The Affordable Care Act ? the health care law ? gives seniors the security they need and important new benefits. Signed into law in March of 2010, it will save money for seniors and ensure people with
Medicare can see the doctor they know and trust. Here are five ways the law helps you:
1. You get cheaper prescription drugs. If you?re in the donut hole, you will receive a 50 percent discount when
buying brand-name prescription drugs covered by Medicare Part D. The discount is applied automatically when you ill your prescription?you don?t have to do anything to get it. These changes are already saving
seniors billions of dollars. And by 2020, the donut hole will be closed.
2. You get free preventive services. Medicare now covers certain preventive services, like mammograms or colonoscopies for free. You also can get a free annual wellness visit.
3. Your doctors are supported to better coordinate your care. Many doctors, hospitals, and other
providers are taking advantage of new programs to help them work better as teams to provide you the highest quality care possible. They are working to get you the care you need at the time you need it.
4. The law ights fraud and strengthens Medicare. The Affordable Care Act builds on our efforts to combat fraud and abuse. These efforts are saving billions of dollars in money that was being stolen from people with Medicare. And thanks to these efforts and other reforms, the life of the Medicare Trust fund will be extended.
5. Your Medicare coverage is protected. Under the new health reform law, your existing Medicare-covered benefits can?t be reduced or taken away. As always, you will be able to choose your own doctors.
Visit http://www.healthcare.gov/seniors for more information
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New survey numbers from Pew show the explosion in the consumption of news via mobile devices. [...]
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Democrats tell House Republicans, Don't expect any cover from us on privatizing Medicare. [...]
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This is Part 1 of a two-part post I'm calling, "Running against the state." Part 2 will be along in a bit, and at that point you'll see what the title is about.
Part 1 is about the NSA, because we always want to keep you informed about the news here at Casa Chez Nous. And this really is news ? a major Wired article about what the NSA is building and just how big the National Spook apparatus really is.
As you read this, do think about the NSA. But also consider the state itself as an entity. The NSA is a part of the state.
James Bamford reports in Wired on where we are with the NSA, how far have they gone in their domestic spying and what's in the works. It's technologically fascinating and politically frightening (sorry, kids, but someone has to tell you; my emphasis and paragraphing):
The NSA Is Building the Country?s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)The article is full and well worth your read.
... Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world?s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.
The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails?parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ?pocket litter.?
It is, in some measure, the realization of the ?total information awareness? program created during the first term of the Bush administration?an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans? privacy.
But ?this is more than just a data center,? says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes.
And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle?financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications?will be heavily encrypted.
According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: ?Everybody?s a target; everybody with communication is a target.?
The broad outlines of the so-called warrantless-wiretapping program have long been exposed?how the NSA secretly and illegally bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was supposed to oversee and authorize highly targeted domestic eavesdropping; how the program allowed wholesale monitoring of millions of American phone calls and email.Start reading there to focus on this part of the article. Again, fascinating.
In the wake of the program?s exposure, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which largely made the practices legal. Telecoms that had agreed to participate in the illegal activity were granted immunity from prosecution and lawsuits. What wasn?t revealed until now, however, was the enormity of this ongoing domestic spying program.
For the first time, a former NSA official has gone on the record to describe the program, codenamed Stellar Wind, in detail. ...
The former NSA official [Binney] held his thumb and forefinger close together: ?We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.?The article doesn't go further, but stays focused on data collection. This is the most intriguing part of the interview, however, and clearly the author included it deliberately and provocatively. The speaker meant something by the comment ? we just aren't told what.
The problem, as Greg Sargent at the Wash Post notes, is that when confronted with the news that they were losing the message war with the GOP - that the public had accepted the Republican argument that the best way to help the economy was to cut spending, which would in fact shoot the economy in the foot - rather than fight back against that message, rather than educate the public, the White House embraced the fallacy in order to shore up the President in the polls.
First Greg quoting the book, then Greg:
This is something a number of us suspected, and warned about, for a while now. That the White House communications team - likely a reflection of, and constraint imposed by, the President's own thinking - has been too predisposed to what the public thinks, and to what Congress thinks, while giving less attention to whether they have the ability to move the public and Congress on any given issue. And what's worse, they ceded much of the debate to the GOP, which is why I believe we keep seeing such terrible polling on health care reform. The Republicans seem to attack HCR far more than the administration defends it. Which is somewhat understandable as the message is "jobs" - but we might not have HCR much longer if the numbers go any further south.[This is quoting the book:] With Sperling sitting in on the presentation, Garin reinforced the White House view that Democrats had to up their game on deficit reduction. His firm had conducted extensive polling and focus groups. He told the senators that voters saw jobs as the most pressing priority. This might seem to support those Democrats who believed Obama had gone too far overboard on the deficit-reduction cruise. But when asked what the president and Congress should do to boost job creation, most voters said reduce the deficit and the debt. They had imbibed the GOP message; the problem with the economy was governmental red ink.[And here's Greg:] Of course, progressives argue that it?s precisely because voters conflate economic anxiety with worry about the deficit that Dems shouldn?t have allowed concern about the deficit to drive them to make the pivot. But Democrats decided to draw the opposite conclusion. As both these passages show, Dems and White House officials knew that the policy justification for the pivot to deficit reduction was flimsy at best. But they decided they couldn?t win the short-term argument, and went ahead and pivoted, anyway.
That was not accurate. The financial crash that triggered the economic collapse was unrelated to federal deficits. But Garin measured voter perceptions, not whether voters were correct. And he told the senators that voters would not listen to what the Democrats ? including the president ? had to say about jobs and investments if they did not sense that the Democrats were willing to wrestle the debt monster to the ground.
Republicans keep going on talk shows and insisting there's a possible convention floor fight for the Republican presidential nomination, but Romney's delegate totals continue to move up. In Puerto Rico, he did very well:
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) ? Mitt Romney scored an overwhelming win Sunday in Puerto Rico's Republican presidential primary, trouncing chief rival Rick Santorum on the Caribbean island even as the two rivals looked ahead to more competitive contests this week in Illinois and Louisiana.
The victory in the U.S. territory was so convincing that Romney, the GOP front-runner, won all 20 delegates to the national convention at stake because he prevailed with more than 50 percent of the vote. That padded his comfortable lead over Santorum in the race to amass the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
Nevertheless, the GOP nomination fight is unlikely to end anytime soon, with Santorum refusing to step aside even though Romney is pulling further ahead in the delegate hunt.
As the day began, Santorum claimed he was in contest for the long haul because Romney is a weak front-runner.
"This is a primary process where somebody had a huge advantage, huge money advantage, huge advantage of establishment support and he hasn't been able to close the deal and even come close to closing the deal," Santorum said. "That tells you that there's a real flaw there."
Not that I wouldn't love to see the Republicans splinter themselves in Tampa, but Romney is going to have to crash and burn before that happens. So far, it hasn't.
Here we go again: Rep. Paul Ryan and his plan to end Medicare. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)Rep. Paul Ryan, House finance chair, releases his big budget tomorrow, the budget that will break the August debt limit deal, and subsequent law, and that thus threatens a government shutdown. Oh, and it would privatize Medicare, too.
But House Republicans are absolutely certain that, this time, they'll sell this load of crap to the American public and emerge victorious in 2012.
But it?s a gambit fraught with political peril, especially in an election year. Rep. Paul Ryan?s budget last year gave Democrats an opening to paint Republicans as willing to end Medicare as voters know it and batter Medicaid ? while cutting taxes for the wealthy.They think they can sell it this time because a lone Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, has signed on to Ryan's Medicare plan, never mind that every other prominent Democrat, regular Democrat and especially the White House has rejected it.
The GOP believes that crucial independent voters will reward them for being willing tackle the nation?s faltering finances. If Republicans can show they are a party of ideas and solutions and that Democrats don?t have the guts to make the tough calls, the risk, they believe, will be worth it.
Last May, they tried to sell that plan with fear, exactly as they are this year. And I mean, exactly. It's the same message, and it's the same content: Cut Medicare and Medicaid AND taxes for the wealthy.
But this year there's a great added twist, a government shutdown threat. That'll go over well.
Last year, conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck during an argument in her chambers. Although a state prosecutor eventually decided not to file criminal charges against Prosser, the state’s judicial conduct body filed a formal complaint against Prosser on Friday:
The commission asked the high court to send the case to a panel of three appeals court judges to consider whether Prosser violated three ethics rules. The panel’s findings would then be sent to the high court, the only body that could make a binding ruling against Prosser.
The confrontation between Prosser and Bradley occurred in front of all but one of the other justices, who will have to decide whether to weigh in on the case or step aside. Stepping aside would effectively end the case.
This marks the fourth time in only a few years that a member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative bloc faced a serious ethics complaint. Justice Annette Ziegler’s fellow justices reprimanded her in 2008 for ruling on cases as a lower court judge regarding a bank where her husband was a director. An ethics case against Justice Michael Gabelman for running a false ad against his predecessor was dropped only after the remaining justices split 3-3 along party lines — and Gabelman now faces a second complaint for refusing to recuse himself from cases argued by a firm that reportedly provided him with tens of thousands of dollars in free legal services.
On Friday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) vetoed the proposed abstinence-only sex education bill, which would have made all sex ed classes “opt-in” instead of “opt-out” and prohibited any discussions of contraception or homosexuality. Explaining that he found the current sex ed provisions sufficient, he explained he could not sign a bill “that deprives parents of their choice.” Passing such a law would have made Utah the first state to specifically ban instruction about contraception and would have also contributed to anti-gay school climates as demonstrated by Anoka-Hennepin School District’s failed “neutrality” policy in Minnesota. Over 40,000 individuals had signed a SignOn.org petition urging Herbert’s veto of the bill and 58 percent of poll respondents supported the teaching of contraception.
Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan is set to unveil his draft budget this week. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has said that Congressional leaders have a “moral obligation” to reduce the country’s debt.
Some political leaders are taking that challenge to heart, calling for action not just on fiscal issues, but on the most pressing moral issue of our time: climate change.
California Congressman Henry Waxman ? known as one of the political architects of a comprehensive climate bill in 2009 ? continues to sound the drumbeat in support of pricing carbon in order to reduce the country’s debt. Speaking at an event at the Center for American Progress today, Waxman said he believes addressing the country’s fiscal challenges is a unique opportunity to act on climate, and offers the chance to build support from deficit hawks in Congress.
“The U.S. is facing a range of unprecedented fiscal and environmental challenges,” said Waxman. “We’ve got a confluence of events happening all at once.”
On the fiscal side, with the Bush-era tax credits set to expire, the defense budget facing a major sequester, and the need for another debt ceiling deal looming, deficit issues are sure to dominate politics. On the environmental side, scientists continue to warn that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are making weather more severe, costing the country billions in damages and lives.
The two issues cannot be kept separate, said Waxman. They are part of the same problem.
He estimates that a $20 per-ton price on carbon could raise more than $200 billion over the next decade. It would also get the U.S. on a path toward meaningful carbon emission reductions, which will be far cheaper to address today than in the future as global warming accelerates.
“These problems are easier to solve together,” said Waxman.
While the solution hasn’t gotten major traction in Washington yet, it does have some bipartisan support. Last July, both the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute ? two organizations with fundamentally different policy views ? endorsed a carbon price as a deficit reduction strategy.
Other Republicans are also endorsing the measure. Wayne Gilchrest, a former Republican Congressman from Maryland, joined Waxman in support of the plan.
“Paul Ryan said this is a defining moment. Well, this is a defining moment with 7 billion people on the planet,” said Gilchrest. “I do think this is the sort of juxtaposition on issues that will be necessary to solve both of them.”
Gilchrest lamented that GOP leaders have politicized climate science.
“Here in Washington there’s a great chasm between the scientific community and policymakers…Maybe I was a little naive to think that if you explain the facts then the policy would follow…fellas, let’s get politics out of the way and look at the bare facts,” said Gilchrest.
Even with emerging bipartisan support, the politics around climate change minimize the chances of getting a strong price on carbon. But there’s one thing that can trump the ideological resistance to action on climate change: reducing the deficit. And if the two issues can be paired together, there’s a compelling opportunity for bringing fiscal conservatives on board.
Waxman said that supporters are still in the early education phase.
“Some people I’ve talked to are thinking about it and find it interesting, some haven’t thought about it at all,” said Waxman. “But we want people to start thinking about this alternative.”