Obamacare– what’s in it for us?

My sense of why the Affordable Care Act failed to inspire the majority of the public is this–
America is hungry for a sane, decent health care system.
The Democrats say to America, “Here’s a nice plate of Spam. It’s a nutritious mix of things kind of mushed together into something you can eat.”
America says, “Yuck.”

The Republicans say, “Here’s a nice plate of smashed light bulbs. They’re the incandescent kind, that Grandma used. Eat up, it builds character. What? You can’t eat broken glass? Then here’s a big plate of nothing– you free-market dropout!”

We’d all rather have steak. I’d rather have a single-payer health care system yesterday, but the Affordable Care Act is a huge step forward toward building a real, sane and adequate health care system that protects Americans from financial ruin if they have accident or illness, and rewards doctors for helping their patients stay healthy. Incidentally– making it harder to profiteer off other people’s misfortune.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to keep administrative costs down and put the premiums into health services.

I was out with Mr.Green at Hope St. Pizza tonight and heard a bunch of guys at the next table talking about the Supremes. One of them was a nurse. I called out to them and did the fist pump and we all cheered.

My Mom listens to crazy radio. I’m waiting to hear her take on this. The ACA has benefits for people on Medicare that will save her from some co-pays and medication expenses. But she’ll tell me it’s a bad thing. Because Death Panels.

My sister-in-law is wondering if there’s going to be part-time Death Panel positions open. She’s a teacher, uses the Glare of Death to cow her students and has some time to pick up a summer job.

I am hugely relieved that we are not back to square one. My family benefits from the provision of the ACA that lets young adults stay on their parent’s insurance. I have been at meetings at the Department of Health where a blueprint for insuring all Rhode Islanders is being drawn up, and the ACA is crucial. It’s way better to be sitting comfortably inside our beautiful Statehouse, than to be standing out on the lawn waving a sign. I’ve done enough of that the past three years. I wish Dave St.Germain were alive to see this day.

Mother Jones has a list of ten things you get now that Obamacare is upheld…

1) Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime coverage limits on your insurance. Never again will you face the risk of getting really sick and then, a few months in, having your insurer tell you, “Sorry, you’ve ‘run out’ of coverage.” Almost everyone I’ve met knows someone who had insurance but got really, really sick (or had a kid get really sick) and ran into a lifetime cap.

See the other nine here.

You’ll say, “Well, duh. Any reasonable society would take these things for granted.”

But we came within a whisker of never getting the ACA passed in Congress, and the Supremes passed it in a 5-4. This is a day in History.

[the writer means no disrespect to Spam, or any of Hormel’s fine canned meat products.]

Waiting on the Supremes

The sense I got at various Dept of Health meetings is that the stakes are very high. A lawyer who specializes in health care said that this will be the biggest decision since Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that mandated access to public school for all America’s children. There are people who dedicate their career to making health care available to all. A few months ago they could not imagine the Affordable Care Act being undone, but today anything is possible.

The crisis will eventually force reform. Crowded emergency rooms, exploding costs and preventable suffering and death are today’s reality. Patients are not consumers, health care is a public need and good– not a venue for profit.

However this plays out, we will not give up. The life you save may be your own. I’m off to work another day in health care, hearing and seeing firsthand the consequences of our fractured ‘system’ and trying to make it work.

Be Fair to Those Who Care

Salon has a review of the third day of the Supreme Court hearings on the Affordable Care Act, titled ‘A Brutal Day for Health Care.’

What I hear on the radio and read in the news as I work in the industry has me heartsick. Science, common sense and common decency say we cannot be a healthy or just nation when some of our hardest workers are one health problem away from bankruptcy. I see the expensive and devastating consequences of having to postpone basic preventive care. With a demographic bulge of older Americans entering Medicare, it seems insane to set them up to enter with dire needs when basic primary care could keep most of us healthy.

On the front lines of health care are millions of low-wage workers, many of whom lack health insurance themselves. They will be some of the first people who will benefit from strong health care reform. If you don’t think of a family, a worker, or an elder when you hear the word, ‘Medicaid’, you should. These are the people I serve. Why should those whose labor makes a public good possible be denied the benefits?

The federal spending issue turns on the expansion of Medicaid. Under the ACA, millions of the working poor – people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level – are eligible for Medicaid. From 2014 to 2016, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs. Then its share decreases, to 90 percent after 2020. Because the ACA also gives states assistance with their new administrative costs, overall state spending will actually be lowered.

Twenty-six states are claiming that this conditional spending unconstitutionally coerces them, because they cannot realistically forgo the money, and because if they refuse to expand their rolls, they might lose every cent of Medicaid money. But let’s be clear: This is not about the states wanting to conserve their own money. It is about the states refusing to spend federal money, to help people that they do not want to help. (Paul Clement, the attorney for the challenging states, declared that his argument would not change if the federal government permanently paid 100 percent of the costs.)

Last week at Brown I heard a legal expert, Sara Rosenbaum, say that this case is the most important since Brown v. Board of Education. Those times also were contentious and painful. This time I fear that we will land on the wrong side of history.

DC Marriage Equality Law Stands

An important legal victory for marriage equality– from today’s Washington Post…

The Supreme Court has declined to revive a lawsuit intending to allow a voter referendum on the District’s same-sex marriage law.

Local courts have said the District’s Board of Elections and Ethics was justified in denying attempts by opponents of same-sex marriage to put the issue to a vote. Without comment, the justices said they would not review the latest decision upholding the board’s decision by the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Religious and conservative legal groups had sued to put the issue of same-sex marriage to a ballot.

Putting the rights of a minority to majority vote is not democracy. Democracy is more than majority rule– the will of the majority is tempered by rights that belong to each citizen regardless of social status.

Today, interracial marriage is a personal decision, not a political controversy. But if the Supreme Court had not decided in 1967 to abolish laws forbidding it, where would we be? Would we be watching a vicious battle state to state that only demagogues would win? Reading history– the kind we would like to forget– gives a stomach-turning dose of the hysterical accusations of ‘miscegenation’ and the imminent fall of the ‘white race’.

The Supreme Court spared DC a divisive and distracting battle that would only have brought out the worst in American politics…

The D.C. appeals court majority said that the board “correctly determined that the proposed initiative would have the effect of authorizing” discrimination.

And the court said the council “was not obliged to allow initiatives that would have the effect of authorizing discrimination prohibited by the Human Rights Act to be put to voters, and then to repeal them, or to wait for them to be challenged as having been improper subjects of initiative, should they be approved by voters.”

Again, demagogues and extremists would have been the winners if this issue had been dragged out.

Forty-three years after the Supreme Court declared interracial marriages equal, marriage endures and most people, as always, choose to marry within their own race. A glance at the New York Times wedding page on any random Sunday shows happy couples, the vast majority same race, opposite sex. And that’s in wicked New York.

Rhode Island is getting ready to consider a marriage equality bill. There are groups locally, and nationally, like NOM, that will be disappointed if we don’t have an acrimonious fight. If we recognize the unions of committed couples, and let them take legal responsibility for each other in the contract of marriage– my prediction is that nothing much will change for most of us. A minority will gain legal equality, and the rest of us will focus on our own families.

Three Supreme Women

Elana Kagan is confirmed by Congress to serve on the Supreme Court.

Judge Sandra Day O’ Connor was the first woman to serve, and Elena Kagan will be the fourth in all of US history. This will be the first time that three of the nine Supremes are women.

It takes over thirty years to build the kind of career that qualifies a person for public service on this level. This is the generation that found opportunity to aspire and succeed. Progress makes history when individuals are the first to achieve, but progress starts with an open door for individuals just starting out.

A more just society today will bear fruit in the next generation.

Vampires Must be Invited

They say that vampires can’t enter your house unless they’re invited. In fact, from Dracula on, the creepy thrill of vampires is their seduction.

I’m stealing a few minutes before a heavy work day, so this will be a little fragmented. The TV is off, the warm insinuating voices of the commercials, which now comprise most of what comes over on the cable service I pay for, are blocked until my husband wakes up and invites them in.

The Supreme Court has decided that corporations are persons with a right to free speech. You, citizen, can stand on a soapbox and shout. The corporation, like a vampire, is kind of a person but different. Like a vampire, it’s got superpowers. In the realm of free speech, the Supremes have decided that you on your soapbox and the corporation with its wealth and network of brand names are equal. So go ahead and do your door to door canvassing. It’s all good.

There’s no way not to invite them in. Every big name owns hundreds of smaller names and you need a detective to find out who really owns who. It’s no secret they own our politicians. Now they have an invitation to own the debate.

A while ago I stopped shopping at Whole Foods. I wasn’t going to freeze my garbanzos holding a sign at the State House for health care reform and then give money to a corporation whose CEO opposed it. Although they’ve removed him from that prominent post, I doubt anything’s changed.

Anyway, I accepted a little inconvenience and started shopping more locally. That has worked out so well I won’t go back. Today, starts the first in a series highlighting small and local businesses as alternatives to the corporations that will now be able to stamp their logos on our candidates openly. Resist inviting the vampires in as an exercise to your skepticism and democratic spirit, because they’ll be out in force by Halloween.

Today’s local business is Yacht Club Soda. Located in North Providence, founded in 1915 and still going strong, Yacht Club uses Rhode Island natural spring water and glass bottles which they sterilize and re-use. This was industry-wide practice before cheap plastic as old-timers might recall. Back when the product had more value than the package. I expect to see a number of candidates brought to us by Coca-Cola. Since the corporations have solidified the right to act as persons ( incredibly powerful and rich aggregate persons with superpowers), I’ll treat them as persons who get on my nerves.
Since they’ve got the Supremes to buy into the philosophy that money is a form of speech, I’ll be mindful of who I give my dollar to.