Tag Archives: medicare

A MORE PERFECT UNION, By Louise Annarino,October 29,2012

29 Oct

A MORE PERFECT UNION,By Louise Annarino, October 29,2012

 

One question on two fronts: “Where are we now in the election?” and “Where are we as a move forward as a nation?” President Obama’s interview this morning on “Morning Joe” answered both questions.

 

First we are in the final days of Obama’s final race for elected office. From his first campaign when he sat around a his kitchen table with four people creating a flyer to be copied at KINKO to the current campaign where hundreds of thousands of supporters in every state sit around kitchen tables to phone bank, cut turf for door-to-door canvasses, plan events, organize volunteers, order and distribute buttons/bumper stickers/yard signs, and schedule GOTV activities the energy and momentum has grown with the size of the crowds who attend his rallies. President Obama has re-energized interest in campaigns, registered huge numbers of new voters,and turned our record numbers of voters by connecting with Americans in a way we had not seen before in our lifetimes. He has connected and energized both those who respect and love him, and those who disdain and hate him. But, most importantly, he has taught us what a republic requires of its citizens.

 

There is a bittersweet feel to these last days of the Obama campaign. It is as if we are holding our breath while running one hundred miles per hour. The final sprint may not look pretty, but all that matters now is getting over the finish line first. Those who vote early are free to help the last runners make it over the line. While some of the drama is lost, the race is thus won. We can do this! We will do this working together.

 

Second, President Obama offered his description of where we are now as a nation when he stated the next president will answer two questions: “How big a government do we want? How will we pay for it?”

 

If we want  a smarter but more affordable and smaller government, President Obama is the candidate of choice. As an example,he explained that the U.S. spends 17% of budget on health care, while other industrialized nations spend only 11% (and have better record on outcomes). That 6% is our deficit. (Obamacare has already reduced the percentage of annual increases in health insurance premiums, and when it becomes fully operational and more competitive in 2014, cost is expected to drop even lower).

 

The Obama strategy of cutting what does not work and redirecting dollars to programs which are more efficient and save even more dollars illustrates how cuts can be done in a balanced and effective manner while reducing budget expenses. He reiterated that the money he saved (not stole as Mr. Romeny claims) within medicare was then spent within medicare to increase free preventive care which reduces costs, and closed the donut hole so medicare recipients can get their meds, further reducing costs.

 

He also suggested in the interview that we could become more efficient and cost-effective by creating a Secretary of Business, a one-stop shop replacing nine current divisions which create a headache for businesses. The only thing blocking such streamlining, he suggested, is Congress protecting its jurisdiction over various pieces of government. He reminded Joe Scarborough that he has created far fewer regulations than George Bush and is conducting an on-going review of current regulations to eliminate or redesign those which simply do not work.

 

President Obama believes his mandate for the next four years is to reduce the deficit. He also understands this cannot be done in an unbalanced manner which fails to consider how to make government more effective while maintaining necessary services. His focus is to “make things work” better and at reduced cost. When asked why he thinks he could get Congress to work with him when he has been blocked (by Republicans) the last four years he said he must “first clear away ideology by reducing the deficit”. Once that is accomplished he expects Congress to work on issues that have historically not been ideological: infrastructure – we have a lot of deferred maintenance of roads and bridges, immigration – both because neither party can ignore the fastest growing demographic AND because it is the “right thing to do.” He then asked Joe, “When did roads and bridges become ideological?”

 

The President has learned a lot over the past four years. despite obstruction, he has made government smaller, more efficient, work smarter and reduced costs. Every year things cost more. It is the rate of increase we must look at. The rate of increase has been subdued by President Obama. Employment has grown every year; job less rates have slowed. I cannot think of another time in history when an American president who has accomplished so much against such odds would not be re-elected by large margins. But, we have never had an African-American president before, either.

 

An article in yesterday’s “Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch” discussed a study which disclosed racism has increased during the Obama administration. I would reframe the findings differently. White Americans are recovering racists who must fight their way through racial stereotypes, acceptance of preference as a natural right, and subliminal need to feel superior to someone, indeed anyone, in our self-proclaimed “classless society”. Most of us do keep up the good fight against our inherent racism and prejudice. We know it is wrong, have learned to acknowledge that fact, and rejoice that we,too, have “overcome” it. But, it raises its ugly head most when we experience “congruence”.

 

Congruence is the coming together of two “things”.It is a powerful force. When white people see Black people as congruent it stirs up the deep need to feel superior. We justify that feeling by resorting to old stereotypes and acclaimed prejudices. It seems to me we are not increasingly racist; but, increasingly afraid of a loss of preference. When we see that an African-American man and woman can be president and first-lady, our preference as superior beings to an imagined inferior is lost. That is why we are seeing more racism. That is what we must fight; not one another, and certainly not Pressident Obama nor First-Lady Michelle Obama.

 

This is what we see within the Obama campaign. People of all races, ethnicities, ages,sexual orientation forcefully unconcerned about who may be superior or inferior but simply working together as equals. That is the where we are in this campaign. That is where we are in America today. That is how we are moving forward. President Obama has already made America a more perfect union (established more congruence). That is why we see more open displays of racism today; not because we are failing as a nation, but because we are succeeding. Imagine the power of congruence if republicans would see democrats,and our president, as equals instead of inferiors and worked together moving forward. That is what a second Obama term could look like. Thank you President Obama! We will move forward with you.

 

 

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DEFICIT LIVES,By Louise Annarino, October 14, 2012

14 Oct

DEFICIT LIVES, By Louise Annarino, October 14, 2012

The effort to make Americans fear deficit-spending could be better used discussing what we should do to stop deficit-living. Core areas of our cities, small towns and rural areas are struggling to survive. Poverty has dug a hole, a social and personal deficit, in which large groups of our populace reside. The stimulus has stopped the slide into the hole for most, offered a hand up and out for many, but too many see no way out.

How did we get here, with holes so deeply torn in our social fabric that the middle class has fallen through those holes along with the impoverished? When we did we stop building and strengthening America so all of us could keep the American Dream alive? Instead we allowed charlatans in the think-tanks, lobbyist firms, and the media to paper over the holes, and keep us entertained so we would not notice that the pretty prints they used were mere paper. It started out slowly, but with fall after fall widening the holes entire sections of the fabric split wide open, until the entire fabric was in danger of slipping out of our hands. President Obama took a firm grip, and sewed stimulus patches made of strong material over the holes, all the while warning us that the cloth was worn and need to be replaced; that the holes had so weakened the fabric that major change was needed,and that the fabric could otherwise tear again. But those who met secretly during his inauguration to plot his own down-fall through those holes, pledged to keep them open.

Republicans blocked President Obama’s efforts to select and install a new fabric to support our lives. Many confuse this fabric with the ‘safety net’ strung below it; but, it is not just the safety net which is in danger from Republican policies and the Romney-Ryan Budget, it is the entire fabric strung above the net. Yes, the safety net is struggling; but, not because it was not well-designed, nor well-built, but because it is overloaded by those who fell through holes in our social fabric. It was never intended to hold so many of us. The one way we can relieve stress on our safety net is to replace the social fabric and pull as many Americans off the safety net and back up into the middle class as we possibly can. This is what President Obama intends to do, what he has been doing, and what he will continue to do if re-elected. We must cast our vote to re-elect him president, and cast our vote to elect Democrats to the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and to state offices who support his vision and will work with him to get the job done. What we do not need are those who insist we cannot replace nor repair the whole cloth; but, must simply remove people from the safety net through privatization of medicare, social security etc.

The National Poverty Center reports that the poverty rate was  22.4 percent, or 39.5 individuals during the 1950’s. “These numbers declined steadily throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 11.1 percent, or 22.9 million individuals, in 1973. Over the next decade, the poverty rate fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.6 percent, but it began to rise steadily again in 1980. By 1983, the number of poor individuals had risen to 35.3 million individuals, or 15.2 percent.” http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/.

I still recall the photos of starving children, eyes wide with uncertainty, on the porches of Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta which stirred President Lyndon Johnson to declare a War on Poverty in the 1960s, which led to the decline of poverty. President Ronald Reagan’s stance in the 1980’s was that we had lost the War on Poverty;and, that social safety net benefits did not justify its cost. We soon saw poverty levels increase.This Reaganomics view of poverty prevails today. But a new paper from Bruce D. Meyer and James X. Sullivan says it’s missing everything. “We may not have won the war on poverty, but we are certainly winning,” they write. When they looked at poorer families’ consumption rather than income, accounted for changes in the tax code that benefit the poor, and included “noncash benefits” such as food stamps and government-provided medical care, they found poverty fell 12.5 percentage points between 1972 and 2010.” In effect, they are explaining that the safety net does work.

The problem is NOT the safety net but growing income inequality in our social fabrichttp://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-09-12/record-u-dot-s-dot-poverty-rate-holds-as-inequality-grows During the last decade the highest quintile of earners saw their real income rise 1.6% and the top 5% saw their incomes rise 4.9%, while the middle class saw their incomes decline 1.9%. The very lowest incomes, those in the safety net, saw their incomes stay the same. None of this data means the income of those in the safety net is adequate. Nevertheless, the extremely poor (those with less than 1/2 of official poverty level earnings), remained at 6.6% of the population. The middle class has not fallen that low because President Obama’s policies stopped the fall. As more people returned to work in a steady rise over the past nearly 4 years, the fabric of America grows stronger as well.

More is yet to be done, as President Obama reminds us. We cannot reduce the deficit and continue Bush tax breaks for top earners. In fact we must increase their income tax rate,including an increase on capital gains. The estate tax must not be eliminated but increased for those at the highest earning bracket, who are the only persons currently required to pay estate tax, it having been eliminated for lower income earners decades ago. And we must end the round of ceaseless war which benefits military contractors, and corrupt government officials at home and abroad. President Obama, as Vice-President Biden affirmed in his recent debate with Congressman Paul Ryan insists that American troops will be out of Afghanistan in 2014. He suggests that we instead, rebuild America’s education and transportation systems, repair and further develop American infrastructure, invest in small business development and manufacturing, research and develop green and innovative technologies, reduce and redesign our military capabilities for more cost effective security at home and abroad.

We can do all this and reduce the economic deficit. But, we must also end our willingness to overlook poverty, especially for those most greatly affected by it, our women and children.We cannot grow our economy when our children are not given the tools they need to compete and succeed. The National Poverty Center reports: “The poverty rate for all persons masks considerable variation between racial/ethnic subgroups. Poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics greatly exceed the national average. In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians.

Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 15.8 percent of households headed by single men and 6.2 percent of married-couple households lived in poverty. (See the U.S. census chart below)

“There are also differences between native-born and foreign-born residents. In 2010, 19.9 percent of foreign-born residents lived in poverty, compared to 14.4 percent of residents born in the United States. Foreign-born, non-citizens had an even higher incidence of poverty, at a rate of 26.7 percent.” http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/.

Children Under 18 Living in Poverty, 2010
Category Number (in thousands) Percent
All children under 18 16, 401 22.0
White only, non-Hispanic 5,002 12.4
Black 4,817 38.2
Hispanic 6,110 35.0
Asian 547 13.6

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010, Report P60, n. 238, Table B-2, pp. 68-73.

Those like Paul Ryan who argue we must reduce the deficit by reducing the safety net, decreasing income and benefits, weaken labor unions, reduce the size of government and lay-off government workers, privatizing government responsibilities as means to reduce government costs are “whistling Dixie” in more ways than one. Paul Ryan voted for unfunded Medicare Part D, which President Obama, unlike President Bush, has now included in his budget and improved through Obamacare by closing the donut hole. Including this expense within the Obama budget is really a disclosure of previously hidden Bush budget expenses. This is also true for the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which were passed as emergency measures, not budget items; included by President Obama in his budget and added to official budget deficit figures, but not done so by President Bush.

One must also note that Bush war-funding was historically unprecedented. To pay for World War II, Americans bought savings bonds and put extra notches in their belts. President Harry Truman raised taxes and cut nonmilitary spending to pay for the Korean conflict. During Vietnam, the US raised taxes but still watched deficits soar. President Bush did nothing to control the burgeoning deficits of war. Republicans and Democrats, unwilling to leave troops in the field without funding, settled with uncompromising Republican leadership and allowed this strategic undercounting of the deficit to go unabated and continued to vote for emergency war-funding, outside the regular budget bills. The willingness to kick the can down the road has become a hallmark of Republicans as they block every Democratic bill to increase jobs, reduce deficit, and stimulate the economy during the Obama administration. They are not ashamed , but proud of this tactic in their strategy to make  President Obama a one-term president. In the recently released video of Mitt Romney talking with his well-heeled donors in May he takes this tactic a step further,when he said the Palestinians were not interested in peace, the chances of a peace agreement was remote and the whole issue should be kicked down the field. Kicking problems down the field seems to have become an accepted Republican strategy. The Bush tax cuts added some $2.8 trillion to the national debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Congressman Paul Ryan voted for those cuts. To his credit, Ryan also backed the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout, most of which has been paid back, and the auto bailout.http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/is-paul-ryan-really-a-fiscal-hawk/261170/. I mention this because it is disingenuous and hypocritical to blame the deficit on President Obama and democrats in Congress.

I first noticed this Republican disregard for current reality and for balanced budgets during 6 months of debate over Medicare reform in early 2003. I had falsely believed that Republicans were fiscally more conservative than Democrats. Clearly,I was wrong. Reagan, I was aware, had little to no regard for fiscal responsibility, but he had once been a Democrat after all !

Like many others, I saw the need for prescription coverage for seniors and hoped new legislation would allow the government to negotiate for lower costs and formulary control similar to V.A. cost-control efforts. Big Pharma lobbyists blocked, and continue to block such an effort. The bill came to a vote at 3 a.m., just minutes before it was scheduled to close, the clock was stopped for 3 hours with the bill losing, 219-215 while Republicans on the floor, and including President Bush by phone, strong-armed congressman to change their vote. “Then-Representative Nick Smith (R-MI) claimed he was offered campaign funds for his son, who was running to replace him, in return for a change in his vote from ‘nay’ to ‘yea.’ After controversy ensued, Smith clarified no explicit offer of campaign funds was made, but that he was offered ‘substantial and aggressive campaign support’ which he had assumed included financial support.” http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/is-paul-ryan-really-a-fiscal-hawk/261170/.

At about 5:50 a.m. the bill passed the House 220-215. The bill itself was finally passed in the Senate 54-44 on November 25, 2003, and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 8. Now, Romney and Ryan threaten to eliminate Obamacare and its improvements of medicare, including Part D; plan to privatize medicare and social security. If these programs are more costly than they need be it is because of Republican refusal to rein in excess costs businesses extract from the program.

Medicare Part D did provide prescription coverage but did not reduce costs as much as it could have because of what it failed to include: it prohibits the Federal government from negotiating discounts with drug companies, and it prevents the government from establishing a formulary. It did, however, provide a subsidy for large employers to discourage them from eliminating private prescription coverage to retired workers (a key AARP goal). Obamacare now provides subsidies to small businesses which makes their overall provision of health care insurance affordable. Efforts to include negotiating costs for drugs under Obamacare was blocked by Republicans.

Clearly, it is not Obama’s efforts to reduce medical and insurance costs which makes these medial social fabric programs a drain on government coffers, but the effort of Republicans to protect and expand financial gain of private service providers. President Obama and Congressional Democrats do not seek unfair advantage over private providers; but seek to stop unfair advantage, fraud and abuse by such providers. Obamacare is already predicted to save medicare $716 billion in such provider and insurance company abuses. That money is being channeled to provide more preventive, cost-free health care services for medicare users. This is how we create a stronger social fabric for the middle class. Improving and increasing medicaid coverage is another part of strengthening American fabric.

During an economic downturn, individuals lose jobs, incomes drop, state revenues decline, and more individuals qualify and enroll in Medicaid which increases program spending. However,data indicate that declines in state revenues were a much more significant factor for state budget gaps than increases in Medicaid spending. “Total state revenues dropped by 30% in FY 2009 compared to total Medicaid spending increases of about 7.6% in that year,” http://www.kff.org/medicaid/upload/7580-08.pdf.

Today, 50 states plan or are implementing a new policy to control medicaid costs in multiple areas. State revenues have shown positive growth fro the last 7 quarters, as the unemployment rate continues to drop (now 7.8%) and the GNP continues to improve. States must continue to make delivery of service changes designed to improve care and control costs, thanks to Obamacare. Its “maintenance of eligibility” requirements generally prohibit states from restricting Medicaid eligibility or tightening enrollment procedures. Obama’s focus on wise and educated restructuring of programs for maximum efficiency and best practices in care delivery are another part of strengthening the American fabric.

But, and this is important, these improvements take time. They must however occur if the American Dream is to survive. While government works to  balance budgets, streamline and improve services, reduces fraud and waste it must never forget the impact of income inequality on those African-American, Latino and immigrant single-mothers. we must help them raise their children out of the safety net and up onto the social fabric of the middle-class. We must provide preventive health care, women’s reproductive health care, and children’s health care to everyone in America. We must be certain every child is well-fed, provided with stimulating day-care and pre-schools to ready them for a top-notch education. They need warm clothes for winter, safe after school and summer programs, neighborhoods free of crime and violence. We must not only show them a way out of poverty, but strengthen and empower them to follow the path. I am reminded of the United Negro College Fund motto “ A Mind Is a Terrible Thing  to Waste.” Our American middle-class motto must be “ A Child is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”  President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden would weave this motto into the fabric of America. They will not kick American children down the road, until the deficit is paid off. They will not continue and increase income inequality with tax relief to those who don’t need it. They will reduce the economic deficit AND the human deficit, by reducing income inequality.  That is how we strengthen the American fabric for all of us.

OBAMA IS EASY TO FOLLOW:,By Louise Annarino, October 9,2012

9 Oct

OBAMA IS EASY TO FOLLOW, By Louise Annarino, October 9, 2012

 

Let’s talk about the safety nets Romney-Ryan (even Bill O’Reilly – http://voice4america.com/articles/2012/10/08/the-rumble-2012-bill-oreilly-vs-jon-stewart.html ) would shred. As a newly licensed attorney working at The Columbus Legal Aid Society during the Carter and Reagan Administrations, I represented those who had been wrongfully denied safety net benefits such as food stamps, Aid to Families With Dependent Children or AFDC, and General Relief. I understood the value of these programs. Having been terminated from my earlier job as a social worker at Marysville for  Women Maximum Security Prison and wrongfully denied Unemployment Benefits I relied on general relief and food stamps (I could eat), a compassionate landlady willing to defer rent (I did not become homeless) until my appeal had been heard, and a bank manager willing to refinance and defer my car payments ( I could continue my job search) for 3 months.

 

My former employer justified my termination and attempted to block my unemployment benefits because of the Black Studies programs I had implemented, and the trusting willingness of inmates to use me as an intermediary during their prison take-over. After a 3 month wait for a decision on my appeal regarding unemployment benefits, the appeal board found no wrongdoing on my part and granted full benefits. Until then, I had to rely on the social safety-net many of my fellow citizens rely on today.

 

Each month I stood on line with hundreds of other food stamp recipients to prove my income source, cost of rent/utilities/medical expenditures etc. The longer I was on public assistance the less money I received since I became poorer, and could pay fewer bills. I was no longer able to afford a doctor visit or fill my prescriptions for IBS, and had my phone disconnected. Consequently, I had fewer receipts to prove expenses. The amount of food stamps declined, but I still received $111 per month in General Relief benefits(this amount has barely risen in 30 years). These programs have been altered in scope, purpose. TANF (block grant program to help move recipients into work and turn welfare into a program of temporary assistance) program description by Franklin County Jobs and Family Services actually contains a statement “this is not an entitlement.”  As if the working poor feel entitled to ANYTHING.

 

I was very appreciative of the safety net. And,I was lucky. I was soon back on my feet with a job managing a Walden Book Store, while I continued looking for a job in my professional field, Student Personnel Work in Higher Education. Others who had been standing in line with me every month were not so lucky. They had children so could not afford to take a job paying less than their AFDC  and lose medicaid coverage for their kids.

 

Who were these persons? Women and children, the mentally and physically disabled, the elderly, those between jobs and ineligible for unemployment benefits or appealing benefit denials. They became my clients when I joined Legal Aid. It was difficult enough to help them when Carter was president; whenReagan was elected it nearly became impossible.Reagan defined those using the safety nets “Welfare Queens”. If such a majestic  figure lived among my clients I never saw hid nor hair of her. I saw poverty which made me weep:

-a 48 year old man who looked 90 after working in the mines since he was 16 years old, fighting for Black Lung Benefits. His one room shack on Columbus’ south side lacked insulation and drywall; winter wind pushed through every crack, robbing the makeshift coal-fired iron stove he used for cooking and heating of any warmth. He slept on an uncovered box spring, without a mattress, sheets or a pillow. His only furniture, a small square table and a single hard chair, greyed with use. He insisted I sit on the chair while he stood during our interview, and I drank the coffee he brewed just for me from his single tin cup. By the end of that day, my colleagues and I had brought in a spare mattress, sheets,blankets, a pillow, plates and cups. When I won the appeal for food stamps and  Black Lung benefits he brought a gift he had made for me to my office, a blue teddy bear stuffed with dried grass. He was a noble man, not a welfare queen.

 

-a 97 year old woman whose earliest memory was of her legs dangling as she sat at the back edge of the wagon carrying her family west to Nebraska Territory. When I won her food stamps appeal, she invited me to share the first baked potato she had been able to buy in years. She was overjoyed at her stocked pantry and asked me to celebrate with her. She was a noble woman, not a welfare queen.

 

-a 76 year old recent widow facing eviction after the bank foreclosed on her home by summary judgement. Her husband had handled all finances. They lived on their social security,reduced by his death. When a bank sent her a credit card in the mail,she misunderstood and thought it was somehow related to her husband’s insurance pay-out. She used it to but gifts for her grandchildren, which she had never before been able to afford doing; and gifts for the nursing staff and others who had helped he through her husband’s illness. Within the first month she had used the entire limit stated and stopped using the card. Then the bills came. Then the demand letters, Then the foreclosure notice. Then the lawsuit. Then the eviction notice. She told no one, ashamed of her naivety and ignorance of financial matters. A  visiting neighbor caught her crying one day and called me. I filed an appeal and the bank settled  the appeal by agreeing they would not act upon their lien on her un-mortgaged property until her death. She could remain in her home until she died. She was a noble woman, not a welfare queen.

 

Then, President Reagan ordered the Social Security Administration to remove every disability recipient from the roles and require them to reapply and prove they were still entitled to benefits. He was certain that welfare fraud, and especially disability fraud, were rampant even though studies showed that the welfare fraud rate was a mere 1/4 of 1%. The Savings and Loan fraud was much more of a problem and caused huge economic losses across the country. Today, as then,Wall Street’s and the banking and mortgage systems’ fraud rate is much higher than any problems caused by safety net recipients; and, with much more severe consequences to the entire world, as we recently discovered. Deregulation of these industries opened up highways for fraud among the investors and their banks, investment houses, and mortgage companies. The impact of President Reagan’s off-the-roles disability order?

-a 37 year old blind from complications of untreated diabetes with severe heart abnormalities was removed from disability, became homeless, lost food stamps because he had no permanent address, lost medicare coverage, could not buy insulin or needles, and died from diabetic coma and heart attack. My appeals for food stamps, temporary emergency housing, and restoration of disability benefits were granted in his favor 2 weeks after his death.

 

When I listen to Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Riley state how compassionate they are, how those who DESERVE help should get it but through private enterprise not with your hard-earned tax dollars, how BIG GOVERNMENT is creating and increasing the deficit; BUT, THEY WILL NOT RAISE TAXES on the top 2% whose rate are the lowest in 30 years, how they will budget MORE money to buy military equipment but not vote to make the veteran’s safety net stronger and call it strengthening the military I want to join Jon Stewart and say  these people live on “BULL SHIT MOUNTAIN”  where welfare queens threaten their very existence. Human beings of great dignity are using the safety nets, and they deserve government support to put food in their mouths and a roof over their heads as much as those living on  Bullshit Mountain deserve tax breaks and government support to accumulate and build their wealth.

 

President Obama, those who live on “bullshit Mountain” say, stole $716 from medicare to pay for Obamacare. What they don’t say is Obama did not cut  $716 billion from medicare but saved it through reduced provider reimbursements and by curbing waste, fraud and abuse. Both Romney and Ryan agree their administration will allocate the exact same amount, $716 million from “medicare cuts” to reduce the deficit, as was done in the Republicans’ FY 2013 budget, which Ryan authored. While Romney-Ryan bemoan Big Government fraud, President Obama has been busy eliminating it.

 

How did President Obama budget that savings? He used it to pay for Obamacare. He closed the ”donut hole” created by Republican’s unfunded Medicare Part D. Medicare now provides, free or without co-pay for preventive care and tests for:

-annual wellness visit

-tobacco use cessation counseling

-screenings for bone mass measurement,cervical cancer, pap smear and cervical exam,cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings, colorectal screenings, diabetes, HIV, prostrate cancer

-mammograms

-flu shot,pneumonia shot,and hepatitis B shot

-medical nutrition therapy to manage diabetes or kidney disease

Full details can be reviewed at http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/65-older/medicare-preventive-services/index.html

 

President Obama is not stealing from medicare since the funds remain within the budget to increase,improve,streamline and lower cost of services to the government and for recipients. It is Romney-Ryan budget which does steal this amount from medicare to pay down the deficit, so they can justify not fairly increasing taxes on the top 2%. They insist only by cutting the safety net can they reduce the deficit. President

Obama has shown us a better way! Yet, Republicans, led by Ryan-Boehner-Mitchell et al continue a disinformation campaign of massive proportions and block every effort by President Obama to improve our economy, create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure,reduce the deficit, and keep a new and improved safety-net in place. What is truly amazing is how well our president is doing despite these obstructionists.

As my friend Carol Mason wrote me this morning: “Have you read Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s book ‘No Ordinary Time’“? It is the story of FDR’s presidencies during those “unordinary times.” President Obama is, I learned, a student of FDR’s terms of office. And this “unordinary” time Obama inherited may be why he sought insight from FDR’s years and experience.

 

“…the notion that an intelligent, ethically minded leader of goodwill, planning strategically, moving within a BIG picture, hoping to solve BIG problems, would not be easy to “follow.” It’s a complicated, interconnected mess of circumstances one must navigate, to lead a country the size and scope of America. Goodwin revealed a level and almost unfathomable scope of information FDR worked with that virtually no other human being had the collective knowledge of. And it was from this unique perspective that he master-minded a strategy and led the tactical charge for pulling America out of the Depression and on the winning side of the Second World War.

 

“I trust in President Obama’s intelligence, his integrity and his desire to make change for the good. And I have seen over time, how his modest behavior, though not flashy enough for some, has–behind the scenes–gotten a lot of things done.” Carol and I agree that Obama is easy to  follow after all!

REMEMBER ROMNEYHOOD,By Louise Annarino,August 7,2012

8 Aug

REMEMBER ROMNEYHOOD, By Louise Annarino,August 7,2012

 

Ronald Reagan took office as 40th. president of the United States in January 1981. By the close of his term in 1989 he had slashed domestic spending, reduced aid to cities by 60%, slashed public service jobs and job training, reduced funds for pubic transit benefiting cities while retaining highway funds benefiting suburbs,halved the budget for public housing and Section 8 and sought to eliminate housing assistance to the poor causing a steep increase in homelessness,widened the gap between rich and poor,(wages for average worker declined and home ownership rate fell),deregulated the Savings and Loan industry (leading to corruption,mismanagement and collapse of S&L’s requiring $100 billion government bailout) and attempted to dismantle legal services for the poor. (see more at http://www.nhi.org/online/issues/135/reagan.html )Reagan told us as Romney,Kasich,Mandel and Ryan now tell us that big tax cuts would pay for themselves by generating higher tax revenues through greater economic growth. President George W. Bush tried Reagan’s strategy and failed, just as Reagan did. Why would we expect Romney to achieve a different result using the same strategy?

 

I was a supervising attorney of the Senior Citizen Unit for The Legal Aid Society of Columbus during this time. I handled a caseload of 200 open cases, 350 altogether; and supervised another attorney with an equally large caseload, two paralegals, and a secretary. Our goal was to assist clients over 55 whose income fell well below the poverty line set in the 1950’s. Our cases involved consumer fraud, public benefits,medicare and medicaid,food stamps,hospital and medical bills, wills and powers of attorney/guardianships, housing, banking, land-lord tenant issues, mental health and a multitude of other legal issues. One cut made by President Reagan resulted in the deaths of three of my clients, and extreme suffering for hundreds of others.

 

President Reagan talked code to bigots,racists and economically advantaged white Americans in an attempt to stigmatize the poor, gut anti-poverty programs,and justify his tax cuts. “During his stump speeches while dutifully promising to roll back welfare, Reagan often told the story of a so-called “welfare queen” in Chicago who drove a Cadillac and had ripped off $150,000 from the government using 80 aliases, 30 addresses, a dozen social security cards and four fictional dead husbands. Journalists searched for this “welfare cheat” in the hopes of interviewing her and discovered that she didn’t exist.”(see more at http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2004-06-20/the-real-economic-legacy-of-ronald-reagan ). Reagan would have loved the interenet and used it along with political ads just as Mitt Romney does today – promising to roll back or privatize government benefits, requiring drug tests of welfare recipients, describing members of NAACP  as people who want free stuff from the government, falsely accusing President Obama of simply mailing out welfare checks to people unwilling to work. Working with Republican and Democratic governors HHS recently issued a memorandum allowing states to apply for waivers for TANF work requirement so long as the more flexible state project “demonstrates attainment of superior employment outcomes in lieu of participation rate requirements.” This is typical Obama pragmatism. If the state can demonstrate a different plan moves more people from welfare to work, HHS will be flexible and grant a waiver. Romney’s assertion is a complete distortion meant to appeal to voters who believe in welfare queens, or as Romney might state “big bucks” unwilling to work, a clear racial-code slur.(see more at http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/07/13165243-dubious-claim-behind-romney-welfare-attack?lite).

 

I dread where Romney’s distortions to justify tax cuts might lead us; and, how many Americans will suffer and even die as a result of old,failed policies. President Reagan ordered the Social Security Administration to remove all current disability recipients from active rolls, and require each one to reapply for benefits. He was certain that too many were fraudulently claiming to be disabled. He saw a welfare queen behind every bush. The actual fraud rate for welfare benefits at the time was 1/4 of 1%. Yet, American voters were told the rate was so high, every recipient was a suspect. So suspect that every SSD and SSI recipient was terminated. Those terminated lost a monthly income and medicare or medicaid coverage, and food stamps. They had no where to live, nothing to eat, could not see a doctor or go to the hospital, ran out of life-saving medications. Disability recipients are the most fragile among us.

 

My staff immediately filed new applications, and appeals of termination, for each client in our open and closed files. We posted flyers at community centers, senior centers and elsewhere offering our services. Many fell through the cracks. We also filed appeals for termination of low-income housing, evictions, food stamps and medicare or medicaid. We negotiated with landlords, doctors, pharmacies and hospitals begging patience until our cases could be heard. Most of our clients tried to hang on so long as they could. Others were too proud and disappeared into the streets. Others became so depressed they committed suicide. Three of my clients died simply because they lacked medication,food,medical care, and housing. I recall one phone call from a case manager at The Franklin County Welfare Department happily informing that finally (after 5 months) he was restoring my client’s food stamps. He thought I would be grateful and happy but I was crying. He asked why, “ Mr. X died yesterday from complications from diabetes and malnutrition. You are too late.”  Every single appeal I filed was granted. Reagan was dead wrong;too wrong, and too many dead as a result.

 

At the same time, Reagan announced he was eliminating Legal Services Corp. which funded legal aid societies like mine nationwide. He was frustrated that government was paying lawyers to appeal denial of  government benefits. My annual salary at the time was $12,600. Average salaries for lawyers in the private sector was $65,000. Congress reauthorized Legal Services but Reagan vetoed the funding bill. Staff agreed to work without pay, give up management positions and not replace those who gave up and left the agency until funding could be restored. I found a live-in position at a rooming house with no pay but free rent, installed soda machines in basement to pay for my bus transportation to work, and took an evening and week-end job as a toy store clerk to pay school loans and buy food while handling an ever-increasing caseload and grieving for my clients who were being so unjustly maligned and hatefully treated so that taxes could be cut and military spending increased by President Reagan. Now, Mitt Romney, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Senate candidate Josh Mandel wants a repeat performance. They pit voters against President Obama and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown,using the same disingenuous statistics and history.

 

Remember the Alamo! Remember Pearl Harbor! Remember 9/11! I ask you to remember Reaganomics, Trickle Down Economics, Bush Tax Cuts, and now Romneyhood. We cannot allow politicians to prey on false fears when we have something real to fear. We must never forget that code messages stoking race-baiting, homophobia, and misogyny with lies and distortions will lead to death and disaster. I wish I could have saved those clients.

ObamaCare: Not a tree, But a Forest

30 Mar


ObamaCare; Not a Tree, But a Forest.
Louise Annarino
March 30, 2012

“The Best Time To Plant A Tree Was Always 20 Years Ago. The Second Best Time Is Always Today.” ~ Old Chinese Saying  

While every other industrialized nation has already assured universal health care for its citizens, the United States has not. Other presidents tried unsuccessfully to enact universal health care. It took President Obama’s pragmatic efforts to get the country this far. We still have far to go. It does not make economic sense to continue hi-tech health delivery system underpinned by a profit motive. A single payer system, removing the profit motive, is more efficient and cost-effective.

Dr. Atul Gawande’s insights caution us to not focus on cost over care. http://www.npr.org/2011/01/19/132931975/lowering-medical-costs-by-providing-better-care . His influence was written into ObamaCare, which offers free preventive care, researches and pays for quality outcome rather than billable minutes. ObamaCare is controlling costs by controlling quality, while extending coverage. An amazing accomplishment.

If allowed to become fully implemented ObamaCare will continue to shift what Evan Falchuk calls our misguided focus. “The misguided focus on saving money over good medicine means we get neither.  The surest way to save money is to make sure that patients get enough time with their doctors, who need to be able to use their training and judgment to help their patients make the right decisions.  It’s a global problem, but America suffers from the most exaggerated version of it.” Warning: Graphic Politics By Evan Falchuk, http://www.seefirstblog.com/2009/12/25/warning-graphic-politics/

Spending more money does not guarantee a better outcome. As of 2009, the “US still shows a dramatic divergence from the other countries, spending more than twice as much for a slightly below average life expectancy.” Graphing The Cost of Health Care by Jon Peltier,December 30th, 2009 Peltier Technical Services, Inc., Copyright © 2012. See chart at:Graphing The Cost of Health Care | Peltier Tech Blog | Excel Charts http://peltiertech.com/WordPress/graphing-the-cost-of-health-care/#ixzz1qceLwkVw. ObamaCare includes on-going reviews to determine what does/does not improve treatment outcomes; assessing quality while reducing costs.

In 2010 an analysis by Drs. Orszag and Emanuel in The New England Journal of Medicine summed up the multifaceted approach which makes ObamCare so promising and so confusing.”The ACA not only will extend health care coverage to millions of Americans but also will enact many policies specifically aimed at reducing the amount we are spending on health care and, by changing the delivery system, reducing the rate of growth in health care costs over time. Indeed, one of the essential aspects of the legislation is that unlike previous efforts, it does not rely on just one policy for effective cost control. Instead, it puts into place virtually every cost-control reform proposed by physicians, economists, and health policy experts and includes the means for these reforms to be assessed quickly and scaled up if they’re successful. By enacting a broad portfolio of changes, the ACA provides the best assurance that effective change will occur. Moreover, by taking a multifaceted approach that includes hard savings plus the mechanisms for creating a dynamic health care system, it enables physicians, hospitals, and other providers to consistently improve outcomes, boost quality, and reduce costs as health care evolves.” http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1006571

Whatever the U.S. Supreme Court rules, I am convinced we will have universal health care soon. For reasons both humane and cost effective, we cannot afford not to do so. A single payer system, medicare for all, would best serve both purposes. The second best time to press for universal, single payer health system may be now. We should have planted this tree long ago. The U.S. Supreme Court may uproot or prune the sapling. We will continue to plant. ObamaCare is not a single tree, but a forest.