We're over the hump. But the fun is just beginning. Tomorrow is the day the Republican Supreme Court gives President Obama the defeat on health care that Antonin Scalia also wanted to deal him on immigration law. CLOSING OUT:
* WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? I received today — and have printed in full on the jump what you can also get at the link — the large and tangible benefits to Arkansas from the health care law Republican justices will legislate out of meaningful existence tomorrow. A little late to be selling this now, don't you think, Obama administration? When chest-beating Republicans get through winning a few more state and federal legislative seats through the largely uncontested demonization of this law, then they'll really give public health and welfare a whuppin'. Repent at leisure those who joined the chorus of naysayers. By the way, should I be wrong and the law is upheld, Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford says the state is ready to do its part. If it is overturned, well a half-million uninsured Arkies are SOL. Here, a prominent liberal says what the strategy should be if the law goes down. Democrats should go after a Medicare expansion and emphasize Republican plans to wreck a successful program that does have cost control mechanisms.
* ANOTHER BLACK YOUTH GUNNED DOWN: An elderly man gunned down a 13-year-old black Milwaukee youth he suspected of a crime. Problem: the crime occurred while the child was in school. The man has been charged with homicide, at least. But I don't think this Crooks and Liars account exaggerates a worrisome trend toward vigilantism and the prevalence of firepower that enables summary execution. AND SPEAKING OF GUNS: Research indicates "stand your ground laws" are producing more homicides.
* PERCHANCE TO DREAM: The Arkansas Citizens First Congress, a progressive grassroots group, has adopted a wish list for the 2013 legislature. Highlights: Adoption of best practices legislation for the gas industry, the Equal Rights Amendment, election reform, wage theft prevention and more good-sounding stuff that the powers-that-be are sure to hate.
* NEW AGRICULTURE CHIEF: Roby Brock says former state Rep. Butch Calhoun will be named to succeed Richard Bell as the state's agriculture commissioner.
* WORSHIPPING THE CORPORATE GOD: Good piece in Huffington Post on corporatists' effort to run off the academically respected president of the University of Virginia in favor of someone ready to push harder for cheaper on-line education and more inculcation of the supposedly superior corporate way of doing things in education. (Does that include enormous salaries and benefits for college presidents who fail to make a profit?) On-line education is high on the University of Arkansas agenda and, at Fayetteville, it long ago outsourced its birthright to corporate control, particularly as embodied by Walton family philosophy. I liked this passage about UVa:
For some, it is emblematic of how the cult of corporate expertise and private-sector savvy has corralled the upper reaches of university life, at the expense of academic freedom and "unprofitable" areas of study.
"There is this sort of shift in the zeitgeist," says Tal Brewer, chair of UVA's Philosophy Department. Brewer sees a new, heightened cultural "adoration of the business mind as capable of bringing clarity, organization and efficiency to any kind of institution...I just think that's a deep mistake."
In an era in which the best and the brightest financiers laid the groundwork for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the Supreme Court allowed corporate sponsors and wealthy donors to upend the political system with unlimited campaign contributions, Brewer says he sees the upheaval in Charlottesville as more of the same.
* ANDREW ZIMMERN HAS NOTHING ON THE CLINTON SCHOOL: Fun post today on the Clinton School of Public Service blog on the unusual food students sample on study abroad. Hot and spicy spiders in Cambodia. Royal Rat in Belize. Ostrich chili in South Africa. Nobody went to Malawi, apparently. My daughter reports on a roadside snack there — mice on a stick, fur and all. (The picture below is not from her, but from a blogger working in Malawi.)
GOVERNMENT NEWS RELEASE ON CHALLENGED HEALTH LAW
How the Health Care Law is Making a Difference for the People of Arkansas
For too long, too many hardworking Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to insurance companies and put barriers between patients and their doctors. The Affordable Care Act gives hardworking families in Arkansas the security they deserve. The new health care law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit, or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
All Americans will have the security of knowing that they don’t have to worry about losing coverage if they’re laid off or change jobs. And insurance companies now have to cover your preventive care like mammograms and other cancer screenings. The new law also makes a significant investment in State and community-based efforts that promote public health, prevent disease and protect against public health emergencies.
Health reform is already making a difference for the people of Arkansas by:
Providing new coverage options for young adults
Health plans are now required to allow parents to keep their children under age 26 without job-based coverage on their family coverage, and, thanks to this provision, 3.1 million young people have gained coverage nationwide. As of December 2011, 35,000 young adults in Arkansas gained insurance coverage as a result of the health care law. For more details on these numbers, visit here.
Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors
Thanks to the new health care law, 36,178 people with Medicare in Arkansas received a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. Since the law was enacted, Arkansas residents with Medicare have saved a total of $33,558,481 on their prescription drugs. In the first five months of 2012, 5,410 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount has resulted in an average savings of $640 per person, and a total savings of $3,460,414 in Arkansas. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole.
Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay
In 2011, 380,845 people with Medicare in Arkansas received free preventive services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies – or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. And in the first five months of 2012, 169,384 people with Medicare received free preventive services. Because of the law, 54 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 439,000 in Arkansas.
Providing better value for your premium dollar through the 80/20 Rule
Under the new health care law, insurance companies must provide consumers greater value by spending generally at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements instead of overhead, executive salaries or marketing. If they don’t, they must provide consumers a rebate or reduce premiums. This means that 115,461 Arkansas residents with private insurance coverage will benefit from $7,787,177 in rebates from insurance companies this summer. These rebates will average $114 for the 68,300 families in Arkansas covered by a policy.
Scrutinizing unreasonable premium increases
In every State and for the first time under Federal law, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. Arkansas has received $4.9 million under the new law to help fight unreasonable premium increases.
Removing lifetime limits on health benefits
The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 865,000 residents, including 333,000 women and 219,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014.
Creating new coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions
As of April 2012, 574 previously uninsured residents of Arkansas who were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created under the new health reform law. To learn more about the plan available in Arkansas, check here.
Supporting Arkansas’s work on Affordable Insurance Exchanges
Arkansas has received $8.6 million in grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of Affordable Insurance Exchanges.
· $1 million in Planning Grants: This grant provides Arkansas the resources needed to conduct the research and planning necessary to build a better health insurance marketplace and determine how its exchange will be operated and governed. Learn how the funds are being used in Arkansas here.
· $7.6 million in Exchange Establishment Grants: These grants are helping States continue their work to implement key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Learn how the funds are being used in Arkansas here.
Preventing illness and promoting health
Since 2010, Arkansas has received $13.8 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. This new fund was created to support effective policies in Arkansas, its communities, and nationwide so that all Americans can lead longer, more productive lives.
Increasing support for community health centers
The Affordable Care Act increases the funding available to community health centers in all 50 states, including the 82 existing community health centers in Arkansas. Health centers in Arkansas have received $30.4 million to create new health center sites in medically underserved areas, enable health centers to increase the number of patients served, expand preventive and primary health care services, and/or support major construction and renovation projects.
Strengthening partnerships with Arkansas
The law gives states support for their work to build the health care workforce, crack down on fraud, and support public health. Examples of Affordable Care Act grants to Arkansas not outlined above include:
· $1 million for school-based health centers, to help clinics expand and provide more health care services such as screenings to students.
· $530,000 to support outreach to eligible Medicare beneficiaries about their benefits.
· $286,700 for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, organizations run by and for families with children with special health care needs.
· $8.9 million for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs. These programs bring health professionals to meet with at-risk families in their homes and connect families to the kinds of help that can make a real difference in a child’s health, development, and ability to learn - such as health care, early education, parenting skills, child abuse prevention, and nutrition.
· $2.2 million from the Pregnancy Assistance Fund to provide pregnant and parenting teens and women with a seamless network of supportive services to help them complete high school or postsecondary degrees and gain access to health care, child care, family housing, and other critical support.