Romney’s problem

Sometimes, there’s nothing more effective than satire. From the Onion:

BELMONT, MA—Though Mitt Romney is considered to be a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, the national spotlight has forced him to repeatedly confront a major skeleton in his political closet: that as governor of Massachusetts he once tried to help poor, uninsured sick people.

Romney, who signed the state’s 2006 health care reform act, has said he “deeply regrets” giving people in poor physical and mental health the opportunity to seek medical attention, admitting that helping very sick people get better remains a dark cloud hovering over his political career, and his biggest obstacle to becoming president of the United States of America.

“Every day I am haunted by the fact that I gave impoverished Massachusetts citizens a chance to receive health care,” Romney told reporters Wednesday, adding that he feels ashamed whenever he looks back at how he forged bipartisan support to help uninsured Americans afford medicine to cure their illnesses. “I’m only human, and I’ve made mistakes. None bigger, of course, than helping cancer patients receive chemotherapy treatments and making sure that those suffering from pediatric AIDS could obtain medications, but that’s my cross to bear.”

And count on Ezra to really bring the point home:

That’s the Onion, of course. But it’s all true. I’ve remarked previously on the absurd fact that Republicans appear to consider Rick Perry, who governs a state where fully 26 percent of the residents are uninsured, more credible on health care than Mitt Romney, who passed reforms driving Massachusetts’s rate of uninsurance down to 5 percent.

NC (Republican) Legislature wants to protect me from Sharia

Well, apparently creating our own currency is not enough, now the Republicans in the NC legislature has taken on the oh-so-important cause of protecting me from Sharia law.  Thank goodness.  I was worried I was going to have my hand cut off for shoplifting.  Via Laura Leslie:

The state House Judiciary C committee sent a bill to the House floor today, even though no one – not even the sponsor – could come up with any evidence that it’s needed.

House Bill 640, sponsored by Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, would, according to the bill analysis, “prohibit the application or enforcement of a foreign law in a legal proceeding if doing so would violate a right granted by the North Carolina or United States constitutions.”    It would also nullify provisions in contracts or agreements “calling for the application of foreign law or choosing a foreign venue…if it violated a constitutional right of a party.”

Cleveland said the measure would protect North Carolinians from someone “going to a foreign law book.”

Democrats on the committee pointed out that the federal and state constitutions already supersede other laws, and that international law principles are well-established in courts and law schools.

Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake [my very cool rep], warned that the bill could cause serious problems for treaties and business contracts in NC. She asked for comment from the Department of Commerce and international business experts. Neither was there to testify.

“I’m not understanding the need for this law,” Weiss said. “I’m not sure what problem we’re fixing.”

Cleveland said he’s running the bill because of “a couple of federal cases a few years back.”

Rep. Verla Insko asked Cleveland twice for an example of a case that would show a need for the bill. “I do not have any specific examples off the top of my head,” Cleveland finally replied.

When Republicans campaigned in the Fall, they claimed that their focus would be about jobs.  Instead we get our own currency, efforts to make guns more widely available, huge cuts in education, and now they’re going to protect us from Sharia.  Of course, this all just means that representative democracy is a very blunt instrument.  Because the economy was bad while Dems were in office, Reps get to take over and introduce all this stuff that has very little popular support (and is often just plain nuts).  Ahhh, Democracy in action.

Orthotics and Medicare

If there’s anything that shows the bipartisan idiocy and venality of the US Congress, surely it’s the objection to that Independent Medicare Advisory Panel.  Why have doctors and other medical professionals decide what treatments, medical devices, etc.,  it is worthwhile and costs effective to cover when you can have politicians do it?!

David and I had a nice visit with his orthodist (one trained in fitting custom orthotic devices– we’ve been going through a series of less instrusive devives to stretch out David’s tendons and get him off of walking on his toes  the latest are actually invisible in is shoes– hooray!).  Anyway, she had actually just been up in DC last week to lobby members of Congress about how Medicare covers orthotic and prosthetic devices.  We discussed some of the meetings she had.  Hey, more power to her for making her voice heard, but this is not how decisions should be made about how and how much Medicare covers.

One of the best parts of the ACA was the establishment of a Independent Payment Advisory Board to take on these issues free of political influence.  Sadly, member of Congress would rather just see Medicare costs rise unendingly and make their various constituents (though, not the American taxpayer) happy.  Who else but Ezra with the details:

It all goes to your theory of cost control in Medicare. In practice, I think liberals and conservatives both agree that Medicare’s problems have a lot to do with Congress’s inability to resist entreaties from the program’s users and suppliers. Conservatives think Medicare is constantly petitioned by seniors who want more lavish benefits, doctors who want higher reimbursements, device manufacturers who want their products included, etc. Liberals see it similarly, though with a more corporate spin: Medicare Part D doesn’t negotiate for low drug prices because drug companies persuaded legislators to stop Medicare from negotiating discounts on drugs…

What’s somewhat clearer is how IPAB solves this: You’d still have the traditional Medicare claimants running to their member of Congress to complain, but now he or she would be able to say, “there’s nothing I can do,” and, even better, “it’s not my fault.” IPAB’s recommendations can’t be amended and they can’t be filibustered, so individual members have vastly less control over the process than they traditionally have. All Congress can do is fully replace an IPAB recommendation with a reform that saves the same amount of money or muster both a supermajority and a presidential signature to stop IPAB from acting. Either path requires a lot more effort than undermining cost control does right now.

That’s (a) why IPAB is promising and (b) why a lot of members of Congress want to get rid of it and replace it with something that interest groups like better. In that way, the IPAB repeal effort is a useful way of sorting the legislators who want to control Medicare’s costs from those who want to preserve their power to keep Medicare’s costs from being controlled.

Chait takes down some of the ridiculous statements by Members of Congress trying to defend their largely indefensible position:

They don’t object to difficult decisions being “punted.” They object to difficult decisions being made at all. It’s not as if we haven’t tried letting Congress exert direct control over Medicare spending. We’ve had that system in place for 45 years. The answer is alwaysspend whatever you want.

If efforts to eliminate or completely defang the IPAB are successful, you can forget about us having any meaningful cost controls on health care spending for some time.  And that’s something that should concern every American.  Sadly, it doesn’t seem to concern much of our Congress.

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