Archive for "health care reform"

A Letter to the President

Published by Pamela Gentry on Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 11:23 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

Sept. 4, 2009 – Black lawmakers want to get out in front of the president’s speech next week and have sent him a letter outlining what they don’t want to see “scaled back” in his plans to overhaul the health care system.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., meets with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday, June 19, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Lauren Victoria Burke)

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., meets with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday, June 19, 2008 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Lauren Victoria Burke)


The letter sent Wednesday is signed by three members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) who also serve on the Health and Wellness Task Force:  Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Donna M. Christensen .  They called on the president to “stress unwavering support ” during his address to Congress for the following:

1. Not  reducing cost:  “Reducing the overall cost of a budget-neutral bill is therefore unnecessary and not a strategy that we do or can support.” 

2. Support for a public option:  A strong public health option that will allow the nation’s more than 46 million uninsured Americans – more than half of whom are people of color – to finally have access to affordable, meaningful health care coverage no later than 2013.”

3. Eliminating health care disparities: “A strong and demonstrative commitment from the White House to, in the days and weeks to come, use health care reform to achieve health equity.”

4. Equality for U.S. Territories:  “The nearly 5 million Americans who live in the U.S. Territories should benefit from health care reform in a manner that is equitable to those Americans who live within the 50 states and in the District of Columbia.”

5. Rewarding preventive health care services: “This strategy will not only allow the realization of true cost savings of prevention, health disparity elimination and other provisions, but it also will provide an avenue through which the savings generated can replace current [payment system].”

Lee, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the 43 members of the Caucus “are committed allies and partners in the fight to reform America’s broken health care system.”

It will be interesting to hear if any of these policy issues remain in the president’s new version he’ll unveil Sept. 9.  Throughout this debate members of the CBC have been outspoken on these issues and some have made it clear they will not support any legislation without a public option.

This could be a line in the sand for Obama and his former congressional colleagues.

Full Transcript: See the CBC’s Letter to Pres. Obama

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Obama Scaling Back Health Care Reform

Published by Pamela Gentry on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 11:34 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Poltical Producer

Sept. 3, 2009 – President Obama will address a joint session of Congress next week to publicly concede that he will not move forward with his campaign promise to overhaul health care reform. naacp_obama2
One White House staffer told The New York Times, “It’s so important to get a deal…he’ll almost do anything to get one.”  That’s disappointing to hear. 

What’s surprising is the president is willing to “scale back” his plans for changing a system he’s said is broken and will only get worse. So what is he willing to give up?  

None of his critics have offered alternatives, Republicans have united against it, conservative Democrats have asked for more cost controls, and the American public  just want more details.    

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement released Wednesday, “The president is clearly not running away from this battle but rather confronting the challenges we’ve encountered these last few weeks head-on.”

“He’s pulling out all the stops, and this level of involvement from the president could well be a game-changer. There is no better way to turn public opinion around than to have someone as popular as President Obama addressing the American people directly, without intermediaries interpreting — or misinterpreting — his ideas,” he said.

The good news about the presidents planned speech on Sept. 9, is it demonstrates he’s willing to step-up and give more direction and specifics of what he wants to see from Congress.

 The bad news is that it might be too late for him to breathe life back into health care reform and revive his promise to secure affordable health care for all Americans.

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Health Care Reform is About You

Published by Pamela Gentry on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 12:42 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

Sept. 2, 2009 –  The task of getting a health care reform bill through Congress will be decided by lawmakers who hear from the people they represent – will they hear from you?empty_hospital_corridor1

I’ve tried to keep the discussion about health care reform alive on my blog to keep my readers informed with the hope of stirring up debate and eliciting responses on what  “reform” should entail. 

But the responses have been very few.  Why?  I’m not sure, so I decided to take this opportunity to provide a little insight into where Black folks fit into the health care picture.   It may influence how you view the health care debate.

In 2004, when the economy was booming, 25 percent of African Americans were on Medicaid, a state and federally funded health care program for the poor.  That’s about 9 million people.  

By 2006, 44 percent of all African-American children were covered by Medicaid as well as 32 percent of their parents and 25 percent of senior citizens.

Now if we fast forward to 2009, we know unemployment has doubled in the Black community since 2004, more African Americans are uninsured and safety net providers like community health clinics aren’t able to meet the growing demand, some have even been faced with budget cuts.

And for those of us who are insured through our employer or have purchased insurance, we know our out-of-pocket costs and premiums have increased, in some cases as much as 17 percent.    

Every bill under consideration now expands the roll of Medicaid, allowing states to increase the number of people eligible. 

Black lawmakers have been pushing for health reform to address chronic diseases that disproportionally affect the African-American community.  The Joint Center Health Policy Institute addressed these same concerns in a report in 2006 when they looked at the Medicaid program.

The report said, “African-American adults are more likely to have chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.  African-American children are more likely to have asthma.” 

It added, “When African-American perspective is not integral to health policy decisions; health policymaking will fail to eliminate inequities and will also reinforce structural race-based disparities.”

That’s why this discussion is so important to the Black community and why I hope my readers will tune in to the debate.     

This issue is about you – be engage.

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Whose Legacy Will Be Health Care Reform?

Published by Pamela Gentry on Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 9:33 pm.
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, stands with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., during a rally for Obama at American University on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008, in Washington. Kennedy calling him a "man with extraordinary gifts of leadership and character," a worthy heir to his assassinated brother. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, stands with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., during a rally for Obama at American University on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008, in Washington. Kennedy calling him a "man with extraordinary gifts of leadership and character," a worthy heir to his assassinated brother. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

Aug. 30, 2009 – President Barack Obama returned Sunday from his family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. The weeklong holiday mixed a little work with pleasure and ended on a solemn note as he delivered the eulogy for his friend and colleague, Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Kennedy’s death from a brain tumor at 77 years old has renewed the lawmaker’s lifelong legislative push to provide affordable health care for Americans. Now Kennedy’s legacy and the creation of Obama’s legacy are overlapping on this issue and could be decided by the end results. 

But the loss of the veteran senator, affectionately called The Lion of the Senate, could be just what Obama needs to spur him into focus and back on track to get health care reform passed in Congress.  

Over the weekend, supporters for revamping the current health care system took to the airwaves calling for action in honor and as a tribute to Kennedy.  His niece Maria Shriver told NBC’s Meet the Press, “Perhaps his passing will reinvigorate people to get it done, and he gave his life to that.”

Kennedy’s colleagues delivered a similar message. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) told ABC’s This Week, “Kennedy would have made it happen. He would not say ‘no’ to anything, because we have to reduce the cost. We have to make these changes.” 

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) agrees; he and Kennedy authored several pieces of major legislation over the years and he added, “If Kennedy were at the table now, I have no doubt he would negotiate some compromise.”

But Kennedy isn’t here and it looks like it will be up to the president to affect any compromise to get health care reform back on track.  It’s time for Obama to step up with his passion for the issue along with his leadership to the debate.  

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said it best: “I think the president has got to decide, in a sense…and to step up and really frame this again for us.”

The president was able to relax last week and is planning some down time Labor Day weekend at Camp David with the family – but once Congress returns to Washington it will be back to business and the holiday will be over.

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Myth-Busting Health Care Reform

Published by Pamela Gentry on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 11:25 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

Aug. 23, 2009 – It’s about time President Obama took on his critics and the leadership of getting health care reform back on track.  But is it too late?

On Saturday Obama’s radio address sounded like he had finally had enough.  “This is an issue of vital concern to every American, and I’m glad that so many are engaged,” Obama said during his radio and Internet address Saturday. hero_weeklyaddress_8-22-09_ck-0025

“But it also should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are.”

It could be too little too late, but with the president putting his full force behind myth-busting, it could pay dividends.  Obama is still the best sales man and marketing tool for the legislation and Democrats in congress need his leadership going forward. 

Obama hit on three of biggest myths being circulated by opponents.  First,  tax dollars would not be used to cover illegal immigrants; there will be no government takeover of health care; and there are no so-called death panels.

“As every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called death panels — an offensive notion to me and to the American people,”

 ”These are phony claims meant to divide us.”

But the biggest hurdle for Obama’s plan to overhaul health insurance is still the public option.  An option the president has maintained is needed to keep the insurance industry honest and make sure everyone who wants insurance can afford it.

“This is one idea among many to provide more competition and choice, especially in the many places around the country where just one insurer thoroughly dominates the marketplace,” Obama said. “Let me repeat: It would be just an option; those who prefer their private insurer would be under no obligation to shift to a public plan.”

I’ve been through the all the bills congress is floating around and I can’t find any of the alleged wrongs the Republicans say are in the bills.

This would be a good time for Republicans to bring forth their ideas and proposals that would solve the problems for the 46 million uninsured, 26 million under-insured and the 14 million who are paying premiums out-of-pocket. 

Republican Rep. Tom Price’s (Ga.) rebuttal to the president’s remarks called for the whole plan to be scrapped and for lawmakers to start over. That’s from someone who has great health care at the taxpayer’s expense.

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Public Option: Preferred but Not Essential?

Published by Pamela Gentry on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 11:57 pm.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

Aug. 19, 2009 – The question remains; will the president sign a bill that does not have a public insurance option offered by the federal government?  That’s the question lingering and causing controversy and confusion – and Congress is waiting to hear President Obama’s answer. 

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was drilled Tuesday on what is being characterized as a major shift in policy by the president.  Gibbs insisted the president maintains his support for a public option calling it the “preferred” method of reaching his goals, but declined to say it was “essential.” 

“He  [the president]cannot envision a scenario in which we live with anything that doesn’t provide choice and competition in a private insurance market that allows people to get the best deal possible on both the price and quality if they enter a private health insurance market,” Gibbs insisted.

“That’s what the President’s bottom line is:  Do we have a system that provides that choice for consumers and that competition among insurers on quality and cost?”

But the bottom line for those Democrats who wanted a single payer system, like the Medicare program, feel they’ve already compromised by accepting the public option and won’t vote for a bill without it. 

Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings wants the president to stick to word, “President Obama has emphasized the importance of the public option in the past, and we cannot afford to drop such a critical component of reform in favor of another option that isn’t guaranteed to make any significant difference in the status quo.”
Concerns about the status quo are a reality if the survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is any indication.  The results of the monthly poll to determine consumer confidence in their health insurance coverage and access to care dropped across the board in July.

More than half, 51.9 percent of those surveyed are worried they won’t be able to afford the cost of a serious illness; 41 percent are concerned they won’t be able to pay for routine health care; and 35.6 percent are concerned they won’t be able to afford prescription drugs they need.

 Are you concerned about your health care coverage now or the near future? 

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President Must Fight to Keep Public Option

Published by Pamela Gentry on Monday, August 17, 2009 at 12:04 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

Aug. 17, 2009 – If President Obama folds on the public option he could very well fail to get the most venerable populations insured leaving  46 million Americans without insurance and faced with health care options they can’t afford.

The insurance industry has managed to use every possible tactic to frighten Americaobama_economy0908051(AP Photo)ns into thinking a public option would  drive private insures out of business and be the precursor to a national health care program.  

The Obama administration hasn’t been able to effectively explain this complex issue and are now on the defense.  

During the campaign Obama made it clear he would not go for a “single payer” option used for Medicare program to make sure the insurance industry would  go along with the talk of reform.  But now the insurance industry wants to guarantee no competition in the market place, and they just might get their wish.

The signs became obvious over the weekend.  Secretary of Health and Human Service Kathleen Sebelius said a government –run insurance program wasn’t the “essential element” of reform.   White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told CBC’s Face the Nation,  the president still wants a public option, but in the end wants to have “choice and competition in the insurance market.”

An even bigger indicator was the what the president didn’t say during the town hall in Grand Junction, Colo,. on Saturday.  He defended the public option but indicated he was open to alternative approaches as long as they reduce cost, expand coverage and don’t add to the deficit. 

The president’s best arguments for a public option aren’t being heard and he needs a bigger bullhorn.  Here are excerpts from his remarks at the Grand Junction that build a strong case for the public option; 

“Insurance companies will no longer be able to place an arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive.”

“In the past few years, premiums have nearly doubled. And total out of pocket costs have increased by almost fifty percent – that’s more than $2,000 per person.”

“Almost 90 percent of individual health insurance policies have lifetime benefit limits. About a third of family plans in the individual insurance market have lifetime limits under $3 million. If you or your spouse or your child gets sick, and you hit that limit, suddenly it’s like you have no insurance at all.”

“Recent reports found that in the past few years, more than 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies because of a preexisting condition.”

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President Heads to Mexico

Published by Pamela Gentry on Monday, August 10, 2009 at 7:11 am.
President Obama

President Obama

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

Aug. 10, 2009 – President Obama arrived in Mexico Sunday to begin a three-way summit with North American leaders from neighboring Canada and Mexico. But before leaving the U.S. the president warned Americans not to believe “rumors” being circulated about health care reform.

“Let me start by dispelling the outlandish rumors that reform will promote euthanasia, or cut Medicaid, or bring about a government takeover of health care. That’s simply not true,” Obama said in his weekly address.

Members of the Senate will join House members back home this week to answer questions and take the temperature of their constituents on the issue. Some town hall meetings have been met with protestors and there is some suspicion that these protests are being waged with the help of lobbyists hoping to defeat the bill.

It’s not a far-reaching assumption.  Most town hall meetings are for questions and answers – so the fact that people want to protest outside before even going inside is a bit curious.  What could be wrong with asking questions?  

Obama didn’t call out who was behind what he suggested were “organized efforts” to demonize the White House-backed health reform plans. He suggested that the efforts were originating in the capital.

The president also warned Americans of what to expect as efforts continue. “As we draw close to finalizing — and passing — real health insurance reform, the defenders of the status quo and political point-scorers in Washington are growing fiercer in their opposition.

“That is why it is important, especially now, as senators and representatives head home and meet with their constituents, for you, the American people, to have all the fact,” Obama said.

While Congress heads home, the commander-in-chief headed south of the boarder for meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon for talks on issues impacting the Americas. 

President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon

President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon

This is the president’s second trip to Mexico in four months; you may recall his last visit was during the worldwide outbreak of the H1N1 virus (swine flu).

Calderon and Obama held their first meeting on Sunday.  They discussed the swine flu, the request for aid to combat Mexican drug-trafficking and Mexico’s growing concerns regarding the ban on Mexican trucks north of the boarder.   

Trade  (NAFTA) will also be an issue when Harper joins the talks.  Canadian officials are concerned with the language in the stimulus bill that encouraged “Buy American” when spending from the $787 billion economic stimulus program.  Canadian companies fear this could send the wrong signal and shut Canadian companies out.  That alone could place stress on trade relations between the U.S. and Canada.

Obama and Congress have a busy week ahead.

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Wake Up Call Needed on Health Care Reform!

Published by Pamela Gentry on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 4:22 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

Aug. 4, 2009 – As members of Congress head home I hope they are greeted with questions about why they have not come to some agreement on health care reform.  What’s the American public really think is going to happen if reform fails this time – they need a wake up call.

If reform fails to pass because loud voices of decent get their way; do the American people really think the insurance industry is going to provide them coverage?  Why should they?

 Do they think their jobs will be able to afford health insurance?  How could they? Cost are rising too fast.   Do they think without federal oversight and regulation insurance companies wouldn’t exclude, deny, and redline folks to keep from allowing treatment and paying claims. 

None of the proposals on the table are “government” health care plans; they are all run by private insurers just like those who run the single-payer program Medicare. President Obama  is asking for ONE public options to insure those who still can’t afford private insurers options being offered. 

Wake up America!  Just think about it, shouldn’t insurance companies be chomping at the bit to open their market up to 47 million more Americans who will pay monthly premiums for health care? 

Shouldn’t they be looking forward to no longer charging paying customers to cover those who can’t pay?  Shouldn’t they be willing to spread their risk among the youngest, healthy individuals and the oldest sickly population and balance their risk and boost their bottom line?

All this talk of socialism, experimentation and fear mongering is to keep the status-quo which exclude the working poor, the uninsured and the under insured.  What the American people need to do is ask tough questions and get some answers from the folks they send to Washington to represent them.

And the first question should be; how much did the insurance industry give to your political campaign and or political action committee?  That way you’ll know if you can trust their answer. 

Do you think you win gain or loose something with health care reform? 

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Health Care Reform is “Urgent and it is Indisputable”

Published by Pamela Gentry on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 12:48 am.

By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst

July 21, 2009 – The future of health care reform is being beat down by the GOP, bogged down by Congress and has bewildered average Americans to the point where President Barack Obama has decided to step-up his involvement to ensure his campaign promise gets back on track.   obama_children-hospital2

“The need for reform is urgent and it is indisputable,” the president told those gathered Monday at Children’s Hospital in northwest Washington, D.C.  The president’s visit included a meeting with health care providers where he said they discussed what he characterized as the “strains on our health care system.” 

This week The White House has health care front and center; on Wednesday the president will hold a national televised press conference undoubtedly to reassure the American people and to keep his critics in check.  Congress has hit an impasse on how to pay for the reforms and Obama is looking for a way to re-start negotiations and stay on his targeted timeline.

 “I think the President strongly believes that we can continue to make progress, that it’s important to do that, and that delay is what opponents and special interests want to do to slow the process down, but American families and small business can’t afford it,” Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary told reporters during Monday’s briefing.

And one of the president’s staunchest critics ,Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, is calling for a “delay.”  Steele said the president was conducting a “reckless experiment with our economy,”  michael-steele-31during his speech at the National Press Club Monday.

“The president is rushing this experiment through Congress so fast, so soon, that we haven’t had a moment to think if it would work — or worse, to think about the consequences to our nation, our economy and our families’ economic future if it doesn’t,” Steele assailed.

Republicans also released television ads against health care reform this week.   

 “Now, we’ve talked this problem to death, year after year.  But unless we act — and act now — none of this will change,” Obama warned.

“And over the past decade, premiums have doubled in America; out-of-pocket costs have shot up by a third; deductibles have continued to climb.  And yet, even as America’s families have been battered by spiraling health care costs, health insurance companies and their executives have reaped windfall profits from a broken system,” Obama said.

The stumbling block now appears to be how to pay for the reform.  The next few weeks the president’s tenacity, political will and determination will be put to the test.  Republicans have said that any reform won’t work, but haven’t offered up any alternatives. 

The president has drawn a line in the sand. “I’ve said this before.  Let me repeat:  The bill I sign must reflect my commitment and the commitment of Congress to slow the growth of health care costs over the long run.  That’s how we can ensure that health care reform strengthens our national — our nation’s fiscal health at the same time.”

Now let’s see if his colleagues in Congress can get the job done.

Do you know anyone without health insurance?

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