Tag Archive: Medicare

Apr 13 2017

Death and Taxes

Donald Trump really wants you to die so he can give his billionaire buddies tax cuts. The failure of the Republican lead congress to come up with a plan to kill the Affordable Care Act really put a crimp in that plan. After their bill couldn’t even make it to the House floor, Trump decided …

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Feb 02 2017

The Resistance: More Broken Promises

It is well known that Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Representative Tom Price (R-GA) wants to essentially abolish Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. During his campaign and as late as January 11, Trump promised to change the policy that blocks Medicare from negotiate drug prices to reduce costs. …

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Nov 17 2016

GOP Agenda: Ending Medicare ASAP

The Republicans and their wealthy corporate supporters (re: the Koch brother and Pete Peterson, etc.) have long wanted to decimate the social safety net through a number of programs such as; block grants to states for Medicaid with no guarantees the money would be used for that program; health care savings programs as an opt …

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Jun 12 2015

Don’t Be Fooled! TAA & Other Trade Bills Will Cut Medicare and More

Up Date: TAA has failed to pass the House by a vote of 126 – 302.

The House will now vote on Fast Track.

Up Date: TPA (Fast Track) passed 219- 211.

In an unusual move, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made a motion to reconsider the TAA which was tabled for later consideration.

House now voting on the Customs Enforcement Bill.

Up Date: The Trade Enforcement and Customs Act passed 240 – 190.

The vote on the motion to reconsider TAA will take place on Monday June 15. Without it the TPA bill cannot move forward:

Technically, the vote was on a portion of the legislation to renew federal aid for workers who lose their jobs through imports.

A second roll call followed on the trade negotiating powers themselves, and the House approved that measure, 219-211. But under the rules in effect, the overall legislation, previously approved by the Senate, could not advance to the White House unless both halves were agreed to. That made votes something less than a permanent rejection of the legislation.

In complex maneuvers to get more Democrats to vote for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, aka Fast Track), Republicans pulled language from the TAA bill that would have cut $700 million from Medicare to offset the cost. Don’t Be Fooled! The Republicans just moved the cuts to another bill that will be attached to Fast Track. From Dave Johnson at Crooks and Liars:

A bill on customs and trade law enforcement is being “loaded up” with amendments that will be attached to the fast-track TPA law, after (and if) fast track passes. These include amendments that would forbid the U.S. from doing anything through the trade agreement to address climate change, restrict actions to fix immigration laws or allow more visas, require trade laws to expand markets for Alaskan seafood, as well as other items intended to “buy votes” for fast-track TPA from reluctant Democrats. The customs bill also tries to get Democratic votes by undoing a provision that cuts Medicare in order to “pay for” trade adjustment assistance for workers who will lose their jobs if TPP passes.

Democrats who vote for the customs bill are voting to approve the ideological amendments added by Republicans. Many Republicans may choose to vote against fast-track TPA if the customs bill does not include the ideological amendments.

In other words, the Medicare cuts are still in the TAA and Democrats must vote for the Customs Bill to change it.

Lori M. Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, explained to MSNBC host Michael Eric Dyson how these bills will hurt everything from climate change and emigration, to killing jobs and greases the path to passing the TPA. Also on the show discussing how very bad these bills are Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jim Keady, director of Educating for Justice.

As Democracy for America puts it this is a trap

The Fast Track plan includes a trap: a $700 million cut to Medicare in order to pay for Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits and services for people who lose their jobs to foreign trade. Although Trade Adjustment Assistance and Fast Track are two separate bills, they’ve been linked by Republicans.

As the AFL-CIO and other allies are saying right now to House members, the bottom line is clear: A vote for the current Trade Adjustment Assistance bill and a vote for Fast Track is a vote to cut Medicare.

This is it. We need all hands on deck — and we need to take drastic action to win.

There are eight Democrats who are still undecided, whose votes could decide whether Medicare gets cut and whether Fast Track passes. Can you give these eight Representatives a call right now? Even if you’re not a constituent, they need to hear from you. It’s that important.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about what we mean we say “it’s a trap,” check out these Medicare attack ads that Republicans ran against Democrats in 2014 — a video made possible by our friends at the Communications Workers of America:

I don’t often agree with DFA these days but they are spot on exposing the GOP agenda.

More from Dave:

The TAA bill has passed the Senate. Senate Republicans cut TAA funding by 21 percent from current levels, excluded public-sector workers from receiving any assistance and required that Medicare be cut to pay for what remains. Yet several Democrats agreed and voted for the bill. Now with the bill before the House, House leadership is trying to lure Democratic votes for the TAA bill by changing the funding from Medicare cuts in the sub-Saharan Africa bill, while retaining the ability to use the recorded TAA vote to cut Medicare against them in the coming elections.

The AFL-CIO has come out against TAA. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, has stated his opposition to the TAA bill. Many Democrats who support fast-track TPA will find it political difficult to continue to do so without assistance for the workers who will lose jobs as a result of their support. [..]

This is widely called a “trade” vote, but from what is known about the actual TPP agreement (it’s secret from the public) it is largely about things other than what would usually be understood as trade. For example, one provision called investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) has been leaked to Wikileaks so it is known that it allows corporations to sue governments for laws and regulations that interfere with the corporation’s ability to collect current and “expected” profits.

Another leaked provision revives the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that Congress killed a few years ago. Yet another extends patents and copyrights far beyond what Congress has approved.

The Hill has been maintaining a “whip list” of who is for or against the fast-track bill. As of late Thursday, 118 Republicans and 20 Democrats were either declared or leaning “yes” votes. There were 44 Republicans and 135 Democrats declared or leaning “no.” That left 33 Democrats and 83 Republicans in the “undecided” column.

Especially the members who are undecided need to feel the heat from you to vote against fast track. If you have not made that call to your member of Congress, use our click-to-call tool to make that call now.

There is no time to waste, do this NOW. Call and tell your representative to vote no on these bills.

May 19 2015

The TPP Deal That Will Cut Medicare

Last week many received an e-mail from Democracy for America claiming the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would cut Medicare for senior citizens by $700 million:

There’s a big — brand new — attack on Medicare that’s just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP. The bill would cut a whopping $700 million from Medicare, hurting seniors who need access to health care.

That’s right, Republicans insisted on cutting Medicare spending to pay for a Trade Adjustment Assistance program that Democrats got added to the bill in order to support workers who lost their jobs due to trade deals like the TPP.

A few bloggers were a little confused by this claim and dug a little deeper.

Lambert Strether, at naked capitalism, had a few good questions:

1) Has Trade Adjustment Assistance been added to the TPP Fast Track bill?

2) Has $700 million been cut from Medicare as a result?

3) Does Trade Adjustment Assistance serve any public purpose?

The answer to question #1 is No.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA) and the Trade Promotion Authority (“Fast Track”) are separate pieces of legislation, so when DFA says that TAA has “just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP,” that’s not correct. Still, that doesn’t mean that a deal wasn’t cut, and that seems to be just what’s happened. [..]

And the bills indeed moved in tandem; the Senate voted for closure of both Fast Track and TAA last Thursday, May 14.

The answer to #2 is Yes. The cut is in the TAA. It was added by Republicans who insisted that the cost of bill be offset:

   The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), would rely on $700 million in reduced Medicare spending in 2024 to pay for [sic] healthcare coverage and other benefits for workers who lose coverage because of any agreements negotiated under fast-track trade authority sought by President Barack Obama.

   The $700 million in savings would be achieved by increasing Medicare cuts that were part of the sequester by 0.25% in 2024.

Lambert points out the more colorful language from the National Journal

Apparently using Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for [sic] everything under the sun has become the new legislative norm for Congress,” Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement to National Journal. “Rather than balancing priorities or considering a penny of new revenue, congressional leaders are proposing to once again funnel Medicare resources into unrelated programs and fixes-this time it’s the trade adjustment assistance program.

The answer to #3 is probably not. Lambert thoroughly researched the 40 year old current TAA at Senator Sherrod Brown’s site and got pretty ticked off:

Brown lists a ton of reasonable seeming tweaks and enhancements. Reading through the list, though, I’ve got to say I’m both ticked off and skeptical:

Ticked off, because how come the millions who got kicked out of the labor force when the powers-that-be decided to downsize it aren’t eligible for the same treatment? For example, it sounds like the Health Care Tax Credit workers screwed over by trade deals get is a better deal (at least in terms of dollars, even though it’s a tax credit) than COBRA, which is what workers screwed over by recessions and depressions get. What a horrible patchwork.

And skeptical, because in today’s post-crash and crapified labor market, is training really the answer?[4] Especially for over-50s?

So I’m not convinced that TPP + TAA nets out positive for workers, or even makes them whole. [..]

Bottom line is that TAA is a bandaid on a cancer, and the Democrats – assuming good faith, which I think with Sherrod Brown it’s fair to do – traded away something for nothing, as so often. If corporations can go to a rigged court and sue for lost profits, how come workers can’t go to a rigged court and sue for lost wages?

Over at Salon, lapsed blogger David Dayen had this to say about the TAA and the Democrats sell out of seniors:

There’s substantial disagreement on whether TAA actually helps workers get new jobs, but Democrats strongly support the program. Even pro-trade Democrats made renewing TAA a condition of passing fast track, and the two bills will move together in the Senate this week. But even though supporters constantly talk up the economic benefits of trade, they nevertheless offset the $2.9 billion in TAA funding by cutting other spending. Supposedly, trade increases jobs and therefore federal revenue, leaving enough money available to pay for TAA. But in Congress’ eyes, some other priority has to pony up that cash nonetheless.

That priority happens to be Medicare. TAA is partially financed through $700 million in Medicare cuts. Sequestration expires in fiscal year 2024, but the TAA bill expands it by piling those cuts onto the back end. Most of the other $2.2 billion gets financed through customs user fees. [..]

The other problem here is that it fundamentally breaks that promise – already, before any vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or any other fast-tracked agreement – that no laws will change in this new era of corporate-friendly “free trade.” This continues a troubling trend, identified by Paul Krugman, about not being able to trust the White House’s categorical denials about the consequences of their trade agenda. They said the investor-state dispute settlement process couldn’t weaken regulatory priorities; that’s not true. They said Dodd-Frank would be protected in any trade deals; that’s not true either. To quote Krugman, “The Administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.” The Medicare cuts represent another drop in that bucket. [..]

Every hit on the credibility of the free trade agenda makes it less likely that the bill will pass the House. Republicans claim they are gaining momentum in picking up votes, but all public whip counts show the tally coming up short. Adding Medicare cuts into the mix makes voting for fast track an even heavier lift for the House Democrats likely needed to get the bill the required votes. Republicans have repeatedly torched Democrats for Medicare cuts in campaign ads. They cannot relish giving another opening for that attack.

These are all bad bills that in the long run will hurt the vast majority of workers. So fight back by arming yourself with the facts then contact your congressional representatives via letters, e-mail and phone calls. Get together with a few people, make an appointment and visit their offices to express your concerns. Delegations get attention. Write letters to the editors of newspapers. And don’t let up, be persistant and polite.

The lies about TPP need to be exposed and this agreement needs to be stopped.

Mar 24 2015

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

Leaders in Congress, particularly John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi are preparing another bipartisan fiasco in order to reward a particularly powerful constituency and stop them from engaging in their annual screamfest.

Every year, due to the structure of Medicare created by previous legislation, doctors and healthcare providers face an adjustment of their pay from the government for services to Medicare recipients. There is a provision in the current Medicare law that creates a “Sustainable Growth Rate” (SGR) for Medicare payments based upon economic growth. Since medical costs have far outpaced economic growth for years, this means that doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers face a cut in their pay for services to Medicare patients every year.

Because doctors and the healthcare industry have incredibly powerful lobbies working for them, Congress hears their screams loud and clear.

This has resulted in congressional action:

On 17 occasions in the last 12 years, Congress has passed legislation to block such cuts without fundamentally changing the payment formula.

The screaming for Congress to fix this has got Congress’ attention:

Removing the threat of future cuts has been a top goal of lobbyists for the American Medical Association and other doctor groups.

David Dayen has a really good article up on Fiscal Times explaining what Bipartisans Pelosi and Boehner have come up with:

There would reportedly be more means-testing for Medicare beneficiaries, increasing premiums for seniors showing income over $133,000 and couples over $266,000. These seniors would have to pay 65 percent of their total costs under the new plan. This would go up at higher incomes. Means-testing historically dips lower and lower as budgeters try to get more out of beneficiaries, so this continues that ratcheting process for Medicare. It’s not necessarily where this line is set now but where it might go in the future that should cause concern.

Under the deal, new Medigap policies – privately sold but publicly managed plans which fill in spaces in Medicare coverage – would need a $250 deductible starting in 2020. Virtually every senior I’ve ever spoken with says that they need supplementary coverage because Medicare doesn’t stretch far enough. But this would raise out-of-pocket expenses on all 9 million seniors with a Medigap plan, including the 86 percent of these beneficiaries who have incomes under $40,000, and almost half with incomes below $20,000. So this cut hits those who can’t really afford it. (This idea, along with the means-testing, was in President Obama’s budget, incidentally.)

See who gets to pay the bill for this?

The proper term for this is cost-shifting, pushing funding for a public program onto those who get the benefits. Medigap was created to deal with cost-shifting in Medicare, and now Congress may look to shift costs within it as well. And like means-testing, cost-shifting is prime terrain for double-dipping over time.

And look at who doesn’t have to take a haircut:

All of this is being done to protect doctor salaries, which are among the highest in the industrialized world.

Dayen links to this article in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows the majority of healthcare spending goes to salaries:

Of the $2.6 trillion spent in 2010 on health care in the United States, 56% consisted of wages for health care workers. Labor is by far the largest category of expense: health care, as it is designed and delivered today, is very labor-intensive. The 16.4 million U.S. health care employees represented 11.8% of the total employed labor force in 2010. Yet unlike virtually all other sectors of the U.S. economy, health care has experienced no gains over the past 20 years in labor productivity, defined as output per worker (in health care, the “output” is the volume of activity – including all encounters, tests, treatments, and surgeries – per unit of cost). Although it is possible that some gains in quality have been achieved that are not reflected in productivity gains, it’s striking that health care is not experiencing anything near the gains achieved in other sectors. At the same time, health care labor is becoming more expensive more quickly than other types of labor. Even through the recession, when wages fell in other sectors, health care wages grew at a compounded annual rate of 3.4% from 2005 to 2010.

Those doctors must have a really effective union representing them!

Dayen also points out one other less obvious way that the bipartisans will be robbing patients to reward the screaming healthcare industry:

Doctor payment rates are tied to Medicare premiums, as the Congressional Budget Office has explained: “Beneficiaries enrolled in Part B of Medicare pay premiums that offset about 25 percent of the costs of those benefits.” This means that any permanent change to a new doctor payment formula will likely result in a hike to Part B premiums.

Those folks that aren’t represented by powerful lobbies apparently have a couple of days to scream at their “representatives” to stop this monstrosity that will likely cause people with lesser incomes to forego needed medical care. The bipartisans are feeling good about their prospects for getting the doctors off their backs and sticking us with the bill:

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that prospects were good for passage of a permanent fix to Medicare’s flawed doctor-pay formula that would spare physicians from impending steep pay cuts. …

Earlier on Tuesday, Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that bipartisan legislation had been introduced to change the way doctors are reimbursed for Medicare costs. A vote is expected on Thursday.

Thursday. Hey, that’s not too far away!

Better call your congressperson and share the Secret Word with them. The secret word is “Medicare.”

You know what to do when somebody (even you) says the secret word – scream real loud!

Jan 02 2014

The Health Care Problem in the US is a Price Fixing Scam

Passing the racket onto an intermediary and then dumping it on the consumer is part of the scam. Medicare needs full market share so it can bring all the prices down since no one will RICO Act providers, for profit hospitals, and insurance companies passing that cost in addition to 13% extra for administration costs onto you even with the ACA. Forcing you to participate in this scam is what we call Obamacare.  

Dec 01 2013

Anti-capitalist Meetup: “Separate but Equal” Shuts Down Women’s Health Care by TPau

This week has a certain nostalgia for me. I am working the last four shifts in my home, Humboldt County. Nestled between pristine redwoods and dramatic cliffs overlooking the west coast of California, I want to stay here, but cannot. I am feeling the full force of the United States health care crisis. In the four years I have worked here eight of ten obstetricians in the southern half of the county have left, and now I find I am one of them.

Two obstetricians, far apart geographically and serving two different hospitals, are all that is left to serve an area once supporting 10 obstetricians. Both doctors are men over 60, who have a tough future ahead of them. Without outside help there is no way they can see all the patients that will need them. They have to remain within 30 minutes of the hospital and can be told to come to work any time of the day or night. They can never have a moment off, a full night’s sleep, a drink of alcohol to ring in the New Year. Watching a full length movie, or having a nice dinner with the spouse without interruption is a thing of the past. Neither of the remaining doctors can get sick or injured. This is really asking them to be super human and there is no cavalry on their horizon. In fact, if Catholic Health Systems is successful at closing one of the two hospitals, only one physician will remain.

As a young person, I wanted to take my medical skills to a disadvantaged third world nation. Looks like I got my wish – right here in the US. How did we get here?

Oct 28 2013

Seven Seconds to Save the Social Safety Net

7 Reasons to Take 7 Seconds to Save Social Security and Medicare

by Richard (RJ) Eskow, The Huffington Post

A broad coalition of organizations, including the Campaign for America’s Future and Social Security Works, is joining Sen. Bernie Sanders in a petition drive to resist cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It only takes a few moments to sign; it’s that easy. [..]

The threat is very real, and these cuts could take place with very little warning. On a personal note: I signed. I did it because a lot of people would suffer needlessly by the kind of deal they’re cooking up. I did it because I think it’s wrong to allow the privileged and powerful to overrule the will of the people. And frankly, I did it because I’m scared. This deal could be done before most Americans even see it coming.

It’s fast and easy to sign this petition. It only took me seven seconds. Here are seven reasons why you should. [..]

1. Republicans are still demanding “entitlement cuts.”

[..]

2. Some of these cuts are in the President’s budget.

[..]

3. The “chained CPI” is a deep cut to Social Security benefits.

[..]

4. The chained CPI isn’t fair, either.

[..]

5. The cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are both inhumane and cumbersome.

[..]

6. Millennials are already getting a raw deal. This would make it worse.

[..]

7. In a democracy, the people — not corporations are billionaires — are supposed to decide.

Take Action: Defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and our coalition partners in demanding, “No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”

Bernie is serving on the Budget Conference Committee which will be negotiating a new federal budget over the next few months — and where a deal could be struck to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

As the founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus, Bernie is fighting every day to protect our earned benefits. Stand with Senator Bernie Sanders and a diverse coalition of thousands of fellow progressives now and demand that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Add your name today!

He’s right, depending on how fast you can type and press enter, just seven seconds. So it for yourself and future generations.

Oct 18 2013

No, Harry, Not Even For Revenue Increases

In an interview with Huffington Post after the “cease fire” bill that postponed the latest manufactured debt ceiling/government funding crisis was passed and signed, Senate Majority Leader HArry Reid (D-NV) said this:

“I would like to suggest that maybe the Republicans aren’t too happy with next year’s sequestration. Who does it hurt, non-defense? I get an extra billion dollars this year compared to [last] year. Defense? They lose $23 billion,” Reid said, referring to the Pentagon. “So I would think there should be some people among the Republicans in the House and Senate who would say we should take a look at that.” [..]

Reid also said that he would make sure to protect Social Security against attempts to trade cuts for sequestration relief, calling such a bargain “a stupid trade.”

“That’s no trade. We are going to affect entitlements so we can increase defense spending? Don’t check me for a vote there. I’m not interested in that,” he said.

“It is the most successful social program in the history of the world. The program is not about to go broke, so take it easy on Social Security,” Reid said.

OK. That’s reassuring until he kept talking:

If Republicans want to trim Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, Reid said, they’d have to give on tax revenue in exchange. Asked specifically if the deal must be revenue for entitlements, he said: “Yes, and we call it mandatories.”

No, Harry, not even for revenue increases. Cuts to the social safety net of millions of Americans is NOT a bargaining chip to raise taxes.

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