Friday, December 2, 2011

Finally Friday Edition

Wow -- what a long, strange week it's been (homage to the Grateful Dead). Crazy busy. We did 11 intakes yesterday alone! I'm going to need more lawyers and bigger offices if this keeps up! But first, the news:

Dems are very focused on extending the payroll tax cut, paying for it with a surplus on the 350,000 Americans who earn over $1 million per year. However, in the Senate, the GOP blocked a vote on the measure -- and the Dems think this is a political advantage, demonstrating that the GOP favors the wealthy. The Senate also rejected a GOP proposal to pay for the cut by reducing the size of the federal workforce. There's a second GOP proposal that would pay for the tax cut by making millionaires pay for Medicare. In my opinion, the only advantage to be gained here is on behalf of the American people. Playing politics has gotten us nothing but gridlock. And there's still the matter of extending unemployment benefits before the end of the year; if they don't, an estimated 1.8 million Americans will lose their benefits. Politico says the GOP is getting ready to cave on the payroll tax, unemployment, and the remaining 2012 budget bills. The Hill says the GOP is split, with rank-and-file bucking leadership on these issues. We'll see -- it would be nice if Congress could end the year by actually doing something.

Over 2400 people have signed a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services urging them to reject the Institute of Medicine report on essential benefits. At issue is the essential benefits package, which will set a floor for what insurance must cover. The IOM focused a lot on cost and urged HHS to ensure that insurance is affordable. The 2400 people who signed this letter say the IOM's approach would cause great suffering by limiting benefits. They also alleged that many on the IOM committee have conflicts of interest in that they work for insurance companies.

Connecticut's own Kevin Galvin has asked the Secretary of HHS to intervene in Connecticut's fight over the composition of the Exchange Board. Many of us are very disappointed that there are three former insurance industry executives on the Board and no consumer reps. We are working on various strategies to deal with this. Kevin is at the forefront, as he has been throughout the years we've been fighting for health reform. Bravo Kevin!

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage Plans continues to grow. There was speculation that health reform would hurt these plans, but it doesn't seem to have happened.

The NY Times has featured a story about the Freelancers Union, which offers health insurance to independent contractors and freelancers in New York State, and is branching out in the coming year, creating co-ops around the country. We've been telling people about this organization for years. I just wish they were in all 50 states.

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, and the President celebrated with a pledge to increase funding for AIDS research and treatment.

Although it's illegal to sell your organs for transplant, a court has said it's okay to sell your bone marrow for stem cell harvesting. The Court said it's more like giving blood than giving an organ.

The wonderful Dr. Pauline Chen has written about doctors as poets. Does poetry make doctors better at their job? Fascinating.

And that's the Friday morning scoop. Have a great day! Jennifer

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