Posts Tagged Health Care

TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDER, IS INTENDED TO UNDERMINE THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT! WILL CONGRESS LET HIM?

Donald Trump and the Congressional Republicans have been hell-bent on Repealing “Obamacare,” (A/K/A The Affordable Care Act) either literally or figuratively.  Although today’s Executive Order directly effects small businesses, as it pulls participants from Obamacare, the eventual effect will be to weaken it.

Early polls show that a majority of Americans, based on a poll sample, are leery of their intentions.  Personally, I believe that the Order will face a severe Court attack, by a number of state Attorney’s General.

Let me suggest several key health insurance considerations:

1. Health insurance is something that you buy when you are healthy, so that you will be covered when you are sick or injured.

2. Just “having insurance” is not enough if it doesn’t cover a wide range of potential health problems.

3. Insurance companies set their premiums through an actuarial analysis of the “risk pool”—the demographics of the total number of plan participants.  Such statistical analyses become more accurate as the pool size increases, thus reducing the wide swings in health problems covered, as well as the cost.  Furthermore, premiums will also generally rise and fall as the demographics—average age and projected health—change.

As with any Trump policies, this Order has been wrapped in secrecy, and virtually devoid of specifics.  But, based on assumptions by tax analysts, the following comments are relevant regarding what we know so far.

Small companies would be able to band together, forming “association health plans” throughout the country, and buy insurance outside of Obamacare.  This would constitute a dual-tiered national health care plan, which could possibly add to the participants out-of-pocket expenses.

Association health plans would also permit the purchase of low-cost, limited, and short-term plans.  Low cost, and limited, plans appear to take us back to the pre-Obamacare days, when coverage was quite limited—including maternity and mental health—and “pre-existing conditions” was often used to deny coverage.

Insurance, as noted earlier, should not be considered as a short-term investment.  Yes, investment!   Generally, when you buy any type of insurance, you are hoping that you will never have that serious injury or illness, auto wreck, house fire, etc.  Accordingly, short-term health care plans are insane!

Tax-advantaged Health Savings Accounts are also included.  HSAs have traditionally been available only to somewhat higher-paid employees, employed by corporations, and the money grew tax-free until used.

If the new association health plans pull participants out of Obamacare, they would generally be the younger and healthier workers, who might prefer the lower premiums, as compared to the consumer protection guarantees under Obamacare.

Donald Trump has been, little-by-little, weakening Obamacare and, then, blaming it for its own demise. So far, the American People are pleased with Obamacare and, hopefully, they will convey that message to their representatives in Congress!

NOTE:  Aside from today’s Executive Order, Trump will also terminate the insurance subsidies—funded by health insurers—for low-income participants in Obamacare.

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WHAT DONALD TRUMP PREFERRED NOT TO SEE IN PUERTO RICO!

Last Tuesday, Donald and Melania Trump jetted into San Juan, Puerto Rico, supposedly to survey the situation.  He held court with Commonwealth, Local and Federal officials, in which he did most of the talking.  During the photo-op, he reminded the People of Puerto Rico that they were lucky not to have suffered a Real Hurricane, like Katrina in 2005.

The Federal Government has failed miserably to respond to the needs of the American Citizens who live on Puerto Rico, as well as the US Virgin Islands.  But Donald Trump, in his delusion, boasted of what a great job he and his Regime had done.

Then, Trump also suggested that the clean-up—skipping over the immediate need for basic human needs—will cost his budget quite a lot of money.  Wouldn’t that be an issue for him to take up with Congress, rather than with people who have nothing—few working ATMs to get cash, nothing available to buy, and no jobs!

Donald and Melania then traveled ten miles from San Juan, to a very upscale, gated community, where there was only negligible damage.  If the Trump convoy had only traveled another ten miles, where the average Puerto Ricans live, he would have seen the real horror that is Puerto Rico, and no doubt the Virgin Islands, today!

As U. S. Citizens, the residents of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are free to migrate to the Mainland.  Florida has one million Puerto Ricans, only surpassed by New York; however, many of those (up north) had arrived several decades back.

Florida, on the other hand, has become a mecca for Hispanics—predominately in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale—but, 500,000 Puerto Ricans also live along the I-4 Corridor, the East-West highway, connecting Tampa, Orlando and Cape Canaveral.

The major Florida air and seaports each have processing centers, to provide for the basic humanitarian needs for the new arrivals, and to offer a voluntary health screening to determine what, if any, health care needs the incoming Puerto Ricans might need.  Consider some of the problems which need to be identified:

1. Besides the voluntary Q & A screenings at arrival points, all health care providers, as well as social service workers and educators are encouraged to identify problems to be referred to doctors or hospitals.

2. In the aftermath of violent storms: bacterial infections; puncture wounds; and diseases spread by mosquitos and animal bites can be harmful, and even contagious.

3. Some chronic conditions, such as flu and scabies, can become chronic conditions when not treated due to a lack of power.   They can also spread easily in communal shelters.

4. Herpes B is of particular risk due to the release of a group of captive macaque monkeys in Puerto Rico during the storm, and they could spread the disease through bites and scratches.

With the predominance of senior citizens and children on the island, the usual conditions of dehydration, malnourishment, head wounds, fatigue and depression should also be considered.

Unlike major hurricanes on the Mainland, there are no major highways available to bring supplies and assistance overnight.  Also, the San Juan International Airport was not fully operational.  With SOUTHCOM, the military command having responsibility for Latin America and the Caribbean located in Miami, just 1,100 miles from Puerto Rico, a military airlift would have been relatively simple.

Over the past several decades, as major corporations had closed their facilities, many of the younger workers had moved to the Mainland.  With an inordinately older, non-working population of 3.4 million, just half of what it had been, Puerto Rico no longer needs some of the infrastructure and utility capacity financed by Commonwealth and Utility bonds.  The debt service, however, continues to be due and payable!

Last Thursday, Donald Trump’s trip was choreographed, so that he would only see what he wanted to see, speak with whom he wanted to speak, and basically confirm what he already “knew” to be true.  Unfortunately, the horrific devastation—both currently and it’s lasting after-effects—were just not on his agenda.

For a more in-depth description of the potential long-lasting effects of Hurricane Maria, on Puerto Rican’s Health, these recent articles–from the Miami Herald, and The New York Times–provide on-site descriptions.

 

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THE OPTIONAL ELIMINATION OF FREE CONTRACEPTIVES IS MORE THAN AN ATTACK ON WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE. IT DIRECTLY EFFECTS THE POOR WOMEN WHO CAN AFFORD IT LEAST!

Contraceptives are used regularly, for Family Planning, by a majority of women in America, as well as most industrialized countries.  The multitude of reasons as to why they’re ubiquitous ranges from: unexpected pregnancies; a lack of financial support for another child; rape; incest, etc.

The cost of having regular check-ups for most women would still be covered under their private or employer plans, even if they had to pay extra for the contraceptives. For lower-income women, however, the expense could be burdensome, especially if one of the major reasons for the health care plan was to gain free access to birth control.

Many low-income families rely on Medicaid, a Federal Health Care Plan, which is intended for the lowest income families in America.  Besides providing many company plans a reason to revoke free contraceptives, it is almost certain that, once the idea is tested, Medicaid would be next.  Let’s consider who requires Medicaid for their Health Care.

Medicaid enrollees are generally among the poorest of our society, those who often lack high school diplomas, and work at minimum-wage Jobs. Black and Hispanic women are disproportionately represented in this group.  Additionally, Congress could reduce the payments to health care providers, thus encouraging them to drop out of the program.  In fact, OB/GYN’s who accept Medicaid in aTexas, for instance, is already down to 33%.

Some Conservatives ask why poor people have so many babies anyway, suggesting that they just have a few?  Besides the natural course of events, anthropologists and biologists have found that early man, since they had shorter lives, tended to have their children early.

Down through the ages, poorer workers, especially those with more physical jobs, lived shorter lives, and they also had their children earlier.  And oftentimes, they reared more children due to premature death, and squalid living conditions.

The optional elimination from Health Care Plans is obviously an attack on Women’s Health Care.  Ironically, we never seem to hear about a similar elimination of Viagra—the erectile dysfunction cure—for the men!  But, while most middle and upper-income women can still make due, it is the poor, and often minority Women who are forced to suffer the most!

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GOP POLITICS TRUMPS HUMAN PAIN AND MISERY, ENDANGERING LIVES!

The Secretary of Homeland Security, and the FEMA Administrator have been to Puerto Rico, and Donald Trump is scheduled to go next Tuesday.  House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he is waiting for information from the White House.  Even our Cuban-American GOP Senator Marco Rubio, who has spent most of his life in flood-prone Miami-Dade County, wanted to wait 48-to-72 hours.  Rubio represents one million Puerto Ricans in Florida and, no doubt, many more will be coming soon.  So, what is everyone waiting for?

Puerto Rico, and let’s not forget the U. S. Virgin Islands, are both fully part of America. Hillary Clinton pled with Trump to send the Hospital Ship Comfort to provide necessary medical care, and yet it still sits in Norfolk, VA.  The Comfort and one aircraft carrier would be a good initial start. The carrier could bring tons of supplies, thousands of sailors and Marines to assist with the clean-up, and desalinate tens of thousands of gallons of drinking water each day.

One of our major Military Commands, SOUTHCOM, is located near Miami International Airport.  Surely, it could deploy a division (20,000 men and women) to provide manpower.  A general or admiral could be assigned to command the troops on the ground, and coordinate with the Governor, local governments and FEMA.  Navy SeaBees and Army combat engineers could help with the Infrastructure.  Provide military transport for civilian doctors, nurses and engineers who wish to volunteer!

Several years ago, a monster Category 5 cyclone (hurricane) devastated an impoverished island, with 100,000 residents, in the Philippines.  The situation was similar, and that nation lacks the infrastructure that the U. S. has.  Within a couple of days, a U. S. Hospital Ship and an aircraft carrier were already beginning to provide the supplies and assistance noted above.  A number of ships from other nations were there too, delivering aid in any way possible.  This is what I find so incredulous that America cannot provide aid and assistance to American Citizens, located just 1,000 miles from Miami.

The 1920 Jones Act, which requires that goods can only be shipped to Puerto Rico on U. S. vessels is an anachronism, reminiscent of the days of Colonialism.  When Trump was asked why he hasn’t rescinded it, he said that the shipping industry wouldn’t like it.  So, when do the shippers—who profit from this obscene act—make laws in America?  Sure, other nations might wish to send help as well!

I can’t imagine that Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio haven’t seen the horror and devastation of hurricanes, and other natural disasters before.  Don’t they ever watch the coverage on TV?  What does any human being need, for starters: How about: clean water; food; shelter; medical assistance, etc.  Then, these many, many homeless people will need help in rebuilding their lives; although it might be hard to get over being ignored by their country in this, their time of need.  Let me compare a few states that have met with significant disasters over the past twelve years:

Consider how the Republican majority Congress has played politics with tragedy:

  • There have been several deadly AmTrak wrecks near Philadelphia, possibly due to Congress’ failure to fund required safety updates. Then in 2012, Congress was slow in appropriating emergency funding for the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy, since most of the states in the Region vote Democratic.
  • Following massive hurricanes in Louisiana (Katrina), Texas (Harvey) and Florida (Irma), all states that tend to vote Republican, emergency appropriations were accelerated through congress. The Democrats joined in the appropriation.
  • Perhaps the fact that Puerto Rico tends to vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats, just might be behind all of the GOP foot-dragging.

Our Republican President and GOP majority Congress have been telling us about what they are going to do for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, while the Democrats are pleading for action.  Does it take a rocket scientists to understand what their basic needs are, especially the large proportion of senior citizens and children?  Send the basic necessities, plus manpower NOW; and then you can go back and do all the talking that you want!

THE CAVALRY HAS BEGUN TO ARIVE!  As reported in the linked article from The Daily Beast, the U. S. Army has sent an advanced contingent, a General will command the effort, and up to 20,000 Active, and 40,000 National Guard will eventually be in place.

NOTE:  On Sunday, October 8, the Governor of Puerto Rico announced that only six percent of Puerto Ricans now have electric power.  Also today, the Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it has filtered-out the Mayor of San Juan.  

How can that be, when she is the only Leader with a microphone who is calling Trump and his Regime out for what they truly are–incompetent, uncaring and totally delusional, except when it’s in Donald Trump’s best interest!  Apparently, the Daily Beast story, about the Cavalry arriving, was just more of Donald Trump’s Fake News!

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CLIMATE CHANGE! WHAT DID EXXON KNOW, AND WHEN DID IT KNOW IT?

I expect to be writing a post tomorrow, which describes a report on Global Warming, which scientists leaked, fearing that it was too important for the Donald Trump Regime to just cover it up.  This re-post cites the fact that, beginning in 1977, Exxon scientists strongly believed that Global Warming is a man-made phenomena, caused by our use of fossil fuels.  The company’s Chief Scientist briefed the Executive Management Committee, in 1977 and again in 1978, and management just ignored it.

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EXXON KNEW THE MAJOR CAUSE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN 1977, AND IT HAS BEEN SPENDING MILLIONS, MAYBE BILLIONS, EVER SINCE DENYING IT.

Way back in 1977, Laura Shaw, a 12 year-old, won her class science fair, in Cranford, N. J, with an experiment about the so-called “greenhouse effect”.  She filled two identical vessels with water and a thermometer.  Then, Ms. Shaw covered one with plastic wrap, and turned a lamp on them.

After a period of time, the vessel with the plastic wrap registered a higher temperature than the uncovered one.  She surmised that the plastic wrap created the same effect as carbon dioxide, which traps reflected heat from the Sun, thus warming the Earth.

You or I might have thought that our children were young geniuses to have found that relationship, between a plastic cover and global warming; however, Ms. Shaw had some expert assistance. As it turns out, her father is Henry Shaw, and at that time, he was one of the Exxon scientists who were specifically researching the effects of global warming—more specifically, that which was caused by carbon dioxide, created by man-made emissions.

Exxon (now ExxonMobil) was aware of climate change as early as 1977, eleven years before the problem became known by the general public.  In fact, besides formulating various climate models, the oil company also outfitted a tanker to study how much CO2 was absorbed by the oceans.  And, in July of 1977, Exxon’s senior scientist, James Black, delivered a sobering message on the topic.

Mr. Black advised Exxon’s executive management committee that: “… there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”  One year later, he warned the same group that there was general scientific agreement that the “…doubling of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would influence global warming by two or three degrees.”  Black than suggested—now in 1978, mind you—that mankind had a five to ten year window in which to make hard decisions, since energy strategies might become critical. Exxon needed to act!

Rather than make the hard decisions—developing cleaner-burning fuels, teaming with the coal industry to follow suit, and considering renewable energy–Exxon, Chevron, Mobil, Shell, BP, and Peabody Coal, just stuck their collective heads in the sand.  They formed a the American Petroleum Institute, a non-profit organization to manage the disinformation of declaring that “Climate Change is a Hoax”.  In fact, they hired the same public relations firm that Big Tobacco had hired to deny tobacco’s link to lung cancer, some years before.

To use the old cliche about Nero fiddling while Rome burned would be a very serious understatement.  Considering that five of those energy companies were in the Standard and Poor’s 500, money was of little consequence, especially when it comes to fighting for the Industry’s very survival.

Energy lobbyists convinced Washington not to sign the Kyoto Protocol, from the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (as of 1990 emission levels). As one of world’s two biggest polluters, along with China, it is imperative that the U. S. ratify the Protocol, set meaningful CO2 reduction goals—and stick to them! Will there be more success this week—now 25 years later?

Currently, both Houses of the U. S. Congress, have appointed loyal climate change deniers, from oil-dependent states, to head the various committees that are supposed to oversee science and the environment:

Senator James M. Imhofe (R-OK) is Chairman of the House Committee on the Environment. Last February, Senator Inhofe brought a snowball into the Senate Chamber under the false assumption that that proved that “Climate Change is a Hoax!” (Remember the API Mission Statement?)  On the contrary, however, the snowball merely demonstrated the opposite, as described in a prior blog post.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and also a GOP candidate for President, heads the Sub-Committee on Space, Science and Competition.  Cruz’ sub-committee delayed the updated NASA satellites, which provide vital weather information worldwide.  Smart move, huh?
And, Congressman Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) is Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  When faced with broad testimony by earth scientists that man is definitely accelerating global warming, Smith began investigating the scientists, and thus taking them away from their important research. Attacking the messengers, in other words.

Oddly enough, when those who deny Climate Change wish to provide their own “expert” scientific testimony, they have turned to Wei-Hock Soon. Although Dr. Soon is a respected scientist, he is currently employed by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Over the past decade, Dr. Soon’s research and his funding ($1.2 million) have come largely from fossil fuel interests.  Some of that funding has allegedly been linked to Southern Company (a large utility) and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.  (Mr. Koch is a co-owner of Koch Industries, a very large privately-owned energy company.)

Aside from all of the claims and counter-claims, on both sides of the Climate Change issue, there is basic evidence all around us: melting glaciers; rising tides; wildfires and droughts worldwide; erratic weather patterns; etc.  And, the idea that Big Energy interests would seek “expert” opinion from an astrophysicist, on matters pertaining to earth sciences, is simply ludicrous.  So, if the probable cause behind climate change was so obvious to 12 year-old Laura Shaw, way back in 1977, why can’t many in the U. S. Congress, Big Energy and other climate change deniers still realize that today?

NOTE:  For readers who wish more detailed information on Exxon, its Energy Industry co-conspirators and Climate Change, the attached report, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, should prove quite informative.

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CONGRESS NEEDS MORE WOMEN!

Recently, we have seen several female Republican members of the Senate who have had the temerity to voice their opposition to the assumed President as they had voted against his dishonest Health Care Agenda.  Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, faced-down explicit, and public threats of retribution by Trump against the People of Alaska.  To me, that smacks of Senate-tampering!

Of the 52 Republican members in the Senate, only six (or 11.5%) are female.  The ladies are better-represented within the Democratic Party; however, with 15 (or 34.8%) of the 46 Senators.  But either way, since women represent 52% of our society, even the 21 ladies of the Senate seems hardly proportional.

Since the earliest hominids roamed the earth, several million years ago, there had been a division of responsibility:  Males were the hunters and defenders of the home fires, while the Females gathered edibles, and bore and nurtured the young.  Although times have changed over the millennia, females have largely retained the advantages of the more social and caring gender.

Senators Murkowski and Susan Collins, of Maine, recently spoke-out, after they joined with Senator John McCain, of Arizona, to vote-down their party’s latest iteration of a Bad Deal, the “Skinny” Healthcare Plan.  The ladies specifically cited that many of their constituents would be among the tens of millions of Americans who would lose health care.  Additionally, it would have de-fund the Planned Parenthood Association.

Planned Parenthood is a nationwide non-profit health care provider, which mostly treats females, and it is often one of the few full-service health care facilities that care for the poor, by accepting Medicaid.  The small group of Republicans who had been writing the various health care scams, while meeting in secret, were all men.  When I heard these men pooh-poohing the importance of contraceptives and mammograms, I could only wonder, if we flipped the script, what they would feel if viagra and prostate exams were eliminated. So, what’ll it be, boys?

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DONALD TRUMP’S VINDICTIVENESS SEEMS TO BE BEHIND TWO SENSELESS IDEAS: ELIMINATING AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE AND SLASHING THE STATE DEPARTMENT BUDGET BY 31%!

Donald Trump has said a lot of idiotic things, taken Tweetery to a new lunacy level, and he has accomplished absolutely nothing…in five months.  Remember all of those asinine Legislative “Acts” that he was going to pass “…on Day One!”  Did Mr. Know-it-all forget that Congress takes more time off than he does—including HIS Inauguration Day?

There are two major actions that Mr. Trump should have most definitely avoided:  Repeal and Replace “Obamacare,” and to slash the State Department Budget by 31%.

Just like any comprehensive bill, such as the (real name) Affordable (Health) Care Act, modifications should be made from time to time, just like what was done after Medicare, was first rolled-out!  Deep down inside, the real reason for eliminating ACA—and why Donald has disrupted it’s functioning—is to replace the huge tax cuts, assessed to the Top Two Percent of Taxpayers, which were lost when the Bush Tax Cuts expired.

And slashing the State Department Budget is reprehensible; because, those 170 State Department Embassies, Consulates and other installations, around-the-world, are the face of of the United States to many foreigners.  Those offices are used for many other purposes, besides diplomacy: Trade and Agricultural Officers work out of them, foreigners apply for Visas there, and its where Americans go when they encounter problems in other countries. Besides, USAID and other social agencies provide excellent assistance, from those offices, directly to rural villages and groups that need it.

In the case of both eliminating ACA and slashing the State Budget, there is no responsible reason, whatsoever, for Donald Trump to do so.  But, after analyzing these ideas, I definitely see a relationship.  Let me highlight each:

1.   Mr. Trump resents the fact that Affordable Health Care isn’t focused around him.  Even though Republicans have called for some form of Health Care for All, going all the way back to Richard M. Nixon, and perhaps even earlier, the GOP just never seemed to have followed through in legislating it!  Also, Trump is displaying his racism through his intention to eradicate the signature accomplishment of Barack Obama, our First Black President.

2. Additionally, Donald doesn’t seem capable of letting go of his hatred for former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton.  When it came to “dirty tricks”, Trumpie was far and away, the all-time champion, and definitely not the victim, during the campaign!  When Secretary of Defense James Mattis heard that State’s budget would be slashed, he said he was “…going to need more bullets!”  Mattis realizes that every dollar spent by State—especially in its various social programs—results in less dollars needed for Defense!

So, when Trump & Friends misrepresent why they needs to Repeal “Obamacare,” and he proposes slashing the State Department budget, the reasons are: his narcissism; racism; sexism; providing huge tax breaks to Mega-Billionaires; and slashing State’s budget to will help pay for the idiotic Wall!

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