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President Rick Perry’s America: No Country For Women

Rick Perry has been governor of Texas since before I was old enough to vote. As a native Texan born in the millennial age, I put Rick Perry in the same category as a cassette player or an AOL subscription — something that has seemingly always been around, but has long since lost its purpose. Coming of age as a woman in Rick Perry’s Texas is sort of like living in the wild, wild west, like an Annie Ovary of women’s health, dodging old men wielding vaginal probes and vaccine mandates. With a governor who has a women’s health record that’s a bumpy country mile long possibly becoming our next president, what would it mean for women across America? Allow me.

First order of business in the Perry presidency would be the creation of the Department of Interior Contraception, or DIC. DIC would oversee approved contraceptive devices under Perry’s watchful eye, the top item on the list being the most widely accepted, reliable option available to God-fearing Americans these days: abstinence. Now, while it’s true Texas has the 3rd highest teen birth rate in the country and also true that a 2005 study found teens in Texas were actually having more sex after undergoing an abstinence-only program, Rick Perry still stands by the practice. Why? Not because there are actually any studies backing him up but “from my own personal life,” Perry told the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith in an interview earlier this year. Comforting, isn’t it? Rather than President Perry making decisions based on studies and figures, the free world will instead hinge on the regularity of his wife’s cycles.

But don’t take Rick Perry’s word for it. Starting in 2012, women (and their partners — suddenly that cowboy vote doesn’t sound so good, does it gentlemen?) will get their very own chance to practice an abstinence-only approach when the recent law that requires health insurance companies to cover birth control will no doubt be rolled back by President Perry.

That brings us to the question of how Perry plans to punish women who don’t fall into line with his tried and true abstinence methods. After all, without threat of punishment, I think it’s safe to say Perry will probably be the only person in America abstaining from sex. For the sinners, Perry has already started a little pilot program right here in Texas.

The state now requires mandatory transvaginal sonograms for women who are 8 to 10 weeks pregnant and seeking abortions. The bill, which Perry declared a piece of “emergency legislation” during the last legislative session, requires the doctor to describe the fetus and play audio of the heartbeat prior to the abortion procedure. President Perry’s version of this bill will include an amendment to play Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” during the procedure.

Alas, if all of this has you feeling down, ladies, don’t fret. Think of all those cute babies we’ll get to have. But in Rick Perry’s America, you may want to home school. Texas ranks first in the nation in adults without high school diplomas. The future also doesn’t look so bright for all those precious little ones when it comes to health insurance and potential jobs: Texas boasts another first in the nation in the percentage of children without health insurance and, in 2010, Texas tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of workers employed in minimum-wage jobs. No wonder Governor Perry wants Texas to secede. It’d sure make us look less stupid.

At a speech given to the United for Life group in June, Perry bragged about Texas’s recently-passed sonogram law and told attendees, “In Texas we have pursued policies to protect unborn children whenever possible.” And you can bet your left Fallopian tube that, if elected, he’ll continue to do the same for the unborn children of America. I just hope there’s a Plan B pill for what happens when all these children grow up — because President Perry, just like Governor Perry, certainly doesn’t plan to care for them.

After all, where Rick Perry comes from, that’s women’s work.

By: Rachel Farris, AlterNet, August 19, 2011: This essay originally
appeared
at MeanRachel.com.

 

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Insurance Companies, Jobs, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Health Insurance Rules Would Let Consumers Compare Plans In “Plain English”

What would your health insurance cover if you got pregnant? How much could you expect to pay out of pocket if you needed treatment for diabetes? How do your plan’s benefits compare with another company’s?

Starting as soon as March, consumers could have a better handle on such questions, under new rules aimed at decoding the fine print of health insurance plans.

Regulations proposed by the Obama administration on Wednesday would require all private health insurance plans to provide current and prospective customers a brief, standardized summary of policy costs and benefits.

To make it easier for consumers to make apples-to-apples comparisons between plans, the summary will also include a breakdown estimating the expenses covered under three common scenarios: having a baby, treating breast cancer and managing diabetes.

Officials likened the new summary to the “Nutrition Facts” label required for packaged foods.

“If you’ve ever had trouble understanding your choices for health insurance coverage . . . this is for you,” Donald Berwick, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at a news conference announcing the proposal.

“Instead of trying to decipher dozens of pages of dense text to just guess how a plan will cover your care, now it will be clearly stated in plain English. . . . If an insurer’s plan offers subpar coverage in some area, they won’t be able to hide that in dozens of pages of text. They have to come right out and say it.”

Industry representatives said complying could prove onerous for insurers. “Since most large employers customize the benefit packages they provide to their employees, some health plans could be required to create tens of thousands of different versions of this new document — which would add administrative costs without meaningfully helping employees,” Robert Zirkelbach, press secretary for the industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement.

Insurance shoppers would also have to keep in mind that their actual premiums could change after they finalized their application, particularly in the case of plans for individuals, which can continue to adjust benefits based on detailed analysis of members’ health history over the next three years. (After 2014, the health-care law will essentially limit insurers to considering only three questions about applicants: how old they are, where they live and whether they smoke.)

The regulation, which is subject to a 60-day public-comment period, essentially fleshes out details of a mandate established by the the health-care law. But it also clarifies a question that the law left somewhat ambiguous: How soon into the application process can shoppers get the summary from insurers?

The regulations would require insurers to provide the summary on request, rather than waiting until someone applies for a policy or pays an application fee, a position that drew praise from consumer advocates.

“If consumers are really going to be able to compare their options, they should be able to easily get this form for any plan that they would like to consider,” said Lynn Quincy, senior health policy analyst for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

In addition to supplying the summary on demand, insurers would have to automatically provide it before a consumer’s enrollment, as well as 30 days before renewal of their health coverage. Plans must also notify members of any significant changes to their terms of coverage at least 60 days before the alterations take effect.

The summary form, which can be sent by e-mail, must be no longer than four double-sided pages printed in 12-point type. In addition to listing a plan’s overall premiums, co-pays and co-insurance amounts, it must include charts specifying the out-of-pocket costs for a range of specific services. A copy can be viewed at www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/labels08172011b.pdf.

By: N. C. Aizenman, The Washington Post, August 17, 2011

August 19, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Consumers, Corporations, Government, Health Care, Health Reform, HMO's, Insurance Companies, Pre-Existing Conditions, President Obama, Public, Regulations | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Reform Act Already Saving Lives Of Many Americans

Is the health care reform law a good deal for Americans, or is it so badly flawed that Congress should repeal it? Now that the measure is one year old — President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to law on March 23, 2010 — I humbly suggest we attempt an unbiased assessment of what the law really means to us, and where we need to go from here.

To do that in a meaningful way, we must remind ourselves why reform was necessary in the first place. I believe the heated rhetoric we’ve been exposed to since the reform debate began has obscured the harsh realities of a health care system that failed to meet the needs of an ever-growing number of Americans.

Among them: seven-year-old Thomas Wilkes of Littleton, Colorado, who was born with severe hemophilia. You would never know it to meet Thomas because he looks and acts like any other little boy his age, but to stay alive, he needs expensive treatments that over time will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thomas’s parents were terrified before the law was passed because the family’s health insurance policy had a $1 million lifetime cap. Thanks to a provision in the law that makes lifetime caps a thing of the past, they can sleep easier at night.

Another person who faced the real possibility of not being able to pay for needed medical care is Robin Beaton of Waxahachie, Texas. Her insurance company notified her the day before a scheduled mastectomy two years ago that it was canceling her coverage. Why? Because Robin had forgotten to note when she applied for insurance that she had previously been treated for acne.

So Beaton – who told her story to a congressional committee — was a victim not only of breast cancer but of “rescission,” a once-prevalent practice in the insurance industry. The congressional panel — the House Energy and Commerce Committee — discovered that just three insurers had rescinded the policies of 20,000 people over the course of a five-year period, confirming for lawmakers that the practice was widespread and growing. By rescinding those 20,000 policies, the three companies avoided paying for more than $300 million worth of medical care, much of it for critically ill people. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Beaton and the rest of us will no longer have to worry that our insurance policies will be canceled when we need them most because of innocent omissions on applications.

Reform Will End Common Insurance Company Abuses

That same congressional committee discovered during another investigation that the four largest U.S. insurance companies had refused to sell coverage to more than 600,000 people with pre-existing conditions over a three-year period. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurers can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. The law will apply to all of us by 2014.

In addition, young people who have not been able to find jobs that offer health care benefits can now stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26. Young adults, many of whom haven’t been able to find jobs, or who work for firms that don’t provide coverage, comprise the largest portion of the nearly 51 million Americans who are uninsured.

The new law also eliminates copayments for preventive services and requires insurers to establish appeals procedures for denied coverage or claims. And the law has additionally begun to close the infamous “doughnut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug program. Medicare beneficiaries are also now getting better coverage for preventive care. And small-business owners who provide benefits to their employees are being helped by tax credits available for the first time.

Another important provision of the new law requires insurers to spend most of what we pay them in premiums on medical care. In 1993, insurers on average were spending 95 percent of our premiums paying medical claims. That average has dropped steadily ever since. In many cases, especially in the individual and small-group markets, insurers have been spending as little as 50 percent on medical care. The law requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent (85 percent in the large-group market) on health care services or quality improvement activities. Those that don’t will have to pay rebates to their policyholders.

Coming Phases of Reform Will Help Control Costs

Other helpful parts of the law will be phased in. By 2014, for example, states will have to set up health insurance exchanges, which should help control costs. Between 2000 and 2010, American families saw annual premiums increase 114 percent on average from $6,438 to $13,770, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. While employers often still pay the lion’s share of health insurance premiums, workers are seeing their portion increase every year. During the last decade, worker contributions to health care premiums increased 147 percent. The exchanges, if implemented as Congress intended, should bring down the cost of premiums by fostering competition among insurers. The exchanges will also require insurers to provide data that will enable us to make apples-to-apples comparisons among various benefit plans.

Even after the law is fully implemented, there will be much to do. While an estimated 30 million Americans will be brought into coverage, more than 20 million others will still be uninsured. There’s also still work to be done on addressing the underlying costs of health care in the United States.

But the Affordable Care Act is a start. Let’s consider it just that — a start — and an important one on our shared journey toward a health care system that works better for all of us. If we stop to think for a moment about what needed to be fixed, about why the health care system in the world’s richest country was failing an ever-growing number of Americans, I believe we will want to continue the journey.

By: Wendel Potter, Op-Ed Columnist, Center for Media and Democracy, March 24, 2011

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Health Care, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, Medicare, President Obama, Uninsured | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Republicans Really Oppose Making Health Care Insurance Cheaper?

The health-care debate has a cyclical nature, and I don’t want to keep writing the same posts over and over again. So rather than write a whole new piece on the GOP’s rediscovery of the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that the health-care law will reduce the labor supply (which they recast as “destroying jobs”), I’ll just link to the long post I did on the subject in January.

In case you don’t want to click over, though, the short version is this: If you make health-care insurance cheaper and make it harder for insurance companies to deny people coverage, then a certain number of people who would like to leave the labor force but can’t afford or access health-care insurance without their job will stop working.

To understand why, imagine a 62-year-old woman who works for IBM and beat breast cancer 10 years ago. She wants to retire. She has the money to retire. But no one will sell her health care under the status quo. Under the health-reform law, she can buy health care in an exchange because insurers can’t turn her away due to her history of breast cancer. So she’ll retire. Or imagine a 50-year-old single mother who wants to home-school her developmentally disabled child but can’t quit her job because they’ll lose health care. The subsidies and the protections in the Affordable Care Act will give her the option to stop working for awhile, while under the old system she’d need to stick with her job to keep her family’s health-care coverage. That’s how health-care reform can reduce the labor supply. If either case counts as a destroyed job, then so does my winning the lottery and moving to Scotland in search of the perfect glass of whiskey.

Moreover, this would happen for any health-care reform that reduced costs and improved access. So when Republicans say that they want a better health-care reform bill that does even more to reduce costs, they’re calling for legislation that, according to them, would “destroy” even more jobs than the Affordable Care Act. If they’re against all legislation that might destroy jobs in this way, then they’re against making health care cheaper. In fact, by that logic, we could just jack the price of health-care insurance up and make it easier for insurers to turn individuals away. Then even more people would have to stick with their employers. Job creation!

By: Ezra Klein-The Washington Post, February 11, 2011

February 12, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commerce Clause Challenges To Health Care Reform

The following article, forthcoming in U. Penn. L. Rev., pinpoints the strongest arguments for and against federal power under the Commerce Clause to mandate the purchase of health insurance:   http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1747189

Among the key points I make in defense of this federal law are:

1. The “commerce” in question is simply health insurance, and not the non-purchase of insurance as challengers have framed it.  Because “regulate” clearly allows both prohibitions and mandates of behavior, mandating purchase is lexically just as valid an application of the clause as is prohibiting purchase or mandating the sale of insurance.

2. Although existing precedent might allow a line to be drawn between economic activity and inactivity, there is no reason in principle or theory why such a line should be drawn in order to preserve state sovereignty.  Purchase mandates, after all, are as rare under state law as under federal law.

3. Challengers do not seriously dispute the constitutional validity of the ACA’s regulation of insurers or the economic necessity of the mandate in order for that regulation to be effective.  In fact, they essentially concede the mandate’s necessity by asking to strike the entire law if it is declared invalid.  Accordingly, the mandate would pass the tests for constitutional necessity articulated by at least seven of the Justices in the Comstock opinion last year, and might even pass the necessity test embraced by Justices Thomas and Scalia.

4. An important challenge, not yet clearly discussed by court opinions to date, is that the mandate does not, strictly speaking, simply “carry into execution” Congress’ other regulatory powers, but is the exercise of a distinct power.  However, both modern and historical precedents under the Necessary and Proper Clause are not limited narrowly to merely implementation measures.  Both Comstock and a series of decisions under the Postal Power are good examples to the contrary since they authorize independent federal powers that expand the range of purposes and measures permitted by express Congressional powers.

5. There is no coherent basis for declaring a purchase mandate to be constitutionally “improper,” and a categorical ban on regulating inactivity would contradict the implicit reasoning underlying several other established precedents — such as those upholding the draft and the Congressional subpoena power.   Also, federal eminent domain allows compelled transactions justified in part by the Necessary and Proper clause’s expansion of the commerce power, when applied, for instance, to citizen’s refusal to sell land for use in constructing highways, bridges, and canals.

6. Using the 10th Amendment to justify a categorical prohibition of purchase mandates (as Randy Barnett has argued) would be no more convincing than using the 9th or 5th Amendments (substantive due process).  Instead, such a move would, for the first time and contrary to precedent, make the 10th a protector of individual liberties rather than just federalism concerns, and would radically enforce an absolute right to economic liberty, regardless of level of legislative justification or judicial scrutiny (see point 9).

7. Slippery slope concerns are no greater here than for any other of a range of expansive federal powers.  Instead, the novelty of the mandate subjects it to greater political constraint, and so “parade of horribles” concerns may be even more unrealistic than similar settings where the Court has rejected them.

8. Grounding the mandate in the Necessary and Proper clause helps to confine its precedential effect by emphasizing it’s necessary role in the ACA’s particular regulatory scheme that, in other respects, clearly resides within the core of the conventional commerce power.  This essential supportive and interconnected role is not shared by free-standing mandates to purchase American cars or broccoli, for instance.

9. Counteracting imaginary slippery slope concerns about absurd hypothetical laws are the legitimate concerns about insurmountable barriers that a prohibition of purchase mandates would erect.  Forbidding Congress from any purchase mandate could cripple necessary efforts, for instance, to require preventive measures in the face of a massive pandemic that threatened tens of millions of lives.

By: Mark Hall, Professor of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law: Originally published in Health Reform Law, January 26, 2011.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform, Individual Mandate | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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