More AETNA Health Care Hijinks

August 19, 2016

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Let me tell you why I hate AETNA and believe that a dick move like this is totally in character for them.

I made a job change last year, and I ended up having a gap between the expiration of my coverage from my prior employer and the beginning of coverage from my new employer; the gap period was a month. And I blame my prior employer; when I’d done this in the past, a long time ago I’ll admit, my prior employer would pick up my coverage for that month plus the next month – the excuse I got was that I’d given notice before the 15th of the departing month, so by the end of that month I was on my own.

So I contacted the PA Exchange to inquire into coverage. And do you know what happened? I told the person at the exchange (the “navigator,” I think) what I was looking for in the way of coverage, who would be covered, the duration of coverage, etc. And the navigator connected me right away with AETNA, and I was told that a major medical plan would give me what I needed, and they gave me a quote. So the navigator connected me to someone from AETNA who got the process started.

Well, it took a few days to process. A few days turned into a week. And a few more days. And another week, with repeated calls from yours truly all the while to AETNA Customer Service; you would think that, as opposed to inquiring into the state of what year I would actually be receiving my insurance cards, I was asking about whether or not I could purchase the Hope Diamond at Walmart.

So, after about 2 ½ weeks (with my family and I on pins and needles over coverage and having to reschedule appointments like crazy while this was going on…and what about people with lousy or even NO coverage having to try and deal with this, I thought to myself), I called AETNA again and somehow landed with the billing department, which ended up being fortuitous. The very helpful person I spoke with said that all I needed was the Group Number, ID Number and RX Number (I’m pretty sure that was it), and I could make my own insurance and prescription cards to present to our pharmacy and health care providers. So that’s what I did, and everything ended up processing OK.

Oh, and I FINALLY received my AETNA insurance cards with about five days to go in the lapsed month where I needed coverage.

So, to sum up, the PA health care exchange worked like clockwork (for the benefit of you wingnuts out there tempted to yell, “See, that gol’ danged Obama and his big gumint health care takeover did it again!”). However, AETNA moved slower than shit through a straw.

In my experience with employer-based coverage, AETNA is absolutely fine. However, based on this, you’re absolutely hosed if you have to deal with them yourself.

And to me, that speaks volumes about how screwed up our health care is in this country and why letting bad corporate actors like AETNA pursue a merger to become nothing but a bigger and even worse corporate actor is the very last thing we should consider.

Update 8/21/16: Curiouser and curiouser (here)…

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Saturday Mashup (5/18/13)

May 18, 2013
  • Somebody named Michael Tanner at NRO said here recently that the young will have to subsidize the old and sick on health care reform, or something (with a typically understated right-wing headline, of course)…

    Moreover, (the national) debt might be a bit hard to pay off, since young people are having a very tough time finding a job in Obama’s economy. Overall unemployment in this country may finally be improving — albeit slowly — but unemployment among those under age 30 hovers around 13 percent, nearly twice as high as for the population at large. This is particularly damaging since research shows that workers who are unemployed as young adults lose valuable work experience and opportunities to develop skills. As a result, youth unemployment can lead to lower wages for many years even if young people do find a job. And many young people who are working are in low-paying jobs or jobs unrelated to their college degree.

    To summarize, then, according to Tanner:

  • The debt is making it harder to find jobs (uh, no).
  • Since young people cannot find work, it’s creating an “underclass” of unemployed (yes, but not for the reason Tanner is willing to admit – more here).
  • This is leading to lower wages (see above).
  • It’s almost funny to read this from Tanner without acknowledging the following, as noted here

    A revolution may be on the way for the under-30 set: Thanks to the provisions put in place under the new health care law, the days of needing a job just to get affordable health insurance may be over.

    The shift in how Americans can get health insurance, in some ways a little noticed effect of the sweeping 2010 law that will be in full force by 2014, could be particularly radical for young adults. They are uninsured at higher rates than any other age group and face a job market less likely to provide health benefits than the one their older siblings and parents entered in their 20s.

    “If you want a career that doesn’t tend to be associated with companies that provide health insurance coverage, you’ll have more options,” said Sara Collins, the vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund. “It frees people’s work-life decisions.”

    The model of employer-based health care arose from the days after World War II when there was a huge quantity of good-paying jobs to be filled, but a comparatively small domestic labor pool, and employers believed they had to provide health care through work to attract good employees. Does anyone seriously think those days will ever return? Also, this tells us that naysaying about premiums going up for the young are “overblown” because of cost-control mechanisms built into the law.

    Continuing from Tanner…

    Even HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius admits that “some of the older customers may see a slight decline, and some of the younger ones are going to see a slight increase.” Or, not so slight. According to a survey by the American Action Forum, healthy young people in the individual or small-group insurance markets can look forward to rate increases averaging 169 percent.

    By the way, I should note that the American Action Forum (hmmm, smell the AstroTurf, people!) was founded by former John McCain confidant Douglas Holtz-Eakin, along with former Repug U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (remember how long the recount lasted in the election where he lost to Al Franken?) and former Nixonite Fred Malek, among other Repug “heavy hitters.”

    For the record, here is some more realistic information on likely premium increases under health care reform (and as noted here, Tanner is no stranger to propagandizing on this subject).

  • Next, it’s time for the latest pearls of wisdom from Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) columnist Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal (here).

    In wording that I cannot obtain now verbatim because this latest dreck from Stephens went behind Rupert’s pay wall (heh) faster than I could retrieve all of it, Stephens blames Obama for the deterioration of the Congo. As noted here, though, you can just add that to the massive legacy of problems that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History handed off to Number 44 (and I honestly don’t recall EVER seeing a corporate media compendium of the whole sorry list of “parking lot” items that Former President Nutball swept under the proverbial rug…if roles had been reversed, we’d be hearing about them forever).

    Continuing (I managed to get a couple of excerpts anyway)…

    Yet barring fresh blockbuster revelations the scandal will go nowhere, because so many Americans are as eager as the White House spokesman to forget it ever happened.

    WAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI!!!!!

    Oh, boo-f*cking-hoo, Bret. Sorry that the “99 percent” rabble is blowing off another Repug media circus (and you along with it, I guess) and concentrating on “dumb” stuff instead like our economy, our environment including our planet that continues to melt, national security issues for real, etc.

    Nope, it didn’t work for Stephens, and I don’t think it’s going to work for anyone else either (here).

    Continuing…

    America alone, it seems, suffers the opposite affliction: We remember little, and we remember it poorly. “Does America Need a Foreign Policy?” The question seems odd only because not many people besides Henry Kissinger, nearly 90, can recall that the U.S. has attempted to do without one before—and recall also how the previous attempt ended in September of 1939.

    That’s actually kind of an unintentionally hilarious comment when you consider that FDR was doing his best to help Winston Churchill and Great Britain, but his hands were tied by neutrality laws passed by Republicans and southern-state Democrats in Congress (Roosevelt signed them reluctantly because he needed the support of these people for his domestic agenda, though he did manage to aid Great Britain before December 7, 1941).

    And besides, based on this fairly scholarly takedown of Stephens, it looks like the august Journal pundit misinterpreted Kissinger anyway; though Nixon’s foreign policy guru was one of the most notorious liars in history as far as I’m concerned, he at least knew the limits of American hegemony, something that utterly escapes a triumphalist wingnut like Stephens.

  • Further, did you know that Dem U.S. House Rep Allyson Schwartz would be just an awful candidate to run against PA Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett because ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!!!! (here)…

    For over a decade, Schwartz was the executive director of an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, the Elizabeth Blackwell Women’s Health Center. Under her direction, the clinic — which is now run by Planned Parenthood — provided first-trimester abortions, as evidenced by a lawsuit it was a party to in 1995.

    This matters because the governor of Pennsylvania has the power to enforce — or not enforce — abortion regulations. One of Corbett’s predecessors, the pro-choice Republican Tom Ridge, didn’t enforce laws mandating abortion clinic inspections. That’s part of the reason Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was able to get away with killing as many as several hundred babies that had survived late-term abortions. (This week, Gosnell was convicted of murdering three newborn infants. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter of one patient.) Inspections would have stopped Gosnell and his staff in their tracks, but the facility avoided inspection for 17 years!

    This is the real “war on women.”

    Fortunately, Governor Corbett signed into law abortion clinic regulations in the wake of the grand jury report on Gosnell’s crimes.

    Um, there’s just a teensy weensy bit of an omission here, and that is the fact that the horrors of Gosnell’s clinic were discovered when former PA Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, quite rightly decided to enforce abortion clinic inspections once more in 2010, as noted here.

    In response, I thought this was a pretty detailed post on Congresswoman Schwartz, and what she brings to the table against Corbett. And given the fact that Admiral Joe Sestak has said that he’ll start gearing up for a rematch with Pat Toomey here (which will be a bit more daunting with Toomey’s commendable recent actions on guns, even though he’s utterly awful on everything else – and that “poison pill” in Toomey-Manchin on a federal gun registry is utterly ridiculous)…well, we’ll see if that ends up clearing more of a path for Schwartz to the nomination.

    So who is it in The Daily Tucker who is primarily criticizing Schwartz anyway? “Pro-life” activists Marjorie Dannenfelser and Mike Geer, that’s who.

    I can’t find much on Geer, but as noted here, this tells us that Dannenfelser claimed “victory” on a supposed social issues truce within the Repug Party (meaning, I guess among other things, that her brethren can now go back to caterwauling about “values” pabulum for the other lemmings under the Repug “brand” – this development apparently had something to do with Indiana Repug Governor and former Bushie Mitch Daniels deciding not to run for president in 2012, though Daniels is definitely not a moderate by any means).

    And like a good little wingnut, Dannenfelser twisted herself in metaphorical knots trying to defend the odious Blunt Amendment here (sponsored by the guy responsible for this) in which the Missouri Repug U.S. Senator tried to “grant employers significant discretion in deciding what kind of health care they want to provide workers” (translated, that means employers could refuse to provide coverage for anything whatsoever to do with those dreaded, icky lady parts). And on top of that, Dannenfelser claimed here that Planned Parenthood made $300 million in “profit,” which, in a lucid moment for them, was properly debunked by Politifact (not the same thing as excess revenue over expenses, as pointed out by people who actually know what they’re talking about).

    I realize that I didn’t point out earlier that it is sickeningly disingenuous for The Daily Tucker to try and conflate anything Allyson Schwartz did while running the Elizabeth Blackwell Women’s Health Center with Kermit Gosnell’s chamber of horrors. So please allow me to do so now.

  • Also, it looks like our wet noodle PA-08 rep has been getting a lot of “love” lately from the No Labels crowd, with recent hosannas from the Bucks County Courier Times as well as this item from philly.com…

    Too often, people focus on our differences instead of what brings us together. Yet, despite what we all hear, common ground does exist among lawmakers from opposing parties.

    Although one of us is a Democrat and the other a Republican, we both believe that things can and should get done in Washington. Our constituents sent us to our nation’s capital not to position and posture, but to use common sense and compromise to move our country forward.

    This is why we joined the bipartisan group called No Labels, and are identified with the Problem Solvers caucus. We surely don’t agree on every issue, but we are united in the desire to put partisanship aside and find common ground. There are plenty of areas that we can find to achieve results for the people we represent.

    Oh, by the way, “moderate” Mikey votes with his U.S. House “leadership” about 79 percent of the time (gag me). And Mikey’s new “BFF” Cheri Bustos was rated the 182nd most progressive member of Congress (hmmm); both of those items among others are noted here.

    As far as I’m concerned, though, “No Labels” is another one of these fraud “centrist” groups trying to be bipartisan when, in fact, they’re pretty much bygone-centrist-era Republicans, if that. This tells us that one of their big ideas was “bipartisan seating arrangements” in Congress (really?), and this from Alex Pareene of Salon tells us that another one of their “big ideas” is “No Budget, No Pay” (Again, really? How about “No Passing President Obama’s American Jobs Act And Waging War On Public Sector Employees, To Say Nothing of Climate Change Denial, No Pay” instead? And sorry that’s too big and not catchy enough to fit on a bumper sticker.).

  • Finally (and keeping it local for Bucks County, Lower Makefield in particular), I have a feeling that this will be my last opportunity to comment on the primary election this Tuesday in which Deb Wachspress and Josh Waldorf are running for the Democratic Party nomination to compete in the general election this fall for the Pennsbury School Board. So it’s particularly important that folks in the Pennsbury School District go out and support Deb and Josh on Tuesday.

    Campbell_518c6b248a212_preview-300
    Because every vote for Deb and Josh is a vote against this guy.


  • Friday Mashup (12/14/12)

    December 14, 2012
  • With all of the ongoing fiscal cliff kabuki going on, it was only a matter of time before deficit scold Judd Gregg made a return appearance, and he did so recently here

    In the parlance of John Wayne, it is a time to stand and deliver.

    “Stand” in this context means “stand up to” Republican and Democrat special interests.

    Both parties have, as part of their core elements, groups that do not wish to govern.

    Rather, they wish to stay in the corners of the ring and shout — artificially firing up their constituencies so that they can mine their followers for contributions and power.

    On the left, this is the cause of big labor and the AARP. On the right, it is the cause of the self-anointed definers of religious purity and the anti-tax cabal.

    These groups do not want action.

    That’s partly true, actually – no deal is better than a crappy one (oh, by the way, the last I checked, there was an “ic” in the name of the political party I support, as noted here).

    Oh, and did you know that Gregg helped kill the long-term care component of the Affordable Care Act, according to Charles Pierce here (and in case you don’t make it all the way to the end of either of the first two linked articles, allow me to point out that, since leaving the Senate, Gregg has taken up a nice cushy gig as an “international advisor” to Goldman Sachs…more on the “vampire squid,” as Matt Taibbi calls it, from here).

    And by the way, I could find no citation of John Wayne ever speaking the line “stand and deliver,” though Lee Marvin used it in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” in which Wayne co-starred (Marvin spoke the line to James Stewart).

  • Also, I know that continuing to pick on the media wing of the Republican Party is a bit of cruel sport at a certain point, but they do bring it upon themselves after all; as noted here, Obama campaign donor and Google ex-CEO Eric Schmidt (described as “creepy”) is attacked for sheltering money in Bermuda to avoid U.S. taxes.

    Didn’t we just finish an election where the nominee of the party Fox supports did the same thing in the Cayman Islands, as noted here?

    Boy, does our corporate media think we’re stoo-pid!

  • Continuing, Mike Moritz opined as follows at the Murdoch Street Journal (here)…

    After a seaside area has been designated as wilderness, when is it considered pristine enough by Washington’s standards? Is it after airplanes have been banned from flying over it? After electricity pylons and telephone cables have been removed, cars and bikers prohibited, the roads torn up? When hikers are forbidden access to trails, and kayakers, sailors and snorkelers banished from the water? When eucalyptus trees and other foreign species are eradicated? Or only after Miwok Indians’ arrowheads have been excavated and placed in a museum?

    Apparently it is none of the above, at least according to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Instead, he seems to think that turning a tiny portion of the lovely coastline of California’s Marin County (part of the National Seashore) into the first marine wilderness in the continental United States also requires destroying a family-run oyster operation that has conducted business in the same spot for eight decades.

    So Mr. Salazar recently ordered the business to close within 90 days—a decision that will spell ruin for the Lunny family, owners of Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm, which supplies 40% of California’s oysters.

    The Lunny family, which has made major improvements to the farm operation it took over in 2004, has been hounded for years by a National Park Service with a vendetta so chilling that any rancher on federal lands should be alarmed. Goaded by a clutch of environmental groups, the Park Service has resorted to tactics that might have come straight from Nixon’s dirty-tricks department. For instance, the Park Service alleged that the farm’s oyster boats disturbed the quiet of the area, but the measurements used were revealed to have been taken in New Jersey—and involved jet skis.

    Who exactly is Mike Moritz? As noted here, he’s a well-heeled venture capitalist with Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park, California; he also is a prominent supporter of President Obama, as Wikipedia tells us (I have a suspicion that there’s more going on here, but that’s all I have for the moment).

    More on this is noted in this story (and it looks like the person handling the litigation here is Dan Epstein of the conservative front group “Cause of Action”).

    To me, though (and based on this), Kevin Lunny took a gamble in 2004 and lost (and I think the whole “noise” thing involving the NJ park rangers is much ado about zilch).

    The bottom line, IMHO according to the Daily Kos post, is as follows (from the comments)…

    (The Point Reyes National Seashore, where Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm is located) was PRESERVED (in 1962 by JFK, and designated a marine wilderness in 1976). That means it’s for the environment and recreation FIRST. Ranching was specified in the enabling language as a compatible use so long as it was consistent with the natural resource values. Mariculture was NOT.

    To me, there’s the potential for a rather dangerous precedent to be set here. If the decision to keep the oyster farm stands, then that means that federal laws and treaties affecting natural resources can be overturned by states in the name of preserving commerce.

    And if that happens, does anyone in this country seriously think the right-wing desecration of the environment will come to a halt over the fate of an oyster bed?

  • Next, I just want to add a little more about the decision of the illustrious governor of the commonwealth of PA, Tom Corbett, to let the feds run the health care exchange instead of the state (here)…

    “Health care reform is too important to be achieved through haphazard planning. Pennsylvania taxpayers and businesses deserve more. They deserve informed decision making and a strong plan that responsibly uses taxpayer dollars,” Corbett said in the press release. “Therefore, I have decided not to pursue a state-based health insurance exchange at this time. It would be irresponsible to put Pennsylvanians on the hook for an unknown amount of money to operate a system under rules that have not been fully written.”

    In response, here is some background on the exchanges, which apparently Corbett had no desire to actually read. It should also be noted that both Michael Leavitt, the HSS Secretary under Dubya (who had issues like everyone else in Bushco, but actually “found the nut” for a change here) said that the states should set up the exchanges (with Repug former Senate Majority Leader – and MD – Bill Frist saying the same thing here…see the Leavitt note). In addition, this tells us that, as employers drop Medicare, more seniors are turning to the exchanges for care.

    Oh, and did I note that Corbett committed PA to running its own exchange here (in November of last year…near the bottom of the article)?

    And when it comes to PA and demagoguery on the health care law, you just know that Mikey the Beloved, our mistake of a U.S. Congressional Rep from PA-08, had to have a say (here…and how funny is it to hear a Teahadist like Mikey complaining about President Obama and his “ideology”)…

    (Fitzpatrick) said the scheduled reduction of about 30 percent in Medicare reimbursement payments to health providers at year’s end and the federal debt limit almost certain to be reached this winter should be part of current fiscal cliff negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

    “Singling out one piece of the puzzle without seeing how all the other pieces can fit together, while politically expedient for some, is reckless and just bad policymaking,” Fitzpatrick said.

    In response, allow me to provide the following from here

    Now it is true that the law envisions reductions in Medicare. And some of that money will help pay for the rest of the law. And there are problems in some places with doctors not being willing to accept Medicare patients. But those two things aren’t actually connected.

    And if THEY aren’t connected on health care, then you’d better believe that the debt limit isn’t either (care for some oranges with your apples and pomegranates, Mikey?). And we are talking about health care here, aren’t we, Mikey?

    Continuing with the NPR story…

    The problem with Medicare pay for doctors actually predates passage of the health law by more than a decade — it’s a preexisting condition, if you will, (Harold Pollack, a professor of public health policy at the University of Chicago) says. “And every year, Congress has to go through the song and dance with something called the doctor fix to prevent Medicare fees from a fairly catastrophic reduction. That has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. Health reform does not cut physician fees.”

    But wait, there’s more (here)…

    (Fitzpatrick), in a statement issued jointly by 11 Republican members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, said Corbett made the right call (on the exchanges).

    “The President’s health care law was passed nearly three years ago and yet the Department of Health and Human Services has yet to issue clear guidance to states…”

    Really, Mikey? Try reading this once more (same link as the one for Corbett).

    There are times when I honestly don’t know how this thoroughly unprincipled liar can bear to look at himself in the mirror.

  • Further, “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction,” as James Wolcott called him, is baaaack to claim, among other things, that Number 44 is going to get rid of the home mortgage interest deduction (here)…

    Such Obama supporters may soon notice that the new federal and state tax rates, the envisioned end to traditional deductions such as those for blue-state high taxes and for mortgage interest, and means testing for most government services are aimed precisely at themselves.

    Meanwhile, Obama’s proposal to get rid of the home mortgage interest deduction “hit a wall of resistance,” as noted here, for earners under $250 K (and may that continue to be the case).

  • Finally (and returning to Fix Noise)…well, it just wouldn’t be the season without more hilarity from this bunch, would it (here)…

    The 2012 White House “Holiday” card spotlights the Obama’s family Portuguese water dog — instead of Christmas.

    The black and white illustration was designed by Iowa artist Larassa Kabel and shows Bo the dog, wearing a scarf, while frolicking in the snow on the South Lawn of a blurred White House.

    The inside of the card reads:”This season, may your home be filled with family, friends, and the joy of the holidays.” The card is signed by the entire First Family — along with Bo’s paw print.

    Vanity Fair deemed this year’s Obama ‘Holiday’ card his best-ever in a posting titled, “Bo Obama: the True Meaning of Christmas.”

    Returning to the world of reality, this tells us the following…

    …White House holiday cards have not included the word ‘Christmas’ during the terms of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. It was not included in the final six years of former President Ronald Reagan’s term. This year’s card (December 2005) does not mark a departure from the practices of recent previous administrations.

    And while we’re on the subject of the alleged “war on Christmas” by The Roger Ailes BS Factory, let’s not forget that we have a case of “physician, heal thyself” as noted here.

    God bless us every one.


  • The Courier Times Gives It Up For “No-Corp-Tax” Pat

    October 29, 2010

    In a thoroughly unsurprising development, the Bucks County Courier Times endorsed Pat Toomey for the U.S. Senate from PA today (here)…

    For sure, (Joe) Sestak, a Delaware County congressman and retired admiral, is far to the left of Toomey. He has energetically supported President Obama’s initiatives on the economy and health care reform – and makes no apologies for that. He argues that the stimulus bills and the bailouts, vilified now as immense debt diggers, were necessary to stanch economic disaster and widespread unemployment.

    Looking at the glass “half full” for a minute – when it comes to the bailout of GM, the company is now poised for an IPO and may actually turn a profit in the short term, as noted here (throwing “good money after good,” if you will).

    Continuing…

    A Harvard graduate, Sestak was equally supportive of health care reform, including a liberal-favored government-run public option that was not included in the final law.

    I hate to break the news to the Courier Times, but Sestak voted against the public option, as noted here (see “Fun With Committee Votes”).

    Continuing…

    Toomey, a former Lehigh Valley congressman, would extend the cuts for all Americans and pay for them by cutting spending, including rescinding the unspent portion of federal stimulus money.

    As noted here as of last July, “According to Recovery.gov, $55 billion of the unspent ARRA money comes in the form of tax benefits for middle class and working families.”

    So, by saying he wants to reclaim “unspent funds” from the stimulus, what Toomey is really saying is that he wants to raise our taxes.

    Continuing with the editorial, Toomey also says that he wants to “cap discretionary spending unrelated to national security”; as far as I’m concerned, that’s an extreme position when even a partisan like Senate Repug Bob Corker of Tennessee says here that defense cuts have to be “on the table.”

    Also, I’m concerned that Toomey says he would “create competition among health care insurers,” which to me is more code in favor of allowing insurers to compete across state lines – it doesn’t make me happy to point out that a mechanism for this is already in place in HCR, as Ezra Klein tells us here…

    (1) “Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.” This is a long-running debate between liberals and conservatives. Currently, states regulate insurers. Liberals feel that’s too weak and allows for too much variation, and they want federal regulation of insurers. Conservatives feel that states over-regulate insurers, and they want insurers to be able to cluster in the state with the least regulation and offer policies nationwide, much as credit card companies do today.

    To the surprise and dismay of many liberals, the Senate health-care bill included a compromise with the conservative vision for insurance regulation. The relevant policy is in Section 1333, which allows the formation of interstate compacts. Under this provision, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho (for instance) could agree to allow insurers based in any of those states to sell plans in all of them. This prevents a race to the bottom, as Idaho has to be comfortable with Arizona’s regulations, and the policies have to have a minimum level of benefits (something that even Rep. Paul Ryan believes), but it’s a lot closer to the conservative ideal.

    And of course, Toomey supports “tort reform”; as noted here, it was enacted in Ohio but hasn’t lowered rates (as if Toomey cares about that).

    Oh, and Toomey of course supports privatization of Social Security, and the Courier Times editorial board is just ducky with that…what a shame that they apparently didn’t read the following letter in their own newspaper today (here)…

    On the subject of Social Security, the president cannot direct the Social Security Administration to issue a COLA. The COLA is mandated by law using the Cost of Living Index for urban and clerical workers for the previous fiscal year.

    If a COLA is not generated, then the law prohibits a COLA for the following year. Congress can change this by amending the law to consider the cost of living for seniors.

    Those receiving Social Security were sent a $250 payment. This was requested by the president and Congress approved it with a vote. It was funded by the stimulus money. If you do not think you got this, check your bank statements for May or June. Some federal retirees got a tax credit and not a direct payment.

    Social Security is solvent for the next 25 years. The money being paid covers the obligations so it is not adding to the deficit. The deficit is caused by unfunded spending, such as tax cuts with no corresponding cuts in spending, or two wars lasting a decade that included billions of dollars to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq.

    If workers are allowed to divert some of their Social Security payments to a private account, that will result in a loss of funding to Social Security; and as an obligation set by law the taxpayers will have to make up the loss, higher taxes, to provide the benefits to the beneficiaries. No one has considered this as the unintended consequence of “privatization.”

    Susan Gibbons
    Fairless Hills, PA

    Finally, Toomey supports reducing business tax rates – please watch Keith Olbermann’s report here (first video) and then try to tell me why I should give a fig about tax liability for corporations.

    Meanwhile, to support someone who will actually support us (and time is short now, people), click here.


    Tuesday Mashup Part One (10/5/10)

    October 5, 2010

  • 1) I give you the following recent example of “High Broderism” (here)…

    The Democrats were lying in wait for John Boehner when the Republican leader of the House announced that he would address the subject of congressional reform in a speech Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute.

    Before Boehner opened his mouth, Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted him in a statement charging that “Congressional Republicans and Mr. Boehner have stood in the way of Democratic reform efforts in Congress for the last four years, and now they want to take America back to the exact same failed policies of the past that put the corporate special interests ahead of the middle class.”

    That is par for the course in this campaign season, and it represents the sort of reflexive partisanship that voters are understandably sick of.

    Actually, what it represents is the utterly craven and pointless Republican obstruction that voters are understandably sick of.

    And how does The Esteemed Beltway Journalist know what “voters are sick of” anyway? Why, he takes his periodic jaunt to a rib shack in Dubuque or a Rotary Club meeting in Fond du Lac to find some quotes from individuals who perhaps are not as well versed in the art of media spin as he is that reinforce his pre-defined narrative (i.e., Republicans know what’s best, and when they force their agenda, the Dems should respond, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?,” lest there be a breach of “bipartisanship”).

    Fortunately, Bob Herbert of the New York Times is a member of the reality-based community, and he wrote the following on The Orange One today (here)…

    It’s beyond astonishing to me that John Boehner has a real chance to be speaker of the House of Representatives.

    I’ve always thought of Mr. Boehner as one of the especially sleazy figures in a capital seething with sleaze. I remember writing about that day back in the mid-’90s when this slick, chain-smoking, quintessential influence-peddler decided to play Santa Claus by handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow Congressional sleazes right on the floor of the House.

    It was incredible, even to some Republicans. The House was in session, and here was a congressman actually distributing money on the floor. Other, more serious, representatives were engaged in debates that day on such matters as financing for foreign operations and a proposed amendment to the Constitution to outlaw desecration of the flag. Mr. Boehner was busy desecrating the House itself by doing the bidding of big tobacco.

    Embarrassed members of the G.O.P. tried to hush up the matter, but I got a tip and called Mr. Boehner’s office. His chief of staff, Barry Jackson, was hardly contrite. “They were contributions from tobacco P.A.C.’s,” he said.

    When I asked why the congressman would hand the money out on the floor of the House, Mr. Jackson’s answer seemed an echo of Willie Sutton’s observation about banks. “The floor,” he said, “is where the members meet with each other.”

    The Times’s Eric Lipton, in an article last month, noted that Mr. Boehner “maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R.J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.

    “They have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns, provided him with rides on their corporate jets, socialized with him at luxury golf resorts and waterfront bashes and are now leading fund-raising efforts for his Boehner for Speaker campaign, which is soliciting checks of up to $37,800 each, the maximum allowed.”

    The hack who once handed out checks on the House floor is now a coddled, gilded flunky of the nation’s big-time corporate elite.

    And let us not forget the following Boehner moment here, in which he said “Know that I have all of you in my trusted hands” to the Consumer Bankers Association, which ended up losing as a result of legislation to reform the student loan scam enacted under the happily-now-long-departed 109th Congress.

    Returning to Broder, I give you the following…

    What Boehner called “a cycle of gridlock” afflicts both sides of the Capitol, and has been enabled by both parties, depending on who had the majority. As he was honest enough to admit, the abuses did not start when Pelosi took the gavel, and both sides have been guilty of twisting the rules.

    Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if Broder were “honest enough to admit” this?

  • Update 10/12/10: And in case anyone out there thought I was exaggerating, I give you this from one of Broder’s pals (h/t Atrios).

  • 2) Next, I give you the following from former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm (here)…

    (Repug U.S. House Rep “Joe” Cao of Louisiana) said he wanted to work for the benefit of his constituents, whatever that took. So when it came time earlier this year to vote on the House floor on President Obama’s massive healthcare bill, the first Republican to hold that district since 1891 became the only Republican in the entire House to vote in favor of the Democratic president’s bill.

    His wasn’t the deciding vote. But, yes, that bipartisan decision caused him some grief among GOP colleagues.

    Cao hoped the president might reward that bipartisanship by endorsing him in the Nov. 2 midterm election against a Democratic state legislator named Cedric Richmond. Or at least by staying out of the race, one of 435 across the country.

    And this gives Malcolm an excuse in his utterly demented quest to demonize every possible thing Obama does (including stuff Malcolm imagines, like this).

    As noted here, Cao did vote initially for passage of health care reform, but he voted against the version that emerged from the Senate-House conference, which is a particular problem for him because one-fifth of the residents of his district don’t have health insurance. That has a lot more to do with Cao’s current electoral trouble than anything Obama could have said or done.

    As noted here, though, Malcolm has been wrong about health care reform before, and I’m sure will be again; when it comes to his own particular brand of wankery, I’m afraid he is beyond hope of a cure.

  • 3) Finally, yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the death of a Florida man from an anthrax attack; more information is available here (one of others that took place immediately after the 9/11 attacks).

    And I would say that that presents a good opportunity to move, at long last (even in a potential lame duck session) on the bill to investigate the attacks sponsored by Dem U.S. House Rep Rush Holt here.


  • Friday Mashup Part One (7/23/10)

    July 23, 2010

  • 1) Christine Flowers tells us here today that, as long as the Obama Administration is apologizing to former USDA worker Shirley Sherrod for their overreaction to the doctored videotape from Andrew Breitbart of Sherrod’s speech to the NAACP, they should apologize to Alberto Gonzales also (and speak for yourself about “short-memory spans,” Christine)…

    Given our short memory spans, here’s a brief recap. Toward the end of the Bush administration, the Gonzales-led Department of Justice was criticized for firing a handful of U.S. attorneys over what liberals called “political reasons.” (Here’s where we insert the word “duh,” this being Washington and all.)

    Democrats were up in arms about the firing of prosecutors who they maintained had lost their jobs not for legitimate reasons but for their refusal to toe the Bush line. Notable among the firees was David Iglesias, accused of being soft on voter fraud in New Mexico. (He went on to parlay his dismissal into a lucrative career doing books, interviews and op-eds in the New York Times.)

    Which, of course, automatically makes Iglesias guilty of rank opportunism as far as Flowers is concerned – speaking of the Times, they had a lot to say about why Gonzales should resign, which he eventually did, here (some of this is repeated in posts that appear below).

    (Also, the third bullet here tells us who else wrote to the Times.)

    Continuing…

    In response to the uproar, which reached a crescendo during the run-up to the presidential election, the Department of Justice in 2008 assigned Nora Dannehy, a career prosecutor, to investigate the firings. Dannehy had a strong history of uncovering official corruption and was viewed by both liberals and conservatives as a straight-shooter.

    This was no exception. While acknowledging that the Justice Department was wrong to have fired Iglesias without bothering to get all the facts about the accusations against him (hmm, sounds familiar, White House . . . controversy . . . half the facts . . . pink slip!), Dannehy concluded that no crime had been committed and there was no effort to influence prosecutions, as Democrats had long alleged.

    Oh yes, Abu G. was merely a victim of Bushco circumstance, as it were, all this time; this post about his eventual hire at Texas Tech University for a job recruiting minority students and teaching a junior-level poli sci course touches on the ways that he fronted for the Bushco gang (more here) – and the fact that he wasn’t hired by a law school speaks volumes (interesting that Christine ignores that – yet another occasion where lawyer Flowers chooses to cast a blind partisan eye concerning her ostensible area of expertise).

    And as noted here by Glenn Greenwald, Gonzales tried to argue that he was innocent in the 2004 DOJ dispute over warrantless surveillance because he approved only of “data mining” of the calls as opposed to the surveillance of the calls themselves; spying on the calls of American citizens in the way Gonzales approved (and the manner objected to by former AG John Ashcroft as well as Robert Mueller of the FBI and deputy AG James Comey) was then illegal under FISA, though the Democratic congress, to their eternal shame, amended FISA to basically let Gonzales off the hook.

    Comparing Shirley Sherrod with Alberto Gonzales is typically monstrous Flowers demagoguery…just add this to her bilious pile of literary dreck.

  • 2) And speaking of journalistic hackery, J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times linked to this L.A. Times story about trying to resurrect the “public option” in health care reform as a deficit-reduction measure (with typically “brilliant” insight, Mullane dismissed it with the remark that “Nov. 2 can’t get here fast enough”).

    Well, I hate to break the news to you, J.D., but it would lower the deficit in a big way; this post tells us it would save $400 billion, and this from Media Matters tells us that it would “reduce the federal budget deficit by about $15 billion” in 2020 and would save “about $68 billion” through 2020.

    Of course, I’m sure that, by 2020, you won’t have a job as a pundit any more because of your paper’s loss of circulation, leading to its extinction (doesn’t give me a kick to say that, but I can’t imagine any other outcome, seeing as how they continue to allow you space to propagate your brand of wingnuttery, among other reasons).

  • 3) Finally, this from the Democratic Party tells us the following about Wingnut Pat Toomey, running as a Repug for the U.S. Senate from PA…
  • Even as the BP oil crisis raged on, (Toomey) advocated for expanding offshore drilling — and in the past has said that regulating oil companies “borders on the criminal.”
  • He voted to allow drilling in the Great Lakes, even though the amount of oil the BP oil spill crisis has leaked into the Gulf would contaminate every drop of Lake Erie, a source of drinking water for millions.
  • He is running a campaign funded by special interests. He’s pulled in $851,489 from Wall Street and $54,950 in donations from the oil and gas industries — including the largest donation that Halliburton’s PAC made in May.
  • Under his watch, the Club for Growth spent about $10 million on a publicity campaign to privatize Social Security; Toomey lamented that it was a “pity” that Bush’s proposed privatization “couldn’t be implemented sooner.”
  • After making a fortune trading derivatives on Wall Street, he wrote legislation repealing key laws that kept banks and investment firms separate — spurring massive deregulation that led to the economic crash.
  • In response, to help Admiral Joe, click here.


  • A Penny For Your Thoughts – Or Your Life

    July 20, 2010

    “Worst Persons” on “Countdown” from last week (The Detroit Tigers baseball team sends down to the minors Armando Gallaraga, the guy who pitched the perfect game but for the blown call at the very end by ump Jim Joyce; Dem (!) Repug Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoes legislation permitting same-sex marriage in that state, saying in essence that it would me a mistake for a single-elected official to make a decision like that, when that, in essence, is what she did – huh?; but John Biwer and his alleged health insurance company, Discovery Benefits of Fargo, N.D., gets it for dropping the coverage of La Rosa Carrington, who is battling leukemia, because she underpaid by a single cent – gee, teabagger wingnuts screaming about health care reform, what say you to this?).


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