Paul Sadler needs your help. Just go vote.

Ho hum. The dog days of summer are upon us. Nothing to do but stay inside and look for creative ways to beat the heat.

But, if you are a Democrat who cares what happens in November, there is something important to accomplish between now and the end of July. Vote.

Yep. Vote.

Early voting begins next week for a runoff election and, for Democrats, it isn’t about who will win the race for county sheriff, a race between two turn-coat Democrats who are trying to “out right-wing” each other.

No, for Democrats, the only race on the runoff ballot is to nominate our candidate for U.S. Senate. Paul Sadler, a fella who served in the Texas House from 1991 to 2003, stepped up last year and tossed his hat in the ring to battle against the eventual GOP nominee — a decision that took incredible intestinal fortitude, considering the David & Goliath nature of the battle.

Paul is in a runoff against Grady Yarborough … or is it Yarboro … I don’t really know. Whatever, he seems to be trading on a politically famous last name … one so famous, he squeaked by in Milam County, though not state-wide. But, he did force a runoff.

If Grady wins, it would be tragic. This is his fourth or fifth attempt at public office (sorta like that Gene Kelly fella) but at least one of those was as a Republican. He hasn’t campaigned, he has no money (well, Paul doesn’t have much, either … but it’s not from a lack of trying)

Paul has been campaigning for the job. He was the only Senate candidate to attend a Teachers summit last week in Houston (despite the fact that Grady is a retired teacher) and slayed his opponents at the debates.

If all goes well, he will be a guest at the Steel Worker’s Union picnic in Rockdale on August 18.

Election Day is July 31 and you can vote early beginning Monday. Go vote, Please.

Paul Sadler’s Record of Leadership:

  • 1991-2003 Texas House of Representatives
  • 1995-2003 Chairman of the Public Education Committee
  • 1997 Chairman of the Select Committee on State Revenue and Public School Finance
  • 2001 Chairman of the Select Committee on Public School Employee Health Insurance
  • Legislative Budget Board Member

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The tyranny of adequate health care

I don’t get it. I really don’t get it.

Now that the dust has settled a little, and folks have had a chance to look at the US Supreme Court decision regarding ObamaCare, I had hoped that the reaction from our state leaders would have been a bit more pragmatic, but nooooo.

I know. My wife says I’m hopelessly optimistic as well, but I really didn’t expect how vociferously some state politicians — hell, some of the folks right here in Milam County — would react to this, and how fully they’d buy and sell the misinformation.

The vast majority of what I’ve heard from Tea Party Republicans  sounds like what I’d expect from a sulky 7 year old who doesn’t want to clean up his room or eat his vegetables — yeah, broccoli — and what they are saying is about as attractive.

One of these Ditto Heads told me — honestly! — that we didn’t need health care reform because the poor already have access to free health care, and he meant that poor people could just go to an emergency room and get all the treatment they needed. I simply could not get it through his head that emergency room treatment is the most expensive treatment available … and that HE was getting stuck with the bill for it!

Friends, every single study out there — every one! — shows that we spend less as a society on medical care when a major component of our health care outlay is preventive. That means, even if we pay for all of a poor person’s health care, we will spend less on it and have a healthier citizens than when that same person must resort to the emergency room for health care.

Make no mistake, every family in Texas is already paying for it when poor people (or uninsured people) default on their medical bills. We’re paying for it in local property taxes, in inflated hospital charges and about $1,500 a year in increased health insurance premiums to account for the folks who can’t or won’t take out insurance.

Never mind the devastation failure to participate in Obamacare will wreck on Texas families, it will continue to create a tremendous hardship on our public hospitals. They say that expanding Medicaid will cost Texas about $11 billion through 2019. That sounds like a lot until you learn that Texas hospitals lose $6 billion every year in uncompensated care (what they don’t get back when people fail to pay deductibles, or for emergency room care, or indigent care when counties run out of money, etc.).

Oh — just for the record, the reason fewer doctors are taking Medicaid patients isn’t because doctors don’t like Medicaid patients, it’s because the State of Texas not funding Medicaid properly. Doctors aren’t getting paid!

And now we’re finding out that the Medicaid expansion would cost less than half over the next 10 years than what Perry has been claiming.

Used to be that we could thank Mississippi and Oklahoma for keeping us off the bottom rung. Not any more. We are at the bottom in so many rankings including health care rankings … more people in Texas (as a percentage) and more children lack health insurance than in any other state. We rank 51st for health care delivery. Sure … we’ve got great doctors and hospitals in Texas … but, what difference does that make if people can’t afford to go?

But, because it’s another example of federal tyranny, we’re just gonna refuse to take part in ObamaCare and force millions of low income Texans to remain uninsured. Tell me, Gov. Rick … how’d it go for us the last time you took on the federal government, how’d that EPA thing work out for us, hunh?

Gov. Perry and his stooges in Austin have abdicated their responsibility. We need to latch on to that and make every opportunity to hammer them about their plan to make sure that average, everyday Texans remain on the bottom rung in so many things, from education to polluted air to health care.

I’m probably gonna shut up and move on to something else for a while. I mean, there’s that whole crazy 2012 Texas GOP platform to talk about and more on voter ID, the fact that some of the things that keep Texan citizens on the bottom are some of the very same things that make Texas a great place to do business … if you are a big corporation  … and we’ll need to talk about why it’s important that you go vote in the run-off, even though there is only one issue on the ballot for Democrats (Paul Sadler, Paul Sadler, Paul Sadler. And Paul Sadler).

In the mean time, here are a few links I’ve been saving up for you. And, below that, even more links.

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Support for ObamaCare

My previous post talked about popular support for ObamaCare. Here is the results of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, in handy chart form. Not surprisingly, self-identified Republicans don’t like as much of it as the rest of us do … but the rest of us are really pretty okay with it! Feel free to share liberally!

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What’s not to like? Oh, the ‘Obama’ part …

One of the top killers of men over the age of 50 is colorectal cancer. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined. If you catch it early, the survival rate is very high … but if it is caught late, the cancer will very likely kill you.

The best way to catch it is by undergoing a procedure known as a colonoscopy. If you’ve never experienced a colonoscopy — or are nearing that magic age where you ought to have that experience — Dave Barry’s essay on the procedure is hysterical and worth reading.

If you have had one (I have), you know it’s not the most pleasant experience you’ll ever have … and besides being invasive in an awfully intimate manner, it’s pretty expensive. Around here, a colonoscopy runs better than $3,000. While the procedure is usually covered by your health insurance, your insurance won’t always pay for it until you’ve met your deductible. Most of us have a deductible that is $2,500 or even higher … so, the cost of this procedure will likely come right out of your pocket.

Because of this, many people simply take their chances, even people with health insurance. And, that’s a huge risk.

I know this for a fact because my doctor recently suggested that, based on a smear on a chest X-ray, I get a CT scan. He wasn’t sure that the smear was all that big a deal but the radiologist wanted it so my doc felt compelled. The problem was that a CT scan at Scott & White runs about $3,000. My insurance covered it, but only after I’d met my deductible and I didn’t really have that much “extra” cash lying around.

Fortunately, I talked to someone at my insurance company who suggested I call around to see if I could find a stand-alone clinic that would do it for less. I found one, in Austin, that would  do it for less than $400 which is a very good thing because that CT scan revealed a 6-centimeter malignant tumor in my right lung.

I’m fine now … recovering from surgery and looking forward to 12 weeks of chemo … but here’s the rub: even though I have pretty good insurance, I almost passed on the CT scan because of my deductible.

(And, let’s not even talk about the price disparity between the Austin clinic and S&W … that difference in price really confounds me.)

Here’s the really good news for all of us. Beginning August 1, 2012, any new health insurance policy sold must cover the cost of a colonoscopy, CT scan, mammograms and all kinds of preventative tests and procedures … and must do it without requiring any sort of co-pay or deductible. In a couple of years, ALL insurance policies must do this.

It’s one of the lesser-known provisions of the Affordable Healthcare Act (or, what the Right has tried to denigrate as “ObamaCare”) and there are a whole slew of other provisions already in effect.

You’ve heard about some of them … you can keep your kids on your policy until they are 26, regardless of their status as a student; no lifetime coverage limits; insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to kids under 19 because of pre-existing conditions; insurers can’t just drop you because you get real sick. There are a lot more.

And, despite what you might hear from the bloviating voices on the Right, they are wildly popular. When listed individually, the only thing folks don’t like is the so-called individual mandate … and most people can understand why it’s there. In fact, when it’s explained that the vast majority of Americans won’t have to worry about it (only those who can afford it but refuse anyway), opposition to the individual mandate (or Freeloader’s Penalty) declines dramatically.

Many people don’t like it simply because Republicans have done a danged good job demonizing the Act and the President who got it passed through Congress. Democrats have nothing to be ashamed of here. ObamaCare is constitutional, will reduce the deficit, make our citizens more healthy and will ultimately represent a huge benefit for middle-class Americans.

This link explains ObamaCare in very simple language and does it better than I can. Give it a read and spread the word.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Tea Party Republicans, Texas Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s call it what is really is: a Freeloader’s Tax

Republicans and Tea Partiers are real good at sticking with the Big Lie, especially where it concerns anything that has to do with our president and ObamaCare.

You’ve heard the lies and misdirection: from the concept of “death panels” to claiming that ObamaCare is little more than a government take-over of health care, Republicans and Tea Partiers have been absolutely apoplectic about affordable health insurance … probably because it will actually help people.

Now, mix in the fact that the Chief Justice, a darling of the far right, worked hard to figure a way to uphold the Act and, according to many of the louder voices on the Right, you’ve got the makings for an armed insurrection. Or re-location to Canada.

Roberts held that the individual mandate (the “personal responsibility” clause) is constitutional because it is, for all intents and purposes, a tax. Congress’ power to tax has never been successfully challenged, but Tea Partiers have never seen a tax they like. And, the only health care mandate the current crop of Republicans they can embrace is transvaginal ultrasound probes for women.

So, the individual mandate is constitutional, and legally interpreted as a tax, rather than a fine or penalty. Fine. Semantics. Most people have employer-sponsored health insurance or government-sponsored health insurance. So, if it’s a tax, it’s a tax on people who refuse to be responsible for their own healthcare, their own actions. Call it a Freeloader’s Tax because the only people who will be affected by it are those who can afford to buy insurance — even subsidized health insurance — but refuse to.

(Oh, and shouldn’t the party that purports to support the idea of personal responsibility be in favor of policies that promote personal responsibility?)

But here’s where the lies come in. Tea Party Republicans are calling Obamacare “possibly the biggest tax increase on middle class Americans in history,” and we cannot let them get away with it. That statement goes far beyond misleading, it’s a flat-out lie — as in “liar, liar, pants on fire!”

Even their assertion that Obamacare will add trillions to the deficit, is at best, a misapprehension of the facts.

ObamaCare does not represent creeping socialism. If so, it would take private insurance companies out of the picture. What is does represent is a reform of the way insurance companies do business so that profit isn’t their only goal.

More to come. In the mean time, spread the word.

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Justice Ginsburg’s argument in favor of Obamacare

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justic...

English: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t know about you but most every Democrat I know was absolutely thrilled at Thursday morning’s announcement that the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). And even more astounded that Chief Justice Roberts was the swing vote.

There’s lots to talk about … most importantly that all of us who care about this sort of thing need to push hard over the next several months, and not be defensive or apologetic about this. It is a big deal. (You want the t-shirt? Here is a link!)

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsgurg wrote one of the majority SCOTUS opinions regarding Obamacare.  In fact, her opinion about the Commerce Clause fairly shreds Chief Justice Roberts’ claim that the individual mandate is, for all intents and purposes, a tax (more on that in another post).

Pres. Obama shoulda hired her to sell this. Her rationale is for the Act is lucid, easy to understand and very difficult to rebut.

Her written opinion runs to 60-plus pages so I’ve excerpted some of her more salient comments. You can find the entire opinion (including the venomous dissenting opinions of Scalia, et al) here. Look for Docket # 11-393 National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. Justice Ginsburg’s opinion begins on page 66 of the PDF.

Justice Ginsburg:

Unlike the market for almost any other product or service, the market for medical care is one in which all individuals inevitably participate. Virtually every person residing in the United States, sooner or later, will visit a doctor or other health-care professional.

When individuals make those visits, they face another reality of the current market for medical care: its high cost. In 2010, on average, an individual in the United States incurred over $7,000 in health-care expenses.

When a person requires non-routine care, the cost will generally exceed what he or she can afford to pay. A single hospital stay, for instance, typically costs upwards of $10,000 … in 1998, the cost of treating a heart attack for the first 90 days exceeded $20,000, while the annual cost of treating certain cancers was more than $50,000.

Although every U. S. [household] will incur significant medical expenses during his or her lifetime, the time when care will be needed is often unpredictable. An accident, a heart attack, or a cancer diagnosis commonly occurs without warning. Inescapably, we are all at peril of needing medical care without a moment’s notice.

To manage the risks associated with medical care— its high cost, its unpredictability, and its inevitability—most people in the United States obtain health insurance. Many (approximately 170 million in 2009) are insured by private insurance companies. Others, including those over 65 and certain poor and disabled persons, rely on government-funded insurance programs, notably Medicare and Medicaid. Combined, private health insurers and State and Federal Governments finance almost 85% of the medical care administered to U. S. residents.

Not all U. S. residents, however, have health insurance. In 2009, approximately 50 million people were uninsured,either by choice or, more likely, because they could not afford private insurance and did not qualify for government aid.

As a group, uninsured individuals annually consume more than $100 billion in health care services, nearly 5% of the Nation’s total. Over 60% of those without insurance visit a doctor’s office or emergency room in a given year.

As just noted, the cost of emergency care or treatment for a serious illness generally exceeds what an individual can afford to pay on her own. Unlike markets for most products, however, the inability to pay for care does not mean that an uninsured individual will receive no care. Federal and state law, as well as professional obligations and embedded social norms, require hospitals and physicians to provide care when it is most needed, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

As a consequence, medical-care providers deliver significant amounts of care to the uninsured for which the providers receive no payment. In 2008, for example, hospitals, physicians, and other health-care professionals received no compensation for $43 billion worth of the $116 billion in care they administered to those without insurance.

Health-care providers do not absorb these bad debts.Instead, they raise their prices, passing along the cost of uncompensated care to those who do pay reliably: the government and private insurance companies. In response, private insurers increase their premiums, shifting the cost of the elevated bills from providers onto those who carry insurance. The net result: Those with health insurance subsidize the medical care of those without it. As economists would describe what happens, the uninsured “free ride” on those who pay for health insurance.

The size of this subsidy is considerable. Congress found that the cost-shifting just described “increases family[insurance] premiums by on average over $1,000 a year.” Higher premiums, in turn, render health insurance less affordable, forcing more people to go without insurance and leading to further cost-shifting.

Because those without insurance generally lack access to preventative care, they do not receive treatment for conditions—like hypertension and diabetes—that can be successfully and affordably treated if diagnosed early on.

When sickness finally drives the uninsured to seek care, once treatable conditions have escalated into grave health problems, requiring more costly and extensive intervention. The extra time and resources providers spend serving the uninsured lessens the providers’ ability to care for those who do have insurance.

 

 

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Voter ID: Ensuring a Repubican majority

Tea Party Republicans are deft at taking an issue and twisting the argument in such a fashion that “reasonable” people might be excused for wondering why Democrats hold the beliefs and values they do.

For instance, Republicans frame the voter ID argument this way: “I gotta show an ID to cash a check (rent a backhoe or a car or a movie or whatever) and voter fraud is a horrible threat to our Way of Life so what’s the big deal? Why would Democrats want to give illegals the right to vote?”

That’s pretty much the argument, right? But, let’s turn that argument around for a second.

“There’s not really any vote fraud — well, except for six cases in Texas over the last decade … and there was that debacle in Florida a few years back, but photo IDs would not have prevented any of that — so why do Republicans want to make it difficult if not impossible for more than 600,000 eligible Texas citizens to vote?”

Simple. Those Texans are minorities or rural Texans or senior citizens or students or poor people who just happen to lack the kind of identification required by this law. They are eligible to vote — and many do. They just don’t drive a car or carry a concealed weapon or travel out of the country.

Republicans also want to distract us from the fact that they wrecked our economy and our public schools, they’d rather give tax breaks to the rich than feed the poor or take care of the sick … and, further, they have no intention whatsoever of addressing any of this.

So, let’s get this straight. Democrats don’t want to make it easier for illegals to vote. Republicans want to change the law to make it harder for decent, hard-working Texans to vote.

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