Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Cost of Inaction--You're Paying It Now

In his weekly address, President Obama sets the record straight on what his healthcare reform proposals will do--and will not do. "So when folks with a stake in the status quo keep inventing these boogeymen in an effort to scare people, it’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising. We’ve seen it before. When President Roosevelt was working to create Social Security, opponents warned it would open the door to "federal snooping" and force Americans to wear dog tags. When President Kennedy and President Johnson were working to create Medicare, opponents warned of "socialized medicine." Sound familiar? Not only were those fears never realized, but more importantly, those programs have saved the lives of tens of millions of seniors, the disabled, and the disadvantaged.

Those who would stand in the way of reform will say almost anything to scare you about the cost of action. But they won’t say much about the cost of inaction. If you’re worried about rationed care, higher costs, denied coverage, or bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor, then you should know that’s what’s happening right now. In the past three years, over 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies due to a preexisting condition, or saw their coverage denied or dropped just when they got sick and needed it most. Americans whose jobs and health care are secure today just don’t know if they’ll be next to join the 14,000 who lose their health insurance every single day. And if we don’t act, average family premiums will keep rising to more than $22,000 within a decade."

At a town hall in Colorado, President Obama took on the most pernicious and repulsive of the false charges against healthcare reform: the so-called death panels that opponents have invented, claiming they would decide which seniors to kill. "What you can't do, or you can, but you shouldn't do -- is start saying things like we want to set up death panels to pull the plug on grandma." President Obama paused and grew emotional. "First of all, when you make a comment like that, I just lost my grandmother last year... I know what its like to watch somebody you love, who's aging, deteriorate... When you start making arguments like that, that's simply dishonest. Especially when I hear the arguments coming from members of congress in the other party..."

President Obama also wrote an oped in the New York Times outlining his health insurance proposals and the reasons these changes are vital for the health of Americans, their financial futures, the economy and to get control of the federal deficit.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pittsburgh, This is Your Time

With the reigning champions in NHL hockey (the Penguins) and NFL football (the Steelers, who again beat the Arizona Cardinals Thursday, this time in a preseason game), Pittsburgh has had a good year, tarnished however by two acts of gun violence by lunatics of the Rabid Right. For the next month or so it is the center of different attention: first as the host of the current Netroots convention (President Clinton delivered the keynote Thursday), and then as the host of the international G-20 convention in September--selected by Barack Obama, the same weekend that the Steelers visited the White House, and he put them to work packing care packages for U.S. troops.

Visitors will find some big changes since the last time Pittsburgh was the City of Champions (which was the last time any city had two championship pro teams, in 1979.) The steel mills were pretty much gone by then, and the new economy that is helping Pittsburgh weather the Great Recession better than other Rust Belt cities is symbolized in the bottom photo of downtown from across the Mon River: that big black building peeking from behind the gleaming silver ones used to say U.S. Steel and USX, but now it's UPMC--University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers. Universities and medicine are the biggest game in town, with high tech (centered also at Carnegie Mellon) adding to the diversity.

Pittsburgh has also once again been voted America's Most Liveable City, having maintained modest housing prices that didn't bubble or break as much as elsewhere, meanwhile adding to cultural and arts institutions, and continuing to make the rivers and other natural assets more accessible. I'm sure Netroots people are discovering the walkable downtown from the comfortable green convention center. The city government has had economic problems and the Great Recession has cut into some local institutions, but this is still a great city--even on the relatively gray day in June I snapped these photos.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

President Obama: The Health Care I Believe In

"We have a health care system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people...I don't believe anybody should be in charge of your health care decisions but you and your doctor. I don't think government bureaucrats should be meddling, but I also don't think insurance company bureaucrats should be meddling. That's the health care system I believe in." All quotes and photos in this and following posts on this date are from President Obama's Town Hall Meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire today. For another aspects of this and other recent town halls, go here to American Dash.

Health Is Not For Sale

"Under the reform we're proposing, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of a person's medical history. Period. (Applause.) They will not be able to drop your coverage if you get sick. (Applause.) They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it. (Applause.) Your health insurance should be there for you when it counts -- not just when you're paying premiums, but when you actually get sick. And it will be when we pass this plan. (Applause.)

Now, when we pass health insurance reform, insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick. " (Applause.)

No Death Panels

"The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for "death panels" that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that we don't -- it's too expensive to let her live anymore. (Laughter.) And there are various -- there are some variations on this theme.

It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, et cetera. So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they're ready, on their own terms. It wasn't forcing anybody to do anything. This is I guess where the rumor came from.

The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican -- then House member, now senator, named Johnny Isakson from Georgia -- who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people's options. And somehow it's gotten spun into this idea of "death panels." I am not in favor of that. So just I want to -- (applause.) I want to clear the air here."

What Healthcare Reform is About

"So this is what reform is about. For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this: If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. (Applause.) If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. And we will do this without adding to our deficit over the next decade..."

Health Care for the Future

"Our deficit will continue to grow because Medicare and Medicaid are on an unsustainable path. Medicare is slated to go into the red in about eight to 10 years. I don't know if people are aware of that. If I was a senior citizen, the thing I'd be worried about right now is Medicare starts running out of money because we haven't done anything to make sure that we're getting a good bang for our buck when it comes to health care. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against people for the simple crime of being sick. Now, that's not a future I want for my children. It's not a future that I want for the United States of America."

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“We must take comfort from the fact that human nature gives rise to altruism as well as selfishness, to conscience as well as cruelty. The hope of the race is that passions of generosity, restraint, and goodness may prove as strong as those of egoism, aggression, and cruelty.”

Eric Bentley on Bernard Shaw