Why I Worry About Turnout

On the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer just made the point that no matter what the polls say, everything ultimately depends on voter turnout, and that Republicans have been better with turning out their supporters in recent elections.  This really worries me.  I am not registered with a party but I am, philosophically, a liberal.  I believe put those policies are best for America and so I nearly always vote Democratic.  But I must confess that in this election my interests are also personal.

I worry Republican advances in Congress will jeopardize aspects of the new health care law.  Provisions of the law are still coming into effect, so many people don’t realize how beneficial it is. Rollbacks will have minimal impact on me as a resident of Massachusetts, but I spent last year in another state and I can assure you, this system is better. I’m still cleaning up some of the financial mess from an inadequate insurance plan last year.

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Why is Virginia Really Challenging the Health Care Law?

What is wrong with the state government in Virginia? Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond threw out Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act, but now he and Governor Bob McDonnell have vowed to appeal.

Why are the Republicans in Virginia against ensuring that everyone has access to health care? As I understand it, the law is being attacked as un-Constitutional because it compels everyone to purchase insurance, and the federal government does not have that power. What, then, is the solution? A national system in which the government is guarantor is fine by me, Medicare for all. However, that is not palatable to the right, for one reason or another. It’s costly, inefficient and unlikely to remain solvent, or so they say. My interactions with Medicare have generally been favorable, and wonder about these characterizations. Even if they are true, can’t these things be fixed? Wouldn’t expanding the pool of participants in medicare with healthy, younger people be a way to do that. But the Right is not particularly interested in solving these issues because their real concern is ideological, and they think Medicare is a form of socialism. (Click here to cue ominous music!)

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The President is Correct about the Health Care Reform Law

President Barack Obama delivers his state of the union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photograph: Pool/Reuters

In the State of the Union Address tonight, President Barack Obama welcomed serious efforts fix aspects of the new health care law, but rejected efforts to overturn it and start over. He is right. The law is Constitutional and the apocalyptic scenarios regarding its impact on our health care system are absurd.

Most importantly, it is a good law protecting us from abuses by insurance companies and the health care industry. Here are a few of the most interesting provisions, as summarized in an article from Reuters that came out in March when the legislation was passed. I’ve selected some of the provisions that will have the most impact and inserted my comments in parentheses.

Already in effect are the following provisions. See the article for a fuller summary.

  • Insurance companies will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated and annual limits are to be restricted. (Note: If you, a friend or family member has every had a chronic condition, or an illness or injury that is difficulty that is expensive to treat, you will really be grateful for this provision.)
  • Insurers will be barred from excluding children for coverage because of pre-existing conditions. (If you’ve ever changed jobs in a state that doesn’t prohibit this, this is good news, too.)
  • Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until the age of 26. Many health plans currently drop dependents from coverage when they turn 19 or finish college. (The job market it tough out there! A lot of young people and their worried parents will appreciate this.)…
  • A tax credit becomes available for some small businesses to help provide coverage for workers.
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    World AIDS Day 2010

    Today is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease, commemorate those who have passed on, to celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services, and to push for further advances in all these areas.   The theme is Universal Access and Human Rights, and it is being marked by a Light for Rights Campaign.

    (The) campaign strives to underscore this year’s focus on HIV and human rights by encouraging people in cities around the world to dim the lights on key landmarks to remember the devastating affect AIDS has had on us all, and to turn back on the lights to illuminate the fundamental rights we all share.

    One website, The Body, an online HIV/AIDS Resource, sponsored a contest, challenging folks to create and submit public service announcements.  The submissions can be seen here.
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    Frank v. Beilat, No Contest

    The top mailing was meant to give me three reasons for firing Barney Frank, but in fact the mailings themselves were 3 reasons NOT to vote for Sean Beilat!

    When I picked up my mail today I found a magazine, a fund raising appeal, and four political mailings relating to the elections next week, three of which were targeted against Congressman Barney Frank.  According to the first mailing, Americans for Limited Government believe he “no longer represents ‘us'” and that Nancy Pelosi “has him in the palm of her hand.”  Sean Beilat for Congress sent two mailings.  The first claims that Frank “and his “rich friends… live by a different set of rules,” and  the other that provides three reasons why voters should “fire Barney Frank on November 2,” claiming he caused the financial meltdown, bailed out friends in the financial sector, and accepted vacations from the people who got federal bail out money.

    These claims are, at best, exaggerations, some of them outright falsehoods.  They are examples of some pretty intense negative campaigning and an obvious attempt to mislead the public.  Quotations are taken out of context, presented in the mailing to look like press clippings, and topped with the logos from the newspapers’ mastheads so they look like actual published news articles, when in fact they are taken from opinion pieces or editorials.  They are not objective analyses.

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    FactChecking ‘The Pledge to America’

    Get a load of that title! Click for text, with pictures.

    FactCheck.org is the website of a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics for voters

    by monitoring the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

    They are a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and not related to any political party.  They simply check facts.  In these midterm elections, they are a good place to turn for the truth behind the spin in any given campaign.  This post, for example, shows that both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Senator in Nevada are making false claims about each other.

    So what about the Pledge to America that Republican Party leaders recently made?

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    Obama Signs Reconciliation Bill with Major Student Loan Change

    I Care AboutPresident Obama signed into law the last piece of his mammoth plan to overhaul healthcare Tuesday, and achieved another dramatic and far-reaching change with the very same pen stroke — revamping the way most Americas help pay for a college education.

    The healthcare provisions and changes to the loan program for college students were sandwiched into a single piece of legislation — the budget reconciliation bill approved last week by the House and Senate.

    via Obama signs reconciliation bill with major student loan change – latimes.com.

    This is good news.  I’ve gotten loans through my local bank and directly from the program through the financial aid office at my university and in my experience the second method worked my better.  Tuition was taken directly out of the loans saving a step in billing and payment.  Then, when there was a delay in the loans, there was no hassle because the financial aid office of the university was processing them and knew the issue.

    By far the most ridiculous point made in this debate, however, was that made by Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) who said

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    What You Need to Know NOW about Health Care Reform

    Why does this number matter? Click to find out.

    An appeal from Consumers Union Action Fund that found its way to my email today makes a good point.

    Right now, they’re counting the phone calls in your Representative’s office. Who is calling against health reform, who is for it.

    They’re keeping a minute-by-minute tally – undecided members are getting swayed; those who already voted ‘yes’ are reconsidering.

    These days it is easy to feel jaded about politics and about the influence of the people on the process.  We are far too often given reason to.   The fact is, however, that the voice of the people does still matter.  Politicians do respond to political pressure.  They always have and always will.  After all, no matter how much money political action committees, corporations or special interests channel into politics, politicians have to be re-elected.

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    Grayson Introduces Public Option Act

    This is the way to look at Universal Health Care, extending Medicare coverage to everyone.
    A Press Release from the Office of Congressman Alan Grayson
    March 9, 2010
    Congressman Alan Grayson, D-Fla., today introduced a bill (H.R. 4789) which would give the option to buy into Medicare to every citizen of the United States.  The “Public Option Act,” also known as the “Medicare You Can Buy Into Act,” would open up the Medicare network to anyone who can pay for it.
    Congressman Grayson said, “Obviously, America wants and needs more competition in health coverage, and a public option offers that.  But it’s just as important that we offer people not just another choice, but another kind of choice.   A lot of people don’t want to be at the mercy of greedy insurance companies that will make money by denying them the care that they need to stay healthy, or to stay alive.  We deserve to have a real alternative.”
    The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish enrollment periods, coverage guidelines, and premiums for the program.  Because premiums would be equal to cost, the program would pay for itself.
    “The government spent billions of dollars creating a Medicare network of providers that is only open to one-eighth of the population.  That’s like saying, ‘Only people 65 and over can use federal highways.’  It is a waste of a very valuable resource and it is not fair.  This idea is simple, it makes sense, and it deserves an up-or-down vote,” Congressman Grayson said.
    H.R. 4789 – “Public Option Act” or “Medicare You Can Buy Into Act”:
    http://thomas.loc.gov/  Click Bill Number. Enter H.R. 4789. Click Search. From there you can access the text of the legislation (very short bill), cosponsors, and other information.

    Tell the Senate to Pass Health Care Reform through Reconciliation

    Health Care Reform Reality Check from the White House SiteThere is a letter circulating in the Senate calling on Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass the public health insurance option through “reconciliation,” which only needs a simple majority in the Senate, rather than the 60 vote “Super Majority.” It is maddening that the Democrats have 59% of the seats in the Senate and yet they can’t seem to control the agenda.

    Go to this page to see if your Senator has signed and, if not, to sign the petition to ask them to to so. There is also a link to help you call you member of Congress. Continue reading