Posts Tagged ‘Health Care’

Kagen proposes a change to Obamacare

February 26, 2010

Wow, I feel obnoxious using “Obamacare.” It’s been almost exclusively used for misinformation purposes, but you gotta give it to those crazy townhallers, it’s catchy.

Steve Kagen, a Democrat from Northeastern Wisconsin, is proposing an amendment to the health care bill that will require businesses selling health care products (pills etc.) to disclose all their prices on the internet.

Kagen said he first offered his proposal as an amendment to the health care bill the House passed in June. But House leadership barred amendments from being attached to the bill.

He introduced his measure Thursday as a stand-alone bill at the same time Obama was hosting a bipartisan summit on health care reform.

Kagen is a former doctor and a millionaire. He is also the most vulnerable member of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation. He won his first election 51-49 in a huge Democratic year. In his second election, which was another great year for Dems, Kagen got up to 54 percent.

Kagen’s lack of seniority is only one part of what makes the 8th district (wikipedia map of it) the best target for the GOP in November. The main population hubs are the Fox Cities and Green Bay. Traditionally Republican territory, many state politicos (mainly from the Dem side) are commenting that the “Fox Valley is changing.” Both Brown and Outagamie counties voted solidly for Obama in 2008, his margin of victory (10+) much more substantial than any margin Clinton enjoyed during the 90’s (The Fox Valley gave less support to Ross Perot than the nation).

Nevertheless, Kagen has some work to do if he wants to keep his seat. I do believe that health care reform is an issue close to his heart, but I also bet that this bill would be a great way for him to get some positive name recognition in his district. What he’s proposing is simple and popular. It’s very hard for the GOP to portray this as a government takeover of private business –– people understand and appreciate basic consumer protections. The voters of the 8th district may be right-leaning and somewhat distrustful of government, but there is not a meaningful enclave of Ayn Rand objectivists who will oppose making big pharmaceuticals post their prices online. Just in case you thought the Badger Herald editorial page was indicative of typical Wisconsin voters…

BadgerCare Basic approved

February 25, 2010

The legislature approved Badger Care Basic today, which will allow adults without dependent children to buy into a health care program for a $130 a month premium. Kathleen Vinehount (who has not responded to my email on a separate matter) was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, which passed by one vote.

Now, the program is not supposed to cost the state any money. It’s all supposed to come out of the premium. However, Republicans insist that the revenue generated from the premiums will not be enough to cover the costs of “a very sick population,” and that the state will inevitably be forced to chip in.

That may be true, but even if that is the case, it does not spell fiscal disaster. The program concerns less than 25,000 people. I will look into the numbers and try to get some stats on the average age etc. of the target population. I suspect there are quite a few young people in the program, many of whom are in good health.

How Obama uses Paul Ryan

February 3, 2010

Like him or not, Paul Ryan is no dummy. There’s a reason the Wisconsin Republican has had such a quick ascent within the House GOP leadership. It appears that he has even become a subject of Obama’s new strategy to engage the Republicans (or at least to pretend to engage them).

Obama praised Ryan for having ideas at the retreat, contrasting him with Republicans who offered only talking points. But Obama also criticized Ryan, saying his plan would too strictly limit Medicare benefits.

Ryan proposes that the deficit be closed by shifting some seniors away from Medicare. He would have Americans 55 and younger be issued vouchers to buy private insurance approved  by Medicare instead of being placed in the Medicare system. when they grow older.  Those older than 55 would stay in Medicare.

Ryan is a movement conservative. He is a Buckley-reading son of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page. He is the idol of campus conservatives all across America. An intellectual in an anti-intellectual party. But there’s a reason Obama was comfortable highlighting his intellectualism. His ideas are radical, and they strike against the most sacred special interest in Washington: the elderly. Obama welcomes the opportunity to showcase Ryan’s alternatives because they are incompatible with American public opinion.

The perception that Obama’s health care plan would covertly starve Medicare to pay for increased Medicaid etc. is one of the most important barriers that Democrats need to address in order to win the health care debate. By so generously giving the floor to a Republican who is overtly anti-Medicare (relatively speaking), Obama can remind voters that it is in fact Democrats who wish to protect the elderly.

It’s the GOP’s turn on jobs

January 21, 2010

In light of the recent jobs legislation authored by State Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans have come out with an alternative proposal. It of course has no chance of being realized in the near future because the entire Republican caucus voted for the Democratic bill, but so goes the game of public relations in government.

You wouldn’t believe it, but they advocated for lower taxes and tort reform. But even more interesting was the bone they threw to education and health care.

The thoughts and recommendations of over 150 employers detailed in the Task Force Report can be summed up in the following categories:

•First do no harm

•Higher taxes mean fewer jobs

•Cut through the red tape

•Train and educate a 21st century workforce

•A strong economy requires affordable healthcare

It’s refreshing to hear the GOP admit that high health care costs stifle innovation and business.

Barrett taking a cue from Massachusetts?

January 21, 2010

In wake of the Democrats’ recent loss in Massachusetts, the most popular criticism of the party and its president is that they have focused too much on long-term issues such as health care and climate change and have neglected the issue practically every American is worried about: the economy.

What could Obama have done differently on the economy? That’s a discussion that economists will continue to have well after he leaves office (whenever that takes place). Different interpretations of economic history yield wildly different heros and culprits. Just look at the diverging views on FDR. To liberals, he is a savior. To supply-siders, he was a hindrance.

Any ideas? What would you have liked to see Obama do? I would have liked to see much more money towards long-term goals, including revolutionary transportation and visionary research. A lot of the stimulus money went into sure bets: potholes and bridges.

Either way, Tom Barrett is trying to distance himself from the loftier ideas of the Obama administration.

Tom Barrett toured Orion Energy Systems on Wednesday morning and said the focus of his bid to become governor is “jobs, jobs and jobs.”

Barrett said citizens want their elected officials to focus on strengthening the economy and that trumps health-care reform.

The irony is that as a national health care policy becomes more tenuous, Democrats at the state level also become less enthusiastic about creating state policies. Doyle, who yesterday introduced Badger Care Plus Basic, which will offer adults with no dependent children a basic health care policy for $130 a month, is likely an exception to the rule because he is not running for re-election. Politics is perverse.

Healthcare votes to begin

December 21, 2009

It looks as if the Senate Democrats in Washington are about to do what people who want health care reform have been wishing they would do since Barack Obama’s election: Treat the Republican Party like the minority party it is. Democrats have already surrendered so much since 2008; the least they can do is try to push forward the issue that defined their campaign rhetoric and is supposed to be one of the distinguishing points between them and Republicans.

The Republicans have defined this debate with nonsense for too long. Politicians, if given time, can characterize the most trivial and innocent aspects of any legislation as a communist-takeover scheme devised by group of abortion doctors in Kenya. Sometimes there’s just no way to negotiate with the absurd.

Feingold votes against more stimulus

December 14, 2009

Russ Feingold was one of three Senate Democrats to vote against another round of stimulus supported by the Obama administration.

Feingold’s U.S. senate colegue, Democrat Herb Kohl voted yes, and he then announced almost $15-million dollars in projects and new federal aid for the Badger State – plus another 11-million for national autism education projects. Kohl’s Wisconsin earmarks included transit upgrades, new health projects in La Crosse and Eau Claire, and military construction projects at Fort McCoy and Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport.

Feelings? I don’t know how I feel myself, but I would like you to forgive me for diverting attention from this issue to another one – health care – to show that fiscal hawks like Feingold support the public option because it saves money, not simply because it’s more generous and more fair (which it is).

Baucus balks on health care again

September 21, 2009

This time perhaps for the better:

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee,Max Baucus, said Monday that he would modify his health care bill to provide more generous assistance to moderate-income Americans, to help them buy insurance.

“Affordability — that, I think, is the primary concern,” Mr. Baucus said. “We want to make sure that if Americans have to buy insurance, it’s affordable.”

Just as long as there is some private insurer who reaps a benefit from the cash transfer, Baucus is OK with slightly higher government spending.

Max Baucus is almost as unbearable as Joe Lieberman. If health care reform is as much of a failure as he would like it to be, what I would like to see is a grass roots movement to field “health care” candidates in the 2010 mid-term elections. Candidates aren’t even necessary – perhaps just a campaign to get would-be Democratic voters to write in “Universal Health Care” on their ballots. If there was a sizable portion of the electorate did just that, then maybe the party would realize that there are certain values that voters expect to be included in the agenda when they elect Democrats. Then maybe they’d get that there are certain goals, although sometimes controversial, are worth fighting for.

I hope so too, Feingold

September 11, 2009

An uncharacteristically long article in the Green Bay Press Gazette discusses the health care positions of Wisconsin lawmakers, including the predictable talking points from Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s point man on preserving the status quo. I know that’s a corny thing that a press secretary would say, but I can’t think of a more accurate way to describe it. It’s good to see Feingold put the emphasis on the public option:

“I’m glad he laid out the need and value of a public option approach,” Feingold said. “I hope he doesn’t negotiate it away.”

Refreshing yet depressing to hear Feingold openly suggest that Obama may give away the public option in an attempt to pass something and save face politically.

Paul Soglin says it’s time to move on beyond consensus-seeking. The Republicans are not going to budge.

Try and shout me down on the phone!

August 26, 2009

Hysterical. Old people against health care have become so threatening that Rep. David Obey has surrendered to 20th century technology for his next town hall meeting on the subject:

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey has announced plans to answer questions on health care reform Monday through a district wide telephone forum.

Obey, D-Wausau, writes in a message on his House Web site that the approach will allow thousands of people from across the 7th CD to participate in the event in “the most constructive way to involve the largest number of people possible in a good discussion on this important topic.”

Dem lawmakers have faced a series of hostile crowds across the country, and Wisconsin Republicans have been trying to pressure Obey, chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee, to meet with constituents on the topic.

“I’m looking forward to a good discussion with people from all over the District, a chance to separate fact from fiction, and an opportunity to ensure that people have accurate information — not misinformation — about what’s going on,” Obey writes on his site.

I know, it’s all about accessibility Dave. Or, it might just be about taking a note out of Rush Limbaugh’s book on screening unfavorable callers. How Limbaugh does it so effectively has always puzzled me. That you can listen to a session of his show and not hear one reference to his drug habit is frankly an insult to the 1st amendment. Oh well.