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Timeline for House Health Care Bill July 21, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Healthcare.
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Here’s a clear and informative piece. This type of information is insufficiently understood and known; thus I re-post it here. (And because my previous health care “update” is laughably outdated)….

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America’s Affordable Health Choices Act: Implementation Timeline

from CAF BLOG!

Alex Lawson
Health Care Research Associate

America’s Affordable Health Choices Act: Implementation Timeline

In 2010, the House Proposal Will:
• Prevent insurance companies from rescinding existing health insurance policies
• Reduce paperwork and other administrative burdens and costs in the current health care system
• Help companies that provide health benefits for early retirees aged 55-64
• Prevent pay cuts for physicians and enhance payment for primary care services under Medicare
• Encourage new organizations among physicians that will increase quality and efficiency of care
• Expand preventive care services in Medicare, Medicaid, and local care centers
• Give discounts on drugs to certain rural and other hospitals
• Allow states to extend Medicaid coverage, with federal support, to HIV patients
• Provide for 12-month continuous eligibility in CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program]
• Sustain the National Health Service Corps, enlarge workforce training programs, increase reimbursement for primary care in Medicaid, and increase funds for community health centers

In 2011-2012, the House proposal will:
• By establishing new standards, increase the value of health insurance and lower premiums
• Narrow gaps in drug coverage under Medicare Part D and eliminate barriers and increase financial assistance for low-income enrollees

In 2013, the House proposal will:
• Prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell or renew policies due to an individual’s health status and excluding coverage for treatments based on pre-existing health conditions.
• Limit insurers’ ability to charge higher rates due to heath status, gender, or other factors and cap the amount by which premiums can vary based on age, geography and family size
• Open the Exchange to uninsured individuals and to employers with fewer than ten employees
• Create a new public health insurance plan available only within the Exchange
• Make Health Insurance Affordability Credits available through the Exchange
• Require individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage or pay a small penalty
• Require employers, by 2018, to cover workers and their families or pay a small penalty
• Exempt businesses with annual payrolls under $250,000 from the requirement to offer coverage, introduce small penalties for businesses with payrolls between $300,000 and $400,000, and provide a tax credit to small businesses that choose to provide health coverage
• Expand Medicaid – with full federal funding – to 133% of poverty
• Provide temporary Medicaid coverage to babies born without proof of other health coverage

In 2014-2018, the House proposal will
• 2014: open the Exchange to businesses with up to 20 employees and to individuals who cannot afford their employer-sponsored coverage
• 2015: continue expanding the Exchange to larger employers as circumstances allow
• 2018: end the grace period for employers outside the Exchange and require them to meet essential benefits package and minimum contribution levels

Source: House Tri-Committee, “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act: Implementation Timeline,” July 2009.

[And for more detail]
http://waysandmeans.house.gov/MoreInfo.asp?section=52

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Health Care Update, 7/6/09 July 6, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Healthcare, Politics.
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The latest news from Heath Care for America Now:

A health care House tri-committee bill will pass by the end of the month. They are asking the progressive community to keep producing positive stories on a public health care plan since the Senate version may not/is not likely to pass before the Summer Recess on August 1st. And Republicans will most likely come out strongly against a public plan during August. After the House passes their bill, the August recession will be spent arguing over the specifics of the bill. “Moderate” or “Centrist” Democrats will be the target whom both sides will be trying to influence. Read more about this here.

The Senate HELP committee has produced a pretty solid bill. Though, not quite as good as the House tri-committee bill, but it does have a public option. Details of that bill can be found in Krugman’s article today http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/06/opinion/06krugman.html

Once the two legislative bodies pass their respective bills, a joint Conference Committee is formed to reconcile the two bills. The Conference committee produces a new bill which is then approved or disapproved of by each legislative body. Then the President must sign it. Obama has demanded the Conference committee’s bill on his desk by Oct. 15, a demand which is looking increasingly difficult to achieve.

A solid health care bill passed behind schedule is way superior than rushing a bad one into law.

Ellsberg and Secrecy Oaths July 5, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History, Politics.
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Daniel Ellsberg is a former US military analyst employed by the Rand Corporation who precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers.

He wrote an very interesting article for the Harvard International Review in 2002. It’s interesting from a historical perspective, governance perspective and more, and he proposes a solution that’s hard to disagree with.

Secrecy oaths: A License To Lie?

Harvard International Review – June 22, 2004

Daniel Ellsberg

Between 1968 and 1971, I repeatedly broke a solemn, formal promise that I had made in good faith: not to reveal to any “unauthorized persons” information that I received through certain channels and under certain safeguards, collectively known as the “classification” system.

I have never doubted that, under the circumstances facing me, I did the right thing when I revealed the contents of the top-secret Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War to the US Senate and the press. Although it involved breaking the promises I had made to various government agencies and the Rand Corporation, it was the only way to inform the US Congress and the US public of information that was being wrongfully withheld from them; I had considered many other options and tried most of them. The information was vital to Constitutional processes of decision-making on an ongoing war in which tens of thousands of US citizens and many more Vietnamese had been–in effect–lied to death.

Moreover, this had occurred with the complicity of a generation of officials–myself among them–who had placed loyalty to their oaths of secrecy (and to their bosses and careers) above their loyalty to the US Constitution and to their opportunity to avert or end an unnecessary, wrongful, hopeless, and vastly destructive war. By 1971, it was clear to me that it was my earlier complicity with the secrecy system that was mistaken and censurable, not my later choice to tell the truth.

I signed many secrecy “oaths,” or contractual agreements, over the years: as a US Marine officer, as an employee of the Rand Corporation, as a consultant to the offices of the US Secretary of Defense, the US Department of State, and the White House, and later as an employee of the US Department of Defense and the US Department of State. All of them were blanket promises that I would never give any information that was identified as safeguarded, “secret,” or “classified,” to a person who had not been otherwise authorized to receive it by the person or agency that gave me the information.

Implicit in my promises not to reveal such information to “unauthorized” persons was that I would follow them no matter what this information might be: whether it revealed evidence of official lies, crimes, planning for wars in violation of ratified treaties or the US Constitution, violations or planned violations of laws made by the US Congress; whether the unauthorized persons or agencies were officials of the legislative and judicial branch who vitally needed the information to carry out their constitutional functions and had a legitimate right to learn the truth; whether an election, congressional investigation, or vote that decided issues of war and peace were affected by the silence and obedient lies about the government’s plans and actions; and whether countless people had died and were continuing to die because the information was being wrongfully withheld by my own colleagues and superiors under a policy of secrecy and deception.
(more…)

Not to Forget the War in Afghanistan July 4, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in World Affairs.
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Since President Obama’s escalation of troop levels in Afghanistan in March, much discussion has ensued around the world and around this blog, especially in this post: Underestimating Our Afghan Summer

And many developments in Afghanistan have ensued. Here is what I do know:

– Since his inauguration, President Obama has authorized 21,000 more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

– The president correctly believes that the troops deserve a straightforward answer to the question: “What is our purpose in Afghanistan?” And his response was this:

“So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”

– In relation to the increased troop levels, the number of “security incidents” has also increased sharply, rising over 1,000 for the first time in May, 2009. This is a 43% increase over the same period in 2008. The bottom line: it has been the most intense fighting season so far experienced, according to the UN Security Council. This has been an expected development.

– “The first major operation launched with the additional troops ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama is devised to clear Taliban havens across a strategic southern province — and then, in a marked departure from past practice, to leave clusters of Marines in small bases close to the villagers they were sent to guard and aid, according to senior military officers.” From this article.


Today, the NYT reported that Russia has agreed to let American troops and weapons bound for Afghanistan fly over Russian territory. Though the New York Times considers this an “achievement,” it’s hard to know whether this development is good or bad; it may be good for US – Russian relations, but bad for US – Afghani relations, and certainly bad for the Afghans and Americans dying by our prolonged and heightened involvement there.

– On a similar note, Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament ratified an agreement recently to allow the US to maintain operations at an airport that has become a key support base and transit hub for the troops in Afghanistan. (Hard to tell if this is good or bad?)

– The Department of Defense has identified 707 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the death of the following American on Tuesday: Terry J. Lynch, 22, Sgt., Army; Shepherd, Mont.; 10th Mountain Division. (FYI, 4,308 have died in Iraq.)

Probably more than 20,000 Afghan civilians have died as a result of the war between the US and the Afghan insurgents. A good NYT article on this note…

– Afghanistan has an upcoming election on August 20th. Current president Hamid Karzai is likely to be reelected.

So that’s what I know. There is way more that I don’t know. And I have one question: At what point do US casualties like Terry Lynch, and increasingly frequent Afghan casualties, convince policy-makers that fighting a guerrilla-style war in Afghanistan’s Helmand province is not keeping the US and the world safer, but rather is resulting in greater insecurity?

Annnd, If you only follow one link in this blog post, it should be this one: http://www.cfr.org/publication/19738/security_council_meeting_on_complex_situation_in_afghanistan_june_2009.html