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Hospitals Try Free Basic Care for Uninsured

A great idea! Preventative help will save money. Too bad the insurance companies haven’t realized this. From the New York Times:

AUSTIN, Tex. — Unable to afford health insurance, Dee Dee Dodd had for years been mixing occasional doctor visits with clumsy efforts to self-manage her insulin-dependent diabetes, getting sicker all the while.

 In one 18-month period, Ms. Dodd, 38, was rushed almost monthly to the emergency room, spent weeks in the intensive care unit and accumulated more than $191,000 in unpaid bills.

That is when nurses at the Seton Family of Hospitals tagged her as a “frequent flier,” a repeat visitor whose ailments — and expenses — might be curbed with more regular care. The hospital began offering her free primary care through its charity program.

With the number of uninsured people in the United States reaching a record 46.6 million last year, up by 7 million from 2000, Seton is one of a small number of hospital systems around the country to have done the math and acted on it. Officials decided that for many patients with chronic diseases, it would be cheaper to provide free preventive care than to absorb the high cost of repeated emergencies.

 With patients like Ms. Dodd, “they can have better care and we can reduce the costs for the hospital,” said Dr. Melissa Smith, medical director of three community health centers run by Seton, a Roman Catholic hospital network that uses its profits and donations to provide nearly free care to 5,000 of the working poor. Over the last 18 months, Ms. Dodd’s health has improved, and her medical bills have been cut nearly in half.

Reaching out to uninsured patients, especially those with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure or asthma, is a recent tactic of “a handful of visionary hospital systems around the country,” said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation in New York that concentrates on health care. These institutions are searching for ways to fend off disease and large debts by bringing uninsured visitors into continuing basic care.

 The public hospital systems in New York and Denver, for example, have both worked to steer uninsured patients to community clinics, charging modest fees, if any. New York’s public system, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, has assigned some 240,000 uninsured patients to personal primary care doctors. A computerized system tracks those with chronic conditions, and when necessary, social workers contact patients to make sure they get checkups and follow medical advice.

 “For most preventive efforts there is an upfront expense,” said Alan D. Aviles, president of the corporation. “But over the long term it saves money.” Denver’s public system, Denver Health, has 41,000 uninsured patients enrolled in its clinics. Officials there calculate that for every dollar they spend on prenatal care for uninsured women, they save more than $7 in newborn and child care.

 The “safety net” plan of the Seton system in Central Texas accepts people making 150 percent to 250 percent of the federal poverty limit and has resources to support 5,000 patients. (People below the poverty line, which is $13,200 a year for a family of two in the contiguous states, can obtain care through the public clinic system.)

More here

Of course this doesn’t make up for Universal Health Care, but it’s a start and helps people with no insurance stay healthy.

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October 25, 2006 Posted by | Health Care | Leave a comment

America’s Middle Class Has Become Globalization’s Loser

From Spiegel On Line International.  Great article.

 A SUPERPOWER IN DECLINE

By Gabor Steingart

At the beginning of the 21st century, the United States is still a superpower. But it’s a superpower facing competition from beyond its borders as well as internal difficulties. Its lower and middle classes are turning out to be the losers of globalization.

There are essentially three exclusive characteristics whose simultaneous development have served as the foundations of the United States’s success up until now — and they only appear in this particular combination in America. They are not only the country’s biggest strengths, but also its greatest weaknesses. It’s worth scrutinizing them more closely. 

First, nowhere in the world can you find such a high concentration of optimism and daring. America is the country that strives hardest for what is new — not just since yesterday (like Eastern Europeans) and not just for the last three decades (like the Chinese); rather from the very instant settlers began arriving. Unabashed curiosity seems to be hardwired into the nation’s genetic code.

The steady influx of the adventurous and hard-working — which helped increase the country’s labor force by about 44 million people since 1980 alone and continues today — ensures a constant replenishment of daring. After all, it’s not just the additional people that make the difference. The mere addition of 17 million people into Germany following reunification in 1990 – newcomers more concerned with preserving their guaranteed rights than with making the extraordinary effort necessary for success – did nothing to foster the kind of daring you see in the United States. Indeed, the result was exactly the opposite, and it has been a painful lesson for Germany.

Second, the United States is radically global. Its very origins — in the rebellious citizens from every country in the world who assembled on the territory that is now the United States — mark its people as true children of the world. Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt calls the founding fathers of the United States a “vital elite,” one that continues to pass down its genes to this very day. Their language is dominant, having marginalized Spanish and French during the second half of the past century. Their everyday culture — from the T-shirt and rock ‘n’ roll to e-mail — has peacefully colonized half the world. And from the very beginning, US corporations were eager to venture abroad in order to trade and set up production sites in other countries. Multinational corporations may not have been a US invention, but they became its specialty.

 snip

 The trial of strength

But there is a flip side to the coin. First, Americans are so optimistic that they often blur the line between optimism and naivete. Public, private and corporate debt far exceeds any previously known dimensions. Forever piously trusting in a future rosier than the present, millions of households are borrowing so much money that they end up endangering the very future they’re looking forward to. The lower and middle classes have practically given up on putting aside any savings. They’re going into the 21st century like a poverty-stricken, Third World family, living from hand to mouth without any financial reserves whatsoever.

There’s more and it’s a good read and a warning to us all.

October 25, 2006 Posted by | Economy | 1 Comment

Bushco gives Iraq’s Shiite led Government a timeline!?!

Isn’t this what the Dems have been asking for?  Isn’t this what the Dems were accused of cutting and running?  Isn’t this just before the mid term elections?

From the AP:

U.S. says more GIs may be needed in Iraq  

Two weeks before U.S. midterm elections, American officials unveiled a timeline Tuesday for Iraq’s Shiite-led government to take specific steps to calm the world’s most dangerous capital and said more U.S. troops might be needed to quell the bloodshed.

U.S. officials previously said they were satisfied with troop levels and had expected to make significant reductions by year’s end. But a surge in sectarian killings, which welled up this past summer, forced them to reconsider.

At a rare joint news conference with the American ambassador, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, said additional U.S. troops could come from inside or outside Iraq to “improve basic services for the population of Baghdad.”

“Now, do we need more troops to do that? Maybe. And, as I’ve said all along, if we do, I will ask for the troops I need, both coalition and Iraqis,” Casey said. There are currently 144,000 U.S. forces in Iraq.

The military has expressed disappointment over its two-month drive to cleanse the capital of Sunni insurgents and Shiite militia fighters and death squads. But the Americans also say that for the situation to improve, the Iraqi government must make political concessions to minority Sunnis.

The timeline grew out of recent Washington meetings at which the Bush administration sought to reshape its Iraq policy amid mounting U.S. deaths and declining domestic support for the 44-month-old war. The plan was made public a day after White House press secretary Tony Snow said the U.S. was adjusting its Iraq strategy but would not issue any ultimatums.

U.S. officials revealed neither specific incentives for the Iraqis to implement the plan nor penalties for their failure to do so. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Iraqi leaders had agreed to the timeline, benchmarks heavily laden with enticements to Sunni insurgents.

The lack of any real political consensus even among Shiites, however, has made it extremely difficult for Iraqi leaders to keep deadlines; for example, they missed targeted dates on naming a government and in moving forward on constitutional amendments. Moreover, Tuesday’s declarations lacked specifics on how to accomplish the goals.

More here

October 24, 2006 Posted by | Current News, Iraq | 2 Comments

Foley Campaign Money Could Become His Legal Defense Fund

Have you had enough???  Again, why are these congressmen allowed to use  their campaign money for a defense fund?  I think we should tell them that they will not get one red dime until they change this.  If they are corrupt or involved in a scandal, like Foley, they should pay for their own defense.

From ABC’s the Blotter:

 Disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley has almost $2 million in campaign funds to play with, and he can use the money to defend himself if it comes to that.  The money can cover the cost of travel or any other expenses having to do with being a congressman, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Foley’s campaign committee currently has $1,865,386 of “cash on hand,” according to the latest FEC report.

Foley can use the money to cover the costs of “winding down his office, make unlimited transfers to national, state and local party committees and contribute to other candidates,” said Michelle Ryan, a spokeswoman for the FEC.

 Another former congressman, Randall “Duke” Cunningham, who is now in prison for taking bribes, used his campaign funds for legal fees incurred during the federal investigation against him.

The FEC takes requests to use campaign funds for legal fees on a case-by-case basis.  There is no information that Foley’s campaign committee has made such a request. 

 The “Friends of Mark Foley” Committee did not return calls for comment. 

   The loophole through which congressmen could transfer campaign finance funds to their own bank accounts was closed in 1993, before which such transfers were widespread, according to Gary Ruskin, Director of the Congressional Accountability Project, a nonprofit group which monitors congressional spending and ethics.

http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/10/heaven_knows_wh.html

October 24, 2006 Posted by | Current News, Scandals | 1 Comment

Why are politicians allowed to use Campaign funds for legal fees?

Good question.  This has to be changed just as eliminating the benefits from indicted Congressional office holders. I wouldn’t want to donate money for a campaign only for it to be used as a defense fund for wrong doing.  Those funds should be stipulated to be used only for what it is intended.

From TPM Muckraker:

Burns’ Legal Fees Top $90,000
Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) has spent at least $91,500 in campaign funds on a white collar defense lawyer this year.

Last November, both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that Burns is on the short list for Abramoff investigators. Burns finally hired defense attorney Ralph Caccia of Powell Goldstein in April of this year. At the time, Burns’ spokesman said that Caccia had been retained to “[help] review all the facts in this matter.”

The review must be continuing, as Burns’ recent FEC disclosure shows a $27,460 payment to Caccia’s firm in September. Together with the $64,000 that Burns had paid out since April, that makes approximately $91,500 in fees.

Burns joins Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), his companion on the Justice Department’s short list (which also includes former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and soon-to-be-former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH)), in both shelling out money for a top-flight defense lawyer and publicly proclaiming that he’s not a target of the DoJ’s probe. To see why Burns has got investigators so interested, see our reference section.

Recent polls show Burns trailing his Democratic challenger, Jon Tester.

What are your thoughts?

October 23, 2006 Posted by | Current News, Op Ed, Scandals | Leave a comment

Now the Troops are balking at this war in Iraq

I first noticed this on a CNN crawl.  Then I switched to MSNBC and the host was discussing this with a retired General.  65 active duty service members asking Congress to end the war in Iraq. Even they so no solution in “staying the course”.  Now GW is saying he never said that. Hah! There are recordings galore where he repeated and repeated “we have to stay the course”.  Lets hope we have a new congress to deal with this request!

Here’s the info we have so far:

Active troops ask Congress
to end Iraqi occupation

Monday, October 23, 2006

Active troops ask congress to end Iraqi occupation

from Alexander Mooney

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sixty five active duty service members are officially asking Congress to end the war in Iraq — the first time active troops have done so since U.S. invasion began in 2003.

Three of the service members will hold a press conference Wednesday explaining their decision to send “Appeals for Redress” under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act to their members of Congress. Under the act, National Guard and Reservists can send communications about any subject to their member of Congress without punishment.

I will update this post as more becomes available.

 

October 23, 2006 Posted by | Current News, Government Policies, Iraq, World News | Leave a comment

Yellow Magnets Ribbons – Just Words!

Yellow Magnet Ribbons on all the conservatice cars and SUVs. “Support Our Troops”!  And how did this administration support our troop?  Let’s ask how they didn’t support our troops.  And this is over and above the reason of attacking Iraq in the first place.

Older gear and guns from Viet Nam. Not enough flak jackets, the wrong kind of helmets, Jeeps and Humvees not fitted for protection from the bombs. Then of course they cut the Vets budget and are not taking care of our returning vets.

Now the Bush Admin, Big Pharma lobbies and our Conservative House of Representatives have another surprise for the vets.

From Stars & Stripes:

Military Update:

Move to cut Tricare drug costs fails in Congress


Discount dropped from defense bill after House balks at measure

By Tom Philpott, Special to Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, October 19, 2006
Pressured by the White House and drug industry lobbyists, Congress has killed a Senate-passed provision that would have forced pharmaceutical manufacturers to grant the Department of Defense deep discounts on drugs dispensed through the Tricare retail pharmacy network.House Republicans were under enormous pressure last month to sideline a provision inserted in the 2007 defense authorization bill that would cut 40 percent or more off the cost of many drugs available to Tricare beneficiaries through retail network pharmacies and stores.DOD officials contend that the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 requires drugmakers to include Tricare retail drugs in Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) discount agreements negotiated with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The discounts already apply to drugs dispensed through base pharmacies, the Tricare mail order program and VA pharmacies.To avoid having to grant more discounts, drug manufacturers have filed a lawsuit challenging DOD’s contention. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to make that lawsuit moot with clarifying language in its defense bill that federal discounts are to apply to Tricare retail drugs, too.After the Senate passed its bill, White House politicos began to pressure House Republicans to fight the Senate provision in final negotiations over the defense bill, in effect, undercutting their own Defense Department as it strives to curb soaring drug costs.

“Tremendous forces” targeted conferees from the armed services committees as they began to negotiate over the bill, said a staff member. “Pharmacies, drug manufacturers … the politics went right through the roof.”

Given that pressure, Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, introduced a “motion to instruct” House conferees to accept the Senate’s drug discount provision when negotiating behind closed doors. Edwards, joined by several Democratic colleagues, argued that applying FSS discounts for Tricare retail drugs would save $251 million in 2007 alone. It also would suck the wind out of plans to hold down Tricare costs by raising co-payments on military retirees and others who use the more costly retail network.

Opposing Edwards’ motion was Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., chairman of House Veterans Affairs Committee and a friend to drug manufacturers. Eli Lilly & Co. has its headquarters within miles of Buyer’s district. The company this year is his second largest campaign contributor, providing $10,000.

Read more here

Hardly surprising is it! Not with this admin and this congress. Has anyone even heard about this before? Has it been on Main Stream Media?

October 21, 2006 Posted by | blog roll, Current News, Government Policies, Op Ed, Veteran Affairs | 3 Comments

Congressional Pensions – There has to be a law

There have been indictments and congressmen going to jail or had to quit because of a scandal or two or three. Yet they get to keep their pensions. This has to change and soon.  They are working for “We  the people” and “We the people” want it changed!

Here, again from ABC’s the Blotter:

Foley Keeps Pension Despite Scandal

Former Congressman Mark Foley may have stepped down in disgrace, but he will be eligible for his congressional pension no matter what, even if he faces jail time, according to Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayer’s Union, a non-partisan taxpayer advocacy group.

snip

In May of this year, the House proposed legislation taking pensions away from members convicted of bribery and corruption, but that bill has been stalled in “conference negotiations” before going to the Senate, meaning that two recently convicted congressmen, Congressman Bob Ney, who is still collecting his full salary, and former Congressman Randall “Duke” Cunningham, will also get their pensions “no matter what,” according to Sepp.

Foley and Ney’s service records are almost identical. Ney will start with $29,000 annually, slightly lower than Foley’s because he is married.  Both can opt for a reduced pension starting at 56, which means they can start collecting their checks in just four years.

Cunningham, who is 64 and now in prison for accepting bribes, immediately began collecting $64,000 annually when he stepped down in November of 2005, after racking up twenty years of service in the military and Congress.

Now is the time to contact your congressman or woman and let them know how you feel about this issue.  This law to take away their pensions will make future congressmen watch their steps.  I also believe that if they are made to leave the congress without being indicted, they should also lose any benefits. The corruption we are hearing from this administration is unbelievable.

October 20, 2006 Posted by | Current News, Op Ed, Scandals | 2 Comments

CREW gets damning Weldon emails

From the CREW blog:

CREW asks DOJ to investigate Weldon for e-mails outlining possible threats of retaliation against his opponent’s contributors

E-mails received by CREW have prompted us to ask the Department of Justice to investigate whether Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) violated the law by intimidating government personnel “in the national security field” who support his opponent, Joe Sestak.

The first e-mail describes a “hit list” compiled of Weldon opponent’s supporters. In addition, that e-mail notes the Weldon said something to the effect of “If they don’t think there will be retribution before or after the election, they’re kidding themselves.” The second e-mail states that Weldon had his staff contact Navy personnel to get information on Sestak.

CREW has asked the Department of Justice to investigate this very serious matter. The e-mails, which are provided below, detail a disturbing, and potentially unlawful, abuse of power. 18 U.S.C. §600 and 18 U.S.C. §610 are implicated with this kind of behavior.

Melanie Sloan stated that, “Not only has Rep. Weldon abused his position to financially benefit his daughter, he has threatened to misuse his position to punish those who support his political opponent. Rep. Weldon needs to learn that no one, not even a powerful member of Congress is above the law.”

Go to the site link to read the emails.

These people think they own the world! They can do whatever they want and think they won’t be caught.  Thank you CREW for staying on top of this.

October 20, 2006 Posted by | Current News, Op Ed, Scandals | Leave a comment

Crooks and Liars has a post about Tony Snow Today

I wrote a post on this earlier but it got lost in the blog-0-sphere somewhere so I am glad C&L caught it. From C&L:

The name games that this administration is playing borders on the surreal. Strategy–tactics–blah, blah. blah. Susan Malveaux tries to get Tony Snow to make sense, but really—there is no sense to be made in Iraq.

Transcript:

MR. SNOW: No, what I’m trying to do is to come up with some way in which you and I can talk the same language so that we don’t all go cross-eyed in total bewilderment and confusion. And so perhaps — look, you guys, why don’t you email me the labels you want me to use for these various groupings that I’ve given to you.

Q I just want to know, James Baker is using — will look at strategy, and you’re saying you’re going to listen to James Baker and Lee Hamilton and this bipartisan report –

MR. SNOW: Well, I think what they’re talking –

Q — then what’s strategy in your definition?

MR. SNOW: I think they will agree with what I described as “strategy,” which is –

Q But you just said you’re not even considering a change in — no, Tony, sorry.

MR. SNOW: No, that’s because I’m not going to — we are not going to change our belief that you require — this is the strategy — this is the strategic picture that requires an economic, political and security component. And I guarantee you people on that commission agree. So what we’re talking about they describe as strategy, I’ll describe as tactics. Sorry, we’re talking different languages; I’m trying to harmonize for the purpose of answering your question.

Q Okay. So James Baker is doing what the President says he relies on his generals to do, which is tactics.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think he’s really — the generals also engage not merely in — yes, to some extent, yes; but the generals also have a much more detailed ground-level view of how to achieve these things. Maybe we need to come up with a fourth label.

But Secretary Baker and Lee Hamilton and others are going to take a close look at ideas that they think are going to be more effective to achieve that strategic goal of an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself, and govern itself, and to do so in a way that involves security, economic and political components.

I think all of that is agreed upon. So now the question is, what is your mid-level goal? They’re going to take a look at the various goals and try to proceed. I know, we’re getting into a linguistic swivet here.

Q I know, I know. But it’s like we’re changing the goals — it’s almost like you’re trying to hide behind the term “tactics” to change strategy.

MR. SNOW: No. No. Because I think the strategy is real clear. You try to use all three of those modalities to achieve an end.

Q Can we talk about — speaking of generals, General Caldwell, yesterday — you said you called him right before you came out here.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Why is that?

MR. SNOW: Because I try to touch base with him. I actually –

Q Every day? Do you always, every day, or just when he says something that you may not agree with?

MR. SNOW: No, I actually — no, I didn’t say anything — he didn’t say anything I disagree with. I mean –

There is more at this link and a video too.

October 20, 2006 Posted by | Current News, Op Ed | Leave a comment