Tag Archives: Medicare

Republicans Cave on Bush Tax Cut Extension, White House Wants More

Republican congressional leaders are indicating that they will allow the Bush tax cuts to be extended until the end of the year without requiring offset spending cuts to pay for it. The White House is demanding that the GOP give even more.

The leaders of congressional Republicans will present an extension of the Bush tax cuts to the rest of the House and Senate GOP tonight. The proposal has been stripped of the requirement that cuts be made to pay for the continuing tax cuts that continue to starve the Social Security fund of badly needed revenue.

Republicans are not willing to be responsible for a perceived tax increase on 160 million Americans in an election year and have therefor given up the fight on the tax holiday. Instead, they have de-coupled the unemployment insurance extension and the so-called “doc-fix” from the bill – a move that has irritated Democrats who seem only ready to accept everything they want while giving nothing in return.

Despite getting the payroll tax holiday extended until the end of the year without any concessions, the White House has indicated that they want everything and intend to give nothing. Jay Carney said that they believe that the unemployment extension and Medicare doc-fix should be included in this deal.

All that is left is for the White House to complain that Republicans are unwilling to negotiate despite them being the only ones at the table giving in on anything – at all.

How Much Does The Government Really Have To Buy A Vote?

A break down of exactly how much does the government REALLY has to buy votes, who pays taxes, who does’t pay taxes, and how much each department spends. Bill Whittle calls Barack Obama’s $1 billion that he will spend to get re-elected “chump change” in comparison. These Big Government statistics are 22,000 times that amount… and each dollar is spent buying votes!

Barack Obama will have ONE BILLION DOLLARS to spend on his re-election in 2012. Bill calls that chump change. Find out how the Big Government statists spent 22,000 times that amount on buying votes in 2011 alone!

Newt Gingrich's Record: Uncomfortable But True

I’m going to say something uncomfortable to many of you, but it has to be said:

Newt Gingrich has a history of flip-flopping on issues which rivals that of Mitt Romney.

There, I said it. I’m not the only one to say it, either.

Let’s look at Gingrich’s record:

On global warming: He supported government sponsoring of alternative energy programs. He supported cap-and-trade. He supported ethanol subsidies. “Green” was the fad, people were spellbound by it, and Newt being the clever politician he is, he got behind it, too.

And then there’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. When asked about his lobbying efforts on their behalf, he lied. He claimed he never lobbied for them. When proof of payment from them to him was made public, he claimed he worked for them as an historian. Do people seriously believe this? A financial institution hires an historian about as often as the Marine Corps hires an interior decorator.

And then there’s the substance of the “historical analysis” he allegedly gave them (from the National Review link two paragraphs below):

It wasn’t obvious until 2007… Initially, it wasn’t Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Initially, it was things like Countrywide, but the minute you started getting people who could buy houses with no credit, no money down, I mean, these things are insane. And I was cheerfully saying that in my public speeches.

Gingrich contradicts himself here: It certainly was obvious, long before 2007, that a policy of government guarantee of loans without proof of the borrower’s ability to repay was a bad idea (and defies basic common sense). The existence of this program was well-known within government circles and by “policy wonks” (such as yours truly), but largely ignored by the media and the public at large. I have also criticized Herman Cain for the same failure of common sense in this regard.

On government-run medicine, Gingrich’s record rivals that of many prominent Democrats. He was an early champion of the individual mandate, more than a decade before Romneycare. He now excuses himself from the criticism Romney recieves, claiming that his endorsement of an individual mandate was an effort “to block Hillarycare“. Let’s state this another way: Gingrich’s response to a massive government healthcare initiative was to offer a slightly less-massive initiative of his own.

Gingrich was also one of the minds behind Medicare Part D. Newt again excuses himself from criticism for this multi-trillion-dollar giveaway, claiming that it helped reduce the cost of government-provided health care by subsidizing medicines in lieu of more-expensive surgeries, ignoring one of the basic principles of government interference in the market: Subsidizing a product makes it more expensive in the long-run. If the government gives people a dollar to buy an apple, the cost of an apple goes up by a dollar.

Gingrich, in keeping with his long-standing record of favoring greater government intervention in the health care industry, described Paul Ryan’s proposal to convert Medicare into a premium support plan as “right-wing social engineering“. Of course, Gingrich changed his tune when he caught flak for saying this, and has spent the last six months crafting an “alternative history” of his 17+ year record of supporting socialized medicine.

Jacob Sullum from Reason made an excellent point on this topic: Gingrich’s rhetoric actually endangers real reforms while giving the public a painless-sounding but totally ineffective placebo of “cutting waste, fraud and abuse”- a rhetoric he (along with numerous Democrats) also applies to other areas of government spending by advocating ‘modernization’, rather than actual cutbacks, as his primary concept for controlling the cost of big-government programs, as if new computers will make big government acceptable.

In sum: I’m frankly disturbed by the recent fascination with Gingrich and the amnesia regarding his record. Somehow, conservatives have developed a belief that intellectualism and con artistry are mutually exclusive. Voters have been lulled by the superficially-impressive nature of his speeches.

This means the Tea Party effort to push out slick salesmen in favor of principled, fiscally-minded, small-government representatives is failing. And “slick salesman” is an apt description of Gingrich’s career: People wanted free medication for Grandma and Grandpa, and Newt delivered. People wanted a house they couldn’t afford, and Newt delivered. Gingrich will give the public whatever they want, and sound convincingly principled while doing it. The fact that Newt also participated in welfare reform and budget balancing isn’t a demonstration of his bona fides, it’s merely another thing the public asked for and got (for a brief period).

The notion that Gingrich is the ideal “not-Romney” candidate is wholly misguided: Newt Gingrich is Mitt Romney without running shoes.

A Better Way To Cut The Deficit

The Congressional Supercommittee has failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan. Personally, I’m thankful for that, since the very existence of the “supercommittee” was a Constitutional violation.

I won’t get into a long explanation here of the debated cuts-which-weren’t-actually-cuts, or the sequestration of funds, or the odd process by which the supercommittee would have presented a bill. It would be too much like explaining a Rube Goldberg invention.

Instead, I’ll discuss the other budget proposal, the one which the supercommittee apparently never considered: Just stop spending!

Let me explain: According to the Congressional Budget Office, a “cut” includes any reduction in planned future spending, even if the total amount spent is greater than current spending. To use Neil Cavuto’s analogy, it’s similar to a diet where a person plans to gain 100 pounds in ten years, but instead only gains 50 pounds and calls it a “reduction”. The “cuts” the supercommittee considered were “cuts” of this type.

The Tea Party proposal, which wasn’t even considered by the supercommittee, would have frozen federal spending for ten years. That’s it. Project the federal budget for 2021 at $3.8 trillion- the current amount.

By CBO’s standard, this would have scored as a $9 trillion cut over ten years- and bring federal spending into virtual balance.

This proposal presents one challenge: Certain areas of federal spending will naturally increase over time- namely, Social Security (as new retirees begin collecting benefits), interest payments on the national debt, and “other federal mandatory spending” (the U.S. government’s contractual obligations).

In order to offset these anticipated increases over the long term, actual cuts would be needed in other areas immediately. To give an idea of the shape of these cuts, here is a pie chart (image right) of federal spending from 2010 (the current proportions are very similar).

Something you’ll notice right away: 80% of the federal budget is made up of just six expenses: Social Security, the Department of Defense, other federal mandatory spending, Medicare, Medicaid/SCHIP, and interest on the national debt. The other 20% is “everything else“.

The Tea Party proposal didn’t include specific cuts. Simply an agreement to freeze the budget would have been a huge victory. I’ll take a little license here and make some “proposals” of my own to keep the budget amount at roughly $3.8 trillion for ten years.

1) Freezing the military budget isn’t a bad thing. Admiral Mike Mullen offered a $100 billion reduction is DoD spending in 2010, which he said could be accomplished without making major changes to our military posture, defunding current operations, or defaulting on contractual obligations. I’ll take Adm. Mullen at his word, and assume that these cuts could also be implemented in the form of reducing expenditures over time by freezing the military budget (and assuming that some of our current operations will end within the next ten years).

2) Offset growth in “other federal mandatory spending” by cutting in other areas. The “other federal mandatory spending” category is made up of the federal government’s contractual obligations- military and civil service pensions, federal unemployment extension funds promised to the states, food stamp and HEAP funds, etc.

It goes without saying that there is substantial work to be done in reducing (and in some cases, eliminating) these expenditures- but this is work that can only be done over the long-term. Among these solutions would be transferring responsibility for food and heating assistance to the states, privatizing long-term unemployment insurance, converting future federal pensions into defined contribution programs, and the like. Naturally, some of the solution to these expenses is fixing our broken economy, which is far too long a subject for this post.

In the short term (i.e. over the next ten years), the amount of these expenses would have to be offset.

3) Paul Ryan is right- privatize Medicare (and block-grant Medicaid). Ryan’s plan, which includes an $18,000 annual premium subsidy and, for low-income seniors, a cash account of up to $9,500 to offset out-of-pocket expenses, will reduce the projected cost increases of Medicare- but it will still increase in cost as more baby boomers enter retirement.

Offset these increases by cutting Medicaid funding by 20% or more, and block-granting the remaining funds to the states. Federal regulations add to the states’ cost of supplying Medicaid, so cutting regulations offsets some of the reductions in funds. Let the states decide how to spend the rest of the money- for example, Mitch Daniels’ highly-effective (and cost-reducing) “Healthy Indiana Plan”.

Also: It strikes me as a total failure of the GOP message machine that the generous amounts proposed by Ryan- $18,000 in insurance premiums and $9,500 in a cash account- weren’t being used to sell the idea. Imagine this conversation by pundits on TV:

Democrat Pundit: “Ryan’s plan will kill Medicare, which is a great program!”
Republican Pundit: “Seniors would get up to $27,000 every year to buy insurance and pay out-of-pocket costs, and seniors get to choose their own insurance and keep their own doctor.”

Argument killed.

4) Offset increases in interest payments by cutting departments. Since the budget won’t balance overnight, the national debt would increase in the short-term. This means interest payments on the national debt would increase as well. In the long term, we’ll need strategies for paying down the debt- sale of federal lands, for example- but in the short-term, we can offset the expected increase in interest payments by cutting federal agencies. This is where the “everything else” which makes up 20% of the total budget comes into play.

There are lots of opportunities here- eliminate the Departments of Education, Commerce, and uhh… (yes, I know, it’s an old joke). Cut earmarks and foreign aid. You, the reader, undoubtedly know these talking points by now, so I won’t waste your time repeating them.

5) The big one: Social Security. This is the area which will grow exponentially over the next ten to fifteen years, as the Baby Boom generation enters retirement. It’s also a political minefield: Freezing social security payment amounts would mean political suicide for the GOP.

Again, there’s a long-term fix for Social Security in the form of privatization. But, as with any long-term solution, there’s a short-term problem to address as well.

What’s needed here is a “bold plan” (please forgive the Herman Cain-ism), and Walter Williams has one: Offer an exchange of Social Security payments for a federal land grant. The federal government currently holds 29% of the landmass of the continental United States- nearly 650 million acres. Offering this land to those who will enter Social Security in 10-20 years, in exchange for their Social Security payments, could accomplish two things:

a) offset projected Social Security expenses;

b) create a demand for development in the states where this land is held- Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Nevada, etc.- for new home construction, road development, electrical, natural gas, and water supply systems, service-oriented businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants, and the like.

I think this is a terrific idea, and merits much more attention than it currently recieves.

In sum: It’s easy to overcome the budget hyperbole from both sides of the aisle and see a solution to our budget problems. All you need is a calculator, a pie chart, and Occam’s razor.

The Super Committee Fails – Medicare and Defense to Suffer

Heartache and disappointment were thick throughout twitter, facebook and the comments on articles across the internet on the news that the Congressional “Super Committee” on deficits had failed. In actuality, nothing has actually happened.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of the committee, penned an account of why the committee failed. In short, the Democrats dismissed the three major Republican ideas out-of-hand, promised to bring back plans of their own and never did.

First, democrats took any and all spending related to President Obama’s health care plan off the table. Then rejected Bill Clinton’s budget director’s plan, then rejected ideas from the bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles commission. After quickly killing all three ideas, two from bi-partisan or Democrat sources, the committee democrats came back with their own plan… er ..  not really.

To put this in perspective, there were exactly 6 democrats and 6 Republicans on the committee. There was one Republican and one democrat co-chair. No one side had more say, more power or more influence than the other.

The Republicans presented three ideas, the Democrats refused them and presented nothing in return.

On to the important part – why should anyone care?

In a word, sequestration – the automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts that will occur in 2013 if Congress doesn’t pick up the ball dropped by the committee. Those cuts will happen “equally” in national defense spending and domestic programs should Congress not be able to find $1.2 trillion in cuts.

The CBO estimates that the cuts will take almost 10% from the defense budget and would cut Medicare by up to 2% of the program’s costs.

The Medicare cuts should be alarming to anyone on the federal medical program. 100% of the cuts come in the form of cuts on the amount paid to providers. If providers are paid less, we’ll see them opt out of the program and seniors will have fewer choices of where to get care. Medicare is expected to lose about $125 billion in funding from 2013 to 2021.

The toll on America’s ability to defend itself will likely be impaired as well. Just under $500 billion in cuts are expected to have to be swallowed by the nation’s military. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), House Armed Services committee chariman, said that he will be proposing a bill to head-off the sequestration cuts to defense spending. Rep McKeon said that his legislation is necessary because the cuts would cause “catastrophic damage to our men and women in uniform.”

President Obama’s response was to continue the Democrat strategy – just say no to anything the Republicans propose. On Monday evening, the President noted that “Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts, my message to them is simple: No.”  The president continued by threatening to veto any measure to hold back the cuts to Medicare or the country’s armed services.

Unfortunately, with or without the sequester the end is the same – out-of-control spending. Veronique de Rugy of Mercatus Center wrote:

Changes in spending from sequestration result in new budget projections below the CBO’s baseline projection of spending based on current law. The federal government would spend $3.62 trillion in the first year with sequestration versus the $3.69 trillion projected by CBO. By 2021, the government would spend $5.26 trillion versus the $5.41 trillion projected. Overall, without a sequester, federal spending would increase $1.7 trillion over those ten years (blue line). With a sequester, federal spending would increase over ten years by $1.6 trillion (red line).

Despite the stonewalling from Democrats, some polls show that a slight majority of Americans will blame Republicans for the failure of the 50/50 split bi-partisan committee despite most Americans opposing sequestration.

The super committee was a failed idea with a designed end. Democrats knew all along that they weren’t going to do anything. They couldn’t even bring themselves to propose a single plan. Now that the extra-legislative body has failed, what is the next step?

Since the cuts don’t take effect until 2013, the only course of action left for Conservatives who wish to see discipline returned to the budget process is to win the Senate and White House in 2012. At that point, a responsible budget can be put in place and the sequestration can be done away with.

The Herman Cain/ Newt Gingrich Sit-Down

Last night two GOP Presidential candidates squared off in what was referred to as a Lincoln-Douglas style debate. CSPAN really came through in a grand scale by airing the complete debate, and they should be commended for that decision. The debate was sponsored by the Texas Tea Party Patriot PAC, and was more of an informal sit-down discussion between Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich ,than it was an actual debate. The sit-down was held in Houston Texas, and the timekeeper was Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a staunch conservative favorite of grassroots Patriotic Americans across the nation, including the Tea Party groups that played a major part in rejecting big-government Liberals in the 2010 mid-term elections. Rep. King was obviously chomping at the bit to jump into these discussions, and stated so a few times. Why not allow him or other members of Congress in on some of these discussions in future sit-downs? This sit-down was more informative than all of the past media-circuses posing as 2012 GOP Presidential debates….. combined!  This event was limited to 3 main topics: How to reform Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Very good choice of three very important problems facing America in the very near future.

The timing of the event was somewhat problematic for politically active college-age voters and football fans in general, as it aired at the exact same time as what was billed as the college football game of the century between #1-ranked LSU and #2-ranked Alabama. (LSU beat Bama in a game of field goals 9-6 in overtime, by the way.)  Personally, I flipped over to C-SPAN during a commercial while watching the game and never went back. Yes, the Cain-Gingrich sit-down was that interesting to me, once I caught a glimpse of the totally relaxed atmosphere, and the fact that both candidates were given the full amount of uninterrupted time to explain their solutions to today’s problems if elected as our President in 2012. 

 

Now comes the time for some hard truths that came out of this sit-down. While it should come as no surprise that Herman Cain was in over his head in going up against the super-experienced and very government-savvy Newt Gingrich, what did come off as a surprise was the fact that Mr. Cain was shown to be largely incapable of thoroughly explaining realistic, unique solutions to today’s problems in America during this sit-down. (Other than relying on past soundbites and following Mr. Gingrich’s lead on most occasions last night.) For those who may think I am being too hard on Mr. Cain here, I,ll give you an example:

Mr. Cain constantly says that he will use the “Chilean Model” when asked about how he would deal with our Social Security impending insolvency. He repeats how Chile fixed their SSI problem decades ago, and that he would just use that system here in America. While that makes for a good soundbite, the fact is that Chile didn’t have anywhere near the unfunded liabilities that our SSI program is facing today, their economy is miniscule compared to America’s, and Chile installed their program before their economy grew by leaps and bounds, allowing them to create a sustainable program in a growing economy. The differences can be seen here, from traveldocs.com, in which we see the following related facts:  

Chile has pursued sound economic policies for nearly 3 decades. ( America simply has not, as we are now $15 trillion in debt ) Chile’s approach to foreign direct investment is codified in the country’s foreign investment law, which gives foreign investors the same treatment as Chileans. Registration is simple and transparent, and foreign investors are guaranteed access to the official foreign exchange market to repatriate their profits and capital. Net foreign direct investment in Chile in 2010 was $18.2 billion, up 43% over 2009. Chile is moving forward with true free market principles that are based on a very limited and transparent government. This is the direct opposite of the direction Barack Obama is taking America. During the most recent recession, Chile was basically unscathed and actually grew their economy by a very healthy 5.2% 2010. America? Our credit rating was downgraded for the first time in U.S. History.

Simply stating that what works in Chile will work in America just doesn’t cut it as being a viable answer as to how we can fix our SSI problems. Mr. Gingrich laid out a complete plan to reform our Social Security program last night, in which it starts out with making SSI the separate program it was originally designed to be. Take it out of the general budget. Force politicians to quit using it to prop up our national debt that they have racked up over the past 4 decades. Newt elaborated on how the government is basically robbing the people blind and how they are lying to our youth when forcing them to pay into an SSI system that simply will not be there for them when they retire. While that hard truth will have Liberal heads exploding across America this week, this is the exact kind of truth in messaging we must have in America today. Absent this kind of truth-telling, we will never be able to resolve our entitlement programs looming insolvency,  and will not be able pass on the American freedoms and prosperity opportunities to future generations of Americans that past generations have enjoyed. While telling the truth about the actions of our government seems to be taboo in most political circles today, this sit-down in the great State of Texas is a must-see event for all Americans. “The truth shall set you free.”

In summary, Herman Cain was the student and Newt Gingrich was the professor during this sit-down. While that was pretty much to be expected, we can’t ignore the amount of very important information that came out of this sit-down on how to move America forward and get this country back to running a surplus, ( as opposed to today’s trillion dollar deficits) by reforming our entitlement programs. Mr. Cain wrapped up this event with a hilarious question to Mr. Gingrich that asked what would Newt do first in his position as Vice President, alluding to the situation that when Cain was elected President, he would select Newt as his VP.  Newt was laughing so hard he had trouble answering the question.  Finally newt replied along the lines of that he would take a lesson from former VP Dick Cheney and “Not go hunting.”  This was a marvelous display of the self-sacrificing teamwork/expressed desire to unite to defeat Obama that the GOP needs to show the people more of as we head towards next year’s presidential elections. A team of 8 dedicated Conservatives (as opposed to 8 individuals fighting against each other) will show the nation they mean business in taking America back from the Liberal Party in 2012.

For those who may have missed the debate, you may watch it in it’s entirety here. Special thanks go out to our friends at the Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC that brought us this very informative event. Thank you again, C-SPAN for airing it. The Cain/Gingrich sit-down will also be re-aired several times on C-Span today. Get involved. Get educated. Watch that event.

 

Footnote: Did I forget to mention the fact that NO TV station would sign on to air this debate? Why is that? Because they would not be allowed to ask their “gotcha questions” or attempt  to embarrass the GOP by starting petty fights, or maybe it was because they couldn’t ask them what kind of pizza they prefer? Fox is supposed to be fair and balanced, yet proved themselves to be just as hypocritical and embarrassing to truth-seeking Americans as the rest of the media puppets of today, when it came time to air this event.  Shame on all of you, as that was a huge disservice to all concerned Americans today.

 

 

Obama Fleeces Seniors to Pay for Jobs Bill

As President Obama lands his taxpayer-funded corporate jet in North Carolina and Virginia this week, and then takes a short bus ride to speak to the people about his jobs bill, it would be nice if Senior citizens showed up to confront him about the provision in his jobs bill that mandates a government kickback for every single medicare/medicaid prescription drug purchase, to be paid to the government by the drug companies. This will hurt Seniors more than any other group of citizens.

Add that information to this report about how Obama’s fake jobs plan will cause the loss of some 238,000 jobs in the pharmaceutical sector, and we see just how President Obama is misleading the American public about his jobs plan today.

Senior citizens recently saw their Medicare premium, deductible and drug prescription co-pays increase, which is detailed here.

In that factual report, we see some very nasty gimmickry being used that would allow the government to tell Seniors that they have lowered some deductibles, which is true, but they increase average senior medicare costs across the board. Check out the cost of the Senior’s deductible and co-pays for hospital stays in that report, and you will see exactly how the government is squeezing our Seniors today.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of American Action Forum and a former Director of the CBO, says that these price controls “would put people out of work, increase costs for seniors and privately-insured patients, and slow research and development for new drugs.”

When President Obama brings his teleprompter to North Carolina and Virginia this week to tell the people that his jobs plan is paid for in full, what he won’t tell you is that a big portion of it is paid for on the backs of our Seniors through this mandated drug rebate scam. If drug companies want to do business with medicare and medicaid, they will pay Chicago-style mandated graft and kick-backs to the government in the forms of innocent sounding “rebates.” That will drive up the cost of Senior’s prescriptions and it already has, as we saw co-pays raised last week. When Obama tells us that his Independent economists say his jobs plan will “create or save” 1.9 million jobs, it turns out that the main independent economist wasn’t so independent after all: That’s (1.9 million jobs) a number generated by Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, and a cheerleader for the Administration. Zandi generated the estimate before even knowing that the White House planned to “pay for” the legislation with a $1.5 trillion permanent tax increase. After getting the rest-of-the-story, Zandi amended his analysis. In a letter to Congress, Zandi stood by his rosy jobs prediction, but noted that the tax increases would create a “drag on the economy” within a year of implementation, and by 2015 the economy would be in “the same place” as now.

As far as President Obama’s “independent economists” saying this jobs plan will create jobs, Bloomberg has surveyed 34 other economists and the truth they expose is all-telling once again. See  The Jobs Bill Lie. Check that article out. Instead of the 2% economic growth Obama claims we will see as from his jobs plan, five of those “independent economists” believe it will result in zero % GDP growth! The median GDP growth would be about a paltry 0.6% on average as figured by all 34 economists in the Bloomberg survey. A jobs bill that isn’t actually a jobs bill but in fact is nothing more than a gift for his Union get-out-the-vote-pals in 2012.

So not only will Seniors be fleeced to pay for Obama’s jobs plan, we now see that it will in fact not increase from 750,000 – 1.9 million jobs.  Half a trillion dollars worth of Union graft and bribery, which is no different than the failed Stimulus boondoggle of 2009, is being touted as a “jobs bill” this week by President Obama. To top it all off, Obama’s jobs plan raises taxes during a recession, which is a proven way to drive us into a double-dip great recession or an economic depression. It would be great to see Seniors in North Carolina and Virginia call out President Obama on his fake jobs plan and show him these facts, and also tell him they are not being fooled by it one bit! If there are any Seniors out there who have not yet registered to vote, it is high time you pay attention to what is happening here and get active. You can easily register to vote online and submit your voting ballot right from home, as explained here.

2012 just can’t get here fast enough!

Study: PPACA Changes to Medicare Equal Less Benefits, Fewer Choices & Decreased Enrollment

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will dramatically reduce the number and variety of healthcare plan choices available to seniors and reduce benefits and enrollment, according to a new study released today by the American Action Forum.  The report outlines that by 2017 nearly all Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollees will find that the plan they have chosen for themselves is either no longer available at all, or available with reduced benefits, higher out-of-pocket costs – or both. Many people who would have preferred a Medicare Advantage plan will now find themselves under Medicare fee-for-service, which will also be subjected to substantial cuts.

“The negative effects of the Affordable Care Act on Medicare Advantage are clear,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of American Action Forum. “The Affordable Care Act’s price-fixing, cost-shifting programs are fundamentally changing the American healthcare system in a way that is damaging to our seniors, our businesses and our economy.”

“What Changes will Health Reform Bring to Medicare Advantage Plan Benefits and Enrollment” calculates PPACA’s effects on Medicare and finds that Medicare beneficiaries will either lose their MA coverage altogether as plans withdraw from the market or be faced with higher out-of-pocket costs and/or benefit reductions. The report finds that by 2017, 14.8 million would-be MA enrollees will either lose their access to MA plans entirely or drop out due to reduced benefits. And, by 2017, the average person who was enrolled prior to PPACA would lose $3,700 in health care services per year, totaling almost $55 billion for all such beneficiaries. When the new formula is fully phased in, there will be 66% fewer choices available in each county in the U.S. on average, with at least 152 U.S. counties losing all access to MA plans.

“What Changes will Health Reform Bring” directly estimates the dollar-value reduction in healthcare services consumed, and provides a state-by-state report of the declines in Medicare Advantage enrollment, the value of lost benefits and the reduction in health care plan choices from the years 2013 – 2017. Highlights of the report include:

  • By 2017, there will be a 50% reduction in Medicare Advantage enrollees; with 67% loss in D.C. and a striking 84% loss in Puerto Rico. Texas, California and Pennsylvania would also experience 60%, 51% and 49% less enrollment, respectively.
  • Benefit loses by state vary, with the largest loss in Louisiana, at a high of $5,092 in lost benefits.
  • By the end of 2015, plan reductions of at least 30% are observed in all states and by the end of 2016, over half of states are projected to have at least 50% fewer plan choices, on average, by county.
  • One of the most damaging effects of the new law is the adverse effects for people with chronic conditions due to disruption in care from changing doctors and the loss of specialists’ ability to communicate with each other.

Medicare Open Enrollment: Earlier and Longer This Year

Medicare open enrollment is the period during which enrollees  can choose to change their Medicare plans. This year, the open enrollment period is nearly seven weeks long as it starts earlier – October 15th and continues through December 7th, 2011.

Despite the passage of Obama’s health care plan, Medicare premiums are increasing next year. The increase means that taking some extra time to understand the  costs and coverage of each of the plans is important.

The costs include the monthly premium (the amount paid to maintain coverage), your deductible (the amount you pay out-of-pocket) before different benefit levels kick in and co-pays (the amount you pay when Medicare or the insurance company pays a portion of the costs).

Understanding your coverage will tell you which doctors, clinics, and hospitals are included in the plan. It also indicates what kinds of medicines, equipment and procedures may be covered.

The longer selection period should give beneficiaries more time to research, understand and choose the best Medicare plan for them and the government provides a tool to help. The Medicare Plan Finder can be found at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan.

 

Obama's Latest Plan: Rescuing America From Rich People and Success

Obama in WH Rose Garden announcing plans to save America from money

The President gave another campaign speech disguised as a “deficit reduction plan” Monday morning, this time in the White House Rose Garden.  Perhaps he hoped the the backdrop of thriving foliage would add to the illusion that his “plan” would help the economy thrive and flourish.  Here are some highlights from the campaign speech:

Obama wants $248 Billion to come out of Medicare, 90% of which will come in the form of reducing over-payments to providers.  Did you hear that, America? The administration that  has presided over recent scandals such as Fast & Furious and Solyndra, the administration that spends $3.93 billion a day (consider that a billion seconds=31 years and let that blow your mind) wants to reduce waste and fraud in Medicare? Don’t you feel safer already? I know I do.

Obama wants to increase taxes on the wealthy. The wealthy don’t pay enough in taxes, you know.  Wealthy people are selfish and evil and ugly.  They steal money from the poor and keep it all in giant vaults that can only be opened with giant keys.  Then they drink expensive champagne made from the tears of women, children and minorities.  It doesn’t matter that according to the IRS‘ own, easily located statistics, the top 50% of earners pay 97% of all income taxes, and the top 1% pay 39%.  Rich people are bad.  Unless their names are Pelosi, Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, Buffet, Jobs, Gates, Frank, Rockefeller, Feinstein, Kerry, Heinz-Kerry, Gore, Edwards…..oh, you get the point.

Obama wants to put caps on itemized deductions, close tax “loopholes”, and let the Bush era tax cuts expire on individuals earning $200,000/year and couples earning $250,000/year.  Thank God.  Since most small business owners file as individuals and depend heavily on itemized deductions to stay afloat, this new and fresh idea should effectively kill small business growth; and if there’s anything America needs less of its small business and the jobs they create.  If those businesses are allowed to thrive, they might become big businesses that earn a lot of money.  Then they’ll be rich.  To reiterate, rich people are bad. Its a good thing Obama is here to rescue the average American from…jobs.

Obama wants a “Buffet” tax, named for his favorite rich person, Warren Buffet.  This tax would raise the tax rate on individuals earning over $1 million per year.   Hey, small business owners and folks who have worked very hard to earn a nice salary -Warren Buffet wants to pay more taxes!  You should want that too.  But just in case you don’t, here is a plan to force you to pay more taxes.  You’re welcome.

Oh, did you know Warren Buffet has a secretary?  Its true.  Supposedly she pays a higher tax rate than he does.  Unacceptable!  Also unacceptable – giving the secretary a raise so she can move into a different tax bracket.  Let’s not get carried away here, folks!

Obama wants to reform the corporate tax rate while closing more of the dreaded “loopholes” (when is Hollywood going to make a horror movie about loopholes? They sound absolutely terrifying).  In case you were wondering, giving hundreds of millions in stimulus money to bankrupt solar energy companies and other energy providers to help “weatherize” homes, that’s not a loophole.  Its just being neighborly.

If you are feeling concerned that these “proposals” may seem a bit…one-dimensional, have no fear.  President Obama went on to assure Americans that “This is not class warfare, it’s math.”  Phew!  No worries, everyone.  Its all under control.  The same White House that saved and/or created 100 bazillion jobs has done all the math for you: $14,711,883,847,986 in national debt minus stimulus money payouts to cronies and unions= YOU NEED TO GIVE GOVERNMENT MORE OF YOUR MONEY…NOW!  Its a simple formula, really.  Now it is all up the the Republicans in the House to pass this campaign speech right away.

Actuaries Urge "Super Committee" to Put Medicare on the Table

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The American Academy of Actuaries Medicare Steering Committee is urging the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to develop proposals to slow health care spending growth to improve the long-term solvency and sustainability of the Medicare program.

“Health care spending growth is threatening the sustainability of not only the Medicare program and the overall health system, but also the nation’s fiscal health,” said Cori Uccello , the senior health fellow for the American Academy of Actuaries. “Our message to the members of the committee is that achieving long-term sustainability for Medicare will require slowing the growth in overall health spending, not simply shifting costs from one payer to another.”

Noting the importance of the program in ensuring access to care for older Americans, the actuaries wrote that when members of the committee evaluate potential Medicare reforms for the purpose of deficit reduction, they should be mindful of the effect that these reforms could have on the cost, access to, and quality of care.

The committee’s letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is available here.

Congressional "Super Committee" Meets, THCA Urges Protection From Texas Rep. Hensarling Co-Chairman

Texas Nursing Home Advocates Encourage Co-Chairman Hensarling to Maintain Adequate Medicare and Medicaid Funding for Preservation of Quality Care, Key Caregiver Jobs

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Texas Health Care Association (THCA) today praised the 12 bipartisan U.S. House and Senate members of the Congressional “super committee” for convening their initial meeting in Washington, and urged committee co-chairman Jeb. Hensarling (R-TX) and his colleagues to protect quality nursing home care and key caregiving jobs as they focus on Medicare and Medicaid funding matters in the months ahead.

“We are encouraged by the super committee holding its first meeting today, and optimistic about the development of sensible recommendations that lower our nation’s deficit while still protecting quality nursing home care for Texas seniors,” said Tim Graves, President of THCA. “Congressman Hensarling has a key position in this special panel, and we encourage them to work in partnership to generate ideas to lower spending while maintaining the provision of important health care services for our most vulnerable frail, elderly citizens. To do so, we urge them to protect Texas seniors by opposing additional cuts to nursing home care.”

Graves noted that Texas is especially challenged by chronic Medicare and Medicaid underfunding that has put the continued provision of quality nursing home care at risk in many local communities. Recent funding challenges include Medicaid nursing home cuts of $58 million enacted this year and federal Medicare cuts of $1.6 billion over ten years implemented as part of health care reform and other regulatory changes. In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has reduced Medicare nursing home funding in Texas by $234 million – a 10.4% rate reduction for 2012 – at a time when nursing homes are experiencing rising costs of care as residents are requiring additional complex and acute care services.

“As we strive to provide highest quality care for Texas’ seniors and continue to employ the dedicated men and women who help us deliver this care, we are committed to making sure that Rep. Hensarling and the super committee members are informed about the crucial need for stable nursing home care funding,” said Graves. “We offer ourselves as an information source to the committee as they weigh funding options and take into account the impact that Medicare or Medicaid cuts would have on nursing home care programs, front-line jobs and local economies in Texas and across the nation.”

SOURCE Texas Health Care Association

DNC Launches Misleading News Campaign

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2011

Today the Democratic National Committee announced its “Extreme Aims” Mediscare mistruthfest in the lead-up to Thursday’s Republican debate in Iowa and the Ames straw poll on Saturday. Calling the the 2012 Republican presidential field “extreme” and “out-of-touch” in response to public opinion that is using those very terms to describe the President’s policies.

Iowa Caucus// James Q. Lynch (“extreme” sure is prevalent – and yes, mention of Wasserman Shultz counts as an instance of “extreme”)

This week, however, the DNC will be highlighting what it calls the GOP candidates’ “extreme aims to please the far-right, Tea Party wing of their party and they are following the extreme agenda of congressional Republicans instead of leading – all while the country’s future hangs in the balance.” To counter the attention the straw poll will give the GOP 2012 hopefuls, the DNC will have a presence on the ground in Iowa beginning on Aug. 11 – the same day as the Republican Party of Iowa/Fox News debate atIowa State University – which will include DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse andWasserman Schultz, who will arrive Aug. 12, as well as other surrogates. In addition to her state fair visit,Wasserman Schultz will participate in a round-table discussion with Iowans the morning of Aug. 12 in Des Moines. Following her visit to the fair – where it’s rumored she will eat something on a stick – Wasserman Schultz will head to Ames to meet with national and local media.

CDNNews reponse: none needed. Shultz will eat something on a stick – Conservatives everywhere are shaking.

Dems plan weeklong blitz in Iowa to counter GOP straw poll

The Hill// Michael O’Brien

The DNC launched its weeklong blitz, “Extreme Aims: Wrong for Seniors. Wrong for the Middle Class,” with a Web video characterizing the different presidential candidates as extremists who would threaten to undo popular social programs. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the DNC, will take that message on the road this week in Iowa ahead of Thursday’s GOP presidential debate and Saturday’s influential straw poll in Ames. Wasserman Schultz will participate in a roundtable, along with Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), organized by the Iowa Democratic Party on Friday. (“Rumor has it she will also eat something fried on a stick,” a DNC official said about the chairwoman’s trip to Des Moines, from where she’ll head to Ames.)

Obama to reform ‘No Child’ by skirting the law – Geithner staying despite failure to protect U.S. currency

Politico// Mike Allen

“Iowa Democratic Party to Host Series of Roundtables On Disastrous GOP Agenda In Advance of GOP Debate, Straw Poll: Participants to include Rep. Leonard Boswell, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, local elected officials … In the lead up to the Republican debate and Straw Poll inAmes, GOP candidates are touting their support for disastrous policies like the Ryan Plan or Cut, Cap & Balance which would slash Social Security and end Medicare as we know it while protecting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.”

CDN response: Uh… wow. The president is directly allowing educators to not follow U.S. law simply because he doesn’t agree with it. If he wants education reform, he has to ask Congress. Those are the checks and balances in our form of government, whether he likes them or not. Tim Geithner staying after his abysmal performance as Treasury Secretary is merely indicative of another failure of leadership from the White House. It’s just too much trouble to go find someone that doesn’t have their head up their butt.

2012: Extreme Aims 

NBC First Read// Staff Writers

Today, the Democratic National Committee is announcing a campaign  in the build-up to Saturday’s Ames Straw Poll. “When it comes to the GOP presidential candidates and what America will hear from them in Ames this week, they have extreme aims to please the far-right, Tea Party wing of their party and they are following the extreme agenda of Congressional Republicans instead of leading,” the DNC says in an email. “All this while our country’s future hangs in the balance.” The New Hampshire Democratic Party gets into the act, too. “Whether it is the candidates’ Duck, Dodge, Dismantle proposal, the GOP budget that ends Medicare as we know it or their insistence on keeping tax cuts for corporate jet owners while shifting the burden to working families and seniors, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty are representing an agenda that is far outside the mainstream,” NH Dem Party Chairman Ray Buckley plans to say in a memo to reporters. “Most egregiously, almost without exception the GOP presidential candidates would have allowed America to default on its obligations and send our economy into calamity rather than upset their Tea Party base.”

CDN response: Huh, NBC isn’t unbiased afterall .. who knew?

Democrats seek to counter Republicans’ Iowa blitz –  and fail

LA Times// Michael A. Memoli

The Democratic National Committee produced a Web video saying the candidates running for the White House are, just like their counterparts in Congress, “offering no new ideas.” “Just like WashingtonRepublicans and the tea party, Republican presidential candidates want to end Medicare as we know it, slash funding for education and job creation [and] protect the wealthy, corporate CEOs and big oil,” an announcer says. Democratic surrogates, including the party chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz ofFlorida, will be on the ground – including a speaking slot on the “soapbox” at the Iowa State Fair.

CDNews Response: Democrats haven’t produced any ideas, new or not. Senate Democrats under Harry Reid’s leadership have failed to produce  a single budget in over 820 days, which includes the time period when Democrats held the House, Senate and the White House. For moderates .. that’s both houses of the legislative branch and the entirety of the executive branch. Where’s the budget Democrats?

Democrats launching Iowa campaign

CNN// Paul Steinhauser

From the first Republican presidential debate in two months, to the Iowa State Fair, to a crucial GOP presidential straw poll in Ames, the Hawkeye State will be firmly in the national political spotlight this week. Now, Democrats are trying to get in on some of the action. The Democratic National Committee announced Monday morning that it’s launching a campaign to define the Republican presidential candidates as extremists trying to please “the far-right Tea Party wing of their party and they are following the extreme agenda of Congressional Republicans instead of leading.” As part of the push, the DNC is putting up a Web video titled “Extreme Aims: Wrong for Seniors. Wrong for the Middle Class.” The party committee says to make its case it will put up a website that profiles the records of each GOP candidate. The DNC also promises an “innovative” Twitter campaign and events on the ground in Iowa throughout the week.

CDNews Response: Dems are aware that this is a primary.. right? One of the candidates will win. Ah never mind, if this is what the spendtastic liberals are spending their money on, the Senate could turn logical shortly.

DNC looks to organize in Iowa ahead of Ames Straw Poll event

Daily Caller// Amanda Carey

The Ames Straw Poll and debate is just days away, but Republican candidates aren’t the only ones who are gearing up for the event. The Democrat National Committee (DNC) is looking to sway the conversation in the Hawkeye State, too. On Monday, the DNC released a Web video titled, “Extreme Aims.” The goal, according to the release announcing the video, is to define the GOP candidates as ideologically extreme, out to undercut senior citizens and the middle class.

Boehner Releases Framework of Debt Ceiling Deal

John BoehnerOn Sunday night, Obama announced that a deal on the debt ceiling had been reached. While House minority leader Nancy Pelosi was saying that some or none of her Democrats might vote for the proposal, House Speaker Boehner held a conference with the leaders on the right side of the aisle.

Later Sunday night, he released the details of the framework on his website.

The framework is a two-step increase with a trigger:

Phase one is an immediate $900 Billion increase to the debt ceiling that will hold the government over until roughly February. In exchange for that increase, discretionary spending will be cut and capped immediately which will save $917 Billion over ten years. In an effort to prevent the increase from happening without the savings (remember Reagan anyone?), the ceiling increase will not occur until Congress and the President implement the spending cuts. This would signal that a short term measure will need to be passed to allow a small debt limit increase (perhaps a week’s worth) while Congress irons out the spending cuts.

Phase two: The President can ask for a second debt limit increase of $1.5 Trillion if either a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is sent to the states for ratification or a the recommendation of a 12-member special committee are implemented that would save more than $1.5 Trillion.

The trigger: Specific spending caps would be put in-place to limit spending. If the government fails to remain below these limits, it will trigger across-the-board cuts to government spending. The trigger is specifically hit if the Joint Committee fails to achieve at least a drop of $1.2 Trillion in the deficit. Once the trigger fires-off, the President can request another $1.2 trillion increase in the debt-limit. If the increase is passed, across-the-board cuts in all government spending equal to the difference between $1.2 trillion and the amount of the deficit reduction enacted by Congress. These cuts would be equally applied to mandatory and discretionary spending, both defense and non-defense. While Medicare would be included in the cuts, Social Security, Medicaid, veterans benefits and government pay (civilian and military) would not be affected.

One way to read the summary presentation from Boehner is that the triggers could cause the spending cuts to be split 50-50 between Defense and Medicare spending. Some reports have said that the Medicare spending would only affect providers (hospitals, doctors, suppliers) not beneficiaries.

As a final note, the framework includes no tax hikes, but the committee will be free to recommend them as a method for reducing the deficit.

 

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