health care

Senate Judiciary committee approves pain clinic regulation bill

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March 28, 2012
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Jack Brammer reports:

The latest proposal continues to call for transferring oversight of the state’s prescription monitoring system from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to the attorney general’s office. But it limits to 20 the number of employees in the attorney general’s office who may access the monitoring system.

It also requires, starting July 13, 2013, that pharmacists report within 24 hours when they fill a pain pill prescription. The proposal also would let the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board come up with regulations that describe how doctors must use the electronic monitoring system.

The bill does not charge health care providers for using the system.

An employee of a doctor or pharmacist would be able to access the monitoring system, freeing about five to 10 minutes of the health provider’s time per entry. A doctor could see a copy of his or her reporting records to check for accuracy or fraud. Patients also would be able to see their records.

HB 4, as changed by the Senate, allows only physicians to own pain management clinics, and the physician-owner must have legitimate pain management training and actually practice at the clinic at least 50 percent of the time patients are there.

Clinic patients must present identification, and the clinic must accept insurance.

“Pill-seeking friends” could not pay for a patient’s office visit, according to the bill.

Also, coroners would have to increase drug-overdose reporting, and the state Office of Drug Control Policy must submit an annual drug death report. . . .

[T]he measure also allows for interstate cooperation in battling prescription drug abuse.

(h/t Herald Leader)

If House Democrats don’t accept Republican Senate changes to Speaker Stumbo’s bill, they’ll need to “form a conference committee with representatives from both chambers to try to iron out differences” sometime in the next four days.

Mitch McConnell Makes Bleeding Heart Argument Against Ryan/Rogers GOP Budget

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March 22, 2012
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Mitch McConnell went on the floor of the Senate and made a little speech about Obama’s health care plan, but all he really did was make an argument against the House GOP’s Budget Plan:

Let’s assume for a moment that McConnell’s telling the truth in all what he says — this requires a suspension of disbelief because anyone willing to believe Mitch McConnell, willing to take him at his word, is necessarily self-deceiving, even if he may occasionally speak truth to his own power.

He says 387,000 more people will be “forced” into Medicaid in Kentucky, resulting in 29% of the population.

Mitch McConnell says:

“It hurts the most vulnerable the most.”

And yet…

McConnell’s 5th District Congressman, Hal Rogers, the head of the House Appropriations Committee, just endorsed Paul Ryan’s GOP budget.

The House GOP’s Ryan/Rogers budget attacks Medicaid with a machete.

The Congressional Budget Office, at Ryan’s own request, examined this Republican budget and found draconian cuts to the Medicaid program which currently covers over 400,000 children in Kentucky:

CBO finds that the Ryan plan would cut programs to help low- and middle-income people afford health insurance — Medicaid, CHIP, and the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies to help near-poor and moderate-income families afford insurance — by more than 75 percent by 2050, with the bulk of the cuts coming from Medicaid.  Spending on these programs would be slashed from between 4¼ and 4½ percent of GDP in 2050 under current policies to just 1 percent of GDP.

Regardless of Obamacare’s impact on Medicaid, Mitch McConnell has just made a stark argument against his own party’s budget plan.

Mitch McConnell stands firmly opposed to the Paul Ryan and Hal Rogers plan to “hurt the most vulnerable.”

Hal Rogers endorses Paul Ryan’s Austerity Budget Plan

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March 21, 2012
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Paul Ryan, the reckless Republican budgeteer from Wisconsin, put out an austerity budget and Hal Rogers thinks it’s just dandy:

The Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday endorsed the spending level in the House GOP budget even though he said he wanted it to be higher.

“It’s a workable number. We’ll make it work,” the chairman, Rep. Hal Rogers (Ky.), told The Hill.

The GOP unveiled a budget resolution on Tuesday that calls for a discretionary spending level of $1.028 trillion in fiscal 2013. That is $19 billion less than the $1.047 trillion spending cap that Republicans and Democrats agreed to as part of the debt-ceiling law known as the Budget Control Act last year.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, at Ryan’s own request, ran his budget through their fancy computers and found the Ryan budget, which Hal Rogers is advocating, would defund most of the federal government by 2050:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget plan specifies a long-term spending path under which, by 2050, most of the federal government aside from Social Security, health care, and defense would cease to exist, according to figures in a Congressional Budget Office analysis released today.

The CBO report, prepared at Chairman Ryan’s request, shows that Ryan’s budget path would shrink federal expenditures for everything other than Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and interest payments to just 3¾ percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050.

But don’t read that as good news for the health care programs. The Ryan/Rogers budget would raise Medicare’s enrollment age to 67, leaving 65 and 66 year old Americans without health coverage. And what’s more:

Equally stunning are CBO’s findings about the impacts of the Ryan plan on programs to enable Americans to secure health-care coverage.  CBO finds that the Ryan plan would cut programs to help low- and middle-income people afford health insurance — Medicaid, CHIP, and the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies to help near-poor and moderate-income families afford insurance — by more than 75 percent by 2050, with the bulk of the cuts coming from Medicaid.  Spending on these programs would be slashed from between 4¼ and 4½ percent of GDP in 2050 under current policies to just 1 percent of GDP.

Over 700,000 Kentuckians are currently on Medicaid.

Most of them, 422,100, are children. Which is good for Hal Rogers, because children can’t vote.

Yet.

“2.3 Million” conservatives “unleashed” in call for Mitch McConnell’s resignation

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March 5, 2012
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As noted last week, Mitch McConnell told his Senate Republicans that he was opposed to holding yet another Obamacare repeal vote in 2012. Rand Paul didn’t like that and neither do far right conservative activists.

Led by the “Restore America’s Voice Foundation” and their “Repeal Health Care Act” website — which is based in Houston, TX and is led by television personality and failed politician Mike Huckabee and Ken Hoagland, a libertarian who also advocates for the socially destructive but rich-people friendly “fair tax” — a supposed 2.3 million supporters are being “unleashed” on Mitch McConnell with instructions to flood his office with calls and emails calling for his resignation if he refuses to retract his anti-repeal comments.

The Hill reports that while Mitch isn’t backing down yet, he is assuring the right wing fringe he’s just as crazy as they are:

“Leader McConnell not only is an unapologetic advocate for the complete repeal of ObamaCare, he authored the repeal amendment and forced a vote on it at the beginning of this Congress,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told The Hill after the Restore America’s Voice Foundation said he should resign his leadership post if he doesn’t have “the will or the backbone to force a floor vote” on repeal.

….Ken Hoagland, the chairman of the foundation, said McConnell’s chief of staff spoke with him for 20 minutes by phone after the threat was issued and vowed to make March “Repeal ObamaCare Month.” Hoagland said his group was taking a “trust but verify” approach and would unleash TV ads and petitions asking for McConnell to step down as minority leader unless he shows he’s serious about repeal.

….A senior GOP aide said Senate Republicans have planned a public-relations campaign this month to highlight the need to repeal the controversial healthcare law. The aide said the campaign has been in the planning phase for weeks.

Cool. New commercials. That will break up the monotony of B-level television stars pitching the value inherent value of gold in US dollars in embarrasingly low production value ads (if they have so much gold, shouldn’t the commercials at least look legitimate?) to a handful of people who can’t understand that if the dollar is worth nothing then the dollar value of their pawned gold is not actually worth the value they claim it is.

Not that these three groups — the repeal health care group, the “fair tax” group, and the gold group — are all the same rubes, just that when you watch FOX News or listen to Rush you want more to see and hear than some random guy from Law & Order or that wacky dad from Growing Pains.

What will Mitch do next?

McConnell Afraid of Obamacare Repeal Vote in 2012?

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March 1, 2012
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Mitch McConnell had lunch with GOP Senators and told them all that he wasn’t going to allow yet another vote on health care. Mitch thinks the GOP should focus on other stuff and deflect attention from a conservative ideology that allows billion dollar corporations to deny people life-saving care in order to make more money.

Mitch still wants to protect the corporate right to deny coverage based on very lenient definitions of pre-existing conditions, and he still objects to insurance companies covering basic preventative care (like cancer screenings, which reduce the cost to the overall system), and he still objects to anything that stands in the way of the insurance industry making billions off of sick and dying people. But he thinks that can wait until 2013 because the only way they can repeal Obamacare is to win the White House and all of Congress and… well, apparently Mitch thinks repealing Obamacare is a bit of a loser at the polls.

But not everyone’s on board. Says the Hill:

Members of the Senate GOP conference are split on the issue. Conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) claim they should remind voters they are committed to repealing the $930 billion initiative.

Other GOP lawmakers say they are already on record in favor of repeal and believe another vote is not needed.

During a private lunch meeting on Tuesday, McConnell argued that forcing a vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would give vulnerable Democrats a chance to vote for it and provide them with political cover heading into the election, according to senators who attended and requested anonymity.

Joining DeMint in testing McConnell’s power is Rand Paul, our other dear Senator, who told the Hill:

“It would be a good idea to have it,” said Paul. “In the last five years it’s one of the biggest issues of contention. It’s a big momentous issue we’re talking about on the Supreme Court level, so I think it would be useful to get everybody on record on it again.”

“I doubt any Democrats will vote for repeal,” Paul added. “They’re already on record so many times as being for it. They could always say they voted for it before they voted against it.”

Americans remain split on health care, with Dems heavily favoring and Republicans heavily opposed. The Conservative base has used the issue as a calling card for the past two years and, for the far right tea partiers, it’s been especially effective. What Mitch might be foreseeing, rather than a worry that some Dems will suddenly be against it (Rand’s probably right on this), is a worry that the Health Care Law could actually grow in popularity over the next several months and thus weaken moderate or vulnerable GOP Senators. Mitch thinks everyone’s made their voices heard and they don’t need to needlessly reinsert it into campaigns (let that be tactical, he wishes), but as is the usual beauty of Rand Paul and his brethren, they want more dumb votes to waste more time to appeal to the loud voices of the Tea Party.

Mitch wants to go slow and steady with his demolition plans, Rand wants to burn the whole place down.

UofL’s Catholic Hospital Deal & Steve Beshear make the NYT

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February 21, 2012
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The New York Times takes the logical step from the insanely dumb Republican dialogue (see here) about contraception to private health systems… and Steve Beshear gets a well-deserved shout out.

From the NYT:

As Roman Catholic leaders and government officials clash over the proper role of religion and reproductive health, shifts in health care economics are magnifying the tension. Financially stronger Catholic-sponsored medical centers are increasingly joining with smaller secular hospitals, in some cases limiting access to treatments like contraception, abortion and sterilization.

In Seattle, Swedish Health Services has offered elective abortions for decades. But the hospital agreed to stop when it joined forces this month with Providence Health & Services, one of the nation’s largest Catholic systems.

In late December, Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky turned down a bid by Catholic Health Initiatives, another large system, to merge with a public hospital in Louisville, in part because of concern that some women would have less access to contraceptive services.

And in Rockford, Ill., there is resistance to a plan by OSF HealthCare, run by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, to buy a hospital because of new restrictions that would require women to go elsewhere if they wanted a tubal ligation after a Caesarean section.

The article goes on to look at wider trends, and gives the Kentucky deal a bit of a closer look. It highlights well the increasing power of Catholic health systems and, in a national economy where health care represents a rather obvious economic bubble, how they are gobbling up small institutions.

It’s important to point out that these “religious” corporations aren’t like old-timey hospitals with sweet nuns taking care of patients out of charity. Times change. Today, five of the top ten hospital systems are Catholic, including the top three revenue earners in the country.

Good times!

Or are those good works?

Meanwhile, the UofL hospital is seeking new partners! The C-J reports:

University Hospital’s search for potential partners is attracting interest from the new health-care company it unsuccessfully sought to join last year — a company that limits reproductive care because of Catholic health directives.

And that’s upsetting critics who say Gov. Steve Beshear has already rejected a proposed merger involving those hospital systems because it didn’t serve the public’s best interests.

Read on!

Mitch & Rand v. Obama at Supreme Court

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January 10, 2012
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Obamacare is headed to the Supreme Court based on the clear precedent that Medicare and Social Security are also unconstitutional and while the White House’s legal defense argues it’s the of result of “nearly (a) century-long national effort to expand access to health care by making affordable health insurance more widely available” and is built in part upon the Romneycare example, 35 Senate Republicans have filed an amicus brief in opposition to providing preventative care and requiring breast and prostate exams and in outlawing ‘preexisting conditions and so forth — signed by both Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and 35 of his colleagues filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court Friday on behalf of the bipartisan, multi-state challenge to the Democrats’ health spending law.

“Americans have been telling Washington for years now that they oppose a 2,700 page health spending bill that dramatically increases costs and expands the reach of the federal government into their health care decisions,” Sen. McConnell said. “In addition to determining the constitutionality of the mandate, that individuals purchase health insurance, the Supreme Court also will consider whether the mandate is severable from other provisions of the PPACA; in other words, whether the other provisions of the law are legally viable in the event the Court finds the mandate unconstitutional. We believe the mandate is not severable from the PPACA because the law will not function as its Congressional proponents intended or achieve their objectives without the presence of the mandate.”

Since its enactment, Senate Republicans have twice submitted an amicus brief in the lower courts in support of the states and private parties that are challenging the PPACA in federal court. This would be the first of two amicus briefs filed by Senate Republicans in the Supreme Court case.

 

 

Occupy Lexington stands with city workers in face of increased insurance premiums **UPDATE**

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October 25, 2011
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Mr. Kegley @ the HL:

About 100 people, some with red picket signs, turned out in front of city hall Tuesday to protest a hefty increase in health insurance premiums for city workers.

The protest was organized by Lexington firefighters, however many others, including 911 employees, police, sanitation workers and city retirees, turned out to wave picket signs and block the sidewalk.

“As bad as the fire fighters have it, civilian employees have it worse because we have not had a raise in six years,” said Pam Brandenburg, president of Civil Service Employees Association.

The picketers drew honks and cheers of support from motorists and Occupy Wall Street protesters, who have set up camp just down the street for the last several weeks, drew colorful signs in support of firefighters.

“We’re just here to show solidarity,” said Mike Davis, Occupy protestor. “We’re about fair pay for all workers, especially the people that are charged with protecting us.”

The city workers’ premium is going up 100 to 150%. Kegley’s got the details so head over for it all.

On a similar note — and probably this issue will come up — the Occupy Lexington folks (who got a shout out from Michael Moore on Democracy Now! yesterday) will be Occupying City Council on Thursday evening so come out or tune into GTV3 for the fun and games.

 

***UPDATE***

The Herald has a longer, more in-depth story on the city workers’ give-and-take with City Council:

The council agreed to hold rates for six months to the rate employees are now paying for the Platinum Plan, in which most of the employees are enrolled.

That means employees will not see an increase in costs until at least June 30.

….Under an overhauled health insurance plan presented to the council at its work session last week, the monthly premium for a single employee enrolled in the Platinum Plan — in which 89 percent of the city’s employees, including police, fire and corrections, are enrolled — was set to increase from $356 this year to $633 beginning Jan. 1. Families who stayed in that plan would have seen their premiums go from the current cost of $745 a month to $1,330.

Both the head of the Civil Service Employees Association and the Firefighters Union indicated their members’ appreciation for the work of Mayor Gray and the Council to address the situation. Read on for that.

Got a vagina? …then you’ve got a pre-existing condition.

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September 1, 2011
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Via Sonka/LEO:

When Natalie Felker applied for health insurance this August with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the 35-year-old musician and waitress was promptly rejected due to a pre-existing condition.

That condition? Being pregnant.

Private insurance companies have long discriminated against those dreaded “Uterine-Americans,” routinely denying pregnant women. In addition, insurance companies have been known to deny coverage to women for having had a past C-section or for being the victim of domestic violence. Just as sick people cost insurance companies more to cover than healthy people, women are more expensive to insure than men. As a result, women typically are forced to pay much higher premiums.

In many ways, being a woman in America is in itself a pre-existing condition.

So are these uterine-Americans out of luck? Is there no hope?

Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010 makes such discrimination by an insurance company illegal, those changes do not fully take effect until 2014 — meaning Anthem was within the law to reject Felker.

….After Felker spent weeks wrangling with prospective insurers, a friend told her about the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) in the Affordable Care Act. The PCIP was established to help people like Felker until such discriminatory actions are ultimately banned in 2014.

Seriously, go read the whole thing. Chances are, you know someone with just such a ‘pre-existing’ condition who is routinely turned down for insurance, someone who could take advantage of PCIP for the next two+ years until Obamacare makes these Big Business/Republican tactics illegal.

All in all, Sonka nails the story and the issue but there is one glaring omission… probably because in Louisville they have an awesome Congressman and don’t care about the Quiet mostly useless one just down the road.

It would be remiss of any of us reading this in the Lexington/6th District area not to use this opportunity to recall that our Congressman, Ben Chandler, voted with Giant Health Insurers on this issue, siding with billion dollar corporations against the interests and health of our fellow Uterine-Americans.

If you’re a woman and a Democrat, Ben Chandler voted against you.

If you’re a man and you’re a Democrat and you don’t care about that, if you want to make excuses for the Quietest Congressman, well, you’re probably ashamed of yourself so I won’t insult you.

 

A Dying Breed: Blue Dog Democrats get on board with architect of disastrous Bush Medicare “reform”

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July 28, 2011
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On the same day the Washington Post declared the conservative “Blue Dog Democrats” a dying breed, this misguided group of politicians decided to send out a press release in support of the “Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare.”

The “Partnership” was started last year by SunCrest Health Care and Omni Home Care. Those two companies recently merged with a third to become “the largest home healthcare provider in the Southeast.” Both SunCrest and Omni are controlled by private investment firms, and Omni, at least, has previously run afoul of the law for filing false claims through Medicare.

Which is funny because it’s medicare their “Partnership” is set to protect — read their about page if you like.

So it comes to pass that the ‘Blue Dog Democrats’ in the House sent out a press release Tuesday challenging the nation’s leaders not to impose Medicare co-payments on seniors dependent on home care:

Representatives of the House Blue Dog Coalition recently issued a letter to President Obama urging preservation of home healthcare as discussions to reduce federal spending and strengthen the Medicare program continue. Specifically, the moderate Democrats encouraged the President to oppose a co-payment for services for the 3.2 million Medicare beneficiaries receiving home healthcare and expressed support for the home healthcare community’s reform proposal to strengthen the Medicare benefit.  Lawmakers who signed onto the letter include Reps. Ben Chandler (D-KY), John Barrow (D-GA), Mike Ross (D-AR), Joe Baca (D-CA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Dan Boren (D-OK).

And they’re not wrong, of course, in wanting to protect seniors on fixed incomes from Republican attacks on their very lives. That’s actually admirable. Or, let’s put it another way… take it away, Press Release:

“Home healthcare provides essential medical services to treat acute illness, long-term health conditions, permanent disability and terminal illness in homebound seniors who are not feasibly able to access treatment in other institutional settings,” said Billy Tauzin, senior advisor to the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare. “On behalf of these seniors – many of whom are low-income and would struggle with affording this proposed co-pay – we thank these lawmakers for taking a stand by urging the President to preserve their access to preferred, clinically effective home health.”

Oh good. It’s Billy Tauzin. Until a year ago he was the head of PhRMA, the protector of our nation’s pharmaceutical companies so concerned with the health and well-being and fixed-incomes of America’s elderly that they charge them out the ass for medication they need to stay healthy and/or alive.

And before he was at PhRMA, Billy Tauzin — friend of Ben Chandler and the Blue Dog Democrats — was the driving force behind the Bush Administration’s “Medicare Part D” drug plan that created a massive donut hole, increased costs to many seniors and inflated the national debt by hundreds of billions of dollars.

It’s an odd battle to pick. On the one hand, it’s a valiant effort. But on the other, who are the Blue Dogs really representing? Medicare paid-for home health care providers are Big Business… like $18 Billion in 2009 and, with an aging Boomer population, it’s no wonder the largest provider in the SouthEast — and employer of Billy Tauzin — is controlled by two private equity companies.

So: are the Blue Dogs on the right side of this fight, has Billy Tauzin changed his tune… or is something else going on?

To his credit, Tauzin did have the following advice to his former colleagues in the Republican Party:

“We all went to college right? When did you do your term paper? We all started a week out but we really didn’t do it until the night before. And you probably had to be real careful about staying sober that night. That’s where they are right now,” he said. “They’re bouncing around and they’re posturing and the bottom line is they’re going to get something done.”

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