Tag Archive for healthcare

Don’t wait until you’re personally threatened

We are living in such an amazing time. Our trust in the conventional centers of power is at an all-time low. Whether it is local government, state government or national government, our belief that they or their regulatory agencies truly care about the interest of the public is highly questionable.

The hierarchical structure of government seems to benefit only those that are at the top or those that believe they are immune from the tentacles of power. Those that are at the top are committed to protect and increase their influence and make the rules that benefit this top-down structure. They believe that with charm and ruthlessness they can coerce the general public into accepting their decrees.

The public tends to not react until they are personally threatened by one issue or another: hydraulic fracking in their backyard, GMOs in their food supply, their inability to get a living wage job, healthcare that they can’t afford, foreclosure on their homes, etc.

But somehow the general public seems not the see the inter-consecutiveness between all of these issues. They are basically economic in nature; those who control the money, control the outcome. Changing who controls the hierarchy will make no difference! As long as power is controlled by money, the results will always be the same.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is horizontal in nature, designed to draw attention to the injustice and unfairness of our status quo, money-driven power structure! It’s not so much about specific demands as showing the frustration with our dysfunctional system. If you feel frustrated or marginalized, occupy your city, your town, your neighborhood. It’s your last best chance!

Cory Gardner’s narrow view of “freedom”

Cory Gardner’s recent guest opinion piece [in the Times-Call] displays a very narrow view of freedom. We are very fortunate in this country to have the right to vote and (mostly) free speech, as well as many other rights. We do not all have the same ability to share our views.

Free speech and equal speech are not the same things and the increasing difference is alarming. The Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that money equals free speech. Now corporations can spend as much as they want to influence public opinion and elections. You and I do not have the same voice as corporations. Even stockholders have no say in what views corporations expound.

It is hard to feel completely free when comparably few people pump large sums of money into misleading advertisements to influence elections and referendums (Comcast). It would be a little bit more palatable if there wasn’t so much misinformation and mud slinging in paid political advertisements.

These same forces have resulted in the average CEO’s wages increasing by 20 percent over the last year to over $10 million per year and as high as $85 million while the average wage of the middle class increased by about 0.5 percent. The same forces have resulted in tax loopholes for corporations.

Corporations, banks, and Wall Street have the freedom to make some very bad decisions. If these only hurt them, that would be one thing, but their behaviors have badly hurt almost everyone but their executives who supported the bad decisions.

It is hard to feel free when you have been unemployed for a long time. Corporations that are hoarding over 2 trillion dollars are at the same time paying enormous salaries and bonuses to top executives rather than investing in jobs. Do they not understand that in the long run, they need unemployment to shrink?

It is hard to feel completely free when it is increasingly difficult to support your family and provide adequate access to health care. Too many people can not access health care even though they work two or more jobs. It is increasingly hard to feel totally free when you or a family member is seriously ill and you can not get the health care you need.

Mr. Gardner’s support of reform to Medicare addresses a real problem. Much of our health care dollars go to insurance companies that all too often deny coverage. He supports giving money to individuals to buy health care insurance rather than the current system. Who will benefit from a plan that provides future Medicare recipients money to enrich health insurance companies?

If you were brought to this country as an infant or small child without proper paper work, it is hard to feel free when as you get older you can not get a driver’s license, can not work legally, and can not afford college. It is hard to feel free when at anytime a family member can be deported at any time. It is hard to feel free when a parent or spouse is in detention and ICE makes if difficult to find out where that person is. It is hard to feel free when parents are taken at public celebrations such as the Strawberry festival in western Colorado.

It is hard to feel free when you come to the US on a H2A visa to do work in the farm fields, landscape industry, etc. and can only work for one employer. Too often some employers mistreat visa holders, with hold pay, and then tell the worker that if they complain that will call Homeland Security and have them sent home.

Farmers depend on labor to harvest their crops. Even in this economy they can not get US citizens and other documented workers to do this back breaking work. In Georgia the recent anti immigrant laws have deprived farmers of over 20,000 needed workers and as a result they will not be able to harvest all their crops. How free do these farmers feel?

We need to address these issues for the good of all. In the mean time we need to enjoy the freedoms that we do have, such as the freedom of religion separated from government at all levels, freedom to associate with whom we wish, freedom to work for the changes we want while working to protect those things that we cherish.

These views are entirely my own and not those of any agency or group to which I belong.

Cory Gardner confronted with unexpected town hall meeting

Representative Cory Gardner tried to sidestep much of his Longmont constituency when he scheduled time with the Longmont Tea Party on Wednesday, June 8th. He hadn’t counted on two dozen progressive protesters from Longmont and Eyes on Congress.

Arriving early, those who strongly disagree with Gardner’s wholehearted endorsement of the Republican Ryan budget and policy plan made their feelings known to the literal “drumbeat” made by a Lyons citizen and by a variety of signs. Signs supporting Medicare as it now exists and signs rejecting the voucher/coupon privatization plan were waved at teapartiers as they arrived at the American Legion in Longmont. As he exited his “chauffeured” SUV, Gardner tried unsuccessfully to ignore the protesters as they made their presence felt.

Cory Gardner - prefers Tea Party meetings to Town Halls

Gardner was not planning any town hall events until September. However, to the Longmont 9.12 Tea Party’s credit, they agreed to allow the protesters to join their event, sans signs. Like it or not, Cory Gardner was confronted with an unexpected town hall meeting and had to face as many tough questions and statements as he did from those supporting his agenda.

Well-versed in the Republican talking points, Gardner disingenuously asserted that “the [Republican/Ryan] budget protects and preserves Medicare.” Since the better proportion of attendees were Tea Party Republicans, the audience did not rise up in protest. (Progressives respectfully kept their powder dry awaiting the Q & A to follow the presentation.) Gardner’s assertion that “If you are aged 55 and older, the program will not change.” is factually incorrect. The Affordable Care Act provided Medicare recipients with a select number of diagnostic screening procedures at no cost to the Medicare insured and it also set in place provisions for closing the prescription “donut-hole.” The Republican budget repeals these benefits. Further, Gardner did not address the ramifications for Social Security Disability recipients who have or will become eligible for Medicare regardless of age.

Gardner used the old saw about “creating competition” in the healthcare insurance marketplace because “competition lowers cost.” Anyone with or without insurance who has been paying attention to the rising cost of insurance, employer-subsidized or individual, can attest to how well that hasn’t worked. Yet Gardner and the rest of the Republicans expect us to drink their doctored punch – one more time.

He justifies his voucher plan this way. “The idea is to put you in charge of your healthcare decisions, not the government, not some bureaucrat, and to do patient-centered healthcare.”

Later, during the Q & A, Gardner was taken severely to task over this statement.

One member of the audience aptly brought up the virtually universal experience of those insured in the private marketplace. She spoke of the constant need for preapproval from insurers for medical procedures. She highlighted those “bureaucrats sitting in cubicles somewhere in corporate headquarters who are only concerned with the bottom line.”

Expanding on this, Kaye Fissinger challenged Gardner saying, “You have said in your opening remarks referencing what this lady said about bureaucrats making decisions and you are attributing that to Medicare. I have Medicare and I’m also a cancer survivor. I am here today because of an excellent medical team and Medicare. I did not have to get permission from anybody for any of the diagnostic procedures I needed. I did not have to get permission from anybody for the procedures to determine what physical condition I was in before I had major surgery. And I did not have to get permission from anybody for the treatments I needed, be they surgery, radiation or chemotherapy that ultimately cured me of cancer. So to suggest that the government tells you what kind of treatment you can have and what kind of treatment you can’t have is very disingenuous and I really wish that you and other members of your party would stop doing that.”

Fissinger went on to say, “Medicare does more to control costs than anything else out there. I see my statement of benefits. I know what is billed out. I know what’s allowed. And I know what the 80% is and what the 20% is. If it wasn’t for Medicare setting a limit on what physicians, hospitals and everybody else could charge, we would have a much worse healthcare crisis in costs than we have today.”

Returning to the Republican talking point that attempts to overcome the fact that the Republican budget plan kills Medicare as we know it, Gardner asked Fissinger, Do you think we should protect and preserve Medicare for future generations?

Neither intimidated nor entrapped, Fissinger replied, Yes I do, and I think we should preserve the system we have now, not some privatized voucher coupon system.

Lest there be any doubt whatsoever about where U.S. Representative Cory Gardner stands on the healthcare issue, he emphatically said: “I do not support universal care. I do not support single payer systems.” Medicare IS a single-payer system. He never strayed far from the Republican agreed-upon obfuscation that by voting for the Republican/Ryan plan, they voted to “save Medicare.”

A likely Tea Party Republican stated that she has had Medicare for 15 years and doesn’t like it. It was unclear whether she was enrolled under original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage HMO plan administered by a private healthcare insurer. If the latter is the case, she would be justified. Those plans impose all the barriers and restrictions of other private healthcare plans. And outside of major metropolitan areas where plans DO have to compete and in places like Colorado, they are usually more costly than the Part B premium and provide no more coverage than original Medicare.

Although Medicare dominated the Q & A, it was disappointing to discover how little understanding of the procedures of government, congressional and administrative, that most in the Tea Party audience have. They appear to be driven by what they hear in outlets like Fox News and on talk radio. Those sources are notorious for inaccurate and misleading information and sometimes outright lies.

Also troubling was the expression of resentment and selfishness. Those needing food stamps and disability were criticized. Those individuals whose incomes were so low as to not require the payment of income taxes were condemned. These individuals and families still are required to pay payroll taxes, taxes that are the most regressive of almost any others that are imposed. Yet there was no condemnation of corporations evading and avoiding income taxes while making astonishing profits. And, of course, receiving raucous applause was the tired old idea of eliminating the Department of Education entirely.

Is Ryan Budget the first shot?

And lastly, Cory Gardner should be ashamed of himself for his attitude towards failure to raise the debt ceiling when it’s expected to be reached on August 2nd. Intentionally misleading his audience, he referenced that “the debt ceiling was reached a couple of weeks ago” and that “there was no economic calamity and that the sun still came up.” It was immaterial to him that Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary, has been juggling the books to forestall the calamity in hopes that a compromise can be reached that will allow the debt ceiling to be raised. Amazingly, Gardner framed talks with the White House as a debate over “whether or not the debt limit can be raised.”

Statements like that do not portend well. Could the Republicans be planning another episode of disaster capitalism brought about intentionally by creating a “Shock Doctrine” condition? Perhaps that is how they intend to accomplish their “revolution.” That possibility is for another article.