Saturday, August 29, 2009

Republican Leader Admits He's "Simply Blocking Health Care"

Health Care Reform news from Huffington Post earlier this week makes me wonder....

"Mike Enzi, one of three Republicans ostensibly negotiating health care reform as part of the Senate's "Gang of Six,*" told a Wyoming town hall crowd that he had no plans to compromise with Democrats and was merely trying to extract concessions."

Enzi is Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and also serves on the Committee on Finance , the Committee on Budget, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  Senator Edward Kennedy (deceased) was Chair of the Committee.  

Looking at Enzi's Senate page, with a lead article this week on how it is not in the Democrat's best interests to shut out Republicans and moderate Democrats, one would think Enzi is interested in actually working towards compromise.  
"U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., today said that if the White House and Democrat leadership in the Senate choose to shut Republicans and moderate Democrats out of the health care debate, their health care plan would fail."

So what part of compromise does Enzi not understand?  Compromise, often defined as mutual concessions, can be a bit more than that.  Compromise can be brought about by reflection/examination of one's initial viewpoint, research on claims by each side, and subsequent adjustment of what one perceived as the barriers to agreement.  It's good compromise if it means one does not give up one's principles in the process.  Just giving in is not compromise, it's giving up.  

The Finance Committee is reviewing health care reform to supposedly see where it can move the bill forward.  That requires some compromise by both sides.  Enzi, however, isn't interested in compromise.

The American public has been voicing its opinion, loudly and clearly, that there are certain points they don't want to compromise on.  Are legislators listening?

A few members of Congress, and a lot of other people, have spent too much time distorting the content of the bill.  Now, powerful members of Congress who know those are distortions don't even bother to correct them.  They prefer that Americans believe the distortions so these legislators can look as if they serve them.  What would serve the American public better than the bare truth on what is in the bill and what is not? 

Give the public some credit.  If legislators' concern is over a cost/benefit analysis, help us destroy the myths and distortions, get the truth out, and then engage in a real conversation with constituents over what they want. 

Oh, and as far as serving the American public, see the paragraph below on the Gang of Six...

* The "Gang of Six" is a group of 3 Republican and 3 Democratic Senators on the Senate Committee on Finance that wants to slow down the process of health care reform in the name of better studying the costs and benefits.  Collectively, the Gang of Six represents about 2.6 percent of the American public, yet are significantly delaying legislation that affects almost all Americans at some point.  See Robert Reich's blog post, Why the Gang of Six is Deciding Health Care for Three Hundred Million of UsMembers are Senators Max Barkus (D-MO), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Charles Grassley (R-IA and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee),and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Health Care Reform: One Argumentt -- Two Sets of Rules

Don't you just hate it when you are trying to understand an issue and someone comes along and starts talking about it -- but they're not really talking about it?  Instead, they're injecting a different topic into the conversation disguised as a position on the original topic?  It's like changing the rules in the middle of a game without telling the opponent.  The purpose, of course, is to derail the original discussion and get people talking about something else and never have to deal with the guts of the original.

The discussion was about health care reform.    Now Republican leaders are attempting to derail the conversation by introducing a senior health care bill of rights.  Republicans supposedly put this forward to ease seniors' concerns over health care "rationing" and cost-cutting under Medicare.  Now I wonder where that idea came from? 

"Under the Democrats' plan, senior citizens will pay a steeper price and will have their treatment options reduced or rationed," according to Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, in an op-ed in Monday's Washington Post (subscription required to view most articles).  This is the same Michael Steele who, in 2006, called for cuts to Medicare to control runaway costs.   How convenient that the GOP has an answer ready to assuage seniors' fears, making a radical shift in position from 3 years ago.  How ironic that this "ready answer" deals with a concern that they created! 

In 2006, Steele felt that the way to reduce Medicare costs was to cut benefits to seniors.  In the current health care reform bill, H.R. 3200, Medicare costs are reduced by reduction of payments to providers.  Everyone seems to complain about runaway health care costs, but when there is a plan on the table to curb those rising costs while maintaining a level of coverage for vulnerable seniors, the Republication option is to derail the conversation. 

And that moves the discussion away from real health care reform.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More Immigrants Than Non-Immigrants are Uninsured

A memorandum by the Center for Immigration Studies finds that more immigrants than non-immigrants are uninsured. This would seem to contradict my post of yesterday that immigration is good for the economy, since providing medical care for uninsured residents tends to drive up medical costs for everyone else.

I'm looking at it a bit differently though. Many businesses that need low-skilled workers rely on immigrants to do these jobs. When there are fewer immigrants, the jobs go unfilled. Sometimes it's because citizens won't take those jobs. Immigrants tend to stick to these jobs to bring money home for the family while Americans will quit and go elsewhere to try to earn more.

But low-paying jobs mean people cannot afford to pay health insurance premiums. Oh, here's an idea! Why not develop a health care system that will provide low-cost premiums for people in low-paying jobs; get insurers to come down a bit in their premiums and partly subsidize the plan so the insured pays what they can afford. It will certainly cost less to subsidize premiums a bit, helping keep people healthy, than to pay the full cost of emergency care for serious illness brought on by lack of access to preventive health care. And this plan gets the insurance providers to share the burden.

Oh, wait -- that's what the current health care reform is all about!

Instead of seeing health care reform as government intrusion, let's look at it as another choice being put into the mix. Along with current insurance options and insurers, there would be an additional option for people who have low-paying jobs or may be long-term unemployed. Let insurers bear part of the burden, the government bear part of the burden, and the individual and company s/he works for bear part of the burden.

Small businesses could opt for a subsidized plan that covers their employees but is affordable for both the business and the individual. Why is that so threatening? Wouldn't it cost less, in the long run, to keep people healthy through preventive health care? Wouldn't business owners rather be able to say, "yes, we're small but we can provide basic health insurance."?

The current health care system has a lot of problems; rising costs -- skyrocketing costs -- among them. We need to work on containing those costs. Let's acknowledge first that among the reasons for those costs are several factors that don't improve health care (rewarding physicians for unnecessary medical procedures comes to mind) and a number of factors that are directly related to good health care or illness (research into diseases and treatments, covering medical costs for the uninsured, unhealthy lifestyles, etc.).

We need a health care system that provides preventive health care for all, shares the cost-burden among all the players as much as possible, provides incentives for good health care, eliminates excesses where they don't improve health care, and reduces costs by helping create a healthier society.

I don't know that any reform plan out there does all that. But I do believe that current reform efforts are a step in the right direction. If we move in the current reform direction, I believe we can help immigrants get health insurance, get better preventive health care, and reverse those numbers derived by the Center. And that would be good medicine in my book.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Immigration Reform Heats Up

I listened this morning to Power Breakfast from Capitol News Connection, a 2-minute briefing on a hot topic of the coming day on Capitol Hill. This Power Breakfast, by CNC Senior Correspondent Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, focused on two topics , Immigration Reform and Government Transparency. I want to focus on Immigration Reform this morning.

Immigration Reform
Legalization of America's low-skilled illegal workers (undocumented immigrants) could deliver $180B benefit to US households, according to a study released this week by the Cato Institute. The Cato Institute is a "pro-free market, libertarian think tank" in Washington DC, according to this page in wikipedia.

Their study reveals that legalization of these low-skilled workers would benefit the US economy and the immigrants. It would also reduce or eliminate many of the negative elements associated with illegal immigration: smugglers' fees, low productivity, unfilled entry-level jobs, etc.

Tighter restrictions on undocumented workers already in the US would end up costing the US economy. While restrictions may show initial costs savings, these would be offset by lower economic output and fewer job opportunities for skilled workers.

In dollars and cents:
- Tighter restrictions. reducing the number of low-skilled immigrant workers by 28.6, would show a temporary gain of 0.5 percent, or $80B. This figure was reached by projecting a reduction of US household welfare.

- Legalization of low-skilled immigrant workers could show a gain of $180B.

One conclusion from the study:
Reduced Immigration Causes Drops in Investment, Output, and Consumption

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sarah Palin -- "a flaky, intellectual lightweight "

Paul Begala thinks that Newt Gringich's advice to Sarah Palin, while good advice, is wasted on Palin because she's not in the same league as Gringrich and "almost anybody in the Republican party." I think he's correct. The best description I've read on this comes from "blak n lovingamerica," in one of the responses to the HuffPost blog.

"If we would only discuss Sarah Palin when she does something, or says something containing real substance, she would go away. People on the left should realize that Palin is a prop used by the right to get a rise out of the left. By attacking her intellegence (sic), or perceived lack thereof, it energizes their base and gives them a reason to be gratuitously mad and fight anything noble the left initiates. Palin is a small pawn that moves like a queen in a large right wing chess game. The sooner folks realize that, the sooner she'll be neutralized. Why do you think the right insists that libs are "scared of Sarah Palin?" They know it will create a strong response and some of those responses will be hateful and perpetuate the cycle."

My new term for Palin is Sensationalist Sarah. She goes for the headlines but has no substance. That's not a problem for her, however, since she can just make it up or rely on what has been made up by others. Sometimes there's a grain of truth in there somewhere, but it gets distorted, blown out of proportion, or just plain exaggerated to make headlines.

That's Sarah's job today. As "blak n lovingamerica" states so well she is the Republican Party's pawn in a game of political chess. Another term that describes her role is jester.

However, the traditional role of the Jester, as used in literature, was also to give counsel to the monarch. Only the Jester could get away with giving advice that was contrary to the monarch's already-stated desires. The Jester had the cover of being a fool to hide behind.

Is Sarah Palin hiding behind "the cover of being a fool" or is she a fool? You decide.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Who is Behind Health Care Misinformation?

I don't know whether these folks oppose health insurance reform due to true conscience -- and huge change of heart about government intrusion into our lives -- or if they are playing the same old, "I lost at my turn, so now I'll cheat and make sure you lose at your turn."

Either way, some of the champions behind spreading myth and misinformation are the same people who felt that Congress should step in and take over the life-or-death decision regardng Terry Schaivo about 4 years ago.

From the Huffington Post...
"Some of the same conservative figures taking potshots at Democrats for wanting to fund voluntary discussions about end-of-life decisions between doctors and their patients were leading the charge four years ago to contravene the decision by Schiavo's husband and guardian to remove the feeding tubes from his wife after she had spent 15 years in a vegetative state."
...learn more with wikipedia information on the Terry Schiavo case...

Once again, GOPers want to have it both ways. It's interesting to note, however, that their charges of government intrusion in the health insurance reform bill are actually made up, fictitious, as in not real. The language of the bill does not mandate any end-of-life decisions. The langauge does encourage and provide incentives for end-of-life discussions between physician and patient about every 5 years.

They are getting the headlines, though. And this is confusing the heck out of a lot of people, especially those with limited access to information from both sides of the issue. Who are the people with such limited access to information? Why, in many cases, they're the very people that health insurance reform is supposed to help! They're low-income elderly who don't have cable (yes, America, not everybody in America can afford even basic cable), they're homeless, or non-English speaking, and others who aren't digitally connected to high speed Internet or aren't computer savvy.

Another problem is that sorting out this misinformation takes time. I've spent many hours reading through different viewpoints and actual text of legislation. I've had the privilege of a summer intern who did some basic research for me, bookmarking websites and getting bill #s and references so I can do a more thorough review. Not too many people have that assistance. I'll do a separate post with many of those links.

Why is the GOP so intent on spreading myth and misinformation? Could it be that they have no valid reasons to fight against health insurance reform? Is this just a GOP tactic to make it difficult for Democrats to push through reform? It isn't a stretch for me to believe that. I just look at some of the other tactics they've taken over the years when it looked as Democrats might win. The "Swift Boat" attacks on John Kerry come to mind.

The GOP seems to find it easier to make things up rather than argue the facts. The sensational headlines are an easy grab, make for more media coverage, and give them air time when they have nothing real to say. Shame on them.

Health care and health insurance reform are needed. Now. Whether the President's plan is the best one to follow, it's a start in the right direction. It does not create socialized medicine, which is something so many people fear. It creates a multi-player and multi-payer system that extends health coverage to a great many people who don't have any coverage now.

Let's face it; staying healthy is less expensive than getting sick. If we can provide health care to more people, so they stay healthy, we'll have gone a long way toward fixing a broken system.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Debunking Health Care MISinformation, 2

Many people (many, many people) don't really know what's in the huge health care bill and will never read it. They rely on journalists and others to tell them what's in it and how that affects them. That's somewhat understandable. Legislation is really dry reading. And you've got to pay attention to what section and subsections you're in so that you can piece together which facts actually affect which other facts.

Which is why I'm steamed over the current health care bill. Actually, I'm steamed over the attempts by conservatives to distort the facts and misrepresent what's in the bill. The fear-mongering and scare tactics are especially cruel to people who are currently worried about health care costs and have medical issues that mean this bill will affect them very quickly when/if it passes.

A few places where you can begin fact-checking are Debunking Health Care Misinformation, which I mentioned in Monday's blog; The Washington Post (and be sure to click on related links so you can get updated articles; and the Huffington Post. You can search for more information and I'm sure you'll find many different stories out there.

That's what is so difficult about this issue; there's so many stories out there. But many of them are not true. Why is it that lies travel faster and farther than truth? Why does health care create such a ferver and bring out the worst in the GOP?

I'm going to single out Sarah Palin because she's getting a lot of attention with statements about fear of the government "pulling the plug" on her Downs Syndrome son. That's just so blatantly untrue and demonstrates her true nature. She's a sensationalist and will use anything, including her own children, to put herself into the spotlight. I'll wager that she hasn't even read the bill! And as a key figure in her state (before her resignation) and in her party (they'll use her for as long as she can grab attention), she should have read AND UNDERSTOOD every word.

We have a few more weeks that Congress is out-of-session. Let's use the time to actually research the facts about the health care bill, understand what it means for those we represent or our family members, and then expose the lies and distortions being played out across the airwaves, Internet, and newspapers. Let's help get the truth out to our families and seniors and those who don't have access to the truth. Let's talk to the staff of our legislators and find out their views on the bill.

And for those of you can stand it, get on those radio shows and debunk those myths that are being spouted by hateful, harmful people. Me, I can't stand talk radio and cannot listen for even 5 minutes, so I'd have a hard time listening long enough to call in! But if you can stomach it, go ahead and do that part.

Then, we need to inform our legislators on what we want them to do for us. We need to bring facts to them, not rhetoric. We need to bring voters to them, not lies. We need to gather the signatures of our families and people who have learned the truth and tell our legislators what we want them to vote on and how we want them to vote.

If we don't fight back, we lose; it's that simple.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Debunking Health Care Misinformation

I still have more reading to do, but this site is a great resource for getting behind the many rumors and misinformation regarding the Health Care bill.

Check it out for yourself and see what you think. I'll post more on it later, but wanted to get this resource out there, in your view.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

PodCamp Boston 4, Part 1

I've been to the last 3 Boston PodCamps and they are evolving just as the Internet itself is evolving. What was a very grassroots, "hey, I do a podcast on this topic..." and "here's how you do a podcast" set of sessions has changed.

I do miss some of the types of sessions I encountered at my first PodCamp. It had a campy, homey, feel to it and I met a lot of everyday people who had something to say and used the Internet, specifically podcasting, to say it. And they were thrilled to help others learn the process too.

However, I am truly amazed and impressed with the change in PodCamp. I do wish it had more of the original elements along with the new elements. That would make it just right. I suspect it might draw more people too.

First, PodCamp sessions have evolved into much more technically-driven content. There still are sessions on "How Do I Turn My Dining Room into a Recording Studio?" and those very necessary basic how-to's. We need those as new people are getting into the process all the time.

The change is that there are many more sessions on ROI (return on investment) for the corporation (or non-profit), measuring the impact of social media, how to use podcasting for employee training or (B2B) business-to-business marketing, etc.

Two sessions I attended yesterday afternoon were very powerful not just because of the content, but because the presenters were less than half my age. At last year's PodCamp, we had several high school students presenting. This year, while a bit older (college age), again, young people are leading us into our future with technology. I wonder if our schools even know how to tap into the talent of some of the young people in it.

We have some very bright young minds who are grappling with the Digital Humanities -- the intersection of philosophy (yes, Plato and Socrates) and technology; looking at both the study of technology and the technology of study, among other things; -- and how social technology has changed and is changing web culture -- with an impact beyond the web, of course, which changes or influences social culture.

PodCamp Boston 4 has much more of a technical flavor to it this year. It's more about capturing and managing data than podcasting for fun. That doesn't take away from it's value. For many, it enhances the value because podcasting has become a tool for businesses and not just an outlet for the average person. And I'm glad to see topics that help non-profits use social media to engage their communities. I think non-profits really need to learn about and use social media much more than they do, but that they first must educate themselves on it. PodCamp is one education tool they could use for that.

I go to PodCamp each year even though I am not a podcaster. I don't have the time to set it all up and get things going, yet. It took me a while to carve out a space for myself to blog regularly. But I know I'll get around to it, when the time is right. Meanwhile thought, I go each year to listen, learn, share in discussions, and see where things are going. I see friends and make new friends. But mostly I go because it expands my thinking about my interactions with the world and who the shakers and movers are in the social media space. I get more resources than I'll ever use, but can always share those with someone who can use them.

So, it's back to PodCamp this morning to get more soul food. I'll have more to say after that.