Archive of Articles in the "Health Care" Category

The Clock Starts Ticking

[ Posted Tuesday, August 24th, 2021 – 14:40 UTC ]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just pulled off a very big win. The House just voted (220-212) to advance the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, which will allow both houses of Congress to begin hashing out the actual details and draft the language into a final bill. This was accomplished by cutting a deal with the Mod Squad -- the nine conservative House Democrats who balked at voting for the reconciliation bill before the final vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal. In the end, Pelosi convinced them to do what they had sworn they wouldn't -- vote to move the reconciliation bill forward. To get them on board, Pelosi gave them an iron-clad promise to put the infrastructure bill up for a vote on September 27. Pelosi has always said she was going to schedule a vote on it "before October 1" (when transportation funding runs out, making it a hard deadline), so this wasn't all that big a concession for her to make.

Of course, there's still no guarantee Pelosi's "two-track" strategy will work, in the end. But she just moved a big step towards making it work. There are really only three important votes left in the process: the House infrastructure bill vote, and both houses passing the same version of a budget reconciliation bill. And since the infrastructure bill's clock is now ticking (with a hard deadline), it means the Senate and the House only have a little over a month to make the other two votes happen.

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The Return Of Doomscrolling

[ Posted Thursday, August 19th, 2021 – 16:53 UTC ]

I haven't written about the progress of the pandemic data for a while, so I thought it was time to take a close look at the fourth wave. Mostly because one thing the Delta mutation of the COVID-19 virus has brought back (at least for me) is "doomscrolling" -- checking in on a daily basis to see what the numbers are and what the data show. It's not exactly a pleasant picture, but there are glimmers of hope here and there, at least.

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Why I'm Not Worried About The California Recall

[ Posted Tuesday, August 17th, 2021 – 15:39 UTC ]

In my mail today, I received my ballot for the upcoming gubernatorial recall election here in California. But while plenty of pundits have been sounding alarms and all but tearing their hair out over the prospects that Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom could be out of a job in a matter of weeks, I am much more sanguine. The reason I am so calm is that the one poll which caused everyone to freak out was really a comparison of apples and oranges. I think Newsom will sail through the recall unscathed, in fact, winning by at least a 10-point margin. The entire exercise will be yet another example of "fiscally responsible" Republicans wasting a whole bunch of money for no apparent reason -- to the tune of the over $200 million that this recall is costing California taxpayers.

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Friday Talking Points -- Legislative Trains Running On Both Tracks

[ Posted Friday, August 13th, 2021 – 17:55 UTC ]

Astoundingly, the United States Senate just had a very productive week. We know the word "astoundingly" is a bit snarky, but we do try to be honest, after all. After months and months of delays and headfakes, this week the final two legs of President Joe Biden's three-legged economic agenda passed the Senate, just before they left on an abbreviated summer break.

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Reaganism's Death Knell

[ Posted Wednesday, August 11th, 2021 – 16:19 UTC ]

Ronald Reagan was the first president in the modern age who truly understood the importance of television cameras and snappy one-liners to advance his political agenda. This wasn't that big a surprise, seeing as how he had been a minor Hollywood movie actor and learned the impact of visual presence on the screen at an early age. He used this to great advantage both in his campaigns for president and, once he won, in the Oval Office itself. And one of his best lines was a take on a very old joke. Reagan was fond of summarizing his antipathy towards "big government" with the following quip: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help!'"

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The Frustration Of The Vaccinated

[ Posted Tuesday, August 10th, 2021 – 16:30 UTC ]

In all the discussion over how to convince unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated, I have noticed one suggestion popping up repeatedly -- but always down in the comments, never proposed by any pundit or politician (that I am aware of, at least). It's a simple and elegant answer to the problem, although I have no idea whether it could actually be legally implemented or not. Or if it should, for that matter. The idea? If you choose not to get vaccinated, then your health insurance company should inform you that you will not be covered if you get it and are hospitalized. Your insurance would still work for all other ailments and treatments, but not for COVID-19.

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Bernie's Bill On Deck

[ Posted Monday, August 9th, 2021 – 16:42 UTC ]

In the midst of all the excruciating (and completely unnecessary) delaying tactics Senate Republicans are now deploying over the bipartisan infrastructure deal, Senator Bernie Sanders today apparently decided enough was enough and released his draft of a $3.5 trillion "human infrastructure" bill. It is just as breathtaking as promised, although the nature of this first bill means it is still vague on a lot of the details. This is by design, since the bill will pass under budget reconciliation rules which necessitate a first "topline" bill that just has the totals for various different areas of the budget, while later on (Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set a soft deadline of September 15, although this may prove to be optimistic) the details will all be filled in by the various committees on a second (and final) budget reconciliation bill.

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Friday Talking Points -- A Pandemic Of The Unvaccinated

[ Posted Friday, August 6th, 2021 – 16:11 UTC ]

President Joe Biden gave a speech this week on where the country stands with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was a timely thing to do, since with the Delta mutation so ascendant, we've now entered a fourth wave which has already grown bigger than the first two waves (but, thankfully, not yet bigger than the third). Right now, 100,000 people are getting sick each day -- which is up from just 12,000-per-day a few short weeks ago. The good news is that fewer people are dying than when the third wave surpassed the 100,000-infections-per-day mark, because now over 70 percent of all American adults have gotten at least their first vaccine shot. But what's changing now is that vaccinated Americans have pretty much lost all tolerance for the unvaccinated among us. When the graph lines were all heading downwards and restrictions easing, it wasn't that big a deal. With them skyrocketing back up again, it is. And businesses and governments and the vaccinated population are at the end of their rope when it comes to making allowances for the anti-vaxxers.

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[ Posted Thursday, August 5th, 2021 – 16:10 UTC ]

As I write this, it is still unclear whether the Senate will undergo the marathon parliamentary endurance contest known as "vote-a-rama" tonight or not. If so, the Senate will likely be in session until the wee hours of Friday morning finishing up the amendment process on the bipartisan infrastructure deal. This could even lead to a cloture vote and final passage of the bill before the weekend, although that still has to be considered a longshot. Saturday passage might be a lot more realistic, although the chances of at least the vote-a-rama happening tonight appear to be greater [note: former Senator Mike Enzi's funeral is scheduled for Friday, which effectively scratches that day from the schedule].

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Minimizing Red Tape

[ Posted Monday, August 2nd, 2021 – 16:29 UTC ]

There is an abject lesson in the failure to successfully get federal help to renters and landlords in a timely fashion. And I'm not talking about how Congress and President Joe Biden couldn't manage to extend the eviction moratorium deadline, either. That was a preventable tragedy, but what's even more instructive is the fact that of the billions earmarked for rental assistance, only a tiny fraction of the money actually made it to the people it was intended to help. Compared to how the direct COVID-19 pandemic aid payments were distributed, it's pretty easy to see there's a right way and a wrong way to deliver federal aid. With Bernie Sanders now putting the finishing touches on a vast expansion of federal programs to make people's lives better, one certainly hopes this lesson has been learned so that future programs won't get so bogged down in red tape or bureaucracy that they wind up being both ineffective and frustrating.

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