Tag: obamacare

Obamacare’s Readmission Reduction Program is Quite Literally Deadly

By Dane Larsen | @therealdanelars

The so-called raging success and/or failure, depending on who you ask, of the Affordable Care Act passed by President Barack Obama is often stated as such without question in right-leaning and left-leaning echo chambers of the politisphere. The right has deemed it as a colossal deficiency or a strain on the United States, while the left has deemed it a progressive triumph for the very same country.

It goes without saying that all government operations have their fair share of faults, but the Affordable Care Act included a section beyond the normal text and into the fine print that, when implemented correctly, achieved what it set out for, but caused a reaction that any intellectual could have foreseen from a mile away.

The Hospital Readmission Reduction Program portion of our country’s healthcare alteration allowed the government to levy penalties on companies offering Obamacare policies who’s readmission rates soared after the passing of the ACA. A patient who is readmitted, classified as someone who is granted assistance within 30 days of the previous discharge of that very same hospital, will be denied service.

If the service is not denied and the company performs the necessary treatment, the federal government penalized said companies to an unaffordable degree. In just one year after the passing of this amendment, the New York City Presbyterian Hospital lost $1 million after readmitting patients with heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and lung infections.

This particular example is indicative of the ACA hitting the bull’s eye of the wrong target. While readmission rates have decreased, a clear correlation of mortality rates of citizens relying on Obamacare has increased at a troubling rate. Post-discharged patients with pneumonia and heart failure mortality rates steadily increased in the cited investigation monitoring patients over periods of time after admission. Death rates of those who were denied service raised “0.27% from period 1 to period 2”, then “0.49% from period 2 to period 3”, and finally “0.52% from period 3 to period 4”.

This is not to dismiss the successes of Obamacare, as to do so would be ignorant and refusing to acknowledge that the DNC has done something noteworthy in the past 5 years since the ACA’s passing. The uninsured rate declined from 17.3% in 2013 to 10.8% midway through the year of 2016, reported by a Gallup study. The decrease in the previously stated statistic rations out to roughly one million more people insured that the top 3 cities in the US combined (NYC, Los Angeles, and Chicago). However, with that being said, nothing is ever perfect, most certainly when it comes to government-run entities and programs. When the effects of such mishap result in easily-preventable deaths, feedback and outcry of the public is necessary to demand change in Washington.


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Movements Are Visionary, Not Cautious

Craig Axford | Canada

Hearings, dialogue and debate are, or at least should be, means to an end in a functioning democratic society. Unfortunately, they’re too often ends unto themselves. Promising to study a problem or hold a hearing “to look into it” is what politicians do to make it appear as though they’re interested without ever having to risk their necks by endorsing a particular idea.

So when likely incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans to bring back a select committee on climate change that had been disbanded by the previous Republican majority, it was reasonable for some of the incoming freshmen Democrats to question its real purpose. If committee hearings are going to be held, they’re insisting the hearings be about meaningful climate legislation instead of even more learned testimony on science that’s was settled long ago. As Evan Weber of the Sunrise Movement put it to Politico, “We’ve been talking about the science for the past two decades.”

The incoming Democratic House majority will find it tempting to spend much of the next two years doing little more than poring over Donald Trump’s tax returns, which they will presumably issue a subpoena for early next year. Likewise, the current administration’s cabinet is full of individuals as venal as their chief. It will certainly be refreshing to finally see them all held accountable for their misconduct.

That said, governments don’t build and retain confidence among their citizens merely by diligently investigating corruption. People have proven over and over again that they are willing to tolerate a great deal of unethical behavior in their leaders if, in exchange, they feel they are receiving a reasonable degree of economic and physical security, or even just listened to.

The GOP has mastered the art of creating the illusion that people are getting something in return when they vote for them. Whether it’s so-called “tax relief” or protecting jobs by getting tough on immigration, the Republican Party has consistently been able to convince a significant number of Americans it’s looking out for them even as it stabs them in the back. The antidote to their misleading and often dangerous rhetoric isn’t hearings; it’s direct positive action that translates into real change people can actually see and feel in their lives.

The leadership of the Democratic Party would be wise, therefore, to embrace incoming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s call for the creation of a select committee that instead of just talking about climate change is charged with drafting legislation to do something about it. She is calling it the “Select Committee on a Green New Deal”.

The select committee shall have authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “Plan for a Green New Deal” or the “Plan”) for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality. ~ Section 2 A(i) of the Draft Text for Proposed Addendum to House Rules for 116TH Congress of The United States

 Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution is similar in its approach, if not yet in its level of detail, to Canada’s Leap Manifesto. That document translates the progressive principles that emerged from the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s into concrete proposals aimed at achieving both equality and sustainability.

We want a universal program to build energy efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term…We declare that “austerity” — which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and healthcare, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations — is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.~ Leap Manifesto (Emphasis included in original)

I had the privilege of working as a DNC organizer for three years. I was hired as part of Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy following his election as Chair of the DNC in 2005. Dean’s vision for party-building paid off in 2006 when the Democrats took back Congress, and again in 2008 when Barack Obama won the presidency.

However, the organizing effort that arose from John Kerry’s defeat in 2004 took place in the context of growing opposition to the war in Iraq and a Democratic Party galvanized against the domestic policies of George W. Bush. Then as now, opposition was the driving unifying force on the left. The failure to clearly and consistently articulate what it was for quickly came back to haunt it in 2010.

Yes, there was the passage of Obamacare in 2009, but Democrats have traveled so far from the eloquence and clarity of leaders like JFK and RFK that even when debating universal healthcare they sound wonkish and inconsistent. As I learned upon my temporary return to the United States from Canada last year, even under Obamacare, plans with high premiums and deductibles are still the norm. Mandating the purchase of insurance that doesn’t really provide much coverage is a curious policy to emerge from a political party with a base that consistently argues healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

The Green New Deal and Leap Manifesto offer the left a way out of the political wilderness they’ve been wandering in since at least 1980. These initiatives provide something to be for. They can finally transform the left of the 21st century into a movement that wants to say YES! to something.

By uniting both labor and the environmental movement behind an effort that creates good paying jobs while providing the public with clean technologies that improve lives in both rural and urban communities, the Democratic Party could ensure itself decades of majority status not unlike the one it enjoyed from the 1930s through 1994. It seems like the obvious choice for them to make. So what’s taking Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Leadership so long?

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How the Republican Party is Ruining America

By Manuel Martin | United States

The Republican party is ruining America. It’s time for the GOP to go the way of the dinosaur or endorse Joe Biden. In my past, I have actually been a Republican myself. At the age of 21, I started a local tea party chapter and volunteered with my local GOP central committee. I gave speeches to hundreds of Republicans, pumping them up to fight for smaller government and more freedom. In fact, I even ran for state assembly in California as a Republican.

I was an above average GOP solder. I would get mad when someone “disrespected the flag”, pledging my proud allegiance to it. My long-winded conversations with Republican senior citizens often included trading sentences like, “kids in school don’t even do the pledge of allegiance, can you believe what’s happening to the country?” I was that guy who thought that my flag worshiping was superior to another team’s.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, I paid attention to what they did, not what they said.

The Republican Party and Big Government

Almost all modern Republican officials simply conserve the expanded power of government. The Democrats before put the policies in, and the Republicans do nothing to repeal them. In many cases, they even implement their own additional expansions. Be honest and ask yourself something: What major agencies or legislation have you seen the GOP shut down or repeal? The GOP had the House, Senate, and Presidency with the clear mandate of repealing Oabamcare, but they still haven’t. Why would the GOP not do what they promise? The answer is simple: because they lie. The GOP is not the party of small government; they are the party of rhetoric.

Republican apologists are allowed to have their opinions, but not their own facts. Simply put, Republican administrations in recent history have actually outspent their Democrat rivals. While Carter, Clinton, and Obama increased the national debt by 43%, 32%, and 74%, respectively, the recent Republicans did far worse. In fact, Reagan, H.W. Bush, and W. Bush raised the national debt by 186%, 54%, and 101%. This all adds up to a grand total of 149% and 341%. Of course, neither number is in any way tolerable. However, it is especially despicable that the party of small government raised the debt more than twice as much as Democrats.

The Democrat-Republican Cycle

America! The game Washington is playing with you is simple. Democrats advance a more intrusive and regulatory government while not getting too carried away with spending. Then Republicans, once in power, tend to maintain the size of government (sometimes slowing regulatory growth). But, they do nothing to remove newly established agencies or laws while exploding government spending. When Democrats find themselves back in power, they now have (thanks to Republicans) more money. Thus, they can build new government programs and agencies, furthering control over your life.

Two key factors make this Democrat-Republican cycle possible. First of all, that voters listen to what politicians say, not what they do. The second factor is that voters believe politicians govern according to the rhetoric they espouse. Unfortunately, voters do not pay attention to how politicians govern. Instead, many simply listen to what politicians say and prescribe their economic results to the politicians’ narratives. Because many voters don’t pay attention to details, Republicans can get away with governing like socialists but campaigning like capitalists.

Obama and Republicans

While Obama’s administration was running havoc over the economy, remember, Republicans in Congress passed budgets authorizing all of the abuse and waste. Yes, Obama spent hundreds of billions bailing out Wall Street. But who abandoned free market principles to save the free market system again?

A False Sense of Freedom

Republicans verbally campaign to shrink government and legislate like ardent supporters of big government. As a result, voters never get a chance to experience free market principles in action. Because Republicans are the fake opposition, party voters always experience big government, with or without the brand. Of course, big government will always win when it’s competing against itself.

Republicans are ruining America by tricking voters into attributing controlled-market economic results to free-market capitalism. Constituencies never actually vote for or experience free-market capitalism. Thus, they can never learn the vast differences between it and the two parties’ government-based solutions.

Voter Misinformation

Because of the Republican Party’s fake opposition, voters simply toggle between two parties of controlled markets. The only difference is that Republicans claim to be supporters of capitalism. Is it any wonder that the government continually grows when voters do not have another viable option? Schooling, media, and politicians all teach that the Republicans believe in a free market. How can we expect voters to believe any different? How can we not expect them to misunderstand what a free market really is?

The electoral cycle is eroding a once free and prosperous nation. It unfolds like this: the people vote for Democrats. When their policies fail, the people look for something else. Then, the people vote in Republicans who promise free market solutions. But, the Republicans legislate like Democrats, causing the people to wrongly prescribe the resulting economic failure to free market capitalism. Lastly, the electorate returns to the Democrats to fix the alleged free market inadequacies. Rinse and repeat until the government demands 40% of your income and permanent rent on your home, until they demand that your kids learn their curriculum, until they instill the false belief that without them, society would collapse.

The Republican party is ruining America by promising capitalism and delivering more government. Without a doubt, the great, unspoken truth in politics is that Republicans lie.


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What Canada Can Teach America About Peace, Order & Good Government

By Craig Axford | United States

According to the Canadian historian John Bartlett Brebner, “Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, while Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States.” When my wife and I initially began contemplating a move up north the first half of Brebner’s statement certainly applied to us.

We had visited Canada two or three times, so we were confident that culturally and linguistically most of the country was similar enough to ensure adapting wouldn’t be too difficult. And of course, there was single-payer healthcare. Like every other American we had an opinion on that topic. In our case, it was a favorable one. If affordable healthcare wasn’t going to come to us, we were willing to try going to it.

But beyond a very basic understanding of its healthcare system and the fact that most of the country spoke English, we lacked even a fundamental knowledge of Canadian history. The cultural attitudes that made something like universal healthcare possible north of the 49th parallel while it remained maddeningly impossible below it was even more of a mystery. After living there for seven of the last eight years we are still figuring that out. Now, as we prepare to return to Canada again after a year in the United States, we are looking forward to continuing our field research.

The decision to move north can best be described as prompted more by a push than a pull. Political discourse had already deteriorated in the US by the time we left 2010. In spite of the wave that brought the Democrats back into control of Congress in 2006 and the financial crisis that helped propel Obama into the White House in 2008, getting a debate on proposals such as a public healthcare option remained impossible. In addition, the Tea Party movement was tightening its hold on the Republican party and public figures like Donald Trump were actively promoting crazy theories about things like President Obama’s birthplace.

I had been working for the DNC as a party organizer but felt frustrated as attempts to hold the party’s “big tent” together consistently translated into watered down messages that everyone could more or less agree on but no one could get excited about. The vision once so eloquently and proudly expressed by leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy seemed increasingly unlikely to return in my lifetime.

I was tired of hearing bold ideas being consistently dismissed as “impractical” by Democrats and attacked as “socialist” by Republicans. If other developed countries had managed to implement successful programs that few US politicians were willing to seriously consider, then it seemed a safe bet that these nations must necessarily have some cultural or political advantage the US lacked. Canada was the closest, most convenient, and most affordable option available under the circumstances.

Shortly after our arrival in 2010, I returned to school as a student at the University of Victoria. Among my first courses was a class in Canadian government. My understanding of the parliamentary system at the time is best described as a vague impression formed by American high school history courses that focused on the Revolutionary War period and included some antipathy for the monarchy. In the years since I had gotten a glimpse now and then of question periods in the British House of Commons that left me wishing C-Span’s congressional coverage could be as entertaining but unconvinced having a prime minister was necessarily preferable to having a president.

The acronym POGG is so familiar to Canadians that it never occurred to the professor teaching my Canadian government class that she should actually use the full phrase once or twice for the benefit of uninformed students like me. To the only American in the room, POGG sounded like a children’s toy or a game rather than the acronym for a phrase found in the British North America Act of 1867.

Peace, order and good government (POGG) was, it turned out, a line commonly inserted by the British Parliament throughout the 19th century into laws granting colonies greater autonomy from London. In Canada’s case, it was written into section 91 of the British North America Act. Section 91 describes the extent of the Parliament of Canada’s authority. As you might imagine given there are 90 sections that precede it, it lacks the lofty rhetorical quality that America’s founders successfully achieved in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the US Constitution.

“It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada, in relation to all Matters not coming within the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces; and for greater Certainty, but not so as to restrict the Generality of the foregoing Terms of this Section, it is hereby declared that (notwithstanding anything in this Act) the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say, [a list of 29 enumerated powers follows]

But in spite of its placement deep into the pages of the British North America Act and the context, Canadians have given the phrase “Peace, order and good government” roughly the same status Americans give to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It was upon realizing the emphasis Canadians place upon POGG that many of my own frustrations with the United States became clearer.

I came of age during the Reagan years. During most of my lifetime “good government” has been something American conservatives have been willing to consider a possibility only if it comes in a very small package. Ronald Reagan liked to refer to the sentence “I’m with the government and I’m here to help” as “the nine most terrifying words” an American could hear. Some of us are convinced to this day that it was his administration’s primary mission to prove it.

There’s a significant qualitative difference between a debate about the minimum a government can/should do and one about the maximum. The former involves deliberating about the question of how low it’s reasonable to go while the latter is contemplating how high it’s possible to climb. For all the current talk about making America great again, its reach exceeding its grasp has never been in its problem.

Obviously, there are many millions of people living in the United States that don’t share the Republican conviction that government can’t be a force for good or that it’s relative smallness matters more than function. The difference between the US and Canada isn’t that one country has people that have faith in their government while the other doesn’t. The primary difference appears to be that in one country the debate about government’s responsibility to be a positive force is still raging while in the other all the political parties, including the Conservative Party, start every policy debate with that as their premise.

Canada is an evolutionary culture, not a revolutionary one. As such, it’s no surprise that the phrase it so strongly identifies with is less stirring than “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and can be affectionately referred to by its acronym without the slightest hint of disrespect. Moving to Canada made me conscious for the first time that I prefer evolution to revolution and gave me the reason why. Adaptation means allowing people time to reflect upon the society they want and to make the necessary adjustments. Revolution, on the other hand, involves a sudden reactionary change that leaves the details to be worked out later. America is often referred to as an ongoing experiment in democracy precisely because more than two centuries after its successful revolt those details are still being worked out.

Of course, the words “Peace, order and good government” are not by themselves a panacea. Like “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” the aspiration is left to each citizen and generation to define. Canadian governments, like their American counterparts, have been guilty of promoting systemic racism and other injustices. Both church and state forced generations of indigenous children into residential schools in an effort to “civilize” and “Christianize” them. The effects of this practice continue to be felt within Canada’s native communities and were the subject of a truth and reconciliation commission whose findings the country is still working to implement.

But that there’s been a truth and reconciliation commission at all is a reason for hope. In contrast, the United States has strenuously resisted launching any similar effort to reconcile itself to its history of slavery and the genocidal atrocities committed against its own native population. Exceptionalism and rugged individualism remain very much a part of the American myth and both of those beliefs keep getting in the way of a true reckoning with the injustices of the past.

The name Canada derives from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata,” which means “village” or “settlement.” In a very real sense that it took a village to raise a child was never nearly as controversial there. On our first Canada Day in British Columbia, we noticed that the country’s annual celebration of its autonomy had a more communal feel to it. As we traveled into downtown Victoria to join the throngs gathering to celebrate people broke out into choruses of Oh Canada! on the bus. On the lawn of BC’s parliament, citizens gathered to listen to the performers on the large outdoor stage and dressed in red and white t-shirts to compete with other major cities across the country to form the largest human Canadian flag.

This was a city coming together to celebrate their country in a way we had rarely if ever seen in the United States. It was a day of organized chaos that included everything from browsing at the booths merchants had set up along the waterfront to watching street performers and drinking beer on the outdoor patios of local pubs and restaurants. I was used to family get-togethers on the 4th of July, but not such large community ones. This was as much a commemoration of humanity and cosmopolitanism as it was of Canada. Village or settlement indeed.

In August of 2017, we encountered a visa snafu. Somewhere along the line a box that should have been checked wasn’t or one that shouldn’t have been was. As a result, my application for a new student visa was denied and I needed to leave the country. My entry into a master’s program at Royal Roads University was deferred for a year while we worked it out. In a few days we’ll be crossing the border into Canada again at which point we’ll know for sure whether we have all our I’s dotted and T’s crossed. This time, we hope, everything is in order. We have preliminary approval so we’re optimistic.

It’s not that we don’t love the United States. We do. But we like having a parliament with members from five parties instead of a Congress with members from two (Bernie Sanders and Angus King notwithstanding). Nor will we miss the gridlock that has come to define US politics and which divided government is literally designed to perpetuate. America’s ongoing debate about the role of government has once again devolved into a tribal partisan battle that challenges the value of even having democratic institutions in the first place.

Canada isn’t perfect, but as far as we can tell it has at least put many of the fundamental questions that America continues to wrestle with behind it. That’s not to say Canada is immune to the same undemocratic populist sickness that currently infects its southern neighbor, but it does have a stronger immune system.


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Heavy Elitism Created Trump and a Movement of Populism

By Jack Parkos | United States

In light of recent events on the border, we have seen many American Democrats attack President Donald Trump. In fact, they have given him much of the blame for separation at the border. However, this policy has been law since Bill Clinton was president. When he signed it into law, there simply was not this much backlash. There was not mass anger when George Bush or Barack Obama enforced it: only when populist Trump did.

Border separation is wrong, but it is illogical to solely blame Trump. Attacks on the president are quite frequent from all sides of the aisle, but there is a particular note of interest in regards to them. Ironically, they never seem to criticize when criticism is due. The best way to look at Trump is objectively. Call out when he is good, call out when he is bad, and hope he does the right thing. But elitists often refuse to do this, and this created Trump and the anti-media populism movement.

Often times, everywhere from the media to college campuses, right populism receives negative attention. Common talking points include the notion that gun rights advocates do not care about children, and that those who want to replace Obamacare do not care about the poor. In many instances, such as these, people use strawman arguments against right populism.

In general, elitists refers to a number of groups. It references the mainstream media, first of all. In general, mainstream media shows considerable bias, thus molding the view of the people from a more elite standpoint. However, it also includes groups such as Antifa, which rarely allows those with differing viewpoints to speak peacefully. Both of these groups, ironically, allowed for Trump to rise.

When Trump came along, he was controversial. His supporters jumped on the train, while the elitists went to war with him. The media called him Fascist and called his supporters neo-nazis. Hillary Clinton even called his supporters deplorable. Whether a fan of Trump or not, it’s clear the coverage was biased. In fact, CNN spent 93% of their Trump-related news coverage in early 2017 on the Russia scandal. Though this is an important issue to cover, many others, such as the Obamacare replacement bill, were not given sufficient coverage because of this.

Does this mean the media shouldn’t ever criticize the president? Obviously not. A free press is key in a major society. But, if the media is going to be so extreme, it shouldn’t be so shocked with the result. Actions have reactions. In this case, elitist media bias created populist backlash. When the government and media appear corrupt, the people will stand against them.

Elitists, in this sense, created their own worst enemy. Though Trump’s lack of professionalism at times is not excusable, it also does not take away from the fact that elitism is what brought the man into office. Populism was due to rise, and Trump is merely the figurehead of the broader movement.


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