Weekly Pulse: Tanning Tax "Racist" and Other Absurd Objections to Health Care Reform

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

While President Obama signed the final piece of the health care reform bill into law on Tuesday, opponents are not taking the defeat lying down. This week’s prize for the most bizarre objection to health care reform goes to Glenn Beck’s guest host Doc Thompson who alleged that a tax on tanning salons is racist. Andy Kroll of Mother Jones explains:

Filling in for Glenn Beck on his radio show, conservative radio host Doc Thompson recently made the stunningly outrageous claim that a tax on indoor tanning salons, as included in the health care reform bill, is racist. Such a tax, Thompson claimed, discriminates against “all light-skinned Americans” because only white-skinned Americans use tanning salons. Never mind the deadly effect tanning beds and the like have on your skin and health, nor the fact that the tax would generate $2.7 billion over ten years to help pay for health care. No, that couldn’t have anything to do with why the tax was included in the health care bill.

Governors vs. AGs

Christina Bellantoni of TPM Election Central reports that various Republican state attorneys general are clashing with their Democratic governors over plans to challenge health care reform in court. When Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (R) joined an anti-reform lawsuit, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) reminded everyone that “no one in the executive branch has authorized [Cox] to take this position.” The lawsuits are a good way to grab media attention, but Cox and his fellow AGs may end up with egg on their faces if these challenges actually go to court.

Reform and the Constitution

Some anti-reform activists allege that health care reform is unconstitutional because the government doesn’t have the right to force people to carry health insurance (aka the “individual mandate”). On, The Breakdown podcast, Chris Hayes of the Nation interviews Gillian Metzger a professor of constitutional law at Columbia who explains why the constitutionality of health care reform is “pretty much a no-brainer.” Another Nation contributor, Aziz Huq, puts it this way: “Among constitutional scholars, the puzzle is not how the federal government can defend the new law, but why anyone thinks a constitutional challenge is even worth making.”

SEIU Sues Dissident Local

Speaking of lawsuits, Carl Finamore of Working In These Times is covering a major court battle in California between two large health care unions. The 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union is suing the former elected officers, staff and organizers of its third-largest national affiliate, United Healthcare Workers–West (UHW). The 26 defendants defected from SEIU to form a new union, National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which is also being sued. The conflict started a few years ago when national SEIU decided to remove 65,000 health care workers from a UHW local without the local’s consent. Finamore sees this lawsuit as a test of the principle of local self-governance: can SEIU sue a dissident local into submission?

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.



Health Care Reform - further thoughts



Unencumbered by any research or expertise, I offer a few thoughts on reform of our health care system. The landmark law just enacted does many good things but is mainly health insurance reform that does little to control the high cost of U.S health care.

To address costs, perhaps a place to start would be with education of doctors and other medical personnel. Don't know how but if we can curb the inflation in educational costs there will be less pressure on graduates to command high incomes.

All providers, including government, must negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices. And re-importation of drugs should be allowed.

Health insurers, hospitals and other large providers should be regulated like utilities. Limiting the percentage of premiums that can be used for expenses other than health care and preventing the duplication of facilities and costly medical equipment are two avenues to pursue.

We should be encouraging, perhaps subsidizing clinics and other institutions that provide efficient, effective care. Typically, these employ physicians on salary and use best practices to ensure highest quality at lowest cost. Some may provide medical services to members who pay an annual fee. We should replicate the model clinics over as much of the country as possible.

Provisions in the new law encourage an increase in primary care and efficient team practice with bonus payments for certain physicians and expansion of community health centers. A step in the right direction.

VA hospitals. Although others may differ, I understand that the VA provides very good care at relatively low cost. This could well be an available option. (To avoid overloading, some limitation may be needed- such as availability only to those living within 100 miles of a VA hospital).

At all times, those who have insurance or other approved coverage can go to whatever private care that is available, paying with own funds.

Give our people a number of choices: private insurance, VA, approved clinic membership, or Medicare for all. In the case of the VA and Medicare, we must be sure that the fees are high enough to ensure sustainability.

With the new law, we have finally recognized that our country deems health care a right for all. We'll have to continue to explore the best ways to bring our country to the top level of countries providing health care for their citizens.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com


Pakistan's Constitutional Reforms Are A Move Towards Democratization

In January of this year, we came together to form a new organization, Americans for Democracy and Justice in Pakistan. Our mission is to educate the media, political leaders and the public about the importance of supporting democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a country whose history is full of politically-motivated attacks against civilian rulers and outside influences that have destabilized the country, often resulting in takeovers by the military. We want what the Pakistan people want: the rule of law and a government chosen by the people.

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To help pay for health care reforms, the House voted for a surtax on very high incomes, such as those over $500,000. Sounds like a good idea, since affordable and a step toward fixing the huge inequality in US annual incomes. The Senate rejected this idea, opting instead to tax very expensive health care insurance plans.

As Bob Herbert of the NY Times, points out, the Senate plan hurts many in the middle class. This is supposed to produce savings of $150 billion over 10 years. Herbert notes "According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, less than 18 percent of the revenue will come from the tax itself. The rest of the $150 billion, more than 82 percent of it, will come from the income taxes paid by workers who have been given pay raises by employers who will have voluntarily handed over the money they saved by offering their employees less valuable health insurance plans." Lots of luck counting on this.

The main effort to combat the rising cost of health care is through the insurance companies. Squeeze the insurers and they'll squeeze costs out of medical providers. How has that worked so far? It's beside the point but health insurance is an anomaly; sort of insuring to pay for food.

We don't hear much about computerizing all health records, or other cost saving measures. Or sometimes the savings are supposed to come from patient decisions:      declining tests, selecting lower cost providers. But patients don't work this way. It's difficult to shop for doctors or hospitals. And when your doctor recommends a test,you don't disagree.

Making insurers compete (the public option, removing anti-trust exemption) would of course help the insurance purchaser. But more is needed, negotiated drug prices,
importation of drugs, pushing best medical practice, fostering hospital competition with less duplication, supporting clinics that and medical groups that compete with doctor services.  In many ways, try to wring the high prices,excessive costs, and high profits. out of the system.

Good health care is a right for every citizen. It behooves our government to take the actions necessary to meet this goal.

homer  www.altara.blogspot.com

It's more than just healthcare, its also the safety net at stake!

I'm angry and I'm scared with regards to what is happening these days.  Not just on healthcare, but also the safety net.  After reading Angrybird's sad note on the foreclosure, my anger simply grew. How could we allow this?  Not just the homes, but the jobs and the insurance and the schools.  Yesterday I got into a heated argument with a long time friend, someone who now I know probably won't speak to me. She's a libertarian who simply had (to use her own words)"fuck 'em if they weren't prepared, don't take from me!" attitude. Maybe just as well.  But I'm not one to leave someone to the wolves.

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