningful commitment to finding a cure.

Is bipartisanship making a comeback in the Senate?

Oh, I do hope my ears and eyes aren’t deceiving me.

I’ve heard during the past day or so that the failure of the Republican-authored bill to replace the Affordable Care Act has produced a remarkable event.

It is that Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington are going to actually talk to each other about how they might find a path toward improving the ACA.

Alexander chairs the Senate Health Committee and is committed to working with Murray to commence bipartisan hearings next month that would fix some elements of the existing health care law.

I do believe this is how effective government is designed to work.

The Senate Republican caucus sought to craft an ACA replacement without any Democratic help. The House of Representatives did approve its version of an ACA replacement, also without Democratic input or votes. It fell to the Senate to complete the job. The Senate failed when they lost three GOP senators, killing the totally partisan measure.

Now the Senate is blundering its way toward a compromise solution. Sens. Alexander and Murray are leading the way.

They’re both Capitol Hill veterans. They’ve been around long enough to know how the place can actually work. Alexander and Murray aren’t alone in that knowledge, to be sure.

It well might be time for Republican congressional leaders — in both legislative chambers — to accept that the ACA is the law of the land and that it’s likely to remain the law of the land.

Many of us out here in the heartland have noted that the ACA is far from perfect. Its chief proponent, former President Obama, has implored Republicans to find a bipartisan solution to repair the law. GOP lawmakers, though, have been hung up on repealing the ACA.

A one-party solution hasn’t worked out for the Republicans.

There now appears some momentum building for a return to the proven strategy of working together — with both parties sitting at the same table — to find some common ground.

That’s how you legislate.

Trump ponders new display of heartlessness

Donald John Trump Sr.’s next potential display of heartless public policy would hit yours truly a good bit more personally.

The president is now considering whether to end government subsidies of health insurance plans until Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act. Such a move would render health insurance utterly unaffordable for millions of Americans. I happen to know that because our household benefited greatly from the subsidy.

Does the president have a clue as to what he’s pondering? Does he have any feeling in what passes for a heart for those who would be affected by a decision to pull the plug on these subsidies?

My wife and I had to purchase health insurance to cover my wife after her post-employment insurance plan expired. The ACA required us to purchase it under the “individual mandate” provision. We sought counsel with our insurance agent, who shopped around for a provider who could cover us. She found it and then we applied online — through healthcare.gov — for the subsidy; we got it approved and my wife was able to be covered by health insurance under the ACA.

That policy expired the day she became eligible for Medicare.

But the point here is that if Trump decides to end the ACA subsidy, he is going to deprive millions of Americans — just like my wife and me — of an opportunity to purchase health insurance.

This is how Trump is proposing to let the ACA “implode”?

At what cost, Mr. President?

So help me, Donald Trump Sr. disgusts me to my core.

This is how Trump refuses to ‘own’ his failures

Well now. Donald Trump is tweeting something about “repercussions” if Senate Republicans fail to enact a health care insurance overhaul that would “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

This must be what the president means when he says he won’t “own” any failure to approve this legislation.

I believe the president must own it. He must take responsibility. He is the nation’s top Republican — even if he is a Republican In Name Only, aka a RINO, in the hearts of many true believers.

That’s not how sees it. He’s now suggesting via Twitter that he’ll somehow punish Republicans on Capitol Hill if they fail to do his bidding.

Explain yourself, Mr. President.

First things first. He needs to offer some detail on what his bidding entails. What does he want, specifically, in a health care overhaul? Oh, I almost forgot. The president is just too damn busy “making America great again” to worry about the details of legislation that aims to affect one-sixth of the American economy.

The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t like the GOP plan. It will cost millions of Americans their insurance plan and it cuts too much money from Medicaid, which enables Americans to afford health insurance.

Just as President Truman famously posted the sign on his desk proclaiming “The Buck Stops Here,” Donald Trump is now infamously declaring that others will pay the price for his own failures as head of a once-great American political party.

In my humble view, presidents don’t earn their tickets into the pantheon of greatness by refusing to “own” their mistakes. The GOP health care plan is a doozy of a mistake, Mr. President. It’s on you.

Take the hint, Mitch: Nation hates Trumpcare

Memo to Mitch McConnell: Give it up on trying to resurrect the Senate Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The word now from the U.S. Senate majority leader is that he is going to reopen negotiations on the failed GOP plan. He is trying to woo Republicans who (a) oppose the legislation or (b) are straddling the fence.

McConnell could not muster up the 50 votes he needed to approve the Senate plan. GOP conservatives hate it because it too much of the ACA; GOP moderates hate it because it casts too many Americans off the rolls of the insured.

The nation’s Republican in chief, Donald Trump, is refusing to “own” the GOP caucus failure.

One final point: Public opinion polls show a 17 percent approval rating for the Republican plan.

Hey, who needs those stinkin’ polls, right, Mr. Majority Leader?

McConnell is fueled by this desire, or so it seems, to rid the law of anything with Barack H. Obama’s name on it. Recall that he said right after Obama’s election that his “No. 1 priority” was to make Obama a one-term president.

He’s now gunning for a consolation prize, which is to toss the ACA into the crapper.

Pay attention, Mr. Leader: Your plan is no better in the eyes of Americans who now have health insurance for the first time in their lives. You and your fellow Republican senators work for them — for us, sir! You need to do our bidding.

Yep, Trump isn’t your ‘normal’ president

Donald J. Trump more or less vowed to be an unconventional president while he campaigned for the office. Man, he’s made good on that one, eh?

Consider what he said after the failure of the Republican caucus in the Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I won’t own” the failure, he said. He wants to let the ACA fail and then he’ll swoop in to clean up the mess — assuming, of course, that it even happens.

How disgraceful.

President Truman famously had that sign on his Oval Office desk: “The Buck Stops Here.” President Kennedy told us after the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 that “victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan”; he took the hickey for the invasion’s failure. President Reagan admitted to making a mistake during the Iran-Contra controversy, that he didn’t believe “in my heart” that he was trading arms to a hostile nation; he “owned” it eventually.

The current president? He’s not standing by the stumble-bum effort in Congress to enact this legislation. Republicans had seven years to come up with an alternative to the ACA, which they despise largely — or so it seems — because it has Barack H. Obama’s name on it. They call it “Obamacare” as a term of derision.

They blew it. As head of the Republican Party, so did the president. He owns this mistake, whether he cares to admit it or not.

Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Reagan all knew how to stand behind their failures. They all understood that the terms of the office they required them to do so.

Aw, but what the hell. They were just your normal run-of-the-mill politicians who played by the rules. The current president doesn’t operate under the same precept of full accountability.