Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mormon and Green

It seems to me that every instinct that the current American political class has is wrong.  The economy is faltering badly after banks and insurance firms drove it to disaster with too many risks and bad investments?  Let's deregulate, cut programs to the poor and those most vulnerable, and lower taxes on the rich.  The western forests are unhealthy and in bad shape because of decades of mismanagement?  Let's manage them with an even heavier hand.  The debt ceiling is about to be reached, and default by the government could have dire consequences for an already weak economy?  Let's play political games with it.  Climate change problem?  Scientists are communists.  No one seems to have the gumption or desire to stand up for something better.

As I looked over and contemplated my glib list of problems, politically, with America, it became glaringly clear that the Democrats and Republicans don't have the solutions.  They are too entrenched and powerful to come up with big, new ideas to fix big, new problems.  I've known this for quite a while, of course, on some level I think we all do, but the idea is continually sharpening in my mind.  As a Mormon with the political convictions that I have, I feel more and more compelled to cast my lot with the Green Party.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What's Wrong With Us? Some ideas.

Perhaps I'm just in a bad mood, politically, but I made a list of what's wrong with America right now.  Enjoy:
  1. Pointless, horrible wars that we won't end.
  2. An assault on our civil liberties, mostly due to the Patriot Act.
  3. A complete lack of initiative and desire to do something about climate change and out-of-control consumption of fossil fuels.
  4. The deterioration of our public school system.
  5. The ever-growing income disparity chasm between the rich and poor.
  6. A broken health care system and no universal health care on the horizon to fix it.
  7. Underregulated crony corporatism.
  8. Insulated, unaccountable politicians.
  9. Incivility and bigotry.
  10. The New York Yankees.
To sum it up: we have a bipartisan assault on peace, liberty, niceness, the poor, and the environment.  Am I missing anything?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So long Medicaid and thanks for all the CHIPs

As part of the economic recovery/stimulus package of 2009, Congress approved in increase in federal funding levels for Medicaid. Unlike Medicare, which is funded entirely by the federal government, Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. The increased levels provided bumped the federal portion of payments up to ~65% of the total burden. It's hard to pinpoint the numbers because it varies from state to state with wealthy states receiving less support and poor states receiving more.

These increased levels drop back down to the pre-stimulus levels at the end of the June forcing states to adjust. The extra aid was originally scheduled to end last December, but Congress extended it for six months after being petitioned by both the White house and state officials. Now that the extra ~10% is ending thanks to political posturing and focus on national debt, individual state's must now find a way to compensate.

One method for California is to cut payments to recipients and physicians. Of course, these beneficiaries took the American way and sued the state to block the cuts. The case made it to the Supreme Court, but the Justices sided with the state. The 10% nibble might just be the beginning with enormous deficits (and incumbents' seats) causing turmoil. The long-term implications from such cuts are much more frightening. More physicians will likely refuse service to medicaid patients, forcing the latter to visit the ER as a sole means of care. By law, an ER can't refuse a patient even if they have no insurance or means to pay. Likely the shift from visiting general practitioners to showing up at the hospital means a couple of things: longer lines in the ER and in increase in hospital premiums to compensate for the costs (losses) associated with an overrun ER.

In addition to, or instead of, reducing Medicaid payments to providers, some states are finding other options. New York is imposing a cap on Medicaid spending. Connecticut is proposing more precise cuts and is only setting limits on vision and dental coverage. The rest of the states are reporting some combination of truncating payments to providers, reducing beneficiaries services while increasing co-payments, and shifting funds from other state-funding programs (like education) to offset the changes.

As a result of political impotence, combined with the alleged public outcry, there is no universal health care, nor is there any legitimate replacement for Medicaid anywhere on the horizon. Like Senator Rockefeller IV said about the beneficiaries, "Seniors vote. But if you are poor or disabled, you might not vote, and if you are a child, you do not vote - that's a lot of Medicaid's population. They don't have money to do lobbying." I'm concerned that this is the beginning of the end for Medicaid. My advice? Don't get born, don't get poor, and don't get old.

That, or you can go rob $1 from a bank to get a better life.