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By Zachary A. Goldfarb and Sandhya Somashekhar, Published: in the Washington Post

The White House on Tuesday delayed for one year a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that businesses provide health insurance to employees, a fresh setback for President Obama’s landmark health-care overhaul as it enters a critical phase.

The provision, commonly known as the employer mandate, calls for businesses with 50 or more workers to provide affordable quality insurance to workers or pay a $2,000 fine per employee. Business groups had objected to the provision, which now will take effect in January 2015.

The decision comes as Obama is working to secure his domestic legacy, urging Congress to pass an overhaul of immigration laws and using his executive powers to combat climate change. With the prospects for immigration reform uncertain in the House — and new environmental regulations still more than a year way — implementation of the 2010 health-care law has singular importance.

The White House portrayed the delay as a common-sense step that would reduce financial and regulatory burdens on small businesses. Republicans, who are planning to target “Obamacare” in the 2014 midterm campaigns, said the delay is an acknowledgment that the health-care overhaul is flawed.

The decision will spare Obama what might have been a major distraction as officials begin to implement the centerpiece of the health-care law, which remains in place: a requirement, starting in 2014, that most Americans obtain insurance through their employer or through federally backed and state-backed marketplaces, known as exchanges.

The decision by Obama, who was on Air Force One returning from Africa on Tuesday when the announcement was made, to delay a controversial part of the law underscores his willingness to use the power of the executive branch to help to protect the legislation’s image at a defining moment.

“We believe we need to give employers more time to comply with the new rules,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, wrote in a blog post Tuesday evening. “This allows employers the time to . . . make any necessary adaptations to their health benefits while staying the course toward making health coverage more affordable and accessible for their workers.”

Republicans say they expect higher costs as a result of the law. House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) said the decision “means even the Obama administration knows the ‘train wreck’ will only get worse.” He added, “This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable.”

Bob Kocher, a former top health-care aide to Obama, said he was disappointed by the delay because it will create uncertainty about what parts of the law will take effect. “It confuses people,” he said, adding that it “will undermine all the other rules because people will expect delay.”

The health-care law, which had been a source of confusion for years, is expected to have a bumpy rollout. The employer mandate would have added complexity.

Small businesses, many of which would have had to install systems to track and report which employees are receiving coverage, had been complaining about the difficulty of complying with the requirements, giving way to fears that companies might reduce their workforces to fall below the 50-worker threshold.

The decision comes as a result of years of bumps and setbacks for the overhaul, including legal challenges and political opposition that have hampered its implementation. Last summer, the Supreme Court upheld the law but struck down a mandatory expansion of Medicaid. State officials and businesses held off changing their policies through the 2012 presidential campaign because Obama’s GOP opponent, Mitt Romney, had promised to repeal the law.

Some populous states, including Florida and Texas, have decided not to set up exchanges, putting a far bigger burden on federal health officials to serve Americans. The exchanges are being designed to offer a variety of insurance plans; the federal insurance exchange is set to begin in less than three months.

One year ago today the Supreme Court found the Affordable Care Act constitutional. The new health care exchanges begin enrollment in 3 months but Obamacare is still confusing for most of us. Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff explains what we can expect.

Although the overhaul was passed in 2010, federal officials continue to issue clarifications to its language. Many of the rules critical to employers were issued this year, or remain in draft form. As a result, businesses have been scrambling to understand their obligations, said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health think tank.

“When I talk to large companies, even though they already offer coverage they are still scrambling to understand the rules so they can comply,” he said. “Employers were feeling like they had to make these decisions under some amount of pressure, and this gives them a year to be more deliberative about it.”

A senior White House official said the administration’s decision goes beyond delaying the employer mandate. Officials also are working to simplify the depth of information that businesses will have to provide to the government about the coverage they offer.

The launch of the exchanges is a landmark moment in the overhaul, and White House officials have been warning that there will be rough spots. The White House hasn’t received the funding it requested to implement the law, and officials have expressed concern that Americans eligible for coverage won’t know how to get it.

Earlier this year, the administration said businesses that buy health plans for their workers through health exchanges would not have access to the full range of options in 2014, promising to have them in place a year later.

The decision to postpone the employer mandate is not expected to have a major impact on employees. Those workers who would have received coverage from their employers as a result of the law will now be expected to use the exchanges. Employees who cannot afford coverage on their own are eligible for federal subsidies.

The vast majority of businesses — 96 percent, according to the White House — have fewer than 50 employees and therefore are exempt from the mandate. And nearly all firms of 200 or more workers offer their employees some sort of coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively,” Mark J. Mazur, an assistant Treasury secretary, wrote in a blog post. “We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so.”

Mazur wrote that Treasury, which oversees part of the law, will issue more details about the delay within a week.

Several business groups praised the administration, saying the delay will give businesses time to adjust to the new requirements.

“This one year delay will provide employers and businesses more time to update their health care coverage without threat of arbitrary punishment,” Neil Trautwein, a top official with the National Retail Federation, said in a statement. “We appreciate the Administration’s recognition of employer concerns and hope it will allow for greater flexibility in the future.”

But others maintained that the provision will never be workable.

“Temporary relief is small consolation,” said Amanda Austin, director of federal public policy with the National Federation of Independent Business, which last year lost the landmark Supreme Court case challenging the law’s constitutionality.

One Step….Two Step

December 5, 2012

Does everyone know how to do….

 

 

 

The one step….. two step?

 

 

 

Tim Geithner presented the….

 

 

Democratic

 

Reach for the sky

 

Fiscal cliff solution

 

 

 

That landed like a lead balloon

 

 

 

It was the same offer from 2011

 

 

 

I guess it took them a long time

 

 

To come up with that?

 

 

 

The Republicans huddled and….

 

 

Went to their files

 

 

And pulled out their proposal

 

 

From…..

 

 

2011.

 

 

 

That is what I call progress

 

 

 

 

It has been 1 month since

 

 

 

The presidential election….

 

 

 

 

And these are my sins….

 

 

 

 

We are still back in 2011.

 

 

 

 

I have been reading a lot about this topic

 

 

Since Finance is my bag

 

 

 

 

Nobody wants to pay more taxes….

 

 

 

 

But the Government cannot

 

 

Continue to spend

 

 

 

33% more than they take in.

 

 

 

 

 

Raising the taxes from 35% to 39% for

 

 

The 2% highest earners

 

 

 

Is mostly symbolic

 

 

That does not mean they will actually

 

 

 

Be paying higher taxes

 

 

 

 

Without touching the deductions and loopholes

 

 

They will still be paying

 

 

14%

 

 

 

In order to increase revenue

 

 

 

You can’t just increase the rates

 

 

You have to close loopholes

 

 

 

 

That would bring in more revenue

 

 

 

 

Taxing the highest earning 2%

 

 

Will not solve the deficit issue

 

 

It only scratches at the surface

 

 

 

 

 

We are going to have to stick our heads

 

 

Into unchartered waters

 

 

 

 

When social security was started

 

 

The retirement age was 65 years old

 

 

 

 

The average life expectancy was

 

69 years old

 

 

 

The program was set up with the intention

 

 

 

That it had to provide benefits

 

On average for about 4 years

 

 

 

The average life expectancy today

 

 

Is 84 years old

 

 

 

 

That means that…..

 

 

Social Security is now expected

 

 

To cover

 

 

On average

 

 

 

A span of 19 years

 

 

 

 

Not…….4 years

 

 

 

 

Can you see why there

 

 

May be a problem

 

 

With this program

 

 

 

 

We all pay into it….

 

 

 

 

But as the boomers age

 

 

 

 

The support base diminishes

 

 

 

 

 

Where can we possibly look to

 

 

Save money in the budget

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s take a quick look at defense spending

 

 

 

 

1974

 

 

That was the last time we saw…

 

The defense budget under

 

 

$100 billion dollars

 

 

 

 

By the year 2000

 

 

The defense budget grew to

 

 

 

$372 billion dollars

 

 

 

 

That took 26 years

 

 

 

 

In a mere 12 years

 

 

 

 

2000 – 2012

 

 

 

The Defense Budget

 

 

Has more than doubled

 

 

 

And comes in at

 

 

 

$816 billion dollars

 

 

 

 

I think we can possibly find

 

 

 

Some savings there?

 

 

 

 

 

There has been a lot of talk about

 

 

Health Care

 

 

 

Currently the US spends

 

 

About 18% of GDP

 

 

On Healthcare

 

 

 

Other comparable nations spend

 

On average about 12%

 

 

 

A recent study by

 

 

Harvard Business Review states

 

 

 

 

“The proper goal for any health care delivery system

 

 

Is to improve the value delivered to patients.

 

 

 

Value in health care is measured

 

 

 

In terms of the patient outcomes

 

 

Achieved per dollar expended.

 

 

 

It is not the number of different services provided

 

 

Or the volume of services delivered that matters

 

 

But the value.

 

 

 

More care and more expensive care

 

 

Is not necessarily better care.”

 

 

 

 

Studies show that savings in Health Care cost

 

 

Can range from $700 billion to $1 Trillion dollars

 

 

 

Just by increasing the

 

 

Efficiencies of service.

 

 

 

 

These are just a couple examples

 

 

 

Every program should be reviewed

 

 

 

 

 

I believe there will be

 

 

A lot of finger pointing

 

 

While the Government works

 

 

Towards a solution

 

 

 

 

But it is in the best interest

 

 

Of all concerned

 

 

That a compromise

 

 

Is made

 

 

 

 

 

True saving can be found

 

 

In all programs

 

 

Without effecting

 

 

 

The integrity of any program

 

 

 

 

America is here for the long term

 

 

 

We just have to make smart decisions

 

 

 

To make sure we remain the

 

 

 

Beacon of light

 

 

 

That all other countries look

 

 

To emulate

Just Thinking

October 5, 2012

My wife and I were watching TV

 

Last week

 

 

And she made a very

 

Astute observation

 

 

“How come all we hear about

 

 

 

In the Presidential election

 

 

 

Is the middle class

 

 

 

 

Did everyone stop talking…..

 

 

 

 

About the Poor?”

 

 

 

 

 

We hear about the top 2%

 

 

 

And

 

 

 

The middle class

 

 

 

What are we doing about the poor?

 

 

 

 

Are they now the middle class…

 

 

 

Want to hear some sobering facts?

 

 

 

There have been

 

48 murders…..

 

 

 

In Camden, NJ

 

 

So far this year

 

 

 

Camden has gained the title of….

 

 

 

America’s most dangerous city

 

 

 

Camden is about 7 miles

 

From where I am sitting

 

 

 

Let’s look at some of the facts:

 

  • 13 homicides in July – the most deadly month since a shooting spree in 1949
  • Murder rate was ten times New York City in 2011 — and on pace to be even higher this year
  • More than half of children live below the poverty line as the city is ravaged by drugs
  • Police department forced to cut one third of officers in 2011 and arrests dropped to less than half of what they were in 2009

 

 

 

I am using Camden

 

 

As an example

 

 

Because it is

 

 

Close to home

 

 

 

There are many families hurting

 

 

Not only in Camden….

 

 

 

But in all across…

 

 

The United States

 

 

 

In cities

 

 

And

 

 

 

In small towns

 

 

 

 

There are independent programs

 

 

Set up

 

 

To help these people…..

 

 

 

Mostly non profits

 

 

With Church affiliations

 

 

 

Providing food

 

 

Temporary Shelter

 

 

 

 

Working with youth

 

 

Helping them to

 

 

Believe in their abilities

 

 

 

 

Teaching them

 

 

You can make a difference

 

 

 

 

Aspire,

 

 

 

Don’t settle

 

 

 

 

But there is no grand effort

 

 

 

 

No coordinated

 

 

Vision

 

 

 

To make a difference

 

 

 

 

 

To lift these people up

 

 

 

 

Yes,

 

 

There is unemployment

 

 

Disability

 

 

Food Stamps

 

 

And

 

 

Other Government assistance programs

 

 

 

 

But what are we doing

 

 

As a whole….

 

 

 

To lift the poor in spirit

 

 

 

 

Give them the opportunity

 

 

To live

 

 

To Share

 

 

 

 

The American dream

 

 

 

 

Whatsoever you do

 

 

To the least of my brethren

 

 

 

That you do unto me

 

 

 

 

I think we are all familiar with that line

 

 

 

 

 

What are we doing to help…..

 

 

The poor?

 

 

 

 

We all take our lives for granted

 

 

 

 

What we fail to realize is that…..

 

 

 

Every Day is a Gift

 

 

 

 

 

I am a product of Catholic Schools

 

 

 

They taught the….

 

 

 

 

 

The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy

 

 

  • Feed the Hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Cloth the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Comfort the imprisoned
  • Visit the sick
  • Bury the dead

 

 

 

What have we been doing….

 

 

 

With the gifts that we have been given?

 

 

 

 

Many years ago

 

 

As man evolved

 

 

They realized

 

 

The only way

 

 

They could sustain

 

 

Continue to grow

 

 

And Survive

 

 

Would be by

 

 

Helping each other

 

 

 

There was no….

 

 

Bigger

 

 

Better

 

 

Stronger

 

 

 

 

They all worked together

 

 

They Realized that they….

 

 

 

All needed each other

 

 

 

 

The world calls us to be engaged

 

 

 

We are all one

 

 

 

 

“For I was hungry and you gave me food

 

 

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink

 

 

I was a stranger and you welcomed me

 

 

I was naked and you gave me clothing

 

 

I was sick and you took care of me

 

 

I was in prison and you visited me.”

 

 

Mathew 25:34-36

The Huffington Post | By

 

Having to return to the hospital for another round of treatments for the same medical condition isn’t just emotionally draining, potentially dangerous and tough on a patient’s wallet, it also costs hospitals a ton of money, according to a report issued today.

A typical hospital with 200 to 300 beds wastes up to $3.8 million a year, or 9.6 percent of its total budget, on readmissions of patients who shouldn’t have had to come back, says Premier, a health care company that advises hospitals on improving efficiency and safety. The company analyzed the records of 5.8 million incidents in which a patient went back to a hospital to be re-treated and found they added $8.7 billion a year, or 15.7 percent, to the cost of caring for those people.

Cutting back on these readmissions would  be good news for patients. Even if the hospital has to eat the costs of additional treatments, patients are still subject to the risks of the procedures they undergo and the normal danger of contracting an infection while in the hospital. Patients being treated for heart attacks, respiratory problems like pneumonia and major joint problems are the most likely to wind up back in the hospital, according to Premier.

Wasteful spending in the U.S. health care system has been estimated to be as high as $850 billion each year, according to a 2009 Thomson Reuters report. Overall health care spending rose by a factor of 10 between 1980 and 2010, when it reached $2.6 trillion.

Hospitals are ground zero for health care cost-containment efforts because they are the biggest recipients of America’s health care spending, having taken in $814 billion in 2010, according to a federal government report. Rising costs and shrinking payments from government programs like Medicare and Medicaid and from private insurance companies have hospitals looking everywhere for ways to streamline their operations.

The health care reform law enacted two years ago expands on efforts begun three years ago to link how much Medicare pays hospitals to how well they reduce medical errors, readmissions, and other inefficiencies. Starting next year, hospitals will see their Medicare payments docked by 1 percent if they don’t cut back on these readmissions. The penalty increases to 3 percent in 2015.

Premier’s message to hospitals feeling squeezed: The money you need to save is already in the system. The company has identified 15 steps hospitals can take to improve the care they provide while also saving money, such as making sure patients are treated right the first time and don’t need to be “readmitted” for more care. By analyzing information culled from its hospital partners, Premier recommends other targets for savings, such as performing fewer blood transfusions and limiting costly tests.

Major physician groups also recently rolled out an initiative to reduce unnecessary medical tests. Combined with efforts such as those promoted by Premier, these ventures underscore how private sector health care entities are accelerating cost-containment programs with a push by the health care reform law.

 

As reported in Huffington Post 12/08/11 by Andrew Taylor

WASHINGTON — Conservative flashpoint issues from abortion and abstinence education to President Barack Obama’s health care law are the biggest obstacles to Congress completing a massive year-end spending bill next week that would keep the government running through next September.

Going into end-game negotiations this weekend on the $900-plus billion bill, Republicans expect to lose on most of the policy provisions, or “riders,” they added to House versions of the must-do spending measures. But the White House and Democrats are poised to make concessions on some environmental rules, wetlands regulations and, in all likelihood, on continuing a ban on government-funded abortions in the nation’s capital city.

“We’re meeting heavy resistance from the White House and Democrats in the Senate,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., who is pressing for provisions to help the coal industry. “So, we’ll get as many as we possibly can.”

Among most popular targets for Republicans are environmental regulations they say hamper the economy, such as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules on coal ash, large-scale discharges of hot water and greenhouse gases from electric power plants, and emissions from cement plants and oil refineries.

If past is prologue, most of the issues will end up on the chopping block. That’s what happened last spring during negotiations on a spending bill for the budget year that ended in September.

“There’s a lot of opposition to these and they know they need Democratic votes in the House to pass it,” said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “So we have made this very clear to the other side. … If you expect our votes you’ve got to get rid of the controversial riders.”

But some riders will be needed to win GOP support for the measure in votes next week. And many of the provisions are important to powerful members of the appropriations panel in both parties.

“We don’t want to be wholly inflexible,” said Rep. James Moran of Virginia, top Democrat on the spending panel responsible for the EPA’s budget. That measure is studded with riders.

“Virtually every rule the EPA has come up with, they’re trying to come up with a rider to stop it,” said Scott Slesinger, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

// // The roster of environmental riders is indeed lengthy.

For coal interests, there is a rider to block clean water rules opposed by mining companies that blast the tops off mountains as well as a rider to block proposed labor rules to limit miners’ exposure to coal dust, which causes black-lung disease. Electric utilities would benefit from delays of rules on traditional air pollution and emissions of carbon dioxide. Painting contractors would benefit from a delay in a 2008 rule that requires them to be certified by the EPA in order to remove lead paint.

“We’re pretty clear that we find these riders as unacceptable,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. “We’re being very emphatic.”

On social issues, there are proposals to ban needle exchange programs that help stem the spread of HIV among drug users; cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions; and adopt an abstinence-only approach for grants to reduce teen pregnancy.

Those riders, in addition to GOP efforts to block implementation of the new health care law – a nonstarter with Democrats and the White House – are among the reasons the labor, health and education chapter of the omnibus spending measure is at risk of being left out of the final bill.

“It’s from soup to nuts,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. “They just designed an ideological agenda.”

In addition to proposing to eliminate federal family planning funding, Republicans would block the District of Columbia government from providing abortions to poor women, which is a top priority of anti-abortion activists.

The D.C. abortion rider was in place when Republicans controlled the White House but was lifted after Obama took office. He reluctantly agreed to reinstate the funding ban this year, prompting Washington’s mayor and city council members to march on Capitol Hill. Democrats continue to fight the rider, but GOP leaders are likely to insist on it.

At the same time, Republicans are trying to reverse a loss earlier this year when they tried to block taxpayer money from going to Washington’s needle exchange program.

Some of the riders aren’t contentious. For instance, even though the EPA has no interest in regulating methane emissions from cow burps and flatulence, there’s a rider to block the agency from doing so. That’s fine with Democrats.

Then there are riders that have no practical effect but set a precedent that agencies would prefer to avoid. One would block the EPA from officially delineating any new wetlands in counties affected by flooding this year. It turns out that the agency has no plans to do so, so this might be a rider Democrats and the White House would accept.

Another battle involves an attempt to block the Obama administration’s 2009 policy lifting restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to families remaining in Cuba. That provision drew an explicit Obama veto threat earlier this year and will probably be dropped in end-stage negotiations.

The White House warned last week it’ll play a strong hand in trying to keep the final measure as free of riders as possible. “There should be no miscalculation about the intensity of (Obama’s) feelings,” White House budget director Jacob Lew told reporters.

 

 November 30th, 2010 Adam Ebner

As reported in Nationwide Deregulated Energy News

In a very competitive marketplace, energy deregulation gives businesses better control of their business electricity costs. Aside from that, there are myriad other benefits and option that their companies would get from a deregulated and competitive energy market – options that were not possible in the past due to high energy expenses and limitations set by the monopolized energy industry.

The deregulation of the many utilities markets gave birth to the emergence of several retail electric providers all competing for subscriptions from both residential and commercial energy users in the state and in energy deregulated cities such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Houston, Dallas and many others. Now given the power to choose, selecting from over 50 retail electricity providers can be a daunting task indeed; with businesses finding themselves at the losing end should they fail to choose the best provider for their needs. This is why businesses should work in partnership with certified electricity brokers to negotiate in their behalf the best electrical rates, payment schemes and other amenities from the various Texas electric companies.

Electricity Brokers:

Your Helping Hand Unlike electricity management at home, businesses have more complex processes and operational needs for electricity that if not managed would find them dealing with extremely high energy costs that would eventually affect their bottom line. Electricity brokers can come into the picture and help businesses find ways on how they can efficiently use Texas electricity and help them minimize their energy costs. These brokers deal and negotiate electrical rates with retail electric providers for the benefit of the business.

No matter what business or industry your company may be in, electricity brokers can provide professional services using up-to-date information of the energy market in a bid to obtain the best commercial electricity deals for the company.

Why Should You Use Electricity Brokers to Shop Electricity?

Businesses may not have the resources available to have an independent study or analysis of the various retail electric providers offering commercial electricity before they switch and commit to the services of one. Aside from this, companies may have to deal with all the other elements in the very complex energy market such as new regulations, changes in fees, penalties, reduction of carbon emissions, etc. Hiring an electricity broker can spare the company from all these, so that all their staff and resources can focus on only one thing – doing business.

Electricity brokers can help companies with their procurement decision, eliminate possible over payments, recover over payments, management of energy consumption, and continuous energy usage analysis. Electricity brokers can uncover and identify areas in the business processes where they can implement significant improvements. These brokers are not in any way tied up with any major retail electric provider, allowing them to give unbiased advice to businesses and help them get the best energy solutions for their companies.

Our Perspective:

Hutchinson Business Solutions (HBS) is an independent energy management company. We represent all the major providers selling deregulated energy in deregulated states. We will do a full analysis of your account and shop your account with our  providers to find the best value and savings for your company.

HBS clients are finding savings from 10% to 20% in the deregulated utility market.

To learn more email george@hbsadvantage.com

 

Friday, January 21, 2011

This whole health-care thing isn’t quite working out the way Republicans planned. My guess is that they’ll soon try to change the subject – but I’m afraid they’re already in too deep.

Wednesday’s vote to repeal President Obama’s health insurance reform law was supposed to be a crowning triumph. We heard confident GOP predictions that cowed Democrats would defect in droves, generating unstoppable momentum that forced the Senate to obey “the will of the people” and follow suit. The Democrats’ biggest domestic accomplishment would be in ruins and Obama’s political standing would be damaged, perhaps irreparably.

What actually happened, though, is that the Republican majority managed to win the votes of just three Democrats – all of them Blue Dogs who have been consistent opponents of the reform package anyway. In terms of actual defectors, meaning Democrats who changed sides on the issue, there were none. This is momentum?

The unimpressive vote came at a moment when “the will of the people” on health care is coming into sharper focus. Most polls that offer a simple binary choice – do you like the “Obamacare” law or not – show that the reforms remain narrowly unpopular. Yet a significant fraction of those who are unhappy complain not that the reform law went too far but that it didn’t go far enough. I think of these people as the “public option” crowd.

A recent Associated Press poll found that 41 percent of those surveyed opposed the reform law and 40 percent supported it. But when asked what Congress should do, 43 percent said the law should be modified so that it does more to change the health-care system. Another 19 percent said it should be left as it is.

More troubling for the GOP, the AP poll found that just 26 percent of respondents wanted Congress to repeal the reform law completely. A recent Washington Post poll found support for outright repeal at 18 percent; a Marist poll pegged it at 30 percent.

In other words, what House Republicans just voted to do may be the will of the Tea Party, but it’s not “the will of the people.”

“The test of a first-rate intelligence,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” By this standard, House Republicans are geniuses. To pass the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” they had to believe that the work of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is both authoritative and worthless.

The CBO, which “scores” the impact of proposed legislation, calculated that the health-reform law will reduce federal deficits by at least $143 billion through 2019. Confronted with the fact that repeal would deepen the nation’s fiscal woes, Republicans simply claimed the CBO estimate to be rubbish. Who cares what the CBO says, anyway?

Er, um, Republicans care, at least when it’s convenient. Delving into the CBO’s analysis, they unearthed a finding that they proclaimed as definitive: The reform law would eliminate 650,000 jobs. Hence “Job-Killing” in the repeal bill’s title.

One problem, though: The CBO analysis contains no such figure. It’s an extrapolation of a rough estimate of an anticipated effect that no reasonable person would describe as “job-killing.” What the budget office actually said is that there are people who would like to withdraw from the workforce – sometimes because of a chronic medical condition – but who feel compelled to continue working so they can keep their health insurance. Once the reforms take effect, these individuals will have new options. That’s where the “lost” jobs supposedly come from.

The exercise in intellectual contortion that was necessary for the House to pass the repeal bill will be an excellent tune-up for what’s supposed to come next. “Repeal and replace” was the promise – get rid of the Democrats’ reform plan and design one of their own. This is going to be fun.

It turns out that voters look forward to the day when no one can be denied insurance coverage because of preexisting conditions. They like the fact that young adults, until they are 26, can be kept on their parents’ policies. They like not having yearly or lifetime limits on benefits. The GOP is going to have to design something that looks a lot like Obamacare.

Meanwhile, Obama’s approval ratings climb higher every week. Somebody change the subject. Quick!

Humbled

December 8, 2010

I hope you don’t have trouble reading this entry. Recently I fell, separated my right shoulder and now I have to write left-handed. 

People who know me say my handwriting is terrible. (I thought you went to Catholic School, didn’t they teach you the Palmer Method)? 

You should see me trying to write and do everything left-handed. 

You never realize just how much we take the everyday things we do for granted until they take your rights (arm) away from you. It might be okay if I was left-handed….. 

But somehow I feel discombobulated. Everything has to be done is slow motion with my left hand. Go ahead try it! 

Try eating with a fork left-handed. 

Comb your hair or brush your teeth. 

I feel like I am going thru rehabilitation. Come on George, I know you can do it. 

How did I hurt my shoulder? Don’t even ask. I wish I could give you a great story. 

You should see what the other guy looked like. 

But no, it was humbling. 

I was actually trying to cross the street at night in front of my office. It is dark and as I was going across the street a car was coming from my right. My first thought was… they seem to be going a little fast. I started to take a couple of quick steps to get to the other side of the street. 

Little did I know that why I am looking to my right at the approaching car and breaking into a jog that a 

“Beware… Pedestrian Crossing” sign was right in front of me. 

What was that? 

Was my first thought, as I was tackled head on… 

glasses flying off my face…. 

I am falling and stumbling to get the first down (across the street and out of the car’s path). 

I throw my right arm out to catch my fall. And as soon as my right hand hit the street….. 

I felt and heard my right shoulder pop out of joint. 

Now I am lying in the middle of the street, (fortunately, the driver stopped and got out of the car) 

The owner of the pizza shop down the street, seeing the whole incident, came running over to help me. 

Are you all right? What happened? Let us help you up? 

I am half in shock…what and the heck hit me?……And in severe pain. 

My first response…… don’t touch me, I just thru out my shoulder

Looking back I can see the sign lying in the middle of the street and my body is locked into crippling position. 

I could not stand up; 

Dragging myself up to my office, (looking like the hunchback of Notre Dame), I yelled to my wife: 

Janet!!!!!! (In extreme pain) 

I threw my shoulder out….. I can’t even stand up…… I need a doctor. 

Seeing me she says, 

What happened?????  Did you get shot?” 

Thinking fast, she ran down the hall. (We happen to have a chiropractor in our building)

Dr Jon comes in, takes one look at me and says: 

Take George to the hospital. 

Did you ever notice that everything takes soooo much longer when you are in pain? 

We headed out to Virtua Hospital in Voorhees and let me tell you they did a great job. 

Kudos to my old classmate, Rich Miller, keep up the good work. 

I have a doctor, a doctor assistant and a nurse all pulling me in 3 different directions. Move a little more to the left, hold still, higher on your end…. but all of a sudden…. 

….Pop….my shoulder went back in. 

How do you feel sir? Are you still in pain? 

Anything has to be better than how I was feeling when I got here. 

What did you give me?  

Am I going to feel more pain later? 

What should I take if it starts to hurt later? 

Are you going to give me anything just in case it starts to hurt? 

So it goes, they put Humpty Dumpty back together again. 

For the next three weeks, I have my right arm in a sling……No Driving.

The doctor says there appears to be no ligament damage and I can start rehab on my right shoulder around the Christmas Holiday. 

Sounds like good news to me…. but how am I suppose to cut down my Christmas tree? 

JANET!!!!!!

March 17, 6:18 PM Political Buzz Examiner Ryan Witt

By now the health care reform bill has become something like Bigfoot in that everyone talks about it but few know what it really looks like if it exists at all.  For clarification there is in fact a “bill” which is set to be voted on by the House of Representatives this weekend.  The current bill was already passed by the Senate and has been analyzed extensively by experts. However in addition to the Senate bill the House also plans to vote on a “fix” to the bill which will then go back to the Senate.  The “fix” is not all together settled and is still being written after going through markup in the House Budget Committee (picture on left).

Still the fixes are relatively small because they must be in order to be passed through the reconciliation process in the Senate.  We therefore know most everything that the bill would do if it is passed this weekend.  Here is a plain language summary of the major provisions of the health care reform bill.

Would I Be Forced to Purchase Insurance?

Probably not.  If you already have employer-provided insurance you can keep it.  If you do not currently have any insurance you may have to purchase a plan by 2014.  Beginning in 2014 most Americans would have to purchase health care insurance or be forced to pay a fine.  If someone already has insurance (including through their employer) they would not need to worry about this provision.  For those who would be affected they could purchase insurance from anywhere but if they do not they would need to pay either $750 or 2% of their income, whichever is greater.  Exemptions would be granted for those in financial hardship which is measured using the poverty line.

Would My Current Insurance Be Affected?

Yes and no.  Yes in that any new plans would be regulated by the federal government.  The regulation would make plans provide a minimum of amount of benefits but not a maximum.  It would also implement consumer protections and an appeals process for consumers who want to dispute the decisions of their insurance companies on individual coverage.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that premiums would go down under reform compared to the rate premiums would go up without reform.

Having said all that the reform plan “grandfathers” plans already in existence.  Therefore a plan currently in existence would be exempt to any changes at least for a while under the current bill.

What About This Exchange Idea and the Public Option?

There is no public option or new government provided insurance plan under the current bill.  Instead each state would have a health care insurance exchange where any individual can purchase health insurance.  The insurance plans in the exchange would have to meet federal regulation that would ensure they provide minimum benefits, etc.  Individuals who are currently covered by an employer-provided plan could not purchase form the exchange.  Undocumented immigrants could also not purchase from the plan. 

All plans in the exchange would be regulated by the federal government.  These regulations would include requirements that the plans provide a certain minimum level of coverage, that they do not discriminate based on pre-existing exclusions, that they spend a high percentage of their premiums on actual care (around 80%), and that they follow certain consumer protection laws.  In addition plans could no longer limit how much costs they are willing to cover.  In the past insurance companies would be able to limit their liability to $250,000 for example and stop paying once that limit was reached.

What Would Happen to Medicare?

The proposal would set up a board that would research and propose solution to reduce the costs of Medicare.  The board would be specifically prohibited from proposing anything which would amount to rationing care for the elderly.  Instead the proposal would focus on reducing waste and fraud while making Medicare more efficient.

What if I Can Not Afford Health Insurance?

Individuals who make between 100%-400% above the federal poverty level would be eligible to receive credits to assist them in purchasing health care insurance.  The amount of credit would generally go down the more income an individual made.  For the poorest the credit may pay for all of their health care premiums.

Would Employers Be Forced to Provide Insurance?

Maybe.  If a business has over 50 full-time employees they will be forced to offer health care coverage or face a $750 fee per employee.  Businesses with less than 50 employees would be exempted from providing coverage.

What About Medicaid?

Medicaid would be expanded to cover all individuals under the age of 65 who make less than 133% of the federal poverty level.  Currently the poverty level is around $18,000 for a family of three.

Does the Bill Pay for Abortions?

The bill keeps the current federal law on abortion funding in that federal funds could not be used directly to pay for abortion or abortion-related services.  The current bill does not include the abortion language in the House bill which put restriction on funding which were even more strict than the current law.  Essentially the House bill would have prevented individual receiving federal assistance from purchasing any health care plan (private or not) that provided abortion coverage.

What About Small Businesses?

Initially small businesses would receive a tax credit for up to 35% of the money they pay to purchase health insurance for their employees.  By 2014 that percentage would increase to 50%.  The idea is to help small businesses pay for health insurance coverage since they currently do not have the bargaining power of larger businesses.

Small businesses would be allowed to join forces in order to purchase insurance for their employees.  In other words five small businesses could all negotiate with an insurance company together in order to get a lower rate as big businesses currently do.

How is It All Paid For?

First there is a cadillac plan tax.  If an insurance plan costs $8,500 for an individual or $23,000 for family it would be taxed at 40% for any amount above those amounts.  Most health care plans cost much less than those amounts in premiums.

Secondly there are taxes on health insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, and medical supply companies.  Each of these companies would be assessed fees.  Pharmaceuticals would pay $2 billion, medical supply companies would pay $2.3 billion, and health insurance companies would pay $2 billion starting in 2011 and increasing to $10 billion by 2017.

Finally the bill would count on increased efficiency and reduced waste in Medicare to offset some of the other costs.  Overall the bill was projected to save a little over $100 billion in the first ten years of its existence and well over $700 billion after that.  Those projections were done by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.