Posts Tagged ‘health care’

Recent Readings for May 9, 2019

May 9, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 9, 2019

Author’s note: One of the articles linked below involves a porn star; the article is not particularly explicit, but I wanted to give warning. Also, two of the articles below contain upsetting details about violent crimes. MEM

Gosh, I haven’t done one of these in nearly two and a half years. Let’s see what’s been running through my mind lately!

• “The Sunday school children: The little-known tragedy of the Sri Lankan Easter attacks.” Rebecca Wright, Sam Kiley and King Ratnam of CNN take a detailed look at one of the bombings in the terrorist assaults that killed about 250 Christians and tourists last month. Be aware that this story is filled with a number of heartbreaking details.

• “Student slated to attend Western Michigan University beheaded in Saudi Arabia.” This was one of a series of government executions, the particulars of which should shock the conscience of every American. Alas, it’s hard to imagine that our freedom-loving pro-life president giving this matter more than 30 seconds of thought. As I tweeted: “The details presented here are shocking, and comprise a not-so-gentle reminder that this nation produced 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.”

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Recent Readings for Jan. 9, 2016

January 9, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 9, 2016

• “The Fall of King Coal.” In December, a federal jury convicted former Massey Energy Chief Executive Don Blankenship of conspiracy to violate federal mine-safety laws, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year in prison. In “The Fall of King Coal,” which Mother Jones published in the fall as Massey’s trial was getting under way, reporter Tim Murphy took a close look at Blankenship’s career, which involved breaking union strikes as well as existing contracts and safety and environmental regulations.

“It was very, very obvious from the first part that [Blankenship] cared about one thing and one thing only, and that was the dollar, and it was clear that he worshipped at the altar of greed and dollars, and he wouldn’t let anything get in the way,” one longtime union foe told Murphy.

• “The Corporate Takeover of the Red Cross.” The American Red Cross did not have a good 2015, when several reports came out exposing it as a floundering and at times ineffective organization. Take, for instance, a June report from ProPublica and NPR that bore the headline “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes.”

Last month, Justin Elliott extended his reporting on the American Red Cross by describing how former AT&T executive Gail McGovern has brought a businesslike mentality to the charity that has coincided with, if not actually caused, budget deficits, layoffs, internal cutbacks, sagging morale and the loss of trust by countless volunteers and partners. One of McGovern’s apparent missteps was hiring Jack McMaster, a former AT&T colleague who ran a Dutch telecom company into the ground before getting a job with the Red Cross.

• “Republican doom doesn’t equal Democrat victory: Our political chaos could destroy them both.” Salon columnist Andrew O’Hehir blasts the left and the right in this essay:

Clinton’s tone and rhetoric have been measured during this campaign, but as Salon’s Bill Curry wrote recently, she remains an unregenerate foreign-policy hawk who shows every sign of yearning to double down on failed military overreach. Whatever you think she may have said, Clinton has absolutely not ruled out sending American troops by the thousands to fight a ground war against the Islamic State. She has called out Republican candidates for their “bluster and bigotry” and rejected talk of a “war on Islam,” which is all to the good. But the policy proposals discernible below her calm and resolute-sounding language over the last month are virtually indistinguishable from those of the non-Trump GOP contenders: More war, more surveillance, less First Amendment. “You are going to hear all the familiar complaints: ‘Freedom of speech,’” she told a Brookings Institution audience on Dec. 6. I know! As if that’s in the Constitution or something!

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A brave exercise in truth-telling: The Heritage Foundation’s Obamacare recap promotes bad news about a bad law

March 27, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 27, 2015

With the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, taking place on Monday, the media have been packed with assessments of the law. But not all assessments are created equal.

Take the article (excuse me — I meant to say, the “brave exercise in truth-telling”) written by Melissa Quinn of the Daily Signal, an outlet of the conservative Heritage Foundation. She got things off to a terrible start:

Five years ago on March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

Many of the health care law’s provision took effect in 2013, and Americans have since been experiencing the effects of the law—both good and bad. Millions learned they were not able to keep their original insurance plans and more than 7.7 million received subsidies from the federal exchange.

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Bias, bias everywhere, and not a drop of good old-fashioned patriotic American red-blooded conservative coverage of Obamacare

March 26, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 26, 2015

With the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, taking place on Monday, the media have been packed with assessments of the law. Two of them caught my eye, for no other reason than that they flitted across my Twitter feed.

Tony Pugh of McClatchy’s Washington, D.C., bureau wrote more than 1,400 words on the Affordable Care Act’s rocky five-year history. PolitiFact’s Steve Contorno and Angie Drobnic Holan assembled an assessment that spanned more than 2,000 words. (That count doesn’t include the article’s bibliography, which lists 31 different interviews, articles and studies that formed the basis for the story.)

Now, conservatives love to bellyache about how the mainstream — oh, excuse me; lamestream — media is biased toward liberals. Sadly, anywhere one turns, one finds evidence that these complaints are accurate. Check out these fawning paragraphs that Pugh wrote to conclude his story:

As the health care law hits age five, it’s way too early to pass judgment on its effectiveness, said health care blogger Robert Laszewski. The law’s main provisions have been in place for only about 18 months, Laszewski said. Marketplace insurers are still being subsidized by the federal government, and only about half of the estimated 22 million marketplace plan members the CBO envisions in coming years have purchased coverage.

“I would rate Obamacare, 18 months after implementation, as incomplete,” Laszewski said. “Anybody who wants to look at Obamacare and talk about whether it’s a success or a failure, call me in 2017.”

Obviously this reporter is totally in the tank for Obama, right?

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The mystery of the misunderstood Obamacare provision: Another take on the Halbig imbroglio

August 7, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 7, 2014

Feature or bug? That’s a crucial debate being contested as a result of the Halbig lawsuit, which is part of the right wing’s War on Obamacare.

Liberal commentators such as Brian Beutler argue that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision that’s at the heart of the Halbig tussle represents a drafting error, not the intent of the law’s architects. To say otherwise is to dismiss as irrelevant the vast majority of the reportage and analysis that took place as the massive health-care reform bill was being crafted and implemented.

In fact, to adopt the now-popular conservative argument that Obamacare must be have been precisely designed to function exactly and only as it is written is to call into question the integrity of virtually everyone who discussed and wrote about the law as it was crafted, passed and initially launched.

After all, over that period, few if any people mentioned the supposed fact that Obamacare’s drafters intended to bar people who purchased health insurance through online marketplaces or exchanges that were run by the federal government. And the current conservative line is that the provision is a major feature, not a bug, in the health-care reform initiative.

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Did political convenience convince a conservative journalist to re-categorize a bug as a feature? An examination of the Welch–Beutler–Suderman spat

August 6, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 6, 2014

A Twitter feud between left-wing and right-wing pundits caught my eye last week.

The spat was launched by this tweet:

The difference between intellectual honesty () and a hackish attempt at oppo marginalization: ()

— Matt Welch @mleewelch 10:51 AM – 29 Jul 2014

Welch is the editor in chief of Reason, the libertarian magazine produced by the Los Angeles–based Reason Foundation. His tweet praised an article written by Reason senior editor Peter Suderman and published in Reason while panning one written by Brian Beutler, a senior editor at The New Republic, and published in that left-leaning magazine.

The articles promote dueling interpretations of the issue that many people refer to as Halbig. The tag comes from the plaintiff in one of a handful of pending lawsuits that seek to cripple the right’s favorite whipping boy, the Affordable Care Act.

The key to Halbig — beyond, of course, understanding that conservatives are obsessed with (a) opposing anything associated with Obama, especially (b) the health care reform law that is familiar known as Obamacare — is the question of whether one provision in that law means what it appears to say in the narrowest and most literal possible meaning.

This is the position on the right wing. As a result, they assert, buyers in states that did not establish their own online health-insurance marketplaces are ineligible for the tax credits that they were promised. In many cases, these subsidies make the coverage affordable.

Should this argument prevail, it could affect more than 7 million residents in the 36 states that rely on HealthCare.gov. (That’s the federally run website for comparing and purchasing health insurance plans offered by private companies; the site was created for residents of states that declined to create their own online exchanges.)

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Cross-border care: When health insurers send Americans to other countries

July 8, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 8, 2014

Adam Teicholz and Glenn Cohen took an interesting look in The New Republic the other day at cross-border care, a relatively new phenomenon in which U.S. health insurance companies send patients out of the country — mainly to Mexico — for certain tests and other medical procedures.

Cross-border care is distinct from medical tourism. In the latter, which is better known, people travel to other nations for medicine or procedures that are easier to obtain away from home.

“Easier to obtain” often refers to a difference in costs, which the website MedicalTourism.com says can be up to 90 percent cheaper than in the United States. For example, the site lists the cost for a heart bypass as being $144,000 domestically. Overseas, the same procedure can cost as little as $5,200 in India. (That accounts for airfare for two, but not food, lodging or other expenses.) In all of 10 other countries that the site lists, a heart bypass is estimated to cost less than $30,000. Even accounting for travel costs, a patient can come out ahead.

For this very reason — that charges for health care can be significantly lower outside of the U.S. — a handful of American insurers are requiring their clients to leave the country for some care. And therein lies the key difference: Medical tourism is generally undertaken on an individual’s initiative, while cross-border care is spurred by institutional imperatives.

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With Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court majority paves the way for minimal changes initially, great changes eventually

July 1, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 1, 2014

Author’s note: This post was updated on July 4 to correct the name of the author of a commentary on Supreme Court racial discrimination rulings that Reuters published in May.

With a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday morning that the government could not compel closely held for-profit corporations to provide contraception to its employees. The majority opinion, written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, essentially prioritizes the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act over a contraception coverage mandate contained in 2010’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

One of Alito’s key arguments in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, beyond his assertion that for-profit businesses are entitled to religious beliefs, is that there is no legal basis in the 1993 law for distinguishing among nonprofit and for-profit corporations. While the justice concedes that providing widespread contraception coverage is in fact a compelling government interest, Alito asserts that the Obamacare law’s mandate is not the least restrictive means of furthering that interest, and thus should be stricken.

Defenders of the ruling note that it is narrow; indeed, the court’s summary includes a disclaimer that “[t]his decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.”

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Emblem or footnote? The spate of health insurance policy cancellations is contrary to President Obama’s explicit promises. But it remains to be seen whether it will matter.

October 31, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 31, 2013

It turns out that, for hundreds of thousands of Americans, despite what the president pledged, they can’t keep their health plans.

That’s the stark truth about Obamacare — a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act — that has come into sharp focus over the past few days.

President Barack Obama has a verbal habit of insisting on clarity in many of his speeches and off-the-cuff remarks. He could hardly have been clearer when he said, multiple times, that Americans who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it under his health-care reform plan.

Only that isn’t true. CBS reports that 2 million Americans have had their policies canceled by insurance companies because they aren’t compatible with various provisions of Obamacare. Understandably, lots of people are unhappy about this, and Republican and conservative critics have jumped all over this broken promise.

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‘Mr. President, tear down this law’: Considering conservatives’ hostility toward Obamacare

August 22, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 22, 2013

With key deadlines for implementing President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act approaching — except for when the president himself puts them off, that is — a subgenre of conservative punditry has arisen. The theme that unites this new category of opinionating is that its authors all call for Republicans to unite around a replacement set of health care reforms.

It’s long been clear that Americans on the right dislike, if not outright despise, the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Their opposition is ironic for at least two reasons. One is that the conservative Heritage Foundation devised the individual mandate to purchase health insurance that is at the heart of the plan.

The other is that Obamacare is predicated, through that very same individual mandate, upon expanding the customer base of health insurance companies. In other words, the Affordable Care Act is simply not a single-payer system, in which the government assures every citizen a minimal level of health care. And Obamacare really isn’t much of a step toward socialized medicine, which significantly increase government control or regulation of the people and institutions that actually dispense health care.

Back in June, Ramesh Ponnuru published a lengthy essay on the National Review’s website that took conservatives to task for

increasingly embracing [this] theory about Obamacare: It’s going to collapse of its own weight, and its failure could yield a sharp right turn in the 2014 and 2016 elections. That theory is probably wrong, and dangerously so. To be rid of Obamacare, Republicans will have to do more than just wait for it to go away — and more than they have done so far.

Recent public remarks by Obama reinforced Ponnuru’s criticism that GOPers need to get more specific about enacting a replacement for Obamacare. Read the rest of this entry »

The understated but touching ‘Remote Area Medical’ shows America’s unmet health-care needs

April 11, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 11, 2013

At its most basic level, the new documentary Remote Area Medical is about a free three-day clinic that the organization of that name staged at Bristol Motor Speedway over an April 2012 weekend.

But just as sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar, this documentary about a free clinic in rural, mountainous Eastern Tennessee is not just a documentary about a free clinic. When Remote Area Medical was founded in 1985, its mission was to bring health care to inaccessible parts of the Brazilian rain forest. Today, 60 percent of the Nashville, Tenn., group’s work is done in the United States.

“We have people with desperate need within our borders,” one interviewee tells filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman. (None of the speakers are explicitly identified in the movie.) “Remote Area Medical — we don’t have to go too remote.”

Another interviewee, a patient at the Bristol clinic, says she wishes America’s decision-makers could see the consequences of their choices. Indeed, this viewer couldn’t help but wish that hundreds of U.S. Senators and members of Congress and their key staffers would be forced to watch this film and then spend a few hours discussing possible remedies. (Whether they might choose, after doing so, to repeal, change or keep intact the reform program commonly called Obamacare is outside the scope of this review.) Read the rest of this entry »

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