Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category


I was invited to contribute here by jhwygirl on transportation, land use issues, and such.  Since that has gone so swimmingly for me so far (my own mistake in making in-the-moment, emotional comments that didn’t sit well with many people).  So now I’ll change gears and throw my hat into the healthcare debate by sharing a friend’s story.

This friend was laid off just about a year ago, a few years before she would have received a full retirement package that included healthcare.  Upon termination she moved to Missoula and has been on COBRA health insurance, which will run out in a couple of months.  COBRA has been pretty good to her as she’s made extensive use of it to cover abdominal surgery (which went horribly wrong) and the numerous subsequent surgeries that were needed to fix the complications from the first surgery.  This has been a nine month saga costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and she is just now getting back to normal… though still weak from all the surgeries.

So now she is facing a future without healthcare because she can’t afford the $12,000 a year for coverage because of here now  “preexisting” condition and she is still a few years from being able to draw medicare.  (life is a preexisting condition)

So what will she do?  Game the system by going back to college and signing up for the university provided insurance.  Its pretty sad that she feels this is her only option to get affordable health insurance.  According to her this is a fairly popular strategy for seniors that have lost their employer based health insurance but don’t yet qualify for medicare.  With all her health problems she can’t afford to be without insurance.

Not only is this not an effective way to provide health insurance, but I also wonder of how much this costs the state of Montana?  If this is a truly popular option among Montana seniors as a stop-gap option to health insurance, how much money is going to cover their health problems that should be going into investments in education?

This just goes to illustrating that we don’t have a healthcare system in this country, but a patchwork of less than optimal options that increasingly don’t work for the American people.

by jhwygirl

I wrote here just the other day of what many view as the galling move by WellPoint to increase health insurance rates of 34 million people across 8 states.

That increase will help increase profits by an estimated 7% for this year. This, from a company that made $4.7 billion in profit off of $60 billion in sales.

Stop, take a breath and read that again.

Not gonna happen here? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana controls 75% of Montana’s health insurance market share. And now here comes The Missoula Independent reporting that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana has recently sent out notices of rate increases, as high as 43%.

Apparently this is an anomaly that perhaps we shouldn’t be worried about:

Tim Warner, the company’s senior director of external affairs, says most rate hikes this year fall between 10 and 20 percent, on par with recent years.

Make sure you read that last paragraph with a heavy dose of sarcasm, folks.

Make sure to read that Indy link – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana put out a notice on February 10th telling its customers that their health insurance rates (not their cable costs, or their internet costs – all things that people can really do without) would be going up by as much as 43% on April 1st.

State auditor’s office spokesperson Jackie Boyle said that while they lack any authority to crack down on the rate increases, “anybody who has bought into a health insurance product from our company and there’s a premium increase that high, they really should…contact us so we can work with them to see if there’s a better solution.”

The Indy’s Matthew Frank is looking for Montanans that have gotten these rate increase letters. If you can help him out with that, check out that post and give him a holla. This story deserves thorough investigative coverage.

I haven’t given up on expecting some real reform. After last week’s WellPoint showdown in the Senate, with the rate increases meeting press release on the eve of this past week’s bi-partisan health reform summit, patience is wearing pretty thin with those that know something has to be done.

Think me crazy if you will, but these reckless increases by health insurance corporations only serve to make me renew my calls for a public option. Here in Montana, there is no competition, and competition is key to affordability.

Think about this, readers: If Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana just put out notices raising rates as high as 45% – and it is (fact) the state’s largest insurer – it makes sense that other minor insurers will be following.

Think about what that means – because every single taxpayer in this state – whether you have health insurance or not, whether you obtain it from your employer or whether you obtain it on the free market – all of you should be expecting another larger bill here sometimes in the future. That’s because as a taxpayer, you not only have your very own health insurance that you either pay for or you don’t, you are paying for all sorts of local, state and federal employee’s health insurance.

And they are pulling out of the same market (or lack thereof, as is the case here in Montana) as everyone else.

Expect that bill in the mail sometime before the next legislative session. At some point, the insurers start negotiation with the state. Probably Department of Administration. Will the state negotiate any impending 45% rate increase? Rates that have – by their own admittance as linked to above – normally increased between 10 and 20% annually over the last decade?

Seriously – imagine your heating costs or your mortgage or rent going up by 10 to 20% annually. Those kind of increases – let’s take gasoline as an example – strap this nation and bring it to its knees. Yet Montana Blue Cross Blue Shield puts that out there very matter-of-factually. That that’s OK…and here we are standing around debating the need for health reform.

The status quo is not acceptable when it comes to healthcare in this nation.

I hope I’ve sufficiently fired you up. Remember some main points: WellPoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and 45%. Now fire off an email, ever how brief, telling Sen. Tester, Sen. Baucus, and Rep. Denny Rehberg that you want real meaningful reform…and remind them (by mentioning WellPoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana and that 45% figure) that you are watching.

Silence, in this case, is not golden.

Trickster? Or Sincere???

by JC

Open thread on the fate of health care reform (or what is currently passing for reform) for those who are glued to CSPAN today to see democracy at work. [/snark]


by jhwygirl

You simply couldn’t even write this into a movie, unless it was some sort of sick comedy. No one would believe it.

Against the backdrop of a renewed call for health reform WellPoint/Anthem Blue Cross, based in Indiana, and a provider of health insurance in 14 states with 34 million customers – 8 million of them in California alone – has announced significant rate increases across 8 states.

WellPoint/Anthem Blue Cross earned $4.7 billion on $60 billion in sales last year.

The announced planned rate hikes as high as 39 percent in California and 34 percent in Indiana. Internal memos project an addition 7% profit in 2010 as a result of this newest rate increase.

What else do they show?:

WellPoint Inc.’s internal documents show the health insurer sought to raise rates in California to boost company profits and cover costs ballooned by executive salaries and corporate retreats, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman said.

Gutsy, huh?

Congress wasn’t too happy.

How much has WellPoint spend on lobbying?:

The largest spender among the insurance companies though was Wellpoint. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., the company spent about 4.7 million in 2009 on lobbying, 21 percent more than its K Street expenditures in 2008.

They also acquired a larger share of the California market (translate: decreased competition) by purchase of Blue Cross of California – by having its very own consumers pay for it in the form of higher premiums – and have continued, now, to increase profits at the cost of cutting services and raising rates. Not only that, they continue to siphon billions off of Blue Cross CA to other Anthem subsidiaries for “unspecified services.”

A White House report on Feb. 18 highlighted additional health premium increases last year in other places like Michigan, Connecticut and Maine that it said were five to 10 times higher than the growth rate in national health spending. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc., the top U.S. health plans, were trying to preserve executive pay and profits “way over anybody’s estimates.”

There’s a group out there working on 1,000,000 calls to congress between today and tomorrow. If you aren’t incline to do that, maybe take a couple of links in this article and send it Baucus’, Tester’s and Rehberg’s way. Let ’em know your watching.

I will say – sometimes it can be fun to get a staffer up on the phone. Especially Rehberg’s, because you know they love taking calls on health reform.

Do remember – Always be nice.

by jhwygirl

This comes to us via Michael Shay at hummingbirdminds.

Wyoming’s legislature just started its 20-day legislative session, and one of the first tasks at hand was to “send a message to Washington” that health care reform was not welcome. Titled the Health Freedom of Choice resolution, the senate proposal was intended to tell the federal government that “the federal government shall not interfere with an individual’s health care decisions.”

The resolution failed on its first reading.

The make-up of the Wyoming senate? 30 members, 23 of ’em Republicans, 7 Democrats.

Quite the message. Let’s see if Washington, Republicans, Blue Dogs, the media and the rest of America takes note.

Wherein Big Swede’s head begins to spin….

Update: The Wyoming senate actually killed two anti-health reform bills. The other was a bill that would have required the AG to investigate the constitutionality of any health reform bill passed in congress.

What Baucus Said

by JC

Ok. Now that I’ve stirred the pot here by posting Baucus’ video, let me post up the transcript of his words and video, from CSPAN, and let them speak for themselves. Read his words, not in the context of how he sounded saying them (which is what the conservablogs are doing), but in the context of when, where, and in what role did they occur.

Max Baucus is the chairman of the Senate Finance committee, arguably the most important position to advancing a health care reform bill. We have debated Baucus’ role on this committee endlessly, here and on other blogs. While my opinion on Baucus’ efforts are well known, it appears that his tirade, as filmed by CSPAN, and rebroadcast by YouTube are casting him in another light.

I thought early on that Baucus was naive to think he could garner any bipartisan support, and that his strategy of positioning his legislation such that it could gain bipartisan support would eventually implode. Which it seems to have done, as it has ignited a firestorm between progressive, left and liberal factions in the health reform debate, and castigation from the right.

So when Max goes on the floor two days before the final vote, and unloads, he does himself and his legislative fforts a great disservice, as he hands his opposition the tools to derail his efforts to shepherd his bill through conference. It was a serious tactical breach in what to this point had been a carefully thought out, though misguided, strategy of bipartisanship.

I’d offer up that the chairman of the Finance committee melting down right before the final vote on his bill to be not his finest hour, when in essence it should have been. If I were of the “kill the bill” mentality–which I am not, though I think the mandate needs to be struck from the bill, and much backfilling needs to be done–then I would celebrate this outburst as being Baucus’ “macaca” moment.

While history will look at Baucus and his role in health reform, I don’t think that moments like this reflect positively on his legacy, given that they are a reaction to his own failed strategy of bipartisanship.

Full transcript of Baucus’ words below the fold.
Continue Reading »

by JC

Days like this you wish you weren’t a Montanan. Found this top o’ the Drudge Report today:

And it’s plastered all over the conservablogs today. Guess the Melodee Hanes story was just a warm up.

by JC

Well, now we know what the republicans really think about health care and the plight of the poor. Senator Lamar Alexander basically acknowledged the third world status of the less fortunate Americans among us.

The plan, said the Senator from Tennessee, is “arrogant in its dumping of 15 million low-income Americans into a medical ghetto called Medicaid that none of us or any of our families would ever want to be a part of for our health care.”

“Medical ghetto” indeed. Better a medical ghetto than sitting on the street outside a community health care clinic that has little or no services available to you.

These guys really do live in an alternate universe. One where poor blacks get free health care via Medicaid, and gosh, what a travesty that we’ll lump in another 15 million Americans… AMERICANS… with them.

Heaven forbid that a white senator from Tennessee would have to tell his low income and white constituents that they’re going to have to share Medicaid with the rest of them ghetto dwellers.

I guess we can say at this point: “and now you know the rest of the story.” Arrogant, indeed.

by jhwygirl

Whatever happen to the Republican/Lieberman ideal of not wanting government to come between the patient and the doctor?


By now you’ve heard of the passage of the House’s Affordable Health Care for America Act. Before that vote could hit the floor, conservative Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak put forth an amendment pro-choice people are accurately calling The Stupak Coathanger Amendment. It prohibits the health insurance plans in any government health insurance exchange from covering abortions.

64 Democrats and all but one Republican (Shadegg, of Arizona, who won’t vote for any reform) voted for the bill, and there you have it – the end result being that those most in need of health care – those that have the least – will be left to fend for themselves as those with private coverage move to the front of the line.

For abortions.

Don’t kid yourself, either, into thinking it was anything less.

That amendment didn’t need to occur. Reform was going to pass, and Stupak was bluffing, and many were calling Dems on that bluff up to the vote.

Women’s rights are that expendable for that many? For what? For a show?

Shakesville’s quixote summarizes it well:

But women are just, as always, the expendable canaries in the coal mine. Their rights are toast, which means so are everyone else’s.


Rights are for all. When only some people have them, they’re just privileges. And privileges can be taken away.

When only some people have them, they’re just privileges. And privileges can be taken away. Think about that.

The most superior Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (of Florida) is over this bill already, saying it will be stripped in conference, after which there is no chance to offer amendments – it becomes an up-or-down vote only.

I trust in Wasserman-Schultz. She’s the type of person you don’t want to get in front of – she’ll run ya’ down if you aren’t going top speed.

40 lawmakers have signed on to a letter saying that they will not support reform if Stupak’s amendment remains.

There are some things you don’t budge on. Pro-choice and preservation of that choice are building block components of the Democratic Party platform. There is no wiggle there.

No wiggle there with my vote either, btw.

Not one vote Not one dime Not one moment of time. Period.

by Pete Talbot

High Country News has a chart in its October 26 issue highlighting the wealthiest Western Congressfolk. There’s only one Montanan on the list of the 50 richest: Rep. Denny Rehberg.

Out of 100 Senators and 435 Representatives, Rehberg ranks 27th. And as the News reports, these are lowball figures because members of Congress report in ranges ($1 million to $5 million, for example).

Now, I don’t particularly have a problem with Denny’s wealth; heck, we should all be so lucky. But Denny has the best health care your and my money can buy. He obviously doesn’t need a public option. So, when he holds an “emergency” town hall meeting to spout right-wing misinformation like a “new board of federal bureaucrats to dictate the health plans that all individuals must buy” … well, how disingenuous.

It isn’t just Denny’s wealth that separates him from your average Montanan, however. It’s his health insurance. You see, Denny gets his insurance from the same pool as all federal employees — about eight million of them — making it one of the most flexible, affordable and transportable plans in the nation. Sort of like what a public option would offer the rest of us not on the public payroll.

I’m sure Denny likes his plan. He just doesn’t want you to have one like it.

And check out more of Denny’s misrepresentations covered by Pogie in two recent posts over at Intelligent Discontent.

(Sorry I couldn’t link to the High Country News chart. Couldn’t find it on their site. Here‘s the Roll Call report where the News got its information.)

by jhwygirl

A trigger option hands the insurance industry 12% of your total income. 12% of this nation’s income.

Under the trigger option, a public option will kick in some time in the future should the insurance companies fail to meet some certain thresholds like failing to provide a basic health insurance product at a cost that is no more than 12% of an individuals income. Currently, chances are here in Montana you aren’t paying 12% of your income – but your health costs are rising. A trigger option tells the industry to ‘have at it’ but don’t cross that 12% line.

Not only is government codifying the requirement to purchase insurance in the private sector, and tying that requirement to a tax penalty – of which failure to pay results in jail – it is handing the industry millions more customers and telling them that they can charge even more for their crappy product.

Congress writes laws every day that lack any real penalties – but not with insurance reform – they’ve basically said that they are going to tax you $750/person if you don’t purchase insurance from the private sector (keep in mind, here in Montana, 2 insurers hold 85% of the market – Blue Cross holding 75% in and by itself!).

Imagine the sanity of tax penalizing someone for something they already can’t afford? 12% of someone’s income in Montana means something significantly more for most than, say, 12% of someone’s income in techy and home-of-Boeing Seattle.

A Trigger does not a Public Option make. I don’t care what Obama or Olympia Snowe tries to say, they’re handing this country over to corporations.

by jhwygirl

Following up on Monday’s news that ABC/Time polling showed 57% support a public option in health insurance reform changes being hammered out in congress, today brings us news that affirms that trend.

CNN polling tells us 61% favor a public option for inclusion in any health insurance reform bill. That number is up 5% since late August.

A few short weeks ago – just before the Senate Finance Committee’s bill was freed – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ordered a CBO markup of the cost of including a public option. She wanted an analysis of 3 different versions. Guess what? The CBO found that including a Medicare-for-all option, along with a 5% increase in doctor payments, would actually lower the deficit. The cost? $871 billion over 10 years – and it would insure everyone.

The Senate Finance Committee’s bill leaves 25,000,000 American uninsured.

House Democratic leaders wisely quick to jump on this – and even Harry up there in the Senate is is hinting that he’s got the 60 votes necessary to pass a bill that includes a public option.

Keep the calls and email folks. I’m told I put up Tester’s fax number for the Missoula office last time – and Pete was kind enough to fix it…this time, I’m a cuttin’ and pastin’ out of that post, that way I know the numbers are correct. With apologies to all….

Keep calling. Keep emailing.

Sen. Max Baucus – 329-3123 in Missoula – others here
Sen. Jon Tester – 728-3003 here in Missoula – 1-866-554-4403 statewide.

Don’t forget Denny:
Rep. Denny Rehberg – 543-0663 here in Missoula, or 1-888-232-2626 statewide.

by jhwygirl

An ABC News-Washington Post poll released today shows that 57% of Americans support a public option.

Limit it to only those that can’t afford market insurance? Support soars to 76%.

And what if the GOP refuses to participate? Still a majority of Americans want reform.

What should those concerned about electing and re-electing either Democrats or Republicans think of those numbers? Well, howz about these numbers for those watching the election factor of health insurance reform.

Keep on keeping on, people

Sen. Max Baucus – 329-3123 in Missoula – others here
Sen. Jon Tester – 728-3003 here in Missoula – 1-866-554-4403 statewide.

Don’t forget Denny:
Rep. Denny Rehberg – 543-0663 here in Missoula, or 1-888-232-2626 statewide.

by jhwygirl

Really should be giving credit to supermissoulian Ellie Hill who tweeted on a NYT article, “The Public Plan, Continued“.

It’s a good article that lays out – very plainly – what a public option means; some of the various options of public option health insurance; and a nice overview of the process now that all health reform bills are out of the various committees and heading to merging committees and floor votes.

I like the read, for the fact that not enough main media sources are stepping up and explaining the meaning of the words swirling the artificially inflated controversy over single payer or public option. It also touches on one of the things that I’ve been waiting for – which is the legislative debate. Up until know, much emphasis was placed on one person as if what the committee he heads up puts out is what we are stuck with. We could end up with something very different than that which has been the central focus of all public option single payer advocates – and now is when it will happen.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she and the majority she claims in the house won’t approve anything without a meaningful and real public option. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, is taking a more milder position (he doesn’t seem to want to fight for anything, IMHO) – that a public option isn’t passable. To say that they are at odds, is clearly putting it mildly.

Anyone catch video of Nancy’s cold shoulder to Harry’s shoulder hug this week?

My bet is on the Lady of the House.

There are many who have been working on insurance reform since just as the presidential election finished up. Health insurance reform is the biggest domestic policy attempt in U.S. Congress in generations. We’re only half-way there. Those truly working on meaningful reform been able to focus on the meat-and-potatoes of the issue and not all of the extraneous personality-based coverage that is purposefully the focus of our corporate media. I admire that – because even when I ask them (as I’ve been drawn into it myself) “what in the hell is Max thinking,” they skillfully brush it off and guide the discussion back to the facts and figures and the heart of the issue.

Who benefits from shifting the discussion away from the topic at hand and instead focusing on all the “superstars”? Olympia Snowe, Up and Coming? What sells now that America is numb? Policy or personality? Last week it was Sen. Harry Reid – this week it’ll be Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Maybe we should be talking about the fiscal irresponsibility to the taxpayers and the added cost to health care should there be no real public option instead of Harry v. Nancy, Baucus v Dodd/Kennedy, Republicans v Democrats.

Maybe we should be taking about the 50 million uninsured in America and the effect that has on the cost of health care.

Maybe we should talk about what what the cost is to America if we don’t act.

Because that’s the real news.

by jhwygirl

The Missoula League of Women Voters is sponsoring, for this months luncheon presentation, a health care forum, with the topic of discussion being “Long-term Care in Missoula”.

The events are held in room 302 in the MCAT building at the corner of Spruce and N. Higgins. The forum starts Monday at 11:45. You can bring your own lunch, or the MLWV has a $5 option waiting for you.

Mary Dalton, Respite Coordinator for Missoula Aging Services will be speaking.

by Pete Talbot

Every so often, our daily newspaper gives us competing versions of an important story. Today was such a day.

There’s this guest column and this news interview. Both are on the subject of health care. The guest column was penned by Greg Roberts, a former health care executive.  The interview of President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, was conducted by Charles Johnson.

Guess which person was advocating a single-payer system, or at the very least, a strong public option? Hint: it isn’t the guy who used to be Sen. Baucus’ Chief of Staff before moving up the ladder.

I saw Messina this past Homecoming Weekend in the Missoula Club, schmoozing with our mayor and other Democratic Party notables. I didn’t get the chance, as jhwygirl suggested, to button hole Messina on the public option but I wouldn’t have done nearly as good a job as Roberts did in his column. For starters:

Sen. Max Baucus, representative government is a cornerstone of our democracy. We elect individuals to serve society’s best interests. Yet “government of, by and for the people” seems a concept as foreign to you as you to it.

For 12 months, our Senate Finance Committee has engaged in what has amounted to a charade on this matter. From the start, advocates for true reform were excluded from your hearings, a prologue to what followed.

Compare that with Messina’s take on Baucus health care efforts:

“The fact is Max wrote a very good bill that can bring people together, and you’re seeing that,” Messina said. “And on Tuesday, he’s going to pass it (in committee).”

Asked about the lack of a public option in the Baucus bill, Messina said it has one in the form of co-ops.

“Look, the president supports public option, but has said over and over again there are different ways to do it,” Messina said. “He’d be open to those ways. We’re in consultations with the House and Senate about that.”

Asked about the criticism Baucus is facing over the lack of a public option in his bill, Messina said: “This is probably the most important piece of legislation that he will work on, and people feel strongly about what should or should not be in it. Typical of Max, he’s spent a whole bunch of time doing his homework and is working hard to produce the best bill that he can produce.”

I’ve got to go with Roberts over Messina on this, ” … a very good bill that can bring people together … ” Yeah, right. People are lining up to sing the praises of the Baucus bill. As to the lack of a public option, ” … it has one in the form of co-ops.” A co-op is not a public option and even the CBO is skeptical.

From an Alex Koppleman piece in Salon:

(The co-ops) didn’t impress CBO. “The proposed co-ops had very little effect on the estimates of total enrollment in the exchanges or federal costs because, as they are described in the specifications, they seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country or to noticeably affect federal subsidy payments,” the analysis said. Translated out of wonk-speak, that’s pretty harsh; it basically says they won’t work.

Then there’s ” … he’s spent a whole bunch of time doing his homework and is working hard to produce the best bill that he can produce.” If that’s the best bill he can produce, maybe somebody else should take a crack at it.

Let’s face it, the private insurers are already squawking about the minor reforms being proposed by Congress and threatening even more rate increases. Max has given the insurance industry just about everything it could have wished for and it’s still whining. This from Digby, via Jay, over at Left in the West:

There has never been a better argument for the public plan than the one the insurance company just handed the Democrats in congress. They have produced a shoddy, self-serving report as a blatant threat to raise premiums higher than they already plan to raise them. If there has ever been a more obvious case of bad faith than this, I haven’t seen it. The only thing that will keep these corporate criminals in line is either price controls or stiff competition and if they can’t keep their companies solvent without giving their executives outrageous pay packages, charging ridiculous prices while denying care to sick people, then maybe their financial model just doesn’t work.

Finally, there’s this from Roberts:

The health insurance industry contributes upwards of 25 percent to the annual cost of U.S. health care and medical value. Viewed in the light of other nations who provide (based on factual data) higher quality, less expensive, universal coverage to their citizens, it is not difficult to understand the economics of the matter. In you (Baucus), Chuck Grassley and others, the U.S. health insurance industry has the best representation money can buy – and our society has a government of, by and for corporate interest.

What I know about Messina is this: he’s extremely loyal. One would assume he’s working in the President’s best interests, not his old boss’. But right now, to be honest, I’d prefer that Greg Roberts, not Jim Messina, has the President’s ear.

by jhwygirl

Just read it, here.

by jhwygirl

…because “he’s funny as hell and the,” according to his Wikipedia page.

Getting to the point…Jim Messina, Deputy Chief of Staff for President Obama is in town to enjoy this weekends festivities, I’m sure. Jim Messina who used to live here in Missoula. Jim Messina who graduated University of Montana. He will be out and about, and you just might run into him.
jim messina

See what a great nice looking guy he looks like. Very approachable…extremely pleasant. Look – I don’t want anyone to miss the possibility of, say, passing a note to Mr. Messina and telling him that you support a public option and a single payer system. You can add some of the other stuff that’s been written around here too, but really, you can keep it short and sweet and I’m sure he’d probably appreciate a certain economy to your words. I do believe he deserves some time off from the pressures of D.C., and in that respect, I’ll personally pledge to ignore his next two stops here after health insurance reform is passed.

But for now? Pass him a note if you get the chance.

by jhwygirl

I’ve found this, from the Huffington Post….Last Friday, Schweitzer is quoted with a pretty darn clear statement in support of a single-payer system of health care:

“I ask [Canadian officials] a lot about their system,” he said. “And they ask a lot about our system. And I read a lot of Canadian press. And one thing I noticed about Canada is that they are flummoxed about this debate we have down here from time to time when someone lobs an insult to the Canadian health care system. I’ll tell you folks there is a better chance of someone getting struck by lightening in Canada then there is for a Canadian to come to the United States to get their health care. And yet, we are disparaging a system that has been working in Saskatchewan, my neighbor, since 1946.”

Still more, from The Atlantic:

On health care, Schweitzer and other governors have expressed concern that health care reform will amount to an unfunded mandate to force states to cover more people. After a few jokes about Washington, Schweitzer admitted that he wouldn’t support reform “if the end result of this bill is to shift the cost of this bill to the states that have to balance budgets. Forty eight states are in budget deficit.” Montana’s cash reserves, he noted, are at historic highs.

What about the public option? Schweitzer, in an amusing and winding story, noted that the most respected person in Canadian history isn’t their founder, it’s the man who instituted universal single-payer health care.

“So you like the public option?” Weisberg asked bluntly.

Schweitzer summed up. “I like the public option.”

That’s pretty crystal, no?

by jhwygirl

I was watching Keith My Hero Olbermann tonight – as was 4&20’s Chuck – when Olbermann offered up $50,000 towards helping sponsor the National Association of Free Clinics here in Butte Montana.

The idea is to sponsor Free Clinics in each of the states where their senators (in our case, Sen. Max Baucus) are standing in the way of meaningful health insurance reform.

Butte Montana America USA? A town steeped deep in labor history, unions and corporate irresponsibility run amuck? A struggling town, fighting to come back?

Butte Civic Center, anyone?

I think Montana’s Democratic Party should sponsor the rental of that facility. Stand behind its talk of support for public option and health reform. County Democratic Parties around the state should join together and help make this happen.

I can’t seem to figure out how to embed MSNBC videos. That is annoying to no end, especially since Olbermann is what I usually want to embed, and Olbermann is so easy on the eyes, and Olbermann is so wonderful…but I digress. If you want to watch Keith offer up the cash to Butte, check this out.

Count me in as being one who will do whatever is needed to help make this happen. Chuck too. And I’m betting a whole bunch of you readers out there, also.

Update: JC figures out MSNBC embeds!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about " Video Player", posted with vodpod

(j – Isn’t he just the best looking sight on television? Thanks JC!)

by jhwygirl

Say what?!?

That’s what I thought when I heard Representative Chris Murphy (D-Conn) on some radio talk show this morning say that the public option would save $110 billion. Frankly, I didn’t believe it when I heard it, mostly because I was hearing it the first time.

What did I find? I found where adding a public option would save somewhere in the $100 billion range, give or take, depending on how it was implemented. Earlier, $150 billion figure was also being used. The National Journal even has the story.

Jiminy gosh darn dang…why haven’t we heard of that? Seriously.

I seriously think I’m saying seriously too much.

It’s all about money, isn’t it? And yet even that statement isn’t clear enough. It’s all about the money of corporations, isn’t it? Because if it were simply about money, the U.S. would cut $100 billion from the proposed bill and call it good. And it’s certainly not about “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” either, since if it were, government would say that cutting $100 billion from the budget and providing every single American with an affordable health care option while still preserving your right to purchase on the market was a good thing to do.

Nope, it’s about preserving the money of corporate interests, isn’t it? It’s unbelievably frustrating to see elected officials ignore the facts that are in front of them in favor of preserving what they thing will be their next re-election.

Will I knock doors and dial phones and donate money (what little cash I am able to spare these days) for an incumbent that doesn’t support what is one of the basic tenants of the Democratic party? Don’t bet on it. I can be quitr forgiving – I don’t think I can expect my elected official to agree with me 100% of the time – but there are some things that make a big impact on how I would consider support for any candidate any further. And health insurance reform is one of them.

Montanans need health care. The median income in this state is always in the bottom 10, if not 5. Two health care insurers dominate 80% of the state’s market, while 22% of adults in Montana are uninsured.

With Montanans ranking with close to the lowest median wages in the United States, where do you think uninsured – those in the gap – are going to be when they are facing tax penalties for not being able to afford health care on the public option free market? Just what is going to be the per-capita number of people here in Montana that fall into that gap? Or what about the ones that get tax forgiveness, but are still left without health care? I can only conjecture that given our ranking of median income, that more than the average will fall into that gap.

I look forward to the merging of this bill. Of the debate and amendments. Looks like those days are becoming nearer – the Senate Finance Committee is set vote on its bill this coming Monday.

Senator Tester? The time is coming when you are going to have to let us all know where it is you stand.

In the meantime, people – do not assume. Contact Sen. Tester and tell him to support a single payer public option reform. Tell him that a public option would save $100 billion dollars, which is about $1,100 out of your pocket.

Lest you think that isn’t needed, and if yesterday’s post wasn’t enough to piss you off, consider that all the teabaggers are also, too, calling Tester telling him to vote no to any reform.

(866) 554-4403

Then again – there’s always email.

“Sen. Max Baucus… is, not surprisingly, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients”

by JC

Nothing like spending $829 billion dollars and still having 25 million people, all legal citizens under the age of 65, left out of the health care insurance system under Baucus’ current reform “efforts.” You can read all the gory details at the CBO, if you have stomach for such things.

So Baucus has written a bill that increases the inequity in America, more sharply defining the edges between the haves and the have nots. And for the have nots, he has devised a system of penalties, excise tax fines, and possible IRS criminal prosecutions ending with jail time.

Yes, Max will threaten you with jail, if you don’t hand over your own money, along with your government subsidy (if you’re one of those who get to must participate in the $829 billion dollar insurance corporation bailout) to the private health insurance corporation of your choice (that is if there is more than one or two insurance corporations operating in your state).

And to go with this nice bit of news, I’d like to show you a new video from our friends at the Sunlight Foundation talking about the role corporate and lobbyist bundling dollars play in our Senator’s business. This is another piece of their ongoing collaboration with OpenSecrets about the role of bundling lobbyist dollars in buying our politicians loyalty.

They were even kind enough to use our own Senator Baucus as their first case study. Enjoy!

From the Sunlight Foundation:

The deal is that decision makers (i.e. senators) in the health care debate are not only receiving big bucks from members of the health and insurance industries – but also from the numerous individual lobbyists that represent the industries. All of that money “clustered” or “bundled” together is much more influential than any contribution by itself. So, when one of the lobbyists in a cluster walks into a meeting with a representative, it stands to reason that representative listens to them …how do we say… with a more fully tuned ear.

As citizens holding government accountable, another way to think about this new information is that while yesterday you may have looked up a lobbyist online and seen only that the individual had contributed a couple hundred dollars to a senator, you can now see the entire ‘bundle’ of contributions around that lobbyist or company which can total in the tens of thousands. MUCH more ‘influence’ than what was previously reflected.

Larry Makinson, one of Sunlight’s senior fellows that led our investigation probably said it best: “When we saw a dozen, two dozen, even three dozen lobbyists for a single company giving to the same members as their clients, we were frankly stunned.”

…Standing out, as usual, in our first examination is Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and author of the main health care reform bill now being debated in the Senate. He is, not surprisingly, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients. From January 2007 through June 2009, Baucus collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s chief trade association, and 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. as their client.

In all, 11 major health and insurance firms had their contributions to Baucus boosted through extra donations from 10 or more of their outside lobbyists…

Oh. And those $829,000,000,000 (that’s 829 BILLION dollars)? Without a public option, that money mostly will go to health insurers.

Payola 21st century-style. Corruption at its worst. And it is coming from our very own Montana Senator.

I think it is time to put our Senator out to pasture at the family sheep ranch. Baaaaa.

by jhwygirl

Roll Call (hate that firewall…) reports that Sen. Tester is “withholding a direct appeal to Baucus to strike the proposal pending the outcome of the forthcoming merger of Baucus’ Finance bill and legislation previously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. But Tester is prepared to press his case to Baucus and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) if the Medicaid expansion survives.”

Schweitzer and Tester both take issue with having states absorb some of the costs of expanding Medicaid. Schweitzer “couldn’t be reached for comment,” (How whack is that? Seriously?) but Tester articulated his feelings regarding the possibility that states would have to absorb some of those costs:

“Well, they’re concerned about it, same as I am. Gov. Schweitzer’s concerned about the impacts on the budget. Our budget’s in pretty good shape in Montana right now, and if those costs have to be reimbursed, it could break the bank in Montana. I just want to make sure all states are held as harmless as they possibly can.”

Getting back to the ‘How whack is that?’ part….

According to Sen. Baucus, he said Schweitzer has yet to come to him with any complaints: “I’m not concerned. [Gov.] Schweitzer and I talk about this stuff. We’re on board. Last time we talked about it, he said: ‘Fine. Great,’” Baucus said. “We spent a lot of time talking to governors about that. And some governors are OK, and some are not OK.”


Before you shake your head and go blaming all that crazy miscommunication stuff on Baucus, Roll Call point out this tidbit:

In fact, Schweitzer, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, was one of 22 Democratic governors who recently signed a letter expressing support generally for the Finance Committee’s health care reform bill, which included a statement about the need for states to contribute to health care reform.
“We recognize that health reform is a shared responsibility and everyone, including state governments, needs to partner to reform our broken health care system,” the Oct. 1 letter reads.

Under the Senate Finance proposal, states would pick up 11% of the cost of expanding Medicaid eligibility up to 133% of poverty.

Up to 133% of poverty? Seems like there’s gonna be a big gap there….

Currently, most states currently cover parents with children earning around 100 percent of poverty, with the federal government picking up around 57 percent of the tab and the states 43 percent.

So who else is lining up to oppose healthcare under the heinous requirement of this 11% unfunded mandate? Senate Republicans.

All this has me wondering: Where does a health insurance reform wanting Montanan have to go for some support?


by Pete Talbot

Missoula physician Meg Sarnecki is one of 50 doctors from around the country who are meeting with the President to discuss health care reform.

(You won’t find this news in our local print media. Don’t ask me why. KPAX ran a short piece. I found out about it in the Billings Gazette. Here’s the story by Mike Dennison.)

Doc Sarnecki is in an excellent position to comment on the kind of health care available to uninsured and low-income Montanans. She works at the Partnership Health Center in Missoula. The center is partly government funded and also receives payments from patients on a sliding scale, according their ability to pay. From what I hear vicariously through some folks who work there is that the place can barely keep up with the demand for its services.

I’ve gleaned some quotes from the story:

She’s “pretty happy” with the U.S. House’s bill, which has passed out of committee and awaits action on the floor, but is “much less happy with what (Max) Baucus has put forward.”

Sarnecki said she doesn’t like the Baucus bill because it does not include a public, government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

“I don’t like the idea of mandated, private health insurance without a public option,” she said. “To make that affordable, we need a public option to give people some competition and choice in that matter.”

Baucus’ bill, among other things, would require all Americans without health insurance to buy it starting in 2013, or face tax penalties. The measure also includes federal subsidies to help people with low or moderate income afford private insurance.

Another person, and this one more qualified than most, to join the legions of Montanans who are disappointed with Max’s health care proposal. Come to think of it, one of the few folks who has commented positively about the plan is Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, our only U.S. Representative from Montana. Good company, Max.

(UPDATE — The Missoulian did have this story in Monday’s paper; page one, above the fold. The Gazette beat the Missoulian by at least 24 hours, though.)

by JC

Click on the graphic for a larger version. Print it out, it’ll make a great dart board target!baucus wheel

Thanks to the work of the good folks at the Sunlight Foundation, we’re able to see how bundling works its magic on Congress in general, and Max Baucus specifically.

The Foundation took a look at the donations that lobbyists and their families made to politicians like Baucus–the same politicians that their corporate employers made significant donations to. So all of the recent reports of the magnitude of Baucus’ glad tidings from his corporate donors puppeteer manipulators just foreshadowed the magnitude of the problem.

The chart above shows how the effect of campaign dollar bundling–donations from both the corporation (light blue) and its lobbyists (darker blue)–greatly increases the stranglehold they have on a politician. In Baucus’ case, the lobbyists actually have given more money than their employers! One might say that they are purchasing job security, along with advancing their clients’ legislative goals.

And of course, we all know who the source of these funds is–the U.S. taxpayer, who stands to lose as their dollars continue to flow to these corporations and their manipulators, only to be recycled through this bundling game once again. The ultimate corrupt feedback loop.

The Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics co-released an in-depth study on this phenomenon:

A new collaborative investigation by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that many of the major players in the health insurance reform debate have hit members of Congress with a one-two punch of campaign contributions from at least 10 of their hired, outside lobbyists on top of donations from their employees or political action committees.

Since January 2007, more than 500 individual lobbyists who fit these criteria donated roughly $2.8 million to 61 members of Congress who also received about $1.9 million from the companies’ PACs or employees. These lobbyists represented 25 major health care and health insurance organizations.

Not only did these contributions go directly to the politician’s coffers, they were directed to places like Max Baucus’ Glacier PAC, which is a nice and handy slush fund that he can use to pay for things like motels, airplane tickets, coffee, drinks, parties, car rentals. You know, all of the nice things that the rest of us have to pay out of our monthly paycheck. Thanks to a new investigative database and report from ProPublica, we can check in on our Senators’ spending habits:

In the past three election cycles, lobbyists and special interests poured $355 million into these funds, making them the second-largest source of political money for sitting members of Congress.

Legally, lawmakers are free to spend the leadership PAC money pretty much as they wish.

Lobbyists and lawmakers can — and do — use it to travel together to play golf at Pebble Beach, ride snowmobiles in Montana’s Big Sky Country and go deep-sea fishing in the Florida Keys. The lobbyists don’t pay the costs directly. They contribute to the leadership PAC, which then pays the lawmaker’s resort and travel bills.

Hmmm… $46,721 from Glacier PAC to Bucks T4 and $36,616 to the Cabin Bar. IT’S PARTY TIME…WHOO HOOO!!! Check out the list of Glacier PAC expenses, if you want to see the dirty laundry. Nothing like an expense slush fund of $261,925 for “Entertainment, events, and travel.” Oh, and did I mention that the Glacier PAC managed to spend $1,198,023 in just 2007-8? Nice…

So how widespread is the practice of bundling? We may never know. The Hill had a nice piece about the practice last month, concluding that little has changed:

“This is going to be the dog that never barked,” said Paul Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for campaign finance reform.

“It tells me one of two things, which is these fundraisers were not very successful or the public is not getting the lobbyist bundling disclosure it thought it would with this legislation.”

So rest assured that our Congress is doing all it can to raise money to travel and have big parties protect the public interest and do the people’s work on the great issues of the day like health care reform.

by JC

Now just where is that Republican health care plan that Cantor and Boehner promised the country months ago?

Last night, in a controversial speech on the House floor, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) announced that the Republican alternative health care proposals would force sick Americans to “die quickly”:

It’s my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for health care in America… It’s a very simple plan. Here it is. The Republican health care plan for America: “don’t get sick.” If you have insurance don’t get sick, if you don’t have insurance, don’t get sick; if you’re sick, don’t get sick. Just don’t get sick. … If you do get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: “die quickly.”

Anybody want to defend republican support for the status quo here?

And for those that think republicans have a plan for health care reform, why didn’t they git ‘er done during their time in control of Congress and the Bush White House?

And all of you with out-dated conservative ideas and/or tea bagger noise with no political base to work from, you’re just pissin’ in the wind here.

Thanks a bunch, Max

by Pete Talbot

I’ll keep this short and let the others who are better versed in health care reform than I to weigh in — both here and at other sites.

Sen. Baucus voted against a public option plan, similar to Medicare, that was proposed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Baucus said he voted against it because he’s looking for a plan that would get all 60 Democratic votes in the Senate.

I know Max is savvy enough to count votes.  So, which Democrats are against the public option?  Please, tell us Max.  That way we can work our asses of to keep them from getting re-elected — just as I’ve committed myself to searching for a candidate to run against you in the 2014 primary election.

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