cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
Our two Supreme Courts, one in Madison and one in Washington,D.C., are showing how important this third branch of government truly can be.
The U.S. Supreme Court enters its second day of hearings concerning PPACA (a/k/a ObamaCare) and will decide the various questions that have been raised. There are, as is usual in matters of this nature, many nuances that are often difficult to fathom. Among the issues is whether or not we can be compelled to take an action, buy health insurance coverage, and whether or not the fine for not doing so would be a tax or a penalty, and so on. Underlying much of this is the fact that the government intentionally eliminated the "severability clause" which is present in most contracts. That clause basically says that even if part of the contract is struck down, the rest survives.
We hear much about the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the prospect of one Justice or another recusing himself or herself...BUT...
Uncertainty is at the root of much of the disruption we face today in the various markets that exist in our economy. When that is coupled with energy costs, we have the makings of a tough summer and fall right when we will elect or re-elect a president.
There is little secret that this White House wants to control virtually everything about our lives. Health care, of course, has been the big target since PPACA (a/k/a ObamaCare) was passed in the dead of night.
I know it is probably a strange thing to do, but I read the obituaries every morning. In today's morning Journal Sentinel, I saw the obituary for William Lamers, Jr. who died at the age of 80 in his home in Malibu. The obituary stated that he was surrounded by family and friends.
The Federal agencies involved have just released the final regulations that govern how the simplified Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) for PPACA must be written and displayed. This is a small part of the PPACA bill (aka ObamaCare) that covered some 2,100 pages without really saying anything in detail about that program. All the detail is now being formulated by the agencies, all of which are unelected and therefore beyond the public's reach so far as expressing displeasure.
President Obama announced this morning that he is backing away from the controversial birth control mandate for Catholic organizations. He is trying to make this go away and claims this isn't an accommodation. The practice of insurance companies eliminating contraception coverage for Catholic entities has been here for a long time. This isn't a new directive from the President much as he'd like us to think that is the case.
As I read the morning Journal Sentinel today, I was struck by the political inferences across the main section even though this publication claims to be unbiased. (1) Dan Bice continues on the 'expose Walker' bent that he has made standard fare of late. His "sources say" that charges will be issued in the coming days and that they likely will involve Walker operatives. He mentions that "at least eight" of Walker's "former aides and associates have hired criminal defense lawyers". "Insiders" have told Bice that the "next phase is focusing on the role of some of Walker's closest associates". (2) There is now an 'issue' over whether or not Wisconsin is in a deficit or not in a deficit. The gap of some $3.6 Billion that Walker encountered when he took office was closed by the Walker government but that was on a cash basis. So now we are exposed to the fact that under GAAP accounting there is still a deficit and that this fact was used recently in a petition to the federal government to gain its permission to cut some 50,000+ people from a state health plan if necessary. I don't recall the continuing series of articles during the former government's time in office that traced the ever-increasing budget deficit or that condemned the use of various 'funds' (transportation and patient compensation, for example) to make possible increased state spending. (3) A story on the national 'health care overhaul' from the Associated Press states that Wisconsin is among the states "lagging" in implementation of the wonderful new PPACA legislation that has yet to withstand U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny. This story mentions some 500,000 Wisconsinites who have no health insurance but does not indicate that this state is among those with the lowest uninsured population in the nation. Nor does it bother to mention that each of these 500,000 people have access to health care under federal laws that have been in force for years. Maybe this was simply accidental story selection. Maybe not.
Rick Perry left the field of Republican candidates this morning. He asked his supporters to back Newt Gingrich. Given Perry's showing, his tossing his support to Gingrich will do very little to help Gingrich. One of Newt's former wives, Marianne, will speak tonight on national television, and that won't help Newt either.
You may've read or heard reports of a shortage of drugs that has gotten worse this past year. This has largely been created through unintended consequences, I hope, of government's actions.
The "Washington Scramble" is in full bloom. Our politicians have had a dose of reality and the scramble is on.
The lack of information on the Senate and House health care reform bills that has been provided to citizens is likely happening that way for a purpose. When I visit with generally well-informed people, there seems a void of knowledge and, thus, a lack of consternation about what our health care system will look like after the passage and the President's signature.
An interesting thing is happening in the world of public opinion; there is a decided ObamaCare backlash being identified by the polls.
Two approaches to the future health care system exist and need to be made one before "reform" can be finalized and we can all begin the migration to our "new" health care system. It seems that the Senate's version will hold sway when the process has finished since that is the body which needed the greatest amount of "compromise" in order to deliver the necessary sixty votes (forget the payoffs that were part and parcel, for now). If the sixty votes were to unravel, the entire bill would be placed in significant jeopardy. That is, unfortunately, too much for which to hope. We need a 'do over' and it isn't going to happen.
That is what the U.S. Senate has been called, more often than not by senators who are full of themselves...the world's greatest deliberative body.
Where were our senators when the health care vote 'goodies' were being handed out?
As bits of the substance of the Senate health care reform effort continue to leak to the public, public support continues to drop. We're closing in on a two-thirds oppose, one-third favor position and that spells real problems for the Democrats.
I have written several times about the opinions of Robert Laszewski who publishes a blog called Health Care Policy and Marketplace. He has just issued his opinion that the Medicare buy-In proposed by Sen. Reid as the tool to get around the promise of a "public option" is dead. That is a strong commentary from a knowledgeable and well-connected insider.
You would be safe to assume that I spend a lot of time watching the goings on in our nations capitol. Many of you probably do so as well. The passing of one Administration and the beginnings of a new Administration provide much of interest. There are always those who scream for retribution by the new against the old. That seldom happens, although there are exceptions.
The health care reform bills (really health insurance or health care financing reform bills) in Congress at the moment have been carefully crafted to gain the desired response from the Congressional Budget Office. The response desired was the confirmation that each bill would "bend the curve down" when, in fact, neither bill will do that. Classic government 'smoke and mirrors' if ever there was.
If you recall your history lessons, the Louisiana Purchase was made by Thomas Jefferson in December, 1803. That covered some 800,000 square miles of territory that is now the mid-section of our country from north to south. It cost $15 Million dollars at the time.
What am I doing blogging about such a subject? It impacts all of us whether or not we understand that at the moment.
That memorable phrase could aptly be used to describe what happened in the U.S. House of Representatives late Saturday evening. Commander Pelosi essentially forced the Democrats to forget about the potential damage they would do to both the country as well as to themselves, and she ultimately got the outcome she desired.
Her Highness, Nancy Pelosi, feels that she has sufficient votes to get the House wrangled together on Saturday for the final vote on her health bill. This vote is scheduled for Saturday for several reasons. Among those is the lesser scrutiny that she expects from the press, the fact that the members would've otherwise been home and are anxious to leave town, and the fact that she buys a bit more time, can make a few more promises and hoodwink/threaten the last one or two into a yes vote.
The coming vote on the health care reform bills of both the House and the Senate continue to cause a lot of "ink" to be spent; and rightfully so. This issue carries with it significant issues that will exacerbate our problems rather than resolve our problems with health care and health care financing.
Those of you who are regular readers will remember that I think highly of the opinion of Robert Laszewski and his blogs.
Nancy Pelosi spoke glowingly of being humble and simultaneously proud of the complete House health care bill. All four reams of it. A ream, if you're unfamiliar, holds 500 sheets of paper. The usual copier-quality paper reams measure two inches think per ream. So, we have a new House bill that measures nearly eight inches thick. Do you really think that our elected representatives will read that before they vote?
The health care deal working its way through Congress has so many moving parts that it is questionable if anything substantive will pass both the House and the Senate.
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS proclaims that there will be more than enough doses of H1N1 vaccine in time to thwart the "Swine Flu" threat. She goes further to say that the U.S. will share its vaccine with other countries.
Our debate over health care and how it ought to be reformed has devolved to the point where the kettle is calling the pot black.
For the moment at least, it all comes down to this: will there be a Republican vote today in favor of the Senate Finance Committee bill on health insurance reform? Note that we have come from health CARE reform to health INSURANCE reform. Note that "bipartisan" is now defined as one Republican vote. If that vote is cast, it will almost certainly have come from Olympia Snow (R-ME) who has been a fence-sitter ever since coming to the Senate.
The seemingly 'age old' debate about health care continues with politicians and electors refusing to learn from past mistakes. There are ample opportunities for our elected officials to learn what happens when various things are decreed. There are a number of state "test tubes" that provide ready evidence of what doesn't work.
The Senate Finance Committee finished its work at 2AM on Friday morning and sent the package off to the Congressional Budget Office for their work to estimate the costs involved. All is well...or is it?
Congress continues to work its way through the muck of health care and health insurance reform. This has been an arduous process and rightly so since it impacts every person in our country. This has not been a pretty process since politics is not pretty, and since this is all about politics and virtually nothing about our health care.
Most all of us have heard the phrase, the devil is in the details. It is regularly used in business and in politics.
We have a good example of what we may experience as we move down the path of government-run health care. Part of Medicare is called Medicare Advantage and it consists of Medicare sending the amount that would've been spent on the beneficiary to an insurer that then provides enhanced coverage to the beneficiary. I belong to a Medicare Advantage program as do some 25% of all Medicare recipients today.
The Baucus health plan has been released, and I will be reading it today and tonight, if necessary. It is the long-awaited "solution" that has been in the process as the "gang of six" met over the past weeks and months to hammer out a deal that could pass in the Senate. (If you want to read it, simply 'Google' Baucus Health Plan).
This was originally published in the Martinsville Daily Press on August 29, 2009:
Rep. Wilson (R-SC) called out during President Obama's speech on Wednesday evening, "You Lie". The uproar began shortly after the end of the session and was, of course, tailor-made for the Democrats to pump life into and to sustain that life for so long as possible. This is effective in re-directing any issues to the congressman and keeps them away from the President. And, true to recent form, the Republicans proceeded to shoot themselves in both feet simultaneously.
President Obama once again rose to the podium in prime time and delivered the speech that was expected to clarify and add substance to his thoughts on health care reform. The expectations created were probably too high; he didn't succeed in adding substance as I viewed the speech. Maybe I expected too much since I am close to the health care delivery system, and since I've spent untold hours scouring the various bills and papers that have been created by sundry people in Washington, D.C.
Another Labor Day has come and gone, and we are back in the work-a-day world, if we're fortunate enough to have jobs.
There is much speculation amongst those with a "political" gene as to how the Senate will look and act following the death of Ted Kennedy. I was not a Kennedy fan, but he was a strong force in the Senate especially when the Democrats held a majority. He did seem to work the other side of the aisle to get Republicans on board for some of his programs. I see the bulk of those deals having been a bit more what the Democrats wanted than what the Republicans wanted, but he did get things done.
The healthcare reform approach often referred to as ObamaCare appears to be imploding as the result of the American people making their thoughts known during the August recess. The most liberal politicians are seeing their dreams of universal single payer health care dashed once again. The last time was when HillaryCare met an early demise as the American people began to understand just what that would mean to them and to their children and grandchildren.
John Goodman, who heads the National Center for Policy Analysis, wrote an excellent blog today with the above as its title.
Amid heavy criticism and declining poll numbers so far as those who support health care reform measures, the Senate is considering breaking the health care bill into two pieces and passing the first piece under the "Byrd Rule" that permits a majority of 51 votes. This would assure that the first piece would pass IF the Senate Leader can keep the Democrat members under control. The first piece of legislation would include Federal subsidies to buy insurance, expansion of Medicaid and, of course, new taxes to pay for these two pieces.
What seems to be passing for communication on national issues reminds me of times gone by when important and/or passion-raising issues have been at the forefront of the nation.
There is one health care reform bill so far, and that is H.R. 3200 in the House of Representatives. This bill is 1,018 pages long, and appears not to have been read by the majority of congressmen and congresswomen, but they are now out and about conducting Town Hall meetings if they're brave enough.
The discussion of health care reform often devolves to someone saying that the "public plan" would be like the plan for federal employees, and since that plan is running very well, the public plan would follow suit.
As I read the House of Representatives health care reform bill (HR3200 at 1,018 pages), I am reminded more and more of the old fashioned HMOs where the providers were all capitated (limited payments each month that caused providers to have to limit patient appointments when the money ran out before the month ended).
The water torture that is health care reform continues to release its content a drip at a time.
The rapidly changing political landscape seems to be telling us that President Obama's support is a mile wide and an inch deep. The issue of health care appears to be lagging even as Obama presses for passage with every tactic at his disposal.
John Kenneth Galbraith once wrote, in a letter to President Kennedy, that "Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable."
Is President Obama selling health care reform or life reform?
I had the opportunity this morning to see my dentist for what I expected would be the removal and replacement of a filling that had discolored. I was seated in the chair while the color of the filling was determined and then the dentist walked in.
The Galen Institute, a health care think tank based in the Washington, D.C. area, recently announced that it would accept amateur video submissions on the subject of health care reform. The theme announced was "do no harm".
Most all of us recognize, after the fact, when a "tipping point" has been passed. The tipping point might be of a personal nature or it might be of a business nature. For example, if we lose a job, we might look back and tell ourselves what it was that caused that final decision. Or, we might look back on a business decision and see that it was the final piece that either made or broke a deal.
There are 100,000 people who have coverage under the Basic Health Plan in Washington State. The director of that program has been directed to cut that enrollment by 36,000 people. Why is that necessary? It seems the State of Washington has a budget problem and needs to cut this program's funding nearly 50%.
Have you ever been confronted by that question from a parent or a teacher or a boss or a spouse or a friend? It usually suggests that you have done something utterly stupid, or indefensible, or in terribly bad taste, or all of the above.
There is a great debate taking place about your health care. It is taking place in the hallowed halls of Congress and in the various meeting rooms in the White House. It is of potentially critical importance to you and you are not being very well informed about what could happen to your health care, and to your health and well being.
Doctors are admonished, through the Hippocratic Oath, to "first, do no harm."
We seem to have lost track of "the flu" and what it usually does each year in the United States. The new "Swine flu" has taken the country, and the world, by storm and yet there are only a relative handful of cases.
Rep. Dan Knodl's Legislative Update was in my in-box yesterday and he made me think about "temporary" taxes.
This old term suggests the picture in our mind's eye of a person, mouth open, thirsting for a drink, and unable to get any water to drink due to the extreme force of the stream. Instead, the person risks being swept off his or her feet, still thirsting, soaked to the skin and lying in a puddle.
The Journal Sentinel staff has assembled its overview of some of the key issues that will be decided by the Joint Finance Committee in Madison as the "budget" process goes forward over the next days and weeks. One of the things that should jump out at us all is just how much of the budget deals with things that aren't budget items, but instead with things that the Governor chooses to hide where they'll not be subject to debate on a free-standing basis.
Governor Doyle has again brought forward his proposal for health care benefits to be provided to the same sex partners of state employees. This is included in his budget and, since the Democrats control both the senate and the assembly, it is very likely to become law.
We have had, unfortunately, a front-row seat in the arena of politics as the "giants" worked their magic to supposedly heal the problems of our country and of our state.
I have received some details concerning the Germantown Education Association's negotiations with the Germantown School Board that give a better overview of that process.
I read an opinion piece this morning penned by Ed Lump who is the head of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, and that got me thinking about Wisconsin's hospitality for its small businesses. Lump's take was that the members of his association are struggling.
It is nothing short of amazing that our president would think about, much less explore, abdicating the United States' veterans healthcare obligations.
There is a program called Medicare Advantage that is basic Medicare plus other benefits/services that is as good as or better than Medicare coupled with a Medicare supplement insurance policy and usually at a lesser cost. It is Medicare offered through for-profit and not-for-profit insurance companies and health maintenance organizations. This program is now being threatened by cuts already made by the new administration and could be put out of business given the mindset of the new administration.
Whoa. That statement is just plain wrong and I suspect that President Obama knew it when he said it and he certainly knows it today. If he didn't know it then, he was very poorly advised, and if he doesn't "know" it now, he has chosen to prevaricate.