The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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Epic Fail: Could someone please teach the private insurers how to lie properly?

Posted by ALmod on October 15, 2009

Again with releasing extremely misleading reports that fact check themselves?

The newer study was conducted for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, which also says its findings on premiums would be different if it factored in other aspects of the bill…

Posted in Corporate Craziness, Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I guess they weren’t that lucky, after all…

Posted by ALmod on October 15, 2009

So yesterday I talked about how AHIP was about to get a lot uglier and how their attempts of late seem to be really backfiring on them.  Somewhere between revoking the health insurance of a congresswoman’s child for a torn eardrum and releasing a report that fact checked itself and ended up giving itself a D on the truth-o-meter, the health insurance industry just kind of lost it.  With all the shooting they’d done to their own steel-toes, I was a bit curious as to how well their aim would be once they got bigger guns.  I ended with a line from Dirty Harry, asking if they felt lucky.

I suppose not.

Here’s the ad:

And here’s what FactCheck.org says:

As we’ve written previously, it’s true that about 10 million seniors are on Medicare Advantage, as the ad says, which means they’ve chosen to get their benefits from a private insurer instead of through the fee-for-service route that 78 percent of Medicare recipients use.

…We don’t like to take out after an ad that is technically accurate, but this one implies that seniors in Medicare Advantage would suffer far more than they actually are likely to under the pending legislation. An on-screen graphic says that they would see a “50 percent reduction in extra benefits.” That’s true, but the reality is that even those who leave the program will never receive less in benefits than anyone who is in fee-for-service Medicare, or nearly 80 percent of seniors.

Okay, now go back and read that again.   Read it a third time if you need to.  I’ll wait.

The cuts that AHIP is talking about come from a portion of Medicare where seniors pay private insurers for their services– not the standard government version.  In other words, AHIP is saying that they are going to be cutting their coverage for seniors– not the government.  This is their attack add against health care reform?  “Yay for us!  Boo for government!  We’re going to cut health care coverage for seniors!  Yay!  Theirs stays the same!  Boo!”  That is your big, bad argument?  Seriously?

Posted in Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on I guess they weren’t that lucky, after all…

Ugly? You haven’t SEEN ugly.

Posted by ALmod on October 14, 2009

Robert Stein has a great writeup on how we ain’t seen nothing yet as far as health insurance interests rallying opposition to reform.  Now that Congress will be working on a final bill for the full vote of both houses with all sorts of ways for it to be hacked into pieces and put back together again, you can easily predict that industry interests will be in overdrive to kill it.

Stein does an excellent job of summing things up here:

The saddest part of the spectacle in the coming weeks will be the near-impossibility of a rational public conversation about the issue in a time when TV ads will make “Harry and Louise” look like “The Waltons” and the staged public outrage will make the Tea Parties look like tea parties.

Indeed.  Though we can only hope that their moves of the past few weeks are signs as to exactly where health insurers might be headed.  They seem to have become quite pro at shooting themselves in the foot lately.

The fact that Beth McCaughey was outed (and then resigned after being owned in an interview with Jon Stewart, of all people) as a lobbyist and Rick Scott (head of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights) was openly the same Rick Scott who had to step down as the company he led pled guilty to one of the largest cases of insurance and Medicare fraud in history wasn’t even HALF as humiliating as the report AHIP released last week.  It was laughable enough at face value.  To start with, AHIP stands for America’s Health Insurance Plans.  This is the group who funded a report that basically contradicted every single other report out there.  Not only was it incredibly misleading by only reporting on measures that (migh, maybe, possibly) increase costs while ignoring the gazillions of other measures that would lower them, but it even said that it was misleading in the very footnotes of the report!  The report also was their way of saying that, left unchecked and without competition, private health insurers would increase their premiums– quite possibly giving their own argument as to why a public option might be needed to compete with them.  Shot one fired.  Shot two fired.

Then, without any prompting by FactCheck (or so they say), the company that compiled the report for AHIP comes out with a statement in which they fact check themselves and state that their report is extremely misleading.  You can’t make this up!  Shot three fired.

But the biggest hit to the health insurance interests has to be the story of Rep. Jane Harman— a Blue Dog Democrat.  You’ve heard of the Blue Dogs, right?  The Blue Dogs would be the reason why the Dems are not currently passing the most liberal piece of legislation they can muster despite their overwhelming majority.  Well, Harman became a much bigger proponent of a public option when that which has been happening to so many insured Americans happened to her own 27-year-old son.  He was dropped from his health insurance for– get this– a torn eardrum.

As Del put it (and I’m paraphrasing), we can probably assume that they forgot to mark his file with a big, red Post-It that said, “Do not revoke.  His mother is a congresswoman.”

Laura Sanchez was already on board, but I’m sure that Rep. Harman’s story will resonate with other mothers and fathers (and grandmothers and grandfathers) who call themselves Blue Dogs.  The uninsured and the poor aren’t the majority of the people who need good reform to pass.  They aren’t even close to being a majority.  The insured middle class are the ones getting the worst deal until something changes.  (After all, we’re the ones stuck with those private insurers who openly admitted that they’d want to raise their premiums while they have no real competition.  The poor and elderly already have government options.  And I’m sure that middle-class bankruptcy can’t be good for the economy.)  Shot four fired.

Now, right about now I feel like it’s that scene in Dirty Harry and Clint Eastwood is asking…  If you count McCaughey and Scott, did they fire five shots or was it six?  I’ve lost count.  So if you’re the health care industry and you’re about to start aiming that gun about chest or head level, you have to ask yourselves one question.  Do I feel lucky?  Well do ya… punks?

Posted in Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Heart of the Problem: Part II

Posted by ALmod on October 12, 2009

Over the weekend, I asked around online to see whether or not people were familiar with basic facts about the U.S. Constitution.  While it wasn’t exactly a scientific poll in that I didn’t go out of my way to take an accurate sampling of the population, the numbers were still disturbing.  I gave the following statements and asked the people questioned to determine if they were true or false:

1. The Bill of Rights states that the rights of the people are limited to those specifically listed within the U.S. Constitution.  (False.  This statement is actually opposite of what it said in the Ninth Amendment.)

2. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution states that human beings are endowed with “unalienable” rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  (Again, this is false.  The phrase is found in the preable to the Declaration of Independence.

3. The U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence both have the same stated purpose.  (False again.  The U.S. Constitution is the “law of the land” while the stated purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to declare independence from Great Britain.

4. The text of the U.S. Constitution specifically states that one purpose for the document is to “promote the general welfare.”  (True.  This phrase is found in the preamble.)

The final question asked people to describe what was in the Commerce Clause.

The preamble and purpose of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Consstitution, as well as the Bill of Rights, are things that are commonly taught in grade school.  So most people should know this stuff, right?  I mean, these days everyone is an expert on what is or isn’t in the Constitution, so just being able to give the text without any real interpretation shouldn’t be hard, right?

Right?

Unfortunately, every single question was overwhelmingly answered incorrectly.  How overwhelming?  The best result that I got was where only 61% believed that the U.S. Constitution contained the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the preamble.  Yes, I just said only 61% were not familiar with the correct first sentence of the U.S. Constitution.  Then again, out of everyone asked, only one person knew that the preamble contained the phrase “promote the general welfare,” and I unfortunately included myself in the survey.  (In other words, I was the only one who got it right.)

Seriously, folks?  Are we this unfamiliar with what is quite possibly the most important national document we have?  I’m tempted to ask Dr. Taylor to quiz his classes and see if Political Science students give similar results.  While I remain somewhat skeptical, there’s a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me they’d still get it wrong.

EDIT: Okay, so I’m not tempted anymore.  I’m begging.  I have to know.  Dr. Taylor, if you’re reading this…  Let me know what you find.

Posted in Education, Federal Government | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on The Heart of the Problem: Part II

Limbaugh Humor

Posted by ALmod on October 10, 2009

As much as I really don’t like Rush Limbaugh, and despite the fact that I almost never agree with him, I actually found his crack about Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize to be snicker-inducing:

“Can you imagine, folks, how big Obama’s head is today?” Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-show host, told his listeners. “I think it’s getting so big that his ears actually fit.”

Now before I get blasted by the left (again), remember that Obama himself has cracked on the size of his ears.  Ear jokes are funny!

Posted in Laugh It Off | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Limbaugh Humor

I’m rooting for… Tom Delay?

Posted by ALmod on September 28, 2009

Apparently I have an underdog complex of some sort.  I have to root for them (and Mark Dacascos).

Of course Delay isn’t as good as the other competitors on Dancing With the Stars.  Every single one of them is either a performer or a professional athelete.  Tom Delay is a 62-year-old politician.  The odds aren’t exactly in his favor.

And yet, those things considered (and if you’ll ignore the creepy camera shots of his butt and the fact that he pulls his pants up to his chin), he’s done a pretty decent job.  This week’s tango was pretty darn good.  I feel bad for him that the ending slipped.  It would have otherwise been stellar, and I have to agree with Carrie Anne Inaba that he and Cheryl make a surprisingly decent couple on the dance floor.

Maybe he’ll be back next week.  I doubt he’ll win, but he’s becomming somwhat fascinating to watch.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , | Comments Off on I’m rooting for… Tom Delay?

Be careful what you wish for. (You just might get it.)

Posted by ALmod on September 28, 2009

Not too long ago, the right wing argument against health care reform went something like this:

  1. We don’t want single payer.  Canada and the UK are scary.  We want private insurance.
  2. We don’t want a public option.  We want the private insurers to be able to profit, and we don’t think private insurers can compete with a public option despite the number of other private services that do just fine in other areas with public options.
  3. Have you met Mitt Romney?  Isn’t he wonderful?  Isn’t his health care plan wonderful?
  4. We want a bill that pays for itself.
  5. We want the Democrats to include our ideas in this health care reform.

Be careful what you wish for.  You just might get it.  That wonderful Romney plan that Republicans seemed to love just a couple months ago?

“Unlike Democratic proposals that would give Americans the choice of joining a government-run health care plan, Massachusetts has no public option. Instead, people in the state are required to buy private insurance, and the poor get subsidies.

“Analysts say “Romney care” is basically “Obama care” minus the public option.”

That last line is actually true.

Now the house bill has turned into a national version of RomneyCare– particularly if no public option is included.  So how are the right wing masses taking the idea that the federal government might require you to purchase private insurance (and actually enforce that)?  Well, see for yourself.  Some are now even saying that a single payer system is preferable.  Right wingers arguing in favor of single payer?  Has the world gone mad?  Nope.  The right just got what they asked for and then suddenly realized that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

It seems like they’re finally starting to grasp the whole reason why such reform is necessary.  Yes, people need insurance, but that’s only part of the problem.  This issue is just as much about people who already have insurance as it is about those who don’t have it.  For those of us who are already insured, it’s about giving us better care and lowering our costs.  A big chunk of those costs come from when the uninsured receive treatment and can’t pay up.  That is passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher cost.

The right already knew that a significant portion of the uninsured was made up of people who could afford it but weren’t purchasing it.  We know they knew because it was a point they made frequently— then.  We know that they like personal responsibility because it was something they argued for– then.  We know they don’t like the idea of having to pay for someone else’s health care, particularly if it is the result of their own irresponsibility, because it was something they said frequently– then.

So here we have an idea that says that if you can afford health insurance you must buy it.  You must pay for your own treatment instead of burdening the rest of us (again, if you can afford it), or you will have to pay the consequences.  Oopsie.  Maybe that whole forcing personal responsibility idea wasn’t such a good idea, after all– at least not when it’s forced.  But then you’d be back to having the responsible parties paying for the irresponsible ones.  You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.  But the idea of just having a plan where everyone is covered seems a lot better than putting people in jail for not giving money to a private corporation.  Again…  Oopsie.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the Baucus bill, but I do realize that there’s no perfect sunshine and rainbows solution, and I also realize that some options are better than others.  Pun intended.

Unlike Democratic proposals that would give Americans the choice of joining a government-run health care plan, Massachusetts has no public option. Instead, people in the state are required to buy private insurance, and the poor get subsidies.

Posted in Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Be careful what you wish for. (You just might get it.)

The Heart of the Problem

Posted by ALmod on September 27, 2009

So here I was just reading the letters sent to The Birmingham News, and this one letter in particular stood out to me.  Here’s the letter, and I’ll see if you can pick out what it was:

Health care: Country headed for fall

In last week’s Viewpoints section, a Baptist preacher proclaimed that every person is entitled to health care (“An issue of morality”), and a letter writer from Montevallo declared we needed more socialism (“Could use little more socialism,” Views of Our Readers).

You can put any name you want on what the U.S. government is doing in health care, and it is still illegal and unconstitutional. There is not one word in the U.S. Constitution that covers taking money out of the public treasury to cover charity.

The only thing the federal government is duty-bound to guarantee the people is “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and this is covered in the Bill of Rights.

If this country continues in the direction our leaders have been taking us for the past 50 years, you only need to read about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to see how this country is going to end. There are several good books on the subject, but I recommend “A Pillar of Iron” by Taylor Caldwell.

Jim McLendon
Birmingham

Anyone?

Okay, if you haven’t spotted it by now, I’m referring in particular to where Mr. McLendon appears to be referring to the U.S. Constitution regarding his statement about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  That line is actually from the Declaration of Independence, and while it’s a good line, it’s not from the U.S. Constitution.  The preamble for the Constitution actually states the following:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Pay attention to that quote in particular because I’m going to get back to it very soon.

If you read the other letters, you’ll also note where someone else makes the statement that health care isn’t a guaranteed right in the Constitution and then backs that up with a Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling.  Again, I’m sure it’s a fine point to make, but the SCOTUS doesn’t actually maintain the Constitution.  They merely interpret it, and they’ve been known to get it very wrong and can reverse their decisions.  The Constitution can be altered for the most part through the legislative branch, which is a completely different branch of our government.

I have a huge problem with people who say that health care isn’t a right because it’s not guaranteed in the Constitution.  Saying that only shows that one hasn’t read the Constitution or at least isn’t somewhat familiar with the contents thereof.  In particular, the argument that something isn’t a right unless specifically stated is thrown out by the Bill of Rights, Amendment Nine to be exact:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

In other words, Amendment Nine specifically states that it should not be assumed that a right does not exist merely because it isn’t specifically stated in the Constitution.  And then there’s that whole bit about promoting the general welfare that was mentioned in the preamble.  Whether or not you agree that health care would fit under the description of “general welfare” or that it should be considered a right, the mere argument or insinuation that something isn’t a right because it’s not in the Constitution is nonsense and easily disproven with the text itself.

Further, consider that you could have made the exact same argument about a woman’s right to vote about a hundred years ago.  The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920.  The Constitution changes, so even if your argument is that something should be specifically mentioned in the Constitution to be considered a right, well that can be taken care of.

Which brings me to my real beef.  Statistics show that only one-third of Americans can even name the three branches of government.  Can you?  (I’ll give you a hint:  Two of them are talked about thus far in this posting, and one of them is specifically mentioned by name.  The third will be talked about in a bit.) And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  How many people can tell you what each branch does instead of just naming them?  Only about half of Americans can tell you who represents them in the U. S. Congress.  Most can’t tell you who is next in line for the presidency should something happen to both the president and vice president.  Even if they could, most couldn’t give you a name for the person currently holding that position, but I can guarantee you that if you gave them the person’s name, at least some will tell you they hate that person but couldn’t tell you exactly why.

Americans should know how their government works.  They should know these things beyond sound bites and talking points.  If you call someone a “socialist” or a “fascist,” you should know what those terms mean, and you should know that you know what they mean.  Nothing is more wince-inducing that watching Craig T. Nelson talk about how he was on welfare and got food stamps and he didn’t get any help.  It’s why birthers get laughed at when they start talking about the constitutional requirements of presidential candidacy and/or being a “natural born citizen.”  I’m not saying that it would change the stance of anyone having these arguments in either direction, but at least it might make for a more intelligent discussion.

Health care: Country headed for fall

In last week’s Viewpoints section, a Baptist preacher proclaimed that every person is entitled to health care (“An issue of morality”), and a letter writer from Montevallo declared we needed more socialism (“Could use little more socialism,” Views of Our Readers).

You can put any name you want on what the U.S. government is doing in health care, and it is still illegal and unconstitutional. There is not one word in the U.S. Constitution that covers taking money out of the public treasury to cover charity.

The only thing the federal government is duty-bound to guarantee the people is “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and this is covered in the Bill of Rights.

If this country continues in the direction our leaders have been taking us for the past 50 years, you only need to read about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to see how this country is going to end. There are several good books on the subject, but I recommend “A Pillar of Iron” by Taylor Caldwell.

Jim McLendon
Birmingham

Posted in Education, Federal Government, Mainstream Media, Public Outrage | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on The Heart of the Problem

On the misuse of “centrist” and “bipartisan”

Posted by ALmod on September 21, 2009

Take a walk on over to The Moderate Voice for an excellent piece on this.  I really don’t think there’s anything I can add to it.

Posted in Blogroll | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on On the misuse of “centrist” and “bipartisan”

Ahoy, Landlubber!!

Posted by ALmod on September 19, 2009

Yaaarrr!  Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Posted in Laugh It Off, Tibits | Tagged: | Comments Off on Ahoy, Landlubber!!