Monday, September 28, 2009

Health Care Numbers Dropping

Rasmussen Reports polling shows, Health Care Reform - Support for Health Care Plan Hits New Low. The most likely health reform plan at this time is the Baucus plan, yet what health care reform means is still largely unknown as numerous amendments to this bill are under review including whether a public option will be part of the bill. Many basic factors regarding cost and effectiveness have not been fully addressed, and a new CBO report states that Social Security benefits will likely be cut eventually even though supporters of the bill have stated the opposite. The Rasmussen poll and accompanying article is an interesting read as it shows how the American people are viewing health reform and its effects.
Just 41% of voters nationwide now favor the health care reform proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s down two points from a week ago and the lowest level of support yet measured.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% are opposed to the plan.

If the plan passes, 24% of voters say the quality of care will get better, and 55% say it will get worse. In August, the numbers were 23% better and 50% worse.

Fifty-four percent (54%) say passage of the plan will make the cost of health care go up while 23% say it will make costs go down. In August, 52% thought the plan would lead to higher costs, and just 17% thought it would achieve the stated goal of lowering costs.

While many credit or blame the town hall protests for building opposition to the plan, it appears they were simply a reflection of public opinion rather than a creator of it. This sense is confirmed by the fact that Obama’s approval ratings fell more in June and July before stabilizing in August.

One thing that did change during the month of August is that public perception of the protesters improved. Most voters came to believe that the purpose of the town hall meetings was for members of Congress to listen rather than speak. That’s partly because just 22% believe Congress has a good understanding of the legislation.

While some Democrats have charged that opposition to the president’s plan is based upon racism, just 12% of voters agree.

Voters overwhelmingly believe that every American should be able to buy the same health insurance plan that Congress has. Most favor limits on jury awards for medical malpractice claims and think that tort reform will significantly reduce the cost of health care. Forty-eight percent (48%) want a prohibition on abortion in any government subsidized program while 13% want a mandate requiring abortion coverage.

Support For Obama Health Care Reform Continues to Drop
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Washington's Health Care Push

According to the New York Times, the White House is implementing a big health care push, and wil be pulling out all the stops to get its reform agenda passed...

Taking Health Care Courtship Up Another Notch
After months of cutting deals and stroking drug makers, hospitals and doctors, the president’s aides are laying the groundwork for a final round of Congressional arm-twisting, with Mr. Obama increasingly in a hands-on role.

As the Finance Committee wrestles with the bill, which could form the backbone of an eventual Obama plan, the lobbying effort is already bearing fruit. One Democrat who consults frequently with the White House said that a main goal of the administration has been to prevent any Democrat from publicly declaring opposition to the measure. So far, the only one who has, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, has scaled back his criticism after a private Oval Office session with the president.

Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, runs the campaign out of his West Wing office. A former congressman, he knows how to count votes. (It was Mr. Emanuel, for instance, who suggested Mr. Orszag reach out to Ms. Collins.) Aides say he does not host a regular health care meeting, but rather summons his team several times a day, typically with e-mail messages ordering colleagues to drop everything and show up right that minute.

Mr. Emanuel oversees two working groups: a policy group, run by Nancy-Ann DeParle, the head of the White House Office of Health Reform, and a political group, run by Jim Messina, the deputy chief of staff. They are deeply engaged in what Chris Jennings, who advised President Bill Clinton on health policy, calls “intelligence seeking” — trying to learn who has problems with the legislation, what those problems are and what it will take to win each member’s vote.

“We are at the concern-addressing stage,” said Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s deputy communications director, adding, “This is a political and policy challenge of epic proportions, and it takes a lot of effort and attention to achieve it.”

Everyone who has relationships on Capitol Hill is expected to pitch in. Mr. Messina, a former chief of staff to Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the Finance Committee chairman, is the link to the finance panel. Phil Schiliro, the head of legislative affairs, spent years working for Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is an architect of the House bill. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who served for 36 years in the Senate, has been making calls to former colleagues, especially those on the Finance Committee.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, and Gary Locke, the commerce secretary, have also been working the phones. Their notes are passed on to Mr. Schiliro’s shop, which catalogs them for future use. The cabinet secretaries have also been doing interviews with select regional news outlets to shore up wavering Democrats in districts where Republicans are attacking Mr. Obama’s plans.

And the president has been holding more private meetings, aides say, with Democrats like Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, who said she received an invitation to the Oval Office on a recent Friday, when she had hoped to spend the morning at home. She said she told the president the legislation would have to do more to rein in Medicare spending. “He was, like, ‘I’m all for this,’ ” Ms. Cantwell said.

“He is leaving no stone unturned,” said Senator Mary L. Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat and Finance Committee member, who received an unsolicited call from Ms. Sebelius last week. She said they spent 20 minutes going over what she perceived as flaws in the bill.

The White House is carefully monitoring what senators say. When Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, said on a Sunday morning talk show that health legislation should be delayed until the economy improves, his chief of staff got a telephone call from a worried-sounding Louisa Terrell, the White House legislative liaison assigned to monitor his office.

“She said, ‘Does he want to speak to Sebelius, does he want Peter Orszag?’ ” the senator said. He said it was not necessary. But last Friday, while Mr. Lieberman was at home preparing for Rosh Hashana, Mr. Locke, the commerce secretary, called. “He wanted to lobby me on health care,” Mr. Lieberman said.

At least one White House official, Ms. DeParle, has gone so far as to make a house call. When Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, expressed misgivings about how expanding Medicaid would affect California’s budget, Ms. DeParle gathered some charts and dropped in on a Saturday. They spent nearly three hours talking over coffee in Ms. Feinstein’s den.

White House Planning Full Court Press On Health Care

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another Vote Against Transparency

For the second time this year the Democrats have voted against transparency and by voting against posting a bill online 72 hours before it the vote. Transparency was a huge theme in the last election, this administration claimed it would be the most transparent in history, and while this vote is not President Obama fault, it shows that the Democrats, as a whole, are not living up to the promises of last election. Posting bills online prior to a vote was specifically mentioned during the 2008 race, and now that it is no longer politically convenient, transparency has been thrown overboard.

Democrats’ Second Vote Against Transparency

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dems Put Gag Order On Humana and Other Insurance Companies

After numerous complaints about the Democrats rushing through health care legislation without adequate debate or explanation, a new complaint arises about Senator Baucus using his position to restrain companies (Humana in particular) from providing customers with information about the Senate Health Care Bill.

From the Wall Street Journal - Baucus Bludgeons Humana
Earlier this month, Humana sent a one-page letter to its customers enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans, which offer private options to Medicare beneficiaries. Humana noted that, because of spending cuts proposed by Democrats, "millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable." The Kentucky-based company also urged its customers to contact their Representatives. Pretty tame stuff, as these things go.

Mr. Baucus took it as a declaration of war. He complained to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal health-care agency, which on Friday duly ordered Humana to cease and desist. CMS claimed the mailer was "misleading and confusing" and told the company it has opened an official probe as to whether the mailer violated laws about how the insurers that manage Advantage plans are allowed to communicate with their customers, as well as other federal statutes.

"Please be advised that we take this matter very seriously and, based upon the findings our investigation, will pursue compliance and enforcement actions," CMS concluded, ominously. Humana could be fined or booted from Medicare Advantage altogether.

"It is wholly inappropriate for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject—particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health-care reform," Mr. Baucus said in a statement yesterday, playing the role of Congressional censor. "The health-care reform bill we released last week strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits covered under the Medicare program—and seniors need to know that."

In fact, the Baucus draft legislation slashes $123 billion over the next decade from Medicare Advantage, which Democrats hate despite the fact that almost one-fourth of beneficiaries have chosen it over traditional fee-for-service Medicare. One reason seniors like it is because private insurers focus on quality and preventive care and try to manage benefits, as opposed to simply paying bills.

This did not go unnoticed by Senator Mitch McConnell who was uncharacteristically angry over the this impingement on Humana...

From ABC Blog "Shut Up! The Government Says" - McConnell on Humana Letter
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does not normally get riled up, but he just gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor about the gag order, Humana, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who initiated the HHS investigation. McConnell referred to Baucus only as “a colleague.”

“Using the full weight of the federal government’s enforcement powers to stifle free speech should trouble all Americans — and all of us — even more,” McConnell said. “We cannot allow government officials to target individuals or companies because they do not like what they have to say.”

“Shut up! the government says,” said McConnell on the Senate floor of the CMS letter to Humana. “Don’t communicate with your customers. Be quiet and get in line,” he said facetiously.

There are two points to remember here. Humana is based in Kentucky, so McConnell is quick to protect them. And second, he is a staunch defender of the first amendment. For instance, McConnell is the often the only Republican to vote against a flag burning amendment when it periodically arises.

Dems Heavy Handed on Heath Care

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Health Care Reform Being Rushed - Again

Health Care legislation is still on a fast-forward track, at least in the House. This creates a dilemma for Democrats as two very different bills are underway in the House and Senate. Neither have any support from Republicans, and the measures such as the public option and surtax that are likely to be included in the House bill probably will not be accepted in the Senate. The Democrats have full control of the both chambers of Congress, yet are deeply divided on core elements of health care reform creating an odd circumstance where there is a big rush on a bill that has yet to find any consensus.

From the Hill Pelosi wants House to pass healthcare bill ‘within weeks’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to make final decisions this week on the healthcare reform bill that will hit the House floor, but some centrists in the lower chamber want her to hold off until the Senate Finance Committee acts.

Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) push to decide issues like how to pay for the bill and the shape of the “public option” means that this week will be crucial for healthcare in both chambers.

It also makes it more likely that the House bill will include an income surtax on the wealthy and a public option more to the liking of liberals in her caucus.

“That’s where the caucus is,” said a Democratic leadership aide.

During an event in Philadelphia on Monday, Pelosi said the House will pass a healthcare reform bill “within weeks.”

The Speaker last week publicly reaffirmed her support for the surtax and the public option. In a leadership meeting last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) spoke up strongly in favor of the surtax, though he and Pelosi have disagreed on its parameters.

Pelosi Still Rushing Health Care Bill

Monday, September 21, 2009

ACORN Could Crack Open if Lawsuits Proceed

ACORN, upset about unflattering media attention from Fox news due to recent videos showing ACORN workers giving tax cheat advice to a couple dressed as a pimp and prostitute, is threatening lawsuits. However, as Ken Blackwell of points out, that could backfire in a big way...
If ACORN sues, it would have to sue alleging some variation of defamation or fraud. The problem is that for either allegation, truth is an absolute defense. Nothing could be more relevant to Fox establishing its defense of truth in the lawsuit than having access to ACORN’s office memos, emails, phone records, and bank statements. All of these would have a reasonable chance of providing evidence as to whether ACORN workers had knowledge of any of the topics seen on the videotapes.

In short, it would blow the doors off ACORN’s vault of secrets. Fox would learn which organizations collaborate with ACORN, how they spend taxpayer money and what ACORN’s leaders say to each other behind closed doors. It would be a treasure trove for a media organization.

ACORN’s Threat of Lawsuits Could Backfire

Thursday, September 17, 2009

ACORN Cracked, Media Broken

ACORN has become another example of blatant media bias. Can anyone think of a reason why a news sources wouldn't cover a story where an organization that receives tax payer money is caught red-handed giving advice on how to cheat on taxes, hide/import underage prostitutes, defraud the government, and is now being sanctioned by the United States Congress? Everyone who knows anything about ACORN knows exactly why the media isn't covering this story; it would embarrass President Obama as he has long-standing ties with ACORN. I in no way blame President Obama for these inept media sycophants, there are few politicians in this world who would turn away such glowing positive coverage. Yet the media has reached a point, as evidenced by this latest ACORN story, where they can't even defend themselves. The media by ignoring this story with multiple sources of proof is essentially conceding that they are an unofficial Obama PR machine. While the internet leaves much to be desired in many respects, thank goodness there is an unfiltered source that actively uses the first amendment, as the media has forfeited its role as a part of the government's checks and balances system.

From Fox News ACORN Story Grows But Mainstream Media Refuse to Cover It

Bruce Springsteen once wrote: “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come).” I doubt he expected that story of love gone wrong would become ideal political commentary for the group known as ACORN.

The small scandal showing an embarrassing video of Baltimore ACORN staffers looking like they were giving tax advice on how to set up a brothel, is now national news. -- This story has everything you could ever want – corruption, sleazy actions at tax-funded organizations, firings, government ties, sex, hookers. It is a network news director’s dream. Imagine the ratings!

Only almost no one is covering it.

This is the news media in the era of Van Jones and President Obama. The major outlets cover what they want and create the themes they want. When they find something inconvenient, they let it pass. They didn’t like the Van Jones story, so they ignored it. The network news media liked the financial entity known as Fannie Mae, so they ignored that scandalous organization for years. ACORN is getting the same treatment.

But it isn’t working any more. The ACORN fiasco has now impacted three offices – Baltimore, Washington and New York – with laugh-out-loud videos reminiscent of the hookers and pimps from the 1970s “Starsky and Hutch” show. Huggy Bear returns! Four employees have been fired, with more likely to come. And the controversy was so laughably bad that the Census Bureau cut off all ties to the group known formally as the "Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now." -- They called it the “tipping point” to shed themselves of ACORN. More nuts for someone else, I guess.

And yet. And yet it’s still been ignored by the network news. Nothing on ABC, CBS or NBC. The only thing any one of the three broadcast networks has done appeared in a blog post by ABC’s Jake Tapper. It's hardly worth noting except to show that the networks know about what’s going on. They just don’t care to report it. Only FOX News has bothered to report on the controversy.

The Media - Ridiculous or Retarded?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ACORN's State New York

If there is any question that ACORN supplying tax cheat info, and overlooking human trafficking was a fluke or a couple isolated instances, here's a third tape from ACORN's New York office.

ACORN New York - Third Corruption Tape

Monday, September 14, 2009

ACORN's Story

The Baltimore office of ACORN gives tax advice to two people posing as a pimp and a prostitute who say they want to import underage teenagers from El Salvidor to work in the States as prostitutes. ACORN receives federal funding and has had numerous run-ins with the law usually regarding voter fraud. This however is a new low, at best these ACORN employees are condoning the human trafficking of underage girls, and in reality are likely breaking numerous laws.

Note: Except for when ACORN received government funding, I've posted very little about ACORN post-election. The public had their chance to learn about ACORN if they wished, they made their decision, voted, done deal, the race is over. However, this is insane. Democrats have to step to the plate, and renounce this. I in no way think that candidates aided by ACORN or any rationale human with any semblance of a moral compass thinks that human trafficking is acceptable. However, this is an example of an organization not just acting questionably, but this is evidence that ACORN has completely gone of the rails. Any politician to weak to stand up against ACORN will now be tying themselves to an organization that condoned prostitution and indirectly promoted human trafficking.

ACORN Condones Prostitution