Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Care Vote and What You Get, Iraq War Anniversary - News Roundup 21 Mar 2010

From Denny: Well, it's finally here, the health care vote. And finally, we get a summary of what is actually in the bill so the average guy can view the terms. Tonight it looks like the House has the votes. Now it's on to the Senate to do their part and let's hope there is courage in that chamber.

This video is interesting on what President Obama has to say about this critical moment in America's history. Many presidents before him for a hundred years have tried to get past the big money interests to achieve a basic human right for the average American: affordable accessible health care.

The abortion issue was a thorny one as usual and is what held up the vote for so long. Personally, I'm no fan of paying for someone's abortion just because they were too lazy to educate themselves about birth control. If it involves the health or life of a woman then I'm fine with paying for it but not if it's just a stopgap measure because they couldn't get their birth control right and didn't want to feed another child. While teenage girls get the most press for using the abortion option, the reality is that it is married women who are stressed economically and don't want another child who use the option more statistically.

If you ever had any doubts about whether Republicans are racists and The Tea Party is the most vociferous racist arm of the Party, doubt no more. Check out the story below. They have shamed themselves and their fellow Americans. They sound like a pack of howling "Free Barrabas, Crucify Jesus!" types coming into the Easter season. These same people call themselves Christians. Uh, huh, sure...

And lastly, let us remember this week was the seventh anniversary of the Iraq War. Hard to believe, isn't it? Yes, it has gone on this long, wearing out a lot of people, devastating families. It sure doesn't look like we have accomplished much for our blood, tears and public treasury. It's time to leave the nation building to the people who actually live there in Iraq and Afghanistan. We did all we could with a Stone Age mentality. You can't force people to grow and change to the point of forcing them to fast forward several centuries in developmental thinking and cultural changes. You can free a slave - but is he or she still enslaved in their minds and hearts? They must choose for themselves.


President Obama on Critical Health Care Vote:



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Health Care Vote: Latest Developments: (CBS) The House began a series of votes at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time that is expected to culminate in a final vote in the House on the health care package at some point in the evening, potentially around 9:00 p.m. CBSNews.com will provide regular updates on the situation in the House below.

Updated 7:50 p.m. ET

Vote Count: With Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Paul E. Kanjorski (D-PA) announcing they are a "yes" vote, the CBS News vote count has Democrats with more than the 216 votes they need for passage.

Meanwhile, the final vote on rule for debate on the Senate and reconciliation bills passed around 6:30 p.m. It passed by a 224 to 206 margin, setting up roughly two hours of final debate. Every Republicans and 24 Democrats voted against passage, but the vote was taken as an indicator that Democrats have the necessary votes for the bill.

"We've been able to come up with an agreement to respect the sanctity of life on health care reform," Stupak said at an afternoon press conference. He said he had always supported health care reform but could not support the package unless he was absolutely confident that there would be no public funding for abortion.

Stupak's change of heart came as President Obama agreed to release an executive order that he will issue an executive order backing up the existing ban on taxpayer funding for abortion. The White House released the executive order minutes before Stupak announced his decision.The National Organization for women released a statement saying it was "incensed" by the White House move.

Stupak had opposed the bill because he didn't feel its language restricting taxpayer funding of abortion was sufficiently strong, and he said he had a block of lawmakers who would vote with him unless changes were made to the bill or there was a separate vote on abortion. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ruled out a separate vote and the nature of budget reconciliation meant that changes to the Senate abortion language could not be made.

When asked by reporter if Democrats have enough votes to pass health care during the press conference, Stupak said, "We're well past 216."




Health Care Reform Bill Summary: A Look At What's in the Bill: (CBS)

Cost:

$940 billion over ten years.

Deficit:

Would reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the first ten years. That is an updated CBO estimate. Their first preliminary estimate said it would reduce the deficit by $130 billion over ten years. Would reduce the deficit by $1.2 billion dollars in the second ten years.

Coverage:

Would expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.

Health Insurance Exchanges:

The uninsured and self-employed would be able to purchase insurance through state-based exchanges with subsidies available to individuals and families with income between the 133 percent and 400 percent of poverty level.

Separate exchanges would be created for small businesses to purchase coverage -- effective 2014.

Funding available to states to establish exchanges within one year of enactment and until January 1, 2015.

Subsidies:

Individuals and families who make between 100 percent - 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and want to purchase their own health insurance on an exchange are eligible for subsidies. They cannot be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid and cannot be covered by an employer. Eligible buyers receive premium credits and there is a cap for how much they have to contribute to their premiums on a sliding scale.

Federal Poverty Level for family of four is $22,050

Paying for the Plan:

Medicare Payroll tax on investment income -- Starting in 2012, the Medicare Payroll Tax will be expanded to include unearned income. That will be a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for families making more than $250,000 per year ($200,000 for individuals).

Excise Tax -- Beginning in 2018, insurance companies will pay a 40 percent excise tax on so-called "Cadillac" high-end insurance plans worth over $27,500 for families ($10,200 for individuals). Dental and vision plans are exempt and will not be counted in the total cost of a family's plan.
Tanning Tax -- 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services.

Medicare:

Closes the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" by 2020. Seniors who hit the donut hole by 2010 will receive a $250 rebate.
Beginning in 2011, seniors in the gap will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. The bill also includes $500 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade.

Medicaid:

Expands Medicaid to include 133 percent of federal poverty level which is $29,327 for a family of four.

Requires states to expand Medicaid to include childless adults starting in 2014.
Federal Government pays 100 percent of costs for covering newly eligible individuals through 2016.

Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid.

Insurance Reforms:

Six months after enactment, insurance companies could no longer denying children coverage based on a preexisting condition.
Starting in 2014, insurance companies cannot deny coverage to anyone with preexisting conditions.
Insurance companies must allow children to stay on their parent's insurance plans through age 26.

Abortion:

The bill segregates private insurance premium funds from taxpayer funds. Individuals would have to pay for abortion coverage by making two separate payments, private funds would have to be kept in a separate account from federal and taxpayer funds.
No health care plan would be required to offer abortion coverage. States could pass legislation choosing to opt out of offering abortion coverage through the exchange.

**Separately, anti-abortion Democrats worked out language with the White House on an executive order that would state that no federal funds can be used to pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or health of the mother. (Read more here)


Individual Mandate:

In 2014, everyone must purchase health insurance or face a $695 annual fine. There are some exceptions for low-income people.

Employer Mandate:

Technically, there is no employer mandate. Employers with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance or pay a fine of $2000 per worker each year if any worker receives federal subsidies to purchase health insurance. Fines applied to entire number of employees minus some allowances.

Immigration:

Illegal immigrants will not be allowed to buy health insurance in the exchanges -- even if they pay completely with their own money.




Health Care Reform Protesters Yelled Racial Slurs: (CBS) Congressman Says He Heard "the N-word" 15 Times While Navigating Through Protest; Gay Slurs Hurled at Rep. Barney Frank. House Democrats heard it all Saturday - words of inspiration from President Obama and raucous chants of protests from demonstrators. And at times it was flat-out ugly, including some racial epithets aimed at black members of Congress and gay slurs directed toward one of Washington's openly gay lawmakers.

Most of the day's important work leading up to Sunday's historic vote on health care was being done behind closed doors. Democratic leaders cajoled, bargained and did what they could to nail down the votes they will need to finally push Mr. Obama's health care overhaul bill through the House.

But much else about the day was noisy, emotional and right out in the open. After more than a year debating the capstone of Mr. Obama's domestic agenda and just hours to go before the showdown vote, there was little holding back.

The tone was set outside the Capitol. Clogging the sidewalks and streets of Capitol Hill were at least hundreds - no official estimate was yet available - of loud, furious protesters, many of them tea party opponents of the health care overhaul.

Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., told a reporter that as he left the Cannon House Office Building with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a leader of the civil rights era, some among the crowd chanted "the N-word, the N-word, 15 times." Both Carson and Lewis are black, and Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones also said that it occurred.

"It was like going into the time machine with John Lewis," said Carson, a large former police officer who said he wasn't frightened but worried about the 70-year-old Lewis, who is twice his age. "He said it reminded him of another time."

Kristie Greco, spokeswoman for Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said a protester spit on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who is black and said police escorted the lawmakers into the Capitol. Cleaver's office said he would decline to press charges, but Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the U.S. Capitol Police said in an e-mail later: "We did not make any arrests today."

Clyburn, who led fellow black students in integrating South Carolina's public facilities a half century ago, called the behavior "absolutely shocking."

"I heard people saying things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus," Clyburn told reporters.




Iraq War's 7th Anniversary Came and Went: (CBS) (CBS) Washington has always been a one-story town. And for the last few weeks - months, really - the story has been health care reform. It's all we've been talking about.

Which is probably one reason a rather important anniversary passed almost without notice: March 19... the seventh anniversary of the Iraq invasion, which began our longest war...

But in the age of the all-volunteer military, few of us remember much about a war that had so little effect on our day-to-day lives - especially a war where questions still exist over whether it should have been fought at all...



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