Sunday, March 29, 2015

Paul Cook's [R, CA-08] , Pete Aguilar's [D, CA-31] and Steve Knight's [R, CA-25] Vote for H.R. 1470 [now H.R. 2] is the beginning of the end for Medicare....

Repost of a great press release:
Repeal SGR, but Don't Privatize MedicareThursday, 26 March 2015 00:00 By Ida Hellander, Physicians for a National Health Program | Press Release
The bipartisan "Doc Fix" legislation (H.R. 1470, now H.R. 2) and proposed amendments will undermine traditional Medicare and advance the goal of privatization, according to Dr. Don McCanne in a series of posts to his popular health policy blog, the Quote of the Day. If enacted as it presently reads, it will:
1. Limit choice of physician in traditional Medicare. Physicians in traditional Medicare would be subject to onerous new documentation requirements for payment and financial incentives to avoid complex patients under the proposed "Merit-based Incentive Payment System." The additional paperwork burden will push physicians to stop seeing patients with traditional Medicare, retire, avoid older and sicker patients, or go to work for large organizations using “alternative payment models” (which are exempt from the requirement and more likely to have contracts with private Medicare plans).
2. Reduce access to care in traditional Medicare. Imposes a deductible that cannot be covered by Medigap insurance (starting in 2020) to encourage patients to join a private plan. The current Part B deductible is $147 annually, although that figure has been rising in recent years; 95 percent of traditional Medicare beneficiaries have supplemental insurance that covers the deductible and other cost sharing in Medicare. The only way to avoid the deductible in the future will be to join a private Medicare Advantage plan.
3. Raise Medicare’s costs by driving more patients into private Medicare Advantage plans. Private plans have already cost Medicare an excess of more than $282 billion since 1985. Mandatory deductibles and reduced access to physicians in traditional Medicare will drive more patients into private Medicare Advantage plans, which are more costly than the cost of caring for patients in the traditional fee-for-service program. Although Obamacare was supposed to reduce the amount the private plans are overpaid (the “Medicare cuts” in Obamacare), these have been mostly offset by “adjustments” and “quality awards” by the Department of Health and Human Services.
4. Undermine Medicare's popular support by requiring higher income seniors to pay higher premiums (means testing). Under means-tested premiums, higher-income individuals will be required to pay larger premiums, undermining the support of this influential group for Medicare program. Although the income subject to extra premiums is high, it can always be reduced in the future.
5. Ending the SGR should cost $20 billion, not $210 billion. These drastic measures aren't even necessary. According to Bruce Vladeck, a former top administrator at Medicare, “Since the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) was implemented in 1998, total Medicare physician expenditures have exceeded the allowed amounts by only $20 billion (on a total of almost $1 trillion). To recoup that all in one year would require a 21 percent reduction in fees for one year. And those reduced fees would then become the base for payment levels in all subsequent years. In a rational world, Congress would write off the $20 billion as a relatively small policy error and establish a more realistic prospective formula. But under Congressional budget rules, the cost of doing so is not $20 billion, but $20 billion per year, compounded by inflation, times 10 years.”
6. The GOP sees this bill as a step towards their longer-term goal of turning Medicare into a voucher program for private plans, shifting more costs onto patients. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., a staunch conservative, told the Washington Post he is supporting the bill because it will lead to much greater savings beyond the traditional 10-year time frame for estimating costs. Newt Gingrich stated the GOP’s goal succinctly in 1996: “Now, we don't get rid of it [Medicare] in round one because we don't think that that's politically smart, and we don't think that's the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it's going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it -- voluntarily.”
7. Other features:
Continues funding for safety-net programs
* Two-year extension for CHIP
* Two-year ($7.2 billion) extension for Community Health Centers
Restricts abortion, adds funds for war
* Makes Hyde Amendment permanent law. Since the ACA is a permanent statute, any amendment to any part of the ACA becomes part of U.S. Code.
* $94 billion in additional military spending in an “off-budget account.”

Paul Cook [CA-08] and his Republican Thugs Want to Fund their buds' Tax Cuts and Special Interest Giveaways on the Back of Social Security..same broken record

Michael Phelan @ Social Security Works [source:]:

"Five years ago, when the mainstream media said "everybody knows Social Security benefits will be cut soon," we fought back. When they insisted that expanding Social Security was a fringe issue that nobody should take seriously, we fought back. The fight continues, but I want you to see how far we have come.

Over the last couple of days, 115 of the 188 Democratic members of the House and 42 Democratic Senators have voted to support expanding Social Security benefits. Just before recessing this morning, the entire Senate was put on record on how they plan to handle the future of Social Security. And these votes hold major implications for 2016 and beyond.

During a marathon budget “vote-a-rama,” two important Social Security amendments were offered. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) offered an amendment protecting all Americans against cuts to Social Security benefits. And around 2:30 in the morning, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) offered an amendment advocating for the expansion of Social Security.

Every Democratic Senator who was present but two voted to expand Social Security. Every Democrat but one voted against all cuts.

In sharp contrast, no Republican voted to expand Social Security.

The Democratic Party has apparently re-discovered what they stand for:
Shared economic prosperity; a secure retirement future; and a strong social safety net to keep millions of veterans, children, and disabled workers from falling into poverty.

Together we have moved nearly the entire Democratic caucus from cuts to expansion. This is a monumental moment in our fight to protect and expand Social Security’s modest benefits.

Right now, the average annual Social Security benefit is just $14,000. These earned benefits are crucial to over 59 million Americans, two-thirds of whom rely on Social Security for the majority of their retirement income. It lifts more than twenty million Americans -- including more than a million children -- out of poverty each year. And it lessens the depth of poverty for millions more. It provides a floor of economic protection under our nation's workers and their families.

But this hasn’t stopped the Republican Party from launching an all-out attack on our earned Social Security benefits. Since day one of the new Congress, Republicans have been manufacturing phony crises and promoting policies that benefit their friends on Wall Street instead of protecting the retirement security of millions of hardworking Americans. They want us to believe that Social Security is going broke and won’t be there for future generations.

The truth is that Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus, can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 18 years and approximately 80% of benefits owed after that. And all we need to do is ask the very wealthy to start paying their fair share and we can not only extend the lifespan of the Social Security trust fund, we can expand benefits for millions of Americans.

These votes have major implications for 2016 and beyond providing the American people with a clear alternative to the Republican Party’s dangerous policies of cuts and privatization.

If Social Security expansion becomes the number one issue in the upcoming presidential race, it is going to make for a very interesting election".

Blogger Bob's thoughts: Heh, Cook has his military and Assembly pensions, tri-care and Cal-Vet benefits--what does he care? The race to the bottom has got to end soon because when the vets and retirees hit it, there will be little to nothing left to bail them out.