In a first-of-its-kind study, the non-profit Rand Corp linked the rapid growth in U.S. health care costs to job losses and lower output. The study, published online by the journal Health Services Research, gives weight to President Barack Obama’s dire warningsabout the impact of rising costs if Congress does not enact health care reform.
This study provides some of the first evidence that the rapid rise in health care costs has negative consequences for several U.S. industries,” said Neeraj Sood, the study’s lead author and a senior economist at RAND. “Industries where more workers receive employer-sponsored health insurance are hit the hardest by rising health care costs.
The conclusion of the report is, “Excess growth in health care costs is adversely affecting the economic performance of U.S. industries.”
That’s why in his press conference this week President Obama made sure he linked fixing the current health insurance system in our country to fixing the overall economy.
Just a broader point — if somebody told you that there is a plan out there that is guaranteed to double your health care costs over the next 10 years, that’s guaranteed to result in more Americans losing their health care, and that is by far the biggest contributor to our federal deficit. I think most people would be opposed to that. Well, that’s the status quo. That’s what we have right now.
So if we don’t change, we can’t expect a different result. And that’s why I think this is so important, not only for those families out there who are struggling and who need some protection from abuses in the insurance industry or need some protection from skyrocketing costs, but it’s also important for our economy.
And, by the way, it’s important for families’ wages and incomes. One of the things that doesn’t get talked about is the fact that when premiums are going up and the costs to employers are going up, that’s money that could be going into people’s wages and incomes. And over the last decade we basically saw middle-class families, their incomes and wages flatlined. Part of the reason is because health care costs are gobbling that up.
Which is why it’s so hard to believe that Democrats, (Yes Democrats!!), are holding up health insurance reform, The Can’t-Do Blue Dogs.
Watching the centrist Democrats in Congress create more and more reasons why health care can’t be fixed, I’ve been struck by a disquieting thought: Suppose our collective lack of response to Hurricane Katrina wasn’t exceptional but, rather, the new normal in America. Suppose we can no longer address the major challenges confronting the nation. Suppose America is now the world’s leading can’t-do country.
Every other nation with an advanced economy long ago secured universal health care for its citizens — an achievement that the United States alone finds beyond the capacities of mortal man. It wasn’t ever thus. Time was when Democratic Congresses enacted Social Security and Medicare over the opposition of powerful interests and Republican ideologues. In fact, our government used to actually pave roads, build bridges and allow for secure retirements by levying taxes on those who could afford to pay them.
To today’s centrist Democrats, this has become a distant memory, a history lesson they cannot grasp. The notion that actual individuals might have to pay to secure the national interest appalls them. In the House, the Blue Dogs doggedly oppose proposals to fund universal coverage by taxing the wealthiest 1 percent of the nation’s households. Their deference to wealth — whether the consequence of our system of funding elections or a byproduct of the Internet generation’s experience of free access to information and entertainment — is not to be trifled with.
Centrist Democrats’ opposition to health reform verges on the incoherent. A caucus (the Blue Dogs) formed ostensibly to promote balanced budgets now disapproves of the proposed taxes that would cover the expenses of the new programs. The congressional centrists say, commendably, that they want to squeeze more economies out of the system, but they oppose giving more power to an agency that would set the payment scales for physicians.
Why Democrats of any ideology want to cripple their own president in his first year in office, and for seeking an objective that has been a stated goal of their party since the Truman administration, is a more mysterious matter.
But the big picture here, of which the resistance to reforming health care is just one element, is our growing inability to meet our national challenges. Almost all of the major nations with which we trade, for instance, have quasi-mercantilist policies that lead them to champion their own higher-wage growth industries, often in manufacturing. In America alone are such policies considered anathema. In consequence, as the Alliance for American Manufacturing reports in a new book, we shuttered 40,000 factories from 2001 through 2007 — the years, ostensibly of prosperity, between the past two downturns. The diminution of manufacturing, which employs just 11 percent of the U.S. workforce, may please Wall Street, which looks with disfavor on decent-wage domestic production, and Wal-Mart, which tripled its purchases from China (from $9 billion to $27 billion annually) during roughly the same years those American factories closed, but it poses a clear threat to the nation’s economic, and even military, power.
But act on behalf of the nation as a whole, even if it means goring Wall Street’s or Wal-Mart’s oxen? Perish the thought. Pass a health-reform bill that will cover 45 million uninsured Americans and slow the ruinous growth of health-care spending? Not if somebody, somewhere, actually has to pay higher taxes. Hey, we’re America — the can’t-do nation.
As our former president might put it, Heckuva job, Brownies.
And to tie it back to the Rand study, another reason Wal Mart has done so well is they don’t offer the vast majority of their workers ESI. Most Wal Mart employees either don’t have insurance or make so little they qualify for government assistance. Health insurance reform must be done now. If not now then when?
It’s key for all Democrats at the national level to remember they were elected to fix health insurance, not keep the current system in place. If they don’t fix all of them will pay at the polls. Americans need to be reminded that their government can fix things. Not fixing health care may cause many Americans that voted Democratic in 2008 to lose faith in their elected officials, and not show up and vote again in 2010. It’s also key for Democrats to remember that those opposed to fixing health insurance aren’t afraid that it will do something bad. They’re afraid it will work, and then they’ll be in the majority for much, much longer.
Gov. Rick Perry, raising the specter of a showdown with the Obama administration, suggested Thursday that he would consider invoking states’ rights protections under the 10th Amendment to resist the president’s healthcare plan..
“It really is a state issue and if there was ever an argument for the 10th Amendment and for letting the states find a solution to their problems, this may be at the top of the class,” said the Republican governor. “A government-run healthcare system is financially unstable. It’s not the solution.”
Perry is such an idiot that he doesn’t know that the plan being proposed is not “government run healthcare”. So every thing he says should be ignored. But as far as states finding a solution, well…Perry’s never been very big on that either. It’s recommend to read state Sen. Eliot Shapliegh’s Texas on the Brink 2009[.pdf], that shows where Texas stands nationally in many categories including health care. And it’s not pretty. It sure would be nice if the announced Democratic candidate for governor would beat the governor up when he says stupid stuff like this.
It looks like they essentially ruled not to rule on the validity of the 2003 contract. Since there’s a new contract in place, the 2003 contract is no longer binding, therefore it’s a moot point. Via the AAS.
Opponents of the landfill expansion had sued the county, saying that a 2003 contract between the county and Waste Management of Texas, which runs the landfill, was not properly authorized. They also asked for an order declaring the contract to be void and for an injunction against the performance of the contract.
But because the county signed a new contract with Waste Management, the court of appeals ruled that the opponents claims were moot since the 2003 contract had ended, according the court’s written opinion.
In an opinion by Justice G. Alan Waldrop, joined by Justices Pemberton and Henson, the court dismissed the appeal as “moot,” because the 2003 contract was terminated by agreement of the parties and replaced by a new contract in 2009. Since a determination about the 2003 contract cannot affect anyone’s rights today, it would be pointless to review Judge Carnes’ ruling.
Now it’s time to start fighting at the ballot box.
Despite knowing he wouldn’t have become speaker without the Democrats, Straus is a lifelong Republican. And he also knows, ironically, another term as speaker depends on Republicans keeping their majority. Some Democrats who pledged said they’d renege if the Democrats achieve a majority.
Straus has said the political action committee he’s starting this summer won’t get involved in challenges to Democratic or Republican incumbents seeking re-election. The PAC, which will only help Republicans up for re-election or seeking open seats, has already raised $1.2 million, Straus said.
But other Republican PACs are under no such limitations, and will get involved in races against Democratic incumbents.
The 2010 election is also important to both parties because it will determine who will have the upper hand in redistricting. The Legislature is supposed to redraw legislative and congressional district boundaries in 2011 after completion of the federal census taken every 10 years.
Go here and here to find out who the Blue Dog Democrats are, and why they’re acting like Republicans, (Psst….it’s because they’re getting the money the Republicans used to get).
In the 2008 election cycle, as fundraising for the National Republican Congressional Committee declined by roughly one-third from 2006 and fundraising for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee grew by just 26 percent, the Blue Dog PAC more than doubled its take (from $1,239,516 to $2,636,273).
A couple of former Congressional Democrats form Texas add their opinions.
Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) says the business community’s strategy is no mystery. It is making donations, in part, to gain influence with the Blue Dogs. “I mean, what other conclusion could you come to?” he said with a laugh. “And that’s something that the Blue Dogs have sought. They want to be in that position, to have influence.”
Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas), a one-time coalition member, believes that the Blue Dogs may be helping to bridge the divide between his party and parts of the business sector.
Blue Dogs, he said, “have been the group of Democrats who have been more open to business, over the long haul, than others in the Democratic Party.”
Eseentially since the GOP has no power at the Federal level, the so-called “Blue Dogs” have become the de facto GOP opposition to what President Obama and the rest of the party was elected to accomplish. And Democrats are starting to tire of Max Baucus.
A new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that federal stimulus dollars played a large role in allowing Texas lawmakers to balance their budget this year without tapping Rainy Day Funds.
The national group asked states to say how they closed their budget gaps for the 2010 budget year, and 35 states responded. Of those, 25 said they used federal stimulus dollars to close budget gaps, and Texas reported that it relied most heavily on stimulus dollars, using those dollars to provide 96.7 percent of the gap-closing solution. Nebraska was next at 88 percent.
At least 11 states (not Texas) raised taxes to close their gaps. At least eight states (not Texas) tapped their rainy day funds. Montana and West Virginia (not Texas) relied entirely on spending cuts.
Texas was one of the few states to avoid a budget shortfall in the current year. But the report also projects a budget gap of $4 billion to $5 billion a year starting in the 2012 budget year. This is all worth pointing out because state leaders rarely mention the $12 billion in stimulus dollars they received when they discuss what great work they did to balance the budget, and because Gov. Rick Perry was one of the country’s most dogged critics of the stimulus dollars.(Emphasis added).
Whether Gov. Rick Perry’s opposition to accepting the unemployment insurance (UI) portion of the stimulus will come back to haunt him, in either one of the possible two elections he could potentially face by November 2010, is mostly up to his opponents and how the Texas economy fares during that time.
There are several ways that Perry’s opposition to the UI money is often spoken of that must be put straight. First, the the bailout and the stimulus are two separate things. As far as the bailout goes, both Texas Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, voted for it, and it occurred while Bush the younger was still President. The stimulus, of which the unemployment insurance that Gov. Perry rejected was part of, was passed after Barack Obama became president. So when Gov. Perry speaks of a “bailout mentality”, he’s using weasel words if he’s applying that to the UI money, which came from the stimulus and not the bailout. That’s stimulus money which was meant to help the unemployed survive the recession, pay their mortgage, car payment, etc.., while not overburdening business with an extremely high tax increase to cover the unemployed, until the economy picked back up.
Another part of this is that Rick Perry accepted, gladly, all the but a tiny portion of the stimulus, other than the unemployment insurance. Which has allowed him and his GOP cohorts in the lege to claim they were able to balance the budget without tapping the into the rainy day fund. This comment regarding an earlier EOW post says it perfectly.
I believe Gov. Perry accepted approx. $16.5 billion of the $17 billion offered from the Federal Stimulus package for political reasons rather than a legitimate financial reason. This allows him to go around to his base saying he rejected the stimulus package when in reality he accepted all but a fraction of it (1/34th). These are tough times for everyone but especially tough for the unemployed and workers that have had to lose hours.
Despite the loan, Gov. Perry defended his decision to those who questioned it.
“They are shortsighted and probably criticizing for a political reason rather than a legitimate financial reason,” Gov. Perry said.
Sure, because there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING POLITICAL about the rejection of the unemployment stimulus funds in the first place. Why can’t Governor Perry’s critics understand that? He was just operating in Texas’ best interests, politics be damned!
Yes his “principled” stand – that will hurt working Texans, city and county economies, and cause massive tax increases on Texas businesses soon – we’re supposed to believe had nothing to do with his upcoming election(s). There’s a great column from Mithcell Schnurman in the FWST on what should be done, Texas leaders should reconsider the federal stimulus money.
At what point does the real world trump politics and principle?
Texas is shaping up as a test case, because more than 23,000 workers are losing their jobs every week and $556 million in federal aid is sitting on the table, unclaimed.
Texas is one of only four states — the others are Alabama, Florida and Virginia — that rejected federal stimulus dollars connected with reforming unemployment insurance. Thirty-six states qualify for the federal money, including more than two dozen that adopted reforms this year, and the rest are still debating the issue.
States have until 2011 to make the changes and apply for the money.
Months ago, Gov. Rick Perry was quick to denounce the stimulus offer and criticize Washington’s “bailout mentality.” He said the feds were trying to dictate state policy by forcing changes that would hurt employers and job growth.
The reforms would expand coverage by making more people (primarily low-wage earners) eligible for benefits. It would add about 2.5 percent to the state’s annual payout for unemployment benefits, so there’s no threat of Texas becoming a welfare haven.
The state already ranks dead last in participation rate, with just 24 percent of unemployed workers getting benefits, compared with a national average of 41 percent.
In February, when the trust fund still had a billion-dollar balance, the projected deficit was half the size. Texas’ economy was still holding up well, and its unemployment rate was 6.5 percent. On Friday, the state reported a seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 7.5 percent for June, with unemployment claims rising 45 percent in the week ended July 4.
The trends show how the downturn has accelerated in Texas, but some lawmakers have been sounding the alarm about unemployment funding for months. The state Senate approved a bill to enact reforms in the recent Legislature, but it died in the House.
On Friday, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, sent a letter to Perry, urging him to call a special session to enact the unemployment reforms that would let Texas draw the federal dollars.
They said that 250,000 jobs had been lost since the beginning of the year, that sales tax collections had plummeted and that the comptroller had tripled her prediction for job losses in the state in 2009.
“Reality has demonstrated that refusing half a billion dollars in federal stimulus money was not the right policy for Texas,” the letter said.
Reforming unemployment insurance would help struggling families in Texas and reduce the impact on small businesses, they said.
The money would also stimulate the state economy. Unemployment benefits are generally spent quickly, and they have a 2-to-1 multiplier effect. By contrast, tax cuts are often saved or used to pay down debt.
All eligible Texans will continue to get unemployment benefits, regardless of the state’s stance on the stimulus. But an estimated 45,000 residents would have been added if new rules were adopted.
The local economy would get a boost, too.
That’s a lot to give up, at a time when Texas needs the help.
While a special session to help working Texans, city and county economies, and Texas businesses seems like a valid emergency, and reason for a special session to many. It’s not likely to be an emergency to Gov. Perry and his reelection campaign. Jason Embry has this on the political implications for the governor, Unemployment insurance a two-sided political issue for Perry.
Gov. Rick Perry’s opposition to federal stimulus dollars for unemployment benefits earlier this year boosted his standing among many Republicans. But other issues surrounding the state’s unemployment program could create political headaches for Perry in the next year and a half.
With unemployment rising, the state will have to borrow more than $643 million from the federal government in the coming months to keep paying benefits, even though that money will come interest-free for 18 months. And the Texas Workforce Commission is planning to ask employers to pay more in taxes to repay that money and keep the unemployment trust fund healthy.
“That deficit, and future taxes on Texas employers, would have been lower if Gov. Perry hadn’t rejected $555 million in federal unemployment stimulus funds earlier this year,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer.
Perry’s UI decision isn’t likely to hurt him much, if at all, in the GOP Primary. Since it hurts the most needy the most, and Hutchison isn’t likely to say much in their defense. It would be much better to see a full throated shaming of Perry by the lifelong Democrat Tom Schieffer when he talks to the press, on this issue in particular, that’s for sure. Something more like this, Sen. Watson explains Gov. Perry’s huge mistake.
When anyone says Perry turned down the stimulus the correct response is that not he didn’t. He turned down a very tiny portion of it and gladly took almost of it, all but 1/34th of it. And the portion he did turn down will hurt the neediest of Texans the most. And if he says he’s against a bailout mentality, let him know that he only has his party to blame for that. If Texas is to be rid of Gov. Perry, those running against him must point these things out, early and often.
Just to mention something that is obvious, but hopefully not overlooked, i.e., if this country cannot pass a bill which insures that every citizen has access to medical care, which every developed country has managed to do (and got done many many years ago), there is something very fundamentally and structurally wrong with this country.
The industry that helped scuttle health reform 15 years ago with its “Harry and Louise” ads is back, voicing support for a central element of the Obama administration’s plans: making sure everyone is covered.
That does not mean the industry is backing the administration. Indeed, the leader of the insurance lobby has sent lawmakers a message: Be careful what you change, because “77 percent of Americans are satisfied with their existing health insurance coverage.”
Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), invoked the statistic to argue against the creation of a government-run insurance option. But the polls are not that simple, and her assertion reveals how the industry’s effort to defend its turf has led it to cherry-pick the facts.
The poll Ignagni was citing actually undercuts her position: By 72 to 20 percent, Americans favor the creation of a public plan, the June survey by the New York Times and CBS News found. People also said that they thought government would do a better job than private insurers of holding down health-care costs and providing coverage.
In addition, data from a Kaiser Family Foundation poll last year, compiled at the request of The Washington Post, suggest that the people who like their health plans the most are the people who use them the least.
Those who described their health as “excellent” — people who presumably had relatively little experience pursuing medical care or submitting claims — were almost twice as likely as those in good, fair or poor health to rate their private health insurance as excellent.
The level of satisfaction expressed with private insurance was essentially the same as that with Medicare, the government program for the elderly and disabled.
The industry’s stance against a public health plan revives shades of 1994, when it was instrumental in blocking President Bill Clinton’s health-care proposals.
“A government-run plan would turn back the clock on efforts to improve the quality and safety of patient care,” AHIP has argued. Such a plan “will ultimately limit choices and access,” the big insurer WellPoint contends.
But systemic problems have persisted for 15 years, and it is not clear how much private insurers have done, or can do, to solve them.
“Insurers promise choice, they promise innovation, they promise a lot of things, but I think they’ve delivered very little,” said Alan Sager, professor of health policy and management at Boston University. “I think net they give us very bad value for the 10 to 20 percent share of the health dollar they skim off the top.”
Instead of choice, they offer “the illusion of choice,” he said.
Health-care costs have continued to rise faster than personal incomes and economic growth. Even the industry agrees that much of the spending is wasted, exposing patients to unnecessary risk.
Insurers argue that a government plan could dominate the market, reducing consumers’ options. But in the private market, options are limited by employers who restrict employees’ choice of insurers and by insurers who restrict their choice of doctors.
This has become the same fight we had last year during the presidential campaign. Change vs. the status quo.
Most Americans know that our health insurance system in this country is a disaster for many, and actual insurance against disaster for very few. President Obama and many Democrats want to change that. Some Democrats, almost every member of the GOP, and the insurance corporations that profit from denying coverage to people who’ve been paying their premiums for years, don’t want to change the current system. See this post, The profit motive: In health care and politics.
One reason lawmakers can’t finalize a bill before the August recess is that there is no way to do what their patrons demand — ensure robust industry profits — while controlling costs and expanding to access to health care. An additional few weeks or few months of reflection will not change that basic fact, although it will buy time in which advocates of reform can find common ground, expand their ranks, and spread misinformation to sway public support.
Those who oppose campaign finance reform on free speech grounds don’t seem to appreciate that the concentrated interests of the few always outweigh the diffuse interests of the many. Unfortunately for all of us who would like to see meaningful reform enacted, it looks as though the powerful minority is poised to demonstrate that lesson for us once again.
That’s what this fight is about – expanding coverage for all Americans. Health insurance shouldn’t be based on insuring shareholder value in a corporation. It should be about insuring the health of Americans.
It’s time we insure every American to make sure that Americans don’t get wiped out financially just because a member of their family gets sick.
…former Republicans are now identifying as Independents. Here’s the link from TPMDC.
A new analysis from Public Policy Polling (D) finds that independents are leaning more conservative, which at first glance doesn’t look like good news for Democrats — but a close examination shows that the trends also don’t contain too much reason for Republican optimism, either.
“Part of that has to do with the decreasing number of Americans identifying as Republicans in recent years,” writes PPP communications director Tom Jensen. “While they’re eschewing the party’s label, they’re still conservative and more often than not voting for the party’s candidates.”
So to some degree, this conservative lean from the independent group comes from the continuing shrinkage in Republicans — a shift in demographics that at the end of the day wouldn’t actually have too much of a real effect on voting patterns.
As the last Lyceum poll[.pdf] showed many more Texans are identifying as Independents as well.
More respondents (46%) identified themselves as Independents than as Republicans (25%) or Democrats (28%).
That’s what the battle will be over once both parties nominees have been decided.
About 8.4 million voters cast ballots in the state in the November election, roughly half a million more than in 2004.
But that growth didn’t keep pace with the rise in the state’s population, so turnout actually dropped, from 57 percent in 2004 to 56 percent in 2008. That puts Texas 45th among the states in 2008; it was 47th in 2004.
Turnout rose among black voters in Texas from 2004 to 2008, but dropped among Hispanics and Asians. An additional 263,000 blacks voted in 2008, increasing turnout from 58 to 65 percent. Hispanic turnout decreased from 42 to 38 percent, despite an additional 164,000 voters. Turnout among Asians fell to 34 percent from 43 percent, with 34,000 fewer voting.
In Texas, while 71,000 more voters ages 18 to 24 cast ballots in 2008, the turnout for that age group dropped from 39 percent in 2004 to 36 percent in 2008. Voters ages 65 to 74 saw the largest gain, from 69 percent in 2004 to 74 percent in 2008.
For all the attention generated by Barack Obama’s candidacy, the share of eligible voters who cast ballots in November declined for the first time in a dozen years. The reason: Older white voters with little interest in either Barack Obama or John McCain stayed home.
Ohio and Pennsylvania were among those showing declines in white voters, helping Obama carry those battleground states.
“While the significance of minority votes for Obama is clearly key, it cannot be overlooked that reduced white support for a Republican candidate allowed minorities to tip the balance in many slow-growing ‘purple’ states,” said William H. Frey, a demographer for the Brookings Institution, referring to key battleground states that don’t notably tilt Democrat or Republican.
In the health insurance reform debate we have to remember what the problem really is. It’s not just the uninsured, but the underinsured too, as well every American paying way too much for health care. Anyone who has insurance knows, they’re premiums, deductibles, and co-pays have been rising every year. Not to mention people being denied coverage they paid for by and insurance corporation bureaucrat, once they actually need to use it. And it’s hurtinging middle class Americans, there were an estimated 25 million underinsured adults in the United States, up 60 percent from 2003.
In the end, because of this kind of transaction, the state remains destitute, and the politician remains in office, keeps raising out-of-state cash, and keeps insisting with a $%&@-eating grin that it’s crazy – just crazy! – for anyone to think their votes could be influenced by millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the cycle starts right over on whatever new economic issue is coming down the pike – all while the….Villagers in D.C. use euphemisms like “conservative Democrats” and “moderate districts” to explain it all away with an absurd storyline that insists because a politician comes from a state that likes guns, loves Jesus and/or hates gay people, he has to oppose health care reform.
Rep. Mike Ross, who grew up in this tiny town of 3,600, represents residents like 62-year-old Sandy Barham, a restaurant owner with a heart ailment who can’t afford health insurance for herself or her employees.
“I can’t tell you the stress of living on the edge, just wondering, ‘Am I going to get sick?’” she said in an interview at the Broadway Railroad Café, where fried catfish with hush puppies is a popular feature. “I feel embarrassed, almost, when I go to the doctors and tell them I don’t have insurance.”
Many people in and around this economically depressed town can’t afford insurance, even as the battered economy has made it harder for employers to provide coverage for workers. They’re looking to Washington for help, and Ross, a conservative Democrat with a strong voice in the debate over health care legislation, says he’s on their side.
Many Americans are hurting, mentally and physically, as a restult of our irrational health insurance system . We pay an enormous amount of money in this country, as compared to all other industrialized nations on this earth, and we all know we can do much better then we’re doing.
And don’t fall for the BS about rationing, and bureaucrats. Because we already have both of those. It’s just that the insurance company rations care by canceling insurance coverage when it’s going to cut into their profits, and it’s and insurance company bureaucrat that makes the decision now.
STABENOW: Well, my first choice and very strong choice is a public option. And I have to say, Wolf, that what my friends are saying, Senator Gregg and Senator Alexander really are scare tactics that have been put forward by folks that don’t want to change the system because they make a lot of money off the current system right now.
The reality for families today is if there’s an insurance company bureaucrat between you and your doctor telling your doctor what they’re allowed to do because of what they’ll pay for, telling you what they’ll pay for, putting you through all kinds of bureaucracy to try to figure out if you can get care, assuming you’re not dropped if you get sick or can’t get insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. So what we’re talking about is putting somebody on your side, being able to make sure that the insurance company, the for profit insurance company won’t provide you with a low cost insurance policy for your family that you have another choice.
There’s still a long way to go in this fight, Rumors of the Demise of ObamaCare Have Been Greatly Exaggerated. But what scares those who profit from the current system the most is the horror stories of real people getting a raw deal from insurance corporations. That’s what needs to be front and center in this fight. It’s time.
State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) does a great job of showing how badly Perry and his appointees have messed up unemployment insurance in Texas, via the Watson Wire, Here’s Looking at You.
The [Texas Workforce Commission's] mission, among other things, is to administer the state’s aid to Texans who lose jobs through no fault of their own.
As was noted during this past legislative session by Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken (who was appointed by the Governor and once led the Texas Republican Party), unemployment assistance is not a welfare program. It exists to provide temporary help to Texans in tough, sometimes tragic, situations so they can find work without losing their homes, cars, or electricity. And it protects the economy as much as the people who need it.
The commission’s job is to figure out how much money the state needs for unemployment benefits, what to charge businesses that support the program, and how to prepare for things like economic recessions that send the state’s unemployment rate skyrocketing.
The program known as unemployment insurance has been so politicized by the Governor that it’s easy to forget how much it matters to struggling, everyday Texans. This was the area in which Governor Perry arbitrarily decided not to accept more than a half-billion in federal stimulus money, despite a bipartisan chorus urging him not to take such a rash, destructive action. He had his eye on politics, not on the important goal of making sure the system worked.
But to understand how badly this political football was dropped, some history is in order.
Last year, in the face of a coming economic storm, the Workforce Commission voted 2-1 to stop collecting money that funds the program. This was such a bad idea at the time that the then-Chairwoman, Diane Rath, who also was appointed by the Governor, said (according to the transcript) that she would vote to cut the collections “with deep concern, because of the increase in unemployment rate, the increase payout rates, the national economic situation and the indications that we’re seeing here in Texas. However, the governor supports this, and I certainly support his position.”
Get that? An agency chairwoman was concerned about an action, rattled off four substantive policy reasons not to do it, and then voted to do it anyway because “the governor supports this.” At least the politicizing is transparent.
Back in February, the Governor was publicly wrestling with the question of whether he should accept federal stimulus money. Eventually, he accepted almost all of it. In fact, $12 billion of it was used to balance the budget this year (a fact the Governor seems to forget when he’s bragging about the state’s balanced budget). But he rejected about $550 million in unemployment assistance, which would have required changing state law so that more people who need and deserve this help could get it. Republicans and Democrats rallied around a bill that would have made those legal changes, noting that if they proved too expensive, the legislature could go back to the current system. But, in the face of the Governor’s political fight, the bill didn’t pass.
In recent days, it’s become clear that Texas will need to borrow $643 million from the federal government to keep the unemployment insurance fund from going under. This is money that Texas employers will now be responsible for repaying, and most of that debt could have been avoided had the state accepted the unemployment stimulus money. So the Governor’s posturing on unemployment has piled as much as a half-billion dollars in new debt on our vital job creators at a time when they can least afford it.
And last week, we learned that the workforce commission has so badly mangled the state’s benefits system that tens of thousands of Texans who need and qualify for benefits aren’t receiving them. In fact, the agency’s having a tough time even answering calls from worried Texans.
In the meantime, Texas’ unemployment rate continues to rise – it’s now at 7.5 percent, the highest it’s been since the end of the oil bust. The state lost more than 40,000 jobs in June, putting the total losses at more than 270,000 this year. More and more people are seeking help. And the only place for them to turn is an agency that’s been degraded and hamstrung by politics.
The state, and the Governor, should stop looking for people to blame. Just fix the problems, serve Texans, and quit thinking about elections.
It’s great when Texas Democrats point out the disasters of Gov. Perry and the Texas GOP and the toll they’re taking on Texans.