Showing posts with label Medicare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Medicare. Show all posts

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mr. President…nice guys finish last

Mitt Romney was the winner in Wednesday night’s debate hosted by Jim Lehrer because apparently Barack Obama left his debating skills back at the White House.  Obama was constantly looking down at the lectern with an expression I could not define, nor is it one I have seen from him in earlier debates.  If he was pre-occupied with his 20th anniversary, which was Oct. 3rd, romanticists might forgive him a bit, but hard core political analysts are anything but romantics.

Jim Lehrer, Debate Host
I don’t think it was that because the Commander in Chief can separate himself from his personal life when the big decisions are necessary, as he has shown before.  He was described in the media as “less than engaged” and “lethargic,” at times rambling through issues and facts like he has before.  In one report the President’s performance was described as a “far cry” from when he was on the campaign trail first running for office.  So where was Obama Wednesday?

To begin with, he let Romney come on strong in the very beginning, as he was predicted to do, and take over the debate literally from his first words.  CNN said, “The crucial and tone-setting first 30 minutes of the debate belonged to Romney.”  As an example, the President should have hammered more on Romney’s tax plan that refuses to raise taxes while making deep budget cuts in areas like education, with no specific clue to where revenue will come from.

But here’s what he said on Thursday the day after the debate: "If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth.  So here's the truth: Governor Romney cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax plan without blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class. That's the math."  Something he did mention a couple of times on Wednesday but not forcefully enough.

And I was astounded that Obama never refuted Romney’s repeated claims that the President would cut $716 billion from Medicare, inferring that it would come out of benefits to retirees.  In fact, Obamacare makes this cut from insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries, and in many cases involves cost-saving measures.  Medicare Advantage recipients will be affected by reductions but that is a private plan, by choice, not through the government.

You can see a complete transcript of the debate here.

Not only did Romney start with the strength of his convictions—although many probably won’t stand a fact-check—he continued showing a confidence that just didn’t seem to be there for the President, except at certain times.  Mostly it was missed opportunities like the $716 billion remark above, but from more recent gaffes by Romney, Obama didn’t challenge the challenger with his comment about the 47% of Americans who thought they were “entitled” to benefits.

Mitt Romney-Pres, Obama
Yet another miss, not bringing up the Romney Bain Capital fiasco when outsourcing jobs was mentioned.  How about just why Romney refuses to release additional taxes from the 2 years already released?  Obama should have been more prepared to show exactly why Romney will have to raise taxes on the middle class when refusing to raise them on the wealthy.  And what about the latter.  Any one of these could have put Romney on the defensive.

At times I thought Romney looked flushed, reminiscent of the Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960 when Nixon looked very tired and sweated profusely,  Romney suffered from neither of these but the redness in his face seem to come and go, coming on while Obama was talking then lessening when he was at the helm.  Barack Obama just seemed detached from his surroundings while Romney was speaking, which could account for his lack of attacks on Romney untruths.

Who gets the Pinocchio award?
In a couple of fact-checks, Seniors will pay less under Obamacare rather than Romney’s claim they will pay more.  Obama’s administration did not create 5 million jobs as he spoke, but rather 4.4 million, but with a net gain of 125,000 jobs during his administration.  Romney said health care costs are going up, which they are, but they are rising under Obamacare at the slowest rate they have in 51 years.  If you are interested, go to FactCheck.org

There are two more Presidential debates and one Vice Presidential debates still to go, and the whole picture will no doubt change somewhat with each meeting of the candidates.  I did a post recently, “The debates may not make a difference but we’ll watch them anyway,” which addresses whether Presidential Debates have changed the course of the elections over the years.  In most cases, no, but with Romney’s Wednesday strengths, Obama must find himself before Oct. 16.

Missing was to question the candidates what they would do about gun violence and more firearms regulation.  Lehrer was asked by top gun control advocates to do this but not even a mention if it might be coming up in future debates.  And my final thought, Romney did not beat the President in this debate, Obama beat himself.  I am still curious why it happened.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Obama increases lead by 6 points-Romney drops 2 points

While the GOP convention did little for Mitt Romney—no doubt because neither he nor Paul Ryan had anything to say—it pushed Barack Obama to a new high of 52% to Romney’s 46% in a CNN/ORC poll.  The poll, taken Monday, shows who had the strongest convention, providing the most substance in what they plan to do for the country.  Obama was tied with Romney prior to the conventions. 

Obama also exceeded Romney in fundraising bringing in $114 million compared to $111 million in recent contributions.  Following the Republican convention, Romney’s favorable rating increased to 53%, dropping right after Charlotte to 48%.  51% of likely voters felt that Obama has the best outlook for running the country compared to Romney’s 41%.  There was a switch of who had the most targeted plan to help America; after Charlotte, Obama now 45%, Romney 39%.

OK, polls are like people, they are fickle as all get out.  But what I have heard from most political pundits is that at least they measure the pulse of the moment, and we are talking about a well-known pollster in CNN/ORC.  And the “moment” this poll recorded was how the American public felt after two conventions, each representing an opposite side of the political spectrum.  It would indicate that the voters, at least for the moment, think Obama is best for the country.

Just before the convention, Obama and Romney were tied at 48%.  That shows there was little enthusiasm for the GOP candidate following Tampa which would indicate to me that Romney and Ryan either didn’t get across their message or they conveyed the wrong message.  Either way, it means that Republicans are stumbling down the homestretch with a campaign that is beginning to sound like the shallow charade it is, particularly to Independents and undecideds.

As an example, all the way back to Paul Ryan’s dismantling of Medicare and a national budget that even George W. Bush said was irresponsible, to the current Medicare version from Romney that still throws Seniors under the bus, so many details are left out that most have no idea what he would really do.  It is that uncertainty that is driving many undecided voters over to the Democrats.  In President Obama’s case he would stick with the plan but with some revisions.

On the personal side, the Democrats in Charlotte tanked Romney’s gains from Tampa sending them from a post convention number of 53% to 48% after the end of the Dems convention.  Obama also came away with a better comfort zone on leading the country in the future with 51% compared to Romney’s 41%.  And men were more supportive of Democrats in the poll most likely due to the fact that Obama saved the auto industry and was responsible for bin Laden’s death.

The Bloomberg National Poll in June measured how the public feels Obama is doing in the running of the country.  45% said they were better off compared to 36% who said they were worse off.  The balance remained the same or were just undecided.  Just before President Obama was elected in 2008, 89% of Americans thought the country was on the wrong track compared to 62% today.  All these figures are a mandate for the job Barack Obama has done in office.

Back in July Romney said he would repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act to make way for real healthcare reform.  Today the candidate says he would keep parts of “Obamacare.”  Yet more flip-flopping on healthcare dating back to his passage of a very similar law as Gov. of Massachusetts, then to the repeal of Obama’s Act, to now keeping certain provisions.  The man obviously has no idea what he really wants to do as President and it is beginning to show up more in the polls.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Obamacare is good for Americans…Here’s why – Part 3

This is Part 3 and the last in this series.  Here are links to refer to Part 1 and Part 2.  So far we have covered some appropriate statistics re. who does and who doesn’t want Obamacare, along with some facts surrounding major issues in the law.  In Part 2, there is data from the Congressional Budget Office on cost, the individual mandate and more.  And I concluded with a report on what one particular source found wrong with Obamacare. 

I want to get into the incorrect conflict that senior citizens seem to have with the legislation, most of which can be explained by just quoting from applicable sections of the bill itself.  But first, there are five things that Politico thinks that the Democrats got wrong on healthcare.  In a prelude, Dems thought voters would reward them just for skirting the health care bill by Republicans, minus their support.  They were wrong and it cost them in 2010.

Number one deemed wrong.  Passing health care reform without Republican support.  Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean by misreading the American public felt the Dems had to get this done and everything else would fall into place.  It didn’t, and voters are still wavering on the issue, although somewhat more comfortable with the law now than originally.  After being left in the dust, the GOP has been on the attack ever since.

Who dropped the ball
promoting Obamacare?

Number two.  The White House and the bill’s Democratic supporters failed to get a clear message out that explained the bill and put to rest concerns by the public, especially senior citizens.  What has been done has been mostly ineffective and the Dems now think their best hope is to wait for the benefits of 2014 to kick in with the realization that 30 million uninsured Americans will finally get coverage.  Assuming the law gets past the upcoming Supreme Court decision.

Numbers three and four.  President Obama never personally waged the “great campaign” he promised.  This has been painfully obvious in that supporters of the law have raised only $57.9 million compared to opponents who have come up with $204 million.  Agreed, Obama has had a multitude of problems to deal with in the economy, the jobless and constantly rising gas prices.  The question here is did the President’s lieutenants drop the ball when he needed them most?

Number five.  Is the individual mandate the right approach, even constitutional?  We’ll know on the latter soon, but I refer to an earlier comment I made questioning whether a select group should be obligated to pay for the health care of those who decide to remain uninsured.  This idea of a mandate actually came from Republicans back in the 1990s when Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) proposed the concept.  The Dems didn’t really take it serious then.

And finally there is a senior citizen population out there that is still leery of Obamacare.  Considering the figure numbers over 40 million, it is something that must be addressed.  But personally, as a Medicare recipient for several years, I am perfectly satisfied with the program, including under the new health care law.  My Medicare coverage is supplemented by additional insurance that pays the 20 percent that is not covered, which pretty much makes it zero cost to me. 

In all the years I have been under Medicare, my only out-of-pocket costs were things not covered that I elected to have done.  You must have a good supplemental plan to make this happen, but I added up the cost of premiums to payments by the plans ratio once and I am well ahead of the game.  Planning your insurance program for retirement is a major consideration, and it is something that many seniors need to take another look at today.

So what are the senior concerns?  One, that Obamacare will reduce Medicare coverage to you as well as paying your doctor.  “The health bill will reduce projected Medicare spending by $575 billion over ten years, primarily by reducing projected fees to hospitals and other providers and by reducing payments to private Medicare Advantage insurance plans,” according to a fact check by the Washington Post. 

But will Medicare benefits be cut to in the above reduction?  Those cuts will be accomplished by the two points above plus a crackdown on Medicare fraud, estimated to currently cost the federal government as much as $60 billion per year.  We are also assured that we can keep our current insurance plans and doctors.  The death panel scare is just that, well orchestrated propaganda first perpetrated by the then V.P, candidate, Sarah Palin, in the 2008 election.

In closing, most Americans want the social programs they enjoy to survive, and that is what the Obama administration is trying to accomplish with health care reform.  However, it is foolish to believe that all the goodies can continue without cutting some of the fat, and finding sources of new revenue.  Now that we’ve begun the overhaul of the health care system, it is now time to do the same to our taxes to make them more reasonable and equitable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Obamacare is good for Americans…Here’s why – Part 2

Mitt Romney on Obamacare
In Part 1 of this report, we covered some statistics, a few of the basic issues under contention in Obamacare, and touched on Medicare.  Also included in that post are some excellent links with comprehensive understanding of the facts in this massive reform of health care.  It only seems appropriate that, after the pros and cons of the legislation, there is a need to know what’s in the bill.  It is clear this is a problem when 78% indicated knowing only a little about the law.

First, how much will it cost?  Answer: $940 billion over 10 years.  What about the deficit?  According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will be reduced over a 10-year period by $143 billion, which is more than their first estimate, and there is another $1.2 trillion reduction in the second 10 years.  Individual mandate: Starting in 2014, all Americans must buy health insurance or face a $695 annual fine.  As reported yesterday, this would only be between 1 and 2%.

Coverage would be extended to 32 million individuals in the U.S. who do not have health insurance.  There will be state health insurance exchanges for consumers and business making it more affordable.  There are subsidies for those making between 100 and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is $22,050.  There will be a new 3.8% Medicare Payroll tax on investment income; families with income of $250,000, $200,000 for individuals.

Starting in 2018, an excise tax on insurance companies of 40% on high cost income plans ($27,500 for families, $10,200 individuals).  Dental and vision plans are exempt.  And there is a 10% excise tax on indoor tanning salons.  Interesting.  Medicare expands to include 133% of the federal poverty level which is $29,327 for a family of four.  Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid.  It isn’t clear yet how the Latino community views the latter in term of immigration reform.

By 2014, insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage to adults for preexisting conditions.  Children are already covered.  No federal funds can be used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or health of the mother.  Illegal immigrants will not be allowed to purchase health insurance in exchanges, even if they used their own money.  There are more points in the plan and you can see them by going to a CBS News report, here.

So what’s the baaaad in Obamacare?  I looked at several sites with this kind of information and settled on because it was adamant that “If not struck down, it must be repealed.”  I figured this should provide some interesting insight into the opposition.  They leap into the battle with the question of whether they can force us to buy “broccoli” if they can make us purchase health insurance.  I kind of like broccoli so don’t have a problem with that.  Stupid!

On a more sane level, Spector proclaims: it is legislation-in-haste-repent-at-leisure mentality.  Dem. Nancy Pelosi did say, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it."  There is no impartiality in the bill simply because it is 2,700 pages long and riddled with empirical language.  It takes the decision-making process out of buying health insurance and leaves it to bureaucrats.  Quoting a study, half of employers plan to drop health insurance in 2014.

Medicaid at work

The law will increase Medicaid enrollment by an estimated 24 million new beneficiaries by 2015.  Now I find it hard to believe that a country that is built on individual rights not doing everything it can to help the needy.  And that can be done with a combination of new taxes on the wealthy and eliminating unnecessary federal spending designed simply to get the politicians reelected. 

Anyway, some of these folks are in their position due to economic conditions for which they are not responsible.  Like a financial melt-down that resulted in a wave of home foreclosures that is still going on.

NEXT: Seniors against Obamacare, what went wrong and a wrap up.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Obamacare is good for Americans…Here’s why

But first some statistics that should energize both sides of the issue leading up to the forthcoming Supreme Court decision.  24% want to keep the entire law, 27% want to get rid of the mandate and keep the rest of the law, and 41% want to dump the entire law.  This would indicate that the mandate to buy insurance is the problem and without it a majority, or 51%, like what they see. 

The question arises, why should those with insurance pay for those who elect not to have it?

And then there is another figure that might change the mind of that 27% that want to get rid of the mandate.  The President’s health Care Law is patterned somewhat after the one Mitt Romney passed when he was governor of Massachusetts.  Only about 1% of the state’s residents had to pay a penalty for not taking insurance. 

The nonprofit policy think tank Urban Institute predicts that only around 2% will have to pay under the federal health reform law.

Of those uninsured, millions will jump at the right to get insurance now with pre-existing conditions.  For those who still don’t have health insurance, many will avoid the mandate’s penalty due to financial hardship or religious exemptions, and those earning too little to pay income tax can’t be penalized.  Most of the rest, except for that one or two percent, already have health insurance.  These are the facts that the GOP ignores and doesn’t want the public to know.

Some think Justices’ decisions will be based on personal beliefs, others strictly on the law.  Another interesting figure, 37% think the law went too far while 27% feel it didn’t go far enough, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released on June 7.  A majority of those polled claim to know a little about the law with only 28% who know a lot.  Obviously it is that 78% who haven’t taken the time to understand what many criticize that is the problem.

Obama signing health care bill

I decided to do some fact checking and found The Fact Checker from the Washington Post that led me to three other sites:;; and an examination by Kaiser Health News.  I recommend a look at all four sites.  Fact Checker cites some of the major points, starting with whether or not Obamacare is a government takeover of the health care system.  Absolutely not and PolitiFact labeled this the “lie of the year.”

There are many provisions that will (must be) controlled by the feds but the core of the health system will remain in the hands of the existing private insurance market. 

Next, will Medicare benefits be cut as well as payments to doctors?  The answer is that Medicare spending will continue to increase but at a slower rate.  With Medicare one of the fastest growing parts of the budget, “the health bill will reduce projected Medicare spending by $575 billion over ten years, primarily by reducing projected fees to hospitals and other providers and by reducing payments to private Medicare Advantage insurance plans.”

Repealing the bill will increase the deficit is technically true.  But Democrats should not be laboring over this aspect of the law since its original intention was not to reduce the deficit; rather to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.  And this has happened with 6.6 million young adults signing up for coverage under their parents’ plan.  This will be a welcome addition to the futures of recent college graduates who are already starting out in a tough work environment.

NEXT: What’s in the bill, what’s bad, what went wrong, etc.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Social Security Law mirrors Health Care Mandate so is it unconstitutional?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the point in the Tuesday, March 27, arguments over President Obama’s Health Care Reform Law.  She drew a parallel between the 1930s Social Security Act in its financing of senior retirement, which uses the input of revenue from donors who will not take advantage of its benefits until a later date, to fund the program.  She said:

"If Congress could see this as a problem when we need to have a group that will subsidize the ones who are going to get the benefits, it seems to me you are saying the only way that could be done is if the government does it itself; it can't involve the private market, it can't involve the private insurers."

Sort of the same conclusion Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Congress came to in 1935 when he signed Social Security into law.  As part of FDR’s “New Deal,” it was designed to help those in need, and to provide against the dangers of modern American life in the future, including old age, poverty and unemployment.  It worked, and those who want to deny the President’s health care reform should ask themselves the question: “Where would we be without it today?”

The two sides are at odds over completely different issues.  On the left, the cry is that there are people out there who need help with their health care and shouldn’t be denied this assistance.  On the right, the complaint is that it takes away the freedom of choice, infringes on their constitutional rights.  The fact of the matter is that at times people do not make the right choice and it is in these kinds of situations that the government must step in to protect the future of the majority.

All about medicine and money
They did it for the seniors by passing the Medicare law, and now the President is trying to extend health care to the rest of the population.  Some form of universal healthcare must be passed in this country, and soon, or we can expect the health care system to end up in utter chaos, including swamped emergency rooms at hospitals and more bankruptcies from medical bills that can’t be paid.  The feds reported $43 billion in uncompensated cost for the uninsured in 2008.

A CNN/ORC International poll taken recently indicates improvement in the approval rate of the health care law.  On the individual mandate, 47 percent favor and 51 percent are opposed.  The huge difference comes along partisan lines with 71 percent of Democrats in favor and 78 percent of Republicans against.  The Tea Party has been a vociferous foe of the law, and anything else that Obama has proposed, making one wonder over the substance of the opposition.

In a new Gallup poll around 60 percent said the healthcare bill would make things better for the uninsured, and 56 percent said it would benefit lower-income families.  However, 44 percent believe the bill would make things worse for the U.S. as a whole.  Gallup says “The bottom line is that Americans perceive this to be a Medicare-type bill – a welfare bill mainly aimed at helping poor people and those without insurance.”  Duh…isn’t that what caring people do?

James Morone, chair of the political science department at Brown University in Providence, R.I. says, “No one really understands it.  Healthcare is a very high-intensity, low-information issue. People respond to conflict. As conflict escalates, [people] turn against what’s being discussed, they lose confidence in it."  With the obvious conclusion that this “conflict” is coming from right wing conservatives that will do anything in their power to block the President’s legislation (my words). 

In a doctor’s appointment last week, a medical technician told me that Obama’s Health Care Law would cap physicians’ income.  I have researched this pretty thoroughly and find nothing to substantiate the claim but if it is so, the provision should be removed.  And there are other complaints from the docs that are legitimate re. their payments from insurance and Medicare that must be addressed or we stand to lose the basic foundation of our medical care system.

Every time I check my Medicare payments to my doctors, I cringe because they look like something you would expect from a bargain basement sale.  It is very embarrassing but I rarely hear a complaint unless I bring it up, which I do regularly.  Physicians also think their top concerns for cutting costs are not taken into consideration.  They are:

·       Tort reform
·       Streamlining billing
·       Fixing the flawed gov. formula for calculating their reimbursements

Up to 66 percent of doctors indicate they would consider opting out of all government-run programs.  And the possibility arises that there could even be more reductions in what they are paid from insurance and Medicare.  Priorities in the U.S. are completely out of control and this is but one example.  Others include teachers’ and law enforcement and firefighters’ pay to name only a couple. 

When you compare this to Peyton Manning’s recent salary with the Denver Broncos of $96 million over 5 years, and the fact that Magic Johnson’s group is paying over $2 billion for the Los Angeles Dodgers—a record for this kind of deal—it becomes abundantly clear that the real significance of basic human needs is not important to some.  There’s also entertainment industry and corporate salaries to name a couple more.

It is not clear from the Supreme Court Justices’ questions just how they will rule on the Health Care Law; the White House is confident but so are the law’s opponents.  What is certain is the fact that the health care system is in trouble and must be fixed.  I personally cannot believe the Court will go against Barack Obama and the Congress in this matter.  If they do, will the right attack Social Security next? 

Read more here.

MR. PRESIDENT: If you look frail, if you talk frail, and if you walk frail, you must be frail...

      ...too frail to lead this country for another four years. I know, we all know, what you are afraid of; the lunatic who could win the ...