Tag Archives: healthcare

SCOTUS Delivers Shock Decision, Upholds President Obama’s Healthcare Law 5 – 4

The Affordable Care Act has survived what should be the biggest legal challenge it will ever face - a 5-4 decision in support from the Supreme Court.

The Affordable Care Act has survived (mostly) what should be the biggest legal challenge it will ever face – a 5-4 decision in support from the Supreme Court.

In perhaps what will go down as one of the biggest decisions in the 2010s decade, the Supreme Court of the United States unexpectedly sided with the Obama Administration in support of the Affordable Choice Act – ACA (or Obamacare, if you must… Romneycare if you’re even worse). At least it mostly did. The 5 – 4 decision was not swayed by the expected swing vote of Justice Kennedy, but instead by the Chief Justice himself John Roberts. This is notable as typically Chief Justices do not put themselves out there as the swing vote.

What can be described as a massive victory for the Obama Administration comes with a gigantic asterisk. While the law was mostly upheld, the individual mandate was not upheld under the Commerce Clause (Congressional power to regulate commerce between the states) upon which the case was originally made, but instead as being within the power of the Congress to tax. The court stated:

…it is abundantly clear the Constitution does not guarantee that individuals may avoid taxation through inactivity. A capitation, after all, is a tax that everyone must pay simply for existing, and capitations are expressly contemplated by the Constitution. The Court today holds that our Constitution protects us from federal regulation under the Commerce Clause so long as we abstain from the regulated activity. But from its creation, the Constitution has made no such promise with respect to taxes.

While having no immediate effect on the law, as SCOTUS ruled in favor, this distinction does have the future effect of making the path to overturning easier in theory. Only requiring 51 votes in the Senate to end a tax, a Republican hold of the House, capturing of the Senate, and victory by Mr. Romney in the fall would put ACA right back in the spotlight – and probably straight for the firing squad. A victory by Mr. Obama in November and/or a Democratic hold of the Senate would effectively shelve any talk of icing this law until 2014 at the earliest – in the event of a hold by Mr. Obama probably not until 2016.

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SCOTUS Takes Up Health Care Reform

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments for and against the 2010 health care reform bill, rendering a decision on parts or the entire law by the end of June.

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments for and against the 2010 health care reform bill, rendering a decision on parts or the entire law by the end of June.

The final test for the Obama Administration’s bid for healthcare reform is finally upon us. After passing the House by a narrow 219 – 212 margin, the Senate by a filibuster-proof 60 – 39, and signed into law by President Obama on 23 March 2010, a legal challenge is the last thing standing in the way of the law being fully implemented over the remainder of this decade.

The fog in the media surrounding this case is extremely thick, with hang-wringing opponents of the bill making this out to be an apocalyptic showdown between the forces of free market capitalism and a Stalinist dictatorship, “death panels” and all. If you can get past that, you’ll find that over the next three days the Supreme Court of the United States will spend the most time deliberating on a case that they have for decades, and are expected to reach a decision in June that could have far reaching impacts on the implementation of the law, the continued existence of the law, future budget deficits over the decade to come, the political capital of the Obama Administration heading into the full campaign swing, and potentially the outcome of the 2012 elections. With all of this in mind, it is surely one of the most important decisions that the Supreme Court will have handed down in our lifetimes.

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CIGNA laughs at your pain, awaits your dollars

The system must survive!

The system must survive!

Somewhere between the great work done by incredibly intelligent people in the field of medicine and the fruits of that labor filtering down to the common person, something goes terribly wrong.  The main middle men in this transaction is the health insurance industry – and these people do not care about you.  The Hippocratic Oath stops well before their doors – something that is put on display for the world to see by CIGNA in this story:

Surrounded by supporters, Hilda Sarkisyan marched into Cigna Corp.’s Philadelphia headquarters on a chilly fall day, 10 months after the company refused to pay for a liver transplant for her daughter.

“You guys killed my daughter,” the diminutive San Fernando Valley real estate agent declared at the lobby security desk. “I want an apology.”

What she got was something quite different.

Cigna employees, looking down into the atrium lobby from a balcony above, began heckling her, she said, with one of them giving her “the finger.”

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On this most socialist of holidays…

Clearly socialist propaganda

Clearly socialist propaganda

Who thought a series of degrading events would leave one hearkening back for the old days when “liberal” was the ultimate insult that could be hurled against any politician.  Well past that looking glass, we’ve now entered a most unique land where socialist, marxist, nazi, fascist, and communist all apparently mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably to describe the same person or policy.  That alone is almost worth the humorous snicker that it gets but finds itself surpassed only by the look of confused disbelief on the faces of someone who has to have the differences in such different theories explained to them – if they even take the time to listen and don’t just respond by shouting socialist nazi!!!!! back at you even louder than the first time.

Such… unique circumstances… are where we find ourselves in today, where the “insult” socialist is apparently the new black.  I wish I could only be referring to something as simple as the health care debate – even those were good old days that left us earlier this summer.  Now anything and everything proposed by someone on the left side of the political isle is being branded as socialist (or nazi, fascist, whatever else) by a rather impressively organized (or desperate) right.  So I figured – why not point out the socialist tendencies of Labor Day, and maybe that can be protested against in earnest as well.  Maybe we can get hysterical paid-for “grassroots” protesters to shout at town halls or perhaps parades until we are relieved of this terrible liberal nazi socialist fascist plot to turn America into an evil red country that has a day off every year in honor of the labor movement. Read more »

They keep saying the government is nothing but bad…

I wish I could take credit for writing this.  Here’s as much of a source as I could find.  It’s absolutely brilliant, though.  Just something else to throw on the evil-government pile:

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US department of energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the national weather service of the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the national aeronautics and space administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US department of agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the food and drug administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the environmental protection agency, using legal tender issued by the federal reserve bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the department of labor and the occupational safety and health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it’s valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the Internet which was developed by the defense advanced research projects administration and post on freerepublic.com and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can’t do anything right.

The health care sell out, a work in progress

Keeping charts like this rising are more important than your health care

Keeping charts like this rising are more important than your health care

There’s a truism about investing – you should only do it when you are confident that you will profit from the outcome. If I pour $1,000 of my own money into Company X, I am confident enough that when I need that money back, I’ll get my $1,000 – and probably more. It’s why I would invest – the risk/reward looks good. Such a thought process works well beyond wall street, and in far more complex things than just the stock market.  Give me enough money and I can do damned near anything I want, in the name of me, my company, or my industry.

Enter the health care industry, and their billions that they’ve earned off of denying people the services they signed up for.  Enter a hopeful campaign that dared to dream that such a system might actually be attacked head on, and perhaps even defeated – for the good of the rest of us.

That dream slipped away.

Enter the next best thing: We will have a public option.  The public will get to choose if they want to stay in their current insurance or join a new government-backed one, one given the same bargaining power as Medicare.  The increased competition will cause premium rates to fall across the board, and we’ll all still benefit.

That dream slipped away.

Moving down the list: We will have a public option just as previously released, but it will not have the same bargaining power as Medicare – it will have to fend for itself in the free market world.  Some out there have to be wondering what the point even is at this point, but maybe just getting a bill passed with some sort of shot taken at the health care industry will be enough to get the ball rolling for some more serious change down the line.

That dream slipped away.  This whole dream is dying. Read more »

Representative hung in effigy over health care reform

In today’s edition: The health care debate keeps stepping toward the surreal, diplomacy is a neat tool, and the CEO of Blackwater has been implicated in a murder investigation.

Rep. Kratovil (D-MD) is hung in effigy at a health care 'protest'

Rep. Kratovil (D-MD) is hung in effigy at a health care 'protest'

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The health care debate seems to continue to take turns for the progressively more and more surreal with each passing day – and it’s only August 4th.  Today’s latest way that was cooked up by someone somewhere to really wow them came from an unidentified protester in Maryland, who hung Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in effigy to support killing current efforts to reform the health care system.  Suggesting the death of someone voting for a bill that will more than likely save lives is quite the interesting touch, and at the very least it’s a great way to get attention of passing media.  The noose was a nice addition, too – the vague suggestion of lynching surely not lost on people of this ilk.

This unidentified man decided he was doing the Tea Party-anti-reform effort a real solid by hanging freshman Maryland Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in effigy … with a placard “Congress Traitors The American [and a word that looks like "idol"].

The event — a rally in Salisbury, Md. on the Eastern Shore — was attended by members of the business-funded Americans for Prosperity, a group that includes James Miller, a Federal Trade Commission chairman and budget director during the Reagan administration.

Of course the spin on this sort of thing is supposed to suggest that there is a wide ranging, grassroots type of movement against health care reform, and we are to look away from suggestions that it is being bankrolled by very wealthy individuals who have a vested interest in maintining the status quo.  That status quo is quite profitable, by the way.

Stock price change since ~December, 2008:

Cigna: +249%
Wellpoint: +89%
Aetna: +88%
United Health Care: +85%

S&P 500: +25%

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Diplomacy, noun: the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations.  Example, today:

Bill Clinton’s spokesman says the former president has left North Korea with two American journalists who had been held hostage.

Matt McKenna said late Tuesday that Clinton has “safely left North Korea with Laura Ling and Euna Lee.” He said they’re flying to Los Angeles, where the journalists will be reunited with their families.

The White House is not commenting the trip.

No bombs dropped, no bullets fired, no wars waged, no unneeded death, no unneeded suffering, just good old fasioned diplomacy.  It almost feels like the 1990′s, again (save for the economy).  Kudos to Mr. Clinton for getting the safe return of these two journalists.  Up next are the Iranian hostages.

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The Nation is currently running a story that, if true, would be a huge blockbuster and would also probably shed a hell of a lot of light over the Iraq war, how it was waged, and why America was never able to win those hearts and minds.  The founder of Blackwater has been implicated in murder:

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

Mind you, this is all 100% under oath.  This is not on some talk radio show, not on some forum, website, or blog, not in front of a crowd of people, and not said publicly to get a reaction out of people.  This is sworn testimony from two individuals who know what could become of them if they were lying about the whole ordeal.  The allegations go on to say that Mr. Prince believed that he was on a mission from God to rid the world of Muslim people, and that this belief drove him to suggest and sanction the murder of innocent Iraqis that would help lead to this conclusion.  If true, this would completely undermine the attempt by the U.S. military to stabalize the country of Iraq after the war, and probably led to the extreme resentment of Americans in that country by the general Iraqi populace.  When the faces of the outsiders look the same, even though they do two entirely different things, how can you trust that those outsiders have your best interests, or any interests, at all?

The healthcare battle rages on

Last night on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olberman, the rage over the idiocy that some are taking this health care debate to was once again summed up much more eloquently than I ever could do it.  Names are named, too.

Denying what Americans want is considered a victory? (QH: 29 July 2009)

In today’s edition: health care passage, why you shouldn’t use the company e-mail for bad things, and a very brave woman.

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Conservative Democrats in the House, known as “Blue Dogs”, have graciously decided to stop holding up health care reform in the chamber and move the discussion along further toward a vote.  They believe that they are doing the work of the people by putting off what the people – a vast majority of them – want: health care reform.  They have managed to stall the actual vote until September, past Obama’s first deadline of early August.  This was, for some reason, cause for celebration:

“We have successfully pushed a floor vote to September,” Mike Ross (D-Ark.) told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “The American people want us to slow down, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

The Blue Dogs wrestled some concessions out of Waxman (D-Calif.), particularly related to a public health care option and employer mandates. The committee’s current version of the public option now more closely resembles that of the health committee in the Senate.

There is a bit of weasel language in here, so allow me to parse.  By “slow down” they mean “delay”, and by “delay” they mean “kill”.  The ultimate thought process behind delaying the bill’s vote is to ultimately kill it, as will be put on vivid display in the month of August, with the Republican National Comittee planing to spend upwards of $1 million in advertising meant to turn public opinion against a national health care plan.  In the event that doesn’t work, the “compromise” the Blue Dogs have struck make this entire process all but not worth it:

For instance, rather than linking the public option to the rates enjoyed by Medicare, the new language would require a separate agreement without Medicare’s bargaining power, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said.

In our hyper-capitalistic society, far too many members of Congress have reasoned – beyond logic – that taking care of the people of this country should some how be a for-profit industry.  What they are trying to do right now will solidify that for decades to come.

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Here’s something that can become a regular feature at this blog: Why you don’t use your company e-mail to send incredibly stupid e-mails!, with this month’s edition coming from the Boston Herald:

An officer in the Boston Police Department was suspended yesterday for allegedly writing a racially charged e-mail about Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to colleagues at the National Guard, a law enforcement official said. …

The law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Officer Justin Barrett referred to the black scholar as a ” jungle monkey” in the letter, written in reaction to media coverage of Gates’s arrest July 16.

E-mail at work is not, and never will be private.  If you’re going to be an ignorant, bigoted, racist asshole, do it on your gmail account.  (and just when you might think the fire from this story was starting to die down…)

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Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein is a female journalist in the Sudan.  This would be the same Sudan that still brings us the Darfur conflict, and is one of many countries where concepts like gender equality are a long, long way off from being widely implemented – mainly thanks to religion (in this case, Islam).  Like any movement against a seemingly all powerful establishment though, there are people willing to stand up and willing to accept the harsh consequences:

A Sudanese court on Wednesday adjourned the case of a woman journalist facing 40 lashes for wearing “indecent” trousers, with 10 women already whipped for similar offences against Islamic law.The judge deferred the case to Tuesday after Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, who works for the left-wing Al-Sahafa newspaper and for the media department of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, waived the immunity given to UN workers.

Religion: holding back progress since the dawn of time.  Here’s the kicker, however…

She wore the same clothes to court as when she was arrested — moss-green slacks with a loose floral top and green headscarf.

She waved defiantly to crowds as she left the court.

One stand by one stand, in most cases, even the toughest regimes can crack with enough time.

Beautiful beachfront property in Barrow! (QH: 26 July 2009)

During the second term of the Bush Administration, American spy satellites with a resolution of 1 meter took pictures of the Arctic region (among other places) that went on to show the dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice in a multi-year period.  Because of their spy satellite origins, the Bush Administration deemed these pictures to be sensitive and classified to the general public.  A request by scientists to release the photographs because of their potential scientific value in studying the effects of global warming was granted on July 16th.  Those released pictures, available here, show the continued dramatic decline in the Arctic ice cap.  One of the most striking images was from the village of Barrow, Alaska, seen here:

2006 vs. 2007 sea ice near Barrow, AK

2006 vs. 2007 sea ice near Barrow, AK

What was once a vast sheet of ice only miles off of the Barrow coastline in 2006 entirely disappeared in 2007, with a presumably wide open view of the Arctic Ocean opening up to the Barrow coastline.  This just confirms other research that shows while the average extent of sea ice in the summers of 1979 – 2000 was mere dozens of miles from the Alaskan coast, but since the year 2000 have retreated away from the coast by hundreds of miles.  The cool summer being expierenced here in the Great Lakes aside, Global Warming remains alive and well.  On the bright side at least we now have an administration in power in America that doesn’t deny its existence.

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House leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) believes that the rumors of Democrat infighting over health care reform are actually overblown and that Obama’s plan will be passed:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will pass legislation to overhaul the U.S. health-care system through her chamber even as members of her own Democratic Party expressed skepticism after days of discord and delays.

“When I take this bill to the floor, it will win,” Pelosi said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that aired today. “This will happen.”

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Score another one for religion creating nuts:

SAN ANTONIO — Police say they found a 3 1/2-week-old infant stabbed and decapitated in a Texas home, and his mother screaming that she killed her son after the devil told her to do it.

San Antonio police said 33-year-old Otty Sanchez was taken to a local hospital with self-inflicted stab wounds to her chest and stomach. Police spokesman Joe Rios said Otty will be charged with capital murder.

Not too many people earn the death penalty.  This one does.