Archive for March, 2010

Post Health Care Reform: What Washington “Insiders” are Saying

Posted on March 25, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

After a grueling couple of weeks of 12 hour plus days, working weekends, worn out shoes and cell phone casualties, it looks like the dust is finally settling on health care reform.

Capitol Hill post health care reform, what the insiders are saying:

• Morally compelling, arithmetically terrifying.

• It will be interesting to see where the Health and Human Services earmarks go for FY11. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority go to the Blue Dogs and other Democrats who were on the fence on health care reform and ultimately voted for it.

• Whether you agree or disagree with health care reform the public vitriol surrounding the issue has been taken to a new level. When walking with a friend who once worked for Rep. Louis Stokes as we passed a bunch of rowdies. They spit on her. I couldn’t believe it. Takes me back to the 1960s, only most of those activists were much better mannered. They also demonstrated better spelling on their signs.

• I’d like to have been a fly on the wall on Air Force One last week.

• The true opinion of the American public on the health care plan will come with the mid-term elections in November.

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Health Reform the Law of the Land, Now What?

Posted on March 25, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

On Tuesday President Obama signed into law a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system that will significantly impact Americans across the board.

The $938 billion health care bill, passed by the House 219 to 212 without a single Republican vote, ushers in the biggest changes to the U.S. health care system since the creation of the Medicare program in 1965. Among its provisions the bill will provide health coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans; expand the government health plan for the poor; and impose insurance reforms like barring companies from dropping coverage for the sick and halting the practice of denying coverage for pre-existing medical condition.

Some of the reforms take effect within months while others, like the requirement that most Americans must have health insurance or pay a penalty, and that employers with more than 50 employees must provide health coverage to their workers or face a fine, don’t kick-in until 2014.

The President in signing the bill said it enshrines “the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.”

The yearlong push to pass health care reform, the centerpiece of the President’s agenda, was seen as a test of Obama’s political power. It was an extremely contentious battle with the outcome in doubt right up to the final moment.

The fight is far from over. Republican lawmakers have vowed to repeal the bill and GOP Senators, a day after the President’s signing ceremony, attempted to derail the so called “fixes” to the bill by introducing a series of amendments that would send the bill back to the House for another vote. While most of the amendments were rejected, at least two provisions of the reconciliation bill will require a second House vote. The revisions, termed as “minor”, deal with the federal student loan program and the exemption of mobile mammography units from a federal fuel tax.

Senate Democrats are confident the House will “quickly” pass the fixes to the health bill.

On another front, the attorney generals of 14 states, all but one Republicans, have sued to block the new health care law, claiming that the federal government can’t mandate the purchase of medical insurance.

The far-reaching health care bill, which also seeks to check rising health care costs and shrink the federal budget deficit, will be paid for in part by a combination of tax hikes, fees on insurance companies, drug makers and medical device manufacturers and Medicare spending cuts.

While the Congressional Budget Office has projected the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $142 billion in the first 10 years, what are the other impacts of the health care revamp?

Surprisingly, one of the bills most significant impacts has nothing whatsoever to do with health care, but will change how college educations are financed.

Attached to the health bill that initially passed the House, but must now survive a second vote, is the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which would bar private lenders from originating federal student loans. Instead, federal student loans would come directly from the Department of Education and will save the federal government as much as $7 billion per year.
Like the Republicans, the health insurance industry was vehemently opposed to the health care bill, but according to the Wall Street Journal “insurance stocks rallied” as investors began to realize their worst fears had not materialized.

Likewise, it is predicted that drug companies and hospitals will benefit since the bill will create millions of newly insured patients.

Even the commercial real estate industry is expecting a bump from health care reform. The bill is expected to grow demand for primary medical services, which translates into a demand for medical office buildings.

Share your views on this historic bill by commenting below.

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Mr. Bayh Says Nay

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

“Mr. Bayh?”
“Aye.”
Ahhh, that familiar rhyming couplet that so often echoed across the floor of the Senate when Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh responded to a call for his vote in the affirmative.
But last month, the moderate and pragmatic Mr. Bayh shook the political world with a loud and resounding “Nay.” Nay to a run for a third term. Nay to his Democratic colleagues who desperately need every vote they can get in the upper chamber. Nay to politics as usual.
“For some time, I’ve had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should. There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress; too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving. Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people’s business is not getting done,” Bayh said in stern, stinging remarks announcing that he would abandon his bid for reelection in November. Ouch.
These are not the words of a man abandoning a race he could not win. On the contrary, Bayh had $13 million in the bank and was cruising into the campaign season with a double digit lead in the polls over Republican challenger Dan Coats, the former senator who has a well-earned reputation as a partisan hardliner.
Bayh’s announcement and his condemnation of the partisan miasma that has engulfed Capitol Hill in recent years should be a wakeup call for the body politic. Sadly it won’t be. Bayh’s succeeded in getting the attention of the partisan leadership, but the focus was more on the political ramifications of his pending departure and less on what it says about the institution. Many in politics missed the point: Bayh’s departure is more than a loss for the Democratic party, it’s a loss for the Hoosiers he represents and for the nation.
Perhaps it is his experience as a governor, where results are demanded and measured, that fueled his frustration. He is not alone here. Of the eleven Senate incumbents that have decided to retire this year, three others — Republicans Christopher “Kit” Bond of Missouri, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and George Voinovich of Ohio — also are former governors.
The point here is that politics and winning elections is not all that matters. As Bayh said: “Running for the sake of winning an election, just to remain in public office, is not good enough.” Lawmakers should be focused on running the country, not running their campaigns.
Bayh is not the first lawmaker to leave Washington in disgust, confirming the fears of many Americans that “politics is broken.” But that message rings truer when it comes from a popular and accomplished centrist politician with a history of moderation and bipartisanship.
America needs more Mr. Bayh’s, not less

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“It Is Absolute Chaos Up Here”

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The sun was shining the other day on Capitol Hill as lawmakers went about the business of legislating. The proceedings were decorous and orderly as hearings were held, votes taken. And something actually got done: The House voted 217 to 201 to approve a $15 billion jobs bill.

Like an early spring, March arrived just in time after a February of utter discontent that left Congress and the rest of the government frozen in their tracks. “It is absolute chaos up here,” one experienced Washington lobbyist remarked.

As February dawned, Democrats in Congress and the President were still reeling from news that their once bullet-proof 60-vote super-majority in the Senate was lost when Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts seat held for more almost 50 years by Democrat Ted Kennedy. This was enough to push the President’s prized health care package to the back burner in favor of a modest jobs bill.

Brown came to town on Feb. 4 and was sworn in by Vice President Biden. But the next day it wasn’t just the legislative process that was paralyzed as a massive snow storm struck Washington. That lost weekend soon became a lost week as a second blizzard hit the region.

“Snowmageddon here in D.C.,” President Obama said as he addressed Democratic National Committee members in the middle of the onslaught. More than 30 inches of snow closed the federal government for a week and buried legislative action on the Hill. Guards, kids with sleds and the occasional cross country skier were the only signs of life on Capitol Hill.

The Democrats’ plans to seek quick action on the jobs bill was put on ice as the blizzard gave way to lawmakers’ week-long President’s Day vacation (which they like to call their “district work period”).

Capitol Hill hardly needed another jolt, but one came on Feb. 15 when Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh declared politics broken and said he would not seek reelection this fall. Still hung-over from their Massachusetts defeat, Democrats suddenly faced the likely loss of another precious seat.

But the thaw began on Feb. 24, when the House voted, 406 to 19, to strip health insurance companies of their exemption from federal antitrust laws.

The next day, the Senate took up and passed the jobs bill, which would give tax breaks to companies who hire people who had been out of work for 60 days or more. The measure passed 70 to 28, with 13 Republican votes.

While those actions may appear to represent a warming trend between Democrats and Republicans, don’t put your snow shovel away just yet. Democrats are returning this month to their massive health care reform package over the strong objectives of Republicans. Their plan is to move the bill forward under a procedure known as reconciliation which will prevent Senate Republicans from filibustering.

Reaction from the Republicans has been harsh; with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicting the maneuver will “have devastating consequences for the Democratic Party.” The chill, it seems, remains.

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