When a horrifying tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri earlier this year, Mark Lindquist didn’t think twice before springing into action to saved the lives of those around him. The brave social worker used a mattress to cover three developmentally challenged adults who lived at a group home where Lindquist worked, and he used his body weight to make sure the mattress didn’t move. The monster tornado “tossed Lindquist nearly a block, broke every rib, obliterated his shoulder, knocked out most of his teeth and put him in a coma for about two months.” The three men he tried to save died in the storm. Lindquist was widely regarded as a hero and even honored by the state legislature.
Yet Lindquist has no medical insurance, so when he was given nearly $2.5 million in medical bills, he thought he could rely on workers compensation to help him out. But his company, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, refused to pay his claim, saying that he was in “no greater risk than the general public at the time you were involved in the Joplin tornado.” Watch a local news report about Lindquist’s predicament:
Lindquist’s story is one of a rich country that stands alone among the developed world in not guaranteeing health coverage for all of its citizens and one where greedy companies like Accident Fund Insurance Company of America will do just about anything to pad their profits, including denying workers compensation to a hero. He is a perfect example of the 99 percent.
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) criticized governors who call for block granting the Medicaid program during an event about extending sick pay at the Center for American Progress on Friday. Malloy described the reform — which House Republicans have included in their budget and several Republican presidential candidates have endorsed — as “nothing more than a race to the bottom”:
MALLOY: We have a bunch of politicians, including many many governors who are calling for block granting Medicaid, which is nothing more than a sponsored race to the bottom, particularly in states where there is less of a population that’s going to be supportive of maintaining the benefits. And in essence, what some of these governors are trying to do, is to create economic incentive to move jobs to their state by winning the race to the bottom when it comes to Medicaid reimbursement.
The proposal would essentially convert the existing matching rate formula that the government uses to reimburse states into a block grant would give states less money than they would have otherwise received and force local governments to cut eligibility to the program. The federal government’s contribution “would be capped by a pre-set formula that does not adjust for variations in actual costs” influenced by economic recessions or unpredictable epidemics and as a result at risk populations may not be guaranteed access to needed benefits. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report estimated that an estimated 31 to 44 million Americans could lose their health insurance coverage as a result of the change in funding.
As ThinkProgress has reported, so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that claim to help women in need are actually established by anti-abortion activists with the sole objective of shaming women out of having abortions. Despite receiving federal and state funding, they have a history of preying on and misleading pregnant women who are seeking abortions and giving them false medical information to dissuade them from making their own decisions.
After a year-long investigation, a new report to be released today by the pro-choice group NARAL reveals that those problems plague the vast majority of North Carolina’s crisis pregnancy centers. In addition to providing false medical information, many of the centers actively proselytize and tell women of non-Christian faiths to convert or face damnation:
In recent years, NARAL Pro-Choice state chapters have conducted investigations into the pregnancy clinics in New York, California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia, reaching the same general conclusions. Over the past year, the North Carolina office of the organization embarked on an identical investigation, studying the centers’ websites and other material, and sending staff and volunteers posing as pregnant women or couples into the clinics. [...]
NARAL says it found the majority of the centers it investigated in North Carolina had no medical professionals on staff, and only a quarter of them disclosed they were not medical facilities. More than two-thirds provided distorted or false information about abortion risks and consequences.
The report says one Jewish investigator who posed as a pregnant woman was told at five centers she wouldn’t go to heaven unless she converted to Christianity, and that one volunteer challenged her to become a “born-again virgin.”
The number of centers in North Carolina has nearly doubled since 2006, and there are eight times as many of them as there are abortion clinics. Carey Pope, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said the group’s investigators found numerous instances where crisis pregnancy centers were misinforming and misleading women. “Staff and volunteers often use propaganda to dissuade women from abortions,” she said.
North Carolina’s GOP lawmakers have flooded these anti-abortion centers with taxpayer money while defunding Planned Parenthood and taking money away from legitimate family planning centers that provide medical services. Two new state laws will drive even more funding and patients their way. Money from sales of the new “Choose Life” license plates will go to the centers, and starting this Wednesday, a state-run website will launch and list the places that provide free ultrasounds.
Yet while receiving this government largesse, crisis pregnancy centers are not subjected to regular inspections like abortion clinics and often avoid any scrutiny of their practices, which openly flout the line between religious advocacy and medical counseling.
In 2006, a congressional investigation found the “vast majority” of federally funded centers provided false or misleading information, often suggesting that there are links between abortion and breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.
As former pizza magnate Herman Cain has risen to the top of Republican presidential primary polls, his “999″ tax plan has faced increasing scrutiny from Republicans, Democrats, and the media alike. Cain’s plan, in effect, would explode federal deficits while raising taxes on the poor, forcing America’s lowest income-earners to shoulder the cost of huge tax breaks for the rich.
Cain’s plan ends several of the current taxes that help fund federal government programs, including the payroll tax that finances Social Security — one of the most popular government programs there is. That would seem like a political loser, given that Americans of all political stripes oppose cuts to the program. But Sunday, Steve Forbes, a former presidential candidate and long-time proponent of the flat tax, praised Cain’s 999 plan specifically for not funding Social Security and Medicare in an editorial published in the New York Post:
The Cain plan would rid us of not only the federal income tax, but also the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes.
For someone like Forbes, whose net worth is upwards of $430 million, Social Security and Medicare might not be a necessity. For elderly Americans with much less money, however, the programs are vital. Social Security kept 14 million seniors out of poverty in 2010, after many lost most or all of their retirement savings in the 2008 financial crisis. Since it passed in 1965, meanwhile, Medicare has increased the number of seniors with health coverage, improved life expectancy rates, and reduced poverty among the elderly.
As Congress and presidential candidates have focused on spending cuts over the last two years, Americans continue to opposecuts to both Social Security and Medicare. Apparently, though, ensuring that those programs can’t be funded is something to be celebrated in the Republican presidential primary.
Romney To Stump For Anti-Obamacare Amendment In Ohio |
Mitt Romney will appear “at the Ohio Republican Party’s phone bank center in Terrace Park Tuesday morning to rally GOP volunteers for the final push to pass state issues 2 and 3,” which would maintain restrictions on the collective bargaining rights of public employees and allow Ohioans to opt out of the Affordable Care Act. Issue 3 says that no federal, state, or local law “shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.” The amendment also bans penalties on the sale or purchase of health care insurance. The measure is purely symbolic however, since federal law trumps state amendments, and is designed to draw voters. As of now, Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma also have similar measures on their ballots.
“We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits” to stop illegal immigration. So said GOP candidate Mitt Romney at a recent GOP debate. Romney’s newly spun anti-immigrant stance, however, may be unwound by his own record. As the Los Angeles Times reports, when Romney signed Massachusetts’ progressive health care law in 2006, he created the Health Safety Net program which allows uninsured, poor immigrants to “walk into a health clinic or hospital in the state and get publicly subsidized care at virtually no cost to them, regardless of their immigration status.”
This morning, MSNBC host Chuck Todd asked Romney’s aide Eric Fehrnstrom to explain how a candidate who is now balking at undocumented immigrants could enact such a measure. Denying that the law even “contemplated illegal immigrants getting anything,” Fehrnstrom insisted that any undocumented workers receiving care under the Health Safety Net is strictly current Gov. Deval Patrick’s (D-MA) fault, not Romney’s:
FEHRNSTROM: Well, nothing in the law Mitt Romney signed contemplated illegal immigrants getting anything that they’re not entitled to. To the extent that illegals are receiving some kind of care under the Health Safety Net, that would be a function of what the current Governor Deval Patrick has put into place.[...]
TODD: So if he had the legislation again in front of his desk, would he ask for a specific ban on this safety net program from having them treat undocumented immigrants?
FEHRNSTROM: There’s nothing in the law that permits illegal immigrants to receive care that they’re not entitled to. Now federal requires that illegal immigrants that care in emergency settings. If they’re getting anything beyond that, that would be because of rules written because of Deval Patrick, not Mitt Romney.
When asked whether Romney would support a similar federal measure, Fehrnstrom pointed out that it is already a federal mandate to provide care for undocumented immigrants — a measure signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
The Health Care Safety Net expanded upon Reagan’s federal requirement. According to officials who wrote the program language, “there was a broad understanding when Romney signed it that at least some people who would benefit would be in the country illegally.” The way the health care law is drafted, undocumented immigrants are explicitly barred from certain health benefits such as Medicaid elsewhere, but not from the Health Safety Net language. It says that only those who “moved into the commonwealth for the sole purpose of securing health insurance” or are eligible for another insurance plan cannot benefit from the program. If Romney wanted to prohibit aid to undocumented immigrants, he could’ve lobbied to change the language or veto the bill.
Romney had good reason to support such language in 2006. Without access to more affordable health care, undocumented immigrants often visit emergency rooms, costing the government about $43 billion in uncompensated care. Seventy-five percent of the cost of such care is paid by taxpayers. “There have been few complaints” in the state about the program.
Of course, the fact that the 2006 Romney actually enacted a cost-effective health care policy for his state will only aggravate the 2011 Romney. As he said in a debate, he can’t do anything on behalf of the undocumented because, after all, he’s “running for office.”
Study: Doctors Improve Care Quality When They Know Someone Is Watching |
A new report from the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality finds that “tracking the quality of care truly prods physicians to change the way they practice.” Researchers found that “doctors were more likely to follow guidelines and to contact patients due for tests once their performance was publicly reported” and as a result, quality of care “improved overall in every measure, such as monitoring a diabetes patient’s kidney function, which was tracked for more than two years.” The Affordable Care Act makes a substantial investment in improving care quality and reporting.
Republicans have a hard time explaining how they would make up for the loss in coverage to 32 million Americans if they succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Deregulating the health insurance market and instituting malpractice reform will only do so much — in fact, a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the GOP’s standard health care plan found that such an approach would only extend coverage to three million people and actually increase the overall uninsured rate — and so the party is often forced to look at other less dependable sources for health care: charity.
Last month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he would “prefer to see” health care “come from charitable organizations” and on Saturday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told a woman in Winterset, Iowa that her son, who currently receives health insurance through Medicaid, could rely on charities to meet his health care needs once Republicans repeal President Obama’s health law:
“We will always have people in this country through hardship, through no fault of their own, who won’t be able to afford health care,” Bachmann said. “That’s just the way it is. But usually what we have are charitable organizations or hospitals who have enough left over so that they can pick up the cost for the indigent who can’t afford it.
“But what we have to do is be a profitable nation that’s growing, so that we can pay for those people who can’t afford it through no fault of their own. Once ‘Obamacare’ is gone, this is what we have to do.“
Before the advent of Medicare and Medicaid, charities did provide health care to those in need. But to suggest that they can do the same today is to misunderstand the enormity of the health care crisis, as charities simply do not have the capacity to handle the demand. As the number of uninsured creeps up to 50 million, for any politician to argue that government should outsource the task of keeping Americans healthy to charities is like saying that people should be punished with death if they are unfortunate enough to be poor or are priced out of insurance due to a pre-existing health condition.
Anti-abortion groups blast Cain: “The Susan B. Anthony List, a major organization of conservative women who oppose abortion rights, blasted Herman Cain on Friday for his repeatedly muddled responses on whether all abortions should be illegal.” [The Hill]
Cain pledges to ‘sign’ a constitutional amendment banning abortion: “I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it. That’s all I can do. I will sign it,” he said. Unfortunately for Cain, as Politico’s Ben Smith points out, the president doesn’t sign constitutional amendments. In fact, he plays essentially no role in the process.” [Huffington Post]
Perry plays up anti-abortion credentials: “Gov. Rick Perry of Texas sought to win over social conservative voters in Iowa on Saturday night as he drew a distinction between his opposition to abortion with the views of his leading Republican rivals and declared, “Being pro-life is not a matter of campaign convenience; it is a core conviction.” [NYT]
States spending less on hospital care: “In the latest sign of how desperate they are to control rising Medicaid costs, a small but growing number of states are sharply limiting hospital coverage — to as few as 10 days a year.” [Kaiser Health News]
Lawmakers open to changing military benefits: “Republicans and Democrats alike are signaling a willingness — unheard of at the height of two post-Sept. 11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — to make military retirees pay more for coverage. It’s a reflection of Washington’s newfound embrace of fiscal austerity and the Pentagon’s push to cut health care costs that have skyrocketed from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion.” [AP]
Surprising obesity study: “A Canadian study on obesity found overweight people are not at greatly higher risk of bad health than people of normal weight.” [UPI]