More good news from the Medicare report

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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Elderly patient sitting beside empty hospital bed.

The annual Medicare and Social Security trustees’ report released Monday showed remarkable savings in the Medicare program demonstrating, in part, the effectiveness of the reforms included in the Affordable Care Act. There a nugget in the report though, ferreted out by Vox’s Sarah Kliff, that’s potentially groundbreaking: the government looks to be paying less to cover more beneficiaries for hospital insurance than a year ago.

Medicare’s hospital insurance program — known to wonks as Medicare Part A — spent $266.8 billion covering 50.3 million people in 2012. In 2013, the same program spent $266.2 billion to cover 51.9 million people. These figures come from Table II B.1 in the 2012 and 2013 reports.

Medicare’s hospital insurance program is gigantic; it spends more money in a given year than the entire state of Wisconsin. In that context, $600 million is not much more than a rounding error. And some senior administration officials I spoke with cautioned against reading too much into these particular figures; receipts for services rendered in 2013, for example, might trickle after the year has ended.

But what’s definitely clear—and what’s driving this trend—is that Medicare is spending significantly less per person than they did two years ago. And this report expects that trend to continue for another two years going forward.

If the trend is sustained, the report projects, by 2015 the program will spend less per person on hospital care than it did in 2008. The country hasn’t gone backward in healthcare spending in decades, if ever.This part of the Medicare program—hospital coverage—contributed to the fact that per-person Medicare spending in the entire program did not change from 2012-2013, “a growth rate of 0 percent,” as Health and Human Services Secretary Syliva Mathews Burwell pointed out.

The Obamacare reforms—like penalizing preventable readmissions of patients—are certainly part of the picture here, as are technology developments in health care that make various treatments less invasive and less costly. This shows that health care doesn’t have to be the thing that could bankrupt the nation in the coming decades. But that’s if we undertake more extensive reform in the entire system. Because Medicare is a government program, the law could effect the kinds of reforms that work. This demonstrates better than anything the need for the government to take a stronger hand in regulating the healthcare industry as a whole, even to the extent of expanding Medicare to cover more of the population.

Bill O’Reilly explains ‘the blacks,’ the ghetto, the drug war and the ‘left’

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly explains the politics of marijuana legalization. He’s an expert explainer of things, you know:

“The left is basically saying, harmless, OK, which I don’t agree with and I don’t think you agree with. It’s not a harmless substance, all right? And, you know, ‘it’s blacks’, you know, ‘you’re trapping the blacks’, because in certain ghetto neighborhoods it’s part of the culture, 9 year old boys and girls are smoking it. And they don’t like that. They don’t want those kids to be targeted by the cops.”

Bill O’Reilly explaining “the blacks,” ghettos, the drug war and what ‘the left’ thinks all at the same time? Be still, my heart.

Now, I haven’t heard of a new influx of pot-smoking 9-year-olds into our federal penal system, but I admit Bill O’Reilly probably gets his news from different places than I do. But now I’m wondering just how much pot you’d find if you did a sweep in the Fox News studios. It’s been clear for 10 years that they’re smoking something—it’s only a matter of time before these newfangled high-definition cameras pick up a thin, tell-tale wisp of smoke from behind the Fox & Friends couch.

U.S. bars Venezuelan officials accused of abuses in protests

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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By Doina Chiacu and Andrew Cawthorne WASHINGTON/CARACAS (Reuters) – Washington barred a group of Venezuelan officials, including government ministers and presidential advisers, from the United States on Wednesday after accusing them of abuses in a crackdown on protests against President Nicolas Maduro this spring. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, citing visa record confidentiality, did not identify those who would be denied entry and did not say how many officials were on the list. Demonstrators said they were protesting economic hardships and dictatorial government, but Maduro, who replaced the late Hugo Chavez last year, called them a cover for a U.S.-backed “coup” attempt against him. The Venezuelans barred from entry included government ministers, presidential advisers, judicial officials and law enforcement and military officials, a State Department spokesperson said.

Obama to Republicans: ‘Stop just hatin’ all the time’

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the economy at the Uptown Theater in Kansas CityBy Roberta Rampton KANSAS CITY Mo (Reuters) – President Barack Obama took his criticism of congressional Republicans to a higher pitch on Wednesday, appealing to them to "stop just hatin' all the time" even as Republicans prepared to sue him over charges he has overstepped the bounds of his office. Republicans in the House of Representatives were expected to vote on Wednesday to authorize a lawsuit against the president for exceeding his presidential authority while implementing the Affordable Care Act, his signature health care law. Stop — stop — stop just hatin’ all the time," he said of Republicans, drawing loud cheers from a raucous crowd of about 1,500 in an ornate theater in Kansas City. While the lawsuit would focus on the health law, Republicans have complained that Obama's use of executive actions to take other steps, such as raising the minimum wage for federal workers, risks giving him "king-like authority." Obama disparaged the expected lawsuit as nothing but election-year political theater and a distraction from issues such as highway construction or the southwestern border crisis.

U.S. House passes $17 billion veterans healthcare bill, 420-5

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a $17 billion plan to ease long healthcare delays at the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs Department, adding much of the cost to the federal deficit. The compromise measure was reached on Monday between House and Senate negotiators to provide funds for veterans’ temporary access to private medical care, to allow the VA to hire more doctors and nurses and to open more outpatient clinics. The measure, which also grants VA more authority to fire poor-performing employees, passed 420-5. …

Federal Obamacare market still faces cost overruns, delays: watchdog

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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By David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ten months after the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, Obamacare’s federal health insurance exchange is still dogged by cost overruns and technology delays that could hamper enrollment when it resumes in November, a U.S. watchdog said. The total cost of HealthCare.gov and its supporting systems hit $840 million in March, according to a forthcoming report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). Part of the cost stems from the federal government’s work with Accenture Plc, the lead contractor for the HealthCare.gov website. Multiple failures caused HealthCare.gov to crash during its Oct. 1 debut, hampering early enrollment for benefits under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law and prompting a congressional investigation.

House Approves VA Health Care fix

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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The House has passed a bipartisan bill aimed to reform the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.



House Approves $17-Billion VA Health Care Fix

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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The House has passed a bipartisan bill aimed to reform the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.

Shame on Obama for suggesting his own impeachment, says Karl Rove

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is seen at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida August 27, 2012.

Karl Rove, still recovering from the excitement of covering President Obama’s razor thin 4-point victory in Ohio, appears on Fox to chastise the president for suggesting his own impeachment, of all things:

“[Obama] wants nothing more than Republican and conservative leaders to step forward and say, ‘We agree, we ought to try and impeach him,’” Rove said on Fox News’ “On The Record With Greta Van Susteren.” [...] “This man is playing with the American people by suggesting a constitutional crisis where none exists,” he said. “Shame on him, shame on those people in his administration who participate with him, and shame on those conservatives and Republicans who help him along.”

Well, I’ll give Karl a tiny bit of credit for at least noting—actually, more like footnoting, with an asterisk—that Republicans are helping the president out. But even that’s understating things, because far from John Boehner’s claim that the impeachment chatter is a Democratic scam, as Dave Weigel reminds us:

If impeachment is a scam, it was started on the right, early in the Obama presidency.

It started back when Obama was appointing Republicans to the cabinet, trying to woo their support for the stimulus, and negotiating with the in good faith on Obamacare. It continues up to this very day. And now a majority of Republicans want to see Obama impeached.

So Karl Rove and John Boehner can try all they want to deny Republicans want to impeach Obama and to blame President Obama for the impeachment talk, but that doesn’t make them right. In fact, in certain Republican circles, I’ll bet that makes them RINOs.

Renegade New York Democrats are already trying to back out of their bogus ‘deal’ to rejoin the party

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2014-05-2008

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David Valesky presiding over a session of the New York state Senate

David Valesky

Last month, the renegade Democrats who’ve conspired to hand control of New York’s state Senate to the GOP announced with great fanfare that they’d reached a “deal” to rejoin their mainstream colleagues and return to the fold. Most of the media, a lot of labor unions, and even supposed progressive exponents like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio bought into the hype, but there were plenty of reasons from the get-go to mistrust the Independent Democratic Conference, and now we have full proof of their bad faith.

On Tuesday, IDC member David Valesky complained bitterly about the fact that two Democratic senators, Gustavo Rivera and Liz Krueger, were still supporting Oliver Koppell, who is challenging IDC chief Jeff Klein in September’s Democratic primary. But that’s not all. Valesky also made up a whole bunch of bullshit about what exactly the IDC’s non-deal entailed:

“It’s hard to comprehend why there’s been a blatant violation” by members of the regular Democratic Conference when their leadership pledged that no one would support Koppell, Valesky said.

Oh yes? When exactly did mainstream Democrats promise that no members would support Koppell? One of the IDC’s biggest complaints is that, allegedly, Senate Democrats are dysfunctional, so is Valesky seriously expecting lockstep martial adherence to this purported pledge? Even Darth Vader couldn’t successfully perform a Jedi mind trick on Ruben Diaz, Sr. (though he might want to Force-choke him).

But like Vader, Valesky is trying to alter the deal. This “deal,” though, was exactly one sentence long:

“Therefore all IDC members are united and agree to work together to form a new majority coalition between the Independent Democratic Conference and the Senate Democratic Conference after the November elections in order to deliver the results that working families across this state still need and deserve.”

And as we noted at a time—and this is why I keep putting the word “deal” in scare quotes—this “deal” only involves the members of the IDC agreeing to work amongst themselves to reunite with the mainstream Democrats. It does not involve an actual agreement between the IDC and the Democrats. So not only is Valesky adding ridiculous, impossible, and unenforceable terms to the deal, there was no real deal in the first place!

That makes it pretty easy for the IDC to walk away from this fake deal, and Valesky’s already laying the groundwork to do so. Why is he doing so? Any answers would only be speculative. But we do know that Jeff Klein is an utter snake, and Valesky just one segment of his long tail. If the IDC winds up not rejoining the Democrats next year, no one will have any reason to be surprised.