Posts Tagged ‘Health Reform

07
Aug
10

Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform

NEWS
Weekly Address: Medicare Officially Safer After Health Reform
President Obama Highlights Benefits to Seniors Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In his weekly address this week, President Obama highlighted a Medicare Trustees report noting the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing, which will help to preserve Medicare for generations to come. Additionally, America’s seniors are already seeing more benefits as a result of health reform, including a rebate to cover the cost of their prescriptions if they fall into the Medicare Part D drug coverage gap. In the coming years, as we continue to ramp up reform, we expect seniors to save in premiums and out of pocket costs. And the President will continue to make Medicare stronger to ensure our seniors have access to affordable and quality healthcare.

Forty-five years ago, we made a solemn compact as a nation that senior citizens would not go without the health care they need. This is the promise we made when Medicare was born. And it’s the responsibility of each generation to keep that promise.

That’s why a report issued this week by the Trustees who oversee Medicare was such good news. According to this report, the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing. Reform has actually added at least a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare – the single longest extension in history – while helping to preserve Medicare for generations to come.

We’ve made Medicare more solvent by going after waste, fraud, and abuse – not by changing seniors’ guaranteed benefits. In fact, seniors are starting to see that because of health reform, their benefits are getting better all the time.

Seniors who fall into the “doughnut hole” – the gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage – are eligible right now for a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescriptions. Now, I know for people facing drug costs far higher than that, they need more help. That’s why we negotiated a better deal with the pharmaceutical companies for seniors. So starting next year, if you fall in the doughnut hole, you’ll get a 50-percent discount on the brand-name medicine you need. And in the coming years, this law will close the doughnut hole completely once and for all.

Already, we have put insurance companies on notice that we have the authority to review and reject unreasonable rate increases for Medicare Advantage plans. And we’ve made it clear to the insurers that we won’t hesitate to use this authority to protect seniors.

Beginning next year, preventive care – including annual physicals, wellness exams, and tests like mammograms – will be free for seniors as well. That will make it easier for folks to stay healthy. But it will also mean that doctors can catch things earlier, so treatment may be less invasive and less expensive.

And as reform ramps up in the coming years, we expect seniors to save an average of $200 per year in premiums and more than $200 each year in out of pocket costs, too.

This is possible in part through reforms that target waste and abuse and redirect those resources to where they’re supposed to go: our seniors. We’re already on track to cut improper payments in half – including money that goes to criminals who steal taxpayer dollars by setting up insurance scams and other frauds. And we won’t stop there. Because by preventing the loss of these tax dollars, we can both address the runaway costs of Medicare and improve the quality of care seniors receive – and we can crack down on those who prey on seniors and take advantage of people.

So we are no longer accepting business as usual. We’re making tough decisions to meet the challenges of our time. And as a result, Medicare is stronger and more secure. That’s important. Because Medicare isn’t just a program. It’s a commitment to America’s seniors – that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford. As long as I am President, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep.
Thank you.

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• Source(s): The White House
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07
Apr
10

FBI arrests man for threatening Pelosi

NEWS
FBI arrests man for threatening Pelosi

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Federal agents in California have arrested a man for allegedly threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Gregory Lee Giusti, 48, was arrested at his San Francisco home in the Tenderloin district shortly after noon, said Joseph Schadler, a spokesman for the FBI office in San Francisco.

Rose Riggs, Giusti’s neighbor in a public housing complex, said she saw two plainclothes and two uniformed officers take him away in cuffs. Riggs said Giusti was known for engaging in heated political debates with others in the building.

“He was not one of my favorite people. He had a real attitude problem,” she said.

The court documents are sealed and will remain so until the Giusti appears in San Francisco federal court at 9:30 Thursday morning.

“The FBI takes threats against elected officials very seriously,” Hansen said Wednesday.

Pelosi’s office issued a statement late Wednesday evening, acknowledging the arrest.

“The Speaker thanks the FBI, the Capitol Hill Police, House Sergeant at Arms, and other law enforcement officials for their professionalism in this matter,” spokesman Brendan Daly said in a statement Wednesday evening. “She will have no further comment at this time.”

Officials told The Associated Press that a man called Pelosi’s Washington and California homes, in addition to her husband’s business office, several times.

This arrest is the second such arrest in as many days: The FBI in Washington state arrested a man Tuesday for threatening Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a top Senate Democrat who also supported the legislation.

Federal officials in Philadelphia arrested a man for threatening House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) last month.

Pelosi’s office declined to comment.

Threats toward lawmakers have been especially prevalent in the weeks since Congress passed health care overhaul legislation last month. Lawmakers have had bricks thrown through their windows, threatening voicemails left and protests outside their homes.

In Cantor’s case, Norman Leboon, the man arrested, allegedly threatened the Republican and his family through YouTube videos. Cantor also got threatening e-mails. Charles Wilson, the man accused of threatening Murray, allegedly left threatening voice messages on her office line in Washington.

Threats directed at an elected official carry a different charge than harassment toward any citizen – if convicted, similar charge carries up to 10 years imprisonment and a quarter-million dollar fine. It is unclear what Pelosi’s alleged threatner might be charged with.

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22
Mar
10

Weak tea? Partiers fear fallout

NEWS
Weak tea? Partiers fear fallout

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ready and eager to transition from opposing health care reform to targeting the members of Congress who made it happen, tea party organizers find themselves grappling instead with reports of ugly behavior at this weekend’s protests in Washington that could stymie efforts to broaden the movement’s appeal.

While the thousands of tea partiers who thronged the Capitol grounds on short notice in advance of Sunday’s House health care vote were proof of the movement’s continuing energy, their impact was undercut by accounts of racist and homophobic epithets directed at Democratic lawmakers by a handful of individuals among this weekend’s crowd.

Tea party organizers have struggled in recent months to clamp down on fringe elements that have sprung up around and sometimes within the movement, including white supremacists and conspiracy theorists who believe that the government played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (“truthers”) or that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president (“birthers”).

Some tea party and GOP leaders quickly denounced the slurs shouted at House Democrats, pointed out they were not representative of most tea partiers and urged protestors to stay focused on the movement’s core issues of limited government and taxation. Others suggested either that reporters and lawmakers had fabricated the incidents, or said the epithets came from tea party opponents who had infiltrated the crowds. Some even demanded apologies from Democrats who they said falsely accused them.

Regardless of who yelled what, the reports themselves could be problematic for the tea party movement, said Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks, the small government group that helped organize tea partiers’ congressional office visits last week.

“Tattoos last forever,” said Brandon, quoting his boss, FreedomWorks chairman and former House Republican Leader Dick Armey. “If the movement gets tattooed as at all sympathetic to those (racist and homophobic) views, I won’t want to be involved in it anymore. It’s very distracting not only to our side but also to the debate and the country.”

Jenny Beth Martin, an Atlanta-based leader of the influential national umbrella group Tea Party Patriots, has played something of a self-policing role at tea party events, including last weekend’s rallies, urging protesters not to engage with counter demonstrators who at times confronted tea partiers.

Of the reported epithets, she said, “we do not allow that kind of thing to happen within our events because it is wrong and we’re not going to put up with it. I don’t think it’s good for any movement to have reports of crazy people doing things like that. More than the movement, I don’t think it’s good for America for that kind of thing to happen.” Pointing to her group’s denunciation of a self-proclaimed tea party leader photographed with a racist sign, Martin said “if we saw that kind of thing happening, we would kick the people out. We have a history of doing that.”
House Democrats expressed outrage at the treatment some of them received over the weekend, and signaled they will make it an issue for the tea party movement’s Republican allies. Referring to “this crazy stuff the Republicans are doing here,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), said GOP leaders “ought to be ashamed of themselves for bringing these people here to Washington, D.C., and they’re acting like this.”

And Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) took the house floor Saturday to blast “these teabagger protesters who have been out today” and to “call on the Republicans to say shame on the tea party for that type of behavior.”

The conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds responded that it was Clyburn who may “owe the tea party protesters an apology” for playing “the bogus racism card.” And Debbie Gunnoe, a tea party organizer from Navarre, Fla., who was in the House gallery for Ryan’s comments called on him to apologize for “making the generalization that a few rogue people are an example of the rest of the” tea party movement and “for calling all tea party people across the United States ‘tea baggers,’ which is a denigrating word with negative connotations. It’s as bad as calling a black person the N-word.”

Tea party leaders emphasized that racist and homophobic rhetoric is not welcome in their movement but asserted it’s difficult to police large crowds, with some pointing to the comparisons drawn by liberals at anti-Iraq war protests between former President George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler. Other tea partiers interviewed Sunday pointed to video making the rounds in the conservative blogosphere showing other black Democratic lawmakers including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) who said he was called the N-word as he walked by tea partiers into the Capitol Saturday wading through a crowd of protesters outside the Capitol.

The 48-second video, which showed Lewis and others walking through one small stretch of tea partiers booing and chanting “Kill the Bill” but not yelling epithets was posted by Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism website as “Video Proof” that the “media (is) lying about racist attacks on black Reps by tea party protesters.”

“There has been a narrative of labeling the entire tea party movement as racist or homophobic that is an attempt to discredit the people who are a part of it,” said Mark Skoda, a Memphis, Tenn., tea party organizer who attended Saturday’s protests and is part of a group called the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition that helped organize a Capitol Hill war room of sorts for activists headed to the House office buildings to lobby publicly undecided lawmakers on the bill.

His team urged tea partiers to be respectful, Skoda said, pointing out that immigration reform advocates and anti-war demonstrators rallied near the tea partiers Saturday and suggesting it was “a possibility” that some may “have tried to infiltrate” the tea party crowd to “portray the movement in a negative light.”

The end of the debate over the health care overhaul which has emerged as the defining issue of the year-old conservative populist tea party movement marks an important moment for tea party activists as they hurtle toward the critical 2010 congressional midterm elections trying to maintain their energy, recruit new activists, manage their fringe and decide to what extent they can support Republican candidates and causes.
Tea party leaders and activists for weeks have been quietly planning contingencies if Democrats were able to pass a health care bill. Many believe that despite not being able to defeat the bill, final passage could actually help the movement enter a new phase by re-energizing activists, mobilizing new ones and helping shift the focus to the coming congressional midterm elections.

“This thing is only getting stated,” said Gary Armstrong, a tea party organizer in East Tennessee, who helped organize a 50-activist rally Saturday outside the local offices of Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), who was considered one of the last nine Democratic holdout votes.

Armstrong asserted that final passage would be an effective mobilizing tool for tea party activists. “It’s all good publicity for the tea party. The sleeping giant is starting to wake up. Make no bones about it, he ain’t awake yet.”

If Obama signs the overhaul bill, “there will be a nuclear explosion” of tea party activism, predicted Tom Whitmore, a Northern Virginia tea party activist who on Saturday was running the tea party war room. “Over the last year, people have developed this interest in their sovereignty, and they’re not ready to go back or to throw away all their hard work.”

To be sure, many activists don’t appear ready to let go of the health care fight and have announced plans to back state-level efforts to challenge the constitutionality of health insurance mandates in the bill that passed by the House. Others are angling for fights over anticipated congressional proposals to reform the nation’s immigration laws or to limit carbon emissions.

But the overarching focus of tea party organizers is prodding activists to turn their attention to November, and what they hope will be, in effect, “a referendum on the health care vote,” said Matt Kibbe, president of Freedom Works. The group’s political action committee has been providing online tools for activists to put together comparative analyses of candidates and precinct-walking strategies, with a heavy focus on targeting supporters of the health care overhaul.

“I would absolutely rather win the policy than the Congress,” said Kibbe. “But it could be a net plus” for the tea party movement if the health care overhaul passes.

Freedom Works’s PAC and others that have sprung up around the tea party movement have to date mostly focused on supporting primary opponents to Republicans deemed insufficiently conservative.

But Michael Johns, a tea party activist from New Jersey who also is part of Skoda’s Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, said the movement would be wise to turn its attention to targeting Democrats who supported the overhaul and though it seems a harder sell praising those who opposed the measure.

“We are in fact a nonpartisan movement,” he said. “We’re not about getting Republicans elected. And one of the things we’ve communicated is that Democrats who held their ground can expect some tea party support.”

Johns called the period after the health care debate “an important moment for the tea party movement.”

“We want to make sure that those who have been active in the movement over the last year especially those that are new to political engagement understand that there is no permanent victory, nor permanent defeat in politics or public policy.”

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19
Mar
10

Boehner says vote will haunt Democrats

NEWS
Boehner says vote will haunt Democrats

Friday, March 19, 2010

House Minority Leader John Boehner says this weekend’s votes on healthcare reform will haunt Democrats through November’s election and mean “sacrificing a big number of their members” to meet President Barack Obama agenda.

“I don’t think any American is going to forget this vote anytime soon” and among those watching most closely, he revealed, is Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush, who talked with the Republican leader just Friday.

“I talked to him this morning. He’s doing great,” Boehner said. “ He loves all this. I mean he’s following it closely.”

And what does Bush say about health care? “I probably already said more than I should,” Boehner said, “But he’s following it closely.”

Looking back at the turnaround in the health care debate over the last six weeks, Boehner said he had never been convinced that the Democratic initiative was dead and agreed that Republicans were hurt in early February when news broke that California’s largest for-profit insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, was seeking big rate increases. “It certainly wasn’t helpful,” he chuckled.

Sunday’s anticipated showdown now in the House “is going to be close, but if the American people stay engaged in this fight we can still win… All our attention is focused on making sure this thing never, never, ever becomes law.” Boehner said.

But asked about November’s fall out, he was even blunter. “Are you kidding?” he laughed, saying Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) was putting her members at risk to a level that Republicans — in his experience — have never dared.

“They are committed to this big government control of health care, and they want to plant this flag of liberalism while they have the chance even though they are sacrificing a big number of their own members,” Boehner said. “I don’t ever recall Republicans ever putting things on the floor where they knew they were driving people over the cliff into defeat.”

Boehner said the one bright spot of bipartisan co-operation has been in the education arena, where he credited Education Secretary Arne Duncan with reaching out to Republicans on a successor bill to the Bush-era “No Child Left Behind” reforms.

“They’re saying all the right things,” Boehner said. “We’ve not seen the bill, but so far, they’re good…It’s the first thing I’ve seen in the last 14 months that indicates they’re starting to get it.”

But on financial regulatory reform, he said Democrats were “trying to do about 99 times more than need to be done,” and that any hope of a deal rested on what comes out of the Senate.”

“Let’s go fix the problems on Wall Street…Let’s not go beat up on people who had nothing to do with the crisis but [are] paying the penalty for what happened in Wall Street. It’s just over-reach.”

Asked if this put his own members in jeopardy—opposing a consumer financial agency that many voters want—Boehner was unfazed. “Suck it up” was his advice. “There’s a way to fix this ..I’m hopeful the Senate will find it.”

“As a matter of fact, if the Senate is able to produce a bill—I underline `if’ a few times—it will be much closer to where many of us would like to be than the House bill.”

Although he made no such linkage, Boehner’s strong opposition on the regulatory front could yet play to his party’s advantage in trying to narrow the Democrats’ lead in fundraising for the November elections and take back the House.

“We don’t need to out raise them, but we need enough resources to get our guys across the line,” Boehner said. He said Republicans now have one or more candidates running in 95 of what they see as the top 100 races for the House, and he wasn’t discouraged by the prospect of multiple primary fights.

“Primaries are competition,” he said. “Competition makes everyone better.”

His big grassroots focus, the so-called “Agenda Project,” will be a spring and summer “listening” campaign leading up to anticipated platform announcement near Labor Day — what many take as a flashback to the famous “Contract with America” used by Republicans in the 1994 elections.

“If we’re in the majority and I’m lucky enough to be speaker, I’m going to run the House differently than it is today and differently than my Republican colleagues in the past,” Boehner said. In the same vein, he warned if “anybody who gets the sense that this is a product handed down by a group of politicians, it will fall flat on its face.”

“The process of developing this is as important as what the final product is. We have to allow Americans to participate in this process. We have to prove to them that we are listening.”

“We’re going to solicit a lot of input. The American people don’t think their Congress is listening…We’re going to reach out to the Tea Partiers, reach out to every American who wants to take a role in this.”

And with Washington’s weather improving, will he and Obama finally play golf?

“He hasn’t asked….He’s talked about it a dozen times. It just hasn’t happened,” Boehner said.

“I get along fine with the president. We disagree but we’re not disagreeable.”

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19
Mar
10

Obama: Health Care Debate is About Country’s Character

NEWS
Obama: Health Care Debate is About Country’s Character

Friday, March 19, 2010

President Obama made a last-minute push for his health care reform plan Friday in advance of Sunday’s planned vote in the House, telling a supportive audience at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia that “a century-long struggle” for reform is about to “culminate in a historic vote.”

The president, who appeared energetic and enthusiastic, linked passage of the health care bill to the passage of social security and civil rights legislation, arguing that the debate on the legislation is “about the character of our country.”

He cited past presidents who have supported reform, among them Republican Teddy Roosevelt, who he quoted as having backed “aggressive fighting” for expanded coverage.

“I know this has been a difficult journey,” he said. “I know this will be a tough vote.” The president said that while he doesn’t know how pushing for reform will “play politically,” he does know that it’s the right thing to do.

The president said that despite rhetoric suggesting the legislation represents radical change, the bill is ultimately about “common sense reform.” He added that if the bill does not pass, the insurance industry “will continue to run amok.”

“They will continue to deny people coverage,” he said. “They will continue to deny people care. They will continue to jack up premiums 40 or 50 or 60 percent as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever. They know this. That’s why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak. And pouring millions of dollars into negative ads. That’s why they are doing everything they can to kill this bill.”
He continued: “So the only question left is this: Are we going to let the special interests win again? Or are we going to make this vote a victory for the American people?”

House Democrats have been working furiously to secure the votes to pass the bill ahead of the Sunday vote from skittish lawmakers concerned about their reelection prospects as well as issues like the cost of the $940 billion package.

The president noted that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would more than pay for itself over time, reducing the deficit by $1 trillion over two decades.

“This proposal’s paid for,” he said, contrasting it with previous Washington “schemes” that self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives have supported. Citing rising health care costs, he added: “We can’t afford not to do this.”

The president compared reporting on the bill to “Sportscenter” and “Rock’em Sock’em Robots,” with cable talking heads more concerned about the political implications of action than its practical impact.

He also laid out what is contained in the package, stressing the reforms that would be instituted this year, among them:

  • Banning insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions or dropping coverage when people get sick;
  • Eliminating annual or lifetime coverage limits;
  • Requiring insurance plans to offer free preventive care to customers;
  • And extending how long young people can stay on their parents’ insurance plans to age 26.

As Mr. Obama made his speech, Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, gave a press conference noting that the president is “doing the hard sell” on this bill. Boehner said voting against the bill is ultimately about “doing the right thing for the American people.”

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