State Senator Leticia Van De Putte wrote a great piece this weekend about Rick Perry's craven and inhumane decision to block the Medicaid expansion laid out in the Affordable Care Act. Take it away, Senator!
Fed Up with Perry's Political Grandstanding about Medicaid
By Leticia Van De Putte
In 2010, Governor Rick Perry released a book titled Fed Up, outlining his complaints against the federal government. That phrase, "fed up," went through my brain again after the Governor's latest declaration in the "Obamacare" fight, when he proclaimed that Texas will not expand its Medicaid program as called for under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
I think the people of Texas might be getting fed up, too - fed up with political grandstanding and saber-rattling, just so politicians can position themselves as "Washington outsiders." And we're fed up with the damage that comes in the wake of these political moves - actions that will force millions to continue without insurance and put taxpayers on the hook for their medical bills, while throwing away billions of tax dollars that rightfully ought to come to Texas.
It's time to move beyond grandstanding and look at the facts of the ACA and what it will cost us if we continue to have the nation's highest rate of uninsured residents.
First off, it should be emphasized that the governor's pronouncement was not the final word on this matter - any possible expansion of Medicaid must first come through the Legislature. Thankfully, the governor backtracked on his original stance and said he would work with the Legislature.
Second, let's look at the effect on Texas consumers and taxpayers if this expansion doesn't take place: While some may find the notion of subsidizing other people's insurance distasteful, the truth is, if the working uninsured put off seeking medical care because of lack of coverage, they eventually seek it in the emergency room - resulting in greater medical complications and a much higher bill, paid with your local tax dollars and cost-shifted higher insurance premiums.
Indeed, the Texas Hospital Association responded to Perry's letter with a statement reading: "... without the Medicaid expansion, many will remain uninsured, seeking care in emergency rooms, shifting costs to the privately insured, and increasing uncompensated care to health care providers. With a strained state budget, it's hard to imagine addressing the uninsured problem in Texas without leveraging federal funds, which will now go to other states that choose to expand their Medicaid program."
Did you catch that last part? Not only will Texas taxpayers foot those emergency room bills here, but by giving up federal funding that would come with the expansion, we'll also send even more tax money to pay for expansion in other states.
If opponents of the ACA would compromise, we could keep our tax money in Texas - while state Health & Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs estimates the expansion would cost Texas $15.6 billion over 10 years, the federal government would overwhelmingly pay the balance: 100 percent for the first three years, and then gradually dropping to a still-substantial 90 percent, for a total of more than $100 billion. Do we really want to throw away a dollar match that is better than nine-to-one?
Suehs said that expanding Medicaid would reduce our state's uninsured population from 5.9 million down to 2.9 million. That's 3 million people that could be getting an ounce of prevention in a primary care physician's office, instead of the more expensive pound of cure at the ER.
Doing things the more expensive way, while we simultaneously send our federal tax dollars out of state, just doesn't make any sense. Let's do away with the rhetoric and deal with the reality.
Senator Leticia Van de Putte (District 26, Bexar County) is a registered pharmacist.
This past week's announcement from the Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner, Tom Suehs, that he will step down later this summer is just the latest in a trend. The state's Medicaid Director, Billy Millwee, already made such an announcement. Education Commissioner Robert Scott is leaving next month, too.
All three are generally well-respected public servants, and it seems all of them fear working with another radically Republican legislature in 2013.
Read more about what these departures mean below the jump.
This is BOR's Video of the Day, or VOTD, our nightly video clip segment that hopefully provides you with a laugh or a chance to think at the end of the day.
Friday is the two-year anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law. All week, our Video of the Day feature looks at real Americans whose lives have been made better by this landmark health insurance reform.
Today's story is about Zoe, who was born with a congenital heart defect. She needed three open-heart surgeries, the first of which happened when Zoe was only 15 hours old. Heart surgery is expensive. At only 6 months of age, Zoe was already halfway to her lifetime cap on health insurance coverage. If it weren't for the Affordable Care Act, Zoe might have hit her lifetime cap before getting the third surgery she needed to survive. Watch Zoe's story:
"I can't even fathom what's going through the minds of people who want to repeal the healthcare act. They're choosing life or death for many, many Americans."
Republicans want to repeal these provisions that prevent lifetime caps on coverage. What if this was your daughter's story? What would you do?
Check out all of our BOR videos of the day on the VOTD tag.
I received this information from an activist and friend in town. Please pass it along to everyone in your mailing list, your blog, and in any possible venue.
Reports of the last few days indicate that the attack on health care reform will continue and, in all probability, escalate in the final days of this mid-term electoral season. Why? Because polls show that attack ads work -- even if they are not completely true or, worse, false. Shame on us!
As people of faith -- trusted messengers -- it's our turn! With fewer financial resources, but with relationships that reach into the depth and breadth of our communities, it is our job to transcend partisan politics and economic self-interests, and to be the truth-tellers in support of a compassionate health care future with a system includes and works well for all of us.
We begin with the declaration that "truth is witness to the whole." We know that one short sound-bite taken out of context -- even if it's a fact -- does not necessarily represent the whole truth. We denounce the use of such sound-bites (from any party!) when they are intended to pervert truth for electoral gain. In the end, we acknowledge that a manipulation of facts to frighten and confuse vulnerable populations is just plain immoral.
We can change what's happening, but it means each of us must be willing to share the TRUTH when we hear it. We can and must make a difference because health care is, first and foremost, a people issue that should not be relegated to the caverns of political ideologies. In sharing TRUTH, we are not supporting one candidate over another. We are simply making sure that people make their choices based on truth that witnesses to the whole -- not on distorted perceptions based on mis-represented facts.
"A Daily Dose of Truth" will arrive in your email each day to help you compare what you are hearing to the real TRUTH in the Affordable Care Act. Please help spread the message to the far reaches of our country -- via viral email, Facebook, telephone calls, chats with neighbors, and discussions in your communities of faith. Help us counter what is touted as true (with a little "t") with what is actually the TRUTH!
A Daily Dose of Truth #1: Medicare in Health Care Reform
When health care reform was passed in March 2010, our nation's seniors became the beneficiaries of a strengthened, improved, and re-structured Medicare system. A number of provisions will improve Medicare services for enrollees and extend Medicare's solvency for another ten years.
Direct benefits of health care reform for Medicare beneficiaries
Prescription drugs. The prescription drug coverage gap (the "doughnut hole") will be eliminated over ten years. In 2010, the coverage gap will be reduced by $250 in the form of rebate checks that have already been sent to millions of beneficiaries who have reached the doughnut hole. In 2011, program enrollees will receive a 50% discount off the price of brand name drugs during the coverage gap. In ten years, the doughnut hole will be closed completely. Other provisions will expand assistance for some low-income beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare drug program.
Preventive care. For traditional Medicare beneficiaries, in 2011 co-pays and deductibles will be eliminated from most preventive services. An annual comprehensive wellness visit and personalized prevention plan are added, which are not subject to coinsurance or deductibles.
Medicare Advantage plans. The private-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans will be prohibited from charging beneficiaries higher cost sharing for services than is allowed in traditional Medicare. Plans that offer extra benefits will be required to give priority to wellness, preventive care services, and cost-sharing reductions over benefits not covered by traditional Medicare.
Physician incentives. Generous incentives are in the Affordable Care Act to increase the number of primary care physicians and to encourage primary care physicians to treat Medicare beneficiaries.
Low-income program. Outreach and enrollment assistance will be increased to beneficiaries eligible for the Part D low-income subsidy program.
$500 billion savings to the system
The $500 billion in cuts that are being denounced in attack ads are NOT cuts to benefits. They are cuts in waste, fraud, abuse, and government subsidies for private-for-profit insurance.
Private-for-profit Medicare Advantage. Payments to private-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans will be restructured. Excess payments will be rolled back, and performance bonuses will reward quality plans. Part of the argument to privatize Medicare is that the private market can provide the same or more benefits at a lower cost than the federal government can do it. Supporters believe that competition will keep the prices down and the quality up. However, recent research is showing that the government is actually paying $1000+ more for Medicare enrollees in private plans than those in traditional Medicare. Further, only 20% of Medicare beneficiaries are in the private plans subsidized by the government, but 100% of enrollees are paying for those subsidies!
Waste, fraud, abuse. Penalties will be enhanced on providers for waste, fraud, and abuse.
Hospital readmissions. Reimbursements to hospitals with excess preventable readmissions and hospital-acquired infections will be reduced.
Coordinated purchasing. Value-based purchasing for hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities, and home health agencies will be established.
THE TRUTH (with the "big T"): Because of the 2010 reform of U.S. health care, Medicare is strengthened; beneficiaries will receive increased benefits; and costs will be controlled by cuts in waste, fraud, abuse, and government subsidies to private insurers.
That's right, after months of Perry's ranting about the new health care reform, Texans actually find the reform different than what their governor has been telling them. Perry has fought the health care reform aggressively and kept branding it as another way the Federal Government is trying to impose its jurisdiction on the state (especially around elections time) but at least in one part of the reform, states were encouraged to run their own programs under government funding.
A recent Gallup poll shows that Texas ranks as the top state with highest number of uninsured which has reached almost 30%. Such numbers, about which I am sure our governor is aware, should be considered while making such decisions as accepting Federal Program to help uninsured Texans. This is not new for Texas, a few months ago, Perry rejected Race to the Top , another federal program that would provide more funds for the state's educational system. As the race for governor post nears, Texans should hope that Perry wouldn't make more decisions that wouldn't serve their interests just because they are federal programs (which seems to be a pattern in Perry's campaign).
In my district in Houston (TX-7-Culberson) we will:
Improve coverage for 537,000 residents with health insurance.
Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 140,000 families and 14,600 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
Improve Medicare for 80,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
Extend coverage to 75,500 uninsured residents.
Guarantee that 15,000 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
Protect 500 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
Allow 60,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents' insurance plans.
Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 5 community health centers.
Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $146
Since we Democrats, especially progressive Democrats, are, according to the far right, supposed to be a bunch of pinko commie socialist Stalinist, Marxist and Hitlerite fascists and hippie freaks who are on a mission to ram socialism down the throats of the American people, how's that score for demonstrating a little fiscal responsibility?
Comprehensive health care reform will cost the federal government $940 billion over a ten-year period, but will increase revenue and cut other costs by a greater amount, leading to a reduction of $138 billion in the federal deficit over the same period, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, a Democratic source tells HuffPost. It will cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the second ten year period.
Can't anyone here play this game? Casey Stengel's lament as coach of the New York Mets comes to mind as the Democratic leadership plays Chicken Little. Loss of a single Senate race has thrown the Democrats into a tailspin. Can they pull out?
The difference between Coach Stengel and President Obama is that Obama got to pick his own team. Yet, after a campaign built on change, he continued in power the same old team: Gates at Defense, Geithner at Treasury, Bernanke at Fed. And they're making the same old plays: big bank bailouts; weak regulations; tepid economic stimulus; troop surge in Afghanistan; persecution of gays in the military; protection for torturers. The President shrugged off his own deadline for closing the un-American prison at Guantanamo.
After leading the nation in a chant of Yes we can, Mr. Obama has spent his first year in office showing that No, they can't. Now David Axelrod is offering the excuse that change is hard. When did they figure that one out?
President Obama has managed to lose his Democratic base and independent voters at the same time, while gaining not a single friend in the opposition. When the President should have shown leadership, he stayed on the sidelines. Where are we going?
Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General Barbara Radnofsky blasts Republican AG Abbott for challenging a law that does not exist. In her New Year's Eve press release Radnofsky wrote:
The Texas Attorney General is wrong on the law of his challenge of the senate version of the health care bill. He is wasting taxpayer resources on a loser challenge.
Attorney General Abbott challenges the constitutionality of a law that does not exist, promising to use the office of the Texas Attorney General to "explore all legal options" to dismantle federal legislation. Ironically, Texas would receive subsidies and benefits of greater magnitude than most of the nation, in the $7.5 to 10 billion range.
There they go again. Not only are Republicans willing to burn precious taxpayer resources on a frivolous lawsuit that has no legal basis, but they are also hell bent on thumbing their noses at extraordinary financial subsidies and benefits for Texans. Texas, as we well know, has the highest number of uninsured. Folks don't have health care insurance because they can't afford it or they have pre-existing conditions that no insurance company will cover. The federal health care reform bill would make health insurance more affordable and it would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It would also put a stop to insurance companies that cut patients loose when their health care needs become too costly.
These benefits and consumer protections are what Abbott wants to kill. Abbott, like all Texas Republicans is more concerned about the interests of insurance companies than he is the people of Texas. It should also be noted that the Party that rails 24/7/365 against trial lawyers and frivilous lawsuits has no problem with either when Republican lawmakers are the ones doing the suing.
What is it with Republican Party? Does it utterly despise hard working and desperate Americans?
Is the GOP too stubborn, lazy or too dumb to wrap its head around a very complex bill? Or maybe reading is a very tedious and beyond boring act that takes time that could be otherwise spent playing golf or sipping martinis with health insurance lobbyists.
Hundreds of Americans die every month because they lack health care insurance. Do Republicans, including the self-serving,vindictive and tool for the health insurance companies, Joe Lieberman care?
Can obese pigs fly?
I did not think so.
Everyone is entitled to one's opinion but not to making up the facts.
Whether it is health care reform or the economic meltdown, Republicans refuse to realistically acknowledge the domestic disasters that confront us whether it has to do with thousands upon thousands of Americans who die because of lack of access to health insurance. Republicans are also unmoved by the thousands upon thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs, homes and everything they have worked so hard to achieve.
Check out how the Republican tools for health insurance lobbyists operate.
Witness a work in narcissism.
Oh, so, Republicans want to improve the bill? For whom? The insurance health care industry?
Oh, Joe, come on, be brave and come out of your Republican closet. Admit that you are a tool for the fat cat health insurance lobbyist. And so is your wife. Come on Joe, admit this is all about you and you don't give a rat's derriere about your constituents who will die sooner than they should because you care about your ego more than you do about the people who elected you.
Despite the fact that Texas boasts the highest number of uninsured residents, all Texas Republicans in the U.S. Congress voted against health care reform that would guarantee coverage for the vast majority of Texans.
All Republicans continue to spin health care industry manufactured talking point garbage about HCR.
Showing their lack of honesty and the courage to cope with much needed change in this crucial area, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, mired in the same ol' out-of-touch GOP talking point silly nonsense and everything disingenuous, actually had the nerve to co-author an editorial in the Washington Post that extolled the virtues of states taking charge of health care.
They used Texas, of all places, as a shining example of the finest state run health care industry with choices for all.
Surely Rick and Newt are kidding. Surely they know they are insulting the intelligence of every Texan who knows better.
But, Rick and Newt don't really know that they are insulting our intelligence because they are completely out of touch with any reality that resides outside of their air tight bubble.
Texas, for example, has adopted approaches to controlling health-care costs while improving choice, advancing quality of care and expanding coverage. Consider the successful 2003 tort reform. Fewer frivolous lawsuits have attracted record numbers of doctors to the state as medical malpractice insurance premiums dropped by half. Christus Health, a large Catholic nonprofit system with a significant presence in Texas, spent about $100 million on liability defense payments in 2003. Last year, Christus spent $2.3 million on such payments. Much of that savings has gone into expanding health-care services in low-income neighborhoods.
Choice? Really? I didn't get a choice to choose anything other than that which is offered to me by my employer.
As we can see, it always comes down to those evil doing trial lawyers in Texas who might actually hold a robbing cheater accountable for stealing life from patients by denying the care that they need, deserve and pay for.
You might think Washington would be curious about plans to provide more low-income Texans with insurance, reduce expensive emergency-room visits for basic care and make it easier to buy into employer-sponsored insurance. Unfortunately, Washington has failed for 18 months to give Texas permission to use Medicaid dollars for these policies.
Silly boys, many small businesses cannot offer health care insurance b/c it is far too expensive.
Perry, of course, wants to steal money from the poor who are entitled to Medicaid and give it to his buddies in small business. Do you think for a minute small businesses would use the Medicaid bucks to insure their poorer employees in these dire times when banks will not lend them the money to increase inventories or meet payrolls? I kind of don't think so. At least not under the present conditions in which health care insurance coverage is off of the affordability charts.
Knowing what we know about Rick Perry, meet his Republican soul mates who voted against health care reform. And meet the few brave and principled Democrats who stepped up to answer the cries from their constituents. The picture below is not pretty.