Weekly Pulse: Arrests over the Ryan Plan, and the GOP’s Kinder, Gentler Medicaid Cuts

 


By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

This week marks the final edition of the Weekly Pulse. I have been writing the newsletter since 2008 and it has certainly been an exciting time to be covering health care in the United States. Thanks to all the Media Consortium journalists whose work I’ve featured over the years, and thanks to our loyal readers, tipsters, Tweeters, and Facebook fans.

As the Pulse winds down, we look ahead to some of the most pressing health care issues facing the nation: The Republican war on Medicare and Medicaid and the anti-choice onslaught.

89 arrested over Ryan plan

Eighty-nine disability activists were arrested following their occupation of the Cannon House Office Building rotunda, Alison Kilkenny reports in The Nation:

The disability rights group ADAPT staged the event to protest Representative Paul Ryan’s Medicaid cuts, which would force people with disabilities to live in nursing homes rather than in their own houses.

Additionally, the House-passed budget resolution would turn Medicaid into block grants and reduce the program’s spending by more than $700 billion over ten years.

Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones reports that the Republicans in Congress are putting forward some “kinder, gentler” proposed Medicaid cuts in the hopes that these less extreme proposals will have a better chance of passing that the more extreme cuts Ryan has been touting.

Kinder and gentler by Republican standards is still pretty radical. Republicans in both houses of Congress introduced bills that would make it easier for states to kick people off of Medicaid or erect new barriers to entry. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) claims that “only” 300,000 patients would be kicked off Medicaid rolls under his proposal, many fewer than those would be under the Ryan plan. Gingrey, however, admitted that he didn’t have an independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score to back up his claim.

The war on choice

Sadie Doyle of In These Times takes a closer look at proposed legislation in Ohio that bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable:

Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” is part of a barrage of anti-choice legislation designed to circumvent the fact that abortion is legal by making it nearly impossible to obtain one. But, whereas other bills focus on cutting funding or creating obstacles to abortion, H.B. 125 takes a relatively new tactic: It aims to ban abortions outright if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat—which happens at around six weeks, before many women even realize they’re pregnant.

This bill is one of hundreds of pieces of anti-choice legislation percolating at the state level. Many of these bills seem deliberately engineered to provoke a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Anti-choicers seem eager to get their challenge to the Supreme Court as soon as possible, before Obama can appoint any more justices.

Meet the H.R. 3 ten

At RH Reality Check, Sarah Jaffe introduces us to another one of the 10 Democrats who co-sponsored the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV). The bill, H.R. 3 would effectively end private abortion insurance coverage in the United States by imposing such onerous bureaucratic regulations on insurers that they would more likely to drop abortion coverage altogether rather than comply.

Michigan vs. teen moms

Pregnant teenagers are bearing the brunt of Michigan’s draconian new “fiscal martial law” bill that authorizes cities to appoint emergency managers with sweeping powers to take over cash-strapped cities, towns, and school boards. Students at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a high school for expectant mothers, were arrested and manhandled by police as they protested the impending closure of their school.

Amanda Marcotte writes in AlterNet that the move to close the academy epitomizes the contemptuous attitude that so many conservative anti-choicers have toward teen girls who choose to give birth:

The imminent shut down of Catherine Ferguson demonstrates the emptiness of Republican claims that they oppose reproductive rights because they value life.  Instead, Republican policies are rooted in a sadistic desire to punish and control, and to deprive women—especially young women, poor women, and women of color—of any opportunities whatsoever.

Archives from The Weekly Pulse can be found here and will remain posted at this site. If you’d like see more top news and headlines from independent media outlets, please follow us on Twitter, or fan The Media Consortium on Facebook.

 

Weekly Pulse: DCCC Ad Shows Grandpa Stripping for Extra Cash to Pay for Medicare

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z7FiBsR8OQ[/youtube]

How will the next generation of seniors pay for health care if Republicans privatize Medicare? The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) suggests some options in a darkly funny ad featuring a grandfatherly gentleman mowing lawns and stripping for extra cash. The ad will run in 24 GOP-controlled swing districts, Suzy Khimm reports for Mother Jones.

The ad is a riposte to Paul Ryan's budget, which would eliminate Medicare and replace it with a system of "premium support"--annual lump sum cash payments to insurers. These payments would be pegged to the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) +1%, even though health care costs are growing much faster than the economy at large. That means that real benefits will shrink over time. Seniors will be forced to come up with extra money to buy insurance, assuming they can find an insurer who's willing to sell it to them.

Josh Holland of AlterNet predicts that the GOP is committing political suicide with the its anti-Medicare budget. The more ordinary voters learn about Ryan's budget, the less they like it:

A poll conducted last week found that, “when voters learn almost anything about [the Ryan plan], they turn sharply and intensely against it.” And why wouldn't they? According to an analysis by the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the Republicans' “roadmap” would “end most of government other than Social Security, health care, and defense by 2050,” while providing the “largest tax cuts in history” for the wealthy.

Holland interviews an economist who estimates that the Medicaid cuts in the Ryan budget alone would cost 2.1 million jobs.

Under the bus

The Democratic spin about the deal to avert a budget shutdown was that Democratic leaders held fast against Republican demands to defund Planned Parenthood. However, as Katha Pollitt explains in The Nation, the Democrats capitulated on other reproductive rights issues in order to save Planned Parenthood.

For example, under the budget deal, Washington, D.C. will no longer be allowed to use local taxes to pay for abortions. Democrats also agreed to $17 million in cuts to the Title X Family Planning Program, Planned Parenthood's largest source of federal funding.

American women aren't alone under the bus. Jane Roberts notes at RH Reality Check that the budget deal slashed $15 million from the U.N. Population Fund, and millions more from USAID's budget for reproductive health and family planning. At least Democrats successfully rebuffed GOP demands to eliminate funding for the United Nations Population Agency.

Roberts observes:

And this is at a time when the whole world is coalescing behind the education, health and human rights of the world’s women and girls. What irony!

Blood for oil

Nearing the one-year anniversary of the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers, Daniel J. Weiss writes for Grist:

The toll of fossil fuels on human health and the environment is well documented. But our dependence on fossil fuels exacts a very high price on the people who extract or process these fuels. Every year, some men and women who toil in our nation's coal mines, natural gas fields, and oil rigs and refineries lose their lives or suffer from major injuries to provide the fossil fuels that drive our economy.

Oil rigs are just one of many dangerous places to work in the fossil fuel industry, Weiss notes. Last year, an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia killed 29 workers. Nearly 4,000 U.S. miners have been killed on the job since 1968.

Natural gas has a cleaner image than coal, but natural gas pipelines are also plagued by high rates of death and injury--892 natural gas workers have been killed on the job and 6,258 have been injured since 1970.

Cheers!

Ashley Hunter of Campus Progress brings you an exciting roundup of the news you need about college and alcohol, just in time for Spring Break. In an attempt to discourage rowdy off-campus partying, the College of the Holy Cross is encouraging its students to drink on campus by keeping the campus pub open later and allowing students under 21 inside as long as they wear different colored wrist bands to show they are too young to be served alcohol.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

There's more...

Weekly Pulse: Paul Ryan’s Medicare Swindle

 


By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Robert Parry in In These Times examines how Paul Ryan’s budget test would turn healthcare for the elderly into one big free-market death panel.

Ryan’s plan privatizes Medicare, replacing it with premium support for insurance companies. That means the government would kick in a fixed amount of money towards insurance premiums for Americans over age 65. Ryan also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions. Ryan’s plan doesn’t guarantee that Americans over 65 could get insurance in the first place. Even if they could find an insurer willing to take them, there is no reason to believe that premium support would cover more than part of the cost.

Maybe the plan is to save money by pricing most seniors out of health insurance entirely. If you can’t get insurance in the first place, you don’t qualify for premium support.

Mitt Romney and health care

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney kicked off the exploratory phase of his campaign this week, Lynda Waddington reports in the Iowa Independent. Ironically, this prospective frontrunner is best known for bringing Obama-style health care reform to Massachusetts.

Aswini Anburajan of TAPPED wonders whether Romney’s record on health care will hurt him in the primary. Repealing health care reform is one of the major themes for the Republican Party, and Romney is the architect of a similar system. However, Anburajan notes, campaigning to all but abolish Medicare hasn’t hurt GOP Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s political status, even though seniors are a big part of the GOP base..

Part of the reason why Ryan hasn’t felt a backlash from seniors is that his plan preserves Medicare for people who are currently over 55 and will only decimate the program for younger people.

Demonizing pregnant users

At RH Reality Check, Lynn Paltrow takes the New York Times to task for a sensationalized story about children born to women who are dependent upon prescription painkillers. Paltrow notes that the same alarmist language was used to hype a non-existent epidemic of crack babies in the 1980s. The evidence suggests that the impact of drug use during pregnancy on the developing fetus is relatively minor compared to the effects of other factors that are correlated with drug use, such as poverty, poor nutrition, and lack of prenatal care.

If we assume there’s a clear causal relationships between using drugs and hurting babies, it’s easier to lay all the blame on the mother. The truth, Paltrow argues, is much more complicated. Drug use is just part of a constellation of unhealthy factors that conspire to give the children of poor and marginalized women a worse start in life.

Positing a distinct syndrome caused by drug abuse is often a first step towards stigmatizing, and even criminalizing, poor women who give birth to sick children.

Hungry women and children

Speaking of threats to the health of poor women and their children, the new budget deal slashes $500 million from nutrition programs, with the Women Infants and Children (WIC) food support program at the USDA taking the hardest hit, Tom Laskawy reports for Grist.

If you get your meals through an umbilical cord, the Republicans want to protect you; but if you have to eat groceries, you’re on your own.

Big Pharma hikes HIV drug prices

Elizabeth Lombino at Change.org reports that more than 8,000 people nationwide are on the waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a government program that helps poor people living with HIV/AIDS pay for medications. Lombino notes that even as the ranks of patients who can’t cover their drugs continues to swell, pharmaceutical companies continue to raise their prices. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is calling upon pharmaceutical companies to lower prices to help grapple with what has come to be known as the ADAP crisis. So far, it’s been to little effect.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

Progressives Must Stand up to the President

These budget negotiations were a giant win for the Republican Party. President Obama initially cut $40 billion from his own budget proposal -- and he got absolutely no credit for that. It was a very typical preemptive concession by the president. It was so typical, you wonder if he recognizes what an indisputably terrible strategy it is or if he has a different agenda.

So, after getting no credit for his original $40 billion concession, then the negotiations began at square one. The Republicans claimed in February that they wanted $32 billion in cuts from that point on. About a week ago, the president came out an announced that they had given the Republicans another $33 billion in cuts -- a billion more than they originally asked for. And still the Republicans wanted more.

Why not? They're dealing with the world's worst negotiator, why not ask for more? After February they came up with a brilliant good cop-bad cop strategy with the Tea Party, where they had the Tea Party force them to go to $61 billion in demands. Which pushed the spectrum out further to the right. They know President Obama will go to the middle of any spectrum, no matter how radical. And then once they had baited Obama out to the $33 billion number, which was past their original goal, they baited him out even further. Finally, they got him to $38.5 billion in cuts an hour before the deadline.

So, in the end, he got no credit for the original giant cuts, he got no credit for going a billion past the Republican's wildest dreams and he had to give them an extra $5.5 billion to get a deal. But what he doesn't realize is that the shutdown would have been a disaster for the Republicans -- they never wanted that. They were playing him the whole time. When Boehner came back with the deal, he got a rousing ovation from his side, including the Tea Party faction.

It was a put on. The whole time when the Tea Party was demanding the whole $61 billion, they were just playing their part in the game. They were the bad cop to make sure Obama made the deal with Boehner, the good cop. They must had a good laugh at the end.

First, I want to make clear I am not a Monday morning quarterback. Anyone who watches me on The Young Turks or on MSNBC knows that I have been saying all along that Obama was going to fall for this trick and that he was going to go way past $33 billion. It's just who he is. He hates conflict. There almost isn't any deal you can't get him to sign off on. And that's my whole point for writing this -- we can not have him do this next time!

Next time, the negotiations are over trillions, not billions. If he meets them more than halfway -- as he has done every single time now -- it will be a colossal disaster. Whenever Republican presidents try to cut Social Security or Medicare, they run into a brick wall. If the Republicans use President Obama to help them do that instead, then he will have done more damage than a Republican president can.

I hear from Democrats every single time that they'll fight the next time. And it's never the next time. Well, this time we've hit the wall. The next negotiations will be inarguably the most important. If the president obamas this (yes, I used it as a verb), it will be catastrophic.

Now, I want to ask even the most ardent Obama supporters -- do you really believe the president is going to hold strong the next time around? Even you don't believe that, right? It's not who he is. He will look to get past partisan politics. What's the only way to do that when one side is being obstinate? To give in to them. How many times have we seen this movie?

I didn't write this to rub it in the face of the feckless Democrats who always wind up playing the role of the Washington Generals to the Republican Globetrotters (remember the Democrats have the White House and the Senate -- but they let the GOP run the place like they are totally in charge). I wrote it to tell you how incredibly important it is that you put real pressure on the president from the left. He will move to the middle of any spectrum!

If you don't help push the spectrum to the left, the Republicans will move it massively to the right -- and the president will fall for it.

The whole point of the insane, draconian, ridiculous Paul Ryan budget proposal for next year was to move the spectrum all the way to the radical right, so that they can lure Democrats to a false middle, that is in reality the far right.

It's time to stop playing nice with Democrats. Good cop-good cop doesn't work. We need a bad cop. We need a strong progressive wing to keep shouting "no deal!" every time the White House wants to concede (which will be every time).

You can ignore this, blame me and go hug the president one more time, but you won't be doing your side any favors. If you actually care about policy and progressive priorities, you must get tough with the president right now. There is no next time.

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Hand Over Your Medicare, or the Government Gets It

As both parties have fingers in the wind for a sign of who might own a potential shutdown, I can't think of anything more tone deaf than releasing, simultaneously, a budget proposal phasing out Medicare, and shifting the marginal tax rate burden further onto the middle class. 

But that's just what Republicans have done.  Ed Kilgore:

So TV viewers tonight are going to see Republicans ecstatic about Ryan's radical budget and Tea Partiers--despite the tips-from-the-coach offered by Bachmann--chanting for a government shutdown. Sure, most rank-and-file Republicans will see nothing wrong with this scenario, but elsewhere, the public is likely to deduce that the "savings" congressional GOPers are demanding are about something more fundamental than subsidies for Big Bird or the exact level of cuts.

Ryan's proposal got the go ahead from leadership because it was red meat for the teabaggers.  I'd bet they thought, just like in Ryan's first whack at screwing the middle class via "serious proposal" a year ago, they could stir up the Randian base, and wave it off in front of saner voters as just a discussion of ideas, a pondering of options, a party searching for it's identity. 

But by wasting their first few months as a governing majority with a predictable attack on NPR funding, anti-choice posturing, and training the freshmen not to sound like secessionists on CNN, they've staved off any real discussion around policy withing their own ranks.  And when they finally have it, they ensure that the "budget" showdown and Rep. Paul Ryan's "budget" proposal get simultaneous headlines, and connection in the public mind as one "budget" fight. 

As in: We'll shut this whole thing down -- closing your parks, furloughing public workers, and delaying tax return checks -- unless you hand over your Medicare!

This genius strategy had every Democrat within sprinting distance of a microphone or camera rushing to comment in a rare display of messaging control.

Considering the buyers' remorse already hanging over Republican governors settling in in the midwest, and most of the freshmen Republicans campaigning in 2010 on defending Medicare against Obama's health care reform, I don't see how they reel this albatross back in.

Welcome to the 2012 campaign, folks.  Entertainment provided by John Boehner's House.

 

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