Thursday, February 28, 2013

Subcommittee on Health

The issue that I have chosen is Health Care in the U.S.. In the House of Representatives there is a Committee On Ways and Means, which is responsible for raising the revenue required to finance the federal government and has jurisdiction over the authority of the Federal Government to borrow money. It is also responsible for legislation relating to tariffs, import trade and trade negotiations. The Chairman is Dave Camp and under this committee is a Subcommittee on Health. The chairman of this committee is Rep. Kevin Brady from Texas. The jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Health includes being responsible for bills and matters referred to the Committee on Ways and Means that relate to programs providing funding for health care, health delivery systems, or health research. More importantly, "the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Health shall include bills and matters that relate to the health care programs of the Social Security Act...and, concurrent with the full Committee, tax credit and deduction provisions of the Internal Revenue Code dealing with health insurance premiums and health care costs."

After watching a video on the Medicare Advantage Program, which discussed the current role of medicare health programs, I discovered how a committee hearing works. First, Chairman Herger introduced all of the people who would be testifying and gave them each about 5 minutes to say what they felt about the health care bills and what they wanted to see happen in the future in terms of health care. James Cosgrove, the Health Care Team Director was first to speak on the issue. Then James Capretta, from the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health spoke. This hearing also discussed two different forms of health care, including Special Needs Plans and Cost Plans. Special Needs Plans are targeted to help some of the most difficult to reach Medicare beneficiaries. Lastly, they heard a testimony about Medicare Cost Plans. After listening to all of these testimonies, it is the committees job to decided whether or not to extend authorization of either of these programs.

When researching campaign contributions to the Subcommittee on Health, I discovered that behind Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Health contributed the greatest amount of money contributed to the Ways and Means Committee. They contributed about $7 million from PAC's and $3 million from individuals. I found that the Subcommittee on Health gave the second greatest amount of money to Chairman Dave Camp. I also found that Health Professionals ranked #1 in a chart depicting the top industries in the House Ways and Means Committee. The relationship between campaign contributions and committee membership is that PAC's and individuals donate money to the Subcommittee on Health in order to show their support for the issue. Members of the committee receive the money, making them very wealthy. I learned that many different groups do contribute to the Subcommittee on Health and was surprised to learn how important the Health Industry is to contributing to the Ways and Means Committee.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How a Member Decides to Vote: 3-2-1

The Congressional voting stimulation allowed me to connect all of the things that we learned in class about Congress to real life. It made me feel like I was a part of the debate and listening to all of the different opinions from the "meetings" that I attended helped me to understand both sides of the issue. Before doing the stimulation I thought that this would be have been an easy bill to pass because it seemed like a simple yes to everyone. However, I learned that this was not true and that although the House of Representatives approved it by a vote of 305 to 124, the Senate failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority. I was also surprised to find that because the people in my party wanted me to vote one way for the bill, I felt I needed to vote yes on it so that I would be able to be re-elected. Lastly, I learned that this was one of the only topics that all of the separate parties agreed on for the most part. Throughout this activity I learned how hard it is to pass a bill through Congress and how many different meetings the members of Congress must attend in order to make their decision.

One connection that I can make is to the Frontline video that we watched on passing of the health care reform bill. I did not know how many secret deals were made regarding this bill and I was surprised to learn this. Also, just like the health care debate, the flag burning debate dealt with a lot of different opinions and people from different areas. Lastly, a lot of the members felt that they had to vote a certain way just so that they could ensure their re-election, just like some of the people did in voting for or against the flag-burning amendment.
Another connection I can make is to the LSU flag burning. Benjamin Haas of LSU planned to burn a flag on campus. He organized this protest in response to the arrest of Isaac Eslava who was charged previously for the burning of the U.S. flag. LSU Chancellor Michael Martin said, “I’m happy that after talking to university officials and realizing how many people are against flag-burning, that he thought better of it. This connects to the activity because it represents a protest that was against the amendment because they wanted to start speaking up for themselves and show that they have the right to speech.

My question is why is it that there has not been a change to the Bill of Rights in 200 years?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Presidential Candidates Opinions on Healthcare in the 2012 Election

As everyone knows, healthcare was a hot topic issue in the 2012 presidential election. It brought up many advantages and disadvantages for the candidates and swayed many people to vote one way or another.

Barack Obama has a very liberal stance on healthcare. He believes that "quality, affordable health insurance [we] can rely on is a key part of middle-class security."The three key aspects that Obama focused on during the election were, ending insurance company abuses, strengthening medicare, and putting women in control of their health. In passing the Affordable Care Act, Obama is making insurance companies accountable and is attempting to get rid of the abuses of insurance companies, such as dropping people when they get sick. This act also is helping people with Medicare to save on the care they need in order to stay living healthy lives. Lastly, Obama is also putting an end to the discrimination against women by not allowing insurance companies to charge women more than men for the same coverage. His stance on this issue has swayed many people who want good health insurance to vote for him.

Republican nominee, Mitt Romney stands on the other side of the issue. He is very conservative in his stance on healthcare. Romney has "repeatedly declared that a a Romney presidency would signal the immediate dismantling of President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010."  His biggest goal is to create a bigger market in healthcare with more flexible insurance pools and interstate insurance markets. Romney wants citizens to be free to choose what type of insurance they get and how much they get of it. We see this in his quote, "the result will be patients who can confidently choose the coverage that is right for them, who know and care what healthcare costs." However, consumers would have to cover routine medical trips on their own. Overall, Romney "would widen use of high-deductible plans" and "healthcare tax exclusion could become deductions or credits." 

Gary Johnson was the Libertarian Presidential Candidate that ran for office in the 2012 election. He proposes a different stance on healthcare, a free market approach. Johnson is "opposed to government control of the healthcare market and would seek to severely limit the intrusion of government into the health care market." He also believes that healthcare is one area where the Republicans have faltered in previous elections. Johnson is in agreement with with Paul Ryan's plan to chance Medicaid to a voucher system as well as the Republican's plan to repeal Obamacare. Johnson wants a health care insurance system that is privately owned and managed and supports reform to control the costs of expensive lawsuits.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2012 Party Platforms on the Issue of Healthcare

The 2012 party platforms had much to say on the big issue over healthcare. The four main parties are the Republican, Democratic, Green, and Libertarian. Here is a summary of what each party stated in their 2012 platform.

The Republican Party wanted to repeal Obamacare in their 2012 platform, calling Obamacare "about power" and "never really about healthcare." They claimed that it was attacking the Constitution because it was making U.S. citizens purchase health insurance. The Republican platform also stated that, "it would tremendously expand Medicaid, leaving the States to assume unsustainable financial burdens." They stated that the first day in office, if elected as President, he would repeal the act and then allow the American people to buy affordable and responsible healthcare that would meet their own needs. The Republican platform also takes a strong stance against abortion, claiming that it is threatening to a woman's body and health. They believe that "taking care of one's health is an individual responsibility" and therefore that those with chronic illnesses should have to pay more for their insurance instead of others picking up the rest for them. The main goal of the Republican Party is to improve the quality of healthcare and lower the costs of insurance. Republicans claim that they will "call on State officials to carefully consider the increased costs of medical mandates, which may price many low-income families out of the insurance market." They also support advancements in technology in order to better medical health recording and data systems, while maintaining patient privacy. Also in the Republican platform, they discuss ensuring consumer choice in healthcare, supporting Federal healthcare research and development, protecting individual conscience in healthcare, reforming the FDA, and reducing costs through Tort reform. Republicans want to put the patient at the center of policy decisions, support federal investment in biomedical research and neuroscience research, and ensure that the U.S. remains the world leader in medical innovation.

The Democratic Party states, "accessible, affordable, high quality health care is part of the American promise...and that no one should go broke because they get sick" in their party platform. The platform will allow children to stay on their parents' plans and insurers will not be able to refuse to cover kids with pre-existing medical conditions. The Democrats have "established new Offices of Minority Health, and are helping state Medicaid programs fund home and community-based services." Also, small businesses are receiving funds to help them cover their workers. Their goal is for working families to soon "have the security of knowing they won't lose health care or be forced into bankruptcy if a family member gets sick or loses their job." All in all, they want all Americans to have access to affordable health care. The platform claims that they refuse to allow health insurance companies to have unchecked power to cancel people's health policy, deny people coverage, or charge women more than men. Lastly, "Democrats will continue to fight for a strong health care workforce with an emphasis on primary care....and will strengthen Medicaid and oppose efforts to block grant the program, slash its funding, and leave millions more without health insurance." The Democratic party platform also emphasizes their support of funding to combat HIV/AIDS.

The Green Party platform states that they support a "single-payer universal health care and preventive care for all" and "believe that health care is a right, not a privilege." The Green Party would like to see a universal, national single-payer health care system that would redirect the waste of private insurance companies to patient care. In their platform, they support reducing expenses of health insurance for businesses, and state and local governments would pay less because they would be receiving reimbursements for services provided to the patients. They also want to make sure that the people know that they will get the health care they need and would not have to "worry about the prospect of financial ruin if they become seriously ill, are laid off their jobs, or are injured in an accident." The Green Party support a wide-range of health care services such as "teaching, funding and practice of holistic health approaches and as appropriate, the use of complementary and alternative therapies...etc." The Green Party supports womens' rights to chose what she wants to do considering abortion and require that the proper needs for this to occur are available to all women. They also call for "humane and competent care of all people with AIDS/HIV" and believe that people with AIDS/HIV should not be discriminated against and have a right to medical care.

Lastly, The Libertarian Party platform focuses on "restoring and reviving a free market health care system." They recognize that individuals have the right to determine the level of health insurance that they want and how much they want of it. The Libertarians believe, like the Republicans, that people should not be forced to buy health insurance if they do not want it. They closed their platform with, "people should be free to purchase health insurance across state lines."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Interest Groups and Healthcare

James Madison warned of the "dangers of factions" in Federalist No. 10. In order to combat this issue, he came up with the idea of pluralism, the theory that competition among interest groups produces compromise and balance among competing policy preferences. In the debate over healthcare, there are many different groups of people, such as those from hospitals, different social groups, insurance companies, and other health groups. All of these groups compete in Congress to get their bills passed, therefore leading the issue to be very pluralistic.

With the recent debate over Obamacare, there have been many different interest groups taking sides on the healthcare bill, but some key groups seem to be on the "sidelines." Groups such as The Chamber, National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Manufacturers are opposed to the idea of healthcare reform and are allied with the Republicans. Groups such as the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union are siding with the Democrats, and want the healthcare bill to be passed.

In one article, Jeannie Kang, past president of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, discussed the fact that, “Our profession really didn’t have a million dollars to spend on a lobbyist." They instead brought together 20,000 acupuncturists and their patients in a campaign. This is just one way that interests groups are able to influence people to follow their opinions. Groups such as this lobbied federal officials at first, but after allegations that the health care law was too harsh, "it decided to allow each state to choose its own guaranteed benefits within the 10 broad categories." Some interest groups were not successful in getting a particular service covered, but states will most likely be able to change their plans after 2015 and they will have another chance. Therefore, groups like the Obesity Action Coalition will keep making their case.

Back in 2010, interest groups spent months putting together "noisy protests, organizing letter-writing campaigns and contributing to a record $200 million advertising blitz on health-care reform," representing the fact that interest groups use many different techniques to get their message across. One example is The Institute for Liberty. It was a conservative interest group with less than $25,000 in revenue in 2008. The organization now has a Web site, a downtown Washington office and a $1 million advocacy campaign against Obamacare.

One of the most influential interest groups is the AARP, American Association of Retired Persons. The AARP is a huge advocate of Medicare and Medicaid and is also one of the largest private health insurers in America. As stated in the article, "In 2011, the AARP generated $458 million in royalty fees from so-called Medigap plans, nearly twice the $266 million the lobby receives in membership dues." The AARP spent millions of dollars on PAC's and lobbyists.

Healthcare Cartoon