Friday, September 9, 2011

Finally Friday Edition

It's the end of our first week in our new offices, and other than the fact that I've been working 15 hour days, it's all good. Today, we get copier and phone training -- and we're almost done. But first, the news.

Did you watch President Obama's passionate speech last night? I was so glad to see him fired up. I especially appreciated his reminder that America is a country where we care for each other, where we don't just let people sink into poverty and despair without raising a hand to help them. I wasn't thrilled, though, with the fact that he (and the GOP) want to pay for it with cuts to Medicare -- raising the eligibility age -- and Social Security -- smaller COLAs. The President also wants to lower the payroll tax (FICA) -- which makes me nervous because we need that money to fund Social Security. Here are some of the details of the plan. The jobs piece includes a bridge to work, which would allow employers to train the long-term unemployed for 8 weeks without pay (while they keep unemployment benefits) -- sort of a trial run. Of course, the GOP only likes parts of what the President proposes, and without spending on jobs creation, the package doesn't look so great. We'll have to see what they do with it. Speaker Boehner said he would give it consideration -- and he hopes the President will give GOP ideas consideration, too. But the President pledged to sell this plan to the American people by speaking in "every corner" of America. Already, small business is cautiously optimistic. And here are the opinions of several economists, gathered by the Wall St. Journal.

Meanwhile, members of Congress worked on their own plan -- trying to revive the "grand bargain" that failed over raising the debt limit. And the super-committee started their work with optimism. However, GOP leader John Kyl says he won't go along with defense cuts, and threatened to walk away from the super-committee. The super-committee would now also have to figure out how to pay for President Obama's jobs plan if it were to pass.

And in huge news, the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the State of Virginia does not have standing to sue to block health reform. Virginia's lawsuit said that health reform violated a state law that said nobody should be required to buy health insurance, contrary to the federal health reform law. But the Court would have none of it, saying they couldn't pass a law to contradict the federal law and then use that to bootstrap a lawsuit. The Court also said that Liberty University could not challenge the law because it's premature -- the parts of the law they were complaining about haven't taken effect yet, so any alleged harm is purely speculative. We now have a third Court of Appeals decision going to the Supreme Court.

Hospitals are calling for an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare. And conservative policy wonks want the GOP presidential candidates to talk about Medicare and the fact that (they claim) it's driving our deficit.

A major Medicare fraud sting resulted in 91 arrests. The more the feds do to stop Medicare fraud, the less Medicare costs -- it's great to see them stepping up this process.

Carolyn Clancy runs the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and she aims for an error-proof health care system. I surely hope she succeeds.

A hospital in California had a major breach of security, posting patient information on the internet. Before people use technology in ways they don't understand, they ought to be sure it's protected.

And that's today's news. Have a great Friday! Jennifer

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