Tag Archives: Medicare

Trump needs to fire some staff – especially Bannon

But first …

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By Steven R. Maher

In the wake of the disastrous end of his “repeal and replace” Obamacare legislation, President Donald J. Trump should fire some of his staff. It’s what a smart businessman usually does after such a debacle.

After he withdrew the legislation, Trump said he wanted to work with Democrats in the future on health care. He also clearly wants to work with the “Freedom Caucus,” the successor to the “Tea Party” – a group that thought throwing 24 million Americans off their health insurance didn’t go far enough.

The website “Business Insider” reported on Saturday March 25, 2017, that White House Chief Strategist Steven Bannon said to Freedom Caucus members: “Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.”

The New York Times reported Saturday that Bannon and Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short wanted a vote on Trump’s health care bill because they would be able to compile an “enemies list” of Republican Congressman to take revenge on.

“You know, the last time someone ordered me to do something, I was 18 years old,” one Freedom Caucus member was quoted as saying. “And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”

Trump also supposedly said during one meeting that he was not going to negotiate further on his insurance program, and Trump wanted their votes.

Not private sector

This “take it or leave it” approach might work in the private sector where everyone works for the boss, but it can be fatal in ego driven Washington, where Trump needs the votes of independently elected representatives.

Trump has two choices: If Trump expects to win enough Republican votes to pass his legislation on every major issue, he will be turning veto power on his Presidency over to a group of conservative extremists who will not compromise on issues that cry out for bi-partisan support. If he wants to find common ground with the Democrats, Trump will be writing off the Freedom Caucus.

Either way, Trump should clean house. A first good step would be to fire Bannon and Short. Both have alienated the Freedom Caucus. The Democrats despise Bannon for his involvement in Breitbart and see him as the evil genius manipulating Trump for his own obscure goals. Getting rid of Bannon would demonstrate that Trump is serious about changing his approach and would make it easier for Trump to reach out to either the Freedom Caucus or the Democrats.

Bannon feuds with Ryan

The one to watch is White House Chief of Staff Rence Priebus. Priebus reportedly urged Trump to work on his health plan first. He is a close ally of House Speaker Paul Ryan, with whom Bannon has also been feuding. This is another reason for Trump to fire Bannon. Not only is Bannon alienating the Freedom Caucus, he is straining the relationship between Trump and Ryan. If Trump fires Priebus, Washington insiders would take this as a victory of Bannon over Ryan.

Trump will undoubtedly find many scapegoats for his defeat on health care. Whether he learns the harsh lessons Washington taught him on March 24, 2017, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, Trump faces two upcoming issues on which he is also likely to be opposed by the Freedom Caucus. As the New York Times reported Saturday: “Mr. Ryan repeatedly counseled the president to avoid seeking vengeance – at least until he has passed spending bills and a debt-ceiling increase needed to keep the government running. In the end, the president decided to back down.”

Congressman Jim McGovern Pledges to Fight GOP Repeal of Affordable Care Act

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From Jim’s office:

Today Congressman Jim McGovern, a senior House Democrat, led debate for Democrats against S.Con.Res. 3, the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Resolution, the House Republican bill to begin the process of repealing of the Affordable Care Act.

“For nearly seven years my Republican friends have railed against the Affordable Care Act. Their well-funded allies have spent billions of dollars distorting the ACA and lying to the American people about what it actually does. And for nearly seven years, there has not been a single comprehensive health care bill brought to the floor by Republicans as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Not one!

“We have voted over 60 times to repeal the ACA on the House Floor. I’d be the first to admit the ACA is not perfect. We want to work in a bipartisan way to strengthen it, to make it better. But my colleagues don’t want to do that. They are determined to just vote for an outright repeal and that is going to hurt countless people in this country.”

“The Donald Trumps of the world certainly don’t have to worry about health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. If someone in their family gets really sick – they’ll just sell some stocks or close down another American factory, or not pay their workers – as our President-elect has been known to do on many, many occasions.

“As someone who represents Massachusetts, this is especially personal because Medicaid is one of the best tools we have in the fight against opioid addiction, providing real care for the addiction and the underlying conditions that drive the opioid epidemic in our communities. Repealing Medicaid expansion under the ACA would rip coverage away from an estimated 1.6 million newly insured individuals with substance use disorders.

In Congressman McGovern’s closing remarks, he spoke directly to Republicans, “It is a cruel thing to do to take away people’s health care. We believe that health care ought to be a right, I know you don’t. We believe health care protections ought to be in law, you believe they ought to be up to the insurance companies. But this is a lousy thing to do. We’re gonna fight you on this. This is a fight worth having. Protecting people’s health care is something we should all be dedicated to and we’re going to fight you on this.”

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Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Floor Speech:

“For nearly seven years my Republican friends have railed against the Affordable Care Act. Their well-funded allies have spent billions of dollars distorting the ACA and lying to the American people about what it actually does. And for nearly seven years, there has not been a single comprehensive health care bill brought to the floor by Republicans as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Not one!

“We have voted over 60 times to repeal the ACA on the House Floor! I’d be the first to admit the ACA is not perfect. But rather than work together to tweak it, to make it better, all we get from them are repeal bills, repeal bills, repeal bills. And let me again point out – not once, not once was a replacement bill offered.

“Not only do Republicans not have a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and protect access to health care for more than 20 million Americans who gained coverage, they can’t even agree on a timeline for when they’ll pass their replacement.

· President-elect Trump says repeal and replace will be done on the same day and he wants it to happen now.

· Rep. Steve Scalise said Republicans will replace the ACA over the course of the next few months.

· Sen. John Thune said it could take two or three years for the replacement to be implemented.

· Rep. Chris Collins said Republicans have six months to work out the replacement plan.

· Sen. Mitch McConnell refused to even give a timeline, just saying it would happen.

“While Republicans fight for each other over timelines, I think it’s appropriate to ask: If they did have a replacement, what would that replacement be?

“And what, specifically, would they replace the ACA with?

“Well, President-elect Donald Trump has the answer! When asked what we should replace Obamacare with he said, and I quote, “Something terrific.” When pressed for details and more specificity, he said “Something that people will really, really, really like.”

“You can’t make this stuff up! It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.

“It’s tragic because what Republicans are trying to do is take health care protections away from millions and millions of families.

“No one in Congress has to worry about health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. And the Donald Trumps of the world certainly don’t have to worry about health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. If someone in their family gets really sick – they’ll just sell some stocks or close down another American factory, or not pay their workers – as our President-elect has been known to do on many, many occasions.

“But for millions of Americans it will be a different story. Repealing the ACA would mean over 30 million Americans would lose coverage, including nearly 4 million children; more than 52 million individuals with pre-existing conditions could have coverage rescinded or see their premiums dramatically increased; millions of young adults would be unable to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26; over 14 million individuals enrolled in Medicaid under the expansion would lose coverage; and nearly 140 million individuals with private insurance would lose access to preventive services without co-pays or deductibles.

“And millions of seniors would see their prescription drug prices increase because it would re-open the so-called doughnut hole that the ACA has begun to close.

“Republicans want to slash Medicaid, a health care program that does a lot of good and enables mothers to work their way out of poverty by providing affordable coverage for their children.

“And as someone who represents Massachusetts, this is especially personal because Medicaid is one of the best tools we have in the fight against opioid addiction, providing real care for the addiction and the underlying conditions that drive the opioid epidemic in our communities. Repealing Medicaid expansion under the ACA would rip coverage away from an estimated 1.6 million newly insured individuals with substance use disorders.

“That’s what’s at stake – and that’s what my Republican colleagues are so happy, so giddy, and so excited to do. It is sad. It is pathetic.

“But – they’re moving forward anyway – with no replacement in sight. I suppose they can roll out their oldies but goodies – like health savings accounts or their other healthcare prescription – take two tax breaks and call me in the morning.

“But that doesn’t do it.

“We have a complicated health care system, no doubt. I wish it were simpler. That’s why I’ve always favored a single-payer system and that is why I favor a public option.

“But the problem with our system before Obamacare was that it left all the decisions up to the insurance companies. Do you remember the days when insurance companies could charge women more for health insurance because they said “being a woman was a pre-existing condition?”

“They can’t do that anymore. Why? Not because of my Republican friends. They can’t do it anymore because we passed the ACA.

“It is a cruel thing to do to take away people’s health care. I will say to my Republican colleagues that they need to know that we will fight you every step of the way on this. There are some battles on behalf of the American people that are worth having and worth fighting and this is one of them, making sure that their health care protections remain intact. I came to Congress to help people, not make their lives more miserable.”

“This is a sad day because what we are doing here by voting for this budget is setting in motion a process to deny millions of people health care protections. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that.

Is the Affordable Care Act perfect? No. We’re the first to admit that and we want to work in a bipartisan way to strengthen it, to make it better. But my colleagues don’t want to do that. They are determined to just vote for an outright repeal and that is going to hurt countless people in this country. People who have benefitted from no pre-existing conditions. People who have benefitted by being able to keep their kids on their insurance until they are 26. Senior citizens who have benefitted from closing the doughnut hole. I could go on and on and on. All of that is about to be eliminated.

We’re told that there will be a replacement. Someday. Somehow. For six years, over six years, you have been talking about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement and you haven’t brought one bill to the floor. Not one.

“Now, we believe that health care ought to be a right, I know you don’t. We believe health care protections ought to be in law, you believe they ought to be up to the insurance companies. But this is a lousy thing to do. And as I said in my opening statement, we’re gonna fight you on this. This is a fight worth having. Protecting people’s health care is something we should all be dedicated to and we’re going to fight you on this.”

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pic: R.T.

Peter Stefan of Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home in Main South often helps seniors pay for their prescription meds. Our system is broken! Americans deserve single-payer health care! An expanded version of Medicare is the ticket to a healthier U.S.A! – R. Tirella

In debt vote, Senator Scott Brown has a choice: Medicaid or the super wealthy

By Jason A. Stephany

Tuesday, August 2, marks a critical deadline for the United States economy: for the first time in our nation’s history, the government may default on its debts. And should that happen, the ripple effects will be felt by every American consumer and taxpayer. A downgrade of the United States’ credit rating, higher interest rates on our credit cards, mortgages and car loans, and investor uncertainty that will leave already-fragile markets reeling. Our slow-but-sureeconomic recovery could revert to a full-on recession in a matter of days.

The clock is running out on the debt debate, and responsible lawmakers agree that default is not an option. So why are some in congress – including US Senator Scott Brown – refusing to state a position on key aspects of the debt proposals before them? One would think big ticket items like $500 billion in proposed health care cuts would call for an immediate rebuke from the commonwealth’s junior senator. Yet questions from constituents and journalists on debt-related health care cuts have gone unanswered for weeks, as Brown and his staff continue to avoid taking a position on a host of programs, including Medicaid.

Over the last week, large coalitions of healthcare providers, patients, consumer advocates – even insurance company representatives – have gathered to call on Brown and his fellow lawmakers to do the right thing and take a stand in support of Medicare, Medicaid and other critical health care programs that are now on the chopping block. At one gathering, many pointed to the key decision that remains at the crux of the debt negotiations: protecting tax breaks for major corporations and our wealthiest citizens or preserving funding for federal health care programs.

Among them was David Sandison, a disabled Medicaid recipient who relies on in-home assistance, who addressed the issue head-on.“Because of my disability, I depend on Medicaid funds to live and work independently,” said Sandison. “So I have a question for Scott Brown: will you vote to save Medicaid, or will you support tax breaks for oil companies and billionaires?”

Stacy Hart, a consumer advocate with the Boston Center for Independent Living, explained that for many families – including her own – the funding of Medicaid programs is a matter of life and death. “Medicaid saved my husband’s life. He was in a coma for several months until the doctors could address a very serious medical condition,” said Hart. “Without Medicaid, my husband never would have woken up, rejoined his family, or come back to work as a member of the community. We need to know where Scott Brown stands on these cuts.”

The cuts Sandison and Hart describe aren’t just abstract numbers orhypotheticals. Health care providers estimate the cuts being contemplated could anywhere from $1 billion to $3 billion from state coffers – a full tenth of the overall Massachusetts budget. A recent report by Families USA, the non-partisan health care consumer organization, shows the funding shortfall would not only slash assistance for the poor, elderly and disabled; it would also jeopardize as many as 50,180 jobs and $6.8 billion in economic activity in the Bay State.

With so much at risk for Massachusetts citizens, the choice for any representative of the people should be clear. Yet Senator Brown continues his silence, reinforcing a “no position” position on what would certainly be disastrous cuts to health care. The question remains: why? What is keeping Brown from doing what’s right for Massachusetts? Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Executive Director of Health Care for All, put the decision before Brown in the starkest of terms. “I know it’s tough for Senator Brown to balance serving his party and serving the people of Massachusetts – but there should be no choice between maintaining the health of our state’s elderly and disabled residents and cutting taxes for the most wealthy among us,” said Whitcomb Slemmer. “Hundreds of billions of dollars in health care cuts, and millions of lives, are at stake. We call on Senator Brown to show leadership by supporting health care for our state’s most vulnerable populations.”

Whitcomb Slemmer’s pointed analysis lays the terms out plain. But at the end of the day, will Scott Brown do the right thing for Massachusetts? Will our Senator choose Medicaid or millionaires in the fight to address the national debt? Only time will tell – but withan August 2 deadline rapidly approaching, the clock is ticking.

Constituents may reach US Senator Scott Brown on this or any other issue of interest by calling (617) 565-3170.

Jason Stephany is the spokesman for MASSUNITING – a non-partisan coalition of neighbors, community groups, faith organizations and labor united in the fight for good jobs, corporate accountability and stronger communities.

Dozens of Medicaid recipients, providers and advocates demand answers from Senator Scott Brown

editor’s note: Scott Brown needs to be dumped by the voters this fall. Brown is nothing more than a smooth-talking opportunist. He puts his finger in the wind and decides how to vote based on: WILL THIS GET ME RE-ELECTED? No character. No moral code. No beliefs worth fighting for – so unlike our late, great Teddy Kennedy. Brown is just an empty vessel wearing a barn jacket.

We miss Kennedy now more than ever. He would be the voice of reason, the voice of compassion, the wind beneath our wings.

– R. Tirella

Dozens of Medicaid recipients, providers and advocates demand answers from the commonwealth’s junior senator as national debt deadline looms!

BOSTON – As politicians continued their high-stakes horse trading over the national debt in Washington, dozens of Massachusetts residents directly affected by the negotiations rallied Thursday to demand answers from their own US Senator, Scott Brown. The broad coalition of local Medicaid recipients, service providers and independent living advocates gathered to ask Brown: “Will you choose Medicaid or Millionaires?”

“Because of my disability, I depend on Medicaid funds to live and work independently,” said David Sandison, a local Medicaid recipient who relies on in-home assistance. “So I have a question for Scott Brown: will you vote to save Medicaid, or will you support tax breaks for oil companies and billionaires?”

Questions from constituents and journalists on debt-related Medicaid cuts have gone unanswered for weeks, as Brown and his staff continue to avoid taking a position on more than $500 billion in proposed cuts to federal health care programs.

Stacy Hart, a consumer advocate with the Boston Center for Independent Living, explained that for many families – including her own – the funding of Medicaid programs is a matter of life and death. “Medicaid saved my husband’s life. He was in a coma for several months until the doctors could address a very serious medical condition,” said Hart. “Without Medicaid, my husband never would have woken up, rejoined his family, or come back to work as a member of the community. We need to know where Scott Brown stands on these cuts.”

Joseph Rotella, a successful business owner from Waltham, called on Brown to do the right thing for the most vulnerable in Massachusetts – even if that means raising taxes.

“I’m a beneficiary of the Bush-era tax cuts. But as someone fortunate enough to be in the top income bracket, I’m fully able and willing to make my contribution to society,” said Rotella. “So I have to ask Scott Brown to take a hard look at where his priorities lie. Will he stand up and protect Medicaid funding for those who need it most? Or will he cut those funds to protect tax breaks that aren’t really necessary?”

Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Executive Director of Health Care for All, put the decision before Brown in the starkest of terms, calling on the senator to set partisanship aside and take a stand in support of his constituents.

“I know it’s tough for Senator Brown to balance serving his party and serving the people of Massachusetts – but there should be no choice between maintaining the health of our state’s elderly and disabled residents and cutting taxes for the most wealthy among us,” said Whitcomb Slemmer. “Hundreds of billions of dollars in health care cuts, and millions of lives, are at stake. We call on Senator Brown to show leadership by supporting health care for our state’s most vulnerable populations.”

As of press time, Brown has offered no additional clarity on his potential support of the $500 billion health care cut – or tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans – that remain at the center of ongoing debt negotiations.

The President’s State of the Union speech: just a big dance

By Jack Hoffman

It didn’t take long, when I went to the local breakfast hangout, to be asked, “So, Jack, what did you think of the President’s State of the Union speech?”

Well, to be honest, I didn’t catch the first few minutes since I got deeply engrossed in one of my favorite action movies of the week, Transporter 3. … Instead of waiting for Bourne Identity to come on the telly, I said. Let me give our leader another shot at trying to make me believe there is still some hope. After all, some of the promises President Obama made to lots of us progressives he just hasn’t lived up to. So I decided to look at the new majority and what they are offering.

Take, for instance, all the cuts in spending. So what do you want to do? How about cutting, or even eliminating, discretionary spending? That’s less than 16% of the budget. This country is $14 trillion in debt – 18 % is for past military, or veterans benefits, plus the 80% interest on debt. The budget was $3 trillion in Fiscal Year 2009. You do the math … .

Neat: The President fell into that trap of cutting discretionary spending in any bill that comes before him. What the hell did we send our reps to Washington for? Bring some of that bacon home! Where are the states going to get the extra money for schools, roads and more? Continue reading The President’s State of the Union speech: just a big dance

A failed bombing and: What are we doing in Afghanistan? Plus: My health-care crisis!

By Jack Hoffman

In just days since the abortive attempt by the 23-year-old Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate an explosive device onboard Northwest Flight 253, information surfaced that indicated a quintessential, breakdown of our intelligence and security network. Evidence has shown it to be extraordinary and shocking but not surprising in both its character and scale – especially after the 9/11 debacle.

Should we be shocked?

So what has happened with the preliminary findings from the time of the bombing attempt and now? How Umar put this all together. The dildo detonator and explosive powder stitched in his underwear. A powder that should have been detected by the Amsterdam security police, what with the new body scanners supplied by the United States. And the frightening news Umar trained with another twenty jihadist ready to go. Continue reading A failed bombing and: What are we doing in Afghanistan? Plus: My health-care crisis!