Medicare

Show Details for the week of October 31st, 2016

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On The Monitor this week:

  • Is the Affordable Care Act imploding and beyond repair? We discuss the topic with John Geyman.
  • Comey, Clinton, and the politics of investigations – an interview with Coleen Rowley.
  • Reminder – this coming Thursday Greg Palast is coming to Houston and there is a screening of his movie The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. This is a single screening on one night only. Full Details here.

More about this week’s guests:

jgeyman-84_4x6John Geyman is professor emeritus of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine from 1976 to 1990. As a family physician with over 25 years in academic medicine, he has also practiced in rural communities for 13 years. He was the founding editor of The Journal of Family Practice (1973 to 1990) and the editor of The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine from 1990 to 2003. He is a past president of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Quote: “Premium increases for 2017 under the Affordable Care Act are being reported in a number of states (e.g. 59 percent in Minnesota up to 119 percent in Arizona), typically associated with reduced choice of health plans as more insurers exit the market. The costs of health insurance and health care already exceed $25,000 a year for a family of four on an average employer-sponsored plan as these increases become unaffordable and unsustainable for a growing part of our population.” His recent piece lists a host of problems with the ACA, as well as proposals by Hillary Clinton and Republicans. He writes: “Multiple studies have demonstrated that in the U.S. we could save about $500 billion a year by enacting a nonprofit single-payer national health program that streamlines administration. Those savings would be sufficient to guarantee everyone high-quality care, with no cost sharing, on a sustainable basis. The system could also negotiate lower drug prices. Studies over the past two decades have shown 3 of 5 Americans supporting an improved version of Medicare for all. Support for single payer is also growing among doctors and other health care professionals. Yet the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676 (Rep. John Conyers’ bill), with 62 co-sponsors, sits neglected in a House committee.” Geyman is the author of more than a dozen books. The most recent are:

• Health Care Wars: How Market Ideology and Corporate Power are Killing Americans (2012),
• Souls on a Walk: An Enduring Love Story Unbroken by Alzheimer’s (2013)
• How Obamacare is Unsustainable: Why We Need a Single-Payer Solution for All Americans (2015) won a National Nonfiction Book Award
The Human Face of ObamaCare: Promises vs. Reality and What Comes Next (2016)

coleen_rowleyColeen Rowley is a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures — was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She now writes op-eds for Consortium News.

Quote: “Given the beating that FBI Director James Comey is taking from Democratic leaders and partisans as well as from the Clinton campaign, it would be good to remember some of his history. Back in 2013, I wrote a New York Times op-ed [“Questions for the F.B.I. Nominee“] that attempted to question and point out some of the (mostly undeserved) basis for Comey’s reputation for integrity. My op-ed came out the day of his Senate confirmation hearing accompanied by a nice torture graphic (although the Times watered it down a little; for instance, they made me change the word ‘torture.’ We settled on: ‘He ultimately approved the C.I.A.’s list of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding, which experts on international law consider a form of torture.’). The op-ed had little effect as Comey sailed through the nomination with full bipartisan support and only one Senator voting against his confirmation. Comey is neither saint nor villain but someone who has been around the block. As an acting Attorney General, he’s actually been in his nominal boss’s Loretta Lynch’s exact position and knows how the political pressures as well as media disclosures (i.e. leaking to the public) work. Although he wasn’t really challenging mass surveillance of American citizens or the CIA’s use of torture back March 2004 in Ashcroft’s hospital room, he did stand up to John Yoo’s (presidentially ordained) pettifoggery establishing a form of martial law after 9-11, based on (fascistic) ‘imperial presidency’ war powers. Considering his background, I think Comey could be truly worried about the high level of corruption that has engulfed Washington D.C. It should be recalled that he appointed Patrick Fitzgerald as an independent prosecutor to investigate Bush-Cheney’s ‘Plamegate’ perfidy. And don’t forget a young Comey helped investigate the Clintons’ ‘Whitewater’ fraud over two decades ago. Yet after his stint at the Department of Justice, Comey went on to become a Vice-President and General Counsel for Lockheed Martin which donates to and has numerous ties to the Clintons and their Foundation.”

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Show Details for the week of January 18th, 2016

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On The Monitor this week:

  • The misconstrued relationship between automation and wage inequality, with John Schmitt
  • The gap between rhetoric and reality in Hillary Clinton’s assessments of Bernie Sanders’ healthcare plan, with Gerald Friedman

More about this week’s guests:

john-schmitt-web-photoJohn Schmitt is research director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and co-author of the piece, “Don’t Blame the Robots: Assessing the Job Polarization Explanation of Growing Wage Inequality.” (co-authored with Heidi Shierholz — who is now the chief economist at the Labor Department — and Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute). You can follow John on Twitter here.

Background: President Obama said in his State of the Union address: “Now, what is true — and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious — is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up. Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.”

Schmitt Quote: “Technological change is not the force behind rising inequality. Technological change has been a constant feature of the economy throughout the entire 20th century, with no obvious associated increase in wage or income inequality for much of that period. As many researchers have also noted, the timing of the microcomputer revolution doesn’t match well with the jump in inequality. The largest increase in wage inequality took place in the few years between 1979 and 1982, well before personal computers, let alone the Internet, had transformed workplaces. And, the pace of growth in wage inequality slowed somewhat even as computerization spread steadily in the late 1980s and 1990s. Technology is also not well suited to explain important dimensions of wage inequality by gender, race, and age.

gerald_friedman Gerald Friedman is a Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Friedman’s work was cited by the Wall Street Journal about Bernie Sanders’ proposals for government spending. Last year he was featured in an accuracy.org news release: “How WSJ is off by $18 Trillion on Sanders’ Proposals.”
Background:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday night on MSNBC claimed regarding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ healthcare proposals: “The bulk of what he is advocating for is a single payer health care system, which would probably cost about $15 trillion. … it would basically end all the kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the CHIP program, children’s health insurance, TRICARE for the National Guard, military, Affordable Care Act exchange policies, employer-based policies. … It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” Clinton is apparently echoing a Wall Street Journal piece from last year: “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’ Proposals: $18 Trillion,” which relies on the analysis of Professor Gerald Friedman, quoted below. In under 24 hours, a RootsAction.org petition, “Tell Hillary Clinton to Stop Lying About Single-Payer,” has gained nearly 10,000 signers. “A single-payer health plan covers everyone and lowers costs. It does not deprive anyone of health coverage or empower any governor to do so. Unless you’re in the top 5 percent for income, you save more by tearing up your health insurance bills than you pay in higher taxes under single-payer.”
See Politifact debunking of similar claims from the Clinton camp: “Chelsea Clinton mischaracterizes Bernie Sanders’ health care plan.”
Friedman Quote: “The statement that Sanders ‘would take all that and hand it over to the states’ is wrong. What Clinton is doing is shameful. Sanders’ plan would end or transform those programs, but more importantly end employer based healthcare — and that’s good. The gold standard of single payer plans is HR 676, Medicare for All, which actually enhances Medicare and covers everybody. What Sanders has done is take that proposal and — in an apparent attempt to make it palatable to some Republicans — let the states administer the new, comprehensive program. Obamacare allowed coverage for 15 to 20 million people, and that was a good step. But it’s by no means what is really needed. We have 30 million people who are still uninsured and tens of millions who are under insured. The insurance companies still dominate how healthcare is done and that adds tons of overhead costs. Even Medicare now leaves people having to cover 20 percent of hospitalization. Sanders’ proposal solves all those problems — and it also adds pharmaceutical coverage. It does let the states administer it under strict guidelines. That’s not control — it has provisions in place that if they don’t administer it properly, the federal government can move in. It would in effect move administrative functions from private federal contractors to states. The $15 trillion figure is my old number from 2013 for the 10-year cost of a single payer program (HR 676) over and above current federal spending. (The exact number was $14.6 trillion.) That was based on projections from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid statistics from 2009. Later projections have lowered spending and my current estimate of the ten-year cost of a single-payer program would be $13 trillion. I have proposed several alternative ways to finance such a program — all have payroll taxes well under what people pay now for health care, on the order of 3 to 7 percent.”

Show Details for the week of October 28th, 2013

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On this week’s show:

  • New Study on Campaign Cash Behind the National Surveillance State – an interview with Paul Jorgensen
  • The Complexity “Baked into Obamacare” – an interview with Philip Caper

More about this week’s guests:

Paul Jorgensen

Paul Jorgensen is assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas Pan American and a lab fellow of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University. With Thomas Ferguson and Jie Chen, he just completed a major study of campaign finance in the 2012 election. They summarize their results on AlterNet: “Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State.”https://i2.wp.com/www.accuracy.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/table2x.jpg

Quote: “As the storm over surveillance broke, we were completing a statistical analysis of campaign contributions in 2012, using an entirely new dataset that we constructed from the raw material provided by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. … In our big sample, which pretty well approximates ‘business as a whole,’ Obama trailed far behind Romney.”

But they continue: “In sharp contrast to … claims that big business was deeply suspicious of the president, our statistical results show that a large and powerful bloc of ‘industries of the future’ — telecommunications, high tech, computers, and software — showed essentially equal or higher percentages of support for the president in 2012 than they did for Romney.

“We think this finding is the most significant of all: Firms in many of the industries directly involved in the surveillance programs were relative bastions of support for the president.

“Bush and Cheney may have invented it, but national Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in this 21st century National Surveillance State and the interest group pressures that now help to sustain its defenders in Washington work just as powerfully on Democrats as on Republicans.”

They add that “we do not believe that it would be impossible to strike a reasonable balance between the demands of security and freedom that accords with traditional Fourth Amendment principles. … But a system dominated by firms that want to sell all your data working with a government that seems to want to collect nearly all of it through them is unlikely to produce that.”

A preliminary version of their longer study, with several tables, is available as a Roosevelt Institute Working Paper: “Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections: Who’s Really Driving the Taxi to the Dark Side?

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Philip Caper

Philip Caper is a doctor in Portland, Maine and regular columnist at the Bangor Daily News. He is a founding board member of Maine AllCare, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group committed to making health care in Maine universal, accessible and affordable for all. He recently wrote the piece “The High Costs of Complexity in Health Care Reform.” Caper said today: “The problem with the ACA is not that the federal government is involved, but that literally thousands of private insurers have their fingers in the cookie jar, resulting in a law that is much too complicated for what it needs to accomplish, and too complex for anybody to administer efficiently and effectively. … Together, Medicare and Social Security — both run by the federal government — have been successfully providing access to private health care and income security for millions of seniors and the disabled for almost 50 years. They have been a major factor in keeping seniors in our country out of poverty. … We need expanded and improved Medicare-for-All. And we need to vote any politician who won’t advance us toward that goal out of office.”

Show Details for the week of March 25th, 2013

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  • President Obama is back from last week’s visit to the Middle East. One of the countries in his tour was Jordan – a country that has yet to see any changes as a result of the so-called Arab Spring. We talk with about Jordan with Pete Moore, Professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University
  • It appears that Democrats are paving the way for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. In an article titled  “Selling the Store: Why Democrats Shouldn’t Put Social Security and Medicare on the Table“, Robert Reich says: “Prominent Democrats — including the President and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are openly suggesting that Medicare be means-tested and Social Security payments be reduced by applying a lower adjustment for inflation. This is even before they’ve started budget negotiations with Republicans — who still refuse to raise taxes on the rich, close tax loopholes the rich depend on (such as hedge-fund and private-equity managers’ “carried interest”), increase capital gains taxes on the wealthy, cap their tax deductions, or tax financial transactions. It’s not the first time Democrats have led with a compromise, but these particular pre-concessions are especially unwise.” With us to talk about this issue is Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

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More about this week’s guests:
Pete Moore

Pete W. Moore is Professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, and is author of Doing Business in the Middle East: Politics and Economic Crisis in Jordan and Kuwait.

Quote: “Despite comparative quiet in Jordan, the same socio-economic discontent that drove protests in 2011 remains a fact of life in the Hashemite Kingdom. There are numerous factors why Jordanians have not followed in the 2011 footsteps but political leaders in Amman and Washington have good reason remain fearful.”

Pete’s research interests include Economic development and state-society relations in the Middle East and Africa; specifically, Gulf Arab States and Levant; business-state relations, privatization, and decentralization; sub-state conflict and regional security. He also co-authored Beyond the Arab Spring: Authoritarianism and Democratization in the Arab World, with Rex Brynen, Bassel F. Salloukh, and Marie-Joelle Zahar.

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Max Richtman

Max Richtman

A former staff director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and 16-year veteran of Capitol Hill, Max Richtman is President/CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the nation’s second-largest senior advocacy and education organization.  Richtman, who joined the organization in 1989 as director of government relations, was named executive vice president in 1991.  He also serves as director of the National Committee’s political action committee.

During his congressional career, Max Richtman directed a lengthy investigation of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s enforcement of age-discrimination statutes and played key roles in reforms of the multi-billion-dollar federal and Indian oil and gas royalty collection system and Indian health care system.

Max Richtman began his career on Capitol Hill in 1975 as a staff assistant and counsel to the American Indian Policy Review Commission, chaired by Senator Jim Abourezk (D-SD).  In 1977, Abourezk selected him as counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, which Abourezk chaired.  In 1979, he assumed the position of staff director of the committee under new chairman, Senator John Melcher (D-MT).

In 1987, Max Richtman was named staff director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, a position he held until 1989, when he joined the National Committee.